Sunday, November 21, 2010


The University of California Regents voted to raise tuition at all UC schools by 8% next year. Tuition will be over $11,000 not including campus fees and room and board. A few years ago, tuition was approximately $6,000. It has gone up over 80% in less than 10 years. More students, qualified to attend a UC school, will find themselves on the outside looking in because of the cost of an education.
University education in America should be FREE. If this nation's leaders are truly concerned about our national security, they need to open the Ivy halls to as many students as possible. Instead, the numbers are going in the opposite direction. UC schools are turning down more students as are state universities and for the first time community colleges are refusing to accept applications. At a time when we are not producing enough engineers and scientists, as well as poets and programmers, the UC regents voted to make it harder to afford an education. This is short sighted and a recipe for future instability for our country.

According to USA Today, parents spent $64 billion to send their children to college last year. We currently spend over $100 billion a year just for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Right now, if there was the desire, college could be free for most American students. The economic impact would be immediate. Every family of college age kids would have tens of thousands of discretionary dollars to pump into the economy. If they don't have to borrow the money, that too frees up funds for other purposes. It would stimulate the economy more than anything tried by Washington. Students are graduating owing $50,000 to $100,000 not including graduate school. It is the equivalent of a first mortgage. They are unable to put any discretionary funds into the economy. They are unable to take lower paying, but possibly more beneficial and desperately needed, teaching and entrepenurial jobs due to the debt they owe.

Right now in Washington, they are discussing a national sales tax and a one year moratorium on the payroll tax to both raise revenue and prime the economic pump. Free college would flood the nation with discretionary spending and reduce family debt. One dollar spent on the military has almost no multiplier effect on the economy. One dollar spent on education has a multiplier effect of over $5 and when you add that multiplier to the extra money each family would have in its pocket, the impact on the economy would be immediate and dramatic.
Free tuition would be means tested. If your family is in the top 2% of income families, you would still pay tuition. If you are in the bottom 10% you would get subsidies to cover tuition and room and board. This idea would be a huge boost for the middle class. For once, they would benefit from a government program. At the same time college costs would have to be contained. 100 college presidents made over $1 million last year. One made over $9 million and it wasn't at Harvard or Yale. College costs would have to be monitored and justified. Very similar to what doctors have to do with Medicare, or in dealing with HMOs, universities would negotiate tuition increases. They would also be able to opt out and charge tuition with their students not receiving any government help.
We are falling behind India, China and other nations in the number of key graduates we are producing. This is a national security concern. Education is the key to future innovation and the ability of the US to remain competitive with its rivals. Raising tuition and reducing the number of students who can attend college, or saddling their families or them with more debt, will put us at a h huge disadvantage.
I have been advocating free college tuition for years. We can afford it. Actually, we can't afford not to throw open university doors to students across this land. How on earth can any rational person look at a nation which spend over $700 billion on the military each year, and watches fewer of its people get the advanced education they need to compete, and think this is a sustainable path?
This idea has reached its tipping point. It stimulates the economy, creates jobs, reduces family debt, produces a more educated work force, jump starts innovation and the new entreprenures we need. The middle class would be the main beneficiaries and would grow under this plan. A solid middle class is the key to a stable and secure nation. Every dollar spent would be multiplied 500% more than one dollar spent for the Pentagon. China and India as well as a number of our European and emerging market competitors already offer essentially free university education.
It's time. We have a choice. Go the way of Rome or prolong the intellectual and industrial juggernaut this nation has become. The money is there. Is the political will?


Between September 11, 2001 and today, Americans found out their government lied to build support for an unnecessary war. The same government illegally used private telecom companies to spy on Americans in a scope and depth unprecedented in our history. We know the government employed private contractors to help kidnap suspected terrorists and fly them to a series of secret prisons set up to avoid the protections of American law. At this same time, The CIA was engaging in forms of torture for which members of the Japanese military were tried and found guilty after World War 2. To add insult to injury, they videotaped these torture sessions, and when told by a federal court not to destroy the tapes, a CIA official did so any way. Not one person has been convicted of a crime in any of the above gross violations of American law. A special prosecutor has decided not to bring criminal charges against Jose A. Rodriguez, the CIA official who admits he destroyed the tapes, nor any charges against those above him who gave him permission to obstruct justice.

It is difficult to convey in writing the anger, frustration and outrage I hold because of this chain of events. How can America claim to be a nation of laws...a nations which uses these laws to incarcerate more of its citizens than any other nation on earth...a nation where no one is supposed to be above the law.. and yet these travasties of justice go on without opposition from the citizens in whose name these people were acting?

Even after a court ordered the taped evidence preserved, Mr. Rodriguez argues in a series of emails to his superiors that "the heat" the agency would take over destroying the tapes is nothing compared to what will happen if anyone sees the tapes. Rodriguez says the tapes would make "us" look terrible and would be devastating to "us". He isn't referring to the United States. The "us" is him and his friends at the CIA and the Bush Administration. Bush got two lawyers in his own administration to say it was legal to destroy the tapes and thus Rodriguez was acting in "good faith". Torquemada and the Inquisition couldn't have structured the law any better to fit their purposes. It appears as long as someone is acting in "good faith", they can lie, obstruct justice, torture, kidnap, spy even kill with impunity.

In his new book, President Bush says, "legal officials in his administration did their best and criminalizing differences of legal opinion would set a terrible precedent for our democracy." Is he out of his freakin' mind? As long as a government lawyer says it's legal, nothing can be a criminal act? It is breathtaking to conceive of the ways such a concept could be abused. Actually, we already know because the list of actions I cited earlier was all approved by the Bush legal team. I just want to be clear. As long as a lawyer, employed by the President, signs off, the CIA, FBI, NSA,Homeland Security and, wait for it, wait for it, "private companies and contractors" cant be held responsible for the criminal acts they engage in?

In his book, Bush says Vice President Cheney threatened to quit when Bush wouldn't pardon Scooter LIbby. I can understand Cheney's outrage. Everyone else was getting off, why not his little buddy? (of course Bush commuted any jail time so once again the law didn't apply to Libby either.)

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission concluded a number of corporations and banks engaged in fraud, lying, covering up and hiding facts from investors. No criminal charges were filed. The Justice Department proved a number of pharmaceutical companies had sold drugs illegally by selling them for uses which were not approved. No criminal charges were filed despite the harm caused. It will eventually be proven BP, Halliburton, and Transocean cut costs, sacrificed safety and cut corners leading to the explosion on an oil rig, the deaths of 13 people and the worst oil spill in history. No criminal charges will be filed.

Human beings, under orders from their government, (Bush admits he personally authorized the torture techniques used), tortured prisoners. They were just following orders. Where have I heard that before? How can the average citizen have any respect for the criminal justice system or the law when they know there is a different set of rules for some than for others? What damage does this legal sophistry due to the rule of law? How do Bush et. al. combat the national cynicism and jaded perspective which this kind of legal subversion causes? How scary is it to realize the government can do whatever it wishes to you or anyone, as long as it is acting in "good faith"? I thought we had resolved these questions at Nuremburg. I was wrong.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Lord, on this day of Thanksgiving, please bless all creation and help us to live in a constant state of gratitude and appreciation. In a year where so many have lost so much...the safety and comfort of much loved homes, jobs, economic security and perhaps worst of all...hope, we are thankful for the love of our families and friends and realize what a gift they are to us.

We give thanks for the grace you gave us to see all of the blessings and gifts we have been given this year. So often, we hear the call to consume and spend and acquire. Thank you for the insight to reject false idols and pursue a full life ...reaching out to all we love and bringing them closer than ever before.

Thank you for those who, even in difficult times, find ways to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, and heal the sick. Thank you for those who struggle to grow our food and provide for our meal on this and all days. Thank you for those who spend their time and talents preparing feasts for all who are hungry in both body and spirit.

Bless all who gather together on this day. Listen to the stories we share across thousands of tables and banquets and hear our prayers and petitions. Never let us forget all we have been given and help us to remember that the world is alive with the grandeur of God.


The New York Times is reporting on the increasing phenomenon of Afghan women setting themselves on fire to protest the lack of human rights and the oppressive discrimination they face in a fundamentalist Afghan society. It is difficult to understand the mentality which would treat women worse than the animals used for farming and we find it so foreign to American sensibilities...or do we?

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is a rising political star in this country. He is a supporter of tea parties and, in the last election, a king maker in a number of races all over the nation. DeMint wants to reshape the Republican party, and this nation, in his own image and likeness. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, DeMint gives some hints about how he wishes to change the laws of the land to "save the country". He believes in laws which would prohibit gays and unwed pregnant women fro teaching in the public schools. He would outlaw abortion and deny women access to the morning after pill and other birth control technologies. He opposes any minimum wage and wants deeper tax cuts for the richest Americans. He has written a book which advocated laws which would outlaw or punish promiscuity, (whose definition?)...divorce (battered women rejoice)...illegitimacy (lock up the women? We know men will be untouchable)...pornography (the government watching what you view or write or the m movies and TV shows allowed on the air?) well as drug abuse (outlaw alchohol?) and gambling. (no more football pools I guess). He claims to be a conservative who believes in small government, however, he would expand government's power over our private lives exponentially. All of the cultural attacks are justified by his religious faith. He is just doing God's work. There is little difference between Senator DeMint and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maybe you are thinking, hey he's only one guy. He's one Senator. He 's a cook and a flake. He cant cause that much damage. There's nothing to worry about. Really?

More and more, regressive advocates want to use government to enforce their cultural biases. they want to enshrine their intolerance in law. All religions are not equal. Being a woman means you lose control of your m most private intimacies and life. If you are gay, you are morally suspect and somehow dangerous around children in a classroom. These people , like DeMint, are the same ones leading the movement in Texas to re-write history and science books and eliminate or water down discussions ranging from evolution to civil rights. Add to all of this more than 26 states ready to pass laws similar to the law in Arizona giving police the power to stop anyone and demand proof of citizenship and it isn't hard to envision a march backwards in time to a day when only wealthy, white men were allowed to vote or serve in office and control the power in this land.

What is it about Americans and the antipathy about civil liberties and toleration? Newly elected Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says it was wrong to pass civil rights legislation forcing businesses to treat all employees equally. New Yorkers dont want an Islamic center to be built near ground zero because of their hatred of Islam. Fox pundit Juan Williams had no qualms about publically expressing worry and anxiety any time he boards a plane which also carries Muslims. The first gay Episcopalian bishop is retiring because he cant endure all the hate and tension his ordination has caused. (hate and tension from his fellow Christians) Americans have rolled over and given the government extraordinary powers to spy on us, read our mail and email, track us on the internet, demand to know what books we take out of a library and listen in on our phone calls. Can you imagine what Jim DeMint or the people in Texas or Arizona would do if they got their hands on the reins of power?

The fundamentalists in Afghanistan who are so oppressive and so bent on denying women any rights, are not that different from the American fundamentalists and regressives who would be more than happy to impose their cultural values on the rest of us and use the power of government not to expand rights, not to broaden the tent, but to put them on top and anyone who disagrees with them disenfranchised and denied access to the Constitution. All it takes is for people of good will to stay silent.


Recently, National Public Radio fired Juan Williams and MSNBC suspended Keith Oberman. Williams was fired for a comment made about Muslims and Oberman was suspendedfor making politcal contributions without approval as I understand.

I get anxious anytime a commentator is sanctioned for commenting. In Oberman's case, he was suspended for making political contributions. Giving someone money for their election is a form of comment. it means you approve of their politics. Wiliams was fired because he said in an interview he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on an airplane he is boarding.

There are two issues here and they need to be separated. Firing williams for his comments about Muslims was wrong. He is paid to give his opinion. His opinion was silly and insensitive. He stereotyped all Muslims in a way he would virulently object to if it was applied to African Americans. If a prominent pundit has said he is concerned anytime he walks in Washington DC because of all the young black men walking the streets, Williams would be the first to attack the prejudice reflected and the broad brush used to tar an entire population. William's opinion reflected poorly on him and made him look like he was pandering to his friends at Fox. However, it was not a firing offense. If you hire someone to give their opinion and then punish them when they express themselves, you send the message they were hired to only offer views of which you approve. I didnt approve of the firing of Don Imus or Bob Grant Or even Michael Savage for their opinions. They did what they were hired to do.

Obermann's suspension also makes no sense. By contributing to some progressive politicians's campaign, Oberman was not being a hypocrite, nor was he acting in a way contrary to his public persona. Oberman is a progressive and he used his own private money to support other progressives. Is anyone surprised? Has he somehow undercut his credibility with his audience? Recent reports have confirmed Sean Hannity gives money to support regressive candidates of his choosing and Fox has no objections. Why does MSNBC? Are you surprised or outraged by either man's actions?

There is another issue however. NPR issued a statement claiming it has been warning Williams to stop offering opinions on other media outlets. NPR's president says this is just the latest incident and Williams had been aware of their objections. I have to confess I didnt understand this argument. He has been a commentator on Fox for years. He isn't very progressive. IN fact, he always struck me as naive to let himself be used by Fox for political cover as the token representative of the "other" side of the political spectrum. Like Alan Combs, Williams has always been a weak representative of the progressive case and is regularly steam rolled by his Fox colleagues. NPR seemed to have a problem with Williams on Fox. They told him so. They told him not to continue to give his opinions on that or any other place. Williams ignored this and was fired. NPR had every right to contract with williams and impose conditions. Williams ignored them and was terminated. I have no problem with NPR's actions at all. The first amendment doesnt guarantee you wont suffer consequences for your opinion. the fact Williams immediately signed a$2 million deal with Fox, suggests he may have done all of this on purpose.

I dont know what Oberman's contract says. If there is a provision prohibiting political contributions without approval he needs to honor the contract. He is not new at this. If he didnt like the provision he shouldnt have signed the deal. If that is why he was suspended, I have no problem with that either.

NPR fired Juan Williams because his opinion was politically embarrassing to them. It was a cowardly act. It was done to appease some constituency, although I'm not sure which one. If they didnt like him on Fox, they shouldnt have hired him at NPR. They knew they would take serious heat if they dropped him for being on Fox and voicing controversial opinions. They are sensitive to being attacked by regressives in Congress who threaten their funding. They seized on a comment he made to justify letting him go. Williams thanked them al the way to the bank and is now a darling on Fox.

MSNBC's suspension of Oberman smacks of corporate ass covering. Once again, I cant figure out whose ox he gored. Comcast is in the middle of buying NBC/MSNBC. They need Congressional approval and approval of the Justice Department and maybe they worried Oberman's actions threatened the merger in some way. Regressives hate him and congressional regressives really hate him. If he was suspended to curry favor with regressives on the hill, we should all be very worried. What else will Comcast do to score political points?

If you hire people to give opinions, dont be outraged when they give them. Firing them is morally wrong. However, if an employee violates his or her contract on purpose, he or she cannot be surprised if sanctions follow. IN both Willilams and Oberman's case, I dont know which scenario is accurate, but I have my suspicions. Do you?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The definition of Insanity

                                                          THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY
     " continue to perform the same action over and over expecting different results."

     The Wall Street Journal is full of stories about the electoral smackdown endured by the President and the Democratic Party on November 2, 2010.  60 plus seats lost in the House of Representatives and 7 seats in the Senate.  According to various pundits, it was a political tsunami, tidal wave, earthquake or landslide. (Jon Stewart pointed out all of these metaphors kill thousands of people each year)  While some stories analyze the results, most are concerned with how the President and resurgent Republicans will get along.  The punditocracy is awash with shouts of "...accomodate, knuckle under, no more business as usual, give in, capitulate."  Karl Rove, Fred Barnes, David Brooks, Newt Gingrich and others offer Obama advice on how to remain relevant in the upcoming debate.  Not surprisingly, they call on Obama to move farther to the center (meaning more regressive), find ways to compromise with Republicans, abandon his agenda or risk losing he re-election big in 2012.  Like they really care.

     For his part, President Obama is once again reverting to type.  After squandering his political capital and alienating his base by trying to find even one Republican to vote with him to reform health care, re-regulate Wall Street and stimulate the economy...after giving away everything but the kitchen sink in order to chase the chimera of bi-partisanship...after abandoning a public option, real competition in health care, comprehensive reform of the banking industry and passing too little too late in the form of economic stimulus, the President is quoted today as being open to compromise on the Bush tax cuts.  Here we go again.  On the heels of Obama's jelly legged response, barely re-elected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chimes in he is open to compromise as well.  Will they never learn?

     Conservative and moderate Democrats, the so-called Blue Dogs, were slaughtered in the mid terms.  22 out of 53 lost their seats while only 4 out of 83 progressives were defeated.  The reason why so many moderates lost is because there was no difference between them and the Republicans.  They watered down health care reform, Wall STreet reform and opposed further economic stimulus.  I was so please to see Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln get  her walking papers.  She was a political wind sock and deserved what happened to her.  Yet, despite the fact progressives faired well, the President is already making noises about accomodation.  He says he has been too tough on business.  He says he shouldnt have been so harsh on Wall Street.  He hints he might allow the richest taxpayers to continue to enjoy the lowest tax rates since 1951 at a cost of over $1 Trillion to the treasury and added to the deficit.  The President has already abandoned his energy bill.  Meanwhile, Republicans have announced they will oppose extensions of unemployment insurance and refuse to fund the regulatory agencies needed to oversee health insurance companies and Wall Street.

     The latest polls show the highest percentage of voters wants Washington to improve the economy and create jobs.  Only 8% want a balanced federal budget as a goal.  It's time for the President to "man up" and lead the Democratic party and the nation.  Increase taxes on the top 1% of taxpayers and put the money into research and new technology industries.  Bring home the troops and cut the military budget and start rebuilding the nation's roads and bridges and electrical grid also creating jobs.  Raise the capital gains tax and use the revenue to pay for more students to go to college.  Fund high speed rail in key regional corridors creating immediate jobs and developing technology exportable to other parts of the world creating even more jobs.  Give tax breaks to business who hire new employees.  Dare the Republicans to oppose you.  Confront them and force them to defend the rich and the banks and demand they produce a plan to improve the economy , create jobs and not just be the party which opposes everything.

     It may not be possible for Obama to fight back.  He may not have it in him.  Compromising and back-filling and accomodation got him no where in the last 2 years.  The American people do not give him any credit for the legislative achievements he managed and rewarded the Republicans for doing nothing but scaring people and opposing anything he proposed.  The American people rewarded the Republicans for rooting for the President to fail.  Why does he think it will be any different for the next two years if all he does is the same thing he has tried in the past?  They say you need a fire in the belly to want to be President, someone needs to relight Obama's pilot light.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Some of my fellow campers and I were working our way through the Book of Psalms and arrived at Psalm 37. One line stood out. Verse 4 says, "...Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart's desire." It provoked a discussion about what does one's heart desire?

Recently, my heart desired a Giant's victory in the World Series. I admit it is a silly subject to bring before God, but the Giant's post season had been a great source of joy for my wife and children and me. It gave us all a shared rooting interest in something. It was positive and fun and it distracted us from the economic uncertainty of the times and the residual pain caused by my stupidity. The World Series win was a poignant moment allowing us to reminisce about many things including my father's and their grandfather's role in bringing the Giants to San Francisco.

Today, when pressed, I was not able to clearly articulate my deepest and most profound heartfelt desires. As I weighed options, it became clear my heart desires my family to be safe. I desire my wife and children be happy and free from fear. I couldn't come up with anything for myself. It was all external to me. My heart desires my children to persevere in the face of adversity and to be compassionate and honorable. I desire my wife find peace and realize how much I love her. All of the above would be good, but somehow it doesnt answer the question enough. The question seems to require a deeper level of awareness.

The easy devotional answer is to desire to go to heaven. I dont know what that means ultimately and neither does anyone else. Besides, the Psalmist is writing about "now" and Jesus tells us He came to bring us life and life to its fullest now, not later in heaven.

My heart desires to love and be loved. Nothing would be more pleasing than to be able to open each day with a song of praise and gratitude for all I have been given instead of a litany of complaints and grievances which is how we usually greet each day. To pray and feel the presence of God would be a boost to my spirit. Too many times, like Mother Theresa, I feel totally alone. I desire to be a better person, husband, friend and parent. My heart desires to never again let pride lead me to decisions and choices which hurt so many especially me. My heart knows God forgives the moment we sincerely ask. Now, I desire the help to forgive myself which I cannot seem to accomplish.

Every day you are inundated with messages about what your heart should desire. Our society depends on your desires and then your consumption. 2/3 of our economy depends on you desiring an Ipad, Iphone, new car, new clothes, to desire to acquire and gather. How subversive is it to suggest we desire to improve ourselves, be thankful, help those least fortunate and not worry about "stuff" so much? How dangerous is it if Americans answer this question with a desire to be better stewards of the earth, more protective of true valuables and committed to a "full" life rather than a "filled" life?

If today, right now, God would be willing to fulfill your heart's desire, what would it be? Can you articulate what you really want? If not, why not? If you know your heart's desire, why aren't you living in such a way as to make it real?

You all lead oppressively busy lives. You would love an extra hour each day or a respite from the constant demands and pressure. How does one discern their heart when they dont even have time to stop and take a breath? Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, I have a lot of time to ponder questions. This and others like it have to be answered. I'm working on it. When will you have the time to figure out what you really desire?

Friday, November 5, 2010


I don't believe the government of the United States or any Western democracy can stop

another September 11th from occurring. They can get lucky and prevent one from happening;

but ultimately there will be more attacks. Given that reality, the latest proposal by the

Obama administration seems to have much more to do with failed drug wars, failed law

enforcement efforts, and failed human intelligence than it does with national security.

The White House wants legislation mandating any service which facilitates

communications have a built-in back door so the government can listen in or read whatever

it wishes. This requirement would include encrypted e-mail platforms like Blackberry, social

networks like Facebook, and any software which allows "peer to peer" communications like

Skype. Any encryption software would have to provide a way for the government to

unscramble the message.

The government would have to get a warrant to tap these communication systems; but

with the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment, the government can get a judge to agree to

a wiretap easier than Glenn Beck can produce tears.

Do I need to remind you the Bush administration didn't ask for warrants as it used

telecom companies and the NSA to "data mine" American's cellphones, e-mail, Internet

activities, Blackberries, and Smartphones? The FBI used national security letters to force

libraries and other institutions to turn over records of what Americans were reading and

researching (illegal by the way). We have no way of knowing if the Obama administration

discontinued these practices; but we do know a feckless Congress passed legislation granting

the telecom companies immunity and making these illegal acts legal.

Despite all the spying and illegal wiretaps and unconstitutional searches, the government

has not caught a major terrorist or terrorist cell. They didn't catch Richard Reed, the shoe

bomber, nor did they stop the Christmas Day underpants bomber. They completely missed

the Times Square bomber and the Fort Hood shooter. As of today, containers still come into

American ports unexamined and radicalized Americans still seem to be able to get to Pakistan

and Yemen for training without the U.S. government's knowledge. Even as they try to scare us

into giving up more of our civil liberties; law enforcement really wants these new tools to

continue a drug war they are losing, to spy on Americans who engage in political dissent, and

to catch little fish like the Fort Dix pizza delivery guys to justify monstrous budgets.

In Part One of this piece, USA Today uncovered the practice of U.S. attorneys lying,

covering up evidence, engaging in prosecutorial misconduct all in the name of getting the job

done. The result was innocent Americans going to prison for crimes they didn't commit.

The New York Times chronicled how FBI agents were so desperate to arrest a group of alleged

terrorists; they use their informant to try to entrap them into illegally buying a gun just in case

the evidence in the case was too thin and the case might "go south". In a recent editorial, the

Times excoriated an FBI agent sent to spy on an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh. He took pictures

of demonstrators and filed a report on who attended. The FBI lied when confronted by

the ACLU. They claimed the agent was there looking for a possible terrorist who might show

up at the rally. They lied to cover up their real purpose. FBI director Robert Mueller used

the lie when testifying in front of a Congressional committee. Every time the government

wants more power to spy on us and to invade our privacy. They promise us there are checks

and balances in the system to protect our Constitutional rights and every time we discover

that nothing could be further from the truth.

They say "trust us" and then we find out evidence is suppressed, agents lie, warrants

aren't worth the paper they are printed on and judges simply rubber stamp anything the

government wants to do as long as they claim it involves national security. The greatest

scandal of our criminal justice system, resulting in the gutting of the Fourth Amendment,

is caused by judges who fail to do their job and protect the rights of average Americans.

Now the Justice Department wants new laws to enable them to tap the Internet and turn it

into a facsimile of the old telephone system. Experts say this could stifle innovation because

software engineers won't be able to design new capabilities if they spend all their time

designing ways for the government to get in the back door. Of even more concern, is the

security threat "backdoors" represent. There have been a number of occasions where

cyber-attacks were successful because hackers used the built-in "backdoors" to get into

government and private industry information systems. In Greece, in 2005, hackers used a

mandated "backdoor" to spy on top official's phones including the Prime Minister's.

Imagine a U.S. Attorney, a zealot, salivating at getting a bad guy and he thinks you may be

the one. This U.S. Attorney can use the Patriot Act to secretly enter your home to bug your

computer and mine all Internet activities. National security letters can be used to check on

what you are reading or what your other interests might be. Your car is followed by access

to On-Star-like systems, your cellphone can be tracked and telecom companies will let them

listen in to all your calls.

Despite all this massive intrusion into your privacy, they uncover evidence which totally

exonerates you. What do you think the U.S. Attorney will do? After spending all that money

and time, will he just give up and slink away into the night?

If I thought the judiciary would act in its role as a check against executive power, maybe

these new proposals would be less troubling. However, we know the FISA (Foreign

Intelligence Surveillance Act) court, which meets in secret, grants warrants in over 98% of

the cases brought to it by the government. We know the FBI and CIA lie about the reasons

they need warrants to spy on us, if they ask for them at all. We know the U.S. Attorneys will

convict innocent Americans and cover up evidence which proves their innocence. Who is left

to protect "us" from "them"?

It is up to you. What will you tell your member of Congress to do regarding privacy,

the Fourth Amendment, and the government's request for even more spying authority? In

the past, Americans have been cavalier about their civil liberties until they are gone. Will

this be the case again? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to


As long as there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians, there will be no peace

in the Middle East and al Qaeda will be able to recruit suicide bombers and others willing

to be terrorists for the cause. It doesn't matter what happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, or

Pakistan or even Lebanon. As long as Israel occupies post-1967 Palestine and as long as

there is no two-state solution, peace is impossible anywhere else.

One of the biggest obstacles to peace is the illegal settlements which have been built

on the West Bank. Sunday, a freeze on settlement construction ended. Jewish settlers

celebrated by starting construction on a child care center. Settlers claim over 11,000 homes

are waiting to be built, greatly expanding the size of the Jewish footprint in the West Bank.

The settlers know their communities are illegal in the eyes of the world and they hear talk

of a two-state solution; but they also know if they build enough there will be no practical way

to dislodge them from the area. Construction has to stop, the settlements abandoned, and

the land returned to the Palestinians.

Palestinian negotiators did not walk away from the negotiating table after Israel allowed

the construction moratorium to end. President Mahmoud Abbas says he will give it one more

week to resolve the issue or he will walk away. He told the United Nations that Israel must

choose between the settlements and peace. Extending the settlements would infringe on

territory Palestinians claim for their future state.

There is no debate, except within Israel and Israeli supporters in this country, about

whether the settlements are illegal. Numerous experts have cited them as violations of

international law. The settlements have taken Palestinian homes and land with no

compensation; and many believe the settlement movement is a brazen attempt to extend

Israel's borders precluding any peace negotiations or any solution to the conflict.

For their part, the Palestinians have to make choices too. They must recognize Israel's

right to exist. They must abandon their demand that exiled Palestinians have a "right to

return" to land which is now the state of Israel. They must settle the question of the status of

Jerusalem. They must denounce Hammas and show an ability to control security. These too

are obstacles to peace and only the Palestinians can deal with them.

If construction renews and settlements are expanded, we will have concrete proof Israel

does not desire peace nor is it interested in a two-state solution. If the moratorium ends and

new houses are built, American foreign aid to Israel should end. If more occupied land is taken

for Israeli use, military sales to Israel should be suspended.

Israel has every right to exist. It has every right to protect itself and its legitimate

territorial integrity. Israel has every right to oppose terrorism and defend itself. Israel does

not have the right to steal land, destroy fields, or expand its territory at Palestinian expense.

Perhaps Israelis should re-read the prophet Amos and what he says God thinks of oppression

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

them to


I am convinced if the U.S. Justice Department wanted to convict an innocent American

citizen of a crime, they could so with virtual impunity. Those who know me, know I am not

a conspiracy enthusiast, nor do I believe there are concentration camps set up for political

dissidents. However, it has become clear to me there is a serious problem with the criminal

justice system as practiced at the federal level.

USA Today's cover story on September 23rd dealt with an investigation they undertook

in which they uncovered prosecutorial misconduct in U.S. Attorney's offices throughout the

country. The story is a scathing account of prosecutors who believe the end justifies the

means. Prosecutors willing to do everything from suborning perjury to hiding evidence

which would help prove a suspect's innocence. Americans have spent years in prison for

crimes they did not commit because of the actions of the federal government. It has happened

to rich and poor, humble and powerful. The late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens was convicted

in a federal case of corruption and accepting bribes or favors. The conviction was thrown out

when it was discovered by the judge and defense lawyers that federal prosecutors had evidence

which could have cleared Stevens and had engaged in egregious misconduct. A federal

investigation was instituted and a report expected within weeks. This week, one of the lead

prosecutors committed suicide in anticipation of the report's release. USA Today identified

over two hundred cases in which similar misconduct occurred. What is far worse is what they

could not uncover. Ninety percent of federal indictments never go to trial. A deal is struck,

usually under threat of significant jail time if it is not accepted. The same kinds of misconduct,

lying, hiding exculpatory evidence, etc. goes on at that level; but no one knows because no

judge or cross-examination looks at the truth of federal prosecutor's statements nor at the

evidence they say they have amassed or if they have uncovered evidence which would prove

innocence of the charges.

Recently, the New York Times reported four people accused of plotting to blow up a

synagogue appear to have been set up. An e-mail from an FBI agent indicated a fear that their

case might not hold up and they needed a backup plan to convict if the first charges failed.

The FBI encouraged an informant to get one suspect to buy an illegal gun so they could charge

him with that crime if they couldn't get him on terrorism charges. The agent said they needed

a criminal charge "in their back pocket" if "things go south". The FBI was soliciting a crime

and justified it as a way to put the bad guys away if the first charges don't stick.

Neither the USA Today cover story nor the New York Times story got any traction with

the corporate media and as far as I can discern, there have been no outcries, no calls for

Congressional hearings, and no shake-up at the Justice Department.

In fact, USA Today reports that there is no evidence that any prosecutor is being accused

of any crimes or that anyone has even been seriously disciplined for these actions. A federal

prosecutor in Florida, who hid evidence and sent a man to prison for nine years, is currently

in private practice and has not ever been called to account for his actions.

Justice is supposed to be blind. It turns out it must be deaf and dumb too. The

government is so powerful it can almost do anything it wishes to anyone. It is truly

frightening to think of the abuses which have and can continue to exist.

I wish I could explain why these stories didn't get bigger play. Why didn't members of

Congress demand to know more? Why aren't the tea partiers outraged at big government

at its worst? Why do we believe accusation equals guilt? Why don't we take innocence more

seriously? What would you do if you were accused of a crime you didn't commit and were

convicted because the government conspired to hide evidence or covered up your innocence?

(For those of you who say you don't have to worry because you have never done anything

wrong, this story should give you great pause as the government asks for more and more

intrusive power into your lives and waters down the Fourth Amendment.)

Americans have had their freedom taken from them because a group of lawyers think

they are above the law. They are the good guys fighting to get the bad guys. Even after caught,

they still argue they were right and their means justified. This is a direct assault on the

structure of this nation. No one is supposed to be above the law, but no one is below it either.

Federal prosecutors have unlimited power. The only protections we have are the Constitution

and the judiciary along with aggressive defense lawyers. It turns out those protections are

weak at best. How many more innocent Americans are in prison today? How many of these

"terrorist" cases were a set-up or entrapment? Why don't Americans care? Do the ends

justify the means? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to