Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Of the 535 members of Congress, we know there are one Muslim and a number of Jews. The vast majority call themselves Christians and there is not a single atheist in the bunch. At least there is no one who will admit to it. Many of the most regressive members, Bachman...DeMint...Ryan...Boehner...Shelby...wear their religion on their sleeves and claim it helps to inform and direct them when they are faced with moral decisions. It is their religious beliefs, which lead them to oppose abortion and most forms of contraception. Their reading of the Bible leads them to want to break down the wall, which separates church and state. I take them at their word and thus I can see a solution to the current budget deficit/debt ceiling impasse...Matthew 25:31-46.

It's the end time and all the nations have been gathered before God. They are separated with one side getting paradise and the other eternal damnation. The criteria are quite simple. "I was naked and you gave me clothing, hungry and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, sick and you healed me, in prison and you visited me. Whenever you did this for the least of your brothers and sisters, you did it for me." If you helped the least of society you were in. If not, God called you accursed and rejected you. Since so many members of Congress claim to follow Jesus, read the Bible and live by its precepts, how does this help solve the latest boondoggle?

Congress and the President have to accomplish a number of tasks. They have to raise the debt ceiling to maintain full faith and credit in our treasury notes. They have to set budget priorities to bring our fiscal house into order. They have to create jobs and grow the economy. They have to promote the general welfare.

It's why I'm baffled by the Christian regressives. If they have their way, the social safety net of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid go away. (I'm not being histrionic they have said its their goal). They would end Head Start and food stamps as they now exist. They want to eliminate the earned income tax credit for the working poor and job training for workers whose jobs were taken overseas. They oppose expanding Pell grants for poor students. At the same time, they refuse to raise taxes on the rich even though tax rates haven't been this low since 1950. They want to cut taxes for corporations, many of who pay no taxes now. They continue to support an ever-increasing budget for the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and the DEA. I'm confused. Matthew 25 says the key to salvation is providing for the least of our brothers and sisters. Do you sense some kind of disconnect? Could it be these are cultural Christians, people who claim to believe to fit in, rather than people of faith? How would rich or privileged atheists differ with their "Christian" members of Congress on these matters?

What would a fiscal plan look like if it were proposed by the sheep rather than the goats? It would raise the debt ceiling in order to keep our word and pay our debts. It would look forward and return tax rates back to their level in 1992. The Pentagon would see a smaller budget even as the Veterans Administration budget would have to grow to handle all those hurt and damaged over the last 10 years. Social Security would increase its eligibility age to 68 over 10-15 years. There would be no income limit on how much you have to contribute. Medicare would also increase its eligibility age and costs brought under control through comprehensive health care reform. Health care reform would reduce the demand for Medicaid. Between Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Pentagon and along with interest on the national debt, you have covered 3/4 of the entire budget. As for the rest, it's simple. Programs which help the least of our brothers and sisters get funded. Educational opportunities are expanded. Vocational training expanded. Basic research, the key to innovation and jobs, is funded. Budgets for the EPA would increase. (How could improving our health and environment be un-Christian?) Anything, which ignores or abandons the stranger, the naked, the hungry or those in prison, is anathema. Imagine the impact these Christians and their gospel could have in the immigration debate and the issues of surrounding the poor and strangers pouring into this nation.

No one has to be a Christian. There is no religious litmus test to be a member of Congress is there? (Ok, ok my tongue is firmly inserted into my cheek.) How can you claim to follow the little Jewish carpenter and yet ignore one of the key tenets of salvation? Imagine if our budget debates and our discussion of national priorities started with the criteria laid out in Matthew 25. Imagine our country with health care and education and jobs and food available to all. Imagine national policy based on what is best for the least of our citizens rather than a policy designed to help the haves have more.

Of course such policies would be condemned as socialism or communism or some ism and the condemnations would come on Sundays from pulpits and congregations all across the land...and when it's time for reckoning they will say, "When did we see you naked or hungry? When did we see you thirsty or sick, a stranger or in prison? (If we had seen you we would have helped!) Whatever you didn't do for the least of your brothers and sisters you didn't do for ME."

Should we be a nation of sheep or goats?

Monday, July 25, 2011


The current scandal involving Rupert Murdoch, his media empire, the British police, and the political establishment raises troubling questions about the nature of a free press and its role in maintaining a healthy democracy. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude this is a uniquely British problem and even more dangerous not to acknowledge the very same concerns about the press in this country.

I.F. Stone once said he didn't want to eat, drink or socialize with the people he wrote about in Washington. He didn't want to be friends with the politicians he hectored. He felt distance, and some alienation, assured his ability to be objective and call a spade a spade no matter whose ox he gored. Every year my stomach turns as stories and video emerges of the White House Correspondent's Dinner. While there doesn't have to be open warfare between the press and the powerful, there should at least be healthy suspicion and skepticism and the dinner is an example of the line between the two sides not blurring, but ceasing to exist.

This is not going to be a tirade about Murdoch and Fox and his genius in founding a news network based in ideology rather than journalism. Murdoch simply took to its logical conclusion, what had already happened to the corporate media in America. When General Electric bought NBC; Cap Cities bought ABC; Lowes Corporation bought CBS; all three demanded their news departments turn a profit. They cut back on anything, which didn't draw viewers. That moment was the beginning of the end of a vibrant, skeptical, press capable of acting as a watchdog on the rich and powerful. Making a profit equals a race for ratings. Ratings means getting people to sit and watch. Attracting viewers means covering stories, which grab their interest. It wasn't too long before the tabloidization of the news was off and running and this was long before Murdoch. White House reporters became millionaires. Networks shied away from controversy and any story which might alienates viewers. Investigative reports dwindled, unless they were about Lindsey Lohan, and foreign bureaus disappeared. Proof of how we have slipped is contained in the recent coverage of the Casey Anthony story. Can anyone explain the reason this story dominated network and cable news for weeks and months? We all know the answer. She was a cute, white woman and the victim was a child and the cast of characters was right out of central casting. The story was salacious and titillating. It was a slam-dunk.

As corporations bought up the news networks, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulating the electronic media and removing caps on how many radio and television stations corporations could own in any market. This allowed for even further concentration of media in fewer and fewer hands. Ironically, the Hanbaugh's of the world owe their existence to Clinton and de-regulation and to the elimination of their competition. They aren't where they are today because they defeated the competition, but because there was no one left to compete against. KGO is the proof of the pudding. Not once did any of these leading lights ever get better ratings than the locally produced content carried on this station.

Look across the nation today. Look in California today. What television station news department has a bureau in Sacramento? Does anyone have beat reporters anymore? Reporters who covered the cops and city hall? Reporters who knew where bodies were buried and what questions to ask? The only time these venues are covered today is when some print source raises a question or scandal and we all know the trouble print journalism is encountering. Can you think about a future in which only the electronic media were left to keep watch?

Murdoch is a cynical, amoral, despot who ruled in Britain through a combination of fear and intimidation. Even as the phone hacking scandal emerged, Newsweek is now reporting most of the media in Britain either ignored or played down the story. The police refused to take it seriously and maybe even covered it up and politicians turned a blind eye all because they were afraid of what Murdoch would do to them should they rock the boat. Murdoch was about to purchase all of B Sky B network and obtain a virtual monopoly on cable and satellite media. (Anyone seen any stories lately on what would happen if AT&T is allowed to buy T Mobile?) If it had not been for the Guardian newspaper, he would have gotten away with it all. Don't feel smug. It's happening here too.

We now know the entire corporate media was cowed by the Bush administration after September 11, 2001. They were terrified of criticizing or raising questions about Bush et. al. because they didn't want to be accused of being soft on terrorism or unpatriotic. The big media corporations were hoping the FCC under Bush would further deregulate and allow them to increase their holdings and antagonizing Bush could put all of that into jeopardy. Dan Rather has been quoted as admitting no one wanted to ask a tough question. We now know the Washington Post and New York Times were burying stories critical of the war on terror and which raised questions about the justifications for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Judith Miller, in a cozy relationship with Scooter Libby, was writing false stories and repeating Bush propaganda on the front pages of the Times. Stories raising questions about Bush administration assertions were buried on page 18 of the Post if they were published at all. The networks fell into lockstep. Does anyone remember the media love fest after Colin Powell spoke at the U.N.? Despite lying over and over again, no one in the media challenged him or the case he made. Actually, that is not entirely true. In the alternative press, Mother Jones...the Nation...the Progressive...Washington Monthly and others, questions were raised but ignored by the corporate media. Hell, Walter Isakson, then the head of CNN, ran up to capital hill to apologize to Republicans for CNN's coverage of politics and promised to do better. Really?

All Murdoch has done is be more ruthless and unethical. In his world, journalistic standards do not exist. In the rest of the world they are slowly being diluted. For him the end justifies the means. There is no journalism practiced at Fox. It is 24 hours a day of propaganda with the theme set each day by Roger Ailes. However, the rest are not much better. They are all competing for viewers or readers and this drives the discourse to the lowest possible denominator. The political debate always starts from the center and regresses. They are constantly looking for the next O.J. and Casey Anthony story. Do you think Nancy Grace cares about journalism? We now know the networks are paying for stories and interviews exactly the same way as the tabloids. Checkbook journalism is alive and well. Murdoch does it better perhaps, and with relish, but the rest aren't far behind.

The reason freedom of the press was enshrined in the first amendment was the founder's understanding democracy cannot function without a rigorous and independent press. They would be shocked to see the neutered eunuchs who pass for journalists these days. The one hope continues to be the alternative press. Search it out. Read it. Get informed. Subscribe and donate to keep them alive.

Do you want to know about Anthony Weiner, or about the billions being spent to defeat Dodd/Frank and the attempts to prevent financial services reform from being enacted? It is up to you. You get what you pay for and demand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Most Americans would not be able to point out how failing to raise the debt ceiling would affect them. However, if the regressive plan proposed by Republicans in the House were to become law, every American would quickly be able to feel its sting. The focus grouped, "Cut, Cap, and Balance" bill would require $400 billion in cuts each year for the next 10 years, cap spending at 19% of GDP, (despite Congressional Budget Office projections showing spending will need to rise to 21-22% in the next 10 years) and it would result in the end of Medicaid, (health care for the poor) and Medicare. It is truly a breathtaking proposal, as it would roll back and end the progressive agendas of the 20th century and return America to the Gilded Age of a weak federal government, low or no taxes on the rich and a Grand Canyon sized divide between the wealthy and the working poor.

If you ever wondered what our national priorities would look like if the regressive/tea partiers were to gain the Senate and the White House, it is now crystal clear what their vision of the future contains. The gap between the rich and everyone else would continue to grow. The social safety net would cease to exist. Education would become the purview of those who could afford the rising tuition. Innovation would dry up as spending on basic research drops precipitously. The Pentagon would continue to suck up huge amounts of resources and environmental gains of the past would quickly reverse.

All I have laid out isn't a secret. It has been the goal of regressives since FDR implemented his New Deal. Regressives have been quite vocal about their goals. In 1982, Reagan budget director David Stockman did the unthinkable when he committed truth. Stockman admitted the purpose of Reaganomics was to drive up the deficit and national debt so there would be less money available for social programs. They wanted to "starve the beast" to "cut off its oxygen". By driving up the deficit, regressives could attack socially progressive policy under the guise of fiscal discipline thus avoiding a political backlash among affected constituencies. "Don't blame me, we just don't have the money to fund these extravagances any longer." Regressive anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist says the goal is to starve government down to a size where he can drown it in a bathtub. Just as few people believed Hitler when he laid out his agenda and goals and philosophy in Mein Kampf, regressives have been clear their goal is to return government to how it looked in 1900 rather than 2000. Why don't we believe them? (Ironically, in 2000 America was prosperous, President Clinton turned over a surplus to George Bush and over 8 million jobs had been created during his presidency.)

"Cut, Cap and Balance" is political theater at its best. It has no chance of passing and regressives just want it for political talking points. The proof of the pudding is Democrats in the House tried to pass the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, a proposal which included the end of Medicare as we know it and contained most of what cut, cap and balance is said to accomplish, but Republican leaders rallied members to vote against its passage. The last thing they wish to do is incur the wrath of voters. They want to slowly suffocate the progressive agenda under the aegis of fiscal discipline. Regressive columnist David Brooks, bemoans the fact Republicans are overreaching. He says they have already accomplished so much. They have blocked any tax increases on the rich, forced Democrats to accept cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, blocked much of the financial Dodd/Frank reform bill from being implemented, stopped funding of regulatory agencies tasked with oversight over industry and manufacturing and agriculture, but are now getting greedy by opposing a raise in the debt ceiling. No truer words were ever written.

If you want to test my theory, just compare President Obama's proposal to Republican and House Majority Leader Eric Kantor's ideas. Obama proposed a $4 trillion reduction in spending over 10 years. He proposed $3 in cuts for every dollar in revenue increases. Kantor wants less than $2 trillion in spending over the same 10 years with no revenue from tax increases and massive across the board cuts, except at the Pentagon, and reducing benefits in both Medicare and Social Security. Kantor does not want to truly get us back on a fiscally sound footing. He wants to protect the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations and end the progress of the last 80 years.

When President Clinton raised taxes on the richest 1% in 1992, not a single Republican voted in favor. Newt Gingrich et.al. predicted the end of the world. Jobs would disappear. The economy would crater. Poverty would increase and personal wealth decrease. Taxing the "job-creators" (a euphemism for the rich) would be a disaster. As we now know, the opposite occurred. Job creation exploded. The economy grew red-hot. The wealthy got richer and the middle class grew and poverty decreased. In 2001, President Bush cut taxes on the richest 1% costing the treasury over $2.3 trillion. He started two wars, which he refused to pay for through increased taxes. Those wars will cost over $4 trillion when all is said and done. For the first six years of his presidency, he did not create a single net new job. The deficit and national debt ballooned. The economy went into a depression not seen since the 1930's from which we still haven't recovered. Between Clinton and Bush we have textbook examples of the effects of progressive vs. regressive policies.

We can’t keep spending at current rates. However, we can't keep tax levels for the rich at 1950 levels either. Anyone truly interested in a solution would embrace spending cuts and tax increases as the best way to put the nation on a good fiscal foot. (However Social Security shouldn't even be a part of the discussion as it doesn't add to the debt at all and pays for itself) Regressives aren't interested in a good fiscal footing which maintains the status quo. They want to end Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as we know them. They want to eliminate health care reform. They are reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in political contributions from the financial industry, corporations and the uber-rich so they can cut financial reform and regulations under which industry chafes. They are philosophically opposed to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), Federal Reserve, FDA (Food and Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), FDIC (federal deposit insurance corporation), FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and any other form of government regulation. They refuse to staff the new consumer watchdog agency. (What is so interesting is how they blithely accept the expansion of the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, TSA, and the DEA, which threaten our privacy and civil liberties. This is despite their constant mantra that the government governs best which governs least).

President Obama is actually drawing a line in the sand for once. He won't accept a short-term debt ceiling increase. He wants to do more. He needs to call the Republican bluff. He should oppose Mitch McConnell's Plan B; which allows him to raise the debt ceiling between now and 2012 and which would give the Republicans ammunition to use against him while they protect the rich from paying their fair share. However, the war on progress will continue unabated until the American people rise up and declare their preference for moving forward not regressing. I have little confidence the electorate will wake up and send the m message progress means life and standing still or regressing is political and economic death. As always, however, I live with hope.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This month marks the end of the Harry Potter movie saga. I am sorry to see it end, as it was a medium, both books and movies, which opened a world I could share with my children. The arrival of a new book or movie was a moment to contemplate the past, appreciate the present, and anticipate the future. Much like pencil marks on a doorsill, each additional episode of the Harry Potter story marked how much they had grown and encouraged me to consider on how we as parents had changed and evolved as well.

There is a treasure trove of memories, sitting right in front of me as I ponder the release of the last movie. I re-read the final volume to immerse myself again in the world of Hogwarts, wizards and magic. It isn't just a parallel universe. It is a world my family and I journeyed through along with Harry, Ron and Hermione and each memory is as precious as the sorcerer’s stone and as tasty as butter beer.

My dad died shortly before Thanksgiving in 2001. The first volume of the series had just been released in America. I knew almost nothing about it. I was staggered by my dad's death and this would be the first Thanksgiving without him. How do you have Thanksgiving without your dad? On the appointed day, I was once again at St. Anthony's Dining Room for our annual broadcast and the culmination of the Thanksgiving charity drive. Eighteen Thanksgivings were spent in that amazing place of hope and inspiration. It ended about 4pm. I walked out into the waning sunlight drained, tear stained, and morose. I looked up and there was my wife parked at the corner of Jones and Golden Gate. She said get in and off we went. I discovered we were not staying in the City for Thanksgiving. We were driving to Disneyland for a long weekend.

Each child had carved out a space in the car. They each had a backpack filled with books and games and snacks and each was wrapped in a cozy sleeping bag. They were snug and warm in their own personal space. I was sad and melancholy and welcomed switching with my wife and taking over the driving chores. We were on I-5 and she opened a box of cassettes. She inserted the first one and in the darkness of that car, traveling, maybe running from the reality of my father's and their grandfather's loss, we were introduced to the Dursleys and Privet Drive and the world of Harry Potter.

It was magical...as if a true spell had been cast. We were in our own self-contained world and we met Harry and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts. There wasn't a sound in the car except the rhythm of the road and the sound of each new chapter. At some point, one of the kids sheepishly asked about dinner. Afraid, possibly, of incurring the wrath of the others for stopping our wizarding experience. We ended up stopping and having Thanksgiving dinner at a Denny's. I don't remember much about the meal except for a pervasive cloud of sadness resulting from the comparison between this Thanksgiving and the fifty or more presided over by my dad. I do remember how the kids rushed back to the car, climbed in, wrapped themselves in their cubbies and anticipated the start of the next cassette.

It took 8-9 hours of driving to arrive at our destination, yet it seemed to pass in an instant. The rest of the weekend was fun and it was a good idea to get away for a few days, but until the day I die, I will never forget how close we seemed, how in our own world we felt, how special that time felt and we owed it all to J.K. Rowling and her brilliant imagination.

There are lots of other stories, which feature Harry Potter and our children. One volume came out as we prepared for a vacation in Tahoe. No one was allowed to start the book in the car. We all started at the same time once we arrived in Tahoe and only swimming interrupted the consumption of Harry's travels and travails. On one occasion, my daughter, Darcy, came to work with me. The latest book was to go on sale at midnight. A caller told me we could get it for half off at a Safeway in Strawberry Shopping Center in Marin. At 1:30am, the two of us went and bought two books, went home and stayed up for hours reading. When the Goblet of Fire movie was released, the children and myself decided to go to the 3am showing in 3D at the Metreon. We walked out into a sparkling sunrise so proud we had seen it before almost anyone else and drawn closer again with the shared experience.

I have missed sharing the last two movies with them. It's one more reminder of the consequences of stupidity and an inability to appreciate all I had been given. They are all quite grown now, and a chance to share a continuity of experiences which stretch from their childhoods to the now evolving adults they are becoming, won't be possible ever again. I missed it or blew it or tossed it away without understanding what a rare and valuable gift it truly was.

I and we will always have that night on I-5, speeding through the dark as Quiddich matches, and shopping trips to Dragon Alley and battles on brooms and with wands happened in a universe at once far away, yet as close as the love we felt for each other. Harry was no longer alone and maybe we knew from that night, we would never be either.

I am grateful for the memories, which mark each volume of Harry’s journey to adulthood. Visions of different faces, my son's and daughter's, flood into my senses as I think about each book. I'm grateful to a wife who was committed to exposing my children to reading and stories and who understood immediately the power of this particular story. I miss my dad. I miss my family, but I live in the hope these memories never disappear and we will be re-united one day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Writing about freedom and independence when you have neither is an interesting exercise. Yet, the nation celebrates its 235th birthday and the occasion should be a moment to reflect on our inalienable rights and where we are as a people in achieving the vision articulated in 1776.

Baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet's aside, 235 years after its founding, how well is this experiment in republican democracy working? (No, don't freak, I am not saying the Republicans founded the nation or they bear any resemblance to the founding fathers...ok maybe some emerged from John Calhoun’s loins, but that is grist for another mill.) We have a representative form of government designed to make the will of the people the law of the land. Really?

According to Thomas Jefferson, our creator, (note no reference to God with a capital "G") endowed us with certain rights. We are given the right to life. (That cheering you hear is from regressives saying we finally got him...he is now in favor of a right to life). For some Americans, life is getting longer, but for others, particularly people of color, the working poor and those at the bottom of the economic ladder, their lives are stagnant and any gains incidental. It turns out for many so-called "patriots", you have a right to be born but afterwards you are on your own. In almost any metric of childhood nurturing, the United States lags close to last among the industrialized nations of the world. From infant mortality to low birth-weight babies, to pre-natal care and nutrition, we are not exactly leading the pack. If by some unfortunate quirk of fate, you live in Texas, most of the South, or any state controlled by regressives, your right to a life of potential and fullness is in jeopardy. For the second half of the 20th century, you had a chance to live a life with better economic potential than your parents and the belief your children's quality of life could exceed your own. Progress was on the march and the middle class thriving. Today, after 70 plus years of class warfare, what would most Americans say about their progress pursuing life?

Perhaps none of the rights listed by Jefferson is more under threat than our right to liberty. Since World War II, there has been a war against liberty...a war conducted by the moneyed interests, the powerful and the corporatists against everyone else. Whether it was the McCarthy witch-hunts and loyalty oaths, blacklists and faux patriotism, interning American citizens in concentration camps, or an FBI and CIA running amok among average citizens, your liberty was curtailed. The government ran COINTELPRO, a counterintelligence program, aimed at our own people. In San Francisco, the FBI produced a coloring book, which attacked the police, and then passed it off as originating with the Black Panthers to crush a children's breakfast program the Panthers were running for poor people in the Fillmore. The CIA infiltrated peace groups and instigated violence. Even though the Church Commission exposed the out of control nature of the nation's law enforcement and intelligence services, no one could have envisioned how much worse things would get after September 11, 2001. With the passage of the Patriot Act, illegal electronic data mining, wiretaps on email, cell phones and internet activity, national security letters, and expanded FBI powers to come into your home, bug your computer, subpoena your library records all without your knowledge, the 4th amendment has ceased to exist. The first amendment is under siege, the 5th amendment has become window dressing and no nation except for China has more of its citizens behind bars. Cell phones are now designed to track your every move and insurance companies want to bug your car. Along with On-Star like systems, there is nowhere in the nation you can travel in privacy. There is more and more pressure to create a national ID card and laws in Georgia, Arizona and Alabama will require all residents to carry "papers" to prove their citizenship. Can you imagine Jefferson's take on all of this?

Your creator endowed you with the right to pursue happiness. Can we arrive at a definition of what it means to be happy these days? In 235 years, what is the American definition of achieving happiness? In your pursuit of a right given to you by your creator, and so precious it cannot be taken away from you according to Jefferson, do you have the right or can you have the expectation of a roof over your head, food on your table and clothes on your back? (No, sorry that's socialism) In pursuing happiness, should you be able to gather together with fellow workers to petition for a safe workplace, just salary and equal rights for all workers? (The answer is no in Wisconsin and other states where regressives want to end the right to collective bargaining) Can you pursue happiness if constantly worried about an illness, which could bankrupt and destroy your family's economic health? Is a good education a piece of the happiness puzzle? As schools for the middle class and poor fail, (they don't fail in Saratoga, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Ross or Moraga), as college gets more and more expensive, as community colleges turn students away, what are working Americans supposed to do? The corporate media has spent billions over the last 60 years to convince us happiness is best pursued consuming and buying. (2/3 of our economy depends on you spending money you don't have) We will be happy if we have the latest flat screen TV, Smartphone or iPad. We will experience ecstasy if we wear the latest fashions and keep hot pockets in the freezer.

I am a flawed and sinful man. I fell for many of the siren songs of consumerism, egotism and selfishness, which are sold to us daily. I am a cautionary tale to be avoided at all costs. I am not unique, just slower on the uptake than most. However, when studies about happiness and liberty and quality of life are conducted by reputable firms, the United States is never first. It's not even in the top ten. Why? I was once asked by Sean Hannity if America is the greatest country in the world. I responded "for whom?" This comment got me a mention in his first book as an example of a liberal who hates his nation. It really is true; patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. (I wish I could remember who coined that) Real patriotism means you love your country enough to fight for its best notions.

So, on this fourth of July I want to celebrate a nation which enables all its citizens to have a life...a long life, with potential and possibilities...which inspires and enriches...is free of fear and whose only limits are self imposed. 235 years later, I want to live in a country whose citizens won't trade personal liberty for the illusion of security. Liberty should be the third rail of politics, not social security. We should be safe in our person and papers. A politician who won't defend our personal liberty, who is easily stampeded by peer pressure and media hysteria, should hold no office. It's time to stop being afraid of whatever current boogey man the government and media thrust upon us. Nothing can harm you more than waking up one day wondering what happened to the liberties Jefferson envisioned and the Constitution enshrined. Finally, I want to celebrate a nation which defines a happy life as one free from the fear of homelessness, hunger, persecution and materialism and instead encourages pursuing loving relationships, a rising tide lifting all boats, an admission it is in loving and caring for others we receive love and care for ourselves. I want to live in a nation where my children can seek their dreams and achieve more than I ever thought was possible.

As you grill the hot dogs and burgers, smoke the ribs, eat peach cobbler or chocolate cake, I want you to take a moment to remember what Jefferson wrote, what Lincoln fought to preserve, what Roosevelt envisioned in his New Deal and what Obama's election represented and please find a way to fight for it, agitate about it and demand its promise be fulfilled for all Americans...one nation with liberty and justice for all.