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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Rebuttal

Yesterday, Ryan Bauman of Oneonta had a letter published in the Oneonta Star, which disagreed with my letter of 2/22/08.

Mr. Bauman wrote:
“I am going to get straight to the point ... ‘Unverifiable accusations of behavior?’ I count three in a recent letter from James ‘Jim’ O'Leary in Delhi. I’ll get to the most unverifiable in a second. Let the anger build, please. One million dead, 2 million displaced, James? What, did you set up a turnstile at the Iraqi border? Go to all the morgues and start counting? Thanks for rounding it off; though, it does add effect. While this is no argument to the fact people have died in Iraq and people have been displaced, I do think your numbers are a bit ‘unverifiable.’ I understand this is an opinion section so please don’t cloud it with unverified alleged facts.

“My real disgust is with your ‘gangsters of capitalism’ blast. The job of the brave men and women of our armed forces is not to make policy. The armed forces is an all-volunteer force that proudly protects your freedoms. Without them, James, your letter would be written in some mix of German, Japanese and English. The men and women of the armed forces serve not for the policies of a mixed-up government but so that people such as yourself can take propaganda you have read on the Internet put it into a letter. You object to the war, good! No one likes to see people die, but to call the young men and women who gave their lives serving this great country ‘gangsters’ is weak and cowardly.

“Next time you see Old Glory flying above, you bow your head and think not about any war but, about the men and women whose blood made those stripes red.”

Ryan Bauman found my quote: “gangsters for capitalism” disgusting. That phrase was used by legendary Marine Corps officer, Smedley Butler. Butler, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism, had the audacity to reveal:

“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

I acknowledged the sacrifices my uncles made in the Pacific during WW II, by enlisting in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, shortly after turning eighteen. My nephew helped liberate Kuwait during the first Gulf War. Bush’s deceit leading to the invasion of Iraq ended a family tradition of enlisting in the Marine Corps, by enabling our corrupt military-industrial complex to make outrageous profits for multinational corporations. War profiteering and corporate loyalty have replaced patriotism.

Those that have sacrificed their lives in Iraq died in vain, because of a corrupt military-industrial complex. As former Senator Mike Gravel said: “There’s only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain. It’s more soldiers dying in vain.” Old Glory has come to represent an imperialistic nation not unlike Germany and Japan of the early 1940’s. That’s disgusting!

The estimate of more than one million violent deaths in Iraq was confirmed five months ago in a poll by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business, which estimated 1,220,580 violent deaths since the invasion. This is consistent with the study conducted by doctors and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health a year earlier. Their study was published in the Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal. It estimated 601,000 people killed due to violence as of July 2006; but if updated on the basis of deaths since the study, the estimate would be more than a million. These estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by the war, including breakdowns in sewerage systems and shortages of medicines.

These measurements we’re based on random sampling of the population rather than a complete count of the dead. If you don’t believe in random sampling, the next time your doctor orders a blood test, tell him that he needs to take all of your blood. The methods used in the estimates of Iraqi deaths are the same as those used to estimate the deaths in Darfur, which are widely accepted in the media.

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. 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.

Transcripts of CNN’s Situation Room of 2/27/08 have Jack Cafferty stating: “there weren’t four million Iraqi refugees in Iraq until George Bush invaded Iraq, with John McCain’s support.”

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Alternative

The enthusiasm for increasing our military spending reflects the fact that most politicians continue to pander to a corrupt military industrial complex. Very few politicians demonstrate the leadership, which America needs. They fear the consequences of articulating, a position, which abandons the current strategy of attempting to resolve the ailments afflicting the Islamic world.

Employing additional military power, in the Islamic world, will never ensure our safety. Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that the Muslim world is impervious to change imposed from the outside. Our efforts to inspire democracy, even if well-intentioned, have played into the hands of violent Islamic radicals. The Bush regimes’ strategy has exacerbated the problem, while squandering American lives, treasure, moral standing and political influence throughout the world.

War has been a distraction to the underlying problem in the Muslim world, which continue to fester. Bush’s global war to eliminate terrorism by meddling in Muslim countries will merely elicit more hatred.

The challenge confronting our next president is to formulate an alternative to Bush’s failed strategy, which recognize that the war in Iraq is not economically sustainability. An alternative strategy must acknowledge that we cannot change Islam and that our only alternative is to coexist with it. Coexistence doesn’t imply appeasement or passivity. The alternative is not surrender but to quarantine.

Our nation’s top accountant Comptroller General David Walker insists: “Our current policy on education, energy, the environment, immigration and Iraq are unsustainable.”

Eventually, Islam will become something other than what it is today, but that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. It’s in our interest to encourage that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West.

A leader, who can articulate such concepts deserve our support, but continued political posturing for more troops deserve only contempt.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Iraq and the Economy

We’ve spent over $495 billion in Iraq and our economy is a mess. Americans are making the connection between the billions we’ve spent over there and the crumbling economy here at home. Unfortunately, our corporate owned media still talk about the war and the economy as being unrelated.

As long as, we keep pouring money down the drain in Iraq, we won’t have money to solve our economic problems. We must tell the media and our representatives in Congress to stop ignoring the connection between the war and the recession. Senator McCain or any candidate who insists on staying in Iraq has no plan for the economy, because the ongoing occupation in Iraq is sucking up the resources we need to make our economy work again.

Consider these key facts:

* The recession is going to force states to cut back their budgets. Most likely, the cuts are going to affect the services that working families need and depend on.

* The war is costing Americans more than $338 million a day. That money could be spent to help people who’re hurting the most. For less than what we’re spending on the war, we could pay for affordable housing for hundreds of thousands of families, health care for children, or scholarships to help young people pay for education.

* Gas prices are close to double what they were before the invasion of Iraq. The cost of oil is still hovering around $100 barrel.

* We’re borrowing $343 million every day to finance the war in Iraq.

* That skyrocketing debt has become an enormous drag on the economy, thereby slowing recovery and burdening future generations.

In fact, the economic forecast is going to continue to be grim as long as we continue to dump billions into an irresponsible war that has no end in sight.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fiscal Reason

David Walker the comptroller general is an advocate of fiscal reason and has brought public attention to government waste and inaction on our financial crisis. He recently announced his resignation, to join a foundation focusing on critical issues that are affecting this country.

Walker said: “I've accomplished all but one the objectives I set out for myself in 1998 and the last objective is to try to help get the Congress to make some tough choices about the challenges that face the future of America. Hopefully, I’m actually going to have more flexibility and more discretionary resources by partnering with the Peter G. Peterson’s new foundation.

Former commerce secretary, Peter G. Peterson is a long-standing advocate for fiscal prudence and has pledged at least a billion dollars over the next several years, which should make a difference.

Comptroller General, David Walker has sought to focus public attention on difficult issues. He has tried to analyze, understand and discuss with Congress unfunded liabilities, the infectiveness and waste in government. Walker has repeatedly pointed out that our government has gotten us into a $53 trillion hole. About $9 trillion of that debt we already have, however $44 trillion are unfunded promises for Social Security and Medicare. The hole gets deeper by, as much as, $3 trillion a year by doing nothing.

Warren Buffett one of the wealthiest men in the world suggested that Congress increase the taxable base above the present $90,000, because he pays very little in the way of Social Security taxes.

The Congressional Budget Office states that our wars could cost $2.4 trillion through the next decade. That figure includes more than $700 billion in interest, since these wars are being fought on borrowed money and more than 70 percent of this money is going to the war in Iraq.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Reasonable People

Atheists and Christians appear to be incapable of being intellectually honest, because they can’t admit that when it comes to the existence of a Supreme Being they don’t “know.” Reasonable people recognize that no amount of scientific evidence can prove or disprove the existence of a creator.

Truth revealed through scripture is subjective truth predicated by one’s faith. Faith is the antithesis of skepticism and objective truth. Most religions blinds their followers to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.

Logic suggests that a God would expect us to acquire vast amounts of objective information and make maximum use our ability to reason. Thus, we would be making use of the greatest gift a Supreme Being might bestowed upon mankind. Otherwise, we demonstrate a capacity not significantly greater than a flock of sheep.

Life experiences can lead one to doubt the existence of a Supreme Being, but I also understand that people of faith may have had life experiences, which lead them to an opposite conclusion. Nevertheless, it’s intellectually dishonest or at best a poor choice of words for one to insist that there is or isn’t a God. To suspect, to believe or have faith in either position is not a problem as far as I’m concerned, but for somebody to insist that they “know” there is or isn’t a God seems irrational to me.

Reasonable people recognize that spending $609 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is irrational and unsustainable. Furthermore, refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy elite of our county, who are making unconscionable profits is actually blatant pandering to a greedy constituency.

It was reasonable for Eisenhower to believe: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Vicious Joke

David Corn is a regular contributor to Salon. On June 25, 1998, he wrote an article for Salon entitled: “How Sen. John McCain’s tasteless two-liner about Chelsea Clinton and Janet Reno was censored out of the nation’s leading newspapers.” Excerpts of that article follow:

“During the last few months, many established media outlets have decided to report innuendo and rumor about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal... But this new standard in the practice of journalism seemingly does not extend to other political figures, at least not media darlings like Sen. John McCain. Earlier this month, at a Republican Senate fund-raiser, McCain told a downright nasty joke making fun of Janet Reno, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

“The fact that McCain had made the tasteless joke was reported in major newspapers, as was the vain attempt by his press secretary to initially deny what McCain had done. But in several major newspapers, the joke itself was kept a secret. When McCain subsequently apologized to President Clinton, the Washington Post, in its personality section, noted the apology but said the joke ‘was too vicious to print.’

“The Los Angeles Times, in its Life & Style section, provided an oblique rendering of the joke that did not fully convey its ugliness. When Maureen Dowd penned a column in the New York Times about the joke, she wrote that McCain ‘is so revered by the press that his disgusting jape was largely nudged under the rug.’ But Dowd chose not to relay the joke, either.

“The joke did appear in McCain’s hometown paper, the Arizona Republic, and the Associated Press did report the joke in full, so everyone in the press had access to McCain’s words. But by censoring themselves, the Post, the Times and others helped McCain deflect flak and preserved his status as a Republican presidential contender.

Salon feels its readers deserve the unadulterated truth. Though no tape of McCain’s quip has yet emerged, this is what he reportedly said: “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.”

“McCain’s two-liner conveys some interesting insights into what he considers humorous (lesbianism, a young woman’s physical appearance), particularly since it was delivered to a Republican crowd. Remember, this is the party that champions pro-family values.

“But the joke revealed more than a mean streak in a man who would be president. It also exposed how the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times play favorites when reporting the foibles of our leading politicians.”

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Death of the Dollar

The value of our dollar is falling, because our nation has been living beyond its means, and we’re borrowing $2 billion a day from foreign lenders in order to maintain our standard of living.
 
The death of our dollar is the result of the $5 trillion in trade deficits America has run up, since the passage of NAFTA and the creation of the World Trade Organization. In 2006, our trade deficit reached $764 billion, such deficits are unsustainable and have led to a decline in the value of our dollar.
 
As nations realize that the dollars they are being paid for their products cannot buy in the world markets what they once did, they’ll demand more dollars for those goods. This will mean rising prices for the imports on which America has become increasingly dependent.

China is willing to take losses in the value of the dollars that it holds, to keep the our technology, factories and jobs pouring in, as their exports capture America’s markets from American producers.
 
The Japanese will take some loss in the value of their dollar hoard to take down Chrysler, Ford and GM, and capture our auto market as they captured our TV, camera and computer chip markets.
 
Other nations that have kept cash reserves in U.S. Treasury bonds are watching the value of their assets sink. Consequently, they have begun to divest and diversify, taking in fewer dollars and more euros and yen. As more nations abandon the dollar, its value will continue to decline.
 
The oil-producing and exporting nations, like China, with trade surpluses have begun to take the stash of dollars they have and stuff them into sovereign wealth funds, and use these immense and growing funds to buy up real assets in our investment banks and companies.
 

Friday, February 22, 2008

False Assurances

The emergency Fed rate cut and an economic stimulus plan are short-term responses to our complex economic problems. They are mere band-aids for our hemorrhaging economy.

Bush and congressional leadership have an obligation, to remedy the public policy mistakes of the past 20 years. America needs courageous policy decisions, which will steer this nation’s economy away from the brink of disaster.

First our leadership must acknowledge that this crisis was brought on by our government’s failure to regulate the institutions and markets that are now in crisis. The irresponsible fiscal policies of the past decade have led to a national debt that amounts to $9 trillion. The irresponsible so-called free trade policies of Democratic and Republican administrations over the past three decades have produced a trade debt that now amounts to more than $6 trillion, and that debt is contributing to the plunge in the value of our dollar.

Our nation has become increasingly dependent on foreign producers for clothing, computer technology and energy. Our weakened dollar is making the price of all of these imported goods more expensive. Our political and economic leaders have squandered this nation’s wealth, and the bill has come due for all.

The truth is that consumers spend most of their money on foreign imports. Consequently, any stimulus package would be stimulating foreign economies rather than our own. Imports, account for 92 percent of our non-athletic footwear, 92 percent of audio video equipment, 89 percent of our luggage and 73 percent of power tools. In fact, between 1997 and 2006, only five of the 114 industries examined in a U.S. Business and Industry Council report gained market share against import competition.

Our national leadership should admit that the stimulus package will not prevent a recession. It may ease the pain for millions of Americans, but a recession is inevitable. The only question is how deep, prolonged and painful will it be. We’re about to find out how capable our national leaders are at mitigating that pain and producing realistic policy decisions for this nation, which stand at the brink a recession.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Long-term Outlook

Long-term Outlook by Joel Skousen

Since few stocks give dividends any more, most investors only gain when stock prices go higher. They are driven to invest in stocks and other higher yielding instruments precisely because interest rates on safer investments (savings) are so low. People feel compelled to park their money elsewhere--especially when true Inflation is now above 10%. There are also trillions of dollars in retirement funds that are searching for productive returns, because of fears of inflation.
 
All of this accumulated saving impacts the economy in two ways. A certain percentage of the economy is driven by the consumption from those who are living off these savings and investments. The funds from those who are not withdrawing interest or principle are being reinvested elsewhere, and since many of those investments were highly speculative, or misrepresented, much that money isn’t ever coming back. There are millions in this country counting on there pensions and investments to be there when they retire. Much of that value is already gone, and most don’t know it--because of the deception in reporting values.
 
The underlying problem infesting our economy and the world is mountains of bad debt. How bad is it? Wall Street spinmeisters are claiming a mere $200 billion in total bond losses and maybe another $400 billion down the road. That is grossly understated. According to Jim Willie and other gold experts, prime mortgage bond losses are at least $2T (that’s Trillion), Subprime losses total $1T, and total mortgage bond losses are $3T. “The official estimates are wrong by a factor of 10!” says Willie. “Gold will skyrocket when these numbers are finally reported.” That’s where he is wrong--at least about the reporting. The numbers will never be reported honestly. Deceiving the public and covering up for gross malfeasance is part of the financial system now.
 
Good investments have been packaged along with bad debt instruments to make them more saleable to investors worldwide. In reality, this practice has only compromised the good. Even firms that insure and rate these debt instruments have been complicit in falsifying the value of these debt packages. Moreover, major brokerage firms misrepresent the values when they are marketed. Besides the legal liability for this investor fraud, which may never be sorted out (except for the major players), the problem is that the money is gone. It has been spent. Worse, derivative bets have been formed on kinds of market conditions and debt instruments (as hedges) and those liabilities run into the trillions. That is the next bombshell waiting to drop.
 
What the financial PTB are trying to do is make sure enough liquidity is injected so that institutions responsible for paying out the interest on these debt instruments stay solvent. As long as the interest keeps flowing, the PTB hope that the falling values of the underlying assets can be downplayed or covered-up.
That’s why the administration is working to keep foreclosures on bad debt to a minimum, slowing the domino effect.
 
In short, if the Fed continues to bail out those with huge sums invested in packaged debt instruments, the money will continue to flow downhill into the US economy, where it can continue to fuel business investment and consumer spending. There will be job dislocations as companies scramble to remain profitable, but as long as the government is inflating the currency new investment will slowly adjust and create new jobs. Ordinarily the government would not be able to do this without creating hyper inflation, but it can still do so for a while longer since holders of dollars are held hostage to the magnitude of dollar dominance. The dollar market is so large compared to other currencies it continues resist destabilization. But, at this new rate of liquidity injection, which is massive, that resistance will be shaken eventually. The Fed has for many years slowed down monetary growth in such a way that the bubbles they create are slowly allowed to deflate and the markets have adjusted, over time. Now, with bailouts accelerating to previously unheard of levels, we are sailing into uncharted waters at higher speeds and with bigger waves.
 
Most of the large international holders of dollars have pooled their funds into Sovereign Wealth Funds. Even so, they are still held hostage by the sheer weight of their holdings. They can’t begin to dump dollars in large amounts without destroying the remaining value. Why don't they all switch to Euros? In the first place there aren’t enough Euros in print or on the books to absorb the massive international dollar trade. Even the degree to which the Euro is being inflated presently, to meet current demand, is causing significant inflation in Europe, so the central bank is limited in how fast it can accommodate the increased demand for Euros.
 
What Sovereign Wealth Funds can do is buy more products, banks and companies priced in dollars. As Jim Willie of www.goldenJackass.com wrote: “The Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) movement has begun to expand in a powerful manner, and will not go away. In fact, it will expand on a grand basis since foreign nations have had their fill of US Treasury Bonds, and see risks ahead for any US $-based investments. The SWF fund movement is intended to pursue the two prime commodities, GOLD & CRUDE OIL, the premier financial anchor and commercial fuel in the increasingly upside down world [but are being forced into other markets].
 
“Several stories have emerged, of Chinese and Arab funds purchasing giant equity stakes in large US banks. [This is a kind of] creditor receivership in stages... In the past few months, a total of $60 billion has been poured into the Western big banks... Rather than to permit the banks to go bust with embarrassing bankruptcies, the creditors (benefactors) have dispatched grand sums... in exchange for large stakes in their capital structures.... relinquishing some control in the process.”
 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Retroactive Immunity

Telecommunication companies enabled the Bush regime to illegally bypass restrictions on domestic surveillance imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Now, Bush is insisting on retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. The Senate had a number of opportunities to amend the FISA law and ensure that American citizens who were harmed by unlawful collection of their personal information could have their day in court. Unfortunately, all of these amendments were rejected.  

Senator Carl Levin could not support the section of the FISA legislation that granted retroactive immunity for telecommunications providers who disclosed communications and other confidential information about their customers at the behest of the Bush regime. The telecommunications providers violated a law, which specifically made it illegal to do so. Retroactive immunity would require dismissal of lawsuits by anyone who was the victim of illegal interception and disclosure of their communications.    

Bush threatened: “... at midnight, legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying and what they are planning will be compromised.” Bush insisted that: “the lives of countless Americans depend,” on Congress continuing to grant retroactive immunity to the phone companies, which illegally would allow Bush to spy on Americans.

However, counterterrorism professional Richard Clarke wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”

In December, Sen. Edward Kennedy reminded Americans: “The president has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the president at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.”

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

“Totally Spent”

Robert B. Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley recently authored “Supercapitalism.” The following are excerpts from Reich’s most recent article “Totally Spent.”

“We’re sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

“The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.

“The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living and for businesses to adjust to a smaller economy, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power — and not just temporarily.

“Much of the current debate is irrelevant. Even with more tax breaks for business like accelerated depreciation, companies won’t invest in more factories or equipment when demand is dropping for products and services across the board, as it is now. And temporary fixes like a stimulus package that would give households a one-time cash infusion won’t get consumers back to the malls, because consumers know the assistance is temporary. The problems most consumers face are permanent, so they are likely to pocket the extra money instead of spending it.

“Another Fed rate cut might unfreeze credit markets and give consumers access to somewhat cheaper loans, but there’s no going back to the easy money of a few years ago. Lenders and borrowers have been badly burned, and the values of houses and other assets are dropping faster than interest rates can be lowered.

“The underlying problem has been building for decades, America’s median hourly wage is barely higher than it was 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Most of what’s been earned in America since then has gone to the richest 5 percent.

“Yet the rich devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, and thus stimulating the American economy, the rich are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

“The problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found ways to live beyond their paychecks. But now they have run out of ways.

“The first way was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 — to more than 70 percent. But there’s a limit to how many mothers can maintain paying jobs.

“So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours. The typical American now works more each year than he or she did three decades ago. Americans became veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

“But there’s also a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third way of spending beyond their wages. They began to borrow. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster from 2002 to 2006, they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans. But this third strategy also had a built-in limit. With the bursting of the housing bubble, the piggy banks are closing.

“The binge seems to be over. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.

“The only way to keep the economy going over the long run is to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans. The answer is not to protect jobs through trade protection. That would only drive up the prices of everything purchased from abroad. Most routine jobs are being automated anyway.

“A larger earned-income tax credit, financed by a higher marginal income tax on top earners, is required. The tax credit functions like a reverse income tax. Enlarging it would mean giving workers at the bottom a bigger wage supplement, as well as phasing it out at a higher wage. The current supplement for a worker with two children who earns up to $16,000 a year is about $5,000. That amount declines as earnings increase and is eliminated at about $38,000. It should be increased to, say, $8,000 at the low end and phased out at an income of $46,000.

“We also need stronger unions, especially in the local service sector that’s sheltered from global competition. Employees should be able to form a union without the current protracted certification process that gives employers too much opportunity to intimidate or coerce them. Workers should be able to decide whether to form a union with a simple majority vote.

“And employers who fire workers for trying to organize should have to pay substantial fines. Right now, the typical penalty is back pay for the worker, plus interest — a slap on the wrist.

“Over the longer term, inequality can be reversed only through better schools for children in lower- and moderate-income communities. This will require, at the least, good preschools, fewer students per classroom and better pay for teachers in such schools, in order to attract the teaching talent these students need.

“These measures are necessary to give Americans enough buying power to keep the American economy going. They are also needed to overcome widening inequality, and thereby keep America in one piece.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Emergency Plan

The Philadelphia Platform’s Draft Emergency Economic Program is very interesting and deserves our consideration.

1. Stop all foreclosures immediately for at least five years and for the duration of the depression by means of a compulsory federal law carrying criminal penalties. No foreclosures on homes, family farms, factories, public utilities, hospitals, transportation and other infrastructure. Outlaw adjustable rate mortgages.

2. Raise the federal minimum wage immediately to a living wage of at least $15 per hour, with the short-term goal of attaining a federal minimum wage of at least $20 per hour.

3. Immediate enactment of a securities transfer tax of 1% to be imposed on all financial turnover in all financial markets to include the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, the Amex, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the market in federal securities, the foreign exchange market, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and all other financial markets. This tax will be paid by the seller. This tax will be extended to the notional value of all derivatives, including over-the-counter derivatives, exchange traded derivatives, structured notes, designer derivatives and all other financial paper. Derivatives will become reportable under penalty of law. It is conservatively estimated that the securities transfer tax will yield approximately $5 trillion of new revenue in its first year of application. This new revenue will permit a stabilization and consolidation of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and will permit the expansion of Head Start, the Food Stamps program, WIC, the Veterans Administration hospitals, while extending unemployment insurance up to an initial total of at least 52 weeks, to be prolonged as needed. Provide revenue sharing to deal with the looming deficits of states, counties, and municipalities.

4. Using the new revenue obtained from the securities transfer tax on Wall Street financiers, provide comprehensive tax relief for all small businesses, thus permitting them to pay the new living wage. Small business will also be aided by the provision of national single-payer health care, as described below.

5. Implement Medicare for all in the form of a single payer, universal coverage, publicly administered system to provide healthcare for all. No rationing of care will be permitted under any circumstances. Cost-cutting will be achieved through eliminating exorbitant corporate profits, through administrative reform, and above all through a federally-funded crash program, on the scale of the Manhattan Project, of biomedical research designed to discover new and more effective treatments and cures for the principal diseases currently afflicting humanity.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Simplistic Solution

I’ve taken exception with portions of a letter in the Albany Times Union by Newton Holbrook, who states: “No matter where I go or where I am, every person has a negative response to the way our governments (national, state and local) are performing their duties. It is supposed to be a ‘Government of the People, By the People, etc.’ The President is just a figurehead and the worst one we have ever had, but Congress has the power to override him at any given time. There lies the problem.”

Mr. Holbrook insists that Congress has the power to override the president at any given time. This is a misrepresentation of the Constitution.

Abraham Lincoln wrote: “Allow the president to invade a nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purposes and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his powers, after you have given him so much.”

Bush has claimed: “The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq.”

Getting out of Iraq is a command not a negotiation. If, Democrats could persuade 100 percent of Congress to set a time line for withdrawal, Bush wouldn’t allow anyone to tell him how to fight his crusade.

Mr. Holbrook’s simplistic solution for the rest of our problems is to: “Vote these incumbent, career legislators out of office. Don’t wait for them to change, because they are all for themselves. The first item they accomplished in session was to give themselves a 2.5 percent raise. Larry, Moe and Curley could do a better job. Get some new blood in the government who will work for the people. We don’t need any lawyers or Ph.D.s in there. We need people who have some good old-fashioned common sense.”

Unfortunately, common sense is not all that common. I’ve heard several Republican reiterate Holbrook’s cure for the mess in Washington D.C. Common sense tells me that voting all incumbents out of office would put Republicans back in control of the House and the Senate. Perhaps, that is what Holbrook wants, but hopefully only Larry, Moe and Curley will take his advise.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hearts and Minds

On 1/10/08, B1 bombers and F-16 jets attacked a cluster of villages in the Latifiya district south of Baghdad and dropped at least 40,000 pounds of explosives on the villages and plantations within a span of 10 minutes.

Iraqi Major General Muhammad al-Azzawy said: “The use of B1 bombers shows the terrible failure of the U.S. campaign in Iraq. U.S. military and political tactics failed in this area, and that is why this massacre. This kind of bombing is usually used for much bigger targets than small villages full of civilians. This was savagery.”

The attack on neighbouring villages begun a week earlier with heavy artillery and tank bombardment. The attack followed strong resistance from members of the mainly Sunni Muslim al-Juboor tribe against groups that residents described as sectarian death squads.

This cluster of Sunni villages was bombed just weeks after the U.S. military encouraged families to return to their village after heavy bombing earlier in which scores of people were killed. Many residents had fled fearing sectarian death squads, which they say were backed by the U.S.

Ahmad Alwan reported: “On Jan. 10, huge aircraft started bombing the villages. We took our families and fled. We have never seen such bombardment since the 2003 American invasion. They were bombing everything and everybody.”

Akram Naji, a lawyer in Baghdad who has relatives in the village insisted: “The al-Qaeda name is used once more to destroy another Sunni area. Americans are still supporting Iranian influence in Iraq by cleansing Baghdad and surroundings of Sunnis.”

A former army officer in Baghdad believes that: “We have no alternative but to fight this occupation and its allies. We can see clearly now that Americans came with the idea that we, Sunni Arabs, are the enemies they have in mind no matter what we do to please them. We will fight for our existence, and this massacre will not go unpunished.”

Omar Hussein, who fled for Dora in Baghdad from the bombarded area said: “It was a miracle that I could evacuate my family at the last minute. My house and farm are on the outskirts of the village. I took my family out the minute I saw the aircraft in the sky. Apache helicopters later fired at the trucks that were carrying the families out of the area, and killed so many civilians. They took some wounded people to their military base. I am sure hundreds of people would have been killed. It is just like the Fallujah crime.”

Taha Muslih al-Joboory, his wife and three sons were among those reported killed in the bombing. Juboory was an Iraqi journalist who lived all his life in the area. Many families were reported buried under the rubble of their houses.

Nada a 35-year-old woman, who had relatives in the village asserted: “We know they will get away with their crime now, but we will teach our children that America and the whole West are our enemies, so that they take revenge for these crimes.”

Making us safer by winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis is not the mission and never has been.
    

Friday, February 15, 2008

Camillo Bica

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy in New York City. His focus is in ethics, particularly as it applies to war and warriors. As a veteran recovering from his experiences as a United States Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, he founded, and coordinated the Veterans Self-Help Initiative, a therapeutic community of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The following are excerpts from Professor Bica’s moral foundations for “Winter Soldier’s hearings in March:

“Since the invasion of Iraq, it has become clear to all, with the possible exception of Fox Television Network viewers, that the attacks of September 11, were not supported by the people or the government of Iraq. At the time of the invasion, Iraq wasn’t seeking nor did it possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq posed no immediate threat to America, Israel or any other Middle East nation. The Iraqis were not terrorists and did not support terrorism. They were not linked in any way to the terrorist attacks. Consequently, the citizens of Iraq are innocent, because they have done nothing to warrant forfeiture of their rights to life and to live in a nation that enjoys territorial integrity and political sovereignty.

“Bush and those who planned and initiated the invasion and misrepresented it as a just war against terrorism and to preserve freedom must bear the preponderance of responsibility and culpability for the aggression. However, the invading troops, despite their being mislead into believing their cause was just, are agents of unwarranted, immoral and illegal violence and are violating the rights of the Iraqis. They are “unjustifiable combatants/innocent aggressors.” Consequently, the invading/occupying troops must suffer the sanction of forfeiture of their natural immunity and become liable to be justifiably resisted and warred against by the Iraqis in self-defense.

“The fact that our invaders and occupiers allege to target only Iraqi combatants, is irrelevant both to a determination of whether the invasion is just and to judgments of the liability of the aggressors. The opposing combatants, despite being termed “insurgents” and “terrorists” by our political and military leaders, maintain their immunity and their right to self-defense. Consequently, the Iraqi combatants and their allies do not forfeit the very rights they are morally struggling to assert. They are justifiable combatants. It is not the case, therefore, because of a fierce “insurgent” resistance, that the aggressors can now claim their actions are morally justified by reasons of self-defense.

“Consequently, regardless of whether the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was the result of an honest mistake or something more insidious, the preemptive attack against the sovereign nation of Iraq, the killing of its citizens and its continued occupation are morally unjustifiable - an act of aggression and murder.”

Tomorrow, I’ll provide a specific example of an act of aggression and murder, which supports Bica’s ethical arguments.

    

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Winter Soldiers

In “Common Sense” , Thomas Paine challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy. An essay by Paine started, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.”

The first “Winter Soldier Investigation” was sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War was intended to publicize war crimes and atrocities by our Armed Forces and their allies in the Vietnam War. The VVAW challenged the morality and conduct of the war by showing the direct relationship between military policies and war crimes in Vietnam. At the three-day gathering 109 discharged servicemen from each branch of military service, as well as civilian contractors and medical personnel gave testimony about war crimes they had committed or witnessed during the years of 1963-1970.

In April 1971; Senator Fulbright requested John Kerry testify before the Senate, as a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Kerry testified: “These are not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day to day basis with full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen... the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men, who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do...We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our memories of that service; as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us.”

From March 13-16, the Iraq Veterans Against the War will convene another “Winter Soldier” hearing at the National Labor College, 10000 New Hampshire Ave. Silver Springs, Maryland. The IVAW members and others will courageously provide eyewitness accounts of their experiences of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. By telling the truth about these occupations, which they hope will provide, the impetus for a long overdue national debate on the morality and legality of America’s alleged “War Against Terrorism.” Many who consider themselves to be “patriots” will accuse these veterans of being un-American, unpatriotic and even treasonous, but they are the sunshine patriots.

The former head of the bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, wrote: “It’s about the impact of our policies in the Islamic world. And because we won’t talk about that here in America, we’re not adequately defended.” Sunshine patriots like Senators Clinton, Schumer and Rep. Gillibrand refuse to admit that our past and present policies in the Middle East endanger our safety.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mr. Treadwell is Confused

On February 4, 2008 the following letter to the editor was published in the Albany Times Union:

“A recent Associated Press story in the business section of the Times Union (‘GE sees future in alternative energy,’ Jan. 15) is good news for our state and nation, as it exemplifies that the private sector is ready to lead the way toward creating a better energy future for all of us.

“The high gas prices and home heating bills that families are facing this winter demonstrate why we must secure our energy independence. Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, we have heard many times how government is going to enact new energy policies that will end our reliance on foreign oil. But 35 years later, it still hasn’t happened.

“There were some encouraging signs from Washington last year, but we must do more. Building on our proud history as an innovative nation, American industries and entrepreneurs are working on a variety of promising technologies such as cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel fuel, fuel cells, plug-in hybrid cars and wind energy.

“Congress must work to encourage and accelerate these projects by providing tax incentives and prizes for innovation, and by removing existing hurdles so these private efforts can succeed.

“Upstate New Yorkers understand the pressures that high energy costs place on family finances. As the price of oil climbs (it hit record levels earlier this month), so do the costs of consumer goods and services as farms and industries are forced to raise prices to cover their own increased energy bills.

“High energy costs also deter business investment, which in turn, has a negative effect on economic growth, job creation, and our overall quality of life.

“After more than three decades of unfulfilled government promises, we must take aggressive steps to invest in our future and cut our addiction to foreign oil. The recent business section article is cause for optimism.”

“If government grasps the opportunity to build collaborative relationships with the private sector on alternative energy projects, we will one day be reading about the success of these efforts not in the business section, but on the front page.”

Sandy Treadwell Saratoga Springs
 
My rebuttal of Mr. Treadwell’s remarks was published in A.T.U. yesterday.

In his Feb. 4 letter, Sandy Treadwell, a Republican candidate for Congress in the 20th District, wrote: “Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, we have heard many times how government is going to enact new energy policies that will end our reliance on foreign oil. But 35 years later, it still hasn’t happened.”

Indeed, it hasn’t happened, but it wasn’t because President Carter didn’t try. In a televised speech to the nation in 1977, Carter predicted:

“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.”

Bush’s pre-emptive, imperialistic invasion of Iraq clearly demonstrates that destruction and conquest have become the choices of most Republicans.

Furthermore, Carter proposed 10 principles for our national energy plan. Carter’s 10 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.

Please note: On 1/25/08, excerpts from Carter’s 1977 speech were posted on this website. The following day, I posted the ten principles of our National Energy Plan of 1977.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kim’s Letter

On Feb. 6, 2008, I noticed the following letter in the Dear Abby column.

“Dear Abby: You won’t print this, but in my opinion organized religion has a lot to do with why the world is so badly messed up.

“Although most religions espouse values of kindness, generosity and good works, in practical application, it seems that religion is used more often to divide ‘them’ from ‘us,’ and to give people yet another way to discriminate against one another. It isn’t limited to wars between different religions; one need only look back a few years to see different sects of Christians killing and terrorizing each other in Northern Ireland. And look at the state of religious warfare today. Muslims are murdering and terrorizing other Muslims in Iraq just for belonging to a different sect of Islam.

“If people were more concerned with doing the right things in THIS world, rather than preoccupying themselves with what is going to happen in the NEXT one, our world would be a better place. -- Kim in Columbus, Ohio ”

Dear Abby replied:“Dear Kim: Your letter has merit, and that’s why I printed it.”

Kim’s letter has a great deal of merit. Therefore, I’m posting it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cunning and Calculating

While examining highly classified National Security Council documents, Warren Bass, an investigator for the 9/11 Commission, came across some alarming material. Buried in the files of former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, Bass found documents, which confirm the Bush regime had ignored repeated warnings regarding the threat posed by bin Laden. Clarke had bombarded national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice in the summer of 2001 with memos warning of an al Qaeda attack. A memo written a week before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had Clarke pleading with officials to imagine how they would feel after a tragedy in which: “hundreds of Americans lay dead...”

Bass’s investigation was obstructed by his boss Philip Zelikow, who was a friend of Condoleezza Rice and had coauthored a book with her. At Rice’s request, Zelikow had also anonymously drafted a new Bush national-security paper in September 2002 that laid out the case for preventive wars. In a 9/11 commission staff meetings, Zelikow disparaged Clarke as an egomaniac and braggart, who was unjustly slandering his friend Rice.

Richard Clarke served four presidents and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. His career began as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan. On 9/11, he was the nations crisis manager in the White House’s situation room, while Cheney and Rice remained safe in its bunker. In his book, “Against All Enemies”, Clarke points out: “We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

According to a study, Bush and top members of his administration 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 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 insisted that the world community saw Saddam Hussein as a threat. At the time, Bush claimed our intelligence community and those of other nations thought Iraq had WMD. But they didn’t.

The Website of the Center for Public Integrity 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 have led to almost 4,000 of our troops being killed.

Recently, Philip Shenon’s book entitled: “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,” detailed just how dysfunctional the Bush regime was in the run-up to the terror attacks.

Has it occurred to anyone that the word “dysfunctional” to describe the Bush administration’s actions in the lead-up to 9/11, as well as, the word “mistake” to describe the invasion and occupation of Iraq is inaccurate? I suggest the words: “cunning and calculating” would be much more appropriate.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama’s Domestic Issues

Barack Obama believes that a domestic policy, which cuts taxes for those, who don’t need it is wrong. His concern is for those families across the country, who are struggling, trying to figure out how to fill up their gas tank, save for their children’s college education, pay for their health care and save for retirement.

Obama has put forth a health care plan that can save $100 billion to $125 billion a year and apply that saving to make sure that every American has health care. To pay for his plan, he would roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

High-quality health care coverage for all Americans would make sure children get regular checkups, instead of having to go to the emergency room for treatable illnesses, like asthma. Obama’s program would apply technology to the health care system, so that when you go to the hospital, you don’t have to fill out forms in triplicate, and there are all sorts of errors that arise. 

Obama points out: “We’re not going to solve the problems facing many Americans by pretending that issues of poverty and the struggles of working families are just going to go away magically, because the stock market is going up.”

He asks: “How do we move this country in a new direction, and how do we unify, instead of divide?  How do we create a new kind of politics that’s based on hope, instead of based on fear?”

Senator Obama believes Independents and Republican want a return to common sense in our politics and are looking for big ideas, but also the capacity to pull people together around a larger purpose. 

Obama insists: “We can’t compromise on a progressive vision that says if you are able and willing to work, you should be able to find a job that pays a living wage. We should not compromise on retirement security for our senior citizens. We should not compromise on issues of racial equality and gender quality.  We should not compromise on the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain to improve their standing in life.  We shouldn’t compromise on the idea that every child should get a decent education. It shouldn’t just be a slogan.” 

Obama’s goal of pulling people together around a larger purpose is reflected in his campaign speeches. On “Hardball”, Chris Matthews suggested that Obama say: “This country’s in a rut, a rut that leads to endless war in Iraq, that leads to inevitable war with Iran.  The American people, and not just the Democrats, want to get our country out of this rut.  The great majority of them want this election to take us to a new place, not just led by someone smarter along the same rut.  I promise to take us to that new place.  Senator Clinton is smart.  She’s hardworking.  She’s serious.  But every vote she has cast, every word she has spoken says yes to the status quo.  She voted to approve the war with Iraq.  She just voted with the hawks to target Iran.  She always seems to choose the safe boat that leaves this country in the same rut, the rut of fearful politics and endless war.  I promise change.  I promise a new approach.  I promise deliverance from the rut of endless war in Iraq, inevitable war in Iran.  So there you have it.  It’s for you, my fellow Democrats, to decide.  If you think Bush’s policies would have been succeed if they were better executed, then go with Senator Clinton.  If you think the Bush policies were wrong, dead wrong, I‘m with you.”

Obama will not say this because he recognizes that the most important goal is not to win the primary election, but to bring the Democratic party together to win the general election in November.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ike’s Granddaughter

Ike’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower is no longer urging her fellow Republicans to stick with the GOP. She considers Obama to be the only candidate who can build a national consensus on the issues most important to her—energy, global warming, an aging population and America’s standing in the world.

Our Democratic representatives in Congress need to be reminded that Ike said: “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.” and “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Susan Eisenhower should remind Republicans that her grandfather 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.”

Few in Congress recall Eisenhower saying: “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 is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.”

Furthermore, Eisenhower said: “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.”

Ike’s most insightful quote might be: “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.”

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stimulus Package

Yesterday, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand voted in favor of the Economic Stimulus Act and the joint House-Senate Economic Stimulus Package. The President is expected to be sign the package into law within days. 

This package will benefit more than 130 million American families. Couples will receive up to $1,200, plus $300 for each child. The bill is more comprehensive than the original House passed bill, because it will provide 20 million seniors living solely on Social Security and 250,000 disabled veterans with stimulus checks.  Rebate checks could be sent as early as mid-May.

Rep. Gillibrand sponsored the Immediate Financial Assistance for America’s Seniors Act, which would ensure that all Social Security-dependent seniors receive a tax rebate in the pending Economic Stimulus Package.  In the previous bill, social security benefits were not defined as earned income, which is necessary in order to qualify for a rebate.

The legislation also includes tax cuts for small businesses. The bipartisan plan doubles the amount small businesses can immediately write off their taxes for capital investments made in 2008 from $125,000 to $250,000, for purchases of new equipment of up to $800,000.

In addition, the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act will include provisions to help families avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. The bill expands affordable mortgage loan opportunities for families at risk of foreclosure through the Federal Housing Administration, and enhances credit availability in the mortgage market by increasing the loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Keep in mind, however that whenever the federal government hands out refunds, they frequently pass costs on to the state governments, who in turn raise taxes statewide or pass the costs on to the local governments, who end up raising property taxes. We need real and substantial solutions to our economic problems, not Band-Aids that just shift the bleeding somewhere else.

We’re pleased to get a rebate, but will have a problem deciding on something that is actually made in America to spend it on. I’m told that, by the time the interest on this economic stimulus package is paid to the privately owned Federal Reserve, it will be roughly $300 billion in borrowed dollars. My post of 1/19/08, entitled “Help America” recommends what is really needed.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Beggar Nation

The neocon agenda is to increase the federal budget deficit to a point whereby social programs must be cut. They’re seeking to privatization everything they can and get rid of entitlement programs.

Since 9/11, Congress has written checks for $691 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Congressional Budget Office reported: “Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007.”

Bush has opposed paying the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with tax increases. Consequently, the Iraq and Afghanistan war money is being put on a government credit card at a time when our national debt has skyrocketed to more than $9 trillion, up from $5.6 trillion, when Bush took office in 2001. This means that nearly every penny we spent is added to our national debt. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the interest payments on this debt will total $234 billion this year and increase to an estimated $2.7 trillion over the next decade.

War funding, which averaged $93 billion a year, from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2008. Congress is expected to pass additional money for the war in the spring, despite repeated attempts by Democrats to bring the fighting in Iraq to an end. Republicans have defended the costs of the Iraq war, saying it has helped to make us safer. On 9/11/07, General David Petraeus admitted that he doesn’t know whether the occupation of Iraq was doing us any good in terms of our national security.

Career counter terrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. Clarke wrote: “We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

America used to be a self-reliant, productive nation, but today, we’re becoming a beggar nation, because the Bush’s neocons and congressional Republicans are bought and paid for by mega corporations, who depend on wars to stay in business.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

“I’m not political”

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” pointed out; “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

America has one of the worst voting records in the free world. In the last presidential election, only about 45 % of those eligible to cast a vote did so. Compare that to recent free elections in Australia 96% and Belgium 91%.

Some try to manipulate voters by telling them they should stay home on election day or vote all incumbents out of office. Hypothetically, a strategy of voting all incumbents out of office would put Republicans back in control of the House and the Senate.

CNN’s Lou Dobbs refers to our elected officials as nincompoops and idiots, and claims all of our elected officials are ignoring the will of the people. This leads to the expressions: “They’re all a bunch of crooks!” and “I’m not going to vote, because I’m fed up with all politicians.” or “I’m not political.” This defeatism infects others, and will never lead a better world.

In 1941, Edward Dowling said: “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.”

We must encourage the belief that each of us has the ability to effect change. It’s the political will of the voter which sustains the political will of our government. It’s up to us to sustain this democracy and reclaim our birthright from corporate lobbyist.

Many voters remain completely ignorant of the issues, which are critical to making informed decisions. Mature voters recognize that we have a responsibility to become informed, understand the issues, make difficult choices and vote. “I’m not political” is a public announcement that you don’t care about our country.

American educator, Robert Maynard Hutchins said: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Primary Day

Today, I’ll be voting in the Democratic primary election for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

At the urging of CNN’s Lou Dobbs an increasing number of Americans have registered as independents, which in New York State means that they don’t have a voice in the selection process of either political party’s nominee for president. Our country is a mess, but unlike Lou Dobbs, I don’t blame our politicians. I blame the voters, especially the 55% of eligible voters, who didn’t vote in the 2004 presidential election. Others are too lazy to examine the issues, become involved and support what is best for our nation. I’m most disappointed in those Americans, who only complain about everything and everybody, which is not unlike their guru Lou Dobbs.

This year many registered independents believe that in a primary elections, they should be allowed to vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate. In many cases the reasons stated for registering as an independent is that they’re unhappy with the two party system, but on primary day they want to have a seat on the bench. Some registered independents claim that they haven’t been able to distinguish a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Being unhappy with the two party system, I can accept, but being unable to discern a difference between these two parties reveals a comprehension problem, so sever that we might want to consider not allowing them to vote in the general election.

Statesman Thomas Benton clarified the difference in the 19th century: “There are but two parties; there never have been but two parties… founded in the radical question, whether PEOPLE or PROPERTY shall govern? Democracy implies a government by the people… Aristocracy implies a government of the rich… and in these words are contained the sum of party distinctions.”

Like it or not our two party system is the only game in town and I’ll never sit in the bleachers. Today, I’m going to be a player for the Democratic team, rather than give into my selfish interests and disenfranchise myself from the political process. Those that take themselves out of the lineup are reminiscent of the kid with the only bat at a sandlot baseball game, who takes his bat and goes home, because the other kids won’t allow him to be the pitcher.

Americans need to recognize that Democracy is all about tough choices and compromise. Many enrolled Democrats will not vote today, because they don’t perceive much of a difference between Clinton and Obama. However, if you’re paying close attention to their positions on the issues there are differences, and those differences matter to me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Alan Galowitz

Alan Galowitz of Andes, N.Y. has described, a conversation that may have occurred between George Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke entitled: “What George and Ben May Have Said on the Telephone, Midnight of Martin Luther King Day.”

Ben: Sorry to get you out of bed, George. All hell is breaking loose in the world stock markets.

George: What are you talking about?

Ben: It is a recession panic!! China’s stock is down 10%. Europe is down 5%. When the sun rises on Wall Street god only knows what will happen.

George: But why? Our economy is in great shape! Me and my friends are making a fortune. Oil, is at $3.50 per gallon. It is making our cup overflow.

Ben: World investors are nervous. They think that we have gone too far.

George: But our investment community in the U.S. is not nervous! They understand my economics.

Ben: Of course, our press can be kept under control. They utter no bad news. It’s those guys overseas who are causing all of this trouble and questioning the U.S. economy.

George: Bad news, bad news? What ever do you mean?

Ben: We have had the richest market in the world for fifty years. However, we have just doubled the price of heating our homes, fueling our cars, and getting health care. On top of that food costs are getting out of control, good jobs are going overseas, and housing starts are way down.

George: I didn’t notice. We here in the White House seem to be getting along OK.

Ben: Well, the trouble is that the working stiff who makes up our rich market is running out of money. If everything costs twice as much, he can only buy half of what he used to buy. That spells recession, maybe even depression.

George: Ben, stop that recession talk at once. Nancy and her helpers in the House gave me a few suggestions. First of all, lower the prime rate. Next, lets calm all of these people down, as we have before. Suggest a tax rebate for everybody. That always works! No tax = no worry.
Ben: That will work until those investors discover that there is no money left in consumer’s pockets to buy anything. Americans will soon have empty pockets!

George: But, don’t you see, I’m giving them all a free week’s pay! Won’t that fill their pockets?

Ben: Yeah, but where will that 150 billion bucks come from, George? We’re in hock up to our ears now with the war expenses. There just is no money left and I believe that we have already exceeded our line of credit.

George: That’s easy for you Ben. You are the head of the Fed. All you have to do is to start the printing presses. Make some money, starting tomorrow!

Ben: Printing more money will make each dollar worth less. How will that help?

George: I can’t answer that question. We’ll leave that one for the new Democratic President. I want to see your new economic stimulus suggestions on the table before dawn breaks on Wall Street, and keep those stimuli coming until November. I’m going back to sleep.

Ben: Good night George. Can I call tomorrow for more advice?

George: Yeah, any time, Ben.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Seeking to Understand

Politicians finds it politically inconvenient to acknowledge that the Iraq war is about oil. Furthermore, they reject the spirit of liberty by finding it politically inconvenient to understand the mind of al Qaeda.

In 1944, Learned Hand was a federal judge, who said: “In the American battle of minds, too many are seeking ‘freedom’ and too few are seeking ‘liberty’. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias;...”

In “Political Observations,” James Madison observed: “Furthermore, the first casualty of war is often truth and the spirit of true liberty. James Madison observed the following i

“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”

“War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

“In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”

“The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.”

“No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”“War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it.”

“In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them.”

“In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

“The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Speak Out!

I recently received the following e-mail, from John Edwards, who would have been my choice in the New York State primary election next Tuesday.

“Dear Jim,

“Let me start by saying, “Thank you.” You have stood with Elizabeth and me throughout this campaign. Your support has sustained us as we have traveled across this country.

“Earlier today, I suspended my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. I made this announcement from where our journey began just over 12 months ago: New Orleans.

“I began my presidential campaign in New Orleans to remind the country that all of us -- as citizens and as a government -- have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters.

“Now, it’s time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to the White House -- but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history.

“And, along the way, all of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, I am asking you to continue speaking out for those who have no voice, just as Elizabeth and I will continue to do. We need you.

“Do not turn away from the great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what’s possible, because it’s time for all of us -- all of us together -- to make the two Americas one. We need you.

“In the meantime, Elizabeth and my family join me in thanking all of you for your support and for working so hard on my behalf. We are truly blessed to have such friends.

“Thank you. John Edwards”

Friday, February 01, 2008

Access to Higher Education

Congress has expanded access to college by passing: The College Cost Reduction Act and The Higher Education Access Act of 2007. 

The College Cost Reduction Act. Its goals are to:
1. Increase the maximum Pell Grant.

2. Bring relief to borrowers struggling to repay their loans by capping monthly federal student loan payments.

3. Encourage public service by providing loan forgiveness for graduates who go into fields including teaching, social work, and legal-aid attorneys.

Congress was able to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $200 to a total of $4,310. The College Cost Reduction Act builds on that progress by boosting the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100 next year, and $5,400 by 2011, an increase that is paid for by cutting excess subsidies to the private loan program. 

The Higher Education Access Act of 2007 will increase access to higher education and ensure more federal dollars are going to students. This legislation will:
1. Address rising college costs by providing unbiased information on rising tuition costs to students and their families.

2. Reform the student loan system so it works for students, not lenders.

3. Simplify the financial aid process for all students by reforming the FAFSA

4. Promote innovative models in teacher preparation programs.

Included in this bill is an amendment, which will provide a loan repayment program for new law graduates who work for legal aid. Legal aid attorneys across the country protect the safety, security, and health of low-income citizens.

Unfortunately, as law school tuition has skyrocketed, so has a young lawyer’s debt, which can discourage young attorneys from even considering a career in public service.  Providing loan repayment will help young lawyers enter public service without having to bear the heavy burden of law school debt on their own.

These bills were both passed with large bipartisan support. The crisis in college affordability has grown worse year after year. Congress has finally make good on its promises by passaging these two bills.