Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama Acts In The American Tradition of Compassion

President Obama has been criticized by some supporters for a proclivity to procrastinate and over think possible actions to the point where when he finally acts it is often considered either too little or too late.  He also has the unfortunate, for a President, habit of thinking out loud when he is considering action so he gets into the position of having to explain away statements made before an action is taken if those statements contradict his ultimate decisions.  For example, when he professorially stated that the President did not have the authority to go further than his DACA immigration plan.  And, now when has to explain that away because he recognized that in fact he did have the authority to do more; -- in fact he may have the authority to do more than he has now done.

President Obama is the only office holder in our country elected by all the American people casting a vote for the same position.  As such he is the one charged with preserving our republic, and taking all necessary action to do so.  If Thomas Jefferson hadn’t purchased territory from France without waiting for a constitutional amendment, as his congressional critics wanted, our nation might today not extend west of the Mississippi River.  If Andrew Jackson had not met South Carolina’s attempts to nullify federal laws with firm adherence to use of force there might have been a Civil War in the 1830's - one that would have been won by the slave states and led to two nation's one slave and one free.  If Abraham Lincoln had not exercised his power to combat secession (a power his predecessor as President denied) we might not be one nation today.  If Theodore Roosevelt had not exercised his power to act as he did in Panama and Columbia (without a Senate ratified Treaty) there would have been no Panama Canal and a century of an America hemmed in by two oceans.  If FDR had not exercised the power to close the banks for a few days upon his inauguration the entire bottom might have fallen through right then and there; instead America was able to begin the long climb back to economic health without the extremism of fascism or communism.  And, if Harry Truman hadn’t used his executive pen to order the integration of the Armed Forces the transformation of this country into a color blind society might not have begun.

Now, President Obama exercising the same authority that others before him have (notably George H W Bush and Ronald Reagan) has dealt with the problem of millions of illegal immigrants now resident in America.  He has both deported those who have no legal right to be here while now opening a way for those who have been here for years and contributed to this country to attain a legal status and when the Congress finally faces up to its responsibility a path to citizenship.  I am one of those who would like to have seen him go further by including the parents of the DACA youngsters; in fact I would like to see him use his pardoning authority to pardon all those physically present in this country today from any form of prosecution for violation of immigration laws - a true total Amnesty.

Immigration has been a political issue in this country since the 1790's when the Federalists imposed a 14 year waiting period for obtaining citizenship because the then French and European immigrants were supporting the Jeffersonian Democrats.  Like all matters involving our government it will continue to be a partisan issue.

President Barack Obama acted !  He has done what he and most Americans believe is the right thing to bring this huge undocumented population into the American body politic.

Let those who oppose his executive order do so on the merits of their arguments.  Let them offer their alternative proposals.  It is unfortunate that most of those who oppose this order do so because this President is black, or because this President is a liberal Democrat, because most of the immigrants affected are Latino.

My mother was born in Germany and came to this country at the age of six; my father’s ancestors arrived here in 1607. So depending how you view it I am either thirteenth generation American or first generation American. My father's ancestors built a great nation that opened its’ arms to my mother and her family in the 1920's.  No one stopped those fearless immigrants of the seventeenth century and no one closed the door to my mother's family.

We have struggled every time a different people have found America a refuge and it has strengthened us and made us a great nation. President Obama has used his authority honed by Jefferson and Roosevelt to open that door again to those who found a way to get here.  He is a President who expended his political capital to get health care for those who didn’t have it and personal security for immigrants who lived in the shadows of our society -- neither one a major voting bloc.  When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, when FDR authorized rural electrification and when LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act it wasn’t as a reward for those who voted for them nor with expectation that the beneficiaries might vote for them - it was because it was the Right Thing to Do.

President Barack Obama has joined those of our great Presidents who have Stood for American Values and Done the Right Thing.

21 November 2014   

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


As Republican Party attempts to remake its’ image as a party that is capable of and should win the Presidency in 2016, the Democratic Party faces a critical point in its over 200 year history.  Democrats face a defining moment that will determine what their party stands for in the 21st century.

When Jefferson and Madison founded the party in the 1790's it was a liberal response to a conservative and largely nationalistic Federalist Party philosophy.  In the 1830's, led by Andrew Jackson, Democrats became a party of workingmen and on- the- make businessmen in the north and nouveau riche planters form the South.  From the end of the Civil War until 1896 the Democracy , as it was called, was the party of the South and northern city machines built on immigrant votes (actually a Republican put it aptly when he called the Democrats the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion).

In 1896 from the west came a great tide of Populism - anti monopoly and anti Wall Street; advocating direct election of US Senators and initiative and referendum, along with labor reform and opposition to imperialist adventures, particularly in the Philippines. When the Bryan Populists merged with the urban Progressives and won the election of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party became essentially a Progressive party (with a southern component that on economic issues was somewhat progressive.)  And, so the Democratic Party as FDR unfolded his New Deal became the party of progressive economic and social reform and world leadership.  With battles within the party against  conservative southern segregationists the moderate liberals won out and the party was in a liberal mold through the 1960's.

With Vietnam and the opposition to that war the party shifted left on international issues and lost first to Nixon and then to Reagan.  After the defeat of Mondale-Ferraro in 1984 the party attempted to pivot to the center and led by Clinton it became a big-business friendly party supporting liberal social ideas (but often slowly and compromisingly).

Today there is a Democratic Party that is officially Liberal and Progressive. On social issues there are few Democrats who are not pro-choice; pro-equal rights (including gay rights); pro non-military world leadership; and there are few who do not give at least lip service to liberal economic values e.g. social security; affordable health care for all; regulations to stop air pollution and to reign in big banks. In its attempt to be all things to all component constituent groups with a center left bent it has become a party that is defined by what it defends when the radical right wing Tea Party Republicans attack government rather than what it stands for.

Democrats need to do more than defend Republican attacks on Social Security and oppose their privatization schemes.  Democrats must support strengthening social security by extending the wage tax to all employment income (not just the current first $108,000 which effectively allows the lower end of the upper class to finance their own retirement plans while keeping the rest of us worried about whether there will be social security for future generations). Democrats need to support increasing the benefits of social security including the death benefit (of $250).  Expand and Strengthen Social Security should be the Democratic bumper sticker.

Democrats need to do more than blame Republican grid lock for lack of immigration reform The Democratic Party should insist on and support a President using his constitutional power to pardon to grant what in effect would amount to amnesty to the 12 million undocumented persons in the nation today and then advocate a reform of the legal immigration system.

Democrats need to do more than bemoan gridlock.  They need to become advocates across the nation for the non-partisan reapportionment of legislative districts; the California system of non-partisan primaries that result in contests in general elections in so called one party districts; and  direct election of the President of the United States.

Democrats need to do more than fight Republican attempts to suppress the vote. Our party needs to work, talk and march for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act and expansion of the electorate (by including seventeen year olds). Let early voting; use of mail; simplification of absentee ballot procedures and same day registration/voting become national positions of our party.

Democrats need to do more than compromise with moderate Republicans to pass watered down economic reform measures.  We Democrats need to stand for another New Deal for a restoration of the American Dream for a large vibrant middle class.  We bailed out the big banks and General Motors we need to bail out an entire generation of student debtors who will never realize the American Dream if they have to spend their time and earned income paying off educational mortgages instead of home mortgages.

Democrats need to fight the Republican cave in to greed.  We need to demand that outsourcing jobs not benefit  corporations with tax breaks.  Democrats need to oppose all these free trade agreements with underdeveloped nations that result in our economy suffering while theirs gains and return to the partnership with Europe where our economic and work place values are shared.

Democrats need to learn that you win some elections and you lose some elections. Not every loss is a verdict against the defeated party’s programs; especially as in this part election it was the result of the lowest turnout since 1942 (first elections during WWII).

The Democratic Party will be the majority party of America; and will again lead this nation in a liberal progressive crusade to build a classless good society.  We must follow a four point mantra:

Democrats Must Advocate and Democrats Must Act

We Must Stand for Progressive People Oriented Policies

Our Elected Officials Must Take Actions Implementing those Policies

And,  Democrats Must Speak To and For All Americans

19 November 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014


When most Americans stay home on Election Day, Republicans win and that they did this past Tuesday.  Apparently the Republican Party now controls more legislative seats in state capitals and DC and more Governorships than at any time since the 1920's.  But the good news for liberals and progressives is that after the 1920's came the 30's and a liberal Democratic dominance of states and the national government that lasted essentially for almost 40 years.

There have been times in our nation’s history when the country was deeply divided ideologically and party wise: the 1790's with the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans; the 1840's with the Democrats and the Whigs. In recent decades with the party ideological realignment of the 1970's we have seen a fiercely partisan battle between radical conservative Republicans and liberal progressive Democrats.

I do not believe these cycles are absolutely predictable nor automatically recurring. As the nation has matured, and the electorate expanded, and the media and educational system have dumbed down the populace, electors' reasons for voting and resultant partisan divisions have changed.  There are three things that people today base their vote on: personality, party affiliation, and positions on issues (each of these being applicable to both the candidate and voter).

I would argue that when voting for a high visibility office, e.g. President or Governor or US Senator, electors vote primarily based on the personality of the candidate or what they perceive as that personality. It is a gut reaction of the voter based on what they have read or seen or heard about the candidates, filtered through the vagaries of the voters own personality, and is not always either quantifiable nor predictable.

As for positions on issues, I find that voters gravitate towards candidates that they assume agree with their positions -- but if confronted with a difference they will often either excuse the candidate or downplay the salience of the particular issue to them.  When voting on a ballot question the voter will answer Yes or No based on the voters opinion.  So we have the strange results last Tuesday of voters in some states voting Yes to increase the minimum wage and at the same time electing to office some opponent of any minimum wage. Position on the issue determined one lever pulled down and personality of the candidate the other.  When faced with barely considered nor media covered row offices or down ballot spots the voters will still to some extent vote party.  By voting party I mean voting ones party identification (and more and more Americans are identifying as independent -- in fact we’re almost 1/3 D, 1/3 R and 1/3 I by self -identification). 

While I believe that some of President Obama’s actions and some of his inactions may have cost some Democrats votes or discouraged some from voting I also still believe that history shows that all politics is local.  The Colorado and Virginia Senate races were close because both Democratic candidates were dull on the stump - one lost and one won.  President Wilson lost his last mid-term elections as he was winning WWI and Winston Churchill lost his right after he won WWII.  Post election analysis in the immediate days after the election is about as accurate as most of the pre-election predictions -- just consult Presidents Dewey and Gore. 

The Republican party is where it’s dominant Tea Party faction wants it to be back in the 1920's in terms of governmental power.  And in two years we liberal progressives will be back where we want to be completing the Great Society.  As the Republicans run against terrorists and diseases we Democrats should run in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt - Against Fear Itself.

7 November 2014  

Thursday, September 11, 2014


President Obama has offered what so many have called for a strategy and a plan to destroy ISIS - the latest and strongest iteration of the jihadist movement that now engulfs the middle east, north Africa, the horn of Africa, Mali, Nigeria and the Central African Republic,and the Asian nations of Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines

Whether they are Islamic fundamentalists or thugs and bullies these people have declared war on everyone else, they slaughter Christians, Jews, Muslims who do not accept their version of Islamic theology (especially Shiites), and anyone who is not them.

As the President said in his speech of Sept. 10 only America has been able to lead the nations of the world when international crises arise. Only America can unite the humanitarian nations to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; only America could stand forth and push for the sanctions against Russia in a non war attempt to preserve the independence of Ukraine.  And, it is clear that only America can unite the western and Middle Eastern world against this threat from ISIS

But, will America follow the President.  Already the Republicans complain that he isn’t doing enough soon enough.  And many on the left raise questions like “What is the end game?” “How long will it take?”.  The hindsight offered by history often causes us to forget what was occurring at other times.  In 1942 if FDR was asked what the end game was he would have said the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. As for how long it would take he would have said as long as it takes.  As for the unforeseen consequences Roosevelt and Churchill did not foresee two Germany’s as part of a cold war for 45 years.  Nor did Stalin envision a democratic Japan allied with the West.

Evidently we now expect our President not only to be courageous, cautious, thoughtful, emotional, wise and in tough with the common people, but also clairvoyant.

Should the President have armed the Syrian moderates sooner?  Yes.  Should he have bombed Assad’s forces in 2013? Yes.  But, the same can be said of the things that Britain and France should have done in 1937 and 1938 and didn’t. 

We do not have the luxury of playing partisan politics with foreign policy.  It took two World Wars to teach us that and I believe we successfully navigated the Cold War because we adhered to that non partisanship.

We have an intelligent thoughtful President who like Woodrow Wilson has done all he could to keep us out of new wars.  But as we learned with Russia in Ukraine you need a partner if you wish to engage in the dance of Peace.

In the case of ISIS there is no partner and while many nations should, and will join us we Americans have to be willing to support our President and as JFK entreated us “bear any burden” to preserve the basic values which of not only our nation but of the major religions and cultures of the world. 

11 September 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Because the United States agreed to negotiate and is doing so with Iran rather than use military force to stop the Iranian production of nuclear weapon; and, because the United States chose to negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons rather than respond with air strikes against Syria; Putin, the 21st century Russian Czar, has miscalculated and seen American willingness to talk rather than shoot as a sign of weakness.  Twice in the last century the rulers of Germany and then once the ruler of Japan made the same mistake.  America may take a long time to get roused in anger enough to unleash our military might but when we do dictators have learned to pay a heavy price.

Obama is trying to use 21st century multilateral methods to combat the new Stalin.  Whether he succeeds will remain to be seen.  But Putin would be well advised to ignore the Republican party propaganda in DC about Obama being weak and recognize that on this issue -- the freedom of the people of Ukraine-- Obama will remain strong.  Shooting down a plane is akin to sinking ships a hundred years ago (Lusitania) an public ire will grow not diminish.

Unfortunately too many of my liberal friends (I consider myself a liberal) are bemoaning the “lack of clear evidence of Russian involvement” some have even taken to blaming the United States for starting the Ukraine crisis (which began when Putin forced his puppet President of Ukraine, Yanukoyvich, to drop plans to integrate with the EU which led to a popular uprising in Ukraine).  Both Putin and our domestic liberal commentators say the answer is to guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO.  Firstly, Ukraine has never applied nor indicated interest in joining NATO--they want to be in the EU.  Secondly, Ukraine in 1994 gave up their nuclear weapons as part of the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing their territorial integrity only to have that integrity violated by a nuclear power.  Now, guarantee that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO, should they ever apply, and we invite Putin to take more aggressive action later.

The history of the 20th century is replete with occasions when democratic nations could have stopped dictators when they first made aggressive moves.  And when the democracies didn’t act the resultant wars costs millions of lives.

It is time we accepted that not everything in foreign affairs is complex - likewise not everything is simple.  Because the Bush-Cheney administration lied our country into a war in Iraq does not mean that Obama-Biden are lying us into peace through strength.  Because the English translators of the Russian language recordings released by Ukraine used complete sentences and deleted curses doesn’t mean the recordings are fake -- those who understand and speak Russian find the actual language credible.

Russian separatists aided or directed by Russians used a Russian supplied weapon to shoot down what they thought was a Ukrainian cargo or troop plane.  They made a mistake. They should have admitted it and pointed out that mistakes are made in wars.  Instead Putin blames Ukraine.  When a fox broke into my grandfather's chicken coop and stole two hens instead of trying to remove the danger and kill the fox, Putin would blame my grandfather for building the hen house and filling it with chickens.
Obama is Right.  This is a wake up call!  And if Europe doesn’t want to wake up then America must lead.  In the 20th century in WWI and WWII we followed.  During the Cold War we led.  Now it is time for us to lead again. This may be our last chance to bring Russia into the world community as a peaceful partner as Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to do.  This may indeed be our last chance to put together a world of old powers (Germany, France, United Kingdom and Russia) and the emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) We can lead that combination -- we must not let it become a new division with Russia leading one part.  Putin has shown the world what he is capable of doing - now America must show the world that we will not allow him to bully the other nations on this globe. 

19 July 2014    

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Once again the United States finds itself facing a crisis in another part of the world and confronting the decision as to the degree, if any, of our involvement.   I am not an isolationist; in fact, I have often supported military intervention by our nations in foreign: conflicts the Korean War, the invasion of Grenada (by Reagan), the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, and the bombing campaign to stop the genocide in Kosovo, and the Libyan air intervention to assist the rebels in overthrowing Qaddafi.  I also supported aid to democratic forces seeking to oust Assad in Syria and I believe that our failure to aid those indigenous rebels opened the way for the takeover of that revolution by ultra extremists who now have declared an Islamic Caliphate and apparently oppose the Iraqi Shiite regime, the Iranian - Syrian - Lebanese (Hezbollah) alliance and evidently Russia as well as possibly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

The United States of course should always protect its territory and its people and their security and our national interests even to the point of military action.

We do not belong in the middle of an intra-Muslim theologically based and culturally based civil war between Shia and Sunni.  While we should not in any way condone the barbarity of the Islamic State (ISIS) we should not be perceived in the Muslim world as opposing a Sunni radicalism and not a Shia radicalism.

After our invasion of Iraq in 2013 which I publicly opposed that nation devolved into three parts - even if only de facto: a Shiite section which dominated the nation; a Sunni minority and a Kurdish region in the northeast.  The United States always opposed any effort by the peoples of those regions to seek their own countries and became the defender of the territorial integrity of Iraq - a territory created by Winston Churchill (he drew the map in 1921) out of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire (a Shia, a Sunni and a Kurd region).

A similar situation is developing in Afghanistan which threatens to divide into a Pashtun majority area, which the Taliban may take control of, and a Tajik area in the north of that state (which was the base of the anti Soviet and anti Taliban forces).  We do not belong in the middle of that conflict either.

Our use of military force should be limited to defending our national interest and any ratified treaty obligations (such as NATO) and clear instances when nations which share our democratic values and have shown decades of friendship to our people are threatened (e.g Israel and Jordan). We should not be sending American men and women to fight in intra national disputes nor in civil wars

Before our involvement anywhere in the world goes beyond diplomacy and economic sanctions we should observe certain cautions:

First) We have no obligation to defend the territorial integrity of states whose boundaries were established by European colonial powers.  We should judge the integrity of a state by the ability of that state to represent a population that considers itself a nation. (In the failed state of Somalia we have opposed the independence of the former British Somaliland which has now held three successive democratic elections over a fifteen year period and has remained at peace with unity among the various tribal clans. Once again we are shortsighted for no apparent reason than our opposition to secession (we took the same position in Yugoslavia as that nation divided into seven separate states which we reluctantly accepted each time after a few years of opposition.)

Second) We should never intervene in a genuine civil war based on religious or cultural divisions unless there is a clear threat to the security of our nation.

Third) We should support popular democratic revolutions with military aid (not troops) early and use our other weapons - diplomatic and economic
and even air power, to make certain the democratic forces win and the revolutions are not hijacked by extremists.

President Obama handled Libya the right way with air support to indigenous rebels who were then successful. He flubbed it in Syria.  He was right to end the Iraq War and should fully disengage from Afghanistan.  Obama must not allow our nation be re-involved in Iraq.  Already from a reputed 200 troops/advisers within three days the number had become 750.   That number must not increase and we should evacuate the multi -billion dollar embassy compound we built in Baghdad (a larger geographic area than the Vatican City state).  Americans have been coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan under this President now it behooves him to allow our men and women in uniform to Stay Home.

9 July 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Too often in our nations’ history the Supreme Court has been dominated by judges who rule on the wrong side of history and against the clear wishes of the American people.

Today in this new 21st century the Roberts Court (led by a Reagan era Justice department staffer) is again standing against history as it attempts to undo many of the reforms of the 60's and 70's.  The Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the absurd reasoning that since the Act has been successful and all Americans are now assured of voting rights it is no longer necessary to keep in place the federal protections that led to that success. The blind justices sitting on their exalted bench feel that forty years of elections free from racial discrimination against some electors trumps the two hundred and fifty years of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

This Court is also determined to undo women’s 9th amendment rights to reproductive freedom of choice (Griswold v Conn. and Roe v. Wade) by chipping away at those rights in the name of other rights (freedom of speech and religion). So freedom of religion allows an employer to offer health insurance to employees that doesn’t cover anything that the employer doesn’t believe in; and freedom of speech allows demonstrators to intimidate women who wish to seek reproductive health care. (The Supreme Court of course can keep demonstrators away from their doors)

Nor satisfied with curbing the rights of minorities and women the Court has now gone after labor unions by limiting the use of Agency shop. Decades ago in response to those who felt that compulsory union membership was an infringement of workers' rights a public policy consensus was developed around a system where those who didn’t want to join a union, but would benefit from the terms of union negotiated contracts, would pay dues to the union: seemed fair to all sides. Now the Court weighs in against that concept - again in a limited way but clearly foreshadowing its willingness to go further.  And, in a case that effectively consigns part time women employees to going back to non representation and lower wages.

In what I can only conclude is a strategy both clever and disingenuous. The conservative Justices have determined to use some rights as means to curtail others - so the 1st amendment overpowers the 9th amendment; the 14th amendment seems to be often ignored; the 2nd amendment (misread) trumps them all and the rights of corporations who are now given some mystical form of personhood are given a sanctity that only an oligarch would commend.

In the 1850's the Taney Court became the protector of Slavery with the Dred Scott decision that even went to the point of declaring that no free Negro could be considered an American citizen. The racist decisions of that Court were ultimately overturned by three constitutional amendments; passed after a bloody Civil War that cost over 600,000 lives and millions of dollars of property.

In the 1890's the Court empowered robber barons as they attempted to monopolize industries and beat down workers efforts to organize; and that court also legitimized state enacted segregation laws.  The Populist and later the Progressive movements rallied enough people to eventually regulate the large monopolies.  It took another Court, and a national popular movement (non-violent but often met with attendant violence), to end 60+ years of the effects of the Plessy v Ferguson ruling and dismantle legal segregation and end lynching and indiscriminate racial killings.

In the 1930's the Court dominated by conservative old men attempted to gut the New Deal by killing most of the first laws passed by Congress to reform the economic factors that led to the Great Depression. The American people by re-electing FDR in 1936 and again in 1940 turned the Court around; first because the Judges were intimidated by Roosevelt's’ revival of US Grant’s court expansion plan, and second by FDR’s serving long enough to replace most of the old judges.

The American people, whose progress of the past century in social and economic matters has been steady and strong, must in the upcoming elections support Progressive (which in today's context means Democratic) candidates so the Supreme Court can again be turned around and headed in the progressive direction.  As in the past the Supreme Court and its decisions will be rejected as reactionary and anti-democratic. 

2 July 2014