Category Archives: Today’s Issues

Thoughts on issues in the world today

The Poor People’s Campaign – A 50 year old idea whose time has come

In December 1967, Rev. Dr. King announced the plan to bring together poor people from across the country for a new march on Washington. This march was to demand better jobs, better homes, better education—better lives than the ones they were living. Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy explained that the intention of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”

In April 2019 we are still dealing with many of the same issues that Dr. King addressed with his Poor People’s Campaign. If anything the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened not shrunk. Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 39 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. But that gap pales in comparison to the divide between the nation’s top 0.1 percent and everyone else. Americans at this lofty level are taking in over 188 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.

Between 1979 and 2007, paycheck income for those in the richest 1 percent and 0.1 percent exploded. The wage and salary income for these elite groups dipped after the 2008 financial crisis but have nearly regained their pre-crisis value. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent of earners have seen little change in their average income, with just a 22 percent increase from 1979 to 2017

Medical bills were the biggest cause of U.S. bankruptcies. A new study from academic researchers found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues —either because of high costs for care or time out of work. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills, the research found.

Fifty years ago President Lyndon Johnson articulated that: 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Today our President uses devise speech to tap into fears and subconscious racism embedded in each of us to keep the “every-person” divided rather than united. 

A popular saying for many in the Trump base is that we’re losing our America.  But the truth is it was never, for the vast majority of them anyway, “their” America. The America they claim they are losing was and has always the America of the rich white man.  Access to the best schools and quality health care. The ability to “legally” manipulate the tax system to shelter money from the ever increasing taxes you and I pay. Consistently looking to increase their bottom lines at the expense of the average American. 

Now let’s be clear here and not misunderstand what I am saying.  I’m not saying that every wealthy white man acts this way or that they are inherently evil or solely responsible for many of the ills that the average working American, regardless of color or gender, faces on an everyday basis. What I am saying however is that there is a select few who have always had the money and the power to control the narrative. To keep the masses at each other throats, pointing accusatory fingers at each other and fighting for the scraps thrown their way. 

It is amazing how often the poorest of the poor will vote against their self interest because they have been led to believe it is in their best interest to ensure the well being of the wealthy. Ensure their well being because after all one day they will drink from that same prosperous cup. That is as long as (insert race, gender or religious identity) doesn’t take what is rightfully theirs.  The concept that they are more like that person they have been conditioned to believe is threatening them then they will ever be to the wealthy who promote the narrative is seemingly foreign to them. 

But the truth is Dr. King had it right in 1967 and  if he would have lived to see his campaign through he would have been seen as more of a threat to the “establishment’s” way of life than anything he accomplished during the civil rights movement.  Simply put there is power in numbers, there is power in unity and if the majority of Americans put aside their hatred of each other, embraced their similarities and united in the fight against inequality there is no telling what this country could accomplish. Imagine a country with affordable and quality health care and education for all. Wage equality and a tax system that treated the 99% the same as the 1% and maybe as a byproduct of coming together to fight the inequalities we all face we’ll gain better understanding of each other. Now that’s a dream worth fighting for. 

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It’s not your shame

Ok let’s get this straight Jesse Smollett is one individual his actions do not represent the African-American or the LGBT communities. There is no reason for anyone other than Jessie Smollett to apologize or feel shame for his actions.  There is no reason to fear that his actions will cause individuals to assume the next reported hate crime is a farce, though sadly some will do just that. You don’t see white america apologizing when it is found out that the story of that woman being attacked by 3 African American men turned out to be a lie.  You don’t see white america stressed out that no one will take future reports of a woman being attacked by a person of color seriously. We are all connected by our human DNA. For some of us that DNA determines our skin color and as a result we are grouped as a race.  For others we are born attracted to the same sex so we are placed into yet another group. No matter what group we may be labeled at our core we are all individual human beings responsible for our own actions.  So do not allow others to force you or take it upon yourself to carry Mr. Smollett’s missteps as your burden because you and he share a group designation.  

Not so Stupid

It’s no secret where I stand politically on many of today’s issues or how I feel about about the current POTUS. But despite my feelings on the man I recognize he’s not stupid. He may not have gone to Oxford like Clinton or was editor of the Harvard Law Review like Obama but you don’t become President being stupid and he surely knows how to connect to his base. With that said I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it puzzling that moments after announcing he was declaring a national emergency he said there really is no emergency. It’s almost as if he was giving the courts the ammunition to overrule him. Why? Well once he gets the funding that’s it. The issue kind of fades into the background. But if he’s overturned he gets to hit the 2020 campaign trail riling up his base – see I tried to protect you I did everything I could but those Democrats and liberal justices they stopped me. They left the floodgates open for illegal immigrants to come to this country and rape our women, murder our children, take our jobs. But the fight is not over vote for me in 2020 and I’ll find a way to overcome these crazy liberals and protect you. Cue the Make America Great chants. If I didn’t despise the way he has divided this country I’d almost call this strategy genius.

Time to get real about Climate Change

In the 1978 Superman movie Lex Luthor brilliantly played with both comic and villainous treachery by Gene Hackman hatches a plan to detonate a nuclear bomb along the San Andreas fault line causing everything west of the fault line to sink into the Pacific Ocean and increasing the value of the hundreds of acres of currently worthless desert land he owns as it becomes the new West Coast. Today some investor is buying that same worthless desert land as they patiently wait for California, along with a host of other coastal cities become new multi-million dollar water reefs as a result of climate change.

Freshman Congressperson from New York Alexandria Ocasio Cortez introduced the ambitious Green New Deal last week a four part program for moving America quickly out of crisis into a secure, sustainable future. Focusing on the plan’s Green Transition Program it calls for the elimination of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and construction by emphasizes massive public investment in wind and solar production, zero-emission vehicles and high-speed rail, energy-efficient buildings, and smart power grids, as well as “working collaboratively” with farmers and ranchers to move towards sustainable agriculture techniques.

Is the plan viable?

Is it cost effective?

Will it achieve the ambitious goals it sets?

These are all questions open for debate. What is not open for debate is that the Earth is warming. The last several years has seen an increasing number of droughts, intense storms, and floods.  Scientists point to climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”  Yet despite these dire signs from the Earth herself and warnings from the scientific community do the highest branches of our government seek to debate the Green New Deal? No, rather they look to spread misinformation about, their taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, you’re not going to be allowed to own cows anymore.  It has become the way of politics today to paraphrase Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd in the American President. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them and whatever your particular problem is, I promise you the majority of politicians are not the least bit interested in solving it. They are interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time and you bring a snowball to the Senate floor and state that we hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, but now the script has flipped, because it’s very very cold outside.

Whether you agree with the Green New Deal or not it should be a rallying call to get serious about climate change. To reject the climate change deniers, who are more interested with ensuring the profits keep rolling into the gas and oil industries, and to look for ways to slow, reverse or halt climate changes altogether before It is too late

Another Slip By Bill Maher

I enjoy The Bill Maher show great guest stimulating conversation but there was a time I stopped watching because It seemed  clear to me that there can be no denying that his comments regarding Islam are at best the stereotypical misrepresentations of a group of people who number over 1.5 billion worldwide by an ill informed individual and at worst the crazy ranting of a bigot. 

I eventually eased back into the show, because let’s be honest I liked it.  But there was Maher on Friday letting slip yet another racial comparison when he asked Rep. Will Hurd from Texas, a black republican congressman, why he’s a member of the Republican Party … especially since he came from the CIA.  Hurd replied, “I was in the CIA for almost a decade. I was the dude in the back alleys at 4 o’clock in the morning collecting intelligence on threats to the homeland,” … to which Maher commented, “That’s where they’d collect them, huh?” then added … “Wow, by the Popeyes chicken.”

It’s not the first time a comment has come from Maher that has made me think hmmmm that came out so naturally what other racist comments does he make when the cameras aren’t rolling?

As liberals we constantly call out those on the right for their use of inflammatory rhetoric we cannot simultaneously expect to give a pass to those we believe are on our side when they engage in similar tactics. 

As as I have said in the past words are very powerful and when spoken by someone with the celebrity of a Bill Maher that power is multiplied tenfold.

While I don’t believe Maher is a bigot I again am at a crossroad do I continue to watch his show? After all it is my belief that bigotry large and small and those that preach it must be ignored and Maher continued slips of the tongue causes me much pause.   

A Bad Beat for Trump

A Bad Beat is a poker term for a hand in which a player with very strong cards loses to an opponent who is statistically unlikely to win, but hits a lucky card (or two) and unexpectedly takes the pot. The losing player is then said to have suffered a “bad beat”.   In looking at the 2016 Presidential election some may say Hilary Clinton suffered a bad beat. But the reality is the bad beat went to Donald Trump. 

Trump who I firmly believed right up to Election Day expected to lose had mapped out with others (Roger Ailes?) how to turn this presidential run into post election BIG MONEY. But then the unthinkable happened he won. All the big money dreams derailed but worst now there would be a huge spotlight on everything crooked he was involved in. From the moment he watched as FOX NEWS, what other channel do you think he was watching, declared him the winner he went defensive. Lying and doing one over the top thing after another to distract America as he tried cover up his actions in an attempt to stay one step ahead of what he knew was coming for him, the truth and likely jail time for him, his friends and his family. 

His Shaggy defense of say it wasn’t you has kept his base at bay but his lies, deceit and attempts at cover ups haven’t protected many of his friends who, Rodger Stone aside,  when faced with prison turned on him. While slowly it has begun to drive people who originally were in his corner, mostly for their own good, away.  More and more isolated his act gets crazier and crazier and as such more dangerous for the United States. 

Hopefully we are coming to a conclusion in which Trump, however it may happen,  resigns or is impeached from a position of power he was never qualified to hold and probably really never really wanted.  After all with Trump like everything else it was just supposed to be about the money. A bad beat indeed for Donald. 

The End of True Debate

I went to Cardinal Spellman high school in the Bronx. In addition to being the alma matter of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor among other things it had a forensics team that competed nationwide.  My senior year I was proud to say I was President of that forensics team. For 4 years I competed on the forensics team’s cross-ex debate team.  To this day I credited my experience on that team as being a major part in the development of who I am today. The rules of cross-ex debate were simple enough if you were on the affirmative side of a debate you needed to show: 

Significance of both the problem and that the benefit must be substantial enough to merit changing state or national policies affecting millions of people. 

Inherency of the the problems cited must be inextricably connected to elements of the status quo are relatively enduring or are unique to the status quo or cannot be eliminated without reform to the status quo.

Plan that includes a concrete description of actions that will be taken to solve the problems cited in enough detail that the negative can understand and, potentially, criticize it.  And finally

Solvency – present claims and ground to prove the benefits of the plan and that is it solves the problems cited.  

If you were on the negative side of the debate you could win by proving through evidence that just one of the above was not true. 

This I learned as a teenager. Sadly in today’s highest chamber of debate, Congress, none of this is practiced. Instead the debates have devolved into a I want, you can’t have, battle based not on facts and evidence and most importantly what’s good for the country but rather special interest and if you have a (D) or a (R) after your name. Adults elected by the populous acting more like children and having temper tantrums when they can’t get their way. 

I’m thankful for the life lessons debate taught me   I just wished the majority in Congress would share in those lessons.