Terrorism – The Fuel Of Xenophiles

I know what it’s like to be considered “the other”.  I remember the shoves and elbows in the hallway.  I can still hear the snide comments made in a threatening tone so that only I could hear them.  I remember the fights resulting from verbal and physical abuse where the principal blamed us both, never acknowledging the misbehavior of my abuser.  I was a Jewish kid from New York in school in Asheville, North Carolina during the 1950s.  To be both Jewish and a Yankee made me twice as undesirable.  They didn’t know who I was, only what I was.  Their hatred wasn’t based on any particular characteristic I displayed.  They didn’t know whether I was smart or funny or caring or clever.  They just hated me and the rest of the Jews who lived in Asheville because of what we were. They displayed all of the characteristics of xenophobia.  Of course they hated more than just Jews.  They hated blacks and Latinos and Asians and frankly anyone who was different.  Given their druthers they would have packed us all in buses or trains and shipped us off to somewhere else, anywhere else, just away from them.

In America we have had a long history of xenophobic behavior.  Despite the lessons of history and the platitudes we proudly sing and say, many in this country are simply haters.  It so happens that we are in the midst of the perfect hater’s storm: a presidential campaign in which the Republican candidates continue to dive deeper and deeper towards the lowest common denominator and a series of terrorist attacks that provides “evidence” to prove the correctness of their xenophobic rants.  These events also give impetus to calls for greater restrictions on immigration and the decision to refuse to accept refugees from the Syrian nightmare.   Dozens of Republican governors have already stated their refusal to accept Syrian refugees into their states.  Murdock has called for a litmus test to only accept Christian Syrian refugees.  Donald Trump has called for all mosques to be closed.  Fear and ignorance are the fuel that makes it possible for such pronouncements to appear respectable and acceptable.  Is that what America has become?

Internment camp

I understand the fear of a future terrorist attack.  It would be irrational to ignore that possibility particularly in light of the recent threats made by ISIS.  I am also well aware that the primary perpetrators of terror around the world are Islamic Fundamentalists.  It is also a fact that they represent an extremely small fraction of the world’s Muslim population.  They are the corrupters of Islam, not the norm.  Yet one candidate after another has called for extreme reaction and action against an entire religion.  How should we restrict the Muslim population in America to protect ourselves?  Should we allow them to live in only specific areas?  Should we only allow them to work at specific jobs?  Should we require them to register as aliens and monitor their movements and bank accounts?  Should we limit their access to firearms and explosives?  Should we limit their opportunities to congregate in groups?  In other words, should we allow the fear that there might be a “lone wolf” among that population change who we are as Americans and what our country has come to stand for around the world?  Please don’t tell me that we would never do that.  Remember the Japanese internment camps?  Remember the institutionalized discrimination against blacks.?  We as a nation are capable of greatness.  However, our past and present also show that we are capable of perpetrating horror.  The extreme result of xenophobia is genocide.  History has proven that it starts with small steps that appear reasonable and goes on from there.

While we are fearful of the horror that might come to our shores, we cannot allow that fear to corrupt who we are.  We must demand that our government take all steps, within the law, to protect us.  But we must not let our fear allow the sweetness of freedom to turn into the stench of oppression.



To The GOP The Truth is Fungible

As children we were taught that to lie was an offense punishable by the severest consequences.  To be labeled among our peers as “a liar” would likely doom you to social ostracism.  In our Judeo-Christian culture lying is an offense against the Ninth Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Our legal system has codified the importance of truth by creating laws against perjury and fraud.  It is clear that in the American code of behavior truth is held in great reverence.  Whether in the secular or the religious world lying is viewed as unacceptable.  Yet, despite these widely held beliefs, the GOP has seen fit to lie.  They appear to believe that if they say it, it is true.

In the face of undeniable evidence they persist in lies about a variety of topics.  I  will bring Benghazi to the forefront as example number one.  Even after a party leader acknowledged the raw political motivation for creating the committee and pursuing fabricated accusations, they continued to deny their lies and dishonesty.  Obamacare has provided healthcare to millions who would not otherwise be able to afford it and has effected the slowest increase in healthcare costs in decades. Yet the Republicans continue to ignore these truths, calling it an abject failure, and demanding the repeal of this lifesaving legislation though it has been proven to be successful.  In poll after poll the American public has shown its desire for universal background checks of potential gun purchasers.  Yet the GOP denies this overwhelming need and turns the argument towards an erosion of 2nd Amendment rights.  They lie about the results of such legislation and the potential erosion of rights.  The GOP continues to decry the weakness and failure of the Obama economic policies, calling out the lack of job creation though millions of jobs have been created.    The fact is that the weakest job creation presidencies have been Republican, while Democratic presidencies have historically strengthened the economy and created many millions more jobs.  They conveniently forget the basis of the crash of 2008.  They discuss the defunding of womens’ health care in terms of protecting women and the infringement of voting rights as an effort to prevent fraud.  In both cases the facts simply don’t support their claims.  They ignore the clear and irrefutable evidence regarding the human impact on climate change, endangering the futures of our children and grandchildren.  They constantly raise the argument that raising the minimum wage will end up costing jobs rather than raising the quality of life of the millions of workers impacted by such an increase.  The numbers have consistently proven these claims to be wrong.

GOP Pinnocceo

As we listen to the rhetoric pouring out of the mouths of the 2016 presidential candidates it is clear that the pattern set by the GOP over the past 7 years has been adopted.  It is quite frightening to think that they actually believe their own words.  They paint a picture of an America that is economically crumbling, socially decadent and internationally weak.  Aside from the skewed and convenient view that they present, to think that any of them is actually capable of solving any of these perceived problems is laughable. At the top of the heap is the bombastic showman Donald Trump who would take Putin out back of the barn and knock some sense in to him.  Then we have Ben Carson whose self-promoting autobiography has enough holes in it to sink the Titanic.  Following  these two scary front-runners we have the even scarier serious and experienced candidates who have shown their leanings through their actions in the Senate.  In all cases their rhetoric is based on false assumptions and outright lies.

The Republican party of yesterday has been hijacked and corrupted.  It used to be a party of ethics and truth.  Now it is a party where the truth is a sometime thing.  The Republican establishment has been beaten and dishonored.  Let’s make sure that the current gang of “leaders” is beaten and dishonored.  We need a Republican Party where once again the truth is not fungible.

The GOP’s Narrow Bandwidth

I remember that day in kindergarten when our teacher, Mrs. Helms, passed out the picture for us to color in.  The four of us were really excited when she then placed a giant box of crayons in the middle of our table.  That box represented unlimited opportunity to me, and I was going to take full advantage of it.  The picture to color included a house with a big lawn, trees, a big sky with clouds and a car in the driveway.  Her instructions were simply to have fun coloring the picture.  I decided that I would make each brick in the house a different color and then I would make the lawn orange and the sky green.  After all, she said have fun and I took her at her word.  However, I couldn’t help but notice that Billy, the boy sitting next to me, had a very different take on the assignment. He seemed to feel that the world had to look only one way.  He seemed to have trouble thinking outside the box despite the fact that there were so many cool colors within the box of crayons. On his picture the sky was blue, the grass and trees were green and the house was red brick.  I also noticed that he took great pains to color within the lines and that all of the coloring was even and smooth.  I sort of felt that the lines were only a suggestion and some things should look different in depth and consistency.  Of course I didn’t use this term back then, but I liked to push the envelope, while Billy allowed himself to think and act only within the narrow confines of the envelope.  So it is with the GOP.  They are limited by their own narrow bandwidth.

kids coloring

On every issue that impacts our country the GOP refuses to allow for a broader bandwidth of solutions.  Instead they are the party that stays within the lines and colors things only the way they have always been.  Their vision is limited by their inability to look at the periphery.  On immigration they declare, build a wall, refuse a path to citizenship and limit opportunities.  On abortion they say, no way, no time, no exceptions.  On gun control they state, no limits, no background checks.  On climate change they believe that what G-d determines man can’t change.  On education they demand local control, local standards, local values.  On pay equity they profess that hard work produces rewards regardless of discriminatory policies.  On voting rights they declare that those who really want to vote can, regardless of the barriers placed on them. On national security they advocate a policy of assertiveness, bombast, and military action.

The GOP lives in a world consisting of bandwidths that vary only by degree.  They are either  narrow, narrower or narrowest. They see things in simple blacks and whites and have difficulty dealing with grays.  They don’t see the life as an adventure filled with opportunity.  Rather, they view life as happy only when it is predictable, filled with consistency and lived within the rules.  They have no difficulty with the great disparity between the haves and the have nots.  They believe those that have deserve it and those who don’t have not worked hard enough. They tell themselves that they are charitable because they write checks once a year and take their families to serve up Christmas Dinner at the homeless shelter.

While there is no doubt that creativity and adventure requires a stable environment, it also requires an atmosphere of openness and encouragement.  Creative solutions are what are required to address the many issues confronting our nation and the world. It requires an ever broadening bandwidth.  It requires a willingness to risk and look beyond the safe confines of the familiar and the predictable.  The GOP has proven itself to lack the bandwidth, the imagination, the courage and the willingness to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The GOP Seeks The Presidency To Destroy The Government

The doctor walked into the examining room to deliver the news. He looked into the eyes of his anxiety-ridden patient and declared that the only way to save his life was to remove his brain and his heart. He explained that he would be hooked up to a computer to do what thinking was necessary and that an artificial heart would provide all of the compassion required. But the important thing was that his body would go on living. That is what the candidates at the Republican debate seemed to be advocating for our nation this evening. They continued to make government evil and the cause of all that is wrong in our country.  Rand Paul clearly inferred that his goal is to make government virtually invisible. This kind of anti-government nonsense is, in fact, nothing but red meat thrown to a the ill-Informed and uneducated Republican base. Yet, when we discuss specifics it’s a different story.

It is interesting, for example, to note how many red state governors have requested federal assistance to help them cope with a national disaster. How fast do you think the Republican base would complain about the results of deregulation in the manufacture of drugs or food processing? How would those same base voters react to a lack of bank regulation or safety standards for cars or toys. Would these very anti-government people really like to go back to the early 20th century and the lack of worker protection when business ruled and everyone else followed? We won’t even get into the government supports that have enabled entire sectors of our economy to survive. Neither will we discuss the inherent contradictions in this group when dealing with abortion or marriage equality.

GOP debate

The Republicans are playing a dangerous game. They are deriding government in order to gain control of it. The problem they have is that they are becoming the victims of their own rhetoric. The Republican establishment is in an all out war with the anti-establishment candidates. The very establishment candidates and leaders who are complaining about the current campaign gave birth to that rhetoric years ago. They created true believers and now they are losing the battle. Trump and Carson represent the base voters that listened to the establishment and drank the Kool Aid. Now, as we noted in the debate this evening, those that are considered more traditional GOP candidates have taken up the anti-government banner in order to be competitive.

The role of government has always been an area of contention between Democrats and Republicans. However, there has always been agreement on the fact that government does have a role. Listening to the debate this evening even that is up for question.  The solutions and programs discussed this evening made little sense and when tested weren’t even workable.  The Founding Fathers worked diligently to insure that government played a vital and appropriate role in America.  They understood that government needed to be limited and without limits could run astray.  But they surely understood and appreciated the need for government.  The dishonesty and the hypocrisy displayed at tonight’s Republican debate brings into question both the integrity and the sincerity of all of the candidates. It is clear that for a group that will do or say anything to get elected, they sure want to lead the government they hate.

Will The GOP Get The Last Laugh After All?

We Democrats are feeling pretty good these days.  The Republicans appear to be on the verge of self-destruction. The party establishment seems to have lost control and playing out a classic case of the tale wagging the dog.  While we would all agree that the GOP presidential frontrunner has moved out of the clown car, there is also a consensus that his bombastic, outrageous and self-serving pronouncements will to be a nonstarter in a general election against his Democratic rival.  Yet, those candidates who might be more presentable, from the perspective of the party establishment, are all polling in single digits and starting to fall off of the campaign trail.  Our joy continues as we watch the Republican House majority struggle to provide even a semblance of order and leadership.  The public nature of the internal battle being waged for control simply feeds the perception of those who question the viability of the GOP and its ability to govern.  Yes, it seems that we Democrats have many reasons to rejoice, that is unless we begin to use our peripheral vision.

If we keep looking exclusively at what seems to be center stage, Washington D.C. and the presidential nominating contest, we will continue to miss what are perhaps the most important events taking place around the country.  While what is happening in Washington D.C. and the campaign trail is entertaining, what is happening at the state and local level impacts on our daily lives and the future of our country.  It almost feels like the magician has been working to divert our attention while the real action is elsewhere.  There are a few basic facts that create a very different view of the GOP.  First, while we laugh at their seeming ineptness in the congress, they have effectively blocked a massive amount of legislation, a record number of nominations and created havoc for the Democratic presidential frontrunner. In addition they do control a majority of the nation’s statehouses and state legislatures.  Finally, they have made impressive inroads into local school boards and county governments.

planned parenthood

Those of us who are concerned with gun control, climate change, historical and scientific revisionism in the classroom, womens’ health, immigration, pay equity, equitable congressional districts, minimum wage and voting rights had better be concerned about the facts stated above.  While we are led to believe that all of the meaningful action on these issues is centered in Washington, the reality is that much of the action is on the state and local level.  Let’s not forget the number of recent state laws that restrict a woman’s access to healthcare or restrict a citizen’s access to the polls.  Let’s not be oblivious to the many laws passed by states during the last few years that ease restrictions on gun access and ignore the hazards of climate change.  Perhaps most insidious and long-lasting are the changes made in school curricula that corrupt historical truth and ignore scientific fact.  These children will grow to be misinformed and ignorant adults.  How do you think they will vote?

Local elections have notoriously low turnouts.  It seems that only the party faithful and family and friends of the candidates turn out.  That is a reality discovered by the GOP many years ago.  By taking advantage of this fact they have successfully inserted themselves in important leadership positions in the very bodies that can impact on our daily lives the most.  City and state governmental bodies tax, regulate and appoint officials who implement their wishes.  School boards select text books, approve curricula and hire school officials that carry out their wishes.  In cities, counties and states across the nation our lives are being governed by those whose values and visions are contrary to ours.  We may be amused and enjoy the Republican debacle in Washington D.C., but who will have the last laugh?

Dysfunction Junction

Welcome to Dysfunction Junction.  We have many exciting exhibits for your enjoyment today.  Over on the left we have an important piece of recent history, the General Motors Corporation.  For decades this company was iconic and represented what was  best in America.  But during the latter part of the last century hubris and arrogance took over and it became a major symbol of corporate dysfunction.  However, with government assistance, hard work and self-discipline GM has returned to health.  There on the far right are two prime examples of government dysfunction, the Vietnam War and the second Iraq War.  In both cases the dysfunction was rooted in miscalculation, over-reach, ignorance and unclear goals. The imprint of the Viet Nam War can still be seen on an entire generation and its attitudes toward war.  The second Iraq War is like a never ending nightmare that we can’t awake from.  Just when we think it’s ending it takes on a different identity and draws us in.  Now for our newest exhibit,  holding the place of honor right in the center of the hall, the Republican Party.

As with all of our new featured exhibits we are pleased to provide an analysis of the dysfunction that brought them to Dysfunction Junction.  However, we must admit, we are still a little overwhelmed as this is the first  political party that has ever warranted a place here at the Junction. It seems that the best way to begin our analysis is to understand what a political party is.  In general terms it is an organization that seeks to achieve its goals through the electoral process and the acquisition of political power both locally and nationally.  This definition presupposes a commonality of goals and a leadership  structure to guide the process before, during and after the elections.  By that definition the Republican Party is no longer a functioning party and has therefore found a place of prominence at our facility.  While it is true that the party appears to be functioning in many state and local governments, upon closer analysis calling it a party might be a misnomer.   Can we look at the Republican Party organization in each state across the nation and find them to have a core commonality?  Certainly local issues and characteristics will tweak the Party in one direction or another, but is there a  commonality in goals and values?  Perhaps we can find a regional commonality , but certainly that is not the case across the nation.  The second question we must ask is about leadership.  Who are the functioning leaders of the Republican Party?  Now we’re talking about leaders that have the support of a majority and are able to guide the party and move it.  To even a casual observer it is clear that the Republican Party is currently leaderless and directionless.


The extraordinarily bazaar situation in the Republican presidential nominating process is both entertaining and tragic at the same time.  As we combine it with the inability of the House to find anyone willing to consider the Speakership in light of the Freedom Caucus’ demands we see a party that has become rudderless as it heads into severe weather.  The Republican Party has fallen victim to its own rhetoric and legitimized the most extreme elements.  The extreme right-wing, formerly a fringe of the Party, has now taken a position of power causing paralysis and creating critical dysfunction.

The key question is how long the Party will remain here.  Will it be able to pull itself together or will it be replaced in the functioning world by a new party?  This situation is unprecedented in modern American history.  We will watch with interest as the Republican Party continues to hold its place of prominence here at Dysfunction Junction.

Those Who Call Themselves “Politicians” Will Never Work On Behalf Of Our Interests

We have heard every excuse in the book.  We have heard every reason imaginable for preventing the passage of a universal gun registration law.  Yet, we still haven’t heard the honest reason.  It is a tragic truth that the senators and congressman are afraid of offending the NRA.  They aren’t afraid of offending the millions of people in America who have been impacted by gun violence.  They aren’t afraid of the millions of Americans who support a universal gun registration law.  But rather, they are afraid of offending the small oligarchical leadership of the NRA.  How is it that this organization has such incredible power over our legislators?  How is it that the will of this organization is of greater import than the will of millions of Americans?

I believe the answer is in the character of those we select to represent us in Washington D.C.  Any student of American History is aware that serving as a Congressman or Senator was never intended to be a career.  It was seen as a pure opportunity for selfless public service for a time-limited period. Unfortunately, the evolution of this concept has brought us a selfish, self-serving and spineless group of individuals called “politicians” who seek to spend their entire career in Washington D.C.  Their goal is not to serve the public, but rather to serve their own needs for reelection.  Whatever it takes and whomever they have to please, they will do it to be reelected.  It is a fact that from their first day in office they are planning for and raising money for their reelection.  These are individuals who have neither their constituents’ nor their nation’s best interests at heart.  The only interests they represent are those who provide the financial and electoral support necessary for their reelection.  The problem for America is that we have allowed a group of individuals who call themselves “politicians” to evolve, and as with any individual, self-survival is the priority.

backroom deal making

The NRA is simply lobby backed by many wealthy and influential individuals. Their role is not really ideological, though it is often cast that way, but rather to protect the interests gun manufacturers.  It is not about the Constitution, but rather about money and power.  A Senator or Congressman who goes against the will of the NRA does so at the risk of losing their next election.  There is nothing subtle about it. The NRA ranks the lawmakers and provides financial and organizational support to those who represent their interests.  Those who rank low find that a primary opponent suddenly appears and their reelection is placed in jeopardy.

We are all well aware that in the real world we all must make compromises in our careers and our lives.  It is the strength of our character and our values that dictate just how much and what we are willing to compromise.  We would like to think that those we elect to represent us have our best interests at heart and the integrity to represent those interests with honor.  Certainly I’m painting with a broad brush as I describe the House and the Senate.  There are a few honest men and women who do work hard on our behalf.  But, unfortunately,  these are the exception rather than the rule.  Most of them are self-serving weasels who throw our interests under the bus to guarantee their reelection.

Too often we forget who is in control and who is in charge.  Politicians are very good at making us think that they really know what’s best for us and what should be done.  The fact is they only know what’s best for them, they don’t care about what’s best for us.  As long as we have individuals called “politicians”, there will be a disconnect between what is good for the country and their constituents and what is good for them.  Let’s remind them at the polls who is in charge and what they have to do for us to remain our representative.