Monday, May 26, 2014

Reconsider Warren Zevon | MICHAEL MAYNARD

Writers are a notoriously secretive and jealous lot. Hiaasen shared a cynical view of the world and subversive sense of humor with Warren Zevon. For gifted Hiassen to be so publicly effusive in his praise of another writer, even one in another medium, is testament to Zevon’s talent. It is the same love of good writing combined with the “bad attitude” exhibited in his work that first drew me to Warren Zevon’s music.

Reconsider Warren Zevon | MICHAEL MAYNARD

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Have You Played Your Ticket Today? The State Lottery’s Shell Game

The frenzy around the recent $636 million MegaMillions drawing takes attention from the two underlying government problems involve how the lottery monies are used.  And winning won’t solve all your problems, either.
Americans are conflicted about wealth. One the one hand, most of us dream of being wealthy. On the other hand, we are suspicious of the wealthy and their influence on our lives. A prime example of this is all the interest when potential national and state lotteries jackpots reach record levels, like the recent MegaMillions $636 million jackpot. Now I knew I had the same probability of winning as I do canoodling with Eliza Dushku, but I bought one ticket anyway. There were two winners, one in Georgia and one in California, who beat the odds.
The Massachusetts Lottery Commission published the odds on winning MegaMillionsl:
Match + Megaball Probability Top Prize
5 + 1 1 in 258,890,850 - JACKPOT
5 1 in 18,492,204 – $1,000,000
4 + 1 1 in 739,688 – $5,000
4 1 in 52,835 – $500
3 + 1 1 in 10,720 – $50
2 + 1 1 in 766 -$5
3 1 in 473 -$5
1 + 1 1 in 56 – $2
0 + 1 1 in 21 – $1
* Overall odds are 1 in 14.71
* Prizes based on a $1 wager.
We all dream what we could do with all this sudden wealth and it is all about our own affluenza: move to a wealthy neighborhood, buy a big house, join elite clubs, all the things we despise in how the 1% live. Winning the lottery is our bubbling crude.
But it’s not the necessarily the path to “the good life” that we think. My aunt won the early version of the Massachusetts lottery twice, when they were in the 50′s. She and my uncle were well enough off before winning, but not wealthy. They were advised to quit work by their financial adviser because of the tax implications, and other than travel, they hadn’t really developed any other outlets for their energy and time. What they didn’t expect was the barrage of intrusion they would receive. Their phone rang 24 hours per day, even after having their number changed and unlisted frequently. People they didn’t know would knock on their door telling their hard luck stories and ask for money. Charities of all types and sizes asked for donations. These quiet, keep-to-themselves middle aged people died soon after. Their experience was not unusual.
There is the example of Sharon Tirabassi, a 35 year-old resident of Hamilton, Ontario
It happened to Sharon Tirabassi, a 35 year-old resident of Hamilton, Ontario. Nine years ago, The Hamilton Spectator reports, Tirabassi cashed a check from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for $10,569,00.10 (Canadian). Today, after spending almost all her winnings — “big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties exotic trips, handouts to family, loans to friends” — she’s back in the working class: riding the bus, working part-time, living in a rented house.
What remains of her windfall is in trust for her six children; the money will become available when they turn 26.
“The moment I got it, I divided it among my family,” Tirabassi told The Spec: $1 million to her parents, and $1.75 million among her four siblings. She was generous with others, too, buying houses and renting them out at low rates, paying people’s rent, offering loans for bail and business ventures.
“All of that other stuff was fun in the beginning, now it’s like … back to life.”
That other stuff included vacations in Cancun, Florida, Las Vegas, California, and the Caribbean, as well as four cars: a Hummer, a Mustang, a Dodge Charger and a custom Cadillac Escalade.
Tirabassi was a single mother, recently off welfare and newly employed as a personal care provider, when she struck it rich on Easter Weekend in 2004. As a teenager, she had lived in shelters, and all that money didn’t come with instructions. Tirabassi didn’t hire a financial adviser; she didn’t even keep close track of her account balance. Suddenly, with just $750,000 left, Tirabassi woke up: “that was just time for fun to stop and to just go back to life.”
Tirabassi’s husband, Vinny, who brought three kids of his own to the marriage, shares her stoicism about the couple’s lost fortune. He says he lived simply his whole life and is used to not being rich. Recalling the post-winning entreaties of suddenly interested friends, some of whom came asking for favors and then disappeared, Vinny says, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness. It caused her a lot of headaches.” His wife had a hard time saying no to those she thought of as in need: “That’s the way I was brought up,” she says. “Help those who can’t help themselves.”
But the saddest lottery winner story of all was that of Jack Whittaker from West Virginia.
Jack opted to take his prize as a one-time payout of $113,386,407.77, after taxes. He was determined, he said at the time, to live as if nothing had changed, except that he could spend more time with his family. He was going to keep answering his own phone, opening his own front door and turning to God for guidance. “He’s still working on me,” Jack said, sounding modest.
On New Year’s Eve 2002, West Virginia’s most famous do-gooder strolled into the Pink Pony, a strip club in the nearby town of Cross Lanes, and, according to the manager, slapped $50,000 on the bar…..
Most everybody in West Virginia had an opinion on how Jack should spend his fortune: Fix potholes; put a new roof on the library; spay cats and dogs; buy a coloring book for every kid…..
Even from the start, there was something not quite right about the money. “I’ve had to work for everything in my life,” he reflected. “This is the first thing that’s ever been given to me.”
Whittaker gave tens of millions to charity, even setting up a foundation to provide food and clothing for the needy of West Virginia. A dedicated Christian, he also donated a portion of his winnings to the church. Less than a year later, however, things began to turn sour for the man with too much money. In August 2003, during a visit to a strip joint called the Pink Pony, he was robbed more than $500,000 in cash and cashier’s checks, the money and checks stolen from his Hummer parked outside. Several months later, he was arrested after driving his Hummer into a concrete median, the arresting officer claiming that he smelled alcohol on Whittaker’s breath.
No matter how much he tried to enjoy his enormous wealth, Whittaker couldn’t help but attract bad luck. More of his money was stolen by thieves; one woman tried to sue him for sexual assault; he was arrested for further drink driving incidents; he and his wife separated after more than forty years of marriage; the list of misfortunes goes on.
But if Whittaker had become a target for bad luck, so had his family members and acquaintances. In September 2004, Brandi Bragg’s boyfriend, Jessie Joe Tribble, 18, was found dead in Whittaker’s home. He had died of a drug overdose. That December Bragg went missing. A few weeks later her heavily decayed body was found wrapped in a plastic tarp behind a dilapidated truck, her death the result of an accidental overdose. Whittaker – who had basically raised Bragg himself and considered her “the shining star of my life” – was understandably devastated. “I wish I’d torn that ticket up,” he told reporters at the time.
In keeping with the adage “bad luck comes in threes,” Whittaker’s daughter Ginger, 42, was found dead in her luxury home in July 2009. Although foul play was never suspected, the exact cause of her death remains unknown.
Sadly, Whittaker’s troubles haven’t ended; reports have surfaced suggesting that he’s broke.
43 states now take part in the MegaMillions and  Powerball Lottery drawings.
states that participate  in the national lotteries
All But Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Alabama and Mississippi Participate In The National Lottery Drawings
My state, Massachusetts, was one of the first states into implement the lottery. The state promotes the benefits of the lottery to the states and cities and town coffers.  It’s not ironic that there was a big jump in lottery sales the first year of the Great Recession.
Massachusetts lottery revenues
Massachusetts Lottery Revenues By Year
Since selling its first ticket in March 1972, the Massachusetts State Lottery has generated $90.7 billion in sales, awarded $62.1 billion in prizes, returned $19.7 billion in net profit to the Commonwealth for unrestricted local aid available to cities and towns and paid $5.1 billion in commissions and bonuses to its statewide network of retailers. Over the last 40 years, Massachusetts has grown to become one of the most successful lotteries in the nation and adapted to the ever-changing marketplace to provide innovative and exciting games to its players.
The principal argument used in every state to promote the adoption of a lottery has focused on its value as a source of “painless” revenue: players voluntarily spending their money (as opposed to the general public being taxed) for the benefit of the public good. According to one expert, the dynamic is as follows: “Voters want states to spend more, and politicians look at lotteries as a way to get tax money for free.” 3 A key element in winning and retaining public approval is the degree to which the proceeds of the lottery are seen as benefiting a specific public good, such as education.4 This argument is particularly effective in times of economic stress, especially given the prospect of tax increases or cuts in public programs. But studies have also shown that the popularity of lotteries is not necessarily connected to the state government’s actual financial health, as lotteries have consistently won broad public approval even when the state’s fiscal condition is good. As Clotfelter and Cook report, “the objective fiscal circumstances of the state do not appear to have much influence on whether or when states adopt lotteries.” 5 In this sense it appears that the public’s approval of lotteries rests more on the idea of lotteries reducing the potential tax burden on the general public than it is on any specific instance of relief.
I have two  objections to state government’s reliance on lotteries and gambling. The first is that they represent a regressive tax on the poor.
They are (1) regressive taxes on poor people, in that a ticket costs relatively more for a poor person than a rich person, and (2) punitive taxes on the poor and uneducated people who are the most avid buyers.
The people who can least afford it are throwing away on average 47 cents on the dollar every time they buy a ticket. And the government, which relies increasingly on the lottery for funding, goes out of its way to tell them it is a good idea….
Historical data implies that when the economy goes bad, lottery revenues go up, because “when people are feeling desperate, they are more likely to stop by the gas station and buy five lottery tickets, hoping they get a big windfall.
The second is that the shell game involves taking the state’s knowingly taking money from the poor  in order to keep taxes on the wealthy and corporations down in the name of funding public education.
Overall, 27 states earmark some or all lottery revenue for education. In Colorado, the dollars go to environmental protection; in Pennsylvania, senior citizen programs; and in Kansas, some of the money pays for juvenile detention facilities. Many states bought into the lottery based upon the belief they were adding more and more money for education.
But a 2007 CBS News investigation discovered that was little more than a myth — that state lotteries covered only a fraction of state education spending.
For example, in California last year, just one percent of that’s state’s $53 billion budget for K-12 education came from lottery funds.
“The net effect of say earmarked education lottery revenue on education expenditures is close to zero,” said Clotfelter
The other big winner here will be the IRS — the federal tax alone on a lump sum payment in the neighborhood of $100 million.
As far as what happens to folks who win the lottery? CBS News’ research department learned that nine out of 10 burn through their winnings in five years.
In Florida, where lottery proceeds are a billion dollars a year, spending per pupil…has dropped nine spots from 37th to 46th in the nation since voters approved a lottery 20 years ago.
“It was sold to the public as an enhancement to the current revenue stream, says longtime Palm Beach County School Superintendent Arthur Johnson. “It was a replacement to existing dollars that diminished over time.”
In fact, our investigation of government spending in the 24 states that dedicate lottery funds for education yields a stunningly bad report card. The percentage of state spending on education is down or flat in 21 of those states from coast to coast.
Down, for example, in the following states: Washington (-6 percent), New York (-5 percent), Missouri (-4 percent). It’s down 3 percent in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan and Oregon. Texas is down by one percent.
It’s up in only three states – New Hampshire (+4 percent), Georgia (+ 4 percent) and Tennessee (+2 percent).
In Florida, former governor Lawton Childs, once called the lottery ‘A great hoax on the people.”
Illinois Govenor Rod Blagovich called the lottery a “shell game.” Dawn Netsh, who now teaches at Northwestern Law School, agrees.
“Many people, at least, still think of the lottery as being sort of an add-on, a supplement,” says Netsch. “It never was that. It was a shell game from the beginning.”
So where does the money really go? The initial purpose of the Massachusetts Lottery revenues were to help fund education. Here’s where those revenues  really went in 2011, to offset losses in local revenues.
Where Does The Massachusetts Lottery Revenues Really Go?
Now in Massachusetts, because of the concern of losing revenues to the casinos in neighboring states, sites for casinos are being scouted. That issue and how Native American tribes became associated with casinos will be discussed in an upcoming article.
Now I can understand the fiscal squeezes state and local governments are having with the decrease in income tax revenues due to job losses and the cuts in aid from the federal government. Both revenue cuts are parts of the right wing, through American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’), strategy to take control of all levels of government through putting the needs of its wealthy benefactors  first, while making it seem that the poor and middle class are being robbed by profligate government spending,  Cutting state and local government employment helps  justify ALEC’s hired help, like the Rickhead governors (Walker, Scott and Perry), plans to reducing corporate taxes further. As a result, state and local spending is down, due to less federal support and loss of local revenues, prompting widespread layoffs, salary and hiring freezes and cuts to state and local employee’s  benefits and pension reductions. It has been the cutbacks in federal, state and local government hiring that have been a drag on the unemployment figures.
It’s all part of the even bigger shell game of reverse Robin Hoodism, take from the poor and middle class and give to 1%. I don’t blame the state and local governments trying to find new ways to raise revenues in this political environment. Playing the lottery in the hopes of winning the bigger and bigger prizes is just one more soporific to divert attention from the real problems. And it is a pain in the keister to have to wait in line in the convenience store with your two items to ring up, while the person in front of you is buying the various lottery tickets and rubbing off the scratch tickets to see if they’ve won, like in the picture at the top.
But if you do, by happenchance, win the lottery, here are twelve things not to do.
The artist, Pablo Picasso had the best idea bout what do with sudden wealth.
I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
Pablo Picasso
However, when I win, I will know what to do and what not to do. Let’s see 1-8-19-23-53 and 7…… Yeah, that’s the ticket.
So have you played your ticket today? As long as you do so in fun and knowing where your money is really going, it’s OK. I will too, on occasion
But when playing the lottery becomes the means to pay for needed and neccessary government services, there is something fundamentally wrong, very wrong, going on.  Those problems can start being  fixed through making  widespread changes at the ballot box, 11 months from now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Per Chance

Per Chance
by Michael Maynard
April 27, 2013

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause

William Shakespeare -  "Hamlet"

I may be an athlete, but I was never a distance runner. I tried to run for awhile and was able to run 2 miles when I stopped. I didn’t enjoy it. I would rather ride a bike. And no, I have no aspirations of riding in the Tour de France. 

But I understand why people run. It’s about personal achievement, mastery of your body and mind. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to participate, just buy a pair of well-fitted running shoes. You don’t need to be well coordinated. You don’t need to be well muscled, Being well muscled is not an advantage in distance running. What you do need is patience and perseverance. You need self-discipline to get out of bed to run every morning. You learn how to control your mind and body. 

Running the Boston Marathon is a great personal achievement, more now than it was 20 years ago. It has become much more difficult to qualify for a spot to run the Marathon because it has become an international event. The beauty of watching runners from all inhabited continents running side by side makes the world smaller and more interconnected.

I have seen the Boston Marathon in person and it is a wonderful spectacle. Seeing the wheelchair racers slingshot off the hills going 20-30 miles per hour. Being part of the crazy scene by Wellesley College where the coeds give bottles of water and granola bars to the runners as they pass by. Watching the runners climb the hills, pain etched on their faces. Cheering the runners at the finish line as they are smiling with accomplishment, but fighting exhaustion. The Marathon is a rite of spring and a triumph of the human spirit. It is a symbol of why Boston is a special city and of the best in American values.

You participate in the Boston Marathon as a runner, volunteer or observer as a celebration of life. Future Marathons will also mourn the dead - a 8 year old boy, a 23 year old female student from China and a 30 year old female restaurant worker - killed in the bombing. At least 282 people were maimed or injured. Some were runners who happened to be crossing or near the finish line when the bombs exploded, who have lost feet, legs, arms and suffered internal injuries. Many of the injured have vowed to return and run again.

Per chance. Those killed and injured had no expectation to be involved in act of terrorism. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all subject to chance by every action we make. We assume that everything will go as planned and everyone else will act appropriately. No drunk drivers ramming into your car. No tires blowing and sending your car careening headlong into a tree. No swallowing broken glass in a meal served in a restaurant. You can come up with reasons not to do anything and everything. But you do go on because the chance of these events occurring to you today is small. 

So will the Boston Marathon next year for the 117th time It will still be the unique event that shows the best of what Boston offers. It will be more heavily policed. It will have lost some of its innocence and fun. It will still be a celebration of life and personal achievement. It will have gained additional resilience that only comes from overcoming tragedy by will and perseverance. 

Per chance, it will be free from incidence.

Please donate to the One Fund Boston to aid those whose injured and maimed by the bombing. You can make your donation to

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tin Man

The Tin Man

by Michael Maynard
March 20, 2012

When a man's an empty kettle,
He should be on his mettle,
And yet I'm torn apart.
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be kinda human
If I only had a heart.

The Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz”

Only half of the Republican primaries are done, however, it seems like they have gone on forever, like Dorothy’s trying to return to Kansas, though in this case, the most of the candidates fled Kansas terrified of the outcome. There are a lot of similarities between the Republican primaries and the Wizard of Oz, mostly the characters. There is the Cowardly Lion, afraid of his own shadow when challenged - Newt Gingrich. There is the Scarecrow, who appeared he would fall apart when hit, but always kept himself together, Ron Paul. There is the Wicked Witch, Michele Bachmann, who threatens to have her minions (The Tea Party members) attack, but rides off at the first sign of trouble. The current Wizard is Rick Santorum, though the actors playing the Wizard have changed periodically and will again. Finally, there is the Tin Woodsman, Willard Mitt Romney, if he only had a heart, and ability to self-edit before making really dumb statements, would be the natural leader, but goes down his own Yellow Brick Road instead.

Cowardly Lion: Come on, get up and fight, ya shivering junkyard! Put your hands up, ya lopsided bag o' hay!
Scarecrow: Now that's getting personal, Lion!
Tin Woodsman: Yes. Get up and teach him a lesson.
Scarecrow: W-w-what's wrong with y-y-you teaching him?
Tin Woodsman: W-w-well, I hardly know him.

"I learned something from that last contest in South Carolina," Romney said. "I'm not going to sit back and get attacked ... without returning fire.

"I'm going to point out things that I think people need to know," he said.

"I'm not going to spend the evening trying to chase Mitt Romney's misinformation," Gingrich said. "This is the worst kind of trivial politics."

That scintillating verbal exchange was during the “debate” before the Florida primary. It was the first time in months that Romney went after Gingrich directly. By then, Romney had the characterization of being a very rich, completely out of touch with current events patrician, primarily through attacks by Gingrich.

But most of the damage to Romney’s campaign has been dome by Romney himself because he has a tin ear about what he says.

"Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend." —Mitt Romney to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested that taxes should be raised on corporations as part of balancing the budget (August 2011)

That statement did nothing to dispel the notion that Romney was the tool of big business.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there." —Mitt Romney (January 2012)

"I get speaker's fees from time to time, but not very much." —Mitt Romney, who earned $374,000 in speaking fees in one year according to according to his personal financial disclosure (January 2012)

 "I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney's net worth is over $200 million.

Mr. Sensitivo.

The worst of Romney’s statements was made before the Michigan primary. His father, George was the previously governor of Michigan and chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation, one of the companies who current existence depended upon the financial bailout created by the Obama administration. This was after Willard Mitt had stated that he would not have bailed out the auto industry, which directly and indirectly provides for 1 in 4 U.S. manufacturing jobs in the state that ranks 40th in post-bailout unemployment rate of 9.0%.

"[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs." –Mitt Romney, campaigning for president in Michigan (February 2012)

Patronizing and elitist to he max.

All of the above, and the incident of driving to Canada with his family’s dog strapped to the roof of his car has made great fodder for David Letterman and other comedians, but perpetuates the out-of-touch tin man with the tin ear image.

But the worst part of Romney’s campaign is that he has provided no ideas about why he is running for president, what he would do as president or why vote fo r him. His campaign gives the appearance of that he should be the Republican nominee because he should be the nominee based upon the widely promulgated notion that he would be “the best candidate” to beat President Barack Obama.  Romney is currently having difficulty beating former Senator Rick Santorum who has severe fund raising and campaign organization disadvantages compared to Romney.

Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

An apt sporting analogy is the prevent defense in professional football where the team that’s ahead at the end of the game provides little opposition to the other team’s offense in the hope of running out the clock. In short, the team that’s ahead stops doing what has put them ahead for the past 59 minutes. Too often this leads to the team that’s behind winning in the last seconds. While the prevent defense allegedly is safe and non-criticizable in theory, in practice it is not. It is the cowardly way out.

Willard Mitt Romney’s campaign lacks courage, the courage of any convictions of why he is running for president, other than he was born in a political family, he’s run for president, he’s rich and he can. The United States recently suffered and is still suffering the after effects from 8 years of a president like that.
His campaign has given the impression of using the prevent defense from the beginning. Does Romney have courage? Does he have a heart?

All that’s certain is that he won’t be in Kansas for the next few months.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reason and Common Sense

Reason and Common Sense

This quote from the philosopher Georges Santayana is usually misstated. What Santayana wrote in “Reason and Common Sense” was: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 If you have followed the presidential primaries to date, it’s obvious that none of the Republican candidates are followers of Santayana. Thus far, the various candidates have called to:

 Impose of a 9% tax on all income and sales items,
or Reduce the federal income tax rate on income over $200,000

Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency

Eliminate various regulations on businesses

Allow young workers to drop out of the Social Security system and to use the money however they want

Stop involvement in any wars internationally and,
Reduce the US. defense to a small military force and the Anti-Ballistic Missile system

Ban the sale of birth control pills and devices and,

Prevent all abortions, even when the life of the expectant mother is in danger

End food stamps and other forms of assistance to the poor

Force children of illegal aliens to work at menial jobs or face deportation

And all candidates have stated their belief that nearly all federal government functions can be better performed in the private sector.

There are very good reasons to not do each of the above and none of the above. What’s forgotten were the reasons these agencies, programs and laws were created. Of the above, most of the Republican candidates have called for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of those candidates, some have tried to hide the real reason for the abolition as disbelief in the science of climate change. Some others have not tried to hide the real reason to stop restrictions on their business benefactors on creating air pollution, despoiling the environment, causing earthquakes through using fracking in coal mining and dumping toxic wastes into rivers and streams. The EPA could be abolished or absorbed into another agency if big businesses would stop polluting. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen..

One of the most egregious examples of corporate pollution was General Electric’s (GE) dumping 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) into the Housatonic River from 1947 to 1977. (for a detailed explanation about PCB’s and the damage they cause, see General Electric, stalled cleaning up the pollution, finally settling with the EPA and the Department of Justice in 1998 to pay $200 million for the river cleanup. And this was not the worst that GE did - in 1983, 64 inmates in a Walla Walla Washington prison had their scrotum and testes exposed to radiation to determine its effects on reproductive organs. The inmates were not advised about the risks of cancers. (Source:

General Electric is the primary or secondary cause of 78 Superfund cleanup sites. GE designed the nuclear reactors involved in the recent Fukushima meltdowns. GE was repeatedly advised, starting in 1975, that there were safety issues in design of these plants. General Electric doesn’t always bring good things to light.

The candidates’ continuous complaint how “government regulations”, especially the new Afforfable Care Act, are burdening U.S. businesses with extensive expenses and making businesses not competitive in international business is a canard. The McClatchy Newspaper Syndicate did an extensive survey of small businesses throughout the U.S. small businesses, defined by the Small Business Administration, a constant complainer about government regulation, as 500 to 1500 employees or less, represent 65% of all employment.

McClatchy’s survey found that small businesses do not consider government regulations burdensome and onerous, lack of business (aggregate economic demand) is the primary concern. Monthly surveys by the National Federation of Independent Business show that small business concerns about regulation are lower today than they were in the 1990s when the economy was booming.

The Obama administration is the cause of less than 5% of all current federal government regulations. It is large corporations, those now allowed to spend at will on political advertising, political action groups, and other direct and indirect forms of candidate support as a result of the ill-advised Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, who are the vociferous complainers about the costs of government regulation. Large corporations are also most in need to be restrained by government regulation for the protection of us all. Perhaps these corporations could better spend this money on buying new capital equipment, hiring back laid-off employees or implementing environmental protection safeguards.

What is sorely lacking and needed in the 2012 political campaigns is a reasoned and common sense discussion about the role of federal, state and local government in the conduct of everyday life. Before every discussion, saying Santayana’s maxim should be required. Let’s not repeat, or try to undo, the past, but use what was learned to discuss and decide how to best benefit the future. Reason and common sense are what we should look for first in choosing our next President.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Class Warfare

Class Warfare

By Michael Maynard
January 12, 2012

“I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare.” Mitt Romney on “The Today Show.” responding to Matt Lauer’s question the concerns of anyone about the increasingly inequal distribution of wealth in the U.S. "I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent... you've opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of 'one nation under God.'" ... "I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,"

Willard Mitt Romney has a problem being in touch with “the common man”. In his case, he is completely out of touch with the underlying reasons why the Occupy protest movement spread rapidly and about the growing anger and resentment about the increasing inequality of wealth in the United States. Since he is a member of the 1%, Romney should be defensive about how he developed his extensive fortune.

(According to a Pew Research study) “In 2009, 47 percent of respondents said there were "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and poor. In 2011, 66 percent saw the same, possibly signaling that the "We are the 99 percent" rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street has had an impact. The ongoing economic recession also may have magnified class differences as income inequality has risen, continuing a trend occurring in American society since at least the 1970s.” (Source - The Huffington Post “Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report”)

The Great Recession and its impact upon middle and lower class families should rightly be the primary topic of the 2012 Presidential campaign. Of course, how to reignite the economy needs to be discussed in public. The exchange of ideas about job creation and increased investment in the United States to create more permanent high-paying manufacturing and skilled jobs, not more lower paying service sector and temporary jobs, should be the central issue. Mitt Romney should be leading this discussion since he is stating that his business expertise and experience are why he should become President.

Are his self-professed expertise and experience really reasons to vote for him? . During his tenure as a venture capitalist, Bain Capital most of the investments made were in retail or service companies, such as Staples, The Sports Authority and Artisan Entertainment. No creating good jobs at higher wages there.

Bain Capital switched to high risk investments, leveraged buyouts, in which the “investment” is really debt, using the company’s assets as collateral. The only fundamental difference between leveraged buyouts and home mortgages are the number of zeroes and the interest percent involved. Often, massive layoffs occurred after the investment was made. Bain Capital claimed to have an 113% percent return on investment, but that high rate of return was made on only a few of its investments. Some of the highest were a 3400% return on Calumet Coach and a 1600% return on the Gartner Group. Both Calumet and Gartner are service companies. I strongly doubt that any of the Occupy movement protesters were investors in these companies.

Was Romney being defensive about his one term as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007? He’s already backed away from his largest achievement ensuring health insurance coverage for all citizens. He did inherit a budget gap of $3 billion dollars, created during the terms of the three previous Republican Massachusetts governors: William Weld, Paul Celluci and Jane Swift. Job growth increased at a 1.3 percent rate during Romney's term in office, ranking Massachusetts 47th out of 50 states during that time.

The state of Massachusetts raised $501 million in new income in the first year of the fee increase program, more than any other state in the nation that year (New York was second with $367 million. Nine other states raised fees and fines by more than $100 million). There were increases in 88 different new or existing fees, including fees to get a marriage license, renew a driver's license, legally possess a gun, recording the sale of a house upon closing, and from Children's Medical Security Program co-pays and premiums, the program for low-income families.. Romney also approved $128 million in tax changes such as sales tax from purchases on the Internet, and raised another $181 million in additional business taxes in the next two years. The total of increased taxes on businesses was $308 million per year.

However, the primary reduction in Massachusetts debt was from capital gains tax revenue caused by a previously enacted capital gains tax increase, lowering the deficit by $1.3 billion. So the real debt reduction was from higher taxes on the 1%. A lot of pain was inflected on the wallets of the 99%, needlessly.

As a management consultant, venture capitalist and governor, Mitt Romney’s policies, investments and programs did not produce jobs, especially not good jobs at higher wages. Those policies and programs are very similar to the ones proposed by his other Republican primary competitors. We all know by now the definition of insanity. There are no sane reason to believe that those economic results would change if any of them became President.

The class warfare would continue on, unabated.

No wonder he’s so defensive.

Monday, January 09, 2012


by Michael Maynard
January 9, 2012

"When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, 'Thank you, Lord.'"

Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow upon seeing his wide receiver running for the winning touchdown in a first round playoff victory over the favored Pittsburgh Steelers.

Unless you’ve been living in a medically induced coma or have been fending off the advances of guys named Abdul in a Turkish prison for the past 4 months, you must be aware of the sports and cultural phenomenon named Tim Tebow and his ever present expression of his Christian beliefs. Adding to Tebow’s religious legend is that he has led his football team to six straight come from behind victories. Yesterday, his team was tied at the end of 4 quarters and scored in overtime to win. Tebowing has become part of the vernacular - “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” (Source: However, if Tim Tebow looked the same, said similar things, acted the same, but was Muslim, would there be the same cultural interest? Of course not.

There is no question that Tebow is sincere in his beliefs. He has spent time and money doing good works, such as his planned building of a children’s hospital in the Philippines. He remains calm and unflustered by all criticism of his public displays of faith and frequent questioning about his beliefs. While his overall abilities to become a successful National Football League quarterback long-term remain questionable, his teammates like him, seem energized by his physical style of play and are not bothered by all the media attention he receives. He’s a throwback to the clean-cut image of professional athlete in an era of steroids, sex and illegal payoff scandals. Most people would love for him to be their son or marry their daughter.

Not me.

Being a Catholic from the Northeast, I am uncomfortable with the public displays and constant expressions of personal faith. Tebow, even though he is also a Christian, doesn’t represent me or my religious beliefs. I believe you show your being a follower of Christ by your actions and deeds, not by your verbal statements. I am even more uncomfortable with the insertion of religion in governmental affairs, especially being used as a criterion for selecting a presidential candidate. The last openly religious president was Jimmy Carter was not a success, even though most of the problems that occurred on his term in office were beyond his control. It wasn’t discussed during his time in office, but I’ve wondered how much of his problems in the Middle East were caused by mistrust of his Christian beliefs by the Islamic mullahs.

The current Republican primaries so far have been influenced less by the policy positions of the candidates and more by the religiosity of the candidates. Former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are considered suspect by the right-wing evangelicals because they are Mormons. Newt Gingrich has tried to reform his image as a ruthless self-promoter and craven womanizer by his conversion to Catholicism. And then there is radical Catholic former senator Rick Santorum.

“I’ve survived the challenges so far by the daily grace that comes from God. . . . I offer a public thanks to God.’’ Rick Santorum after his second place result in the Iowa caucuses.

Santorum, who was soundly defeated in his 2006 campaign to be reelected U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, 58.6% to 41.3% by Democrat Bob Casey, and has not held public office since, has become the favorite of the conservative right wing because of his opposition to “libertarian” social values and programs, especially those regarding woman’s sexuality and reproductive rights. Santorum is against all forms of contraception and abortion, including the use of abortion to save the life of the woman during difficult births or pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, despite his wife’s near death during birth. His views to limit the scope of federal government are so extreme, other Senators called him “Senator Slash”.He also sought to modify the “No Child Left Behind” laws to require intelligent design to be taught in public schools as part of science classes.

It is his views on homosexuals that have caused the most controversy. He has argued that “the extended right to privacy ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut did not exist in the United States Constitution and that laws should exist against polygamy, adultery, sodomy, and other actions "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family". Santorum said those actions were harmful to society, saying, "Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman.... In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality".Santorum later said that he did not intend to equate homosexuality with incest and pedophilia, but rather as a critique of the specific legal position that the right to privacy prevents the government from regulating consensual acts among adults (such as bigamy, incest, etc.). (Source - Wikipedia “Rick Santorum”).

Since Tebowing is part of the vernacular, so should Santorism - Expressing hateful and ignorant social and political views and beliefs infringing on the lives of others.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Greater Divide

The Greater Divide
by Michael Maynard
January 4, 2012

The political and current affairs punditry has tried over time to convince us that there are two Americas:

Male Establishment vs. Females
White vs. Black
North vs. South
White vs. Black vs Brown (Hispanic)
Christians vs. Heathens
Hippies vs. Squares
Mods vs. The Establishment
Republicans vs. Democrats
Red States vs. Blue States
Conservatism vs. Liberalism
and most recently, The 1% vs. the 99%

All epic cultural divisions. All remain unresolved. But, the 2012 Presidential election process is showing that we’re becoming increasingly fragmented as a nation as a result of the non-resolution of these divisions. At the core, the question really is “What kind of nation are we?”.

Do we, like most other industrial nations, provide a social safety net? Or do we let the poor and the disfranchised fend for themselves?

Do we continue to act as the world’s “policeman”? Or do we become isolationist and let the rest of the world deal with their own issues, such as mass killings and starvation?

Do we insist that all social behavior must follow an unspecified Judeo-Christian ideal? Or do we recognize and embrace cultural, gender and religious diversity?

Do we turn to the federal government to resolve gross injustices and irreconcilable disputes? Or leave it up to the individuals to resolve, by any means necessary?

Do we continue to embrace the idea of “send us your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses” and we will provide them a home and opportunity? Or turn them away because we “can’t afford” them anymore?

Do only the rich rule or do we have a government representative of people from all walks of life - “of the people, by the people and for the people”?

Do we still embrace the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or is this only available to those who can afford them?

The 2012 primary process and federal government election is about all of the above. The candidates involved represent both sides of the issues above.

I am a social progressive, a political liberal, and a member of the 99%. I truly resent being told how I should live my life by those whose live their lives no better, or in some cases, much worse.

I am a Christian, but I also embrace other religions. All paths lead to our creator.

I am the grandson of an Italian immigrant who left his life behind to come to the land of opportunity and freedom. I want others who want this opportunity to come to our country and be part of strength, our cultural melting pot. I am willing to contribute my time, effort and money to help those who cannot help themselves or trying to do so. And I’m proud to be part of the country that does this willingly.

But I am not part of the hatefulness that is creeping throughout our country. Shoot the Mexicans who are trying to enter the country illegally. Deport them because they are taking jobs away from "real Americans". Deny women the right to control their reproductive organs and go back to the days of the coat hanger wielder in the alley. Force women back to being barefoot and pregnant. Let the poor and the elderly fend for themselves. Keep a greater, but small, percentage of income to spend by eliminating Social Security - the social safety net so many depend upon.

No, I don’t belong to that country and I don’t want to. It’s my right to leave and I will, when I can no longer tolerate living in the moral dictatorship that we easily can become. The teachings of Christ, Buddha and Mohammed guide me on how to live my life, not bombastic, sanctimonious politicians.

There is a greater divide in this country than there ever has been before because of an epidemic of intolerance and greed. When you vote in November, it may well become a choice of which side you’re on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue (But Not Into the Black, Yet).

by Michael Maynard

October 4, 2011

Dear Neil Young - it’s not better to burn out than it is to rust and you’re a prime example of that.

Yes, you and I were part of the first generation of rock’n’roll. At that time, we didn’t trust anyone over 40 and most of us thought we wouldn’t live past age 35, myself included. Who didn’t play in a rock band, however badly, but loudly, growing up?

If you told me when I was 18 whether I’d still be listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones when I’m nearing 60 years old, I would have told you that you’re crazy. If you told me then that Keith Richards would still be alive and a house husband raising daughters to boot, I would have thought you had been inhaling too many of the same substances that Richards once did. And if you told me that the Stones were still touring around the world, I knew that you’d had a bad LSD trip that fried your brain along the way. Yet, many of the rock legends are still performing, making great music and selling out concerts around the world.

I saw Sting (a/k/a Gordon Sumner) last night on the David Letterman show. Sting has come out with a box set retrospective of his 25 years of rock and popular music hits. Sting made a comment that took me by surprise. It’s public knowledge about his lifestyle choices: yoga, Tantric sex, vegetarianism, which many of us tried - if only because it was the “in thing” to do at the time. Sting has just celebrated his 60th birthday and says that he feelsbetter and is enjoying life now more than he ever did.

The once future of rock’n’roll, Bruce Springsteen, is 62 years old and is out on another worldwide tour. Springsteen was recently on the cover of AARP magazine. Yes, Springsteen was on the cover of the American Association for Retired People magazine.

Mick Jagger is 68 years old. He’s still the personification of cool - the band ,Maroon 5, has a hit song idolizing him, “Move Like Jagger”. He’s formed a super-band, “SuperHeavy”, featuring Joss Stone and Damian Marley, 40 and 35 years his junior. And the Stones constantly tour..

Paul McCartney is 69 YEARS OLD! And he’s getting married again, this time to a woman almost 20 years younger. No, he’s not living the life of “When I’m Sixty-Four”.

Neil Young is 66 and still an angry social activist. And he’s starting a new worldwide tour.

Sting said something on the Letterman Show that took me aback. He said he tries to enjoy his life more now that he has fewer days to be alive than he has lived previously. Thank you for stating the harsh reality, Mr. Summers.

Yes, me and my generation are rapidly becoming senior citizens, in age, but not in spirit. I still get up out of bed and think about getting ready for first period algebra class, until I hear my knees creak. But I’m comparatively much younger at this age than my parents, for which I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. My life has had its ups and downs, but whose life hasn’t when you are over 50 years old? On the whole, my life is good. Certainly, not perfect, but good.

Maybe it’s the spirit of rock’n’roll that has kept us all young and nations together. There was the recent revelation that the younger Soviet leaders listened to the Beatles and rock’n’roll in the Kremlin during the 60's. Who knew rock’n-roll may have had a greater impact on world peace than statesmanship? And it has spanned and brings together generations: the ageless wonder Tony Bennett has out an album of duets, one with Lady Gaga.

Hey, Hey. My, My. - Rock’n’roll will never die, even when Sting, Neil Young, and the rest of my generation does We will be out of the blue and into the black, but the music and the spirit that it has spawned will live on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Politicians of Paranoia

by Michael Maynard
October 11, 2010

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

Richard Hofstader, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, Harper’s Magazine, November 1964.

Change the word Goldwater (In our hearts, you know he’s right) to Tea Party and, as usual, this wonderfully insightful treatise by Hofstader describes the current political climate as accurately as it did 46 years ago. Whenever there is severe economic distress or social disorder, political rationality in a significant percentage of the U.S. populace is the first casualty.

The current President of the United States has been in office approximately 20 months. He inherited huge messes caused by the eight years of inept policies and lax government oversight of his predecessor, whose legitimacy of being in office was legitimately suspect. As a result, President Obama has had to intervene to stop the banking and investment industries from collapsing, end involvement in an unnecessary war, revive the failing economy, ensure access to increasing expensive health care to all citizens, and regain the trust and cooperation of our traditional allies. At the same time, he has had his citizenship and, his allegiance to the country he leads questioned, in addition to the fighting against the nonsense that now passes as political opposition and discourse.

This questioning is paradoxical - on the one hand, the President has assumed too much power and authority. On the other hand, he hasn’t been able to do enough because he’s too weak to “get things done”.

Those leading the questioning include a specious former governor from one of the most remote and least populated states, whose controversial term in office lasted only 18 months, a cable television talk show host - a long time drug and alcohol addict with no political experience, and an unofficial political party within a political party whose only agenda is to reduce taxes and “the size of government”, even though a large percentage of that government expense involves defense spending and Social Security. This opposition either wants Social Security ended, even though it’s the most effective government program in our nation’s modern history and benefits the poor and middle class, or the money held in trust invested in the capital markets, the same capital markets which the current president had to rescue from collapse at the start of his term. Increasing, not cutting, the bloated military expenditure, with its wasteful duplicate development programs and entrenched bureaucracy, is sacrosanct.

But they really aren’t unique. For years, the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina wanted all foreign aid expenditures, including infrastructure development and food aid, which benefitted U.S. business and foreign policy interests, to be eliminated, even though foreign aid was one-tenth of one percent of federal expenditures. Helms also wanted agricultural subsidies ended, except for tobacco, which surprisingly, was a main source of income for his state and sold internationally. In his dotage, he almost became a kindly folk-hero, if he wasn’t so mean-spirited and paranoid to his core. Every generation has its share of political crazies.

The current crop of crazies include:

Ron Paul, senate candidate in Kentucky -““It's not supposed to be that 51 percent of the people can vote to remove the First Amendment or the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said. “These things are protected by the Constitution, and I don't want someone who believes that the Commerce Clause means anything. Since the ’30s and ’40s we have interpreted the Commerce Clause to allow the federal government to regulate everything, and I think that's a mistake.”

Excuse me, Mr. Paul, as I wrote previously, it was the Commerce Clause that ended slavery and, as I wrote previously, was used properly to defend the rights of gay Americans to wed in California. And 51% of the American people cannot remove any constitutional amendment. That would require 3/4 of the state legislatures to approve the amendment. Remember the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, where the majority of the populace would be granted the same legal rights as the minority other sex? The ERA was only ratified by 35 of the 50 states and has not become law because it takes a minimum of 38 states’ approval? That President Obama won with 51% of the vote? Your revered late President Ronald Reagan took office with only 50.75% of the vote against the ineffectual President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Then there is Sharron Angle, senate candidate in Nevada, who rightly doesn’t want her or her staff to talk to the press. Ms. Angle believes Muslims (such as the Christian Barack Obama) are trying to take over the United States. Ms. Angle believes that Dearborn, Michigan and Frankford, Texas are under Muslim, not U.S. law. “We're talking about a militant terrorist situation, which I believe isn't a widespread thing, but it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it. My thoughts are these. First of all, Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas, are on American soil, and under Constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States.”

Excuse me, Ms. Angle - there is no Frankford, Texas and the same federal laws and programs applies to Dearborn, as it does to all other towns and cities. While the prophet Mohammad’s words have been misinterpreted since his death, his basic beliefs are similar to those of another radical figure of his time, Jesus Christ. Remember the one so radical he was nailed to a cross and left to die alone?

Pat Toomey - Senate Candidate in usually rational Pennsylvania. “My view is, I think the data is pretty clear. There has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last 100 years or so. I think it's clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity I think is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed and has been debated. If we go down the road of legislation like this cap and trade bill...”

Excuse me, Mr. Toomey - There is documented evidence that the polar ice caps are melting, animal species are disappearing and the Earth’s climate is warming from greenhouse gas emissions. As the eminence grise, Casey Stengel used to say, “And you can look it up.” You might try watching the highly partisan National Geographic Channel one evening.

I would be having fun with this, if what these political candidates were espousing was part of a lunatic fringe. No, they could become three of the “greatest deliberative body”. How do you deliberate with someone who has delusional beliefs? What I find interesting and curious is that these politicians want to become part of the government institutions they claim to despise. If all three of the candidates above get elected, they represent 3 out of 100 senators. Very quickly, these government outsiders become insiders and they soon learn the limitations of being political novices in an institution where the rhetoric is for show, but cooperation and teamwork gets your constituents the dough.

Government service means serving the mundane needs of all of your constituents - including helping to obtain citizenship, resolving grievances with government agencies, introducing and getting legislation passed and promoting your state’s interests, such as getting defense contracts and earmarks awarded. And to get along, you have to go along - horse trading votes with other senators. The ability to focus on just one issue is gone when your time is allocated to the minute, in order to appear on the various committees you belong (not necessarily on the committees they wanted), the continuous process of fund raising and voting on the rare important and mostly not-so-important legislation. They become captive to their legislative aides, who do all the real work, behind–the scenes. The President, who they claim to hate, can make their lives difficult by refusing to sign any legislation that supports their and their followers specific interests, when those specific interests are not in the best interest of the whole country.

The talk about how they are going to change Washington D.C. becomes how daily life in Washington. D.C. has changed them. The idea that “government doesn’t create jobs. Industry creates jobs”, they learn is nonsense as the constant demands of big and small businesses for government assistance, becomes a drumbeat that pounds in their heads. Remember, it was extensive government intervention in creating jobs that rescued the country from the Great Depression, not private industry. The lack of previous federal government intervention in sub-prime homeowner loans has exacerbated the current depression. The refrain of “how government regulation has taken over business” is replaced by the reality that without government regulation, many large multinational businesses have no consciences and if they can dump toxic waste into the local water supply or cut back on environmental safeguards that reduce the likelihood of large oil spills, they will.

The disenfranchised , destitute, and unfortunate should be leading the roiling. But the leaders of this roiling are none of those these three. They are white, rich and privileged and becoming more rich and privileged at the expense of those who are not and those who are paranoid that they will become the disenfranchised, destitute and unfortunate despite their wealth.

Richard Hofstader knew this 54 years ago. In national politics, paranoia always runs deep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Equal and No Longer Separate

Equal and No Longer Separate

Michael Maynard
August 9, 2010

On August 9th, U.S. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California’s adoption of Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Proposition 8 attempts to prohibit same-sex marriage in California and was voted in favor 52% to 48%. This was how Judge Walker determined the basis for his ruling.

“Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.”

What is the Equal Protection Clause? It was enacted in 1868, after the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment, enacted in 1865 abolished slavery. However, the defeated Confederate states, in an attempt to prevent blacks from gaining full citizen status, tried to restrict the rights of blacks to own property. The Equal Amendment Clause, the 14th Amendment, was enacted to prevent those and future attempted restriction of equal rights for all U.S. citizens.

Section 1 - 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution - The Equal Protection Clause

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

What was equally meaningful of the overturning of Proposition 8 was the coalition of the two of the most famous liberal and conservative lawyers, previous combatants, to have this proposed law overturned.

"It's not judicial activism, it is judicial responsibility in its classic sense," said Theodore Olson, prominent conservative lawyer, who argued the 2000 Supreme Court case that put George W. Bush in the White House.

"We do not put the Bill of Rights to a vote," Olson said. "We ask judges to make sure that when we vote for something we're not depriving minorities of their constitutional rights, and that's what the judge did."

Olson added that "41 states once prohibited interracial marriage, so that [until] the Supreme Court finally struck that prohibition down, the President's parents could not have been married."

Olson's co-counsel David Boies, who argued for the Democrats in the landmark Bush versus Gore showdown, ridiculed opponents of same-sex marriage for offering "junk science" and legal theories that were "just made up."

"A witness stand is a lonely place to lie," Boies told "Face the Nation" on CBS. "We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council countered that "anybody with a half a brain can see" that policies like no-fault divorce have weakened traditional marriage "and, as a result, have impacted the well-being of children."

(Source: New York Daily News “Prop 8 attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies say judge's ruling is 'constitutionally sound' - August 9, 2010)

The Family Research Council, not surprisingly, is presenting erroneous information.. One of this right-wing organization’s objection to overturning Proposition 8 was that it would “undermine the social foundation of marriage.” The same argument was made to attempt to prevent no-fault divorce. California that was the first state to adopt no-fault divorce in 1970. The national rate of divorce since universal no-fault divorce adoption has decreased from 23 per 1000 couples in 1970 to 17 per 1000 couples in 2005.

What Judge Walker’s ruling does is affirm the sanctity and specialness of marriage.

So what is the real issue being raised by th Family Research Council? I must assume that the members of this organization are well-intentioned and believe they have a legitimate complaint?

They represent a sector of this country who believe that the supremacy of Caucasian heterosexuals is under assault and from their limited perspective, they’re correct. Caucasians’ are no longer in the majority - they represent approximately 40% of the population. While they yearn for their “normalcy” of the Eisenhower presidency, there is an African-American president. The fight for the protection of unionism has been turned against them as their manufacturing jobs are being exported and replaced with lower paying, no-benefit jobs at Walmart. Undocumented immigrants are being used for low-wage, manual labor jobs. And now they have to see two men or two women holding hands as they walk in the lover’s lane of the park.

What they don’t get is that Judge Walker’s ruling doesn’t undermine the sanctity of marriage, the ruling enhances it. Judge Walker recognized that when two people fall love in want to have the state recognize their union legally, it means the two people respect the institution of marriage, not trying to tear it down.

The brilliance of Judge Walker’s ruling is he did not directly attack homophobia, but he legally shamed those who still embrace it. The best approach to overcome irrationality is still to provide an irrefutable rational judgement. What is sad is that some of those who oppose the ruling are attacking Judge Walker by questioning his sexuality. This is the equivalent of questioning Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for any ruling he makes involving race.

Thank you,Judge Walker and Attorneys Boies and Olson, for applying common sense to combat right-wing fear mongering.

For that, every citizen, whether they agree with his ruling or not, owes Judge Walker a large debt of gratitude. That would be just constitutional.