Behind the Riots

baltimore

 

It’s easy to point fingers and even assign blame in the sad Baltimore riots. But, obviousy, that’s not very helpful. It’s a complicated business, and I am thankful it’s not up to me to find a solution. But I can make an easy prediction: this isn’t the last such eruption in America.

There are layers upon layers of underlying causes for such tragic incidents. It seems some in the media see the nation’s law enforcement agencies as a refuge for sadistic racists who enjoy murdering young black men. I find that hard to believe. My brother Peter’s grandson, Anthony, is a deputy in Florida. Peter’s son’s brother-in-law has been a deputy for many years.Peter’s granddaughter’s husband is a deputy…

I am sure none of these men would intentionally harm anyone – except in the direst of circumstances.

Being a cop is hard. I wouldn’t want to be one.

Still, that does not excuse the slaughter of young black men across America. Somebody is killing them. And the somebody is often a law enforcement officer.

I suspect there’s a perception among law enforcement officers that young black males are dangerous. And I suspect the perception is based to a large extent on experience.

Yes, young black males can, indeed, be dangerous. If I were a young black male, I bet I would be dangerous. Wouldn’t you?

Young black males belong to an unjustly oppressed minority in America. There can be no argument about that. The reasons are numerous and complex, but the results are all-too-obvious.

I have lived in America for more than three decades, and I have seen little or no improvement in that intolerable situation.

Yes, a few lucky individuals are able to escape the ghetto, get into college, become professional athletes or lawyers or doctors or politicians – or even President.

But for the vast majority of young black mles, opportunity is simply out of reach.

And with the rapidly widening income gap between the haves and the have-nots in this country, the situation is likely to get worse, not better.

As I said, I am glad it’s not up to me to fix this tragic situation. And the consequences are likely to get a lot more violent as solutions continue to elude those charged with fixing it.

Fasten your seatbelts, America. It looks as if we’re in for a wild ride.

Click for more on the riots.

Click for more on the likely causes.

 

Here We Go Again

hillary

You knew it would happen, the trumped up charges, the feigned outrage… That “vast right-wing conspiracy” is in full attack mode. Their echo chamber is ringing with “revelations” about Hillary Clinton’s supposed conflicts of interest. Her relations with the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State, for example. And, of course,we are hearing the obligatory OMG’s from the servile media.

Yesterday it was Benghazi.  Before that it was Whitewater. And in-between it has been one false alarm after another. She has even been accused of murder.

According to one right-wing web site:

 In Arkansas and across the U.S.A., there are 56 dead people who knew too much about Whitewater or Troopergate or Cattlegate or some other Clinton scandal.

Of course that’s pure pulp fiction. Three separate inquiries found the Clintons were innocent of any wrongdoing in the Whitewater affair.

You know the crusade is just getting ramped up, don’t you? In the months before next year’s elections, you know you will be hearing even more outrageous charges.  The din will grow even louder, the accusations more scandalous, the outrage more melodramatic. An army of paid propagandists will be working 24/7 to produce material for the media mill.

And the pundits will fall for it, as usual.

But, surely, by now, we the people know better. We know the culture of American politics, the mud-slinging, the finger-pointing, the posturing and the fakery.

And Hillary’s supporters have heard this kind of thing for so long. They will not be moved.

As for the younger generation, they stopped listening a while back. The 21-year-old college student who shared a hospital room with me recently is planning to be an environmentalist working in the public sector, and he had never even heard of the Koch Brothers.

His generation has tuned out the din. They figure they already know who wear the white hats.

If they would only take the trouble to vote!

Click for more on the latest “scandal”

Click for the Whitewater story.

 

Other People’s Pain

mental

I won’t be writing a blog this morning about the pressing issues of our time. When you’ve just spent three long days (and two endless nights) in the hospital, it’s not easy to get fired up about the world’s woes. Pain is a personal thing. We mortals cannot really appreciate the suffering that others are going through. We must experience it to feel it.

Why was I in the hospital? I suppose the short answer is dehydration caused by a bad reaction between a pain killer and a blood pressure medication. I started throwing up and couldn’t stop – even after there was nothing left to throw up. My kidneys, which don’t work perfectly at the best of times, had gone into decline.  If you care about such things, my Creatinine level was 1.8.

It could have been worse, of course. The kid in the bed next to me had a reading of 2.0. He is 21 years old, this kid, an Environmental Sciences student at Florida Southern University. He was center back on an intra-mural soccer team and they had played four games in two days. If you know anything about soccer, you know that’s almost like competing in a marathon.

After the games, he collapsed and started throwing up. As far as I could tell from shamelessly eavesdropping, he was so dehydrated that his muscles were affected. This kid will never be the same again. According to one conversation I overheard, he will always have to be careful about overdoing it as far as sports are concerned. And he has Basic Training to go through this sunmmer. He’s doing some kind of military service in addition to studying.

I consider myself lucky. My kidneys are working OK again, and my life is back to normal. What the future holds for my young ex-roommate is a lot more uncertrain.

As I tossed and turned in the torture chamber they call a hospital bed, tethered to a drip bag and to massage leggings pummeling my diabetic calves, I could hear the cries and moans of other patients, who were obviously in much more distress than I.

I could hear an old woman screaming for “somebody” to help her, and later a man crying over and over, “Help, help, help…” in a futile dirge of terror and pain.

I asked one of the nurses about the man and she dismissed it as a mental issue. “He’s naked,” she said, without elaboration, leaving my imagination to fill in the blanks.

Was he a mental patient? Or a drug addict? I am told that some people get addicted to pain medication and will often fake agony to get a fix.

Whatever it was, he was in obvious torment. Even if the horrors he was screaming about were imaginary, the pain was no less real to him (illustration above).

Through his screams for help, I thought I could hear giggling in the hall. Could that possibly be one of those gentle nurses who were so attentive to me, who were always at my beck and call to unhook me from my contraptions so I could use the rest room, who – and this is no small thing – laughed at my wisecracks?

Could she have become innured to the fictional horrors that men like this go through, so much so that she found it amusing?

It’s possible. We grow accustomed to horrors; they become commonplace over time.

Come to think of it, this blog is about one of the most pressing issues in our world today, after all. Isn’t it?

 Click for more on dehydration.

 

Common Sense and Ganja

drugs

 

On his recent visit to Jamaica, US President Barack Obama was asked about the prospects of legalizing marijuana in his country. He said several states were taking that path but he didn’t see Congress following suit anytime soon.

Things are different in Jamaica.  According to an AP report this morning:

Drug law amendments that partially decriminalize small amounts of pot and pave the way for a lawful medical marijuana sector went into effect Wednesday in Jamaica, a country where the drug has long been culturally entrenched.

Now, possession of up to 2 ounces of “ganja” could brng a $5 fine, but not arrest and a criminal record. And Jamaicans can legally grow up to five plants per household. Rastafarian adults can use marijuana for sacramental purposes.

Why not just legalize the weed completely? Why the $5 fine?

Who knows? We’re talking about politics, so it’s pointless to ask why.

But the island is still ahead of its mighty neighbor as far as drug laws are concerned. America wastes billions on a farcical “war on drugs.” American prisons are overcrowded with harmless drug offenders. And millions of Americans still smoke the weed.

Now, many Americans will probably fly to Jamaica to get high.  Jamaican authorities are counting on that. According to the AP story:

They hope the island can become a player in the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, health tourism and the development of weed-derived products….

Foreigners who are prescribed medical marijuana abroad will be able to pay for Health Ministry permits authorizing them to legally buy up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of local weed for medical or therapeutic purposes during their stay.

Of course, Jamaica is not the only country to take a common-sense approach to marijuana use.  The weed has been decriminalized in Canada, Australia, Mexico, and several European and Latin American countries.

And, as President Obama noted, nearly half of the states in the US have moved in that direction, too. But this Congress isn’t likely to do anything that progressive. It’s mired in the myths of the past.

Click for the AP story.

Click for countries that have decriminalized marijuana.

 

Here Comes the Clown Car

clowns

 

Can you picture Ted Cruz in the White house? Marco Rubio? Ben Carson? Rand Paul?  Bobby Jindal? I can’t.

What about scandal-plagued Chris Christie? Or the unctuous bumpkin, Mike Huckabee?

Or that Koch Brothers lackey, Scott Walker?

And Rick Perry – again?

Is this a joke?

Crazy Cruz couldn’t win a presidential election in some banana republic, for Heavens sake. Does anyone really think he is fit to be leader of the free world?

And Rand Paul has about as much chance of becoming America’s president as his nutty father, who has been running for the office for most of my lifetime.

Union-busting  Scott Walker came within an eyelash of getting dumped as Wisconsin governor. Only truckloads of Koch Brothers money saved that job for him. But it would take a lot more than money to gild that lilly enugh to win a presidential race.

As for Carson, Rubio, Christie, etc., there’s nothing any of these guys have to sell that could get their foot in my door. And I am not alone. Even their far-right base is divided. Here’s what a recent Pew Research Center poll found:

Of 10 possible GOP contenders asked about in the current survey, no candidate garners solid support from more than a quarter of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters.

Yes, Jeb Bush is a more credible candidate than the rest of the field. But another Bush in the White House? So soon after the disasters his brother inflicted on us?

I don’t see how Hillary can lose this one. All she has to do is act normal, be her smart, competent self, and let the clowns do what they do best – make fools of themselves.

Of course even clowns have their constituencies. They can count on frothing-at-the-mouth support from the Religious Right  – make that the Religious White – for example. And they will have obscene amounts of money from well-heeled pals on Wall Street and other shadowy sources.

But what can that money really buy? TV commercials, of course. But do the ads still have any credibility?

Haven’t we already heard all the stale – thoroughly debunked – arguments and trumped-up charges that money can buy?

Don’t we know better by now?

If we don’t, we will get the president we deserve.

Click for the survey results.

 

Enemies of the State

obama

 

The relentless sabotage of President Obama’s policies and the insulting personal attacks against him have provoked fury even among the normally unflappable members of the New York Times editorial board. To me this fury is long overdue.

The anti-Obama crusade is not just personal. It is not just political. It is an assault on the country’s national security.

The Times concludes that one unmistakable motive is racism. And I have expressed similar suspicions in past blogs.

We will never be sure of the attackers’ motives because none of us can see into the heart of another person. But one result of their evil crusade is plain. Their attacks have compromised the President’s foreign policy and put Americans in grave danger.

The attackers are – beyond argument – enemies of the state.

President Obama singled out one recent instance of these dangerous attacks on Saturday.  According to an AP report, fthe President complained that “partisan wrangling over the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran and on other foreign policy matters has gone beyond the pale.”

“It needs to stop,” the article quoted President Obama as saying. According to the AP report:

Obama complained that Sen. John McCain of Arizona had suggested that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s explanations of the framework agreement with Iran were “somehow less trustworthy” than those of Iran’s supreme leader. “That’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries,” an exercised Obama said in a news conference at the end of the two-day Summit of the Americas. “And we’re seeing this again and again.”

The AP report quoted the President as also singling out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for criticism. The President was quoted as saying McConnell had been “telling the world” not to have confidence that the U.S. can meet its own climate change goals.”

The Senate majority leader  has been urging American states not to comply with Obama’s power plant rules, and arguing that the U.S. could never meet Obama’s target even if those rules do survive.

These are just the most recent in an increasingly vicious campaign to undermine the President’s policies – at the people’s expense. The Times cites “a series of actions by Republicans attacking the president’s authority in areas that most Americans thought had been settled by the Civil War.” One example:

Arizona legislators, for example, have been working on a bill that “prohibits this state or any of its political subdivisions from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with an executive order issued by the president of the United States that has not been affirmed by a vote of Congress and signed into law as prescribed by the United States Constitution.”

The Times observes that:

The bill sounds an awful lot like John C. Calhoun’s secessionist screed of 1828, the South Carolina Exposition and Protest.

I’m sure you know the tragic consequences of that proclamation. Pray that’s not where America is heading today.

Click for the Times editorial.

Click for the AP report.

 

Who Loves Ya, Jamaica?

The-Caribbean-Political-Map-1988

 

I bet you thought it was Venezuela. But, as it turns out, Venezuela was just a fair-weather friend. Now that times have changed and Venezuela is feeling the impact of collapsing oil prices, its honeymoon with the Caribbean is over. It is ending subsidized interest rates on oil exports to the islands.

And who is stepping in to ease your pain, Jamaica?

Your new pal, Barack Obama.

Not so long ago, America was guzzling far more oil than it could produce and Venezuela was rolling in the proceeds from its oil exports. But that’s just a memory. With shale oil discoveries and new drilling techniques, America is producing more oil than it can consume. And this has contributed to a global slide in oil prices, leaving Venezuela pinching pennies.

So, now, America can afford to be generous with its oil. Venezuela cannot.

President Obama is heading for Jamaica today to give the country’s leaders the good news. He will become the first US president to set foot on Jamaican soil in more than three decades. The last sitting US president to visit the island was Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Presisdent Obama will attend a meeting with the 15-member CARICOM Caribbean bloc, and plans to offer the islands an alternative to cheap Venezuelan oil.

Apparently, Uncle Sam is waking up to the fact that there’s are friendly next-door neighbors who desperately need his help.

An article in Jamaica’s Observer newspaper quotes senior Obama advisor Ben Rhodes as saying:

We absolutely feel that the CARICOM region does deserve greater attention and engagement from the United States. We are looking to continually deepen our relationship with the Caribbean and can play an important role in enhancing the energy security of the region.

I know, where has Uncle Sam been all this time? But now that he has finally seen the light, Jamaica should be willing to forgive his past neglect. The island needs his friendship. As the Observer artilce notes, the Jamaican government has been forced to adopt a severe austerity program to meet the demands of IMF creditors.

According to the article, the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research calls it “the most austere budget in the world.”

Click for the Observer article.

 

When the Dust Settles

presidential candidates

 

The airwaves are alive with the sound of campaign rhetoric, and this is just the beginning. The din will increase as the 2016 elections get closer.

There will be charges and counter-charges, promises and pleas, as America’s presidential hopefuls sell themselves to a word-weary electorate. What can anyone say that hasn’t been said? What can anyone promise that hasn’t been promised? Haven’t we heard it all before – all the lies, damn lies and statistics?

The stakes are huge, of course. The swarm of words masks very real choices. And we close our ears at our peril.

Pick the wrong candidate and you could be sabotaging not just your country’s future but your future… and your children’s future … and their children’s future…

Pick the wrong candidate and it could – really – be the end of civilization as we know it. For the hawks are flocking, the shrill screams of warmongers fill the air. The next American president will have to be very skillful to avoid being stampeded into a war that would enrich the few and devastate – possibly incinerate – the rest of us.

President Obama has had to hang tough – and endure bone-wracking pressure and heartbreaking abuse – to avert a nuclear holocaust. It’s no wonder his hair is so gray.

If ever there was a time for Americans to vote – and vote wisely – this will be it.

I think I already know how the nomination process will turn out. It seems obvious to me that Hillary Clinton has the Democratic candidacy sewn up. And it seems just as clear that Jeb Bush is predestined to carry the Republican banner.

Yes, I know, there will be so many Republican hopefuls. And the media will be sure to make it sound like a horse race. That’s what sells newspapers and builds audiences… hot competition and wild speculation.

Millions – make that billions – will be spent on the various campaigns. What would the media do without those campaign ads?

You will be hearing a lot more from Ted Cruz… and Rand Paul… and Scott Walker… and probably evenj Mike Huckabee, just to name a few.

But pay them no mind.

The eventual choice will be between Hillary and Jeb (depicted above).

I know a little about Jeb. He was governor of my state, and when he was a businessman in Miami, I interviewed him for a story. I wouldn’t vote for Jeb. My impression is that his main objective is his own enrichment, not his country’s best interests.

And the prospect of another Bush in the White House fills me with dread, especially as I understand Jeb has surrounded himself with his brother George’s former advisers.

Sure, I have misgivings about Hillary, too. But hey are minuscule compared with my fear of the Bush dynasty.

And since I can’t have Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, I’ll enthusiastically vote for Hillary. It’s time for America’s first woman president to lead – and save – the Free World.

 Click for more on Hillary and Jeb.

 

One for the Ages

tiger

 

OK, so you don’t play golf. You don’t even watch golf on TV. But surely you know who Tiger Woods is. You might even have heard of Rory McIlroy. And you probably know the Masters is coming up this week.

To me, this will be one of the most fascinating tournaments ever. I will be glued to the TV. reveling in the perfection of the venue, the consummate skill of the world’s greatest golfers, the excellence of the … well, the excellence of everything, for to me the Masters is the benchmark of excellence when it comes to sports broadcasting.

But this year’s Masters will offer much, much more. It will be a drama that rivals the great plays of William Shakespeare, Pavlovich Chekhov and Tennessee Williams, providing heart-warming – and heartbreaking – insights into the human condition.

It could also answer an age-old question: Can we mortals really beat Father Time?

Yes, more people are living to 100, as the AAARP Magazine noted last week. Yes, 70-year-old body builders have amazing physiques and, from the right angle, in the right light,  60-year-old actresses somehow manage to look – almost – like debutantes.

But in today’s golf, where 300-yard drives are commonplace, the pros become “seniors” at 50. They get to play on the Champions Tour, where the tees are farther forward, the fairways are easier to hit and the pin placements are more forgiving.

Golf pros start getting “old” years before that. They tend to peak in their thirties and fade in their forties. One of my all-time favorites, Phil Mickelson, is a case in point. Even legends like Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer faded after forty. And the great Jack Nicklaus held on for just a few years longer.

Which brings us to 39-year-old Tiger Woods (above, left) and 25-year-old Rory McIlroy (above, right).

Nike (which you may also have heard of) portrayed the poignant passage of time in a new ad that’s attracting a lot of attention. It has been interpreted as “Tiger Woods passing the torch to Rory McIlroy.”

Is it really that time? Already?

Or is there life in the “old” Tiger yet?

I will have to see it to believe it. And you can bet I won’t miss a minute of it.

Click for more on the Nike ad.

Click for more on Tiger.

Click for more on McIlroy’s chances.

 

The Iran Conundrum

nuclear

Israeli and American hawks are wailing while the rest of the world rejoices at the deal to block Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb. As for me, I am puzzled (as usual?).

Why does Iran even need to develop a nuclear bomb? Why can’t they buy one on the black market? I bet Pakistan, for example, could be persuaded to part with some of its nuclear arsenal if the price were right.

So many nations – good and bad – have so much nuclear capability. Yet so far nobody has dared to use it.

Even the craziest troublemaker must know the result would be suicidal. One bomb would lead to another and it would be goodbye cruel world for us all.

But some Israeli leaders are pretending they believe the Iranians would drop a nuclear bomb on their country if they had one.

And their pals in the US are echoing their nonsense.

I suspect there’s money involved. By raising continuous alarm, Israel ensures a never-ending supply of arms and money from good old Uncle Sam.

And America’s military-industrial; complex cashes in on a lucrative export market.

Meanwhile, the kabuki theater goes on.

Read all about it!!!! Nuclear deal with Iran!!! Armageddon averted!!!!

Until the next convenient bogey man emerges.

Click for the news story.