Unemployment rose to 10.8% Under Ronald Reagan!

Unemployment rose to 10.8% Under Ronald Reagan!

In President Reagan’s first year in office, unemployment exceeded 8% so he cut taxes for the rich. In his second year the rate climbed to 10.8%. It wasn’t until he had been in office for 28 months that it dropped back to 8%. The Republicans, of course, blamed President Carter’s policies.  Now, with unemployment at 9.7% in President Obama’s 15th month in office, do you think that these same Republicans attribute the high rate to the Bush economic policies? Get real!

Please Join the conversation by writing your comments in the box at the bottom of this page, or going to The Pub (see top of page). Thanks, Bill

Violent Words = Violent Action

Violent Words = Violent Action

A study from the Southern Poverty Law Center showed a growth in the number of extremist hate groups from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009, and 127 of them were militia groups. There is, in my opinion, a direct relationship between that increase and the incendiary language spoken on talk radio and in right-wing political sound bites.

Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post that “For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary, and anger from the far right… The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction— the right!

“The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day, and quite regularly at tea party rallies, is calibrated not to inform but to incite. Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, their country has been taken away, that their elected officails are traitors and their freedom is at risk. They (the Limbaughs and the Becks)  have a right to free speech, which I will always defend. But they shouldn’t be surprised if some listeners take them literally.”

The  St. Louis Post Dispatch  editorial (referenced above) stated that a Southern Poverty Law Center report “warned of potential threats from violent right-wing groups…”  The newspaper stated that these groups were encouraged by “incendiary rhetoric employed by politicians and conservative commentators who throw around phrases like ‘take back the country’,  ‘reload’, ‘anti-American’, or ‘traitor’. Such rhetoric may not be intended to incite violence, but it can further inflame paranoid people on the radical fringe. Words are important. Words have meaning. Words should be used with care…”

Please Join the conversation by writing your comments in the box at the bottom of this page, or going to The Pub (see top of page). Thanks, Bill

Israel, Palestine and Self-Defeating Violence

Amos Oz is a prominent Israeli journalist, novelist and professor. His op-ed piece in today’s (June 2) New York Times is a cogent analysis of why his nation’s action against ships bringing relief supplies to Gaza was wrongheaded. But his words go beyond this tragic incident and apply to any nation considering the use of military force.

He wrote that “force has its limits” and should be used as a last resort. However, he continued, “since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force… Monday’s violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid are the rank products of this mantra that what can’t be done by force can be done by even greater force… Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters.” The entire article is worth a thoughtful read at www.nytimes.com.

I agree with Oz, both in regard to this particular event, and in regard to the general issue of when the use of deadly force is justified. The continued repression of the Palestinian people will not solve the Israel-Palestine problem, and will not enhance Israel’s security. The two parties share responsibility for the perpetuation of the crisis, and both have a responsibility to abandon violence and work together for a peaceful solution.

As Oz wrote: “Force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land, and Palestinians are not alone in this land… Until Israelis and Palestinians recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact, we will all live in a permanent state of siege…”

Peace will not happen without a two-state solution… and this won’t happen without the strong participation of the United States. I was disappointed in President Obama’s weak response to Israel’s decision to board Turkish relief ships in international waters. He  simply stated his regret for the incident rather than declaring it unacceptable. I was further disappointed in the response from some Democratic members of Congress who expressed their unqualified support of Israel’s actions (see “Pro-Israel Dems Defend Raid” at www.politico.com).

It is time for the United States to speak with as much conviction about the human rights of Palestinian people as we do about Israel’s right to security. It is time for our president and our congress to abandon the policy of knee-jerk support of whatever Israel does, and to use American moral, diplomatic and financial power to bring both parties to the peace table.

I support Israel’s right to exist and to be secure. I support Palestine’s right to exist and to be secure. Oz is correct: until these two seemingly contradictory statements can be reconciled, Israelis and Palestinians will live in a permanent state of siege. This, in turn, undercuts American interests throughout the Middle East. The time for American leadership is now.

A Fond Farewell: My Final Postcard from Arizona

My family has been rooted in Arizona since the 1880s, but our process of uprooting began in 1993 when my oldest daughter moved to North Carolina after college. Over the next 20 years, my wife and I, our youngest daughter and finally my mother all followed her path. I, however, clung to the home of my heritage by serving on an Arizona-based corporate board that took me back eight to ten times each year.

But that final strand of the Jamieson Arizona root was pulled out of the desert soil when I didn’t run for reelection at the corporation’s 2010 annual meeting.

Disconnecting from the state where I matured personally, spiritually and professionally was jarring. Arizona gave me the opportunity to become who I am today by providing fertile ground to discover and grow my skills.

Arizona gave me dear friends and valued colleagues with whom I shared many  deeply-meaningful landmarks in my life: the birth of my first child and the death of my dad; arriving in Phoenix as a young, newly-married man seeking his place in the world, and 25 years later, completing a successful political and business career; hearing a spiritual call that led to my ordination in the Episcopal Church.

Arizona educated my grandmother, my parents, my children and me. It was where my dad and my children spent their childhoods, and where my wife and I bought our first home.

I owe the state more than I have given it… more than I can ever give it. Yet, the Arizona I knew and loved has morphed into something radically different.  It has become arid and hostile ground where I could not have launched a successful a career in my chosen field. The state’s politics are based on xenophobic fear and right-wing anger, and Arizona’s open, expansive landscapes stand in contrast to a narrow and restrictive social agenda. I, sadly, understand that I no longer have a place there… even though Arizona will always have a place in my heart.

I yearn for the  “no-fear, let’s get it done” atmosphere that oxygenated Arizona politics in the late 1970s and early 80s.  I covet the sunsets and never-ending horizons, the constant sense of discovery and opportunity that fueled migration to Arizona.

Now, instead of opportunity, people come looking to escape “the other”. Instead of cherishing the richness of ethnic diversity, they seek to wall out those whose skin color and heritage are different from theirs. These Arizonans are the “take back my America” crowd, a movement that will soon crash head on into a solid wall of increasing diversity.

Arizona’s current political leaders are seeking to create a refuge from the inevitable, and maybe it is ok that nativists have a place of their own… giant walled communities where they can live pretend lives while disparaging those who come seeking a better life.

I agree with an observation from Charles Blow, a columnist in The New York Times. He was writing about the anger and frustration of America’s political right, and speculated that they might find some relief in the 2010 election. However, according to Blow, they “may win the day” but not the age because their movement is an “intellectually bereft campaign of desperation and disenchantment, amplified by a recession. Great recessions don’t last. Great ideas do.”

This gives me some hope for Arizona. Perhaps great ideas will once again capture the hearts and minds of her people and the state will once again be a place of promise. I am not optimistic, but hopeful.

The Arizona I knew— the Arizona of my great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and children— the place of pioneers and opportunity— was conservative, but welcoming. It was a place where my business partner, a second generation American of Mexican heritage, could grow up shining shoes in a copper mining town, and then go on to serve as a leader in the state senate and as a prominent business man.  It was a place where a child of privilege like me could find a new path, grow out of the narrow boundaries that had defined my upbringing, and flourish as a liberal.

America is changing, but Arizona has become a retreat house, an Alamo, for those whose passion is defending yesterday’s status quo. So I bid her fond farewell. The Arizona I knew and loved will always live in my heart, but the Arizona of today no longer calls me home.

A Memorial Day Remembrance: My Friend Jim Masters

Many men of my generation pause each memorial day to remember our Viet Nam-era friends and colleagues who lost their lives in war. My memory today is of my friend Jim Masters, an intelligence officer in the Navy who died when his plane was shot down near De Nang.

Jim and I reported for duty at the Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan on the same day in December of 1967. He was married but his wife Becky wouldn’t arrive for a few weeks, and my quarters would not be vacant for a couple of months, so we were assigned temporary accommodations in adjoining rooms. We became good friends as we explored the surrounding community together, a friendship that continued after Becky arrived and they moved into married housing. Jim’s squadron alternated between the war zone and Japan, while I was safely ensconced as a member of the air station’s staff. Jim was killed in 1970, shortly after I left the Navy.

In those days I was a militarist, believing that America’s war-making power was the world’s  only guarantor of peace. While I now believe that there are no winners in war, I continue to hold a deep respect for the military men and women who put their lives on the line each day. I understand the necessity of maintaining a strong military, even while deploring the necessity of its use.

The following is a quotation from a Franklin Roosevelt speech at Arlington Cemetery in November of 1941 to commemorate those who died in World War I. His words, which were delivered two years before my birth, speak to me today.

“We are able today as we were not always able in the past to measure our indebtedness to those who died. A few years ago, even a few months, we questioned, some of us, the sacrifice they had made…. We know now why these men fought to keep our freedom— and why wars that save a people’s liberties are wars worth fighting and winning…

“They did not fight and die to make the world safe for decency and self-respect for five years or ten or maybe twenty. They died to make it safe. And if, by some fault of ours who lived beyond the war, its safety has again been threatened, then the obligation and duty are ours…

“It is our charge now to see to it that the dead shall not have died in vain…this duty we owe, not to ourselves alone, but to the many dead who died to gain our freedom for us and to make the world a place where freedom can live and grow into the ages.”

I eventually came to see the Viet Nam war as wrongheaded, and I opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from the beginning. It is my belief that war is almost never a solution, but in the face of violent threats and inherent evil it is sometimes necessary. And while I question the legitimacy and necessity of the two wars that we are now fighting, I do not doubt for a minute that our men and women in uniform are there because they believe fervently that they are fighting for the cause of freedom for their country and for the world. I have always, and always will, honor their bravery, commitment and service.

So today, in memory of Jim Masters, I say a prayer for all those who have served and died for what they believed. And, to borrow from President Roosevelt, it is our charge now to see to it that they didn’t die in vain. Violence and hatred will not go away because we wish it to, just as it won’t go away because we confront it with violence. And it will not go away because those of us seeking a different path march with protest signs.

Instead of spending our energy and passion on opposing war by marching in the streets, let’s turn our attention to those ingredients that lead to war: poverty, lack of education, hopelessness. Then let’s fight the political fight to ensure that all people in the world have access to adequate food and shelter, decent medical care, a high quality education, and opportunities to earn a living wage.  Only then will we adequately honor the lives of those who have served the cause of freedom.