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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Senator Collins

The following excerpts are from an oil policy proposal by moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins:

“1. Terminate Purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I was joined by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan in passing a bipartisan amendment that directs the Department of Energy to by requiring the Department to avoid filling the SPR when prices are high....It is a bad deal for taxpayers for the Department of Energy to be purchasing oil when prices are so high....I have called on the President to stop filling the SPR until prices drop. It simply does not make sense for the Department of Energy to be purchasing oil for the Reserve at a time when oil prices exceed 100 dollars per barrel. The federal government is taking oil off the market and thus driving up prices at a time when consumers are struggling to pay their fuel bills.

“2. Extend Federal Regulation to Oil Futures. “Excessive speculation on futures markets may well be another factor pushing up oil prices. Unfortunately, there is a lack of publicly available data to track the effect of speculation on prices, and manipulation can go undetected on certain electronic markets that are unregulated. Experts testifying before our Investigations Subcommittee all agreed that greater transparency and better reporting of trades could help prevent abuses such as occurred in the natural gas markets in 2006. One witness noted, “the current high oil prices are inflated by as much as 100 percent... driven by excessive speculation.”

“3. End Tax Breaks for Oil Companies and Direct Funds into Alternative Energy. Congress should repeal unnecessary tax breaks for big oil companies and use the billions of dollars instead to fund the remaining proposals in my Ten-Point Energy Plan....My proposal would redirect that revenue to support renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. My amendment was accepted as part of the Senate-passed Budget Resolution. We need to continue that momentum and quickly take up legislation to enact this proposal.

“4. Fully Fund and Restructure Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP, is a federal grant program that provides vital funding to help low-income and elderly citizens meet their home energy needs. Nationwide, over the last four years, the number of households receiving LIHEAP assistance increased by 26 percent from 4.6 million to about 5.8 million, but during this same period, federal funding increased by only 10 percent. The result is that the average grant actually declined from $349 to $305. Since crude oil prices have soared from around $60 per barrel in August 2007 to over $100 per barrel today, a grant buys less fuel today than it would have just months ago.

“5. Improve Energy Efficiency. I have introduced legislation, S. 1554, which would double funding for the Department of Energy Weatherization Program, reaching 1.4 billion dollars by 2010. On average, weatherizing a home reduces heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by 358 dollars per year. My bill also would provide predictable funding for the valuable Energy Star Program, which helps consumers buy energy efficient appliances.

“6. Implement a Renewable Energy Standard. I believe we need a national renewable electricity standard which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent, if not more than that, of their electricity from environmentally- sound renewable energy sources by the year 2020. This would boost the production of renewable energy, provide jobs in new industries, and, save an estimated 13 to 18 billion dollars on electricity and natural gas bills by 2030. It would move us away from reliance on coal and natural gas for electricity, and diversify our energy supply to provide more price stability. Twenty-eight states, including Maine, already have a renewable electricity standard. We should follow their lead and establish a national renewable electricity standard.

“7. Cellulosic Ethanol and Renewable Fuels. We must insure that as we make these dramatic changes to our energy supply and infrastructure, we do not inadvertently cause more harm than good. That is why my comprehensive energy bill, S. 1554, expands existing tax credits for ethanol to include cellulosic biomass, but at the same time insures such fuels will have a smaller life cycle environmental footprint than traditional fuels. While there has been a great deal of focus on using corn-based ethanol in order to decrease our reliance upon foreign oil, there are other renewable, plant-based energy sources that are more environmentally friendly and have greater potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“8. Tidal, Geothermal, Solar, and Wind Energy. Other clean, renewable energy sources include the tides in ours oceans and the moderate temperatures under our land. The U.S. wave and tidal energy resource potential that reasonably could be harnessed is about 10 percent of national energy demand. In Maine, a consortium of the University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy and industry is positioned to become a key testbed site for tidal energy devices.

“9. Vehicle Efficiency and Alternatives to Gasoline....Currently, we import about 12 million barrels of oil a day. Reducing consumption of oil products for transportation purposes would go a long way toward reducing our reliance on foreign oil and decreasing overall energy prices for consumers. Flex fuel vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles can help meet this challenge. We should extend existing tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles, and consider providing a tax credit for consumers who modify their existing vehicles to be flex-fuel capable.

“10. Public Transportation Public...is one of the most effective ways we can get more passenger miles per gallon gasoline. My energy legislation would promote the development and use of public transportation by subsidizing fares, encouraging employers to assist their employees with fares, and authorizing funding to build energy-efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as clean buses and light rail.”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Blame Game

Bush has insisted that if Congressional leaders leave for the Fourth of July recess without taking action, they’ll need to explain why $4 a gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act. He expects the Democrats in Congress to fix a problem that’s been decades in the making and claims it’s all their fault.

House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi responded: “Two oil men in the White House, they put together an energy policy that drove up the price of oil to $4 a gallon. And now they’re saying you’re going to have to drill your way out.”

Barack Obama pointed out: “There’s no way that allowing offshore drilling would lower gas prices right now. At best, you’re looking at five years or more down the road.”

The price of oil will be the a burning issue in this election year, so much so, that John McCain has reversed his position on offshore drilling. Now, he believes the federal government should lift restrictions and put our own reserves to use. He blasted Obama’s plan for more efficient cars and tax incentives to drive down gas prices.

Obama replied: “Senator McCain wants to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to big oil and opposes a windfall profit tax on oil companies like Exxon to help families struggling with high energy costs.”

Obama is emphasizing alternative energies and wants to meet the immediate crisis, with another $50 billion stimulus package. McCain wants to do more offshore drilling. Basically, it’s the old production argument versus changing our way of life sort of argument.

The only new issue is the gas tax vacation. McCain favors it and Obama doesn’t. Obama considers it more of a political ploy than anything realistic A gas tax vacation of eighteen cents a gallon wouldn’t make much difference to most people, because there is no short-term fix for gas prices. Obama’s state of Illinois tried a gas tax vacation, which resulted in the oil companies raising their prices.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Idealistic Thinking

The following excerpts are from an article written by Charlie Reese, formerly of the The Orlando Sentinel in Florida.
 
“You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

“One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 300 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

“I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

“The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.

“I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.

“Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible. They and they alone, have the power. They and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

“We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!”

*****This is a very simplistic solution. If every voters followed this advice in November, we would end up with a Republican controlled Congress and Obama wouldn’t be able to implement the changes that our country desperately needs. This kind of idealistic thinking enables shrewd political operatives to negate the efforts of progressive members of Congress from making our democracy work for 300 million Americans.

Friday, June 27, 2008

War Funded

Recently, the House of Representatives took action to fund the war in Iraq. Republican supporters of Bush provided the winning margin in a 268 -155 vote to provide $126 billion to fund our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year.

A majority of Democrats opposed the Iraq funding bill, however many agreed to a compromise in order to overcome Republican resistance to the GI Bill’s college benefits, which doubled college aid for returning troops and a 13 week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out.

Shortly there after an organization calling itself Democrats.com issued the following e-mail entitled:

“No More Betrayals: Let’s Replace the Bush Democrats.”

“On Thursday and Friday, the American people were betrayed twice by House ‘Democratic’ Leader Steny Hoyer and his Bush Democrats.

“On Thursday, 80 Bush Democrats voted to give George Bush another $163 billion to occupy Iraq and plunder its oil for another year, even though 68% of Americans want to bring our troops safely home this year.

“And on Friday, 105 Bush Democrats voted to give immunity to George Bush and the telecoms for illegally wiretapping American citizens even before 9/11, and to allow Bush and the telecoms to keep doing it, thereby shredding the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”

“With your support, we will replace each one with an ‘Aggressive Progressive’ Democrat who will bring our troops home from Iraq and fulfill their solemn oaths to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”

****This so called Democratic organization failed to mention that the Democratic leadership in the House were able to make a compromise, which was approved by the White House, in order to doubled college aid for returning troops and provide 13 week of additional unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out.

Delhi’s representative in the House, Kirsten Gillibrand voted for those bills. She is not a “Bush Democrat,” but is attempting to be reelected in a congressional district, which is overwhelmingly Republican. Gillibrand recognizes that many of those constituents, who voted for her 2 years ago, would not vote for her again if she voted to cut off funding for troops in the field. Getting our troops out of Iraq will only happen after Obama is elected Commander-in-Chief.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Inspiration and Hope

Most Americans recognize that a long tenure in Washington, D.C. is not the same as judgment, wisdom and vision. Nevertheless, the Republican party wants voters to believe that John McCain’s maturity and experience are what is needed to solve our problems.

Long ago, prominent Republicans wondered whether a Democratic nominee for president: “really is grown up enough to be president.” They used the phrase “naive and inexperienced,” and insisted: “The United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House.”

Those quotations came during the 1960 presidential campaign, when Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president.

Richard Nixon’s slogan was “experience counts,” to which John F. Kennedy responded: “to exclude from positions of trust and command all those below the age of 44 would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the Continental Army, Madison from fathering the Constitution and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America.”

As a young Catholic, I was inspired watching John Fitzgerald Kennedy take the oath of office. Today, at 72 years of age, I look forward to January 20th, and watching a racially mixed young man named Barack Obama take the oath of office.

Our democracy moves very slowly, but we have demonstrated that we can respond decisively to our nation’s great challenge. That’s what the greatest generation did after winning World War II, by initiating the Marshall Plan, which unified Europe and created the basis for peace and prosperity for decades.

Hopefully, our grandchildren will look back on 2008, as a time Americans found the moral courage to solve problems, which some claimed were impossible to solve.

Barack Obama wrote: “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

All-time Record

In the past seven years, we have lost 3.3 million manufacturing jobs. We have higher unemployment, more Americans without health insurance, and a record number of home foreclosures. Median family income is down $1200 and purchasing power is down $4500. Prices are skyrocketing for everything from gas to food.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans set an all-time record for the most filibusters in one Congress, when they blocked a Democratic efforts to tax the oil companies’ windfall profits.

Every important issue, from getting our troops out of Iraq to global climate change and health care goes through the Senate. On virtually every issue, Republicans have obstructed the Democratic agenda and stood in the way of progress.

Allegedly, Senator John McCain is desperate to distance himself from Bush, but in the past year, he has voted with Bush 95% of the time. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, McCain has received millions in donations from the same oil, coal, nuclear, chemical, utility, and auto companies that helped the Bush administration create its energy plan, which has resulted in gasoline selling for over $4.25 a gallon in Delhi.

We are in the midst of a recession, which in part is due to our crippling dependence on oil. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that McCain has accepted over $1 million from the oil and gas industry and many of McCain’s top advisers have lobbied for big oil. It’s not surprising that he opposes, Obama’s alternative energy plans.

Bush’s tax cuts are central to McCain’s economic policy and he’s calling for tax giveaways, which are twice as expensive as Bush’s initial plan. His policy will spend nearly $2 trillion on tax breaks for corporations, including $1.2 billion for Exxon, a company that just recorded the highest profits in history.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama on the Economy

The following are excerpts from a speech given by Obama on the economy:

“I understand that the challenges facing our economy didn’t start the day George Bush took office and they won’t end the day he leaves. Some are partly the result of forces that have globalized our economy over the last several decades – revolutions in communication and technology have sent jobs wherever there’s an internet connection; that have forced children in Raleigh and Boston to compete for those jobs with children in Bangalore and Beijing. We live in a more competitive world, and that is a fact that cannot be reversed.

“But I also know that this nation has faced such fundamental change before, and each time we’ve kept our economy strong and competitive by making the decision to expand opportunity outward; to grow our middle-class; to invest in innovation, and most importantly, to invest in the education and well-being of our workers.

“We’ve done this because in America, our prosperity has always risen from the bottom-up. From the earliest days of our founding, it has been the hard work and ingenuity of our people that’s served as the wellspring of our economic strength. That’s why we built a system of free public high schools when we transitioned from a nation of farms to a nation of factories. That’s why we sent my grandfather’s generation to college, and declared a minimum wage for our workers, and promised to live in dignity after they retire through the creation of Social Security. That’s why we’ve invested in the science and research that have led to new discoveries and entire new industries. And that’s what this country will do again when I am President of the United States.

“When it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country. Because for all his talk of independence, the centerpiece of his economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush’s policies. He says we’ve made “great progress” in our economy these past eight years. He calls himself a fiscal conservative and on the campaign trail he’s passionate critic of government spending, and yet he has no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and a permanent occupation of Iraq – policies that have left our children with a mountain of debt.

“George Bush’s policies have taken us from a projected $5.6 trillion dollar surplus at the end of the Clinton Administration to massive deficits and nearly four trillion dollars in new debt today. We were promised a fiscal conservative. Instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. And now John McCain wants to give us another. Well we’ve been there once, and we’re not going back. It’s time to move this country forward.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Broken System

Recently, Barack Obama made an important decision for his campaign, when he announced that he would not participate in the public financing system for the general election.

He could have receive more than $80 million in taxpayer funding for his campaign, but opted out. Obama insists the public financing program has been broken, because Republicans have exploited its loopholes.

The Republican National Committee, and their 527 groups raised and spent unlimited contributions in 2004, and will again manipulate a broken system. For example, the current ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox was rewarded by Bush for donating $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that launched ad campaigns assailing John Kerry’s service in Vietnam during the 2004 presidential election.

Earlier this month, a top McCain adviser told MSNBC: “now that we’re in the general election, the RNC money counts...” Consequently, McCain has more cash on hand and than Barack Obama does.

In April alone, Republican’s raised nearly $45 million. That’s more than Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee combined. That money doesn’t include the plans of 527 groups like the one called “Freedom’s Watch,” which has said it will spend as much as $250 million under Karl Rove’s direction to attack and defeat Barack Obama.

In order to compete, Obama must put his faith in ordinary people giving only what they can afford. That has been the strategy of his campaign from the very beginning, and more than 1,500,000 supporters have made contributions.

Americans have a historic opportunity to prove that a movement of ordinary people has the power to change the way political campaigns are funded. The Obama campaign has a goal of getting 50,000 new contributors to declare their independence by making a donation before July 4th.

Opting out of public matching funds was an extremely difficult decision, and it puts Obama at a disadvantage when it came to raising money. Unlike John McCain, his campaign has never accepted donations from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs.

McCain has built his fundraising strategy around high-dollar donors giving huge checks to the RNC. On the other hand, Obama supporters hope to create a new model for publicly financed campaigns, by getting small donations from two million contributors.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McCain Drops Out?

Last Sunday, the Huffington Post published an article entitled: “When McCain Drops Out,” by Steve Rosenbaum.

I’ve suspected something like that would happen, but felt that it was my suspicious nature working overtime. The following are excerpts from Mr. Rosenbaum’s article:

“When the Republicans choose their candidate on September 4th, there is a very real chance that they could throw the election into an unexpected chaos as they pull a genuine September Surprise.

“I think there is every reason to believe John McCain won’t ...be the Republican candidate in November. Here’s how it could happen:

“At some point in mid August, John McCain will announce that he has decided that he can not accept his party’s nomination for president. The reason will be health-related, and that may turn out to be the truth.... But excuses or facts hardly matters. He won’t be accepting his party’s nomination.

“The reasons are simple. He can’t win. Now that Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee -- the polls all show that McCain’s pro-war stance and Bush endorsement make him a lost cause in November. That combined with soft stand on litmus test conservative issues make him an unpopular candidate among the base. I know some Democrats that think the Republicans are planning to let McCain lose and ‘sit this one out’ so that they can hang the democrats with a bad economy and a war that is a morass. But that just isn’t how they play. They play to win every hand -- think about 2000 with a popular Democratic president and good economy and a solid VP running for president. Why did they put up Bush? And why did they fight so hard? Because, you don’t ever throw a game. And they’re not going to throw this one. McCain won’t be the nominee.

“By August, they’ll have done something to try and pick away at Obama’s popularity. They’ll emphasis race, or whatever they can to get him to appear less than perfect. Then, they’ll bring out of the woodwork a surprise candidate who can shift the story fast. With just two months before the election -- the new candidate will have little time to be ‘vetted’ but will be shiny and new, and will get a lot of media attention as Obama’s newness will have become -- by then -- tarnished or at least no longer the surprise that it has been as he unseated Hillary.

“Joe Trippi, campaign consultant and most notably Howard Dean’s campaign manager, said of McCain dropping out: ‘While crazy, this may be the best shot they have.’”

***** This doesn't mean that I'll be letting up on McCain. Rosenbaum and I could be wrong, but it's fun to speculate.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Failing Infrastructure

We had a great investment in infrastructure during the Eisenhower era. The generation before that, we had an enormous investment in our infrastructure with the great works projects of the WPA and other types of projects of that era. 

We have skipped two generations of improving our infrastructure.  During the Reagan years, we should have again been investing in our infrastructure. So far, John McCain has not reject the idea that levees are pork. Not unlike Reagan, he’s much more likely to invest in weapons of death and destruction.

In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a report card for America’s Infrastructure, which graded our nation’s infrastructure at a “D” and estimated that it would take $1.6 trillion invested over five years to bring conditions up to adequate levels. If we continue to ignore our levees, dams, bridges, tunnels, highways and mass transportation, it’s going to get worse.

The ASCE’s report doesn’t even begin to factor in the costs of expected natural events like global climate change.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it caused billions of dollars of damage and immeasurable human costs. We are all familiar with stories of levee failures in the affected area, but we rarely hear about the miles of roads and rail and dozens of bridges wiped out as well, which effectively cut some areas off from commerce. Many of those areas have yet to recover economically.

There will not be money available for investing in infrastructure, if John McCain’s policies, of borrowing for the endless war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy, are implemented. McCain’s policies would add another $5.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. That isn’t fiscal conservatism, that’s what Bush has done over the last eight years. Not only can working families not afford it, future generations can’t afford it. And we can’t allow it to happen in this election.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Reagan’s Choice

Yesterday, the Middletown’s Times Herold-Record published a letter of mine, which stated the following:

A letter published June 16 said that we should have realized, when Ayatollah Khomeini gained control of Iran: “... our lives and our economy were no longer in our control because of oil dependency.”

President Carter did recognize the problem and in a televised speech, he 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.”

Carter proposed 10 principles for our national energy plan, but those principles were attacked by oil conglomerates, and when Reagan took over, those principles were ignored and Carter’s programs gutted or terminated. The Republican Party continues to support Bush’s pre-emptive, imperialistic invasion of Iraq, which clearly demonstrates that destruction and conquest has become their choice.

Due to a 200 word limit on letters to the editor, Carter’s ten principles for our national energy plan were not published. However, this web site has no such limit. In 1977, Jimmy Carter, proposed the following national energy plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Corporate Greed

As noted in my post of 6/3/08, Tom Sears is a professor of accounting at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. Every other week, he writes a column for the Oneonta Daily Star entitled: “On The Right Side.”

Tom Sears wrote: “We can’t expect the oil companies to behave any differently. Their responsibility is to their shareholders, not to you environmentalists.” Sears avoids pointing out that international oil companies lack any responsibility or concern for the American taxpayer and our troops, who have enabled them to loot Iraqi oil.

Bush commandeered our military to be gangsters for capitalism and they’re being used as economic cannon fodder, by the military- industrial complex to ensure outrageous profits for multinational oil corporations. From the very beginning, the mission has been to steal 21 trillion dollars worth of oil from the Iraqi people, under the cover of bringing democracy.

The 21 trillion dollars figured out to be about $70,000 for every American currently alive. That money is going to six international oil companies, four of whom are American. These are the same oil conglomerates that command over $4.25 a gallon for gas in Delhi. How many more brave young Americans will be sent to their death so that these international oil companies can continue to reap unconscionable profits?  For every American soldier and Iraqi citizen that have been killed, the oil companies have raked in enormous profits. War profiteers understand, that war has always been a very profitable business. They don’t care about the lives of innocent Iraqis or that war is deadly for our troops.

Bush has insisted that an oil deal must be signed, which allows these six international oil companies to control over 80% of the Iraqi oil fields.  The CEO’s of those companies will have complete control over every aspect of the oil for 35 years into the future.  Iraq gets to keep 17 oil fields, but even for those fields, operational control is in the hands of the international oil companies.

Corporate greed trumps the environment, nationalism, patriotism and morality.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Windfall Profits Tax

The following remarks were made on the floor of the Senate by Senator Carl Levin the chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

“The burden of higher energy prices is not being shared equally. To the contrary, it is falling hardest upon those who can least afford it. Large oil companies are reaping record profits at the expense of the average American who ultimately bears the full burden of these price increases. At the same time that average Americans are having to devote a greater and greater portion of their income to pay for basic necessities, such as gasoline, household utilities, and food, the major oil companies are reporting record profits, and their executives are taking home annual paychecks of hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of these profits have been generated without any additional investments into energy production. Rather, these companies have seen their profits rise with the flood of speculation. What is a high tide of profits for the oil companies, though, is a tsunami that is overwhelming millions of Americans.

“And what are these oil companies doing with these record profits? Are they investing in new technologies? The answer is that the oil companies are not increasing their exploration and development investments by nearly as much as their profits are increasing. Instead, they are devoting large amounts of their profits to acquiring other companies and buying back their own shares. On May 1 of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that in the first quarter of 2008 ExxonMobil spent $8 billion to buy back company shares, which “boosted per-share earnings to stratospheric levels,” whereas it spent less on exploration and actually reduced oil production.

“For these reasons, we need to institute a windfall profits tax on the oil companies. We should incentivize big oil companies to invest their windfall profits into things that will increase our own domestic energy production by reducing the amount of the tax for such investments. If they don’t make these investments, a portion of that profit should be recouped by the public to help offset the outrageous prices they are facing at the pump.

“I have supported a windfall profits tax numerous times when we have voted on it in the Senate. “The Consumer-First Energy Act,” imposes a 25% tax on windfall profits of the major oil companies. Windfall profits invested to boost domestic energy supplies would be exempt from the tax, which would encourage investments in renewable facilities and the production of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. It would also encourage oil companies to increase their domestic refinery capacity. Proceeds from the tax would be put toward measures to reduce the burdens of rising energy costs and increase our energy independence and security.”

***** Should the tax be passed on to the consumer the tax would increase.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Trickling Down

Remarks by Senator Barack Obama in a recent speech on the economy.

“We have now lost jobs for five straight months – more than 320,000 since the beginning of this year. Last month we saw the biggest rise in the unemployment rate in more than twenty years. The percentage of homes in foreclosure and late mortgage payments is the highest since the Great Depression. The price of oil has never been higher and recently set a record for the largest one-day spike in history. The costs of health care and college tuition and even food have all hit record levels, while family incomes have fallen and the wages of our workers have stayed the same.

“We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic crisis by some accident of history. This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.

“For eight long years, our President sacrificed investments in health care, and education, and energy, and infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs – trillions of dollars in giveaways that proved neither compassionate nor conservative.

“And for all of George Bush’s professed faith in free markets, the markets have hardly been free – not when the gates of Washington are thrown open to high-priced lobbyists who rig the rules of the road and riddle our tax code with special interest favors and corporate loopholes. As a result of such special-interest driven policies and lax regulation, we haven’t seen prosperity trickling down to Main Street. Instead, a housing crisis that could leave up to two million homeowners facing foreclosure has shaken confidence in the entire economy.”

***** A vote for John McCain in November would guarantee four more years of pandering to the interests of corporate America and the very wealthy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Profound Alienation

Dr. Edward Tick began counseling Vietnam veterans, at a time when the nation was trying to put the Vietnam War behind it. Dr. Tick insists that “Veterans are angry or sad because they have been through horrors, which have exacerbated by a profound alienation between our warrior class and our civilian class.

“Soldiers have a responsibility to defend their country and it is our responsibility as citizens to heal those who have put their lives on the line for us, even if they fought a war for the wrong reasons and based on lies.

“Everyone who participates in a war is changed and no one comes through unscathed. When we require that they get on with ‘business as usual’ now that they are home, we put the blame on them for having broken down in the first place, and we pressure them to take sole responsibility for their healing.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder is a moral trauma. There is a stigma attached to having a ‘mental disorder’ rather than physical wounds, but mental disabilities are far more difficult for society to accept. Veterans often feel they should be stronger, or that their loved ones don’t believe they are suffering because there’s no visible wound. The typical treatment of veterans, has been denial of their pain and refusal of support.”

In the summer,1932, a large group of WW I veterans, upset with a crushed economy and their miserable circumstances, were lobbying aggressively to get our government to change the date their bonus certificates could be paid. These certificates had been provided to veterans in 1924 as a bonus for war service, but they weren’t payable until 1945.

Most of the veterans were destitute from the effects of the 1929 market crash and the depression, pleaded with our government to give them the bonus early. A bill to do so was rushed through the House, but blocked in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Hoover administration was growing annoyed with the so-called “Bonus Army” of protesters which had marched to Washington and set up a large “Hooverville” camp on the Anacostia Flats not far from the Federal District in DC. The Army was ordered to clear out the protesting veterans. Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Douglas Mac Arthur fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled up the Bonus Army encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.

The lesson learned by the Bonus Army that day was that our leaders do not like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises their failure. They’ll put up with it for awhile, but inevitably the enforcers will be sent in and the shacks destroyed and heads busted.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Let’s Talk

After 9/11, the U.S. and Iran worked together in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the Afghan government. The Iranians had been fighting the Taliban long before we were. James Dobbins was Bush’s special envoy to Afghanistan and met with the Iranians several times a day.

In the fall of 2001, during our military campaign in Afghanistan, Iran cooperated on the ground providing vital information and worked alongside the U.S. to establish the government of Hamid Karzai.

Dobbins was surprise to learn that Iran was prepared to participate in a program to assist the creation of a new Afghan national army under U.S. leadership. The Iranians were prepared to house, clothe, equip and train as many as 20,000 recruits as part of a broader American led effort. They proposed that their army would collaborate with American leadership in a joint program to train the national Afghan army.

Another, surprising offer was that the Iranians wanted to expand this dialogue to other issues. They were ready to discuss the Middle East peace process with the Palestinians. Dobbins and Hillary Mann the Iran and Afghanistan specialist at the National Security Council were amazed, when Bush announced in his State of the Union Address that Iran was part of the axis of evil.

In May of 2003, Iran proposed cooperating with the US on its nuclear program, stabilizing Iraq and helping with counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East, which implied recognition of Israel. In exchange Iran asked for a “security guarantee,” which included a commitment to disavow all intentions of regime change, along with an abolishment of sanctions, and “recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region.” The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and former President Khatami were active in the drafting of the proposal.

Not unlike Bush supporters in 2004, the Iranian people, responded to the fear of being attacked by the most powerful military on earth by replacing their moderate President Khatami with bellicose hard liner Ahmadinejad.

At Columbia University, last September President Ahmadinejad called for diplomatic relations to be increased between our two nations. As president, Barack Obama might want to start by talking to Iran about their 2003 proposal.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reconciliation

As noted yesterday, career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan. His most recent book is entitled: “Your Government Failed You.”

Recently, on MSNBC, Clarke was asked did people lie? He replied that the Senate intelligence report said:“ statements by the president were not substantiated by intelligence. And statements by the president were contradicted by available intelligence.  In other words, they made things up and gave them to Colin Powell and others who believed them. Colin Powell did not know he was lying, but he was.  He was given intelligence that people in the intelligence community at the time knew was not true.”

Clarke was then asked: “What are we to make now, in the light of the political realities of today, of Senator McCain’s undiminished enthusiasm for and defense of the war, specifically this claim that every intel assessment of the time was screaming WMD? ”

Clarke responded: “Senator McCain‘s statements are contradicted by the facts in a Senate report, which two Republican senators voted for.  He is a big proponent of the war, but he is also now justifying the intelligence claims of the president, which now we have the evidence, we have the proof, four years too late, that those statements were flat-out wrong. And these weren’t close calls. They made things up. 

“The fact is that over 80 percent of the American people supported the president, that we were all wanting it do something about 9/11, but that doesn‘t change the legal responsibilities of the Congress to do oversight.  It doesn’t change the legal responsibilities of the intelligence community to analyze and report the truth and very few of them did. One of them, the State Department's Intelligence Bureau, was absolutely correct.  You never heard that at the time.  You were never told that there were dissenting opinions. 

“I just don’t think we can let these people back into polite society and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and pretend that nothing ever happened when there are over 4,000 American dead and 25,000 Americans grievously wounded.  And they will carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives.  Someone should have to pay in some way for the decisions that they made to mislead the American people. I think we do have to forgive people who ask for forgiveness but first, they have to admit they lied.” 

Friday, June 13, 2008

Old News

Yesterday’s post was old news for this web site, because most of the following information was posted well over a year ago.

Marine General Anthony Zinni established his impeccable credentials during nearly forty years of military service. After retirement, he served as Colin Powell’s special envoy to the Middle East, before disagreements over the Iraq war and its probable aftermath caused him to resign. Zinni is quoted by Tom Clancy in "Battle Ready;" a segment entitled "The Obligation to Speak the Truth."

Zinni says: "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption. False rationales presented as justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats, and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military, all of these caused me to speak out."

For speaking out Zinni was called a traitor and a turncoat by Pentagon officials. Zinni strongly disagrees with the mentality which says: "As long as guys are dying out there, it is morally reprehensible to criticize the flawed policies and tactics that put them into the predicaments."

Career counterterrorism 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.

In his book "Against All Enemies, 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.” On 9/11, Clarke was the nations crisis manager in Bush’s White House situation room. He reports that within hours of the 9/11 attack, Donald Rumsfeld was suggesting Iraq as a battlefield. Not because al Qaeda was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan.

In 1993, Clinton ordered cruise missiles launched against Iraqi intelligence headquarters. Initially, Clarke was disappointed that the response had been so small. Ten years later he wrote: "U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities never developed any evidence of further Iraqi support for terrorism directed against Americans. Until we invaded Iraq in 2003."

Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were among 18 signatures on a letter to then President Clinton in 1998, which urged a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein. Of the eighteen signers of the letter; eleven held post in the Bush administration, when Iraq was invaded. In Ron Suskin's "The Price of Loyalty" former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill confirms that ten days after Bush's inauguration the focus at the first National Security Council meeting was war with Iraq.

In "See No Evil", Robert Baer wrote : "I knew enough about the way Washington worked to know that when it didn't like some piece of information it did everything in its power to discredit the messenger"... "The problem is the White House didn't go to the CIA and ask, tell me the truth, it said give me ammunition." Baer was a legendary CIA field officer, who served most of his 21 year career in the Middle East. In the movie "Syriana" the covert Arabic-speaking CIA agent played by George Clooney is partly based on the exploits of author Robert Baer.

Bush supporters continue to insist that it was erroneous intelligence by the CIA, which resulted in his administration being wrong about weapons of mass destruction and a link between Saddam and al Qaeda. CNN's special "Dead Wrong", sought to analyze the process by which the argument for a preemptive war was made. Several quotes from the program provide insight into how the process got it wrong.

"Policy makers love intelligence when it supports their policy and they have difficulty with intelligence when it does not. The spies call it cherry picking, choosing scraps of intelligence to prove a worst case scenario." - former CIA deputy director of operations James Pavitt.

"As they embellished what the intelligence community was prepared to say and as the press reported that information, it began to acquire its own sense of truth and reality."- Rand Beers - former National Security Council Official, who resigned his White House post to work against the reelection of Bush.

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer, had two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote "Imperial Hubris" under the pseudonym Anonymous. Scheuer has said: "There was just a resignation within the agency that we were going to war against Iraq and it didn't make any difference what the analysis was or what kind of objections or countervailing forces there were to the invasion. We were going to war."

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

"Imperial Hubris explores why they hate us and why our policies and actions are bin Laden's only indispensable allies. Scheuer emphasizes:" We must recognize that our invasion of Iraq was not preemptive; it was an avarice, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages." He wrote "Imperial Hubris" with certainty that: "al Qaeda will attack the continental U. S. again, that its next strike will be more damaging than 9/11."

Paul Pillar is the first high level C.I.A. insider to speak out on the use of prewar intelligence. After 28 years with the C.I.A., Pillar retired in 2005, as senior intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. He charges the Bush administration with the selective use of intelligence about Iraq's unconventional weapons and of ignoring predictions of postwar chaos in Iraq.

Pillar wrote: “What is most remarkable about prewar intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policy makers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important policy decisions in decades.”... “It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made.”... “If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war...or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.”

Michael Parent's "Superpatriotism" points out: "We are told that during times of crisis we must trust the president. Democracy is not about trust; it's about distrust, accountability, public exposure and responsible government. We must enlist our fellow Americans to trust their leaders less and themselves more. Once fear takes hold, evidence becomes largely irrelevant."

Former Marine Captain Nathaniel Fick clarified Bush's "noble cause", in an interviewed with Lou Dobbs on CNN. Fick led infantry platoons in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While discussing his book "One Bullet Away", Fick stated: "U.S. involvement in the Middle East is a vital national interest. We need access to energy."

Dobbs responded: "You're being honest in that statement, as you are throughout your book. The honesty about the role of oil in our strategic national interest. Often a veil is put over it or it's ignored altogether."

Access to energy in the Middle East has been determined to be in our strategic national interest. The Bush regime had hoped the invasion of Iraq would guaranteed access to the world's second largest oil reserve. Bush knew being honest with the American people wouldn't work, so his propagandist fed us the following bullshit, to ensure support for the invasion of Iraq:

Colin Powell: "What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Dick Cheney: "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
Condoleezza Rice: "Clearly, there are contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented."

In 1960, the House Committee on Government Operations declared "Secrecy the first refuge of incompetents must be at bare minimum in a democratic society, for a fully informed public is the basis of self-government." Perhaps, we are no longer a democracy.

Sen. Robert Byrd quotes and Iraqi exile: "Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is one thing...But you won't find any self-respecting Iraqi prepared to cooperate with an American puppet regime."

Anthony Cordesman is a former intelligence analyst with the State and Defense Department, who specialized in Middle East issues. He believes Bush will refuse to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state. Cordesman's "Inexcusable Failure" cautions: "all the training in the world will be for naught, if the Iraqi National Guard and Police are corrupt, or view their government as a puppet regime of American imperialist.”

Again, we find our country trapped again in a quicksand of lies. Hopefully, an examination of the role our president played in creating the predicament will serve the purpose of avoiding future "governmental misjudgements". Bush and his cabinet repeatedly claimed Saddam's weapons of mass destruction posed "a serious and mounting threat to our nation" with consequences that would be "grave and tragic" if we failed to act. We were repeatedly told that the Iraqi regime possessed "vast arsenals of deadly biological and chemical weapons". "We cannot wait for final proof, the smoking gun." "It could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Michael Parenti's "Superpatriotism" reports: "Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix remarked that the White House maintained 100 percent certainty that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed- based on zero percent evidence."

As in Vietnam, this was not governmental misjudgment, but again White House and Pentagon lies and deceit.

Some believe it’s unfair to say that the erroneous intelligence that led Congress to authorize the invasion of Iraq was George Tenet’s fault. They ask why none of the hundreds of people working at the CIA, who gather the intelligence never came forward to say anything in public.  

Former CIA analyst Ray Mc Govern reports: “It saddens me greatly that no one quit.  The answer is found in the fact that Tenet was the beneficiary of a whole generation of the politicization, and corruption of intelligence analysis. It started with Bill Casey under Ronald Reagan and by the time Tenet took office, he inherits a whole clique of malleable managers, who in effect said: “Yes, sir.  If Dick Cheney says Iraq has nuclear capability, we can write that.” 

According to Mc Govern, Tenet came back from the White House and said: “We can’t avoid preparing a national intelligence estimate, because Congress won’t vote for this war until we do one. We have to do it to the terms of reference of Dick Cheney’s speech of August 26, 2002, where Cheney claimed Saddam Hussein could have a nuclear weapon in a year; he has got all kinds of chemicals; he has got all kinds of biological weapons.” Mc Govern says: “It was totally dishonest, but they did it.”  

Furthermore, Mc Govern points out that Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to investigate a forged memo, which was apparently from the Italian embassy. The memo suggested that Niger was supplying nuclear material to Iraq. The Republican Senate majority chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts decided that would be inappropriate. 

If you trace the memo back, and consider the characters that were involved, Mc Govern suspects that the memo would lead right to the doorstep of the vice president. He doesn’t claim it was forged by the vice president, but instead farmed out to a cottage industry of former intelligence agents, who did a rather amateurish job. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Unprovoked War

Recently, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller released a majority report with the support of two committee Republicans, which demonstrates that Bush and members of his staff lied to Congress and the American people to justify launching the first unprovoked war in this nations history.

Rockefeller said: “There is nothing more serious in public life than the decision to go to war.  In too many instances in making the case for war, administration officials distorted the facts or said things that were not supported by the facts, said things that they knew or should have known were not true.” 

The report has created new problems for Bush’s would be successor John McCain, who recently claimed that every intelligence agency in the world and every intelligence assessment reported that Hussein had WMDs. McCain should have known these claims were false even before the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report pointed out that both the State and Energy Department intelligence agencies had raised questions about the WMD claims, which Bush ignored. 

This was not a case of 20/20 hindsight.  This is a case of information that was available at the time being ignored.  The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction was read by only seven senators before they voted to go to war.

In 2002, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Nancy Pelosi and, her counterpart in the Senate, Bob Graham the chairman of the Intelligence Committee were briefed extensively on the intelligence leading up to the vote to give Bush the power to invade Iraq.

At the time, Pelosi said there was nothing in that intelligence, which indicated that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. On the floor of the Senate, Graham said: “I‘m chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  The NIE is not persuasive.  There’s not a good case here for this war.” 

Both Rep. Pelosi and Senator Graham voted against the Iraq War Resolution. The two Democrats, who had the most operational intelligence at their disposal, were joined by 21 Senators in voting against that resolution.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reeks of Blood

Many voters were not aware that when George McGovern ran for president in 1972, he was a decorated Army Air Force pilot. During W.W.II, George McGovern flew 35 combat missions, which was the maximum number allowed.

In September 1970, Senator George McGovern criticized his colleagues on the floor of the Senate for not supporting an amendment that called for a complete withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. McGovern said: “Every Senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave... This chamber reeks of blood... it does not take any courage at all for a Congressman or a Senator or a President to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed.” McGovern blamed his colleagues for having contributed to “that human wreckage all across our land — young men without legs or arms or genitals or faces — or hopes.”

After McGovern made those remarks an additional 8,256 young Americans were killed. Today, we are not having that kind of confrontational debate in the Senate, because our Senators recognize that it’s politically risky. Furthermore, our mainstream media has failed to confront the warmongers in Congress and share responsible for sending nearly 4,100 young Americans to an early grave and over 25,000 Americans grievously wounded.

North Dakota radio talk show host, Ed Schultz is an exception. On CNN’s American Morning, Schultz called Senator McCain “a warmonger.” A warmonger is defined as: “a person who wants, advocates or tries to precipitate war.” Schultz insists McCain is a warmonger because his policies fit that description. He added: “John McCain has no solution for Iraq and he’s saber rattling with Iran. And wants to increase the military... What kind of message does it sends to the world when we’re occupying Iraq and we’ve got a candidate calling for more of a military buildup. This is outrageous. The man is a warmonger.” Schultz has refused to apologize for expressing his opinion and speaking truth to a power.

McCain is not the only Senator to fit that description. However, the ultimate responsibility for the tragedy of Vietnam and the present quagmire in Iraq are those Americans, who repeatedly vote warmongers into office. Politicians can end every speech by asking God to Bless America, but I doubt God will bless America, because this nation reeks of blood.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama’s Vision

The following is Barack Obama’s vision for America:

“I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I've sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent 13 innocent people to death row. I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.

“In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the false labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

“So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

“So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

“So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma Alabama bridge for freedom's cause.

“So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder and more just.

“America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love. The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.”

Monday, June 09, 2008

Authentic Change

The following are additional excerpts from the speech Senator Barack Obama gave on June 1, 2008, at the Corn Palace in Mitchell South Dakota:

“John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy, he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.

“Maybe if he met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay his sister’s medical bills, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. We need to pass a health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it.

“Maybe if John McCain met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future -- an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's the change we need.

“And maybe if John McCain spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul, Minnesota, or in New Orleans, Louisiana, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education and recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support, and finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the few, but a birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America.

“Now, the other side will offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a good thing, that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate that the American people deserve -- on the issues that will determine the future of this country and the future of our children. But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. What you won't see from this campaign or this party is a politics that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to polarize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.”

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Genuine Change

The following are excerpts from a speech by Senator Barack Obama:

“It’s not change when John McCain decides to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, in the Senate last year.

“It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college -- policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

“And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians -- a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

“There are many words to describe John McCain’s attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them, because change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what’s not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years -- especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

“We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It's time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century -- terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is.

“Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy -- tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world.

“Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break to who need it and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Our Grandson

Recently, my wife and I returned from a trip to Brussels, Belgium. The main focus of our trip was to see our grandson and assist his parents. Although, we already knew from pictures sent to us on the internet that our grandson was an outstandingly cute baby.

In fact, it’s a necessity for the human baby to be cute, because at 4 weeks they are little more than a digestive system struggling for survival. At times, our grandson appeared to smile, but that facial expression, as well as, his blatting most likely were indications of gastric distress, which is to be expected of a developing digestive system. The potential for a extraordinary young man is there, but at this point he’s only interested in eating, which unfortunately interferes with his mother’s sleeping.

My grandson and I are not timid, when it comes to communicating our needs. His daily blats are reminiscent of my daily posts on this web site. When upset by something we both have difficulty being patient and suppressing our feelings. The process allows me to develop my writing skills, while he’s develops his lungs.

Our grandson is totally dependent upon adults for his survival and the next year will be the challenge of a lifetime for his devoted parents. Our trip to Brussels provided an opportunity to evaluate his parents on how they were holding up to the sometimes overwhelming demands of parenthood. They’re doing a fantastic job and have learned that team work and sacrifice can solve problems, which initially seem insurmountable.

Observing our son and daughter-in-law tending to their child with loving care, brought my wife and I great joy. They have begun to fulfill their role of creating, sustaining and protecting a human life, which is instinctive to the human species. That role has brought us a lifetime of happiness and satisfaction.

Before returning home, I reminded our son of a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which both he and our daughter have heard from me before.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; ”

Friday, June 06, 2008

Wandering Ghosts

In an interview by David Kupfer for “The Sun” magazine entitled: “Like Wandering Ghosts,” we learn of the work of Dr. Edward Tick.

Tick began counseling Vietnam veterans, at a time when the nation was trying to put the Vietnam War behind it and post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t yet a diagnostic category. Along with his wife, Dr, Tick directs Soldier’s Heart (www.soldiersheart.net), a nonprofit initiative to establish veterans’ safe-return programs in communities across the nation.

Tick insists that our veterans have been honored only while they are serving, to keep the patriotic fervor up, but not after a war is over. The exception was the World War II veterans, who were honored and given decent benefits.

The Senate version of a “safe-return” program is the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” which would bring back the WWII-style standards of providing vets with full college tuition. However, John McCain is opposed to a bill, which would honor and reward veterans for their service.

Dr. Tick insists: “Veterans need a safety net when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, so they won’t crash and burn like so many Vietnam veterans did. People in the community should be waiting to catch them.” He submits that the key to the healing process for veterans is for them to experience the emotions that they could not allow themselves to feel in the war zone and to address the spiritual damage that they suffered during combat.

According to Dr. Tick many women are suffering terribly in the combat zone. One woman veteran he met returned home from Iraq in a horrible depression because she had machine-gunned women and children. She refused help and was redeployed. She told her family she wanted the Iraqis to kill her as punishment for what she had done to them.

Some women veterans suffer because they feel they were created to be life givers, not life takers. So the moral trauma of war is more severe for them. But if we understand the warrior’s role to be not destroying and killing, but preserving and protecting, then we can find many women serving honorably in our military. Some of the most admirable women has met are combat nurses, chaplains, and career officers.

The imperialistic invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with preserving and protecting. In reality, both men and woman were created to be life givers, while the warrior’s role is to destroy and kill. Therefore, post-traumatic stress is the logical outcome of war, which is an abomination to the caring and creative instincts of both men and woman.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Additional Viewpoints

The day after, Deborah Blue’s letter to the editor was published in the Daily Star, Walter F. Wouk of Cobleskill participated in the marketplace of ideas by writing:

“In his recent column, ‘Several so-called patriots fall short,’ Tom Sears pats himself on the back because he received ‘a very nice thank-you note’ regarding his column, ‘Dems should learn surge is working.’

“The note came from a pro-President Bush, pro-war lobby group called Gathering of Eagles _ a group that vehemently opposes the notion that it is possible to ‘support the troops but not the war.’ A group whose stated goal is ‘nothing less than total, unqualified victory in Iraq.’

“Kristinn Taylor, co-founder and spokesman of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the conservative group Free Republic, which supports Bush and his war on Iraq, is a press contact and leader for Gathering of Eagles and he is closely aligned with Move America Forward _ another pro-Bush, pro-war lobby group.

“Sears castigates the Democratic leadership for refusing to meet with Vets for Freedom, in early April. However, he neglected to mention that Vets for Freedom is essentially a front group for Bush policies in Iraq.

“In June 2006, the Buffalo News revealed that Taylor Gross, who worked as a spokesman for Bush under White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, handles public relations work for Veterans for Freedom.

“Samuel Johnson said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism in general, he was deriding false patriotism _ as demonstrated by the president, who wraps himself in the flag while the Bill of Rights means nothing.

“In the world according to Tom Sears, patriotism is giving unquestioning support to a superannuated frat-boy who plays at being a ‘war president.’

“That sort of patriotism is indeed, the last refuge of scoundrels.”

***** I’ve discovered that the marketplace of ideas in the Oneonta Daily Star is a very interesting and informative place to visit.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Marketplace

Deborah Blue of Oneonta joined the marketplace of ideas regarding Tom Sears’ column by commenting on the two letters posted yesterday and provided additional insight on the subject of patriotism. She wrote:

“What a wonderful contrast of letters May 20 _ one thanking Tom Sears for putting the ‘truth-hating, blame America first, liberal creeps’ in their place; the other with quotations on what patriotism is.

“Being a liberal creep, I have some more thoughts on patriotism to offer.

“Thomas Paine said, ‘It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from the government.’

“‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism’ _ Thomas Jefferson

“From James Baldwin: ‘I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for that reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.’

“Very appropriate now, from Henry Steele Commager: ‘Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will equate their policies with patriotism, and call criticism subversive.’

‘“No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots’ _ Barbara Ehrenreich.

“And from Sinclair Lewis: ‘When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.’

“This seems especially apt, considering the Bush family’s ties with Nazi Germany that resulted in Bush’s grandfather being implicated with trading with the enemy, and a recent lawsuit by Holocaust survivors against them.

“Our government, whoever the ‘current occupant’ is, is not our country. Government is a servant, to be hired and let go as necessary. It is long past time to let the Bush administration go, and any others who share its ideas. This administration was wrong to invade Iraq, wrong to deny that climate change was happening, wrong to try to concentrate wealth at the top.

“As a proud ‘liberal creep,’ I invite others to join the Liberal Creep Club. Speak out. Celebrate patriotism by keeping our government honest and moral.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Motivated

Tom Sears is a professor of accounting at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. Every other week, he writes a column for the Oneonta Daily Star entitled: “On The Right Side.'

Many readers of the column have been angered by Mr. Sears’ negative attacks on liberals and have repeatedly urged the editor of the Star to discontinue Sears’ column.

However, he does have fans, which became apparent in a letter to the editor, by John Forman of Oneonta, who wrote:

“Thank you, Tom Sears, for your great column on patriotism in the May 13 issue of The Daily Star. You really put the truth-hating, ‘blame America first’ liberal creeps in their place. Thanks again, and keep up the good work.”

Mr. Sears’ confrontational style often serves to motivate those liberals, who do not usually express their views in letters to the editor. In fact, it motivated my wife Karen, who ironically, had her letter published on the same day as Mr. Forman’s letter. She took exception to Sears’ very limited definition of “patriotism”, by writing:

“After reading Tom Sears’ column of May 13, may I suggest several alternative definitions and thoughts on patriotism.

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

‘“Samuel Johnson quipped: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” (To which Ambrose Bierce famously added, ‘With all due respect. I beg to submit that it is the first.’)

‘“August Bebel- ‘In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers.’

‘“George Bernard Shaw - ‘Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.’

‘“Bertrand Russell - ‘Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.’

“My personal favorite is from an 1847 speech made in Syracuse entitled: ‘Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country.’ Abolitionist Fredrick Douglass a freed slave 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.’

“The looting of Iraqi oil violates the Geneva Convention, but continuing the occupation, by our government deserves our ‘moral indignation.”

****A true liberal would not call for censorship of Mr. Sears, but instead would welcome his contributions to the marketplace of ideas.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Immigration

The following is an article written by Peter Desrochers:
 
“Some see a dire ‘immigrant problem,’ where the issue is really an immigration problem: The U.S. has simply fallen into an almost medieval view of the world since 9/11 and is severely curtailing access to the country, when we desperately need the talent, energy and labor of our newest immigrants. Who do you think will perform essential services, pay taxes and balance the budget, and pay Social Security in this still-young century?

“Few in the U.S. want their children to grow up to be laborers, maintenance staff, highway workers, janitors or service staff, or to change sheets and bedpans in nursing care, or other humble but essential positions. Immigrants are willing to do so. Do you think the Minutemen who so bravely threaten immigrants will care for you in your elder years? Do they do any tangible good? Fear is not the answer. Terrorists get passports and visas!

“Our problem is lack of a modern immigration system, and fear by our elected representatives to pass appropriate legislation to deal with this. George Bush proposed a ‘guest worker program’ and other worthy changes in perhaps one of his only good acts as president, in my opinion. But he didn’t have the courage to take the heat and do the right thing.

“Gov. Spitzer also had good ideas, but didn’t build consensus for them, unfortunately further damaging hopes for clear-minded dialogue vs. demagogy. Most illegal immigrants are guilty of a legal ‘violation,’ less than even a misdemeanor. Some vigilantes on the borders feel they should be shot - if so, we should also shoot those heroes when they drive drunk -- it’s a bigger threat to our ‘security.’ What we really should do is open our borders, not close them; welcome the eager, hardworking immigrants of this generation - welcome them with an appropriate system of review and regulation, to ensure our security, but don’t get lost in fear and ‘terror mentality.’

“Yes, illegal immigrants should go home - most of them dearly want to, to visit families, but fear for their lives to return. A rational policy on immigration and guest workers would encourage regular returns to their homes, provide immediate guest worker visas, and have them return to do the many jobs waiting for them. They are our hope for the new century - losing ourselves in isolationism will ensure our decline as a nation.

“Let Lady Liberty continue to ‘lift (her) lamp by the golden door’ of this dear nation.”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Freedom

The following is an article written by John Gerty a physics professor at Broome Community College:

“Freedom is a beautiful word, a word to die for, or to send others to their deaths. It has been used so often in the last few years it is hard to remember what it means. We have been told (hundreds of times?) that our soldiers are fighting in Iraq for our freedom. I am sure that our soldiers are brave and probably the best in the world. Our army can keep us independent, it can protect us from invasion, but it does not give us freedom.

“Iraq under Saddam Hussein had an army of 400,000. That should have given Iraqis a lot of freedom too. Power may come from the barrel of a gun but freedom does not.

“Our soldiers gave us independence and preserve our freedom when they kept Hitler from dominating the world, but normally our freedoms come from political efforts.

“Remember that our country started with the Declaration of Independence. The Civil War was to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. As I remember my early American history: many of the early settlers came to the colonies to escape religious persecution -- only to persecute anyone who had a different religion. It took our citizens a long time to realize that their freedom was only possible if they extended the same freedom to others.

“The words ‘... all men are created equal...’ were written in the late 1700s, but we are still trying to define the word ‘all.’ It once meant ‘... all wealthy (landed), white, Christian, heterosexual men are created equal...’ We have been working for 200 years to remove the qualifiers from the word ‘all.’

“More recently we are told that the attacks on 9/11 were attacks on our freedom. This also makes no sense. Terrorist attacks can affect the ease of travel but do not limit our right of free speech, assembly, religion or any other right established in our Constitution.

“Our response to the 9/11 attack, was the Patriot Act, which impinge upon our freedoms. Allowing the president to act without supervision of the courts has the real potential to decrease the freedom of some or all of our citizens. Allowing the security services to act outside the law without court supervision is the first step toward a dictatorial government.

“The important thing to notice is that our freedom was established by legislative action, is protected by our Constitution, and is being affected by laws (or the violation of laws) -- not by military actions.

“We tend to get loose focus in our discussions. We tend to raise the flag up to being the most important part of our democracy. We should remember that the flag is just a symbol of our country. It is a beautiful thing but it is not our country. Every school day we insist our children pledge their allegiance to a piece of cloth, but ignore the important thing that makes us what we are, our Constitution.

“A better pledge might go something like this: ‘I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the principles it incorporates. A government of the people, by the people, for the people, insuring that all citizens receive equal protection, equal representation and equal rights, under the law, as they pursue their lives in liberty and peace.’

“If Iraq is to become a free country, its citizens will have to find a way to share power and the wealth their oil can provide them. They will have to learn to respect other religions and other ethnic groups. They will have to establish laws to punish the crimes of the past, not use street justice.

“However, you cannot force freedom on someone. They will have to find it for themselves. In the meantime, we need to be ever vigilant to protect our own freedoms. Our army can’t do it for us -- it is the job of the citizens and our Congress.”