Thursday, September 17, 2015


On September 3rd, Chris Walker took President Barack Obama to task for his recent sightseeing trip to Alaska. He was absolutely right!

While the President was renaming Mt. McKinley, lamenting the loss of salmon stocks, and projecting a huge rise in Alaska’s temperature by the end of the century, here in the lower forty-eight, violence and civic division have dominated the headlines. It’s been police against citizens and citizens against police. The culture wars have pitted many Americans against one another. Things are nasty and they’re about to get nastier.

The President has failed us. As Mr. Walker put it, “At no time in recent decades has there been this type of unrest in America. To date, the President has not shown any leadership to get these problems under control.”

Things in the Mediterranean are even worse.

Just a few days ago, the world witnessed the tragic scene of three year old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying in the Turkish sand. He, his brother, and mother had drowned in their desperate attempt to flee the violence in the Syrian city of Kobani. The boys’ father survived the ordeal, only to compound the tragedy by having to return to Kobani to bury his family.

While the tragedy of Alyan Kurdi and his family has captured the world’s attention, thousands of desperate refugees have also died trying to escape Syria’s civil war. Millions more have been displaced - Kurds, Muslims, Druze, Yazidis, Christians. The crisis is so bad that news agencies are reporting that it rivals the refugee crisis that followed the end of World War II.

How has the world responded to this crisis? The Lebanese, whose population is 4 million, have taken in over a million. The Turks have taken 1.8 million. The Jordanians have taken 600,000. Germany has pledged to take 800,000.

Some within the private sector have also offered help. Egyptian billionaire Nagub Sawnis is willing to buy and island or two from Greece or Italy for 200,000 refugees.  “All I need is the permission to put these people on this island,” he said.  “After that I don't need anything anymore from them. I'll pay them for the island, I'll provide the jobs. I'll take care of all the logistics.”

Some politicians were critical of his offer. His response was perfect. “I sometimes think the politicians don’t have a heart.”

What has the United States, with its unmatched ability to respond to such a crisis, done? According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, between 2011 and 2014, 201 Syrian refugees were given asylum in the U.S. So far in 2015, we have taken in 651, with a pledge to take 1,150 more.

Have we done our fair share? What should our fair share be? The best response I can offer is, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

Is it fair, then, to ask the President some questions? Is it fair to ask who drew the red line in Syria? Is it fair to ask who told Bashar al-Assad he had to go? Is it fair to ask who told al-Assad the chemical weapons had to be destroyed or who boldly declared that ISIS was the “junior varsity?” Why has the President dithered while the crisis he did a great deal to create has deepened? How can his State Department tell us they are “horrified by what they see, but insist they cannot be the ones to swoop in and make the situation better?” Why is there only $360 million to spare for Syrian refugee relief while the President is prepared to give the Iranian ayatollahs over $100 billion for their worthless signatures on a meaningless piece of paper?

Is it fair to remind the President of Colin Powell's warning about a leader's obligation to fix things he  breaks? Is it fair, then, to ask the President why he refuses to fix something (Syria) that he broke?

And, I do have one more question for the President. Is a salmon’s life really more worthy of America’s protection than Aylan Kurdi’s?

Yesterday I read an op-ed penned by author Robert Darwall, comparing Barack Obama’s response to Syria with Jimmy Carter’s response to the plight of the Vietnamese boat people. His words reinforce the well placed words of Chris Walker from a few days ago. I’ll close with them and let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions about whether or not the questions about the President’s leadership are fair.

“But where is the 44th president? He is in Alaska taking selfies. “Alaskans are on the frontline of one of the greatest challenges we face this century,” the president said in a White House video. The emergency of melting glaciers was a “wake-up call,” President Obama claimed. The president is wrong. Today’s emergency is not in Alaska. It is in the Mediterranean. Obama’s cold indifference surely marks the lowest point of his presidency - a moment which will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. The world is waiting for America to act. As Jimmy Carter demonstrated 36 years ago, only a president deploying American leadership can make good on the commitment, “I cannot let your people die.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


My youngest son used to be a huge professional wrestling fan. He knew it was all rigged, but he often told me he didn’t mind. “I know it’s not real, Dad, but it’s fun to watch.”

I couldn’t argue with him. He was right. 

When I was young I went to a professional wrestling match one time. I still have vivid memories of the feature match between two overweight, middle-aged men. They threw each other around for about five minutes, till one of the wrestlers picked his opponent up and slammed him to the mat. The flimsy ring collapsed and folded on them like a giant sandwich. The crowd of about two hundred or so roared with delight as the two men tried, unsuccessfully, to escape.

Yes, professional wrestling is rigged, but it is fun to watch.

As I watch American politics these days, I see that it’s somewhat like professional wrestling. It’s rigged. But, unlike wrestling, it isn’t a bit of fun to watch. In fact, it’s a sorry spectacle.

A lot of us see this. Progressives like Elizabeth Warren see it. Socialists like Bernie Sanders see it. Libertarians like Rand Paul see it. Many of my fellow conservatives see it. A recent Pew Research survey found that 69% of young conservatives believe the system is rigged in favor of the powerful and connected.

Sadly, we see the effects of the rigged game almost everywhere. A few years ago, General Motors was on the verge of collapse. In a fit of generosity, Congress gave them $60 billion of our money. When the final totals were registered, G.M. profited to the tune of about $12 billion. We, the taxpayers, lost about $10 billion. How did G.M. repay us for our generosity? They gave us faulty ignition switches. It would have cost less than a buck apiece to fix them, but G.M. ignored the problem and it cost over 50 people their lives!

We see the effects in the way the federal bureaucracies treat honest citizens. The N.S.A. spies on us. The I.R.S. confiscates the earnings of average Americans and then refuses to give it back. Federal agencies, accountable to no one but themselves, hound farmers and ranchers under the guise of environmental safety while they, themselves, pollute rivers, with nothing more than a lame apology when they get caught.

The game is even rigged at the state and local levels. Uber, the ride sharing service, is fighting with state and local bureaucracies for the right to serve their customer base. What have they done to incur the wrath of politicians? They provide a ride that costs less than half, on average, than a consumer would pay for a taxicab. Uber’s drivers make a much better living than the average cab driver. In New York City, they go into neighborhoods the cab companies refuse to serve. But, that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve had to fight powerful lobbying interests. In a recent skirmish, the cab companies donated $500 million to New York mayor Bill DeBlasio in his crusade against Uber.

Here in Kansas, our legislators, including our local crop, decided that Uber wasn’t regulated enough to suit their tastes. So, instead of fixing our budget problems, they set about needlessly hassling Uber’s drivers over an imaginary issue of public safety. They damned near got it done. I wish that were the end of it, but I don’t think so. Our legislators will be back.

Locally, the City of Emporia, is going through a visioning process. Public input to this point seems to indicate that people want local, home-grown businesses to thrive. We want good jobs, jobs that will keep our college graduates here. We want to fix our poverty problems.

That’s what we want. What are we getting? Developers are romancing our political leaders. The siren song is palpable. “Give us the T.I.F. or we’ll take our big box stores and go.”

The public is asking for Betty Grable, but it looks like we might get Frankenstein. Is there a bit of skulduggery and bullying going on? We’re not sure, but our trust levels are low.

I could go on and on with the examples, but I think you get the point.

About the only people who refuse to see that the game is rigged are those sitting in the seats of power and privilege.

How can this be? Don’t those who’ve been elected come from our communities? Aren’t they our neighbors? Weren’t we once able to rub elbows with them in public?

What has changed? It’s simple. Those who were once outsiders have become insiders. They’re the experts. They pull the strings.  They had to listen to us before the elections. They don’t now. They tell us they’re on our side, but we know better. It’s not our imaginations. The game is rigged.

It’s no wonder so many people are clamoring for a clown in wrestling tights like Donald Trump.