Thursday, March 26, 2009

John Hope Franklin -- A man of hope: What a marvelous man the eminent historian Dr. John Hope Franklin was. It is all together fitting that his middle name was Hope and that his efforts to chronicle, understand and improve the politics of race provided just that -- hope. The presidency of Barack Obama I am sure realized a dream embedded in Dr. Franklin's DNA and, indeed, embedded within all of our DNA who value justice, fairness and equality promised in the Constitutional foundation of our nation.

Dr. John Hope Franklin, who died March 25th at the age of 94 and whose obit, sharing so much of what this man accomplished, appeared in the March 26, 2009 edition of The Boston Globe, was a gentle man of infinite scholarly preeminence and wisdom. He was a credit to all humanity everywhere whose thirst for knowledge could not be quenched and which knowledge was imparted by him to so many. I will miss his sweet tones and brilliant analysis of historical events I heard often on various media and read in his book "From Slavery to Freedom." Rest well, Dr. John Hope Franklin, a beautiful man, who was an inspiration to so many. You will be missed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving the Money: I do not think the eschewing of large profits is what most are advocating as a remedy to our current economic crisis. If one is truthful, most of us would probably love large profits. The issue, I believe, is the running of the ship of state into the ground by the few who would scandalously use often fraudulent economic structures under the noses of the powerless and poor to sweep up for themselves, with government help, an immense and wholly unequal share of the public wealth. The question is, I think, who are we as a culture, as economic graphs show, if a gargantuan part of the wealth of a country is concentrated solely in the top 1% of the population? The answer is we are not a very comfortable or happy place in which to live as the so called American dream -- financial security for us in our retirement years and our progeny for their future -- becomes impossible for most to achieve. This cannot stand and it did not historically stand as the great trust busting years of Theodore Roosevelt show and, later, as Franklin Roosevelt proved during the Great Depression. Sadly, Ronald Reagan, the so called "great communicator," told us to reverse course that little government was the best government and that the forces of the market would wield their magical brilliance for the greater good of everyone.

Again and again, this has proven to be a fallacious philosophical argument as repeatedly we have seen wealth concentrated in the hands of a few means often economic catastrophe. Wealth in the hands of the very few does not, in fact, as Reaganomics told us ad nauseam, trickle down but, rather, stays in the hands of the very few. The few co-opt the many as they tap into a tired old long-time American anti-tax tradition. Anything with the word tax in it can be exploited to convince the American people that government is their enemy not their friend and that the best tax is NO tax at all while the monied class runs off with the store.

I submit government is NOT the enemy and it, indeed, CAN be your friend IF the majority understands the shell game some at the very top try to play. I am not a socialist but I am a fairist . I believe in a fair and transparent economic structure which does NOT soak the rich BUT, rather, requires them to pay their fair share which, I believe, quite ethically, should be more than those who occupy the lower ends of the socio-economic ladder. Through microscopic regulation of big business, government must ensure that too-big-to-fail corporations be disallowed, split up, reorganized and ultimately those that are left contribute their fair share to the tax structure. It means eliminating off-shore accounts, tax havens and unfair trade practices as well.

If the President and his economic team can ever untangle this mess, the bloated few who were responsible for the sub-prime loans, short selling, derivatives, hedge funds, credit default swaps, and other unsavory stock instruments which have nearly brought this country and, indeed, the world, to its knees, be neutered and a new fair redistribution of the wealth enacted through the tax code. Only government can ensure that Wall Street is regulated properly, that too-big-to-fail corporations be broken up, that unfair procedures be terminated and that those who committed unparalleled fraud be jailed. Everyone LOVES the things such as education, roads, bridges, and health care only government could provide everyone but seemingly NO ONE wants to pay for it. It's time someone did.
The Pecuniary Papacy: In response to the March 24, 3009 article in The Boston Globe entitled "Pope urges help for the poor as he leaves Africa," I am always stunned when the Pope, in this case Benedict the VI, the head vicar of Vatican opulence, states that he "urges" help for the African poor. If the Vatican and the Catholic Church are so concerned about the African poor and dispossessed I suggest they sell a few priceless paintings, artifacts gold pieces, rings and other prayerful items suggestive of the Vatican's overflowing fortune to help those poor about whom they, supposedly, care so much. While they are at it they might look into the billions of dollars in secretive Vatican investments, the coffers of which, despite the economic downturn, I am sure are sufficiently well stocked!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mary Tyler Moore Idol NO MORE -- A Response to a Parade Magazine Interview:

I grew up watching without fail Mary Tyler Moore shows. Laura Petrie and Mary Richards reflected their times. They showed a moral goodness, innocence and a beauty that was what we thought life was like in this country. She sat high, for many years, on the pedestal I built for her until I read the Sunday Parade Magazine interview. I was surprised -- NO I was shocked -- to read about Mary's political support. I simply could NOT believe it. We all have a right to our opinion, no doubt. I, though, believe one's political beliefs ARE one's principles and one's principles are one's character.

I could not understand her support of Republican candidates most especially John McCain with his insipid side-kick Sarah Palin nor could I at all understand the excuse she used for George W. Bush's unconscionable and egregiously immoral stand on stem cell research. I was not angry. I was simply disappointed. It is beyond my imagination how a person nearly killed by the onslaught of diabetes and alcoholism, one who has suffered so many internal struggles and so much tragedy could support candidates whose sympathies for the feelings and conditions of others are so lacking.

Ms. Moore's inability to realize the necessity and the value of our Constitutional separation of church state clause is also staggering to me . It is the height of irony that a woman who needed most the advocacy for her plights would eschew candidates who could give just that to her. I, too, could not understand a woman of the theater, who most definitely in her career must have known many homosexual people, yet throws her support to candidates whose so called "moral" position on homosexuality would be that those people either not exist, deny their feelings or deny their rights which other American citizens take for granted. It is unconscionable to me that a woman of her stature could not think about the people she supports and look with suspicion on the company they keep. I might, respectfully, tell her, too, that George Bush did NOT reject embryonic stem cell research BECAUSE he “had an obligation to his religion …” On the contrary; others who have known him relate that he truly held weak religious belief. He USED religious belief, however, to appeal to a base he thought he needed to attain political power.

Ms. Moore's diabetes at this moment in time COULD have been cured IF George Bush had not been president wasting eight years while lines of stem cells were thrown in the trash. Those lines could have helped cure her diabetes and Michael Fox's Parkinson's and Chris Reeves’s paralysis and even MY paralysis from polio and millions of others who suffer from hideous diseases every day of their life. Chris Reeve could possibly be alive today if it were not for George W. Bush. George Bush had NO trouble sending thousands to their death but could not see fit to protect full term human life. This, Ms. Moore, says is because of his moral compass. I say WHAT moral compass. He had none.

It is sad in our time to see our idols fall from grace but fallen she has at least from MY Mt. Olympus. I wish her well but I SURELY hope those whom she supports as political candidates NEVER in this country and in MY time again gain the immense power they once had to create the kind of destruction we see today. Our president now may be our country's LAST chance to redeem its image; an image that was reflected by the innocence and beauty of the television of which, for so many years, Ms. Moore was a part. It is sad for me to see that she is not exactly who I thought she was.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I wrote this in response to a Newsweek article that said Obama was giving the country a too rosey scenario of the extent of our fiscal crisis.

In response to the Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart article entitled "Don't Buy the Chirpy Forecasts" if President Obama came out and said the prospects for economic recovery any time soon look bleak and the economic downturn will most likely last a decade then the media and the public would be screaming from the rafters that Obama does not inspire confidence. You cannot have it both ways. I think the president is doing the best he can given the can of worms he was handed. He tries to exude hope and realistic Rooseveltian optimism. The example presidencies of Lincoln and Roosevelt from which the president seeks direction serve us well. It was Lincoln's sagacious ability to look at issues with multidemensional heart and Roosevelt's optimistic oratorical brilliance which kept the country's spirits buoyed to save a nation.

I cannot imagine a worse scenario than to have an economic catastrophe and a president at the helm with a lemon-like Calvin Coolidge personality or a deer-in-the-headlights helpless impotency of a Herbert Hoover. We are lucky to have a president of substance and ability after the dearth of leadership we have experienced in the past decade. Will the president have missteps? Of course he will. Look closely at what his inept and incompetent predecessor did. Bush was, in my opinion, a disaster to this nation. The American public should never forget and be thankful someone brilliant, competent and hopeful occupies our highest office. Moreover, our speed dial McDonald's nation needs to understand President Obama has been in office a mere two months. Give him a chance. I think, perhaps, our nation, with any luck, may luck out once again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Ethical Embroys": Before I even read Jeff Jacoby's March 15, 2009 Boston Sunday Globe article"Embryos and Ethics" I knew my blood pressure would soar. It did. Curious how the right wing's moral compass is all atwitter about a frozen group of cells used in embryonic stem cell research but wars that kill and inflict horrendous suffering on often innocent full term human beings goes off their radar screen. Hypocritical as usual, the right wing often marches to every beat of a war drum but beats up on the possibility of cells in a petrie dish curing disease.

For me, a paralytic polio survivor since the age of five, this issue literally has legs. 30 years ago I was told about the possibility of the regeneration of nerve cells in my spinal cord and that regaining the use of paralyzed parts of my body was not simply the stuff of science fiction. More research, at that time, needed to be done. It never happened because of the right wing's oppressive agenda and because of George Bush who for eight long years limited research on it to only a few existing stem cell lines. Other lines created after subsequent fertilizations could not be used and, in morally dubious fashion, were thrown away. My leg and other parts of my body remain paralyzed.

I do not care a wit what Charles the ideologue Krauthammer thinks about this issue or if he cares about his own physically compromised life. I care about mine and others. He and Jeff Jacoby are wrong. This issue will never be like the Tuskegee experiment which was so immorally done on full term African American human beings. It is not even remotely the same and experiments such as that have nothing to do with stem cell research. A clump of blastocysts could promote tissue repair and cure hideous diseases. What a boon to all mankind that would be. I cannot think of one thing more that I would love my tax dollars to go to than to help cure human beings who suffer unspeakable torment every day of their lives. The people in our democracy must believe that too since they elected Barack Obama who was unequivocally supportive of stem cell research in his campaign. It is a breath of fresh air that he finally brought some intellect and rational thought to the White House. It gives hope to millions including even to me!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Written to The Boston Globe in response to Jacoby's March 11 editorial

I agree with Jeff Jacoby's March 11, 2009 editorial "History's Oldest Hatred." His article was flawless and his comparison to the Jewish festival of Purim well taken as it celebrates, in ancient history, the foiling of a Persian plot to kill all the Jews.

I once, many years ago, viewed the PBS documentary "The Longest Hatred." It explained the historical progression of Anti-semitism but began mostly with early Christianity. The truth is, the etiology of Anti-semitism is even further removed from that as the Jew has so often, even in ancient history, been the other. The uniqueness of Anti-semitism as he says is its protean quality and its ability to evolve over historical time.

He is quite correct to say it endures as an "obsessive and indestructible hatred" the lethality of which has been its legacy for so many Jews. The Jewish people have been condemned to this fate but have endured. It is why, though, ever vigilant will always be my motto.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This was in response to the story about the woman who had recently given birth and stole another new mother's purse from the maternity ward at a local hospital:

The sadness that exists in this world is sometimes hard to fathom. Why people do what they do to themselves and to others will often be an enigma. Poets, philosophers, writers and the like have written about it for centuries. Unless one can walk in another's shoes one cannot know for sure the why of things. It is up to us, I believe, to have the empathy to try to understand. In Truman Capote's book 'In Cold Blood' I believe he entitled it as such to give us a glimpse into the motivation of the perpetrators of a heinous crime. I think Capote was saying nothing is ever done in cold blood but, in truth, much ill that is committed has reasons, often volcanic, which explain the etiology of pathological behavior. On the face of it we only see the horrific nature of some crimes and we never get to see beyond it. The victim, too, has rights and deserves justice. Crime affects all of us as we use our precious tax dollars to pay for police, judges, juries, lawyers and, ultimately, if necessary, incarceration. We all pay for what others do as we are all in the boat together. If the boat is rocked we are rocked with it.

The nature of addiction is not known. Some say it is in DNA. If so one can only hope she gets the help she needs to manage and overcome it, if possible. It would behoove us, I think, as a society not to punish with verbal vitriol but to try, in some way, to offer hope that she gets the assistance she needs so she and her child not suffer any longer. We as the community, who must pay the price and bear the burden, should hope she receives the help she so desperately needs since even once removed if it happens to the least of these it happens to us as well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Islam and Freedom of Speech: Jeff Jacoby's interview with the Dutch politician Geert Wilders in the March 8, 2009 ListenOP section of the Boston Sunday Globe entitled "Islam and Freedom of Speech" was commendable. I agree with Mr. Wilders entirely. Every country with no exception which considers itself based on Islamic law subjugates itself to a literal and unquestioning view of Koranic belief. Any perceived rejection of that will visit a death sentence or fatwa against the person postulating disagreement.

When religion is entwined with state it is so obvious the toxic and cruel brew that results. I believe the First Amendment to our Constitution is the most important and within that, freedom speech and freedom of the press go to the head of the class. It is why the potential restriction of that speech by a man like our former president was so threatening. It was threatening because our nation would be forced to subject itself to the whim of simply one man.

A nation whose life blood is a religious document with no escape clause becomes no less threatening. That nation is subjecting itself to the unquestioning statements of one document no matter how perceptively unjust or conflicting those statements may be. The separation of church and state is more than an extraordinarily important doctrine. It is life saving.

One, I think, could not argue with much Mr. Wilders said or one could. I would, though, as Voltaire said, defend his right to say anything he chooses. Too bad the UK government by not permitting the Mr. Geert Wilders entry into their country does not see it the same way.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Peter Singer -- A Different Song: In response to Jeff Jacoby's March 4, 2009 op ed article in The Globe "Intelligence is No Guarantee of Goodness" even I a 150% supporter of abortion rights and free choice have a hard time accepting an ethical argument of Peter Singer that parents along with doctors have the right to determine whether the life of a newborn child with severe disability can be ended. That is, indeed, to me, a right for which it is difficult to argue. Ideas such as that, while in theory seem to have humane intent, in practice are very hard to employ. When does even a doctor much less a parent consider a child born with severe disability unfit to live? I envision the abuse of determinations of that fact as families think about the financial costs incurred supporting that child through its life even when the parents are not there.

There is a line, as a free choice advocate, which must be drawn. Full term human life is not the issue for me. Life in utero solely dependent on the mother to sustain it is for me the essence of the abortion debate. Adults have the ability through health care proxies to let others know what they want. An infant, however,
has no such ability and to think of euthanizing it after birth is too much for my moral psychology to bear. Singer's thoughts reinforce my support for abortion rights more than ever. It allows me to conclude that the freedom to choose abortion is, in reality, pro life. It is a right which could often eliminate the need for a dastardly deed to be done after a full term human child is born.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Anathema of Yoo -- a letter to Chapman University Law School where, John Yoo, one of Bush administration's lawyers who wrote memos to George Bush justifying torture and other breaches of civil liberties, is a visiting professor at Chapman from the University of California Law School at Berkeley:

I have read your law school's rationalization for the employment of John Yoo as visiting professor of your prestigious university and find it abhorrent. John Yoo has treasonously subverted the very essence of who we are as a nation. He helped undermine the very foundation of our sacred Constitution and subverted our most cherished legal civil libertarian values. He wrote opinions some of which were enacted and some of which were not. Those that were enacted with respect to the advocacy of torture possibly could indict Mr. Yoo for crimes. Torture, as I do not have to remind you, is ILLEGAL in this country.

Employing a visiting professor who harbors a hint of complicity in the advocacy of such policies should be an anathema to you no matter what one’s political persuasion. Those policies he helped justify meant the overthrowing of the entirety of our nation’s system. His opinions try to justify the very tyranny of presidential power we profess to abhor. They serve to justify the imbuing of the executive branch with so much power it COULD have meant even the apprehension of many in your law school, many in the University of California at Berkeley Law School, many in Harvard Law School, indeed, many in any law school, any university, any home, anywhere and at any time. That person could be jailed, literally, forever with no ability to redress his grievances and worst of all he could even be a citizen of our country. The decision to do so would rest with only one man. In Jon Yoo’s universe that decision would rest with George W. Bush alone. Would YOU have wanted your fate determined solely by him?

Our Founders were dedicated to avoiding the pitfalls of tyranny and eschewed the idea that one man would be able to exercise so much power that he, on a whim, might use that power to levy punishment on anyone he chose. That person selected, no matter how innocent, would have no right of trial and no right to face his accusers to state his case. This should be an egregious affront not only to ALL those within the hierarchy of most especially a law school but to all of us, too, who love our Constitution and our country's form of government. Mr. Yoo’s memos constructing ideations of presidential power took the history of humankind’s hard slog toward civilized conduct and reversed it centuries. He did not bend, as Dr. King so eloquently iterated, the long arc of the moral universe toward justice but he twisted it to an unrecognizable shape of injustice so that any man occupying the highest offi ce in our land could do whatever he wanted without fear of consequence.

He ignored our separation of powers system. If our Founders wanted the system for which Mr. Yoo advocated in the memos he produced they would have let King George III remain as colonial overlord and the colonists would have been required to endure whatever injustices he wanted to bestow. The abrogation of those civil libertarian values, so necessary for our democracy to flourish, makes our country the laughing stock of the world when we attempt to tell totalitarian governments how they should act.

If our civil liberties cannot be maintained even in the harshest times then that must mean they apply only when times are good. Our cherished civil liberties are NOT simply for times that are easy but for also times that are hard. Mr. Yoo, in my opinion, should not be teaching at an institution that values the rule of law and his employment there or anywhere else in an institution of higher learning should be repugnant to those who value the essence of our nation.