Category Archives: Politics

What’s up with the Democrats and Republicans? Can they ever get along and get something accomplished?

Detroit’s Slow-Motion Crash, America’s Race Against Time

When I heard the news Friday, July 19, that the City of Detroit is declaring bankruptcy, I was saddened, but not at all surprised.  Detroit has been under the jurisdiction of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, for four months.  Elected Mayor Dave Bing (and former Pistons basketball player), is effectively out of power, but he has been cooperating with Kevyn Orr during this transition.

Later the same day, President Obama made some heartfelt and personal remarks on race relations in America, in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial over the death of Trayvon Martin.  I see a connection of President Obama’s remarks to the racial history of metro Detroit, and how racial tensions were one of the contributing factors to Detroit’s decline over the decades.  Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated regions in America, north of Mississippi.  In some ways, metro Detroit is a Southern City trapped inside of a Northern State.

The City of Detroit could be compared to a slow-motion car crash, decades in the making.  Imagine a circa 1940 or 1950 Chevy cruising down Woodward Avenue, morphing into other vehicle models over time, up through a 2013 Chevy Volt (one of the few vehicles still manufactured in the City of Detroit), just before hitting a financial brick wall.  When watching those slow-motion crash test videos, you know what the outcome will be, but not exactly when the moment of impact will occur.

Although I moved away from metro Detroit in 1986, I grew up there and still have many family members living there, most of who work in the auto industry, or have since retired.  I travel to Detroit once or twice a year to visit my family.  At a young age, I was able to sense the racial and economic trajectory of metro Detroit.  I decided that I would eventually leave the area when I grew up.  I later moved to the Lansing area, before moving to Vermont.

I will try to describe Detroit’s slow-motion car crash in a nutshell.  Given the state of today’s U.S. economy, unemployment, declining middle class and racial tensions, I think there are lessons to be learned from Detroit’s situation.  Detroit has been the favorite punching bag of the news media and people in other states for many years.  But I see signs of what happened in Detoit decades ago in other parts of the country in recent times, even in Rutland County, Vermont where I have lived for 18 years.

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We Have Not Forgotten: Newtown Vigil, June 15, 2013, Brattleboro, VT

On June 15th, 2013, six months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, a vigil was held in Brattleboro, VT to remember the students and teachers who lost their lives on December 14, 2012.

For each of the 26 names read aloud, a bell was rung. Also, in these past six months, 94 additional children age 12 and under have been killed, not to mention the number of teens and adults murdered in America. We have not forgotten. We cannot let our legislators in Congress and our state legislators forget these deaths.

Sticky Subjects: Gun Debate and Maple Syrup

In addition to the issues of gun safety, suicide, domestic violence, mass shooting, and mental illness, etc. there is also the issue of gun trafficking and straw purchases:

Chicago Gets Its Guns Where It Used to Get Its Blues

Like the blues song says: “Down in Mississippi”.

Vermont doesn’t want to be compared to Mississippi, do we? I mean, Vermont was the first state to outlaw Slavery in it’s Constitution! But Vermont is just like Mississippi when it comes to guns purchased in Vermont ending up being used in gun crimes and murders in Boston:

Stolen VT Gun Ended Boston Man’s Life

Boston criminals get some of their Guns where they also get their Maple Syrup!

It’s The Honesty Problem, Stupid!

Last Tuesday evening I watched the PBS Frontline documentary called “The Untouchables”.  According to the Frontline website, this film “examines why no Wall Street execs have been prosecuted for the financial crisis”.  I encourage citizens to view this documentary (about 54 minutes), which can be seen online.

Lanny Breuer, who is head of the DOJ Criminal Division, was interviewed by Frontline correspondent Martin Smith.  Sadly, while a large amount of evidence was collected, the prosecutions did not go forward, because according to Breuer, it is difficult to “prove” criminal intent in these types of federal cases.

Martin Smith also interviewed people who had worked as “due diligence underwriters”, who explained how they would get a laugh out of mortgage applications where the incomes claimed by the applicants seemed way out of line for their profession.  For example, this “Fraud-bomb” quote:

“… it wasn’t uncommon to see school teachers claiming salaries of $12,000 a month on their mortgage applications, or electricians moving from $500 a month in rent to homes worth $650,000.  The only problem — their supervisors didn’t seem to want to hear about it.”

“Fraud in the due diligence world, fraud was the F-word or the F-bomb,” said Tom Leonard. “You didn’t use that word”.

I won’t comment too much more about this documentary, since you can view it yourself.  To me, this documentary points out that America doesn’t just have a spending problem or a revenue problem (tax system), or a debt problem.  As a nation, we have an HONESTY problem.

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We, … The People

I watched the replay of the 2013 Inauguration ceremony on C-SPAN.  The refrains that President Obama used throughout his speech were “We, … The People” and “Together”.

I liked the comma and pause after “We”.  Instead of the common phrase (or cliche), it made you think about We, Us, All of Us in this so-called democracy, Together.  United, “We”, … Will Stand.  Divided We Will Fail.

It’s up to us, We, … The People.

This is the line that I really liked from President Obama’s speech:

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.”

Unless I missed it, the Presidents speech did not include direct reference to recent violent tragedies, like Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, and litany of too many other shootings in the past year alone.

Correction (Tuesday): Yes, I missed it.  Actually, while typing this post late last night, I had forgotten the reference to the children of our country, including those from the “quiet lanes of Newtown”.  After hearing the clip on the radio this morning I remembered his mention:

“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

Thanks to poet Richard Blanco’s poem “One Today”, for his reference and remembrance of the children lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Although they were taken from their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and schoolmates, way, way to early, it seemed (to me at least) that Richard Blanco included them in “We, … The People”They are still with us in Spirit.

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Dreaming: Bing, King, Gip and Tip, You and I

Bing Crosby

As a downhill skier, I have always loved the crooner Christmas Carol by Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”:

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

As far as Christmas 2012, we only had a dusting of the white stuff.  But we did have a White New Year’s, thanks to a winter snowstorm from the Great Lakes to the Green Mountains and beyond.

That’s the good news.  The bad news was my sister’s family from Michigan was not able to come visit is and ski Vermont after Christmas.  They were planning on driving east on December 27th, which was the day of the snowstorm.  They would have been driving through the storms in southern Ontario, and New York.

But the other good news is that my wife and skied on December 28th at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT.  It seemed that everyone in New England had the same idea and headed for the slopes.  They were dreaming of snow, and their dream came true.  Although the lift lines and wait times were long, this was good news for Vermont’s economy, which depends on tourism.

Dr. Martin Luther King

On Monday, January 21st, America celebrates both the Martin Luther King holiday and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.  At this time each year, I like to listen to Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech from August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  Here are some short excerpts from his speech that still ring true today (plus links to full transcript):

“I have a dream today.” …

“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning ‘My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!'”

“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

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A Skier’s View of Politics

The idea for this blog originated in November 2006, in my letter to the editor of the Rutland Herald (A skier’s View of Politics).  It was just after the mid-term election that gave control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to the Democrats.  While I was very glad to see the end of one-party rule in Washington, DC, I was also extremely glad the election and negative ads were over (at least for 2 years).  I was really looking forward to a new ski season in Vermont.

As a native Midwesterner, self-exiled in Vermont (a Michigander-Flatlander), I consider myself a political moderate; a square peg that doesn’t fit exactly into either major political party.  After the 2006 Election, I had an “aha” moment, a path through the forest, the ski trail between our divided political parties (as in Jesse Ventura’s 2012 book).

Ron_StoweVT_1981_scan3_50pct_landscape_cropped

My first ski trip to Vermont at Stowe, in December 1981.

When you ski, you go back and forth, left-right-left-right … (or vice versa, if you prefer).  That is the best way to get down the hill safely.  Ski The Middle, while continuing to turn back and forth, right-left-right-left, … enjoying the ride.  Enjoying both sides of the trail or slope, but not getting attached to one side or the other.

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