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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama’s Budget

Things you should know about Obama’s budget:

1. Makes a $634 billion down payment on fixing health care that will go a long way toward paying for a more efficient, more affordable health care system that covers every single American.
 
2. Reduces taxes for 95% of working Americans. And if your family makes less than $250,000, your taxes won’t go up one dime.
 
3. Invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology, creating millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced.
 
4. Brings our troops home from Iraq on a firm timetable, which frees up almost ten billion dollars a month for domestic priorities.
 
5. Reverses growing income inequality. The plan lets the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire and focuses on strengthening the middle class.
 
6. Closes multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for big oil companies.
 
7. Provides the largest increases ever, for grants to help families pay for college.

8. Halves the deficit by 2013. President Obama inherited a legacy of huge deficits and an economy in shambles, but his plan brings the deficit under control as soon as the economy begins to recover.
 
9. Dramatically increases funding for the agencies that police Wall Street.
 
10. Tells it straight. For years, budgets have used accounting tricks to hide the real costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, and too many other programs. Obama’s budget gets rid of the smokescreens and lays out what America’s priorities are, what they cost, and how we’re going to pay for them.

11. Stops unnecessary government subsidies to big banks, health insurance companies and big agribusinesses.

12. Expands access to early childhood education and improves schools by investing in programs that make sure every child has a qualified teacher.
 
13. Negotiates prescription drug prices using Medicaid’s tremendous bargaining power.
 
14. Expands access to family planning for low-income women.
 
15. Caps pollution by making polluters pay to support clean energy innovation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Not Trickling

Recently, Richard Averett of Otego N.Y. had the following thoughtful letter published in The Oneonta Star:

“The current economic apocalypse can be traced directly to Ronald Reagan's ‘Supply Side Economics,’ which involved deregulation, privatization of government services, tax cuts for the wealthy and attacking organized labor, starting with striking air traffic controllers shortly after Reagan took office in 1981.

“George W. Bush pursued this same policy, and after eight years of his failed presidency, America is deep in debt and fighting a war on two fronts with an economy that has collapsed because of greed and stupidity. Blaming Obama for not being able to jump-start the economy is like blaming a new ship captain for allowing the Titanic to sink post iceberg.

“It is time to stop perpetuating the same failed ideas and assumptions that got us here. It is time for a reality check. The idea of a ‘free’ market, or that Wall Street can regulate itself is a lie. Tax cuts for the ultra-rich and corporate welfare do NOT ‘trickle down,’ and only widen the gap between rich and poor.

“Tying health care coverage to one’s job is economic stupidity, and it is no wonder that U.S. manufacturing was outsourced by corporate America.

“The ‘War on Drugs’ has grown the corrections industry at the expense of our entire society, and now ‘freedomland’ can boast having the highest incarceration rate on the planet.

“Religion and politics do not mix, and when they do, religion becomes a weapon used to divide people rather than unite them, and it becomes dysfunctional.

“Our ‘for-profit’ health care system is a failure, and we waste billions of dollars supporting insurance companies and HMOs that deny us coverage.

“Trust no ‘experts,’ and always question authority. But, as long as we continue allowing special-interest groups and their lobbyists to subsidize our entire political system, nothing will change anytime soon.”

Comment: I disagreed with the advice: “Trust no ‘expert,’ and always question authority.” That is a potentially dangerous over generalization. I trust some experts otherwise, I’d never go to a doctor. Bush’s problem was that he trusted the wrong people, because he trusted Cheney, a politician not an expert. Bush should have listened to Richard Clarke on Iraq and Michael Scheuer on Afghanistan. More importantly, it’s unwise to question a judge in his courtroom, because that is what lawyers are paid to do.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Former President Bush said over 6 years ago: “My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq. I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.”

On March 19, 2003, we initiated the war in Iraq, and it has turned out to be worst foreign policy mistake in a generation. We were led to believe that the goal of invading Iraq was to disarm Saddam, and take away the weapons of mass destruction that he didn’t have. On the six-year anniversary of our invasion, Iraq’s oil minister told an OPEC meeting that foreign oil companies will soon be able to take a majority stake in the development of Iraq’s oil fields. Thus, the real mission has finally been accomplished.

The end of that war is in sight, because Obama has set December 31, 2011, for the withdrawal of all U.S. military troops from Iraq, However, as our troops leave Iraq, we should not sent more into Afghanistan. Bombing civilians and sending our troops into Afghan homes will only help extremists recruit more fighters. It failed in Iraq, and it will fail in Afghanistan.

Victory in Iraq is meaningless, because many Americans remain 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 Muslim world. That anger will continue to fester as long as our imperialistic meddling continues.

There is no moral justification to explain the estimated four million Iraqis displaced and one million Iraqis killed. Those estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by our invasion. We must at least attempt to understand the source of their anger. Unfortunately, there remain many arrogant American imperialists, 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 and grandchildren will.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saddam and 9/11

On the six-year anniversary of our invadion of Iraq, senior members of the Bush administration are still lying about the war. Prior to the six year anniversary of the invasion, former White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer was trying to make the link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, by stating: “After September 11th, having been hit once—how could we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again?”

On the anniversary of 9/11, former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice claimed: “We believed that the weapons of mass destruction threat was growing because the—that he reconstituted his... No one was arguing that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11... I was certainly not.  The president was certainly not.”

Ms. Rice seems to have forgotten, that Bush said: “Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda.  Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.  And an al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases.

On another occasion Bush insisted: “The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends.  And it has aided, trained, and harbored terrorists including operatives of al Qaeda.”

In the letter, that Bush sent to Congress when we invaded Iraq, he stated: “The used of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorists organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001.”

Nevertheless, Condoleezza Rice claims: “No one was arguing that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11.” If are to avoid another mistake like the Iraq war, those who were wrong about Iraq must be remembered as having been wrong about Iraq.

Furthermore, their recent attempts at revisionist history must also be remembered, because it demonstrates that the invasion of Iraq was not about judgement, it was about deceit.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Anna McCabe

On 3/20/09, the County Shopper published a letter by Anna McCabe of Franklin. She wrote: “If he (Mr. O’Leary) were a critical thinker, he would have understood by now that this man who calls himself our president is a liar.”

Obama is entitled to call himself our president, because nearly 70 million Americans voted for him. Only 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidential election and he garnered 365 votes. Obama carried every northern state from Maine to Iowa.

Ms. McCabe continued: “He promised or led us to believe that this wonderful stimulus package bill had no earmarks in it whatsoever. In fact, there are 9,000 earmarks in it.”

She claims that her information is factual, but like most diddoheads avoids specifying a single earmark out of 9,000. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican House whip sought to provided an example, by insisting: “It is striking to see the lack of change in that bill, the type of waste and pork barrel spending, the earmarks that exist in that bill.  You’ve got the train from Disneyland to Las Vegas.” 

There is nothing in any bill regarding a train from Disneyland to Las Vegas. The stimulus bill does contain $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, and that money goes to the Department of Transportation. Former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood is the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and he’ll be deciding how to spend the money on the high-speed rail projects.

Anna McCabe continued: “I’m tired of Bush bashing.... No one gives him credit for keeping us safe for 8 years.” Actually, Bush didn’t keep us safe for 8 months. Thirty-seven days before 9/11, the Associated Press reported: “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.”

While Bush was on vacation in Texas, FBI agent John O’Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings.  According to the 9/11 Commission Report, CIA Director George Tenet was asked by Timothy Roemer, when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office, that an Islamic male, 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.

Then Roemer asked Tenet if he mentioned this information 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. Tenet also admitted that he was “on leave,” for much of August.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

John Demarrais

In a letter, published on 3/17/09, in the Oneonta Star, John Demarrais erroneously claimed, that Mr. O’Leary wrote “Politics must be put aside for our good,” That was the caption the editor of the Star put on my letter of 3/4/09.

Mr. Demarrais continued: “Why not address the actual facts and not use childish broad-sweeping names e.g., ‘dittoheads,’ ‘red states,’ etc.?” My letter(s) are abundantly factual, and dittoheads, is a term which some Rush Limbaugh fans use to describe themselves. The terms red and blue states, are also commonly used by the media, including Fox New.

Demarrais made an unverifiable assertion, that Keynesian economics, “does not support spending money a government does not have.” Today, few people are buying and companies can’t afford to keep workers on the payroll. Unemployed people can’t buy things, which makes the no-demand problem even worse. It snowballs into more layoffs, less demand, and it keeps getting worse, until we have a depression. In 1933, when FDR became president 24.9% of Americans were unemployed. This downward cycle needs to be interrupted, because it isn’t going to fix itself.  The way to stop this cycle, is to quickly spend a lot of money. Presently, people and businesses don’t have the ability to spend very large amounts of money. Consequently, our federal government is the only institution, that can print the money necessary to spend massive amounts of cash. 

I agree with conservative columnist David Brooks’ statement: “They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monumental Reversal

The reversal of Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research is monumental, because millions of people have family members, who are suffering with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, juvenile diabetes, kidney disease, and they have been given hope.

Bush had inserted his own views into the personal lives of millions of Americans. That is not what our government should be about.  We should foster science and make sure that our government helps to improve people’s lives.

Presently, Congress has a great deal on its legislative plate and the odds of getting that legislation passed, as quickly as Obama could by lifting the ban by executive order were much greater. Obama left it for Congress to decide whether federally funded researchers can create their own stem cell lines.

Obama used the signing of his executive order as an opportunity to talk about his faith.  He called human cloning wrong and announced that he would have strict guidelines for the stem cell research.  He insisted that federal funds would not be used to create new lines of stem cells, but only fund research. Obama views those clumps of 50 to 100 cells as precious, based on the same type of nonscientific sentiment Bush did during his presidency.

However, the difference between the two presidents is in the thought process. President Obama specifically focused on the embryos that have been created and donated to research. There are many women who go through invitro fertilization and don’t use all the embryos that are generated. They are willing to donate those embryos rather than simply discard them. Those embryos are now available to be utilized for stem cell research, otherwise, they would have simply been discarded. These are not embryos that are going be used to generate life, but they are embryos that potentially will be used to save lives of millions of people worldwide.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Progress Report

Those that are criticizing this president need to understand what has happened in America over the last eight years and unite behind him in turning our country around.

President Obama has ended torture, because it’s un-American. In his budget he put forth a plan to create or maintain 3.6 million jobs, as well as, a down payment on health care reform. Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make sure that women have equal pay for equal work. He’s held an economic and health care summit. In his breakout health care session, there were Democrats, Republicans, community, labor and business groups, because he’s attempting to unifying the country.

Our economy is in shambles. Millions of people have lost their homes, and Obama is moving to help deal with the foreclosure crisis.  He has provided a foundation for access to credit, so that businesses can move forward and create jobs. The President’s policies include tax credits for solar energy, and investments in green technology.  There are tax credits for small businesses to create jobs, and resources have been allocated for our country’s infrastructure, to help build roads and bridges.

Barack Obama promised: “I know there’s some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. You may forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad and passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of civil war.  Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war and he had to do both. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between Civil Rights and sending us to the moon.  And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.”

President Obama is working for Americans and understands, that we can’t choose between health care for senior citizens or early childhood education. We can’t choose between helping those who are losing their homes to foreclosures and helping small businesses create jobs.  Those choices are bogus choices, because Obama believes that we must do it all, and he intends to “get’er done.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Same Boat

According to Warren Buffett founder of the Berkshire Hathaway: “Like it or not, the inhabitants of Wall Street, Main Street and the various Side Streets of America are all in the same boat.”

During the 1990s, much of the manufactured-home industry employed sales practices that were atrocious. The need for a substantial down payments was frequently ignored, and impossible-to-meet monthly payments were being agreed to by borrowers who signed up because they had nothing to lose. The resulting mortgages were usually packaged (“securitized”) and sold by Wall Street firms to unsuspecting investors.

Clayton Homes a subdivision of Berkshire Hathaway is the largest company in the manufactured-home industry and they followed a far more sensible practices in their lending. No purchaser of the mortgages Clayton Homes originated and then packaged ever lost a dime of principal or interest. However, Clayton Homes was the exception and industry losses were staggering.

That 1997–2000 fiasco in manufactured-home industry should have served as a canary in the coal-mine warning for the far-larger conventional housing market. Unfortunately, investors, our government and rating agencies learned nothing from the manufactured-home debacle. Instead, the same mistakes were repeated with conventional homes in from 2004–07. Lenders happily made loans that borrowers couldn’t repay out of their incomes, and borrowers happily signed up to meet those payments. Both parties counted on “house-price appreciation” to make this otherwise impossible arrangement work.

Often ignored in discussions regarding the current housing crisis is the fact that most foreclosures do not occur because a house is worth less than its mortgage. Instead, foreclosures take place because borrowers can’t pay the monthly payment. Homeowners who have made a meaningful down payment, seldom walk away from a primary residence simply because its value today is less than the mortgage. They walk away, when they can’t make the monthly payments.

The present housing debacle should teach home buyers, lenders, brokers and government a simple lessons that will ensure stability in the future. Home purchases should involve a down payment of at least 10 percent and monthly payments that can be comfortably handled by the borrower’s income. That income should be carefully verified.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Papal Solution

The Catholic Church should attempt to at least try to move beyond the 13th century. On his first trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI claimed that condoms are not a solution to the AIDS epidemic, but, in fact make the epidemic worse. In the Pope’s first public comments on condom use, he told reporters that AIDS: “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problem.” Some critics have suggested that taking advice regarding HIV and Aids, from someone who’s celibate is like taking financial advice from someone who’s broke.

Since becoming Pope four years ago, Benedict has stressed that the church is on the front lines of the battle against AIDS. While the Vatican has been encouraging sexual abstinence as the way to stop the disease it continues to spread. The Vatican's message has not delivered the desired results in Africa, where 22 million people have been infected with HIV.

Furthermore, a recent report shows that 3% of Washington, D.C.’s residents have HIV or AIDS, which translates into almost 3,000 people for every 100,000 population. According to health officials those statistics represents a severe epidemic. Unfortunately, there are countless millions of Catholics around the world, who believe that Pope Benedict XVI words are the words of God. Their solution is that in order to avoid HIV, people shouldn’t have sex, until they and their partners get checked for HIV.

Opinions on the internet include: “Although it isn’t politically correct to side with morality these days, I have to agree with the Pope on this one. Even medical experts will tell you that abstinence is the best means of prevention when it comes to the AIDS epidemic. A person should get him/herself tested. If AIDS-free, practice abstinence. If he/she becomes involved in a sexual relationship (like maybe a marriage), have both people tested, and maintain a monogamous relationship. It may be old-fashioned, but it works!”

Another opinion by a “Cafeteria Catholic” woman wrote: “My husband and I are 28-year-old Catholics who voted for Obama. We both feel it is time for the Church, which we love and are devoted to, to be realistic about the current affairs of the world… As a teacher and a counselor, we both think that sex ed is important. While abstinence is definitely a key issue, and obviously the best way to avoid disease, it is just not the reality for many young people. Saying “condoms make it worse” is irresponsible.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Abortion Reduction

In an interview on Fox News, Bristol Palin the daughter of Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin said: “I think abstinence is, like, like—I don’t know how to put it. Like, the main—everyone should be abstinent, whatever, but it is not realistic at all.” 

Anchorage schools have been abiding by the abstinence only no sex education program and babies are the only thing they have to show for it. We’ve spent 176 million dollars a year on abstinence only programs, it doesn’t work and it misleads our youth. Bristol Palin got a chance to publicly say it doesn’t work and that she wants an education and her life back. 

It’s been suggested that we can find common ground on the goal of dramatically reducing the number of people who choose abortions in this country.  We should be teaching people to make responsible choices and that means using reliable birth control.

It’s simply a matter of the persons having sex and not doing anything to prevent a pregnancy that they have no intention of taking to term. The historical evidence shows that there is no evidence that abstinence only programs have prevented young people from having premarital or extramarital sex. Bristol Palin admitted that you cannot stop people from having sex, but you can influence, whether they choose to take responsible precautions. 

Most people believe, that the decision to have an abortion shouldn’t be to made, by the government. Ten years from now, we may be having the same fruitless argument about abstinence only programs, and there will have been 10 million more abortions.

Approximately, 90 percent of the situations that lead to abortions result from couples, who failed to take any precautions. They get pregnant and then they decide to have an abortion. The decision to have a child should be made, before conception.

By threatening people with a law banning abortions, you’re essentially telling them, that you don’t respect their decision. Consequently, they’ll most likely tell you that they aren’t going to respect your authority. 

President Obama should embark on an agenda of abortion reduction, by providing sex education programs, through the media, churches, schools, doctors, and clinics. That would be a better agenda than abortion banning that the far right of the Republican party has been insisting on. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Alternative Plan

Virginia Congressman, Eric Cantor is the Republican House whip.  Recently, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he said: “I think part of our job is to be the honest opposition. It is striking to see the lack of change in that bill, the type of waste and pork barrel spending, the earmarks that exist in that bill.  You’ve got the train from Disneyland to Las Vegas.” 

Honest opposition? In fact, there is nothing in any bill about a train from Disneyland to Las Vegas.  The stimulus bill does contain $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, but that entire amount of money goes to the Department of Transportation. There is nothing in the stimulus bill or any other bill referring to a particular train project. Former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood is the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and will be deciding how to spend the money for the high- speed rail projects.

Congressman Cantor offered a second distortion of the facts, while criticizing the budget plan, by insisting that the Republicans will offer an alternative to the budge plan. Rep. Cantor insisted that Republicans will have a plan and added: "We had a stimulus plan, but part of the problem with being in the minority is, that sometimes the press doesn’t want to cover the ideas of the minority." 

Republican Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell admitted on ABC’s “This Week,” that Republicans are going to offer a number of amendments to the Democratic proposal, but “will reframe what the Democrats recommend for America over the next five and 10 years.”

Republicans had no alternative stimulus bill and have no comprehensive budget plan. Obviously, Senate Republicans are not interested in producing an alternative budget, despite Rep. Cantor’s claim.

Peter M. Johngren was absolutely correct, when he wrote: “The main function of our current opposition party is not to provide fresh ideas, but simply to obstruct and impede progress. Bipartisanship can’t occur when one party has nothing to offer.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nationalization

According to the media and some of our representatives in Congress, that nationalization is just not how we do things in this country.  In fact, we have nationalize financial institutions through our history and do it quite frequently.  In 1984, Continental Illinois was the eighth largest bank.  After it failed and the FDIC couldn’t handle it, our government took over 80% of the stock, put it under new management and ran it for six years, by selling off pieces of it, until by 1991. 

Last year the FDIC took over 25 banks and already this year they’ve taken over more than 16 banks. Usually, on Friday afternoon the FDIC announces that it has seized a bank, because, the bank can no longer meet its financial obligations. Frequently, the FDIC takes over and places deposits with other banks. In the case of Indy Mac, which was a very large bank the FDIC ran it for over six months. Indy Mac was nationalized for that period of time before finding a buyer. 

In theory the risk for the share holders are that you will have government bureaucrats running it and making politicized decision about who gets credit and who doesn’t, but that’s not the situation we’re in right now. Much of the talk about nationalization resolves around Citigroup.  Taxpayers have put 40 billion dollars into that company, and today the stock market values for the whole company is a mere 11 billion dollars. 

The stock market has said, that it doesn’t think much of Citigroup’s prospects and of the investment they’ve already made.  Citigroup‘s management asked the government to convert the money it had lent Citigroup into common stock. Hoping, that they won’t have to pay back the loan, but just consider it stock, because they don’t want the government to have any say running the company.  But, for taxpayers, that is the worst of both worlds. Taxpayers are putting our money into Citigroup, but they don’t want us to have say over how we’ll get paid back or how things are run. 

Whenever, we talk about nationalization, it’s not the government taking over the banks so that our government can operate it for the next 20 years, which happened in France in the 1980s. The French declared, that although you’re a private-sector bank, the government is going to own you and we’re going to make the decisions.  The reason we have to nationalize banks in this country is because they have essentially failed.  When very large banks fail, and the FDIC can’t handle it, some extraordinary steps must be taken to find buyers for pieces of the business that people want, to absorb the losses that shareholders have already suffered and that bond holders are likely to suffer, and to allow the system to get moving again. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Deregulation

The nonpartisan Wall Street Watch project revealed that deregulation was purchased by Wall Street executives, by paying politicians for unprecedented freedom from oversights of banks, security firms, private equity and hedge funds, insurance and real estate.

In the past 10 years, Wall Street lobbyists spent more than $5 billion to influence regulators. In 2008, a total of 2,996 lobbyists spent $1.7 billion on direct campaign contributions.

In 1998, Citibank was allowed to merge with the insurance giant, Travelers, even though it was against the law. The following year, Congress killed the landmark depression era Glass-Steagall Act, which had erected the wall between regulated Main Street banks and unregulated investment banks.  Without that wall, the stage was set for firms to merge until they were “too big to fail.” Regulators allowed firms to hide those risky investments off their books which meant they didn’t have to keep enough money on hand to cover possible losses. Those practices were permitted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in rules pushed for by the bank executives.

Clinton’s regulatory agency said, that they wanted oversight on those derivatives, but Clinton’s own treasury secretary, a Goldman Sachs veteran denied the request. In late 2000, Senator Phil Gramm got legislation through Congress that set derivatives free from virtually any regulation. In 2004, Bush’s Securities and Exchange Commission scrapped a 20-year-old rule that made banks keep a certain amount of cash on hand to cover investment losses. Warren Buffett 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.

The banks were allowed to decided how much cash they had to keep on hand, and the new rule was pushed by Goldman Sachs and its chairman, Henry Paulson. Paulson eventually, became Bush’s treasury secretary and the person in charge of the bailout crisis, and decided how the first half of the $700 billion in TARP funds were spent.

Derivatives deregulation allowed financial “wizards,” a.k.a. crooks to turn bets on just about anything into a derivative, including mortgages. Once Wall Street executives could turn mortgages into derivatives, they had an incentive to engage in predatory lending practices. Of course, no financial firm would buy a derivative based on a predatory mortgage, because then they could also be sued.

However, Wall Street accomplices like Republican Congressman Bob Ney, blocked efforts to let the victims of predatory lending sue everybody who profited from it, which left Wall Street executives with virtually nothing to risk. On 10/13/06, Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio pleaded guilty to corruption charges arising from the influence-peddling investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the first elected official to fall in the scandal that resulted in Democrats winning back the House of Representatives, after 12 years.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Banking Crisis

The crisis in our banking system, can be divide it into four separate problems. Many banks don’t have enough capital to operate, because in order to lend out more money they need to borrow money from depositors, and have sufficient capital that their shareholders own. The easy part is for our government to put more capital into the banks that need it, but those banks are going to need more restrictions. 

For years banks, have made loans to college students, to small businesses, and to people who buy cars. Many banks don’t hold these loans, but package them and sell them to investors. Today, those markets with securitized products are no longer operating. Banks can make a loan, but, if they can’t sell those loans, to free up more money, there’s not much lending they can do. Our government has been attempting to get those markets started again.

Second, the proposal is to have the our Treasury take taxpayer money, for example a dollar, send it over to the Federal Reserve, which will print nine dollars. They’ll take that 10 dollars and buy up some of these loans from banks. 

Presumably, banks have learned their lesson and will make prudent loans this time.  Investors will buy up those loans, which will free up the banks to keep making more consumer loans, car loans, college loans and commercial real estate loans.  

Third, is to do something about all of those bad loans (toxic assets), that are still on the books of many banks. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geitner plan is to take some of the taxpayer money, which is borrowed, and try to attract some private money into pools. Those pools buy some of those toxic assets and hold onto them. Hopefully, over time, they’ll make money because those toxic loans will have been bought at a depressed price, and eventually could be sold at a higher price.  The investors that bought into the toxic assets pools will eventually be paid back and make money. 

Fourth, the federal government will essentially be the banker of first resort for all of those kinds of loans, until those markets can restart and people get confidence and other investor will start to buy those instruments, rather than just the Fed buying them. 

This approach has already worked in the case of commercial credit, commercial paper.  They’ve already tried this approach with the commercial market, which had been frozen and it has work, because new loans are being judiciously made.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hypocrisy

On “Meet the Press,” Senator Lindsey Graham made his case on why South Carolina deserves to get more money in the form of earmarks from our federal government. Typically South Carolina gets more money back from our federal government than it sends to Washington in federal taxes. Senator Graham’s state, South Carolina, is getting back $1.35 per dollar more than it’s citizens and corporations send to our federal government in taxes. 

The state, that is getting the most federal money per dollar taxed is New Mexico, which is getting $2.03 for each dollar they pay in federal taxes. Other leading states, who are getting the most back are all traditionally Republican states: Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Virginia. 

A list of the 10 states getting the least money back from Washington are usually states that vote Democratic: New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, California, New York, and Colorado. New Jersey receives only 61 cents back for every dollar they pay in federal taxes.

Southern governors and members of Congress complain about federal spending, but they’re the ones, who are actually getting the most government spending per dollar. 

Republicans have to be careful, because not only are 40% of the earmarks in the current budget for Republican, but if you look at history, pork barrel spending exploded, when Republicans took over the House and the Senate in the ‘90s. Furthermore, their argument is sort of hypocritical given that there was more money for earmarks in 2005, when Republicans controlled the House, than there is in the 2009 budget.

Some will define pork barrel spending as any federal spending that goes to any congressional district other than their our own.  When it comes to ones own district, it’s considered sound fiscal federal spending, and there’s a certain amount of pressure from constituents to bring home the bacon.

All politics are local and the basic approach of many of our representatives in Congress is to get money for their own district, while complaining spending in any other state or congressional district is pork.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

“Insane”

The unemployment rate in this country shot up to 8.1 percent, after 651,000 Americans lost their jobs last month. If you add in the underemployed, the people who have taken part-time jobs, but need full-time work, and the people who’ve stopped looking for work or who’ve just given up, you get a more accurate unemployment rate of 14.8 percent. 

We’ve heard about supply and demand. Supply are those items that are for sale. Demand are those customers, who are expected to be buying those items.  Today, we’ve have all kinds of items and services for sale, but nobody is purchasing them. The demand side of the economy has come to a halt, because of the credit disaster.  We have supply, but no one is buying. Hence, no demand.

Whenever, no one is buying, the companies that pay people to make the items can’t afford to keep those workers on the payroll and they’re laid off. Unemployed, people can’t buy things, which makes the no-demand problem even worse. It snowballs into more layoffs, less demand, and it keeps getting worse, until we have a depression. In 1933, when FDR became president nearly 25% of Americans were unemployed.

This downward cycle needs to be interrupted, because it isn’t going to fix itself.  The way to stop this cycle, is by spending a lot of money, as fast as, possible. Presently, people and businesses don’t have the money or find it unwise to spend very large amounts of money. Consequently, our federal government is the only institution, that has the necessary cash to spend massive amounts of money. 

Under these economic conditions, Republicans proposed, that our government should stop spending. Recently, House Minority Leader John Boehner urged President Obama to work with Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year. The legislation was introduced in the House, but the measure was defeated, when it came to a vote, with every Republican supporting its passage.

During an appearance on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” conservative columnist David Brooks said: “They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spending Freeze

Republican House, Minority Leader John Boehner suggested: “I think we can help our economy, or we can send a strong signal to the American people by extending this spending freeze through September 30th.”

Republican President, Herbert Hoover insisted on a spending freeze during the Great Depression. He’s best remembered for the great armies of homeless Americans, who named their shanty towns where they lived in cardboard boxes and burnout cars - Hoovervilles.

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 stock market crash and 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 encampment, that they called: “Hooverville.” The Army was ordered to clear out the protesting veterans. Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Col. 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.

On that same day, legendary Marine Corps officer Major General Smedley Butler stopped being a supporter of the Republican party. He had ended his 33 years of active military service, by serving under three consecutive Republican presidents; Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

Major General Butler had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In a 1933 speech entitled: “War is a Racket.” Butler insisted: “In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.... Only a small inside group knows what war is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses... I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Look in the Mirror

Charlotte Aldebron wrote “What the American Flag Stands For,” at 12 years of age. It brings to mind Hans Christian Anderson’s : "The Emperor’s New Clothes” in which a child is the only one to speak the truth.

“The American flag stands for the the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain. School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free from harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.”

For eight years, a majority of the voters in the 20th. congressional district didn’t appear to be interested in making a “promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free from harmful chemicals.” Instead, they voted to spend our national treasury and the precious blood of our youth on: “an avarice, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages.”

In 2005, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Linda Bilmes estimated that the “true costs” of the war would eventually be more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion. Their most recent book “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” insists that our government continues to underestimate the cost of the war. Stiglitz and Bilmes write that the eventual cost of the war in Iraq could be more than three trillion dollars. Their studies includes both direct and indirect costs of the war, which our nation will have to shoulder for generations.

During, Bush’s presidency our national debt doubled. Today, congressional Republican are complaining about wasteful spending, but they never complained about wasteful spending by our government in Iraq, because they’re pawns of the military - industrial complex.

Look in the mirror, it wasn’t only Bush and congressional Republicans, that brought on this recession. A majority, of the voters in the 20th. congressional district need to accept responsibility for voting for Bush twice and Rep. John Sweeney thrice. On March 31st, we’ll vote again for whoever we wish, to lead us, deceive us, act against our interests, and continue to screw up the economy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Obama’s Task

Peace Action has called for the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a new commitment to a negotiated diplomatic solution involving all regional players.
 
The group insists that the Obama Administration should:
1. De-escalate troop levels in Afghanistan and to reject the idea that there is a military solution to the region’s problems.
2. Immediately stop military activities that indiscriminately impact civilians such as air and drone strikes.
3. Rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
4. Commit to negotiated diplomatic talks involving all major regional players, including major international peace-keeping bodies,
5. Address the real needs of Afghans, which include health-care, clean water, education, and security.

Reportedly, since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Al Qaeda has increased its attacks. Last year saw the most civilian deaths in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded, and a new poll shows that only 18% of Afghans want more U.S. troops. Bombings of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan are angering the populations in both countries and their governments, undermining the U.S.’s ability to create stability. We cannot simply intensify the Bush administration’s failed policy. Now is the time for us to press President Obama and Congress to find a better approach to Afghanistan.

General David Patreaus has called Afghanistan the graveyard of empires.  An authoritative report released last year demonstrated that military force has historically been unsuccessful in defeating terrorism. Counterinsurgency experts have said that a military strategy would require hundreds of thousands of troops we can’t send, and even if we did there would be no guarantee of success.    

According to a RAND Corporation report, since 1968, only seven percent of all terrorist groups that have ended were taken down by military force. In contrast, 40 percent of those groups were defeated through police and intelligence work, and 43 percent gave up terrorism as they were integrated into the political process. The framework of the “Global War on Terror” has set up unrealistic expectations of a military victory against non-state actors, and the apportioning of counterterrorism resources has reflected that flawed approach.

We have heard a lot about why we need to shift resources to Afghanistan, but we need to hear a lot more about what kind of resources would be truly effective.

Instead of sending urgent messages to Obama and Congress, our task should be educating our fellow Americans.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The People of Iraq

While speaking to our military regarding our withdrawing from Iraq, on 2/27/09, President Obama directed the following remarks specifically to the people of Iraq.

“I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq.

“You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.

“Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.

“There are those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope.

“So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Withdrawal from Iraq

The following excerpts are remarks made on 2/27/09, by President Obama regarding withdrawing our troops from Iraq.

“Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services.”

“We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.”

“Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end. As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government.”

“Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”

“The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions; America cannot – and should not – take their place. However, a strong political, diplomatic, and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security.”

“Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq.”

“We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.”

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:

I would like to thank you for following through with your campaign pledge to promptly remove American combat forces from Iraq.

As you know, the Iraq war has had disastrous consequences for American troops, innocent Iraqis, and the reputation of the United States around the world. It is important to bring to a conclusion this sad chapter in
American history.

Your plan is a crucial first step in bringing an end to the war. At the same time, I urge you to ensure that all American forces, including all “noncombat” forces, are quickly removed from Iraq. This war, which was waged under false pretenses, has gone on for far too long.

However, I’m very concerned about Afghanistan. For your information, Michael Scheuer was the CIA’s authority on Afghanistan after 9/11. Apparently, politicians and generals seldom listen to experts.

In 2004, Michael Scheuer wrote “Imperial Hubris,” in which he stated: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

Sen. John Kerry admitted that he had not read “Imperial Hubris,” which is unfortunate, because “How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”

Sincerely,
Jim O’Leary

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Avalanche of Letters

In a letter published in The Oneonta Daily Star, Ellen St. John wrote: “President Obama is planning to increase troop strength in Afghanistan from 38,000 to 60,000.

“This will only influence the growing crisis that spills over into Pakistan. Airstrikes against villages to eliminate insurgents kills many more civilians than fighters, and for every soldier killed, five more are inspired to join the cause to eliminate foreign dominance. Military might can never pacify a country. Even Gen. Patraeus said the United States cannot kill its way to success. The Soviet Union, with 150,000 troops, could not win. Sending more troops makes us occupiers and enemies.

“What started out as a raid against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, a group of fanatics, became a war on the whole country. Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States.

“The solution must be a diplomatic one, difficult as that may be with so many factions involved. Some efforts have already been made. The Pakistani government has endorsed talks with the Taliban. Afghan President Karzai is open to direct talks with Mullah Omar, but the Taliban want withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops before negotiating. There was a ‘mini-jirga,’ or assembly of tribal leaders, with Pakistani and Afghan officials in October in order to start a dialogue with the Taliban. The French government has invited Iran and Pakistan to Paris to begin talks on Afghanistan.

“Part of the solution is stabilizing this poorest of countries with economic support, building schools, clinics and helping to improve agriculture.

“President Obama is a man of integrity and wants the best for our country. He has said he will listen to all sides. He needs to receive an avalanche of letters urging him to withdraw from Afghanistan so he knows he has our support in his courageous act of reversing course.”


******************************************************************************

Ellen St. John suggests Obama needs to receive an avalanche of letters urging a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Tomorrow, I’ll post my response to her request, it’s entitled: “Dear Mr. President.”

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Not My Job

Mr. Gumo wrote: “Do any of you recall Mr. O’Leary writing to condemn any of those Democrats who we now know did not pay their income taxes?”-

One of the reasons, I’ve neglected to condemn those candidates for cabinet positions is because in the confirmation process it’s the responsibility of Senators to vote for or against a candidate.

I wasn’t in favor Timothy Geithner being confirmed as Treasury Secretary, but ten Republicans overlooked that income tax matter and voted for confirmation. The Senate voted 60-34 to confirm his nomination, with three Democrats and one independent voting against Geithner’s confirmation.

I disagreed with every Democratic that voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution. Today, I’m displeased that Obama hasn’t ordered a withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. My reasons are found in “Imperial Hubris,” by Michael Scheuer, who has two decades of experience in national security issues and was our CIA’s authority on Afghanistan.

In 2004, while with the CIA, Scheuer wrote “Imperial Hubris” under the pseudonym Anonymous. He predicted: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

Regarding the Bush regime and bin Laden, who is still our most dangerous enemy, Scheuer wrote: “our policies and actions are bin Laden’s only indispensable allies.” However, regarding this writer, Mr. Gumo wrote: “In my opinion, he gives aid and comfort to all enemies/ detractors of the USA...”

Perhaps, the FBI should be investigating Mr. Gumo for giving “aid and comfort to all enemies/detractors of the USA,” because he’s criticized our Commander-in-Chief’s cabinet. In fact, Mr. Gumo is merely a superpatriot, who considers anyone that doesn’t agree with his political views an enemy or detractor, which is not at all admirable.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Opinions

In his letter, Mr. Gumo wrote: “We have the same rights as Mr. O’Leary to express our opinions - do not make it appear that Mr. O’Leary is speaking for All Americans by never challenging his distorted facts”....

I speak for myself only. We have a responsibility to challenge not only inaccurate facts, but also misinformed opinions, which the testimony of experts don’t support. I look forward to such letters, because I want my facts to be accurate.

Mr. Gumo urged: “-take the time to write a letter if you truly love our country; let the world know we have faith in our county and love our country - we cannot allow Mr. O’Leary to portray our country as an evil country.”

I concur with Mr. Gumo’s suggestion: “take the time to write a letter if you truly love our country,” but if you seeks to besmirch my patriotism, credibility, character or integrity, I’ll thoroughly respond to every negative comment in this newspaper and on my web site. Exceptionally odious letters will be posted on my web site for the public to scrutinize. Thus, ensuring that I didn’t take something out of context.

My position regarding good or evil was eloquently expressed in 1966, by Senator William Fulbright, who wrote 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.”

Mr. Gumo repeatedly makes our country the issue, and by making it the issue, he expects to divert attention and blame away from what was perpetuated, by the Bush regime and his lapdog Republicans. It was predictable, that not a single House Republican would vote for the stimulus package, because after the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Republicans remaining in the House represent very conservative red districts. They don’t have to worry about being reelected and they’ll do anything to obstruct Obama’s programs, because the voters they represent are mostly right wing zealots, who were delighted to hear Russ Limbaugh say: “I hope he fails.” 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 truth.

In the past, I’ve receive anonymous letter and phone calls, which to me is an indication, that the people writing those letters or making those calls lack confidence in their ability to publically articulate their position. I’m pleased to report that, since Mr. Gumo's letter was published, I have not received an anonymous letter or phone call.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Personal Attacks

In his letter, Mr. Gumo urged others to challenge the truthfulness and factual information that I’ve provided in my letters. He wrote: “We can no longer afford to allow Mr. O’Leary to distort the truth, falsify facts or publish misinformation about our government without challenging such writings.”

Mr. Gumo’s very lengthy letter, never once succeeded in demonstrating, that I “distorted the truth, falsify facts or published misinformation about our government.” His letter, which mentioned my last name 50 times was primarily devoted to personal attacks, and offering unsubstantiated opinions. He even resorted to condemning me for views, which I don’t actually hold. It’s no surprise, because when you don’t have the facts on your side it’s very difficult to write a thoughtful, logical letter of rebuttal.

He urged: “Make Mr. O’Leary explain to you why he does not think it relevant or important to the public that most every Obama nominated appointee is a lawbreaker.” Actually, I consider it very relevant and important, but a bit of an exaggeration.

Mr. Gumo insisted: “But, Mr. O’Leary has not written anything regarding the above misconduct of government officials but I am confident when and if he does, he will blame Bush for the misconduct of Frank, Dodd, Daschel, treasury secretary Geithner, Gov., Richardson and Rangel - it must be Bush’s fault according to Mr. O’Leary.” I’d never fault Bush for the alleged misconduct perpetrated by others, because there are so many more serious things to blame on him. Although, Gov. Richardson is under investigation, there is a legal requirement about having to be indicted by a grand jury and being found guilty by a jury. At least that is what occurred in the case of Scooter Libby.

Mr. Gumo wants readers to: “Make Mr. O’Leary explain why it is not of any importance to the public that Frank, Dodd, Geithner and Daschel are above the law and are not being prosecuted and penalized for failing to pay their taxes.”

I’ll admit, that I don’t know. Perhaps, the Justice Department has bigger fish to fry. Recently, Switzerland's UBS agreed to pay $780 million in fines as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors. The bank is outing clients attached to about 250 accounts that the Justice Department alleges were set up as shell entities in tax avoidance schemes. The bank admitted to violating regulations set under a treaty that requires banks to submit information about their U.S. clients' tax obligations.

However, I do know that people sometimes make honest mistakes on their income tax forms. A well known Delhi couple had filed accurate joint return tax forms for forty years, but two years ago, they were notified by the IRS that they had made a mistake of over $1,000. Although, I totally agree with Joe Biden: “It is patriotic to pay your taxes,” I can’t begrudge that couple for accepting a tax refund, after making a mistake in favor of our government.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Borders on Stupidity

Mr. Gumo wrote: “Frank and Dodd jeopardized the financial security of our county offering the ‘American dream’ of home ownership to persons they knew could never afford to pay for such homes - but then again, those new home owners were ‘voters’ who would be beholding to Frank and Dodd for making the dream come true, even if the dream lasted until they defaulted on their loans. Their misconduct was not just negligent, it borders on criminal and they should be be held accountable - what has Mr. O’Leary said about the financial crises?”

I’ve suggested that everyone go to the library and check out the Feb. 23, 2009 issue of “Time” magazine. An article lists 25 people, who financial experts consider most responsible for the current financial crises. Rep. Frank and Senator Dodd’s names don’t appear on that list, and it “borders on” stupidity to believe that they were major architects of this global economic meltdown.

Mr. Gumo claims: “Frank and Dodd were warned as long as FOUR years ago, by many financial experts including Sen. McCail (sic) that the lending practices being practiced by Fanny Mae and Mac, which Frank and Dodd, controlled were going to cause a disaster.”

There are two very relevant details, that Mr. Gumo’s claim fails to explain:

1. After 12 years of Republican rule Democrats won control of the House in Nov. of 2006. Consequently, Barney Frank didn’t become Chairman of the Financial Services Committee until Jan. 2007, which was TWO years ago.

2. 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 Jan. 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.

The Bush administration and congressional Republicans have always been about trusting market forces and avoiding government intervention in the economy. The Associated Press has pointed out that that philosophy ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bunch of Thieves

Mr. Gumo wrote: “Lets face it, we have a bunch of thieves holding office in Washington, and surely they are not just democrats-”

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

In June of 2007, Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, was indicted on charges of bribery, money laundering and misusing his congressional office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated: “If these charges are proven true, they constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of public trust and power.” She stripped him of his seat on the Small Business Committee. On election day, the voters of Rep. Jefferson’s Louisiana congressional district corrected their mistake and ousted him from Congress.

By over generalizing: “we have a bunch of thieves holding office in Washington,” Mr. Gumo provides voters with an excuse to stay home and not participate in the democratic process. Eligible voters, who don’t vote get the government they deserve. In the 2004, presidential election, more than 78 million Americans who were eligible to vote stayed home on election day. It’s estimated that Bush received just 30.8 percent of the total eligible voters.

Congress is only partly to blame for the multitude of problems, we face in this country. Most Americans are pitifully uninformed or misinformed and they deserve part of the blame. Uninformed voters don’t read the diverse opinions expressed in letters to the editors of newspapers, and tend to limit themselves to those television news and talk radio programs, which agree with the political views they’ve held for decades. Uninformed voters get the government they deserve, while informed, pragmatic voters suffer the consequences of their information deficit.

Members of Congress must be pragmatic in order to get reelected. Any incumbent, who votes against military appropriation to build fighter jets in their congressional district’s Boeing plant, would be defeated in the next election.

Republicans are very unhappy, because two years ago Democrats took control of both the House and Senate, and have now won the White House. However, the Democratic majority in the Senate is meaningless, because 60 votes are needed to get anything done. Consequently, Republicans have decided to be obstructionists even if it destroys our nation’s economy.

Rush Limbaugh diddohead Tom Sears, a right wing columnist for The Oneonta Star referred to Senators Specter, Collins and Snow as: “three make - believe Republicans,” because they voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus plan. Obama had won their states and they realized that they no longer represented a very conservative red state. Those Republican Senators were being pragmatic, when they voted, but more importantly, they put country before party politics.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Impertinent Question

Mr. Gumo asked: “Did Mr. O’Leary demand that Obama’s administration identify who excused our new secretary from paying penalties? No.”

I’m hesitant to ask our Commander - Chief such an impertinent question, and risk being seen as “portraying us to be the worst country in the World,” but I'll ask that question, next time I see Obama having coffee at the “Bagel and Cream.”

Mr. Gumo might want to demand an explanation from Bush as to why he was on vacation for 1,020 days, during his presidency. It’s a fact that Bush didn’t keep us safe for 8 months. The Associated Press reported that 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, FBI agent John O’Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings. The controversial Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 entitled “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.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, CIA Director George Tenet was asked by Timothy Roemer, when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office, that Zacarias Moussaoui, who turned out to be 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.

Then Roemer asked Tenet if he mentioned this information 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.

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. It's a fact, that Bush took off 1,020 days, which is more than a third of his entire 8 year presidency. It is not merely my opinion.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Excellent Suggestions

Mr. Gumo wrote: “Mr. O’Leary is, in my opinion, an empty pen, with nothing but complaints to write about and no solutions.”

I do complaint a great deal, but a reasonable degree of introspection might allow Mr. Gumo to recognize that we are both accomplished complainers.

Mr. Gumo is to be commended for suggesting: “If all our elected officials had the public’s interest at hear (sic) during this crisis, then they should be the first to take a 25% cut voluntarily in their pay.”

Does this include local elected officials? However, I’m very doubtful that a voluntary cut will ever happen locally or nationally. Three years ago, I wrote many members of Congress suggesting that all pay raises for members of Congress require a corresponding percentage increase in the minimum wage. Former Senator Clinton was the only one to response. She wrote: “I am proud to have introduced the “Standing with Minimum Wage Earners Act” in the 109th Congress, a bill to mandate that every time Congress gives itself a raise in the future that Americans earning the minimum wage get a raise as well.  This is the right and fair thing to do for hardworking Americans.”

I like Mr. Gumo’s second suggestion, also: “Their expressed concerns about medical coverage could be resolved in a heart beat - just give the public the same unlimited medical coverage the officials and their families have and at the same cost- they pay nothing for their coverage.”

Obama said in his acceptance speech: “Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.”

President Obama and Mr. Gumo agree that it’s time to restore faith that America works for all our people, not just the rich and powerful. It’s time for Congress to reject the economic injustice that divides our people, and weakens our country. It’s time for Congress to be a strong voice for the powerless and provide health care for working families.

I’m suggesting that we watch, which members of Congress vote against Obama’s efforts to get the type of healthcare Mr. Gumo suggested and never vote for that politician again.