Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Ripples of Hope against Violence

Many people have written about Sandy Hook and the massacre of 20 six and seven year old children in what they thought was their safe elementary school.  We know of the murder of 6 additional adults who were teachers and administrators and people there to serve the most vulnerable in our society. 

The shooter had mental health issues.  He watched violent video games.  But he used an AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic military-style assault weapon.  And he used large capacity clips and bullets that ripped through the flesh of these small children.

We are told that guns don't kill people.  But guns killed many of my heroes.  They killed John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and others.  America is a very violent society.  And yet what was the response to the shooting?  For some including President Obama, the response has been to work on gun regulation that includes universal background checks, limitation on the sale of certain large-capacity gun clips and certain assault-style weapons.   For other Americans, inspired by Fox and Rush Limbaugh and the NRA, the Sandy Hook massacre was just being exploited to advance the agenda of gun control.  These same people rushed to gun shows and gun stores and stocked up on the AR-15's that were likely to be restricted.  Sales went through the roof.

Reality is likely somewhere in the middle a place we often find truth.  America has a long love-affair with guns and it is likely that we shall never disarm nor shall any government ever attempt to disarm Americans.  However, certain type of assault-style weapons are not needed for hunting or self-defense.  Certain types of ammunition are not needed to shoot deer or ducks.  Certain gun magazines are not needed for anything except to create havoc.  And some restrictions will likely be enacted.

But I am disappointed with the degree of distrust in the gun crowd that doesn't seem to realize that we are all at risk if background checks are not required for gun purchases.  We do not need criminals or abusive individuals arming up.  We do not need potential 'terrorists' buying multiple rounds and aggressive arms.  We are not better for that.

We do need more mental health access for those who need such treatment.  We do need monitoring of video game playing by young, possibly unstable individuals.  And we do need to get violence out of our society, our movies, our games, our television shows and our daily lives. 

I hope that we can move forward in this direction and make a ripple a big wave of change for our future.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Is it Time for Healthcare Reform?

As I listen to the ongoing debate in the House of Representatives I hear arguments from both sides regarding healthcare. I hear Republicans warning America about the debt that future generations face, the cost in jobs and freedom that healthcare reform will create, and the slippery slope that our nation is facing as we slip into some "socialist" nation with adoption of what they refer to as "Obamacare".

On the other side, I listen and hear stories of individual families suffering without adequate insurance, the 32 million Americans who will now have access to healthcare through some sort of health insurance--whether by co-op or extension of Medicaid or by guarantees that they will not be eliminated from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, dropped because of their own illness, or because they hit their annual or lifetime limit on coverage.

I tried to Google something that Robert Kennedy might have said about this particular issue. Perhaps the quote that made the very name of this blog might be most appropriate. As Robert F. Kennedy said on June 6, 1966, in his Day of Affirmation Address at Cape Town University:

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

I have heard arguments that somehow this is a question of freedom. That somehow government will be taking away our freedom requiring us instead to purchase insurance that we might not somehow have been interested in buying. That 85% of Americans are happy with their insurance so why should we make them suffer to get the other 15% covered?

The role and purpose of government for me is consistent with what I believe should be all of our purpose in this country--not to wage war although there are times where war is forced upon us, but rather somehow during our brief time that we share our existence with our fellow citizens to act to make life for our fellow Americans a little more secure, a little less more capricious, and a little more dedicated to improve the quality of lives and fight disease and suffering for all regardless of their financial ability to pay.

Ripples start with small disruptions in an otherwise seemingly placid surface. They disrupt equilibrium and start change. Healthcare reform as presented is far from perfect but it is an effort for this nation to join the rest of the industrialized world in recognizing that we cannot go along with spending billions on instruments of death and destruction and not avail all of our citizens of the instruments of health and well-being.

Let us work together with ripple upon ripple of individual efforts at making our nation and our world a better place for us and our children.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

I do not blog much on this site. In fact I haven't placed a new entry for more than a year. It isn't that there isn't anything to write about. My life has gotten very busy and like so many different things, I put off what isn't pressing. But you don't really need to read about that.

Time passes but the same problems confront our nation and indeed our very survival. We have broken a race barrier and have elected our first African-American as President. Yet as soon as he took office, in the midst of a financial meltdown, the so-called loyal opposition set upon him to undermine his Presidency. Grappling multiple problems simultaneously, the Republicans have acted as a block to vote against America in order to make Obama fail. They have obstructed healthcare reform and thus millions of Americans are destined to be without health insurance. They have obstructed the stimulus, and the recession drags on. They work to undermine climate change legislation while glaciers melt, oceans rise, and our very future is at risk.

"Tea Party" movement, financed by insurance companies and quiet billionaires, lures the poor and economically disadvantaged to fight for their guns, their 'family values' and their very belief in God against a presumed 'outsider' who doesn't really look much like them. In difficult times, it is easy to manipulate the masses to act against their own interests.

The ripples that we need to make continue to require our attention.

I do not know if I shall blog more or less often here or elsewhere. I am in it for the long-run as the challenges facing us shall not be addressed by quick fixes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Republicans Live in a Parallel Universe

Cross-Posted on The Democratic Daily

Why is it not surprising that the White House is now embroiled in an email controversy over an entirely different set of email accounts run by the Republican National Committee for members of this Administration? A parallel email system to the authorized White House email system.

The Republicans live in a Parallel Universe.

They live in a world where they won the 2000 and 2004 elections. Where election fraud means people voting more than once rather than the thousands of voters suppressed in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere.

They live in a world where the insurgents are in their “last throes” and it is moral to rewrite global warming data to show that there is not a threat to our planet.

Freedom of Speech means not being able to say “Polar Bears” at international conferences.

For them torture is just a “little dip” instead of the horror the rest of us see.

The President lives in a world where Congress doesn’t really matter; signing statements can over-ride anything they pass anyhow.

The Geneva Conventions don’t really matter in their world; they are “quaint”.

To lower the deficit in their world you cut taxes and raise spending. Their new math only works in Washington.

To bring the soldiers home it is necessary to send more to war.

No child left behind means cutting funds for Public Education.

Regulating industry means appointing lobbyists to responsible positions.

Supporting the troops means not providing them with body honor or adequate veteran’s benefits, research for traumatic brain syndrome, or even paying for adequate maintenance at Walter Reed.

“Doing a Great Job” means Katrina.

Pharmacy benefits means not negotiating for drug discounts for Seniors.

Free trade means not allowing re-importation of drugs from Canada.

Addressing the Social Security Fund short-fall means diverting funds to private accounts.

National Security means revealing CIA Agents.

Reducing our dependence on imported oil means not raising mileage standards on automobiles.

So why am I not surprised that they should have their own email accounts at the White House? Our laws don’t apply to them…they are in a parallel universe not connected to our reality. But then, we are just reality-based Americans after all.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Wasting of American Common Sense!

As cross-posted on The Democratic Daily:

It is time to play the apology game.

First you say something truthful then somebody figures you ought to apologize because it might be somehow construed as unpatriotic.

Obama had to apologize when he told a crowd in Iowa:

“We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.”

Somebody felt it would be hurtful to each of those soldier’s families to say that their lives had been lost for no particular good reason. Better to repeat the lie than deal with reality.

So Obama apologized.

And now Senator John McCain, another real war hero, has been caught saying the same thing.

On the David Letterman Show, Senator McCain said:

“We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.”

So McCain apologized.

Shame on McCain and Obama for apologizing!

America has not been made safer due to our invasion of Iraq! Al Quaeda isn’t running for cover because Americans have died. Americans haven’t unearthed Weapons of Mass Destruction that Saddam was aiming at us. The Taliban isn’t on the run. And just saying that Americans died for a reason doesn’t make it so.

It does not demean Americans who have died to say that their lives were wasted. It demeans them and all of us to continue a lie because we do not have the courage to face the truth.

The death of Americans in unnecessary wars is not made more meaningful by playing games of rhetoric. The mothers and fathers of soldiers who have lost their loved ones are not made whole by continuing a lie. If their lives have been lost and that loss brings us to realize our mistakes then their lives will not have been in vain.

But if we fail to realize the real waste of a generation of young and brave and patriotic Americans, then we shall have failed those very same young people. If we hide under illusions of rhetoric and the comfort of denial, we haven’t helped anyone anywhere.

As Senator Kerry himself once famously said, ‘How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’ In other words, how do we sit by and do nothing when American lives are being wasted? When we can’t even say it?

On Stock Market Corrections and Political Responsibility

I wrote this entry for my blog Stock Picks Bob's Advice. You are not supposed to be a capitalist and a progressive. But these are the hats I wear. You do not have to be greedy and selfish to believe in free enterprise. We can have a vigorous free market economy with a government that serves the people as well. We can also elect officials who are responsible servants for the electorate, who care for the national government, who believe in what they do, and who aren't interested in burdening a government with massive deficits that serve as the weight belts that can help drown it in a bath tub.

This is what I wrote today:

Thursday, 1 March 2007
It All Comes Back to Iraq.
Those of you who know me better know that I also have a political hat that I sometimes wear. As we face this market correction, I do think that we should ask whether there is something basically wrong with our government management of the American economy in the face of a questionable foreign policy. We can argue whether America needed to be involved in Iraq. Whether thst policy was implemented in an appropriate fashion.

But of greater concern, is my question whether it was responsible for this Administration to pursue a policy of tax cuts during a time of growth in expenditures. This pursuit of lower taxes without any regard to fiscal responsibility and reducing deficits, a policy that had been successfully pursued under the previous President Clinton, has resulted in reliance on the Federal Reserve which is supposed to manipulate money supply and inter-bank loan rates to control inflation.

Our deficit in America is now being held more and more by investors offshore and our economic future is more and more dependent on the success of economies in places such as China and other countries that hold more and more of our dollar-based Treasury notes and obligations.

The dollar has suffered as more have been 'printed', with the dollar dropping against foreign currencies. Yet we have not acted to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we have not required more fuel efficiency from our vehicles, we have not made the needed investments in alternative fuels, we have not made Kyoto a goal, but have continued to increase our addiction on oil produced in areas of the world that are growing hostile to our own interests. Our trade deficits have grown simultaneous with our fiscal deficit.

So when we hear about how China can affect our own market, let us not examine this in a vacuum. Let us realize that we have been misled by our politicians who depended on our own greed to allow them to fail to make the hard decisions to restore fiscal responsibility and instead promise us never-ending 'tax cuts'. This fuzzy-math economics is coming home to roost.

And when we get out to drive in our Suburbans, Tahoes, and heavy-duty pick-ups, gloating about how we can buy gas cheaper than they do in Europe where high prices has moved drivers to efficient vehicles, let us be aware that our inability to encourage our leaders to make the hard decisions is costing us hard right here at home.

O.K., enough of the politics. But don't you just get sick when you see futures down more than 100 points before the market opens!

Wishing you all well. I shall try to reduce my political ranting here and try to stick to stocks. But let me know if it is ok with all of you to intersperse these stock market discussions with occasional political subjects. Whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to respond to what I say and you are welcome to join in the discussion.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It isn't 'Global Warming', it is 1984!

George Orwell published 1984 in 1949. It was in this dystopia, that Winston Smith, the hero, leads his life working at the Ministry of Truth. Doublespeak is the standard at this government department, where Orwell relates that "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength".

As Orwell writes in Chapter 4, about the work that Winston does:
"What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs -- to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one on which Winston worked, consisted simply of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers, and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction."
Too bad Orwell now has become more than a highschool text for English classes.

It appears that it is now the model for this President who when facts don't fit his views, he rewrites facts to fit his platform.

Most recently, about Global Warming.

One of the first pieces of evidence about a White House policy to rewrite facts to fit their opinions was reported in 2005, when Philip A. Cooney was reported to have rewritten global warming reports. He wasn't even a scientist. He was a former lobbyist, who after getting dismissed, found a new job at Exxon within days of getting the boot.

As reported:
"In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.

Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues."
Then in 2006, there was the story about James Hansen who believes that global warming is accelerating. Mr. Hansen works at NASA where he studies global warming.

As reported in July, 2006:
"Those human changes, he says, are driven by burning fossil fuels that pump out greenhouse gases like CO2, carbon dioxide. Hansen has a theory that man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point and becomes unstoppable. He says the White House is blocking that message.

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like an e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "… there is a new review process … ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued."
That story continued:
"Dozens of federal agencies report science but much of it is edited at the White House before it is sent to Congress and the public. It appears climate science is edited with a heavy hand. Drafts of climate reports were co-written by Rick Piltz for the federal Climate Change Science Program. But Piltz says his work was edited by the White House to make global warming seem less threatening.

"The strategy of people with a political agenda to avoid this issue is to say there is so much to study way upstream here that we can’t even being to discuss impacts and response strategies," says Piltz. "There’s too much uncertainty. It's not the climate scientists that are saying that, its lawyers and politicians."
"Asked what happens, Piltz says: "It comes back with a large number of edits, handwritten on the hard copy by the chief-of-staff of the Council on Environmental Quality."

Asked who the chief of staff is, Piltz says, "Phil Cooney."

Piltz says Cooney is not a scientist. "He's a lawyer. He was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, before going into the White House," he says.

Cooney, the former oil industry lobbyist, became chief-of-staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Piltz says Cooney edited climate reports in his own hand. In one report, a line that said earth is undergoing rapid change becomes “may be undergoing change.” “Uncertainty” becomes “significant remaining uncertainty.” One line that says energy production contributes to warming was just crossed out.

"He was obviously passing it through a political screen," says Piltz. "He would put in the word potential or may or weaken or delete text that had to do with the likely consequence of climate change, pump up uncertainty language throughout."
So is it any surprise today that with the Democrats in charge of Congress, and Congressional oversight of this Administration being implemented that more cases of abuse should come to light?

As reported at the hearing:
"...two private advocacy groups presented a survey of government climate scientists showing that many of them say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows 40 percent of the 279 climate scientists who responded complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half the 279 said had been told to delete reference to "global warming" or "climate change" from a report.

The questionnaire was sent by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private advocacy group. The report also was based on "firsthand experiences" described in interviews with the Government Accountability Project, which helps government whistleblowers, lawmakers were told.

The groups' report described largely anonymous claims by scientists that their findings at times at been misrepresented, that they had been pressured to change findings and had been restricted on what they were allowed to say publicly.

The survey involved scientists across the government from NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency to the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, Defense and Interior. In all the government employs more than 2,000 scientists who spend at least some time on climate issues, the report said.

The two advocacy groups said their research — based on the questionnaires, interviews and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — revealed "evidence of widespread interference in climate science in federal agencies."

This is stuff right out of Orwell.

Rewriting facts to create doubt into accepted scientific observations. Censoring scientists from speaking to the press. Lies, Lies and more Lies.

We need more than a climate change in Washington! We need representatives who defend the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

Otherwise when we hear that sending 21,000 soldiers to Iraq in order to bring our soldiers home, we shall believe what we hear. Because truth will be meaningless, and war will be peace, and ignorance will be strength once more.

But this time, for real.