Monday, December 19, 2011

The Height of Nuclear Hypocrisy

On Tuesday, the 22nd of November, "experts" at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C. waxed eloquently upon why Iran must no be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Thy did not convince.

Iran faces an existential threat from the west; in particular, from the U.S., Israel, and the European Union. These nations are willing - even poised - to bomb Iran simply for wanted that which each of them has.

Iran is in a fix: It lies in the middle of the toughest neighborhood on Earth. No other nation is more beset by nuclear powers. There, in southwest Asia, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, and India have "the bomb". add to that, a nuclear-armed U.S. on Iran's western border (in Iraq), and on its eastern border (in Afghanistan). America's Fifth Fleet patrols the Persian Gulf, bottling up Iran's south. It is the equivalent of the U.S. - instead of having Canada and Mexico on its norther and southern borders - having Russia and China.

Enter oil into the equation. Iran has oil reserves as plentiful as any nation on Earth, (besides Saudi Arabia). When a nation possesses such treasure, it is its leadership's first responsibility to protect it. What better way to safeguard a nation's resources than with the ultimate watchdog - a nuclear deterrent?

Nothing secures America's treasures like its nuclear arsenal. The U.S. has a 650 billion dollar annual defense budget, more than the next 15 countries combined. Yet, for all of our conventional weapons - stealth bombers, aircraft carriers, high-tech drones - take away our nuclear capability, and Russia could defeat us in thirty minutes.

Consider this: North Korea has three or four nuclear weapons - that's all. And that is all the deterrent they need. Ever notice how there is never talk of the U.S. attacking North Korea? On the other hand, when Saddam Hussein's "supposed" nuclear program stalled, we attacked. Libya shelved its nuclear program; we attacked. Iran currently has no nuclear weapons. We talk of attack.

The first phase has already begun, with an attack on their economy. Trade is the lifeline of all nations. Even under the best of circumstances - where nations trade freely - most struggle today. In the midst of this global recession, the U.S. and its allies have imposed severe sanctions of Iran, in effect, telling other nations, "You cannot trade with them." Think bout what it would do to the American economy if someone convinced the nations of the world to not trade with us. The suffering would be enormous. Yet, we impose these conditions on the Iranian people to purposely create suffering. We want them to suffer because they do not follow our rules. Those rules sound like this: Our friends can have nuclear weapons, our enemies cannot.

Israel, our number one friend, has over 100 nuclear warheads - warheads American like to pretend does not exist. India, too, has an unauthorized nuclear arsenal. That is fine with us - so find that despite their having broken our nuclear rules, America has decided to help India advance their nuclear cause even further. But, Iran, who actually signed the same Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that Israel and India refused to sign, cannot think of having "the bomb". They very thought is hateful to us, and - we are made to believe - is hateful to the world.

Israel poses a conundrum: They spurned the international community and refused to sign the NPT so that they could become a nuclear power. Now, they want that same community to "get up in arms" over Iran for wanting to do the same.

Today, Iran sees the NPT for what it is - a farce, not worth the paper it is written on. So, they have decided (allegedly) that they will have a bomb, too. Suddenly, America screams "bloody murder", and calls for crippling sanctions. Some in America call for war.

Are we serious? Have we lost our minds? What amazes me most is how the rest of the world can line up behind such blatant hypocrisy.

Nuclear proliferation is a serious matter. It must be addressed by serious (i.e., fair-minded) people - people who recognized that unfair is dishonest, and dishonest is indefensible.

Iran has as much right (and reason) to have a nuclear weapon as any nation on Earth. (Nuclear weapons are not illegal). When one nation - the U.S., which as over 5,000 nukes - can say who can and who cannot have one, then that nation has achieved the height of hypocrisy, which is a low road that leads to nowhere.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Pipeline!

Beware of the much-ballyhooed Keystone Pipeline, brainchild of the TransCanada Corp. It is a seven-billion dollar project that would stretch the guts of the oil industry clear across the US, from Canada to oil refineries in Houston, Texas. Don't let it happen.

Better to take that seven billion and turn it into refinery capacity on the U.S.-Canadian border. A northern refinery could process North Dakota's crude, as well as the billions of barrels in the oil sands of Canada. The alternative is an ugly mass of steel snaking through the heart of the nation, despoiling rivers, aquifers, delicate ecosystems, and some of the the most scenic vistas on Earth.

Look at the Alaskan pipeline. I has become an eyesore - a rusting, leaking hulk. Want another one straddling the middle of America? Pipelines are not progress. They are relics waiting to happen - so yesterday, (and so unfriendly.) There is no pipeline anywhere that improves the environment it passes through, nor pleases the people it passes by. Only the oil companies - the corporate giants who have no romance in them except it be hard currency - see beauty in such a coiling mass of regressive engineering.

The oil executive will throw dollars to the locals whose lives they despoil - dollars that will dissipate in the once clean air that now carries the stench of oil across a thousand miles. These are dollars their children and grandchildren will never see, vanished like the vistas they will only see in pictures.

Mr. Obama, reject the Keystone Pipeline; save America that unnecessary destruction. Then, build a refinery on North Dakota's far northern border. Let the only pipeline be the one that runs across Canada, and only a few miles across America to its newest refinery.

Monday, December 12, 2011

That Quintessential Soul

African-Americans are often confused by President Obama. Perhaps it is because unlike the great majority of us, he is not a descendant of slaves.

That is what we need to keep in mind: Barack married Michelle. He put two black children in the White House who are descendants of slaves, along with a wife and mother-in-law who are like us. He did not have to marry Michelle. He could have chosen a woman of any other race. He did not. He is a black man who chose the African-American community.

There are some things about Barack that was not his choice. In many ways, he is a dispassionate - not by choice. I am sure, but simply by nature. This is perhaps out biggest concern - that he lacks the roiling emotions that are a hallmark of the black experience. We used to call it "soul". That word is dated now. You rarely hear "soul brother" or "soul sister" anymore, except in regard to someone out of the sixties and the seventies.

If we want, we could call Michelle a "soul sister", but we are hesitant to call Barack a "soul brother" because we do not quite believe it. He is more "soul cousin" then "brother", but still family.

The truth be known, a lot of would-be "soul brothers and sisters" are not all that anymore. We began to lose it in the eighties and the nineties. By the 00's, it was nearly all gone, except for the holdovers (like me) - old-timers, many of whom fought in America's second civil war, the one we simply call "The Struggle."

Today, we who are left, sift through the detritus of those heady times, when we linked arms and marked against the racial winds. We were a sight to behold.

So, do not blame Barack. Not only was he born a "cousin," but he is a product of a time that is ever hard-pressed to produced that quintessential soul.

Monday, December 5, 2011

No Referendums Allowed

Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, is out. He tried to give the citizens of Greece a voice in their future. His cohorts - the Germans, the French, the Americans, et al, were having none of that. They spoke in singular voice: "No." Papandreou stepped down; so did democracy.

It is not that Papandreou's name is synonymous with democracy, but like a flailing Samson reaching with his last breath to do the right thing, he tried to return to the Greeks what which was born in Greece. It did not work. (I suppose the Germans are not sentimental.)

Now, the new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, has his marching orders: No referendum allowed.

A referendum is a simply mechanism in democracies by which citizens of a state can vote for or against proposed legislation that affect their lives. In the present cast, the European Union - in particular, the Germans - offered a bailout package to the sinking Greek economy, one that called for severe austerity measures to be imposed upon the Greek people.

In all fairness, the bailout package appears to be the lesser of two evils. The alternative is a Greek debt default and a likely tumbling-over-a-cliff of the Greek nation, perhaps pulling other nations behind. From all indications, the Greek people were poised to vote the package down, anyway. No chance. The referendum was scuttled, as was Papandreou.

With that, Greece has become a second tier democracy, little better than regimes like Iran that we rail against. Such regimes, too, allow their people to vote, but only so long as those votes do not interfere with the power of the state.

Today, democracy, itself, is under siege by those who claim to hold it dear. At a time when we herald the Arab Spring - the casting off of autocratic regimes for the sake of citizens' rights, in Europe (and the sake of financial autocrats who feign to know what is best for everyone - no referendum allowed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Greco-American Style "Belt-Tightening"

The Europeans (i.e., The Germans) are trying to bail out the Greeks. It won't work. The Greeks will not meet their European partners halfway.

For this bailout to work, the Greeks must begin to practice that which innately they cannot stomach - the very utterance of the word to them is hateful. I will spell it: A-U-S-T-E-R-I-T-Y. It simply means, tighten your belt, fool.

The problem with these descendants of Aristotle is they thing they know it all. Americans are not much better. We, too, cringe at the mention of "belt-tightening." We figure there must be an easier way.

Not long ago, Whirlpool, the iconic American appliance-maker, pulled up stakes in Evansville, Indiana and moved their operations to Mexico. Over a thousand people in Evansville lost their jobs. The upside: Because Whirlpool can now build their product at a lower cost, they can sell it at a lower price. Add to that: Money saved on production now goes to research and development. Whirlpool refrigerators are not only less expensive, but according to customers, they are now better.

Zenith, too, has moved to Mexico. One customer said of the new Zenith televisions, "Now, I can buy two."

The lesson is simple: Jobs leave America because Americans want more money than their labor is actually worth.

Doesn't it seem obvious that if you will accept less salary, the product you make will cost less, which ultimately means your product will be more competitive on the global market?

People complain about China taking America jobs. Yet, those same people do not complain when they go into a store and find a pair of jeans for $35 that ten years ago $75.

The free enterprise system works. Americans seem to think that because it no longer works for them, it must be broken. It is not broken; we are. Our work ethic broken. We want more for less.

Many people excoriated NAFTA - that free-trade agreement signed in 1993 during the Clinton administration. Said it would cost American jobs. And so it did. But it also afforded Americans access to lower priced goods.

Americans could still be making those products. They simply do not want to. They do not believe it is worth their while to make televisions ans shoes and paper plates. But what is the alternative - stand around with your hands out (like the Greeks) and expect to be paid simply because you are better than everyone else? See how close that gets you to the American dream.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hand of Greatness

Fate decides the greatness of presidents by the moments it thrusts upon them. In that way, Barack Obama has a chance to be mentioned among America's greats. He has already been blessed (or cursed) with the main ingredient: Mayhem on the existential level. Now all he must do is handle it.

Of the presidents considered among America's greatest, three stand out: Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. It was during Lincoln's presidency that we faced our greatest threat from within. Washington's greatness lies not within the parameters of his presidency, but in that he led the great struggle - the American Revolution - that led to the first presidency. His greatest contribution to the nation during his presidency, besides putting down the "Whiskey Rebellion" was that he helped define what a "president" would be.

Other presidents have come and gone, and we barely think of them - not because they were bland, but because their moments in history were bland. They could have been the smartest men on Earth; they could have been the most courageous. It doesn't matter. It they were not dealt "existential mayhem," they could never be called "great". (Oh, and they could not start mayhem.)

George W. Bush's finest moment came when he stood atop the pile of rubble that was "Ground Zero" and shouted, "We're Comin'!" Outside of that, his presidency, as Shakespeare would say, was "bound in shallows."

Obama has been dealt an extraordinary hand. He does not have a war, he has wars. He has a 14 trillion dollar debt (that may explode). He faces a resurgent China, a resurgent Iran, and a resurgent Putin. And he gazes across an abyss at the "Arab Spring" - not the implosion of one critical nation, but the likely implosion of an entire region wherein lies most of the "mother's milk" that powers the world. Add to that, a rancor in American politics not seen since the days of Lincoln.

Besides, Obama has come along at the outset of a technological revolution, and it becomes him. He grasps it. He did not create it. He simply happened at the time it happened. Now he navigates it with a deftness that is unparalleled on the world stage.

He is the envy of foes both foreign and domestic. He is at once imposing, then reserve. When he imposes himself, they call him a braggart. When he is reserved, they complain that he is weak and unbecoming an American president who must always be out front. It is okay. That is the breadth of the office. Apparently, he has a similar breadth.

In the face of great times, to speak of great men is droll commentary. Yet, in the end, we always speak of great men and women. They are what we imagine of ourselves if only we were dealt the "winning" hand.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Are They Kidding? We Like Steroids

Isn't it interesting that the three top "alleged" steroid users in sports each bear the number "7" as a mark of his personal achievement? Barry Bonds won seven MVP trophies, Roger Clemens has seven Cy Young awards, and Lance Armstrong has seven Tour de France titles. Has "777" become the new mark of the beast?

Steroids are everywhere - from energy drinks to Viagra. We use them in our quest to get more out of life. But no one is so bent out of shape over them as are the purists in baseball. They have become obnoxious.

Much of their disdain is focused on Barry Bonds, the greatest slugger in a sport where sluggers are king. They think he has hit too many homeruns. Methinks their hue and cry is misplaced, especially when you consider that the shrinking dimensions of modern ballparks does as much to devalue homeruns as does anything else.

The other day, the Yankees' Alex Rodriquez popped a ball up and them slammed his bat down as he lowered his head and ran to first base. When he heard applause, he looked up in time to see his pop-up float over the short right field fence. Homerun!

Trying to reduce Bonds' career to steroids is like trying to reduce autumn to a rainy day. You miss the grandeur.

To have followed Bonds' career through his record-setting season - when he hit 73 homers - was to get a glimpse at the most disciplined hitter of our time. He would not swing the bat until he saw a pitch he liked. Such self-control is difficult, especially for sluggers who can't wait to crush the ball. But Barry would wait, and wait, and then, like lightning, he would strike. One pitch was all he needed. How so like the Mighty Casey of the "Mudville Nine."

Now, sportscaster, Bob Costas, has declared that the single-season record for homeruns belongs to Roger Maris who hit 61 in '61. Costas further declares that Hank Aaron's 755 is the career record for homeruns, not Bonds' 762.

I have one question to ask Mr. Costas: Just how many homeruns will you allow Mr. Bonds to have? Fifty-five for a season? Five hundred and fifty for his career? And while you are taking away his homeruns, how many of Bonds' MVPs can he keep? And while you are at that, how many of Roger Clemens' Cy Young are you allowing him to keep?

This is the skinny, Costas: You're a pipsqueak.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"9-9-9", "0-0-0", and "Four Year" Plans

The Republicans are stuck with a bunch of candidates they do not want, the survivor of which still has a good chance of defeating Obama.

Romney was pro-choice before he was pro-life. They don't want him. Perry confuses them. Cain has never held an elective office in his life (and they call Obama "inexperienced").

Cain does, however, have the "9-9-9" Plan - (9% income tax, 9% sales tax, 9% corporate tax). Rick Newman of U.S. News and World Report says of the "9-9-9 Plan", "Sounds like a 2 for 1 pizza special." He adds, "but it has merit."

Rick Santorum, not to be outdone, seems to say: "If you think that has merit, you will shout 'Hallelujah' at my "0-0-0 Plan'." That's right, Santorum will not charge us anything. Neither will he give us any help. Need the police? Post your wife at the back door, and you man the front, ('cause the police ain't comin').

Since winning the Iowa Straw Poll, Michelle Bachmann has fallen off the Earth, and is stilling tumbling. (Cain appears poised to take over her spot atop the looney-meter.). Gingrich is a relic out of the GOP past, and Ron Paul is that relative they wish they could disown. Huntsman is the most sensible candidate they have, and we hear his name the least. That point, as well as any, sums up the Republican field.

On the other side you have President Obama. Some say he is not ready for the job. Who is? Remember George Bush's response when he took over the White House? "It's awesome!"

Of course, it is awesome. And no man is truly "ready" because no man has known such immense power and responsibility. Each one adapts as best he can.

Most people figure the key to a successful White House is hiring top aides. That's obvious. The obvious key: Treat your first four years like they are your last. Get things done instead of worrying about getting re-elected. I call it "Lincoln's Four-Year Plan." Leave it all on the floor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Al Quaeda is a Bot Fly (and it is in our heads)

America's precipitous decline began on 9-11 with the downing of the Twin Towers. That led to President Bush's declaration of war, which led to the spending of trillions. Ten years later, both wars and the subsequent spending goes on.

The other night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly declared, (at least) "We defeated Al Quaeda."

"Defeated?" We are a nation of 300 million people, with the most well-fitted army on Earth. Backing our soldiers is advanced weaponry, the likes of which has never been rattled in the history of mankind. We pitted that war machine against a primitive army of 20,000 fighters - goatherders in sandals and head rags. Ten years later, those "goatherders" are still fighting.

Looking at our war-ravaged economy and at our thousands of dead and maimed soldiers, we must wonder, "Who is defeated?" In many ways, Osama bin Laden, even in so-called "defeat", has won.

Since 9-11, America has lived in more fear than at any other time since we were digging bomb shelters in our back yards and teaching our children to cower under their desks at school. Today, we trust no one. We fear diaper-wearing 90-year-old ladies. Defeated? We have defeated nothing.

America faces an existential threat - not from without, but from within. It is insidious, this thing that east at us, and tears at our very fiber. We call it "Al Quaeda." What is Al Quaeda, but our fear of life?

Al Quaeda has not been defeated; it cannot be defeated. It has always existed, in one form or another, and it always will. If it helps, you can call Al Quaeda "evil." But evil, I contend, is like energy: It can neither be created, nor destroyed.

Even the strongest lion pride must remain ever vigilant. Hyenas, drought, bot flies will forever nip at their tranquility. So, what? Do lions declare absolute war at an incursion? Do they decide that every hyena must die? Of course, they do not. They secure their perimeters, they patrol their territory, they accept the tenuity of life.

Al Quaeda is a bot fly. If Bush had realized this - if he had thought like a lion; if Obama would - we would not be in this fix. We would not have wasted trillions of dollars, lost thousands of lives, and squandered volumes of goodwill. We would still be like lions. Having taken our lumps, we could be stretching full-bodied on the plain, feet up, belly exposed, enjoying life at the top of the food chain.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Go Time - Let's Go Bare Knuckles

They say President Obama's plan for fixing the economy is to spend our way out. That is not a plan; that's a "Hail Mary!"

Some say the national debt doesn't matter anyway. Of course, that is absurd. The only way debt doesn't matter is when you have no intention of paying it. In that case, your creditor will soon find you out, and the loans will stop, leaving you to subsist on your means. Try that for a while, and then tell me "Credit doesn't matter."

(Soon, our national debt will be at 17 trillion dollars. If interest rates go to 6%, we will be paying one trillion dollars a year on the interest alone.) Still think the debt doesn't matter?

The other day, an analyst said on CNN, "I wonder if we are seeing the end of this economy as we know it." Yes. Another said, "If Reagan was here..." No; "Hillary could..." No; "Mitt..." No.

Some wonder if anything can be done. Certainly. We could hang mirrors and achieve the illusion of returning to the way we were. Of course, that will not last long.

We could adjust the tax code so that more businesses and people keep more of their money. that might help individual businesses and people. But with a burgeoning population (over 300 million people), and burgeoning numbers of unemployed, homeless, and foodless people, can we so shrink government revenue and still call ourselves a "compassionate nation"?

Less is coming, folks, and we will have to settle for it - less salary, less food stamps, smaller unemployment checks. The days of America devouring 25% of the world's resources are over. We are less than 5% of the world's population. Imagine settling for 10% of its goods.

It is not as bad as it sounds. Imagine fashioning a work ethic again - where we harvest our own fields, change our own tires, and cook our own meals for our families. (Imagine closer-knit families). Instead of taking your children to Disney World, imagine taking them on nature walks. They will find those excursions infinitely more satisfying, and memorable. So will you.

It is time we got our hand dirty again, America; time to do some sweating. Let's stop the whining and go bare knuckles. We can row out of this storm.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Colonel Qadaffi's Cap

There is something childlike and endearing about these Libyan rebels - the way the shoot willy-nilly and then scurry away. And how about the NATO who, like gods atop Mt. Olympus, looks down on them, hurling lightning bolts only when it appears their minions are in trouble.

Certainly, these rebels kill, and they die. But it is not like they mean to, except they mean to be free. And being ready to fight and die...well, they must wonder, "Shouldn't that be enough?"

No doubt, this helps to account for the lack of savagery in this conflict. It is though neither side has wanted to do great damage, but only enough to make the other side go away.

It is NATO who has brought the savagery to this fight, with their air strikes and Tomahawk missiles turning city sectors into flame and rubble. At those times, the rebels seemed to lower their guns, look up in awe, and like children at a fireworks display, cry out for more.

And then it was over: Victory, crystallized in the face of a fighter who had breached Qaddafi's compound. He came out wearing one of Qaddafi's caps. It was the "the Colonel's" cap he wore, the one the world had seen on the head of the strongman, himself, many times before. Now the newly-bedecked rebel, bathed in sunlight, stands before the battered compound smiling.

Looking at him reminds me of the day my son, Thomas, who was only nine, caught such a fish - it was half as long as he. Holding it as high as he could, he looked up the hill at me and smiled. Twenty years later, that same proud, full-of-the-moment smile is worn by a rebel half a world away.

For me, that rebel is the face of that motley bunch now - he who never, ever wanted to harm a single soul - who just wanted to be free.

Bless you, young man - you and that splendid cap. Bless you all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

America's "Punishment Regime"

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Norway, where professed crusader, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people, there is renewed debate about crime and punishment in the world.

For all of the damage Breivik wrought, under Norwegian law he faces a maximum of only 21 years of prison. Americans are outraged. Predictably, they want more.

America, the self-proclaimed "Land of the Free," ironically locks up more people - over two million - and holds them longer than any other nation on Earth. We excoriate China and Iran for their penal abuses despite being more like them than we are our counterparts in the West. (When it comes to executions, China, Iran, and the U.S. constitute the Big Three.)

Helge Luras, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Institute, speaks of America's "punishment regime," flatly stating: "We do not want to be like you." Tone-deaf to that indictment, Americans clamor for harsher and harsher punishment of peoples at home and abroad. And progressive nations like Norway shudder at the specter of Europe's medieval past reflected in America's eye.

What is wrong with us? Are we so consumed with hate that it drives us century after century to act out? Consider this: America is the race of people (Native Americans), enslave another race of people (African-Americans), and intern yet another race of its own people (Japanese-Americans). Across the breadth of this atomic age, we are the only nation to actually drop a nuclear device on our fellow human beings.

We are dangerously close to the edge when the likes of Breivik applauds America for what he perceived as our stand against the spread of mosques in the States. Eighty years before, it was Hitler who, in his manifesto, "Mein Kampf," praised America for the efficient way it dealt with its "Native American problem."

We fancy ourselves the pre-eminent world leader. But what are we showing the world - how to inflict pain and endless punishment? I would like to think we are better than that. History says we are not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

They did it. Those gutless wonders in Washington raised the debt ceiling again, (for the 103rd time.) Let them tell it, they had no choice. They were staring into the abyss. (No stomach for that.) So, they raised "the ceiling" to save themselves from the dark.

There is only so much light in America's house. When that fake ceiling finally collapses, the dark will cascade upon us. Better we face that fact now. We are not as strong as we were yesterday, but at this rate we are stronger today than we will be tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Evil Remains

They sought out Hitler henchmen, Rudolf Hess's bones, and found them in a small cemetary in Germany. They dug him up, fired his remains, and then scattered his ashes upon the sea. Triumphant, they then declared, "There is less evil in the world today."

"No," I say, "there is not." Evil, like energy, cannot be destroyed. It simply changes form.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

She's No Jeanne d'Arc, But...

In Bristol Palin's new book, "Unafraid of Life: My Journey So Far", she recounts an episode that is eerily similar to date rape. There, she describes an overnighter she spent with friends when she was sixteen. During the evening, she drank alcohol for the first time, and passed out. The following morning, she learned that she lost her virginity to (her friend) Levi while she was unconscious the night before.

Bristol reveals this incident in her book, but seems reluctant to discuss it on her book tour. When pressed, she insists it was all her fault.

Taking responsibility for your actions is admirable, but here it is only a half measure. When it comes to date rape, one person taking full responsibility is contrary to what both parties on either side of the divide must accept.

Date rape most often occurs when the girl gets intoxicated (or drugged) - either willingly or otherwise - and has either lost consciousness or is so severely impaired that she does not know what she is doing, nor what is being done to her. It is complete when the boy takes advantage of the situation.

Whether Bristol and Levi's episode was an actual date rape, apparently only Levi knows.

What makes this even more compelling is that Bristol is now a spokesperson for an organization that just last year paid her $260,000 to speak abstinence to young people. For a person in her position, it is disingenuous to feign martyrdom in so depraved a matter as date rape where penance must be shared.

Despite her staggered start, Bristol Palin is an uncommon messenger. She is charming, brave, wonderfully human. She not only tells young people to abstain from sex, she declares that she too shall not have sex until she is married. She wants to show them how. In this age of willfulness, it is refreshing to see a beautiful young woman say to our desperate young people, "Follow me."

Is hers a voice in the wilderness? Perhaps. I'd like to thing of it as a voice out of the past calling us all forward to set a better example.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Anti-Rapture

May 21, 2011 came and went, and the world did not end. According to radio evangelist, Harold Camping, the end was supposed to begin at 6 PM, marked by a series of cataclysmic events, and the rapture, when 200 million faithful would ascend to heaven. That did not happen. Instead, we got jokes.

Of course, most sane people knew the world would not end - would not even begin to end. But you might be surprised at how many "sane" people hoped something would happen - not in their backyards, certainly, but on the other side of the world; perhaps on the other side of the country (as though the floods and tornadoes were not enough.)

These people hoped - not out of cruelty, nor out of schadenfreude (malicious glee), but out of a genuine hope that this world, this species called "man" would be shakened to a new consciousness of itself and what it is doing. It did not happen.

So, man's inhumanity against himself continues. As Sonny Corleone so famously put it: "They hit us, so we hit 'em back." Yes, Sonny, ad infinitum. And the ravaging goes on - the human rights abuses, war crimes, sexual assaults, missiles - missiles galore - retributions, and indifference. Nothing short of a cataclysm can end it, and even that is no certainty. Perhaps nothing less than the total destruction of the human species will end it, so that all remains is those simple earthlings we call "animals" - they who have shown they know how to co-exist for millions of years where we complex ones fail in a few thousand.

If man's rapture is seen as 200 million faithful ascending to heaven, Earth's rapture must be when all seven billion of us ascend at once, and forever. No other cataclysmic event necessary.

Monday, July 4, 2011

(Mr. Obama) You Kiss Babies Like You're Scared of Them

We are disillusioned, Mr. Obama, and I think our condition is permanent.

Yet, you seem to have deluded yourself into this false security: Democrats will support you because you are all that stands between them a Republican.

Do not be confused. Democrats may not like Republicans, but they do not fear them. (At least, Republicans do not lie to them.) Democrats know what Republicans have, and Democrats survive when Republicans gain office. You, on the hand, promise "change" then give Democrats much of the same. In that case, the quality of their survival is diminished.

The political pundits think the economy will sink you; I think differently. The economy is bad, but the Republicans can do no better, especially with their obsession with Reagan era economics which was not nearly so great as they remember.

No, you will fall because you chose bombs when we chose you to be different.

When you killed those nine Afghan boys who were gathering firewood outside of their village, you crossed over into a region from whence you can never wholly return. A bit of remorse might have helped, but you had none. Instead, you showed up at a media event that very same night and "yukked it up" with the high muck-a-mucks.

You do not see that act as murder because you did not pull the trigger - you sent others to do it for you. And they flew so high, they did not see the killings, themselves; they only knew there was dying below. And it is they - our young men - who merit the pains of conscience. At times, their conscience overwhelms them; but not yours. We are starting to wonder if you have one.

Can you imagine, Mr. Obama, what it is like to lie in bed at night as bombs fall all around. Imagine the terrified looks on your daughters' faces when they run to your bedroom with their screams. That would be your worst nightmare. Yet, you wreak this reality on children in Tripoli, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and you are immune to their cries.

With the money you have spent terrorizing civilian populations, you could have fed billions. You could be turning third world clinics into first-rate hospitals; desserts into oases. Instead, you ask for more bombs, and then go on a billion-dollar fundraising tour to insure four more years of your presidency.

We had hope you would be another Lincoln. Instead, you became the worst baby-kisser of all time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling for the Maid

What is it that makes the world's most powerful men fall for maids? History? That's part of it. Since the beginning, kings, presidents, and slavemasters have gone after the maid.

Then, there is biology: Women are attracted to powerful men, (just as lionesses are attracted to the strongest lion, and cows to the moose with the largest rack.)

Men, correspondingly, are attracted to women who look up to them. (They are not so much attracted to powerful women. Biologically, such women might be a turn-off.) In that way, the master and and the maid are often a better match than is the king and the queen.

And let's not forget physics: Men perform most effectively on women who are beneath them. That's gravity boys; mechanics that work throughout the universe.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and thousands like them watch their powerful wives traipse off to fundraisers and charity events - women's conference in Gabon - and then return home full of themselves. These men can have sex with these women, but more often than not, the men will have to wait.

All the while, the maid, in her plain dress, stays quietly by the hearth - fixes his supper, sweetens his coffee, and makes his bed. She attends to his most fundamental needs. She will take the time to listen to him as long as he wants to talk. She is there.

She is a natural woman. In the master's most primal moments, she is easiest to love.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Osama bin Laden: Vagabond, Villain, or Valiant?

Born in Saudi, bin Laden seems to have called "home" where he laid his hat.

In that way, bin Laden's attack on the World Trade Center was not so much an act of terror as it was an act of war - retaliation for Clinton's missile strike on that Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, and Clinton's later bombings of training sites in Afghanistan.

It is worth noting that before he took on the Americans, bin Laden took on the Soviets - the same ones Reagan had labelled "the Evil Empire." While Reagan talked at the formidable Russians, he would not fight them; he left that to bin Laden. Reagan did find time, however, to bomb Libya, a nation of barely five million people. In that particular strike, he killed a small child in Khadaffi's back yard. She was Khadaffi's daughter.

Meanwhile, the Russians were killing over a million Afghans and shipping Afghan children back to the the Soviet Union where they were systematically deprogrammed, and taught to think and act like Russian socialists. Bin Laden, along with the Afghan Mujahadeen, fought to stem this tide of mass kidnappings, and finally drove the Russians out of the Afghanistan.

Today, bin Laden is dead. According to a recent poll, many Americans believe he is burning in hell. If he is, then I suggest Ronald Reagan sits to the right of him, there for killing that innocent little girl. And I imagine Barack Obama shall sit on his left for his part in the murder of those nine Afghan boys who gathered firewood outside of their village.

Regardless of what we thing of him, bin Laden fought bravely for what he believed in. He had range. A millionaire born into the lap of luxury, he seemed just as at ease bedding down in a cave.

We admire David for taking on Goliath with a slingshot. Bin Laden took on two Goliaths with the equivalent of a slingshot.

I don't celebrate bin Laden - let his people do that. I simply warn my people against the petty way of belittling qualities and achievements in one man that we would hail in another.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Unbroken Chain

A wave is forming just as sure as the sun will rise. It will shape families and communities for generations to come. Many children will live in its path, and its wake.

They are sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren of men held in prison for far too long. These children are of that wave, now - swept up each time their fathers are flopped. "Flopped" is prison parlance for "You can't go home." For the children, "flopped" is
simply despair.

It has become a human rights issue in America - not the locking up of men, but the keeping of men for political and financial gain. (Even in China, long-maligned for its human rights abuses, is pointing the finger at the U.S., and challenging its record.) For, here in American, fellow Americans are being denied their freedom so that other men and women can have jobs. They are caged endlessly so that politicians can appear "tough on crime." They have even become and interstate commodity to be bought and sold like so much c
hattel. These poor Americans are kept in such straits because their fellow Americans do not care, and they, themselves cannot afford real attorneys who might negotiate their release.

These men are pebbles cast upon the waters; their children, the ripples those pebbles create. That those ripples shall become waves is as inevitable as the tides.

These children are bound to their fathers, and by extension, they are bound to the prison system. They know when their fathers have served their minimum sentences ordered by the courts. They know of the disciplined behavi
or that has allowed their fathers to fashion good prison records. They are aware when their fathers have abided by all R&GC recommendations - held jobs, completed educational and rehabilitation programs. If there was more the State could ask of their fathers, they know their fathers would do it. But the State has nothing more - except it has cruelty; except it makes these men stay imprisoned for no other reason than it does not feel like letting them go.

There is the pebble that strikes the water that starts the ripples - those ever-expan
ding concentric circles that touches one child after another - one classroom, one neighborhood - until its currents of bitterness and resentment, by degrees, reaches us all.

But there is an alternative wave, the one whose catalyst-pebble is a father returned to the fold. That wave begins with a smile. And there, too, its ever-expanding circles touch one child after another, until its ripples of joy infect entire schoolyards, and by degrees, travel in all directions to infect the world.

No link in this human chain can be broken. We are one, and shall sink or swim together. Those we would seek to drown will not go before their time; neither will they be left beh
ind. They will cling to this scow until we are all rightly scraping bottom.

There is life in prison - good life; life that has paid its debt, and now eagerly awaits a chance at redemption. Those who would smother that life - out of vengeance; out of might, though they be devoid of right - criminally wrong.

It is one thing to die, it is another to be buried alive. Many of these men cry out of their prison sarcophagi with cries that wake their children in the night. They are not the cries of men whose time of death has come. They are the cries of men with lives yet to live, and more than anyone, their children know the difference.

Monday, May 23, 2011

L'audace, L'audace, Toujours L'audace (Audacity, Audacity, and more Audacity)

On May 1, 2011, President Obama got off a one-in-a-million shot and dropped the world's most wanted man. It was not a fluke; it was not luck. It was indicative of a president who has his mojo working.

We were forewarned when, during a conversation at the White House, Obama delivered a Miyagi-like strike against a fly that buzzed his interview. Followed, that surgical tri-secting of those Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa. It, too, was a flawless, unprecedented "whacking" of people who had become the scourge of Mideast shipping. And, now , the strike on bin Laden - bold, gutsy, disciplined. Obama's got it but they want to make him share.

GOP strategist, Mary Matalin, sees it this way: "Obama used Bush policies to get Osama." (Considering Bush had eight years - working with his won policies - and still could not get bin Laden, does not say much for Bush nor his policies.) Some would even diminish this moment by playing the torture card, hoping that might make a bitter pill (Obama's ostensible brilliance) easier to swallow. Their claim: Obama used information elicited from Khalid Sheik Mohammed to get Osama. (That event - the waterboarding of KSM - occurred in 2003. Bush had seven years to disseminate the ill-gotten booty, and it still was not enough time for him to translate it into a win.)

The BBC summed it up best, stating: "Obama succeeded in doing in two years what Clinton and Bush failed to do in ten."

First the fly, then the pirates, and now Osama bin Laden. That, folks, is a hat trick - one unmatched in the annal of presidential audacity.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mr. Obama Meets the Keystone Kops

Remember the Hatfields and the McCoys - America's famous feuding families? When you try to figure out America's bombing of Libya, if might help to look at it in this context: We have decided to back the McCoys because we know less about them than we do the Hatfields.

The Libyans are a tribal people. The tribes in the west support Khadaffi; those in the east do not, (and they never have.) The U.S. says Operation Odyssey Dawn is designed to protect civilians in western Libya from rebel forces in the west. (Then who will protect civilians in wester Libya from rebel forces in the east?) By the way, the U.S. is thinking about arming the rebels.

Arm? Have you seen the rebels with guns? They are like children with new toys. (One rebel actually carried a toy gun to the battle front!) You want to arm him?

NBC news correspondent, Richard Engel, reporting from rebel-held Benghazi, said this of the rebels: "They fired a missile backwards! Instead of firing it at Khadaffi forces, the rockey took off in the wrong direction, toward civilians in Benghazi." (What has Hillary gotten Obama into?). Engel went on to say: "Another group fired a mortar that was not properly anchored. It tipped over while discharging."

Obama's Libyan adventure appears ill-conceived. And trying to frame it as a humanitarian effort is woefully disingenuous. Rather than protecting Libyan civilians, the U.S. appears to be using Libyan civilians as a shield, behind which we carry out a vendetta against Khadaffi.

This war is not about Libyan civilians. If it were, the U.S. would not be talking about putting dangerous weapons into the hands of incompetent men who are likely to kill civilians on both sides of the line, and perhaps even kill themselves. The president is irresponsible to even think about it.

And why won't he speak in plain English? President Obama has sent 200 cruise missiles into Libyan territory and flown a thousand sorties, wreaking enormous damage. Yet, he will not call this a war. Rather, he calls it a "No-fly zone-plus" and a "kinetic military action." (When no one is looking, he calls it a "turd sandwich.")

Comedian John Stewart quipped, "Mr. President, don't you mean a 'bread-based feces containment operation'?"

You deserved that one, Mr. Obama, for the ridiculous way you use fancy words when "war" will do.

Sarah Palin makes more sense when she asks, "Is this a long-term squirmish?" Yes, she said that. And coming from "the Palm Writer," I don't mind. At least I know what she is trying to say. If only we could figure out what Mr. Obama is trying to do.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rebels, Rights, Wrongs, and Romance

On March 17, 10 of 15 nations on the United Nations Security Council voted to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. (Five nations abstained.) Two days later, the U.S. Navy was lobbing Tomahawk missiles into Libyan territory. Another war had begun.

Those voting in favor of Resolution 1973 say the fight between the rebels and government forces was unfair; the air-strikes would give the rebels a chance to advance.

Unfair? Funny that the UN never concerned itself with the unfair advantage American forces in Afghanistan have over Afghan rebels there. And how is it that the UN can tell Khadaffi that he cannot fight the rebels, but rebels can fight him? That is as unfair as it gets.

And since when were nations wrong to fight for their national sovereignty? A rebellion just ended in Sri Lanka where government forces overran rebel-held territories. Thousands of civilians died in that rebellion. There were no “No-fly zones.”

And where are the “No-fly zones” over Chechnya where Russian government forces have killed thousands of Chechan civilians and their rebel defenders? Where were the “No-fly zones” over Tibet?

Today, if you ask the allies, “Why Libya? Why not Sudan and Cote D’Ivoire; Chechnya and Yemen and Bahrain—all countries where civilians are being slaughtered by government forces—Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron will give this specious response; “Just because we cannot do right everywhere does not mean we cannot do right anywhere.”

Cute. But is what we are doing “Right”? Or is it just an excuse to bomb someone we don’t like?

The UN—the world body sectioning the “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” wonders. CNN reports that Ban-ki Moon, the UN’s secretary-general, is “nervous,” and “is not sure what is happening.” Russia, one of the five nations to abstain in the vote, is “angry,” and wants the bombing to “cease immediately.” And the Arab League, which initially asked for a no-fly zone, (and upon whom the UN based much of the legitimacy of its resolution) is having second thoughts. Not to worry, folks. The bombing will go on. (What would become of the out-gunned rebels if it did not?)

The Libyan rebels are out-gunned for a reason—all rebels are out-gunned. That is the nature of rebellions. Saying the fight between the rebels and the Libyan government should be more fair flies in the history of rebellions.

The Continentals were out-gunned against the British. The Confederates were out-gunned against the Union forces. What makes rebellions likely is not an equality of weapons so much as a balance between weapons and passion. (That is the romance of rebellions.) Sometimes passion wins out, as in the American Revolution. Sometimes weapons win out, as in America’s Civil War. Fortunately, not all rebellions are successful.

Of course, this Libyan rebellion will succeed because of the overwhelming force employed on behalf of the rebels. It will be a sterile victory, however. There will be no romance.

Western forces have co-opted this rebellion. It no longer belongs to the Libyan rebels. (They can’t fight anyway.) This will simply be a European victory over an Arab nation—coalition of advanced militaries defeating a 5th-rate army, one that could barely defeat a rag-tag group of rebels.

So, don’t be so proud ye coalition of allies. You have not done so much, except to set honest rebellions back a thousand years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Here's An Idea: Let's Use Their Idea

President Obama is touting a plan to set aside $60 - 70 billion for a high-speed rail network. I think we should hold off on that.

High-speed rail is already being done, in Europe, for sure. Apparently, it works okay, but it is not revolutionary; it is not futuristic. we should be thinking bigger - looking to do what no other nation is doing, rather than investing in what amounts to an upgrade of Amtrak. (Where is the clamor for that?)

Besides, $70 billion might not sound like much to Mr. Obama, but to us lowly taxpayers, that's a lot of school books. Better we spent it on a new idea.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lost in Space

The other day, the U.S. went after Iran's leaders for "suppressing protests" in that country, announcing: "Iran must let its people protests freely without fear of reprisals."

A week later, facing a "Day of Rage" in Saudi Arabia, America's friend, the Saudi king, threatened to "cut off the finger" of any Saudi who dare lift a finger in protest. Funny how quickly the U.S. lost its tongue.

Ideally, the U.S. wants self-determination for the Arabs of North Africa and the Middle East; in reality, we don't. America prefers authoritarian rulers there. We don't care if they are kings, military dictators, or just plain despots, so long as they cater to our interests.

Interestingly, the most democratic of the Arab peoples appear to be the Palestinians. When they had what international observers deem a fair and democratic election, however, the U.S. rejected the results because the Palestinians had failed to elect the candidate America preferred.

Talk about being on the "wrong side of history": When it comes to the Arab Revolution, we're not even on the same plane.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stop the Violence?

History is our greatest teacher; it is perhaps our only true teacher. Yet, we seem to reject its indelible lessons. We look at the goings-on in Libya, and we are confused, mostly because we refuse to see through history's prism.

Libya's Muammar Khadaffi has been in power for the last forty years. Of course, he should leave. Forty years is too long for even a good dictator to rule. But if Khadaffi wants to hold onto power in Libya, history says there is nothing wrong with that. If he wants to hire mercenaries from other countries (in this case, Chad and Mali) to help him, history says there is nothing wrong with that. And if the rebellious Libyans want to enlist the help of a foreign power to help them - say England or the U.S. - history tells us there is nothing wrong with that, either.

King George III of England ruled the American colonies prior to the American Revolution. When the Americans rebelled against his rule, he hired Hessian mercenaries to help him subdue his colonial subjects. The colonials, in turn, enlisted the aid of France (and Spain and the Netherlands) to help them overthrow the king.

Khadaffi, like so many rulers before him, is fighting to hold onto power. He is within his rights. So, too, are we within our right to help the rebels if we wish. America goes lame, however, when its president gets on the world's biggest megaphone and declares to Khadaffi, "The violence must stop."

So far, Khadaffi has done nothing so horrific as what America's forces did on 3-2-11 when they bombed nine Afghan boys gathering firewood outside of their village. All of the boys were killed. America's General Petraeus, commander of all forces in Afghanistan, apologized, saying, "We thought they were insurgents."

If I come from a small town, like I come from, you would know that nine boys might be all of the boys (of that age group) that village had. And America says, "Sorry about that."

Over the past ten years, America has killed many thousands of men, women, and children - perhaps as many as all of the other nations of the world (excluding Sudan) combined.

Today, America is running guns into Mexico - some twisted ATF strategy ("Letting guns walk") - designed to fashion a trail to the narco-terrorists. All we have truly accomplished is to up the body count of innocents in Mexico.

We have a trigger happy army in Afghanistan lobbing bombs at anything that moves. We have another army in Iraq poised to do more of the same. American killer drones patrol the skies of four sovereign nations.

The other day, an American contractor in Pakistan killed two Pakistanis, shooting them both in the back. Obama declared the American should be granted diplomatic immunity, (though that American was no diplomat).

American wreaks violence on a scale Khadaffi can only dream about. When President Obama told Khadaffi, "The violence must stop," Khadaffi should have responded: "well stop."

History tells us that "stopping our own violence" may be the toughest task of all, especially when there is no on the block big enough to "make us."

Monday, March 7, 2011

His Cup Runneth Over

Never in the history of the US presidency has one president had so much to do. Obama's cup runneth over.

Two weeks ago, Raymond Davis, an American embassy worker in Pakistan, killed two Pakistani men. The US asserts Davis is a diplomat and must be afforded "diplomatic immunity." A Pakistani on the street declared, "There's not that much immunity on Earth."

The Obama administration wants Davis released. The Pakistani people want him tried in a Pakistan court. The grief-stricken widow of one of the men has already committed suicide. Other members of that man's family threaten to do the same if the Pakistani government turns Davis over to the US.

The US is threatening to withhold foreign aid if Pakistan does not release Davis. The Pakistani people don't care. (They never see that money anyway.)

If Obama does not secure the release of Davis, the US loses face. If Pakistan releases the American, the people of Pakistan may rise up en masse and add another American-friendly regime to the list of those fit to topple.

Such a regime is Bahrain, a small island nation in the Persian Gulf. America's 5th Fleet is based there. There, also, a Sunni royal family has ruled the Shiite majority for the past 200 years. Today, the royals of Bahrain are facing sustained protests from the Bahrainian people. Secretary of State Clinton has urged the royals to "exercise restraint." Apparently, she did not "urge" them in Arabic, and they must not understand English. On February 16, in the middle of the night, while protestors slept in Central Square, government forces attacked from two directions. There was blood everywhere.

At first, the people there simply wanted reforms. After the Central Square killings, they want change. They want the king to become a figurehead - to replace his power with a constitutional democracy. The US does not want that. That would put the Shiite majority in power, which would amount to another feather in (Shiite) Iran's cap.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is frantic. Not only did they urge Mubarak to withstand the Egyptian protests - going so far as to offer him billions if the US withdrew their aid - they continue to exhort the royals of Bahrain to withstand their protestors, too. Seeing their fellow overlords on the brink must haunt the Saudi royals with visions of their own fat necks on the chopping block.

One consequence of the Egyptian revolution: The favors the US had come to expect from Egypt are over, many never to be revisited again. For instance: No longer can the (freed) Egyptian people be expected to help the Israeli government imprison the entire population of Gaza. That linch-pin in American-Israeli strategy is rightfully doomed.

Add to that: On Feb. 18, the Palestinians put forth a UN resolution condemning the building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. The Obama administration had urged the Palestinians not to file the resolution; they did it anyway. That put America on the spot: Of 15 Security Council members, 14 voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution. The US, alone, voted to uphold that which the rest of the international community deemed illegal.

America is reeling. For the first time since 1979, Iran has sent warships up the Suez Canal.

Hezbollah has grasped the reins of power in Lebanon.

There are rallies against American-friendly governments in Djibouti, Yemen, Jordan, and Kuwait.

The one Middle East nation the US "blessed" with democracy (Iraq) is demanding an apology from the US and a billion dollars.

Mexico is on the verge of anarchy.

China is eating our lunch.

Social media has snatched the covers off of the world's leaders. (All of the emperors have no clothes!)

And this: America sits atop a 14 trillion dollar debt. (It may explode.)

Hail Caesar!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prisons, Politics, and Prisons

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, in Friday's editorial, seems to herald a demise of politics in the prison debate. It points to Governor Snyder's efforts to restructure Michigan's parole board as proof. Not so fast. (Taking politics out of the prison system is like taking the sweet out of honey.)

When it comes to the prison debate, it is all politics - whether it is decisions driven by budget concerns, public safety, or issues of human rights.

Politics, simply put, is the art of influencing and guiding governmental policy. There are good politics and bad politics, which should not be confused with honest politics and dishonest politics. Each has its niche - they can stand alone, or they can metastasize into one. For instance, dishonest politics can be good politics, but only in the short run. Regardless, there is never "no" politics when it comes to prisons.

Governor Snyder justifies downsizing the parole board by saying, "A smaller parole board makes sense because there are fewer inmates who are eligible for release." (According to recent CAPP statistics, there are 10015 inmates in Michigan's prisons who are eligible for release. Snyder makes it sound like - thanks to Granholm's parole boards - there are only hundreds.)

That, folks, is politics - the kind that misleads the public into thinking the government has exhausted a reservoir that truly has barely been tapped.

The Citizen Patriot then contrasts prisoner releases for purposes of cutting the budget to those based upon thoughtful policy, as though they cannot be one and the same. Of course, they can be. (Since when is cutting an over-sized budget not "thoughtful"?)

Michigan's parole process founders on a faulty premise, which helps to make it inherently unjust. First, it seems convinced that all inmates, once released, will commit the same crimes again. (The B&E will commit B&E's, the drug dealer will deal drugs, the murderer will murder.) So, they must only return prisoners to their communities whose crimes can be more easily absorbed.

All crimes are threat to public's sense of well being. If you assume that all criminals will repeat their offenses - and that is your basis for holding them as long as legally possible - then let no one go until you have squeezed every possible minute of out of all of them. Of course, that will not save a single community. (There are two million men in America's prisons. If you could execute them all today, 30 years from now, there would be two million men in America's prisons).

Certainly, there are inmates in Michigan's prison who are incorrigible. But the State must not pretend to not know who those men are as a precept for treating them all as if they were. Painting with such a broad brush punishes entire families out of unfounded prejudice.

The prison debate is a complex mix of rights, laws, and budgets. There are many victims: people who are directly (and indirectly) affected by crimes, school budgets that become victims of prison budgets, even criminals, themselves, who become victim when, after endless "flops", their parents and children languish in endless despair.

Politics are with us, for better or for worse. Within the prison debate, those politics must be good and honest. How else to insure lasting justice for all?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The WikiLeaks "Dump": Peoples' Boon, Governments' Bane

Julian Assange and he crew at WikiLeaks has the "goods": on Russian prime ministers, Lockerbie bombers, American diplomats, and Saudi kings.

For instance: Noting that the rich in Saudi Arabia are the No. 1 financier of Al Quaeda, WikiLeaks reveals that the Saudi King wants America to "cut off the head of the snake" (Iran), as though Iran were Al Quaeda's chief benefactor. (Can't do their own "wet work", I suppose.) Multiply such tidbits as that by thousands, and you get a glimpse of WikiLeaks' offering to the world. For that, Assange has been hunted as though he were Dracula, and has been accused of everything from terrorism to treason. (America is quick to demand transperancy of other nations. When we have it thrust upon us, we cry "foul!")

Shortly after the WikiLeaks "dump", Assange was arrested on rape charges...again. Sweden had dismissed thosw same charges against Assange back in August 2010. Now, they have been conveniently revived (as a favor to the U.S.?). It reeks of more fodder for WikiLeaks.

Assange has exposed the world's leaders like they have never been exposed before. and Amercian news correspondents are besife themselves. (If only they were the least bit inscrutable.) Hypocrites to the core, they excoriate Assange - the good Americans that they are - even as they struggle to contain their giddiness at the mother lode of "scoops" he has laid at their feet.

This trove of information is not an attack on Americans (as it has been portrayed.) Neither is it an attack on the Saudis, the Chinese, nor the good citizens of the European Union. Rather, Assange has pulled back the curtain on the corrupt duplicitous officials of those nations; he has laid bare governments whose lies to their people are systemic, and deadly. In one fell swoop, Assange has provided the people of the world with what their governments dare not: the truth.

So far, none of the WikiLeaks intelligence is in dispute. Despite threats to "bring Assange to justice," according to Fox legal analyst, Judge Napolitano, "The publisher of truthful information is immune to prosecution."

America's Newt Gingrich, nonetheless, calls Assange's acts "treasonous." Treason? Assange is an Australian. Until Australia's prime minister declares him a traitor - which she has not - New casts his bucket down a dry well.

California's Senator Feinstein wants to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act. Passed in 1917, that law was considered by many judicial scholars to be unconstitutional then. Invoking so shadowy an act now would create a mess - casting a pall over newspapers and journalists who have already disseminated many of the "juicier" WikiLeaks tidbits out of pure fascination.
Rather than recoil from this intelligence bonanza, Americans should embrace it. The right of the people to know is the cornerstone of all working democracies. Feinstein and others would leave us dumb, and privy to only what they want us to know, (which is usually what suits their purposes).

But we are not children. We are taxpayers - we are bosses! Most of all, we are the parents who send our children to fight our governments' wars. We deserve the truth. Contrary to what our governments think of us, we can handle the truth. The question is, "Can they?"

The central element to all human relationships is trust. Assange's critics assert that "governments must have their secrets." I ask, "Why must they?" Secrets foster mistrust - not only between nations, but between peoples and their governments.

Maybe it is time for the world's leaders to try something new - like dealing above board for a change. You say you don't like WikiLeaks, then stop lying and cheating and stealing. You will put WikiLeaks out of business overnight.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Make Sense, Save Billions

The prison debate in Michigan has become far too strained; it's turned to mush. Try this: If a prisoner does everything he is asked to do - abides by all R&GC recommendations, and serves his minimum too - send him home. It is time to stop the madness, this inhuman (and costly) effort to keep people locked up forever. The State can no longer afford it. Time to make sense.

There are over 10,000 men and women in Michigan's prisons who are parole-eligible; that is, they have served their minimum sentences set down by the courts. Yet, these people remain in prison at a cost to the State of over $30,000 per prisoner, per year. At the same time, Michigan wrestles with a budget deficit approaching two billion dollars.

Today, the State seeks ways to trim that deficit by cutting prison costs. Current strategies include lowing the quality of food on the prison menu, reducing health care access, and cutting back on educational opportunities for prisoners. Besides being ineffective, these strategies are wrong. Trying to find ways to scale back on food, health care, and education for prisoners is simply seeking ways to further neglect a captive population. Nothing positive is accomplished. For the nickels and dimes saved today, millions more will be spent tomorrow when those same hungry, sick, and uneducated prisoners are inevitably released back into their communities.

Cut a quarter of the prison population (parole-eligible prisoners), and automatically cut a quarter of staff (salaries), food costs, medical costs, energy costs, etc. With that single action, Michigan's prison budget would be slashed from its current 1.6 billion to 1.2 - a savings to the State of four billion dollars over the next ten years.

In the interim, Michigan will be left with a healthy prison system - not this bloated leech that sucks up monies meant to educate our children, and care for our elderly and our poor. Send parole-eligible prisoners home; educate the prisoners that remain. When they, too, eventually go home, their chances of success - based upon these positive reinforcements - will increase.

If this remedy sounds simplistic, that is because the solution to this problem is more simply than the complex brain-twister the powers in Lansing pretend that it is.

The parole board, too, must end its illogical aversion to paroling "violent offenders." A violent offender's minimum sentence is equally as legitimate as the minimum sentences ascribed to all other prisoners. The manslaughter convict should have as much hope of going home after serving his minimum as does the offender serving a 3 to 10 for home invasion. Saying a man sentenced to 15 to life must serve life makes as much sense as saying a man sentenced to 10 to 30 must serve 30.

Truly looking for answers? Try common sense. You will save time, money, and lives.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heisman Hopeless

Nothing captures the NCAA's Svengali-like hold over its athletes like Reggie Bush bowing to the whims of the Heisman muckity-mucks.

They took his trophy - dully earned on the football field - because of a supposed indiscretion committed off it. No crime was committed, just a rule broken - one laid down by men so satiated with greed they think "down is up." Reggie folded as though they were Caesars.

"Return your Heisman," they said to Bush, "You've been naughty."

Bush said, "Okay."

Reggie is a wimp; no heart. He was supposed to say to those phonies: "If you want it, come and get it. And you'd better bring your boys."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Casting Stones

Have we become vampires? (We can't see ourselves!)

The U.S. has asked the U.N. to investigate N. Korea for war crimes after the North killed four S. Koreans in an artillery barrage. This request comes on the heels of a ten-year period during which the blood of 100,00 thousand people - many of them women and children - smear America's hands.

Did they remove all mirrors from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department when, tho their wonder, they cast no reflection? (We don't want to see ourselves!) How else to explain the inexplicable way we chastise others for sins we commit ten-fold?

In what now may be called "The Lockerbie Scandal" (courtesy of Wikileaks), Libya apparently twisted some arms in the U.K. to get Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Megrahi, a medical parole. Turns out, Megrahi is not as sick as they had claimed. At the least, he has outlived their predictions of "three months to live."

Now America accuses Libya of "using its commercial might to get its way." Are we serious - "using money to get your way"? That is the American way - at home, and abroad. Yet, we have the gall to accuse another country of dabbling in that which we have mastered.

Through our commercial might, alone, we convinced a motley group of nations - call them "The Coalition of the Swilling" - to wage war against a fellow nation (Iraq) that had done them no harm.

Dracula might be amused at this distaste for our own reflection. No ones else should be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time Mothers Did Some Old-Fashioned Mothering

The other day, a five-year-old student's thumbs were duct-taped together to prevent her from sucking them. Apparently, the sucking sound had begun to annoy her teacher.

It turns out the child was "anxious," according to authorities who investigated the incident. The child had not seen her mother in over a year. That mother is a sergeant in the U.S. Army, stationed in Afghanistan.

The media immediately jumped the "cruel" teacher: "Who would do such a terrible thing to a poor child whose mother heroically serves her country?"

Who is more "cruel" here - the teacher who duct-taped the child's thumbs, or the mother who abandoned the child?

Certainly, "abandoned" is a strong word, but let's not waste time. The problem is not one of "thumb-sucking." Thumb-sucking is a symptom. The problem is abandonment. The teacher clumsily addressed the symptom, further exacerbating the problem. With or without the duct tape, the child suffers the unutterable sting of abandonment. (The fear of abandonment may haunt this child long after the duct tape is forgotten.)

This nation must decide what is more integral to its existence: a well-adjusted American child, or the rights of an American "Mom" to strap on a rifle and go off in the other direction.