Sunday, February 23, 2014

Grab your label makers because this is what I believe


If I support abortion, I am labeled a murder.  If I support meritocracy, I am labeled anti-union.  If I criticize the Israeli government, I am labeled anti-Semitic.  If I disagree with Richard Sherman’s post-game actions, I am labeled a racist. If I question our leaders, I am labeled unpatriotic.  If I say the Estate Tax is unfair, I am labeled the 1%.  If I am thankful for the ACLU, I am labeled a bleeding heart liberal.  When I call for banking regulation, I am labeled an anti-capitalist.  When I call for less regulation, I am labeled a free market fascist.  When I call for safe regulated fracking, I am labeled both a tree hugger and an oil and gas stooge.

Have an opinion and get a label.  Labels are easy because it enables people to put others in nice pre-described buckets. And when you think for yourself, deny the premise of the party line talking point, and offer a new opinion, be prepared to be criticized.  I have previously talked about what it means to be in the middle, but in hindsight, that offers only a one dimensional depiction.  The world is much more complex than that.  Think quadratic, not linear.  Analog, not digital. Volume, not distance.  There are social issues, economic concerns, foreign policy, fiscal policy, national defense, and many other factors.

So here I go:

  • I believe over reliance on drones and JSOC operations are illegal, immoral, and ineffective
  • I believe the truth about the power and policies of NSA needed to come out, but I believe Snowden went beyond that and crossed the line from whistleblower to traitor.
  • I support charter schools and New York Mayor de Blasio’s attack on them mayhave significant adverse impacts on education.
  • I believe Common Core State Standards will raise the learning process and better prepare our future generations, that being said, they need to be monitored and modified to enhance effectiveness.
  • I believe politics is an ugly big business game that has adulterated and bastardized the American political process where lobbyists are the bagmen, the Kochs are the mob, and politicians are errand boys.
  • I believe America still needs to be THE Superpower, but to exert that power it needs to do so bilaterally with less reliance on military might while managing to promote democratic principles and protecting our national interests.
  • I believe abortion is a woman’s right and I oppose any person or organization that tries to erode that right.
  • I believe the 2nd Amendment protects gun rights, but is not absolute and there is room for gun control.
  • I believe we put way too much faith in the Federal Reserve, Congressional Budget Office, and economists in general.  They make poor predictors of the economy and in the case of the Fed, poor custodians of Monetary Policy.
  • I believe religion has its place in the public square, but not in the creation of legislation.
  • I believe in science over faith
  • I believe we need long term fiscal management that will require tough medicine
  • I believe our politicians lack the will to administer the necessary fiscal medicine
  • I believe government acting in what it thinks is in citizens best interests can overreach
  • I believe the Patriot Act encroaches on our freedom a lot more egregiously than the Affordable Care Act
  • I believe the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, but to assume it would be otherwise is foolish
  • I believe you can neither tax nor cut your way to a balanced budget
  • I believe if you have to put “Freedom” in the title of your organization or bill, you may be full of shit
  • I believe the governors who continue to oppose same sex rights will face the same ignominy as those that resisted the civil rights movement 50 years ago
  • I believe fracking is here to stay and we need to lift the limits on oil exports
  • I believe in improbabilities not in miracles
  • I believe a restless mind stimulates problem solving and problem solving is the output of critical thinking
  • I believe sometimes the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy
  • I believe I could vote for a pro-choice, pro-equality, anti-corruption visionary Republican…not holding my breath however

I believe…

Grab your label makers


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Twenty Questions for a Tuesday

 Twenty Questions for a Tuesday

  1. If climate change isn’t the biggest threat to the earth, where are the dinosaurs?
  2. If creationists are right, why is man still here but not the dinosaurs?
  3. Why are conservatives so worried about leaving their children and grandchildren saddled with debt, but not worried about leaving them with an uninhabitable planet?
  4. Why do Creationists love Christian Mingle, but hate Carbon Dating?
  5. When did all-star games become shitty exhibitions instead of contested games?
  6. Who has had a worse Winter Olympics: Ralph Lauren or Under Armor?
  7. How can President Obama be both a dictator as Paul Ryan says and spineless as Oliver Stone claims?
  8. In the age of streaming, On-Demand, and DVR’s, are the Nielsen Ratings still relevant?
  9. Have MSNBC, CNN, and Fox in the race for ratings hastened the end of cable ‘news’?
  10. Couldn’t Edward Snowden have blown the whistle on the most heinous civil liberty challenging NSA practices without disclosing critical national intelligence?
  11. Is it not possible to frack safely?
  12. If the private sector is better than the public sector how come so many businesses fail?
  13. If video killed the radio star, then did Netflix kill the video man?
  14. Now that Leno is gone, is Letterman on the clock?
  15. Is True Detective the best new show since The Wire?
  16. If President Obama is allowing de facto amnesty, then how do you explain the 2 Million deportations since he took office?
  17. If your Olympic event is decided by judges’ opinions, then it is not a sport but a competition and worthy of Tom Bergeron hosting.
  18. Are Curlers athletes?
  19. Don’t you think ambassadorships should be based on experience and knowledge, and not fundraising acumen?
  20. Is $65Billion really worth it Mr. Putin?



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekend Musings from a Restless Mind


Weekend Musings from a Restless Mind

  • States resisting Medicaid expansion is just the latest chapter of “stopping federal government taking over”.  Many private hospitals refused to submit to integration in the 1960’s.  Baptist Hospital of New Orleans, later known as Memorial Medical Center (yes the site of Five Days at Memorial) issued this statement in 1966 “It is our conviction that we can serve all of the people better if we remain free of government entanglements that would dictate the terms and conditions under which this hospital shall be operated.”  Yes because the federal government mandating equality is a bad thing.
  • Privatizing the United States Postal Services is not a new Republican scam.  It’s been in the works for years.  The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 mandated that USPS must prefund its pension benefits for 75 years through a $5.5Billion annual payment.  The Republican controlled Congress and Republican President Bush levied this burden on the USPS and to this day, it is the only government agency with such a financial mandate. This burden has prevented the necessary investment in management information system solutions and thus the service remains horribly obsolete.  New streams of revenue are required such as Senator Warren’s banking services proposals and Congress needs to eliminate the ridiculous 75 year mandate.
  • I was outspoken against U.S. entanglement in Syria primarily because I couldn’t see the mission or a measurable, realistic, and timely goal.  However, after seeing what has happened to the people of Aleppo and other cities, villages, and towns, I believe the international community should feel shame.  The PBS Frontline documentary The Children of Aleppo was heart wrenching and an indictment on inaction.  These innocents are caught between Assad loyalists and ISIS and no amount of humanitarian aid will solve this situation.  And while parties talk in Geneva and athletes compete in Sochi, the citizens of Aleppo are terrorized by hourly barrel bombing from regime helicopters and kidnappings by ISIS.
  • If the Miami Dolphins’ locker room is indicative of the rest of the NFL then the league is truly diseased.  And while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no longer the rule in the military, it is clearly still prevalent in the NFL.  I wish Michael Sam the best in his NFL career and hope that decency and leadership prevail over ignorance and mob mentality.  I don’t care how violent professional football may be, there is no excuse for a multibillion dollar industry to ignore player safety and respect for the individual.
  • Marsha Blackburn has a BS in Home Economics from Mississippi State and is Vice Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, therefore she is expertly qualified to debate climate science on Meet The Press.  I am not sure what is more disturbing: the thought that she can debate science or the ill-conceived concept that science should be debated on a political talk show.  What’s next, Louis Gohmert to debate evolution with an anthropologist?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mid Week Mishegas


On Michael Sam: He has 100X the courage of the ‘unnamed NFL executives’ who hide behind anonymity when they say things like “a gay player can cause some chemistry disruptions in the locker room.” 

On Olympics: I love how purists pretend that the Olympics are about the competition and politics have no place in the conversation, when in reality the Olympics are nothing but politics starting with the host city selection, including the governing bodies for the individual sports, and ending with the judging.

On Canadian Breast Cancer Study: This study over 25 years concluded that mammograms do not help detect cancer any better than an exam.  Of course the study was based on old technology and lacked proper randomization and to make matters worse the old white guys who analyzed data now recommend women shouldn’t bother with mammograms. 

On Health Care Plans: One may argue whether it is a war, but the bias against women’s health as exemplified by the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the restrictions on contraception, and the limited coverage in many insurance plans regarding cancer screening.

On Immigration Reform: Any system that creates two classes: citizens and guest worker residents is immoral and illegal.  Create a pathway to citizenship for all and figure out to increase H1B visas and eliminate quotas. 

On True Detective: The best show on television and maybe the best show to debut on TV since Breaking Bad.

On Dirty Wars: For every terrorist we kill, two more take his place.  Our over reliance on this method of prosecuting the war on terror is ineffective and arguably illegal and immoral.  Without proper safeguards and oversight, we become indiscriminate killers.

On The New Economy: New businesses driven by emerging technology will not be the job creators of the previous millennium.  Case in point as noted in the Economist: “When Instagram, a popular photo-sharing site, was sold to Facebook for about $1 billion in 2012, it had 30m customers and employed 13 people. Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy a few months earlier, employed 145,000 people in its heyday.”

On Politics: It shouldn’t be a zero sum game.  Compromise is necessary and all sides need to walk away from a negotiation feeling they got something.

On Executive Power: The same people who demand President Obama take unilateral action when it suits them are the same people who will criticize when a president of the other party deploys similar power.




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Israel: Can it be a Jewish State and a Democratic State


As a frequent visitor to Israel, I often leave conflicted.  I love the food, I have many friends that have open their homes to me, the history is unparalleled, the spirit of inventorship rivals any other nation, and the never say die attitude is inspirational.  And yet, I am troubled, like many, about the region’s oldest democracy as it struggles with its identify and future.  Can Israel be both a democratic state and a Jewish state?  In its pursuit for the latter will it sacrifice the former?

Last week I happened to be in Israel when key points of the Kerry Plan were released to the public courtesy of New York Times’ Thomas Friedman (who was visiting and staying in the same hotel as yours truly).  I won’t bore you with the details of the plan, but it was interesting to witness firsthand the “he said/he said” schoolyard silliness within the Netanyahu government.  If the Israeli government, and its outspoken ministers spent as much time talking with the Palestinians as they argue amongst themselves perhaps a deal could be struck.  Alas, the Israeli cultural tenet to argue (arguing to Israelis is like gambling to Asians, it’s a cultural thing) and debate makes negotiation a slow process. 

While the hero of the settlers, millionaire software mogul Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) Party criticizes both his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and American Secretary of State John Kerry, fellow coalition government member and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnuah Party continues to spar with Bennett.  Throw into the mix Yair Lapid, Finance Minister and head of the new Yesh Atid party, has also been at odds with Bennett.  And then there is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who merged his Yisrael Beiteinu Party with Netanyahu’s Likud and has gone from the radical right winger to proponent of a Palestinian state. And we haven’t even mentioned the opposition Labor party.  Can you imagine a U.S. administration where the Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, President, and Attorney General openly denigrate one another?

Meanwhile, these news stories are commonplace in the occupies territories:

  • Israeli forces forbade the Islamic call for prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron 49 times in the month of January because it "annoyed" Jewish settlers.
  • Israeli forces on Monday morning stormed the Bab al-Awda protest encampment which Palestinian and international activists erected Sunday near the Bisan checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley
  • A group of settlers from Shilo settlement uprooted more than 1000 olive trees and newly planted saplings in the village of Sinjil north of Ramallah, planted with funding from ICRC
  • Ten Israeli military vehicles stormed Qabatia and inspected several homes before leaving the town. A military spokesman said the raids were 'routine security activity.'
  • In 2013, Israel destroyed 99 buildings in annexed East Jerusalem, leaving 298 people homeless, according to UN figures

These are not isolated stories, they represent a one week snapshot of headlines in the occupied territories.  An illegal and amoral act that that is a blight upon a democratic state.  It is up to Netanyahu to do the right thing and enable the creation of a Palestinian State if he really wants a Jewish Democratic State.  The current situation of occupation is undemocratic.  The establishment of a single state with equal rights to all citizens will ultimately leave Jews in Israel as a minority, and thus not a Jewish State.

As hard as the Netanyahu government continues to play the security card, they will get their sympathies from the American Congress.  Though, the claims of imminent danger from the West Bank have been greatly exaggerated as Shin Bet, the Israeli state security service, is now counting rock throwing as terror incidents.   Netanyahu will likely have to risk his political career as his right wing government would collapse if he were to accept the Kerry Plan.  Of course, he could probably form a new a coalition government with centrist and leftist parties.  Of course, there is no guarantee that Abbas will be able to sell it to the Palestinian people either. 

As Israeli journalist and author of My Promised Land Ari Shavit said “I think that the two-state solution is necessary for political reasons, first of all, but also for moral reasons. I think that it's incomprehensible that the Palestinians will not have a state of their own.”

Imagine that, the political and moral thing to do are one in the same.