Buying Elections.

Americans have long been opposed to the notion of candidates buying elections. But we’re just one step short of unfettered vote buying.

In 1976, while upholding a law which set limits on campaign contributions, the Supreme Court made it possible for candidates to spend unlimited amounts on their own campaigns. In essence, the Court ruled that money equals free speech.

Then in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission, supported by the GOP, a conservative-leaning Court ruled that corporations had the rights of people, unleashing massive expenditures of corporate money in support of candidates through PACs and Super PACs.

Soon, the Court will decide yet another case, McCutcheon v Federal Elections Commission, which is being supported by the GOP in order to remove limits on direct campaign contributions to candidates.

The good news is that this may well spell the demise of PACs and Super PACs. The bad news is that multinational corporations and billionaires such as the Koch brothers will able to funnel billions into campaigns for candidates who promise to be subservient to their demands.

When that happens, the needs of ordinary Americans will be further overwhelmed by big money. The wealthy and powerful already control most of the lobbyists, and therefore, the political agenda. Imagine what will happen when they can actually buy elections.

Supreme Attack On Voting Rights.

Today, the Supreme Court took up a challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1964 which was renewed in 2006. If you’re not familiar with the Act, it was passed by Congress to prevent many of the states of the old Confederacy from denying African-Americans representation and the right to vote.

For many years, in the Jim Crow South, blacks were denied the vote through a combination of literacy tests, poll taxes, outright violence and intimidation. To end, or at least reduce, those practices, Congress demanded that southern states present any changes in voting procedures and redistricting to the Department of Justice for prior approval. Frustrated by the restrictions, Shelby County, Alabama challenged the law in court with the backing of the Republican Party.

It’s no surprise that Republicans would want to repeal the Voting Rights Act so they can better gerrymander congressional districts and suppress minority votes. After all, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for President Obama.

Why wouldn’t they? Barack Obama is the first president with African-American heritage in our nation’s history. Moreover, since the Republican Party embraced the Southern Strategy, it has consistently supported policies that discriminate against minorities. GOP economic policies have been particularly damaging to minorities.

According to a new study by the Brandeis Institute on Assets and Social Policy, the wealth gap between blacks and whites has accelerated since the early days of Trickle Down Economics in 1984. Over a 25-year period, the median net worth of white households has grown to $265,000 compared to just $28,500 for black households!

If Justice Scalia has his way in deciding the Voting Rights Act, things are bound to get worse.

During oral arguments before the Court, Scalia said the act represents the “perpetuation of racial entitlement!” Say what? Exactly how does this pompous right wing apologist think African-Americans are entitled? Entitled to less representation than they already have? To be denied the right to vote? To even less wealth?

After hundreds of years of slavery and discrimination, it is likely to take many more generations of protections for African-Americans to level the playing field. At the time of emancipation, very few were literate and most had no property or assets of any kind. They were denied adequate wages for back-breaking jobs. They were segregated into slums with inferior schools. They were denied the right to vote. More recently, they have seen multinational corporations ship their jobs overseas.

Unfortunately, African-Americans and other minorities still need help to end the cycle of poverty and violence. They still need help achieving equal representation. And they need help to fend off win-at-any-cost politicians from marginalizing their representation and denying them the right to vote.

What they don’t need is a fat white man in a robe making insensitive and racist comments before voting to limit the few protections they have.

Unrestrained Greed.

Our nation is just a few days away from across-the-board austerity cuts that will likely send our fragile economy back into recession…all because the GOP (Guardians Of Privilege) refuse to consider increasing or reforming taxes. The GOP would rather cut programs for the poor, the unemployed, the elderly and the very young than cut subsidies for Big Oil and corporate farming. The GOP refuses to consider increasing taxes that are at historic lows because raising them would “cost jobs.”

Yet thousands more jobs are likely to be lost as the result of austerity.

In reality, the GOP position has little to do with jobs and everything to do with greed. They want to repeal Obamacare so the healthcare industry can maintain its double-digit increases in profits. They want to protect oil and gas subsidies so that companies like Exxon-Mobil can continue to make record profits. They want to further cut regulation for the financial industry so it can steal trillions more from the rest of us.

There is simply no other explanation for the GOP’s “no more tax revenue” stance.

But the Guardians Of Privilege are just a symptom of our culture. The US celebrates greed over hard work in almost every aspect of our society. We treat billionaires as celebrities. We allow corporations to establish patents on genes. We allow pharmaceutical companies to charge us far more than they charge those in other countries. And we fail to prosecute corporate scam artists like the bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2008.

Greed has even corrupted our sports world. The NBA created “Jordan Rules” for Michael Jordan in order to increase his star power and make the league more money. Long-standing college conferences and rivalries have been torn apart in order to chase more TV revenue. The NCAA plays favorites to make sure traditional basketball and football powers remain on top in order to increase TV ratings and earn more income. And, of course, the officials call games accordingly. 

Greed trumps hard work and fairness in virtually every aspect of our society. It has caused the beneficiaries to feel entitled. And it has generated anger among the rest. Ironically, it drives both sides of the political spectrum. The Tea Party believes government is taking away the things they hold dear. On the other side, the Occupy Movement believes that corporations and the very wealthy are preventing them from reaching their potential.

If you ignore the politics and simply look at the root cause, both sides are right.

Criticism Of Oscars Says More About Us Than Hollywood.

It’s the day after the Academy Awards and the Web is filled with questions and snarky critiques of the proceedings. Was Heidi Klum’s dress too revealing? (Yes, she has breasts. She’s a woman!) Did the darts in Ann Hathaway’s dress look like nipples? (Only if you have difficulty telling fabric and flesh apart.) Why was the First Lady invited to appear via satellite? (Why not?) Did Seth MacFarlane live up to Billy Crystal and Bob Hope as emcee? (Seriously?)

What if the tables were turned?

Maybe you could imagine how critics might have torn apart that prom dress you bought, then tried to return the next day. Maybe you could imagine how critics might have analyzed every word of your gig as emcee at your high school’s variety show. Maybe you could imagine what it would be like to have critics analyze your every move and everything you wear. Maybe you could imagine a complete loss of privacy with paparazzi blinding you with camera flashes everywhere you go.

Our treatment of celebrities seems cruel at best and insane at worst. Why not just admire them for their talents? Period.

Why do we have to build them up only so we can delight in tearing them down? For what purpose? Do we really need to have someone to criticize to make us feel better about ourselves? Here’s an idea: As an alternative, why don’t we put that time and effort into self-improvement? Why don’t we simply ignore which celebrity is wearing what? Why don’t we ignore what or who they are doing outside of their chosen field?

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing someone’s performance. But it’s better to look for the things that are good.

If we all spent more time being positive, maybe we wouldn’t feel so bad about ourselves that we feel the need to tear others apart.  

Are We Really So Different From Australia?

In 1996, a madman used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to kill 35 people and wound 21 more at an Australian tourist site.

The Port Arthur massacre led the newly-elected prime minister to implement new gun law proposals to ban most handguns, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, even pump-action shotguns. Guns are still available to competitive target shooters, farmers and ranchers and others who can demonstrate a need.

Since the Australian government could not legally seize private property, it instituted an aggressive buyback program that resulted in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of weapons. This in a country that has a gun culture nearly as ingrained as that in the United States.

The result of these new measures? According to former Prime Minister John Howard, gun murders in Australia have dropped as much as 89 percent since 1997! In addition, suicides have been dramatically reduced.

Interestingly, the Australian people still have access to the same movies and video games as Americans. There has been no significant difference in the way Australians treat mental illness. The only thing that changed is Australian’s access to guns.

Remember that the next time you hear NRA leaders and their Teapublican enablers blather on about how the only way to reduce gun violence is to increase the number of guns! 

What Does It Take To Make The NRA’s Enemies List?

Although I have been a gun owner since my parents gave me a single-shot .22 rifle for my 13th birthday, I have been writing about the insanity of this nation’s gun culture for many years.

Yet I recently learned that I was left off the enemies list published by the National Rifle Association! Naturally, I was horrified!

What have I done to deserve such indifference? Haven’t I made it clear enough that I think the NRA leadership is a group of thugs and dim-wits? Must I do more to point out the unnecessary slaughter of innocents in this country? Must I send even more letters and emails to my elected officials asking for bans on military-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and all semi-automatic weapons? Must I again point out the fallacy that guns are useful for self-defense? Must I call attention to the fact that, if we had universal background checks to ferret out criminals and the mentally unstable, Ted Nugent and many of the Tea Party members would be denied weapons?

Many of the people I know and admire have made the enemies list…writers, celebrities, corporate leaders, pastors, educators, union members…even cartoonists. Why not me?

Obviously, I lack the fame, power, money, air-time and printing ink to attract the attention of the NRA. But I’ll keep trying. 

Teapublicans Can’t Have It Both Ways.

Upon reviewing a leaked document purporting to be the White House plan for immigration reform, Teapublican boy wonder Senator Marco Rubio issued a response stating, “It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress.” He went on to call the plan “half-baked,” “seriously flawed” and “dead on arrival.”

This comes from the same party that has denounced President Obama for taking a hands off approach to legislation. They accuse him of a lack of leadership. They have said that he needs to provide Congress with clear direction…that he can’t just sit in the corner and wait for Congress to do its job.

So Teapublicans want the president to provide proposals. Then, when he does, they accuse him of overstepping his role? That seems about right.

After more than four years of obstruction and backstabbing; after the president was overwhelmingly re-elected; after polls showing Congress is less popular than cockroaches, Teapublicans show no signs of letting up. They show no signs of willingness to do anything that will benefit the nation and our economy for fear that it might make the president appear more successful.

They have shown they are going to continue to abuse the filibuster…even to filibuster one of their own. They are going to oppose tax reform and tax fairness. They are going to oppose attempts to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. They are going to oppose any attempts to help the working poor out of poverty. They are going to continue to oppose women’s rights and gay rights. They are going to continue to suppress votes of minorities and the poor.

Teapublicans seem prepared to ride the same old horse into the sunset of oblivion.

A Rare Slip Of The Tongue By Sen. McCain.

It doesn’t happen often, but last Thursday, a nugget of truth slipped between the lips of the self-described maverick.

Appearing on Fox News Channel, he stated that the reason for the filibuster of former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense is Hagel’s statements regarding former President Bush. McCain said, “it goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense. He was anti his own party and people – people don’t forget that.” 

So that’s it. That’s McCain’s reason for taking the unprecedented step of voting to filibuster the nomination of the Secretary of Defense? McCain cares so little about our soldiers in Afghanistan that he would block the nomination during a war? Apparently, if you’re a Teapublican, political payback is more important than patriotism. It’s come to a point that, if you’re a Republican, you can’t tell the truth about your own party if that truth is negative.

As it turns out, you don’t dare turn your back on them, either. Not even a kevlar vest could protect you from a back-stabbing like this. 

The True Measure Of A Great Man.

Few people achieve great things in their chosen professions. Fewer still are capable of teaching others how to achieve those things. And it’s a rare individual who can teach others how to face difficulty, even death, with courage and grace.

Mike Hughes has done all of these things.

Mike is President and former Chief Creative Officer of one of the world’s great advertising agencies, the Martin Agency of Richmond, Virginia. I’ve really only had the privilege of meeting Mike once or twice, sharing stories over a couple of drinks. Nevertheless, I feel I know him well. You see, I’ve followed his work for decades. In the ad business, creative brilliance and integrity shine through the clutter of sameness like a dazzling beacon on the darkest night.

Now Mike is facing mortality with the same gentle good humor and thoughtfulness that he has so often imparted into his advertising. You can read his insights at His doctors have told Mike that his illness is terminal. I know their diagnosis is correct…as mere humans, our death is certain. I just hope Mike’s doctors have the expiration date wrong.

There are far too few men on this Earth with Mike’s ability to make us see things clearly…be it the benefits of owning a product, using a service or dealing with the realities of life and death.

Long live Mike Hughes.

The Nation’s Toughest Sheriff?

In my opinion, it would be more accurate to call Joe Arpaio the nation’s most corrupt sheriff.

I’m not saying Joe’s not tough. He’s plenty tough on Latinos, other minorities and anyone who dares to question his actions.

For example, Arpaio has repeatedly conducted “crime” sweeps in Latino neighborhoods, hoping to latch onto an undocumented immigrant. But don’t call this obvious harassment racial profiling. Joe simply won’t stand for that characterization of his law enforcement techniques! According to Joe, there are plenty of Latinos he hasn’t arrested…yet.

But Joe’s toughness extends beyond his surly demeanor and questionable arrests. He’s been particularly tough on the finances of Maricopa County taxpayers. His actions have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in court settlements and legal fees. He has also misspent millions of county funds.

Arpaio even tried to arrest county officials on trumped-up charges when they refused to cooperate with him. I’m not yet certain what those actions are going to cost taxpayers.

Of course, Joe is most famous for Tent City, the prison in the desert with no heating or air conditioning. At this canvas hell hole, inmates are forced to eat the same helping of green baloney meal after meal, day after day. Arpaio is responsible for creating an atmosphere in which prisoners have been neglected, beaten and allowed to die while in custody. But the national media never report those stories. Instead, they play footage of the tough talkin’ sheriff with his infamous posse that includes washed-up action star, Steven Seagal.

Most recently, Arpaio’s department was accused of ignoring hundreds of sex crimes, prompting an internal investigation which eventually supported the allegations. Yet no one was disciplined. And although the investigation was completed in late 2011, the results were not released until 2013.

Why the delay?

Well, Joe was facing re-election in 2012. Even with millions in Tea Party contributions from across the country and his bat-crap crazy supporters, it would have been difficult for Arpaio to beat the truth, the accompanying bad publicity and a highly qualified opponent in a close election.