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Archive for December, 2009

Airport Security- Are We Safe Yet?

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

After Christmas day, I don’t think anyone thinks we’re safe on airplanes. So what’s the problem?  As a trial lawyer, we investigate a case to piece together the facts. We interview potential witnesses, persons of interest, family   members, co-workers and others, if necessary.  We analyze data to determine its accuracy. We review documents to shed light on the case.  We do not wait to get to the court house door to start our investigation. It’s too late by then.  The same is true for airport security and terrorism. If we wait for terrorists to reach the airport gates, it’s too late by then to protect us. The recent Christmas day underwear bomber proves this point. The shoe bomber, Richard Reid, on December 22, 2001 was another case on point.  He too was also allowed to board the plane. It was only luck again that prevented the plane’s demise. 

Full body scanners are being contemplated now to ensure better screening devices. Of course, there’s a cost factor involved. We value human life more than anything. We bailed out billions to banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, GM and Chrysler. Shouldn’t we put more money now on security and intelligence and saving human life too? I don’t think we can weigh the costs of additional security measures against saving lives. Life trumps everything.

 Regardless of the airport security method used, it may be too late by then to circumvent a terrorist attack. All mechanical screening methods rely on the infallibility of   machines. And we all know machines do fail. Doing all we can to prevent any terrorists from getting to the airport is crucial. There’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to this point.

The CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and State Department did not cross all dots nor piece together all the pieces of the puzzle. The investigation and finger pointing are going on now.  Information was known about alleged Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and possible terrorist ties before he boarded. Even his father went to great lengths to state concerns about his son and terrorist ties.

Perhaps, if the  CIA, NSA and State Department had some of the billions given away to aid banks  and bail out Wall Street, they could have prevented the alleged Christmas day bomber from even getting to the airport.

Let’s get it right now. Luck may not be on our side a third time. We cannot have the third time be the charm for the terrorists.

Health Care Bill Is Only a Half Loaf

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

What started out as massive health care reform is quickly becoming a shrinking violet. The public option sank faster than the Titanic. The alternative Medicare buy-in for persons over 55 sank even faster. It lasted only 6 rounds or days. Abortion didn’t fare too well either. Compromise was inevitable.  Yet, the watering down of the health care bill is more than compromise.  The bill’s strength is diluted so much.  It has no punch.  Time is not on the side of major health care reform. One saying is becoming true.  Haste makes waste. President Obama wants to get a bill passed before the December break. At all costs, he just may achieve that goal.   In the process, he will give up so much to achieve it. 

Back on July 7, 2009 President Obama   stated he was looking forward to a final bill with the public option.  He stated that one of the best ways to bring down costs, assure quality health care and force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest is the public option.  So how are we going to keep the insurance companies honest now?

While campaigning before Planned Parenthood in 2007, President Obama sated his reform plan would include reproductive health care.  By the summer of 2009, he changed to no federal dollars would be used to fund abortion. As for health care for all, the current Senate bill is estimated to cover 31 million by 2019 still leaving 24 million still uninsured. 

Affordable health care is not a game. Yet, there are still winners and losers.  And the winners are private insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Second runners up are hospitals and doctors.  The losers are President Obama, Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, women, children and all those in need of affordable health care.

Howard Dean says we should scrap it and start over again.  I have to wonder what would Teddy think.  Senator Ted Kennedy was the liberal champion for health care for all Americans for decades.  The health care bill is not looking like the liberal law he envisioned.  Ted Kennedy would probably disagree with President Obama.  Senator Kennedy would say Mr. President it’s not the greatest thing since social security. It’s not even close.  It’s not a full loaf. It’s a half loaf. But a half loaf is better than no loaf.

I once read baby steps count too as long as they are moving forward.  We must not stop nor be content with these baby steps. We must continue to fight for massive health care reform.  We must continue to fight for the reform President Obama once campaigned for.    This is only the beginning.

President Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

On December 10, 2009 President Obama received the Nobel Peace prize.  The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to only four  American presidents since its inception in 1901.  There was much criticism amid President Obama’s  being awarded the Nobel Prize.  Some say he was a new president with little to no experience in peace. That’s true. Others clamored that the United States is in two wars now.  Just a week before his acceptance, President Obama ordered thousands more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. That’s true too.  Then there’s the torture issue   surrounding  Guantanamo Bay.   Others who have received the Nobel peace prize have been committed to nonviolence and sustainable peace.  Martin Luther King, Jr, on whose shoulders Barack Obama stands, opposed war and fought for civil rights through non-violence.  Mahatma Gandhi was the mastermind of nonviolent resistance to attaining peace. He never received the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the criticism of President Obama, I feel honored that he received the Nobel peace prize. Yet, that still begs the question of does war play a role in preserving peace. 

President Obama stated in his acceptance speech that as Commander in  Chief of the Armed Forces, war is a necessary evil when negotiations  and other forms of non-resistance break down. In his role as Commander in Chief, he asserts he has a duty to protect the American people.

President Obama rightfully noted that peace is not just lack of conflict.  Just peace is based upon the inherent rights and dignity of all persons. Just peace means civil and political rights for all as well as economic security.  You cannot be truly free if you’re starving, homeless or unable to express religious  freedom, too. Only just peace is truly lasting.

How do we attain just peace is the real question.  All of us are responsible for attaining sustainable and just peace. It starts with each of us doing something to make peace a priority.  Until September 11, 2001, Americans took peace in general for granted.  We need to strive for just peace here too.

Recently, I attended Peace X Peace’s Inaugural Peace Awards. I was reminded of Afghanistan women who risk their lives and fight daily for the right to attend school; Liberian women who were once raped and denied basic human rights but have  fought back nonviolently to see their first female president elected; and an African-American woman who sends thousands  of shoes to Africa so  African children have shoes.  These women are making efforts at sustainable peace. 

Peace begins with each of us. Violence is never the way to sustainable peace.  What will you do to make a difference?

Was This The Best Buy For Mayor Dixon?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The State Prosecutor’s case was paper thin against Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. Yet, it had enough meat on its bones to convict Mayor Dixon of one misdemeanor  count of misappropriation of Best Buy and Target gift cards intended for the poor.  The jury found her not guilty of the felony theft counts of the cards and  was hung on one count.  The 7 day jury deliberations show it was a difficult case to decide.  It was by no means a slam dunk for the prosecution. The jury deliberated almost as long as the testimony took. Yet for a paltry $500  Sheila Dixon stands to lose her pension, position as Mayor and be fined, imprisoned or both.  Was this the best buy for Mayor Dixon?

Republican State Prosecutor Rohrbaugh’s   almost 4 year investigation of Mayor Dixon’s bank statements, tax returns, credit card statements and house search finally yielded a return. But was justice served? No one is above the law including mayors, governors and even presidents. Mayor Dixon is no  exception. Yet, the relentless persecution I mean prosecution to take this mayor down seemed more like a political or even personal vendetta. It was truly a fishing expedition that ultimately caught a big fish. In a time when we don’t have to search for wrongdoing among politicians, it seems odd that the state prosecutor had to spend many years on a witch hunt before finally finding something on Sheila Dixon. No one had to search years to find something on Illinois Governor Blagojevich, South Carolina Governor Sanford, ex Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and a host of others. The cost of the investigation, trial and conviction is immeasurable in the millions of dollars spent and in other ways. Baltimore stands to be the loser. Talk about stealing from the poor. No one is really the winner.

 But it’s not over till it’s over. I am reminded that Dixon’s lead attorney Arnold Weiner represented another Maryland politician, former Governor Marvin Mandel.  After indictment, conviction and jail time served, Mandel’s conviction was overturned.

So was justice served in Mayor Dixon’s case?  It just may be too soon to know.