Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Speak Truth to Power

Class warfare against the middle class and poor became rampant, after Republicans won control of Congress and corporate lobbyist began making large contributions to their campaign coffers.

Repealing the estate tax is a priority for most Congressional Republicans. The repeal of the estate tax serves to benefit less than 2 percent of all estates and its repeal would be very expensive. The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation agrees it would cost more than $600 billion over 10 years. The full cost would start to hit the Treasury in 2011, which is the same year that the nation's oldest baby boomers will turn 65 and start a sharp rise in spending on Social Security and Medicare. At the same time Republicans are seeking to exempt the richest estates from taxes, they are blocking a raise in the federal minimum wage for the nation's poorest workers.

Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to raise the minimum wage, which stands at just $5.15 an hour. Since the minimum wage was first adopted, there has been a long tradition of bipartisan support for a raise every decade. Today, a minimum-wage worker earns just $10,700 a year, nearly $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Every Republican president since Eisenhower has signed a bill increasing the minimum wage. Although, Congress recently raised their own pay by $31,000, most Republicans strongly opposed an increase in the minimum wage, unless it is tied to a repeal of the estate tax.

It's a national disgrace that poverty is up for the fourth year in a row. During this time the costs for health care, oil, housing, child care has skyrocketed, but congressional Republicans refuse to give hardworking men and women the pay they deserve. It’s time to reward work with an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Afghanistan

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer, had two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he was an authority on Afghanistan. In "Imperial Hubris", he wrote: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

A lengthening list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by American military operations, a badly flawed American backed opium eradication program, and rising public disenchantment with President Hamid Karzai has led to a stronger than expected Taliban rebirth.

Afghans have a long history of hostility toward foreign troops on their territory. In the 19th-century the British and in the 20th-century the Russians learned the hard way. They have made an exception for the 21st-century Americans, who helped shake off the Taliban and promised their war-shattered country an international rebuilding effort modeled on post-World War II Marshall Plan.

After 5 years, Afghanistan's patience is running out, because our military presence is seen as focused on hunting down Al Qaeda fighters and indifferent to Afghan civilian casualties. The answer is not for Washington to scale back legitimate American objectives. Pressing the fight against Al Qaeda is essential to America's own national security.

Nevertheless, the Bush regime needs to begin talks immediately with Afghanistan's government to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement on basic ground rules governing American military personnel in their interactions with Afghan civilians. It should reinforce its anti-narcotics drive by developing programs, which allow farmers to find livelihoods in more constructive lines of work. Most Afghans do not want to go back to the horrors of the recent past, but we have failed to demonstrate that we care about a decent future for its people.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Threat to Marriage

Currently, the state of Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut allow civil unions. Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico have no laws explicitly banning members of the same sex from marrying. None of these states appear in the top 10 states with the highest percentage of failed marriages. The states that are permitting gay unions or gay marriage are among those with the lowest divorce rates.

Bush claims gay marriage poses an imminent threat to the American traditional family. The facts show that most marriages that end in divorce do so because of financial problems, not because of same-sex marriage laws.

Divorce lawyers confirm that there are many reasons marriages fail. At the top of that list is a lack of communication about financial problems. Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute states: “If you look at divorce rates, they are highly associated with bankruptcies, with loss of job, with some kind of negative shock to the income. So it seems to me that if we want to strengthen families, we ought to be looking at a whole set of policies that this administration has been more undermining than strengthening.”

Millions of jobs are being out sourced overseas by corporations and 43 million uninsured Americans are one serious illness away from poverty. Republicans know this divisive constitutional amendment will fail by a large margin, but they still spend time debating the issue. The reason behind this charade is that many fundamentalist are frustrated with the Republican leadership and feel that they only pay attention to their agenda, when they need their votes five months before an election.

Congressional Republicans talk Christ and family values, but they walk corporate profits. Values may matter most to voters, but they always take a back seat to corporate greed.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Border Security

Sending the National Guard troops to the border will require a diversion $1.9 billion of funds, which the Senate had previously approved for border security. National Guard troops will not be empowered to arrest, apprehend, or find illegal immigrants. The Border Patrol needs more agents on the ground to arrest illegal immigrants and smugglers coming across the border.

Bush claims the borders can be secured with technology, but technology has already proven completely ineffective in securing our borders. A report by the Government Accountability Office issued in February found numerous failings. The sensors frequently give false readings and of 11,000 motion sensors deployed in August of last year, 1,000 had quit working three months later.

More than $340 million has been spent on border surveillance technology. Only 255 remote cameras are installed, covering only four percent for our borders. The biggest failure of technology is that a camera doesn't make arrests. Money is spent on lucrative corporate contracts, while additional border agents have not to be hired or trained to make the required arrests. The funds for those jobs has been appropriated by Congress, but Homeland Security has neglected to fill them. Instead, the Bush regime has been asking defense contractors how billions of dollars should be spent.

A hidden consequence of illegal immigration is the free flow of diseases across borders. People seeking legal residency undergo routine physicals to screen out dangerous diseases. As many as 8,000 illegal immigrants stream across our borders each day, and many of them have diseases, which are making a comeback in the United States. In counties that border Mexico, TB rates are twice as high as the rest of the country.

Furthermore, immigration courts are overburdened, and backlogged for years. Presently, there are only 214 immigration court judges in the entire country, with responsible for adjudicating all immigration cases. Last year, the number of cases rose by 31 percent to a total of 368,848. That comes out to 1,723 cases per judge, but does not count the backlog from previous years. Neither the Congressional Republicans, nor the Bush regime have begun to addressed these particular problems.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Red Menace

Recently, the Pentagon said China’s military buildup is destabilizing Asia and could present a long-term challenge to the interests of the United States in the Pacific-Asian region.

The Bush regime seems to be awakening to the military challenge posed by communist China. The Pentagon has delivered a strong warning concerning communist China's huge military buildup. Communist China's dangerous military expansion is poised to strike Taiwan, which no longer has the ability to prevent an invasion, should it occur.

A decade ago, experts insisted that China's low-tech military couldn’t successfully invade democratic Taiwan. The Pentagon's new report concludes that on China's rapidly growing military power has shifted the military balance to favor mainland China. China has deployed 400,000 ground troops to three military regions opposite Taiwan, an increase of 25,000 since last year, and has armed them with more tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces. In addition, China has aimed nearly 800 short-range missiles at Taiwan and is adding about 100 more each year.

The Pentagon report suggests China's massive military buildup is aimed at far more than simply preventing Taiwanese independence. "Current trends," it says, "could provide China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia, well beyond Taiwan, potentially posing a credible threat to modern militaries operating in the region." Several aspects of China's military development have surprised military analysts, including the pace and scope of its strategic nuclear forces. It is "quantitatively and qualitatively" improving its long-range nuclear missile force.

China's been pumping billions into its military for years. It claims its defense budget for 2006 is $35 billion, which is up 15 percent over last year. However, the Pentagon insists the real amount is more like $70 billion to $105 billion. Five years ago, thirty percent of our national debt was held by foreign lenders. Now, that debt has grown by another $3 trillion, with foreign lending accounting for 80 percent of the increase. The quagmire in Iraq is by far the primary reason for our increasing national dept. Consequently, we're subsidizing communist China's massive military buildup to the tune of $50 to $100 billion a year, and this could easily double over next five years.

Constitutional Amendment

Congressional Republicans have revived their culture wars strategy, by launching a new campaign to make inequality and bigotry part of our Constitution.

They’ve proposed a Constitutional amendment, which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages. An amendment, which requires two-thirds support in the Senate and the House, and then ratification by at least 38 states.

A Senate vote in 2004 fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution, Congressional Republicans are pushing for a ban on gay marriage to galvanize social conservatives in key swing states. Since, being re-elected Bush has been silent on this issue. Righteous conservatives are feeling abandoned by the Bush regime, and Republican leadership are suddenly eager to energize their based in an election year.

Log Cabin Republicans don't believe voters should be distracted from cutting taxes and controlling federal spending by embracing these kinds of socially extremist views. A veteran social conservative activist says voting on same sex marriage five months before an election looks insincere, and if they’re trying to placate social conservatives, by occasionally throwing them a bone it’s not going to work. He doesn’t believe that they really understand that social conservatives are dead serious and that they feel betrayed.

The Family Research Council claim GOP leaders must debate issues, like a gay marriage ban, if they want disillusioned conservatives to vote in November. They are not interested in reelecting a Republican to Congress if the candidate will not fight for their social agenda.

Senator John McCain believes that this is the wrong thing to do. He say that the true Republican position is to let states decide issues like this, not the federal government, and certainly not to amend the Constitution.

This could end up being counter productive politically for Republicans at a time where there are so many other pressing issues that need the attention of Congress, because it has no chance of succeeding. Most Congressional Republicans had sought to symbolically prove their point by demonstrating that a majority of the Senate, believe banning same-sex marriage is important. By putting gay marriage on the agenda, Republicans were diverting attention from the issues such as Iraq, high gas prices, the national debt, global warming, stem cell research and our country's trade imbalance.

In 2004, forty-eight Senators voted for the Constitutional amendment. On June 7, 2006, forty-nine Senators voted for an amendment to our Constitution, which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages.