Who Hijacked the Republican Party?

The Republican Party can trace its roots all the way back to Washington.  While it is true that Washington and Adams both were Federalists, they were also the conservatives of their generation.  Jefferson, who became president in 1801, was the first “liberal” and his was the Republican Party.  The party of Jefferson, however, disappeared with the Whigs only to return as the party of Lincoln.

None of our first four presidents were religious men.  There is continuing discussion among historians as to what, if any, religion Jefferson truly ascribed to.  But it was a very conservative Adams, and equally conservative Madison, who made a point of distancing the federal government from any form of religion.  Their reasoning was simple and clear.  They remembered the heavy-handed dictates of the King of England insisting that his subjects be members of the Church of England.  It was this absolute separation of church and state, as much as anything, that brought the original settlers from England to America.  The second part of the first amendment is an affirmation of that fact.

Mitt Romney is a very conservative evangelical Christian.  His running-mate, Ryan, is a very conservative Roman Catholic.  The irony of those two being on the same ticket is that each of their chosen religions was a huge detractor of the other during the 19th and a good part of the 20th centuries.  Each religion based itself of certain absolute ideas and ideals over which they were unwilling or unable to find any middle-ground with dissenters of that particular belief.  In the late-20th century, at least one Mormon tel-evangelist referred to Catholics as evil in no uncertain terms.  To be fair, and having been brought up Catholic, we were led to believe that the only true Christians were Catholics.  I believe Romney is crafty enough that he realized such a division could be brought up during his campaign for president, hence his drafting Ryan.  To many, the charismatic Marco Rubio was a better choice of running-mate, but that would have put two evangelical Mormons on the same ticket.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, evangelical Christians, lead by Jerry Falwell, formed what they called “the moral majority” and started a systematic takeover of the Republican party.  To be sure, they were conservatives all and well-financed.  But the “moral majority” fell apart when Jim Baker, and other prominent far right-wingers, were found guilty of marital infidelity and other such things.  But the Falwells were simply the figureheads for well-monied ultra-conservative Republicans.  They quite simply set an agenda and required all Republicans to buy-in or see their campaign funding dry up.

Not all Republicans have toed that line.  I do not believe that Scott Brown, a Republican US Senator from my own state, is of the ilk although I do think he has found himself in the position of voting for positions that are unpopular with his constituency rather than risk becoming a pariah.  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has also shown courage of conviction to buck his party’s line.  Unfortunately, he is far from being a centrist.

The “Tea Party” has a hand in all this.  It is the answer to the Libertarian ideas of Ron Paul.  But unlike Ron Paul, it has a close alliance with evangelical America.  While Ron Paul takes a very pragmatic approach to reducing government, the Tea Party seeks quick draconian measures that would basically kill the middle class as it increases the gap between the rich and the poor.

I think everyone should be allowed to practice whatever religion they desire.  But I do not want their religion, or mine for that matter, being used as a basis for public policy and law.  Religion is one of the most personal things that exists.  Even among the most conservative group of people of a same religion, you will find differences in their beliefs.  And while these difference may seem minor, they are important to each individual.  How do you dictate what, religious in content, a country should hear, should have as a part of its public policy, and worse, a part of its law?

Good government and good government policy can only be built upon the absence of religious belief.  It is not unpatriotic, for example, to be an atheist, although ultra-conservative Republicans will have you think that so.  I demand freedom from your religion, as you should demand of me.  My First Amendment right says that will be so.  I do not, however, believe that is the plan of evangelical Republicans who have found a leader in Mitt Romney, and who have kidnapped the once proud and pragmatic Republican Party.  Please give back the Republican Party of Lincoln, of Teddy Roosevelt, and of Dwight Eisenhower.


Obama Has Disappointed Me But Romney Scares Me

Most people, when they think of Massachusetts, would categorize it as a liberal bastion.  In one sense they are correct as the state house is dominated by Democrat senators and representatives.  But in another, they would be wrong.  For the past two years the state has had a Republican U.S. Senator, and over the past 20 plus years it has boasted more Republican governors than Democrat, Weld, Romney and Celucci among others.  The residents of Massachusetts are more centrist than most of the nation would believe, and I feel they prefer balance far more than one-sidedness.

I remember when Mitt Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts.  The state’s Democrat Party brought into question his legal residence, saying he actually lived in Vermont while maintaining property here in Massachusetts.  But through a legal technicality, the elections board was forced to allow his residency as meeting the standard.  It always bothers me when someone gets by on a legal technicality.  It makes me wonder about their ability to be entirely honest and forthright.  It makes me question their integrity.  Romney did an all right job as governor, not spectacular and not bad as his Republican predecessor Paul Celucci had done.  But it was obvious that he was only interested in placing himself of a national forum as he was a one-term governor who did not try to serve a second term.  Such action makes me question his commitment to the state he served as governor.

When Barak Obama came into office he made many promises, more than any politician should, and certainly more than even he knew he could keep.  Washington politics, being what it is, seldom allows any president to “rule the roost.”  FDR came the close to being able to do that and then Reagan pretty much had his way.  And so when Obama took office he said he was taking a page from FDR’s presidency when it came to helping the economy to recover.  Except for the government’s largess, his recovery program failed to come close to FDR’s vision.  FDR started named government programs, most famous being the FRA (Federal Recovery Act).  Others, the civil conservation corps (CCC) later declared unconstitutional, the Tennessee Valley Act, the Rural Electrification Act, and other programs put a name on his program and gave the general public something to look towards to measure success.  All the programs, even the CCC, were hugely successful.

FDR’s success came largely because he kept the Federal Government in charge of its investments with the states acting as expediters but not overseers.  Obama did the opposite.  He meted out the money to all the states, with certain provisions attached, but then mostly gave up federal government oversight.  The results were mixed at best.  Obama would have been better served, as FDR did, by saying a certain amount of money will go towards rebuilding America’s highways and roads, possibly naming it the Infrastructure Recovery Act, and then putting heavy requirements upon states as to how they used those dollars.  His focus on the use of the money should have been seeing that as much of the $780 billion went towards labor intensive work as possible.   Inner city revitalization would have been another opportunity, although this seems to have been missed entirely.  To be sure, America’s “Rust Belt” is no better off today than it was 4 years ago.

It is my belief that lack of federal oversight allowed too much of “Recovery Act” dollars to end up in the pockets of well-placed and highly influential individuals who did little to help America recover from its worst recession since the Eisenhower administration.  To his credit, Eisenhower did his part in putting America to work with his vision of the Interstate Highway system that he fathered.

What scares me the most about Mitt Romney are his very conservative religious views along with those of his running mate.  Let me be clear, when it comes to abortion, I am even more conservative than Romney as I do not believe in it regardless of the situation and have felt so since I was a teenager.  But, I also recognize that abortion is an issue of conscience and I have no right to  insert my beliefs as being superior to any other person’s beliefs.  And that is why I believe in the absolute right of each individual, in the case each woman, to make her own decision of conscience.  If I can influence her towards not having an abortion, great, otherwise I have no right to dictate to her what she should do.  This to me is purely a First Amendment issue, the part that refers to religion, and nothing more.

I do not like politics in the extreme, right or left.  I fear Romney is all about doing the bidding of the far right as that is where much of his campaign funding comes from.

American politics today, most unfortunately, seem to be like a scene from The Wizard of Oz.  We should all be wondering who the man behind the curtain is.  We have the man out front, Obama and Romney, but we must know who is pulling the strings behind the curtain.  Who is it exactly that most influences these men and what is their agenda?  More importantly, does their agenda align with the desires of 80% of the American public?  I fear the answer to this last question is a resounding “no!”  That is not just conservative politics,  but liberal as well.

I think it the job of every American voter to ask the candidates one simple but tough question.  Whenever one of them states that something is true, that their particular way of doing things is best, or any other boast, ask them to show definitive proof of their claim.  Ask for details, facts, and deny them elusive or vague rhetoric.

I Do Not Understand “Gay,” But I Accept It

With all the problems that exist in our country today, why is there such an uproar over what gay people do or do not do.  I cannot stand the visual thought of two men kissing, but I do not condemn it.  The religion I was brought up in thinks it is an “abomination.”  For the life of me I cannot understand why this should be true.  Is it because of some poorly translated texts from ancient, and by-the-way not original, documents say it is so?  It is difficult to understand how any thinking person could think such a thing.

For many years I was in one of the most testosterone driven organizations in the world which was openly anti-gay, the US Army.  There were plenty of gay men in the arm, a couple of whom served under me.  I never had a bit of trouble with them. They were outstanding soldiers.  I never had or heard a single complaint in all my years about any of the gay troops, that their lifestyle was somehow corrupting us or interfering with our mission.

Now gay people want to be legally married.  So what?  Conservative Christians claim it is some sort of attack on the sanctity of marriage, and upon the family itself.  They fail, however, to explain exactly what that means and worse, they fail to show the slightest bit of evidence to support their contention.

Gay people, to the best of my knowledge, are asking that each state respect the civil union of same gender couples.  They have not, again to the best of my knowledge, asked anyone to allow them to be married in all the churches of the United States.  I do know that certain churches do conduct same-sex marriages in states where such unions are allowed, but is that not their own private business?

My wife was, at least in part, reared by a gay man, her uncle.  And that was because her natural father had deserted the family.  My wife is 100% straight and very well-adjusted.  Her male role model, her gay uncle, was a very intelligent, strong, kind and good man.  He taught her a lot.  He also lived with the same man for 25 years, a feat many heterosexual partners find difficult to achieve, I being among those.

I heard, and saw, a man who professed to be a conservative minister of some evangelical church contend that God hates all gays.  That stunned me.  I considered for a long time what God’s response to such a statement would be and I think, and truly believe, that God spoke to me and said, “How dare you question my love for any person!”  Now that is in perfect harmony with everything Jesus Christ ever said.

I think it high time everyone stopped worrying about who loves whom, and start worrying about how dangerous our city streets have become; or how difficult it is increasingly becoming for the average middle-income family of five to survive on their present wages.

The truth is, gay marriage is not going to hurt a thing, certainly not the marriage.  What hurts marriages more is poor communications between couples, money and the lack of it, sex, selfishness, lack of honesty, lack of commitment.  Any attack upon any marriage, or the entire institution, is purely an inside job done by those who have yet to clean up their own side of the street yet before complaining about what someone else wants or does.

Marriage is truly a first amendment right.  Are we now selectively going to deny that right to people whose life-style we disagree with?

I Am Actually Going to Live to be 110

Yesterday’s little rant was one of those “you are getting older” moments.  In truth, about 12 years ago, maybe longer, I decided I am going to live to be 100.  I made that decision in all seriousness as a response to a dark mood I had been in for far too many years.  Just how do I plan to complete this feat?  One day at a time, and a goodly amount of exercise.

How Many Americans Are Truly Unemployed?

During the years 1929 to 1935 as many of 25% of America’s able working public was unemployed.  How did they get that number?  Simple, if you did not have a regular full-time job, you were unemployed.

That, however, is not how we do it today.  Today’s figures are gathered entirely from America’s who are receiving an unemployment check.  It does not include the homeless, who were counted in 1933; the chronically unemployed, who also were counted in 1933; or farm workers, who were counted in 1933.  Why then, you ask, are we not counting those people now?  The simple, and most truthful answer, it is not convenient.  You see, if we did count those people we would have to acknowledge an unemployment rate of well about 15% and that, regardless of what they say, is something neither political party is prepared to cope with.

When John Glenn went into space the first time, the heat shield of his capsule malfunctioned and there was worry that he would burn-up upon re-entry into the atmosphere.  NASA leadership haggled over what to do when one of Glenn’s fellow astronauts told them that they had an obligation to inform Glenn of the condition of his ship, and that Glenn, being the outstanding pilot his was, would assist in the decisions that needed to be made.

The United States is owned by the people, not but 535 congressmen and senators.  The people have a guaranteed right to assist in decisions made for them.  That, however, is difficult to do when complete information is denied them.  The American people do not know the condition of their ship, although Congress probably does, or should.  They forget, it seems, that they are servants and not masters, although it seems they believe they are the latter.

The good ship United States is mired in a recession, the stubbornness of which is confounding, but the magnitude of which is being kept from the general public by those in whom is held the public trust.  A person who is chronically unemployed or who has quit looking is not necessarily unemployable.  But when their own government stops counting them then they are right to feel neglected by their own government.  Those people have not given up a single right to which they are entitled and which the Constitution gives them guarantee.  But their government, our government, through statistical trickery, has rendered them unworthy of its time.  Who, I ask, gave them permission to do so?

I recommend, and I know this will be wildly unpopular with my more conservative friends, that any person who is unemployed be given an unemployment check for however long that unemployment lasts.  Then we will be forced as a country to look at all our citizens, without exception, and deal with the entire problem and not just that portion of it that suits us.

Expediant Politicians Have Compromised America’s Fighting Men

If you have read my previous posts you may believe I am beating this subject to death.  But as a veteran, and hopefully a thoughtful and patriotic American, I feel responsible to speak up on my belief that those in political power, obsessed by their own self-serving priorities, are putting our nation’s warriors in harm’s way.

In October and November of 1925, Colonel William Mitchell was court-martialed for having the temerity to speak his conscience and call into question the conviction of American politicians in providing a proper defense, in the field of aviation, for America.  For those of you unfamiliar with this case, in 1921 he predicted that Japan would launch a sneak attack by aircraft based on ships at sea, on a Sunday morning around 7AM, and upon the ships of the United States based in the port of Honolulu.  His assertion, at the time, was of course brushed off as the rantings of a man more interested in his own fame than anything else.  Mitchell, over the next four years, continued his attack on military leadership whose “conservative” views did not allow for the idea of new and revolutionary ideas.  They, in turned, conspired with the numerous politician to maintain the status-quo or, worse, weaken the nation’s defenses.

Fortunately, America no longer disregards the advances that are being made in warfare.  To the contrary, America’s development of “smart bombs” and other technological advances are a point of pride.  But a lesson that was learned in World War II seems to have been forgotten.  To be sure, America’s technological advances during World War II helped win that war.  But it was the individual fighting man who was at its base.  That is, the technological advances not withstanding, it was the overwhelming numbers of American fighting men, and women, who helped put us over the top.  America fielded over 2 million men during that war.  But out of that war came something we had not expected, combat fatigue.  It was really nothing new, had been experienced in both the Revolutionary War and World War I, but it finally had a name, and a face.

Fighting a war is like running a marathon.  The runner knows full-well that he will hit “the wall,” that point at which he runs out of initial calories, and has to do the final 8 miles on his reserves.  But he knows that at 26.2 miles he will be done, and that in mind, he can maintain a very high level of effectiveness overcoming his bodily pains to complete his mission.  Military men are no different.  They are given a “tour of duty” in a war zone that will last no longer than one year before they are returned home.  Like the runner, however, they must enjoy an extended time of rest to recover from their experience.  But unlike the marathoner, they have incurred a psychological debt that cannot be quantified and may be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

American politicians, most of whom have never served in the military, never mind in a war-zone, do not allow for the psychological damage of war to enter into their considerations when planning for a properly manned military.  They look only at the national budget, and seeing the largeness of the defense budget, they allow political necessity to rule their decisions rather than the proper defense of America and the safety of those who are entrusted with its defense, the military.

Freedom is not free but American politicians, fearful of having to defend its expense, allow for the reduction in the size of America’s military at the expense of the safety of the individual military person.  Even the Spartans, the best-trained, best-equipped, best prepared military force of its day were defeated by numbers.  As valiant as they were, in the end, they ceased to exist simply because of being overwhelmed by an extremely more extensive military force.  Could this happen to America?  Yes!

I am intensely proud of my service in the U.S. Army and am extremely protective of any who would desire to do it wrong.  Right now, as I see it, those who do it wrong are our elected officials, those who we have asked to do our bidding but who, because they lack honor, prefer to force upon the military systems it neither wants nor needs, to curry favor with industrialists who support their political careers but who have no vote in their election.

When Dwight Eisenhower was made commander of all allied forces in Europe during World War II, he knew full-well it was not because he was a stellar tactician, but rather because he could navigate the harsh world of politics and do it in a manner that both mollified the political powers of the allies while tending to the emergency needs of the troops.  He of course surrounded himself with the best tacticians he could find.  The result was his ability to have exactly the number of troops he needed and resources needed to pull off to D-Day invasion of 1944.   America and Americans seemed to finally have come to terms with the idea of “whatever it takes” to win a war.  We committed unconditionally.  To be certain, in 1944 America was weary of war and wanted it over as-soon-as possible.  It continued for another 15 months beyond D-Day 1944.

Since that time America has committed itself to the defense of free thinking people everywhere and especially to the defense of the American homeland.  Nothing shows that resolve more than our response following 9/11.  But America seems to have forgotten, and needs to be reminded, particularly those who assume public office, that war is always a game of numbers, and those numbers are always a count of individual human lives.  Those numbers are necessarily the man who wears the uniform and puts himself in harm’s way in defense of the country he loves.  But men wear out just like machines, and war wears a man out more quickly than any other single endeavor.  To meet our obligations world-wide we need a large active military force.  We do not have that, nor have we for too long.  We wear our those individual parts to their detriment.  We seem to but unable, or unwilling, to pay forward the tax of field the military we promise.

Our active and reserve military forces are simply being over-taxed because there are not enough of them.  We reduce the size of our military at our own peril, and the peril of the individual we ask to go to war for us.  We need an active military in excess of 1 million men and a reserve force that numbers at least 3 million.  We are not even close to either of those figures.  What we should be learned from present-day actions, but do not seem to be, is that modern wars will be long and drawn out requiring long-term commitment from us.  It is unreasonable to keep asking the same individuals to put themselves in harm’s way time and again when we have the resources, and ability, to field far more.

Dealing With Traffic Congestion in America’s Cities

Even though I am addressing the growing problem of congestion in America’s cities, I am going to refer almost entirely to Boston as it is the city I am most familiar with.  In an article in today’s (August 5, 2012) Boston Globe entitled “Teh cure for congestion”  p. K10 by Derrick Z. Jackson, the method Stockholm Sweden used is put forth.  In 2006, it states, Stockholm began a 7-month trial where it charged each automobile entering the city about $1.50 on off-peak hours and about $3 during peak traffic hours.  It used 18 city entry points armed with cameras that took photos of the license plates of cars entering the city and sent the charges to the registered owners.  Public opposition t this idea ran as high as 75%.  But at the end of the trial period the amount of traffic entering the city had been reduced by 22%, and when the measure was put to the vote, the public passed the measure to make it permanent.

In 1991 I attended a professional conference initiated by then Senator Paul Tsongas at the University of New Hampshire where professional traffic management specialists put on a symposium.  At the time Boston’s “Big Dig” was in its infancy.  Even so, for reasons that eluded rational and reasonable explanation, the plan for the North/South rail link had been discarded.  And this in spite of the fact that it had been fully engineered and was included in the original plans.  For those of you unfamiliar with Boston, the city has two rail terminus, one called North Station and the other, South Station.  This is, and never has been, a rail line that links the two which has meant passengers coming from north of Boston have had to use other means of transportation to get them to South Station so they could continue the journey, if the so desired.   The additional cost of the North/South link, had it been carried out, would have cost in the tens of millions of dollars in a project that ended up costing over $15 billion.

But such short-sightedness, and political chicanery, not unusual in the world of Massachusetts politics.  To the contrary, anyone who lives in the state knows only too well the state in known for its political patronage which Bay Staters have been at a loss to do much about.

Curiously, Boston is home to one of the foremost schools for urban planning which exists within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Moreover, the U.S. Department of Transportation has one of its larger research and development centers in Cambridge at the Volpe Center.  M.I.T. and the Volpe Center sit side-by-side not coincidentally.  But Massachusetts, in its infinite wisdom, has seldom seen fit to avail itself of these facilities most likely because its political influence does not extend to either.  By extension, if you look at other major American cities, you can find other private facilities which would welcome public monies in a state’s efforts to deal with its transportation problems.  These institutions, having no political agenda, would likely give a comprehensive and reason response to any transportation problem which is happening the city and state in which they reside.  And for far fewer dollars than corporate America can deliver with a product that would challenge any.

All major cities need a comprehensive system of rapid transportation.  By definition, that means subways systems and street cars, and any other facility whose movement is affected little, if at all, by street congestion.

Boston’s subway, the oldest in the nation, though by definition is a rapid transit system, suffers from its own form of congestion which during rush hours frequently renders it little faster than the street level automobile.  Worse yet, the infrastructure of the subway system itself is in need of extensive repair and rebuilding.  This, of course, is costly.  Worse, the system, the MBTA, is currently in debt to the tune of over $100 million.  The political response to this problem has been to raise fares, reduce service, and leave the long-term problems unanswered and unaddressed.  Other systems, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, I have little doubt, suffer from similar problems.

What Americans do not understand, and which was brought out in detail at that 1991 conference, is that is costs many times more to maintain the nation’s roads per mile than it does to maintain the right-of-way for rapid transit and commuter trains.  Even more, public transportation has the ability to carry many more people between any two points per hour than even the best highway.

Why don’t Americans abandon their cars for the more economical and fiscally responsible public transportation.  Unfortunately public transportation has the tendency to be unreliable, uncomfortable, inconvenient and largely unattractive.  The “park and ride” facilities are frequently too small and inconveniently located.  Those that are heavily used tend to fill up early which provides a disincentive to the later commuter to even consider them.  In Massachusetts, for example, there is only one parking facility, the Interstate 95/Route 128 facility, that resides immediately next to a heavily used highway.  But there are more than 10 places where the commuter rail intersects with an Interstate highway.  Urban planners know, or should know, that easy of access is key to ridership in public transportation.  But Massachusetts, which has been increasing the size of its commuter rail had done absolutely nothing to address this.

The incentive to use public transportation, as shown in Stockholm, must be balanced with a disincentive to use the automobile.  Any person who has ever traveled to western Europe or the Far East and used their public transportation systems, knows how superior those systems are to any that presently exist in the United States.  In the world arena of public transportation, the United States is little more than a third-world country.

One thing the American public needs, to help it embrace public transportation, is knowledge of the cost to maintain a road per mile.  Politicians never give out such figures even though they have easy access to those figures.  Our roadways, as every American must know, are deteriorating faster than they can be rebuilt.  Roads that are in desperate need of rebuilding are patched which in itself is expensive.  Roads deteriorate not just from age, but also from the volume of traffic they carry.  The greater the traffic load, the faster the deterioration.  And that is extremely expensive.  Conversely, rail transportation can withstand increased use far better and much longer.  It only makes sense to shift traffic from roads to rails.

America would do well to take the lessons learned in Stockholm and other European and Asian countries that have adequately addressed their country’s transportation needed.  The solution to America’s traffic congestion is not easy but it does exist.