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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mind and Destiny 2006 "Insanity"

A recent vote on Iraq in the House of Representatives revealed; 37 percent voted in favor of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and 63 percent voted against a timetable. The vote was not representative of public opinion on the war because, 53 percent of the public favors a timetable for withdrawal, and only 41 percent are opposed to a timetable for withdrawal.

The Republican vote in the House was nearly unanimous in favor of the White House position. Ninety-nine percent of House Republicans voted against setting a timetable. Only three Republicans led by Rep. John Duncan Jr. of Tennessee voted for a timetable. Duncan declared: “I am steadfastly opposed to this war, and I have been since the beginning. We need to start putting our own people first, once again, and bring our troops home.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said: “The war in Iraq has been a mistake. I say a grotesque mistake. It must be our resolve to end the war as soon as possible and to resolve to not make similar mistakes in the future.”

Seventy-eight percent of House Democrats voted for a timetable, and 22 percent against. Remarkably, nationwide 78 percent of Democrats support a timetable for withdrawal, and 23 percent are opposed.

A Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey found that 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq today think the United States should leave Iraq within the next year. Over 25 percent of them believe the withdrawal should be immediate!

Upon visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, I was moved to tears, as I slowly walked past the names of more than fifty-eighty thousands young American that had made the supreme sacrifice. I was angry at the insanity of it all, but also deeply disappointed in myself that I had never participated in an antiwar demonstration or written a letter to a newspaper condemning the war.

On Sat. August 5th, from 11 a.m. to noon, I’ll be at the Peace Vigil in Delhi on the Court House Square representing the 25 percent of our troops in Iraq, that believe the withdrawal should happen immediately.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Prescription Drugs

Since, 9/11, the Bush regime has failed to secure our border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration. Instead, our government has stepped up seizure of Canadian prescription drugs entering this country from Canada.

Last November, Customs and Border Protection began vigorously enforcing a law that bans U.S. citizens from buying prescription drugs outside of the United States. Since then federal officials have confiscated more than 40,000 shipments. Critics say the agency is jeopardizing the lives of U.S. citizens and ignoring other issues like illegal drug and human smuggling on the southern border.

A 90-day supply of the osteoporosis medicine Fosamax costs $210 in the United States, but in Canada it's half that. Many senior citizens that live on fixed incomes have little choice but to order Fosamax and other medications from Canada.

Senior citizens who order prescription medicine from Canada have found their supplies cut off, without warning, which has left tens of thousands of people in the country without their prescription medications. Seniors insist that where they buy their drugs should be their choice.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said: “The problem is that the United States government is going after the wrong thing. They shouldn't be going after the drugs that we know that are safe, because the Canadian Health Agency has approved it, and it's only for personal use of Americans for a limited supply.”

It's well known that pharmaceutical associations have a lot of sway on Capitol Hill. There are about two pharmaceutical lobbyists for every elected official in Washington. One can safely assume that these lobbyist have something to do with the crackdown on Canadian drugs being exported to the United States. Campaign contributions to Congressional Republicans have a lot to do with which laws the Bush regime enforces and which laws it is chooses to ignore.

The Senate approved an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill that would essentially stop the seizure of prescription medicine by customs, and the House approved a similar measure in May. However, the bill is hung up in a conference committee and the language could very well be taken out of the final version.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cost of College

The federal government needs to do more to help families, realize the American dream. If we fail to make college more affordable our leadership in this highly competitive global economy is at risk.

Families are finding it difficult to send their sons and daughters to college, because the costs of basic necessities, such as gasoline and health care, continue to soar.  Hundreds of thousands of highly qualified students are giving up the idea of college because they can’t afford it.  Those who do attend college are graduating with greater debt than ever before.  The escalating cost of college tuition and the weakening of basic student aid such as Pell grants have led to a severe increase in debt for college loans.

Pell grants are a major source of financial aid for low-income students, but the value of the grants has diminished considerably over the years as a result of Republican budget cuts. Last year Congressional Republicans cut $12 billion from student loan programs, and another $6 billion from Pell grants.  Such cuts are unacceptable in a country that prides itself on fairness in the classroom and in the workforce.  By shortchanging opportunities for all students to earn a degree, we’re shortchanging our nations future.  We need to reduce the financial barriers to college, and make higher education more affordable for students and their families.

Korean War veteran benefits enable me to be the first in my family to graduate from college. It set a precedence for our family and my younger brothers earned masters and a doctorate degree.

Congress can demonstrate how much they value Iraq and Afganistan veterans, by passing legislation that would provide similar benefits for them, but more importantly the same benefits should be provided for the spouses and children of those that have made the supreme sacrifice.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Illegal Immigration

The reason illegal immigration has become such an overwhelming issue is that Mexico is an oligarchy. Mexico’s standard of living is lower than it was in 1993. The wage gap between the wealthy elite and desperately poor has steadily increased.

Mexican farmers have been displaced by having to compete with multinational agriculture corporations. They are no longer able to compete in local markets, because the rice and corn imported from America is cheaper.

The large majority of illegal immigrants from Mexico make genuine contributions to our economy and provide services that all of us benefit from. They are willing to work hard at underpaid jobs and endure substandard working conditions, because they are determined to support themselves and their families.

Federal tax dollars should make it possible to offer treatment to someone who is ill, to educate all children who are born here, and to give them the opportunity to be productive citizens who will make their own contribution in the future. We are a decent society and must formulate a rational policy to address the problems of the illegal workers who dwell among us.

American employers are eager to increase their profit margins at the expense of these desperately poor people. Illegal immigrants are encouraged to come across the border, because of lax workplace enforcement. The Bush regime has failed to go after the employers, who are hiring these illegal immigrants, because they remain firmly in the pockets of corporate interests.

Presently, the state and local taxpayers carry the expense for social and health services. The poorest Americans have to compete with guest workers, who push down wages. Employers exploited illegal immigrants for their labor, which depressed wages about $200 billion a year.

In 1999, there were nearly 200 work place enforcement actions across the country. The Clinton administration carried out Operation Gatekeeper, which had the impact of closing down both illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Clinton increased the number of border agents by 65 percent, and had 191 prosecutions of workplace enforcement. In 2003, under Bush there was a 95 % drop in work place enforcement actions.

Democrats believe there must be real workplace enforcement, so that employers don't have the incentive to hire illegal immigrants. The way to control this problem is to fine the American firms that hire people with fake documents or no documents at all. The penalty needs to be significantly raised to a fine of $10,000 for the first offense, which should be sufficient to hurt the employer's pocketbook.

Congressional Republicans claim they want tougher boarder security and strict enforcement of our employment laws. Nevertheless, in 2005 they voted twice against increased funding for border security.

We can't effectively deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants in an effective way unless we first have border security. The task of preventing illegal immigrants from crossing our borders is difficult, but not insurmountable. We were supposed to have tougher enforcement after the last reform act in 1986, but haven't had it. We must start by enforced existing laws and dedicating enough resources to the task.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Presumption of Privacy

The National Security Agency wiretapping of calls in which at least one party is within the United States is an example of our government violating civil liberties in the name of counterterrorism. Any domestic electronic surveillance without a court order, no matter how useful, is clearly illegal.

However, counterterrorism experts that have monitored transfers over the Swift international financial system point out that there has been an over-reaction to this completely distinct issue. Going after terrorists' money is a necessary element of any counterterrorism program, as President Bill Clinton pointed out in presidential directives in 1995 and 1998. Monitoring international bank transfers, especially with the knowledge of the bank consortium that owns the network, is legal and unobjectionable.

The International Economic Emergency Powers Act, passed in 1977, provides the president with enormous authority over financial transactions by America's enemies. International initiatives against money laundering have been under way for a decade, and have been aimed not only at terrorists but also at drug cartels, corrupt foreign officials and a host of criminal organizations.

These initiatives, combined with treaties and international agreements, should leave no one with any presumption of privacy when moving money electronically between countries. Since 2001, banks have been obliged to report even transactions entirely within the United States if there is reason to believe illegal activity is involved.

The attacks on the liberal press is part of a political strategy by the Bush regime to scare their supporters. Their angry objections that the New York Times made revelations about the financial monitoring program may tip off the terrorists was a political ploy. They want the public to believe that it had not already occurred to every terrorist on the planet that his telephone was probably monitored and his international bank transfers subject to scrutiny.

Bush and Congressional Republicans want to give the impression that they are fighting a courageous battle against the liberal media, who they claim are helping terrorists. Press accounts of Republican outrage actually gave the revelation of the financial monitoring program an even higher profile. It should be noted that they were careful not to denounce the conservative Wall Street Journal, which published the same information as the Times.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Fool's Mission

Those who have profited the most from the Iraq War are sacrificing the least. Iraq is a glaring example of the disparity between the sacrifice of wealthy elite families and the sacrifice of average income families.

Bush’s family has had multigenerational ties to Texas oilmen and the Saudi royal family. Defense industry contractors like Haliburton and energy industry companies like Exxon Mobile are the Bush regime’s largest campaign contributors. The stock prices for defense companies are thriving at five times what they were before the invasion of Iraq, from huge no bid contracts awarded by the Pentagon.

This premeditated, imperialistic war, which had no connection to 9/11 has cost more than 2,536 Americans their lives. The sons and daughters of the wealthy and politically connected are not making these sacrifices. Furthermore, Bush’s elite are benefiting enormously from his unconscionable tax cuts for his wealthy supporters.

Bush’s tax breaks are at the expense of investments in health and education. This war shifted the greatest surplus in a generation to a debt larger than all previous Presidents combined.  This irresponsible stewardship of the economy imposes an enormous burden on working families.

The invasion of Iraq has been a fool's mission from the start and generates more terrorism around the world, than we could ever hope to suppress. It’s ridiculous nonsense that our military can kill enough terrorist to destroy the desire of Iraqi insurgents to be free of our imperialism. We should be attacking the social, political and economic causes of terrorism, but instead we are continuing to fuel the Iraqi insurgency and hatred of America throughout the world.

Iraq is comparable to Vietnam, because in the end we'll look around at the appalling costs in human life and national debt and ask ourselves: What in the world were we thinking?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lie and Die

Sen. John Kerry has said:  “My plan is not cut and run.  Their plan is lie and die, and that‘s what they‘re doing.  They lie to America over what’s happening on the ground, they lie about why we’re there, they lie about what’s happening and our plan is very simple.  It’s redeploy to win the war on terror.  Change to succeed.  You have a better chance of success if the Iraqis are given notice that they‘ve got to begin to take over and stand up for themselves.” 

Americans were misled by the use of manipulated intelligence and the deceitful claims about Iraq's ties to September 11th. Since “Mission Accomplished”, we have endured a steady stream of propaganda, describing an insurgency in its “last throes” and claiming great progress as Iraq descends into civil war.

Bush recently compounded a lie by saying: “First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don't think we ever said that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.”

In a letter to Congress dated 3/21/03, Bush said: “The use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

Congressional Republicans and the White House have a three pronged political strategy on Iraq: 1. Ignore the reality on the ground. 2. Cover up past failures and distortions. 3. Attack the patriotism of anyone who demands accountability.

None of that will solve anything in Iraq, and none of it will make America safer. The only strategy needed to fight back is to tell the truth. We can combat these distortions and get the truth out in our community by writing a letter to the editor of local papers.

It is up to you to speak out about failed Republican leadership and how it has failed our country. People are tired of the Bush regime's dangerous incompetence and consistently misleading statements. A new poll confirms that 61 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Reason and Faith

Robert Reich, secretary of labor in the Clinton administration wrote: "the greatest conflict of the 21st century is between; those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through scripture and religious dogma."

The truth revealed through scripture is subjective truth predicated by one's faith. By definition faith is belief in God, and in the doctrines or teachings of religion. Therefore, faith is the antithesis of skepticism, distrust and objective truth. I have become skeptical and distrustful of most religions, because they stifle freedom of thought, and blinds the righteous to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.

Historical, arguments bolstered by faith and tradition have been made to support slavery and dismiss as heresy, the heliocentric view of the solar system. Objective truth is not affected by faith, or tradition. Logic suggests that God would expect us to acquire vast amounts of objective information and make maximum use our ability to reason. Whenever, we use scientific methods, reason and logic, we are making use of the greatest gift God has bestowed upon mankind. Otherwise, we demonstrate a capacity not significantly greater than a flock of sheep.

By not reading, listening and viewing from a variety of sources, we demonstrate a lack on intellectual curiosity. The purpose of education should be to develop critical thinking, which enables a person to evaluate all sources and come to reasonable conclusions.

Critical thinking should lead to the realization that our continued occupation of Iraq contradicts religion, because nothing in more irrational and ungodly than war. Singing "God Bless America", while we wage war reeks of blasphemy. Many in Congress insist on the sanctity of life in the womb, but 18 years later don't have a problem sending our youth to die in an imperialistic war.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Last Throes

A year ago, Vice President Cheney gave a rosy assessment of the situation in Iraq, when he said: “I think the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” Cheney repeatedly tries to deceive voters, by attempting to put a positive face on some of the things that are happening in Iraq.

The Pentagon has released a report, which paints a bleak picture for the prospect of good news anytime soon in Iraq. It states in frank terms that the strength of the insurgency will likely remain steady throughout 2006. We’ve been in Iraq for more than three years, and Bush’s only strategy is to stay the course.

House Republicans put forth a resolution that would tie the war in Iraq to the global fight against terrorism. Instead of providing a meaningful policy discussion, the Republican majority offered a political document, less than five months before elections.  House Republicans focused strictly on Iraq and refused to allow alternative resolutions or amendments.

The resolution states that the United States will prevail in the global war on terror and complete the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq. Republicans then asked: “Do we have the will to win? Many on the other side the aisle lack the will to win. The American people needs to know precisely who they are.”

This is the same false choice of “cut and run” or “stay the course” repackaged. By linking Iraq to the unanimously supported war on terror, Republicans put Democrats in a no-win situation.  If Democrats vote for the resolution they appear to agree completely with Bush’s failed policies in Iraq.  A vote against the resolution makes Democrats vulnerable to Republican charges they are on the side of terrorists.

Democrats insist that Congressional Republicans are failing to address the war in Iraq in the serious manner it deserves, but has instead chosen to create a debate that is a sham. In general, Republicans tend to accuse anyone that differs with Bush’s handling of the global fight against terrorism as less than patriotic. Patriotism is indeed, the last refuge of a scoundrel.