Real Problems Need Real Solutions

It is profoundly disturbing as we near the end of an interminable, disgustingly ugly, and shamefully expensive presidential election that the issues  dominating the debate center on Donald Trump’s and Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct. We actually face serious challenges in this country, many of which are complexly interlinked, so that action to solve one set of problems can trigger potentially unanticipated negative consequences for other problems.  Challenges we aren’t talking about, listening to, or attempting to address: The technology-driven global economy has dramatically and irreversibly changed everything: markets, the application of economic theory, the nature of competition, and the meaning of productive work. It’s as profound a seismic shift as the rise of an automobile-dominated society in the early 1900s, the growth of the industrial age in the 1700’s, or the discovery of the new world in the 1500’s. What we should be talking about is how do we as a nation, invest in educational resources in order to ensure that American workers are the most efficient, productive workforce in the world, with the skills to compete in the new industries and markets emerging in this new global economy. Global warming is real (sorry Koch brothers and Exxon/Mobil). Its consequences – some of which we’re experiencing now, some of which we can reasonably anticipate – threaten our financial stability and the quality of life of millions of Americans. Human beings contribute to the problem. That means human beings can also act to mitigate the problem.  But we can’t do that if a large portion of elected officials refuse to even acknowledge the problem exists and needs a solution. We...

Time to Break up the Washington Hog Trough

We know our government’s broken.  Congress does nothing except ensure its own privileged perpetuity. Every four years we elect a president whom half roughly half the voting population (those who still bother to vote) distrusts — regardless of which party wins. We’re turning from a democracy into an oligarchy — which now has really become a kleptocracy. For just one example, check out this story about how the very wealthiest (Republicans and Democrats) shield billions of dollars from taxes while the rest of us get hosed. And they’re the ones whose lobbying and contributions create the “laws” that continue to protect them.  Now add the billions of dollars spent by corporations to ensure that congress passes laws that favor their interests and not those of their customers or their communities. Asking Congress to fix the corruption they engage in is like asking the fattest pigs to move from the front of the trough to the back.  Getting caught up in the election attack frenzy of “Democrats vs. Republicans” and “Liberals against Conservatives” only ensures that the same self-serving people in both parties continue to live High on the Hog. What we need is a voter wake-up call followed by a voter revolution leading up to November.  Demand that the candidates you vote for can actually articulate a plan and demonstrate a commitment to stop a fraction of our population from running the country through their paid servants in Congress. Last November 63 percent of Americans didn’t vote; 80 percent of young people didn’t vote. But giving up isn’t an option.  Neither is turning to a political leader who claims...

A Courageous Christmas Gift from Muslim Women

You won’t see this on Fox News, or hear it mentioned by GOP candidates. But two days ago, some very courageous Kenyan Muslim women risked their lives to save fellow bus passengers who were Christians.  And yes, the dots in the side of the bus are bullet holes. Their bus, with 100 passengers on board,  was stopped by Al-Shabaab terrorists, a group of fanatical murderers responsible for killing 150 innocent people at Keyna’s Garissa University College in April.  But when the terrorists ordered all Christians off the bus to be slaughtered, the Muslim women did something wonderful, and astounding.  They gave the intended victims their hijabs as disguises and hid others behind piles of luggage.  As reported by Annie Rose Ramos of CNN, the women said, “If you want to kill us, then kill us. There are no Christians here.”  The Christians were spared.  For another account, read Harriet Alexander‘s story. Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary, said, afterwards, “We are all Kenyans, we are not separated by religion. We are one people as a nation.  And this is a very good message from my brothers and sisters from the Muslim community.” It’s also a good message for us in the United States.  How interesting, and sad, that these Kenyans understand the real meaning of American democracy better than many of us do now. As we celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace, let’s remember the example of these women in light of John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” As you look forward to the...

Schlonging Hillary

Just to be clear, what Donald Trump was saying in Michigan on Monday was that President Obama “dick slapped” Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary.  That was followed up rapidly by his denial that “schlong” means,  well, what “schlong” has always meant. Then, in another characteristic Trump reversal, he doubled down on the insult by tweeting, ” “THANK YOU Grand Rapids, Michigan! Time to end political correctness & secure our homeland!” What a bizarre sentence. We can “secure our homeland” by legitimizing typically obscene personal attacks on women (and Mexicans, and Syrians, and Muslims, and born-again Christians, and all people of color, and physically disabled people, and non heterosexuals, and … well anyone who has the nerve to challenge Donald Trump. It’s a big list.) The danger of Trump as a candidate is that people are drawn to the idea he trumpets so strongly: “America, and for that matter the world,  is in terrible shape and needs a strong leader — ME — to set things straight.”  Let’s look first at the idea itself.  He’s really saying that democracy is broken and we need a dictator to “Make America Great Again”  — and he’s just the man for the job.  Unfortunately,  smart  moral people can fall for that pitch. Just ask the Germans. Then look at the person.  What kind of person acts the way he does and says the things he does?  We’re getting all the opportunity we need in this ugly Republican primary to know Donald Trump for who he is.  Do you really want that kind of human being making decisions for you? Representing America to...
Getting Tough on Terror

Getting Tough on Terror

Our world changed on 9/11.  For the first time since the last British troops boarded ships to leave New York City in 1783, our homeland was under attack by a foreign enemy.  The ocean barriers that had protected us for over 200 years had been breached.  The enemy we now face has, with the emergence of ISIL, become stronger in the years since 9/11,  even more mercilessly brutal, and even more determined to destroy not just our country but our way of life.   And unlike our enemies in World War II, Germany, Italy and Japan, whom we successfully defeated (and the North Koreans, North Vietnamese, and insurgents in Iraq whom we didn’t defeat), this enemy is fighting a different kind of 21st-century war.  The Muslim extremists who threaten us are fueled by poverty and unrest in the Middle East and Africa, driven by apocalyptic religious mania, and skilled at using the weapons of asymmetrical warfare like social media.   But Al-Quaeda and ISIL  aren’t the greatest threat to our freedom and way of life. The far greater threat is posed by the presidential candidates and their allies in the media who would drag us into a global religious war against Muslims. It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before.  When dictators want to take people’s minds off the suffering created by their own rapacious greed, they stir up fear against “the enemy” and then fan that fear into the flames of war. “With the terrorists, you have to take out their families. ‘Take out’ means that you have to wipe out their homes where they came from. You...