Who’s Really a Democrat?


Do you fill in the little oval next to every Democratic candidate when you go to the polls? That’s what I do. But do we know what we’re voting for?

I am a New Deal kind of voter. FDR is one of my heroes. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” is one of my dreams. I still mourn the tragic loss of Bobby Kennedy and JFK (and, of course, Martin Luther King).

But in today’s politics I am an Independent – a Bernie Sanders Independent. (That doesn’t stop me contributing to the Democrats’ campaigns and working for their candidates.)

If I were in Congress I would have to caucus with the Democrats – as Bernie does – because I have nothing at all in common with Republicans.

So I’m happy to read in Salon.com this morning that:

In the aftermath of the shellacking they took in the midterm congressional and state elections, many Democrats are calling for their party to return to its New Deal roots.

Yet, the news is somewhat puzzling. I assumed the party was still wedded to FDR’s New Deal principles. Apparently, I was misled.

According to the Salon.com article:

The present-day Democratic Party has next to nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Today’s Democratic Party is a completely different party, which coalesced between 1968 and 1980. And this half-century-old party has been anti-New Deal from the very beginning.

Say what?

The Salon.com writer argues that Presidents Carter and Clinton were nothing like FDR and Johnson. He cites policies like the deregulation of transportation (Carter) and the dismantling of financial sector regulations (Clinton). And he reminds readers that Clinton replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children with federal grants to the states.

He also noted that Democrats went along with the Republican attack on Social Security, agreeing to extend the retirement age from 65 to 67.

He adds that President Obama is also to the right of Roosevelt. Here’s his take on that:

Barack Obama is the third New Politics Democrat in the White House, following Carter and Clinton. His base is … young people, some college-educated whites, and blacks and Latinos. Like Carter and Clinton, he went after a major New Deal program — the most iconic of them all, Social Security. Obama proposed cutting Social Security by means of inflation adjustments or “chained CPI” as part of a “grand bargain” with Republican conservatives.

I am sure you know I am a diehard Obama supporter, but I have to agree this President’s policies have been mostly centrist.

Certainly, he seems more hawkish than I, more deficit shy than I. Apparently, he does not believe in Keynesian economics (as I do).

But I suspect his policies are dictated by pragmatism. He’s a smart man, and he has decided there’s only so much he can do in today’s America. He has  settled for half a loaf because he thinks the alternative would be no bread at all.

In this brainwashed country, where billionaires have captured the media, invaded academia and bought up the political machinery, FDR’s policies might seem to be out of reach.

But I would like to see the Democrats give the New Deal another chance. We didn’t hear from America’s youth in November. They stayed home.  Could a Progressive voice get them excited enough to vote in 2016?

 Click for the Salon.com article.


Bernie’s 12-Point Plan

Bernie Sanders - Fast Food Workers Nationwide Demand Higher Wages

On the Senate floor last week, Bernie Sanders spelled out a 12-point plan to cure America’s economic and social ills. Needless to say the common-sense solutions fell on stony ground.

The plan sounds so sensible to me that I wonder why America’s leaders haven’t adopted it already. Surely, Bernie can’t be the only member of Congress who sees what needs to be done?

But you and I know the plan isn’t going to be adopted. Not as long as Republicans control Congress, and the One Percent control Republicans.

The plan includes:

  • Repairing and building roads, bridges and other infrastructure across America
  • Encouraging production of alternative energy
  • Enacting tax breaks for companies that keep jobs in the US and penalties for those that ship American jobs overseas
  • Encouraging membership in trade unions
  • Raising the minimum wage
  • Mandating equal pay for any woman who does the same job as a man
  • Reforming trade policies to benefit American workers
  • Making college and daycare affordable
  • Expanding Social Security and nutrition programs
  • Breaking up the too-big-to-fail financial institutions
  • Expanding Medicare and Medicaid into a universal health insurance system
  • Fixing the cockeyed tax code.

These programs would provide jobs, address income inequality, stimulate the economy, alleviate global warming, improve health care and education for all Americans, and so on.

And – hello – it would benefit the big shots as well as the rest of us. They would stand to make a bundle from all that economic activity.

I know. It’s not rocket science. It’s not complicated. And poll after poll shows the public is overwhelmingly in favor of Bernie’s suggestions.

Furthermore, President Obama has been agitating for this kind of reform ever since he was elected back in 2008.

So why are such programs never enacted in Congress these days?

The only answer I can think of is that powerful interests don’t want anything like that for America. They want cheap labor. They want a divided electorate squabbling among themselves. They want an uneducated and unhealthy underclass they can exploit.

And they have the money to buy influence in Congress and in state legislatures and to brainwash low-intellect voters .

But as long as there are folks like Bernie Sanders, there will be voices raised in protest. There will be advocates for fairness and common sense.

Is anybody out there listening?

Click for more on Bernie’s plan.


The Politics of Race

A white Democratic senator named Mary Landrieu is almost certainly being voted out of office in Louisiana as I write this blog. And I read somewhere that it’s because white voters have turned against her party.

Surely, that’s an oversimplification. But there could be truth in it.

During my 16 years here in Central Florida, I’ve noticed a shift in our local politics.  There used to be several white faces among the Democratic candidates. But now not so much.

The Democratic Party seems increasingly to be the party representing black and Hispanic Americans, while white Americans cling to the Republican Party.

It could be a Southern phenomenon. Lyndon Johnson observed when he signed civil rights legislation back in the Sixties that he was losing the South for the Democrats. But I suspect there’s much the same kind of racial politics in non-Southern states, too.

I am not sure why, but  I see the racial divide widening in America.

Does it have anything to do with the election and reelection of the nation’s first black President? Perhaps. Ironically, I had perceived Barack Obama’s election as a sign of racial maturity in America, but it could turn out to have the opposite effect.

Whatever the reasons, the situation does not augur well for Democrats. The American population is more than 60 percent white, despite the ongoing demographic trend toward diversity. It will be a while before non-white voters outnumber white voters.

Of course, recent examples of the judicial system’s unequal treatment of black Americans are aggravating racial tensions. White law enforcement officers are getting away with the unlawful execution of unarmed black citizens. And black citizens are also far more likely to wind up in prison than white citizens (if they don’t wind up dead).

Media outlets are contributing to the sad state of affairs. Demagogues -white and black – whip up racial animosity on the air, in print and on the Internet to build their audiences at the nation’s expense. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The US Constitution gives them that right.

Tribalism is a powerful instinct. People are prepared to overlook their economic interests to side with those they regard as their own kind. It’s not a thought process. It’s a gut feeling. They might not even be aware that they’re doing it.

The overwhelming support white working class voters gave Republicans in November is a case in point.

The natural response from those outside the tribe is to close ranks too. Bigotry begets bigotry. Hostility breeds hostility. Violence triggers violence.

I am writing this blog at this time because I am troubled by the hostility that I observe on social media, on television, in street protests and all around me.

I don’t know what the answer might be, but I believe it’s time for thinking Americans of every shade and creed to add their voices to the national debate.

It’s time for the calm voice of reason to prevail.

Click for more on the Mary Landrieu’s runoff race.

Click for an example of racial hostility.


A Distorted Mirror

executive action


During my years as a journalist, I considered it my job to hold a mirror up to society. But that’s not what I see the media doing today. For example, the image of the Obama presidency that the public sees is shamefully distorted.

Scanning this morning’s headlines, you will learn about protests against police violence and Republican rants against the President, but I defy you to find information on the executive orders President Obama recently issued to make it easier to get a college education in America.

All I’ve come across on the web is a brief video of the President announcing the executive orders. No details are provided.

There’s a lot on the web today about Tea Party members of Congress threatening to shut down the government (again) and about the House voting to block the President’s executive order staying deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

You will read about Republican wrath over the “controversial” executive order on immigration. But apparently his critics have nothing to say about his “unilateral” action to help more kids go to college. And the media have no interest in that kind of story.

I think that’s a shame. So much of what the President does is unreported – or under reported. And he has done a lot.

With the Republicans in Congress committed to stalling any and all progress, the President has had to rely on executive action to get things done. Here’s an excerpt from a report on the White House web site:

Using his pen and his phone, the President has helped create new manufacturing jobs, expand apprenticeships and job training, make student loan payments more affordable, support equal pay and workplace flexibility, cut carbon pollution, and rally support across the country while raising the minimum wage for all workers on new federal contracts.

The web site links to a long list of executive orders the President has issued in his attempt to help America’s middle and working class families despite a relentless Republican blockade.

But it seems the public never gets this information. It’s no wonder President Obama’s approval rating is so low.

Click for the more on the President’s executive orders.

Click for the video.


Welcome Back Tiger!



At a time like this it’s heartening to have Tiger back. I’m sure you share my deep distress at the way things are in America today. It seems the chasm separating white Americans from non-white Americans has never been wider, never more difficult to bridge.

A series of police atrocities against black Americans – and the establishment’s instinctive reaction to protect the perpetrators – has set race relations back a generation or more.

It will take a while to recover from the apparent disregard for the lives of those hapless victims killed by police in recent weeks – Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner.  Killed, it seems, with no serious attempt to punish their killers.

You probably know the details of those cases. And, sadly, they are not isolated cases. I just read that between 2005 and 2012, a black person was killed by a white law enforcement officer almost twice every week.

There are ongoing protests of course. And there will be investigations. And commissions. The rift between the races will grow wider before it is bridged.

Meanwhile, white America is closing ranks against Hispanics. I am convinced the President’s attempt to address the injustices of America’s immigration laws was a key factor in those disastrous midterm elections.

At a time like this, I am relieved to be able to turn on the TV and watch a non-white American (half black, half Thai) enjoying the adulation of the crowd – an overwhelmingly white crowd, by the way, for golf is still an overwhelmingly white sport.

Tiger Woods will tee it up with Jason Day in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth this afternoon. And the word is that he’s back in shape and back on form. In the coming season, I expect him to display the old magic that has won 14 majors and numerous other tournaments.

To me, the Tiger Woods phenomenon is an affirmation that the thrill of sports is color blind.  People of all shades and ethnic backgrounds share the visceral joy derived from watching consummate artists – of any race – in competition with each other.

Perhaps it is in the shared thrill of physical competition that America will find its way back to racial harmony.

As the poet Rudyard Kipling observed a long time ago:

there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth.

Click for more on the protests.

Click for more on the tournament.

Click for more on Tamir Rice shooting.


The Path Less Traveled



When St. Louis Rams center Jason Brown decided to leave the last $12.5 million of his NFL contract on the table and farm 1,000 acres in North Carolina instead, his agent was shocked.

“You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,” the agent said.

“No I’m not,” the highest-paid center in football replied.

Brown was only 29. Presumably he could look forward to many more years of stardom and many more millions of dollars. His $37.5 million dollar contract with the Rams still had a year to run and he was sure to get another  large contract to keep playing pro football when that contract ended.

But sometimes in life, you leave the money on the table and take the path less traveled. You decide to do what you really want to do. You do what makes you feel good about yourself.

And Jason Brown has every right to feel good about himself.

He is doing what he feels he should – growing food for people in need. According to an item in the Daily Kos this morning:

He grows sweet potatoes and other vegetables and donates his harvest to food pantries. According to the News & Observer, he has given away 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers this fall.

You have to admit that’s more important than football.

Click for the Daily Kos story.

Click for more about Jason Brown.


A Turkey from Tennessee

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, Elizabeth Lauten

I suppose President Obama will let another turkey off the hook this holiday season. He isn’t likely to respond to Elizabeth Lauten’s rude rant against his daughters. He won’t need to. Responses from outraged Americans are pouring in.

The communications aide to Tennessee Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher posted a scathing Facebook attack against Malia and Sasha, urging them to show “a little class” despite the bad example they get from their parents.

What got Ms. Lauten (photo inset) going was the bored expression on the girls’ faces as they watched their dad pardon a Thanksgiving turkey (photo above).

Yes, a turkey.

For some reason that I cannot fathom, the President of the United States is obliged to pardon two turkeys every Thanksgiving.

Wikipedia credits President George H. W. Bush with starting the tradition back in 1989. Apparently, it’s a publicity stunt dreamed up by hotshots at the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board.

According to Wikipedia:

The presentation of a turkey to the President each year began in 1947 under President Harry Truman, and many sources erroneously attribute the origin of the turkey pardon to Truman. However, the Truman Library says that no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs or other contemporary records are known to exist that specify that he ever “pardoned” a turkey; there are records that he publicly admitted to eating at least some of them.

Pardoning a turkey has to be one of the President’s most absurd official functions. And I can understand why 16-year-old Malia and 13-year-old Sasha would roll their eyes in embarrassed disbelief. But evidently, turkey pardons are more august occasions in Tennessee than they are in Washington DC.

Ms. Lauten was not amused. Her Facebook post read in part:

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.

Even from a Tennessee Republican, the post was shocking. Social media lit up with demands for Lauten’s firing. And the mainstream media is all over the story.

Despite an abject apology on Facebook, Ms. Lauten has had to resign.

Now, if we can only get rid of the annual turkey pardoning farce.

Click for the story.


The Cold, Hard Truth

BS md-p10-buffalo-weather


It has been uncharacteristically cold here in Central Florida. The low temperature a couple of nights ago dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And I see on the Weather Channel that we’re the lucky ones down here. In places like Buffalo, (photo above) they’re freezing, and the snowdrifts are burying their cars.

It’s no time to be talking about global warming.

Or is it?

According to an article by Andrea Thompson of Climate Central:

This early foray into winter weather is just a small blip in the overall global picture, which is of a warming world that is still on track to see 2014 set the mark for hottest year on record.

Ms. Thompson reports that while central and eastern North America have been shivering recently, California is seeing its warmest year on record. And, she says:

The globe is bathed in warm spots, with the small cold spot centered over the Great Lakes area being just one of a handful of blue spots on the world map.

August, September and October of 2014 have all been the warmest such months on record, as shown by data from NASA, the Japan Meteorological Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,  which released its October global numbers Thursday.

Ms Thompson notes that this worldwide pattern of increasingly warmer temperatures has been evident over the past century, particularly since the early 1980s. And she blames  “an accumulation of greenhouse gases.”

Man made greenhouse gases. From fossil fuels like coal and oil.

As the north winds blow and you slog through the snow, you will be hearing, no doubt, from the climate deniers who helped to elect a Republican Congress last month. But, as Ms. Thompson admonishes:

Don’t let the polar vortex fool you. This year is the hottest on record — and things are only getting worse

What makes me despair is that I know the new Congress, elected in large part by coal and oil interests, cannot be expected to make things better. Indeed, I fully expect they will do everything in their power to dismantle existing environmental controls.

Click for Ms. Thompson’s article.


Stickin’ it to the Workin’ Stiff

Mitt Romney told them they were moochers, so America’s working class should not be surprised when Republicans stick it to them. They should’ve known what they were voting for when they put rich, white folks in charge of Congress.

I don’t know why 61 percent of white working-class voters — meaning those  with no  college degree and those who work for an hourly wage —  chose Republican candidates in November. I suppose they figured the rich, white folks would remember them fondly.

If that’s what happened, those “po’ whites” are in for a jolt.

The new Congress is fixin’ to do them wrong. The Republicans they elected are planning to extend tax breaks for corporations but not for them. A deal now in the works calls for an end to the earned-income and child tax credits introduced by President Obama back in 2009. And guess who benefits from those tax breaks?

Yes, the working poor – including those white working class Americans who voted the Republicans into power.

This new Congress is committed to the Ryan budget (which trashes Social Security and Medicare, and slashes food stamps, school lunches, unemployment insurance and all other kinds of “welfare”)  but is renewing tax breaks for such essential industries as NASCAR and horse racing.

In a Republican America – as the Chinese decreed back in the Eighties – to be rich is glorious.

To be poor is scary  – black, white or whatever color you happen to be.

 Click for more on the tax proposals.

Click for more on Ryan’s plans.


As Time Goes By


I just came across a news item reporting that actor Burt Reynolds is in financial trouble and is auctioning off some personal items to bail himself out. It’s always depressing to read about some once wealthy celebrity falling on hard times, but what makes me even more downcast is the photo that sometimes accompanies the story – the one above, for example.

Why, I wonder. Surely I know that we all get old – if we’re lucky. And when we get old, we don’t look like we did when we were young.

I have a mirror, after all.

But Burt Reyniolds? The Bandit? The swashbuckling. macho guy who laughs at danger? The impetuous lover who sweeps women off their feet? That Burt Reynolds?

There should be a law against publishing photos of aging stars.

They should be allowed to live forever in our memories the way they were when we spent those magical moments in some darkened theater, vicariously living their adventures and sharing their magnetic personalities.

I know, you’re thinking I should be more sensible by now. Old men look like old men. That’s all there is to it.

Time takes its toll.

As a teenager, I used to see Errol Flynn on the terrace of his Port Antonio hotel, day after day, drinking vodka (so I was told). He certainly did not look like a dashing pirate then.

He looked like a boozy old man.

But dreams live on. The stars linger in our memories – and on the films they made.

And that’s something we can hold on to.

I think I’ll watch an old movie or two and skip the news of the day. I wonder what’s playing on Direct TV?

Click for the story.