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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Peaceful Solution

The concept that public education is the great equalizer in this country is in jeopardy. There is a lot that needs to be done, but funding is just part of the solution.

Our military-industrial-complex has become very proficient at recruiting and training our youth to become economic cannon fodder for it’s preemptive, imperialistic and avarice wars.

President Dwight Eisenhower said: “This world must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

“If men can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war include almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence and his comprehension... would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

“When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.”

We support three military academies, which requires Congress to recommend some of our brightest young people to become proficient at delivering death and destruction upon those that our corporate elite have determined to be our enemies.

John Edwards has suggested a National Teaching Academy, where the most talented teachers would be given a state-of-the-art education. Upon graduation, these brave, patriotic and talented teachers would be assigned to education SWAT teams with the money and expertise to help the schools that are struggling.

We must start developing the intelligence, creative thinking and comprehension skills of our young people, if America is ever going to realize peace and prosperity again.

We must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, because as the last line of Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” warns: “You plan the wars you masters of men and point the way and we will point the gun.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Corridor Of Shame

About 10 miles south of the North Carolina border just off Interstate 95 is the community of Dillion, South Carolina. Dillion is considered by some to be the focal point of a so-called Corridor of the Shame.

The Dillion Central school has about 50 percent of their students reading two or three grades below level and a dropout rate of 50 percent.

Democratic president candidate, John Edwards would seek to solve the education crises in America by dramatically changing “No Child Left Behind.” He would continue to evaluate each individual student’s progress, but make the teachers central to that evaluation. Edwards opposes the present system of testing, which uses cheap standardized tests to measure one group of children against another.

It’s imperative to get children on the right track early and keep them on the right track until they graduate. Universal pre-K, should be available for every 4-year-old in America, in order to get them started on the right track. The earlier we’re able to get children on the right track the better, because some children may started dropping out of school, when they’re in second or third grade.

We should be helping the schools that are struggling, by sending in education SWAT teams with the money and expertise to turn the under performing schools around. By the time students gets to high school, they have often gotten so far behind that you can’t make up the difference.

Edwards suggests second-chance schools, which would give bonuses to teachers who agree to teach in the most difficult schools. Second-chance schools, would employ our most talented teachers. Edwards insists we need a national teaching university where we give state-of-the-art education to educators, and send those teachers out to the places like Corridor of the Shame.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ted Kennedy

Yesterday, I received the following inspirational message from Ted Kennedy.

Barack Obama inspires me. That’s why I'm about to take the stage with him here in Washington and endorse his campaign to become the next president of the United States. It’s that simple. Through Barack, I believe we will move beyond the politics of fear and personal destruction and unite our country with the politics of common purpose.

All Democrats in this race have strong ideas to address the challenges before our country. But Barack is the candidate who can inspire Americans to act and bring us together to achieve those goals -- an economy that works for everyone, health care for all, and at long last ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home.

I remember another leader who inspired the nation, especially our youth, to fulfill a promise of change. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

That leader challenged them to ask what they could do for their country and, together, they changed the world.

So in the words of that leader, John Kennedy: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do... It is time for a new generation of leadership.” I have found that next generation of American leadership in Barack Obama.

I respect the strength, the work and dedication of two other Democrats still in the race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They are my friends; they have been my colleagues in the Senate. Whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support.

But I believe there is one candidate whose extraordinary gifts of leadership and character match the extraordinary demands of this moment in history. Barack will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He sees the world clearly without being cynical. He fights for the causes he believes in -- but refuses to demonize those who hold a different view. He's tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to "the better angels of our nature."

In Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be. I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.

Sincerely,
Edward M. Kennedy

Monday, January 28, 2008

Angry Americans

Americans want change and it’s not just about Iraq. A strong revival of economic populism has taken place and most America believe, that our country is on the wrong track, because corporations get whatever they want in Washington and our leaders seem to have forgotten the middle class.

James Stimson, a political scientist who uses data from many polls to construct an index of the overall liberalism or conservatism of the electorate, finds that America is now more liberal than it has been since the early 1960s. And the tactics the right has historically used to distract voters from economic issues, have been losing their effectiveness.

Democrats are having trouble agreeing on best way to create real change, because of the influence of corporate money. For example Senate Democrats are having trouble reaching a consensus on closing hedge fund tax loophole, which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income.

A handful of very wealthy people benefit from this loophole, and closing the loophole would yield billions of dollars each year in revenue. A handful of super wealthy hedge fund managers versus millions of middle-class Americans should be a no-brainer for Senate Democrats, but apparently it’s not.

The difference between the parties’ priorities is apparent in the fight over children’s health insurance. Democrats offered progressive policy proposals for the continuation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides 6 million children with free healthcare. Although, polls showed 81% of Americans supported the bill, Republican leadership engineered the failure to override Bush’s veto.

We must continue to condemn the Republican leadership in Congress for mercilessly obstructing every congressional action of merit, even where that action was supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

False Statements

According to a study done by two nonprofit journalism groups, Bush and top members of his regime publicly made 935 false statements about the risk posed by Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attracts on 9/11. The study found Bush led the effort to deceive the media and the world community with 260 false statements.

Other officials included Vice President Cheney, former secretary of state Colin Powell, then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The study points to at least 532 times where officials said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to get them, or had links to al Qaeda.

The study concluded that the false statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

A White House spokesperson called the study flawed and reiterated the regime’s position that the world community saw Saddam Hussein as a threat. Bush claims that at the time he and other officials made these statements, our intelligence community and those of other nations thought Iraq had WMD. But they didn't.

The study was posted on the Website of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism and points out that: “The Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”

These false statements were amplified by thousands of news stories, and some journalists and even some entire news organizations, have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. Notwithstanding, these mea culpas, those news stories led to almost 4,000 of our troops being killed.

Many Bush supporters continue to claim that his administration did not lie to the American people about the need to invade Iraq. On the contrary, Paul Pillar served 28 years with the CIA and retired in 2005, as senior intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. He charges the Bush administration with the selective use of intelligence about Iraq’s unconventional weapons and of ignoring predictions of postwar chaos in Iraq.

Pillar wrote: “If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war...or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

National Energy Policy

In 1977, Jimmy Carter, proposed these ten principles for our national energy plan.

1. We can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.

2. Healthy economic growth must continue. Only by saving energy can we maintain our standard of living and keep our people at work. An effective conservation program will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

3. We must protect the environment. Our energy problems have the same cause as our environmental problems -- wasteful use of resources. Conservation helps us solve both at once.

4. We must reduce our vulnerability to potentially devastating embargoes. We can protect ourselves from uncertain supplies by reducing our demand for oil, making the most of our abundant resources such as coal, and developing a strategic petroleum reserve.

5. We must be fair. Our solutions must ask equal sacrifices from every region, every class of people, every interest group. Industry will have to do its part to conserve, just as the consumers will. The energy producers deserve fair treatment, but we will not let the oil companies profiteer.

6. The cornerstone of our policy, is to reduce the demand through conservation. Our emphasis on conservation is a clear difference between this plan and others which merely encouraged crash production efforts. Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy. Conservation is the only way we can buy a barrel of oil for a few dollars. It costs about $13 to waste it.

7. Prices should generally reflect the true replacement costs of energy. We are only cheating ourselves if we make energy artificially cheap and use more than we can really afford.

8. Government policies must be predictable and certain. Both consumers and producers need policies they can count on so they can plan ahead. This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace more than 50 different agencies that now have some control over energy.

9. We must conserve the fuels that are scarcest and make the most of those that are more plentiful. We can’t continue to use oil and gas for 75 percent of our consumption when they make up seven percent of our domestic reserves. We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.

10. We must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.

Carter’s ten principles were attacked by the oil and gas industry, and when Reagan took over those principles were ignored and Carter’s programs gutted or terminated. The Republican party continues to be owned by the oil and gas industry.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Most Wasteful Nation

The following are excerpts from a televised speech to the nation by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

“With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse.

“Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the “moral equivalent of war” -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

“Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.

“I know that many of you have suspected that some supplies of oil and gas are being withheld. You may be right, but suspicions about oil companies cannot change the fact that we are running out of petroleum.

“Demand will overtake production. We have no choice about that, but we do have a choice about how we will spend the next few years. Each American uses the energy equivalent of 60 barrels of oil per person each year. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden.

“Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person, while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste.

“If we wait, and do not act, then our factories will not be able to keep our people on the job with reduced supplies of fuel. Too few of our utilities will have switched to coal, our most abundant energy source.

“We will not be ready to keep our transportation system running with smaller, more efficient cars and a better network of buses, trains and public transportation.

“But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.”

Republicans have united our efforts to destroy Iraq rather than build an energy independent economy. As Pogo said long ago: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

“I Hate War”

Yesterday, Chris Brown’s letter reminder me of a quote by President Dwight Eisenhower, which our elected representatives apparently have never heard of: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it”

Furthermore Eisenhower said: “This world must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

“If men can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war include almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence and his comprehension... would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

“When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.”

“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 are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It’s spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.”

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

“The cost of one modern heavy bomber is: a modern brick school in more than 20 cities. It’s two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It’s two fine, fully equipped hospitals.”

Unfortunately, fewer of our elected representative have heard of “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler. Fewer still of those in our government comprehend the last sentence of Dalton Trumbo’s antiwar masterpiece “Johnny Got His Gun,” which warns: “You plan the wars you masters of men and point the way and we will point the gun.” THE END

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Christopher Brown

Delhi’s Christopher Brown is a dedicated Peace Vigil participant, who has written this very sincere letter below:

“Letter to the Fathers and Mothers of Iran

“I am writing this letter to assure you that there are many peaceful people in America, who have families as you do, who are eager for the saber-rattling of our leaders to stop.  I am seeking contact with peacemakers in Iran who share the belief that the angry rhetoric must end.

“Because of political powerlessness, many of us have chosen the hiding place of silence.  With our heads bowed and our hands busy with work, we have chosen not to risk speaking out because of fear of penalties for not going along with post-9/11 aggressiveness.  Fear itself has come to teach us we must speak out for peace.  If we do not speak out now, we will be guilty of placing our children into a future of endless war.

“The United States has become unkind in its attitude toward the international community.  I believe this is in reaction to the vulnerability we felt when we were attacked.  Hatred towards others has become acceptable as well as turning a blind eye to torture, imprisonment without trial, and invasion of privacy--all rationalized as ‘loyal patriotism.’  All of these are a barometer of fear and insecurity.  Combined with our military might, the fears I spoke about are expressed in bullying behavior, meant to intimidate and control others.  It is a paranoid system in which fear leads to hatred which leads to war and further violence.

“When your country's most vocal leader expresses a hatred for America, it further feeds America's fears, hatred, and defiance.  Both of our leaders act like growling dogs competing for dominance.  We are all prisoners of war in that both our countries are being guided by leaders who threaten others with military intervention when their demands are not met.  We are prisoners of fear to the extent that our leaders threaten their critics with accusations against their courage, patriotism, and loyalty to justice.  We have blood on our souls as long as we permit our leaders to commit acts of aggression and acts of injustice.  I apologize for the cruelty and immorality of the actions of my government and for the fear and suffering they have caused.

“Our President has asked Iran to be ‘accountable,’ forgetting that he must be accountable too:  He has humiliated your country and has rejected open diplomacy with your representatives except on his own unrealistic terms.  His administration continues to demand sanctions, causing Iranians inexcusable suffering.  I apologize for these sanctions and for the suffering which they have caused.

“Peace-loving Americans are the same as peace-loving Iranians.  Both are afraid of the aggressive talk and actions of the powerful.  But Americans have more freedom to protest the actions of their government.  Americans are facing a difficult choice:  Should they confront the current leaders to prevent war, or wait and hope the next elected leader will be a peacemaker, or both?  For my part, as a parent writing to other parents, I want to see things changed.

“One of our president’s closest advisors says ‘How dare (so-and-so) dictate foreign policy to the President of the United States?’  I say that in the U.S., a democracy despite the tightening grip of the power elite, we are all equal, each man and woman having the right to free speech and to convictions, personal and global.  It is my right as a citizen to send a message of apology and goodwill to the people of Iran, and to express my dissent to those who bully and are warlike.  May we be blessed with peace and the fruits of peace for both our countries and the world.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Quaker Lobby

The Friends Committee on National Legislation applauded Senator Joe Biden’s statement of opposition to the Bush Administration’s decision to sell F-16 fighter-bomber jets to Pakistan in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. The Quaker lobby has always stood firmly opposed to the provision of military aid and weapons sales and considered the timing of this deal outrageous.

In early November, following the suspension of democratic government in Pakistan by President Musharraf, both Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates indicated that the administration was going to carefully scrutinize our military aid program with Pakistan, including Pakistan’s purchase of F-16 jets from the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program.

On December 26, Bush signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act into law. In this law, Congress appropriated $350 million in Economic Support Funds and an additional $300 in Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan. Of the latter, all but $50 million became immediately available upon enactment of the law, with the remainder freeing up only when the Secretary of State is able to certify to Congress that the Government of Pakistan has restored the constitution and the judiciary and released political detainees and journalists.

Benazir Bhutto was killed the day after the law was enacted, and four days later the Pentagon announced it was issuing a $500 million contract to Lockheed Martin for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter-bomber jets.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is deeply troubled by the Bush regime’s decision to move forward with a high profile arms sales contract while questions about President Musharraf’s possible role in the assassination remained unexplored and chaos abounded in the streets.

If a coup, suspension of democratic institutions, allegations of involvement in the assassination of a political rival, and chaos in the streets do not merit a cutoff of military assistance, what would?

Equally troubling is the sheer magnitude of military aid being provided to Pakistan and the appearance that no one within our government has a firm grasp on the totality of our aid. A press article reported that Defense Department officials estimate that Pakistan has received about $9.6 billion in federal funds, weapons and training since 2001, most of it military assistance.

At a minimum, the full range of military aid programs for Pakistan should be subjected to careful scrutiny via a public hearing, and the decision-making process on the F-16 contract should be examined. The Quaker’s encouraged Senator Biden to hold hearings on these important questions as soon as possible.

Monday, January 21, 2008

June Edwards

On 1/18/07, June Edwards of Oneonta had a thoughtful letter published in the Oneonta Star entitled: “Vote on issues, not religion.” Edwards stated that Hitler used Christianity as a propaganda tool to sway the masses. Historically, candidates for public office have use religion to gain the trust of voters, but once elected, some have greatly abuse the power of the office.

She wrote: “Hitler, of course, was an extreme case. He in no way followed the ‘love thy neighbor’ teachings of Jesus. But did the ‘born again’ George Bush when he attacked a country that had not threatened us and was not involved in the 9/11 attacks? A war that has killed, maimed and dislocated hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing, certainly the women and children. Did his ‘higher Father’ tell him to approve rendition and torture, and probably the destruction of the torture tapes? Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

“Instead of a person’s religious faith, find out what his or her beliefs are regarding preemptive war, universal health care, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for children, Social Security, tax cuts for the very wealthy, minimum wage, public schools, science education, gay rights, immigration, unfettered free markets, clean air and water regulations, food safety, port safety, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, global warming, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

“All candidates promise more than will be carried out if elected, but their responses to questions on issues reveal their priorities and what their presidency might entail much better than religious statements used to ‘sway the masses.’ ”

Salt Lake City, Mayor Ross Anderson suggests we ask those that take us to war: “What part of ‘Thou shalt not kill’ do you not understand? What part of ‘Blessed are the peacekeepers do you not understand?” 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Needless Distraction

Many of those that attend Delaware County peace vigils have been strongly urging their representatives in Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney. A copy of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand response to a letter urging impeachment was sent to me. It was accompanied by the message: “Guess, she won’t be reelected, see her position on impeachment.”

The following is a portion of Gillibrand’s reply to those urging impeachment:

“Thank you for taking the time to contact me about possible impeachment proceedings for Executive Branch officials... I believe that the new majority in Congress must continue to focus on our national priorities and put pressure on the Executive Branch to become more transparent with the American people. This Congress has and will continue to hold oversight hearings on all of the issues that have troubled us over the last six years, including the decision to go to war with Iraq, the use of domestic wiretaps without the benefit of warrants, and the use of no-bid contracts in both Iraq and Katrina reconstruction. These hearings will restore needed accountability our constitution requires.

“I also believe that bipartisanship is essential for enhancing our country’s potential, and I will continue to team with both Democrats and Republicans to be an advocate for the residents of Upstate New York on the national level.”

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi continues to resisted calls for impeachment. As previously stated, my reasons for opposing impeachment is that I don’t favor starting a fight, which can’t be won and that impeachment would be a costly and needless distraction to the presidential election campaigns.

The earliest an order to bring our troops home from Iraq might be given is 365 days from now. In November, “we the people” must vote to replace the current Commander-in-Chief with a Democrat. Those that suggest impeachment must recognize that Republicans own the White House for the next year, and attempting to replacing Bush and Cheney would serve to fire up the Republican base.

I fear that impeachment proceedings could result in Democrats loosing the White House and fewer Republican Senators being retired. Should that occurs many more troops would be killed in Iraq and that is a risk peace vigil participants must not take.

 

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Help America

This morning the Binghampton “Press and Sun-Bulletin” published my Guest Viewpoint entitled: “Ten Ideas to Help America”

There has never been a relationship between a nation's quality of life and its moral standards. Those that equate criticism of one's country with a bash-America-first mentality do not understand the premises upon which democracy is based, or they have lost the capacity to reason objectively. By making our nation the issue, blame is shifted away from what is being perpetuated by the current leadership.

Americans claim they want politicians that are truthful, but politicians are fully aware that most Americans can't handle the truth.

Once upon a time, America was the most blessed and dynamic nation on the face of this planet, but that has changed and could be gone forever. We are subservient to an imperialistic military-industrial complex, which is motivated solely by corporate greed.

Comptroller General David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, is our nation's top accountant. He insists: "I'm trying to sound an alarm and issue a wake-up call. ... As comptroller general, I've got the ability to look long range and take on issues that others may not be in a position, to take on. ... We are a great country, but we face sustainability challenges that we are not taking seriously enough. With the looming retirement of baby boomers, spiraling healthcare costs, plummeting savings rates and increasing reliance on foreign lenders, we face enormous fiscal risks. ... Our current policy on education, energy, the environment, immigration and Iraq are unsustainable."

A statesman might offer the following solutions, but our politicians can't, because they wouldn't be re-elected:

* We're destroying our fiscal system by spending $12 billion a month in Afghanistan and Iraq, and not raising taxes.

* The commander-in-chief must issue an order to begin withdrawing our military from Iraq and turn over the military bases we have built. That would slow down the hemorrhaging by saving $8.4 billion a month. Withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan would save another $3.6 billion a month.

* We must begin to reduce the detrimental influence of the military-industrial complex by reversing federal budget priorities. We should close at least 700 of the 737 military bases we maintain in over 130 foreign countries. In order to avoid isolationism and maintain a capacity to assist peacekeeping operations, we should retain 37 of them, mostly naval and air bases.

* In order to halt our economic decline and lessen our dependence on our trading partners, we must cap our trade deficits through the perfectly legal use of tariffs in accordance with World Trade Organization rules and begin to guide our domestic market in accordance with a national industrial policy, just as the leading economies of the world do as a matter of routine.

* By eliminating the $90,000 FICA cap on Social Security deductions, we could acquire significantly more money, from the those earning over $250,000 a year, which includes more than 2 million millionaires and 482 billionaires in America.

* Incumbent members of Congress must stop bribing their constituents to reelect them with taxpayers' money. In 2006, House Republicans slipped in earmarks worth $67 billion, which was a tripling of the pork trough since the Republicans won control of the House in 1994. Members of Congress are addicted to earmarks and are getting more sophisticated in hiding their pet projects by using the phrase "congressional-directed spending."

* We must secure our borders, issue tamperproof identification cards and pass reasoned, comprehensive, immigration reform legislation, which will be stringently enforced by the executive branch.

* By stopping corporate welfare we'll help solve the immigration problem. Mexico can no longer produce enough corn to feed its population, because their farmers can't compete with the subsidized corn that comes from the United States. Consequently, they come to America in search of work and their farms dry out.

* By drastically reducing foreign aid to countries like Israel, Egypt and Pakistan, we'd curtail deficit spending and reduce the influence of war profiteers.

* We must stop employing mercenaries, because privatizing of the military is absolutely the worst possible thing for democracy and peace. It makes endless war a corporate imperative.

In the words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Senior citizens may recall that Pogo was a funny, politically relevant animal comic strip, by Walt Kelly.

Comments:

On 1/24/08, Steven Capizzi of Afton, N.Y. had the following letter, entitled ‘Common-sense’ ideas, published in the 'Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin.'

What a great Guest Viewpoint by Jim O’Leary on Jan. 19. It was refreshing to hear someone say what needs to be said (the truth as open-minded thinking people see it) in a paper that has been sadly lacking in taking on issues that need to be brought out into the light.

With the passing of Molly Ivins and David Rossie writing just an occasional column, your pages are dominated by the imbecilic rantings of Bill O’Reilly and right-leaning columns of George Will and Kathleen Parker. Thanks for publishing Mr. O’Leary’s much-needed, common-sense solutions. It’s about time.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Strong Argument

Former senator and Democratic candidate for president in 1972, George McGovern has explained why he has belatedly called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. He claims there is a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians, but admits the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

I’m pleased that Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment, because I’m not in favor of starting a fight, which can’t be won. Impeachment would be costly and a needless distraction to the presidential election campaigns. However, McGovern makes a strong argument for impeachment. I disagree, but the following excerpts might allow readers to make up their own mind.

“Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly “high crimes and misdemeanors,” to use the constitutional standard.

“In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

“All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

“How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

“It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an “imminent threat” to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

“The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world -- more than a billion people.

“Ironically, while Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, their policies -- especially the war in Iraq -- have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States. Consider the difference between the policies of the first President Bush and those of his son. When the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, President George H.W. Bush gathered the support of the entire world, including the United Nations, the European Union and most of the Arab League, to quickly expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The Saudis and Japanese paid most of the cost. Instead of getting bogged down in a costly occupation, the administration established a policy of containing the Baathist regime with international arms inspectors, no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Iraq was left as a stable country with little or no capacity to threaten others.

“Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife. It is no secret that former president Bush, his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, all opposed the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Out of Line

The danger of an imperial presidency is much greater when a president takes the nation to war. The Constitution’s framers were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not create a kingdom.

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. John Jay, the first chief justice noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

When they drafted the Constitution, James Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers rejected this model and gave these powers to Congress.

The founders would have been astonished by Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years.

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It’s no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on, it’s not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Do You Believe?

1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush’s Daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a diversion for not being able to find bin Laden.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, but our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

5. A woman can’t be trusted with decisions about her own body, politicians and judges must be allowed to make those decisions for her.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans’ benefits and combat pay.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won’t have sex.

8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9. Providing health care to members of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court is necessary, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

10. Global warming and tobacco’s link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

11. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

12. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you’re a conservative radio host. Then it’s an illness and Russ Limbaugh needs our prayers for his recovery.

If these are your beliefs, I’m betting that you’ll vote Republican in November.


 

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oil Consumption

Let me make it clear, our troops didn’t choose this war, but they stepped up and did what they were told, which is honorable. The Bush regime has no honor, and they have the blood of hundred of thousands of innocent Iraqis on their hands. We’ve spent over a trillion dollars on a war we didn’t need to fight, which continues to devastate our economy.

Our culture of militarism and consumption has cost a million lives in Iraq and is a keystone issue in the fight against global warming. The 133 million barrels of oil used by the military in 2005 is equivalent to the total oil consumption of Sweden. More than costing billions in tax payer dollars, this overwhelming consumption of oil is not sustainable.

To sustain our troops located halfway around the world, the Department of Defense must move millions of tons of arms, ammunition, food, fuel, and equipment every year by plane or ship, which consumes additional petroleum.

However, foreign wars account for but a small fraction of the Pentagon’s total petroleum consumption. America has the world’s largest fleet of modern aircraft, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, and support systems. In fact the Department of Defense is the world’s leading consumer of petroleum. In April 2007, defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting, reported that the Pentagon might consume as much as 14 million gallons of oil every day.

American makes up only five percent of the world’s population, but consumes 25% of its oil. Apparently, the Pentagon’s addiction to oil is a major reason we need to invade oil rich nations. Is our imperialistic involvement in the Middle East in our strategic national interest or in the interest of the Pentagon, which needs to justify a bloated budget? Would bringing our troops home flood the market with an additional 7 million gallons of oil a day and bring down the price of oil at the pump?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Brutality and Stupidity

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Some Americans have an incredible ability to rationalize brutality, because they feel no sense of responsibility for the deaths of a million Iraqis. They’ve excused our leadership for causing the displacement of 2.7 million Iraqi civilians, in order to install a bogus democracy for the survivors.

They see nothing wrong with invading and occupying a country that was never a threat. They see nothing wrong with using our military to establish control over Iraqi oil reserves. They see nothing wrong with sending our young men and women to their deaths, and putting our country four trillion dollars, further in debt, because they ignore the devastation our country is perpetrating in their name.

With one exception, every Republican candidate running for president continues to support the Bush regime and a military industrial complex, which is blatantly violating the Geneva Convention prohibition against looting.

Apparently, congressional Republicans no longer remember that Eisenhower warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

The history of the human race demonstrates that a primary cause of death and destruction throughout the world has been perpetrated by people taking up arms in the name of God. Over the centuries the lessens taught by Jesus and Mohammad have been perverted beyond recognition. Today, the greatest perversion of these religions has been by the religious right’s willingness to accommodate the needs of neoconservatives in Washington D.C. Supporters of the invasion of Iraq have perverted their faith by conveniently ignoring the teachings of Jesus.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

War Tax

Congressional Democrats must tell the truth and make fiscal responsibility their top priority. They need to explain the urgency of increasing taxes in order to prevent an impending financial disaster.

A majority of Americans are in favor of cutting off the funds for the war, but many congressional Democrats believe they must support the troops in the field.

Bush requests hundreds of billions of dollars from Congress to continue the occupation of Iraq, but a new poll shows only about 25 percent of Americans support spending that kind of money on the war. Two thirds of voters want those funds cut. 

Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania has been a vocal critic of the war for two years. He has proposed a new tax to pay for keeping up the combat operations. Murtha wants a surcharge on top of the federal income tax. He remembers that the Vietnam War inflation lasted for seven years, with a 21 percent interest rate.

Murtha insists that we’re destroying our fiscal system when we spend $12 billion a month in Afghanistan and Iraq and don’t raise taxes. Fiscal responsibility requires we recognize an obligation to pay for this war, and we’re going to pay for it one way or the other.  We’re going to pay for it now or our grandchildren are going to pay for it plus interest later.  We have about 1,500 people dying every day from cancer, but we’re spending only $5 billion a year for cancer research.  That’s just two weeks of the cost of the war. 

This isn’t a Bush war anymore, it’s a Republican war, because they have consistently voted in favor of Bush’s war. Congressional Republicans have decided to fall in line and support the Bush regime right on down to the unemployment line.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Immediate Change

Comptroller General David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office is our nation’s top accountant. The office is a professional position, not a political position. Walker was nominated by Bill Clinton for a 15 year term and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.

Walker insists America’s financial future requires immediate change. In 2003, he issued an exceptionally critical assessment of our country’s future in a report that warned of dramatic tax increases, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments holdings of US debt.

Unfortunately, the American people never got to see those numbers because they were pulled out of the 2004 budget, just a few days after Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who ordered the analysis, was fired by Bush.

Our elected representatives need to make fiscal responsibility their top priorities. Walker believes that we still have a chance to turn the current situation around, but if Congress doesn’t act, the risk of a serious crisis will continue to rise.

The Medicare prescription drug bill passed by Congress as a totally irresponsible piece of legislation. Congress knew the projections that the program would cost $400 billion over the next decade were inaccurate, when they voted for the bill. The true cost will be at least $1 trillion in the first decade and much more in following decades as our population grows older. 
 
David Walker claims our government can’t keep its promises for Social Security and Medicare, because it’s too late to reformed our entitlement system. The official national debt figure has reached $9 trillion, but this merely reflects what the federal government owes in current debts on money already borrowed. It doesn’t reflect what the federal government has promised to pay millions of Americans in entitlement benefits down the road. By 2040 the entire federal budget will be consumed by Social Security and Medicare and our only options would be cutting federal spending by about 60%, or doubling federal taxes.

The first step is to bring our troops home from Iraq, and save 8.4 billion a month. Next step, eliminate the 90 thousand dollar FICA cap on Social Security deductions, and acquire significantly more money, from the those earning over $250 thousand a year, as well as, from the more than 2 million millionaires and 482 billionaires in America.

The third step, is for our elected representatives to stop bribing their constituents to reelect them with taxpayer’s money. In 2006, House Republicans slipped in earmarks worth $67 billion, which was a tripling of the pork trough, since the Republicans won control of the House in 1994. Members of Congress are addicted to earmarks and are getting more sophisticated in hiding their pet projects, by replacing the word “earmark” with the phrase “congressional directed spending.”

Walker said: “I’m trying to sound an alarm and issue a wake-up call... As comptroller general I’ve got the ability to look long range and take on issues that others may not be in a position, to take on... We are a great country, but we face sustainability challenges that we are not taking seriously enough. With the looming retirement of baby boomers, spiraling healthcare costs, plummeting savings rates and increasing reliance on foreign lenders, we face enormous fiscal risks... Our current policy on education, energy, the environment, immigration and Iraq are unsustainable.”
 

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tell the Truth

Former Senator John Edwards said: “As I look across the political landscape of both parties, I see politicians too afraid to tell the truth. Good people caught in a bad system that overwhelms their good intentions and requires them to chase millions of dollars in campaign contributions in order to perpetuate their careers and continue their climb to higher office.”

Change requires Democratic politicians educate their constituents, who have been overwhelmed by the irrational fear of a global terrorist movement within Islam. The Bush regime’s propaganda machine has convinced many that Islamic jihadist intend to take over our country and rule it under Sharia law.

In fact, al Qaeda doesn’t even have a country much less an Army, Navy, intercontinental ballistic missiles, or weapons of mass destruction. Compare that to the Soviet Union, who had 40,000 nuclear weapons, when Nikita Khrushchev pounded the desk threatening: “We will bury you!” And they were quite capable of doing it.

Until, we invaded Iraq, bin Laden had at best several hundred loyal followers. Since, the invasion that number has grown into the thousands. Islamic jihadist’s determination comes from being provoked and the continued occupation of Iraq serves to galvanize their hatred of America.

Bringing the troops home from Iraq is not going to eliminate the hatred that has built up over decades, but it will allow the healing to begin. We’ll continue to be under threat, because keeping the largest embassy compound in the world in Baghdad and 14 other permanent bases will be a thorn in their side.

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer has two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote “Imperial Hubris” under the pseudonym Anonymous.

Scheuer warns: “One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the threat from al Qaeda lies in continuing to believe... Muslims hate us for what we think, rather than for what we do. We repeatedly hear: ( because they hate freedom) from senior U.S. leaders. Such a conclusion is potentially fatal nonsense.”

Our policies and actions are bin Laden’s only indispensable allies.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

John Edwards

Former Senator, John Edwards states: “Maybe I have been freed from the system and the fear that holds back politicians because I have learned there are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul. Especially right now, when our country requires so much more of us, and needs to hear the truth from its leaders.

“Although I have spent my entire life taking on the big powerful interests and winning, which is why I have never taken a dime from Washington lobbyists or political action committees. I’ve been guilty of silence, but no more.

“It’s time to tell the truth. The truth is the system in Washington is corrupt. It’s rigged by the powerful special interests to benefit the very few at the expense of the many. As a result, the American people have lost faith in our broken system in Washington, and believe it no longer works for ordinary Americans.

“As I look across the political landscape of both parties, I see politicians too afraid to tell the truth. Good people caught in a bad system that overwhelms their good intentions and requires them to chase millions of dollars in campaign contributions in order to perpetuate their careers and continue their climb to higher office.

“This presidential campaign is a perfect example of how our politics is awash with money. I have raised $30 million, which is more money up to this point than any Democratic candidate raised last time in the presidential campaign. I did it without taking a dime from any Washington lobbyist or any special interest PAC.

“I saw the chase for campaign money at any cost by the frontrunner in this race, but I did not join it, because the cost to our nation and our children is not worth the hollow victory of any candidate. Being called president while powerful interests really run things is not the same as being free to lead this nation as president of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. If protecting the current established structure in Washington is in your interest, then I am not your candidate. I ran for president four years ago, in part out of personal ambition, but also with a deep desire to stand for working people like my father and mother, who no matter how hard things were for our family, always worked even harder to make things better for us.

“I travel across America and listen to people, I hear real concern about what’s going on. For the first time in our history, people are worried that we’re going to be the first generation of Americans not to pass on a better life to our children.

“It’s not the fault of the American people. The American people have not changed. The American people are still the strong, courageous people they have always been. The problem is what our government has become, and it’s up to us to do something about it.

“Just look at what has happened in Iraq. Our men and women in uniform have been heroes. They’ve done everything that’s been asked of them and more. But, four years after invading Iraq, we cannot even keep the lights on in Baghdad.

“When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the American people donated their time and their money in record numbers. What about our government? Three years after hurricane Katrina thousands of our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters, are still housed in trailers waiting to go home.

“There’s no better example of the bravery and goodness of the American people than the response to the attacks of 9/11: firefighters and first responders risking and too often giving their lives to save others, charging up the stairs while everyone else was coming down; record bloodbank donations. What about our government? Six years after 9/11, at Ground Zero there sits only a black hole that tortures our conscience and scars our hearts.

“In every instance we see an American people who are good, decent, compassionate and undeterred. The American people who are better than the government that is supposed to serve and represent them.

“What has happened to the American ‘can do’ spirit? I will tell you what has happened: all of this is the result of the bitter poisoned fruit of corruption and the bankruptcy of our political leadership.

“It is not an accident that the government of the United States cannot function on behalf of its people, because it is no longer our people’s government and we the people know it.

“This corruption did not begin yesterday and it didn’t even begin with George Bush. It has been building for decades. Now it threatens our democracy.

“While our nation’s brave sons and daughters put their lives on the line for our country in Iraq. Mercenaries operate under their own law while their bosses sit at home raking in millions.

“We have squandered millions on building Olympic size swimming pools and buildings that have never been used. We have weapons and ammunition unaccounted for that may now be being used against our own soldiers. We literally have billions wasted or misspent, while our troops and their families continue to sacrifice. And the politically connected lobby for more. What’s their great sacrifice -- higher profits.”

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lasting Change

I don’t agree with the suggestion that in order to make lasting change, we need both a Democrat in the White House, as well as, a strong Democratic Majority in Congress. It’s true that some positive changes will occur, when a strong Democratic Majority takes control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. However, it will not be lasting change, because too many counterfeit Democratic politicians behave like Republicans by continuing to pander to special interests.

Real changes that most Democratic politicians haven’t consider include:

1. Lobbyist undermine democracy and need to be sent home. According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, from 1998 through 2004, lobbyists spent nearly $12 billion to influence legislation, and in many cases to write the language of the laws and regulations. Drug companies and energy lobbyist push through tax cuts and tax credits worth billions for the wealthy corporate elite. The IRS estimates that offshore subsidiaries and tax havens cost our treasury $70 billion a year.

In 2004, a record $2.14 billion was spent on lobbying members of Congress and federal agencies, which is nearly $6 million a day spent to influence our government. The military industrial complex, pharmaceutical industry, health insurance and energy lobbyist continue to ensure that they have the best government money can buy.

2. After 28 years with the C.I.A. Paul Pillar retired as the senior intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. He has proposed the creation of an independent office, modeled on the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office, to assess the use of intelligence at the request of members of Congress. He suggested that the root of the problem is that top intelligence officials serve at the pleasure of the president.

3. To insure faith in America and that economic injustice will not occur again, all pay raises for members of Congress should require a corresponding percentage increase in the minimum wage. For example congressional pay raises totaling $35,000 for members of Congress, should at least require a $3.50 raise in the minimum wage for the most unappreciated Americans.

4. A not-for-profit health care plan must eliminate all for-profit insurers from all taxpayer funded health care. Most plans siphon our tax dollars into private insurance companies and these corporate enterprises don’t need to be there.

A truly cost effective universal health care plan would include all Americans; children, senior citizens, veterans, federal employees, our military, and most importantly members of Congress, the Supreme Court and the President.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Price of Ignorance

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have democracy, second the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” -1941 Edward Dowling

The average American doesn’t recognize they’re ignorance, because, they’re too busy working hard trying to pay off their homes, credit cards and debt. They don’t have the time to spend hours everyday researching issues that the mainstream media doesn’t even mention.

Except for Ron Paul, every Republican candidate for president adheres to a doctrine identical to early colonialism, whereby looting, death, suffering and destruction are all justifiable. Any measure of lying is acceptable, along with the despicable tools of propaganda, distorted religion, war-mongering and hate speech that these criminals use to lure a misinformed public to their side.

Republican presidential candidates don’t dare mention Bush, but aren’t in the least bit shy about promoting his imperialistic agenda. September 11th was used to privatize our military and create a hollow infrastructure of a government that will be is Bush’s legacy. 

Regardless of the moral disapproval of the rest of the world, most Republicans believe that the only way for us to be able to continue to dominant the 21st century is by using our overwhelming military power to threaten the rest of the world.

Our military has created massive human despair and suffering for no other reason than economic imperialism. The nauseating greed, of mostly Republican politicians, entrenched military interests, and corporate executives, who prey like pack wolves on people’s powerlessness and insecurity, is conceal behind an illusion of making America safer.

These are the reasons why people around the world hate us and nothing can wipe out the facts and consequences of our avarice wars that we as a country have implicitly or explicitly endorsed.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Inequality

When it comes to producing billionaires, America is doing great. Unfortunately, inequality has returned to 1920s levels, because wealth is being redistributed from the poor to the rich.

Until 2005, multimillionaires could still make the Forbes list of the richest 400 Americans, but in 2006, the Forbes 400 was for billionaires only. Nearly half of the 45 new members made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity.  Since 2000, America has added 184 billionaires, but an additional five million more people are living below the poverty line.  

Today, there are a record 482 billionaires. However, we also have reached a record numbers of foreclosures and a record number of people without health insurance.
 
In 1982, Forbes 400 listed just 13 billionaires, and the highest paid CEO made $108 million, while the average full-time worker made $34,199. An amount, which has been adjusted for inflation in 2006. Last year, the highest paid hedge fund manager hauled in $1.7 billion, and the highest paid CEO made $647 million, while the average worker made a mere $34,861, with vanishing health and pension coverage. Presently, the Forbes 400 is even more of a rich men’s club than when it began. The number of women on the Forbes list has dropped from 75 in 1982 to 39 today.

Tax cuts will save the top 1 percent of our wealthiest citizens a projected $715 billion between 2001 and 2010, while costing our nation $715 billion in mounting national debt plus interest. Meanwhile, our infrastructure of bridges, levees, mass transit, parks and other public assets inherited from an earlier generations of taxpayers crumbles from neglect.
 
It's time for Congress to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and close the loophole letting billionaire hedge fund speculators pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries.
 

Sunday, January 06, 2008

NAFTA

NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 1994. It was supposed to make it easier for people in the United States, Mexico and Canada to do business with each other.

NAFTA was supposed to lower prices for consumers and create jobs for every country. In fact, it destroyed good-paying jobs and created a flood of desperate, unemployed refugees from the south into our country.

Marcelo Suarez-Orozco is co-director of immigration studies at New York University. He reports that NAFTA has had a very uneven effect in terms of which sectors of the Mexican economy have benefited and which sectors have been hurt.

The agriculture sector of Mexico’s economy has been hardest hit and the current migration from Mexico north is the largest movement of people in that country’s history. Jobs that once served as a safety net for the Mexican society, have been extremely vulnerable to the free trade agreement.

For 100 years, Mexican farmers had ranches, where they grew tomatoes and sold them locally. NAFTA promotes tomatoes from the United States, which are subsidized by the American taxpayers. Consequently, the Mexican farmer can’t sell his tomato to make money.

Dr. Suarez-Orozco says that Mexico built an entire civilization out of corn, but today they can’t produce enough corn to feed their population. Since, they can’t compete with the subsidized corn that comes from the United States, they go to the city or America in search of work and the farms dry out.

This is part of a global dynamic. The insertion of Mexico into global economy by NAFTA, is similar to what is going on in every region of the world. In India, roughly 30 villagers per minute arrive in their cities, because of the insertion of India into the global system of production.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Black Granite Walls

After revisiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I again came away very angry at the totally unnecessary waste of lives that occurred between 1965 and 1973.

The nightmare of Vietnam still haunts America, because it lasted from July 1959 until March of 1973. In 1965, Under Secretary of State George Ball recommended that we cut our losses in Vietnam. Ball insisted it was a quagmire, but LBJ considered it unacceptable, because our national honor was at stake and it didn’t offer “a good way out.” After, George Ball’s recommendation an additional 55,000 Americans died, while LBJ and Nixon sought to save “their” honor. Nearly, all congressional Republicans favor the continued occupation of Iraq as they did between 1965 and 1973 in Vietnam.

The establishment of an all-volunteer military has allowed our politicians to wage wars without spreading the sacrifice among the population at large. The volunteers and their families make the sacrifices while the rest of the us are encouraged to live our lives as normal. We’re not even taxed more to finance the war, because that burden will fall on future generations.

The Vietnam Memorial has 58,256 names inscribed on polished black granite walls in chronological order of the date of casualty. The walls are over 246 feet long and gradually rise to over 10 feet high. Unlike other memorials, the Vietnam Memorial is void of famous quotes, because it was felt that those 58,256 names spoke volumes, but unfortunately, they haven’t. I would suggest a single quote at the end of this very poignant memorial stating: “If any question why we died tell them because our fathers lied.” - Rudyard Kipling

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bold and Honest

The guiding principle on all domestic issues ought to be how to improve economic growth, job creation and opportunity for every American.

From 1998 to 2001, the federal government ran total annual budget surpluses of between $69.2 billion and $236.2 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but today we have a $250 billion deficit. The economy has been good for corporations and big owners of stock, but it’s been lousy for the middle class.

The cost of everything the middle class needs is going up higher than their wages. The poor population has grown over the past 7 years and Democrats are going to have to respond to that with political courage and honesty. They must tell the American people, that we need to improve public education, drive the economy and build our infrastructure.

Consequently, we must promote candidates, who have the honesty to tell voters that we need to raise taxes to deal with the deficit. America needs bold representation in Congress with integrity and courage.

The tax increases must be limited to those at the top of the income scale. It was not a coincidence that we developed a surplus, after Bill Clinton raise taxes on the top one percent of income earners. Obama and Edwards have already said they’re going to tax hedge funds if they become president.

Unless, Democratic candidates are bold and honest in dealing with those issues, they don’t deserve to win. Presently, Democratic members of Congress are dealing with those tax issues, by admitting that they will raise taxes on those at the top of the income scale. Their making it clear that they don’t intend to tax the middle class. Taxing the top income earners, while helping the middle class, while improving the economy.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gillibrand’s Response

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand was honored by being asked to deliver this year’s closing response to Bush’s weekly radio address. Excerts from her remarks follow:
 
“This new Congress has a vision for change that we have begun, step by step, to realize. We see a nation free from dependence on foreign oil, which will strengthen our economy by growing our agricultural and manufacturing base through an investment in renewable fuels and new energy efficient products. This makes America safer, grows American jobs, and begins to address global warming.

“To accomplish our goal, we have raised the miles per gallon requirements, set new standards for renewable fuels and efficiency, and are investing in research and development into new technologies. And this is only the beginning. With our new innovation agenda, we can continue to create new high tech jobs and remain world leaders in science and technology.

“We have a vision for strengthening the economy by supporting hard-working Americans and their families. We have fixed the alternative minimum tax to protect middle-class families, raised the minimum wage, and funded small business tax cuts to address the pressures of high fuel prices, increasing health care costs, and rising property taxes.

“Early childhood and college education is also becoming unaffordable for most Americans. By investing in Head Start for our youngest, increasing grants and cutting interest rates for college loans, we have helped to ensure that the next generation can succeed. And we will do more. Our fundamental duty as leaders is to ensure that every American child has the opportunity to achieve his or her God-given potential.

“We have invested in the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission to prevent another terrorist attack.... We’re providing the greatest funding since World War II for benefits and health care for our armed services and veterans is one of the most important accomplishments of this Congress. These men, women, and their families deserve our respect and eternal gratitude; this support is the beginning of what they have earned.

“They also deserve a strategy for success in Iraq. Congress is challenging the Administration’s strategy in Iraq in favor of a better one that will effectively combat terrorism and create stability in the Middle East. Time and time again, we voted for a strategy to redeploy troops out of Iraq to leave policing the streets to Iraqis and to focus our mission on anti-terrorism - and we won’t give up. Such a strategy forces the political reconciliation through which stability and rejection of terrorism can flow more effectively. Such an approach would allow for a greater focus on addressing growing terrorist threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We still need health care reform to reduce the financial burden on our communities and to make America more competitive. We need to address the high cost of fuel, protect our family farms, address the mortgage crisis, and invest in infrastructure, including broadband for rural America. And we must insist on fiscal discipline and balanced budgets - with a $9 trillion debt, we spend hundreds of billions each year in interest payments to foreign governments. We cannot continue to deliver to our children and grandchildren a legacy of endless debt.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Priorities

For seven years, the economy has been out of balance, because of the policies of Bush and congressional Republicans.

Our country has serious fiscal problems and growing inequality. Most people are working harder for less and have seen outlandish increases in the costs of a college education, health care and gas prices.

America must invest in education, infrastructure, and eliminate unfairly structured trade deals. We’re spending $12 billion a month in Iraq, and the continued occupation makes us less safe, by ensuring more hatred of Americans. Every day, it make our military weaker and the entire region less stable. By ending the war, the savings can be applied back here at home for critical issues. We’re not going to be able to do this unless we’re able to overcome special interests, who have created trillions of dollars worth of tax loopholes and tax breaks. We need to put those tax breaks and tax loopholes back into the pockets of hardworking Americans.

Balancing the federal budget should be a priority, but we’re not going to be able to dig ourselves out of that hole in one or two years. We must get on a path of sustained growth, by ending the war in Iraq, ending congressional earmarks and ending special interest loopholes.

Instituting a pay-as-you-go policies will require that congressional earmarks end completely, as well as, $73 billion in corporate welfare. This would allow new programs to be paid for, without increasing taxes on the middle class.

Tremendous savings can be realized by eliminating the cost of occupying Iraq, and the $200 billion in tax cuts that go to the top one percent of taxpayers. Furthermore, we can save an additional $350 billion by eliminating special military programs, such as star wars, new atomic weapons, F-22 fighters, and Nimitz-Class Destroyer.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

I have been very fortunate during my 72 years and much of the joy in my life has been the results of a loving relationship with my wife and children. However, some Americans don’t anticipate much happiness this coming year, because they prefer to wallow in self pity rather than address the reasons that led to their unhappy situation.

Undoubtedly, bad things happen to very good people, but much of the adversity that happens to us can be avoided in some cases, by anticipating the consequences of our actions. Smoking and driving drunk are two of the most obvious examples. Failing to regularly exercise and gluttony are less apparent.

We must recognize that happiness is a state of mind, which can help minimize the effect that adversity has on our mental health. We all have heard of people, who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but in spite of such a dreadful diagnosis continue to find enjoyment in every hour of every day that they have left. In many cases there is no hope, but they accept the inevitable and resist despair until the very end.

Others will react to such a diagnosis by becoming very depressed, and perhaps return to behavior that will hasten their demise or drive caring people away from them.

The Lord’s Prayer has been called the summary of the gospel. Although, I’m an agnostic the phrase: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us” has often helped me to realize a more peaceful and happy disposition. For me happiness comes from finding peace within and I firmly believe that hate is like a powerful acid, which does more harm to the container, than that upon which it is spewed.

Going to Florida this time of year will not necessarily bring happiness, because wherever you go, there you are with all your emotional baggage. For many years, I have dealt with the winter blasé as follows: On Dec. 7th, I remind myself that the sun will not be setting any sooner than 4:27 p.m. On Dec. 22nd, I take note, that we’ve not only gained four more minuets of daylight in the evening, but the sun will not be coming up any later in the morning. On Jan. 8th, I begin to anticipate very early morning walks and bike rides at 5:a.m. in late June, because summer is on the way with increasing amounts of daylight in the morning and evening.

In many cases, overwhelming sadness and clinical depression are treatable. Remember to: “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, Keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us ev’ry day, it will brighten all the way, If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life” May you have a happy and healthy New Year.