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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jewish Voices

Recently, I received the following letter: “The news about the attacks in Gaza is beyond words. "Appalling" doesn't even come close. U.S.-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters have fired missiles and dropped over 100 tons of bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. Over 375 people are dead and at least 1,400 more are injured. Many if not most of them are civilians.  Food and medicine were already in short supply in Gaza and all medical facilities have been completely overwhelmed by this onslaught. Access to Gaza has been cut off by Israel.

“This is the most violent and heartbreaking situation that has happened to the Palestinians in recent history, and it must stop. In addition to calling for protests at Israeli consulates and federal buildings, as well as letters to the U.S. and Israeli governments, Jewish Voice for Peace staff and members are already putting together an aggressive campaign focused on Gaza. And, without a moment to waste, we call for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians.

“I am Stephanie Roth and I've been an activist with Jewish Voice for Peace for many years, including serving on the board of directors. I've been involved with social justice issues my entire adult life - both in my professional life as an editor and fundraiser, and as a volunteer and activist. There is no issue I find more important or compelling than my work to end the Israeli Occupation. I am particularly saddened by this weekend's tragedy, occurring just a week after the uplifting days when the Shministim - the young Israeli conscientious objectors - caught the world's attention with their courage to say no to violence on December 18. I know that people in Gaza will stop dying when Israeli soldiers, like the Shministim, have the courage to say NO. NO, we will not target civilians; NO, we will not follow immoral orders; NO, we will not contribute to the destruction of Palestinian society.

“Together with the Shministim, and with the 1,000 Israelis in Tel Aviv and thousands of others around the world who have already come out to protest the Gaza onslaught, we say YES. YES, stepping up to speak for justice and peace makes a difference; YES, we stand with the people of Gaza, of the West Bank, of Sderot in Israel and the innocent civilians everywhere whose lives are destroyed by cynical politicians and warmakers; YES, our voices together are stronger than the voice of any one of us alone; and YES, we are committed to the longterm goal of ending the Occupation and working for justice, peace and life.

“Jewish Voice for Peace's goal - MY goal - of ending the Occupation is a long-term one. We are in this struggle for as long as it takes, and we need your help. ‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shministim Day

December 18th. was the Shministim Day of Action in Israel, and I’ve been asked share this firsthand account by Rebecca Vilkomerson.

“It is hard to convey, and impossible to overstate, just how completely saturated Israeli culture is by the heroic image of the Israeli Army. In school, advertisements, marketing campaigns, store discounts, discussions with neighbors, every way you can imagine, the Army is portrayed as the ultimate form of service to the country. When I took my daughter, who is five, to the doctor recently, the doctor began her explanation of how vaccines worked in this way: "you know how Israel has an Army that protects us? Well the vaccines are your body's army…"

“It is simply everywhere, and that is what makes the shministim all the more remarkable.  These are young adults, just out of high school, who have managed to break through all the myths that they have been immersed in and figured out for themselves what the Army actually does. Having reached the conclusion that being in the Army would force them to commit immoral actions, they have taken the next obvious---but in no way easy---step of taking action by refusing to serve. All in the face of family pressure, peer pressure and societal pressure that is absolutely intense.  They are willing to pay the price, which can and does include jail time, for standing up for what they know is right.

“As far as I am concerned, as a mother who is raising two Israeli daughters, they could not be better role models. So I invited my daughter to join me at the December 18th Day of Action in Solidarity with the Shministim, and I was thrilled that she even agreed to leave her sister's Chanukah party early to accompany me.

“We were arrayed across the street from the imposing kiriya, the Army headquarters. This was as close as the police would allow us to get. We were a small group, about two hundred people, and this reminded me just how brave and still isolated the refusenik movement in Israel is, and therefore how much the international support really means.

“There is a traditional belief in Yiddish culture, which comes from the Jewish mystical tradition, about the lamedvavniks, the thirty six righteous and humble people for whom God saves the world. The shministim are our lamedvavniks - our voice of conscience, our tiny flickering hope of building a society that does not willingly participate in controlling, terrorizing, and killing the Palestinian people-enforcing the checkpoints, demolishing homes, destroying ancient olive groves, building the Wall, confiscating land, enforcing siege and all the other immoral and illegal actions of the occupation.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Virtually Indistinguishable

Recently, a letter to the editor by Robert Olejarz of Sidney, N.Y. was published in the Oneonta Daily Star. Mr. Olejarz wrote:

"Though I doubt most hard-core Republicans would admit it, let alone see it at all, the reality of the last national election was simply that of the final act of a complete rejection of the neoconservative, internationalist and imperialist presidency of the GOP.

"Something else that seems to have gone over most heads is that the outgoing administration could be taken as a snapshot of just how much the Republican Party has abandoned the principles of our founders to become what it is today: virtually indistinguishable from the Democrats, in both domestic and foreign policy.

"Considering having won seven out of the last 10 presidential elections, having controlled 30+ years worth of Supreme Court appointments, having appointed the majority of treasury secretaries and Federal Reserve chairmen, the GOP has presided over the longest period of judicial social engineering, the greatest trade imbalances, the biggest deficits, the biggest spending increases, the continued erosion of national sovereignty, and now the severest financial disaster since the Great Depression. In short, the GOP, under the illusion of being conservative, has done more to harm the country than the Democrats could ever hope to do.

"The repudiation of this kind of conservatism, be it represented by Bush, McCain, etc., now gives the Republicans the chance to clean house and again promote solid American values. No more wars by presidential decree. No more nation-building. No more inflation and deficits. And no more going beyond constitutional limits on governmental power.

"Without a sincere commitment to a constitutional government, the GOP has little justifiable reason to govern again anytime soon. But as it’s in a state of abject denial about all this, it’s unlikely to fix the problem, or oppose the Democratic agenda."

Comment:

Mr. Olejarz claims that the GOP is: "virtually indistinguishable from the Democrats, in both domestic and foreign policy." However, Clinton left an annual federal budget surplus of $236 billion, the largest in American history and balanced the budget for the first time since 1969. Budget surpluses were expected to total $5.6 trillion between fiscal year 2002 and 2011.

Furthermore in 2002, Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senator 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, Rep. Pelosi said there was nothing in that intelligence, which indicated that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. Both, she and Senator Graham voted against the Iraq War Resolution. Thus, the two Democrats, who had the most operational intelligence at their disposal, as well as, 22 other Senators voted against the resolution.

A claim of "virtually indistinguishable" ignores those and many other facts.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

“Chasing Ghosts”

Paul Rieckhoff, is the author of "Chasing Ghosts," a book about his experiences as first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader for the U.S. Army National Guard. He spent a year in the most dangerous areas of Baghdad, and after he returned home created Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, a group that successfully pushed for a new GI bill.

He has been involved in finding jobs for veterans, and insists although many Americans are feeling the present economic downturn our veterans have been hit the hardest. Most Americans have dealt with gas prices, high food costs, and the mortgage crisis, but veterans have had to deal with the same things after 12 to 15 month deployment, and sometimes repeated deployments.

President-Elect Barack Obama campaigned on ending the war and has said he wants to bring one or two brigades home per month from Iraq and have all combat troops out within 16 months. There are concerns that with 10s of thousands of veterans coming home, we may not be prepared to adequately deal with the challenges at home.

There have been 1.8 million men and women that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, and they're going to be coming home with a variety of challenges in the areas of employment, mental health and education. Paul Rieckhoff believes that Obama: "has a tremendous opportunity to galvanize the country behind our veterans. Now that the election is over, it doesn’t matter who you voted for, it doesn’t matter how you feel about the war, we can all, as Americans, be united behind supporting our veterans."

The conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have improved, but more needs to be done, because at local VA hospitals there's a backlog of disability claims in the hundreds of thousands. The average wait time is about 183 days and we’ve got to remove that backlog, by we cutting through the red tape, and making sure that veterans of all generations are getting the flexible care that they need.

Rieckhoff recommends that we go to a web site called Communityofveterans.org.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Torture

Recently, Vice President Cheney admitted that he was aware waterboarding was used against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He said: "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared as the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

In Feb. of 2002, Bush announced that we were not obliged to follow the Geneva Conventions. He issued a document, which said that when dealing with organizations like al Qaeda, the Geneva conventions don't apply.

Christopher Hitchens, who was a stanch supporter of Bush's invasion of Iraq claims: "I've been waterboarded enough to be able to tell you it certainly constitutes torture, as has always been the U.S. position until now."

The Nazi government of Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and from all of its instruments and treaties. Nevertheless, British interrogators who ran the prison for Nazi spies, when London was being bombed every night, were subject to being fired if they raised a hand to a prisoner, because it was a court-martialing offense. The British would not resort to unprofessional methods. They use all the patience at their command to interrogate Nazi spies professionally and expected that some would come over to their side. According to Mr. Hitchens: "Anything short of that is not just torture, it's simply bureaucratic incompetence. It's saying, Let's use a rough, crude, cruel shortcut. That in the long run, even the short run sabotages the war on terror."

Senator McCain, a torture victim himself asks: "What becomes of our prisoners if we say that anything goes?" The reason for the Geneva Accords was to establish a sense of equality of treatment of prisoners, because they were hoping that there could be a mutual understanding, that once you're captured and safely in custody, there's no reason to torture you, even for intelligence reasons.

Once our government assumes a position of anything goes for a prisoner of ours, we must recognize that could make life very uncomfortable for American prisoners.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brains, not Brutality

A dozen former generals met with Obama's top legal advisors to request that torture be stop upon Obama taking office. They want an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are secretly transfered to countries that have a history of torture. The generals also want, the authority for the CIA to use harsh interrogation methods withdrawn, because "harsh" is a code word for torture.

"How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq," was written under a pseudonym of Matthew Alexander, who served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force. During that time, he personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and supervised more than 1,000. In 2006, he led an interrogations team assigned to Special Operations task force in Iraq.

Alexander is a reserve officer, who supports his chain of command, and would advise Obama to outlaw torture in every government agency, no exceptions, and to improve the way that we train interrogators. He insists that torture is: "extremely ineffective and counter productive to what we are trying to accomplish in both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, when you torture somebody, it hardens their resolve, and the information that you get is unreliable." In the long term, if you do get reliable information, and you're able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda will use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members, and we'll have to deal with a whole new wave of terrorists. Alexander believes that the primary reason foreign fighters have been going to Iraq, has been to avenge the torture at Abu Ghraib and at Gitmo.

In his book, Alexander talks about methods that he learned as a criminal investigator. The same methods used during criminal investigations can be used in intelligence interrogations, however, we're not training our interrogators to use those methods. The approach we need to take from the very beginning is to build a rapport-based relationship, whereby we get to know the person, build a relationship of trust, and by intellect and ingenuity, find ways to work together.

Alexander anticipates the Obama administration will not pursue prosecution for the things that happened in the past. He's more concerned with moving ahead and improving our interrogation process. His sole interest is to improve the way interrogations are carried out so that we can keep our country safer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Little Christmas

The heart warming Christmas song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was immortalised by Judy Garland when she sang this song to Margaret O'Brien and brought tears to the eyes of the audience. The lyricist for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was Ralph Blane and the haunting music was composed by Hugh Martin. The song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was first published in 1943. The title of  Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is undoubtedly one of the saddest Christmas songs of the century.
 
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on, 
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years 
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

General Shinseki

During the campaign, Obama promised to make veterans' issues a priority if elected. One of first steps in tackling the critical issues for veterans was for Obama to appoint its choice for VA Secretary. On the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Obama selected General Eric Shinseki to be the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shinseki, a graduate of West Point served two combat tours in Vietnam where he lost part of his foot. He was the first Japanese-American to become a four-star general, and in 1999, became the Army Chief of Staff. A month before we invaded Iraq, Shinseki infuriated the Bush regime during testimony before Congress. He estimated: "several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed to stabilize the country." General Shinseki was rebuke by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who called the comments: "wildly off the mark," but it was Wolfowitz, who was wildly off the mark.

Retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs is a Medal of Honor recipient, who was Shinseki's his faculty adviser at the War College. Jacobs insists: "He undoubtedly was not the only guy that came to the conclusion that we didn't have enough forces going into Iraq. For one thing, everybody studies this as a young soldier. Everyone knows that it always takes more assets to hold to an objective than it does to take it in the first place. And he's been through the wars and knows that this is true. He's actually seen in actual practice. But of all of the people, the high-ranking people in the military establishment, he was the only one that I know of who stood up to the people in power and said it publicly. And for that, he was left twisting in the wind."

General Shinseki's record has been one of courage and honesty. He has the potential to be an effective and dedicated advocate for veterans of all generations. He has always put patriotism ahead of politics, and is held in high regard by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shinseki has a monumental task before him, because one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing serious mental health injuries, such as, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression. Wounded veterans have waited months and on occasion years, to receive disability benefits. The struggling U.S. economy is hitting new veterans especially hard. The new GI Bill will make college affordable to every veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it must be implemented by August 2009. To address these issues will require real leadership that encourages active VA outreach and transparency.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ambivalent Relationship

The following are excerpts from a recent Op-Ed by Wes Clark, which was recently published in the "Washington Post," entitled: "Taking Command: Actually, Democrats and the military can get along. Here's how."

"Democrats have long had an ambivalent relationship with the military, and vice versa. While Democrats profess to like and support the military.... To some Democrats, the armed forces appear, in the words of one New Hampshire activist who chided me in 2003, to be an "authoritarian, hierarchical, male-dominated" institution that's out of touch with liberal values."

"So it's easy to assume that the military and the Democrats don't and won't get along. It's also wrong. As the 2000 election approached, a member of the Joint Chiefs confided to me: 'You know, people wouldn't believe it, but probably no one else will ever treat us as well as the Clinton administration has.'"

"Our military is a values-based institution.... The military must obey the orders of the commander in chief and follow the chain of command, which means giving up one's own liberties and spending time in difficult and often very dangerous circumstances. But the real military values aren't partisan values; they're service, loyalty, honesty, patriotism, respect, achievement and personal responsibility."

"But the military will have to show some understanding as well. We don't have a monopoly on knowing what the nation's best interests are. National security now involves such spheres as law enforcement, the economy, the nation's industrial and scientific base and even such matters as health care and civil liberties. The military is just one voice among many."

"Recognize, too, that the Democrats have generally been pulling for the human side of the military. Worried about veterans' benefits, on-base child care facilities, health care and troop retention? Since at least the early 1990s, Democrats have been putting the 'juice' into the all-important people programs that have made the armed forces such a successful institution today."

"We have a president-elect who has set out a pragmatic, nonpartisan, visionary course. It's time to lay to rest the old stereotypes about feckless, pacifist Democrats and authoritarian, war-mongering soldiers. If there were ever a time to get the relationship between Democrats and the military right, this is it."

Wesley K. Clark, a retired four-star general, commanded the 1999 war in Kosovo as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe. He is a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Withdrawal Agreement

On 12/19/08, Gareth Porter wrote an article entitled: "US Military Defiant on Key Terms of Iraq Pact." An excerpt from that article follows:

"US military leaders and Pentagon officials have made it clear through public statements and deliberately leaked stories in recent weeks that they plan to violate a central provision of the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement requiring the complete withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraqi cities by mid-2009 by reclassifying combat troops as support troops.

"The scheme to engage in chicanery in labeling US troops represents both open defiance of an agreement which the US military has never accepted and a way of blocking President-elect Barack Obama's proposed plan for withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office.

"By redesignating tens of thousands of combat troops as support troops, those officials apparently hope to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to insist on getting all combat troops out of the country by mid-2010."

"Gen. David Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, who opposed Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan during the election campaign, have drawn up their own alternative withdrawal plan rejecting that timeline, as the New York Times reported Thursday. That plan was communicated to Obama in general terms by Secretary of Defense Robert M.Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen when he met with his national security team in Chicago on Dec. 15, according to the Times.

"The determination of the military leadership to ignore the US-Iraq agreement and to pressure Obama on his withdrawal policy was clear from remarks made by Mullen in a news conference on Nov. 17 – after US Ambassador Ryan Crocker had signed the agreement in Baghdad.

"Mullen declared that he considered it "important" that withdrawal of US forces from Iraq "be conditions-based". That position directly contradicted the terms of the agreement, and Mullen was asked whether the agreement required all US troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, regardless of the security conditions. He answered "Yes," but then added, "Three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time..."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hate Whitey

In letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star on 12/6/08, Joel Canfield wrote: "Much to my amazement, through the coarse of the recent presidential clash, the sheer intensity of some black churches' promotion of liberation theology, or in plain words, 'hate whitey' was brought to light."

A few days later, Mitch Wright of Stamford had a letter published in The Star, which said: "Obama's pastor for 20 years was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who spiked his sermons with anti-America, anti-Israel, anti-rich, and socialist liberation theology dreck."

Neither Joel Canfield or Mitch Wright have specified the statements Jeremiah Wright made, which they found offensive. Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright promotes black liberation theology, by insisting: “Reconciliation means we retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us.... Reconciliation means that we root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice."

Evangelical Christian ministers have been known to use apocalyptic rhetoric, which encourages their congregation to see the world in terms of black and white, good and evil, with us or against us. Nevertheless, Joel Canfield and Mitch Wright deflect any criticism of white man's greed, by attacking Rev. Jeremiah Wright for using passionate language to preach liberation theology to his congregation.

Apparently, Canfield and Mitch Wright views their race and Christian White churches as superior. Consequently they're angered that Dr. James H. Cone would insist: "Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology."

I admire Rev. Jeremiah Wright, because he refuses to shut up and be a "house nigger," which frustrates many Christians including Barack Obama.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Right not Might

Might doesn't make right, because the ability to do something does not make it right. As the world's most powerful nation, we are capable of actions that most people find unacceptable, such as, physical abuse and torture of prisoners, pillaging and murder.

If we as a nation, have any claim to "superiority," it comes from our ability to act according to moral principles, guided by justice, fairness, and compassion. Americans deny our moral responsibility, when we send our military to harm and terrorize innocent people.

Every decent American must stand up against the idea that might makes right, by questioning the status quo, which allows our military to inflict suffering, upon innocent people. We must act from our own ethics, rather than blindly follow authority figures who tell us it’s okay and even necessary to defend ourselves by killing innocent people.

Michael Parenti warned: "Messianic nationalism is the path down which a nation can lose its soul. If doing whatever we judge fit to maintain our security necessitates wreaking death and destruction on other nations; this can have terrible repercussions for our own country."

Bush said, that God instructed him to strike Saddam. He began to speak of democracy to justify the invasion of Iraq at a time when all other justifications had been discredited. Throughout history a number of nations have thought themselves as the chosen people and convinced themselves that they alone are best qualified to lead the world. The Bush regime and many others, now claims democracy alone will ensure peace to the Middle East. They are wrong, because only justice, fairness, and compassion will ensure peace at home and throughout the Middle East.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Self Preservation

As a matter of self preservation, we must examine our actions in the Middle East, which could come back to destroy us. An excellent account of this dilemma is revealed in Stephen Kinzer's book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq."

More than 50 years ago, Iran was establishing a government close to a democracy. Mohammad Mossadegh a benevolent hero in Iranian history was dissatisfied that the profits from his country’s primary resource oil, was not staying in Iran.

The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which is now known as British Petroleum was getting 93% of the profits and Mossadegh wanted a 50-50 split. The British government didn’t want to use force to protect its business interests, but America willingly took on the task of undermining Mossadegh’s tenure as president. After numerous attempts a coup was financed and led by Eisenhower’s CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader. Our CIA trained the Shah’s goon squads, which angered generations of Iranians for meddling in their nation’s affairs.

Many Americans are to too self centered to recognize that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. Most Americans remain ignorant of how our imperialistic occupation of Iraq for its oil has rekindled resentment and anger in the entire Muslim world. That anger will continue to fester as long as our imperialistic meddling continues.

Although, these facts do not provide a moral justification for what the terrorists did on September 11, we must at least attempt to understand the source of their anger. There is no moral justification to explain the estimated one million Iraqis killed and four million displaced. Those estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by our invasion. There remain many arrogant American imperialists in Congress, that defend our efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived as jeopardizing American business interests.

At some point, we’ll have to accept that acting as a bully by wrongly asserting our military superiority will eventually have serious repercussions. Americans alive today may not feel the negative effects of our foreign policy, but their innocent children will.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Accepting the Truth

Yesterday morning, The Oneonta Daily Star published a letter to the editor, which I had sent them. In that letter, which was posted on this website on 11/15/08, was the statement: I find it amazing, that Obama received six times as much money from our troops than McCain...

Yesterday evening, I received a phone call from a person, who identified himself as Mike Martin. He had read my letter and couldn't believe that more members of our military had donated to Obama's presidential campaign than to McCain. He insisted that I provide the source for that information. I asked for his phone number, which he provided, and within 10 minuets called back to provide the information, he requested, but no one answered the phone.

An article posted on line by USA Today entitled, "Military donations favor Obama," the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics said: "Troops serving abroad have given nearly six times as much money to Obama's presidential campaign as they have to McCain's." The report tracked donations of $200 or more. It found that among soldiers serving overseas at the time of their donations,134 gave a total of $60,642 to Obama. McCain received a total of $10,665 from 26 soldiers serving abroad, which was significantly less than the amount received by Republican Ron Paul, who collected $45,512 from 99 soldiers.

According to Nick Shapiro an Obama spokesman: "Obama will work tirelessly to uphold this nation's sacred trust with its veterans, to ensure they are not forgotten after they return home and he will provide our troops with the leadership they deserve, as well as the support they and their families need."

McCain's campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb played down the significance of the donations, by pointing out: "John McCain has been endorsed by more retired admirals and generals than Barack Obama has military donors."

If the Republican Party had selected Rep. Ron Paul to be their presidential candidate Obama may not have won the election. However, people like Mike Martin find it very difficult to handle the truth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

America's Role

The definition of “insanity” has been described as “doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting a different result.”

Dr. Camillo "Mac" Bica was a Marine Corps Officer during the Vietnam War. Recently, he wrote: "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."

The willingness of the American people and our representatives in Congress to repeatedly buy into a foreign policy of preemptive and preventive war is insane. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrates that most Americans never learned the lesson of Vietnam. A lesson, which should have taught us is that whenever our government insists that we must invade and occupy another country, we need to be very cautious and prudent. In order to avoid being repeatedly led down a path of death and destruction, we must rethink America's role in the world. Our futile attempts to remain the policeman of the world has proven to be unsustainable. Perhaps, we should try to imagine a foreign policy based on justice rather than power.

A hopeful sign was that on election day most voters ejected the politics of fear, violence and war. Perhaps, we've ended an era of death and destruction and decided on a different direction, but the question remains can we become a nation, who believes in justice for everyone?

In 1966, Senator William Fulbright stated in "The Arrogance of Power”: "We are not God's chosen savior of mankind but only one of mankind's more successful and fortunate branches, endowed by our Creator with about the same capacity for good and evil, no more or less, than the rest of humanity."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Last Word

As previously noted, Joel Canfield wrote: "He rid the world of a Hitler-like dictator and kept us safe for a long time."

My only conversation with Mr. Canfield occurred at a peace vigil on 8/2/08, and at the end of that conversation, he made a similar comment about Bush and Saddam Hussein. I asked the question: Does that mean that America must spend its treasury and the precious blood of our youth to get rid of every nasty dictator in the world? Canfield never answered that question.

In May of 2006, Conservative Republican Clark Kent Ervin’s book "Open Target", stated that Bush and Homeland Security don’t take the threat of terrorism seriously. Ervin is the former inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

The 9/11 Commission confirmed that Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror. Lee Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission insisted: “When it comes to protecting the homeland against terrorism, the United States has not done enough. There has not been sufficient urgency, priority, resources, people, put into the protection of the people here at home.” 

Bush and congressional Republicans talked tough about homeland security, but their voting record indicated otherwise. Democratic Senator Dodd offered legislation for several years after 9/11, which would have substantially increase our nation's investment in homeland security, but Republicans voted against every measures that would have increased funding for homeland security.

Democratic Congressman Ed Markey fought for years for better ports security funding, because the easiest way to smuggle a nuclear weapon into this country is through our ports. He introduced an amendment, which mandated 100 percent cargo inspection on all ships coming in from overseas. Every Republican on the Homeland Security committee voted against his amendment, although they knew that 95 percent of the cargo coming into our ports wasn't being inspected. Republican leadership rejected a dozen amendments, which would have increased funding for port security.

Five years after 9/11 and weeks before the 2006 election, congressional Republicans began taking an interest in border and port security. The Republican controlled Congress voted to build 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, but neglected to provide the funding. Instead of oversight, Bush and congressional Republicans allow corporations to decide how much security would be provided American citizens.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prosperous and Dynamic

Joel Canfield wrote: "The fact is that this president presided over a prosperous and dynamic America for almost seven years..."

Bush was elected to serve for eight years, and since the first of last year we’ve lost nearly 2 million jobs. October's unemployment rate saw the loss of another 240,000 jobs. November saw the loss of 533,000 jobs, which was the worst monthly showing in 34 years. December broke that record with the loss of an additional 693,000 private sector jobs. The unemployment rate was 4.2% when Bush took office but it’s now 7.2%. The official unemployment rate is bad enough, but the 12 million Americans that are unemployed doesn't include people, who have given up looking for work and those who are underemployed, the real number is much worse. Reportedly, 14% of American workers want to be working full time, want to be on the job every day. And there‘s not enough work to go around. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported, "This report should eliminate any possible doubts about the seriousness of this downturn. The economy is falling at the sharpest rate since the Great Depression."

The National Association of Realtors says about 45 percent of all home sales are of distressed properties -- foreclosures, short sales, properties that owners literally walked away from. New home sales are down more than 35 percent over the past year.

In 2001, the average median income for a family was $48,000. Today, it’s $46,000, but buying power, for the average median income family is down to $41,000. Although, the economy overall has grown, it hasn’t trickled down to the middle class and that includes nearly all the people living in Delaware County.

We’re fighting a war in Iraq at a cost of $10 billion a month. Our military is stretched thin from two wars, and multiple deployments of our troops. Nearly 46 million people are without health insurance, inflation is up and accelerating at a faster rate than it has in 17 years. Over a million homes are in foreclosure and a Wall Street bailout may cost taxpayers a $1 trillion.

Former Republican Senator Phil Gramm, was the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. One of his major campaign contributors was Enron CEO Ken Lay. Gramm rewarded his financial contributors in 2000, by slipping the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” into an omnibus spending bill just as Congress headed for vacation. Warren Buffett has been describes as a billionaire with a conscience. He was the first to noticed, that the “Gramm amendment” enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction,” and that act directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Important Issues

Joel Canfield wrote: "I'd like to know when the whole world evolved around abortion and gay marriage. Look around at so many of the college campuses and these are the only issues that seem to be of any importance."

Although, that statement is obviously an exaggeration, I find it interesting that Canfield expresses so much concerned that abortion and gay marriage issues are being talked about, by college students.

Let's begin with woman's reproductive rights. Rather than fight woman's reproductive rights out in the courts and remove the constitutional right that currently exists for women to protect their health around reproduction, the righteous have limited the education that doctors are getting in medical schools, and the ability of doctors to practice in various states and localities. This strategy has a disproportionate affect on poor and rural women. Women who have private health insurance, and private physicians, usually have plenty of access to a variety of reproductive rights options, while poor women have less access.

The Bush regime's Health and Human Services rules apply to any entity which receives federal funds, which included nearly 5,000 hospitals, 250,000 doctor's offices, and almost 60,000 pharmacies. Although, abortion remains legal, these rules call for no abortion-related or contraception-related services be provided in places, that receive federal funds.

Regarding the issue of gay marriage, we should keep in mind that, if we hadn't re-defined marriage, Barack Obama's parents couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states in our nation. One of the cruelest parts of our history of slavery was that some black people couldn't marry black people, because slaves were considered property, who couldn't legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized, which is not unlike today's gay marriages.

We keep hearing about the sanctity of marriage, but men and women are being forced by society into marrying members of the opposite sex and living in shame and unhappiness, because an intolerant society. In the process of deceiving themselves or others, they've often ruined the lives, of spouses and children.

Heterosexual marriages only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting. Homosexual couples are overjoyed at the prospect of, at least, having a chance for a successful marriage. With so much hate and meaningless division in the world, some religious leaders and politicians continue to pit us against each other for selfish reason. Religious leader quote statements from their religious book, regarding the sanctity of marriage while ignoring Matthew 7:12, "Do to others what you would have them do to you."

On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann asked: "You don't have to help it. You don't have it applaud it. You don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know; that love is, in fact, the ember of your love for your fellow person, just because this is the only world we have and the other guy counts, too."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bush's Regret

Joel Canfield wrote: "As FDR alleged, 'Fear Itself' will be our undoing..." In order to get the American people to support the invasion of Iraq, Bush propagandist repeatedly used the terms: "weapons of mass destruction," and "mushroom clouds" to promote fear.

Paul Pillar was the first high level CIA insider to speak out on the use of prewar intelligence. Pillar alleges that official intelligence was misused to justify decisions to topple Saddam Hussein. A decision, which had already been made, before 9/11. He claims the administration repeatedly asked the same questions, but when intelligence analysts resisted giving them the answers they wanted, Pillar and others were accused of "trying to sabotage the president's policies."

In early December, Bush said: "The biggest regret of all the presidency has to be the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said, you know, the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."

In that message Bush seems to be saying that in retrospect he wouldn't have invaded and occupied Iraq had there been no weapons of mass destruction, and that was the single definitive reason why he invaded that country.

However, in an interview with Brit Hume three years ago, Bush said: "I made the right decision. Knowing what I know today, I would have still made that decision." Brit Hume followed by asking: "So, if the weapons had been out of the equation because the intelligence did not conclude that he had them, it was still the right call?" Bush's response: "Absolutely."

The White House cherry-picked and manipulated the intelligence, in order to fit the story they wanted to tell about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. Bush continues to insist that his biggest regret is that people gave him bad information. Bush wasn't just a hapless fool, but those that continue to believe him are fools. I don't consider Joel Canfield a fool, but like Hillary Clinton, he finds it very difficult to admit that he was fooled.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Kept Us Safe"

Joel Canfield wrote: "He rid the world of a Hitler-like dictator and kept us safe for a long time, ..."

We rid the world of Iraqi's dictator Saddam Hussein, by capturing him in December of 2003, and we continue to occupy that country five years latter? Bush didn't made us safer after 9/11 and his record before 9/11 is even worst.

The Associated Press reported on 8/4/01:“President Bush seems to bolt from the White House every chance he gets. He begins a month-long vacation on his Texas ranch today, and by the time he returns he will have spent nearly two months of his presidency there. And that doesn't include the many weekends he's spent at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.”

While Bush was on vacation in Texas, the controversial Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” sought to informed him, that there were patterns of suspicious activities in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings.

The FBI agent John O’Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings, and got drummed out of the Bureau for saying it.  The FAA had distributed a CD-Rom early in 2001 to the airlines and the airports warning that terrorists might hijack a plane in order to use it as a weapon.  Many inside our government anticipated it, but the Bush administration chose to ignore them. 

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, CIA Director George Tenet was asked by Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

Roemer asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied: “I was not in briefings at this time,” and “Bush was on vacation.” He added that he didn’t see the president at all in August 2001, because Bush was at his ranch in Texas. Furthermore, Tenet admitted that he was “on leave,” for much of August.

In “State of Denial,” Bob Woodward paints a heroic portrait of the CIA chief warning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice of pending al-Qaeda strikes during the summer of 2001, only to have his warnings ignored. Tenet was indeed worried during the so-called summer of threat, but one wonders why he did not summon the political courage earlier to accuse Rice of negligence, most notably during his testimony under oath before the 9/11 commission.

Recently, the “Washington Post” calculated that Bush took; 149 visits to Camp David for a total of 487 days, 77 visits to Crawford for a total of 490 days, 11 visits to Kennebunkport for a total of 43 days. In fact, Bush took off 1,020 days, which is more than a third of his entire presidency. 

In May of 2006, Conservative Republican Clark Kent Ervin’s book "Open Target", suggested that little improved after 9/11. He stated that Bush and Homeland Security don’t take the threat of terrorism seriously. Ervin is the former inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

The 9/11 Commission confirmed that Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror. Lee Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission insisted: “When it comes to protecting the homeland against terrorism, the United States has not done enough. There has not been sufficient urgency, priority, resources, people, put into the protection of the people here at home.” 

Bush and congressional Republicans talked tough about homeland security, but their voting record indicated otherwise. Democratic Senator Dodd offered legislation for several years after 9/11, which would have substantially increase our nation's investment in homeland security, but Republicans voted against every measures that would have increased funding for homeland security.

Democratic Congressman Ed Markey fought for years for better ports security funding, because the easiest way to smuggle a nuclear weapon into this country is through our ports. He introduced an amendment, which mandated 100 percent cargo inspection on all ships coming in from overseas. Every Republican on the Homeland Security committee voted against his amendment, although they knew that 95 percent of the cargo coming into our ports wasn't being inspected. Republican leadership rejected a dozen amendments, which would have increased funding for port security.

Five years after 9/11 and weeks before the 2006 election, congressional Republicans began taking an interest in border and port security. The Republican controlled Congress voted to build 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, but neglected to provide the funding. Instead of oversight, Bush and congressional Republicans allow corporations to decide how much security would be provided American citizens.

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer has two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote "Imperial Hubris" under the pseudonym Anonymous. Scheuer warns: "One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the threat from al Qaeda lies in continuing to believe... Muslims hate us for what we think, rather than for what we do. We repeatedly hear: ( because they hate freedom ) from senior U.S. leaders. Such a conclusion is potentially fatal nonsense." "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."

Richard Clarke has been a counter-terrorism adviser to four presidents of both political parties. His most recent book is entitled: "Your Government Failed You," Clarke insisted there's a great consensus among terrorist analysts inside the CIA and Europe, that our long occupation of Iraq is the best thing that ever happened to al Qaeda, in terms of recruitment and fund raising. A war of attrition, in Iraq and Afghanistan best serves al Qaeda's goal, because it requires American taxpayer pay for a large numbers of troops. But the bottom line is that the occupation of Iraq, which some Americans continue to favor going on forever, helps al Qaeda.

The last National Intelligence Estimate and the testimony before Congress by the CIA director said that al Qaeda is stronger now than it has been any time since, 2002. It's been able to reconstitute itself in Pakistan, and is participating with the Taliban in killing American troops in Afghanistan. It's also training European-looking people to go to Europe or the United States to conduct attacks. They don't look like Arabs and may have European passports, which is a source of real concern among non-partisan analysts in the CIA.

On 12/2/08, the bipartisan commission on the prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism reported that the United States can expect a terrorist attack using nuclear or more likely biological weapons before 2013, and that "Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Changing Times

Joel Canfield wrote: "That remark alone will offer the O'Leary camp a months' worth of letters." The remark, to which Canfield refers is: "If Barack was white, thereby not according him the automatic lockstep vote of all minorities, and the accompanying 'Teflon shield', deflecting any questions of his policies as racial slight or bigoted put down, he would forever more be nothing but a third rate senator from Illinois."

History has demonstrated that when the Irish, Italians, Cuban, Asians and Mexicans minorities, became citizens they forged winning voting blocks by tending to vote as one.

CNN's exit polls found Obama received 49% of the male vote and 56% of the female vote. Broken down by race, Obama received only 41% of the White male vote and 46% of the White female vote. However, 95% of African Americans, 66% of Latinos, and 61% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Although, large numbers of Whites supported Obama, it was the non-Whites that put him over the top.

Since, the 2000 election most evangelical Christians have provided a 'Teflon shield' for Bush. However, the times they are a changing, and White Christian males are going to have to accept that reality.

Joel Canfield insisted: "These are the same bunch of sheep who can't choose a book without the divine intervention of the goddess of all media, Oprah! " The only people that might deserved the label a "bunch of sheep" are those, who purchased the biblical "Left Behind" novels, which made the authors, America's best selling writers by selling 62 million copies. The "Left Behind" volume, which came out after 9/11 became the best selling novel of the year. Many critics of the series saw a relationship between its apocalyptic scenario and the born-again President Bush's apocalyptic rhetoric and confrontational Mideast policies.

Predicting the apocalypse has been difficult. In 1844, William Miller and tens of thousands of his followers waited for Jesus to appear. Some of these Millerites had given away all of there belongings. The no show was called the Great Disappointment. The best selling non-fiction book of the 1970's was Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," which sold 18 million copies. One of the best sellers of 1988 was a booklet called "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988." Being wrong has never been so lucrative.

Tina Pippin, a professor of religious studies states: "Left Behind" novels" encourage people to see the world in terms of black and white, good and evil, with us or against us."

Our nation has been deeply divided by this commercial and political exploitation of religion. Perhaps, Oprah's book recommendations can begin a reconciliation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blasted Away

Joel Canfield wrote: "Any concept of a nation of law is blasted away by the emergence of.... Bill Ayers...Rezco...Chris Dodd.

Shortly after 9/11, Bush began blasting away our nations concept of law. Even though, he had taken an oath, which said: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Bush has twice taken the oath of office, but seems indifferent to its clear, precise language.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights established a system of checks and balances for separate, but equal branches of government, because our founding fathers didn't want the executive branch to have an excessive amount of power. They wished to control their own destiny and create a government of the people and for the people. To avoid misunderstandings they made it easy to understand, without ambiguity, and it states precisely what is constitutional.

The fourth amendment affirms: "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Bush violated his oath of office by not using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Habeas corpus means “produce the body”. It’s a legal proceeding, which allows a suspect to challenge his detention in a court of law and is considered the most significant safeguard against arbitrary imprisonment. This right is guaranteed in the our Bill of Rights, but has been recognized all the way back to the Middle Ages in the Magna Carta. It’s the authority to demand that a nation’s highest official, president or king, justify the detention of a human being in a free society. Without this legal proceeding a person can be locked up, whether innocent or guilty, and never heard from again.

The fifth amendments states: “no person shall be held for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury and without due process of law.” The sixth amendment asserts: “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, and to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

In violation of the fifth and sixth amendments, Jose Padilla was held in a Navy brig for 3 1/2 years as an “enemy combatant” before being sent to civilian authorities. The original accusations have been dropped.

Mahar Arar a Canadian citizen was snatched by a C.I.A. “rendition” team while waiting for a connecting flight at Kennedy Airport in 2002. Rendition is a practice, which allows people to be kidnapped and sent off to countries that specialize in torture. They put Arar on a government jet to Jordan, and then drove him to Syria, where he was tortured. Most of the time Arar was confined in a tiny underground cell, about the size of a grave. The torturing in Syria was unable to connect him to terrorism and after 13 months the Canadian government managed to secure his release. Eventually, a Canadian commission ruled that Arar, who was born in Syria, was not a terrorist.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Doom and Gloom"

Joel Canfield wrote: "For the past 18 months the liberal media has preached doom and gloom and dire economic forebodings, all of course directly related to something President Bush did or didn't do."

That statement is an example of blaming the messenger for bad news. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research we've been in a recession for over a year. Most Americans could have told you we've been in a recession, but the government agency that's supposed to report these things took a year to get around to telling us. Bush didn't admitted that we were in a recession until two days after the National Bureau of Economic Research made its announcement and 533,000 jobs were reported to have been loss in November. Sen. McCain continued to defended the economy by reiterating that it was “fundamentally strong,” until the day the stock market dropped 500 points.

A California mortgage lender wrote to federal regulators in January of 2006: "Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," Some bank regulators proposed capping risky mortgages, providing clearer explanations of what mortgage - backed securities are, but federal regulators delayed putting any new rules in place for the mortgage industry until later that year.

A recent analysis of documents, conducted by the Associated Press, found the government was warned of the coming financial crisis and mortgage meltdown years before it happened. However, Bush ignored the warnings, because he was being lobbied by some of the same financial institutions that ultimately failed. According to some Republicans, we must continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, but loaning $34 billion to our auto industry was a waste of money.

The Bush administration was always been about trusting market forces and avoiding government intervention in the economy. However, the Associated Press points out that that philosophy ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.

Last year we lost over 2 million jobs. October's unemployment rate saw the loss of 240,000 jobs and in November, we loss a record 533,000 jobs, but December broke that record with losses of an additional 693,000 private sector jobs.

More than 80,000 jobs were cut in the first 16 days of 2001. Circuit City announced it’s closing stores, and more than 30,000 jobs are at stake. Additional bad news is that ConocoPhillips will cut four percent of its work force, some 32,000 employees. Rental car company Hertz and Motorola are both cutting 4,000 jobs. Chipmaker AMD, Pfizer, Barnes & Noble, Google and Autodesk all announced job cuts before Obama’s inauguration.

America has become a country where there is socialism for the well-connected, but no health care for those on Main Street. Wall Street profits remain privatized, but losses have been socialized. Unfortunately, it seems to be our only option.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Clinton's Responsibility

Joel Canfield wrote: "The bankers and the Feds, under the helm of Bill Clinton, opened up the doors to risky mortgages and today we reap the whirlwinds of these supposed well-intentioned but fiscally disastrous programs."

The National Bureau of Economic Research, announced on Dec. 1st. that we've been in recession, since December of 2007, this was exactly what Americans have been saying for years. In December of 2007, a CNN poll found that 57% of Americans thought we were in recession and we've lost jobs every month since last January.

Over three years ago, we were told the economy is in recovery, but many people wondered where all the money was going? Warren Buffett the second wealthiest man in the world provided the answer. He pointed out: "The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be...The rich are winning... Right now corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low."

Congressional Republicans thought the word oversight of the executive branch of government meant "rubber stamp". They consistently passed legislation that hurt middle-class families. We had 12.7% Americans living in poverty, which was the fourth year in a row that number had increased. They cut $13 billion in college student aid, passed free trade agreements that threaten American jobs, approved a bankruptcy bill that favors creditors and took away consumer protections. They consistently passed legislation that hurt middle-class families, and eventually many people couldn't pay their mortgage.

Americans were concerned about their declining real wages and the lack of quality jobs, but Republicans continue to distract the voters with divisive wedge issues. Two years ago, a total of 37 million of our fellow Americans lived in poverty and nearly 46 million live without health insurance. The number of Americans without health insurance had risen by 6 million since 2000.

Allen Lichtman, professor of history at American University wrote: "Like a master pickpocket, George Bush distracts the American people with one hand, while reaching into their pockets with the other." Some religious leaders have assisted Bush in this pilfering, by using social issues such as gay rights, abortion, and creationism to distract their congregations.

Over 2 years ago, voters recognized that something was wrong with our economy and voted more Democrats into Congress. Last November, nearly 70 million Americans decided enough and voted Obama into the White House. Nevertheless, after eight years some still have the audacity to claim the our economic crisis is Clinton's fault.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Today's Media

In his letters, Joel Canfield used the phrases: "white hating clerics", and " Obama has long since been associated with black churchmen who spew anti-white venom..." In both letters, Canfield avoids naming the churchmen or giving examples of their anti-white venom. Furthermore, he wrote: "The media today amounts to no more than a collection of pimps who are hustling the liberal agenda..."

Shortly after Canfield's statements were published, I watched CNN's Miles O'Brien suggested to his guests: "Let's talk about Jeremiah Wright. He has the potential to be Obama's Billy Carter."

They rolled a couple of sound bites of Obama's former pastor Rev. Wright saying: "I've already told Senator Obama at the time, I will work hard. I'll do everything humanly possible to get you elected on November the 4th, but on November the 5th, I'm coming after you...." (However, they omitted): "because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people. It’s about policy, not the American people."

A second sound bite had Rev. Wright saying: "It was like a mixed bag of being proud of him and being blessed to have lived to see something my parents would have never have believed was going to happen, while at the same time having been put up as the whipping boy by the media to be the weapon of mass destruction to destroy his candidacy." Stephen Hayes, senior writer at "The Weekly Standard" commented: "I mean Reverend Wright is clearly an odious and vile man."

Six months ago prior, in his speech to the National Press Club, Rev. Wright pointed out: "The prophetic liberation 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. 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."

Miles O'Brien and Stephen Hayes represent a diverse corporate owned media that keeps us locked in a "sick system," and panders to our worst instincts. Does Canfield view Miles O'Brien and Stephen Hayes to be "pimps who are hustling the liberal agenda," or are they "odious and vile" men?"

Many white males won't acknowledge the most important difference between black liberation theology and the typical hierarchal Christian theology, because they're insecure and arrogant. They need to continue the myth, that they're superior.

Apparently, the leadership of the Catholic and Evangelical churches consider the reconciliation of women as complete equals in the eyes of God, a threat.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Come Together

Joel Canfield wrote: "You might say, come on Canfield, get behind the new president for the sake of our country; well, I'd like to, but there is one obstacle in the way. For the past eight years I've seen bug-eyed liberals, almost prostrate with rage, demeaning and denouncing President Bush's every move."

By expressing my views concerning Bush and attending Peace Vigils, I've been exercising my first amendment rights. The first amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In his concession speech McCain said: "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited."

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee said: "And I've made some comments recently that Barack Obama was not my choice, but he will be my president on January 20th. I feel that way. This is my country. I love it. I want it to do well. And so if we elect a president and he's inaugurated, I want him to be an effective, good president for every American -- and that includes me."

It was predictable, that not a single House Republican would support Obama's stimulus package, because after the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Republicans remaining in the House represent very conservative red districts. Today, House Republicans have become Rush Limbaugh diddoheads. Limbaugh diddoheads are those people, who are unable to think critically and accept everything their guru says as true.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Vice Versa

After attempting to smear Barack Obama's character by linking him to Ayers, Rezco and Dodd, Joel Canfield wrote,"...on the other hand, a woman like Sarah Palin is discredited and mocked, galls me." I've disapproved of some of the unkind things said about Gov. Palin, also. Nevertheless, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and vice versa. Let's do a fact check on Sarah Palin's character, to determine, who she really is.

McCain's decision to pick Palin was about pleasing the far-right base of the Republican party. She said that the war in Iraq is “God’s task,” but admitted she hasn’t thought about the war much. She didn’t even support abortion in the case of rape or incest and opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She insisted that she’d support an abstinence only approach and she wants to teach creationism in public schools.

She sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party, by telling members of the group, who advocated for a vote on secession from the union to keep up the good work and wished the party luck on its inspiring convention. Palin has close ties to Big Oil and her inauguration as governor was sponsored by British Petroleum. Regarding climate change she said, “I’m not one though, who would attribute it to being manmade.”

According to public spending records compiled by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste as mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002, Palin hired a lobbying firm to traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the small town. Lobbyists helped her secure $600,000 for a new bus facility, $1.75 million for a dispatch center technology, $2.4 million to upgrade water and sewer facilities. The nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense reports that the last four years Palin was mayor, the City of Wasilla with a population of just about 5,000, obtained $27 million in earmarks.

In two years as Governor, Alaska requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. It included $8 million federal dollars to upgrade a remote airport after it was handed over by the Navy. The FAA says it handles only eight scheduled flights a month.

Smearing Gov. Palen's character by linking her the mother her daughter's boyfriend is totally unfair.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Try, Try Again

Joel Canfield claimed: "Everything I love and cherish about our country along with the values instilled in me at an early age have been tossed in the trash bin and ground into the heels of an electorate who couldn't or wouldn't look beyond Barack, the empty suit with a total lackluster background in politics."

Everything isn't lost, because our values can't be tossed in the trash bin. If at first you don't succeed try, try again is a value, that I learned at an early age. The value of persistence survived after Al Gore and John Kerry were narrowly defeated in 2000 and 2004.

In 2004, the "electorate" couldn't look beyond Bush's apocalyptic rhetoric and confrontational Middle East policies. I accepted the will of a slim majority of the American people, because that is the way a democracy works. My task was to continue writing respectful, persuasive and factual letters, with the hope that eventually reasonable Americans would listen to what I and many others had to say.

Obama is a lot more than an empty suit. He has succeed against tremendous odds. He was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. At one point, his mother was on welfare and the family lived in a modest apartment. Obama’s attendance at a private school in Hawaii was made possible by his grandparents, sacrificing their own prosperity for the sake of Obama and his sister. Not only was Obama accepted at Harvard, he became president of the Harvard Law Review.

In the Democratic primary, Obama defeated the highly regard and well financed Clinton political organization. In the presidential election, he received six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions, than McCain. Nearly 70 million Americans voted for Obama. Only 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidential election and Obama garnered 365 votes.

For the most part Wisconsin consists of white rural counties and small towns and many thought its voters would never support an African American candidate, but Obama's margin of victory was an unbelievable 13 points. Obama is an eloquent speaker and it was his ability to connect with those minorities and young voters, who have been empowered by his victory.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Distrust

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

Joel Canfield wrote: "The difference between the liberals and myself is that I don't trust the government to take care of the poor and needy. Too much tax dollar money gets siphoned off along the route."

A difference between Mr. Canfield and this liberal is that although I don't completely trust the government, I'll not allow myself to become cynical, and over-generalize about our democratic process. It's my opinion that our government, through our representatives in Congress and the White House, has the potential to be as efficient and effective as we the voters expect them to be. For example, our government developed an atomic weapon, which ended WW II, and put men on the moon.

Charitable organization can't always take care of the poor and the needy, because these organization sometimes become overwhelmed. The most obvious example, was New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, when both charitable organizations and our government were overwhelmed.

Leading up to the 1929 stock market collapse, three Republican Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover had occupied the oval office. Two consecutive terms of Bush and a third term of McCain would have again driven this nation into a catastrophic depression. During the Great Depression the unemployment rate reached 25% and those charitable organizations attempting to help the needy were completely overwhelmed.

My grandfather was a hard working, skilled carpenter, who was too proud to ask for help. He and my mother survived the end of the winter of 1932-33, by eating turnips and sugar sandwiches. Everyday proud Americans without health insurance put off getting regular checkups or going to an emergency room for treatable illnesses until it's too late, because our present system doesn't view healthcare as a right for every American.

Furthermore, too much of our tax dollars got siphoned off, from our troops serving in Iraq, because there are as many “contractors” in Iraq as regular members of our armed forces. Hundreds of billions of emergency appropriations never went to support our troops, but instead went directly into the pockets of crony war profiteers, like Blackwater. This is another form of foreign outsourcing, because thousands of these mercenaries were recruited from countries like South Africa and Chile. The privatization of the military is absolutely the worst possible thing for democracy and peace, because it makes endless war a corporate imperative.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Strongarm Groups"

Joel Canfield wrote in his letter of 11/ 21: "The alternate purpose of this letter is to give Jim O'Leary something to write about over the next 15 or 16 weeks." I'm accepting that invitation to provide an alternative point of view.

Let's begin with the claim: "Back in the '90's strongarm groups like Acorn demonstrated against traditional and time-proven banking policy and demanded banks, and eventually Fanny and Freddy, loan money to high risk clients simply because they were minorities."

It’s true that ACORN, which is an acronym for Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, led demonstrations on a number of issues nationwide, which have include predatory lending, immigration reform, neighborhood violence, utilities shut-offs, and minimum wage increases. Sometimes the group’s tactics were confrontational, veering toward civil disobedience, but the term "strongarm" certainly isn't applicable. ACORN activists in a number of cities, did seized abandoned houses and encouraged squatting by homeless people, in an attempt to force local governments to salvage abandoned properties and convert them into low-income housing. The targets of ACORN’s protests sometimes describe the activists as intractable or even aggressive. Other ACORN protests were much less confrontational and in 2006, John McCain spoke at an ACORN rally on illegal immigration.

It’s inaccurate to say that ACORN forced banks to make risky loans. They did apply pressure on banks to make loans to minority and low-income borrowers, but ACORN also worked directly with banks in a joint effort to increase such lending. The "traditional and time-proven banking policy," became apparent in Chicago, after a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston showed that minorities in that city were two to three times as likely to be denied mortgage loans as white applicants, and that high-income minorities were more likely to be turned down than low-income whites. Chicago ACORN then started a mortgage assistance program, in cooperation with five local banks, to help minority and low-income borrowers get mortgage loans.

The mortgages that ACORN worked out with the banks did have lower underwriting standards than were customary. They allowed a higher percentage of a family’s income to go to debt repayment, and counted rent and utility payments, not just credit card payments, as evidence of ability to pay back a loan. The loans were also more forgiving of past credit problems, as long as the recipient was making a proven effort to address them. The ACORN lending program provided loan deals only to people who went through counseling on budget and credit issues. The First Nationwide Bank Vice President Neal Halleran told the Chicago Tribune: “Transaction by transaction, (loans from the ACORN program) would appear to be performing no worse than our portfolio overall.” According to the Tribune, First Nationwide had contacted ACORN to initiate the lending program.

People bought homes, but lenders shouldn't have been lending money without documentation and no down payment, but it wasn't the fault of ACORN.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mentally Alert

On 11/29/08, I posted a letter written by my wife, which had been published in the Delaware County Times. Her letter informed Joel Canfield that he had made a false assumption. Mr. Canfield's lengthy letter made numerous false assumptions, as well as, offering unsubstantiated, misleading, inaccurate and distorted opinions.

The intent of Joel Canfield's letter of 11/ 21 was to provide something for me to write about and he has succeeded by casting doubts on my mental alertness and integrity. I'm not surprised, because if you don't have the facts on your side, the only thing left is innuendo and personal attacks.

Our only encounter occurred a at a peace vigil on August 2nd. Mr. Canfield recalled that it took place "a month ago," which suggests that it's not uncommon to have a memory lapse. Canfield approached me and started asking questions. My recollection is that he didn't approve of sources, I had used in letters to the editor, that he had read. He mentioned Rolling Stones and Doonesbury and I couldn't immediately recall, the letter(s), that he was referring to. My wife was not present. It was Kate Ryan, who assured me that she had read the same letter. I was trying to recall letters, recently published in this newspaper or the Daily Star. The letter to which, Canfield was referring had been sent to another weekly publication several weeks earlier. During that time, I had sent at least 15 other letters to newspapers and posted 22 articles on my website mindanddestiny.com If Canfield had mention that the article was entitled: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” or said it was written by Robert Kennedy Jr, I would have remembered, but "Rolling Stones" didn't ring a bell.

This letter isn't from my pen, because I went high tech in March 2004. As I began learning to use my wife's computer, she insisted that I tone down a tendency to be rude or sarcastic, but today, I'm pretty much on my own. Nevertheless, members of my family will be flattered by Joel's suspicion that they're producing my material. The Great Oz behind the backdrop of my writing mill is a "domain," which I've named Mind and Destiny. It contains over 900 posts of approximately 400 words each and I'm the only one with access to its incredibly fast index of information.

Ideological conservatives like Canfield are so committed to their religious dogma they usually resist being pragmatic. Uncompromising positions are commonly taken by "the faithful" as well as, atheists, who are incapable of being intellectually honest by admitting they “don’t know,” regarding the existence of God.

Obama said that the Republican Party was kidnapped eight years ago, by an incompetent, highly ideological subset of that party. Both I, and former congressman and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, Mickey Edwards agree. Edwards wrote: “since George W. Bush has become president...Congress - the branch that is most directly accountable to the people - had been nearly destroyed as a separate, independent, and equal institution. It seemed to many to have become a virtual rubber stamp for a president who himself seemed to have very little interest in maintaining even the slightest pretense of adherence to the Constitution’s system of separated powers.” Furthermore, Republican Congressman Ron Paul said: “the party has lost its way.... The GOP stood for small government, fiscal responsibility, noninterventionist foreign policy, and no nation building." I admire Rep. Paul, who is consider to be an "old school" conservative.

A recent Gallup poll shows that only 34% of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 61% have an unfavorable view. That's the highest number of unfavorable views, since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1992. Furthermore, only 78% of registered Republicans like what they see when they look at the Republican Party, which indicates that almost a fourth of Republicans are not happy with their own party.

Theology of Liberation

"Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology."- James H. Cone

When first published in 1970, "A Black Theology of Liberation" revolutionized theology with its searing indictment of white theology and society. James Cone radically reappraised Christianity from the pained and angry perspective of the oppressed black community in North America. Nearly forty years later Cone's work retains its original power, enhanced now by the reflections on the evolution of his own religious quest for liberation.

"James Cone is a committed man 'saturated' in the real world, which he analyzes with the authority of one who has experienced it. A Black theology of liberation is for this reason a passionate book, passionately written. In reading it some will be chilled by their anger, others will tremble with fear, many readers, though, will find a stimulus here for their own struggles. This is what James Cone envisages."

"Professor Cone is the first theologian to give formal and systematic expression to the meaning of black religion and to place it in the context of the black revolution. But Dr. Cone's larger contribution transcends the black revolution and offers to America, and to the church, a key to understanding something more about the faith than we have ever undertaken to learn."--Paulo Freire,  Foreword