Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What’s more repugnant than the war in Iraq?

As a former Marine combat and staff officer with service during Desert Storm, it’s not difficult to understand the arguments for and against remaining in Iraq.

Most progressives who are against the war argue there’s no assurance that continued occupation will end the civil war in Iraq, so “bring them home now”. Bush supporters argue, “we broke it, we fix it, cutting and running is defeatist and fight them there, so they don’t come here.”

The emotional heart of the current Iraq military spending bill is it’s unpatriotic not to support it, because it funds the troops. Those opposed to occupation claim their allegiance is to respect and preserve both civilian and military lives.

What is repugnant is the cavalier bravado at the expense of destroying military personnel and their families’ lives, while a large portion of military spending is not for their pay. Most of us are now aware of the unacceptable care many returning OIF veterans receive.

The Clinton administration is hailed as creating a budget surplus while Bush squandered it into a bloody red deficit. The dirty little secret neither Democrats nor Republican politicians are addressing is much of our nation’s budget surplus can be linked to a dramatic troop reduction of over 500,000 since Bush I was in office. Troop related costs are large, but are insignificant compared to the accompanying expenditures on ships, planes, tanks and multi-million dollar contracts for resupply, R&D and maintenance. When troop levels are cut, so is the need for the equipment they use.

Instead, we have military service contract fine print permitting us to send, resend and resend yet again the same troops to Iraq. It’s cheaper than expanding the military force-in-readiness. Yet, 100,000 paramilitary contractors in Iraq are paid two to four times more than our troops with our tax dollars. Meanwhile, terrorism exists beyond Iraq’s borders. Iran rattles its nuclear sword and North Korea fires a nuclear capable rocket across the bow of Japan. They know something we refuse to acknowledge. Short of deploying nuclear weapons, only ground troops are a deterrent and a military draft is off the table.

Eisenhower warned that when the political establishment acted at the behest of powerful military contractors, then there would be societal consequences. Just who is really supporting the troops?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Where do our interests and imagination lie?

On Monday, I removed a leather bracelet from my wrist, which had four knots on it representing each year we’ve been in Iraq. Whether by action or inaction, we, our neighbors and our elected officials are deciding our fates. Expect something better -- now.

Fogged by ideologies ranging from conservative to liberal, the life blood of our political system remains financial; led by interests that are too often self-serving. Filtering out rhetoric noise, our elected are tasked with the collection and allocation of our tax dollars. They respond to their support base. Yet democracy works best when the interests of the greater good are served. Democracy, however, is not a spectator sport where more of our time is spent arguing, complaining and debating than actual candidate selection.

If all politics are local, then change ought to originate there. Property taxes grow higher with 70% or more of these funds going towards education. Digging deeper, we’d find this investment has shifted towards expanded retirements and health benefits. Labor costs don’t end when teachers retire. They compound as new generations replace them.

Now imagine if these dollars had been expended for newer books, expanded educational offerings, building maintenance and extracurricular activities, in addition to educators. The ever-dwindling remainder goes to services such as fire, police and municipalities, with much used to help our seniors. Would it make sense to rehire experienced teacher retirees in their 50’s and 60’s to work part-time to replace full-time teachers who have quit or relocated out-of-state? Imagine the savings. Now imagine other opportunities.

When many of us were still in public school, state and federal income taxes covered much more of the education costs. Corporations also contributed more then, too. This allowed local municipalities to invest in the infrastructure that best addressed local needs and preferences. Maybe it’s time we revisit this alternative.

Have family values morphed into “I got mine… you get yours? Imagine if the playing field had remained level and large corporations were contributing more into the federal system with most providing full retirement and medical as they once did. Imagine if national defense meant being a world leader that applied rigorous diplomacy towards strong alliances to bring change. Imagine if wars against despots and anti-democracy zealots were led by coalitions of nations.

Whose interests are served when our elected trumpet a need for better education, access to quality healthcare and dignity for our seniors when our safety has been hijacked by funding a limited war against an ideology concentrated beyond the borders of Iraq?

Imagine if the truth were told - there are only so many tax dollars and time to either choose a society based upon fear and conflict or one that believes our fate isn’t sealed. Demand federal investment in our health, education and welfare. Imagine if we all did.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Which political party provides for the greater economic good?

John Hazen White Jr., a Rhode Island business and civic icon, has expended untold thousands of dollars on reaching Rhode Islanders about the looming financial challenges we all face. He doesn’t pull punches on laying blame on many of our elected officials and, by inference, those who are complicit due to our culture of indifference or inaction.

Our two dominant political parties bear examining. Their playbooks intend to attract the greatest number of supporters to branded messages of the greater good. Few would argue words and deeds often have a wide margin of difference. Who is accountable?

The prevailing message is that our national economy is strong. Let’s acknowledge there are some indicators supporting this position. But, let’s test this by an example with which many can relate. If a household pulls out home equity to reduce credit payments, they’ve reduced the strain on take home pay. If they remain living above their means (expenses higher than income) and use credit, it might be suggested they’re living at a higher standard in the short run. However, eventually, there’s more debt and inadequate earnings to cover it. This explains the higher incidence of foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Our federal government is operating in a similar manner by spending more than it takes in. More of our tax dollars are paying federal contractors and more expensive health care. These federal tax dollar expenditures are distinguishable from the consumer sector’s buying housing and new vehicles. The reduction in consumer purchases is evidenced in part by the significant lay-offs in these industries. Walmart, often a bell weather of consumer confidence, reported its first decline in revenue growth. Like increased personal debt and less income, our country is borrowing from the future with China funding our debt through bonds (loans). There’s clear evidence they plan to invest in alternative opportunities which will provide better rates of return. Few elected officials are willing to pull the pin on the “we need to raise taxes” grenade. Yet few are curbing spending or muscularly allocating funding to programs that benefit our future.

Needless to say, when it comes to Rhode Island, fewer federal dollars are being made available to one of our most contentious local issues – education. Our Democrat controlled General Assembly, with a large share of its members representing the Greater Providence area, has taken the position that quality education and well paid teachers are synonymous. This is why a large portion of state tax revenues and federal fund allocations remain in Greater Providence and fewer dollars flow back to communities not as well represented. Both businesses and homeowners know they’re shouldering the growing burden of retirements and pay that eventually trickles down to our local levels.

If it’s true that low income families don’t vote as much as those with better means and those over age 50 turn out to vote more often than most, then it's up to us to make sure our kitchen table issues are being addressed.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Truth & Terrorism

For those who support the war in Iraq so Islamic terrorists don't bring the war to the States... I understand your reasoning. For those who believe our presence in Iraq only inflames moderates to become radicals... I understand your reasoning as well.

What I do not understand is why the two positions are mutually exclusive. Both want to neutralize the threat of terrorism. Most agree that fundamental religious views are not the pervasive cause even though it may make it easier to target over one billion people. It is akin to suggesting that all Germans were Nazis.

I cautioned a good friend who is among those in support of American troop withdrawal from Iraq that their efforts would be negated by a clever scheme. The ploy is the increase or surge of troops suggested by the Bush administration. In effect, this takes the wind out of those arguing for phased withdrawal. It does this by controlling the message. Few elected officials would be willing to be tainted by supporting funding cuts. This would be categorized as being against the troops, not better expenditure of defense funding. When is the last time we heard about withdrawal? If you said just before the November elections, you're correct. It's a clever subterfuge of the underlying issue of maintaining presence and troop strength in Iraq.

What should be asked is does the United States have adequate combat troop strength given the force reduction of over 600,000 more than a decade ago. Let’s not forget the number of redeployments for active, reserve and National Guard personnel.

It would be ignorant to believe there are no terrorists in Iraq or that the majority of them are in Iraq. The question should be "Are we doing battle with them effectively as this was supposed to be a global war on terrorism?" We're led to believe this effort was righteous as reflected by the loss of American lives. Most American lives being lost are as a result of being caught in sectarian violence between groups who all seek power and economic influence. The guise of religion is to create the distraction and passion of them versus us.

Ponder this... The United States has been fighting the war on drugs. What is notable is that most drugs come into our country from foreign containers and across the border. Given the tighter border/national security after 9/11, how is it there has been no significant decline in the flow of drugs? Afghanistan, one of the two countries targeted by our GWOT, now distributes more heroin to the rest of the world than when the Taliban and Al Quaeda were dominant in the region.

If we want to be serious about actually minimizing physical and fiscal risk of terrorism on American soil, we have to recognize that the enemy cannot be over-generalized and that fundamentalists do not only reside in the Middle East. Our foreign policy has placed the awesome American military power with not one aircraft battle carrier group in the region, which is typical, but three. Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Saudi Arabia... and other nations all have significant Muslim populations. The notion of "fighting a war" to arouse our patriotism paralleling WWII is a ruse. The enemy, and their location was clear then. Their ideology was wrapped behind a banner of the swastika and the rising sun and later the hammer and sickle.

It seems there are several hard truths that neither misdirected nor misguided rhetoric will resolve. There are organized people who have directed their ire principally at the U.S. government and by extension Americans - not all Democratic nations' or their citizens. These other nations... mostly allies... stood with us before and immediately after 9/11, but many have distanced themselves since then. Is it legitimately from fear or a more objective and seasoned global perspective? None want terrorism on their lands, but believe we need to balance strength with humility. A good place to begin is to expect our elected leaders to level with the American people and for us to be honest with ourselves of the costs and consequences of recklessness.

In order to secure support, our approach to this endeavor requires legitimately locating those who would mean us harm in a manner that is more effective than our border security or war on drugs has been.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Strength with Honor in the Middle East

The greatest challenge to significant change is sustained resolve, equity and time. In a Democratic society it requires a majority consensus and raised awareness. The majority placed more centrist Democrats in office, who are unlikely to appear soft on national security or for their support of our troops in Iraq.

The road traveled into Iraq has put into motion a Pandora’s box of global proportions and implications. The left argues for withholding federal funds to bring a timely end to our occupation. Obviously, our tax dollars could be applied to better purposes. And then there are those on the right who believe additional troops could contain the escalating sectarian violence and protect the too few troops there. They're belief is "might makes right" and all that is needed is continued resolve.

Few disagree that whatever the decision, it serves our interests to protect American military lives in the region by extricating them from the midst of this conflagration. We now recognize the harsh reality that sustained American combat troop strength has been inadequate. It may require bending existing Reserve and National Guard policies or resurrecting a draft to replenish the already critical conditions of multiple combat tours.

Sectarian violence is not limited to Iraq because the underlying issue is one of power and influence over resources not limited within her borders. Few believe Iraq’s leadership is prepared to share power or maintain order even under an established timeline. Four years of the status quo has created an untenable situation of existing strained relationships.

Pakistan bordering on Afghanistan which borders on Iran has a thin level of control over fundamentalist Islamic leanings. Neighboring India needs stability and an unstable Pakistan on her border will not do. Both are nuclear powers; hence, Bush’s visit there. Turkey wants stability on its border with Kurdistan and Iraq and is worried about an oil wealthy and separate Kurdish state. Syria bordering Iraq may be concerned with an all too powerful Iran and its support of the Sunni minority concentrated in Baghdad in Iraq.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, while both oil rich and wealthy kingdoms, don’t possess the military capacity of the Iranians and would be concerned over instability in the region where Iran may accomplish what Saddam had tried in 1990. And what would Americans do when gas is then $5.00 or more per gallon? Let’s not forget the simmering hostilities among Lebanon, Palestine and Israel and our military presence in Kuwait.

This is the peril of limited military presence without an exit strategy. Are we willing to lose lives to save face? Is that what winning means? If containment and stability is our military role then a preferred option may be maintaining combat troops aboard ships in the Gulf. The pride of America can still exist through muscular diplomacy, which inevitably must happen. We have to work with European and Arab nations in a coalition to bring stability to the region. It makes political and economic sense, too.

China, France, Germany and Russia all have significant economic interests in the area and also benefit from stability in the region. Hence, this is far from a left-right issue of our military presence, but our public’s resolve to demand the best viable solution among many poor ones. That brought an end to the Cold War - strength with honor.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

100 first days "wish list" for Democrat Congress

I commend both Sheldon Whitehouse and Senator Lincoln Chafee for their valiant efforts to provide public service to our state. Now that the votes are cast and election decided, Chuck Collins' outline provides an excellent plan for our 111th Democratically controlled Congress in '07.

1. Hearings on war profiteering.
2. Hearings on Executive Branch misconduct.
3. Hearings on oil industry influence.
4. Hearings on poverty - living/low wages
5. Hearings on taxpayer big oil/coal subsidies
6. Hearings on executive fiduciary duties/CEO pay.
7. Hearings on solutions to wealth disparity.
8. Hearings on anti-trust enforcement.
9. Hearings on expanding health care coverage.
10. Hearings on the care of Iraq War veterans.

While we’re addressing accountability, imagine if we had the will to pursue this in Rhode Island with our statewide elected officials and political appointees. This is clearly an area where the character and conviction of our incumbents ought to be highlighted, showcased or chastised. Otherwise, the impending under-funded pension issue will come to the forefront as a battle of taxpayer tolerance and fiscal responsibility.

I see this issue and increased college/votech financial aid as ones where our efforts could galvanize Rhode Island’s all too often disenfranchised youth into becoming more engaged to protect their future. Perhaps the connection between funds going to Halliburton versus our communities is also a “progressive” issue that need not be a partisan one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Choose the Candidate who Counts

Those among us who have children learn(ed) that the best way to end a temper tantrum was to divert attention away from the item/issue that was the source of the emotional tirade. It's a clever trick and it works. As we grow older we are given fewer choices, such as pick this or that. It limits the options and makes selection somewhat easier while leaving the impression we had a choice.

Those not wishing to play this game just sit out. This does not prevent them from having a beef with the game or its players. I'd argue they give up their right to have much of a say because we’re all either part of the problem or part of the solution. Such is true for politics.

In Rhode Island, as well as all across the nation, we are usually given a choice of Democratic blue or GOP red. These are not sports teams. This is not a sporting event. The biggest responsibility these two parties have is to determine how our tax dollars are collected and allocated. The social component of their positions ranges across party spectrums with conservatives to be found in the Democratic Party and liberals found among Republicans - they're emotional diversions.

Those elected who appear to be most beholden to the public are often labeled as moderates; however, as the pendulum swings from right to left and holds for any length of time - "center" becomes unclear. Many would argue this is not your parents' party any longer. How true when Democrats become hawks beholden to big corporate interests or Republicans spend our taxes and borrow money from our kids faster than they can collect it.

This brings me to several closing points.

(1) If you're relying on polls, television ads or pundits in the paper instead of taking 15 - 30 minutes to choose who is going to spend your tax dollars, then it's not an informed decision. Until just last week, many polls showed Sheldon Whitehouse ahead. However, in the past three days the Mason Dixon and McClatchy polls now show Chafee with a narrow lead. A person's history is likely the best indicator of their character and, like most job interviews, campaigns put their best foot forward. "I don't have the time to research the candidates. . ." Your daily life and thousands of your tax dollars are impacted by this choice. Find the time or you may fire a quality incumbent whose job it is to work within the gray area of politics.

(2) The Democratic Party was in control of the House for 42 years (1952-1994) under both Republican and Democratic presidents. While much was achieved there was also much left undone because some of those elected ranged from superb to less than mediocre. When we elect mediocre because we recognize a name and know little about their voting and legislative history, we are to blame, not the politician whose sole purpose is to get (re)elected. If our interests were legitimately coming first - we would already have open government, affordable health care, high quality education and economic security for our seniors. Then again we enabled both parties and they gutted our social security trust fund and permitted under-funded pensions.

(3) Wealthy and big corporate interests have learned this game well. They now win whether a Republican or Democrat is elected, because they help set the big ticket agenda, which is how tax dollars are collected and allocated. Reread the first two sentences. It's no surprise that the economic interests of those in their teens and twenties and the poor are overshadowed by our seniors, more affluent and business interests. They vote or influence the vote. Lofty ideals like quality education, diplomacy, universal healthcare and good paying jobs are elusive until we legitimately hold our elected officials accountable. Better still, we could level the playing field with campaign finance reform, so the middle class, small business owners and veterans are fairly represented. In the meantime, incumbents and those seeking their seats will say and do what they can to be elected regardless of party affiliation. This is why little is said about why we went into Iraq and why we're staying in the Middle East. Tens of billions of our tax dollars are being diverted from things that matter more here at home.

It's time for a progressive agenda with independent minded candidates to be considered within this framework. Until there's a better system out there, choose the candidate who you trust over the bluster and be prepared to hold them accountable or expect more of the same two or twenty years from now. Problem is, the costs of ignorance and indifference are eroding the very thing we hold dear - a quality of life for our families and neighbors.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Democrat Sheeler: Senator Chafee has Character

Long-shot anti-war, anti-Bush US Senate candidate Carl Sheeler gave U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) the nod over his Democratic primary rival Sheldon Whitehouse.

“In the Marines and the business world, character counts for a lot. It’s why we’re supposed to protect whistle blowers. We learned about Abu Grahib because a young troop spoke up. The same thing happened with Enron. It’s why we traditionally honor people who, while in the minority against all odds and at great personal expense, stand up for the greater good. Many worship Jesus for this reason. Even organized labor started in the minority to fight for an almost non-existent middle class. But regardless the party or the cause, power can and does corrupt. We see it in Rhode Island and we see it in D.C.

“I discussed this decision with folks like Democratic Party Vice Chair Joe DiLorenzo and former U.S. Senate candidate and Congressman Bob Weygand (D-RI). Our campaign was very public about withdrawing from Iraq well before it was popular. We called for replacing American troops with a Euro-Arab coalition. Chafee was the sole Republican senator to oppose the war and shares my solution of bringing Middle East stability. That takes leadership and character. While I commend his current position, my former opponent shifted where he stood on Iraq. It strikes me as politically expedient. I disaffiliated from the Republican Party as protest to Bush’s irresponsible fiscal policy and War in Iraq. I asked our Democratic lead General Assembly to hold Bush accountable, which they were unwilling to do. It’s not lost on me that the DNC/DSCC tried to recruit Chafee; especially, after he wrote in George H. W. Bush’s name for president in 2004. I say vote the person, not the party. I may not agree with Chafee on all matters, but I trust him.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

November 7 Voters: Character versus Charisma

A pundit who has spent the majority of his life in politics confided to me recently that campaigns are about perception. It pains me to have to agree. Granted, there are the rare few who research the candidates' strengths and weaknesses, but most are swayed by the relentless bombardment of expensive ads.

In the Rhode Island U.S. Senate race the two opponents Chafee and Whitehouse have directly spent or had spent on their behalf almost $10 million. That's $30 for every voter expected to cast a ballot on November 7. Why would they spend that much money and where does that money come from?

In recent blasts both candidates are inferring the other is or will be beholden to the special interests that have funded their campaigns. If a candidate is backed by executives of big corporations from the energy or insurance or banking industries, do you expect bankruptcy laws to favor working families, interest rates and insurance premiums to be reduced or the price of gas to go down?

We cannot blame nor should we condone the candidates for taking these contributions, if "we the people" are so easily duped into believing that "we the people" will have our issues addressed before those of special interests. Yet, year after year, it's what happens and we blame the parties and the politicians or the "system". WE are the system and it costs us a hell of a lot more than $30. The latest deficits now cost every American over $28,000 each.

Blue state or not, 40% or more of Rhode Islanders voted for "W" in 2000 and 2004. The second time even when there were rumblings about the legitimacy of the Iraq War. The costs were already apparent with less money for education and healthcare, higher energy and property tax costs. Was this about charisma or character? Did voters vote based upon what they wanted to hear or did they really examine the likelihood of promises made to be kept?

If you're voting for/against a candidate because s/he is with the "wrong" or "right" party without examining the wo/man's character, then we can expect to have more of the same.

My criteria are simple. All politicians are assumed to play politics. It's the nature of the game. On issues that put the public at risk or increase hardship, does the greater good prevail? In 2006, I want a candidate who shows independent thought when it’s not always popular to do so. My criteria are the Iraq war and taxes. The candidate who shows how s/he will hold the President and Congress and special interests accountable, in concrete terms, will get my vote. They ought to get yours, too. After all, it's about character, not charisma. As you can see, the price is too high not to get your tax dollar's worth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who is Accountable? We are!

A Republican Congressman slimes the net with provocative words directed to a teenager. It’s not the first time and other elected officials have done it also. We pretend he doesn’t associate with Democrats and none knew of this behavior. Are we baffled the GOP leadership closed ranks around Mr. Foley until the deception was revealed?

In this election year, Iraq is another litmus test. If you believe all those generals are wrong and terrorism can be contained in Iraq, then you likely support the “stay the course” candidate, especially in a red state. If you’re an incumbent in a blue state who voted for invading, then “you were misled” and don’t support the war. It nullifies your accountability. Then there’s the minority who opposed invasion from the beginning. In the U.S. Senate, the only Republican who opposed the invasion was Senator Lincoln Chafee. So is he heralded as an independent leader or just a GOP enabler?

The reasons given for invading Iraq were to depose the dictator Saddam Hussein because he allegedly supported state sponsored terrorism and had WMD. North Korea has been selling military equipment to our enemies for decades. Their leader is a dictator whose countrymen have starved to death. He appears to have nuclear capability; yet the U.S. is not going it alone and attacking - we’re asking for more sanctions.

Wasn’t this the criteria for invading Iraq? It’s time for fundamental truths. The U.S. military is the muscle for U.S. politics. The number of U.S. combat troops is finite, with a percentage deployed around the world. This differs from total troops, most of whom are in support, not combat, roles. Nations both friend and foe know our troop strength. We would have needed almost all our combat troops to effectively closed down Iraq. This would have lead to a quicker stabilization and withdrawal.

North Korea, a rogue nation, knows our government is mired in Iraq based on lies and incompetent prosecution of the war by those not wearing the uniform. They also know our troop strength and assume we’d not attack with China to their north. They believe our capabilities and foreign support are limited and wish to expose it. So why did they detonate their bomb? They want economic and political concessions.

So, I’m outraged at the absence of indignation over the growing global implications of our presence in Iraq. Politicians are enabled by our families who see the transgressions of Mr. Foley as greater than the Iraq debacle. Strategic thinkers in Iran are assessing the same thing. They’re wondering whether we have the stomach for a draft, because the troop strength needed to sustain an Iran ground occupation would necessitate having one. So who’s accountable for the Democracy we patriotically defend before November 7? The people are the government. We need to be honest with ourselves and expect others to be honest with us or we will suffer the consequences of our selective bias.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The 17% Conundrum: Issues vs. Partisan Politics

In politics, nobody likes to be in the minority. It suggests the majority is correct. In politics, as with most things in life, the majority frequently prevails. The conundrum is when an equal number exist on opposite sides, then the remainder decides the outcome. This group often views their votes not as allegiance to a party as much as to an ideal.In Congress equality can create checks and balances that tend to limit corruption and benefit the populace. In election years, this minority decides which candidate will be selected. In business governance this is known as the swing vote and a premium is paid to influence their votes.

In Congress these deciders may expect some earmarks (pork) to influence their vote. When it benefits us they’re a good politician. When it benefits another state – well, you get the idea. In both cases, it’s still our tax dollars being spent. Interestingly, in the Rhode Island U.S. Senate race this undecided minority may represent the same 17% that did not support the winning Democratic primary candidate primary.

The underlying Democratic message bears examination, “We want to oust the GOP from Congress because they are taking us in the wrong direction.” I couldn’t agree more and believe our economic and security issues remain unaddressed. If you’re a good person holding a Congressional seat, as many feel Senator Chafee has been, then it becomes more complicated. His job is to use politics to remain in office, as well as benefit his constituents. Hopefully there is less of the prior and more of the latter. It gets cloudy when the party with which one is affiliated is set on rewarding its benefactors (contributors) and less so with improving the lives of the voters. This cuts both ways with both parties.

In Rhode Island, this presents some stumbling blocks. On few occasions have I heard said our Democrat controlled General Assembly has no room for improvement. Look at their approval rating. The special interests have so lopsided the playing field that the majority (voters) are seldom in the game. They say Democrat Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty, who I believe is a good man, is the change needed in Rhode Island. This flies against conventional wisdom, as we’d witness the same situation we now have in Congress with no checks and balances. By extension, it infers Governor Carcieri is not a good man or a good governor, but as a Republican he ought to be voted out. Current polls suggest the argument is not persuasive; yet corruption needs to be rooted out.

If state level partisan reasoning was solid, then it bodes well for Senator Chafee to remain in office. Conversely, if it’s flawed and there are no checks and balances in Congress, then a Democrat ought to be elected. This suggests Sheldon Whitehouse, by virtue of being a Democrat, is a better candidate than Lincoln Chafee. Speaking for myself and not for the other 17%, why have both candidates remained silent on real campaign finance reform that would place voters’ interests ahead of special interests? Evident information shows the reasoning used for the war in Iraq was built on lies. Why will neither candidate state what measure of executive accountability should to be applied? When the candidates’ political lifeline prevails over moral courage to act on principle, this is politics at its worse. It’s a detriment to the issues impacting not just the 17%, but the faithful and/or unquestioning 83%.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What if…

…health care was a basic American family right?
…taxpayer paid employee compensation was based on merit?
…elected officials could not accept special interest money?
…we did what was best and not what was necessarily easiest?
…we all voted based upon public good before partisanship?
…the media provided more independent journalistic investigation?
…two years of military or community service was obligatory for all?
…we waged war on human suffering instead of contributing to it?
…we spent funds on defense and not lining contractors’ pockets?
…quality education past high school was a promise?
…“support our troops” meant safety for them and all veterans 365/24/7?
…we spent more time with family/friends and less on labeling others?
…public corporations lost their tax loop holes and paid their fair share?
…we volunteered just two hours a week to a good cause?

So what’s keeping us? Our country used to rank first; from quality of life to freedom and our citizens were engaged in a common struggle – to be the best. The same “stuff” that mobilized our forbearers to come to this country with a dream and hard work is exactly what we need to reestablish leadership in our homes, communities and around the globe. It’s not a sound bite, it’s patriotic and common sense.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't Allow Capitalism To Dictate Our American Dream

Is the real issue “less taxes through smaller government” or is it a ”feel good” sound bite? I’m unimpressed by the fiscal irresponsibility of the GOP and the absence of a coherent economic message by our Democrats. It has a hollow ring when campaign funds are derived from those whose interests depart from middle class and working families. It’s worth exploring as a candidate litmus test.

Iraq: If for a moment we cease listening to the Middle East saber rattling, we ask how has our hundreds of billions of tax dollars been spent? An enormous amount goes to all those defense contractors from bullets to bombs to band aids. The military industrial complex is BIG business with little competition. It’s very big business with very big lobbies and the help of many Pentagon officials looking for the big civilian sector job after military retirement. When the American flag is wrapped around it, it’s a tough sell to suggest it’s not solely about our nation or troops being more secure. There are plenty of jobs in all the states they operate, even with scaling back, but like price gouging at the pump it might seem unpatriotic to inquire whether large scale war profiteering has been occurring.

Health care: Survey small and large businesses, municipalities and property owners and most agree health care costs are out of control. The insurance and drug industries have no motivation to see the percentage or amounts of profits drop. They convince us those profits pay for R&D, but those 20%+ profits are AFTER research and development. Medicare is one of the biggest public rip offs of taxpayers dollars. The insanity ends when the public demands campaign finance reform. Only then will more economical national health care become a reality that benefits us all.

Efficient Government? If we pay more to outsource, we are wasting our tax dollars. This applies as much to education as it would to prisons or retirement accounts. We need to examine the decades old “war on crime” and “war on drugs”. When are we going to consider how much gets spent and what real value we’re obtaining? It’s not being soft on law enforcement to reduce the reasons why some resort to crime. If an argument can be made that investing in education for a child past high school results in a higher earning citizen and taxpayer, then the same would apply to young people at risk who might otherwise dropout. The bureaucracies often have no motivation to seek a result that produces obsolescence. There’s no winning if you’re attacking the result and not the cause.

Until we have our elected officials seriously address economic issues on ways to create good paying jobs and rebuild our middle class, we can expect they’ll remain subservient to the special interests who finance their campaigns and/or insulate themselves instead of their constituents.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Post Primary Philosophy

It's been a week since the Rhode Island primaries. The first twenty-four hours afforded me time to complete a sizeable business valuation engagement for a client owning full and partial interests in about thirty companies holding hundreds of millions of dollars in income producing residential properties. By week's end, my youngest son and I erected a good part of his tree house. My wife and I had cleared a walking/jogging path around our property line. Our youngest daughter had a school dance, sleep over and a softball tournament. This likely describes many Rhode Island families just getting on with their lives.

We've received many calls, letters and emails following Sheldon Whitehouse's win of the Democratic primary. Sentiments ranged from "you got your ass kicked" to "you ran an honorable race". What seemed a common theme was concern whether or not to vote for Senator Chafee in the general election. I ran because of the Iraq War and our failure to hold our government accountable is destabilizing our nation and our communities. Honor and humility are more important than hubris and partisan politics. Voting is a personal choice. My vote will be cast for the candidate whose actions, not television commercials, show he'll keep his promises and is concerned about Rhode Islanders' kitchen table issues.

Nope, I can't make sense out of the low voter support. Frankly, it does not matter now. Any theories about whether the "fix was in" or "I should have thrashed Sheldon's record" make very little difference after the fact. My plans for the next two weeks or two years are to support my family and the ideals that take this country forward. It's patriotic and common sense.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sheeler: Many, many thanks to all

Win or lose we have made a difference. It’s a formidable team effort. We showed dignity and resolve. We have represented the courage of our conviction to support an open, honest and accountable government. We have challenged those who would place greater importance on money and power than on principle and people. We have highlighted that American lives should prevail and justice applies to all. We gave a voice to the all too often silent majority of working and middle class families. They are and will remain the backbone of this country. I am proud to be among them.

This was never a campaign about Carl Sheeler. It was a message that our U.S. Senate seat belongs to ordinary people working together doing extraordinary things. I am proud to have been the tip of the spear to challenge the political machine that all too often forgets that people, not politicking is what matters most. We want fairness and equity. This requires a balance of power. It requires vision looking ahead decades, not the next political cycle. Our dream extends well past partisanship where the least among us has a seat at the table.

Thousands of donors and supporters around the state and elsewhere did what no one person could do alone. They showed enormous faith and gave of themselves to a person who before was virtually unknown to most. This is what is the very best in what it means to be an American and a citizen of this nation. I am blessed by your generosity. Special thanks and prayers to my dear friend, Billy, who despite suffering personal adversity, was selfless in his time and resources in helping our “take back our country” campaign.

Gratitude goes to my family, kids, friends as well as incredibly patient clients and students for being so supportive. The most enduring aspect of this campaign is the devotion and effort my intelligent, gentle and beautiful wife Sara demonstrated. Her wisdom and Marine “can do” are the foundation from which everything else rises. God bless us all.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: Americans United For Justice

A simple truism is violence begets violence. Healing does not begin until we resolve differences. Our citizens are a people of principles and consciences. The outpouring of support for the families who lost loved ones was as consistent after 9/11 as it was after the Tsunami and Katrina. It is a source of American pride. We are quicker to respond compassionately and expect our government to reflect this psyche.

The amoral Bush Administration lost a lifetime opportunity to unify Americans as FDR and JFK had before him. Instead, Bush acted in a disgraceful manner that will go down in history as a false and politically motivated decision to attack Iraq and mire our country in the Middle East. He was enabled by a Congress that failed to exercise the courage of their convictions.

This act saps precious resources away from pursuing real terrorists, homeland security and pressing domestic issues like health and education. He failed to capture and kill those who perpetrated the attack. Bush used partisan politics of fear instead of strength and hope. He, and those complicit by agreement or absence of resolve, abused divisive issues of immigration, flag burning, choice, stem cell research, human rights, rights to privacy, taxes and special interests to divert attention away from war profiteering and the exploitation of our middle class and working families.

Rampant profiteering was manifest by energy companies, defense and construction contractors in no bid contracts that flagrantly benefited political contributors at the expense of our tax dollars. The burden of future interest payments will be on our children's children to pay down the $9 trillion deficit.

These failures overshadow the absence of government compassion towards the physical and mental suffering related to 9/11 by over 40,000 first responders and every day Americans who became heroes by selflessly helping outside of Pittsburgh, in Washington at The Pentagon and at the World Trade Center in NYC. They overshadow how our families are less safe since 9/11 because politics and bureaucracy decided where our tax dollars would be spent and on what.

These failures overshadow the abuses and lost lives of Katrina due, in part, to minimal National Guard unavailability. They overshadow the thousands of lost and damaged lives of loved ones because corporate greed and political favors dominated instead of direction, strength and compassion. They overshadow how this administration made religion judgmental and divisive instead of nurturing and inclusive.

We're not supposed to be perfect or invincible, but we are supposed to hold ourselves to a high standard - a country and a people guided by our laws and by what is right. This was once a source of admiration around the world. We are a people of consciences and principles. We expect nothing less from our elected officials. Our healing and reunification begins when together we act and vote. Those who sacrificed prior, since and following 9/11 deserve nothing less.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Providence, RI - Marine Veteran and staunch anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush progressive Carl Sheeler charges U.S. Senate Democratic Party opponent Sheldon Whitehouse as being "disingenuous" in his Iraq positions specifically and foreign and energy policies generally.

"Sheldon has been testing the political waters on Iraq since last year. This is exactly why a pedigreed patrician, regardless of money, is not necessarily qualified. I'm troubled by his acceptance of contributions from defense and energy industry executives. Sheldon has made clear, he would not impeach Bush. How do I trust statements to hold Bush accountable and calling on the firing of Rumsfeld, when it's the President who placed us in this disgraceful war and approves of Rumsfeld’s actions? Why should I trust Sheldon on veteran or military issues or the veracity of his domestic agenda?

“Sheldon has no cogent Middle East policy. He's called on President Bush to have an exit strategy and timeline when Bush has plainly stated he was leaving this to the next president to decide. Sheldon has vacillated from "stay the course" last year to an indeterminate "rapid and responsible" withdrawal to now extending our occupation due to the civil war. Sheldon has claimed he would have used diplomacy in Iraq and military force in Iran. He supported Bush's backing of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and Palestine. The only vision that works is a Euro-Arab coalition which would replace our forces and create stability in the region, which I have been calling for since July 2005. This would have saved over a thousand lives, billions of our tax dollars and lowered oil prices.

“There would have been a six month redeployment timeline to coincide with the voting on the Iraq Constitution. Failure to redeploy could leave our forces exposed to a very lengthy and bloody civil war, especially when three or more armed factions are engaged. Our military strength has limits in the absence of a draft. Even the Bush administration acknowledging the severity of our rundown combat troops, following third and fourth deployments, when it announced on Tuesday the hiring of an outside contractor which will be paid $5,700 per individual recruited.

We have 40,000 permanent troops stationed in Kuwait and the Kitty Hawk Battle Carrier Group in the Persian Gulf. Our troops have done their job and it's time for them to come home. We need to restore global alliances to pursue terrorists and defend our nation against the threats Iran, North Korea and others pose"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Election Politics: Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

Few poli-sci majors will dispute there is both an art and a science to the election process. It's akin to economics, where the best reporting is often in hindsight. How else can one explain why there is more than a 30 point (30%) differential between polling results offered by the Chafee and Laffey campaigns this past week? Each shows the opponent winning by roughly 15% or a 65% to 35% vote split. Is it fact, fiction or fantasy? Absent of media investigative rigor, how much does simply reporting this create a self fulfilling prophesy?

This is not like cheering on the Red Sox. We're supposed to support them whether they're winning or loosing against the Yanks... but some cast their vote because they fear they might not pick the "winner" versus the "best" candidate. Mayor Laffey may have it right. Both of us hail from an analytical business background and know that polls and numbers can be manipulated very, very easily. I hope he agrees the only wasted vote is the one not cast.

In the case of the Democratic machine politics, in one month and over $500,000 in television ads later Matt Brown surpassed Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls by almost a 2:1 margin. The problem with this and subsequent polls is they often do not survey historic primary (core) voters, but rather likely voters. Traditionally, in most election years, primary voters often vote first based upon their local candidates and then on statewide and federal candidates. In June of this year, Survey USA reported Sheldon Whitehouse with a 30% favorable, 35% unfavorable and 25% undecided ratings. He polled worst among people 55+ and older as well as minorities and best with 25 and younger and those residing in the state fewer than five years.

The 55+ are the folks who ARE core voters. They have time and read and watch the news. They grew up when civics was part of the class curriculum. These are the people of WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Our youth do vote, but in much lower numbers. That could change if we go into Iran and the draft is reinstated. Those in the state for five or fewer years may not be aware of the York-Whitehouse acrimony and his failed gubernatorial primary (he skipped out on her afterwards), Cornell Young, Jennifer Rivera, Scott Hornoff, outsourcing the lead based paint case, feds taking over on PlunderDome, or the “higher office is my legacy" debacles. Undoubtedly, if he wins his primary the media will likely highlight these facts to stir up the controversy.

Fiction is so much easier to present. After spending in excess of $2 million in advertising, Sheldon's numbers have not moved measurably against Lincoln Chafee in the past two months nor is there much discussion over some base erosion from the caustic nature of the Chafee-Laffey mudslinging of cross-over democrats voting as Independents in the primary or in the general elections.

Is it fantasy to think that primary voters have had enough of machine politics? Strip away the inherited wealth and pedigree education and upbringing. The public has clearly seen that their best interests do not necessarily correlate with the most privileged who would spend much to gain the power. This might explain why incomes for most of us have stagnated compared to those in the top 5% or why working and middle class families serve in the blue uniform of first responders (EMT, fire and police) and the green uniform of our armed services in disproportionate numbers to the affluent. This was not always the case, but certainly has been during the past three decades.

Our campaign trusts Rhode Island voters. We trust many primary voters connected with our Be Patriotic, Impeach Bush and bring our troops home now messages. We trust they have seen us at their gatherings, parishes, banquets, meetings and communities supporting their local candidates and issues. We don't think it's fiction we've seen our gap close to single digits against Sheldon nor do we think it is coincidence he chose to avoid debating or has spent over $2 million thus far in the primary if he thought he had anything to lose with his name recognition so high. The polls won't capture all of the local primary races from folks like you and me who have simply had enough and believe they can do the job better.

Many a million has been spent by the loser. The fact remains is that the only number that matters is this: How many will go to the polls and what issues they want resolved and by whom?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

9/11 Fear Versus 9/12 Primary Hope

Our response after September 11 was fear and anger followed by distrust in government. Our elected officials did not live up to their promise to protect our families. Instead we have four more years of “The Decider” who has been a national disgrace as a divider. Yet, the terrorists could not take away the most prized freedom many have died to defend – our democratic right to vote. Do we now allow the party to choose or can we do better?

The beauty of primaries is WE have the opportunity to select who represents us. This is what party machines fear most. Their power is based upon the knowledge people may complain about their elected, but seldom take action. Machine politicians promise the world, but rarely deliver. I call it the politics of the one night stand.

They say what you want to hear in order to get your vote. They know only one in five eligible to vote will do so in a primary. They’re helped by special interests that want them in power. Yet, they say “if you vote for me, I’ll end corruption.” Have they done so in their political career? Are they accepting contributions from corrupting influences? Come on.

In federal races we can ask what is meant by “rapid and responsible.” What does “hold Bush and oil companies accountable” mean? Bold visions like my Euro-Arab Coalition to stabilize the Middle East, a Coalition of Americas bringing economic and national security to the U.S. and Latin America, billions invested in alternative energy or partnering with China to merge our economic futures all seem so distant. While voters expect the best of what humanity can produce, they look to a promising future to head off more kitchen table issues experienced by our struggling families who are working hard to just get by.

What I love about elections are the local primaries. In Providence, 12 out of the 15 wards have Democratic incumbents with primaries. In Cranston, there’s a four way mayoral primary. In Cumberland, not only is there a mayoral race, but every ward has a primary, too. This is repeated in Johnston, Lincoln, Pawtucket and places throughout our state.

In local races, we can see our property taxes being raised and determine if our schools are performing here and now. We can see if our community services are adequate and if we’re getting value. We definitely feel higher prices for lodging, food, energy and health care are eroding our incomes. We know we’re paying a lot in taxes, so we’re being reasonable to expect relief. I’d go one more. We have the right to demand reform.

We have higher energy prices because our presence in Iraq creates instability and oil companies have been allowed to gouge us. This is permitted by those who accept contributions from the defense and energy industries. These special interests want to control how and from whom your tax dollars are collected and how and on whom they’re spent. They’re hurting us locally and it’s time to fight back in our local primaries. On September 12, your vote decides that our tax dollars are for education, retirement security, health care, our veterans, our seniors and to improve our incomes and communities. It’s time we bring “hope” back to our Hope state. It’s patriotic and common sense.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Sheldon Facade

Sheldon has been kind enough to refer to me as a hardworking and very likable fellow; however, that won't stop me from addressing what needs to be said about this primary when our lives have been so immeasurably altered in the five years since 9/11. Sheldon's advisors say "stay out of the ring". But he's going to give Rhode Islander's only one peek under the tent with a debate on public television for a whopping 30 minutes. Contrast this with the four debates between Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey. The reason why you’ll only see one debate is because there's always the chance that after spending about $2 million in ads his carefully groomed, DC-advised image might show the spots and stripes are right where they were before, during and after his gubernatorial primary defeat to Myrth York in 2002.

Our middle class is feeling the economic squeeze from misplaced special interest loyalties and bad government. As a business owner and a candidate from a middle class family of five, we've also been impaired by high energy prices and property taxes, not to mention health insurance premiums.

Sheldon's decisions do not coincide with statements of concern for everyday folks. It's not just comments about the U.S. Senate seat being his legacy or deciding to run because his $350 an hour high-end lawyer position was boring. It's because 80% of his contributions are $1,000 and higher. About 70% of these folks are from out-of-state. They're attorneys and executives from the energy, insurance, banking and defense industries who've donated over $4 million so they can keep prices for insurance premiums high, banking fees high and interest rates high, energy prices high and continued taxpayer paid military R&D investment.

They're not feeling "the pain" but will have no concern if we get squeezed further. Remember when big business donors were the domain of GOP candidates? I do not know how he squares this with union management funds and endorsements whose rank and file are impacted as their income stagnates. Have they or many of us seen a real increase in adjusted take home pay in five or more years?

You strip away the patrician background and inherited wealth and you have a DC plastic politician who is setting the public up for a one night stand and then sticking us with the bill.

Sheldon's foreign policy is inconsistent and our troops' and their families' lives are in the balance. He claims he would have used diplomacy in Iraq, but military force in Iran. He stated he supported Bush's Israel use of disproportionate force that displaced and killed more civilians than Katrina did. This is the classic privilege mindset that lets our working and middle class die in battles that he and his will never encounter. As a U.S. Marine combat officer I would never ask others to do the duty I myself was unwilling to perform.

Sheldon's policies are poll tested; having gone from stay the course last year to "rapid and responsible" withdrawal to "about four to eight months before withdrawal." If Iraq is in the midst of a civil war that is expected to potentially last for years, where are the fresh troops and equipment supposed to come from other than a draft after the elections? Is this what our families want? I'm hearing they want adequate health care and funding for education and a stimulated economy. Sheldon can't say he provides both. It's an empty promise.

Sheldon has conveyed he is strong on law enforcement, but has made clear he does not hold Bush accountable even if some of his acts have clearly been shown to have exceeded his executive authority according to our Constitution. If Sheldon is unwilling to defend our laws (he certainly was loose in their enforcement while AG) why would he represent our rights in Washington? There is a reason why Sheldon has not made political hay of his time as state attorney general.

Undoubtedly, if Sheldon wins our primary, the RNC/RSCC will put the Democratic Party through a buzz saw risking a possible win to Stephen Laffey. They might ask where Sheldon was for the four years after his defeat against Myrth York, because he certainly did not back her run against Governor Carcieri. Is this disloyalty? They may ask why his commercials do not mention that he's running as a Democrat. The media has not asked these questions.

Instead the media has been focusing attention on the more contentious GOP U.S. Senate primary race. There's certainly more money to be made in caustic television and radio ads there. Our commercials http://www.carlsheeler.com/video_plastic.htm and faith in working families’ kitchen table concerns are what we believe in. We need a public servant who sees the U.S. Senate seat as belonging to Rhode Islanders. That would be my working job... not a legacy of privilege. We have seen what those unaffected can do to our country. It's time WE the people take it back. Too many people have died before and since 9/11 to just have it bought by the highest bidder again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

As we Approach Five Years since 9/11: "Support Our Troops" Has New Meaning

In Rhode Island we have over 102,000 veterans and 4,000 plus active duty, guard and reserve -1,300 more who are deployed. As a Marine veteran who served during Desert Storm and assisted with combat zone to stateside transition, I can tell you there are some significant issues that need to be addressed by our citizens sporting those yellow ribbons. Failure to do so may result in expanded recruitment options that may include the draft after 2006.

Not enough of our elected officials know first hand the honor of military service. All too frequently, they do not fully appreciate the local and national impact of maintaining a force of readiness and keeping our "support the troops" promise. Our combat troop strength was not designed for sustained occupation for three plus years and certainly not five if Bush/Cheney get their way. This may explain why half of our homeless are Vietnam era veterans. The myriad of "mistakes "have an impact on military recruitment, retention and morale. My perceptions are shared by many who are members of the VFW, AMVETS, DAV and the American Legion.

The "humanity buzz saw" is enabled by many in Congress, which has the lowest level of military service in recent history. And they are seeking ways to cut benefits to veterans and active duty military while bilking billions of our tax dollars in no bid contracts to Halliburton and Blackwater (a company providing mercenaries who receive three times the pay as our troops). While enormous sums are diverted to defense contractors, veterans are being asked to pay more out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare. They often wait six months for an appointment and three years or longer to have a medical appeal heard.

Currently, the Veterans Administration is under staffed and under funded by billions of dollars. Rhode Island does not have a state level veteran's department or a budget line item for funding; however, it does tax veterans' retirement income. Most states, such as Florida, do not.

Activated reservists and National Guard members comprise as much as 50% of troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan but do not receive the same education benefits as their active duty counterparts upon separation from service.

Finally, "John" had 16 years of military service and is one of an estimated 170,000 troops who will be permanently disabled from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This number does not include the 20,000 dead or wounded (missing limbs, sight or spinal damaged.) If John's wife had not been a Navy nurse, he likely would have successfully committed suicide while waiting to see his overworked VA psychiatrist. Given there have been more than 2,000 suicides from those serving in this GWOT and the Bush administration is recalling the inactive reserves to buttress the troops who have been deployed three times to stem a civil war with no short-term solution while cutting homeland security funds, I must ask do you believe a "rapid and responsible" withdrawal has any purposeful meaning? It's time national defense developed a conscience and a real plan to pursue terrorists - not line pockets.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Whitehouse's "Wait & See" Middle East Policy Costs Lives

Rhode Island's 118,000 veterans and 4,000 guard troops need to know where Democratic U.S. Senate candidates really stands on middle east policies. Their lives are in the balance.

As a business owner, Marine Corps veteran and progressive Democrat challenger for Senator Lincoln Chafee's seat, I believe Sheldon Whitehouse's Iraq war and middle east positions are politically motivated and contribute to loss of life.

Sheldon's "wait and see" platform is confused. This is establishment politics. "Lieberman-light" so to speak. His "rapid and responsible" Iraq position did not emerge until sometime this year. His campaign staff last November was stating Sheldon supported Senator Reed's "stay the course" posture. However, Senator Reed's assessment changed in January of this year after his visit to Iraq. What does "rapid and responsible mean?" Iraq is in a civil war and our military is calling up more troops, not withdrawing, leaving our troops exposed on all sides. They're not going to support one side in this fight. That won't create regional stability. It's sure to break a promise to keeping our troops safe. On the other hand, Sheldon says he backs Bush's stance on Israel and the middle east with thousands of civilians killed and displaced. The only solution is to bring our troops home now and call on Europe and Arab nations to form a buffer to allow Iraq to have individual territories, as provided in their Constitution and as has occurred in the Czech Republic. The alternative is to facilitate a peace on the dime of middle east oil producers who have a vested interest in stability. Our taxpayers have had enough. A successful war on terrorism begins with better domestic security and supporting our troops and veterans.

Whitehouse has declined a half dozen debate challenges on this issue.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Wasted Vote in RI’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary

Not all media outlets or wealthy candidates are bad. Some really care and believe in fair play. The Democratic National Committee has a slogan, “The road to security – begins with the truth.” I couldn’t agree more. The truth is that media has a responsibility to its shareholders. Is it detrimental to equal and accurate candidate coverage? Arguably, the media has a significant role in name recognition, candidate viability and polling numbers.

Campaigns are big business. The campaign war chest laden for the Lamont – Lieberman brawl in neighboring Connecticut made news and sold lots of advertising. It forced each candidate to spend millions to craft their image and message. The media is the beneficiary. It helps explain why before character or intelligence, the candidate’s bankroll size is publicly weighted so heavily by media. Media will argue money is a measure of the candidate’s viability. I’d counter – viability to whom? This position favors the wealthy and those beholden to special interests’ funds. It certainly isn’t democracy. What of grassroots efforts?

Here in Rhode Island, the Chafee-Laffey primary is the GOP version of the Connecticut battle. By omission the media has left voters with the impression Sheldon Whitehouse is the general election contender against the Republican primary winner. Unchallenged, the establishment party machine plays on this inaccurate perception. This permits the Whitehouse campaign to morph its image by using the best ideas of other candidates.

It’s no wonder why the primary and even general elections have increasingly low voter turnout. What of fact above perception? I’d argue that to a degree the media shares responsibility. Debates are a perfect example. On at least six occasions, Sheldon Whitehouse has declined media invitations to a primary debate. The media could have called his bluff. Hold the debate whether he shows or not. Media acquiesced each time.

Voters are intelligent, but they’re rightfully cynical. They don’t have the power to gain the same special access afforded to wealthy $1,000 contributors. Their power is making solid decisions based on media controlled information. Their power is in their numbers. Will media wait to cover past A/G deals and ethical lapses? This assures another GOP win.

Over 50% of Rhode Island voters are Independents. They’re interested in the candidate more than partisan politics. Those age 55+ are 25% of our population, but they dominate primary voter turnout. Those with 15+ years until retirement worry about education, energy, employment and economic issues. They feel real threats to their eroding retirement security and health care. These issues are not experienced by wealthy politicians. Media is complicit in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of these prepackaged candidates. We want enduring relationships with working Senators. We must ignore “one night stand” campaign promises. We need to trust our votes to candidates who are “of, for and by the people”.