Sperm Are People Too!

By Brian Dann

SpermMany Christians and those on the right believe that life begins at conception.  I’m gonna say something that may get me in trouble and it may come back to bite me but oh well, here it goes.  I think they’re crazy! I think they have totally missed the boat here.  There is no way that life begins at conception, that is just utter ridiculousness, because the real truth is life begins much, much, much earlier than at conception. The truth is life begins at Spermatogenesis, or the creation of sperm.  Oh, I know what you are saying to yourself. That is just a bunch of stinkin’ thinkin’ Brian. Well Darnit! (oops! please forgive me for swearin’ like a Mormon who couldn’t baptize a dead Jew,) but this whole “when does life begin” debate really gets my panties in a holster!   Have you ever seen sperm up close?  Seriously, they are so darn cute with their oversized heads and their long wriggily tails! They're like tiny little half people! Couldn't you just eat them up?!  But I wouldn’t because that would be wrong, and not for the reasons that you are thinking you sick little puppy. But because of what I said earlier. Life begins at spermatogenesis.  Basically any waste of sperm should be considered murder.  That would mean that any type of sexual act that doesn’t have the possibility of resulting in conception would be considered a crime.  That would include, anal sex, oral sex, sex with a condom, sex with any form of birth control, sex with a women who knowingly cannot conceive, homosexual sex, and of course masturbation, or as I like to call it, Sperma-genocide or the mass murder of millions of potential human lives.  But to take this one step further, I would be in favor of allowing men to masturbate only after they are forced to undergo an ultrasound to show them the inside of their scrotum as well as watch a video of sperm happily swimming around like little children in a pool.  I would also have them meet with an adoption counselor who could inform them of the many places sperm can be donated for storage and eventual adoption to a loving couple. Then I would have them participate in counseling to discuss their decision to masturbate, and finally wait 3 days before they can actually perform the masturbation.  Sounds crazy?  Sounds like harassment and intimidation to try to get men not to masturbate?  Well here are just some of the actual laws that currently exist or have been proposed to harass and intimidate women into not getting an abortion or in some cases even make if illegal.
In South Dakota women must attend a lecture at a “pregnancy crisis” center which are actually anti-choice, anti-contraception facilities and must wait a first ever 72 hours before being allowed to have an abortion.
Arizona passed a law that imposes criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions with the knowledge that the race or sex of the fetus is a factor in the decision to abort.
In Ohio there is a bill that would outlaw any abortion after a detectable heartbeat can be found which is normally around six weeks.
A Texas bill would require doctors to provide women with a sonogram of the fetus and to hear the heartbeat before performing an abortion.  Women would be allowed to close their eyes and cover their ears.  Victims of rape or incest would not be exempt.
In Kansas and Idaho there are proposals to ban abortions after 20 weeks on the claim that this is when a fetus can first experience pain, even though the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that there is no evidence of this.  The Kansas bill will also require doctors to tell women that abortions increase their risk of breast cancer, “a controversial theory that the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and gynecological groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have said is incorrect,” according to an article in the Huffington Post.
Virginia just passed a bill that requires internal ultrasounds before performing abortions, or basically forcing a women to be penetrated without her consent, thereby raping her,  in order to show women what they are about to abort.
A bill in Georgia would force a woman to carry a fetus past 20 weeks even if it is dead, regardless of the health of the women or any other fetus that may be alive in the womb as well.
Now I don’t want to point fingers here or make this strictly a political issue but it is kind of too late for that since all of these laws or bills have been a result of Republican law makers putting their own religious values before the rights and health of women in this county.  They don’t care if woman dies because a dead fetus is in her body, or if a girl is pregnant because she was raped by her father.  And to use tactics of intimidation to guilt women into not going through with an abortion is frankly despicable.  Republican law makers have shown time and time again that the health rights of women in this country simply do not matter to them as much as their religious beliefs do.  This has been shown in everything from the Religious Republican Tea Party war on contraception, to their attempts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act or what they refer to as ObamaCare, a term that I could not be happier with.  Any time they want to use the words Obama and Care together is just fine by me.
If Republican law makers had their way in this country, abortions, including those from rape or incest would be illegal, women would pay more for health insurance then men simply because women use doctors more often than men do.  Women’s preventive health screenings, including mammograms, and cervical cancer screening, would no longer be free.  Provisions in ObamaCare for mothers who are breast feeding, including break time to pump or breast feed as well as a clean place to do so other than a bathroom would be eliminated.  Birth control pills would not be covered by insurance companies, even though women use birth control for many things other than birth control, including regulating cycles, controlling ovarian cysts, even eliminating allergic reactions to progesterone.  It has been proven time and time again that it is less expensive for insurance companies to provide women with birth control pills then it is to pay for everything from delivery, to the ongoing cost of unwanted pregnancies,  to treatments for cancer, and so on. The insurance companies have no problem with free contraception for women, it’s the Republican religious law makers who do, and most of them are men.
But where does Mitt Romeny and Paul Ryan stand on womens health issues?  Well Mitt Romeny has been very clear on where he stands.  He has pledged to roll back ObamaCare and take away all of the benefits that this legislation provides women.  He has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood even though the majority of their services have nothing to do with abortions and it is currently illegal for Planned Parenthood to take federal money for abortions.  And on the question of free contraception, he said, if you want free stuff, “vote for the other guy.”  I plan to.  As far as Paul Ryans’s views go, Mr. Ryan co-sponcered the Protect Life Act in 2011 which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide referrals for abortion if the facility does not provide abortion services, effectvly allowing a women who requires an abortion to save her life to die on the floor.  I am normally pretty tolerant of other people’s views, but letting a women die becuse your religious convictions trumps saving a womens life is basically bat-shit crazy!
Lastly let’s put this all into some perspective.  Many Republican law makers in states including Florida, Virginia, Arizona, South Dakota and Texas, put so much time and effort into pushing through legislations to harass and intimidate both women who want or need an abortion, sometimes for health reasons, and doctors who perform these services, and who have joined with religious leaders to restrict the rights of women to have basic health services such as screenings and contraception provided to them free of charge, are the same Republican law makers who refuse to put any restrictions on the sale of hand guns to any person regardless of their mental capacity or criminal record.  They will let any individual, no questions asked walk onto a gun show and with no background check of any kind, walk out with as many lethal weapons as they can carry, weapons that have been leaked to terrorist attacks, Mexican drug cartels, gang activity, and even school shootings.  Apparently to them, killing people before they are born is a no no, but after they are born is just fine.   Women in this country deserve better then to be given less consideration then an insane criminal at a no-questions-asked gun show.  If it were men facing these health issues, there would be no issues. No one is asking men to pay a co-pay on a prostate exam or forcing them to watch a prostate being removed. 
To declare that life begins with spermatogenesis, as I did earlier, may seem a bit over the top but the Wilmington Delaware City Council doesn’t think so. They recently passed a resolution by a vote of 8 to 4 that states, “Each 'egg person' and each 'sperm person' should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government and be subject to the same laws and regulations as any other dependent minor and be protected against abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parent or guardian…laws should be enacted by all legislative bodies in the United States to promote equal representation, and should potentially include laws in defense of 'personhood,' forbidding every man from destroying his semen.”  You see, be careful what you ask for. Apparently sperm are people too.



I Am White.

By Brian Dann


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.






Komen For The Christian Right...Is Just Wrong

By Brian Dann


Breast Cancer.  Those two words scare the hell out of anybody. Let’s try something.  If you ever had breast cancer, raise your hand.  I know I can’t see you, but just indulge me. Thanks.  If your spouse ever had breast cancer, raise your hand.  If a parent of yours ever had breast cancer, raise your hand.  If a sibling of yours ever had breast cancer raise your hand.  If any relative of yours ever had breast cancer, raise your hand. If a friend of yours ever had breast cancer, raise your hand.  If anyone you know has ever had breast cancer, raise your hand.  If any anyone you know has ever had a breast biopsy, a mammogram, felt a lump, raise your hand.  If you are a woman, raise your hand.  If you are a man, because men can get breast cancer too, raise your hand.  By now your hand should be raised.  Now imagine being a person who has no job, no money, no health insurance… and a lump in your breast.  Without insurance, you have no access to a mammogram, no money to pay for a biopsy, and your only choice is to hope that lump is nothing and will just go away.  That is a situation that no person should ever have to be forced into and for millions of women across this county they have not had to make this choice because Planned Parenthood has been there for them.  One of the vitally important services that Planned Parenthood offers, along with their partners, at no cost to the patient, is free screenings for breast cancer, including free biopsies for those who otherwise could not afford this life saving procedure.  In the publication, “Close To The Heart” available on line from Planned Parenthood, they share stories from women who were helped because of the services they provide.   One woman, Abigail wrote,
“In January of 2010 I found a lump in my left breast, hard, mobile, about the size of a small grape…The total cost for the ultrasound and needle biopsy which had to be done through an outside health institution would have been over $7000.  I was nearly penniless, without insurance and terrified… (Planned Parenthood) connected me with the resources I needed to pay for needed medical services through Susan Komen…Luckily, I know today that it was benign…Without Planned Parenthood, I would still be walking around years later unsure of what was going on inside my body and the immediate future of my health.”
It was the Susan G. Komen foundation that provided the funds to let this woman know that her lump was benign, the Susan G. Komen foundation that has become synonymies in this country with fighting Breast Cancer, The Susan G Komen foundation that so many people have committed themselves to through their annual walks for cancer, and so many companies have partnered with to raise funds to fight this deadly disease,  and now it’s the Susan G. Komen foundation that has cut off all funding for these life saving procedures from Planned Parenthood.  Yes you heard me right.  The Susan G. Komen foundation will no longer pay to help thousands of woman obtain life savings procedures through Planned Parenthood.
But isn’t fighting cancer what the Susan G. Komen foundation is all about?  How could they possibly be cutting funding for something that is at the heart of what they are all about?  Well maybe it’s because it’s not what they are all about.  Just take a look at this Re-Tweet that Komen Vice President, Karen Handel posted on Twitter soon after the news of this defunding went public:
“Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river.”
Now let’s be clear here, this is not something that Karen Handel said, this is something that someone else said, that she agreed with so she re-tweeted it on her own Twitter page.  Yes, the vice President of Komen agreed with this.  This statement is so wrong on so many levels it is almost mind boggling!  Let’s first follow the logic of this statement.  Susan G. Komen decides after years of partnerships with Planned Parenthood, to discontinue the funding of breast cancer related activities, and Planned Parenthood is wrong for addressing the public outrage that has ensued due to this decision by Komen.  Next, the funding that Komen provided did not go to any activities related to abortions at Planned Parenthood but in many cases went straight from Komen to the women being treated.  Third, the gross generalization that a “Pro-Abortion group” has a predisposition to throwing political bombs is just purely offensive by its nature.  I guess it wasn’t a political bomb when on January 11th, 50 innocent children, 4 and 5 years old, were sent into the offices of Ohio senators by an anti-abortions group , unannounced, holding teddy bears that played 18 week fetal heart sounds, asking them to pass a bill that would outlaw all abortions that occur after the fetal heart sound can be detected.  Many of the senators said that the kids looked scared, nervous and were clearly reading from a script.  Then there is the overall unbelievable insensitivity of the overall statement, considering the strong feelings that surround the entire issue of breast cancer and the thousands of women who have been effected by this terrible disease, to reduce the collective outrage at this move by Komen, to a bunch of cry baby abortionists, shows what kind of people the leaders of the Susan G. Komen foundation truly are.  “Cry me a freaking river?”… Seriously!? 
I’m not looking to get into a political debate here on whether or not abortion should be legal or illegal or who should or should not fund organizations like Planned Parenthood because that is not what this is all about.  What this is all about is The Susan G. Komen foundation coming clean.  This is about the Susan G. Komen foundation being honest with all of the people who have put their hearts and souls into this organization and taking ownership of the real motivation behind this insensitive and offensive decision. It is not because they now have new policies as to who they give money to.  It is not because they have decided it is wrong to give money to any organization that is under federal investigation.  It is not these things because it just so happens that the only organization that Komen partnered with that was under federal investigation, conveniently, is Planned Parenthood.  Keep in mind that there is never a time that Planned Parenthood isn’t under Federal investigation because there is always some Republican trying to stop all funding to Planned Parenthood.
The truth is Karen Handel is a former candidate for Governor of Georgia who ran on a platform that was aggressively anti-abortion.  According to the Huffington Post, she “was endorsed by Sarah Palin because of her opposition to reproductive choice. Handel wrote in her campaign blog that she "do[es] not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."
"During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a 'Healthy Babies Initiative,'" Handel wrote. "Since grants like these are from the state I'll eliminate them as your next Governor." She also wrote that she opposes stem cell research and supports crisis pregnancy centers, which are unregulated, Christian-run operations whose main mission is to convince pregnant women not to have abortions.”
Handal was hired by Komen in 2010.  In addition various Christian groups that had been donating to the Koman foundation discontinued to when they discovered that Komen was partnered with Planned Parenthood to help women in need of services related to Breast Cancer.
Komen can go on record as much as they want, claiming that this was simply a policy decision that will affect any company under federal investigation by the government, but it still remains that Planned Parenthood is the only company that happens to fit that profile.  The day I will believe that this is about nothing except enforcing a new policy is the day I will believe that Fox “News” is fair and balanced.
The bottom line is that an organization that has been a champion for fighting Breast Cancer for millions of women, that has tackled this disease like no other organization ever has, without ever politicizing this disease, has turned around and done just that and in turn has not only let down the thousands of women who they could have directly helped through their partnership with Planned Parenthood, but has let down all of the men and women, and the not-for-profit organizations and corporations that have partnered with them.  They have turned a cause, that started so pure from the pain of a women who lost a sister and vowed to do whatever she could to help other women fight this terrible disease, into just another casualty of the religious right, and their obsession to put religion before the needs and free will of people they claim to be advocates for.
Thankfully this is not one of those issues where there is nothing you can do.  First there are many other organizations that raise money to fight cancer that you can give your money to, BreastCancer.org, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, just to name two.  Second you can send a message to the Susan G. Komen foundation that this action is not ok by refusing to buy products that have partnered with the Susan G. Komen foundation in order to pressure those companies to tell Komen to reverse their decision. Third you can donate directly to Planned Parenthood and bypass Komen altogether.  And lastly, you can stand with Planned Parenthood by adding your name to the list of thousands who also have raised their hands. Susan G. Komen has the right to make whatever decisions they want to, but so do we.  Hopefully one day no one will ever have a reason to raise their hand.
To Stand With Planned Parenthood Click Here

Read "Close To The Heart" from Planned Parenthood


UPDATE: 12:30pm 02/03/2012   The Susan G. Komen Foundation reversed its decesion to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. For the full story Click Here


Mitt, Newt, a Lamp Post...or Colbert, Hmmmm?

By Brian Dann


It was the fall of 1993. I was sitting in the audience in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, waiting my turn to go up on stage with four other hopefuls and audition to be one of the cast members of this historic institution. I had dreams of following in the footsteps of such great actors like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, and Gilda Radner.  Between The Players Workshop, the Second City Training Center, and the ImprovOlympic, I had put in my dues in Chicago learning the art of improvisation.  This was going to be my final and third attempt to become one of the few to be asked to be a part of this great legacy of comedic actors.  But the best improv education I had received was not from a training class, was not from performing onstage with others, but was from sitting in the audience at the Second City, night after night, watching some of the best actors I had ever seen perform their craft.  That was the real education.  That is where I learned how to do it, how it’s not about trying to be funny, and how improv can be as easy as listening and reacting just like you would in life.  Little did I know at the time how famous two of those actors on that stage would become.  Both of them were named Steve.  One was Steven Carell, easily one of the funniest people I had ever seen on the Second City stage.  He could make you laugh so hard you would be crying, and then he would turn around and give a moving performance worthy of an Oscar.  The other Steven was sitting right next to me in the audience, in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, as I waited my turn to go up on stage for my final audition.  Although he was probably the smartest improviser I had ever seen in my life, no one could have predicted the level of success he would obtain as the host of The Colbert Report.  Watching Stephen Colbert do improvisation was like watching Fred Astaire dance. So knowing that I was about to go on that stage that I had watched him perform on night after night, I took that moment to get whatever words of wisdom I could from him to give me that added boost of confidence to go out there and make them want to hire me.  I introduced myself to Stephen, told him I admired his work, and then asked him what advice he could give me before I went up there.  All he said to me was, “Just be yourself.” Then off I went.
Looking back on that day I think to myself the complete irony of that advice Stephen Colbert gave me because today he makes a living being anything but himself. His television persona as the overly pompous, self righteous, ultra right wing conservative, political pundit is as far from whom Stephen Colbert really is.  His Stephen Colbert character has been crafted so perfectly that at times some real ultra-right wing conservatives simply don’t get the joke.  This cannot be more evident than in what a recent poll by the firm Public Policy Polling showed.  Colbert, who is not even running for president, is not on the ballot in South Carolina, and is not even really a Republican, beat John Huntsman by one point. According to the poll Colbert would receive 5% of the vote and Huntsman 4%. Reportedly, after hearing the results of this poll John Huntsman was overheard uttering the Mormon expletive “DAG NAB IT!”  Is there really anywhere to go with your campaign after you are beat in the polls by someone who is not even running? A fake republican, who is NOT running for president, and is NOT on the ballot, is beating someone who is!  Seriously!?  Can we just forget all this election crap and just declare Obama the winner already.  Even if Romney becomes the candidate, there are republicans out there who are so against voting for him that they would rather give the nomination to a television comedian who is not even a republican, let alone running, than to Mitt Romney!  Of course Mr. Colbert has taken this ridiculous set of circumstances and fully capitalized upon it by launching a mock exploratory committee to consider a mock run for the presidency, and has transferred his very legitimate Super PAC to the control of Jon Stewart so he could legally explore a run for office and at the same time expose the loop holes and inherent fraud in the Super PAC system.  He has even gone so far as to rename his Super Pac, oops I mean Stewarts Super Pac, the “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC”.   But seriously, what does this really say about the current state of affairs of the Republican Party, about their leadership, and about the voters?
Let’s start with the voters.  The clear message that this sends is that there is no one running on the republican ticket that anyone really and truly wants as their candidate. Santorum is to way too religious right wing, Paul wants to end paper money, he wants to remove all foreign aid, and is basically wackadoodle, Newt wants children to work as Janitors, and his name is Newt, (really, president Newt?) and Romney basically has nothing going for him except that he’s not Obama, and looks like a Hollywood TV version of what a president should look like  It’s like if you were a fan of rap music, and you won free tickets to any rap concert coming to town over the next two months but the only rap artists you could choose from were Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Ice Tea, or Al Gore doing his tribute to NWA, and you choose Stephen Colbert… rapping!  Voters cannot even bring themselves to get excited about the candidate they do vote for.  Overwhelmingly the best reason that voters can give for supporting Romney is that he’s not Obama.  So basically they would vote for a lamp post before they would vote for Obama in November.  The truth about Romeny is that he has the personality of a lamp post, and this has actually worked to his advantage.  He is like the contestant on Survivor who says nothing, stays in the background the entire time, let’s all the other contestants bury themselves, and then comes out on top because he never said anything stupid enough to get anyone to hate him enough to get thrown off the island.  Besides only paying %15 in taxes (not exactly one of the 99%, is he?) destroying numerous companies and ruining thousands of people’s lives through his business dealings, he has led a relatively boring, clean scandal free life. So then why is it that 5% of this poll went to Stephen Colbert?  Out of the entire Republican party why isn’t anyone running of any substance, of any power, or at least of any popularity?  I will tell you why, because no one wants to loose, because any republican who would actually be a candidate that the voters could actually get excited about would rather wait to run against Joe Biden, then Barack Obama, and because currently, in the positions they are in, they have more power to derail everything the president is trying to do and push through their own agenda then if they had to actually be in the president’s position and convince the congress to follow their program. If any Republican of any substance were to actually run for president, who doesn’t come off as either a extreme right ultra-religious wacko, a libertarian in republican clothing, or an imbecile incapable or remembering a list longer then two items, Mitt Romney would be in the same position he was in four years ago, nowhere.
For Barack Obama, this election is his to lose.  It doesn’t matter who the candidate is because all the republican talking points are the same regardless of the candidate and once you apply logic and truth to them, they fall apart.  If the President can do that, and constantly expose Mitt Romney (assuming he is the candidate) as nothing but one of the 1% who will do nothing for the middle class, this will be his election.  The truth is the republicans blew it.  There was only one candidate in the whole pack that could have been a real threat to President Obama, but Stephen Colbert beat him in the polls. Mr. 4%, John Huntsman was the only candidate capable of beating the President.  Why?  Voters are divided up in to four groups, those who will vote for literally any one besides Obama, voters who will only vote for Obama, the undecided, and those who will vote for Obama but will switch at the drop of a hat if they are given a credible alternative.  John Huntsman was their credible alternative.  He’s smart, well spoken, respectful to both parties, served under Obama as Ambassador to China, has domestic and foreign policy experience, is moderate enough for those who want to switch but would never vote for a far right ultra conservative like Rick Santorum, and is extremely likeable.  Huntsman was their ace in the hole, their trump card, their best chance, but more of South Carolina voters wanted a comedian, who’s not on the ballot, and is not even a republican, then John Hunstman.  John Huntsman didn’t flip flop, he didn’t cater to latest poll numbers.  John Hunstman was a candidate with substance who could have actually beat President Obama. But Republicans, from the upper leadership, to the corporate donors, to the average voters could not see their golden ticket staring them right in the face and that is because John Hunstman, unlike many politicians, followed the advice that Stephen Colbert gave me while I was sitting in the audience in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, waiting my turn to go up on stage for my final audition, “Just be yourself.”  And like Huntsman, I took that advice. The next thing I knew I was on stage, with four other nervous improvisers, trying to prove I was the one worthy of a place in the Second City cast.  I tried my best to follow the words of Mr. Colbert.  I have no idea what I said, or what I did.  It all went by so fast that I can’t even remember leaving.  But all I know is this.  I had about the same success with my audition that John Huntsman had running for President.  Thanks for nothing Colbert.


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What I Have Learned From Kim Kardashian

By Brian Dann


Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to the left wing liberal progressive radio talk show host Bill Press, as I tend to do most mornings on the way to work, and he asked the question, jokingly, “what do you think Kim Kardashian thinks about politics?”  My first thought was I wanted to call in and say, I don’t think Kim Kardashian can spell politics. I do have to admit though, I have actually watched the voyeuristic candy shop known as “Keeping Up With The Kardhasians” and “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” but I have sadly missed “Khloe and Lamar”.  Hopefully they will release a collector’s box set soon that I can place under my rear tire and run over.  Now just so that I can get my Man Card back (which I somehow misplaced when I scored that trip down under with Oprah, yes it was me who wrote in, not my wife), I do have to say that I have never actually turned on a Kardashian show but instead have been maniacally sucked in to watching them when my wife has made the unfortunate choice to “Keep Up.”   There is definitely a higher power at work here when it comes to the Kardashian franchise, a higher power that causes you to stop whatever it is you are doing and forces you to “Keep Up” as well, no matter how much you resist.  After about two minutes of hearing Kim whine to Kris Humphries about why she doesn’t want to be a soccer mom living in Minnesota, and Kris telling Kim that she does nothing and in a few years no one will remember here anyway … and what was with Scott watching porn on his laptop and wanting Kourtney to get it on with another girl, and why don’t they just get married already, really, they have a son, I mean I can’t believe that Khloe is always so mean to Kim, OMG! (SCREEEEEEEEEECH!)  SEE WHAT I MEAN!  It’s like you have to watch!  We’re talking video heroin here. But before I go on I just have to say one more thing.  Why the hell is Bruce Jenner mixed up in all this mishegoss (that’s Yiddish for insane rich people who get paid to publicly display their crazy senseless lives on national television)!? He is like the square peg in a round Louis Vuitton hole.  If it wasn’t for some incredibly bad plastic surgery that has made his face look so tight you could bounce an Olympian off of it, I’d blame his involvement on bad casting, except for the fact that this is reality.  You would think that legendary Olympian Bruce Jenner would be doing something great with his life, working with underprivileged athletes who have aspirations to follow in his footsteps, maybe running a youth sports facility training the decathletes of tomorrow, or giving lectures to inspire people to achieve the greatness that he achieved so early in his life.  But no, he is a reality TV star with a bad facelift.   And maybe that is what the problem is here. Maybe that is what there is to learn.  Maybe we are all “Keeping Up” with the wrong things.    

I get the obsession with the whole Kardashian thing.  We enjoy watching the Rich and Famous, and even more, we enjoy watching the rich and famous crash and burn.   Kim’s fairytale wedding turning into a nightmare, Lindsey Lohan appearing in court again, and again, and again, Charlie Sheen “winning” when that was the furthest thing from the truth, it is all very entertaining, and as a form of escapism it has a place in our society, but so should paying attention to real issues that can change our lives for the better, and it seems that unless politics starts to approach the circus level that the Kardashians reach on a daily basis, no one pays any attention.  Herman Cain, and his countless sexual affairs, Donald Trump, well, being Donald Trump, this is what gets our attention.  This is what the press pays attention to.  We spend more time reading about Kim and Kris’s ridiculous wedding, but spend hardly any time finding out why it is so important that the tax cuts to the middle class don’t expire, and calling our congressmen and women to voice our support.  We spend more time debating whether the wedding was staged or real, and no time reading about where Ron Paul or Mitt Romney stand on Iraq, or gay rights, or any other issues that are important to us.  And I am certain that more people can tell you who Herman Cain had an “alleged” affair with then what his stance was on gun control.  We are living in a country that is being destroyed by greed, we have become content with resigning ourselves to the notion that nothing will ever change, that the middle class will never get their fair share, that politicians are all crooks and the American dream is a dream that only a few will ever see.  So to escape what we have excepted as a reality, that we are convinced we cannot change, we “Keep Up with the Kardashians” and we live for the moments when their lives fall apart because it shows us that rich people are often as messed up as the rest of us. We forget about the fact that “Keeping Up” with things that can actually make a difference in this world will actually make a difference.  We forget about the changes that happened in the Middle East because people refused to accept the status quo.  We forget about the Occupy movement that has swept the United States, Canada, and countries in Europe, and that politicians are taking notice, we forget all the change that has happened in this country because people “Kept Up” with our leaders, with issues that mattered to them,  and made their voices heard.   And sure the Occupy movement is still going strong, but it never received nearly as much press coverage as the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, which by most accounts was fabricated to get ratings for the E! Channel.   

The true reality that we need to “Keep Up” with, is that the richest people in this country pay less in taxes than they ever have, and that we had to watch our President practically beg congress to give a tax break to the middle class.  The true reality is that even with the Presidents Health Insurance reforms we still will have millions of people with no health insurance or insufficient insurance, and unless we can provide single payer insurance to all Americans we will continue to have millions uninsured, millions going bankrupt, millions who cannot start small businesses because they can only qualify for health coverage if they receive insurance through an employee group plan.  The true reality is that half of all Americans will live at the poverty level at sometime in their lives.  The true reality is that corporations are not people and until the courts change this, corporations will have far too much influence on the outcome of our elections.  The true reality is that we need to bring manufacturing back to this country if we want to see jobs come back.  The true reality is that two wars, which we did not pay for, have economically drained our nation.  The true reality is that we actually can make a difference if we just “Keep Up” with the world and events going on around us and “Speak Up” about them instead of just accepting the status quo.  This is exactly why the middle class tax cut was passed, because people spoke up and put pressure on the congress to do the right thing.  We need to remember that our elected officials work for us, not for the banks, or the corporations, and we can take them out just as easily as we put them in there.   

Hey, there is nothing wrong with living vicariously through Kim Kardashian and her equally shallow and annoying sisters as long as this is not all we “Keep Up” with.  We have the power to make real change in this country.  We do not have to accept things the way they are.  Revolutions often start off quiet, and one voice can make a difference.  Don’t accept the sound bites we hear on the news and in commercials but instead research the claims that are made before accepting them as reality.   Call your congress members and tell them your opinions, sign petitions.  “Keeping Up” with the truth behind what you hear is the last thing our politicians want us to do because then we control the information and not them. Information is power and power can influence change.  Recently I actually had the opportunity to ask Kim Kardashian what she thinks about politics.  I actually have no idea what her answer was because I was too busy staring at her ass!  (YESSSSSSSSS!...I got my Man Card back!)  




The Great Republican Lie To The 100%

By Brian Dann


The most effective way to seize power and ruin other people’s lives, is to convince the people whose lives you are going to ruin, that your enemy is also theirs, that their downfall is the fault of others, and that their passion comes from within and not the rhetoric that you feed them, systematically, on a daily basis. Then they will hand you the power, with no fight, and defend your right to have it before they ever realize the mistake they have made. In 1932 Adolf Hitler’s Socialist party took power in Germany. But it wasn’t until 1939, seven years later, that the Nazi’s invaded Poland.  It was during those seven years that Hitler, slowly and systematically, put in place his “Final Solution” and convinced that German people that all the social and economic ills of their time, that were a part of everyday German life at that point, were the fault of the Jews, with the help of the blacks, the gays, and the Gypsies.  And even though all of this was categorically false and the real truth was that Germany was a country that had never recovered from the economic, and structural ravages of World War 1, the people of Germany trusted in Hitler’s rhetoric and through constant false and misleading rhetoric over seven years came to believe that the solution to Germany’s problems was Hitler’s Final Solution which he drafted while in prison long before he ever came into power.  Hitler convinced the German people to buy into his own selfish and sociopathic beliefs by convincing them that clearly insane policies would fix their country. Clearly they were wrong, but they listened to Hitler’s rhetoric, handed him the power, and defended his right to have it, before they ever realized the mistake they had made.  Sound familiar?  

Today we live in a country, a world, that is experiencing economic collapse, inequalities in income, and social injustices that we have not seen or experienced since the time of the great depression and pre-WW2 Germany. Our middle class is experiencing record foreclosures, millions of people can’t afford health insurance or can’t afford to pay for the out of pocket expenses not covered by their insurance, and regardless of the rhetoric, our Congress has not even began to take seriously the commitment to getting our middle and lower class Americans back to work.  According to the IWRP/Rockefeller survey, a year and a half after the Great Recession “ended” in 2009, the middle class in America is having trouble paying for things like:  

Food (26 million women and 15 million men)

Health Care (46 million women and 24 million men)

Rent or Mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men)

Transportation (37 million women and 28 million men)

Utility Bills (41 million women and 27 million men)

And saving for the future, which used to be a staple of American life can no longer be done by at least 56 million women and 45 million men.  

Middle class incomes are stagnant or dropping and the unemployed are unemployed for longer than ever, and are often forced to take deep cuts in pay in order to simply get a job which will provide them with health benefits that they could not otherwise afford on their own.  

We sacrifice programs that effect our children education, our ability to place police on our streets, to provide effective health care to those who can’t afford it.  We no longer pay a fair wage for a fair days work but instead ask our workers to take pay cuts, and reduced benefits.  Our government borrows to invest in wars overseas, rebuilding other countries, but we no longer invest in rebuilding our own country.  Then we give tax breaks to the people who don’t need them, and who can afford the most to pay them, then expect a middle class family who is facing foreclosure because of medical bills that they cannot afford, who barely make enough to put food on the table and are facing cutbacks in the workplace, to pay higher taxes then those who are wealthy enough to not even realize the money is gone.  

And why are we in this position?  Because slowly and systematically we believed the rhetoric.  Sound familiar? Because like the Nazis hammering home the false message over and over again that if they just got rid of the Jews, all their problems would be solved, the Republicans have been hammering  us with the false message that if we simply lower the taxes of the richest Americans in this nation to utterly ridiculous levels, if we give massive bailouts to the largest banks that helped put us in this mess in the first place, if we remove all the regulations on all of the corporations and let them do whatever the hell they please, somehow all this good will, all these tax saving to the rich and corporations, all this unregulated corporate wall street freedom, will “trickle down” to the most needy among us. We have been asked to believe that these wealthy Americans and corporations are not going to keep the money they save in taxes,  and are not going to use these billions in tax saving on things like multi-million dollar executive bonuses, company meetings in Aruba, private jet airplanes, and so on, but will instead use this money to invest in company infrastructure, open new plants, create new jobs, distribute the savings among the workers to increase their wages, lower the cost of the good and services they provide, contribute more to retirement accounts, and that the complete selflessness of these warm hearted companionate executives and corporations will  make our country a better place to live for everyone, and not just a better place for the executives and corporations.  But the reality is that over many years, starting in the Regan era and culminating with the irresponsible economic policies of George W Bush, we have been fed a multitude of lies designed only to benefit the wealthy and no one else.  Corporations are greedy, executives like to keep their money, and ultra wealthy people do not become ultra wealthy by being charitable to others. This is not opinion, this is not politics, this is plain simple common sense.  

The truth is this, and this is not a Democratic talking point, this is not propaganda or false rhetoric, this is not a liberal or progressive “point of view”, this is the truth, any institution, whether it is a private company, a not-for -profit, or our government, needs a source of cash flow coming in, in order to be able to provide goods or services.  If there is not cash flow coming in, we end up with record deficits, services that have to be cut, programs that have to be cut, and the only way for our government to obtain cash flow, and therefore be able to provide to us the so much needed programs and services that we require as a nation, is either to borrow trillions from other countries, putting us further in debt, or raise taxes. This is not rocket science, this is Economics 101.  In order to have money to spend, there must be a source of revenue. Yet for some reason, 238 of the 242 House Republicans, and 41 of the 47 Senate Republicans have signed a pledge, not to the American people, but to a lobbyist named Grover Norquist that promises they will never ever raise taxes or eliminate any tax deductions.  Only 3 Democrats from the House and Senate have signed this pledge. So that I cannot be accused of paraphrasing, here is the exact text of the pledge in its entirety:  

“ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”  

Basically, to put it in a nutshell, anyone who signs this pledge promises never to raise taxes under any circumstances, for any reason…ANY REASON!?  So I guess my question is, WHY?! How does this benefit anyone? Oh wait…it does.  It benefits really, really rich people, because they get to keep more of their money and get even richer.  It benefits corporations because they get to give huge bonuses, trips to Aruba, and contribute as much as they want to politicians who are going to keep their taxes low because they signed this ridiculous pledge.   And it benefits Republicans because they are given huge amounts of money for their re-election campaigns.  And the craziest thing about all of this is that slowly over time, the Republicans have led many of us to believe that this is somehow the best thing for our country.  They have led many of us to believe that eliminating billions of dollars in tax revenue, will somehow allow us to bring down our debt and create new jobs, that somehow we will become a more profitable nation with less revenue, and many of us, who are not the ultra wealthy, have become so brainwashed, slowly and systematically over time, that we have gone ahead and handed them the power, we have elected individuals to the House and Senate who support policies that will never benefit us in any way.  

Because of these economically disastrous policies, we now are facing trillions of dollars in spending cuts to essential programs because we simply do not have enough revenue coming in to pay for these essential programs.  According to the Washington Post, some of these cuts include: 

$942 Million from a fund that helps rehabilitate housing in low income neighborhoods.

$456 Million from the Public Housing Fund that authorities use to maintain and repair public housing.

$504 Million from the Women, Infants and Childrens Program that provides food and infant formula to low income families.

$870 Million from the Dept of Labor for job training and creation programs, community college curriculums for dislocated workers and a fund that prepares workers for new green jobs.

$183 Million from the Workforce Investment Program that uses federal money to create state and local services in literacy, vocational education and welfare-to-work strategies for adults, young people and laid off workers.

$0 from programs that affect those making over $1 Million per year.  

The wonderful thing is that finally people, Democrats and Republicans, are starting to realize that this is just wrong, that something needs to change.  The Occupy movement is much more than just a bunch of hippy young people camping out in parks and carrying signs.  It is average people, the middle class, those who can’t find work, those whose houses have been foreclosed on, those who have seen their pensions and 401k decimated, those who teach our kids, build our roads, and work in our factories.  The Occupy movement is all of us and it is even the ones who won’t realize they are part of it until they benefit from the change that will happen. And the Occupy movement, contrary to popular belief, is even more than the 99%, because it is also the 1%.  The 1% became the 1%, not because they are stupid, but because they are smart.  The 1% knows what it takes to be successful, they know what it takes to run a business, what it takes to make money, and they know that in order to recover from the hole that we are in, we need to raise taxes.  The 1% knows that the added revenue they would pay yearly in taxes would be such a small percentage of their yearly income, that they would not even miss it, and that the benefits that this country would gain from lowering our national debt, being able to keep essential social programs going, being able to put Americans back to work and give them the income to purchase the good and services that the 1% create for the other 99%, would benefit 100% of each and every person in the United States of America.  And if you don’t believe me, ask them.  

Many of these Millionaires and Billionaires who are part of the 1% have joined together to form PatroticMillionaires.com. On their web site, to Our President, to Harry Reid, and to John Boehner they have written:  

“We are writing to urge you to put our country ahead of politics. For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000.  

We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.  

Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.  

Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.  

Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.”  

The 1% is part of the 99%, and if I’m not mistaken, that makes 100%. They have written a nine page letter that was sent to every Republican in the House and Senate detailing the exact reasons why the current policies must be changed, why the Bush Tax cuts must not be renewed, and why they must pay more in taxes.  Read this letter.  It will open your eyes and make anyone who reads it understand how the lies that we have been told by the Republicans, slowly and systematically, have economically destroyed our country, while making the ultra rich, ultra richer .  

The truth is, if we simply forget about this ridiculous pledge, made to a lobbyist, if we simply do what other Republican Presidents such as Ronald Regan, and George Bush Sr. did many times during their presidency, if our elected officials simply would do what is best for this country and stop making their priority blocking every single thing that our President wants to accomplish so that they can win an election, if they would simply raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans who can most afford it, who contrary to their beliefs are alright with having their taxes raised, and start giving the breaks to those who those who need them, then slowly and systematically we will start to see some real economic change in this country.   Like many people in many countries recently, we are facing our own form of oppression from those who have the power.  But just like those other countries, the power eventually comes back to the people.  The Occupy movement is all of us, not the 99%, not the 1%, but the 100%. And while we all may not be able to leave our daily lives and Occupy a park, or a building, on November 6th 2012, all of us can Occupy a voting booth.


Read the Letter PatroiticMillionaires.org sent to Congress.



Steve Jobs - You May Say He's a Dreamer

By Brian Dann


I remember the day John Lennon died. December 8th 1980, I was watching Johnny Carson and in the middle of his monologue NBC news broke in with a special report. It was at a time when Lennon was experiencing a resurgence in his career. Double Fantasy was just about to be released literally the next day, and the music contained on that vinyl disk was some of the best he had ever produced. Double Fantasy became an instant classic and the sense of loss that the world felt collectively was palpable everywhere you looked.  The loss of a creative genius who had so much more to give to the world and the knowing that there was so much more we would never see or hear from this icon was almost impossible to believe.  We were grateful for what he had given us, for how he changed the face of music and the impact he had on our lives. And here we are again.
Like Lennon, the loss of Steve Jobs is almost impossible to comprehend. But unlike Lennon, the scale in which the creative mind of Steve Jobs has impacted all of our lives in so many different ways, is almost inconceivable. To imagine what the world would be like today without the creative genius of Jobs is to imagine a world in which you could not read this in the way that you are right now, a world in which music, like Lennon's Imagine, could not be listened to in the way that it is, a world in which computers are not personal, windows are only things we look through, and a phone is something that you only make phone calls on.  Jobs legacy was not the material things that he gave this world, it is the fact that not only could he imagine these things, but he could then inspire those around him to join in his vision, to care about the people that he was creating for, to show us that dreams can become reality, that one person can make a difference, that we all have the ability to change the world.  Jobs showed us that if you follow your heart, trust in yourself, then it doesn’t matter what Wall Street, investors, marketing analyst, or anyone else thinks, like a Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.
Steve Jobs was part of a club that only few belonged.  Jobs was to technology, what Gutenberg was to the printing press, what Einstein was to science, what Ford was to the manufacturing, what Bell was to communication, what the Wright Brothers were to aviation, what Disney was to animation. He had the vision of Edison, the creativity of Da Vinci, and the spirit of Lennon. He showed us all what it was like to imagine, he showed us that it’s easy if you try, and you may say he’s a dreamer, but he showed us that he’s not the only one. To steal a quote I saw on Nightline, “If heaven doesn’t exist, Steve Jobs will invent it.” We are grateful for what he has given us, for how he changed the face of the world, and the impact he had and will continue to have on our lives. 


Don't Imagine President Obama In His Underwear

By Brian Dann


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?



Arizona, "What Is The Government Going To Do?"

(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/.


Arizona, A Senseless Shooting, Again, and Again, and Again, and...


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.


By Dennis Henigan on January 9th, 2011, (Originally posted  from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)
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.
For more information, see Dennis Henigan’s Lethal Logic: Exploding the Myths that Paralyze American Gun Policy (Potomac Books 2009)





The Most Important News Story of 2010 - NOT!


“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.”
And to that I say, Amen.





Red Carpets, Champagne, and No Worries!


There are few times in this life when we can share a singular commonality, a shared experience, an extraordinary moment, that in ways that you never expect, fills you with awe, joins you together and humbles you and all around you.  Only a small number of events have occurred in my life that have given me this feeling. Watching an African-American being sworn in as president, something that I thought I would never see in my lifetime, seeing the U.S hockey team defeat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics, watching our country come together as one after the tragedy of 9/11, all of these things collectively filled us with a feeling that extraordinary things are possible.  An experience that goes way beyond the generous gift I was given, way beyond the sights and sound that we all were fortunate enough to share, way beyond anything I could ever imagine, has taught me lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I was with 301 individuals who were handpicked by the queen of daytime talk herself, Oprah Winfrey, to receive the trip of a life time to Australia.  My wife and I were lucky enough to be In the studio audience for her 25th season premier and while that experience of being in that audience and seeing the collective explosion of emotions, people hugging, and women crying, was amazing in its own right, it is nothing compared to the collective experiences and emotions that we all came to experience while actually being in the country of Australia not just as guests of Harpo, but as guests of this amazing country.  The one word that I have heard over and over by the people on this trip in regards to the way we have been treated and the things we have done, is Humbling, humbling because we are all just ordinary people.  We are all mothers and fathers, teachers and students, business owners and workers.  But somehow we all were given this gift, and when you talk to people in this group you start to realize why each person was chosen for this adventure.  Each person has a different story that makes them stand out, that makes them one of one hundred and fifty one who were picked to come and each bring someone special.  Then when you hear why that person they brought is their someone special you start to understand that good things really do happen to good people.  We all knew that this trip was going to be something special.  We all knew that even if we could afford to come to Australia ourselves we would never be able to experience it on the level that we would on this trip.  But what we never expected was how we would be treated as true guests of not just Oprah, but of the land down under.  These ordinary people whose only dream was to get tickets to just one Oprah show before her show ends this season, became instant celebrities.  They had been greeted by press and paparazzi, had the literal Red Carpet rolled out upon arrival to the hotel, only to be greeted with more press and paparazzi, appeared on the front page of papers, featured on news channels all over he world, had dinners hosted on the scale that would rival international celebrities and heads of state, and that was just in the first day. Collectively we experienced a country that was so grateful to have us and so thrilled to share with us there culture, and we are the ones who should be grateful, and we are.  We are grateful for this experience, grateful to have been picked, and that is why we are humbled, because we should be grateful to them.  We are all just ordinary people being treated extraordinary.  We are humbled, collectively humbled.  

We were given a gift but the gift we were given goes way beyond the obvious of the things we received and the places we went.  The gift was the message that Oprah herself expressed to us numerous time while on this odyssey, that great things can happen to all of us, that miracles can happen, that we did not make it to Australia by accident, that we were all picked for a reason, that there is a divine power that brought this together, that if a little girl who could never find her name on a pen or a plate could one day see an entire regatta of twenty one sail boats with her name as big as life flying from each of the sails, sailing under Sydney Harbor Bridge with a giant O lighted up for the world to see, then it is possible for each one of us to achieve whatever it is that we can dream.   

It’s not every day that these ordinary people are greeted on white sand beaches, only accessible by boat, by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, fed unbelievable food and given free drinks while being serenaded by Australian singing groups, as Oprah herself flies in on Helicopter to join us all for the party.  It’s not every day that we are taken to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world to snorkel with Gayle King.  It’s not every day the these ordinary people are interviewed by press and appear in papers or walk red carpets usually reserved for celebrities, get stopped on the street and have people excited to see us just because it’s us, dine with celebrities and treated with such kindness and hospitality that you start to wonder why.   If I take back with me anything from this adventure it is that we don’t need red carpets and champagne to make us feel that we are extraordinary because it is not about what we receive it is about what we give.  It is not about where we work or how much we make, it is about how we live, not living to work, but working to live.  It is about our family, our friends and knowing that, in the words of Paul McCartney,” the love you take is equal to the love you make.”   And in the words of Miss O, “everything is better when you share it with others.”  This trip, this experience, this moment, is one that I will never forget and not because of where I went or what I did, but because of who it was shared with, the collective experience, the extraordinary moments that filled us with awe and changed us forever.  Thank you to my 300 new friends. Thank you Oprah. Thank you Australia. Thank you.










At Least WikiLeaks Didn't Find Any Bestiality


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.




A Republican Guide to Handing the President His Ass


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.