Author Archives: Robert G. Wilkerson

A RARE CHANCE FOR POLITICAL IMPROVEMENT

Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians are unhappy with our political leadership.

Several factors have contributed to this condition and to Alabama recently receiving the shameful recognition of being the 4th most corrupt state in America.

The greatest reason for this is too much power has been invested in too few people for far too long. Power corrupts and total power brings total corruption.

Alabama is a one-party state. That means that there are few checks and balances in our political processes. We are a state that is governed by a good ole boy system, with few exceptions. Making it worse is the fact that we have a good ole boy group within the good ole boy system. Many have a greater loyalty to their party than to the people who elected them.

The good ole boy party stays in power by playing dirty. They use their power unfairly to take advantage in elections. They do all they can to make voter registration and voting hard for ordinary citizens. They create stringent registration requirements and make voting days and hours difficult for working people. They try to excuse this by saying they are trying to stop voter fraud. That’s just not true. There has proven to be so little voter fraud in Alabama and the U.S. that investigating it is not worth the time or the money. They are simply trying to prevent the working class, the poor, and minorities from voting. Sadly, they have been successful for several years.

Gerrymandering is another way they cheat in elections. They (the Republicans) draw voting districts in such a way that their opposition is divided and weakened and they are strengthened. This has gone on for years and happened again recently. Many of us are absolutely amazed that the recent redistricting plan submitted by the Alabama legislature was approved by a three-judge federal court (Judges Bill Pryor, Myron Thompson, and Keith Watkins). Under this plan, House Districts 5, 14, and 16, all three which are part of Jefferson County, are represented by white Republicans who live in other counties. This is outrageous! We thought courts were supposed to dispense justice. Something is very wrong (illegal?) about this.

Another problem in our state is the Democratic Party. They have been gridlocked in a power struggle for years, unable to produce a viable candidate, and for all intents and purposes totally useless.

One of the greatest factors in the poor quality of our political leaders is we the people. We have tolerated it. Some of us don’t vote because we have given up on the system. Some of us vote the same good ole boys in office because we are uninformed on the issues and the people. It isn’t covered on Fox News. Whatever the excuse is, it’s not good enough. Evil flourishes when good people do nothing.

This year’s race for the U.S. Senate offers us a rare opportunity to improve our system. There is an outsider running. He’s not a good ole boy. He’s not a part of Alabama’s dominant party. His name is Doug Jones, and he offers the citizens of our state a rare opportunity to improve our government. If you want change, if you want better government—vote for him on December 12th!

Advertisements

OBSERVATIONS ON THE ROY MOORE MESS

The image of the State of Alabama has been irreparably damaged by the Roy Moore mess. Our state has become the butt of jokes by late night talk show hosts, and the press. This will hurt the State both now and in the future. Business and industry will not want to locate in such a state and many of our brightest and best will not want to be identified as Alabamians.

We can observe many ugly things in this mess, some of which exists in other states.

  • We are a divided state. Different mentalities exist. There is a rural vs urban mentality, and educated vs uneducated mentality, a fortress mentality and a hero mentality. The fortress mentality exists among small groups believing that they must stick together and take up for each other. They believe they are right and all others are wrong, and that people are out to get them. Most of their enemies are only imagined. They call that paranoia. Some people are always looking for heroes. Why do you think Roy Moore dresses like a cowboy, and flashes his little pistol? These are shades of John Wayne and Roy Rogers. The era of the cowboy passed long ago. Cowboy heroes were mostly creations of Hollywood.
  • Trump style corruption has been contagious. Moore supporters take the position that the press is against them, taking up one of Trump’s terms, they call the media “Fake News.” Like Trump, they want to control the news. They come out, read statements expressing their opinions, and quickly escape refusing to answer questions from the press. That’s not fair or just. Perhaps the press should stipulate “we will not cover your event unless you answer our questions.”
  • Some religious leaders shame the faith. They undoubtedly have become a part of partisan politics and the fortress mentality, and they love to see themselves on TV. They manage to position themselves behind or alongside major speakers where everyone can see them Shame on them. People of real faith do not use God to further their purposes. They allow God to use them to further His.
  • Some people put party before principle. With them, it’s my party, right or wrong. If he is a Republican, I must support him. That is not true. That same kind of belief brought Adolph Hitler to power. Do the right thing!

It was surprising to hear Governor Kay Ivey say she believed the women who accused Moore of harassing and molesting them, but she had to support Moore because he is a Republican, and the Republicans need one more senator. She lost the respect of many Alabamians when she said that. Some people have forgotten who the real victims in this mess are. Roy Moore is not one. If you feel sorry for him, your sympathy is misplaced. His past is simply catching up with him.

The real victims are the women and young girls that he groped or molested. If you are a parent of young girls, ask yourself how would you feel if some man did to one of your children what women are testifying that Roy Moore did to them.

This mess needs to be settled and settled quickly—not in the court of public opinion, but in a court of law. But let’s be sure the judge is fair and impartial, not one who puts his/her political party above the law.

TAX REFORM: WHO ARE OUR FRIENDS?

 

There is so much information and misinformation in America that many of us do not know who our friends are.

Real friends are known by what they do, not what they say. In that respect, we need to ask a few questions of the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

Are they our friends when they are working hard and fast to pass a Tax Reform Bill which will:

  • Give huge, permanent tax cuts to millionaires, and large corporations at the expense of working families?
  • Increase the taxes on people making less than $75k a year?
  • Leave 13 million Americans without health insurance?
  • Raise the cost of health insurance premiums?
  • Force hospitals in rural areas to close?
  • Make nursing home care impossible for thousands of our old people?

With friends like these, who needs enemies!

Adding insult to injury, the people trying to pass this horrible legislation love to applaud themselves, pat each other on the back, and take group pictures with them smiling and laughing.

Call Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Luther Strange and ask them to vote “No” on this bill. After all, they are our friends, aren’t they?

OBSERVATIONS OF THE MOORE MESS

The image of the State of Alabama has been irreparably damaged by the Roy Moore mess. Our state has become the butt of jokes by late night talk show hosts, and the press. This will hurt the State both now and in the future. Business and industry will not want to locate in such a state and many of our brightest and best will not want to be identified as Alabamians.

We can observe many ugly things in this mess, some of which exists in other states.

  • We are a divided state. Different mentalities exist. There is a rural vs urban mentality, and educated vs uneducated mentality, a fortress mentality and a hero mentality. The fortress mentality exists among small groups believing that they must stick together and take up for each other. They believe they are right and all others are wrong, and that people are out to get them. Most of their enemies are only imagined. They call that paranoia. Some people are always looking for heroes. Why do you think Roy Moore dresses like a cowboy, and flashes his little pistol? These are shades of John Wayne and Roy Rogers. The era of the cowboy passed long ago. Cowboy heroes were mostly creations of Hollywood.
  • Trump style corruption has been contagious. Moore supporters take the position that the press is against them, taking up one of Trump’s terms, they call the media “Fake News.” Like Trump, they want to control the news. They come out, read statements expressing their opinions, and quickly escape refusing to answer questions from the press. That’s not fair or just. Perhaps the press should stipulate “we will not cover your event unless you answer our questions.”
  • Some religious leaders shame the faith. They undoubtedly have become a part of partisan politics and the fortress mentality, and they love to see themselves on TV. They manage to position themselves behind or alongside major speakers where everyone can see them Shame on them. People of real faith do not use God to further their purposes. They allow God to use them to further His.
  • Some people put party before principle. With them, it’s my party, right or wrong. If he is a Republican, I must support him. That is not true. That same kind of belief brought Adolph Hitler to power. Do the right thing!

It was surprising to hear Governor Kay Ivey say she believed the women who accused Moore of harassing and molesting them, but she had to support Moore because he is a Republican, and the Republicans need one more senator. She lost the respect of many Alabamians when she said that. Some people have forgotten who the real victims in this mess are. Roy Moore is not one. If you feel sorry for him, your sympathy is misplaced. His past is simply catching up with him.

The real victims are the women and young girls that he groped or molested. If you are a parent of young girls, ask yourself how would you feel if some man did to one of your children what women are testifying that Roy Moore did to them.

This mess needs to be settled and settled quickly—not in the court of public opinion, but in a court of law. But let’s be sure the judge is fair and impartial, not one who puts his/her political party above the law.

LABOR DAY 2017—WHERE’S THE PARADE?

To most of us, Labor Day means a long weekend, and the last chance to get away in summer, a quick trip to the beach before school starts, or maybe just a family picnic. Labor Day had some very serious origins. Before Labor Day became an official holiday by President Grover Cleveland in 1894, there was a long, violent struggle for basic worker rights. Back then, the routine workweek was twelve hours a day, six days a week, with low wages, no paid vacation, no sick days, no pensions, no holidays, and no unemployment insurance. In addition, thousands of Americans died in unsafe factories and mines.

Both business and government fought against the labor movement (and some still do). Hundreds of people were killed in riots and battles over worker rights.

One incident particularly inflamed the desire for worker rights. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. The top three floors quickly were engulfed in flames in the reputedly fireproof building. Most of the workers were Jewish and Italian women, some as young as fourteen, who had recently immigrated. They found themselves trapped in a terrible inferno. Groups of young women jumped to their deaths from the ninth floor. One man dropped women out of the windows. Fire department nets were ripped and torn by jumpers. On the outside, bodies piled up on the sidewalk and blocked the fire engines. On the inside, burned bodies piled up at locked doors, blocked exits, and some burned beyond recognition while still sitting at their sewing machines.

The factors that caused this tragedy were bad management, overcrowding and dangerous working conditions, and bad architecture.

Managers frequently locked the exits to prevent workers from sneaking out for a break, and to prevent stealing. Those locked doors stopped workers from escaping the fire. Other exists were blocked with boxes which had been accumulating for months. The architect had been given special permission to omit one staircase in his design, and exit doors were designed to open inward, making it almost impossible to open the doors when panic-stricken workers rushed them. The poorly built fire escape caused it to collapse when many workers started using it to escape the fire, killing many.

This tragic fire, along with many other bad incidents, fired up the workers and their demands for safer working conditions, and led the public to support them. The labor movement made great gains after these tragic events. Workers organized and formed unions, and Labor Day became a special day to honor the American worker. The day usually consisted of pubic parades to show the unity and accord between the trade and labor unions, and the community. Then, there was recreation and entertainment, and speeches by prominent men and women.

Most all Americans have benefitted directly or indirectly due to unions. Unions fought for these:  1. The weekend–The average work week in 1870 was 61 hours.

  1. Fair wages and relative income equality
  2. The end of child labor
  3. Widespread employer-based healthcare
  4. The Family and Medical Leave Act

President Abraham Lincoln said, “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.” In 1861, he told Congress, “Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Some people say that we don’t need unions today, but I would differ. Whenever 1% of the population possesses 99% of the wealth in America, the middle class has been almost destroyed and large companies are maximizing their profits by reducing or eliminating worker benefits—we need unions. I applaud the working people of America who have, through their unions, brought us so many of the benefits we enjoy. Maybe we need a few more parades to show our appreciation.

FIVE THREATS TO AMERICAN FREEDOM

Freedom is not free. Thousands of Americans have fought and died that we might enjoy the freedom we have as Americans. It is ironic that we may lose those freedoms without a single shot being fired.

Some people believe that we will lose our freedom to external forces. Among those they list North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. We may be hated and despised by these foreign nations, but most know they would be greatly over-matched in any conflict with America.

The greatest threats to the loss of our freedom are internal, not external. We are a divided nation. We have not been as divided since the War Between the States. We are divided–conservatives vs liberals, democrats vs republicans, Trump supporters vs Trump detesters, the rich against the poor, the uneducated against the educated, and on and on it goes.

These divisions are not as they once were. They are vicious. The arguments against those who disagree with us are so intense that truth is often not a consideration.

Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He learned that from the Bible. That statement is as true today as it has ever been. We need to work hard at trying to find the “we” again. The “we” that says, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” (The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States).

Freedom of the press is in danger of being lost. Freedom cannot survive without freedom of the press. That’s why when dictators first come to power, they eliminate the free press and install their own government information bureaus. Controlling the people is easy when the government (dictator, king, leader of the nation, etc.) controls the press. Many nations today do not have a free press (Russia, North Vietnam, Iran, China, and North Korea just to name a few).

We are in danger of losing a free press in America due to the present administration in Washington. Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted the media, accusing them of being dishonest and fake. Senator John McCain has criticized Trump’s stand on the media as dangerous. In an interview with NBC News, he said attacking the press is how dictators get started. He is right.

Donald Trump may be a threat to our freedom. As mentioned earlier, he undoubtedly doesn’t like freedom of the press or freedom of speech, particularly if they don’t flatter him. International writer and political commentator, Art Berman, said of Trump, “His lies about voter fraud are a prelude to massive voter suppression.” He recently wrote in The Nation magazine: “Trump undermined the basic tenets of democracy in ways unseen by any presidential nominee. His supporters explicitly called for “racial profiling” at the polls; and his campaign openly boasted, “We have three major voter suppression operations underway to reduce voter turnout among African Americans, young women, and liberals.” Trump and the Republican party try to justify restrictions by spreading false claims about voter fraud, which is very rare. There were only two cases of voter impersonation in North Carolina between 2002 and 2012, out of 35 million voters.

The decline of religion and moral values is the greatest threat to America. Millions of Americans have abandoned or rejected the faith of their fathers. They don’t live by the Ten Commandments, much less the teachings of Jesus that say, “We are to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” If we continue down this path, our nation will join others in the graveyard of nations that have lost the values which once made them great.

THE WORST HEALTH CARE PLAN

First the worse, second the same, third the worst of all the Republican Health care bills.

There are several ways we can know when something is bad. One way is by watching the behavior of those doing bad. They become sneaky and secretive trying to hide their dirty deeds. The Republican Health Care Plan was developed in just such a way. It was developed by a small group of Republicans and kept secret from even most of their own party. Democrats were totally locked out of the process.

A second way we can tell when someone is trying to pull one over on us is when they try to rush us to sign on the bottom line. They don’t want us to know all the facts, or have time to think about it. Again, that was the way the Republican Plan was presented. They didn’t even want the Congressional Budget Office to have time to study their plan and share their findings. They still don’t.

A third way we can tell when someone is trying to give us something that isn’t good is when they don’t want it themselves. The newest version of the Republican health care bill exempts members of Congress and their staffs from parts of the plan. That means they will have greater coverage and more benefits than the rest of us. In other words, “We, your elected representatives are going to ram this plan down your throats, but we are not going to be in it.” With friends like these—who needs enemies?

Some of us may be asking, “What’s so bad about the bill?” Let’s count the ways.

In effect, it would eliminate the protection of people with pre-existing conditions by allowing insurance companies to sell skimpier plans and charge more to people with those conditions.

It will significantly cut financial aid to low and moderate-income users.

It will cut funding for Medicaid, the governments safety net plan for the sick and poor. It is estimated that 15 million people will lose Medicaid by 2026.

Combining smaller insurance requirements with less financial help for patients will make health care plans unaffordable for millions of sick Americans.

In a joint statement by America’s Health Care Plans, and the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Association sent to R. Mitch McConnell, they said the plan was “simply unworkable in any form; it undermines the protection of those with pre-existing conditions, raises premiums and causes many to lose coverage.” At one time, President Trump said, “It is a mean plan.” It still is.

The cuts in Medicaid will force many rural hospitals to close, make it impossible for many to get nursing home care, and harm many others in different ways.

Even though McConnell claims the bill has been adjusted, the adjustments were small and insignificant. Make no mistake about it, if this bill is passed, it will create hardship, pain, and suffering for millions and death for some.

Recently Ted Cruz was taking heat about the bill in a television interview. He said, “We are all in this together.” No, we are not! Most Americans would never do to their neighbors what the Republican Party is trying to do to them in this bill.

American voters are not stupid. Most have good memories and will remember what Republicans have done to them when they go to the polls. Big changes are in the wind. Can we hear the moving vans coming?