Top of Mind


America's Real Political Crisis (hint, it's the Democrats)...




The real crisis facing our country isn't that the "fake"* Republican party is in control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. It's not even our President, though he's made it evident that he functions better as a reality TV host than a president.

No, it's that the Democrats in elective office don't have a clue and worse, suffer from an arthritic and out of touch leadership that should have turned its reins over to younger colleagues and resigned a decade or more ago. Their average age is 76. Does anyone in their right mind believe these people represent the FUTURE of our country, let alone the Democratic Party?

The current Republican embarrassment is that for nearly 7 years while they opposed Obamacare tooth and nail, they never managed to find the time, energy or intellect to craft an alternative. Until now, when they've cobbled together a catastrophe waiting to happen should their healthcare proposal ever be enacted. (I'm hoping you're right John Boehner!).

So what has the Democratic Party done in the same 7 years that they've been out of power in both houses of Congress?

Nothing. No strategy, no leadership, no new leaders, and clearly no way to reach the voters as the recent election demonstrated.

They just collect their paychecks and periodically object to things their counterparts propose, to no end or benefit.

I've seen homeless and unemployed with more initiative than the Democratic leadership in this country.

So here we are on a wild ride, with an arguably unhinged president, a Republican party that's so caught up in a false ideology that it believes it must protect the top 1% in this country while screwing everyone else, and a Democratic opposition that makes the Keystone Cops look good.


*"fake" because it has abandoned it's historical stance as the party of those who are fiscally conservative and socially progressive.








Why Ted Cruz Isn't Qualified to be Dogcatcher (apologies to dogcatchers)

Whatever one thinks of our Vice President, the fact is that he's served pretty honorably - the biggest blemish on his record is plagiarism, which by today's congressional standards makes him look like an alter boy - and has suffered grievous personal losses: the death of his first wife, daughter and now his son, Beau, who enlisted and served in Iraq.

To make him the brunt of a joke in this time of grieving by a Canadian born, Harvard educated yahoo who thinks he is fit to be president, shows just how tone deaf and unqualified Ted Cruz is.


A Letter to My Republican Friends

I'll start by saying I've never been a Democrat. I've voted for Democrats, but I've never really embraced their basic philosophy that Big Government knows best.

In my youth I dabbled briefly in Marxism, because it appealed to me intellectually and because much of Karl Marx's criticism of capitalism is as valid today as it was when he wrote. (To wit, while capitalists love to talk about the virtues of "free markets" and "unregulated" competition, in fact unregulated capitalism leads to monopolization within industry segments. No large corporation welcomes competition and the goal is either to buy up competitors or put them out of business).  But the experience of working for the welfare system taught me that it bred dependency and an attitude of entitlement, and so I soured on the idea that the oppressed were going to lead us to a better world.

Eventually I realized that by temperament I was a Republican.  In those far away days from now that meant I was socially progressive and fiscally conservative.  I distrusted Big Government, but I appreciated that government played an essential role in our lives and could do much good.  Without Dwight Eisenhower there would be no interstate highway system and our economy could not have grown to be the dominant global power. Lyndon Johnson is deservedly remembered for the courage it took to pass long overdue civil rights legislation.  But a lot of people forget that it was a Republican - Everett Dirksen - who mustered the Republican votes that made possible passage of that legislation. And while I detested (and still do) Tricky Dick, to his credit Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded efforts to end school segregation in the South and initiated the war on cancer.

At some point in the last twenty years however, I was abandoned by the Republican Party. It renounced the legacy of Lincoln and moved to a position I believe is intellectually incoherent. It's become the modern day equivalent of the Know-Nothing party of the 1850s. Especially in its anti-immigrant stance it shares with the Know-Nothings.

In place of social progressivism it's determined that the only viable alternative to Big Government is, essentially, No Government (except where matters of abortion and gay marriage are concerned). Its attitude towards the poor is that they are deservedly so, and so deserve nothing from the taxpayer. And in place of a philosophy of fiscal conservatism they've adopted a stance that can neither be described in traditional terms of liberal/conservative nor progressive/regressive but, in my opinion, in one word only: IRRESPONSIBLE.  Today's Republicans are in the pockets of the plutocrats who effectively rule this country, largely through legislators of both parties they've won over and turned into their political surrogates.

Case in point: Rising income inequality in the US.  Fact: it's undeniable. Adjusted for inflation, today's workers are earning less than they were in the 1970s. There is an increasing gap between the uber-wealthy in this country and the rest. The middle class is shrinking, not growing. Again, this isn't MY opinion, these are facts that have been shown in study after study.

What is the Republican response to this?


Missouri is now considering legislation which would bar recipients of federal aid (food stamps, etc) from purchasing steak or lobster. Well, that seems reasonable enough on its face. Except when you consider that the two largest classes of people receiving federal assistance are 1- the working poor, employed by large corporations like Walmart and McDonalds who pay their workers sub-living wages, and 2- families of the military.

So, while my Republican friends want to reduce the tax rates for corporations like Walmart and McDonalds because they are "job creators," they also turn a blind eye to the fact that these corporations are sticking it to the American taxpayer by off-loading the cost of subsidizing their workers to federal welfare systems.  At the same time, they turn their wrath on the working poor who in their eyes are deservedly so, even though it's evident that the cause of their plight is the low wages they are paid. Oh, and these same politicians never miss the opportunity to applaud those who serve in our armed forces, even as they keep them and their families living in poverty through legislation they pass.

This kind of policy cannot be described in tradition socio-economic terms. The only words that make any sense are irresponsible and incoherent.

One final case in point that illustrates the degree of lunacy some elements in the Republican party have embraced.  We are in the midst of multi-state legislation designed to protect individuals rights to practice their religious faith.  Let's forget for the moment this is already enshrined in the First Amendment. The irony and incoherence of it is that it is being proposed by those who claim to reject the idea of BIG GOVERNMENT, the notion that government should be allowed to invade our personal lives. Indeed, one Arizona Republican state legislator recently suggested that legislation requiring every citizen of Arizona to attend church each Sunday would be a good idea to get us back to our moral foundations.

What on earth happened to the fundamental proposition of separation of Church and State upon which our nation was founded?

I am no longer a Republican because the Republican Party has totally rejected the historical premises upon which the GOP was built. In its place is an alien platform which socially bears close resemblance to that of the Talibans, combined with a fiscal philosophy which can be reduced to "I've got mine, screw you!"

The old lions of the Republican Party, Charles Percy, John Danforth, Nelson Rockefeller, Margaret Chase Smith, Bob Dole, Mark Hatfield, John Chafee are now gone. Some passed away and others quietly resigned having felt they had been left behind by the seismic shift in their party. (Read John Danforth's Faith and Politics.)

In their place are shrill voices that are apocalyptic, fear mongering and above all, protective of the haves and dismissive of the have-nots in our society. There is nothing in their words and attitudes which embraces the idea of a Commonweal uniting us.

The alternative, in my world, is not the Democratic Party. It's a return to the GOP of old.

But how to get there?




Who Should be Qualified to Hold Public Office?

The qualifications for holding public office as set forth in our Constitution are pretty sparce.  You must be a citizen of the US, and in the case of the presidency, you must have been born in the US.  Then there is an age requirement: 25 years old for the House of Representatives, 30 for the Senate, and 35 years of age to be President.

There are a few other qualifying factors, but what's listed above pretty much covers it.

These criteria are no longer sufficient.  One additional requirement should be added via amendment:

Any candidate for representative, senator, or president must acknowledge publicly that they support and will legislate based upon the findings of scientific inquiry insofar as it potentially or actually impacts proposed legislation.

In short, if you don't believe in science - in its method of inquiry and/or its findings - then you should not be allowed to represent a constituency at the highest level of government.

We can forgive our Founding Fathers from omitting this requirement because they represented and took for granted the ideals of scientific inquiry. Jefferson, Franklin and most of those who crafted our Constitution did so with an Enlightenment belief in the power of Reason, even as they acknowledged an Almighty Creator.

We can't afford today to be governed by those who deny basic and established scientific findings. To do so is to turn over responsibility for our well being and our country's to the modern equivalent of the flat earth society. To the Taliban and those who would turn back history and knowledge.

Don't misunderstand me here. If you want to believe the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around it, that men roamed the earth with the dinosaurs, that evolution is an undemonstrated theory, that Neil Armstrong never walked on the moon, that climate change is a hoax, have at. 

It's a free country.

But, those beliefs should disqualify you from holding public office at the highest level because they are in fact a national security threat of the highest order.

ISIS would return us to a medieval world where disbelievers are beheaded, burned alive and otherwise tortured. Their beliefs are iminical to ours. However....

So would Jim Inhofe, Mike Huckabee and a host of others who serve or would serve at the highest levels of government by denying established science and by attempting to cut off its funding when its findings conflict with their personal beliefs.

Instead of cutting off heads.

Which is the greater threat to our country?


Live Long & Prosper, Mr. Spock

"Star Trek" the television series and I came of age at the same time.  It debuted in 1966 and the original series ended a brief three years later, in 1969, the year I graduated high school.


Ironically, NASA reprised the series before TV execs figured out what a cash cow it would be. In the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.


In a further irony, NASA's lunar program lasted only as long as the original Star Trek series.  We haven't set foot on the moon since December of 1972.


And in a final irony, just as the US detached itself from any further adventures into "the final frontier," Star Trek became syndicated and achieved a cult following that included future astronauts.


In reading tributes to Leonard Nimoy I came across a story he shared in an interview with the New York Times some years ago that is both howlingly funny and an indication of just how much influence Star Trek and Spock have had on our popular consciousness.  I'll let Mr. Spock narrate himself:


Do fans still expect you to be as conversant in “Star Trek” lore and mythology as they are?
I had an embarrassing experience once, many years ago. I was invited to go to CalTech and was introduced to a number of very brilliant young people who were working on interesting projects. They walked me through, and they would we’re doing this and we’re doing that, and we’re trying to figure out why this is happening. And then they’d say to me, “What do you think?” Expecting me to have some very sound advice. And I would nod very quietly and very sagely I would say, “You’re on the right track.”


LLAP Leonard Nimoy