Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chris Christie for President

Today is the day almost none of us were waiting for: Chris Christie announcing his intention to become the next President of the United States.

Can it be only four years past that the Republican party was begging this man to throw the hat covering his swelled head into the fray? Has there been a more precipitous decline in fortune since then?

With his popularity in his home state, my state, dropping faster than the stock market after a Greek default, is there anyone left who cares about the man with the second most obnoxious personality in this race (not even Christie can top the Donald)?

However, in a field replete with unhappy options, it would not be beyond contemplation to wake up one morning soon to learn of Mr. Christie's temporary ascendancy to the top of the pile. Between the bad, the worse and the ugly, the ranter and raver in chief may seem a viable choice. Let the nose holding begin in earnest.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why Would Anyone Care About the Right to Marry?

Mr. Douthat raises the question of why the gay community would press so hard to join what seems to be a dying, antiquated institution. The answer is that the matter before the Supreme Court had nothing to do with marriage, but everything to do with the right to marry.

It was a ruling which served as a proclamation of independence, of freedom from tyranny and oppression, from years of hiding in fear should one's secret be revealed. It was, notwithstanding the eloquent words of Justice Kennedy, in essence an emancipation proclamation.

It was a statement of recognition, an apology for damage inflicted and wrongs committed in the name of hatred and intolerance. It was a moment to reflect upon our transgressions and a promise that we will try to do better, to be better than we have been.

This was not about "marriage's retreat". This was not about "the more relaxed view of marriage's importance and the fact that this makes room for our gay friends and neighbors". This was about making equal room in our society for those we have for far too long mistreated and abused. This was about recognizing not the right to love but the right to live free from the constraints wrongly imposed. This was not about the choices of gay men and women but their dignity. This was not about their "I do" but our "no you don't".

This was not about "gay conservatism and straight liberation" but about our human failings which the Supreme Court recognized could not continue with their sanction. This was not at all about marriage, even as it purported to be all that was considered.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Amazing Week in Review

It has been a schizophrenic moment, filled with sights and sounds of great triumph and soaring rhetoric yet equally unspeakable tragedy and pain.

We have been witness to the gunning down of nine as an act of unfathomable hatred and racism, only to be countered with words of strength and conviction

We have heard those of the highest court of the land announce in clear terms of the right of all of our citizens to live dignified, meaningful existences protected from the wounds of those in our society who would neither care for them or about them. But, we have also heard the continuing voices of dissent from some of our politicians and from those who sat in defeat on the bench, petty, ugly, virulent tones.

We have  learned of continuing acts of terrorism abroad, as innocents in three countries lay as bloody testament of a movement cloaked in religious piety but destroying life in ways contrary to each and ever fiber of what religion should foster and perpetuate.

And we have listened to our President speak so forcefully and eloquently after each pronouncement of the Supreme Court and finally,from the pulpit with a passion and resolve often sorely missing. We fell in love with this man years ago and we longed for the time he would reemerge. This week he did, praising us for being a more UNITED states then we have been, sermonizing that with our triumphs and even with our tragedies we have shown our nation to be one of greatness, compassion and yes, amazing grace.

These have been days where we have demonstrated all that we are capable of, both in our finest hour and in our darkest. And in the end, we have been reminded of everything that we can be whether our quest is for good or evil. It has been an exhausting, exhilarating, terrific and terrible time, as strong and weak, right and wrong collide.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Long Live the King

Long live the King (v Burwell)!!

For those who believe universal health care should be the law of the land, the Affordable Care Act is a disappointing compromise, leaving a significant percentage of our population still uncovered and subject to the greater likelihood of diminished health and earlier death.

But, given its limitations, Obamacare has been a godsend to millions of Americans and a beacon of light in an all too often dark and desperate landscape. For most of the two terms of the presidency of Mr. Obama the legislation that has come to bear his name, and the man himself, have been subjected to a ceaseless barrage of vicious criticism. It has been an ugly and deliberate effort to undermine the most important health care reform this country has witnessed, and to destroy the legacy of a president.

Finally, hopefully, this charade has played itself out before the Supreme Court. In unusually direct and forceful terms, Chief Justice Roberts has made it known that enough is far too much when it comes to trying to remove the central underpinnings of this Act. The time is past when our highest court and our nation should be compelled to focus its time and energy on this unending obsession of the Republican party.

Let these unhappy politicians rant and rave today, as so many of them have, as they attempt to demonstrate their resolve and gravitas. And then come tomorrow let them, once and for all, put this issue to rest and move on to the task of governing, which has seemed a lost art for so many years.

The Flag


It is like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Are we to applaud those whose policies have perpetuated the racial chasm in this country merely because they have been pressured to remove the most virulent symbol of that racism?

After Newtown, there was hope that the brutal slaying of 20 young, innocent whites would provide the impetus for substantive change in our gun control laws. Even that proved fallacy, as we learned that entrenched beliefs are virtually immutable, and even the most horrific of tragedies is no match for those who have their own definitions of what is happening before their eyes.

So too, I fear that the events at this church will soon be only another pock mock on our landscape. Those who don't see the prejudices that translate into a permanent black underclass relegated to a diminished life merely by the happenstance of birth, will fail to find any great meaning in the nine deaths. Taking down the flag will not educate but enrage these people.

And yes, we are a society in need of a wake up call. We somnambulate, giving  little notice and less credence to the moments that should be reshaping our thoughts and the lives of so many millions. Take down the flag, but more importantly, take down the barriers to understanding and sympathy for without that, the wound will only fester.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One Word (a different one)

The President will undoubtedly be castigated for (also in harsh vernacular) calling a spade a spade. But it is far past the moment for us to be polite about our prejudices. After enduring a seemingly endless series of racially motivated attacks, we have now been witness to the most heinous of crimes. It serves as vivid reminder of the horrors inflicted on blacks in the south more than a half century before.

By using the N word, the President was voicing the frustration and anger of a black man and of a leader of a country which has not moved nearly as far, or as fast, as his election would suggest. His words are intended to wake us to that reality, and not  let us continue to reside in that fictional place where hatred based on skin color is but a historical relic.

Politics is always about being cautious in one's statements. We have seen this play out in the days since the nine deaths at the church.  Republican leaders around the country test out the political temperature before dipping a toe into the water on the question of whether a state flag, which flies as symbol and reminder of our worst instincts, is to remain aloft.

President Obama, either by calculation or emotion, has exposed a wound which remains raw and ugly. The President is to be applauded for having the courage to speak a truth which can and should be called what it is. We must confront this problem head on, so that a half century from now the events of recent days are not still being repeated.

Monday, June 22, 2015

One Word

There is a lodestar in the law when interpreting ambiguous language. The search should be for a determination consistent not merely of the words in question but the broader understanding of the document and its most reasonable explanation that will do the least harm. I can think of no greater disservice to that principle than a decision of the Supreme Court which would overturn the heart of the Affordable Care Act.

The argument rests not on four words out of a document that stretches from here to the homes of those most impoverished and in need, but truly on one. Instead of referring to an exchange established BY the states, it more precisely should have been an exchange established IN the states. The remedy, had we a Republican party which was not laser focused on destroying the legacy of the President, would be that simple.

Instead, the future of millions of those who have the misfortune of living in one of the 36 states which left implementation of the act to the federal government, is of the very real possibility of receiving distinct and disparate treatment. There is no equal protection for all of our citizens if the ruling should be one that stands for the proposition that neither logic nor fairness have any place in the halls of justice.

It would be a sad day for this country if we were to regress to a time when those most sick were least able to obtain coverage and when those most desperate for assistance from their government were left to their own devices. This decision will say much more about who we are than it will about whether there was some imprecise phrasing in a document. A striking down of Obamacare will serve not as an indictment of inattention but a clear statement of malevolent intent.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day Wish

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jeb, I Am Not Bush

("Jeb Bush Openly Runs for President, Finally")

Well, Jeb is finally running. Running away from his family that is. Declaring himself a candidate and definitely declaring that he is not his brother's keeper. Or his father's for that matter. "Don't call me Bush" is basically his bumper sticker.

After putting his foot and a lot more of his body into his mouth distancing himself not at all, then a little and finally entirely from his brother's Iraq attack ("ack, ack, you oughta know by now"), the man who would not officially be king until he had sufficiently filled the coffers with non-presidential contributions has now thrown caution to the wind and announced. That his name is Jeb, and only Jeb. No father or brother on the platform, physically or psychologically. Nary a mention of his heritage in his commencement (I mean announcement) speech. He is his own man, an orphan really. A person with no attachment to family, except the family of man (or maybe he could be the third Koch brother).

Is this to be a question of what is less exhausting, Bush or Clinton fatigue? It is a fascinating possibility that says much about something, although it would take a much smarter person than I to figure out why we seem to anoint certain families to lead us (in the case of Jeb's brother, to the brink of disaster) over and over.

The good thing for Jeb is that there are enough crazies in the Republican rat pack to keep us focused on other distractions. And rumor has it that The Donald will be making his weekly announcement that soon he will be the next President of these United States. It seems that he is the only one running for the top office in this country more often than the Bush clan. Sorry, former governor Bush. I will only call you by your first name from now on. Like Seal or Prince or Madonna.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kalief Browder

He would have died a nameless, faceless death, just another statistic but for the New York Times. His life would have passed without us knowing of the horrors of a system that robbed him of his youth, his spirit and ultimately his will to survive.

For those of us who can't comprehend what it is to exist in a world where poverty, persecution and pain are your constant companions, the suicide of this 22 year old man was stark notice of what our cruelty and indifference means.

We mourn the loss of a life that was never given a chance to flourish, of a person who never breathed the air as we do, of dreams that were never allowed to see the light of day. I hope that Kalief Browder now rests in the peace that eluded him during his short and troubled existence and that the reporting of his anguish resonates sufficiently so that the next Kalief Browder does not suffer the same terrible fate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Promise to Do No Worse

I applaud Mr. Bruni for throwing his hat (with maybe a hair or two still attached) in the ring. Forget that he doesn't appear to agree with virtually any position "his" party takes. There is a long tradition in this country of switching allegiance over the course of a career.

Take the father of this version of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan. He began his political life aligned with the Democrats before "the party left him". Or the mother of this version of the Democratic party, and maybe soon of our nation,  Hillary Clinton who was a Goldwater girl a half century ago. Or Teddy Roosevelt who sat in the White House as a Republican and then founded the Progressive party so he could take a shot at a third term in the Oval office.

The list goes on and on all the way back to President John Tyler who found himself expelled from his own Whig party soon after he ascended (by succession not election) to the highest office.

And so, I too think of adding my name to the enormous list of Republicans seeking to become number 45. Even though I find no redeeming aspects in the party's platform, and have never voted for a Republican to hold elected office for fear of what that would mean, that will not deter my resolve. And I promise I will do no worse than Dr. Carson, Ms. Fiorina,  Mr. Trump or any of the other hopefuls would do on  behalf of the not so Grand Old Party  Yes, that will be my slogan, "I promise to do no worse."