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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Senator Kennedy on Iraq

The following is a letter I received from Senator Kennedy:

"Iraq is the most pressing problems facing our nation, and I appreciate this opportunity to share my views.

"I, and all Americans, support our troops. They’ve fought and continue to fight bravely, and we owe them an extraordinary debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, the President has failed to give our troops a policy worthy of their sacrifice. He failed them when he sent them into a misguided war without a plan to win the peace. He failed them when he sent them into battle without adequate equipment, and he continues to fail them by relying on a military solution to violence that requires a political solution.

"When the President announced the current troop surge, he claimed it would be limited in size and duration. We have now sent nearly 30,000 troops as part of the surge, and still the President says we must wait longer for results. It’s obvious that the surge has failed. Violence continues unabated in Baghdad and has spread across the country. The political progress that was supposed to accompany the surge has yet to materialize. The promised reconciliation between religious and ethnic groups, the restructuring of the oil industry, and other basic reforms and benchmarks have yet to be achieved. As long as our troop commitment remains open-ended, and we continue to fight their civil war for them, the Iraqis will have no incentive to make the hard political choices necessary.

"We have given the President every opportunity to show progress, but our soldiers face an increasingly violent and deadly insurgency. Congress and the American people have lost faith in the Administration’s competence and its ability to manage the war. It’s time to change course in Iraq. The President must listen to Congress and the American people, begin to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and develop a serious plan to move forward.

"Again, thank you for sharing your views on the war. I’ll continue to do all I can in Congress to see that our forces are withdrawn and that our nation adopts a competent and attainable policy for Iraq."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spiritual Wars

Pastor Greg Boyd founded the Woodland Hills Church near St. Paul, Minnesota. Boyd studied religion at the Yale Divinity School and Princeton’s Theological Seminary. As a professor, he taught theology for 16 years.

Prior to the 2004 election, Boyd preached that his congregation should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

In American society, where conservative Christianity and right-wing politics have become married, Greg Boyd wants a divorce. He’s a conservative Christian, who is very concerned about the extent to which the “kingdom of the world”, is being fused with the Christian faith. He says that it’s almost like the Taliban, an Islamic state, with Evangelicals wanting to run a Christian society and enforce Christian laws. His concern is that it’s very damaging for the church and it’s also very damaging for society.

Boyd preaches a Christian message with a strong focus on personal relationships with Jesus Christ. He insists: “When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses. When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

He states that he’s pro-life to the core of his being and believes that homosexuality misses God’s ideal. He points out that the Bible mentions gossip, greed and gluttony. In fact, greed and gluttony are two of the most common sins, held up in the ancient world as the supreme sins. They’re frequently mentioned in the Bible, much more than homosexuality. He insists: “The enemy isn’t the liberals. And the enemy is not the conservatives. The enemy is not the abortionists. The enemy is not the gay-rights activists.”

Boyd is disturbed by the fusion of faith and politics. He wonders; “Why in order to be pro-life, you’re expected to support a candidate whose mission is to overturn Roe vs. Wade?” He believes that to be pro-life is not just being concerned about the womb. It’s to be concerned about life. For example, what’s the relationship between poverty and abortion? Studies show that there’s a direct correlation there. So, maybe the best way to lessen abortion in society is to vote for the candidate that you think is going to do the most for poverty.

He’s concerned that Christians have gone from being a movement of people who follow the Messiah, who taught us to love our enemies, to a movement that encourages death and destruction.

Boyd is fighting to keep partisan politics out of the church. He says: “Jesus never so much as commented on the politics of his day. We’re to follow his example.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Best Health Care?

The World Health Organization ranked the health systems of 191 nations. France was ranked 1st and America was a dismal 37th. Recently, the Commonwealth Fund compared us with other advanced nations. We ranked last compared to Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage, and most of them have comprehensive benefit packages with no cost-sharing by the patients. We have some 45 million people without health insurance and many more millions who have poor coverage. People without insurance postpone treatment until a minor illness becomes worse, harming their health and imposing greater costs.

With the exception of Germany, Americans usually get prompter attention. However, Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room, and many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.

America ranks dead last on almost all measures of equity, because we have the greatest disparity in the quality of care given to our poorer citizens. Americans with below-average incomes are much less likely than their counterparts in other industrialized nations to see a doctor when sick, to fill prescriptions or to get needed tests and follow-up care.

For years, we’ve known that America has a high infant mortality rate, so it is no surprise that we rank last among 23 nations. We rank near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60, and 15th among 19 countries in deaths from a wide range of illnesses that would not have been fatal if treated with timely and effective care.

The Commonwealth Fund ranked America first in providing the “right care” for a given condition as defined by standard clinical guidelines and gave us high marks for preventive care.

America had the best survival rate for breast cancer, but in an eight-country comparison, the we ranked last in years of potential life lost to circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes and had the second highest death rate from bronchitis, asthma and emphysema.

Much of our health care system is still operating in the dark ages. American primary care doctors lag years behind doctors in other advanced nations in adopting electronic medical records or prescribing medications electronically.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Edwards on Domestic Issues

If you believe this country needs fundamental change don’t settle for compromise or empty rhetoric. Tell your representatives in Washington that increasing access to healthcare isn’t sufficient. We must demand the same health care that is afforded members of Congress.

John Edwards said it best: “The people who are powerful in Washington - big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they’re going to give away their power is if we take it away from them.”

Those interests are not going to fund the campaigns of honest politicians. They are going to do everything they can to stop politicians, who are ready to make fundamental changes. The country needs leadership that will end the war in Iraq. A leaders ready to take on the insurance companies and HMOs to fight for universal health care. A president eager to take on the oil industry and change our energy policies to end global warming. A person that is committed to taking on the powerful who care about nothing but profits and greed at the expense of working people, the middle class and the poor.

John Edwards says that we a need truly universal health care for every man, woman and child. As president he would move America towards energy independence, by helping our auto industry to build the most innovative, fuel-efficient vehicles on the planet with union workers.

Edwards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year 2050, by investing in wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels. He would support the development of carbon capture technology.

Edwards considers New Orleans a national embarrassment and says that we have a responsibility to do something about it, because it says something about the character of our country, how we treat millions of own people. 

He would have personally been there with the people who were struggling and suffering in New Orleans as soon as possible. He would have designated a high-level person in the White House whose job it was to report to him every single day what was accomplished in New Orleans yesterday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Graduation Rate

Twenty years ago, the nation’s governors met with President George H.W. Bush in what was billed as the first and only education summit in the country.  At that meeting, they set several national education goals, one of which called for increasing the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2000. 
With only about 70 percent of students graduating on time with a high school diploma, we are not even close to achieving that goal. 
We need to revive the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate and get as close as we can to meeting that goal over the next five years.  Fortunately, we have the knowledge to achieve this goal; we just need the commitment and the resources to get it done.
Two thousand high schools are responsible for the majority of dropouts in our country.  These schools are in every state and collectively serve more than a third of the nation’s African-American and Hispanic students. 
In addition to knowing the problem schools, we can also identify with a high degree of certainty which students will enter high school at-risk for dropping out.  If a student has missed a number of days of school, has failed courses in reading or math, has been in trouble at school, and hasn’t been promoted to the next grade on time, we know that this child is not likely to graduate with a high school diploma.  
Research shows we can improve student attendance and behavior if we restructure schools into smaller, more personalized learning environments that create conditions for success.  When the size of the school is reduced, benefits become apparent quickly.  Student attendance improves, and at the same time there is a decline in incidences of alcohol and tobacco use, as well as crime, violence, and gang participation.  Teachers spend less time maintaining order and more time teaching, and students experience a greater sense of belonging and are more satisfied with their schools.
Getting students to show up to school and keeping them engaged is just the first step. Improving student outcomes is the second step. Schools that change their structure and add instructional improvements have been successful in raising student achievement and increasing graduation rates.  These improvements include a high-quality curriculum, math and English courses to help struggling students transition to high school, and ongoing professional training and coaching for teachers.  

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Made in China

Companies that outsource production to cheap overseas labor markets put Americans at risk from dangerous imports. Outsourcing, especially the manufacturing of toys, has been incredibly profitable for Mattel and other companies. After two recalls, totaling $30 million, Mattel is attempting to salvage the reputation of its brand and regain control of its outsourced manufacturing.

Over the past five years, Mattel earned $2.3 billion selling toys, the majority of them made in China. The toy industry was one of the first to outsource its manufacturing to China and today 80 percent of America’s toys are made there.

There are serious questions about whether companies have outsourced safety in exchange for low labor costs, greater efficiency and profit. One supply chain consultant says, no matter who makes the toy, Mattel’s name is on the product and it’s responsible for safety. It’s incumbent on Mattel to understand not only what’s going on in that supplier’s factory as well as their supplier’s supplier’s factory. They have got to trace it all the way back and that’s a difficult thing to do. In the case toys, something went very wrong in the complex global production chain.

Deloitte Consulting has warned, “The search for cheaper labor, cheaper raw materials and cheaper transportation creates a perfect storm of risk not seen before in the history of commerce or humankind.”

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin says that: “Companies cannot outsource their responsibility to American consumers. When families walk into toy stores, they assume the product on the shelf, is safe.” Senator Durbin insists retailers and manufacturers should require third-party inspections before a toy even make it into the United States.

Mattel says it is working around the clock to improve its current system and is increasing unannounced random inspections of the vendors, who make its popular toy brands.

The Toy Industry Association claims that there’s no reason to believe that the toys on the shelves of American toy stores are not safe. However, critics say, if they are safe, then why are we recalling them? Consumer advocates say we have lost control of the supply chain and we are seeing the fallout from that.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Military Suicides

As triple amputee, former Senator Max Cleland insists the deepest wounds and scars of war are psychological, mental and emotional, which you carry to your grave. Major depression should be anticipate and if we don’t intervene with the emotional aftermath of war early, it can turn into alcoholism, drug addiction, depression and suicide.

A new report from the U.S. military is showing a disturbing increase in soldier suicides. Last year, 101 American soldiers took their own lives. That is the highest military suicide rate in 26 years. Nearly a third of the deaths were by troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grieving family members are wondering if they could have been prevented.

April Somdahl's younger brother committed suicide after serving in Iraq. She got along great with her brother, whom she described as always smiling, adventurous and as having a great outlook on life. He was very warm hearted and willing to help with everything. He went into the war with a hero mentality to defend his country. The first sign that something had gone wrong, began after Suddam Hussein was captured. April’s brother believed that the war was going to be over and wondered why he was still in Iraq and why everybody was still suffering.

He had experienced the trauma of being thrown into a war-time situation and the stresses that go with it. He thought he was prepared, but his sister doesn't know all what he had experienced or how it drained on him mentally.

April believes her brother would be alive today, if he was discharged after his first deployment. Everyone in the family told him to turn to the military, that they have a responsibility to help him heal and to fix him after the situation he’d been in.

April has a lot of deep-seated angry feelings towards the military and how the war situation is being handled. The fact that her brother volunteered doesn’t mitigate any of the anger she feels towards the military.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Precious Commodity

Rudyard Kipling wrote: “If any question why we died tell them because our fathers lied.” Bush lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda.

The war “against terrorism”, is more accurately described as the global war for oil. For many years, rural communities have produced a precious commodity, which our military and global capitalist economy can’t do without. That commodity is the patriotic youth that enlist in the military.

The death rate for “rural soldiers is 60% higher than the death rate for those soldiers from cities and suburbs.” Rural youth join the military at higher rates than those from metropolitan areas, because rural areas offer young people few alternatives to military service.

Some Delaware County youth are enlisting in the military to become God’s Christian Warriors. In 2003, an Associated Press poll found that 77% of Evangelicals favored the Iraqi war. Furthermore, 62%, of Catholics and mainline Protestants were in favor of war.

Some Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic voters in Delaware County were encourage from the pulpit not to vote for John Kerry in order to re-elect, born-again Christian, George W. Bush.

Terrorists can only succeed in ruining America if they successfully frighten us into exhausting our human resources and neglecting our infrastructure by funding a war with no foreseeable end. We cannot neglect our youth and domestic infrastructure by continuing to waste money on military overspending. We must force our leaders to withdraw our troops and reallocate funds from war projects to domestic infrastructure like schools and bridges.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

“Get Out Now!”

Retired Army Lt. General William Odom stated that the surge was sold as a strategy when in fact it was a tactic to pack a lot of troops into the Baghdad area. The rest of the country is pretty much left open to the insurgents to stir up things where they want to. What you’re seeing there will be repeated even if things were to level out between the Sunnis and the Shiites. You’ll see even more bloody violence, between the Kurds and the Arabs, when they decide to fight over the oil in Kirkuk.

You’re seeing the Iranians put in lots of capabilities, because they’re preparing to raise the heat higher if we attack them. Gen. Odom doesn’t see any reason for optimism whatsoever. This has never been done in an Arab country before successfully. The idea that there’s any historical precedent for coming out of this with a regime that will be pro U.S. and consolidated, just boggles the mind. Furthermore, it will take a violent revolution to stabilize Iraq. We’d have to side with the Sunnis against the Shiites, let them win, repress the Kurds, and get out.

Iraqi people on the street believe that their government is utterly useless, ineffective and does not have the best interests of the nation at heart. Iraqis want to see some sort of political progress. Anything to happen to get them out of their current way of life, but there is very little faith in this current government. Nothing is happening in Iraq politically, and until that begins to change, the nation is not going to move forward.

Sunni insurgents have come over to the American side, but that is more the result of an al Qaeda failure rather than America developing an ability to win over Sunni hearts and minds. Odom believes that the United States is laying down the building blocks for what many people are calling an inevitable civil war. On the one side you’ll have the U.S. and the Sunnis and on the other side, you’re going to have the Shiites backed by Iran.

A soft partition concept has been suggested, whereby they establish three autonomous regions, but it’s not very likely to be attempted. Another way is to stay long enough with 50,000 to 75,000 forces, in the highly charged areas to prevent violence. It’s would mean a sustained American presence, but no immediate withdraw not even in the next couple years.

General Odom points out that we’re sitting on a civil war and we’re participating on one side and then the other. There is going to be violence and we need to get out and let the civil war come to its logical conclusion with one side winning. We started the civil war, by getting rid of Saddam, who kept order. Once we got rid of Saddam, there was no way to prevent a civil war from occurring.

In 2005, Odom said; “If Bush wants to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, the only way to achieve that goal is for the our armed forces to get out of Iraq now.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Valid Perspective

First published New York Times August 19, 2007.

“The War as We Saw It” by Army Specialist Buddhika Jayamaha, Sgt. Wesley D. Smith, Sgt. Jeremy Roebuck , Sgt. Omar Mora, Sgt. Edward Sandmeier, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, and Staff Sgt. Jeremy A. Murphy.

Please note: On 9/10/07, co-authors Sgt. Omar Mora, and Sgt. Yance Gray died in Iraq along with six other soldiers and two detainees.

“Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

“The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

“A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

“As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

“Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

“However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

“In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

“Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

“Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

“The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

“Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

“Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

“At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

“In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

“In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

“Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

“We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sen. Clinton on Iraq

The following excerpts are from an e-mail, I received from Senator Clinton: “I believe that the President should abandon his escalation of the war and begin a phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. In late May, I voted against a second version of the supplemental appropriations bill because it failed to compel the President to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq. I fully support our troops, and wish that the President had followed the will of the American people and signed the original bill Congress sent to the White House in April, which would have both funded the troops and set us on a new course of phased redeployment.
“In the Senate, I will continue to seek responsible ways to force the President to change course and begin to bring our troops home. In May, I announced that I would co-sponsor legislation to set an expiration date of October 11, 2007 for the authorization for the use of force in Iraq. I believe that a full reconsideration of the terms and conditions of that authorization is overdue. This bill would do just that by requiring the President to ask Congress for a new authorization if the Administration seeks to continue the war.
“I have also called on both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace to brief Congress on any existing contingency plans for the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, or to provide an explanation as to why such plans have not been properly created. I did so because Congress must be sure that we are fully prepared to withdraw our forces without any unnecessary danger. We cannot afford to repeat past failures, such as not planning adequately for the conflict and failing to properly equip our men and women in uniform.
“I introduced the Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act to halt the President's escalation policy and to provide an alternative strategy to stabilize the country a strategy that would enable the President to end the war before he leaves office.
“Specifically, my bill would cap the number of troops in Iraq at the level before the President's escalation. It would be against the law to send more. The legislation also sets out to protect our troops , who are performing heroically by prohibiting the use of funds to send them to Iraq unless they have the proper equipment and training. This is critical in light of February's Department of Defense Inspector General report, which concluded that the U.S. military is still failing to adequately equip our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“My bill also aims at putting real pressure on the Iraqi government, requiring them to make political progress on key issues such as ensuring that the Iraqi security forces are free of militia or sectarian influence or lose funding for their military and reconstruction. Such provisions would increase our leverage with the Iraqi government and send the message that there are consequences for continued inaction.”

Monday, August 20, 2007

John Edwards on Iraq

John Edwards offers a specific exit strategy for bringing American troops home from Iraq. As president he would immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops out of northern and southern Iraq and would continue to withdraw combat troops out of Iraq over the course of the next 10 months. He would get Sunni and the Shia leadership engaged in serious discussions to see if they can reach some kind of political reconciliation, because without a compromise, there’s never going to be peace in Iraq.

Edwards would engage every other country in the region, especially the Iranians and the Syrians, into helping stabilize Iraq. He insists that they don’t have an interest in stabilizing Iraq as long as America is an occupying force. Edwards believes America must make it clear that we’re pulling combat troops out of Iraq and once our troops are no longer occupying Iraq. The last thing the Iranians want is a million refugees coming across their border.  They don’t want a broader Middle East conflict between Shia and Sunni, because they are a Shia country in a Sunni dominated Muslim world.

On the other hand, Senator Clinton has talked about keeping some troops in Iraq for the long haul to fight al Qaeda and to keep Iran’s hands off the situation. This is the major difference between these two presidential hopefuls.

As our combat troops are pulled out of Iraq, Edwards would maintain a rapid-deployment force in Kuwait and would ask the Jordanians to allow us to station troops in their country. He would fortify our position in Afghanistan, because the Taliban’s reemerging and maintain a naval presence in the Persian Gulf. A larger than normal contingent of troops would most likely have to be stationed in Baghdad to protect our embassy. Bush made yet another argument for continuing the war, John Edwards spoke directly to the American people and told us, clearly and simply, why we need to end the war in Iraq now.
John Edwards' message is unambiguous. No timeline, no funding. No excuses.

John Edwards says that it’s importance for America to again be seen as a force for good. He wants to change the image of America and demonstrate that we are no longer the country of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and torture. He promise that on the first day as president of the United States, he will close Guantanamo.  

Sunday, August 19, 2007

According to Plan

President George H.W. Bush’s Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney made the following statement concerning the war to liberate Kuwait.

“If we’d gone to Baghdad, we would have been all alone.  There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us.  It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq.  None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. 

“Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world. And, if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off, part of it—the Syrians would like to have to the west. Part of eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim, fought over for eight years. 

“In the north, you have got the Kurds. And, if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

“The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had.  But, for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war.  And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was, how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

“And our judgment was, not very many.  And I think we got it right.”

In 1994, Dick Cheney, insisted going into Baghdad would have been a bad idea, which indicates that the Bush regime knew exactly what would occur in Iraq. So far, everything has gone according to plan in the global war for oil, which the Cheney presently refers to as the war “against terrorism”.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

China’s Trade Practices

China is using a number of unfair trade practices to increasingly dominate American industry. Chinese exporters commonly target a specific industry and then flood the market with cheap subsidized products. These predatory trade tactics are rarely challenged by the Bush regime.

Steel pipe is used in housing, plumbing, fencing and a variety of construction. However, Chinese steel pipe imports have jumped 900 percent in the last four years, driving many U.S. producers out of business.

The United Steelworkers Union says hundreds of jobs have been lost in the last three years because of Chinese imports. Despite the fact that demand for steel pipe is booming. They charge the Bush administration has not used its trade authority to demand accountability from the Chinese government.

The steelworkers have joined one of the largest anti-dumping cases ever against the China, because they are undercutting prices by as much as 80 percent. The Chinese have used the same tactics to target the garlic industry, which has lost 50 percent of the market to Chinese producers. Garlic is priced about 30 percent below what it costs U.S. producers to grow.

Additionally, nearly half of the canned mushroom industry has become Chinese produced. There are fewer than five producers left in the United States. Furthermore, the Chinese have dominated about a quarter of the honey market since 2001, often avoiding duties on its shipments of honey to America, sometimes by falsifying the paper work, to read "product of Mongolia," which has no domestic honey production.

Chinese exporters use a variety of tactics, mislabeling cases on what is inside or faking paperwork to read the crates had been sent from another country such at Vietnam or Thailand.

The newest recall of dangerous exports from communist China. Hundreds of thousands of defective tires are being recalled because they lack an important safety feature. A New Jersey-based tire importer, Foreign Tire Sales, is taking 255,000 tires off of the market. Now federal officials originally ordered a recall of about half a million tires. The tires were bought between 2004 and 2006. Other Chinese products that have been recalled include pet food, toys, and toothpaste.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Undervalued Currency

Communist China’s trade surplus continues to soar amid growing pressure on China to stop unfair trade practices. China’s trade surplus is more than $136 billion so far this year. Chinese exports for the month of July increased almost 35 percent. The United States reported a trade deficit of $232.5 billion with China last year.

China’s ownership of massive amounts of U.S. debt is a threat to our economic stability. Communist China is hinting it has the power to trigger a dollar crash, in respond to the increasing pressure to become a fair trading partner.

Bush and his top economic advisers at the Treasury Department, are playing up our economy, at the same time his treasury secretary down plays China’s threat, to dump U.S. Treasuries. A communist party official wrote: “The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell U.S. dollars which might lead to a mass depreciation of the U.S. dollar.” The U.K. Telegraph notes another leader recently called U.S. reserves a “bargaining chip,” dollar sales China’s “nuclear option.”

U.S. Business and Industry Council warns that the Chinese do hold very significant leverage over the U.S. economy because they hold so much U.S. debt, and by holding that debt, they subsidize American consumption and help keep our living standards artificially high. However, China desperately needs the United States to serve as the market for its manufactured goods.

China holds $1.3 trillion worth of reserves, $407 billion in Treasuries and dumping them would be devastating to the U.S. economy, slamming the dollar and driving up interest rates.

The communist party think tanks have started to put out the message that selling of U.S. Treasuries would have negative consequences on America as a reminder to Congress. They are raising that possibility so that Congress won’t attempt to get China to change it’s currency exchange rate. Recently, China has let its currency rise 3.8 percent, which is nowhere near enough, because China’s currency is 40 to 50 percent undervalued and letting it rise four percentage points a year doesn’t do much good.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Merchants of Death

According to the Congressional Research Service’s, the United States is by far the largest weapons dealer in the world. From 1998 to 2005, the U.S. exported $109 billion worth of weapons around the world. The U.K. came in a distant second with $39 billion in worldwide weapons sales and Russia came in third with $34 billion.

Bush has proposed to send tens of billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, and five other states in the Persian Gulf. It’s part of a region-wide effort to build a buffer against Iran and terror groups. However, some wonder whether those weapons would eventually wind up in the wrong hands and end up destabilizing the Middle East region even further.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will push Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to support the Iraq governments crack down on Saudi fighters joining the Sunni insurgency. They have propose a $20 billion arms sale of very sophisticated equipment, including warships, missiles and precision-guided bombs to sweeten the deal.

The Saudi deal is just part of a broader American effort over the next decade to sell more than $60 billion of arms across the Middle East, establishing a military hedge against Iran.

Furthermore, the Bush regime is considering arms deals with five other Gulf Arab states, and talks have begun with Egypt on a military assistance package totaling about $13 billion over the next 10 years. Israel is likely to receive a total of $30 billion in U.S. military assistance over the next decade.

These arms deal would have two predictable consequences: First, if and when war breaks out, the level of destruction will be greater. Second, weapons manufacturers with influence in Washington will reap billions of dollars in windfall profits. Military production creates fewer jobs per dollar invested than civilian industry.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was part of a broader U.S. strategy to destabilize the Middle East, to get countries afraid so that they’ll buy American weapons. In essence, this is all about money for war profiteers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

“Fascism Anyone?”

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article entitled "Fascism Anyone?" His lists the 14 characteristics of fascism are:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored. The people tend to approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, and lengthy incarcerations of prisoners.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat, which include ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists or terrorists.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation.

6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Evading Substance

In February, former Senator John Edwards transformed the whole health care debate with a plan that offers a politically and fiscally plausible path to universal health insurance.

He deserves a lot of the credit by forcing a debate to a level of substance among Democrats. Furthermore, Edwards has offered a detailed, sensible plan for tax reform, and serious antipoverty initiatives.

Four months after Edwards’ health care plan was announced, Senator Barack Obama followed with a similar, but less comprehensive plan. Obama has also announced a serious plan to fight poverty.

Senator Hillary Clinton has remained evasive. She communicates the impression that there’s not much difference between her policy positions and those of the other candidates, but she’s offered few specifics. Unlike Edwards and Obama, Hillary Clinton hasn’t announced a specific universal care plan, or explicitly committed herself to paying for health reform by letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire.

The lack of specifics on a plan for universal health care is disturbing. In February’s Democratic debate Senator Clinton suggested a lack of urgency, by stating: “Well, I want to have universal health care coverage by the end of my second term.”

At the Yearly Kos Convention in Chicago, she sounded more forceful by stating: “Universal health care will be my highest domestic priority as president.” Nevertheless, Clinton has said nothing about how she would cover the uninsured.

Senator Clinton insists that her positions could never be influenced by lobbyists’ money. However, we should be concerned about the large contributions she has received from the health insurance and drug industries, because they may be backing the Democratic candidate least likely to hurt their profits.

Senator Clinton is showing an almost Republican aversion to articulating a specific position on universal health care and talking about substance.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Military Technology

The United States exports billions of dollars in military technology overseas every year. As the demand for our technology rises, there are fewer safeguards to ensure the technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Governments, who are hostile to America and terrorist organizations are willing to shell out millions to acquire our military technology. One exporter managed to use front companies to ship missile technology to North Korea and Libya.

Bush’s state department is in charge of issuing export licenses for military technology, but the division that overseas export controls simply doesn’t have enough personnel. There are only 38 license inspectors responsible for $32 billion of arms exports.

Each inspector is responsible for over 1,700 applications a year, and a single mistake could be very damaging to our national security. The General Accountability Office said our export control systems has deteriorated to the point of being a major risk to our national security.

Trade has increases, and the number of applications for export licenses keep piling up. Applications are expected to increase 23 percent this year. The State Department response is: "While we were faced with a large number of unprocessed applications earlier this year, we have taken steps to markedly reduce this back log."

Democratic lawmakers want it done right because mistakes have been made in the past. For example, a company was allowed to ship night vision goggles without the required export license issued by the State Department.

The Department of Defense’s surplus sales division sold F-14 fighter jet parts, which is used by Iran, to the public. The sales never should happened, but they did because an export control list had not been updated.

It’s inexcusable, what the Bush regime has done to the our national interests. The previous Republican controlled Congress, had no concept at all of what it means to be responsible for over site of our federal government.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Patriotic Employers Act

Lawmakers are introducing a bill called the Patriot Employers Act, which fights plant closing and the out sourcing of millions of jobs to places like communist China, by rewarding companies who keep jobs in the United States.

America has lost more than 3 million jobs over the last six years as its manufacturing base has been shifted out of this country. Companies move the jobs because they’re chasing cheap foreign labor and there are tax incentives to do so. The Patriot Corporations Act would reward companies with tax credits for keeping their businesses here.

The bill’s primary sponsors are Senators Dick Durbin, Sherrod Brown and Barack Obama. On the House side Representative Jan Schakowsky is taking the lead. The bill would reward companies with at least 90 percent of their production in the United States who perform at least 50 percent of their research and development here. Furthermore, it limits management compensation to 100 times the lowest-paid workers. The bill requires participating companies to provide health care insurance for all of its workers and hire American workers. The bill also calls for companies to support our men and women in the military and pay the difference between their regular salary and their military pay.

Hopefully, we’ll have enough companies left in this country that some can qualify. We’ve allowed corporate America to pursue these business practices of out sourcing, which has been devastating to the interest of our nation. For the first time, it’s an attempt by the Congress to create an incentive to keep jobs in America. So far, there are no Republicans signed on in support of this act in either the House or the Senate.

If the Republican Party does not understand that its interests go well beyond corporate America it should fail miserably in next year’s elections.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Defective Products

This year alone, the Food and Drug Administration has rejected more than 1,200 food exports from China into this country. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that China has generated two thirds of the 200 federal product recalls over the past year. However, many defective products, spoiled or contaminated, poisonous food shipments, simply go undetected, because a number of government agencies barely look at the boat loads of imports coming into our country.

The average American eats more than 200 pounds of imported food a year, but less than one percent of that is inspected. The average American home is filled with all kinds of goods from China, electronics, toys, TVs, other manufactured goods. Two thirds of all defective products found this year are imported, the largest number from China. Chinese food imports have tripled in the last decade. Almost none of which is inspected. The FDA at current levels has only enough man power to inspect in an estimated 40 of 361 ports.

More than 12 federal agencies inspect food operating under 35 different statutes and the rules often conflict. There are far too many agencies who share responsibility for this area, but they don't have enough funding.

USDA spending fell by $3 billion in 2007 and a 2006 report found only 15 percent of meat and poultry products were physically inspected. The Consumer Products Safety Commission is at all time low on staff at about 400 inspectors, about half of what they had in the 1980s.

A study found the FDA conducts about a third of the food inspections that it conducted just three years ago. The staff has been cut by about 500 jobs in the last six years and that makes little sense when we're facing growing volume of food imports,

It’s inconceivable that the FDA commissioner defends these cuts when they had to close seven out of 13 testing labs.
Commissioners are political appointees, and one thing that's important to the Bush regime is that politics counts, if you're running an agency. Sadly, the American consumer doesn't count.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Trade Agreements

John Edwards, insists that there are three basic components to negotiating trade agreements. His first criteria is that it be good for middle class working families. Secondly, that it be good for American jobs. And, that the trade agreement results in shared prosperity.

In order to be good for middle class families an agreement must have real environmental standards and labor standards that are enforceable in the text of the agreement. It must, also have controls that prevent the manipulation of currency by those countries that we’re entering into trade agreements with.

The second part of Edwards trade policy would be to make sure that our trade deals and those requirements are, in fact, being enforced. Edwards would move the responsibility for enforcement to the toughest prosecutors at the highest-level of the Justice Department.

Thirdly, before any trade agreement is presented to the Congress, Edwards would insist that an evaluation be completed regarding the impact the trade agreement would have on the American economy especially on communities and jobs. Everybody considering the trade deal, especially the president and members of Congress should be aware of the potential negative impact of the trade agreement, in order to prepare those communities by helping them with job training or economic diversification.

Another 40 million middle class jobs are at risk after all the millions that we've already lost to outsourcing jobs. Edwards would get rid of all provisions in our tax code that provides incentives for American companies to take jobs off shore.

Most of the jobs America has lost are not coming back. Consequently, the way America must compete is to have the most educated, most innovative workforce on the planet. This will required that we have a trade policy that makes sense for American families, not just for big multinational corporations.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fiery Integrity

The idea may seem far fetched, but some Americans fear a coup attempt is a possibility after the 2008 election.

Recently, the name of a legendary Marine was revealed on national television by Cindy Sheehan, and most American’s had no idea who she was talking about. Sheehan told MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "As Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler said, war is a racket, it always has been, and it always will be." Cindy Sheehan believes this was the reason Eisenhower warned, when he left office, of the military-industrial complex.

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In the history of the Marine Corps, only one other person was so honored.

The cover of Butler’s book, “War is a Racket” quotes him as saying: “I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism.”

Furthermore, the book’s introduction disclosed that Butler revealed a plot to seize the government and establish a fascist dictatorship. He testified before a Congressional Committee that several Wall Street bankers, one of them connected to J.P. Morgan Co., several heads of the American Liberty League, and several heads of the American Legion plotted to seize the government of the United States shortly after President Roosevelt established the New Deal. The press, with a few exceptions, suppressed the news. Worse, yet the McCormick-Dirkstein Committee suppressed the facts involving the big business interests, although it confirmed the plot which newspapers and magazines had either refused to mention or had tried to kill by ridicule.

“General Butler has been motivated by the same fiery integrity and loyal patriotism which has distinguished his service in countless Marine campaigns.” -preeminent American radio commentator, Lowell Thomas

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Humanitarian Crisis

According to a survey compiled in Iraq by two major relief agencies, eight million Iraqis or one third of the population have no water, sanitation, food or shelter and need emergency aid. The report says the violence in Iraq is masking a humanitarian crisis that has worsened since the U.S. invasion.

Specific findings in the report state that 70 percent of Iraqis lack access to adequate water supplies. Ninety percent of the country’s hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies. Forty-three percent of Iraqis live in absolute poverty. That’s defined as less than $1 a day. More than half of them don’t have a job. Child malnutrition rates are at 28 percent, up from 19 percent before the U.S. invasion. There are two million internally displaced people, many of them with no access to food. Another two million are refugees that have gone to other countries.

Two million Iraqis are roaming around because of the ethnic cleansing that has taken place. The Shiites have left the Sunni neighborhoods, and Sunni have left the Shiite neighborhoods, because it's simply too dangerous.

A lot of people left the country of their own volition. Many of the intellectuals, the college professors doctors, scientists, those who had the means to get out left a long time ago. The brain drain on that country has been enormous as a result. There’s nobody left in that country except people living at or below the poverty line, refugees, fighters, soldiers and terrorists.

This report suggests that Iraq’s government, along with coalition nations, U.N. agencies and international donors, can and must do a lot more to attack this problem. However, don’t expect any immediate response from members of the Iraqi government, because they’re on a month long summer recess.

What else is left? The oil. “Mission accomplished”, all you gangsters for capitalism.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

General Petraeus

In September, General David Petraeus will be the man who gives “candid advice” to Bush and America about the war.

General Petraeus gave an indication to The Times of London last month, when he said: “September is a deadline for a report, not a deadline for a change in policy.”

Three years ago, Newsweek ran an article entitled “Can This Man Save Iraq?” The article lauded General Petraeus’ pacification of Mosul as “a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way.” Four months later, the police chief installed by Petraeus defected to the insurgents, along with most of the Sunni members of the police force. According to the Pentagon’s most recent report Mosul, population 1.7 million, is an insurgent stronghold.

In late September 2004, Petraeus wrote in The Washington Post: “Training is on track and increasing in capacity.” Prior to the 2004, presidential election Petraeus lauded the increased prowess of the Iraqi fighting forces. Recently, after being pressed in a Pentagon briefing, we learned from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace that the number of Iraqi battalions operating independently has suddenly fallen from 10 in March to a mere six.

“The Occupation of Iraq,” is an authoritative chronicle of post war Iraq, by Ali Allawi. He was the first civilian defense minister of postwar Iraq and has been an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Mr. Allawi writes that the embezzlement of the Iraqi Army’s $1.2 billion arms procurement budget was happening “under the very noses” of the Security Transition Command run by General Petraeus.

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office reported the Pentagon lost track of 190,000 weapons. The AK-47 rifles and pistols were handed over to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. The GAO report raises concerns that the weapons had fallen into the hands of Iraqi insurgents. At the time, General Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

Furthermore, Mr. Allawi insists that under Petraeus the reality for the Iraqi Army was inoperable helicopters, flimsy bulletproof vests and toy helmets. The huge sums that might have helped the Iraqis stand up were instead “handed over to unscrupulous adventurers and former pizza parlor operators.”

Bush’s claim of seeking “candid” advice, is nonsense. He sent a different message before the war, by pushing aside General Eric Shinseki, the general who dared tell Congress the truth that hundreds of thousands of American troops would be needed to secure Iraq. The message was sent again, when Generals John Abizaid and George Casey were force out after they disagreed with the surge.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Reaction to Mr. Canfield

Shortly after Mr. Canfield’s letter was published, he received the following response in the Oneonta Star from Barbara Kaplan: “I read Joel Canfield’s letter on July 13 with shock and disbelief. Does Mr. Canfield really believe that every uninsured family in this country is lacking health insurance because they are "slackers" who "spend their paychecks on booze, dope, etc."?

“His statements were appalling. His attitude is an example of Bush’s "compassionate conservatism" and one of the reasons Bush has among the lowest ratings of any president in the history of this great country.

“I am very lucky to have a job that allows me to buy health insurance at a reasonable cost. Not every person in this country is as fortunate. And certainly the children of this country are not to blame if their parents cannot afford health insurance.

“The American people have a long tradition of helping those in need. It is a national disgrace that we have not found a way to decrease the outrageous profits made by insurance and drug companies and provide health care to those less fortunate.”

Another reaction, which was published in the Oneonta Star was from Celeste Ryan, who provided a novel alternative: “There’s been a lot of talk lately about the high price of medical care and so many people without health insurance. The last time I priced health insurance for a family for MVP HMO with a $15 co-pay, which really isn’t health insurance because you can’t go to any doctor you want, anywhere you want, like you used to be able to do with good old-fashioned health insurance, it cost $11,929 per year. There are alternatives.

“This winter, I had my gall bladder removed in Costa Rica. I was charged $3,600. Even with travel expenses, that is less than one year’s worth of insurance. In fact, my family went with me and we had a wonderful two-week vacation there for less than one year’s worth of insurance.

“The health care I received down there was top-notch. The hospital had all the latest equipment, and the surgeon received her training in France. Incidentally France, not the United States, has the best medical care in the world, and Costa Rica has longer life expectancy than the United States.

“Traveling to a country where we don’t speak the language wasn’t a problem because I went through a medical tourism company. They found me my doctor and hospital. They picked me up at the airport and drove me to and from all of my doctor’s appointments and recommended a hotel. The doctor spoke English, as did many of the nurses. You can find medical tourism companies with a search on the Internet.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Too Outrageous

The following letter written by Joel Canfield was published in the Oneonta Star in response to a letter of mine. My letter was posted on this website on July 1 st.

“No matter which local papers you read, you are bound to come across an editorial letter by Delhi’s Bush-hating Jim O’Leary. Usually, when reading O’Leary’s denunciation of all things Republican, I merely rant, but when he gets too outrageous, I’m compelled to take pen in hand.

“In a recent Daily Star, Jim lionizes Michael Moore’s latest hate-America film, and he lectures us that Moore rightly blames shortfalls in the American medical system on conservatives and Republicans, starting with Richard Nixon. O’Leary wraps up with the usual liberal mantra of "millions of Americans, especially children, are without health insurance."

“Mr. O’Leary, I’d like to let you in on a little secret. The state of New York offers a spectrum of health-care plans and services for children, either without cost or with very reasonable prices. Secret No. 2 is that health insurance costs money.

“If one wishes to spend his paycheck on booze, dope, etc., and not on health insurance, the family will not be covered. Everyone has choices in life. I put my money where my mouth is: I spend a ton of money on health insurance. I don’t mind; it provides me with superb health care.

“Why should I have to settle for second-class socialized medicine, interminable waits for appointments and second-rate physicians, just to provide free care for a bunch of slackers who won’t pay their own way?

“Michael Moore seems enamored with Cuba’s health-care system. I have this suggestion: Moore and O’Leary book a quick flight to Havana where they can wile away their days driving around in a ’54 Pontiac and denouncing the evil capitalists to the north.

“Because The Daily Star recently itself editorialized that all should flock to see Moore’s latest epic, this poor letter probably won’t see print until Thanksgiving.”

The Oneonta Star limits letter writers to one ever 30 days. Consequently, my response to Mr. Canfield will be published after August 7 th. Over the past 2 years, I’ve learned a great deal about Joel Canfield and have decided to respond with my website post of July 18 th. entitled: “Must We Agree?”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

True Believers

Recently, Senator Kerry said: “It’s time for those people, who are extolling the virtues of this war to offer their sons and daughters for combat. Those under 40 years old, should volunteer to go to Iraq to get the job done if they believe so deeply in the cause.” 

Peace vigils in Delaware County continue to be a very interesting experience. I’m amused by the men that drive by and make obscene gestures, which allows me to inquire: “Is that your IQ?” I especially enjoy the remark: “Bush is our president!” To which I reply: “Give that boy an ‘A’ plus for being up on his current events.” One of the most memorable was the man that told me that the terrorists were going to come to Delhi and “slit my throat.” He hurried away as I told him that I didn’t realize the terrorist had that many row boats.

These characters seem to fervently believe in Bush’s occupation of Iraq, but they aren’t volunteering to get the job done. Consequently, our overburdened military has to send the same young men and woman back to Iraq time and time again. We should expect more from these Bush supporters than parading around Margaretville with signs saying that they support the troops. Our troops in Iraq deserve better.

For those true believers, who subscribe to the doomsday theology, the time of rapture is close. In the days before the final battles, God will draw the faithful up into heaven. Fear not young Christians enlist today and join the battle against evil. The Christian broadcasting stations and those end of time preachers in their megachurches have the influence to see that our military is able to meet it’s recruitment goals. Get to the enlistment headquarters now or be “Left Behind.”

Friday, August 03, 2007

Basic Philosophy

The following opinion was written by Paul Krugman and first published in the “New York Times”.

“When a child is enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

“Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That’s why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

“But President Bush says that access to care is no problem — “After all, you just go to an emergency room” — and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he’s declared that he’ll veto any Schip expansion on “philosophical” grounds.

“It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn’t about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we’ll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

“The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage — a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

“Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children’s health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

“So what kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

“Well, here’s what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: “They’re going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a — I wouldn’t call it a plot, just a strategy — to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.”

“Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

“And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

“This sounds like a caricature, but it isn’t. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan “in any form,” because “its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.”

“But it has taken the fight over children’s health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

“There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.

“And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans — including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans — support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program.

“There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Children’s Health

New York offers health care services for children, but the little secret is that the funding comes from the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which will expire on Sept. 30, 2007. For 10 years. it has provided health coverage to children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford to purchase insurance on their own.

For Beverly Chappell and husband, David, a self-employed carpenter the debate about child health insurance is crucial. They earn a total of $43,000 a year and can’t afford health insurance for their family. The couple still doesn’t have insurance, but just before their son Nathan had his first severe asthma attack they signed up their children for the program in 1998.

Mrs. Chappell said: “If I had not had that insurance, I would not have taken Nathan to the emergency room and he probably would have died. Nobody should have to evaluate when it’s an emergency and when it’s not, because they are afraid of getting a bill.”

Health care costs money. Therefore, the Senate Finance Committee announced a bipartisan deal that would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes to $1 a pack, to expand the program by $35 billion over the next five years. That would create total program funding of $60 billion over the period, which would cover 3.3 million additional kids, while keeping the focus on children of the working poor.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said: “The program has helped millions upon millions of low-income, uninsured American kids see doctors when they’re sick. This agreement will make sure that even more children get the health care they need.”

Bush has proposed about $5 billion in new funding for children’s health insurance over five years, for a total of $30 billion. However, the Congressional Budget Office insists that amount would be too little to keep covering the number of children presently enrolled in the program. Bush intends to veto the bipartisan Senate deal.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Failed Strategy

Last month the casualty count in Iraq increased by 77, which is twice the number of Americans killed in 2006. More than 3,655 of our troops have made the supreme sacrifice, since the invasion began in 2003.

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste led the First Infantry Division in Iraq said: “When decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision-making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes.” Batiste supports civilian control of the military, but says: “We went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime.

“The President’s stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible. He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war. His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat world wide Islamic extremism is tragic. We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration.”

Bush insists that: “I have always said that I will listen to the requests of our commanders on the ground.” Gen. Batiste made an ad for Votevets.Org stating: “Mr. President.  You did not listen.  You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps.  I left the Army in protest in order to speak out.  Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril.  Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.  Senator Collins, protect America, not George Bush.”

The ad targeted Republican Senators: Susan Collins (Maine), John Sununu (New Hampshire), John Warner (Virginia) and Norm Coleman (Minnesota), and 10 Republican House members.

Votevets is the largest Iraq and Afghanistan organization that’s a pro-troop, pro-military organization in the country. Their spokesperson Jon Soltz points out that Secretary of Defense Gates said: “We’re buying the Iraqis time with blood from troops and it’s an absolute sham for us to continue on this course, where the Iraqis are less committed to securing their country than we are.”

The war is supposed to be about Osama bin Laden and defeating al Qaeda worldwide.  By having 90 percent of our strategic assets in Iraq, and continuing to stay in Iraq, we’re giving al Qaeda exactly what they want, which is the inability of America to project force across the world.