Wednesday, July 15, 2015


For the next few weeks the Congress and the Media will pontificate, dissect and proclaim the virtues and the defects of the Agreement with Iran that was just signed by the US and the major world powers: Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Europe.  The agreement will be endorsed by the UN and by all the signatory nations.  And the world will watch to see if the US Congress will uphold the diplomacy of its President and Secretary of State or like 1919 reject it.

Iran seeks to be a nuclear power as Pakistan and India are (and Israel and South Africa may be).  The United States and rest of the world feels world peace is more secure if Iran does not become a nuclear power.  The question became how do you stop that from happening.  As in most situations when a nation seeks to go a way that other nations do not want there are two options War and Negotiation.  President Obama united the nations of the world including such disparate “partners” and China and Russia and imposed the most extensive program of economic sanctions ever to pressure Iran to agree to forgo its nuclear plans.  Economic sanctions have, in the past not succeeded in their objective.  Sanctions did not affect Italy after it invaded Ethiopia in the 1930's and while they may yet be successful have not stopped the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The Iran sanctions regime worked. It worked because the world united behind it and it was tough.  Iran was pressured into negotiating knowing that the end result would be an admission on their part that they were developing a nuclear military capability and would cease doing so.  And the negotiations succeeded in an Agreement that would end for at least ten years such nuclear development and give the world some time after that to prevent, it wished to the resumption of a nuclear Iran.  Without these negotiations and the earlier interim agreement adopted early last year Iran would likely have a nuclear weapon albeit at the expense of reducing many of her people to poverty level.  Unless of course the US and/or Israel used military force to stop the nuclear development.

So what faced the US was a decision between War and Negotiation to stop the Iran bomb.  President Obama chose the course of negotiation heeding the words of John F Kennedy that we “never fear to negotiate”.  And the negotiation was successful.  It brought about an Agreement with verification procedures akin to those that were agreed upon with the Soviet Union in the 1980's by President Reagan.    

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once opined “If Barack Obama walked on Water the Republicans would say ‘the President can’t swim”.   And so of course the Republican party its candidates and it’s voices in Washington immediately attacked the Agreement as too weak and a Munich like appeasement of an enemy, The Republicans will seek to get the House and Senate to reject the agreement. The President can then veto their Resolution of Rejection and his veto will be upheld and the Agreement in effect as long as one-third plus one of the members of either house stand with the Agreement.  The Agreement is going to take effect.

If the Agreement is successfully implemented Iran will not have nuclear military capability for ten to 12 years if ever.  If the Agreement is broken Iran can become a nuclear power within a year of further development.   If there were no Agreement Iran would be or would be about to e a nuclear power.  While all the commentators and candidates enunciate their positions and discuss the complexity of the Agreement and its 80 or 150 (if you include the appendixes) pages the American people will reduce this Agreement to the simple question of do we want a War with Iran now or do we want to wait ten years in the hope that no war will then be necessary. 

The 20th century was a century of the most horrible war and genocide in the first half and a second half of fear of nuclear annihilation. The President has two young daughters.  I have three grandchildren and my nieces and nephews have some dozen young children between them;  these youngsters deserve to live in a century of relative peace and security.

The Answer to the Question of the Agreement with Iran is Simple - GIVE PEACE A CHANCE.

15 July 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The War is Over - the Union Prevailed - “Take Down That Flag”

“Take Down this wall” was the now famous imperative that Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev with in 1987.  Two years later that wall was taken down by the people of East Germany; that nation was re-united and the Cold War ended.  All within 45 years of the end of World War II.

The  American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865.  And it seems like it has continued to be fought in the halls of government and in the minds of Americans and in the media that entertains us for the past 150 years.  We debate the cause of that war when it is clear in the very declarations of secession that the underlying motivation was to preserve the system of slavery and bondage that underpinned the southern economy.  We admire and even revere the good men who fought against the Union such as Robert E. Lee and we even overlook those who displayed sadistic and racist aspects such as Nathan Bedford Forest.

The northern states, unexpectedly magnanimous in victory, restored the southern states and allowed the restoration of pre Civil War conditions (except for de jure slavery). The southern states, defiant in defeat, re-enslaved the African Americans with Jim Crow laws and segregation and thumbed their collective nose at the United States of America.

By way of full disclosure I should say that three of my great great great grandfathers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Whether their units, from Alabama and Georgia, ever fought under the battle flag of Lee’s army - the Stars and Bars - I do not know. I do know that my great great great grandfathers did not own slaves and like many white southern farmers fought for what they believed was their land and their homes and their families.  That they were misled and used by economic interests and plantation owners who depended on human bondage as their source of income is an historical fact.

Another of my great great great grandfathers, a native of Tennessee, fought for the federal union.  He fought to preserve the Union but the nature of the struggle was such that it became, on the union side, a battle, even a crusade, to end slavery.

One hundred years after the start of that Civil War a movement began to reclaim for the African Americans of this country the rights that were assured them in the Constitution by the amendments passed after the North (Union) was victorious.  Those who opposed that movement and held on to the ignorant belief in white supremacy raised the Confederate battle flag as their symbol.  And like minded Americans began to use that flag, and place it on badges and license plates and car decals to send a message of solidarity based on hate.

Decent Americans overlooked this and in the spirit of the First Amendment and Lincoln’s pleas for reconciliation thought well let them play with their symbols of a lost cause.  Now the battle flag of the Confederacy is incorporated in three state flags; it is found in the halls of the national Congress; it flies at public buildings and is treated with respect. Only in America would the battle flag of a rebellion, i.e. treason, be accorded such deference.

Now finally 150 years after the surrender of the last Confederate troops there is a rising outrage at the use of this symbol of hate. Retailers are now refusing to sell these items; and some manufacturers refusing to produce them.  White Political leaders of southern states are calling for an end to the use of these symbols. 

All this because a sick young man motivated by a misguided belief in the supremacy of one race and an admiration for what he believed was the cause of the Confederacy, shot and killed nine peaceful citizens as they prayed in their church. He did so under the banner of that rebel battle flag and he chose his victims because they were black,

It is too soon to know whether South Carolina will listen to the son of Strom Thurmond and take down the battle flag from the capitol grounds.  We will have to wait and see if Mississippi follows its US Senators and removes the stars and bars from the state flag or whether Georgia will then follow suit...

The massacre at the AME church in Charleston SC could fade into history and become just another episode in the racial conflicts that have engulfed this nation since colonial days.  Or perhaps, just perhaps, the shots fired inside the AME church in Charleston (the city where the first shots of the Civil War were fired) could become the last shots of the American Civil War. Let us pray God that this be so.

When Abraham Lincoln was asked which side in the War, North or South, God was on he replied that the real question was who was on God’s side.  This nation has an opportunity to be on God’s side - Take Down This Flag - Remove These Symbols. 

25 June 2015 

Saturday, April 4, 2015


The terms of the agreement framework between the great powers and Iran were more balanced between the two sides and stronger than expected in the agreed upon controls over Iran=s nuclear development. But the responses were predictable.  The Republicans went on the attack as they were expected to do on any proposal, of lack of one, which might have been the result of the negotiations. And, the Democrats tepidly and often with lack of enthusiasm supported the agreement negotiated by their past Presidential candidate John Kerry on behalf of their twice elected President Barack Obama.

History shows us that the immediate reaction to an international agreement is sometimes different than the ultimate historical opinion.   When the Webster-Ashburton treaty with Great Britain was signed in 1842, Americans thought it was a momentary thawing of relations with the United Kingdom and settling of the Canadian border.  History shows that it was the beginning of almost two hundred years of close cooperation between the three nations involved - the US, Britain and Canada.

When Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905   it was hailed as historic and he was awarded the Nobel Prize.  Within a decade both countries were involved, albeit on the same side initially, in World War I and the ending of the earlier war had few if any ramifications.

In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson personally negotiated at the worlds
first great summit the Treaty of Versailles.  A group of Republican Senators, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, announced before Wilson had even returned from Paris that they would oppose the treaty and US membership in the League of Nations. They succeeded and America retreated into isolation.  The verdict of history and of the American people in 1945, after the cataclysm of WWII was that Wilson=s League (for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize) might have prevented WWII and international collective security of democratic and peaceful nations became the keystone of US foreign policy.

And what of the postwar era?  History now shows that the policy recognizing the Soviet Union in 1933 (by FDR) and the subsequent American strategy of containment and then detente and then competition from Truman though Reagan were the right policies because of the demise of communism and the USSR.

Nixon=s opening to Red China has resulted not in a war with that power but almost a half century of peace and economic competition.  So he is hailed as a visionary.

Barack Obama has pursued a foreign policy, some points of which I have disagreed with, that prefers to use all peaceful means, e.g. economic sanctions against an enemy and negotiation with that enemy before resorting to military action.  His predecessor George Bush certainly seemed to do the opposite -- shoot first and talk later.  History will judge who was right in Afghanistan and Iraq; events will unfold in the next decade that will show us whether Obama is correct in Iran and Cuba.

Critics of this Iranian nuclear agreement compare it to Munich and the west=s appeasement of Hitler.  But even the severest critic of that agreement, Winston Churchill, said, to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war@.  And the prescient analyst of Britain=s failure to prepare for WWII, John F Kennedy, took office telling our people: Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate@.

Obama has chosen to advocate trying to coexist with Iran, as Presidents from FDR through Reagan coexisted with the Soviet Union; and, President=s since Nixon have followed a policy of amiable relations with China.  Is Obama correct? I don=t know - history will judge and events over the next decade will determine that judgment.

We lionize our Presidents who use military force to initiate policy (Polk in Mexico, McKinley with Spain, and Reagan in Grenada to list only a few). We should at the least respect that President who has heard the voice of the American people and for their children and grandchildren has decided to give peace a chance@.  

If the twenty-first century is not to be a repetition of the twentieth century=s brutal wars, genocidal killings and mass slaughters the President of the world=s greatest power must earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in his first year in office. With the restoration of relations with Cuba and the nuclear control agreement with Iran he has.  

3 April 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


My former Congressman and retired Admiral, Joe Sestak, has started a walk across Pennsylvania. As he walks from county to county he highlights an issue of importance to the Commonwealth and gathers with local citizens to discuss it. Admiral Sestak ran for the US Senate I 2010 as a Democrat.  He lost narrowly in what was otherwise a banner Republican year. Now he is running again for that Senate seat.

Political pundits and consultants will tell you and anyone who wants to listen that you can’t run for the Senate a second time unless you hold an office or run for some high visibility office in the interim years.  And that’s what I told Joe Sestak in 2011.  But he has decided to again disprove the prognosticators and professional pundits and has been maintaining a campaign schedule across this Commonwealth since Nov. 2010.

Admiral Sestak is not a typical politician -- in fact don’t let his candidate skills and governing skills fool you He Is Not a Politician.  Neither politics nor polls sway his opinion once he has studied a question and determined his approach to a solution. He is in my opinion a pragmatic liberal who seeks the solutions that help the most people and hurt the fewest. 

As a retired military officer he is the antithesis of John McCain - holding to the belief that the military needs to be modern and strong and used only as a last resort when diplomatic and economic means are unsuccessful.  He long thought the Iraq war was a mistake and makes a sound argument for same as regards Libya. With chaos reigning in those countries today few would debate him on this.

He knows how to fight and hold his own in War and in Politics.  He took on and defeated two of the political giants of Pennsylvania: Cong. Curt Weldon and Sen. Arlen Specter. He cast his votes in Washington as a Democrat whom I would classify and independent progressive.

Now that Admiral Sestak has again decided to defy the odds and run a second time for the same seat after a gap of five years the self anointed “party leaders” have spent these past months denigrating his candidacy and floating every trial balloon they can blow up as a primary opponent.  They will argue that Sestak is not a friend of the Democratic organization nor its leaders and marches to his own drummer.  I was county leader of the Democratic of Delaware County during Joe Sestak’s terms in the House of Representatives -- they are right he does his own thing and doesn’t follow lock step the orders of party leaders.  I can personally attest to that.

I have been an elected state legislator and a county party chairman.  Our democratic system will work for all our citizens when conscientious elected officials do what they believe is right not what power or money tell them to do.

The US Senate was once considered the most deliberative body in the democratic lexicon.  Today it has become almost a joke.  It desperately needs more Senators of stature, ethical character, courage of conviction and unflagging devotion to the nation.

Admiral Joe Sestak has served our nation on the high seas and in the hallowed halls of Congress.  He is ready to serve again and this Commonwealth and this nation need him.

10 March 2015

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