I have to admit something. I hate politics. Now you may find that a bit surprising coming from someone who won’t shut up about it, but quite frankly, I wish this whole thing was over, Obama is declared the winner already, and the Republicans could return to rolling women’s rights back to the 1950’s and taking away all our Obamacare. But seriously, I don’t want to get political here, because remember, I hate politics. And that really is the whole point of this article. You see, the real problem with electing someone for president is that there is way too much politics involved. I know that sounds a bit crazy because after all isn't this whole thing about politics? Well yes and no. In past elections it often was hard enough to get past the sound bites and the political ads, but at least ads of the past had to end with the candidate stating, “I’m Brian Dann, and I support this message.” Ok seriously that is scary. If you EVER hear that at the end of an ad, slip me two roofies, plant some cocaine in my glove compartment, and post pictures of me on Facebook dressed like Dr. Frank N Furter with two crack whores in a room at a Red Roof Inn, because I’ve obviously lost my mind! Anyway…today it takes real work, real effort to sort past all the ridiculous sound bites from the media, from pundits, and from the one thing that has been the most destructive to this political system, ads funded by SuperPACs, and really figure out what each candidate stands for, and who you most align with. Now before I go on I am going to assume that you have no idea what a SuperPAC is because most people do not. According to OpenSecrets.org, SuperPACs are:
“…a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 following the outcome of a federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis -- the Super PAC's choice -- as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.”
Yea, I know…Bla,Bla,Bla…what that really means is that millionaires and billionaires can now donate as much money as they desire, to a fund, or "SuperPAC" that “legally” has NO connection at all to any particular candidate(yea, right), and then can spend as much as they desire, to create ads that do not have to contain even a shred of truth, for the sole purpose of making the opponent appear to be an America hating Nigerian who wants to take all your guns, socialize your health care, and make Islam the official religion of the U.S.A…hypothetically…for example. Since “legally” the candidate has NO connection to the SuperPAC (yea, right) and the ad is not funded by the candidate (yea, right), he or she no longer has to say “I, (insert name here), support this message.” “Legally” candidates are not affiliated with those paying for the ad or the SuperPAC, and unlike previous elections where individuals and corporations were caped as to how much they could donate directly to an individual candidate, that is not the case with SuperPACs, so candidates, their supporting parties, and the SuperPACs can spend as much as they want to and effectively “buy” elections thereby destroying our system of democracy as we once knew it. Thank you Supreme Court.
All this is great for the individuals and corporations that are funding the SuperPACs because there goal is for all of us to be mindless drones absorbing whatever Republican or Democratic Koolaid they feed to us, never questioning the truth or validity of their message and hoping that they outspend their opponent to the point that we just buy into whatever garbage we are hearing the most. They are counting on the fact that most people just do not take the time to determine if what they hear in a political ad or on a “Fair and Balanced” news show is really accurate. You see, I don’t have to say who I support. If you know me or have read anything I have written, you know exactly where I stand, but what you don’t know is the reason I stand where I stand. I stand where I stand because after I hear the ads, after I hear the pundits and listen to the speeches, I do the research. I find out what is true and what is not. I educate myself on the issues and then form my own opinion based the facts that I discover. I remove the lies, the propaganda, the politics and the SuperPACs from the equation and look to see who out there is most like me and what I believe in. Then deciding who to vote for, what party to support is a no brainer because my decision is not influenced by them, by the SuperPACs, by the talking points, it is determined by me. It is up to all of us, before we cast our vote to go beyond the ads and the speeches, the pundits and the politicians, and to educate ourselves on the issues, to hold our politicians and those supporting them with unheard of amounts of money accountable for their claims, and to find out, regardless of how we feel personally about the candidate if their positions on the key issues match our own. Then and only then will we be able to be certain that the person you are voting for is the person who is best for you and for this country.
There are many places on the internet where you can find information on the issues and where the candidates stand on them. Here are just a few.
It was the summer of 1988. I was doing a semester abroad. I sat down in this little coffee shop, just off of some street whose name I would not even attempt to pronounce for the fear of twisting my tongue in a knot that I would never get out. After waiting for a few moments, the waiter, who spoke perfect English, handed me a menu. I opened it up and inside was a selection of every kind of coffee and tea concoction that they served. The words were easy, no ventis or grandes, no frappuccinos or macchittos. They kept it simple and I quickly ordered a plain cappuccino. After a few minutes they brought me my drink, then handed me a second menu. Quite honestly, having never been to this kind of coffee shop before, I did not really know what to expect. The last thing I expected was for the next selection of items to be presented to me in a menu, maybe on a plate neatly arranged where I could simply point to the one I wanted, or perhaps in a glass, temperature controlled case like some fine chocolates, but most defintly, not in a menu. At the time I was in college doing a semester abroad and it had been many years, high school exactly, since I had last partaken of this particular indulgence, but considering the uniqueness of this opportunity, an opportunity that I would never have a chance to experience anywhere in the United States at the time, I felt almost obligated to place an order from this second menu. I took my time and looked the menu up and down reading each description, considering my decision carefully knowing that unless I ever came back to this part of the world I most likely would never experience a purchasing opportunity like this again. Then the waiter came back to my table and asked me if I had made my decision. I had. “One gram of Jamaican Sinsemilla please?” The waiter asked, “Would you like anything to smoke that with, a pipe, a bong, a hooka?” Not expecting to be able to partake of it right there and then, I answered, “No, I’ll take it to go.”
I just could not imagine being able to smoke marijuana so openly and legally, and even though I knew that in Amsterdam, where I was visiting for a few days, it was perfectly legal, as an American, the culture shock of being allowed to smoke cannabis as if it was no different than a cigarette or a shot of tequila, was something I just could not wrap my brain around. Quite simply, it was just too weird. Whether I actually smoked it or not was not what was important. It was the experience, the experience of being able to buy something, so openly and so legally, that in the United States is considered so taboo. I paid for my coffee and ganja, placed the bag in my pocket, and walked down to the red light district where I could observe Japanese business men and English students on break legally paying for hookers, another experience that was just too weird to see so openly and legally. Also where there was this little Greek restaurant that I ate at every night I was there. I thought to myself either this country is the most immoral on earth, or they’ve got it all figured out.
In the United States of course marijuana is illegal. The funny thing is, as a teenager marijuana was just as easy to purchase here as it was legally in Amsterdam. The only difference was that in the U.S. it wasn’t done in the openness of a coffee shop, but instead in some guys basement or behind a 7-Eleven. The truth is if a person wants to smoke marijuana, there is not a single law out there that is going to deter them from doing it. I am sure that today, if I wanted to get high, which I don't and haven’t done so since my early college days, in a matter of three phone calls I could buy whatever I want to. So why exactly is marijuana illegal in the United States? To tell you the truth I have no idea. Cigarettes are legal and nicotine is considered to be more addictive than heroine. Marijuana actually has no addictive properties at all and is impossible to overdose on. Alcohol is legal but to this day I have never seen a mob of stoned people beating the crap out of each other, but get a bunch of drunk hockey fans together, and two kegs of Guinness and you have a riot. In the U.S. annually the number of deaths that can be attributed directly to cigarettes is around 450,000. The number of annual deaths directly attributed to alcohol is about 85,000. The number of deaths attributed directly to marijuana... is zero.
Listen, I am no angel. I went to college, I was in a fraternity, I’ve done beer bongs, I have a photo of myself that was taken after a night of drinking Ouzo in Greece and my eyes are going to two different directions. How I got back to the hotel I have no idea but somehow I eneded up on a boat to Mykonos! Hung over doesn’t even come close to how I felt on that boat! And that is from something that is legal. I’m not even going to get in to how addictive alcohol can be, how destructive it can be to a person life, to their family, how many car accidents have been caused and lives have been lost by drunk driving, all from something that is perfectly legal, and not to mention taxed by our government. So why should Marijuana be legal? I’ll tell you why, and this is coming from a guy who does not smoke it. It should be legal because it makes sense. There is nothing stopping anyone from getting it, and the amount of money that we spend on trying to keep it out of this country, on enforcing the laws that exist, on the cost of keeping someone in prison for possessing it, simply is not proportional to the amount of people who are being either prevented or deterred from using it. From 1980 to 2009 the amount of arrests for Marijuana has more than doubled from 401,000 to 858,000, yet the potency of the drug has gone up and so has the usage. Prohibition has simply failed, it is simply not a deterrent. Consistently in surveys of high school seniors it is reported that 85.5% state that marijuana is easy to get. And the amount of money it is costing us to enforce this failed policy, as well as the revenue we are losing from potential taxes, simply does not make economic sense. Just as many Americans will smoke marijuana this year as will buy a new car or truck. The reality is that it is simply a matter of economics.
In June 2005, Jeffery Miron, a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University released a report entitled “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition”. In this report, Professor Miron states, “legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure (it has since been updated to 13.3 billion) on enforcement (costs alone) of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government.” Milton goes on to say that, “the report also estimates that marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.” The amount spent on the prohibition of marijuana and everything associated with it including enforcement, as well as court costs, and daily imprisonment, is estimated to be as high as 27.2 billion per year. So not only could we potentially save as much as 27.2 billion per year but we could also generate a potential revenue of 6.2 billion per year, which would then translate to a combined savings and revenue of 33.4 billion per year to our economy that is facing record deficits in the trillions. In fact this idea of legalizing marijuana is so well received by the economic community that over 500 top economists including three Nobel Laureates have co-signed an open letter to the President, Governors, Senators and State Legislators. In the letter it states:
“The fact that marijuana prohibition has these budgetary impacts does not by itself mean prohibition is bad policy. Existing evidence, however, suggests prohibition has minimal benefits and may itself cause substantial harm.
We therefore urge the country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition. We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods. At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition.” In fact, just just recently during a online town hall meeting hosted by YouTube, President Obama stated, for the first time for any sitting President, in regards to drug legalization,” I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate.” Although he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana, this is the first time ever that any President has shown support for a debate on the subject.
No one is suggesting that marijuana should be made legal for children. The same minimum age logic would apply to marijuana that would apply to alcohol and cigarettes. But the facts are clear. Anyone can obtain marijuana any time they want. The current laws are simply not a deterrent. Prohibition simply has not worked. It didn’t work for alcohol in the 1920’s and it isn’t working for marijuana in the 2012’s. The amount of money being spent in the billions far outweighs any perceived deterrent and every year we are losing revenue from a product that can be controlled and taxed exactly like alcohol and cigarettes are today. In Amsterdam, crime related to marijuana is virtually non-existent and there has been no increase in the use of marijuana due to its legalization. So how is it that Holland has it all figured out but we cant seem to?
I am white. Honestly, I don’t really think about it much, being white that is. Being white really has not been much of a problem for me in my life, in America. No one has ever looked at me with suspicion because I’m white, or pulled me over in a wealthy neighborhood because I’m white, or denied me a place to live, because I’m white. I’ve never lost a job interview, because I’m white, or been asked why so many of us white guys are standing around together, because we’re white. No one has ever crossed the street to walk on the other side when they see me coming, because I’m white, or refused to serve me, because I’m white. And no one has ever wondered why I am walking around their neighborhood, a neighborhood where my father also lives, pursuing me even though the police said not too, while calling me a racial slur, and shot me in the head, killing me…and then claim self defense because they think a box of Skittles and an Ice tea are dangerous weapons…because I’m white. Honestly, that just doesn’t happen to us white guys, and I’ve come to learn that there’s a name for that, White Privilege. Now I didn’t make this up, it really exists, and if you’re not white, you’re thinking to yourself, no joke it exists, because if you are black in this country, what happened to Trayvon Martin, is the fear of every black mother and father in this country, that their son or daughter, or even themselves, will be harassed, discriminated against or even killed, because of no other reason than they are black. If Trayvon was white, this would not have happened.
Personally I never heard of White Privilege until the tragedy of Trayvon Martin. I knew that as a white person in America there were obviously some situations in life that I did not have to deal with, some ways in which society reacted towards me that was different then how they may react towards a black person, but I lived my life never giving it much thought as probably most white people do. I never heard it defined before with the term White Privilege. But before I even heard what the actual definition of what White Privilege was, I knew instantly that the phrase fit, it just made sense. As a liberal, progressive white person, I sometimes like to think that things have gotten so much better in this country. I like to think that because I don’t tend to make color an issue in my own life, because I prefer my kids to be in a school that is more culturally diverse, because I teach my kids to treat all people equally regardless of any differences, because I just don’t encounter the type of prejudice that many black people encounter on a daily basis, and I don’t usually give it much though as to why, I’ve come to falsely believe, as many have, that things have changed. And while we have come a long way in the way of civil rights in this country, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin is a stark reminder that serious, unjust discrimination still exists in this county. And the fact that I don’t encounter these daily acts of prejudice, and I don’t have ongoing fears of being harassed, beat up, or even killed because of the color of my skin means that by default, I have White Privilege, whether I like it or not. And while some may think that having Privilege is something good, in this case it means that we have very far to go in this country before the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be fully realized.
Now let there be no misunderstanding. I have been discriminated against in my life. I am Jewish. I have experienced blatant outright ugly discrimination against me for no other reason than I am Jewish. I experienced kids who teased and beat me up on the playground while they called me Jew boy. I had a co-worker make blatant, anti Jewish remarks that were so offensive the non Jews in the office complained. He was fired. But the difference is that while some people may be able to look at me and think because of some facial features, I may be Jewish, it’s not as evident as the color of a black person’s skin. I have never been pulled over in Highland Park, Illinois because I looked Jewish, but a co-worker of mine was pulled over in Highland Park, Illinois because he was black. I have White Privilege, because of no fault of my own. When I enter a store, no one is going to wonder if I might steal something. I can be assured that I will be treated well at almost any restaurant I go to, and if I travel to certain parts of the south, unless they find out I’m Jewish, and last time I checked I was not wearing a gold Jewish star anywhere on my clothing, no one will harass me. I have White Privilege, but unlike most privilege, this is not something to be proud of. What it means is that our country, because of decades of legalized slavery, because of decades of legalized segregation in both the north and south, because of civil rights legislations that while they were an enormous sign of progress and long over due when they were past, they have also made us complacent. The laws were passed to de-institutionalize discrimination in this country, but many of the attitudes have remained, and because it is now easy to point at the law and say “well it’s now illegal”, we have stopped putting forth the effort to change what was at the core of the prejudice in the first place, the fear, the ignorance and the misunderstanding.
I recently asked my friends on Facebook what they believe White Privilege to be. I was hoping to get responses mostly from the black people I am friends with simply because I wanted their perspective that as a white man I could never have. One wonderful woman, Shawn, who I met on my trip to Australia in December 2010, said “I believe it to be an overall conclusion that you are…trust worthy, right, better, more beautiful, deserve more respect, and not held to the same standards as non whites.” She then went on to say, “And with that said, I think it’s all crap. I don’t believe that anyone is better than me. I am simply amazing. Believe that.” I do believe that. I believe that Shawn is simply amazing as are all of us. I believe that the color of our skin should never give us privilege over someone else. I believe that a country where a man can shoot a seventeen year old boy in the head because of the color of his skin, who is carrying nothing but an Ice tea and a bag of Skittles, and not get arrested, and hide behind a ridiculous law that let him claim self defense, and have the police dismiss the entire situation, says more about the failure of our society as a whole, then it does about this one individual man who killed out of hate and ignorance. I believe that we have much more work to do then just bringing this one man to justice and having him pay for his crime. I believe we must use this crime as a call to action to reform attitudes in this country so that Trayvon Martin’s life has meaning and so that his parents who were so proud of their son can continue to be proud of him. As our President said "I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this, I think about my own kids…If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.”Trayvon does look like our President, and just think how much it must have meant to Trayvon to see someone who looks like him become president. That is not something this President could ever say about me. I am white.
I think most people get it. I really do. It comes down to this. Be nice to each other. It’s that simple. We all just need to be nicer to each other. We can disagree. We can be angry. We can be passionate about this issue or that issue. We can be grateful as I am that President Obama is now our President, or we can even be disgusted by the thought for whatever reasons we have, whether it is the fact that he is a democrat and you are a republican, or even if it is because you are a racist and the President is black, but in the process, in our discourse, we can be respectful to each other, but what we can’t do is be so mean spirited that it fuels a culture of hate so venomous that it is both scary and appalling all at the same time. But before I go on, I want to try something. First, clear your head of any thoughts you may be having at this very moment, I’ll wait… Now that you have done that, I want you to think of President Barack Obama, bowling, wearing nothing but his under wear. Take a minute if you need to, to really picture that in your head. Get a really good image of President Obama bowling in his boxers or briefs, whatever you choose. Good, now that you have that mental image floating around in your brain, forget it. Erase it completely from your head. Do not think of President Obama, bowling, in his underwear. You can’t do it, can you? No matter how hard you try you are now imagining President Obama bowling, wearing nothing but his underwear. It’s out there, I said it, and now you can’t forget it. You see, the reason why you can’t get that image out of your head, even though I told you to erase it from your mind, is because, quite simply, words have consequences. This consequence may be very small. I used words and the consequence is an image you can’t get out of your head. But words can also lead to consequences that aren’t small, that are big, very, very big.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I am in no way insinuating that the hateful tone of our discourse or any individual’s rhetoric was in any way shape or form directly responsible for the shooting that happened in Arizona like some have tried to do. In fact I will go so far as to say that I do not believe for a second that Jared Loughner, the gunman who shot Gabrielle Giffords, was influenced by anyone other than his own deranged mental illness, not even Sarah Palin as many have also attempted to link to this. Jared Loughner is a mad man who was determined that day to reek as much death and destruction as he could and only a miracle and maybe stricter gun control laws could have stopped him. But regardless of Jared Loughner’s actions and the tragedy that occurred in Arizona the fact remains that since Barack Obama was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President, the tone of our discourse has been nothing short of appalling, disgraceful, disrespectful, hateful, and at times plain racist. I knew that when Barack Obama became the Democratic Candidate that this would be a major test for our nation. It would be a test to show who we really are as people. It would be a test to find out just how far we have come in this country or how far we have not. It would be a test to show our true colors. I fully expected we would see the ugly head of racism show itself in ways we expected and did not expect. But for some reason I never thought the hateful rhetoric and racism would last for so long and at times be so blatant. For some reason with this President, the critical rhetoric has much more venom, much more of a tone of deny and destroy everything that this President stands for, and do it at any cost.
The truth is, this is not an article I wanted to write because I didn’t want to finger point and say that it is their fault. I’m certain that there is hateful rhetoric coming from both sides, the problem is that I can only find evidence of this rhetoric from one side. Two separate incidences occurred that made ignoring this rhetoric impossible. The first was a statement this past Thursday by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum while being interviewed by the CNS News. While speaking about President Obama’s stance on abortion, Santorum said,” is that human life a person under the constitution?... And Barack Obama says no. Well if that human life is not a person then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say 'now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.” Just in case you missed it, what exactly does Barack Obama, being a black man, have anything to do with his ability to form a stance on abortion or on any issue for that matter? Exactly what issues is a black man qualified to form an opinion on Mr. Santorum? Oh, I don’t know maybe basketball, or the right water melon to eat, or maybe the best place to learn tap dancing. Rick Santorum may have well said “you people.” This is a clearly racist remark, directed directly at our President, from a former U.S. Senator. And this is exactly the type of hateful rhetoric that we have been hearing from all over this country from both government officials and private citizens alike when speaking about our President. The truth is the dirty little secret about this country, that thousands of people will never admit to, is that thousands did not vote for Barack Obama for no other reason than he is a black man. There are thousands who may have rationalized not voting for President Obama one way or another, and did not want to even admit it to themselves that the bottom line was they did not vote for our President because he is black, but deep down inside at the core of their reasoning, the reason was racism. There is a reason why at tea party rallies, and even at mainstream republican rallies, the participants are always overwhelmingly Caucasian. And it is at these rallies that we see the most hateful signs and t-shirts that I can ever remember at a political function short of a KKK rally. Signs depicting our president as Hitler, or the Joker, signs spewing lies about death panels, or messages that the President hates America, that he wants to turn us into a socialist nation, these are just a sample of what has to stop, if for no other reason than it is just not true, it is lies and it is tearing this country apart. We all need to take a step back. We need our leaders on both sides to send a clear message to their constituents that we need to be truthful about our discourse and respectful to each other. The Republican have the house and they have an opportunity to now set the example, but instead the first thing they do is put thru a piece of legislation called the bill to repeal the “Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”. My god, set the tone from the beginning. This was wrong on at least two levels. First there is no concrete evidence that the Health Care Reform act kills any jobs and to use such language in the name of the bill itself is simply petty and childish. Be respectful and truthful. Call it what it is, a bill to repeal the health care reform act, and nothing more. The second level is that coming from a group that spent the last two years complaining that the Democrats were not doing enough to create jobs and spent too much time reforming health care, why was anytime at all spent on a bill that had no hope of ever being signed into law, to repeal health care? What about jobs? What about getting down to business on something that was not a total waste a time, just to make a point. This wasted time, money and showed a complete lack of respect to the political process.
Now I could go on and on about inappropriate statements from various legislators regarding taking up arms, taking them out, and I could write an entire book on Sarah Palin and her endless string of inappropriate comments, but quite honestly, she is too stupid to know right from wrong so what’s the point. And let me say, that comment directed directly at Sarah Palin is neither hateful, nor inappropriate because it is true and accurate. She had an opportunity to say to the world that even if she did not intend for those “surveyor marks” or “cross hairs” to us simple folk, to come across the way they did, she understands that in retrospect it offended many, may have been inappropriate, and may have sent the wrong message to the country. But instead she presented herself as the victim and blamed the press, and the left. Sure, Sarah Palin and all the others out there who said hateful things are not responsible for the shootings in Arizona, but never the less the negative tone, and the heights that it has reached has done nothing to calm those that need just one spark, one reason to do something crazy. We need to stop the lies about the state of our healthcare system, the lies about Wall Street, and we need to face the realities that maybe there are actually radical changes that need to be made in this country, and that maybe we are not perfect and that while we consider ourselves to be the greatest nation on this earth, maybe we are not as great as we used to be. We are no longer number one in education. We are no longer number one economically. We are no longer number one in manufacturing and for a long time, the only thing that we have been number one in is waging war. In that we are the best, and that is the one thing around the world that we are known for. We need to become the nation we once were, the nation that invented things, that produced things, that truly was the greatest at everything we set our mind to, and until we can stop the climate of hate and division that this country has become accustomed to, we will never be that great superpower ever again. We all want the same thing and the only way to get there is to do one thing, be nice to each other. It’s that simple. Get it?
(Update: Origionaly published after the Arizona shooting, the Colorado theater shooting makes this even more relevant)
From 1999 through 2007, in Great Britain, 473 individuals were killed by firearms. During that same time period in the United States, 106,125 individuals were killed by firearms. What is the difference? In 1997 it was made illegal for a civilian to own an assault weapon in Great Britain. No one owns guns, except for firearms that fall into the category used for hunting, and so far the government has not taken over. There has been no need for their citizens to rise up against a government trying to oppress them, and the argument that now only the criminals will be the ones with guns, simply has not come true. In 2008, gun related deaths in Britain dropped 18% to 42, from 51 the year before, and no, that’s not 42 per 100 people, or 42 per 100,000 people. That’s 42 people total! In 1997 Britain disarmed. They disarmed because of a massacre that occurred in their country. Their politicians took charge, passed legislation and did whatever had to be done to make sure that no one else would die because of a firearm. Imagine that, they actually did something. What a novel idea! People with guns, killed lots of people without guns, so to stop people getting killed by guns, they got rid of guns! That’s fucking genius! So I suppose that is what will happen here now. Monday morning the House and the Senate will all get together, forget about their party lines, and with a collective outrage at the events that have unfolded in Arizona, will passing sweeping legislation that will make all assault weapons illegal for civilians to own, finally putting an end to the extraordinary bloodshed that we have witnessed at Columbine, Virginia Tech, in countless schools and workplaces across our country, from inner-city gang violence, and most recently outside a supermarket in Arizona during a peaceful gathering of Senator Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents. I’m certain that in the name of the victims that fell that day and the others that were wounded, including the death of a nine year old girl, our politicians will finally ignore the gun lobby and the NRA and pass the necessary laws that will ensure that violence of this magnitude will never happen again. And then monkeys will fly out of my ass! Seriously, because that is about as likely as our politicians doing something about this.
Just once I would like to see our politicians forget about getting re-elected, forget about the millions given to them by the gun lobby, and instead do whatever has to be done to save lives. There is no reason for anyone in this country to own an assault weapon of any kind. It’s pure and simple. Make all guns illegal except for ones used for hunting, disarm all civilians, including the criminals and no one will need a gun to protect themselves because there will be no guns for a person to be protected from. This is not rocket science people! It is illegal for a civilian to own a grenade launcher. I don’t need to own my own grenade launcher to protect myself from crazy people with grenade launchers. No one has grenade launchers so that threat does not exist. The fact is gun control laws as they exist today do not work. The criteria required to declare a person insane is too strict. The fact that the laws are different from state to state make it that much easier for any person no matter what their background to obtain an assault weapon. The fact that gun shows do not require a seller to perform any kind of background check, and any person, no matter their criminal record or how insane they may be, can walk into these gun shows and walk out with enough fire power to arm a small country, is simply beyond insanity. The fact that you can buy bullets for these weapons at the same place you can get toys for your kids or your tires rotated is beyond my comprehension. I have a hard time understanding how the executives at Walmart can sleep at night knowing that the bullets used to kill and wound these innocent people in Arizona, were purchased at one of their stores. After the tragedy at Columbine, Kmart, where the bullets used in that massacre came from, had enough sense to discontinue the sales of ammunition from all of their stores. I only hope that the officials at Walmart follow their lead. The fact is that during the shooting that happened in Arizona the individuals who stopped the man with the gun were all people who were unarmed, and the one person who had a gun for his own “protection” almost shot an innocent bystander, had he not been stopped from doing so.
Tonight on Nightline they interviewed five children who had all left letters as part of the makeshift memorial for those that were killed and wounded outside the supermarket with Senator Giffords. This nine year old boy read his letter. He hoped that Gabrielle Giffords would get well soon because, as he put it, “what will we do without her”. Then the reporter asked him if he has been thinking about this since it happened, and the boy asked, in a way that only a little nine year old boy could, “What is the government going to do, what are they going to do?” This time it can’t be nothing. This time it has to be something, because somewhere in Arizona there is a little boy who is scared that a man with a gun, using bullets that came from the same store where his mom and dad buy his toys, is going to shoot him, and all he wants to know is “what is the government going to do? Well…what?
On this, you can do something. Call your Senator and your Representatives and leave them a message stating that in the wake of the tragedy that happened in Arizona you would like them to support stricter gun control laws. Believe it or not, they do listen. To find the direct phone numbers for your representatives in Congress go to http://www.contactingthecongress.org/.
I don’t often feature other writers on NorthShoreDad.com, but once in a great while I come across an article written so well and so powerful that I realize that there is no way I could have said it better myself. The shootings in Arizona of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords her staff members, a nine year old girl, and others, defies understanding and deserves only outrage. I applaud the members of the house from both parties for coming together in the most bi-partisan way to support this senator, her aids and the others that were mortally wounded. I only hope that this same spirit, that we are more than just party members, we are humans, and that we can accomplish more as friends then we can as enemies, will be remembered in the days and weeks to come when these legislators debate the issues at hand. Speaker of the House, John Boehner said of Rep. Giffords, “Gabby was attacked while doing the most important role of a member - listening.” And in an e-mail I received from former Senator Alan Grayson, he said about Rep. Giffords, “Gabby is one of the most cheerful, charming and engaging people I have ever known. She's always looking on the bright side. She has something good to say about pretty much everyone. Bad news never lays a glove on her. She loves life, and all the people in it. No matter what is going on in your life, after fifteen minutes with Gabby, you'll feel that you can touch the stars.” But what struck me as soon as I heard this news was what a gun, in the hands of someone who should never have had it, did to another human being. Enough is enough. I ask you to read this article by Dennis Hennigan of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, regarding the shooting in Arizona. Frankly, I could not have said this better myself.
As the nation recoils from the horror of the mass shooting in Arizona, I am struck by a strong sense of terrible inevitability. The cauldron of political violence had been allowed to boil for too long. As it did in 1995 with Timothy McVeigh, at some point violent action was destined to follow the violent talk and the brandishing of guns.
It started two summers ago during the red hot public debate over health care, when angry protesters with guns started showing up at Presidential events and town hall meetings. A dozen people openly carried guns outside the Phoenix convention center where the President was giving a speech, including one with an AR-15 assault rifle strapped to his back. A New Hampshire man stood outside another Presidential appearance on health care reform with a pistol strapped to his thigh. And like a bizarre premonition of yesterday’s shooting, in August of 2009 an armed protester actually dropped his handgun at an earlier “Congress on the Corner” event with Rep. Giffords, then as now outside a Safeway.
And then there was Nevada Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle, with her call for “Second Amendment remedies” to be used “when our government becomes tyrannical.” Indeed, openly displayed pistols became commonplace at Tea Party events. Threats of violence were made against supporters of the President, and the windows of Democratic offices were shattered across the nation, including the district offices of Rep. Giffords (apparently by gunshot), all in apparent response to an appeal from a right wing website. A political extremist, inspired by the ravings of Glenn Beck, was intercepted on his way to attack San Francisco’s Tides Foundation. During her reelection campaign, Rep. Giffords’ Republican opponent exemplified the toxic mix of guns and politics when he held campaign events where he invited his supporters to rally against her by joining him in shooting machine guns.
In the wake of the Tucson bloodshed, there has been much commentary already about the incendiary rhetoric and violent imagery that has invaded our political discourse. The Becks and the Palins who have so poisoned our politics deserve our derision. But it is not only an issue of rhetoric and imagery. The fact is that the rhetoric springs from an ideology of political violence – a set of convictions about the relation between citizens and their government — that has found a home among radical “gun rights” zealots.
When Sharron Angle spoke of “Second Amendment remedies,” she was echoing a core belief of the “gun rights” movement, including the leaders of the National Rifle Association, that guns are legitimate tools of political dissent. The NRA often talks of the Second Amendment as the “First Freedom,” because it is the potential of an armed populace to take up arms against their political leaders that deters tyranny. In the aftermath of Tucson, it is chilling to recall the words of an NRA official, who told the New York Times some years ago, that “the Second Amendment . . . is literally a loaded gun in the hands of the people held to the heads of government.” Or, as NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2009, “Freedom is nothing but dust in the wind till it’s guarded by the blue steel and dry powder of a free and armed people . . . Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.”
Much is yet to be known about the beliefs and motivations of the Tucson killer. But we know for certain what he has done. He targeted a U.S. Congresswoman, who now lies critically wounded, and his attack killed six innocent people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child, as well as wounding 13 others. At some level, he felt justified to take up arms against a government official. He sought to “make his own rules” with a semi-automatic pistol. The result was mass slaughter.
In our republic, the rules are made, not through violence, but through the vigorous discussion of issues between the people and their elected representatives. Ironically, that is what was occurring outside that Tucson Safeway when the gunman struck. He was attacking not just Rep. Giffords and her constituents. He was attacking our cherished tradition of peaceful dissent and democratic decision-making. In hindsight, it seems especially appropriate that, during the recent reading of the Constitution on the House Floor, Rep. Giffords read the First Amendment.
The time has come for political leaders of both parties, whether liberal or conservative, to renounce the ideology of political violence. Ideas have consequences. The idea that “the guys with the guns make the rules” has inevitable consequences that can no longer be tolerated.
“We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization” - Franklin D Roosevelt
Looking back at 2010, ask yourself what do you think was the single most important news story of this year? That is exactly what the Associated Press asked 180 of the top U.S. editors and news directors in their annual poll. Without telling you what I think the single most important news story was of 2010, I will tell you that I believe that all 180 of these editors and news directors got it wrong. The reason I believe this is because from looking at their answers, what I really believe they answered was, what do you think the most “popular” news story was of 2010, and there is a vast difference between what was the most popular news story and what was the most important news story. Now don’t get me wrong, all of the stories that were chosen were news worthy stories and deserved the attention that they received. All of these stories had a vast impact on the world, the environment, and politics. They kept us interested, engaged us, angered us, and often shocked and sometimes awed us. But I still don’t believe that any of them were the most important. The winning story of this poll was also the story that lasted the longest, was probably the most disturbing, and coincidently generated the most news readership, the BP Gulf Oil Spill. I know what you are thinking, what could be more important than the Gulf Oil Spill. The sheer impact that this disaster has had and will continue to have on the environment, on the people and communities of the gulf coast and on generations to come is immeasurable. And the way that it was handled by both the government and by BP is inexcusable. This is clearly a disaster that since it happened once will certainly happen again. It is important, but never the less it is far from the most important story. It sold the most news papers, generated the most ad revenue, but it was not the most important. Some of the other stories that made the cut were:
The Health Care Insurance overhaul - with legislation that paved the way for millions more Americans to have insurance coverage, the end to pre-existing conditions, extension of coverage for minors, extended drug benefits, but without the inclusion of a public option, in my opinion, did not go far enough.
The Elections in November - Where the Republicans took the house and gained seats in the Senate.
The Economy - with unemployment staying above 9%, foreclosures on the rise, home prices down, even though consumers were spending more.
The Earthquake in Haiti - Human devastation and a corrupt government.
The Tea Party movement – Oh PLEASE, don’t get me started.
The Mine Rescue in Chile – It was incredible, emotional and great TV.
Iraq - The ending of formal combat operations, but when isn’t Iraq a top news story?
WikiLeaks – Hero or demon? I guess that’s a matter of perspective.
Afghanistan – Again, when isn’t this a top news story. Each day it’s something different.
Each one of these stories that made the cut were all important, incredible, headline making news stories and deserve to be on this list, but the one story that is missing, and that while it might not have made the most headlines and sold the most newspapers, is far more significant than any of the stories mentioned. And that is because this story isn’t just about a disaster or an election, a rescue or the economy. This story is about the rights of people. This story is about a monumental leap in human decency. This is a story about correcting a wrong that regardless of politics or religion, was finally made right and brings our nation one step closer to ending legalized discrimination everywhere in this country. The story that is missing and should have been number one on that list is the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell from our U.S. Military.
If you’re not homosexual or not in the military don’t be so quick to think that this story doesn’t apply to you because it does. While this particular chapter of the history of civil rights in this county is focused on homosexuals, this is only the most recent chapter of the battle for equality for all people living in this country. Discrimination in America has affected African-Americans, Jews, Mexicans, Japanese , women, the handicapped, as well as homosexuals. This battle while currently focused on the wrongs being perpetrated against homosexuals is part of a long process of eradicating legalized discrimination against Americans from all walks of life. At one time African-Americans were legally separated from “white” Americans in our schools, at our drinking fountains, on the bus, and even in the voting booth. At one time women were restricted from voting because the law said that to vote you must own land, and most women did not. It was just two years ago that President Obama signed in to law the Lilly-Ledbetter Act that guaranteed woman equal pay in the work place. At one time it was legal for the handicapped to be denied entry in to buildings and even employment due to the barriers of curbs and stairs. At one time it was legal for Jews to be denied employment or membership in certain clubs for no other reason than they were Jews. At one time Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps for no other reason than they were of Japanese descent. And at one time openly gay individuals were denied entry into our armed forces simply because of their sexual orientation and were forced to pretend they were straight or face a military court marshal and dishonorable discharge, not unlike my wife’s grandmother who in world war two was forced to pretend she was Christian or face death at the hands of the Nazis. All of these injustices were once legal. While this story made the news for a day or two, it was not seen as meaningful of a story because today homosexuality is much more accepted then it was in the past. We see gays and lesbians on television all the time. It is no longer shocking to see people of the same sex kiss each other in sitcoms, dramas or movies. We have openly gay talk show hosts, politicians, and news commentators. And I believe that most of us expected DADT to eventually be overturned, but expecting it to be and it actually happening are two different things.
To help place things in perspective we need to realize exactly where we have come from on the issues related to the discrimination against homosexuals in America. As recent as 2003, nine states had laws on the books that made sodomy illegal, not only for homosexuals, but for anyone. That’s right, if a two people of the same or opposite sex wanted to have anal intercourse, in the privacy of their own home, it was against the law. Four additional states specifically directed those laws towards homosexuals. Exactly how they planned on enforcing those laws I am not really sure. Currently there are fifteen states that do not have any hate crime laws that include crimes involving sexual orientation or gender identity and there are five states that have no hate crime laws at all. As early as 2003 President Bush stated in a press conference that he was for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In 2004 a Kansas court ruled that homosexuals having sex with a minor could receive harsher sentences than heterosexuals committing the same crime. These laws exist. These attitudes exist, and they are wrong. No one is ever going to be able to stop individuals from discriminating, or stop religious groups from thinking that homosexuality is a sickness that they can cure, because the real disease is ignorance. Ignorance, unlike homosexuality is learned and the cure comes from education, from exposure and from our government and its leaders sending the message that legally these discriminatory practices will not be tolerated. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.”
The late Senator Edward Kennedy said during his speech at the funeral for his brother Robert:
“There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”
In 2001, a network administrator who I worked with at one of the largest, most prestigious law firms in the United States, and whose headquarters was located in Chicago decided to do a search of all of the employee folders on one of the main servers where each employee saved their “personal” files, for any file that ended in JPG, MOV, or AVI, or in other words, any photo or video files. He was not looking for anything in particular, but instead just to see what types of things the partners and associates at this firm were looking at. Like almost every employee in that I.T. department he had full access to every file, every piece of information, no matter how mundane or sensitive that information was to the person or the firm. Major case files, major pieces of discovery, major evidence that could easily be copied on to a DVD and passed along to the opposing council, were all available to every person in that I.T. Department, completely unrestricted in any way. The only thing stopping anyone in that department from stealing any data they wanted to and passing it along to anyone they wanted to was the confidentiality agreement each employee signed, and a certain level of blind trust, not any real network security or restrictions to data, just trust. What was most interesting about what that network administrator found that day, when he searched for every photo or video file that was in the home folders of some of the highest paid partners and associates at this firm, was not the amount of sensitive legal evidence that could have been stolen and passed to council or the press, yes that was there, but instead the amount of pornography, racist or offensive “humor”, or even illegal materials that could ruin the careers of any one of those lawyers. And it wasn’t just a handful of photos and videos that were found, it was thousands. One attorney’s folder actually contained a video of a woman having intercourse with a horse. This law firm was lucky. Nothing was ever done with what was found, no one was turned in for having inappropriate materials, although they could have and probably should have, and the I.T. Department had a good laugh at the attorney’s expense, which I’m sure is some kind of HR violation right there. The files that were found were all copied for safe keeping and deleted from the attorney’s folders with certain confidence that no one would be coming to us to complain, “Where is my video of a woman screwing a horse?!” And even if that video was evidence in a case, it was not the proper place for evidence to be stored.
If you think I am trying to make some point here about what is appropriate or not appropriate to save on your work computer, or any type of commentary on the morality of attorneys, then you are wrong. Personally, having worked in Information Technology, I always find it amazing the types of things I find on the computers that people use for work. A work computer is the property of the company you work for and so is everything on it, so keep that in mind next time you are thinking about checking out barelylegal.com on your company laptop. The point I am making here is simple. What just happened to the U.S. Government with the release of tens of thousands of documents, that supposedly were considered secure but instead were easily obtainable by anyone of the 600,000 persons with security clearance to those electronic network based files, was a WikiLeaks accident just waiting to happen, and if you think the data at your own company is secure for even just one heartbeat, you are wrong. The data at your own company not only can be stolen but I will go so far to say, to some degree, it has been. Keep in mind, the U.S. government was not hacked into by international foreign spies, or by operatives working for Al Qeada. The information obtained, stolen, and given to WikiLeaks was done so by a U.S. soldier working internally inside the I.T. structure of the supposedly secure computer network of the U.S. military and government. The files leaked to the world were simply copied off a server and on to one or more DVD disks, and no one knew about it until it became international news, and a nightmare not just for the Obama administration but also governments and individuals around the world. The biggest threat to any organization whether private or public is not external threats but internal ones. Employees today have far too much access to the information stored on company networks and any person who has worked in any I.T. department for any decent amount of time will tell you that the WikiLeaks indecent doesn’t surprise them at all, in fact they will tell you that they are surprised it didn’t happen sooner. With USB flash drives available up to 64 gigabytes a person could easily walk out of a company with millions of confidential and damaging documents without ever being noticed. And to complicate things further, the trend towards outsourcing the administration of company servers and data farms to third party firms that have no vested interest in the data they are administering is like handing the keys to your house to a group of strangers and hoping they don’t steal your jewelry. According to Perimeter E-Security, a security firm based in Milford, CT, who each year publishes their list of the Top 10 Threats to Information Security, “Malicious Insiders” are the number two threat for 2010, only to be beaten by “Malware”, and falling from the number one spot last year. According to this report:
“Malicious insiders were listed as the #1 threat for 2009 and were listed as a rising threat. According to a survey released in October of 2009 by Actimize and reported by DarkReading, nearly 80% of financial institutions worldwide say the insider threat problem has increased in the wake of the economic downturn. 70% of financial institutions reported incidents of insider fraud in the last 10 months. Nearly half of the banks in the Actimize survey say they are losing 1 to 4 percent of their total revenues to insider fraud.”
This report also cites a number of specific incidents including:
The University Medical Center in Las Vegas learned that an employee allegedly leaked confidential patient data including Social Security numbers, billing data, and full descriptions of injuries and it has been reported that the information was sold.
A T-Mobile employee stole customer records and sold them to a data broker who in turn sold the data to T-Mobile competitors. It included millions of records that contained valuable information such as account expiration date so competitors could target those customers at the time they may look for a new provider.
Former Bank of New York Mellon employee Adeniyi Adeyemi was indicted on identity theft charges. He was charged with grand larceny, identity theft, and money laundering after stealing and using New York Mellon employee information. He opened phony bank and brokerage accounts where he deposited stolen money.
It would be very easy for all of us to focus on the person or persons who reportedly stole this information, or the founder of WikiLeaks who made the choice to publish this information for the world to see but the reality is, it is the government who opened up their networks to far too many individuals and made it far too easy for this information to get out. Should we be surprised that there were secret deals made behind closed doors, or that the CIA is involved in things that could be considered illegal or even immoral, or that foreign leaders presented their views to the public in one way but communicated entirely different messages in “private”? There is an old saying that goes, “ignorance is bliss.” Quite frankly I depend on the fact that we don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes nor should we. International politics is a dirty, stinky world and it is these behind closed doors where private deals and conversations make politics function. The problem is that to get us to the places that we need to be, whether it is a peace in the middle east or nuclear disarmament, trade agreements or the search for terrorists, it is counterproductive for us to know the details of every e-mail and covert operations that is happening around the world. All that we really need to know is that peace was made, deals were formed, hostages were released, and our troops came home. How it all happens is something that we are better off not knowing because if we did, much of what is now history may not have happened. The individuals who are responsible for leaking this information should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if for no other reason than they broke the law, but they are merely a symptom of a larger problem that effects governments and private organizations around the world and that is the security of our internal networks and who is given keys to the kingdom. Without serious action taken in both the private and public sectors “Malicious Insiders” will continue to be one of the top two threats to network security and this will not be the last we will hear from WikiLeaks.
So, how do I put this tactfully? Awe forget it, there is no way to put this tactfully. Obama got his ass handed to him on a silver platter Tuesday. At his news conference the next day he looked like a wet puppy dog standing in the rain that just got struck by lightning. The correspondent from Fox News looked happier then Glenn Beck does after he pleasures himself to a photo of Sarah Palin. The Republicans, the Tea Party, Fox News, they did it, so go ahead guys gloat, no really it’s ok, I understand. After all you did get your asses handed to you two years ago and we did plenty of gloating at that time, so go ahead, I’ll wait………Are you done? Good, now shut the fuck up because here’s the deal. You didn’t win. I know what you are saying to yourself. “What, are you on crack Brian? We won the house. Nancy Pelosi is out, we run things now. The people spoke and the people told Obama NO! This was a direct repudiation of Obama’s reckless policies! We are taking this country back! How’s that hopey changy thing working for you now!? Palin for President, Palin for President! WE WON!” Let me say this again, You…didn’t…win. Oh sure, you took the house, but you didn’t win.
One of my favorite shows is The Apprentice. Inevitably on each season there are one or two people who do nothing but complain. They are no help to the team, and think they know everything and week after week they skate by while someone else takes the fall. Then comes the week when it’s their turn to step up to the plate and be project manager, and prove that they know better than everyone else, and prove that they are not all talk, and nine out of ten times, when the task is over, when the talking is finished, when they get to the board room, they lose, and The Donald says to them those two words that no one in that board room ever wants to hear, “You’re Fired.” You see, while it may seem like the Republicans won, what happened on Tuesday was actually the best of scenarios for President Obama and the Democrats because now the Republicans have power. And the Republican and Tea Party candidates who got elected, who vowed to take back this country can no longer simply blame President Obama and the Democrats for the issues that face this country. The Republicans can no longer just sit back and say “no” to every initiative that the President tries to push through. It’s easy to let the President take the fall for all of the issues facing our nation when you have no power to do anything about it, but now the Republicans have the power and with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability.
The reality is that the Republicans took the elections that they did, in the numbers that they did, not because “the people rejected the failed policies of Obama”, but instead for a number of reason, the first being that President Obama overestimated the American public’s ability to wait for change. Obama, like every presidential candidate has done, promised change on a scale that was epic in proportion. The people expected Obama to swoop in like super hero, create jobs out of thin air, and magically turn around the economy. But what the President neglected to tell everyone was that it just does not happen in less than two years. To turn around an economy and restore the amount of jobs that were lost during the Bush era takes time. After Obama got done fighting to become president he thought all he had to do now was govern and the people would wait for the results. He was wrong. What he did not expect was the amount of continued fight and venomous opposition he would receive from those on the other side. He did not expect a Republican party that would do anything it could to stop every initiative that the Democrats put through. He did not expect a Republican party that would refuse to find any middle ground with the Democrats on any issue. He did not expect A Tea Party movement funded by billionaires and corporations that spread lies about health care reform. He did not expect town hall meetings that were drowned out by republican protesters who were instructed on exactly what to say to make those meetings as unproductive as possible. He did not expect a major “News” organization to actively participate in and broadcast in their entirety “Tea Party” rallies. He did not expect ongoing campaigns designed to discredit everything from his religion to his citizenship, but this is what he got and more. The mistake the President made was not beating them at their own game. It became clear early on that the Republicans, the Tea Partiers and Fox News were not going to do what has traditionally happened in the past and accept who ever won the election as their leader and give that person their full support.
The president neglected to realize that the campaign was not over, the fight was just beginning and he needed to be just as vocal if not more vocal then his opposition was. To put it simply, the Republicans yelled louder, while the President didn’t yell at all, and by the time he started, it was already too late. It didn’t seem to matter that the middle class received the largest tax break in decades. It didn’t seem to matter that the Stimulus Package prevented our country from slipping further into a depression. It didn’t seem to matter that 30 million more people who could not get health insurance in the past now could, or that no one could be denied health insurance for pre-existing conditions. It did not seem to matter that preventive medicine is now free, or that there is no longer a co-pay on birth control. It did not seem to matter that women are now guaranteed equal pay in the workplace, or that the balance on student loans will be erased after twenty years of on time payments. It did not seem to matter that millions of jobs were saved by keeping GM and Chrysler in business, or that the ban on stem cell research was over turned. It didn’t seem to matter that the President Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America's Veterans, or that he Signed the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care 4 million children who were previously uninsured, or that he banned the Bush Administration’s approved use of torture as a method of interrogation by our armed forces, or that he established the Credit Card Bill of Rights, preventing credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases on customers, or that he increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act, or that he expanded hate crime law in the US to include sexual orientation through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or that he signed a financial reform law establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans, or that he cut prescription drug cost for medicare recipients by 50%, or that he appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history! I just did not seem to matter! But why? Because President Obama did all of these great things and more in less than two years, but didn’t tell anyone.
You didn’t win. You didn’t win because blaming the President is now over, the Republicans are now responsible and unless jobs are created and our economy improves they will be accountable as well. You didn’t win because by lying about everything from the President’s religion to his proposed “Death Panels” you disrespected the American people and did them a disservice. You didn’t win because if President Obama is prevented from passing even one piece of ground breaking legislation even remotely similar to the type of legislation he was able to get passed in less than two years, then all of us will have lost. I’m sorry, but you didn’t win.
This is who you should vote for. Oh, I already know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m going to tell you to vote Democrat. You’re thinking, why am I even bothering, after all Brian Dann is about as far left as Glenn Beck is right. You may even be thinking, who the hell is Brian Dann to be telling me who I should vote for. Some of you may even be thinking, who the hell is Brian Dann. And if that is what you’re thinking, you’re right. So, this is who you should vote for. But before I get to that let me just ask you this. Is there really anything that I can write at this moment that could make you change who you are going to vote for? Haven’t you by this point really made up your mind, and isn’t it true that over the next two days, no matter how many negative political ads that you see on the TV, or hear on the radio, you are not going to change what you are going to do when you step into that voting booth on November 2nd? Isn’t it true that by this time you have mostly tuned out those political ads narrated by that guy with the deep gravelly voice that paints their opponent as the worst thing that could possibly happen to this country since 9/11? And isn’t it true that it would be completely presumptuous of me to think that for me to tell you who you should vote for would make one god damn bit of difference in this election on Tuesday?
The gods honest truth is this. I don’t care what party any politician associates themselves with. I don’t care what the opposition is saying about them or what half truths the supposedly fair and balanced media has twisted about them. The truth is that for anyone to decide to devote their life to serving the public by running for political office takes a certain type of individual. The truth is that for all of the bad things that people say about politicians, at least in the beginning, before all of the lobbyists and special interest groups get to them, or before they become overly consumed with their own perceived political power and forget that they are supposed to be representing the people in their districts, they are all essentially good people. The truth is that they align themselves with a certain political party, be it republican or democrat because they intend to support the agenda of that party. And the truth is that all of the negative rhetoric that we hear in every political ad, year after year, does not mean a single thing because for one, anyone can say whatever they want about their opponent in a political ad, and it does not make it true, and for two, most politicians are essentially good people at least in the beginning assuming they are not tied to the mob, or their name does not rhyme with Shmod Zgloyavich. The real problem with our system of electing politicians is that we rely too much on political ads and political pundits who put way too much time and energy into spreading lies about whoever it is that they want to bring down. The sad truth is that if Glenn Beck keeps saying over and over, day after day that Obama is a racist, socialist, Muslim who hates America and was born in Kenya people will start to believe it, and they have. If enough people started claiming that the earth was flat and kept hammering that message over and over again, day after day, you would end up with a segment of the population who no matter what scientific proof is presented to them, would believe that the earth is indeed flat. And this is exactly what politicians count on. They count on the fact that no matter how false and misleading their ads are, people will believe it long enough to cast their vote. FOX news depends on the fact that human beings are gullible and that regardless of the facts, as long as they present their message in a format that somewhat resembles news, it will influence enough of the population to push through their agenda for them. Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite when news people presented the day’s news, unbiased as simply facts. In today’s twenty-four hour news channels there is a constant need to fill time and space and today the pundits and fear mongers outnumber the actual unbiased news. Today we base our votes on what news channel we watch because each station presents the “news” with its own built in bias instead of simply the facts, and the line between news and opinion is gone, because unlike in the old days when on my local CBS news at 10 they would announce “and now perspective with Walter Jacobson,” at which time we knew we were about to get Walters opinion on things, we no longer can tell when it is news and when it is perspective.
And this brings us to Jon Stewart. If you ask Jon Stewart what he is he will tell you that he is a comedian. But if you ask the American people that question, which Time Magazine actually did in July of 2009, they will tell you that he is the most trusted News Anchor in America. (Time Mag Poll)Yes that is right, not Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, or Katie Couric… Jon Stewart. Now I like Jon Stewart. If you are a loyal reader of NorthShoreDad you know that I regularly feature videos from the Daily Show, and I do so because I believe that Stewart, is more than just a funny man. He has a way of exposing the media and the politicians for who they really are, with a rare honesty that is frequently non existent in today’s journalism, and uses humor to stress the hypocrisy that often exists in today’s world. But Americans most trusted News Anchor? I believe that the fact that this poll by Time Magazine yielded the results that it did is much more of a reflection on today’s state of journalism then it is on Jon Stewart’s prowess as a news man. And to this I believe that Stewart himself would agree. Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, or Katie Couric should have been one of the winners of that poll and the fact that not a single FOX news anchor was even mentioned in this poll says a tremendous amount about the “Fair and balanced” claim of Fox news. The reality is that we can no longer depend on what the news reports to us, whether that news is from FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS. The reality is that any story that has any trace of politics in it is rarely reported without some sort of spin or angle to it. The reality is that if we really want to know what is going on with any political figure or issue we must do our own research and forget what is reported by anyone. We can’t blame the politicians because we expect them to run negative ads and anyone who solely bases their vote on what is said in a political ad is a fool and deserves whatever they get.
So this is who you should vote for… no one. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you do not vote. That would be stupid and if you choose not to vote then don’t complain when the person who wins isn’t the one you wanted. What I am suggesting is that instead of voting for a person, vote for a party. Why, because no matter what crazy negative thing you hear about any of the candidates, the bottom line is that when that person gets into office, they are going to support whatever the agenda is of whatever party they are a part of. And if you feel that your values are more in line with the Democrats then you should vote for the Democratic candidates. And if you feel that your values are more in line with the Republicans, then you should vote Democrat. (Oops I meant Republican)
But to those who voted Democrat in the last election and are considering switching their vote tomorrow I say this. You are dissatisfied, I get it. You didn’t get everything that was promised and everything that you wanted, I get it. Unemployment is still high, foreclosures are still happening, healthcare reform was passed but didn’t go far enough, and Wall Street is still robbing us blind, I get it. George W. Bush and the Republicans financially destroyed this country decimated our reputation around the world and you wanted President Obama to fix it all in less than two years, I get it. But before you pout all the way to the polls and stomp your feet because you didn’t get your way, before you start to cry because you wanted three scoops of ice cream and Papa Obama only gave you two, realize that the Democrats want to do something about it, and given the time they will. The Republicans won’t and only want to return us to the George W. Bush policies that brought this country to its political knees. Believe all of the rhetoric that FOX News, The Tea Party, and Sarah Palin keep spewing about how we need to take back our country, then remember that two years ago we already did. Then step into that voting booth, cast your vote for the party you believe in. That is who you should you vote for.
During the last election I was asked by a friend, “Are you better off today then you were yesterday?” The assumption was that if I answered yes I should vote Republican and if I answered no then I should vote Democrat. The problem though is that the question itself is flawed. The question forces us to consider nothing but our own situation and assumes that this is all that matters in deciding what candidate will be best for us, when in reality we should be considering not what is best for us as individuals, but what is best for all of us as a country. The American Dream is that we are all given the opportunity to be anything we want to be, but the fact is that while this may be true for some, for others their situation makes it harder to obtain this dream. Today the line between the haves and the have nots is growing bigger and bigger, the middle class is growing smaller and smaller, and as this next election gets closer we all have to ask our selves, are we as a country better today then we were yesterday? To answer that let’s consider what has happened since the last election.
Today uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid can get affordable insurance through the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Today, Americans investment in General Motors has saved GM from bankruptcy and thereby has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs not only at GM bus also at the thousands of companies that supply parts and services to GM. With out this investment, which has been fully paid back, the loss of jobs as well as the domino effect on our economy would have been staggering.
Today tobacco companies must disclose all poisons contained in their products, must limit any advertising directed towards minors, and can no longer use words such as “light”, “low”, or “mild” to give the impression of being healthier.
Today our children can not be denied medical insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
Today health insurance companies can not cancel your coverage because you get sick.
Today young adults can be covered by their parent’s health insurance until they are 26 years old.
Today a health insurance company can no longer put a cap on the amount they will cover over your lifetime.
Today for new health insurance plans, preventive medical care is free. This includes screenings for mammograms, vaccinations, vision screening for children, Autism, HIV, and the list goes on. For a full list Click Here.
Today, in an emergency, you can no longer be charged extra for out of network doctors or hospitals.
Today the Mathew Shepard Act allows the government to pursue hate crimes motivated by a persons gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and for the first time extends legal protections to transgendered persons.
Today businesses that employ unemployed workers will receive breaks on payroll taxes.
Today our ability to regulate Wall Street, prevent consumer credit fraud, prevent mortgage fraud, and overall prevent financial collapse is stronger due to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. At the signing the President announced, "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."
Today our standing in the world community has been elevated due to the open dialogue that President Obama has created with the Muslim world. While extremists in the Muslim communities will never be our friends, the trust level between the U.S. and moderate Muslim countries and their citizens has increased.
Today peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, moderated by the Obama Administration, have resumed.
Today our mission in Iraq has been completed and our combat troops have been withdrawn, as promised by President Obama, and thousands of our troops have finally come home.
Today our commitment to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban is back on track and hopefully that will end soon as well.
Today it is easier for students to receive Pell Grants for College and the President has doubled the amount of Pell Grants given out.
Today Students will be forgiven the balance of their student loans if they have been faithfully repaying their loans for 20 years. In addition borrowers will only be required to pay up to 10% of their discretionary income each year on student loans.
Today, if it passes in congress, we have the potential for lower taxes for 98% of our citizens and increases only for the 2% who can afford it.
Today we have the possibility of ending the legalized discrimination in our military against homosexuals.
The answer is, Yes, today we are better, and no matter how loud the Tea Party and their candidates want to yell, no matter how many lies and falsehoods they and their friends at Fox News want to tell us, no matter how often Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh want to claim that we are going to become a socialist nation, that our rights are being stripped away, that the Bush Administration had nothing to do with creating this mess, that President Obama is failing at every thing he is doing, the fact is today we are better. Yes we may still have a long way to go but the fact is that it will take much longer then twenty months to recover from the economic slump that our last administration got us into. Have we spent a lot? Yes, because we are finally investing in rebuilding our own country and not waging wars in others. We are finally putting the U.S. people, businesses and infrastructure before those of the rest of the world. Finally we are taking care of business at home, not just overseas. And to do this it takes time and it takes investment. In order for a company to prosper and grow it needs capitol, it needs to invest in itself and the same is true for our country. There is an old saying that goes, “it takes money to make money.” And for those disillusioned by our President, for those still out of work, and that includes myself, remember this, you elected a man, not a magician. Just like the rest of us he is human and some of our problems will be solved and some of them will not. This is a task bigger then any one man or woman. This is a task that requires patience. This is a task that can not be solved in twenty months or even in one term. And when we go to the polls in November we should only be asking ourselves one question. Are we better today then we were yesterday? Well are we?
Howard Beale, does the name ring a bell? He was the impassioned newsman from the movie Network who coined the famous line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” In the movie he became a voice, a voice with a simple message that people responded to. Today our Howard Beale is The Tea Party. The Tea Party people apparently are all “Mad as hell,” and they aren’t gonna take it anymore! In fact they have made this abundantly clear with their rallies, and marches, and, how should I put it, oh so interesting and inventive characterizations of our President and what his “true” intentions are for our country. If we were to blindly accept what the Tea Party movement tells us, then we would be required to believe that President Obama, most likely was not born in the country and therefore has no right to be president in the first place. We would have to believe that he hates white people, even though his mother was white, which actually makes him half white, which would mean not only would he have to hate his mother but fifty percent of his own family not to mention himself, well at least half of himself. We would also have to believe that he is a Socialist, or Fascist, or Communist, or Nazi, all of which apparently to the Tea Partiers is interchangeable, and he wants to turn our nation into a socialist state. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t the President just reject the idea of government controlled, universal health care, and refused to even include a government run public option in the recent health care insurance reform act? I guess if I’m gonna fully accept the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, then yes, I am mistaken.
But just to make certain that I fully understood the Tea Party movement I wanted to go by more than just talking points from the liberal media, so I decided to do some research on my own. I decided to look at Tea Party sponsored web sites and I decided to Google, “Tea Party platform”. The interesting thing wasn’t what I found, but instead was what I didn’t find, and that was a platform. That is because there is no Tea Party, well at least not in the sense of a Republican Party or a Democratic Party. There is no actual “party.” What there really is, is a bunch of sore loser, pissed off Republicans, who got way to comfortable during the eight years of the Bush administration, and for some odd reason were just fine with having a President who wasn’t able to finish a war that we should have been in, who started a war under completely false pretenses, that we shouldn’t have been in, who diverted billions of dollars away from issues at home such as education, infrastructure, strengthening our boarders, investing in small and medium size businesses, and job creation, just to name a few, in order to pay for these wars, who completely deregulated the mortgage and banking industries that led to the eventual collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, a record number of foreclosures and bankruptcies and a complete meltdown of the stock market, with the ultimate demise of Lehman Brothers and the bailout of AIG. They became all too comfortable with eight years of George Bush running our country into the ground, destroying us financially, and decimating our relations in the world with foreign governments and there people. I’m not sure what ever happened to coming together as a nation and standing behind the candidate who won, but I guess that doesn’t apply when he supports gay rights, stem cell research, thinks it’s OK for women to have abortions in the case of rape or incest, and is black.
What the Tea Party really is, is nothing more then a backlash, but not a backlash against the Democrats or the President, but against the Republicans. The fact is, in 2008 the Republicans didn’t simply loose, they were obliterated on all fronts. The election became more of a referendum on the dissatisfaction of the country with eight years of George Bush and the Republicans, then on the election of Barack Obama. They became a party with out direction, without focus, and without a voice. They were lost and so were the people who followed them. The Tea Party grew out of this. Unfortunately for the Republicans, the loudest voices became the most radical, and the most extreme in their views. They became the voice while the mainstream Republicans faded into the background. And this is where the problem lies for the Republicans. The voice of the Republican party, the ones to rise from the ashes and speak the loudest are those that associate themselves with the Tea Party movement. And in this lies another problem for the Republicans. The voice that is the loudest is also the most disorganized and that is because unlike the Republican party, the Tea Party movement has no central leadership. It is a mish mosh of various groups, with different platforms and with various degrees of radicalism. And this is exactly why I could not find a central platform. It simply does not exist. The fact is, the Tea Party movement is the best thing that could have ever happen to the Democratic party. The Tea Party is nothing but a cancer on the GOP. Instead of bringing them together under one voice that could provide true leadership it has splintered and divided the Republicans. The Tea Party, of no fault but their own, has come to be associated with redneck bigots, who can’t correctly spell a protest sign and thinks Obama is like Hitler. Whether this characterization is accurate or not, it is not something that your average Republican congress person wants to be associated with. There is a reason why the most prominent “politician” associated with the Tea Party movement is Sarah Palin. It is because most legitimate Republican congressmen and women won’t come within ten miles of a Tea Party rally.
What is most interesting about the majority of the people who make up the members of the Tea Party movement is that they are also the people who will benefit the most from the initiatives of the Obama administration. They fall within the 98% of the Americans who don’t make above $250,000 and will benefit from the proposed tax cuts. They are the uninsured and underinsured who will be able to obtain affordable health insurance regardless of there employment status or previous medical conditions. They are the consumers who have been abused by Wall Street, the banking industry and the credit card companies and will now have a voice fighting for them by the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. What the Tea Party members don’t seem to realize is that the best thing that ever happened to them was President Obama yet they continue to fight against him as if he is the enemy. They were perfectly happy with President Bush who fought for big business while neglecting the rest of the country yet they demonize a President who fights for the rights of the middle class. I understand that there are ideological differences when it comes to issues involved with religion, like abortion or gay rights, and I also understand that many can’t get past the fact that we have a president whose name sounds like none other that we have had in the past, and I further understand that for many in the Tea Party movement the color of our Presidents skin may be an issue, whether they want to admit it publicly or not, but the bottom line is that this administration is focused on the issues that effect the bottom ninety-eight percent of Americans and not only the top two percent earners in this country who can actually afford the higher tax burden. And further more the fact is that regardless of the party that you follow, the policies of George W. Bush simply failed and that is why President Obama was elected. It is going to take much longer then twenty months to turn around an economy that took eight years to be decimated my President Bush. The members of the Tea Party movement decided long before President Obama was elected, long before the Tea Party movement even existed that from day one they would never give Obama a chance, and unfortunately even if things improve for all of us, they never will. Even if the President succeeds in turning this economy and the job market around, the Tea Party movement will come up with reasons that will have nothing to do with the President and may even claim he hampered the efforts.
In my research for a Tea Party Platform, what I was able to find was a number of different policy statements put together by different factions of the Tea Party movement. These policy statements were created as guidelines for what to ask local candidates so that a Tea Party member could decide if that candidate fits in with the values of the local Tea Party group. Candidates were to be asked if they agreed or disagreed with these statements. These are a sample of the statements that I found:
1. The Right to Life is a Constitutional right, therefore innocent human beings should have legal protection from conception until natural death. If you hold any exceptions please state them.
- Abortion due to rape or incest is not an option according to most Tea Party factions.
2. The regulation of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere should be left to G-d and not government and I oppose all measures of Cap and Trade as well as the teaching of global warming theory in our schools.
- Apparently to the Tea Party, global warming is just a theory with no scientific evidence to back it up and G-d forbid they talk about it is schools. Why this has become a political issue I have no idea. Maybe it’s guilt or simply denial that we were responsible for f—king up the planet.
3. Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, any other type of Union is not marriage.
- That’s right, g-d forbid a gay couple should have the rights as any other couple in this country. No heterosexual couples ever screw up their kids lives.
4. Children should not be placed into foster homes where the parents are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered.
- But having children in homes with opposite sex couples who are sexual abusers, drunks, drug users, physical abusers, and so on is apparently fine. It’s only homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered persons that are called out.
5. Parental consent should be required for sex education that teaches more than direct abstinence.
- We all know that if we don’t tell kids about sex, they won’t do it.
6. Only US Citizens should be allowed to vote and a photo ID should always be required to vote.
- Exactly when did we start allowing non-U.S. citizens to start voting?
7. I oppose the don’t ask, don’t tell policy of the military and believe that all same sex partners should be banned from combat duty in the military because of the propensity to transmit blood borne diseases in the theater of battle.
- Are you telling me that in 2010 these people still believe that AIDS is only a gay disease? They oppose don’t ask don’t tell not because it’s discriminatory but because it stops them from openly discriminating against homosexuals!
The truth is that the Tea Party movement is as American as apple pie, and over extending our military. It is people exercising their freedom of speech and their right to protest. The problem is that like my father used to tell me, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The Tea Party was created by those that supported the health insurance lobby as a vehicle to protest health insurance reform. The Tea Partiers, regardless of how misguided they are, are loud, vocal, and consistently out there, while the Democrats and progressives are not. The Democrats in 2008 were given a gift of being unopposed in both the House and the Senate and with some exception that gift was squandered. Had they banded together, had the President stopped trying to make friends on all sides, real change and progress could have been made instead of the limited progress that we have seen. Democrats now risk loosing an advantage that they had due to a small minority that is yelling the loudest. Not even the Republicans want to be associated with the Tea Party movement but they will take that any day over a Democratic majority. In Network, what got Howard Beale noticed was his passion, his anger and his voice. Whether he was right or wrong was irrelevant. He yelled as loud as he could, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” If the only people in this country who are going to yell as loud as they can, that they are mad as hell, are the Tea Partiers, then once again it will be the lunatics that will run the asylum and in 2012 we may all have to get behind President Palin.
"...I have tried to keep memory alive... I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices." — Elie Wiesel
One of my favorite TV shows that I watch religiously with my wife is Survivor. Their motto is Out Wit, Out Last, Out Play. We watch weekly as contestants battle for immunity or reward. We see them battle, suffer and loose weight, but of course in the end only one comes out victorious, only one becomes that seasons Survivor. The only problem is that I can’t help but thinking when I watch that show, these people are not true survivors. For them that word just does not fit, and that is because I knew a true Survivor, I knew Al.
Al and Sonia Nisenbaum are the truest of survivors. Both Alan and Sonia are survivors of the Holocaust. Al was born in February 19th 1925 in Lubin, Poland. He was one of nine children. When the Nazis invaded Poland Al was only a boy. He was separated from his family, and besides one of his brothers who also survived, he never saw his family ever again. Al was sent to Auschwitz and while he was a prisoner of the Nazis he spent time at a total of six different concentration camps including Majdanek, Blechhammer, Budzyn, Gleiwitz III, and Dachau from which he was liberated. When the war ended he was only 17 and was sent to a displaced persons camp. He had been educated at the Yeshiva before the war and could speak fluent Hebrew. In the DP camp he became a teacher. One of his students was a girl who was only fifteen at the time. Al taught her Hebrew and he was so taken by her that they soon married. In the DP camp they had a daughter they named Linda, and soon moved to America to start a new life in Chicago. Since then Al and Sonia had two more daughters who all married and collectively gave them seven grandchildren. Al and Sonia’s first daughter, Linda married Harry, who’s parents David and Mimi, were also Survivors. I was fortunate enough to marry Al and Sonia’s first grand daughter and together we gave them two wonderful great-grandchildren.
Many times I have heard my wife tell me that she was a miracle child, because if just one of her four grandparents had not survived the Holocaust she would not be here today. But the truth is so much more. The truth is all of Al and Sonia’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are miracles, and not only are they a testament to the strength, will and determination of Al and Sonia to survive and then prevail, but they are also a testament to the failure of the Nazis and their senseless attempt at the ethnic cleansing of Europe. Alan went on to accomplish so much in his life. He was able to turn the most unimaginable experiences in his life in to a triumph, and he set the bar on how to be a good person as high as it could go. He was kind and generous, smart and funny. He became not only a successful business man but a community and religious leader as well. But through it all he always put his family first. He had an appreciation for life that only someone who had been through what he had been through could have. As a seventeen year old man, in a DP camp he never dreamed that one day he would be a man in his eighties, surrounded by loved ones that were his family. He never dreamed that he would have three daughters who he would all get to see marry. He never dreamed that he would have seven grandchildren and attend two of their weddings, and finally he never dreamed that he would get to sit at the Passover table next to his great-granddaughter who could not wait to sing songs with her Papa Al. Papa Al died this past Friday but he will live on forever in the family that he left behind. He was one of the true survivors and he will truly be missed by everyone that came to know him. Papa Al may never have won immunity or a challenge for reward, but in the game of life he definitely Out Wit, Out Lasted, and Out Played.
I woke up Saturday morning and realized that I had entered Bizzaro World! The strangest things were happening and it just did not make sense. For example I turned on the television and before me I saw a rally that seemed to be commemorating the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech except that it was being hosted by Glenn Beck and the keynote speaker was non other then Sarah Palin, and to top it off the rally was attended by nothing but a sea of white people! It just did not make sense. There was barely a minority to be found. But the weirdest thing was that on stage was Martin Luther King’s niece, a parade of African-American singers and speakers who all looked like they had shown up to the wrong rally. And all everyone was talking about was “restoring honor” and giving America back to the people. I thought that was what happened when dubya left office and the vast majority of Americans voted Barack Obama and the democrats back into power. I was waiting for Rush Limbaugh to walk out on stage with an African robe on and start singing “We Will Overcome”, hand in hand with Beck and Palin. I swear, it was the weirdest thing! Then I realized that I had not entered Bizzaro World at all but had instead woken up to a normal day and this was really going on!
But what possible reason would Glenn Beck have for hosting a rally of all white people to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech? And what did King have to do with the messages that Glen Beck and Sarah Palin have been preaching to the far conservative right wing and the Tea Party movement? And how come the only black people that were there were on stage? Maybe I’m making too much of this. After all, there was no talk of Obama being a socialist or questioning his religion. Their was no talk of comparing Obama to Hitler, and Sarah Palin only spoke of the bravery of our troops. The Tea Partiers did not bring their traditional anti-Obama signs and the overall tone seemed to be as peaceful as could be. At first glance it appeared that Beck’s rally turned out to be nothing but a peaceful get together, with out the traditional Beck/Palin messages, celebrating King and the hope for a better tomorrow. But at second glance, maybe the first glance is the actual problem.
You see when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at that rally in 1963, which was called “The Great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” his message was not directed simply to those who followed him but to all of America, and his message was consistent with all that he had said before that day. What made King so great was that even though his movement was ignited by the social and economic injustices to the African Americans at that time he recognized that for all Americans to prosper, no single group could be held back. His message was always positive and he never used hateful or incendiary language to forward his movement
The organizers of the 1963 rally, which besides King also included many labor leaders including those from what is now the UAW, were not only preaching civil rights but also economic equality for all. Flyers from the rally called for a push back against "the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation," and recommended massive federal intervention, in order to bring jobs to the unemployed, both black and white, the kind that Beck would call socialism and a take over of America. A. Philip Randolph, vice president of the AFL-CIO at that time, and the one who actually conceived of the 1963 march, the man who got King involved, and who in 1964 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson was the first speaker that day. In his speech he said, “"Our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. And we know that we have no interest in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty."
The problem is that Beck’s message is nowhere near the dream that Martin Luther King preached that day in 1963 and consistently throughout his whole life. Kings message was for Social and Economic justice for all, yet in Beck’s skewed and warped misinterpretation of the civil rights movement he said that “They weren't crying for social justice…” When Rev. Al Sharpton came out and spoke about Kings dream, that it was “ not to put one black candidate in the White House," but to "make everything equal in everybody's house,” Beck responded with “That is not the Dream, that is a perversion of the dream,” when in fact that was exactly what the dream was. Becks hateful speech has gone so far as to numerous times compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler. He has said that he expects that during this administration we will see dogs and hoses turned on the people. He has said that we will be enslaved by everything from taxes to the health care reforms. He has blatantly called President Obama a racist and has asserted that he has an agenda to “settle old racial scores through new social justice.” While King called for an expanded role by the government to fight poverty and joblessness, Beck equates government intervention to addicting the public to heroin. King called for an economic bill of rights that would "guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work". In contrast Beck called a guarantee to the right of a job, “Marxism.”
The truth is that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today and still preaching the messages that he preached in the 1960s, he would be all over Glenn Beck’s blackboard because there is nothing even remotely similar about the views of these two men. In a 1961 speech to the AFL-CIO, King said in regards to the distribution of wealth and jobs for all, “Yes, before the victory is won, some will be misunderstood. Some will be dismissed as dangerous rabble-rousers and agitators. Some will be called reds and Communists merely because they believe in economic justice and the brotherhood of man. But we shall overcome.” King could easily have been speaking of Glenn Beck who has said, “It's economic justice, which is socialism, which is forced redistribution of wealth, which is Marxism.”
Today we have a nation that just as in the 1960’s is filled with the haves and the have not’s. The middle class is slowly disappearing and the distribution of wealth is grossly imbalanced. Today the abuses of Wall Street have created mega millionaires all while manufacturing jobs have been eroded and gone over seas. Joblessness at the time Obama took office was at 700,000, our banks were failing, our auto makers were about to go under, foreclosures were at an all time high, and very little was being done by our government to bring jobs back to our nation. And just like in the 60’s, joblessness in the African American communities far outweighs joblessness by any other social group. If alive today Martin Luther King Jr. would be preaching the same dream that he was preaching that day in 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, of social and economic equality for all. Just as he did in the 60’s he would be calling for an expanded roll in government to help solve these problems. He would be calling for economic reforms and a reform of Wall Street. He would be calling for jobs programs just like he did in the 1960’s and for a strengthening of our education system that did not include vouchers that the poor could not afford. He actually would be more in line with President Obama then with Glenn Beck. In 1961, speaking to the AFL-CIO, King said,
“This will be the day when we shall bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality -- that is the dream.”
Glenn Beck did not “restore honor” or “reclaim the civil rights movement” as he had hoped to. Instead he dishonored King’s message, King’s dream and the legacy of a man who if he were alive today would be so proud to see how far we have come but would still be fighting for how far we have yet to go.
Interview With Participants at the "Restoring Honor" Rally:
Today I am issuing a challenge to everyone who reads this, a challenge to prove me wrong. Right now, as you read this, you are either being attacked, or a victim of theft, or unknowingly aiding and abetting in a crime, or being set up to fall victim to one or more of these events, or at best being spied upon. How do I know this? Take my word for it, I do. Thirteen years in I.T. experience and a Masters Degree in Cyber-Security better count for something, but if you don’t believe me then here is my challenge. When you get done reading this article, download a free program called Malwarebytes, install it, and run a full scan on your computer. I will provide details on how to download and run this at the end of this article. If it finds nothing then you have proved me wrong and you or someone is taking very good care of your computer. But I suspect in most cases it is going to find files or programs on your system that are infected with untold numbers of malware and spyware that you never knew was there, how it got there, or what it is doing on your system.
You may be wondering why I am issuing this challenge. Is it because I am such a caring individual that I want to make sure that your personal computer is safe from danger and potential threats? No, I am issuing this challenge simply to illustrate to you a growing problem that not only involves you and me, but corporations of all sizes around the world, the Pentagon, The White House, governments in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Russia, and The Middle East. If malware exist on your personal computer and is able to spy on your activities and extract data from your system, just imagine the type and amount of data that could be extracted from some of the largest corporations around the world. Just image the type of data that could be extracted from computers and networks that run our government and military, from the CIA and the FBI. Recently the number two man in charge at the Pentagon, United States Secretary of Defense, William J. Lynn III wrote an article describing the Pentagons strategy to defend our country from cyber-attacks and the extent to which the threat exists. In this eye opening article, Lynn, who is only one official away from answering directly to the President, writes:
“Every day, U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times and scanned millions of times…Adversaries have acquired thousands of files from U.S. networks and from the networks of U.S. allies and industry partners…Cyber-threats to U.S. national security are not limited to military targets. Hackers and foreign governments are increasingly able to launch sophisticated intrusions into the networks that control critical civilian infrastructure. Computer-induced failures of U.S. power grids, transportation networks, or financial systems could cause massive physical damage and economic disruption."
Lynn goes on to say, “Earlier this year, Google disclosed that it had lost intellectual property as a result of a sophisticated operation perpetrated against its corporate infrastructure, an operation that also targeted dozens of other companies. Although the threat to intellectual property is less dramatic than the threat to critical national infrastructure, it may be the most significant cyber-threat that the United States will face over the long term. Every year, an amount of intellectual property many times larger than all the intellectual property contained in the Library of Congress is stolen from networks maintained by U.S. businesses, universities, and government agencies. As military strength ultimately depends on economic vitality, sustained intellectual property losses could erode both the United States' military effectiveness and its competitiveness in the global economy.” In other words, we are at war, but this war is being fought in cyber-space.
So what does this have to do with you and me? Everything. Some of those infected files that Malwarebytes will find on your computer could be used by foreign governments, cyber-terrorists and other hackers to launch attacks on government or corporate networks for the purpose of extracting data, or shutting down infrastructure. If your computer is part of a company network, a rouge file or program could be hiding that could mine your company’s network for data that could be used against you, your company’s clients, or even our government. Everyday millions of computers are infected simply by the act of going to a website that unknowingly contains malicious code, or from a flash drive that has infected files, or from “worms” that find their own way on to your computer with out you having to do anything at all except be connected. You see, when governments such as China and North Korea as well as terrorist organizations, are actively training thousands of their citizens and members to be cyber spies and hackers, it is no longer a question of if we will be compromised, but when. We are no longer on the sidelines watching the war happen on the news, we are on the front lines right in the middle of the gunfire and the fact is in this war we do not have the upper hand. We are chasing the enemy and as of now we are losing.
As Lynn states in the first paragraph of his article, “In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense suffered a significant compromise of its classified military computer networks. It began when an infected flash drive was inserted into a U.S. military laptop at a base in the Middle East. The flash drive's malicious computer code, placed there by a foreign intelligence agency, uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. Central Command. That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control. It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary.”
Other attacks that we know of have included an attack of over 75,000 computer systems and 2500 companies around the world that began in 2008 and was only detected January 26th of this year. According to the Washington Post it, “targeted proprietary corporate data, e-mails, credit-card transaction data and login credentials at companies in the health and technology industries in 196 countries.” Also in 2008 the campaigns of both McCain and Obama were hacked into and mined for data that could predict their foreign policy decisions. There are actually too many examples to list here and if you still question if this effects you, according to CBS news, “corporate America is losing critical data to overseas competitors, robbing the U.S. economy of up to $20 billion a year.” (Watch the video above for the full report from CBS.)
This is a threat that by most news organizations is simply swept under the rug but is as big of a threat as it gets. This is a threat that involves the continued national security of our country as well as the continued economic growth of our nation, but unless it involves a company like Google that all of us use every day, or our own personal financial data that is contained on some online store or credit card companies data bases, it is seldom if ever talked about in the news. And if you think that your I.T. department is going to keep you safe, think again. Believe me they have great intentions but quite frankly, the hackers are smarter and many of the hackers either work in your I.T. department or in third party companies that are contracted to work on your systems. And just as I have challenged each and every one of you to scan your own systems for malware I also challenge each and every public organization and private company to have there own networks "penetration tested" by an outside company that will uncover the holes that exist in your systems. Because the truth is, no matter how secure you think your network is, there are holes and the bad guys will find them if you don't first. And when they do your data will be compromised long before you even knew they were there. So the question is, do you accept the challenge?
Click here to download Malwarebytes. If your browser is set up to not allow files to download then you will get a long yellow bar across the top of the window. Click on this bar to OK the file download. The file will be called "Mbam-Setup-1.46.exe". After installing make sure to first run an update, then run a full scan on your system. The entire scan will take about one hour. Good luck.