Dozens of polls and studies reveal general agreement among American adults which favors sensible gun control reform legislation, incorporating a variety of strategies such as:  (a) increased funding for mental health services; (b) universal background checks; (c) a national ‘red flag’ law; (d) training and/or licensing requirements; (e) more consistent rules across state lines.

Each and all of these would likely contribute toward reducing senseless gun violence. Yet, the Root Cause of our present dilemma seems to center around one specific type of firearm, often called “AR-15 style”.

These are high-capacity military-style weapons which can be fired semi-automatically and/or have the capability of being easily transformed into a rapid fire weapon. There is no legitimate purpose for these weapons in a civil society, and the ultimate goal to remove this Root Cause from the equation ought to be a total and complete ban on the civilian purchase, sale or possession of such weapons.

The next critical variable is ammunition. There is no logical or defensible reason to support civilian sale, possession or use of military grade ammunition categorized as: hollow point; full metal jacket; armor piercing; green tip; black tip; or any other sort of ammo which is not used by regular gun owners for target shooting or which is appropriate for legitimate hunting purposes.

As painful as it might seem to Wayne LaPierre, Jason Ouimet and others at the NRA, these AR-15 style weapons and military grade ammunition seem to continually and disproportionally fall into the hands of a few people who have really bad agendas.

If we eliminate the very weapons and ammunition which seem to attract the interest of folks with bad agendas, we will be making some real progress.

Please listen carefully, NRA.

The great majority of us don’t want to take guns away from our neighbors; we don’t harbor animosity toward responsible gun owners; and we often are gun owners and NRA members ourselves.

We do believe there is a balance – a sensible equilibrium — which respects, supports and honors the American tradition for people to keep and bear arms in a manner consistent with a civilized 21st century society.  

Let’s work together to find that balance.

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently embroiled in one of the most divisive cases of the 21st century.

I offer some comments to them.

REF:    Docket No. 19-1392:  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Honorable Justices:

I’m a retired man of European ancestry who has enjoyed a great life in America. I was raised in a family which celebrated equal rights among women and men; valued the importance of education; encouraged everyone to work to their potential; and gave our neighbors an opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

I have lived in 3 states, and I’ve always thought that one of the great benefits to all who are residents of the United States is the breadth and depth of the 10th Amendment, which strives to ensure equal rights to all U.S. residents regardless of which state they were born in, or where they currently reside.

That said, I am extremely alarmed and disappointed by recent media reports which indicate a high potential for The Court to negate the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (410 U.S. 113), in addition to reversing a subsequent and related decision from 1992 — Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833).

A variety of research surveys over time have found that the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion has been included in the demographics of survey participants, the vast majority of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Whenever people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own — perhaps different — beliefs.

The great majority of published public opinions opposed to open unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades — including both contraception and abortion — center on personal ethical, moral or religious issues, with the loudest voices opposing open access generally emanating from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians, an economically privileged cohort.

Restrictions imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services have disproportionate adverse economic impact on — and directly deprive basic human rights to — young women; low-income women; and women of color. These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, frequently members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and to the children who are born as a result — are often devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into our larger society is chilling.

I urge you to reject the religious, ethical and moral arguments embedded into the Dobbs case, and to instead codify the right of all women residents of the U.S. to unfettered access to comprehensive reproductive health care, regardless of current residency; education; economic status; age; disability; religion; national origin; pregnancy; race/color; sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

George Orwell was right.

January 30, 2022

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

The School Board in McMinn County, Tennessee recently announced a decision to ban author and creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from their eighth-grade curriculum.

McMinn County, TN may be a poster child for the current divisiveness in America.

This rural county is home to just 54,000 residents and until very recently, was over 90% white.

As a whole, the State of Tennessee has been, and remains, predominantly Christian. About 81% of the population identifies as Christian, and 52% of Tennessee residents identify as Evangelical Protestants.

Plagued by the legacy of a mediocre public education system, poverty is rampant in McMinn County: Over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, including 24% of children (under 18) and 12% of seniors (65 and over).

The McMinn County School Board recent action helps to reinforce the notion that adults who themselves are products of a mediocre public education system are often incapable of making sound and fully informed decisions based on solid facts.  Or, we might say that these folks have been deprived of critical thinking skills due to the inadequacy of their public school system.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming increase in public displays of frustration, rebellion and even violence among adults who are constrained by the toxic combination of extreme religious ideologies and vulnerability to unreliable or false sources for (mis)information.

George Orwell was correct, and only WE can prevent the vociferous minority from subsuming the will of the majority.

The Dangerous Intersection of Evangelical Christianity with White Supremacy

White supremacy sometimes manifests as colorism, a persistent issue within India, Latin America, Africa and nearly every community of color. When a mother tells her children not to play out in the sun because their skin will get too dark, she is reinforcing the myth of white supremacy by encouraging proximity to whiteness via lighter skin.

The most dangerous combination seems to occur at the intersection of Fundamental (Evangelical) Christianity and White Supremacism – the belief that Caucasians are superior to all other races.

Fundamental/Evangelical Christianity states that ‘only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation’.

White Supremacists adhere to the aberrant beliefs that (a) Whites must have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; and (b) White people are genetically superior to other people.

In a 2019 nationwide survey, 86% of white evangelical Protestants and 70% of both white mainline Protestants and white Catholics said that the “Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride than of racism”; nearly two-thirds of white Christians overall said that killings of African-American men by the police are isolated incidents rather than part of a broader pattern of mistreatment; and more than 60% of white Christians disagreed with the statement that “generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”

The Southern Baptist Convention itself was organized prior to the Civil War in Georgia by Southern Baptists who were strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery. It delivered the invocation when Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy.

Today, the Southern Baptist Convention has a membership of over 16 Million, and is thought to be the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S.

When I came of age in the late 1960’s in Buffalo, NY – a true northeast rustbelt city – we really didn’t have time for any of this nonsense, and I naively believed that our nation had progressed beyond the foolish notions of the Confederacy.

Four decades later, Donald Trump and his loyal following of ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian voters truly surprised and shocked me, and many others.

Robert Jones, a graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, may have said it best when he stated that Trump inspired White Christians, “not despite, but through appeals to white supremacy,” attracting them not because of economics or morality, “but rather that he evoked powerful fears about the loss of White Christian dominance.”

You can deny if you like, but denial doesn’t change reality.

This is the year 2022, and there is no turning back.

We are competing in a 21st Century World Economy, and it is high time for those of us who don’t have time for all of this foolish nonsense to call the bluff of the revisionist Confederate Civil War re-enactors.

Here in the U.S., we need to move on; come together; find common ground; join hands; and work side by side to strengthen our technology and innovation capabilities and return to a leadership role by influencing international economic, scientific, trade, and security institutions.

Alternatively, we could continue to allow petty and insignificant micro-inequities to distract and divide us domestically, which will encourage other nations to move aggressively to assert leadership and shape the direction of global rules and institutions.

The Florida bill which would severely impact the ability of women to make personal choices about their own reproductive health (known as HB5) passed its first House committee hearing on January 19, 2022, and it is now heading to new committees for further discussion.  (The companion bill in the Florida Senate is SB-146).  Among other things, the bill will place severe restrictions on women’s access to abortions in Florida.

Florida Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) perhaps said it best, “This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low-income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion. It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”

Kudos to Rep. Driskell for speaking out clearly and eloquently on basic human rights.

Vice President Mike Pence toured a Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas on July 12, 2019 where he observed hundreds of men standing in crowded cages.

“The stench was horrendous,” White House pool reporter Josh Dawsey wrote of the brief visit to an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station.

Dawsey reported that nearly 400 men “..were housed in sweltering cages so crowded it would have been impossible for all of them to lie down. Some of the detainees shouted to reporters that they had been held 40 days or longer and complained that they were hungry.”

“This is tough stuff,” Pence said at a news conference later.  “I was not surprised by what I saw,” he said. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”

This, on the eve of a planned siege in communities around Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco where representatives from the Trump Gestapo are poised to raid neighborhoods where suspected undocumented immigrants may be living.  The raids are expected to start Sunday (July 14) and continue through July 18.

Instead of fixing the existing system that is already overwhelmed, Trump and his thugs have doubled down with Satan to intimidate and dehumanize our newest neighbors, and to create, nurture and perpetuate an atmosphere of fear among residents in these communities.

Separate parents from their children?  Only Satan would approve of that.

Trump’s claim that the ICE raids are targeted to ‘look for bad players’?  In a press conference on July 12, Trump said, “We’re really looking for criminals as much as we can. Trying to find the criminal population, which has been coming into this country the last 10 years.”

He touted his administration’s removal of members of the violent gang MS-13, claiming he’d deported them “by the thousands” and further stated that ‘we are also looking for people who came into our country not through a process, they just walked over a line. They have to leave.’

I’ve lived in the U.S. for many years, and I’ve experienced a great deal of good, bad and ugly.

This entire Trump administration charade centered on MS-13 as a justification for extreme immigration enforcement is the ugliest of ugly – it clearly is directly connected to Satan (a.k.a. Beelzebub; Mephistopheles; Lucifer; Prince of Darkness; Ash-Shaytan; Diablo; Devil), and it is clearly disconnected from facts or reality.

Trump – true to form – is scapegoating any and all people with connections to Central or South American as ‘Undesirables’ (or worse).

Pick your label:  There is no place in American ideology which supports rounding up a class of residents and subjecting them to subhuman treatment with no process of law.

Mike Pence, who was raised in a religious household and educated in parochial schools, has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” and as “a born-again, evangelical Catholic.”

If Pence is unwilling or unable to step forward to demand a stop to these Satanic atrocities and to organize a strategic fix to our existing immigration enforcement system which is already overwhelmed, then it is clear that he has sold his soul to Satan.

How very sad….

After a remarkable 19 year career in leadership at the University of South Florida, President Judy Genshaft retired on July 1 in a planned and orderly transition, welcoming a new president, Dr. Steven Currall.

President Currall has spent his first few days talking with students, faculty, alumni and other stakeholders to ensure an open and honest transition.

In a recent radio interview, I was inspired to hear Currall tell us that his mission is to build on the accomplishments of the Genshaft administration.

Currall said, “My job is to help the USF community make the right decisions for the university in the long run. Sometimes those are group decisions: it might be my top leadership team, it might be decisions that the Board of Trustees has to make, sometimes the decisions that I have to make personally. But I don’t think it’s wise for a leader to try to do something simply symbolic as a way to establish authority.”

“I think the more mature approach is really just always to be thinking about what’s in the best long term interest of the university. I try to make decisions that will be received well and be seen as thoughtful and aligned with the strategic vision of the university.”

True Leadership:  (1) A strategic vision toward the future.  (2) Decisions aligned with the best long-term interests of the institution.  (3) Building on an existing foundation of progress and excellence.

Wouldn’t this theory and practice help make our country a stronger and better place to live, work and relax?

Donald John Trump was one of 366 student members of the class of 1968 who was  awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).

Other than his bachelor’s degree and some experience working in the family real estate business, there is no evidence that Mr. Trump has pursued additional education, credentials or capabilities in the field of economics.

Trump’s paucity of bona fides in the world of economic theory and practice has not deterred him from taking an active role in testing new economic concepts.

From an economic perspective, the presidency of Donald Trump will likely be remembered primarily for his America First posture, which has influenced immigration, tariff and tax policies.

Immigration:  Trump administration policy decisions focused on immigration have dramatically hurt domestic agriculture, food processing, hospitality, tourism and other low-wage, entry-level service occupations.

Tariffs:  Tariffs imposed on imported goods and materials are nothing more than a tax paid by the end user, in many cases, the American consumer.

Tariffs can be effectively used as a component of a strategic long-term plan to reposition the competitive position of American manufacturers on the world stage.

There is no known evidence that tariffs have ever brought any long-term value-added when arbitrarily and capriciously applied.

Trump administration subjective tariffs on imported steel and aluminum (justified as a means to “protect our country and our workers”) have proven to be a financial burden on several high-wage value-added U.S. industries, including: Automotive; Aerospace; Construction; and Manufacturing.

Tax Cuts:  The signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017 was lauded as landmark legislation which would: (a) lower taxes on businesses and individuals; (b) stimulate higher wages and more jobs; and (c) result in a larger and more dynamic economy as a result of dramatically increased domestic business investment in plant and equipment.

Almost two years after the passage of TCJA, it seems clear that some near-term economic stimulation was achieved, but the long-term impact on gross domestic product (GDP) will be modest, if at all. The impact will be smaller on gross national product (GNP) than on GDP because the law generated net capital inflows from abroad that must be repaid in the future.

The expectation touted by elected officials in their frenzy to pass the TCJA envisioned some $4 Trillion being repatriated, generating new and potent investment and jobs in the U.S.

Most recent estimates reflect $3 Trillion (or more) in profits that U.S. companies have left parked overseas, with about $465 Billion in “repatriated” cash returning to the U.S. to enjoy a tax rate of 15.5% (vs. the 35% prior tax rate) on profits returned to the U.S. from overseas.

A good outcome?  Sure, in the short term.  Capital investments? Plant and equipment? Not so much.  There is virtually no evidence that any of the repatriated cash was invested in job creation.  It was invested in executive bonuses; stock buy-backs; debt repayments; and some dividend enhancements.

Please stay tuned, there is more to come…..

Dennis Rodman is Angry

June 30, 2019

And, Rodman has a right to be angry.

Rodman is a basketball legend, having earned a spot in 5 NBA championships over a 14 year NBA career.

Rodman began his professional career with the Detroit Pistons in 1986, spending 7 years with the franchise earning a reputation as a real team player and the team’s primary defender and rebounder, despite his propensity for off-court drama.

After Rodman joined the Chicago Bulls, he helped that team win the NBA title three years in a row:  1996, 1997, and 1998.  He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.

Since 2013, Rodman has served as the unofficial U.S. Ambassador to North Korea, doing his best to create an open line of communication with Kim Jong Un, a noted fan of basketball.

Generally, Rodman travels on his own dime, with some financial support from Vice Media, an online gambling outfit and a marijuana cryptocurrency company.

By all accounts, Rodman used his celebrity and his charm to engage Kim Jong Un in friendly banter and sports talk, ultimately helping to defuse some of the geo-political tensions created as a result of the unilateral withdrawal of the North Korean regime from established world political platforms.

Despite a rather clear separation between former President Obama, Dennis Rodman and the North Korea relationship, the Chicago connections can’t be ignored.

We’ve recently witnessed the intrusion of a political newcomer – a man with very tiny hands who is at least 5 inches shorter and 80 pounds heavier than Rodman – a man who has unapologetically usurped the role of Dennis Rodman as unofficial U.S. Ambassador to North Korea.

This political newcomer is Donald Trump, and he is using the full power of the U.S. Treasury to fund his assault on Dennis Rodman’s unofficial domain.

Is it possible that the Donald decided that Obama and Rodman, two black men with a solid Chicago connection, are his enemy?

Although Donald Trump himself has yet to demand the release of Dennis Rodman’s birth certificate, there are rumors that Trump son Eric has questioned Rodman’s history of achievements in the NBA, and has publicly wondered about Rodman’s place of birth.

How very sad that Donald Trump is unwilling or unable to work with an accomplished athlete to build on an established positive foundation toward a better world for everyone.

No one should be surprised when the Rodman-Trump dichotomy surfaces into a major political cleavage.  How very sad, indeed.

The Grim Reaper?

June 18, 2019

The U.S. Senate consists of 100 members – 2 elected from each state — independent of population.  Under the Constitution, our elected Vice President serves as the President of the Senate, and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings, and only the Vice President has the authority to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Over the past 2 decades, I’ve become more and more befuddled, baffled and bewildered by the apparently bad behaviors of some of those elected to represent us in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, it seems that one of the 2 Senators elected from Kentucky – Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell – has acquired extraordinary power over the operation and functionality of this key part of the legislative branch of our federal government!

While it is perfectly clear that McConnell has usurped extraordinary power over the functionality of the Senate, he could have only acquired this power from the spineless reptiles who worship at his feet.

How can it be possible that one person – elected from the great state of Kentucky – has the arbitrary and singular power to schedule — or not schedule – votes on bills by the Senate?

How can it be possible that one person – in this case, the Senate Majority Leader – has obtained the power to fully obstruct a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

The arbitrary and unilateral power of the Senate Majority Leader is not derived from the Constitution, from any law, or from formal rules of the Senate.

Instead, it is entirely based on informal, colloquial and unwritten rules established over time by a collection of precedents, beginning with an informal ruling by then-Vice President John Garner in 1937 which created a “right of preferential recognition”.

Vice President Garner – serving in his Constitutional role as Senate President – may have been trying to create order within a body of highly assertive and opinionated elected officials from very diverse geographic and economic backgrounds.

Regardless of intent or motivation, the Garner precedent continues to serve as the foundation upon which Majority Leader power is based in the Senate today.

Today, there is one person  — elected by some voters in Kentucky — who has the power to obstruct a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Very recently, Mitch McConnell proclaimed that no issues which he objects to would be voted on in the Senate.  He said, “So think of me as the Grim Reaper” — the guy who is going to make sure that we fully support the agenda of our current President.

Is this what the American people really want?