Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Boehner's Invitation to Bibi: Another Low Point in Republican Politics

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people,” John Boehner.  His people?  What about ours?  What about America’s interests and not Israel’s?  Americans need to realize in the 21st century that Israel and America will not always share the same interests. 
Bibi and his Boner.

America under George Bush invaded a sovereign country under false pretenses.  The cost to America was thousands of soldiers' lives.  The chaos the invasion created is being felt now as parts of Iraq are controlled by ISIS.  When will America realize that invading countries for so-called ideological reasons borders on criminal?  And yet, Netanyahu would like nothing better than for the U.S. to start a war with Iraq.  Then he would get what he wants, and Americans not Israelis would lose their lives.  

Diplomacy has and will continue to be the most productive means for America to safeguard its own interests in the international community.  It is the White House and not the House of Representatives that is responsible for conducting our foreign policy.  President Obama was elected by the American people and entrusted with doing what the executive branch does--setting out a foreign policy.  President Obama received 65,915,796 votes to secure this position.  John Boehner represents the 8th Congressional District of Ohio and received 126, 539 votes.  To gain this seat he spent $17.1 million to $5000 spent by his Democratic challenger.  Since John Boehner will never win an election outside of his minuscule Ohioan precinct, however, he will never be entrusted with the authority to shape U.S. foreign policy.  Because of his inability to accept his inconsequential position in the federal government, his only recourse has been and will be to try to derail the work of others. Thus, the invitation to Netanyahu.  

“How dare a foreign leader come into our country and tell us how to shape our foreign policy?” is the question we should be asking ourselves.    

Perhaps the answer lies in all the money Israelis and their PACs contribute to U.S. elected officials and all the influence this money gains.  Israeli racketeer Sheldon Adelson contributed $92.8 million to get Romney elected in 2012.  But there are many more groups.  Connie Bruck's New Yorker article  (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/friends-israel) on the extraordinary influence that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has on American foreign policy is well worth reading.  

The bottom line is that America is not any other country.  And no other country should feel entitled to dictate American policy as Israel has.  And when the U.S. is engaged in diplomatic talks with a nation Israel dislikes, we should not believe the over-played rhetoric that we are abandoning Israel or that our President is another Neville Chamberlain.  An agreement with Iran over nuclear weaponry is a step in the right direction in American foreign policy.  And the last thing ISIS wants is to see is any amiable contact between Iran and the U.S.  In that regard, ISIS and Netanyahu agree.   

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

Some of us, the less wicked ones, feel pride
In the election of a black man
Perhaps we sigh as if from climbing 
a mountain
We did not climb
We claim, "We won the war!" 
As if noncombatants count as colonels
Some of us invested in the icing of history
Say, "The Egyptians had slaves."
And leave it at that
And others more bluntly at dinner parties add
"They sold their own people!"
As if buying humans were mandatory
Some of us who knew better before we
Moved to the suburbs 
Squawk about our own discomforts as though 
these were unjust
“My kid didn’t get in because of the quota..." 
As if the playing fields were level 
The referees impartial
Ignoring or scorning the scales of history
On which our own ascension hangs high
On the burdens weighing down the other
The years of cotton, Jim Crow, lynchings,
Judicial equivocations like separate but equal,
and young men like 
And too many more
As if history cleans itself
As if our own absence from the past makes
History not happen
Some of us who think that we are the
Only law-abiding ones
Rally willy-nilly behind law enforcement 
As if the guys with guns are sacrosanct
Proceeding only on proud principles
As if none equate the black man 
With recklessness, with defiance, with an idea
That he could walk around the universe, our universe
With confidence
While with guns drawn they fire with the confidence
That we see them as the last
Line of defense between disorder
And a good night, good white sleep
Some of us really wonder why they
Won’t accept what white D.A.’s and 
White grand juries 
We complaisantly conclude 
"That’s what thugs do!"
As if we were forced to swallow the bitter pill
We prescribe to others and say
“My son must be killed for stealing a cigar, for smoking weed,
For running, for playing, for driving, for being white..."
Not worried that when we say goodbye to our sons
We did not give them lists of the 
DO’s and DON’Ts
When stopped by the cops
Some of us claim that they play the race card
Forgetting that we have always dealt 
From a stacked deck
Some of us 
Annoyed that the N word is off limits
Have made the first black president a scapegoat
Insulting him, defaming him, ridiculing him, 
His wife, and children
In a way no white man would allow
Cowering under cover of free speech
Only at our local pubs we swap hate and race
"What do they want?"
"When will they be satisfied?"
"Who do they think they are?"
"Why is this our problem?"
As if we ever did anything to right 
The wrongs 
The sins for which 
In our unholy 
Self-assurance we 
See no good reason to atone 
Is not one of us ashamed?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


This Heart Does Not Hate
Yesterday, in Pakistan 132 school children and 9 staff members were slaughtered by Taliban gunman.  The crime is so heinous that Taliban militants in Afghanistan have decried the murders as un-Islamic. The problem is that these same militants who harbor similar hatreds, who believe that such animosity is a provision of their Islamic faith, have the blood of the innocents on their hands.  It makes little difference that most Islamic extremists would refrain from killing children-- when vitriol is a part or proof of religious orthodoxy or dedication, there will always be the danger of these kinds of unconscionable acts.  The truth is that these same militants would never make such a claim that murder was "un-Islamic" if the innocents were adults.  Age would somehow turn victims into culprits deserving of slaughter.  There is simply no way in which hatred may be contained even if the boundaries are doctrinal  Hatred by nature recognizes no limits. 

This is exactly what is wrong with some of the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in the United States.  While they are not angry enough to begin the slaughter of individuals whom they have indelibly linked with behavior they call sin, the fervency of condemnation is the flint that ignites the same kind of violence.  I remember growing up in a church that reminded me to love the sinner but to hate the sin, that in so doing I was modeling my actions on Christ's.  I have since found this to be an impossible task-- when one hates, there are no limits.  Yes, Jesus could do it, but we cannot.  Our hatred of the sin will never allow us not to hate the sinner.  So when left with a choice of either hating or loving, there need be no dilemma-- just love.  

What happens when you don't choose "love"? You find ridiculous and repulsive arguments such as the latest in which certain evangelicals are making the claim that sometimes torture is necessary.  I must have missed that portion of the Gospels in which Christ commanded his disciples, "Love your enemies, unless you must torture them."  

The fact is that the seeds of hatred-provoked violence may often be found in a perfectly understandable anger.  For example, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans were angry.  Who would blame us?  Innocents were slaughtered.  But that justifiable anger soon became rationalized, legitimized, and justified violence in the form of torture.  

From a moral standpoint, it is rare that the means have no impact on the ends.  It is the safer moral code to worry about the means all along the way so that in the end we might be found as noble as humanly possible. Remember, too, that there was a time when some good Christian Americans believed that helping a freed slave was an unrighteous act.  

Even if God has appeared to you and told you, for example, that homosexuality is immoral, let him worry about the judging part.  It could very well be that it was not actually God who spoke to you.  Then you find yourself later having to apologize (or justify) having erroneously perpetrated hatred and violence against a group of people.  So you florists and bakers who are refusing to sell your products for use in same sex weddings-- how is your refusal furthering the kingdom of God?  If one has to demonstrate one's faith in overt acts of hatred, then one should seriously reassess the profitability of that creed.  I have a hunch that when the baker is standing before the Lord on judgment day, he is not going to get the GO DIRECTLY TO HELL card for doing business with same sex couples; in fact, his refusal to serve them may actually qualify as a goatish act as defined by Christ himself at Matthew 25:31-46.  

So how about we start during this season to do something different.  Even if we cannot bring ourselves to love each other, how about taking St. Paul's advice at Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, 
whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, 
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, 
whatsoever things are of good report; 
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, 
think on these things.

Maybe we can fill up so much on the good thoughts, that we won't have room for anything else. 

In the meantime, we need to pray to God on behalf of the families of these dear children killed in Pakistan.  Pray for healing, pray for peace-- on our knees, in our hearts, in the way we treat each other.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Things have come to light recently that should make white people ashamed.  Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were all unarmed African Americans killed by white police officers.  And these are but the most recent.  The ones the press has publicized.  It is becoming increasingly clear that white law enforcement personnel take it for granted that as long as they can claim that an African American displayed even a semblance or shred of misbehavior, their own violent actions will be justified.  To whom?  Their superiors?  The criminal justice system?  The courts?  Unfortunately the "whom" is the white population of the United States.  We are providing tacit and implicit support for these bad cops by our own failure to act against racism.  If we did not think African Americans are dispensable or expendable, these cops would be far less likely to kill.  They would actually fear reprisals.

Let's stop the excuses and the cheap rationalizations such as:  "Not all white cops are bad" or "If you don't want harassed by the cops, don't break the law."  Of course, there are many good police officers; and of course, one is at a greater disadvantage when engaged in wrongful activity.  The fact is, however, that statements like these consciously or subconsciously are cosmetics we use to cover up racism.  Instead of the reflex to evade, why not try these possibilities.  Instead of running to the defense of good cops, admit that there are some very, very bad individuals who are wearing uniforms and carrying loaded guns.  This may frighten you.  Or instead of laying the blame on the victims, say that people who steal little cigars, people who sell loose cigarettes, people who are cornered in their cars, and children who are playing with toys are being murdered by police.  Unless you are completely devoid of reason, you must conclude that the killings are at the very least unjustified.

And stop saying things like, "Here they go again playing the race card." When you make this statement, you may think that you are expressing your deep desire to treat all people fairly without consideration of any group identifiers: race, social class, religion, etc. And some of you truly believe you are being color blind. What you are really saying is that as a member of the enfranchised race you do not want to consider the possibility that your words, your actions, your beliefs are nothing less than toxic to others.  Without your so-called "race card" you may continue to live as you always have, being molded by and never taking the initiative to mold your culture. Perhaps you grab onto bits from your biased grasp of history to the tune of "Well, look how far we've come." It is noteworthy that only when justifying your own culture do you use the first person plural pronoun. You want everything to be alright without discomfort to you. You claim that you never lynched anyone to prove yourself innocent of racism.   You are simply trying to get through your life doing as little as possible. The fact is that everything you do not do, white America, is an endorsement of racism.  Every time you do nothing you are playing the race card.  You were not slave owners but you are their beneficiaries.  That smug looks that you wear everyday, that unappealing look of entitlement comes to you through white supremacy, at the expense of the countless black men, women and children who were broken, abused, tortured, and killed from the day they were uprooted from their homeland.  Doing nothing doesn't work. Your very existence makes you complicit in the evil 

Let's not insulate ourselves from the harsh realities.  
Racism cannot simply go away.  Whites created it, and whites must be the ones to eradicate it.  

Using the parable of the Good Samaritan, Martin Luther King, Jr.  gave us a great test to determine whether, in fact, we are the Christians many of us claim to be.
When we see a person being treated unjustly or anyone who is suffering, what question do we ask ourselves:

"What will happen to me if I help this person?" or "What will happen to this person if I do not help him?"
The first question is asked by those like the priest and the lawyer who care only about their own comfort.  
The second question is asked by the Good Samaritan who restores the injured man to health.

Let us all ask the second question.  

God hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Republicans are Wrong (and they know it); It's the President's Right

Mr. House & Mr. Senate:
The New Generation of Republican Leaders

President's Obama's decision to prevent the deportation of close to fifty percent of illegal immigrants living in the United States is an act of executive authority that has been utilized for fixing immigration problems by Herbert Hoover, Dwight David Eisenhower, Ronald Reason, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.  The scope or intentions may be different:  that is what you will mostly find when reading a conservative spin on precedents for the use of such authority.  Except the intent is not an issue.  The President's intention does not disqualify the act itself of a President using his authority to solve what he perceives to be a deficiency in immigration statues when Congress has not passed legislation to deal with the perceived problem. If past Republican presidents have exercised executive authority on immigration, then the Republican voices denouncing the President are unfounded for good reason:  these Republicans could care less about history; they are continuing their attempts to destroy our President's reputation.  They will not stop until they have destroyed him.  And they are the ones who are condemning the President for undermining the Presidency.  What are they doing in their personal vendetta against this man but undermining the Presidency.  Of course they do not think so because he is not their President.  They do not need to follow him, respect him, or respect the 2012 election.  Never has a President in recent years been so vilified.  What are the chances that these Republican dogs, having smelled blood in the midterm elections, will stop their predatory ways.  Let's listen to what Antonio says in the Merchant of Venice to the chances that Shylock will act sensibly let alone mercifully:

(Act IV. Scene 1)

As the Republicans continue this assault in lieu doing real legislative work or finding reasonable political strategies, they will weaken the very Constitution they have sworn to protect.  And let their be no mistake, this too will backfire.  The dog will have his day.  They will reap the bitterness they have sown.  They will not win the Presidential election in 2016, and they will lose the Senate majority they have temporarily gained.  This is not wishful thinking, it is a prognostication based on the final results of all human greed and cruelty.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

To Wait and To Serve

Perhaps I am in the minority (at least among the more liberally minded), but I am astounded at Kaci Hickox’s response to her mandatory quarantine upon returning from Sierra Leone where she worked as an epidemiologist treating Ebola victims.  And don’t for a minute think that I am happy about being on the same side of an issue as Chris Christie.  I hate it.  But it is Ms. Hickox’s fault.  Here is some of what she had to say;

Commenting on New Jersey’s mandatory 21 quarantine, she states that this is a “knee jerk reaction by politicians” which is “preposterous.”  She adds that “this [quarantine policy] is an extreme that is really unacceptable” and she feels that her “basic human rights have been violated.”  “To put me thorough this emotional and physical stress is completely unacceptable,” she complains.  And then goes so far as to state, “To put me in prison is just inhumane.”  In addition to being quarantined, she was not permitted access to her luggage, had to wear paper scrubs, and had no shower, flush toilet, or television.  

Was it an admirable thing she did by serving the sick in Sierra Leone?  Most certainly.  She demonstrated a concern both to save those who were sick and to help keep those who were healthy from becoming infected. 

How then is it that she cannot demonstrate the same level of concern for her own fellow citizens, for this 21 day quarantine may be as significant an action as actively serving in Sierra Leone?  

She has been tested, and the results are negative.  Still, there have been false negatives.  The test themselves cannot claim 100 percent accuracy.  If she were allowed to interact with others and then developed symptoms of the virus within this three week period, she would have potentially infected who knows how many individuals who may then have infected who know how many more.

Now if she were being sent to Guantanamo Bay for an indefinite period of time with inadequate essentials and without any contact with the outside world, I would agree that she is being treating inhumanely and that her basic human rights were being violated.  

She is in a hospital for three weeks.  Is that cruel and unusual?  Certainly not. I think those who are worrying about her so-called torture should remember four things
  1. Health care workers treating Ebola patients are the most susceptible to the virus
  2. According to the World Health Organization the incubation period (from infection to the onset of symptoms) is between 2 and 21 days.  In other words, an apparently healthy and strong Ms. Hickox may in fact be infected. 
  3. The tests for Ebola detection may be 99 percent accurate, but not 100 percent.  In other words, Ms. Hickox may have received false negative test results.
  4. Sometimes the needs of others outweigh the needs of one person.  
The litmus test must be whether from a disinterested and objective point of view, Ms. Hickox is being denied her human rights.

Being in isolation (with use of computer and cell phone and regular take-out food) for three weeks until the incubation period is over is a very small price to pay for performing the duty she owes her own country men and women. 

If a mandatory 21 day quarantine dissuades any health care professional from joining Doctors Without Borders to help the people of Sierra Leone and certain countries in Western Africa, that person was never serious about helping to begin with. Any reasonable person who has witnessed this disease first hand would tacitly accept the 21 day precautionary measure.  

I am sure that most of those who serve as heroes in fighting this virus throughout the world are not as petty as Ms. Hickox.  The majority of them are heroes in the profoundest sense of the world:  we will never know their names, for their goal was never notoriety. 

John Milton, one of the ten best poets of all times, understood that doing one’s duty comes in many forms when he wrote a poem about his own blindness.  He concludes: "They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Stand and wait for three short weeks Ms. Hickox, and you will have served us well.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Platon's Salon

I was watching a web cast of the famous multi-millionaire photographer Platon giving an inspirational speech before the 2013 Wired Business Conference.  He was there not just to showcase his portraits but to talk about the power of the people through technology.  A question immediately rose in my mind:  Does being a great photographer naturally equate with being a great motivational speaker?  When did this happen?  From whence did Platon garner his auctoritas?  What makes Platon substantially different from the best Playboy or Penthouse photographer?  The answer is clear, and Platon enforces this through the portraits that he presents:  he has been in the presence of great men and women.  But at what cost?

Consider the following anecdote. He chuckles when he relates his meeting with Putin when he somehow found himself in an embrace with one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.  For the record, Amnesty International notes that at least 5100 protesters and activists under Putin's leadership.  Platon might even be interested in checking out their Putin Human Rights Violations timeline (http://www.amnestyusa.org/russia).  The fact that he was so instantaneously chummy enough with Putin to talk about the Beatles helps to underscore how far an unctuous salesman will go to make a sale.  And then to tell his audience with the face of Putin behind him:  this is the "face of the KGB." I am confident that he said no such thing while schmoozing with the autocrat.

He mentions the photographing of former President George W. Bush as being one of the most "traumatic" experiences of his life.  Really?  Because W. did not enter the room with Putinesque affability?  He then continues to click up photographs of a variety of leaders from Clinton to Zuckerberg every now and then reminding us that he is one of us, the people.  Through his art he seeks to reveal the "truth of who's in power" because "we the people want to know."
The truth is that beyond the anecdotes associated with each portrait, there was little substance in this inspirational presentation.  The "truth of who's in power" was a pretty pedestrian series of visuals so that we could put a face to a name.  Beyond that what truth does he provide?  The truth that he is a popular in-demand photographer who, in spite of reputation, still feels the need to fawn over criminals, to coddle their egos.  At best he is mildly funny, but unlike a comedian who allows us to see our traditions and idiosyncrasies through wit and humor, Platon's ultimate goal is to remind us that he was in the presence of greatness and that he was so unafraid that he can even joke about his subjects.

My son's Augustine school is paying "God knows what" to host Platon as part of a Distinguished Speakers Series with the tenuous connection that the school's theme is creation and Platon creates.  Well, so does everyone.  The optimists in the audience will at least be able to say that they were only one person removed from some of the most famous and infamous people in the world.  Individuals whom they will never meet primarily because they as we are the people while Platon is not.
Some of my best professors in college told stories, some from personal experience, most about historical personages.  And we together created the portraits in our imaginations.

Perhaps I would have more respect for this peddler if he were to present a blank screen with the words, "This is the portrait of Putin that I refused to take."