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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fear-mongering

Richard A. Clarke the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council wrote: “When I left the Bush administration in 2003, it was clear to me that its strategy for defeating terrorism was leaving our nation more vulnerable and our people in a perilous place.”

The expiration of the Protect America Act would not interrupt our ability to monitor terrorists overseas. If it were true, Bush wouldn’t threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. According to Clarke: “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.”

John McCain will continue Bush’s tactic of fear-mongering, in order to perpetuate his neo-con agenda. Fear is a much easier political tactic than compromise. Bush and his lapdog Republican in Congress are again attempting to force Congress into expanding his executive powers at the expense of our constitutional protections.

Their favorite tactic continues to be fear-mongering to scare Congress and the American people. On the subject of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the neo-cons of the Republican party continue to distort and manipulate the facts.

It’s reprehensible to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would immediately evaporate with congressional inaction. Bush is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast Democrats in a negative light. John McCain will continue to place political objectives above the practical steps needed to defeat the threat of terrorism.

We can’t afford to have another president, who leads by manipulating emotions with fear, disregards the law and abuses our inalienable rights endowed to us by the Constitution. FISA remains the most valuable mechanism for monitoring our enemies.

“They that would give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” - Ben Franklin

Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

Fellow peace vigil participant John Ryan wrote the following in his monthly column, which the Walton Reporter was published on May 21, 2008.

Monday night is a quiet night at Charlie’s Place - a few regulars were at the bar discussing the playoffs and the rising price of gas. The Professor and I were at our usual spot at the end when Doc walked in.

“Well, well,” said the Professor, “Look who’s here. I thought you’d home developing the body beautiful.”

“If you remember, my forgetful friend, I said that on holidays I would take a respite from nutritional discipline to hobnob with you wastrels and, perhaps, bring you some wisdom,” said Doc.

“Holiday? What holiday is today?” I asked.

Doc feigned surprise at my question. “As any school boy knows, it’s Buddha’s birthday. Every year I raise a glass to his memory.”

The Professor and I looked at each other, shaking our heads. “Wouldn’t a cup of green tea be a more appropriate drink to toast to the Enlightened One?” said the Professor as Doc lifted a frothy flagon to his lips.

“Perhaps in other lands, my dear Professor, but I drink American. So - To the Buddha’s Health,” exclaimed Doc.

“To the Buddha’s Health,” we echoed and took a long draft from our glasses.

“Talking about holidays,” said the Professor, “Armed Forces Day was two days ago and Memorial Day is a week from now. Isn’t it odd that they come so close together? The first calls for us to be proud of our people in uniform while the other calls for sadness at their deaths. We are a strange people aren’t we? We will go and look at all those wonderful weapons of war - their beauty, sleekness and efficiency - almost celebrate their existence but then weep when we see the human cost to us of their use.”

“And to that you can add the financial cost,” said Doc. “This coming year, it’ll be close to $800 billion when you add everything up. It’s interesting isn’t it that if you talk about universal health care, funds for education, even expanded veterans benefits, the cry is always ‘too expensive’ or ‘we can’t afford it’ but once you mention war or the things of war, the sky is the limit.”

Charlie put three freshly filled glasses in front of us. “You know, bein’ old has some good points,” he said. “For instance, I can remember President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address when he left office forty-seven years ago. He saw this weapons binge takin’ shape and tried to warn us. Originally, he called it ‘the military-industrial-legislative complex’ but cut out the word ‘legislative’ in the final draft - a prudent man. But how right he was. I also remember another speech he gave where he said, ‘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’ and he compared the arms race to ‘humanity hangin’ on a cross of iron’. And here we are, a couple of trillion dollars later, still forgin’ fresh weapons with the wealth of the livin’ while playin’ sad songs o’er the graves of the dead.”

“And it doesn’t seem to end,” said the Professor. “At one time, we thought that war would solve problems. ‘The war to end all wars’ said Wilson as we went into World War I, only to have it followed by World War II - the ‘Good War’ which was to bring ‘love and laughter and peace ever after’ according to a popular song of the day. Then Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq with no end in sight. Already, 75,000 dead and wounded and God knows how many men and women who don’t appear in the casualty statistics but who are beaten and broken by our latest wars.”

“You’d think that by now, we would realize that it doesn’t work, that war is obsolete and, like disease, is only a danger to our existence. It achieves nothing. Just suppose we spent just a part of those trillions on peace - houses and hospitals, roads and schools, aid to assist those who hunger and suffer natural disasters, help for the poor to prosper and for the hungry so that they might feed themselves. Might this not bring about greater peace than all the F-16s or B-2s, the Nimitz carriers and Abrams tanks? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try it and see,” said Doc.

“Ah, a lovely dream,” said the Professor, “but, alas, it’s only that. No, we’ll continue to bemoan the deaths of our heros at the same time that we send them off to be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq or heaven knows where. And, each year, we’ll gather to mourn, play ‘Taps’ and fire a volley in honor of the fallen and we’ll hear how they made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of freedom. But, if we were completely honest, what we would do is gather in silence, praying and asking their forgiveness for we have failed them. We have prepared for war rather than worked for peace and they have paid the price of our folly.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

“On This Memorial Day”

Camillo "Mac" Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts 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 for five years, the Veterans Self-Help Initiative, a therapeutic community of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The following is from “On This Memorial Day” by: Dr. Bica: “For many of us who have known war, it has been years since we faced the insanity of man's inhumanity to man. Yet, it haunts us still. It is the nature of war, I think, that we can still recall with frightful realism, the rifle butt and bayonet that forced a weary body to continue the seemingly endless trek of the Bataan Death March, or appreciate the gentle beauty of a snowflake without recalling the blood stained snow banks of the frozen Chosin Reservoir. Not a day goes by, I think, that we do not recall the devastating screams of a comrade who died in our arms while taking and then giving back a useless and desolate hill top in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, or wake up screaming as we relive the horror of the bloodstained streets of Fallujah.
   
“It is the nature of war, I think, that we shall never forget and need no holiday to remind us. As warriors, we may know little of the politics of diplomacy and international affairs. But no one knows war better than we who did the killing, and the dying, and the remembering, and the grieving. For we are neither war's initiators nor its beneficiaries, we are its victims.
    
“In war, we are conditioned to put aside the lessons of our youth, of our parents, teachers, and clergymen who stressed the importance of compassion, understanding and loving our fellow man. We are transformed into warriors capable of unleashing untold horrors and devastation. The legacy of war, therefore, is not of honor or glory, for such virtues can never be derived from causing the death and suffering of so many of God's children. War is in fact hell as is living with the memories and nightmares.
   
“On this Memorial Day, I do not celebrate the successes and victories of wars long gone or those currently being fought, as war is not a cause for celebration. Rather, it is a day like any other in which I remember and grieve the deaths of those who fought by my side and those against whom I fought. The warrior is conceived in the womb of battle, breathed life in the midst of suffering and death, and lived, loved and hated with such intensity that life ever after loses its meaning. I believe, sometimes, that death in war is benevolent, and those who died more fortunate than we who are condemned to live as penance for the sacrilege of war.

“This bond or brotherhood of the warrior, or better, of victims, is sacred to us and it has become our purpose to ensure that those whose lives were sacrificed on the beaches of Normandy, at the Pusan Perimeter, at Khe Sahn, and in Haditha should never be forgotten. We certainly shall never forget them for they have touched our lives so deeply, and their young faces visit us so often in our dreams. And those of us who truly know war, will never allow others to forget them either, nor profane their memory by using their sacrifices to encourage other young men and women to march blindly off to battle for a cause that is misguided or nonexistent.
    
“War has taught us that patriotism has its place as long as it is tempered with reason. And war has taught us that the suffering of children who inevitably do the fighting is so great that everything must be done to ensure that human life never again be wasted on the field of battle. For isn't that why we made our sacrifices and those that we allege to remember and honor gave their lives. And war has taught us that when the frenzy of death and destruction has subsided and the smoke of battle has cleared, amidst the death and suffering that remains there are no winners, only shattered lives and grieving families and loved ones. And war has taught us that if those of us who know the insanity of war find solace in embracing the fantasy of glory and heroism and allow those blinded by greed, hatred, misunderstanding, and misguided patriotism, to again place our children on the battlefield unnecessarily, the very survival of our nation, perhaps, even of our species, may well be placed in jeopardy. War has taught us this.
    
“We must mark this Memorial Day, then, not with parades and air shows that celebrate the instruments of destruction. Nor with picnics or sales at the mall. Rather, we must use it to remind all Americans of the tragedy of war, of its futility and waste. We must make them understand, distasteful though it may be, the true nature and the lessons of war.”
  

  

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Attempted Suicide

According to Democratic Senator Patty Murray the Veterans Administration has lied about the number of veterans who’ve attempted suicide. She has cited internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year when the department has publicly said it was fewer than 800. The existence of the e-mails, were uncovered as part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA in San Francisco, and reported by CBS News.

Senator Murray insists that the VA’s mental health programs are being overwhelmed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, even as the department tries to downplay the situation.

Murray told Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield during the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing: “We are not your enemy, we are your support team, and unless we get accurate information we can’t be there to do our jobs.”

Mansfield told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he didn’t think the VA had deliberately tried to mislead Congress or the public. However, Murray remained skeptical and pointed out that the VA has demonstrated a pattern of misleading Congress about the increasing number of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are now seeking help and straining Defense Department programs and VA facilities.

Murray charges: “The VA needs to stop hiding the fact this war is costing us in so many ways.” CBS reported that the VA had provided it with data earlier that showed only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007, but in a Febuary e-mail Dr. Katz wrote the department’s communication director: “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities.”

Senator Murray pointed to a recently released RAND Corp. study that found that 320,000 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from traumatic brain injuries and 300,000 troops suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Furthermore, of those with PTSD or depression, only half have sought treatment, and only half of those have received treatment that was “minimally adequate.”

Murray said: “I think we ought to be worried, because some of the more violent symptoms might not show up for 50 years. They can be walking time bombs for decades and I hope everyone in the VA understands this.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stimulating the Economy

Americans remain concerned that we are heading into a recession.  The stimulus legislation enacted into law is one important step we can take in the near term to help prevent an economic crisis. 

It puts money into the hands of the American people.  Most individuals who file a 2007 tax return will receive a tax rebate of up to $600, and couples will receive up to $1,200.  Families with children will get an additional $300 per child.  The exact amount of the rebate will depend on the amount of taxes a filer pays, but most people who qualify for a rebate will get at least $300. The stimulus package also includes rebates for many of the millions of Americans who rely on Social Security benefits or veterans benefits. 

The stimulus bill gives tax incentives to businesses to encourage them to invest and expand.  Small businesses are especially important to our economy, accounting for almost half of our nation’s productivity and creating nearly two-thirds of all new jobs.  These tax incentives will help small businesses meet the economic challenges ahead. 

The stimulus bill also contains provisions for increasing the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits.  These financing opportunities will help families save their homes from foreclosure and also stabilize neighborhoods hurt by foreclosures and declining house prices. The results will provide a boost to the housing sector and the economy.
 
However, injecting money into the economy alone will not solve all the problems we face.  We must also develop a long-term strategy that will both help us get a handle on our nation’s growing debt, while investing in economic foundations that will help our economy stay strong.
 
We need to get back on track toward fiscal responsibility.  Our priorities must be to create a stronger foundation on which our economy can grow.  That means providing a top-notch education to our children, creating a cost-effective health care system, and adopting a clean-energy policy aimed at making us energy self-sufficient.  But it means making investments in these key areas without having to borrow against our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ futures. Senate Democrat have recommended a budget blueprint for next year that seeks to get our spending back into balance by insisting on returning to pay-as-we-go policies.

There is no doubt that we need both short-term and long-term strategies to revitalize our economy.  By providing an immediate stimulus into the economy while simultaneously planning for the future, we can begin to regain control of our fiscal policies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Failure

Bush said:  “I‘ve been realistic about the consequences of failure.  I have been realistic about what needs to happen on the ground in order for there to be success, and it has been hard work, and the American people see it as hard work.  And one of the reasons it is hard work is because on our TV screens are these violent killings, perpetuated by people who have done us harm in the past.” 

Although, Bush has pleaded with the voters to stand by his policy in Iraq, it’s hard to imagine with so many American opposed to the occupation of Iraq, will follow his lead. 

Bush insist, that we have made real progress militarily.  Our Army and Marine Corps have done a great job. However, the Iraqi government is pathetic, and politically there has been very little progress towards a democracy. 

Most Americans hope that Iraq becomes a democracy. However, the crux of the problem is that a democracy is nearly impossible to impose from the outside on an area of the Middle East, which has never really been a country.  Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell created Iraq in 1921. They were fully aware that the Kurds and Shiites and Sunnis didn’t get along so they put a monarch to in charge, which enabled the British to get out. 

The Arab world has got 22 countries, none of which have ever been a true democratic.  We destroyed Iraq’s government and their army. It’s preposterous to think that a democracy is going to rise out of the mahem we have produced.

There are strong Iraqi institutions below the government.  There are clan, sects and ethnic groups, but they’re far from being democratic groups. A society that’s organized along those lines is incapable of becoming a democracy. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Core Belief

America has an enormous cleanup job ahead and our country can’t afford a progressive congressional agenda being bogged down by an obstructionist Republican in the White House, who is coupled to the radical ideology of Bush.

The damage that Bush and the Republican party have done to this country is so immense, that nothing short of sweeping reforms will get America back on the right track again. The time has come for us to advance the cause of economic justice, and help this country live up to its highest ideals.

The next president will have to find a way to provide coverage for 47 million Americans without health insurance, drastically reduce our dependence on oil, and write a more equitable tax code to restore fairness and opportunity to our economy. These reforms would constitute the biggest domestic changes America has attempted since Medicare and Medicaid were created in the 1960s.

A core belief of the Democratic party has been that as citizens and as a government, we have a moral responsibility to take care of each other when times are as tough.

The cynicism of the Bush years have torn apart that compact, and left us with a government indifferent to the 37 million people in poverty, our public schools crumbling , and a war without end. Everywhere people are struggling to survive in this failing economy.  They can’t afford to pay their bills for food and gas and healthcare.  They’re losing their jobs and losing their homes. All the Republican party has to offer are more tax cuts for those who need them least.

The only way to turn things around is to elect a Democratic president and a greater majority for Democrats in the Senate. In the past year it has become obvious that 51 Senate seats aren’t enough, because Republicans can still obstruct the change we need in this country.

The Bush regime and and his enablers in Congress have spent the past seven years turning their backs on fundamental American ideals. They have destroyed our reputation around the world with a misguided war in Iraq.  They have abandoned the American Dream to pursue a trickle-down economic policy that puts millionaires and special interests first, and leaves the rest of Americans out in the cold.

We must put a stop to this by electing a Democratic president and a stronger Democratic majority in Congress.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Less Secure

Both Bush and McCain have a lot of explain to do, when it comes to the war on terror. Six and a half years after 9/11, we’re less safe. Our borders and ports aren’t secured and most of the cargo that goes into our airplanes is not inspected. Iran’s nuclear program is going full speed ahead, our military has been ripped to shreds in an illegal and unnecessary war. The occupation of Iraq has created more terrorists than ever existed before we invaded that country. The war in Afghanistan has been neglected. Consequently, the Taliban has reconstituted itself and now controls of most of that country. Less we forget, Osama bin Laden hasn’t been captured or killed.

A debate over talking to countries that are our enemies is a distraction from the real issue. In fact, we have talked to our enemies throughout history. We talked to the Soviet Union when they had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at our cities. Presidents, Nixon, Kennedy, and Reagan used diplomacy in talking to rogue states and terrorists. The Bush regime talked to Libya and North Korea with some success. The notion that we’re not going to engage our enemies is utter nonsense. Obama is talking about have thoughtful, responsible diplomacy not appeasement.

Bush’s presidency has been an absolute disaster, and arguably he has been the worst president in American history on foreign policy. Obama is simply saying, that we’re going to continue to engage countries like Iran, who we don’t have a friendly relationship with, on a diplomatic level.

Bush and McCain have resorted to mischaracterizing Obama’s foreign policy, because the only foreign policy they have to offer is more death and destruction. If elected, John McCain would continue Bush’s disasterious foreign policy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fiscal Incompetence

Rising energy prices increase the cost of traveling by car, truck, air and rail. Thus, growing the food we eat and transporting it to market costs more. Rising energy prices increase the cost of producing the medicines, heating our homes and offices, generating electricity, and manufacturing countless industrial and consumer products. Rising diesel prices have placed a crushing burden upon our nation’s truckers, farmers, manufacturers, and other industries. Furthermore, our energy costs are rising much more quickly than energy costs in other countries, which threatening our global competitiveness.

Seven years ago, energy supplies were plentiful, and gasoline and other forms of energy were affordable. However, it didn’t take the Republicans long to eliminate the budget surplus by cutting taxes for the wealthy, create a huge annual budget deficit, and drive up the national debt.

Their fiscal mismanagement has contributed significantly to a steep decline in the value of the dollar and soaring commodity prices. Today, our currency is worth less, and it takes more of dollars to buy the same barrel of oil. American consumers are forced to spend more of their hard-earned dollars to buy the same amount of energy. The last year of the Clinton administration, America ran a budget surplus of nearly $560 billion. For the past six years the Bush regime’s annual deficits have totaled nearly $1.7 trillion. This amount does not include the money Republicans have drained from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Under the Bush administration, our total debt has increased by $3.2 trillion.

In January 2001, the dollar was worth more than the euro. It took only about 90 cents to buy one euro. Today, it takes about $1.60 to buy one euro, which is a record low for the dollar. This decrease in the value of the dollar is the result of a weakened American economy, a high trade deficit and a world-wide lack of confidence in the ability of the Bush regime to manage our nation’s economy and foreign policy. As long as these irresponsible fiscal practices, which include tax cuts for people with the highest income and an open-ended conflict in Iraq, which is costing $12 billion a month, the American dollar will continue to decline in value, because the marketplace has rendered no confidence, in Bush’s fiscal competence.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Energy Prices

The price of crude oil recently reached a record high price of about $127 per barrel, which has led to record highs in the price of other fuels produced from crude oil, including gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel, and jet fuel. The national average price of gasoline is at a record high of about $3.80 per gallon and the price of diesel fuel, which is normally less expensive than gasoline, has soared to a record high of nearly $4.25 per gallon.

When, Bush took office, the price of oil was $30 per barrel and the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.50. The price of crude oil has nearly quadrupled, natural gas prices to heat our homes and gasoline prices have doubled, while diesel fuel prices have nearly tripled.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin has been advocating a variety of measures to address the lack of regulation of energy markets, which have contributed to sky high energy prices. They include the creation of a regulatory agency to oversee the energy markets to ensure these markets are free from excessive speculation and manipulation. He advocated that we stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until prices are lower, and insists that we develop alternatives to fossil fuels to lessen our dependence on oil. Levin expects to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies that have profited from the massive price increases.

The major causes of our energy crisis has been the failed policies of the Bush regime. Seven years of Bush’s energy policies have pushed our growing energy problem close to a breaking point. Republicans have proven that they’re unwilling to take the necessary steps to provide affordable energy supplies to the people. Consequently, it’s up to congressional Democrats to try to develop a comprehensive solution to skyrocketing energy prices.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Lot To Answer For

Excerpts from Obama’s response to Bush’s speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

“Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for. They’ve got to explain why we are now entering our sixth year of war in Iraq.

“We were supposed to be going over there for weapons of mass destruction that we never found. We were told that it was going to last a few months and cost a few billion dollars. We have now spent over $600 billion, thousands of lives lost, and we have not been made more safe.

“They are going to have to explain the fact that Osama bin Laden is still at large and is sending out videotapes with impunity. They need to answer for the fact that al Qaeda’s leadership is stronger than ever because we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. They’ve got to answer for the fact that Iran is the greatest strategic beneficiary of our invasion in Iran. Bush’s policies made Iran stronger. They are going to have to explain why Hamas now controls Gaza. Hamas was strengthened because the United States insisted that we should have Democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority.

“That’s the Bush/McCain record on protecting this country. Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double down on, because he still hasn’t spelled out one substantial way in which he would be different from George Bush when it comes to foreign policy.

“I’m a strong believer in civility and I’m a strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy. But that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we’ve seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple of days.

“John McCain has repeated this notion that I’m prepared to negotiate with terrorists. I have been adamant about not negotiating with Hamas, a terrorist organization that has vowed to destroy Israel and won't recognize them.

“They are trying to fool you and trying to scare you. And they are not telling the truth. And the reason is because they can’t win a foreign policy debate on the merits. It’s not going to work this time and it’s not going to work this year. Our Iran policy is a complete failure right now. And that’s the policy that John McCain is running on. He has nothing to offer except the naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support for terrorism.

“I’m running for president to change course, not to continue George Bush’s course. I believe we need to use all elements of American power to pressure Iran, including tough, principled and direct diplomacy. That’s what John F. Kennedy did. That’s what Ronald Reagan did when dealing with the Soviets. And that’s what the president’s own secretary of defense wants to do.

“I understand George Bush’s secretary of defense suggests we talk directly to Iran. So I don’t know if George Bush is calling his own secretary of defense an appeaser. I don’t know who he is talking about. It’s time to present Iran with a clear choice. If it abandons its nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, then Iran can rejoin the community of nations. If not, Iran will face deeper isolation and steeper sanctions. But in the Bush/McCain world view, everyone who disagrees with their failed Iran policy is an appeaser.

“And back during his No Surrender tour, John McCain said anyone who wants to end the war in Iraq wanted to surrender. He even said later on, that he would be willing to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years, although I think he noticed that it wasn’t polling well because yesterday he said suddenly that our troops are going to be home by 2013, although he didn’t explain how he was going to do it.

“He offered the promise that America will win a victory with no understanding that Iraq is fighting a civil war. Just like George Bush’s plan isn’t about winning, it’s about staying. And that’s why there will be a clear choice in November, fighting a war without end or ending this war and bringing our troops home, because we don’t need John McCain’s predictions about when the war will end.

“We need to plan to end it and that’s what I provided during this campaign. The American people have had enough of the division and the bluster. Both Bush and McCain represent the failed foreign policy and fear mongering of the past. I believe the American people are ready to reject this approach and choose the future. I think you are ready for change that unites this country and ends this war and restores our security and standing in the world and that is serious about a bipartisan foreign policy. You can’t suggest that you want to be bipartisan and then run the kinds of campaign tactics we’ve been seeing over the last couple of days. You’ve got to start while you are campaigning. That’s why we need to bring about some change in the White House.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Foreign Policy Politicized

In a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence, Bush launch a political attack, by stating: “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they had been wrong all along.  We’ve heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’  We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

The American senator Bush quoted from the ’30s was William Borah a Republican isolationist from Idaho. William Borah’s relevance is unclear, but most people recognized the statement as an attack on Barack Obama’s stated position that if elected president, he would talk to Iran.

Senator Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a former Democratic candidate for president insist that the idea that Bush would make such a veiled political statement, before the Israeli Knesset was outrageous.

Obama responded: “George Bush knows that I’ve never supported engagement with terrorists.  And the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally, Israel.”

An ugly pattern has emerged, since the presumptive Republican nominee McCain recently said: “Danny Ortega and Hamas like Barack Obama, and everybody can draw their own conclusions.” 

Bush and McCain’s policies in the Middle East have been a failure and made both America and Israel weaker. If talking to the Iranians is appeasement, then why hasn’t Bush fired Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Condi Rice? Both of them have been saying that we should be sit down and talk with the Iranians.

Monday, May 19, 2008

House Vote Analysis

On May 15, the House of Representatives used its appropriations power to limit Bush’s war policies, set a time limit for troop withdrawal and expanded the GI Bill by asking rich people to pay an addition half a percent more on their taxes.

Amendment 1, provided funds to continue the war until a new President could set new policies for troop withdrawal. Supporters of the war, which include most Republicans, were expected to support that legislation. Instead, 132 Republicans refused to vote either for or against war funding by voting “Present.”

Republicans are trying to spin their vote to not fund the war, but the truth is that House Republicans refused to vote to fund the war in Iraq, because they’ve realize that their party is out of step with the will of the American people and that their chance of being reelected in November is in jeopardy.

Sixty-three percent of the Democrats opposed continuing to fund the war. The thirty-seven percent of Democratic, who supported continuing to fund the war came from marginal electoral districts or rural areas, which had been carried by Bush overwhelmingly in 2000 and 2004. Seventy percent of House Republicans abandoned Bush, by voting “Present.”

Amendment 2, established ground rules, which limits the President’s authority to wage war. It mandates withdrawal of troops from Iraq starting 30 days after enactment and to be completed within 18 months. This amendment succeeded with the support of ninety-four percent of Democrats and eight Republicans, who voted to support of a deadline for withdrawal.

Amendment 2, also calls for rotating the troops by requiring sufficient rest periods of more than a year. Furthermore, Congress sets specific policies barring Bush from unilaterally binding the next administration in committing troops to Iraq. The amendment made it clear that torture by US personnel is prohibited.

Amendment 3, expanded veteran’s education for 10 years with an investment of $52 billion dollars. It extends the benefit for those serving in the National Guard who presently do not receive GI Education benefits. The GI Bill gets paid for by requiring approximately 500,000 taxpayers to have a surtax of 0.5% of couples earning more than $1,000,000 or individuals earning more than $500,000. Ninety-seven percent of the Democrats and 32 Republicans voted for that small tax increase to pay for educating our veterans.

Funds for the withdrawal of troops should not run out, because the Pentagon has acknowledged that money can be borrowed from the Navy and Air Force funds.

The Senate version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill still includes war funding and will be considered next week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Historic Day

May 15, 2008 was a historic day, because the House of Representatives voted to bring a haul to Bush’s Iraq War Policy. The House used its appropriations power to limit Bush’s unrestrained war policies, set a time limit for troop withdrawal and expanded the GI Bill, by asking rich people to pay an addition half a percent more on their taxes.

The House Democratic leadership set boundaries on the use of our tax dollars by dividing the legislation into three parts, which resulted in the rejection of a $168 billion in funding to continue the war in Iraq

Amendment 1. Provided funds to continue the war until a new President could set new policies for troop withdrawal. Supporters of the war, which include most Republicans, were expected to support that legislation. Instead 132 Republicans refused to vote either for or against war funding, and voted “Present.”

Amendment 2. Established significant ground rules limiting the President’s authority to wage an unrestrained war. It establishes four significant policies sharply drawing the line with Bush policies:

A. It mandated withdrawal of troops from Iraq starting 30 days after enactment and to be completed within 18 months. This policy establishes a framework for a supportive President to begin a process of orderly troop withdrawal that protects our troops during the withdrawal phase.

B. It rotates the troops by requiring sufficient rest periods of more than a year between the time they are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan before they resume combat duty. This policy responds to the many examples of men and women having multiple times of service in combat zones with hardly any real time at home.

C. It sets specific policies barring President Bush from unilaterally binding the next Administration in committing troops to Iraq.

D. It makes the prohibition on torture by US personnel crystal clear.

Amendment 3. Recognizes the service of our women and men in Afghanistan and Iraq by expanding veteran’s education for 10 years at an investment of $52 billion dollars. It extends the benefit for those serving in the National Guard who presently do not receive GI Education benefits. The GI Bill gets paid for by requiring approximately 500,000 taxpayers to have a surtax of 0.5% of couples earning more than $1,000,000 or individuals earning more than $500,000. That small increase will bring in the money to pay for the added costs of educating our veterans.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A True Patriot’s Duty

American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave said: “There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than the people of the United States at this very hour.”

Today, many people believe that AIDS was a government plot to control the population of blacks and gays. In light of the fact, that our government infected black men with syphilis in the 1930’s and flooded parts of California with crack cocaine under Reagan, such opinions are to be expected. I’m skeptical of the aids connection to our government, but I’ll acknowledge that it’s a possibility.

Nevertheless, I’m disappointed the media has labeled Rev. Wright’s critical remark about our government “hateful.” They have never specifically explains why those remarks deserved that description. Wright dares to speaks truth to power, which our corporate owned mainstream media has failed to do. Suggesting a connection between AIDS and our government is not as illogical, as insisting that we didn’t invade Iraq for it’s oil.

Five years ago, anybody who suggested there was the slightest connection between the invasion of Iraq to gain control of its oil reserves was considered unpatriotic and a terrorist sympathizer.

Rev, Wright has carried on a tradition begun over a hundred and sixty years ago in Syracuse N.Y, by Frederick Douglass. In a speech entitled: “Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country,” Douglass said: “I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, 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.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Old Boys

Our country had an enforceable equal pay law from 1964 to May 2007, until the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter. Lilly worked for Goodyear Tire for 19 years, and got paid less than any man. She didn’t learn until near the end of her employment that she was earning less for the same work. She sued and she won, but the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision overturned her award saying she failed to bring her suit within 180 days of the first discriminatory act. Thus, they gutted the ability to enforce the law.

The Fair Pay Act restores the ability to enforce a law that’s been on the books for forty years. Senator John McCain opposed the Fair Pay Act, a bill that would have help guarantee women equal pay for equal work. He claims that the solution to employment discrimination was for women to get more “education and training.” That made sense in the past, but today women outnumber men on college campuses. Senator McCain’s statements aren’t just misinformed, but a sad reminder that he’s totally out of touch with the hard realities facing working women. Studies have shown that women are paid less than men for the same work, even when they have the same education and training. Senator McCain and his good old boys have chosen to stand in the way of enforcement of a law that’s been on the books protecting women for 40 years.

McCain is the son and grandson of Admirals, but ranked 894 in his graduating class of 899 at the Naval Academy. He needs to be educated that today, women are actually quite educated.

Pay equity is a serious issue that faces women and mothers all across America. Consider these key facts:

• Women make less for the same work. On average, women who work full time all year only make $0.77 for every dollar their male counterparts make.

• The pay gap is even worse for mothers. Mothers only make $0.73 to a man’s dollar and single mothers only make about $0.60 to a man’s dollar.

• Wage discrimination cuts across educational levels. For example, for workers 25 years old or older who had some high school education, women's annual earnings were around $15,162, compared to $24,092 for men. But even earning a bachelor's degree didn't help. Women with a bachelor’s degree made around $38,221 a year, while men at the same level made $55,425.

• In some places, the pay gap has actually increased. A study done by the U.S. Government Accounting Office found that women managers across 10 industries not only made less than their male counterparts, but in seven of those industries the pay gap had actually increased between 1995 and 2001.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama Responds

Recently, Barack Obama defended himself from critics who question whether he is capable of being commander-in-chief.

When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer of his thoughts about McCain’s comments that the terrorist organization Hamas wants Obama to be president. He responded: “This is offensive, and I think it’s disappointing,” because John McCain always says ‘I am not going to run that kind of politics,’ and for him to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.

Obama continued: “I’ve said it’s a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they are willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So for him to toss out comments like that, I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name calling in this debate.”

On the topic of national security, Obama said: “Whether it’s my judgment on Iraq and that I recognized what was going to be a strategic blunder, to my insistence that we need to talk not just to countries we like, but countries we don’t, to my assessment in terms of how we had over-invested in the Musharraf government in Pakistan and that was going to be setting us up for failure later on. I think I’ve consistently displayed the kind of judgment that the American people are looking for in the next president.”

Obama has demonstrated not only that he will be tough enough to withstand Republican attacks by McCain and his surrogates, but that he doesn’t need to pander to those that thrive on tough talk. We need a president who will tell the truth, and not another one, who talks tough and lies to the American people. We have been down the deceitful tough talk “bring it on” road for nearly seven and a half years, and it has only resulted in more death and destruction.

Obama insists: “When I decided to run this race, it was based on the idea that the American people were desperate for change, because part of the problem we have is not just that our policies aren’t working; it’s also that the American people have lost faith that Washington can or will do anything about it.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Small Towns

Barack Obama’s much publicized bitter remark was preceded by: “these small towns... the jobs have been gone for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them--even though the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. It’s not surprising then they get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

I understand the reason Hillary Clinton and John McCain didn’t appreciate Obama pointing out that the “Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration” had provided nothing, but empty promises to small towns for the past 25 years.

Except for 3 years in the military and 2 years at Syracuse University, I’ve lived my entire life in small towns. We first moved to Delaware County in 1965 and I don’t find anything offensive or elitist about Obama’s remarks. In my opinion, he over generalized, but spoke the truth about small towns. Some of my neighbors, cling to guns, religion or distrust people who aren’t like them. I don't have a problem with guns and religion, because in most case small town folks have exercise their constitutional right in a respectful manner. Most of us find it difficult to trust people who are different and in today’s world it’s a wise thing to do.

I’m bitter that many intelligent and hard working people are struggling to support themselves in a rural communities, which have few opportunities for young people.

I’m especially bitter that military deaths from the small towns are proportionately double those from large cities due to economic conscription. Economic conscription is the lack of employment opportunities in civilian life, which frequently is the compelling reason in small towns for enlisting in the military.

Many small town youth join the military because basic pay for a private in the Army starts at $1,245.90 a month. Those paychecks aren’t very enticing for young men and women in large metropolitan areas, but stretches a lot further in economically depressed areas like Delaware County.

Our all-volunteer military traditionally attracts more rural enlistees. This is especially true in the National Guard, which now makes up nearly one-fourth of our Iraq servicemen and women.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ministry of Hate

Senator McCain sought the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee and said that he was “honored” and “proud” to receive Hagee’s support. Pastor Hagee claimed God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its homosexual “sins,” Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism, and Catholicism is “a cult” and the “Whore of Babylon.”

Another McCain supporter Rev. Rod Parsley, a televangelist megachurch pastor from Ohio hates Islam.  Rev. Parsley has called on Christians to wage war against Islam, which he considers to be a “false religion.”  In the past, Parsley has spoken out against the separation of church and state, homosexuals, and abortion rights, by comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis. 

John McCain actively sought and received Parsley’s endorsement in the presidential race. He has called Parsley “a spiritual guide,” but hasn’t said whether he shares Parsley’s vicious anti-Islam views.  That’s because the mainstream media refuses to question McCain about his deeply bigoted pastor. McCain has aligning himself with a religious leader who’s called for an all-out war against Islam. It appears that McCain doesn’t draw a distinctions between Muslims and violent Islamic extremists. 

The mainstream media vociferously labeled Rev. Wright’s remarks hateful, but never specifically explains why those remarks deserved that description. The reason for this is that, in fact, Rev. Wright is a man of peace and reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation doesn’t make headlines like shock and awe or death and destruction.

Bill O’Reilly insists that he feels sorry for Barack Obama, because his campaign has been derailed by some “loony guy.” O’Reilly was referring to Rev. Wright, who suggested our government brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. Another, “looney guy”, Michael Scheuer author of “Imperial Hubris” and the former head of the bin Laden unit agreed with Rev. Wright. He 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.”

Perhaps, the “looney” guys are Bill O’Reilly, Rod Parsley and John Hagee.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Peace Action

Julia Ward Howe wrote in her Mother’s Day Proclamation, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

To commemorate this original Mother’s Day call to Action, Peace Action invites us help protect American youth from the Pentagon’s predatory and illegal recruitment tactics. Kevin Martin, Executive Director of “Peace Action,” insists that we have the power to fight the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

The ASVAB is given to more than a half million public high school students every year under the guise of “career testing.” Unfortunately, ASVAB only tests for military careers and all of the results from the four-hour test, along with sensitive personal information, are released to military recruiters, unless schools take steps to protect student privacy.   

The military markets tests as a public service, a free “Career Exploration Program” to assist kids in finding appropriate career paths. Regrettably, most schools aren’t aware of “ASVAB Release Option 8,” which allows schools to have the military proctor the test while keeping scores and personal information private.

Four of the nation’s largest school systems have already been persuaded to protect student privacy by selecting Option 8. Privacy advocates in Maryland recently passed legislation requiring public high schools to notify each student and their guardian of their right to prevent students, names and contact information from being released to military recruiters. 

All adults should rise up to Julia Ward Howe’s original call to “promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” 

Write our School Boards, Superintendents, and Principals to tell them about the ASVAB and Option 8, which would protect our children from predatory military recruiting practices.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

This morning Middletown’s Times Herold-Record published the following letter to the editor, which was submitted by Tim Shera of Liberty, N.Y.

“The origin of Mother's Day I am sure will surprise and delight you.

“Julia Ward Howe's accomplishments did not end with writing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ She saw some of the worst effects of the war, worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides, and realized that the effects go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed. Sounds like our present tragedy in Iraq.

“In 1870, Howe took on a new issue and a new cause, calling for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.

“The declaration called for an annual Mother’s Day for Peace. She started the tradition in her own home in Boston and watched its celebration spread across the nation until it was finally commemorated by Congress and the president in the early 20th century.

“Let us please remember the peaceful origins of Mother’s Day and do everything we can to bring peace to our beleaguered and frustrated nation.”

The Gaffe

In “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?”, former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, who voted for Bush in 2000 wrote: “Oil is behind the war in Iraq. Oil is the reason we give fundamentalists, terrorists breeding theocracy in Saudi Arabia a pass. Almost every important Bush administration official has a connection to the oil industry.”

Alan Greenspan, who served as chairman of the Federal Reserve, for decades wrote: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Recently, Senator John McCain said: “I will have an energy policy, that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East, that will then prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.” 

In 1992, political columnist Michael Kinsley wrote, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.” McCain made his gaffe, while criticizing his Democratic rivals’ plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. Five years ago, anybody who suggested there was the slightest connection between going into Iraq and the price of gas was considered an unpatriotic, terrorist sympathizer.

Obviously, McCain’s statement tied the Iraq war and the prospects of further American bloodshed in the Middle East to the price and availability of oil. Immediately, his press spokesperson claimed, McCain meant the first Gulf War.  However, McCain later said: “No, the first Gulf War was actually about Saddam invading Kuwait.  Thus, he eliminated the only other possibility, because there isn’t any other inference to draw from the gaffe McCain made.

Of late, Cheney and Bush raises the point that the price of oil, and the idea of al Qaeda getting control of oil, as a justification for staying in Iraq. Does your representative in Congress agree?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Unholy Alliance

Yesterday, the following letter to the editor, by Richard Averett of Otego, N.Y. was published in the Oneonta Star.

“At the time of his death in 1940, Smedley Butler was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, having served in active duty from 1898 to 1931. His book, ‘War is a Racket,’ was a very early attempt to describe the unholy alliance between Wall Street and the U.S. military, whom he referred to as 'the gangsters of capitalism.'

“In 1934, Gen. Butler testified before Congress (McCormack-Dickstein Committee) about a right-wing plot to overthrow the FDR administration by a group of wealthy businessmen that included some of the most famous families in America _ the DuPont family, owners of Heinz, Birds Eye and Maxwell House, leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and George Bush’s grandfather, Prescott _ who believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the Great Depression. While Congress corroborated almost all of his testimony, nothing was ever done about the plot or plotters.

“Perhaps when Hillary Clinton mentions that ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’ she is referring to the fact that nothing much has changed since the 1933 White House plot against FDR. Perhaps Hillary is referring to the fact that the democratic process has been hijacked by the far-right under the guise of ‘conservatism,’ and that Wall Street and the U.S. military really 'run' the country’s foreign policy, with the president and vice president just slightly better than figureheads of power.

“Given the ‘privatization’ of the war in Iraq, and the obscene profits reaped by the military-industrial complex, including the Bush family through the Carlisle Group, perhaps it is time for Americans to take the profit out of war, the corporations out of our political process, and finally hold accountable all those who have sold our democracy out for the almighty dollar.”

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Mandate

Rev. Wright was asked: “Do you think it is God’s will that Senator Obama be president?” Wright responded: “I can’t presume to know what God would want...If God intends for Mr. Obama to the president, then no white racists, no political pundit, no speech, nothing can get in the way, because God will do what God wants to do.”

Wright was then asked: “In light of your comment damning America, do you think you owe the American people an apology? If not, do you think that America is still damned in the eyes of God?

Rev. Wright responded: “I'm not a spiritual mentor, guru. I’m Mr. Obama’s pastor. Last year, I said to Barack Obama : “If you get elected, on November the 5th, I’m coming after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people. It’s about policy, not the American people. And there is no excuse for the things that the government, not the American people, have done. That doesn’t make me not like America or unpatriotic.” When Jesus says, “You’ll be brought down to Hell,” that’s not bombastic, divisive speech. If so maybe we ought to take Jesus out of this Christian faith.”

**** Should Obama be elected President, it might be the will of a Supreme Being, but it’s also a mandate from “we the people.”

Historically, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger widened the war in Vietnam in 1970 and ‘71, which caused 20,000 more casualties. Nixon was elected with a mandate to get out, but chose to widen the conflict instead.

By threatening a regime change in Iran, we’ve given them a lot of incentives to cause us trouble in Iran, which is the most recent excuse to stay in Iraq. I will join Rev. Wright in going after Senator Obama, if he buys into that excuse to stay in Iraq or attack Iran.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Islamic Perspective

I received an e-mail, from a pro-war Christian, who was very much aware of my disapproval of the occupation of Iraq and that I’m a liberal. He sent a long list of quotes by former Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Among them were: “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
 
Therefore, I sent him a list of quotes from another former Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, which included: “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.”

“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.”

This pro-war Christian, obviously prefered Reagan’s quotes to Eisenhower’s quotes, because his response was: “Not all people want peace.  Joel Rosenberg’s book “Epicenter” provides insights to the Islam perspective. 
 
I replied: You are correct, “Not all people want peace,” and you appear to be one of them. Did it ever occur to you that the so called terrorist in Iraq could be considered nationalistic freedom fighters? For insight into the Islamic perspective read the following by Jim O’Leary.

Five million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes or killed. More than 1.2 million desperate Iraqis fled to Syria. Facing starvation, as many as 50,000 women and girls have been forced into prostitution, because this is the only work available. Eighty percent of the girls working as prostitutes in Damascus today are Iraqis, some as young as 13 years of age. Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists, from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy countries in the Middle East.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Different not Deficient

Excerpts from Reverend Jeremiah Wright speech to the National Press Club.

“The prophetic theology of the black church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the separate-but-equal fantasy was a theology of liberation.

“It was preached to set African-Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship, which was the law of the land. And it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin.

“The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient.

“Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European music. It is not deficient; it is just different.

“Black worship is different from European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

“Black preaching is different from European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it’s different.

“Black learning styles are different from European and European- American learning styles. They are not deficient; they are just different. This principle of ‘different does not mean deficient’ is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. It is a theology of liberation.

“The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation... what you see is God’s desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.

“God’s desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

“God’s desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.”

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

God Damn!

Speaking of race relations in America, Rev. Jeremiah Wright said reconciliation means “we embrace our individual rich histories,” and sever “any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice,” while recognizing that each person “is one of God’s children ... no better, no worse.”

According to Rev. Wright, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” teaches that we cannot commit terrorism against others and expect it never to come back on America. Wright insists that by keeping in line with biblical principles; “Only then will liberation, transformation and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever-elusive ideals.”

After decades of preaching to the choir, Rev. Wright got an opportunity to express his views before and audience of 10,000 members of the NAACP, plus an international T.V. audience on two consecutive days. He let the elite, sanctimonious, self proclaimed patriots, with their lapel pin flags, hear the unvarnished truth.

I’m disappointed the media labeled Rev. Wright’s remarks hateful, but never specifically explains why those remarks deserved that description. Wright is a politically “incorrect” humanitarian, who dared to speaks truth to power. The elite media and the political establishment doesn’t want to hear “God Damn America,” which assumes that God blesses or condemns.

Wright should have been more specific than “God Damn America.” I’d have prefer a more specific denunciations of God damn Bush, or God damn his supporters in Congress.

However, as an agnostic, my view is that we can’t presume a Supreme Being would bless, condemn or ignore foolish mortals. Consequently, I’d use the words of Sir. Walter Scott:

“If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self, 
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down 
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Theology of Apartheid

In his book “God in the Ghetto”, Dr. William Augustus Jones argues that one’s theology, that is to say, how one sees God, determines one’s anthropology, And, one's anthropology determines, how one sees humans, which in turn determines one's sociology, or how a person orders a society.

The implications of this are obvious. For example: if God is seen as a white male, if God is seen as superior, if God is seen as over us, then God is apt to be seen as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, or sexist. Therefore, our theological lens shapes our anthropological lens, and white males are considered superior and all others inferior.

Historically, such a society has allowed white men to worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and to kill black men on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. That kind of anthropological lens encouraged laws which favored whites over blacks in America and South Africa. It allowed men to construct a theology of apartheid in South African churches and a theology of white supremacy in the North American churches.

In his speech to the National Press Club, Rev. Jeremiah Wright points out: “to say ‘I am a Christian” is not enough, because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

“The way the slaveholder and the way the slave see God is not the same. What each means when they say ‘I am a Christian’ is not the same. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God’s children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future, which God has prepared for us.

“Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans. Reconciliation means we embrace all of our individual histories. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us. Reconciliation means that we root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

“For the first time in American history a candidate for president stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair and very different life experiences. Nevertheless, Barack Obama is one of God’s children just as we are, no better, no worse and prone to error, just as we are.”

It would be in our best interests to reconcile our differences with Iran.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Prophetic Theology

Since it was founded in 1961, Rev. Wright and the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ has sought to make their community and the world a better place.

The congregation took a stand against apartheid when our government was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.

The congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.

For the past 30 years, the congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, They build two senior citizen housing complexes and ran two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, and low-income parents. The congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.

Dozens of boys and girls from the congregation went to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Recently, Rev, Wright’s goddaughter’s unit arrived in Iraq.

The congregation has had an HIV-AIDS ministry for over two decades and has awarded over $1 million to graduating high school seniors going into college. An additional $500,000 was given to the United Negro College Fund.

The congegation has been an advocate for health care for the uninsured, workers' rights for those forbidden to form unions, and has fought the unjust sentencing system which has sent black men and women to prison for longer terms for possession of crack cocaine than white men and women have to serve for the possession of powder cocaine.

The congregation has had a prison ministry for 30 years, a drug and alcohol recovery ministry for 20 years, a full service program for senior citizens, and 22 different ministries for the youth of the church, from pre-school through high school.

Rev. Wright insists that all of this has arisen from a prophetic theology which presumes God’s desire for changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, changed lives, changed hearts in a changed world.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to change the minds of many Americans, who are unable to think critically.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Rev. Wright

Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Wright has been criticized for suggesting our government brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. Actually, Michael Scheuer author of “Imperial Hubris” and the former head of the bin Laden unit 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.”

Congressman Ron Paul, candidate for the Republican nomination for president said: “I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran and installed the Shah there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists.”

Chalmers Johnson’s book “Blowback” links our CIA’s clandestine activities abroad to terrorism at home. The CIA’s term “blowback” is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of it’s activities, which are kept secret from the American people. In 1953, the CIA feared there would be blowback from its reprehensible interference in the affairs of Iran. By installing the Shah to power, the CIA brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression upon the Iranian people, which concluded with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. That covert operation helped convince many people throughout the Islamic world that America was its enemy.

The suicidal assassins of September 11th, didn’t attack America, as our political leaders and news media insist; they attacked our foreign policy. They utilized the strategy of the weak by killing innocent bystanders. Terrorist strike at the innocent in order to draw attention to the wrongdoing of our leadership. Usually, those that seek revenge against America don’t have a chance of success. However, on those rare occasions that the strategy of terrorism does succeed, such as on September 11th, it renders our overwhelming military force worthless.

Therefore, I’d feel safer with Rev. Wright as president.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Foreclosures

Interesting perspectives on the foreclosure crises:

Global financier and philanthropist George Soros offered this view: “Well, it depends on when the authorities wake up, because you need to reduce the number of foreclosures. You need to keep as many people as possible in their houses so that they don’t come onto the market. You need to arrest the decline in house prices, but you also need to prevent human suffering and social disruption because it’s going to be very, very severe. Certain communities are already hurting and it’s going to get a lot worse. So action will have to be taken, but I don’t think it’s going to happen during this administration.”

Daniel Pinchbeck is one of the founders of Open City, an art and literary journal, and an independent book publisher. He reports that: “During a panel on the ‘Decline of the Dollar,’ I was struck by a comment from David Harvey an eminence grise among Leftist academics, the esteemed author of ‘Limits to Capital’ and other works who noted that Wall Street bonuses in January amounted to an astounding $36 billion, despite the heedless actions of the traders and investment houses that caused the implosion of the financial markets. At the same time, due to the subprime mortgage meltdown, over a million people have already seen their homes foreclosed, with nearly two million more foreclosures coming in the near-future, leading to more than three million US citizens deprived of their largest and most central asset. What Harvey noted is that, if we ignore the ‘fetishized mystical language’ of the financial elite, ‘the loss of assets of those three million people is where those $36 billion of bonuses came from.’

“Apparently, another 8 million plus homes-more than 10 % of the homes owned in the US- are now valued at less than the outstanding mortgages owed. What this means is that many of those mortgage-holders may soon find it more sensible to walk away from their property sending their keys back to the mortgage-issuers as ‘jingle mail’ rather than continue to cover their exorbitant debt. As a chain-reaction, this will increase the devaluation of US property. At the same time, the next phase of the current economic crisis will extend to other forms of personal debt, such as credit cards.”

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nothing Accomplished

Today is the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished.” Last month 50 more Americans were killed in Iraq, which is the highest number killed in the past seven months.

The surge is not working, because it was supposed to promote a political reconciliation in the Iraqi government, but the killing and destruction has continued.

On 4/2/08, former Director of the National Security Agency, retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he had learned of an estimate cost of $250,000 per day was being paid to ensure the cooperation of Sunni sheiks for areas of about 100 square kilometers. Periodically, they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. Odom insists that; “We do not own the Sunnis. We rent them and they can break the lease at any moment. This deal protects them from the Iraqi government’s forces, which is hardly a sign of political reconciliation.”

General Odom continues to insist that the only solution for Iraq is the rapid orderly withdrawal of our troops, which he has been recommending for years. He testified that the surge has actually prolonged instability in the country and an open-ended stay in Iraq, at our present troop level is not sustainable.
 
Our media has failed to examine the politics of what has occurred in Iraq. Consequently, they have failed to recognized a weaker government and a much more hopeless situation than a year ago.

Americans should know that the government that eventually rules Iraq is not presently in the Green Zone, because the Maliki government is seen as a puppet government for American imperialist.