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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gold Star Mother

Gold Star Mother, Amy Branham wrote the following:

Let's talk about the courage it takes to live the rest of your life after you have buried your only son, who died so needlessly in this fool's war. At first you do not believe that the person you spent the majority of your adult life rearing is dead. But you have to pick out the casket. You have to find a funeral home and a cemetery and make funeral arrangements. You have to write an obituary and make terrible phone calls that you know will crush the person on the other end of the line. And then you have to figure out how in the hell to make sense out of something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.    

The president has asked us to give his plan a chance. I say he has run out of chances. The president thinks we should trust him. Our trust ran out a long time ago.

The Bush administration told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out they had none.

The Bush administration told us that Hussein had ties to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Turns out that was a bold-faced lie.

The Bush administration told us that we were going to Iraq to help the Iraqi people and bring about "regime change." Saddam is now dead.

The Bush administration told us that we needed to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. They have had their elections. However, Iraq is in much worse shape now than it was before we, the American military and private civilian contractors, arrived.

We have accomplished the things that the president, his administration and the Republican-controlled government said we should do. Now, it's time for all of you to listen to We the People of the United States of America, to end this war and to bring our soldiers home. You can find the courage and the strength to do this. It is your responsibility and your duty to listen to us and do the right thing by our brave men and women. Cut off funding for the war. Leave enough money for the speedy withdrawal of our troops and bring our sons and daughters home. They have done their duty for you. Now it's time you did your duty for them.

    Honor. Duty. Country. Three words to live by.

Amy Branham
Gold Star Mother
Houston, Texas
Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith,
November 1981 - February 2004

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Counter Recruitment

The following are excerpts from an article written by former Marine Corps officer and veteran of the Vietnam War, Camillo Bica entitled “On the Duty to Counter Recruitment.”

"It should be clear by now to all rational human beings (to many it was clear long ago), that the war with Iraq was a mistake. Many, of course, have arrived at this conclusion only because of the frustration of not having enjoyed a quick and total victory and an unwillingness to sacrifice further American lives and treasure attempting to resolve the quagmire of sectarian violence and civil war. The preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq, a sovereign nation, are much worse than a mistake...There were no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was not the mastermind behind the events of 9/11, nor was he harboring Al Qaeda terrorists. Further, and this is critical at this juncture, to continue to wage – even escalate – an illegal and immoral war and occupation – “to finish the job and achieve victory” – merely because we started it or from a concern that out nation would lose credibility in the world were we to “cut and run,” makes no moral or legal sense... Finally, even from the perspective of a pragmatist, tactically and strategically the war in Iraq is clearly a tragic and utter failure. As we surpass the number of Americans killed on 9/11 (a John Hopkins study puts Iraqi deaths at more than 600,000) and enter our fourth year of occupation, it is clear as well that a military resolution of the debacle is impossible and our continued military presence in Iraq merely serves to exacerbate the turmoil and violence. Faced with the reality of a continuing, even escalating, illegal and immoral war, of a President who arrogantly ignores the advice of his military leaders and, most important, the will of the American people, it is not only permissible, it is morally required, that we bring pressure to bear upon our leaders to end both the aggression against the Iraqi people and the exploitation and victimization of members of our own military... With the decreasing popularity of the war in Iraq and the President’s approval rating at an all time low... These conditions, morality requires that we act to protect those most vulnerable – impressionable young people in our high schools and colleges and the underprivileged who see the military as their only alternative to poverty, crime, and unemployment... those who are being recruited will not be risking their lives and physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, to defend America, our freedoms, or the values we hold sacred. Rather, they will be made complicit in the crimes of aggression. Morality demands that we protect our young people from being enticed, seduced, brainwashed, and deceived, into becoming killers and cannonfodder for corporate war profiteers. We counter recruit because we must. It is our moral and civic duty. To do anything less would be unpatriotic, nay treasonous and morally irresponsible."

The article can be found at: http://www.svaphilosopher.com/CounterRecruitment.html

Monday, January 29, 2007

Shifting the Blame

On January 5 th. the White House announced a shakeup of the military commanders responsible for fighting the war in Iraq. The commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, will retire and the commander of our troops in Iraq, General George Casey, is being considered for the position of Army chief of staff. Those announcements came as Bush announce his new strategy of sending an additional 22,000 troops into Iraq.

The U.N. recently reported that last year more than 34,000 Iraqis were killed by sectarian violence. General George Casey may end up being blamed for the chaos that descended upon Iraq in 2006. Bush is bringing General Casey home from Iraq, because he publicly told the Senate, that a surge in the number of troops in Iraq might actually be counterproductive.

No matter how badly this war goes, Bush continues to tell us that we’re on a path to victory. The milestone of 3,000 Americans having been killed in Iraq, has required Bush to view most of its problems in terms of public relations.

Strategist believe that the most recent slide in support for the war is because Republicans have lost confidence in the Bush’s commitment to their cause. Some strategist anticipate that the “surge” in troop strength will serve to again rally his base around him. Bush recognizes that his whole legacy is riding on this plan and it has got to work, because failure is an unacceptable option.

A few in Congress are saying they would not fund a troop increase no matter what Bush decides to call it. The Bush regime has made the calculation that Democrats are not going to pull the plug on funding the troops. Bush’s plan involves subtly shifting the blame for the fiasco in Iraq, onto Democrats.

Bush claims the redeployment of our troops from Iraq would empower Iran and embolden al Qaeda. The very act of taking out Saddam Hussein empowered Iran and emboldened al Qaeda far beyond our ability to add or subtract from the damage already done.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Canceled Check

In "Losing America", Senator Robert Byrd revealed the grim reality which existed in Washington before the Iraq war. He wrote, that prior to the war resolution some senators were almost terrified at the prospect of being labeled "unpatriotic," if they voted against the resolution. He doubted that some members fully comprehended the magnitude of Bush’s grab for power and that Congress was relinquishing its Constitutional authority and responsibility. Byrd's concern was that Bush was given a blank check for the unrestrained use of military power, when Congress surrendered its congressional prerogative to declare war.

Byrd wrote: "Never in my view had America been led by such a dangerous head of state and whose inner circle of advisors basically view Congress with contempt."

Senator Russ Feingold insists: “Congress must use its main power, the power of the purse, to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war.  And I’m not talking here only about the surge or escalation.  It is time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.”

This was done, when Nixon wanted to invade Cambodia and the funding was not allowed. It was done in Somalia in the early ‘90s, when it became clear that the situation wasn’t working. Congress needs to passed a resolution declaring, that by a specific date, funding will be cut off and they’re giving plenty of time to make sure the troops come out safely. There are safe strategies to come out of a war and Congress should be planning with legislation and working with the military for a safe exit from Iraq.

Bush has been wrong on every aspect of this war. He was wrong about the premise that we went into the war on, he was wrong about the idea that there wasn’t a civil war, he was wrong about the fact that our invasion would help both al Qaeda and Iran.

It’s the responsibility of Congress to make up for the fact that Bush took us into the war under false pretenses, and is keeping us there under false pretenses.  A war which is devastating to our national security and our military.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Surge

The media has been calling the “surge” in Iraq, by its proper name, which is an escalation of the war. A majority of citizens in both America and Iraq do not want an escalation, but hope that we would start disengaging. America’s top military commander in Iraq, General Casey has been replaced because he told the Senate more troops were not needed.

Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency, the creation of which was supervised by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is replacing Casey as the top American military commander in Iraq. The manual recommends a formula of “20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents” as “the minimum troop density required.” By that yardstick, it would take an additional 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.

The escalation is a sham, which is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory”, Bush is always talking about. Bush’s real mission is to maintain the status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. Thereby, a new president will be perceived as responsible for loosing the war in Iraq. This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger “decent interval” exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck as they did in Vietnam.

Bush’s plan is to send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq is opposed by both active-duty and retired generals. Whether you agree with a policy of escalation or not, Congress's involvement is fundamental to our democratic process. The people's representatives must consent to sending in more troops and spending enormous amounts of money, particularly on something as controversial as sending more troops into of a civil war.

Unlike the way we were bamboozled into this war, America must have a real conversation about how to end the nightmare of Iraq. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress must assert its constitutional authority, because this is the only way that conversation will happen.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The People’s Agenda

 
For six years, Republicans had an opportunity to pass an agenda to benefit the American people. During those six years their only agenda was to served the narrow interests of Bush’s radical right-wing conservative base and the corporate elite.

In November, an overwhelming majority of Americans voted for change and Democrats in Congress are already implementing that change.

Democrats have demanded a vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act for years. This week, the Senate voted 54-43 in favor of this critical issue for millions of families, but were unable to get the 60 votes needed to prevail. Eventually, working families may get the raise they deserve, but only if Republicans get corresponding tax breaks for business lobbyist.

The Chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Ted Kennedy has held the Committee's first hearing on expanding health care coverage to every American. Democrats believe health care should be a basic right for all, not just an expensive privilege for the few.

Kennedy has also reintroduced two important pieces of legislation to lower the cost of student loans and give every young American the opportunity they deserve to earn a college degree.

Legislation is being introduced to abolish Bush's unreasonable restrictions on stem cell research. This basic research holds the promise of bringing hope for fuller and longer lives to countless Americans suffering from debilitating diseases.

Most Americans don't want more of our troops put in harm's way in Iraq. Democrats have introduced binding legislation that will stop any further escalation of the war, unless or until the Bush obtains the consent of Congress for the troop increase he wants.

Our troops have repeatedly demonstrated their loyalty in Iraq. Congress owes the troops sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for their welfare, and a guarantee that the threat to our country is equal to the price they might be called upon to pay in defending it.

I’ve been told that the terrorists were going to come to Delhi and slit my throat. My ability to think clearly tells me I’ve nothing to fear, because they don’t have that many rowboats.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jim Webb

The following are excerpts from Senator Jim Webb’s Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union address.

ECONOMY
“When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.”

IRAQ
“The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Monarchy Didn't Work

Last night, we witnessed the disgusting scene of a newly elected Democratic majority behaving like a bunch of trained seals standing up and clapping on cue, for the charlatan that led this nation into a premeditated, avarice, unnecessary war in Iraq. An imperialistic war, that has cost over 3,060 Americans lives and over a half trillion dollars, with no end in sight.

The White House spokesperson has already said that the resolution that Senators Hagel, Levin and Biden intend to put forward is not going to affects Bush’s escalation of the war, because they are going forward with their plan to increase of the number of troops by over 21,000.

Republican Senator Hagel points out that we have a form of government that represents co-equal branches of government. Article I of the Constitution is not the presidency, it's the Congress. We have separation of powers and co-equal branches of government.

Hagel a decorated Vietnam combat veteran insists that Congress needs to be part of any resolution in foreign policy for our country. He admits that congressional Republicans have walked away from that responsibility for the last four years.

Senator Hagel points out that for Bush to say that regardless of what Congress does in any resolution, they're not going to pay heed is not the way a democracy works. Bush seems to have forgotten that on November 7th, the people of this country changed the management in Congress. In a recent poll, seventy-three percent of the America people said that they disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq. That should tell him that the country is no longer behind him, but it doesn’t matter to this most arrogant of presidents.

Chuck Hagel believes that this is going to play out over the next few months, with appropriations, more resolutions and more than one bill, because this is the biggest issue facing our country since Vietnam.

Senator Hagel wants a national debate on this issue. If the Bush administration thinks that they can disregard whatever actions the Congress may take, Hagel can't predict what will happen, but thinks that Bush will want to reevaluate his position. Hagel conclude: “This is not a monarchy. We tried that once. It didn't work.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Impertinent Questions

The following are excerpts of recent remarks made by, former Senator George McGovern at the National Press Club.

Mr. President, Sir, when reporter Bob Woodward asked you if you had consulted with your father before ordering our army into Iraq you said, "No, he's not the father you call on a decision like this. I talked to my heavenly Father above." My question... Instead of blaming God for the awful catastrophe you have unleashed in Iraq, wouldn't it have been less self-righteous if you had fallen back on the oft-quoted explanation of wrongdoing, "The devil made me do it?"

In your initial campaign for the Presidency, Mr. Bush, you described yourself as a "compassionate conservative". What is compassionate about consigning America's youth to a needless and seemingly endless war that has now lasted longer than World War II? And what is conservative about reducing the taxes needed to finance this war and instead running our national debt to nine trillion dollars with money borrowed from China, Japan, Germany and Britain? Is this wild deficit financing your idea of conservatism? Mr. President, how can a true conservative be indifferent to the steadily rising cost of a war that claims over $7 billion a month, $237 million every day? Are you troubled to know as a conservative that just the interest on our skyrocketing national debt is $760,000 every day. Mr. President, our Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, estimates that if the war were to continue until 2010 as you have indicated it might, the cost would be over a trillion dollars.

And, Mr. President at a time when your most respected generals have concluded that the chaos and conflict in Iraq cannot be resolved by more American dollars and more American young bodies, do you ever consider the needs here at home of our own anxious and troubled society? What about the words of another true conservative, General and President Dwight Eisenhower who said that, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."

The complete speech can be viewed at: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070129/mcgovern

Monday, January 22, 2007

Withdrawal Now

Yesterday, 25 young Americans were killed in Iraq, which was the third deadliest day of the war.

Former Senator George McGovern was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972. Today, he’s written a book entitled “Out Of Iraq, A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now.”

The plan calls for setting a date six months from now and during that six months we would withdraw every single American out of Iraq. A recent public opinion survey in Iraq shows that only about two percent of the Iraqi people now think we are there as liberators.  They see us as occupiers and overwhelmingly the people of Iraq want us out. If Americans truly believe in self-determination, we ought to let the Iraqis determine their own future.

It may take another generation of financial support to rebuild Iraq, which we have destroyed by our catastrophic invasion. McGovern tells of the oil deals the Bush regime has put in place and of the fourteen permanent military bases we’ve built, which are almost the size of a modest city. Since, this was an imperialistic invasion to gain control of Iraqi oil, we shouldn’t be a surprised.

Americans were misled into thinking that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was the work of Saddam Hussein, who had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. McGovern reminds us that we were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that the proof would be when a nuclear cloud appeared over the United States. 

Unfortunately, most politicians remain incapable of critical thinking. If there was such a weapon, Iraq certainly wouldn’t have aimed it at America.  It would have been held to deter the Iranians from attacking. Only a totally crazy national leader would throw a nuclear bomb at the United States, knowing that their country would be pulverized off the face of the earth within a few hours, by our enormous nuclear might. 

McGovern concludes that since the American people and Congress were misled, and it’s clear that at least two-thirds of the American public want our troops out of Iraq. Congress must get them out now. 

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Class Warfare Revisited

Warren Buffett the second wealthiest man in the world said: “The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good. It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be.”

Recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high. For the first time in our nation's history, the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans includes only billionaires.

The rich are getting richer, while the middle class struggles, because real wages are falling. According to the Census Bureau, the real median earnings of full-time working males fell 2 percent last year, and the real wages of working women fell by 1.3 percent. Consequently, more Americans are living in poverty, living without health care, paying more for housing and for public education. Many homeowners have been pulling equity out of their houses in order to keep up with escalating college tuition bills, health care costs and energy costs.

The number of Americans without health coverage rose by 1.3 million last year. One in every 10 children are now uninsured. Fewer employers are providing health care to their employees and those who are still lucky enough to receive employer provided coverage are paying a much larger share. The cost of family health insurance is up 87 percent since 2000.

Prices for the most popular brand-name prescription drugs this year rose substantially higher than the annual inflation rate. The AARP concluded prices for the top 193 drugs climbed 6.3 percent over the last 12 months, while inflation went up only 3.8 percent.

Gasoline prices are temporarily on the decline, but many are shelling out double what they used to pay. Gas prices are about 60 percent higher than in January 2001.

Presently, corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low. Unconscionable tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 % are partly responsible for the deep schism, which has opened between the very rich and the middle class.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hornets Nest

In 2004, career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke wrote that we invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat, and delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable. He has accused the Bush administration of ignoring the al Qaeda threat in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. 

Clarke served four presidents and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. His career began as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and on 9/11, he was the nations crisis manager in the White House situation room.

Recently, Clarke said that the Bush's plan to send in more troops “just delays the inevitable. At some point, whether it's next year or two years from now, or five years from now, all U.S. major combat units will leave Iraq. And when they do there's going to be chaos. We've created that situation for ourselves, and there's nothing that we can do between now and next year or five years from now, that will change that outcome. The only thing that happens by staying on another two years is to increase our total casualties far more than the 3,028 Americans killed and the 2,000 Americans that have become double amputees.”

Clarke believes we can do away with combat units, by using intelligence units, and having an over-the-horizon presence of Special Forces, which can go in when necessary to stop al Qaeda from creating a sanctuary. We have an obligation to continue our rebuilding and our assistance effort, but having 160,000 combat troops there is only providing targets.

Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell points out that we haven’t been attacked again in five years. Although, Clarke admits that the Bush bureaucracy deserves credit for not allowing another attack, he insists that it has nothing to do with the fact that we're in Iraq. If anything, the occupation of Iraq makes it more likely another attack will occur because we're making more enemies and not concentrating on reducing our vulnerabilities here at home. He says that the thing to do is to get out of Iraq and go after bin Laden and al Qaeda, while reducing our vulnerabilities here at home and not continuing to stir up a hornets nest by being in Iraq.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Power of the Purse

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an outspoken critic of Bush’s Iraq policy, teamed up with Democratic Senators Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on a resolution opposing a troop build-up in Iraq. These Senators have worked together on the wording of the resolution, in order to gain bipartisan support.

Senator Hagel was critical of Bush’s new strategy in Iraq during the Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week. He said that this is the worst foreign policy disaster for the United States, since the Vietnam War. Hagel is concerned that we've been in Iraq for almost four years, thousands of American casualties, tens of thousands wounded, almost a half a trillion dollars have been spent. Feeding more young men and women into a civil war that we cannot stop or change is wrong and is devastating our military.

Hagel suggests a new course of action, which is sustainable, bipartisan and that the American people will support. He insists that the Iraqis are going to be the ones that will determine the fate of their country and that we can't do it for them. He says that we're no longer going to just quietly stand by, as we have literally done for the past four years and let more of our young Americans be thrown into this battle when they cannot change the eventual outcome.

Bush will ignore this symbolic, non-binding resolution and go forward with an increase of troops in Iraq. Last weekend, Bush claimed on national TV that Congress does not have the power to stop his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq. Former Congressman David Bonior insists that Congress does have the power to stop this escalation and it has used that power many times before, including in Vietnam, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Colombia. Congress must step up to the plate and use its power of the purse to stop Bush from escalating the war in Iraq.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Together Forward

A few military officials are confident their new plan to win the battle for Baghdad will succeed. Those officials say they've learned some hard lessons from Operation Together Forward the most recent unsuccessful offensives to secure Baghdad.

Operation Together Forward was highly touted, when it was announced last summer. Within just a few months, this highly touted joint U.S.-Iraqi plan to take back Baghdad, was an acknowledged failure.

Major General William Caldwell acknowledged; “Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence.”

Despite committing close to 10,000 additional U.S. troops, including a Stryker brigade moved to Baghdad instead of being sent home, violence in the Iraqi capital only got worse. U.S. commanders concede the flaws in the Together Forward plan were: too few Iraqi troops to keep the peace after U.S. forces did the heavy fighting, and too much focus on the Sunni insurgents while ignoring Shia death squads.

The top ground commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno said: "We overestimated the availability of Iraqi security forces. We were able to clear areas, but we were not able to hold the areas. This time our troops will have a more balanced approach, going after both Sunni and Shia extremists. And U.S. troops will stay to protect the people.” General Odierno told reporters recently that he thought the U.S. would have to be there for several more years.

Frederick Kagan is an outside adviser that Bush has been listening to. Kagan predicts it's going to have to be at least 18 months and says: “We're talking about a longer-term operation where we stay in the neighborhoods that we've cleared, partnered with Iraqi units. It's a very different concept than Together Forward.”

Why should Americans have any more faith in the predictions of Frederick Kagan or any other carefully selected outside military adviser?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stolen Election

In 2004, John Kerry got more votes than any Democratic presidential candidate in history.  Kerry dramatically increased the number of Democratic votes over the number Al Gore received in 2000.

A Rolling Stones article entitled: "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" by Robert Kennedy Jr. made a convincing argument that a Kerry victory in the 2004 presidential election was subverted by a far-reaching Republican strategy of fraud, vote suppression and other crimes against the democratic process. Kerry would have won Ohio if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots.

The efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters in 2004, were headed by Ohio secretary of state J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, who was both the chief election official in the state and co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in Ohio.

Every foul-up and arbitrary new regulation, that occurred in Ohio in the election favored Bush. Proving that Republicans hijacked the Ohio election was not possible at the time, but a range of problems and dirty tricks have come to light. For example, the shortages of voting machines and the long lines with waits of seven hours or more occurred in urban areas and discouraged mostly Kerry voters.

Walter Mebane Jr. a professor of government at Cornell University, did a statistical analysis of the vote in Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus. "The allocation of voting machines in Franklin County was clearly biased against voters in precincts with high proportions of African-Americans."

Mr. Mebane compared the distribution of voting machines in Ohio's 2004 presidential election with the distribution of machines for a primary election held the previous spring. For the primary election, he found that there was no sign of racial bias in the distribution of the machines. However, for the general election in November, there was substantial bias, with fewer voting machines per voter in areas, which were heavily African-American.

The integrity of our election process has been compromised in two consecutive presidential elections, while Congress continues to allow the states to subvert the will of the voters.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Silence is Betrayal

Yesterday, we honored the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. Now it’s time do our part for the nation he loved and the peace he sought.

Almost 40 years ago, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. denounced the war in Vietnam by calling it a "tragedy that threatened to drag our nation down to dust."

Dr. King continued: “There comes a time when silence is a betrayal, not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to humanity.” Today, Bush is trying to escalate another war, and again, silence is betrayal.

Congress can stop Bush's escalation, but they'll only do so if the people demand it. In honor of the memory and courage of Martin Luther King, we must speak out and urge our representatives in Congress to make a responsible choice.

Our representatives in Congress have a choice to make. Either they fund Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq and risks more American lives, or they don't. If they know this war is going in the wrong direction and that escalation is wrong, it is no longer enough for them to study their political options and keep their own counsel.

The ultimate responsibility for our country does not lie in Washington, it lies with "we the people." All of us who believe that Bush's plan to escalate the war is wrong for America, for Iraq, and for the world. We must do more than hope for action in Washington. It is time for us to act responsibility.

Remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public." 

Monday, January 15, 2007

“Johnny Got His Gun”

The following is an excerpt from Dalton Trumbo's timeless anti-war masterpiece.

“Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war they would need men and if men saw the future they wouldn't fight. So they were masking the future they were keeping the future a soft quiet deadly secret. They knew if all the people all the little guys saw the future they would begin to ask questions.  They would ask questions and they would find answers and they would say to the guys who wanted them to fight they would say you lying thieving sons-of-bitches we won't fight we won't be dead we will live we are the world we are the future and we will not let you butcher us no matter what you say no matter what slogans you write.

We are the immortal we are the sources of life we are the lowly despicable ugly people we are the great wonderful beautiful people of the world and we are sick of it we are utterly weary we are done with it forever and ever because we are the living and we will not be destroyed.  

If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us who die. It will be you... Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sovereignty

Robert Zoellick a former trade representative, is talking about a new world order with business at the helm of trade and economic policy. He is advocating an Association of American Free Trade Agreements, which would include North, Central, and South America. Zoellick is seeking to implement a stealth trade agenda, which is not a national agenda. He's proposing to set up a private organization to achieve what he couldn't get done as the U.S. trade representative.

This business agenda has the United States, Mexico, and Canada, working quietly behind the scenes to promote a common market with common deregulation for the benefit of multinational corporations. It's an agenda that has resulted in an increase in U.S. corporate profits of 45 percent, while wages of American workers have risen only 3 percent in the last five years.

The danger raised of Zoellick’s proposal is that the future of American international economic policy affects both our nation's prosperity and our national security. Our prosperity and national security will not be determined by the American people or their elected representatives, but by a small corporate elite, which is accountable to no one but itself. Thus, surrendering the sovereignty of the United States.

The argument is made that free trade promotes democracy and the welfare of the people. However, one need only look at China to see, that in fact, this is not true.

Former President, George Herbert Walker Bush said: “It is a big idea, a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause.” Zoellick is about to implement this new world order. They're trying to create a new world order, without the approval or consent of our government and with total disregard for the will of the people. This is a straightforward assault by the corporate elite in this country.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

“Deja vu all over again”

Upon assuming the presidency after Nixon’s resignation former President Gerald Ford pointed out: “Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

Today, the people do not rule. More than two months after Americans spoke decisively on election day, Bush is determined to overrule them. Apparently, our long national nightmare in Iraq is far from over.

Gerald Ford recognized when he took office, that it was too late to make a symbolic gesture by trying to send in additional American troops. He admitted: “We can and we should help others to help themselves. But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours.”

Bush remains oblivious to those images of helicopters fleeing our embassy in April 1975. Not unlike Vietnam, Iraq is in chaos, beyond the control of our government or the “political fiction” we’re desperately trying to prop up.

Our principal achievement in Iraq has been to empower a jihadist in place of Saddam’s secular regime. The radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr is the thug responsible for the deaths of untold Iraqis and Americans alike.

In 2004, a spokesman for the American occupation promised al-Sadr’s arrest on a months old warrant for his earlier assassination of Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a rival Shiite who had fiercely opposed Saddam. Today, al-Sadr and his forces control 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, four government ministries, and a militia more powerful than the Iraqi army. He controls the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who Bush supports. It was al-Maliki, who shut down a search for an American soldier kidnapped at gunpoint in Sadr City last fall.

Gerald Ford concluded: “America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam” but not “by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned.” He added: “We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina. But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America’s leadership in the world.”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tactical Suggestion

Anti-war tactical suggestion by Stan Goff, who spent 26 years in the military and retired from Special Forces as a Master Sergeant.

We are opposed to the Bush administration’s continuing war in Iraq, but we are also disappointed with much of Congress – Republican and Democrat, for failing to explain the real situation in Iraq and refusing to take decisive steps to halt the US-led occupation.

(1) There is never any mention of oil. Most members of Congress are pretending that the US government’s preoccupation with Iraq has nothing to do with fossil energy reserves; but most people in the US know that were it not for oil, the US government would have little interest in the region or its people. We do not believe that continuing the US addiction to oil (five percent of the world’s population consuming 25% of its oil) is a valid reason to bomb and invade other nations and engage in wars of aggression.

(2) Congressional accounts of the war almost always suggest that the war in Iraq – however “flawed” – is part of something called the Global War on Terrorism. But there can be no such thing as a war on a tactic, so we have to ask ourselves if this is not just another one-size-fits-all pretext for future military adventures. Iraq is not now nor has it ever been a threat to the security of people in the United States.

(3) There is no such thing as an Iraqi government except inside the Green Zone. Congressional accounts constantly refer to the Iraqi government as the entity that requires US military assistance to become the guarantor of Iraqi security. But the relationship of all Iraqi forces demonstrates that this is a dangerous fantasy. The Maliki government – or any other government that relies on US military protection to survive for a week – commands the loyalty of only a fraction of the armed actors in Iraq. The armed forces being trained for that “government” are themselves loyal to factions with agendas, and these forces are filled with opportunists and infiltrators. With 80% of Iraqis now asking for an end to the Anglo-American occupation, and the Iraqis themselves identified not merely as Sunni or Shia (as simplified accounts have it), but of three major armed Shia factions, two major Sunni armed factions, and a Kurdish militia of 100,000 that resides in the north itself is divided into two camps, there is no possibility of one faction gaining the acquiescence of the whole Iraqi population and the various armed expressions of populations. The Maliki-Bush “surge” plan is designed to eliminate Maliki’s Shia and Sunni opposition inside Baghdad.

(4) The various sectors of the Iraqi population share one goal: they want stability to rebuild. This goal cannot be accomplished without negotiations between the various groups. With most Iraqis now supporting armed resistance to the Anglo-American occupation, no sector that is identified with the occupation can gain legitimacy in the eyes of most Iraqis. American support for any Iraqi “government” is not preventing so-called “sectarian” violence, it is incubating it. There may be some fighting in Iraq after a US withdrawal, but the balance of forces and their geographical dispersion are more likely to produce negotiations than protracted civil war. At any rate, it is not the role of the US government to shape the future of Iraq. What our government has already done to the future of Iraqis is quite enough, thank you. Iraqis are far more qualified to figure this out than the US Departments of State and Defense.

(5) An exit is not a strategy; it is a command. Elaborate plans about how to withdraw are the responsibility of the military commanders, not Congress. Most members of Congress wouldn’t know how to run a rifle platoon for an hour, much less the en masse redeployment of 150,000 troops. Leaving is a technical and tactical exercise. What is required, and what requires the political will of Congress – by de-funding the war – is the order to withdraw. Your job is the what, not the how.

(6) Half-measures happen while people continue to die. Opposing a “surge” in troop levels, but failing to oppose the war, is a half-measure.

(7) It has been said that “cutting and running” would send the “wrong message” to the world about the US… as if being ground down in a humiliating series of daily defeats hasn’t already accomplished this. That’s what they are. Defeats. Speak plainly. Military success is not predicated on tactical outcomes; but on political outcomes. By this measure, the US has already lost the war in Iraq. We never should have gone there in the first place. If this is about preserving the “national masculinity,” then every life lost in this effort is a pure sin. This machismo is the ideology of gangsters.

(8) De-funding the war will not put troops in danger. Specific conditional allocations of funds can be made available for the sole purpose of conducting a re-deployment. Much of the money being used in Iraq is paying exorbitant prices to private contractors. The war is what is putting troops in danger, not cutting funds to continue an illegal and immoral war.

In November 2006, the majority of voting Americans expressed its opposition to the war by putting Democrats back in control of Congress. You must understand that this was a “vote against,” not a “vote for.” Many of us have been disappointed and even angered by Democratic complicity in this criminal war.

Quit reading the wind, and start reading the weather. Since this horror began, support for US aggression in Iraq has gone from 90% to 30%. Ask yourself what the pattern is here. Republicans are already breaking ranks with the war. Democratic equivocation is establishing the basis for a historical reversal on the political question of the war. Those who are reading the weather will succeed in 2008. Those who are merely reading today's winds will be caught in the storm.

We want out of Iraq. By 2008, the majority of voters will want out of Iraq, and want out immediately, as we do now. They will remember who had the courage to say this before it crossed the 50% tipping point. They will also remember those who had their eyes fixed on today’s anemometer. You have one weapon to use against this administration – the power of the purse – and you must use it.

Not one more day; not one more dime; not one more life; not one more lie. Cut the funds for the war, and bring the troops home now. Please send this to your representatives in Congress.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Deadlock

Democrats in the House are promising to implement a bold agenda over their first 100 hours. They expect to pass the 9/11 Commission recommendations; raise the minimum wage; make college more affordable; and advocate funding for stem cell research. However, there are some critically important issues House Democrats have left out of their agenda, because they are concentrating on things they think can pass and get substantial Republican support.

Democrats could be successful in achieving all of these priorities, but that is only the first step. A bill will have to pass the Senate, which holds the slimmest of majorities and if it pass the Senate the bill become subject to Bush’s veto. In the end only a few items on their agenda may make it into law, because it will be very difficult to override a veto of funding for stem cell research.

Raising the minimum wage has widespread support, but even that's not a given. Republicans are lobbying for more business breaks in exchange for their support, which could be a deal breaker.

On trade, Democrats plan to fight to protect American jobs, replacing free trade with fair trade, but many congressional Republicans, including Bush, vow to fight additional tariffs.

Democrats are not talking about health care reform, Social Security reform, and immigration reform, because they want to concentrate on things they can actually get done.

Iraq was the issue that brought Democrats into power and they have a mandate to do something about it, but the problem is there's not a lot Congress can constitutionally do about Bush’s ongoing military policy.

Democrats can make sure the cost of the war is evident by no longer treating military spending in Iraq as emergency spending outside the regular budget. Senate Democratic committee chairmen have scheduled hearings to look into what went wrong in Iraq and will carefully examine whatever Bush is going to propose.

There’s going to be deadlock on many issues, because the Senate is basically tied, which means deadlock between Bush’s veto and the will of the people.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Senator Kennedy’s Speech

"The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President's new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.

Today I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan.

My proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home. The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq.

This bill will give all Americans, from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii, an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President's speech must be the beginning, not the end, of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President's plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear, yes or no, where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that. Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.

Many of us felt the authorization to go to war was a grave mistake at the time. I've said that my vote against the war in Iraq is the best vote I've cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate.

But no matter what any of us thought then, the Iraq War resolution is obviously obsolete today. It authorized a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But there were no WMDs to destroy. It authorized a war with Saddam Hussein. But today, Saddam is no more. It authorized a war because Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. But there was no alliance.

The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq bears no resemblance whatever to the mission authorized by Congress. President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm's way, without a clear and specific new authorization from Congress.

Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.

Comparisons from history resonate painfully in today's debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.

There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.

Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.

As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer. Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.

The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Strategic Withdrawal

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Sheldon predicted that if you take out Saddam Hussein, we’ll have the Kurds and the Shiites and the Sunnis fighting each other.

Both General Colin Powell and General Schwarzkopf understood the importance of the power doctrine, which requires going in with superior force. By doing so you end the war quickly, and therefore save lives. In the first Gulf War, they deployed a half million troops to liberate a small country like Kuwait.

General Shinseki went before the Senate Armed Services Committee and told them, it would take hundreds of thousands of troops if you invaded Iraq to take Saddam Hussein out and the Bush regime relieved him of his command. General Tommy Franks argued in the first briefing in Crawford, Texas for 500,000 troops, but was denied. Our Commander-in-Chief decided to go into Iraq with 150,000 troops and our troops have been paying the price in blood ever since.

Many generals that have led divisions in Iraq insist that Iraq is not winnable militarily, and we should be seeking a diplomatic and political solution. Our military should be told to put together an orderly plan for a strategic withdrawal of our ground forces out of Iraq. We need not withdraw diplomatically, because ultimately the problem is political.

Some Senators claim that a precipitous withdrawal with a timeline would create chaos and guarantee defeat. Senators McCain and Liberman want to dispatch another 50,000 troops to bolster the our current military presence in Iraq. Their plan is reminiscent of Vietnam, when General Westmoreland asked for 50,000 more troops and then 100,000 more troops. More troops are not the answer, because there is not a military solution.

We've been in Iraq for almost four years. We have already lost militarily and created chaos. We’ve lost more than 3,000 brave young men and women with 25,000 wounded, many of whom will be maimed for life. How many more years are we going tolerate our troops dying in a situation, which isn’t working? 

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Voters Have Spoken

More than a year ago, Senators Kerry and Finegold followed the lead of Congressman Murtha by calling for a withdrawal 0f our troops from Iraq. Russ Finegold said: "This is building, and the American people are actually way ahead of the Senate on this."

They described the war in Iraq as a mistake and dismissed concerns of other Democrats, who claimed that setting a fixed date would leave those in a tough re-election fights open to Republican taunts that they are "cutting and running". John Kerry’s responded: “voters can sense when you're being resolute for convenience sake, or for political advantage."

Republican strategist were delighted with Kerry’s proposal to redeploy our troops. They were certain it would lead to Democrats being defeated in November and allow them to declare themselves the party of unity and strength.

Nevertheless, Senator Kerry characterized his statement as the position of strength, and told Democrats they were making a mistake by not taking a firm stand. Kerry insisted: "As far as I'm concerned, we should go right at Karl Rove and his phony tough talk that is calculated purely for the election and not for a successful strategy in Iraq. I'm doing what I think is the right thing to do as a policy matter for our troops and for the country. What's clear is that it was the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. I couldn't have been clearer about the president mishandling the war. One thing the Democrats agree on is that this war has taken too long, is too expensive and has cost too many lives.”

Voters looked at how Republican’s were handling the war in Iraq and made their voices heard on election day. The overriding issue in the mid-term election was that Bush got us into Iraq and that the commander in chief hadn’t figured out a strategy that will show light at the end of the tunnel. Stay the course, by any other name is no longer acceptable and it’s the responsibility of every member of Congress to find a way out of Iraq.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Fiasco

The invasion of Iraq is a distraction from the global war on terrorism. By fraudulently linking Iraq and al Qaeda; Bush was able to carry out an agenda, which was first revealed by Paul Wolfowitz in 1992.

Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were among 18 signatures on a letter to President Clinton in 1998, which urged a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein. Of the eighteen signers of that letter; eleven held post in the Bush administration, when Iraq was invaded. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill confirms that ten days after Bush's inauguration in 2001, the focus of the National Security Council meeting was the invasion of Iraq.

As Rumsfeld’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz insisted the estimate by Gen. Shinseki that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq was "widely off the mark." He also claimed: "There was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq”.

Furthermore, he insisted that the idea that the cost of war and reconstruction might be $100 billion was too high. Last year, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Linda Bilmes estimated that the "true costs" of the war will eventually be more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion. Their study includes both direct and indirect costs of the war, which our nation will have to shoulder for generations.

Early in 2004, Paul Wolfowitz testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Hillary Clinton asked Wolfowitz “Why should we believe your assurances now?...When it comes to making estimates or predictions about what will occur in Iraq, and what will be the costs in lives and money...you have made numerous predictions, time and time again that have turned out to be untrue and were based on faulty assumptions.”

In the best selling book “Fiasco”, Thomas Ricks reports that after his confrontation with Senator Clinton, a friend of Wolfowitz said that he began to worry that he would be scapegoated for Iraq. The Commander in Chief has and will continue to have the ultimate responsibility for the fiasco in Iraq. In fact, Bush’s entire presidency has been a complete and ignominious failure.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pandering or Leadership

Since the very beginning, Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich from Ohio has opposed the war in Iraq. In 2002, he asked: “The American people want to know what will the use of force in Iraq cost and how will it be paid for?”

Everything Kucinich predicted turned out to be accurate. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had no intention or capability of attacking us, but we preemptively attacked them.

Rep. Kucinich is calling upon members of the House of Representatives to cut off future funding for the war and force Bush to bring our troops home. He insists voters put Democrats in power for that purpose. Kucinich wants his Democratic colleagues, who are now the majority, to vote against the next appropriations bill, which would allow the war to continue through the end of Bush’s term. In October, $70 billion was appropriated for the war, which should be used to bring our troops home.

Kucinich finds it illogical to appropriate even more money to keep them in Iraq for another two years, when everyone agrees the war cannot be won militarily. Democrats have to realize it’s not credible to simultaneously say that you oppose the war in Iraq and continue to fund it. Kucinich is trying to save the Democratic Party from making a tremendous mistake, because appropriating more funds to continue the war would be buying into Bush’s unwinnable war.

American needs a leader with foresight, because that's what leadership is all about. It’s time for Democratic candidates for president to stand up and begin showing leadership.

Kucinich voted for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House and expects her to build support in Congress to bring our troops home. He insists that those politicians, who continue to vote to fund the war, shouldn’t be telling the American people they're opposed to the war, while bemoaning the plight of the troops.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Public Education

The concept that public education is the great equalizer in this country is in jeopardy. Schools in our poorest states are being shortchanged by policies that distribute federal aid to public schools. Wealthier states are receiving more federal funds than poorer states.

Ideally, public education would arm students with knowledge so that as adults, they’ll be able to move up the ladder and achieve success. However, this is not necessarily true in our a public school system, because states spend the money differently, and the federal government has a very complex formula for allocating money. For example, in Massachusetts, the federal dollars spent per child is $2,310, however there are far more poor students in Oklahoma, where the amount spent is just over $1,000.

Title I money is the largest anti-poverty education program and about $13 billion gets distributed to states by a series of formulas. The formulas basically look at two issues. First is the number of poor children in any given state, but the second factor in the formula is the average per student expenditures in that state. Congress wanted to reward states that spent a lot on public education. This formula tends to reward wealthier states, while states that have less wealth may tax themselves at higher rates, but get less in federal financial aid.

Spending $13 billion in Title I funds is narrowing the gap between rich and poor students within a state, but when we look at across states, we’ll find that the formula tends to make the inequalities in education funding greater, rather than narrowing them.

Title I is commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act and Congress is expected to reauthorize it next year. They'll be reviewing all of the law's provisions not just the funding. Hopefully, Congress can come up with a law, which will address some of the inequalities across states.

Students going to a school that educates mostly kids growing up in poverty are less likely to have qualified teachers and a challenging curriculum. There is a lot that needs to be done, but funding is just part of the solution.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Git 'er Done

"The bad thing of war is that it makes more evil people than it can take away." Immanual Kant (1724-1804 German philosopher)

Tomorrow morning in Baghdad, our troops will be expected to protect Iraqis on both sides from sectarian violence, while being attacked by both sides, and trying not to take a side themselves.

Tomorrow, a newly elected Democratic majority takes office in Washington and in state capitals across the country. Many Democrats will be celebrating as they head into the New Year because they are the majority in the House and the Senate, and having captured the majority of governorships. They believe that the 2006 election made it clear where voters stand, because every single incumbent Democrat was re-elected and many more Democrats beat Republican candidates everywhere.

Hopefully, they will celebrate something more important than winning an election. They should be celebrating an opportunity to change our country for the better. Their efforts must be to beat back cynicism and help people believe that they can make change and solve real problems.

Some Democrats claim that elections are not mandates, but power being loaned to politicians for a period of time. Nevertheless, congressional Democrats need to be reminded that although they are presently in the majority, voters will expect them to fulfill the promises they made in the election. Many Democratic, Republican and Independent voters believe that congressional Democrats were given a mandate to get our troops out of Iraq before 2008. Newly elected Democrats in both the House and Senate are expected to get it done. The voters that put them in office are not in a mood to accept excuses two years from now.

Many voters and people throughout the world will not begin to celebrate until Bush is out of office and all of our troops are out of Iraq. One election may be over, but Democratic party leaders need to focus on the war in Iraq. Git ‘er done or suffer the consequences in 2008.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Monumental Costs

Tragically, the human cost of the war in Iraq has reached 3,002 exceptionally brave young Americans. The death toll during the month of December was 116, which was the deadliest month of 2006. As the human cost climbs, the Bush regime has been cynically hiding the monumental financial costs, that will eventually fall on the middle class.

The Iraq war is costing the American taxpayer $8 billion a month, according to congressional researchers. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is preparing another $100 billion supplemental spending bill to pay for the war.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Linda Bilmes estimated that the "true costs" of the war will eventually be more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion. Their study includes both direct and indirect costs of the war, which our nation will have to shoulder for generations.

Democrats must scrutinize the figures of the cost of this war more closely, because the Bush regime has become very skilled at obscuring the true costs by not including war expenses in the regular budget.

The cost of this war is fueling the national debt. Along with entitlement spending, it is creating a growing financial burden on middle class families. In 2006, the federal government added another $248 billion to the federal debt.

Forty percent of the federal budget are for items in the entitlement category. Twenty percent of the budget goes for Social Security, plus another twenty percent for Medicare and Medicaid. In the must pay category are payments on our federal debt, which make up seven percent. The amount our government spends paying off the interest on our federal debt is seven times greater than what we spend on education.

Bush will present a budget, which will include entitlements, but only for the next five years. The big crunch on Social Security and Medicare comes after that, as the baby boom generation retires medical costs will rise dramatically. Tough choices are ahead that will affect most middle class families, because it will mean future tax increases or cuts in Medicare and Social Security services.

Monday, January 01, 2007

"Please heed the call"

The November election made it clear; the times, they are a-changin'. In Margaretville N.Y. on 12/15 a woman, whose brother was killed in Iraq two years ago, joined a small group of committed Peace Vigil participants on a very cold day.

In Delhi N.Y. on 12/16, Kathy and Karen counted the reactions from vehicles driving past their Peace Vigil. In 60 minutes they received 115 favorable reactions from those driving by. On Jan. 6 th. they will begin counting both the favorable and unfavorable reactions in order to make a valid comparison.

On 12/24, another notable event took place at the anti-war protest in Stamford N.Y. A car with three young men went past the war protesters. Carl Merena, a dedicated protester noticed that the car went into the local convenience store parking area, turned around and came back down the road. Carl expected a negative comment. The window rolled down and the driver yelled: “I’m a sergeant in the Army and I want to thank you for what you are doing.” That said, they drove off.

Carl Merena wrote: “I feel that the tides are changing as a result of the midterm elections. I hope that some sanity is coming back to the people of this country. If you don’t like what is happening, get out and join a protest, call your elected officials and tell them what you are thinking, write a letter to the editor. Sitting idle will gain nothing.”

Let’s make Carl’s suggestion our New Year resolution. If you have difficulty expressing your thoughts to our elected officials consider sending them Bob Dylan’s lyrics:

Come senators, congressmen, Please heed the call,
Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block up the hall,
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.
There's a battle outside, And it is ragin'.
It’ll soon shake your windows, And rattle your walls,
For the times they are a-changin'.