Saturday, March 24, 2012


They had been traveling together for 3 years. Many had abandoned family and friends to walk with Him. They gave up their trade and risked the wrath of the authorities. He gave them signs and wonders which convinced them He was the Messiah, Son of Man, not sent to build a kingdom on earth, but rather to reveal to them a way to get so close to God, it would be like parent to child. On a mountain, they had a glimpse of His He would be when no longer constrained by the laws of this world. Then, in an instant, He is crucified, dies, is buried and they are left to wonder what went wrong? How did they get into this? What do they do now? Will they be next? They huddled together waiting for the other shoe to drop...scared, sad, lost.

Suddenly, rumors began to fly. He was alive. They had seen Him. They remembered Him telling them He would die only to rise. They were no longer scared. You couldn't shut them up. They talked to anyone and everyone. They had good news. The stone had been rolled back and they were convinced He was alive and conquered death.

The Easter story is the key to Christianity. Without it, Christmas is the birth of another Jewish boy named Joshua. With it, all the insights and epiphanies and revelations He had taught them were understood. Not only were we in a new relationship with God due to the incarnation, (Christmas), but now we know death is not the final answer. We GO On!

It's hard to take an event 2,000 years old and find ways it applies to people living in the 21st century. This is an era of extraordinary discovery and knowledge. From the Hadron Collider giving as an external view of the universe at its very beginning, to the Human Genome Project giving us a glimpse of the DNA which brings us to life in that universe, we live in a time when a rolled back stone, burial cloths and a ghost story seem quaint, but so distant.

The good news must be seen as one piece, one epiphany, and one revelation. From His birth, through His life and His death and resurrection, Jesus preaches the same message. We can know God. We can be so close to God it is like being mother and child. God wants to know us. She created us out of love and wishes to be loved in return. This relationship with God cannot be ended by the death of our physical body. It, and we, GO ON!

Despite all the advances of human kind, death still haunts us. Yet, the message of Jesus is one Einstein would have resonated with. Einstein said you can't destroy energy. You can change it, but not destroy it. At our deepest point of humanity, we all sense we are more than the sum of our parts. We are not defined solely by the chemicals and matter that constitute our body. We are more. Our identity is dependant on a corpulent form, but not limited to it. I transcend my body. I am more. It is this more that some refer to as the energy that cannot be destroyed, only transformed. One of the messages of Easter is death does not conquer us. Who I am goes on. The real question, and the message of Easter, is who is the "me" who will emerge when my stone is rolled back from the tomb?

As we read the gospels, Jesus doesn't spend much time on the meaning of resurrection. There are few stories in scripture post resurrection. He does, however, spend an inordinate amount of time on how we should live now, in this world. We are to love our enemy. (Since this cannot be truly done perhaps we are not to have enemies) Turn the other cheek...forgive an infinite number of for the least of our brothers and sisters...above all love our neighbor like God loves us. (as the Good Samaritan points out...everyone is our neighbor) Jesus promises us we can have life and life to its fullest if we listen to Him. In the 21st century, what is the definition of a full life? We know what Madison Avenue and the pop culture tell us. A full life means money, property, and lots of "stuff". A full life is ski vacations and a summer home. Our children are told to build "aps" and start companies, to achieve a level of success that carries with it all the accouterments of achievement defined by the current powers that be. The message of Easter is countercultural. The happier and more fulfilled we are now...the more we love and are loved in return...every time we choose to humanize ourselves and others, we are drawing closer to God. It is the promise of a wonderful life and a promise we will transition and evolve ever closer to God when we GO On!

I wish I had seen this sooner. I bought the whole package about what a good life meant, and I was wrong. The "me" who would have gone on would be someone caught up with ego and envy, arrogance and pride, anger and selfishness. The promise of Easter was lost on me, as it is on so many caught up in acquiring things and achieving success while missing the love of family and friends and the joy of being there for others.

Christians are Easter people. (named after a pagan goddess of course) God's promise extends to anyone who chooses to live a life of love and caring, however for Christians without Easter there is nothing.

So let me ask you...who will be the "you" who goes on? What is your definition of a full life and does it draw you closer or push you farther from God? The good news is you can get so close to God it will be like a parent and child. (How much do we all love our children? Imagine then how a close loving relation with God would feel.) The good news is death doesn't have to scare you. The good news hit the apostles like a ton of bricks and so empowered them they didn't care what happened to them when they shared what they knew to others. This ragtag band of simpering, whining, scared and imperfect people were transformed after Easter into bearers of news so amazing they had to shout it to anyone who would listen.

Easter is the culmination of the Christian year. It reminds us to take stock of who we are and the kind of life we are living. I am living proof you can completely screw it all up and yet it's not permanent and we can change. (and when we do change, God promises us forgiveness...not just forgiveness but says She will have no memory of what we had done) Please don't be afraid. Don't feel alone or abandoned. Don't hide in a room waiting to see what happens. Experience the joy of loving and being loved. When the stone is rolled back for you, the good news is you GO On! On this Easter may "you" experience the joy of the risen Jesus and realize the world is alive with the grandeur of God.

Friday, March 23, 2012


In the golden age of banking, somewhere between 1980 and 2007, profits soared despite the fact banks weren't lending as much and interest rates were moderate. Banks were making billions of dollars from bounced check fees, over draft fees, ATM fees and numerous other fees and charges imposed on the average customer, many without their knowledge. The fees bore no relation to actual costs to the banks. Their amount was based on what the banks could get away with in any given market. When you add all the gambling they were doing with customer money and the end of restrictions on their activities, banks were making money hand over fist...until the bubble burst.

Now, due to the Dodd/Frank legislation, and the creation of a new consumer rights agency, banks have seen new rules imposed on everything from overdraft fees to the fee charged to businesses for handling credit card transactions. Instead of a profit margin of 15%-20%, banks find themselves back to the days when they might make an 8% profit and be thrilled. They aren't thrilled, and are determined to find a way to make you pay to bring those profits back.

In a move reminiscent in its stupidity to the introduction of classic Coke, Bank of America tried to introduce a fee on customers who want to access their money. The public outcry was so strong; they folded like a house of cards. However, lately the industry is trying again. Wells Fargo, and others, want to charge a fee if you don't keep a high enough balance in your checking account. They would like a fee for online banking and a fee if you only have one account with their bank. Some banks want to raise ATM fees and others want to impose fees for actually doing your banking in person. (Yes, I know that contradicts online fees, but they didn't seem to care.)

There are so many places where it feels like we have no control anymore and have to accept whatever is foisted upon us by corporate America. Look at the airlines...there is a fee for every aspect of air travel. From luggage to legroom, to printing a boarding pass, there is a fee to be paid. Recently, the new consumer agency wants to require airlines to list all fees when advertising the price of a flight. The airlines are screaming bloody murder at the thought of such transparency and how it will allow consumers to compare and contrast their fees against each other. The truth is, however, if you are going to fly, you have to accept this ridiculous fee explosion. It's the same with so many other areas of our lives. Do you want to use a state or national pay the fees which are multiplying like rabbits. Want to add on to your numerous fees for everything from permits to inspections. Want to drive from here to there? Wait until you discover more and more toll roads and the fees they will require. You pay a fee for different garbage license your pet or car...set up a business and the fees are non-stop. I do have some good news for you. You can tell the banks where to stick their fees because you don't have to bank at their institutions.

You are free to take your money and put it in a credit union or community bank and avoid most of the fees. The credit union my family belongs to has no charge for a checking account, no minimum balance requirement, no ATM fees (and if some other bank charges you, my credit union will reimburse the fee) They don't charge you to issue travelers checks or to bank online. They are not unique as this is true for most credit unions and community banks.

The only real question is why would anyone bank at Wells Fargo, B of A or any of the big banks who only see you as a resource they can plunder to increase their bottom line while delivering mediocre to insulting customer service? Why hasn't there been a tsunami of customers swamping credit unions etc. as new customers? You have the power to vote with your feet and send a message to these corporate cretins. While you have to fly sometimes, can't easily change cities or state, and have to grin and bear so many fees (taxes) imposed on you from afar...when it comes to banking, you have a plethora of choices and can reward those institutions who value you enough as a customer not to gouge you every time you turn around.
There can be little sympathy for anyone still banking with one of the big banks. Yes, they may have lots of ATMs, but other than that, they have no regard for you nor do they value your patronage. If you still bank at a bank which sees you as their own personal ATM...if you haven't moved to a bank which values your business...if you continue to reward those banks even as they thumb their noses at deserve what you get.

We don't have a lot of power or control in large parts of our lives, but when it comes to our money, we have ultimate freedom. Why would anyone not exercise that freedom and tell Wells and the rest, "...hell no, we will go". What do you think?

30% OFF SALE...

The bedrock principle for free market capitalists is the law of supply and demand. If you have a huge demand for a limited product, the price increases until the demand is met. If you have a lot of product, and little demand, the price drops until demand increases. My wife recently told me she paid $4.24 for a gallon of gas in the City. Gas prices are up 18% in just the last few months. Why? Currently, the world has an unused capacity of over 2 million barrels of oil a day. On top of that, gasoline stocks are also high. Demand for gasoline in the United States has been trending down since the depression hit in 2008. Even if you factor in higher demand in China, India and developing nations, there is more supply than there is demand. So why have prices skyrocketed? The answer is simple...speculation. If you eliminated the ability to speculate on the future cost of a barrel of oil, you could drop the price of gasoline by about 30%. You would be paying about $2.98 a gallon right now.

In one day, the price of a barrel of oil dropped over $2.00. Why? It turns out Saudi Arabia announced it would make up for any oil disruption which might be caused by Iran either cutting off oil to Europe or attempting to close the straights of Hormuz. The price dropped because "speculators" believe the supply will continue to outstrip demand. The possibility of the United States and Britain tapping into the strategic oil reserve drove the price down as well. It didn't result in more oil; rather it represented the possibility of more oil in the "future". In other words, when it came to oil, the basic laws of capitalism don't seem to apply. Instead, traders are allowed to stampede the price based on what they think will happen tomorrow.

Everyone could live with gas at $2.98 a gallon. It would benefit consumers, but also benefit industry where energy costs are driving up prices and reducing profits. It would guarantee Obama's re-election and have his opponents grasping for an issue on which to run. Food prices would drop. Transportation costs would decline. UPS and Fed-Ex would be ecstatic. A shaky economy would be back in full throat. So, why do we allow a group of gamblers to wreak such havoc on our lives and livelihoods? How it, when talking about energy policy, neither regressives nor progressives suggest changing the system and eliminate commodity futures trading in oil?

There is no right to speculate. Adam Smith did not cite it as a key to a capitalist economy. There is no inherent value in turning the oil market into a lottery. Congress could decide to treat oil like a utility. It could prohibit the trading in oil futures. To do so, violates no tenet of capitalism nor could it be construed as some kind of socialist plot. Let a barrel of oil be priced based on simple supply and demand. If there is overcapacity at the moment of 2-3 million barrels a day, the price should drop until it encourages demand to rise. Oil producers could also cut back on production to increase prices. To eliminate speculation would not hurt the oil companies. They are making enormous profits as is and even if these were lessened slightly, they would still be healthy. The argument could be made, futures trading allows someone to lock in a profit on oil in the future, but the benefit is more than offset by the volatility futures trading causes in the market and the increase in prices based on nothing more than a crystal ball.

I have to be honest and say except for the traders themselves, and the oil companies who see profits rise on a commodity they have too much of at the moment, I don't see whose ox would be gored by prohibiting futures trading in oil, natural gas, biofuels etc. Where would the opposition to this idea come from? Regressives would cheer, as eliminating futures trading would be a classic free market position. (It would however render mute their drill baby drill energy policy.) Progressives would be thrilled because the economy would benefit, poor people would have more money in their pockets, jobs would increase and a booming economy would lift all boats. One argument you might here from progressives is how low gas prices would encourage people to drive more and make the nation more dependent on foreign oil. Increased driving would also add to greenhouse gases and be bad for the environment. This is not an argument for speculation. It's an argument for increased taxes to raise the price of a gallon of gas and that is an argument for another time. Despite not being able to articulate where the opposition would emerge or who would object, neither President Obama nor any of his rivals have offered this as a possible solution to sky-high gas prices. Why not?

Treating oil like a public utility, instead of a crap game, makes sense. Prohibiting the speculation on the future price of a barrel of oil is good for the global economy and our national economy. It is an idea which seems simple, and yet no one proposes it and I don't have a reason to explain the reluctance. So, if you want to see lower, more stable oil and gas prices...if you would like gas for under $3.00 a gallon...if you want to eliminate the ability of Iran or OPEC, or any oil nation, from extorting us and holding our economy is incumbent on you to raise this question with your member of Congress. It should be asked of presidential candidates. It would be fascinating to watch their reaction and hear them justify using a barrel of oil as a chip in the biggest casino gambling in the world. Wouldn't it? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Do you remember KGO? You know, that station which was the last one in the nation with some balanced programming and no syndication? Purchased by Cumulus, the talk format was blown out for all news because Cumulus claimed the ratings were suffering and the station wasn't attracting enough women and needed to garner a younger demographic. In the ensuing months, what have they done to achieve this goal? They announced they are giving a national show to Geraldo Rivera. I don't know how old he is, but I'm guessing he is older than me and probably in his late sixties. He is a Fox contributor, because on most issues he is as regressive as they come. Have you ever listened to him on justice issues? He makes Nancy Grace look progressive. Now, Cumulus announces it is creating a national show for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. They intend him to compete against Rush. (who by the way has lost over 30 advertisers and two radio stations so far over slut-gate). So let me get this straight...KGO needed to raise its ratings by attracting more women and younger listeners and Cumulus has just given national shows to two people 65 plus in age and both of who wouldn't know a progressive if he or she bit them. It is only a matter of time before both of them are plugged into KGO for your listening pleasure and certainly confirms what I told you about Cumulus' intentions and programming decisions. BTW, an insider told me the latest ratings have the station tied for 14th in the market. Now that is an example of good management decisions. I hate being right about this one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Can it really happen again? Can Americans be stampeded into another war? Will electoral politics again pressure us to abandon our responsibility to be a check on the reckless use of military power? Can the same discredited arguments and appeals to emotion work again?

The final military personnel left Iraq on December 31, 2011. They leave behind a broken nation, a discredited policy and an immoral war. In the run-up to the war in Iraq, the corporate media, Congress and the American people failed to have the debate over whether to go to war and why. It looks like the same failure is about to be repeated.

You remember the Iraq war don't you? Almost 5,000 dead Americans...hundreds of thousands wounded or million or more Iraqis killed, wounded or fled the nation...$1 trillion expended and the military stretched beyond its limit? You remember how we had to make sure the next thing we saw wasn't a mushroom cloud over Manhattan? Economic sanctions were not working we were told and the only option left was military force. Saddam Hussein was not a rational actor. He has gassed his own people. He was crazy..a maniac...he didn't value human life...he rewarded terrorists who attacked Israel...he was trying to build a nuclear weapon. Do you remember? Do we remember?

President Bush scheduled a vote, authorizing military force against Iraq, right before the mid-term elections in 2002. Democrats were afraid to vote no and be attacked on the campaign trail as being soft on terrorism. Senators Clinton, Edwards and Kerry wanted to run for president in 2004 and their ambition overrode common sense and they voted to go to war. (Clinton would be president today had she opposed the Iraq war). The corporate media was under siege by the regressive echo machine and had no interest in fostering a debate. War is good for ratings. They were intimidated and scared to ask aggressive questions challenging the Bush Administration's claims. (Dan Rather and others admitted as much years later) It's happening again even with the Iraqi disaster still fresh in our minds.

President Obama is afraid of losing the Jewish vote. His challengers are pandering to Israel at every opportunity. Obama assured AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), he wouldn’t allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. He went out of his way to say the use of military force is on the table and a viable option. Once again, Republicans are leading the charge to war and Democrats are cowering in silence out of fear of being hurt politically.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wrote an op-ed piece for USA Today which could have been written in 2002 in support of going to war with Iraq. In his column, Huckabee argues for an aggressive, military-heavy approach to Iran. Why? 1) Iran hates Israel and threatens to wipe them off the map. 2) Israel still has holocaust survivors reminding us about the threat of the Nazis and the tragedy of the holocaust. Iran is now in the role of the Nazis. 3) Iran isn't crushes dissent...kills its own people...supports terrorism..shoots women in the street...denies the holocaust and cannot be expected to act in any way like a normal nation. 4) Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 90 days. (Remember when Colin Powell told us Iraq could load and fire a missile with chemical weapons in 45 minutes?) 5) Iran is an imminent threat to the United States and could attack with nuclear-armed missiles. 6) Iran could give a WMD to a terrorist organization. Sound familiar?

Huckabee's rehashing is deja vu all over again. What is remarkable is this time the intelligence community says Iran doesn't have a weapon yet and is as much as a year away from one. Playing the role of George W. Bush is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is saying they may have one already. He believes we can’t wait for sanctions to work. He is willing to act unilaterally and attack Iran dragging us with him in a death grip. He is the one making claims the intelligence doesn't support. President Obama has been willing to call Netanyahu out in the past; however, in an election year he has become docile and compliant. He has allowed Netanyahu to lecture him in public, criticize him in an address to Congress and give aid and comfort to his political enemies and Netanyahu pays no price for his actions.

A military attack on Iran would be a disaster. Unlike Syria and Iraq, where Israel destroyed nuclear reactors built by someone else, Iran has the technology and scientific know how to replace whatever is destroyed. Attacking Iran might delay the day they get a nuclear weapon, but no more than that. We need them to give it up on their own. An attack unites the country behind this morally bankrupt regime. An attack on Iran guarantees a response, which will include missile, attacks on Israel, closure of the straits of Hormuz, attacks on Americans in Afghanistan and throughout Europe and Asia. Worst of all, an attack on Iran puts a match to a tinderbox in the Middle East. It would be the third Muslim nation in a row we have attacked or supported attack. Al Qaeda, which is on the ropes, is reviving in Syria and Yemen and this would a recruiting dream. No military analyst believes an attack can destroy Iran's bomb making capabilities forever. An attack has multiple downsides and virtually no upside.

In July, the European Union cuts off Iranian oil purchases. Sanctions on Iran's central bank, and on international banks laundering Iranian money, are beginning to work. Iran's currency is devaluing every day and they can’t get access to dollars for much longer. Shipping companies won't carry Iranian oil because they can't be paid and don't wish to be black listed by the U.S. and Europe. Fissures are appearing in Iran between the country's leaders. Opposition to the Iranian leaders grows. (Opposition would cease to exist if Iran is attacked; as it would be seen as treason and they would be accused of being agents of the U.S. and Israel.) More sanctions are being imposed and both Russian and China are onboard. Their support could quickly dry up post attack.

A recent poll in Israel shows the majority of Israelis oppose an attack not supported by the United States. It is clear, they expect us to jump into the fray if war breaks out.

Can you think of a single prominent American politician who is a vocal supporter of sanctions vs. military action? Where is the debate? How can we be thinking about another war and again have no back and pros and cons? Did we learn nothing in the last 10 years?

Is there any doubt in your mind if Israel attacks Iran, in a presidential election year, this nation will march in lockstep and support Israel to our own detriment? Is there any politician who could withstand the pressure and not cave?

Maybe attacking Iran is necessary. However, will we again blunder into the use of military force without understanding all the ramifications? Shouldn't we have a national debate? Can Huckabee et. al. get away with recycling Iraq war excuses and slap them on this shabby excuse for a policy debate? Do we let Israel be the tail that wags the dog? How do we slow things down? What do you think?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


A young woman, who wants the student health services at Georgetown University to cover the cost of her contraceptive choice, is a slut and a prostitute. I give Rush Limbaugh credit. He singlehandedly changed the face of talk radio for the better and created a brand which has made him a multi-millionaire. He parlayed that success into newsletter and merchandizing gold and lives a life of opulent splendor. I have always praised him as a nice guy who was always kind to me whenever we met. Even I, however, did not realize he also has invented a time machine capable of turning back the clock to an era where women were to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

Georgetown is ostensibly a "Catholic" university which refuses to allow the student health insurance to cover contraception because the Church is morally opposed to artificial means of birth control. (you can use rhythm, but not the pill) It will gladly pay for a male student who wishes to use Viagra but not help the object of his artificially induced ardor avoid getting pregnant. Congress recently held a hearing on the Obama Administration decision to require all employers to offer contraception coverage in any health insurance plan even if they morally oppose it. It seems Obama believes the rights of the Catholic Church stop when they endanger the health and well being of women. At this hearing, not a single woman was included to testify and the members of Congress denied this Georgetown student's request to testify on behalf of the Obama position. I got an earful of outrage from my daughter, Darcy, about all the men but not a single woman talking about a women's health issue. Now, not only can't this student testify, she has been branded with a scarlet "S" by Rush-a-bye who seemed to be channeling the spirit of Cotton Mather or maybe Jonathan Edwards or perhaps Torquemada in viewing a woman's sexuality as an affront against good Christians everywhere.

Darcy went on to point out if you are going to criticize, name call and pronounce moral fiats, at least you should get your facts straight. Limbaugh attacked this woman for having so much sex she needed "us" to pay for her birth control pills. My daughter dismissed el Rushbo for not knowing its a flat fee for a month's worth of pills and whether you have no sex or engage in an orgy of Caligulan proportions, you take one pill a day. Also, lost in this Victorian lambasting is the reality many women need birth control pills for purely health reasons entirely separate from questions about the sexual activity. A Rush a' Rush a' Burnin' love, was also venting about Obama wanting "us" to pay for her apparently lascivious life. As a student at Georgetown, she pays to have student health insurance. She is paying, no one else. As with all insurance plans, you pay and receive a basket of benefits which are supposed to be equal for men and women. The university's refusal to provide coverage for contraception forces female students, already paying for health coverage, to have to go to a private doctor off campus and pay for the visit out of their own pocket. Many students cannot afford it. What's even worse is the fact even if she could afford it, and received a prescription; the university would refuse to fill it.

Men in power, and the institutions they control, (like the Roman Catholic Church), have always been bi-polar about women's sexuality. On one hand, they are attracted and lured and obsessive about its pleasures, while at the same time frightened of its power and temptation to ruin. One need look no further than the story of Eve and the apple to see how women have been portrayed for millennia as wicked enchantresses capable of bringing even the strongest, most virtuous man to his knees. (Samson anyone?) Look what they have done to Rush's libido and wallet as he works his way through his third wife. For most of history, women were left with two role models to choose from....the virgin or the whore...with nothing in between.

Fast-forward to the 60's and the invention of "the pill". For the first time, women could control their own destiny and fertility. They could plan their families and avoid unplanned pregnancies (which result in low birth weight babies many of whom grow up with learning and other disabilities) Women could fully engage in a career and delay having a family just as men could. They became more mobile and able to take advantage of opportunities in the workplace denied them in the past. It was also an opportunity for women to protect their health both mentally and physically. For most of the 20th century, states had made it a crime to disseminate information about contraception. Men rigged the game as much as they could to keep women from controlling their sexual lives and thus removing much of the control men had imposed on them. The moral judgment of slut, whore, prostitute, loose, immoral etc lost most of its power and control. Women seized their right to maintain their own body and men like Limbaugh, Gingrich, Santorum and Romney have never liked the results. Santorum doesn't even believe insurance should pay for pre-natal care and testing because it encourages women to engage in immoral behavior.

The hypocrisy of regressives on this issue is glaring. The same people who scream about the need to reduce the size of government and its influence in our lives...the same ones who denounce Obamacare as a huge intrusion into the private lives of Americans...are the same voices trying to deny women access to healthcare and want the government to guarantee "any" employer can deny any coverage for moral reasons. (This was the proposal defeated in the Senate this week 51-48...a vote which women have to see as too close for comfort.) They want the government to deny women access to reproductive services including abortion. They want the government to mandate a woman be penetrated by a sonic probe to create an ultrasound picture of the fetus. (A law proposed in Virginia and supported by the regressive governor until public ridicule caused him to back off...thank you Jon Stewart)

Limbaugh has transported us back to those times when women were at the mercy of men when it came to health and welfare. He is able to do this, and take along regressive politicians of both parties, despite women making up the majority of voters in this country. I would have said this was impossible...hell Einstein said time travel was impossible...but Rush's time machine proves we are all wrong.

This has never been an issue of religious freedom or the first amendment. My constitutional rights end at the tip of your nose. This is about women having access to healthcare and not being held hostage by moralizing, promiscuous men who want to use them, and control them at the same time. In Rush's universe, a woman who uses birth control is a slut. She wants "us" to pay for her contraceptives, so she is also a prostitute and as such she should videotape all sexual encounters and upload them to YouTube for Rush and his ilk to watch. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

The latest polls show 65% of Americans believe employers should have to provide contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans. Clearly, Rush has a lot of work to do transporting Americans back to a time of higher morality and God-fearing folks. It's no accident the American Catholic bishops are already there waiting.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton says he will approve any plan or police action that makes the city safer from the threat of a terrorist attack. On the surface, it sounds logical and maybe even a little comforting, but this explicit endorsement of the ends justifying the means should give any citizens in a democracy the willies.

Bratton's comments were made after it was reported New York police fanned out over the northeastern United States and spied on mosques, intercepted or eavesdropped on conversations between Muslim Americans and investigated Muslims who had Americanized their names. In Newark, New Jersey, New York cops infiltrated mosques and took pictures of all who attended services. They set up databases and dossiers on American citizens with no probable cause. They lied to Newark police, and departments all over the area, telling them they were engaged in undercover operations. Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, says he never would have cooperated with them, or facilitated their spying, if he knew the truth. New Jersey governor Chris Christie says he too is troubled by the actions of New York's finest. Bratton says he would do it again.

The spying controversy comes on the heels of revelations Bratton and his commanders showed an inflammatory and error filled anti-Muslim movie as part of anti-terrorist training sessions within the department. Thousands of cops saw a piece of scurrilous propaganda about Islam and its American adherents, terrorism and the patriotism of American Muslims. When first questioned, New York police officials lied and said the movie had only been seen by a small number of officers. They only fessed up when confronted with irrefutable facts it had been used to propagandize thousands of New York cops.

We sit here in America living under the shadow of the Patriot Act, National security letters (used to find out what books we are reading, movies rented and all under a penalty of imprisonment if anyone reveals the spying), data mining and illegal wiretaps and surveillance as the 4th Amendment is being legislated out of existence. Stopping terrorism is the end and secretly spying on Americans, bugging their home computers in secret, listening to their phone calls, reading their emails and spying on them at worship are some of the ends being used.

The New York Police Commissioner should be fired for his position on the actions of his department. Anyone in a position of power who facilely dismisses complaints about violations of civil liberties and government overreach, cannot be trusted to preserve rights which the founding fathers considered essential for a free people.

Ten years after September 11th, it is time to have an adult conversation about terrorism and civil liberties. Americans are easily frightened, and when frightened they stampede toward the most prominent parental figure they can find. Americans have always been willing to trade freedom for the illusion of security. Now, however, someone has to start truth telling. No terrorist attack will ever destroy the United States. No terrorists could destroy our government or way of life. Terrorists cannot occupy this nation, destroy its infrastructure or cause a political collapse. They can scare us, kill some of us, (no I don't take this lightly), disrupt our daily lives, but they represent no threat to our national security. Realistically, Al Qaeda took its best shot. The irony is Osama Bin Laden understood us better than we understood ourselves. He knew no outside force could conquer the United States. He also knew Americans, easily scared, will cannibalize each other, and the foundations of this country, to feel safe. September 11th wasn't as disastrous as Pearl Harbor; yet, the aftermath reaction has weakened this nation in ways even Bin Laden didn't dare to dream. Our civil liberties are a mere shadow of their former selves. We started two unnecessary wars which economically drained us, caused almost 7,000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of wounded and broke the military in ways which may never be fixed.

Now, using the same event as justification, New York cops swarm across their region, outside their jurisdiction, to spy and catalog the actions of law abiding Americans who happen to be members of Islam. They lie to get local police departments to cooperate with them and they illegally engage in activity with no probable cause in clear violation of the 4th amendment.

Bratton isn't the first, and won't be the last, to invoke ends justifying means. Bush, Cheney used the same rationale to set up secret torture chambers and prisons. The National Security Agency (NSA) was used to vacuum up every electronic piece of communication between Americans based on an illegal order from President Bush. Telecom companies rolled over and played dead when asked to betray their customer's privacy. A feckless and spineless Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, granted the telecoms immunity from lawsuits or prosecution. (Obama supported this as well) Recently, proposals have been put forth to enable the President to shut down the internet in the interests of national security (similar to what we saw in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran and other bastions of democracy) The American people have remained compliant and complacent as they watch all of this unfold.

I do not expect Americans to rise up en masse and demand a restoration of their rights. For some reason I will never understand, Americans still buy the myth only people who have something to hide need to worry about their liberty or the constitution. There are over 4,500 laws on the books today which can land you in federal prison even if you had no intention of breaking them or even realized you had been guilty. Whoever has the discretion to charge you, your wife or husband, children, friends or neighbors, has the power of a classic in America. Imagine Commissioner Bratton with that much power.

While I expect no uprising, I hope when Americans hear a police authority state unequivocally he will do "anything" to keep his city safe, it will send chills up and down their spines. I can hope can't I? What do you think?