Category Archives: 21st Century Politics

The NFL: Where Billions are at Stake

The forests of California, Oregon and Washington are being decimated. But pro football is back, so who cares?

The West Coast is suffering a growing crisis. The death toll has yet to be totaled, because health effects from breathing this particular toxic air are yet to be estimated. While people in the rest of the country have been paying attention to Covid-19, the West Coast is showing the world a climate-change fact of life. Fires are decimating Western forests and air quality far out West has turned beyond unhealthy.

That’s why I have been running my air conditioner constantly, even when the temperature outside never makes it above 70. Longview, Washington is on the northern periphery of the Western air-quality crisis, and my A/C recycles high-quality air inside the apartment, keeping bad air out.

The adjectives used to determine air quality are as follows: 0-50 is good, 51-100 moderate, 101-150 unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151-200 unhealthy, 201-300 very unhealthy, and 301 and above hazardous. Longview today registered 384; Tualatin, near where my cousin lives, 411.

Turn your attention, please, to San Francisco, where the NFL dictated the 49ers play football against the Arizona Cardinals today. Hmmm, the City by the Bay’s air-quality number was 193, qualifying as “unhealthy.”

But deep down why should we care? These players are being paid handsomely, right? So why not send weekend warriors into the smoke-filled confines of Levi’s Stadium, amid “lucky” ticket holders who can see the made-for-TV spectacle in person (minus the commercials, of course) and simultaneously fill their lungs with carcinogens? What better way to convince a bored, quarantined America that it’s good to play outdoors under “unhealthy” conditions.

Yes, as long as football graces American TV screens in the fall, everything’s okay. Just like we can depend upon the CDC for the most accurate guidance going forward. Perhaps some of football’s millionaires can give us more guidance after smashing their noggins against one another for three hours.

Today is no longer Sunday, but please pray for America.

Graham’s Granddaughter Speaks Out

When I was 5 years old, my mother, Thelma, took me to a Billy Graham “rally” in a Hialeah, Fla. auditorium that turned into a commitment to faith. Attendees were urged to respond to the words of Jesus Christ and be “born again.”

I stood up as tall as I could, and in that packed auditorium where Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows held sway, I pledged to live my life as a Christian.

Today, I read the words that Graham’s granddaughter, Jerushah Duford, set forth earlier this week in USA Today, and they resonate in my soul. Considering I’m 50 miles north of the epicenter of last night’s killing of a so-called “Patriot’s Prayer” counter-protester, it’s appropriate that I reaffirm what she wrote.

“Our president continues to perpetuate an us-versus-them narrative, yet almost all of our church leaders say nothing,” Duford writes.

“Trump has gone so far as to brag about his plans, accomplishments and unholy actions toward the marginalized communities I saw my grandfather love and serve.

“He held a Bible, something so sacred to all of us, yet he treated that Bible with a callousness that would offend anyone intimately familiar with the words inside it. … The entire world has watched the term ‘evangelical’ become synonymous with hypocrisy and disingenuousness.”

Signaling a prospective religious war, this is a shot across the bow. Pray for America.

Fighting for Women’s Rights

Nancy Pelosi’s appearance on Steven Colbert’s show Wednesday night reminded its audience to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. The 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution exactly one century ago, and Pelosi’s message reminded me what I once accomplished for women.

Perhaps the unfairness of how men publicly denigrated women was why I got involved. Forty-two years ago in South Florida, I ran for president of the Greater Miami Junior Chamber of Commerce, otherwise known as the Jaycees. I had turned 35 years old, become a senior member of the organization, served as the chapter vice president, and was in line to rule over its civic contributions for a year before becoming a “greybeard”; i.e. ineligible for full membership.

Something was blowing in the political winds, however. Before the election of new officers could take place, members of the National Organization for Women presented a compelling argument to have women participate fully. I was moved by their pleas, and I ran on the platform of giving women the right to vote.

I didn’t overcome the opposition nor win the election, but future peers at The Miami Herald paid me the ultimate honor on August 11, 1978. Calling me a “suffragist,” using the above photo that a Herald photographer took mere days prior, the morning metropolitan newspaper recognized my effort to admit women to the organization so they could be fully recognized as voting members. The story ran on the front page of its Living Today section. And NOW recognized me with a Certificate of Appreciation that I hold dear.

Then the “snapper to the capper.” Six years later, on Independence Day, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling that Jaycees nationwide must accept women as full voting members. Just imagine my elation to an event George Orwell never proclaimed regarding a future world.

I saved a copy of that article (of course), scanned the deteriorating newsprint and would be happy to share it via email. Because the Herald’s stories are subject to copyright protection and I do not seek permission yet to print that article, I abide by legal requirements accorded to the copyright holder. If you want to see and/or read it, send me a comment, or write to mason@masonloika.com.

This August, we celebrate a milestone. By telling my story of recognition, I acknowledge what one person of conviction can accomplish.

You don’t have to be a woman to support women’s rights. But consider the flip side when men take up the fight. By definition, championing women’s rights is the most chauvinistic thing a member of the male gender can do. But I don’t hear any women complaining about chivalry. Perhaps it’s a necessary evil?

Donald Trump Mouths Off Against Immigrants

The silly season is well under way.

In a bid to have their egos and “values” stroked on another televised episode of “America’s Politicians and How They Got That Way,” seventeen candidates for President of these United States threw their straw hats into the Republican ring earlier this year.

While shedding themselves of Rick Perry and Scott Walker, one of their ilk made an extraordinary mess.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. Reuters
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares “You’re fired!” at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. Reuters

Trump Is Not a Happy Guy

Donald Trump, emboldened on past celebrity exposure, became the Koch Brothers’ pandering ringleader by riling the masses with outrageous epithets toward Mexican-American citizens, while Jeb Bush forthrightly held his temper.  I don’t need to requote “The Donald” here, except to express astonishment over his latest salvo: He says his Republican rivals plan to start the next world war over Syria.  Where do they plan to recruit soldiers: from immigrants?

On this website is “Virgil’s Story,” where anyone can deduce that Virgil’s contribution to my ancestry was a rabbi’s ingenious ruse enabling him to slip by U.S. immigration gendarmes on Ellis Island.  You can read it here.  My father’s later fame to claim was that of a renowned big-band musician; he’s one of many immigrants who excelled once arriving on these shores.

What would Donald Trump do with everyone whose descent evolved from ploys similar to my father’s?  Would he subject our nation of immigrants to checking, double-checking and eventual deportation?

Of course not.  That’s why I see the aftermath of Trump’s obnoxious mouth as a sign of the silly season.

Is Marco Rubio looking aghast at the photographer?
Marco Rubio at a political rally

Anti-Communism as a hammer

But why hasn’t Marco Rubio raised holy hell about Trump?  As the photogenic son of an immigrant Cuban, certainly he sees behind the inherent danger of the “blame game,” in which politicians conjure up scapegoats to explain tough financial times, i.e. targeting immigrants whose ethnic experience differs vastly from Europeans.

How would Rubio answer the question, “Do Cubans think of themselves as better than Mexicans?

That’s not a stupid question, either.  In Miami for 50 years, I became familiar with Cuban social circles ever since Cubanos left their island nation to avoid political persecution.  Their exodus eventually transformed politics in Miami, and their brain-trust Latin Builders Association became South Florida’s money machine.

On their way up the ladder, Cubans pushed African-Americans to the back of the bus once again.  I wonder if Cuban exile politics finds it expedient to expose the whole country to unfair categorizations of Mexican-Americans.  When I lived in Southern California in the late 1960s and early ’70s, I discovered Mexican immigrants to be mostly deferential and anxious to stay below the radar.

Only when an undocumented immigrant commits an unspeakable crime does the reputation of that ethnicity become viral.  I say, “None of these accusations and innuendos is good for the country.”  Intolerant generalizations of ethnic groups divide us, and dash the concept of nobility against the rocks of vile behavior.

The Travesty of Republicanism

Republicans of the 21st Century are so dissimilar from their forefathers that they resemble miscreants who will do and say anything to get elected, while pursuing hidden agendas from wealthy contributors who try to remain masked by PACs (political action committees).

As a youngster, “I liked Ike.”  I remember when conservatism was synonymous with “conservation.”  Republicans then espoused protecting the environment; these days, I hear none of them embracing the inescapable fact that global warming is real.

What I despise most is that today’s Republicans have turned this country into a one-party system.  I believe we deserve a choice, but how can anyone deny the rising seas that are a direct result of climate change caused by human activity?

We can only laugh when the sideshow of politics borders on the absurd.  Let’s hope someone steps forward – besides a Democrat – who cares enough about this country to inspire a serious conversation.  Only then will we be able to stop laughing at this train wreck of a long-running stupid, silly season.