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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Very Little Change

Dragging out the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, by George S. McGovern.

“President Obama holds my admiration with high hopes for his message of change in Washington. It is puzzling, however, that he has adopted most of the previous administration's formula for dragging out the withdrawal of our troops from the mistaken war in Iraq for nearly three more years. Very little ‘change.”

“Three years ago, public opinion polls indicated that a majority of Americans believed our policymakers were wrong in ordering troops into Iraq. It is widely accepted that this sentiment more than any other factor in the 2006 congressional elections resulted in Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.

“Are we now going to ignore for another three years the public mandate of 2006 against this costly, preemptive war based on deceit? And how can we justify putting thousands more U.S. troops into Afghanistan? We have already exhausted our treasury. We are also close to exhausting our soldiers.

“Can there be any doubt that the enormous war cost has contributed to the financial crisis here at home? The expense of waging two Middle East wars, plus the loss of revenue caused by the previous administration’s tax cuts, have skyrocketed the national debt to a record high. Do we ever consider what the interest alone is on our $10-trillion national debt -- much of it paid to China?

“Frankly, we cannot afford a two-war commitment year after year if we want to balance the federal budget and restore our economy. The huge bonuses that directors of failing corporations have awarded themselves and their chief executives have rightfully angered people, but those figures are peanuts compared with the $12 billion a month we have poured into Iraq and Afghanistan over the last six years.

“Has either the great God above or his creatures here below designated us to run the Middle East? What do we say to the Iraqi people who have indicated overwhelmingly in several polls that they want U.S. troops out of their country now? Why would we not understand this sentiment considering that our military equipment has smashed Iraqi homes, public buildings and infrastructure, including electricity and running water?

“Of course, the most painful cost of these wars is the deaths of more than 4,200 brave American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. This is to say nothing of the decline of our political judgment and moral standing in the world.

“The Obama administration recommends we leave 50,000 troops in Iraq to ‘police’ that troubled country through 2011. There may well be flare-ups that will keep them there indefinitely, struggling to police the war-induced chaos.

“In June 1950, President Truman ordered our troops into Korea, stating it would only be a brief police action that did not require a declaration of war. Three years later and after 38,000 American soldiers had been killed, the new American president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of Allied forces in World War II, promptly ended our involvement in the Korean War, to the relief of our combat soldiers and the American public.

“Unfortunately, Washington left 40,000 American soldiers behind to police the 38th Parallel -- for a brief time. Yet, more than 50 years later, nearly 30,000 American troops are still in South Korea. So much for brief police actions.

“Our policymakers in Washington contend that we must maintain U.S. troops in the Middle East to curb terrorism. I strongly believe that it is our military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East that is driving terrorism against the United States. No country that longs for national sovereignty wants a foreign army in its midst. We taught that lesson to the British Empire in 1776 when George Washington and his ragtag guerrilla army drove the British military from our shores.

“My generation has lived through half a dozen wars, beginning with World War II and then Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and several smaller conflicts. The only one of those wars I really believed in and still do was the U.S. participation in World War II, in which I served as a combat bomber pilot against Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

“I believe we aging veterans have an obligation to share what we have learned with the American people and with our young president, who seems open to well-meant suggestions.

“In that spirit, I urge President Obama to bring our troops home from the Middle East this year. A good target date for completing an orderly withdrawal from two ill-conceived and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be Thanksgiving 2009.

“For our sake and God's sake, let's get out of there and begin healing our own bankrupted land.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Torture Memos

There’s been a lot of criticism that President Obama actually compromised national security by releasing Bush-era memos on interrogation techniques. Therefore, the president went to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. to saying to the employees of the CIA, that he supports them, but America needs an intelligence service that is not only good, but better than it has been.

Many Americans believe that it was a mistake to release the Justice Department documents authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, but the evidence shows many people knew what was in those documents in terms of their basic nature. Those interrogation techniques had never been used by the CIA until after 9/11, because those techniques had never shown to be of value.

The former CIA director, General Hayden claimed: “The facts of the case are that the these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.”

Most interrogation experts predict, that the evidence that has come out and the evidence that could come out in the coming months will shows that those techniques were not successful, in obtaining information, that might have been gotten through more traditional methods.

Presently, we have some transparency, but accountability is going to be much more difficult. The current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein of California plans to have an investigation. They’re going to look at, which techniques worked and which techniques didn’t work. We’ve seen “enhanced” interrogation techniques, that were tried over the objections of the FBI and many others, who had a great deal of experience regarding what works.

Leon Panetta, the new CIA director recommended against releasing those documents, but we have got to at least show what happened. Obama may not cross the line to push for prosecutions, and without his support, we’re probably not going to get anything that looks like justice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Clean Energy

In his endorsement of Barack Obama, Al Gore said: “The future is ours not to predict, but to create. But make no mistake, we need to change our policies on climate. Not too many years from now, the next generation will look back at the decision we make this coming November and the policies we put in place in January of next year. Were we to ignore the warnings of the scientists around the world and look the other way as the entire North polar ice cap melts before our eyes and the consequences we’ve been warned about unfolded, our children might then well ask, what were they thinking?”

According to Sam Parry, Director of Online Membership and Activism Environmental Defense Fund, Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator has issued a proposed ruling that global warming pollution “endangers” Americans’ health and well-being. Her action sets the stage for using authority under the Clean Air Act to establish national emission standards for large global warming emitters.

Environmental Defense Fund’s deputy general counsel Vickie Patton said: “The U.S. is taking its first steps as a nation to confront climate change. EPA’s action is a wake up-call for national policy solutions that secure our economic and environmental future.”

The EPA is now expected to begin developing national emission standards for new motor vehicles and new coal-fired power plants, the nation’s two largest sources of global warming pollution.

The announcement comes as Congress prepares to take its own historic steps toward enacting a cap on global warming pollution. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin hearings on comprehensive energy and climate legislation and move quickly to a vote on the bill. Chairman Henry Waxman has committed to moving the American Clean Energy and Security Act out of committee by Memorial Day, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she intends to bring the bill to the House floor this year.

President Obama has insisted, that one place where investment would make an enormous difference is in a renewable energy policy. He wants to end our addiction on foreign oil, provide long-term relief from high fuel costs, and builds a green economy that could create up to five million well-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Not Alone

I’ve received the following information from Brandon Friedman and I’m spreading the word.

“‘War is the thread that binds, even as it unravels.’ -- Scott Kesterson, veteran and war reporter.

“Today we’d like to tell you about an important new project that has the potential to both change the way veterans communicate and to revolutionize the treatment of combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s called Not Alone, and this is what it’s all about: 

“Mike Jones was back home for almost a year when he started to wonder why the problems weren’t going away. He wondered why he couldn’t drive down the road without his heart racing, why he could still hear the echo of chatter on the tactical radio in his head, and why the dreams wouldn’t stop. ‘I can do this,’ Mike said to himself. ‘I survived war. I can defeat this.’

“Yet there he was, angry and bitter a year after his second tour.  He was alone.  For the first time in his life, something was defeating him.  Mike’s body and his mind were still on patrol.  He just wasn’t deployed anymore.

“It doesn’t have to be like that. Not Alone is a community, by warriors and spouses and for warriors and spouses, created to help find the new normal after the war.  It lets warriors and spouses anonymously talk about their problems through forums, social networking and blogs. Here you can find others that have gone through exactly what you have gone through.  And soon you will be able to find expert help here too.

“You can help and find help at Not Alone in three ways...
1. Listen to stories of other VoteVets.org members such as Brandon Friedman and Kayla Williams, as they discuss what war is like and what they faced in coming home. Hear how they’ve begun to rebuild their lives after the devastation of war.  Or hear how spouses like Michelle Briggs and Marshele Waddell picked up the pieces after their husbands returned with deep wounds, visible and not. 
2. Sign up now!  Join the community.  Find support and be supported in the forums. 
3. Donate either time or money to tackle the issues that combat stress are placing on our warriors and families today.  Rand, in their groundbreaking 2007 study, estimates that over 300,000 families are dealing with combat stress and post-traumatic stress.

“Most importantly, you can spread the word. Tell others about Not Alone.”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Going Forward

David Walker the former U.S. Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office considers it an encouraging sign that seven banks are paying back $467 million in TARP money. 

However, he points out, that some banks were encouraged to take TARP money that didn’t really need the money.  In some cases, they didn’t even want the TARP money, but they were getting it at a very low, and the Treasury Department didn‘t want there to be a negative inference on people who took it.

Other banks want to pay back Tarp money, because they don’t want to be subject to the executive compensation limits. 

Many of the mainstream banks and the middle market banks are doing very well, because they didn’t do a lot of the dumb speculation, that many of the bigger banks did. 

Walker believes that Obama recognizes that small business will grow this economy faster than anything else.  He describes Obama as a leader, who communicates with the American people and is trying to move on multiple fronts at the same time.

He concludes: “I think the president is doing a number of things to try to help us in the short term.  He’s talking some words about the need to deal with our structural problems and to make some tough choices, and not kick the can down the road, but he doesn’t have a plan yet. 

“We need a plan.  We need a special process, a fiscal future commission, or something that will engage the American people, that will set the table for Congress to be able to take a tough vote on things like budget control, Social Security, health care, and tax reform.  We need to do all of those things if we want to maintain economic growth going forward.” 

In March of 2007, as Comptroller General David Walker insisted that our government can’t keep its promises for Social Security and Medicare, because it's too late to reformed our entitlement system. The official national debt figure was approaching $9 trillion, which merely reflected what the federal government owed in current debts on money already borrowed. It didn’t reflect what the federal government has promised to pay millions of Americans in entitlement benefits down the road.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Senator Gillibrand

Did you know that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks Mandarin? Or that she was an Asian Studies major and traveled to India with her mother to meet and interview the Dalai Lama? Other thing about her that will surprise you:

1. Kirsten was the first Member of Congress ever to post her daily schedule, financial disclosure statement and earmark requests on-line.

2. After the tragic death of a Brooklyn high school student, Kirsten has pledged to write the nation’s first comprehensive bill to deal with illegal gun trafficking.

3. She is 100% pro-choice. She believes strongly that women, their families and their doctors must make their own decisions.

4. Kirsten won an endorsement from EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to electing progressive, pro-choice Democratic women.

5. She has earned a 100% rating from the ACLU during the 111th Congress. Throughout her career, she’s consistently voted against torture, illegal wiretapping, school vouchers, and disability discrimination.

6. Kirsten supports closing the Guantanamo Bay prison because it’s the right thing to do. She believes, as President Obama does, that we do not have to choose “between our safety and our ideals.”

7. She is a strong supporter of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.  As senator, she will vote to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In the House, she voted to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and supports counting gay couples in the 2010 census.

8. Because she believes in keeping New Yorkers healthy, Kirsten voted to regulate tobacco through the FDA and to increase taxes on cigarettes in order to pay for children’s health insurance.

9. She ran the New York City marathon.....Twice.  Her best time was under four and a half hours.

10. Kirsten supports President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

These are just a few of the things that show how Kirsten has proven herself to be a dedicated public servant and a tireless advocate for the people of New York. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Peter Johngren

On 4/15/09, senior citizen, Peter Johngren of Hartwick had the following factual letter published in The Oneonta Star:

“It is hard to believe that Barack Obama was sworn in less than three months ago. Yet to this American, the change is nothing short of amazing. From aggressively attacking our economic problems to repairing our image abroad, President Obama has begun to restore our national identity.

“In eight years the Bush administration got us into a war that was totally unnecessary, deregulated our financial system, leading to the worst recession in decades, brought about a culture of corruption on Wall Street that saw the pilfering of people’s savings, investments and retirement funds, and sold off our values as Americans by pushing torture, discrimination against gays, the contamination of science by religion, and the destruction of the environment.

“The Obama administration has taken steps to get the economy back on its feet, has separated science from religious domination in the area of stem cell research, reintroduced the notion of regulating financial institutions, ordered the closing of Guantanamo, and restored at least some of our credibility abroad by completely changing the way we approach the rest of the world. It must come as an absolute shock to other countries that the United States wants to listen rather than lecture, wants to collaborate rather than dominate, wants to be partners rather than a controlling parent.

“And there are other signs of hope as well. Vermont just became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage, after, of all places, Iowa _ Iowa, in the veritable heartland! Sure, that means 46 states to go for the establishment of full civil rights for gay people, but progress is like that. It is slow, it is painful, but it is inexorable.

“Barack Obama has set high ideals for these United States _ but isn't that just what we needed most?”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Colin Wilcox

On 4/10/09, eleven year old, Colin Wilcox of Fly Creek had the following letter published in The Oneonta Star:

“I have been thinking about the effects of war on the economy and people’s lives in the United States. With all the money spent on war, everybody in the United States could have fully paid health care and still have money left over so that every child, if qualified, could attend college for free.

“War is a big business. Defense contractors such as Halliburton and others make large profits, while others suffer physically, financially and emotionally. We have used more than $845 billion on the wars and related costs in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of 2008.

“More important than losing money, we are losing lives of both Americans and people of the Middle East. There have been reports of more than 133,346 casualties. That means 133,346 families that have been devastated because one or more of their family members has been killed in a war that didn’t have to happen.

“Some say that trying to avoid violence is cowardly and that we are making terrorists stronger by not always showing them overwhelming force. However, these wars are making as many new terrorists as we destroy. Violence brings nothing but more violence.

“Maybe there is another way of handling our disagreements. What if we disagree on a subject? Should we shoot each other over it? Should we slug it out? What will this accomplish? Nothing.

“If everyone tried to compromise and discuss their differences, we would have much less sorrow and death. Unlike in the movies or video games, real violence and real death are not cool or exciting. They are just sad and pathetic.

“My generation has a chance to make this world a better place. We should try and understand each other's differences and solve problems through compromise.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Extremist Groups

A Homeland Security report stated: “Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves in small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.  In addition, the historical election of an African-American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for right-wing extremist recruitment and radicalization.”

Conservatives aren’t buying it. Rush Limbaugh’s reaction was: “This is an effort to criminalize political dissent -- standard ordinary, everyday political dissent.... We are not extremists. They are the extremists.”

Conservative radio talk show host, Roger Hedgecock insisted: “If the Bush administration had done this to left-wing extremists, it would be all over the press as an obvious trampling on the First Amendment rights of folks and dissent.”

Actually, in January, there was a warning about left-wing extremists. It was issued by the Obama administration, but both reports were begun under President Bush. Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano responded: “We do not exist to infringe, impinge or invade anybody’s Constitutional rights of free speech, of free assembly or anything else like that. We exist to protect the country against the homeland consistent with the United States Constitution. And so in there is where that product was created and what it was designed to do.”

Right-wing extremist groups could exploit fears about the economic downturn, gun control and the election of an African-American president to attract new recruits. Furthermore, groups dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration, may fall within the definition of extremists.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks extremist groups, and their Intelligence Project Director, Mark Potok warned: “The election of Obama certainly has played, for these groups in the last six, seven, eight months.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s statement, that right-wing extremists may try to radicalize disgruntled veterans to exploit their military knowledge upset some people, and Secretary Napolitano regrets that the report was interpreted as an insult to veterans. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget that Army veteran Timothy McVeigh, was incited by hate speech.

The president of Air America Radio, Mark Green believes, that conservatives are exaggerating molehills into mountains. He cites a surge in purchases of guns an ammunition, the recent shooting of three Pittsburgh police officers by a man reportedly influenced by racist ideology and fears of gun confiscations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Secession

President Barack Obama stated: “We need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So, I’ve already started by asking Paul Volcker and my economic recovery board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code and to report back to me by the end of this year.  It’s going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes.

Republican Governor, Rick Perry of Texas, seems to prefer anarchy to tax reform. In false outrage over federal tax dollars, Perry told “teabaggers” in Austin, that if any in the crowd were right-wing extremists: “I’m with you....We are sending a very clear message that we won’t stand for our pockets to be picked, our children’s futures to be mortgaged, and our rights to be taken away.”

Governor Perry stopped short of endorsing secession, but later told reporters that Texans might at some point get so fed up that they would want to secede. While he spoke, there were several shouts from the audience of “secede.” Secession has been tried before and hundreds of Americans died.

Over 10 years ago, Texas saw a separatist movement called the “Republic of Texas.” The leader of that movement, Rick McLaren took a group of followers out to the Davis Mountains Resort into west Texas. It ended up in a week-long standoff with the police. There was a gunfight and people died. Today, Rick McLaren is serving life in prison.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Catholic University

Recently, Lawrence O’Donnell and Pat Buchanan faced off on MSNBC’s Hardball over President Barack Obama's invitation to deliver the commencement speech at Notre Dame. Many Catholics, including 10 Notre Dame priests, have protested the invitation because of the president’s position on abortion.

Both O’Donnell and Buchanan are Catholic, but they disagreed on whether or not Obama should speak at a Catholic University. The debate got heated when O’Donnell pointed out that former President George W. Bush was invited to speak at the school, despite the fact he supported the death penalty and launched the Iraq war, against the wishes of the Pope. O’Donnell went so far as to say this was a “fake controversy, run by religious fanatics.”

O’Donnell pointed out: “This is the same university that invited George W. Bush, this is the same religion that stands in adamant contradiction to the death penalty. This is the same religion, whose head, the Pope, plead personally with not to launch an unprovoked invasion and war in Iraq ... That same president, George W. Bush, who used the death penalty more than anyone who has ever been in the Oval Office, that president was welcomed at Notre Dame with none of these objections.”

O’Donnell continued by blasting Buchanan for supporting the double standard and condemning abortion but defending George W. Bush’s position on the death penalty, in contradiction to his Catholic beliefs.

Larry O’Donnell asked Pat Buchanan: “Can you identify a theological principle in which you believe that the Catholic church knows ... that the killing of a fetus is worse that the killing of an adult? Can you identify that Pat, because it doesn't exist ... You are lying about what the Catholic Church position is. You have to agree with me right now that the Catholic Church is opposed on moral grounds every single use of the death penalty that this country has ever done.”

In “Our Endangered Values” Jimmy Carter writes that characteristics of fundamentalism are: rigidity, domination, and exclusion. He points out: “Fundamentalist movements are led by authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others and have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women and to dominate their fellow believers.”

If Notre Dame University withdraws their invitation, they’ll be demonstrating to the entire world that the Catholic religion is not that much different than the Evangelical Christian religion.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Peace and Security

Since 1962, the Council for a Livable World has been one of the most effective organizations working in Washington, D.C., to advocate the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and primacy of diplomacy to settle international conflict.

Recently, they were delighted to hear Barack Obama give one of the most significant speeches of the nuclear age. Obama stated, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it ... I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The neo-conservatives who brought us the Iraq war are again shirking any responsibility for the two wars that they’ve left Obama. They’ve returned to the opinion pages to ridicule the President’s plan before he has even begun the process of carrying it out.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Obama of adopting “a fantasy foreign policy.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page labeled the President “The Nuclear Illusionist.”

Neo-con guru William Kristol wrote that Obama’s vision is a utopian fantasy comparable to that practiced in 1939 at the advent of World War II.

We have the best chance in decades to make serious progress toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons, but the neo-cons are unrelenting in their attacks.

Unquestionably, succeeding will be a major challenge, because treaties, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Republican support will be crucial to passage, but the neo-cons that have crippled the Republican party are working hard to undermine support for Obama’s plan. They’ve demonstrated that they’re very skilled at fighting dirty, but still can’t win elections

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gutting Our Military

On the tarmac of an American military runway in the war zone of Afghanistan, Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe accused President Obama of “gutting the military.”

Senator Inhofe said: “I can’t believe what we heard today. Here we are in Afghanistan right now, with our men and women in uniform, in harm’s way, and we hear an announcement we’re gutting our military. The only thing in the budget that’s being cut is the military.  The announcement today that we’re not going to be able to carry through with the responsibilities that we have to these guys right here in Afghanistan.  We owe it to these guys right here in Afghanistan.” On his website, Inhofe added that Obama is “disarming America” to support his welfare state.

Senator Inhofe represents a state in Congress, which stands to lose a lot of money if the Pentagon goes through its plan to cut the future combat system that Oklahoma’s connected to. 

We have to realize that this is all part of a pattern, that Cheney and Giuliani have come up with to make the case that America is less safe with President Obama.  Inhofe’s claim, that it’s a military budget cut is absolutely false, because Obama’s military budget shows an increase of four percent. 

In announcing his budget plans, the Defense secretary, Gates, presented a new way of spending the Pentagon’s money, shifting money away from many traditional weapons systems, focusing it instead on more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans in Congress are falsely mischaracterizing, the shifting of priorities, as making cuts to the military’s budget. In the final year of the Bush administration, the defense budget was $513 billion; in fiscal 2010, it will be $534 billion.  That is an increase of $21 billion, which is not a cut. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Devil We Know

Many Americans have been convinced that Iran is a medieval throwback, that harbors an irrational hated for the West. We’ve been told Iranians are “Islamofascists,” and are lumped in with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Some have assumed that the Iranian regime will one day, collapse under the weight of the twenty-first century.

Therefore, it’s not surprising, that we’ve missed how Iran has evolved over the last thirty years. It has modernized, and has abandoned both terrorism and Khomeini’s revolution. Iran is still part of the Islamic fundamentalism, that has attempted to eradicated the last vestiges of a secular Middle East. However, it’s a reasonable government, that is methodically pursuing its national interests.

Scratch away the veneer of Islam, and what you find is old-fashioned nationalism and an intense defiance of colonialism. Iran has a taste for empire, which runs through Iranian society, even among the more secular Iranians. What drives Iran is the sense of entitlement, and what’s critical to understand is that Iran today has an unshakable belief in its right to empire. It intends to achieve this through proxy warfare and control over oil supplies.

Iran gained confidence, by beating the West in Lebanon, from 1982 to 2000, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah beat the Israelis on the field of battle, the first time Israel’s army had lost since the country’s founding in 1948. Israel claims it wasn’t defeated militarily in the conflict, that they lost only the will to fight and not the war. But in the 34-day Lebanon war in 2006, the Israeli army was in fact beaten. It retreated from Lebanon with heavy losses and without obtaining a single objective.

Iran’s star is rising and with a friendly Shiite government in Baghdad, it will rise a lot faster. The old Sunni order, which was the foundation of American interests in the Middle East is beginning to collapse.

In his most recent book, “The Devil We Know,” Robert Baer writes: “Watching Iran over the last thirty years has been a personal voyage for me. I was fortunate enough to live on the periphery I’m writing about; I witnessed first hand Iran’s seismic shift, its rise from anarchy to statist power. I saw Iran turn into a more conventional military power, one that perhaps cannot beat the United States in a traditional war but one that can make America’s long-term presence in the Middle East untenable. What it comes down to is this: Iran is the most powerful and stable country in the Middle East-a country the United States must either fight in a new thirty-year war or come to terms with.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Talk to Iran

A dialogue even with people that are thought of as enemies is a lot better than just not talking to them and shutting off any opportunity to try to communicate.  

After 9/11, the U.S. and Iran worked together in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the Afghan government. The Iranians had been fighting the Taliban long before we were. James Dobbins was Bush’s special envoy to Afghanistan and met with the Iranians several times a day. In the fall of 2001, during our military campaign in Afghanistan, Iran cooperated on the ground providing vital information and worked alongside the U.S. to establish the government of Hamid Karzai.

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

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

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

After 9/11, the American people responded to fear by voting for Bush in 2004. The Iranian people, responded to the fear of being attacked by the most powerful military on earth by replacing their moderate President Khatami with bellicose hard liner Ahmadinejad. Two bellicose hard liners don't solve problems in a rational, cooperative and mutually benefitial manner.

At Columbia University, last September President Ahmadinejad called for diplomatic relations to be increased between our two nations. Iran hates the Taliban and has enormous influence in the Middle East.  As president, Barack Obama should start by talking to Iran about their 2003 proposal.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wrong on Iran

Obama is moving tentatively to open up serious dialogue with Iran.

Robert Baer a legendary CIA field officer, who served most of his 21 year career in the Middle East. In the movie “Syriana” the covert Arabic-speaking CIA agent played by George Clooney is partly based on the exploits of Robert Baer. In his latest book, “The Devil We Know,” Baer argues that most American’s have it wrong on Iran. He suggests that a long term détente has to be negotiated that recognizes the reality of Iran’s dominance in the Middle East.

According to Baer: “Hasan Nasrallah’s secretary general of Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy... He’s told the Iranians over the year that he will do nothing, take no action, without clearing it with Tehran. ... and this goes back to 1982. Hezbollah is not an independent force in any sense of the word and a large part of Hamas answers to Tehran.”

America has a choice of starting another 30-year of undeclared war with Iran, or negotiating a détente in which America essentially withdraws from the region. Our policy of containment of Iran has failed because we’ve been looking at the Middle East through Israel. Therefore, the Arabs and the Persians look at Israel as an outpost for the Americans.

Robert Baer claims that we’ve lost this anti-colonial game and the Iranians have won it. They’ve portrayed themselves not as religious fanatics, but as an anti-colonial power. Polls across the Middle East show that even countries, which are entirely Sunni, look to Iran, the home of the Shiites, as the great anti-imperial power. We’ve lost the ideological war, but we can normalize relations in the Middle East, by bringing Iran to the negotiating table; implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 242.* If Israel closes the settlements in the West Bank; they’ll find themselves in a position where they don’t have to bomb Gaza.

Iran is a military dictatorship and Khomeini is the supreme leader. He is not actually an Ayatollah, but he controls the military, the intelligent service, the prosecutors and the police force. We need to talk to him, because any military conflict can be negotiated, it’s the ideological conflicts that cannot be negotiated. Ahmadinejad is only relevant to the economy. He controls a lot of ministries, but often isn’t even invited to meeting of the Iranian security council.

Robert Baer believes: “The nuclear weapons is a red herring in this conflict with Iran because the Iranians are not going to build and test a bomb now, because there would be an international embargo and sanctions, which would cause Russia and China would back away. A nuclear bomb is just a way to get us to the negotiating table.... If the Iranians wanted to commit suicide, they could have done it long ago by starting a war in the Gulf with the United States. And they’re not going to start a war with Israel either.”

* footnote: In 1967, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 242, calling for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shooting Gallery

We’ve repeatedly heard that we have been fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that we will not have to face them in the streets of our own cities. Richard Clarke author of “Against All Enemies” describes this as Bush’s puppy dog following us home theory of terrorism.

We are expected to believe that terrorists have chosen to adhere to a rule of only one slaughter ground at a time. Nothing that is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan prevents terrorist from attacking us on American soil. The evidence is that our presence in Muslim countries motivates people throughout the Arab world to become terrorists.

An estimate of more than 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq was confirmed in a poll by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business. This is consistent with the study conducted by doctors and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Their study was published in the Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal. It estimated 601,000 people killed due to violence as of July 2006; but if updated on the basis of deaths since the study, the estimate would be more than a million. These estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by the war.

We have ignored the more urgent task of guarding our homeland against terrorism and missed an opportunity to systematically dismantle al Qaeda all over the world. Attacks on our soil are likely no matter what happens in Iraq, because of what Bush has already done. When the next attack is made on America, you can depend on Bush’s former supporters blaming Obama, by claiming that if enough troops were left in the shooting gallery of Iraq and Afghanistan, that the attack wouldn’t have happened.

Critics of our foreign policy argue that our national security rests in a policy that stops making America the object of hatred throughout the world. In 2003, an opinion survey found that people around the world viewed America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified use of military force in order to control global oil supplies. It’s not surprising that an oil rich nation like Iran might want to develop a nuclear weapon to deter us from invading them for oil, as we did Iraq.

In 2001, bin Laden said: “This is a defensive Jihad. We want to defend our people and territory we control. This is why if we don’t get security, the Americans will not be secure either.” Michael Scheuer is certain that: “al Qaeda will attack the continental U. S. again, that its next strike will be more damaging than 9/11.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Greed

More than 50 years ago, Iran was establishing a government, which was close to a democracy. Mohammad Mossadegh a benevolent and incorruptible hero of Iranian history was unhappy that most of the profits, from the 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 percent 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 to disrupted the government of Iran, a coup was financed and led by President Dwight Eisenhower’s CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader. We trained the Shah’s goon squads, and angered generations of Iranians for meddling in their nation’s affairs.

On the morning of 9/11/01, Richard Clarke, took charge of the White House situation room and has reported that within hours of the attack on 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld was suggesting Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked us was there, but because it offered “better targets” than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan. Iraq, also offered significant oil reserves.

On 3/19/03, we invaded Iraq, and it has turned out to be worst foreign policy mistake in a generation. We were told that the goal of invading Iraq was to disarm Saddam, and take away the weapons of mass destruction. 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. The real mission has finally been accomplished.

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

The end of the war in Iraq is in sight, because Obama has set 12/31/11, for the withdrawal of all military troops from Iraq. However, as our troops leave Iraq, we should not be sending them into Afghanistan, because occupation breeds resistance. Sending our troops into Afghan homes and bombing civilians 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 can’t recognize that overthrowing other governments whose actions we perceived as jeopardizing American business interests is the lowest form of human behavior. Not because it was preemptive war, but because it was another avarice war against an oil rich Muslim country.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

External Interference

A second definition of freedom is: "exemption from external control, interference, regulation." In 1953, the people of Iran discovered that they were not “exemption from external control and interference.”

As a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Congressman Ron Paul shocked many Americans, by pointing out that terrorists were not freedom hating madmen, but had been motivated to commit their crimes on 9/11.

Rep. Paul said: “When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

The CIA’s term “blowback” is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of it’s activities, which are kept secret from the American people. By installing the Shah to power in Iran, the CIA brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression upon the Iranian people. That covert operation helped convince many people throughout the Islamic world that America was its mortal enemy.

The suicidal assassins of 9/11, didn’t attack America, as our political leaders and the mainstream news media insist; they attacked our foreign policy. They utilized the strategy of the weak by killing innocent bystanders. Terrorist strike at the innocent in order to draw attention to the wrongdoing of our invincible leadership. Usually, those that seek revenge against America don’t have a chance of success. However, on those rare occasions that the strategy of terrorism does succeed, such as on 9/11, it renders our overwhelming military force worthless.

Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are “a beacon for freedom” and because the attackers were “evil” and “this is civilization’s fight.” The abstract values such as a “clash of civilizations” is a way of evading responsibility for the blowback that America’s imperialism has generated.

Eventually, a mushroom cloud may appear over a major city in America and it will be known as “payback” throughout the Islamic world.

Next, why the CIA installed the Shah to power.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Waging War

I've been told: “Your freedom is because of the war.” After 9/11, our national leadership and most Americans were eager to wage war. In part, it was because superpatriots are always ready to follow our national leader without questions, especially when it involves the use of military force. Michael Parenti’s “Superpatriotism” points out: “We are told that during times of crisis we must trust the president. Democracy is not about trust; it’s about distrust, accountability, public exposure and responsible government.”

Long ago America’s foreign policy, became an insidious, coercive force around the globe. Legendary Marine Corps officer, Major General Smedley Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In 1933, he delivered a speech stating: “War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini’s opinion of war was quite different. Mussolini claimed: “And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

It’s true that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not unlike Mussolini’s Italy, America’s wealthy elite covet the assets of weaker nations and historically have been allowed to use our military to gain an economic stranglehold on the natural resources of weaker nations.

Instead of money going to serve the needs of a weaker nation’s poor, it flows into the coffers of American corporations. We had the highest standard of living on the planet as a direct result of imperialism, but on 9/11, we paid the price. Unfortunately, many Americans only learn to hate on that day, and nothing else.

War in Iraq has weakened America militarily, economically, and morally. Our economy is in shambles, and still the occupation of Iraq drags on. Iraqi oil is considered to more valuable than hundred of thousands of dead Iraqis or the lives of brave Americans who have sacrificed so much for the benefit of American corporations.

Is it really one’s patriotic duty to serve the interests of such a dysfunctional government, or corporate America?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Freedom and War

Recently, at a Delhi peace vigil a young man lowered his truck window and yelled: “Your freedom is because of the war.”

The dictionary definition of the word “freedom” includes: “the state of being at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.... exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.”

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

America is not “under physical constraints.” In fact, according to the Pentagon’s own 2005 inventory, we maintain a network of 737 American military bases around the world. Not including Iraq and Afghanistan, we station over half a million US troops, spies, contractors and dependents on military bases located in more than 130 countries.

Unrestrained imperialism and militarism have endanger both the financial and social well-being of America. Unfortunately, a decision to mount a campaign of imperial liquidation may already be too late, given the vast and deeply entrenched interests of the military-industrial-legislative complex.

America is considered by people around the world to be the source of the current global financial meltdown. We had a strong regulatory structure that came out of the depression and for 50 years, we had no real financial failures until the Reagan years and Republicans began deregulating our financial system. There is a need to rebuild our regulatory structure, and do it right so that we don’t repeatedly have financial disasters, which result in the continued destruction of the middle class.

History tell us that highly unequal societies tend to be highly corrupt. Furthermore, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to a democratic society.

Next, we’ll consider what some believe is the lowest form of human behavior.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Armed and Dangerous

Whenever, Minnesota, Rep. Michele Bachmann gets a hold of a microphone, she attacks President Obama.

She criticized Obama’s cap and trade plan, warning that it would have “the impact of forever changing our country.” Instead of merely opposing the legislation, Bachmann insisted: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and we the people are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.

We had a revolution, which was instigated by very wealthy slave owners and it resulted in a total of 618,000 Americans killed. More Americans died in our Civil War than in the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and on 9/11 combined.

Recently, on a Minnesota radio station the Republican congresswoman expressed her concern that Obama was trying to put in place “reeducation camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward...the youngsters would “then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.”

Rep. Bachmann claimed: “It’s under the guise of volunteerism. But it’s not volunteers at all. It’s paying people to do work on behalf of government... I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call reeducation camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.”

She made those remarks regarding the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 275 to 149 and the Senate, by a vote of 79 to 19. The program would expand national community service programs from 75,000 positions to 250,000.

FactCheck.org says the phrase: “mandatory service requirement” is nowhere to be found either in the House or Senate versions of the bill.  Furthermore, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch clarified this last month saying: “Nothing in this legislation is mandatory.  This bill simply provides more Americans more choices and opportunities to give back to their neighborhoods and their country, all through the means by which they so freely choose.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

TOO BIG

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wrote: “The ‘Masters of the Universe’ on Wall Street – through their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior – have plunged this country into a deep recession causing millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes, their savings and their hope for the future.  In order to fully understand the cause of this fiasco, I have introduced legislation calling for a thorough investigation of the financial meltdown and the prosecution of those CEOs who broke the law.  The culture of greed, fraud and excessive speculation must come to an end.

“In the midst of this financial disaster, one of the great frustrations that I hear from my constituents is that while taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions bailing out major financial institutions, and while these big banks are getting near-zero interest rate loans from the Fed, these very same financial institutions are now charging Americans 20 percent or 30 percent interest rates on their credit cards.  In fact, one-third of all credit card holders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20 percent and as high as 41 percent – more than double what they paid in interest in 1990.  Recently, some major institutions such as Bank of America have informed responsible cardholders that their interest rates would be doubled to as high as 28 percent, without explaining why the increase was taking place.

“Let’s be clear.  At a time when many Americans in the collapsing middle class use credit cards for groceries, gas and college expenses, what Wall Street and credit card companies are doing is not much different from what gangsters and loan sharks do when they make predatory loans.    While the bankers wear three-piece suits and don’t break the knee caps of those who can’t pay back, they are still destroying people's lives.”

Independent Senator Sanders insists: “We must break up behemoth corporations so no single company’s failure would bring down the rest of the economy with it.  If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. 

“We cannot allow banks that take taxpayer bailouts to turn around and charge credit card customers interest rates of 30 percent and more. It is time for a national usury rate like the 15 percent cap already in place by credit unions.

“We must rethink the function of Wall Street. It is time for business schools to educate a new generation of financiers and business people who will see that their role in society is to help this country, help create decent-paying jobs, and help people get the homes they need.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Most Irresponsible

Some Republicans have called Obama’s budget, with its spending on health care, education and the environment, the most irresponsible budget in history. Those critics ignore the fact, that he inherited a $1.3 trillion annual deficit from Bush.

Furthermore, in a recent book entitled:“The Three Trillion Dollar War," Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Linda Bilmes estimated that the true costs of the war in Iraq will eventually be more than three trillion dollars. Their studies includes both direct and indirect costs of the war.

The Congressional Budget Office says Obama’s budget will cost $9.3 trillion, but Obama claims that the main difference between his budget and what: “came out of Congressional Budget Office is assumptions about growth.” The CBO is assuming a growth rate of 2.2, but the White House is assuming a growth rate of 2.6, but those small differences end up adding up to a lot of money. Obama’s assumptions are consistent with what blue chip forecasters are saying.

The task for of balancing our budget will be impossible if we don’t take on rising health care costs and expand our growth rates by making the investments in our future. The most irresponsible thing, we could do is to do nothing. Obama has insisted failure is not an option.

No one know what’s going to happen six or eight years from now, but if the Obama administration doesn’t address our energy problems, improve our education system, drive down the costs of health care, make serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, our economy won’t grow.

Obama plans to invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology, creating millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced. He intends to expand access to early childhood education and improves schools by investing in programs that make sure every child has a qualified teacher.

The Obama administration intends to cut out wasteful spending in Medicare, change procurement practices to reduce the Pentagon budget, and eliminate social service and education programs that don’t work.

The most significant source of long-term deficits are the enormous health care costs for which we must find a solution. His budget 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 all Americans.


 

 

Monday, April 06, 2009

Reconciliation

Reconciliation is a powerful, 25-year-old procedural maneuver in the Senate, that allows for the passage of a budget by a simple majority vote rather than the usual 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing Senate colleagues to endorse the reconciliation procedure to fast-track their budget proposal, particularly funding for President Obama’s overhaul of health care policy.

The White House is considering the possibility of encouraging the Senate to use the parliamentary procedure, which would enable them to push their budget agenda through with 51 Senate votes instead of 60.

President George W. Bush used the procedure to push through his controversial tax cuts for the wealthy. Last November, voters changed the makeup of the Senate, to allow the Democratic majority to limit debate on an omnibus budget measure to a maximum of 20 hours and guarantee passage without Republican votes. At best Senate majority leader Harry Reid has 58 Democrats, and although he’d prefer a bipartisan budget, he recognizes that it’s highly unlikely.

The prospect of Democrats needing only 51 votes instead of 60 has Republican Senators infuriated. Republican Sen. Kit Bond Of Missouri claims: “This post-partisan time of Barack Obama, we’re seeing a little Chicago politics. They steamroller those who disagree with them and then I guess in Chicago they coat them in cement and drop them in the river.”

During the Bush administration, Sen. Bond and his Republican colleagues embraced the budget reconciliation maneuver. In 2001 and 2003, when they held the majority of seats in the Senate, they pass Bush’s tax cuts, and in 2005, Republican Senators used the budget reconciliation maneuver to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for domestic oil drilling.

When the Republicans were in the majority, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire defended the tactic by saying: “The president (Bush) asked for it, and we’re trying to do what the president asked for.” Now that Democratic Senators are thinking of using the same tactics, Republican Sen. Gregg says that the same tactic is: “regarded as an act of violence.”

It would be an act of stupidity for the Democrats not to use the maneuver, because a little Chicago politics, by Democrats is long overdue.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Glass-Steagall

As a result of that Great Depression, FDR and Congress put in place the Glass-Steagall Act to prevent future collapse. However, in 1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was passed and essentially gutted Glass-Steagall. It was advertised as historic legislation, which would enable American companies to compete in the new economy. Nearly every member of the Senate voted to allow large financial holding companies to merge with banks and insurance companies. The eight members of the Senate, who opposed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act couldn’t understand how their colleagues could have forgotten the painful lessons learned seven decades earlier.

Not unlike the culture of the 1920’s, the predominate culture in Congress had again become: “Wall Street knows best.” Consequently, huge financial holding companies, were allowed to bring significant risk to banks, as they began to gamble with investors money. Today, we again have a massive financial crisis, an economic collapse, which requires a massive taxpayer bailouts.

In its coverage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passing in 1999, the “New York Times,” quoted former Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas as writing: “We have a new century coming, we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall came at a time when the thinking was that government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.” Gramm sought to convince the American people, that we need to believe that government isn’t the answer, when in fact it’s the only answer.

After the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act pass, all those protections in the Glass-Steagall Act were stripped away and big banks were allowed to merge. Immediately thereafter, George W. Bush became president and hired regulators who weren’t interested in regulating. There was a new sheriff in town, and the sheriff was not interested in watching Wall Street.

America needs a select committee in the Senate with subpoena power that will provide factual information so that voters can understands what has occurred. We need a financial crimes prosecution in the Justice Department to work on restoring portions of the Glass-Steagall Act. We need to focus on how to put the financial system back together in a way that it doesn’t happen again.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tax and Spend!

Republicans have not produced a president in the past 34 years that has balanced a budget. Over the past 3 decades, they have practiced theories such as supply side economics, which have proven time and again that they can’t be trusted with taxpayers’ money. Of the past 12 presidents the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats. At the bottom of the list is Bush the elder, Bush the younger and Herbert Hoover. Since 1989, only Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus. President Bush squandered the budget surplus and created a record deficit.

In early 2005, Warren Buffett warned Lou Dobbs’ viewers: “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... Corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low.”

Obama’s been in office less than three months and the “Wall Street Journal” editorial page, conservative talk radio, Lou Dobbs, CNBC’s Cramer are all blaming this president.

Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration put people to work in 1935, and of every dollar paid to workers by the federal government, 98 cents of it went to purchase products that were made or grown in America. Getting out of this current economic recession/depression will be much more difficult, because unlike the 1930s, our unemployed are likely to spend their unemployment checks at Wal-Mart, and nearly half of that money may end up as a stimulus to the Chinese economy.

When Reagan came along we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods, the largest creditor and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. The consequence of Reaganomics has been that in just 28 years, we’ve become the largest importer of manufactured goods and exporter of raw materials, which is the definition of a third world nation.

Eight years ago, thirty percent of our national debt was held by foreign lenders. During, Bush’s presidency our national debt doubled, with foreign lending accounting for 80 percent of the increase. The quagmire in Iraq was by far the primary reason for the enormous increase in our national dept.

Borrowing and spending for an unnecessary war has jeopardizes our ability to stimulate this economy. Bring back tax and spend!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Restorative Justice

I believe it’s important to share this letter, that I've received from Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, because it offers a perspective seldom expressed in our corporate owned main steam media.

“Dear Jim,

“I am a card-carrying member of Jewish Voice for Peace because I believe Jews have a special role to play in bringing about a change in American and Israeli policy. The Israeli government claims to act in the name of the Jewish people. It is up to us to make sure the world knows that growing numbers of Jews, as well as our friends and allies, are opposed to Israeli actions we all know to be wrong.

“More importantly, as long as legitimate criticism of Israel is blocked by accusations of anti-Semitism, it is the responsibility of Jews committed to universal justice to speak up.

“Militarism destroys at a higher rate than the seeds of justice arise. Some think that those who speak out against Israeli militarism are putting the Jewish community in danger. I disagree. The struggle for restorative justice for the Palestinian people is what is needed for both peoples. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis can know security and peace without it.

“That is why now is not the time to moderate our demands, but to strengthen our demands for justice, to challenge the slowly changing status quo in Washington DC, and to build an outspoken movement dedicated to ending reliance on militarism as the answer to all of Israel’s deep-rooted challenges.

“In April, a large number of people of faith and conscience will raise our voices demanding an end to the use of US money to destroy Palestinian homes, build illegal settlements, and rain phosphorous on the heads of Gazan men, women and children. JVP is part of this effort, and you will hear more in the coming weeks.

“I am proud to be on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace because they are one of the most powerful voices I know leading the call for justice.

“We must find the inner courage to soften our hearts and seek an authentic peace based on justice and love for both Palestinians and Israelis. Joining Jewish Voice for Peace is a meaningful way to do that.”





 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Big Changes

Obama’s goal is to get banks lending to families and small businesses again. He’s trying to stabilize the economic and financial system, and get it back on track, so that he can move on the agenda items that he cares about most like expanding health insurance.

Recently, he said: “We believe that this is one more element that is going to be absolutely critical in getting credit flowing again.  It’s not going to happen overnight.  There’s still great fragility in the financial systems, but we think that we are moving in the right direction. And we are very confident that—in coordination with the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, other relevant institutions—that we are going to be able to not only start unlocking these credit markets but we’re also going to be in a position to design the regulatory authorities that are necessary to prevent this kind of systemic crisis from happening again.”

Once he gets things stabilize his task will be to get regulations in place, that ensure financial meltdowns don’t happen again. That is the most important part of Obama’s plans, which everyone should remember. He doesn’t appear to be a radical change agent.  Although, he’s in favor of change, when it comes to basically changing the whole concept of our capitalist economy he’s not likely to go there.

We had a strong regulatory structure that came out of the depression and for 50 years, we had no real financial failures until the Reagan years and Republicans began deregulating our financial system. There is a need to rebuild our regulatory structure, and do it right so we don’t have financial disasters, which leads to the destruction of the middle class. Internationally, America is correctly considered to be the source this financial meltdown. Therefore, Obama’s most important task is to rebuild our long-term financial structure.

A serious investigation into what went wrong on Wall Street is needed and a congressional panel with subpoena power is needed to oversee the bailout. Some in Congress insist that a bank that’s “too big to fail” means that it’s too big to function in a free market economy.

Insolvent banks that are too big to fail must incur a temporary FDIC intervention. Their CEOs and board members must be removed and bonuses wiped out. Those banks should be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Catch 22

A growing number of banks have been talking about returning their bailout money. Goldman Sacks is trying to find a way to pay back its $10 billion in TARP money as soon as next month. Goldman Sacks wish to return the money was prompted by the uproar over the AIG bonuses and fears of a spotlight on Goldman’s executive compensation.

The bailout of AIG was also controversial because AIG used TARP funds to bail out foreign financial institutions and other domestic financial institutions, including Goldman Sacks.

Actually, our government doesn’t want Goldman Sacks to return the money, because there could be some unintended consequences, when banks rush to return the money sooner than expected. The danger is that credit doesn’t get unfrozen, and those bank continue to hoard money.

Last October, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson insisted that JPMorgan Chase and some other financial institutions accept bailout money when they didn’t feel it wasn’t needed. Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson thought an all-in approach would encourage others who actually needed the assistance to get into the program without being tarnished with the notion that they were financially weakened.

If Goldman Sacks were to give back bailout money questions would arise, about the other firms that have gotten TARP money. And that could accelerate an erosion of confidence which has been one of the underlying problems all along. Thus, a catch 22 situation.

We’ve seen the backlash over the excessive AIG bonuses. Washington thought it had managed that problem, but it became a much bigger problem once it got beyond the beltway. One of the reasons Goldman Sacks is scrambling to give back that money is that their fighting a perception battle and trying to avoid having the American people begin to vilify their company the way some people at AIG feel they’ve been vilified.

Sometimes, the uninformed anger beyond the beltway makes solving a problem much more difficult than it should be.