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, June 30, 2009

History Lesson

On 6/16/09, Richard Averett of Otego had the following letter to the editor published in the Oneonta Star.

“Since 1945, the party that claims to support ‘small government’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’ actually spent more money and grew bigger governments than did Democratic presidents. In fact, Republican administrations (excluding Eisenhower) have outspent Democrats and driven up the national debt as a percentage of GDP by a whopping 3-to-1 ratio!

“When Reagan took office in 1981, the national debt was $930 billion, and when he left it had mushroomed to nearly $2.9 trillion, turning the largest creditor nation into the largest debtor nation in just eight short years. Reagan’s fiscal strategy was based on cutting taxes for the wealthy and increasing military spending while selling treasury bonds to foreign investors to pay the bills.

“Following in his mentor’s footsteps, George H.W. Bush ran up the national debt by almost $2 trillion, and until his son took office, he held the record for the largest annual budget deficit in U.S. history (more than $500 billion).

“In 1993, Clinton inherited a national debt of around $4.5 trillion and a budget deficit of $290 billion. By raising taxes on the wealthy (and cutting them for the middle-class and poor) and reducing military spending, the U.S. debt was cut by $360 billion and was $2.4 trillion less at the end of his presidency than had been projected when Clinton took office.

“When George W. Bush took the oath in 2001, he inherited a budget surplus of more than $230 billion with a national debt of around $5.6 trillion, and he immediately cut taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans by $630 billion, thus eradicating Clinton's surplus by year's end. Bush also raided Social Security to the tune of $150 billion to make the 2004 deficit appear smaller. By the end of Bush's presidency, the national debt had doubled to more than $10 trillion.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

The AMA

Historically, the American Medical Association has sought to block health care reform in this country.  The term socialized medicine, originated with the AMA, when they were trying to defeat FDR’s efforts to put medicine into the Social Security Act in the 1930s. 

In 1961, the group hired actor Ronald Reagan to be spokesman for their campaign to block Medicare. The script read: “My name is Ronald Reagan.  One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.  All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods.  And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.  Until one day we will awake to find that we have socialism.” 

Recently, President Obama spoke to the American Medical Association. He said: ”When you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: they’re not telling the truth.  What a public option will help do, is put affordable health care within reach for millions of Americans.” 

Sixty percent of doctors claim, that they support a public option for health insurance, and the AMA might come on board in favor of a public plan. However, most likely the public plan would have to be so watered down, that it would be ineffective. 

The clout of the AMA has greatly diminished, and it no longer represents the vast majority of the physicians worldwide. Some member of the AMA are so resentful of the fact, that their group continues to be against a public option that they’re thinking of quitting the organization. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Incited by Hate

In April, the extremism and radicalization branch of the Department of Homeland Security’s threat analysis division released its report on potential threats from right-wing extremists. That 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.”

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 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 (sic) consistent with the United States Constitution. And so in there is where that product was created and what it was designed to do.”

Nevertheless, Secretary Napolitano was called before the House Homeland Security Committee and ranking Republican, Peter King, demanded that she further apologize for the report about right-wing extremist. Hate filled rhetoric keeps ratcheting up, and we seem to have forgotten, that Army veteran Timothy McVeigh, was incited by hate speech. Reportedly, the recent shooting of three Pittsburgh police officers by a man influenced by racist ideology and fears of gun confiscations. In early June, we saw two fatal shootings in which the prime suspects were clearly motivated by extreme right-wing political views, which the Homeland Security report had warned about. The killing of a guard at the Holocaust Museum, by James Von Brunn and the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas could embolden others, who are already on the edge.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The American Way

Hugh Hewitt broadcasts on the right-wing Salem Radio Network. In “The Washington Examiner, he wrote: “I won’t buy a socialist cars which means I won’t be buying a GM or Chrysler. I won’t be visiting a GM or a Chrysler lot no matter the product offered. The very idea of a socialized American car company ought to cause millions of Americans to reject the idea of doing their car shopping at those venues.” 

Mr. Hewitt insists, that there’s only one answer for conservatives angry at Obama and the government for getting involved with the automobile industry, and that is a boycott.  Apparently, there is a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street, for Hewitt, who doesn’t mention the bailouts of financial institutions. He ignores Bush’s $700 billion TARP bailout of financial institutions, who were in fact responsible for banks not making car loans. Both GM and Chrysler received $17 billion in government help from the Bush administration, and asked for another $21 billion from the Obama administration. Obama insisted both companies go into bankruptcy to clear away old debt and restructure quickly.

Wall Street doesn’t care if our auto industry fails, because they can exploit the people of other countries, where they don’t have to deal with environmental regulations, unions, standards, an eight-hour work day. We have Americans across this country that used to be in industries, that made furniture, TVs, and appliances. Their jobs have been outsourced, because Wall Street CEO’s don’t mind making deals with communist and fascist dictators overseas. We should be promoting the American way, which stands for democracy, but Wall Street only cares about profits. They’re a bunch of greedy paper shufflers, who make more money by producing products offshore.

Republicans insist, that medical reform is socialized medicine, but every time a person without insurance goes to an emergency room the cost is socialized. The bogeyman term "socialized" was used by the Republican party more than a generation ago, and fortunately they failed in their attempts to prevent Democrats from passing Social Security and Medicare legislation. Today, the Republican party insists, we must not allow the government to come between you and your doctor. Presently, the insurance industry is between you and your doctor, and for 40 years, they’ve been milking consumers for millions of dollars, while denying claims.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Better Plan

The UN’s top official in Afghanistan has pointed out: “The war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and success is only possible through political means including dialogue between all relevant parties.”

Obama has announced a 10 year plan for Afghanistan, which includes an additional 21,000 U.S. military forces deployed in Iraq and diplomatic engagement of Pakistan. Unfortunately, he’s still trying to force political and social change through the Pentagon.

A better plan would be to focus on diplomatic cooperation and humanitarian aid, diminish civilian causalities by scaling back military force.

1. De-escalate troop levels in Afghanistan and 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. Withdraw all U.S. troops and foreign forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible;

4. Commit to negotiated diplomatic talks involving all major regional players, including major international peacekeeping bodies; and,

5. Address the real needs of Afghans, which include healthcare, clean water, education, and security.

Michael Scheuer has two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote “Imperial Hubris” under the pseudonym Anonymous.

In 2004, Scheuer wrote: “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.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Three A’s

There are more than 46 million people without health insurance and medical problems contribute to nearly 2/3 of all bankruptcies.  This is not just about those 46 million people who don’t have health insurance, it’s about the future of the American economy.  We’re losing jobs to other countries, because their health care system is better for business.

Republican’s insists, that we must not allow the government to come between you and your doctor. Actually, the insurance industry has been between you and your doctor for 40 years, and they’ve been milking consumers for millions of dollars by denying claims.

In the first three months of this year, nearly $35 million was spent by the largest insurance and drugs companies to ensure that pending reform benefits them and not the American people. Congressional Republicans have never intended to contribute in a positive way to health care reform. They are standing in the way of real reform, because they’re not interested in the future of our country.

Republicans say, that there shouldn’t be a government run health insurance program, because it would compete with private plans. We’ve had a private system in this country for 40 years and costs have increased at least twice the rate of inflation every year. Our public system, Medicare has seen costs go up only about 15% above the rate of inflation.

Obama insists: “If you like what you have, you can keep it, but we’re going to offer you something that you may find better and less expensive.” You can sign up for a public plan, like Medicare, or you can sign up for a private plan.  You get the choice. Unless, you allow Republicans to make that choice for you. 

Everybody thinks bipartisanship is a wonderful thing, but bipartisanship comes second to doing the right thing. We need a bill, that allows the American people to make the choice between a public health insurance option and the private plans they have now.

Affordable: Healthcare reform must lower costs, and the insurance industry hasn’t done it when left to their own devices. We need a strong public health insurance option to compete with industry to lower rates and keep them honest.

Available: We need a public health insurance option available throughout the country to compete with the insurance companies who often control your local market by determining what you pay and what you get.

Accountable: We need tough rules with penalties for waste and abuse that apply to the private companies and the public entity offering insurance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do the Math

In early April, Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe accused President Obama of “gutting the military.”

Senator Inhofe said: “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.

Recently, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska insisted, that defense cuts are a sign of weakness. Thereby, she joined Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and the Republicans in Congress in 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. 

Either these politicians are being dishonest, or they are not very good at math.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Disgraceful Failure

In a book entitled: “The Twenty-Five Year War, General Bruce Palmer observed, “With respect to Vietnam, our leaders should have known that the American people would not stand still for a protracted war of an indeterminate nature with no foreseeable end to the U.S. commitment.”

We again find ourselves mired in a “protracted war of an indeterminate nature with no foreseeable end to the U. S. commitment.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in our military accommodating the enemy by fighting on their terms. The purpose of our continued involvement in these protracted wars has become increasingly difficult to discern. Apparently, avoiding the humiliation of disgraceful failure is the primary motivation.

We face the prospect of perpetual conflict, because the present generation of senior officers have forgotten the lessons of Vietnam, and instead embraced open-ended wars. Regarding Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has asked: “Tell me how this ends.” Unfortunately, no one has the foggiest idea how it will end, and for the American soldiers there is no end in sight.

There is a notable difference from the last time we found ourselves mired in an endless war. During the Vietnam era, many young Americans fought against the war itself. In the 1960s, the war created a climate of intense political engagement, but nearly 50 years later the prevailing mood of the country is a dull acceptance. Most Americans have accepted the prospect of wars that go on and on, because there is no draft and few of us have an immediate personal stake in this conflict.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, a young John Kerry reflected the views of other Vietnam veterans who had turned against the war in which they had fought, by saying: “we are probably angriest about all that we were told about Vietnam and about the mystical war against communism.” Kerry concluded by asking: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

It’s a disgraceful failure, that Congress continues to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bold Vision

On April 5th, President Obama laid out a bold vision for a world free of nuclear weapons and a compelling plan to make that vision a reality. He called for dramatic changes to the nuclear weapons policies of the United States and for taking steps to eliminate dangerous, Cold-War nuclear arsenals – steps designed to increase American and international security.

The response from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress has for the most part been silence. Obama will need strong support from both sides of the aisle to promote his agenda, as well as a two-thirds majority in the Senate for ratification of any international treaty. Among the few Senators, who have come out in favor of Obama’s courageous approach to nuclear weapons reductions is John McCain.

Speaking on the Senate floor following a ceremony honoring President Ronald Reagan, Senator McCain pointed out, that in a speech, before the Japanese Diet on November 11, 1983, President Ronald Reagan said: “The only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they can’t be used ever. I know I speak for people everywhere when I say our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” Sen. McCain added: “That is my dream, too, and it is one shared by many of our most distinguished national security practitioners.” Other Senators who have spoken out include Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold and Oregon’s freshman Senator Jeff Merkley, but those three Senators are not enough.

Vital nuclear weapons issues are forthcoming, on the floor of the Senate, such as a new nuclear reductions treaty between US and Russia, as well as, a vote on the treaty to ban nuclear weapons testing. Therefore, it is more imperative now than ever before that we insist that our Senators and Representatives in Congress support Obama’s nuclear policies.

North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons and missiles and Iran’s uranium enrichment program have proven that this is a critical time for global cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation. It’s also a critical time for our representatives in Congress to demonstrate statesmanship instead of political gamesmanship.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Real Fight

President Obama pointed out: “The easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the U.S. that is encouraging those reformers. So what I’ve said is, look, it’s up to the Iranian people to make a decision. We are not meddling, and, you know, ultimately the question that the leadership in Iran has to answer is their own credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people. And when you have got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they’re having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election.”

Some Democrats and Republicans have been critical of the following statement by Obama: “I think, first of all, it’s important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, that the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised.”

Our President is correct, because either way we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, one that is pursuing nuclear weapons and has caused problems in Middle East.

Former CIA field officer, Robert Baer concludes: “I think the real fight doesn’t even include Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is president, but his powers are limited. What this is really is a power struggle between Khamenei, the spiritual leader, and the old line guard that came with Khamenei, in particular the former president, Rafsanjani.”

According to Baer, Khamenei is not actually an ayatollah. Therefore, has limited legitimacy in Iran. He does controls the military and secret police, and if the elections were rigged, it was Khamenei who rigged them, not Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad might be sacrificed, but the real prize is Khamenei’s position as the spiritual leader. There are rumors that former president Rafsanjani is in Shiite Islam’s holy city of Qom, planning to overthrow Khamenei.

Few Americans actually understand the nuances of the demonstrations in Iran or what is really at stake. If these demonstrations continue, Khamenei could fall and this would mean, that there are significant internal divisions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Very Careful

Regarding the disputed election in Iran, Obama said: “I do believe that something has happened in Iran where there is a questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures towards the international community that have taken place in the past and that there are people who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy. How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide.”

Robert Baer was a field operative (spy) for the CIA. He authored: “The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower,” and has been covering the elections in Iran, for many years. Baer’s reacted favorably to Obama’s statement by saying: “We do not want to get in the middle of Iranian politics, which we barely understand. And if the President were to come out and support Mousavi, the democratic opposition leader, it would be fatal for them. We want to keep to the sidelines, worry about the violence, point to the government, saying, you’re doing the right thing by doing a recount, but definitely don’t get involved. Iran is still a very xenophobic and paranoid country. And having the United States in the middle of its politics would really hurt.”

Obama’s comment that Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader of Iran, is concerned enough about fraud in the election that he has asked for an inquiry, was very smart. It’s not confrontational, but is supportive of the people, because Obama needs to be very careful not to appear to meddle in Iranian politics. If he does that, he gives the mullahs a perfect target, and discredits the brave people who we are watching in the streets.

This is the most amazing series of events, that we have seen in Iran since the revolution, but America can really mess it up by putting itself in the middle of the story. This is one of the rare times in our history where we’re watching something like a democracy develop. Iranians have a deep fear, that their history has been written by others. In 1953, we staged a coup to installed the shah on the “Peacock Throne.” Before that, Iranians felt that the British were steering their destiny. Today, there are people in the streets who want to write that history themselves and we need to express solidarity with them but, it won’t be lasting unless they do it themselves.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Extremists

"Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured." Ann Landers

First the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-choice extremist. Now the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist.

Scott Roeder, who is being held for the murder of Dr. Tiller served 16 months in prison for carrying explosives, and threatened violence against abortion providers a week before he allegedly shot Dr. Tiller.

James W. Von Brunn served over 6 years in prison, for attempting to storm the Federal Reserve Bank in 1981. He is alleged to have killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum. On a white supremacist website in 2007, Von Brunn urged: “Take action. Target. Swarm across the landscape. You know their murderous intent. You know who they are. Do it.”

Mr. Von Brunn spent more than 40 years in the white supremacist movement. Now, he sees a black president in the White House, who is doing things, that he can’t accept. Some suggest, that his intent may have been to become an Aryan hero. Younger people in the white power movement looked up to Von Brunn. They respected him, because he had distinguished himself by serving time as a POW. The white power movement considers any white person, that is sent to prison for a racial hate crime a prisoner of war.

Extremist believe there is a racial holy war going on, which they call RaHoWa - short for racial holy war. Since, Obama became President, they believe that the America, as they knew it, is dead and never coming back. Consequently, these extremist feel cornered, and they’re act out with violence against anti -semitic targets.

Many perpetrators of anti-abortion and anti-Semitic violence are lone wolves and not part of an organized group. Often, we don’t know about them until an incident happens, which can be trace back to their extreme hatred.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Public Option

A single payer system won’t make it through the Senate, because of the cost. Furthermore, it could put thousands of people that work for insurance companies out of a job immediately. Consequently, our leadership in Washington is saying, that any health care reform must include a public health insurance option.

Opponents of reform are trotting out weak half-measures and calling them public plans, with the goal of leaving us with a public health insurance option in name only. The latest is a proposal for “co-ops”, i.e. small, regional insurers that would be too weak to bring costs down or compete with existing private insurance.

We have to send a clear message by demanding a strong public health insurance option, one that is available to everyone, national in scope, with real bargaining clout, and ready to go on day one. Let’s write letters to the editor of newspapers, about how important it is to include a strong public health insurance option. If you’ve never written a letter to the editor before, now is the time to send your first. The letters page is one of the most widely read in local newspapers. Members of Congress and their staffs read it to understand how their constituents are feeling. And the media read it as feedback on their coverage.

Here are a few key points as to what a strong public health insurance option should look like:

* A strong public health insurance option should be available to anyone who chooses to participate. If you like your current plan, you can keep it; if you want to participate in the public health insurance plan, you can choose to do so.

* In order to truly control costs and compete with private health insurance plans, a strong public health insurance option must be available nationwide.

* Every day we wait on real reform, health care costs continue to rise. A strong public health insurance option as soon as possible is key to building a competitive program that will help control costs.

* To ensure it’s held to the highest standards of accountability, a public health insurance option must be accountable and transparent to Congress and to voters.

A powerful public health insurance option is the lynchpin of real reform that will help bring costs down and provide coverage for all Americans. If thousands of us write to our local papers, we can make sure our representatives in Washington understand how crucial it is to voters like us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The FACE Act

Immediately after Scott Roeder was pulled over by police, local TV footage from KMBC captured a glimpse of a small note that was on the dashboard of Roeder’s car.  The note read “Cheryl Op Rescue,” and it had a phone number on it.

Cheryl at Op Rescue, is Cheryl Sullenger, who is employed by the extremist anti-abortion group as their senior policy advisor. She has admitted to having multiple phone conversations with Mr. Roeder before Dr. Tiller was killed, and that those conversations were about Dr. Tiller. Before, Cheryl Sullenger became Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor, she served almost two years in prison for conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic. 

Operation Rescue maintained something that they call “Tiller Watch” on their web site.  Allies of Dr. Tiller in Kansas say that until recently, Operation Rescue posted online the doctor’s home address and the address of his church, which is where Dr. Tiller was allegedly murdered by Scott Roeder.

Congress gave our executive branch of government extraordinary powers by passing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act). According to investigative work by reporter Daphne Eviatar at “The Washington Independent,” under Clinton, federal authorities enthusiastically enforced the FACE Act. Eviatar reported that the Clinton administration prosecuted 17 defendants for violations of the FACE Act in 1997 alone, and on average of about 10 per year since the law was enacted.

However, prosecution of FACE Act violations nearly disappeared under the Bush administration. Reportedly, “The Bush administration brought about two criminal prosecutions per year in the entire country under the FACE Act and never more than four in any single year.”

All of those responsible for enforcing our laws have pledge: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Facts to Consider

Pertinent information for understanding the current economic crisis includes:

Billionaire Warren Buffett warned: “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.”

Buffett cautioned, that Republican Sen. Phil Gramm’s amendment to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act enabled the setting up of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction.” That amendment directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis, because all the protections in the Glass-Steagall Act were stripped away and big banks and insurance companies were allowed to merge. Immediately thereafter, Bush became president and hired regulators who weren’t interested in regulating Wall Street. 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.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote in “Fortune” magazine: “America can pull through the current economic crisis with a dose of political maturity and a bit of luck. Success will mean the end of the Reagan era, of an ideology that has brought the country to its knees.” When Reagan became President, we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods, the largest creditor and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. As a consequence of Reaganomics we’ve become the largest importer of manufactured goods and exporter of raw materials.

Republicans have not produced a president in the past 34 years that has balanced a budget. Of the past 12 presidents the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats. Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus, which Bush squandered on the way to creating a record deficit.

In “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated that the true costs of the quagmire in Iraq will eventually be more than three trillion dollars.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Agenda of Violence

William F. Roberts wrote, that some “intend to deny these rights by would-be theocrats and other totalitarians among us.” In order to deny women the right to an abortion some extremist have been resorting to murder for decades.

Since the early ‘90s, there has been an organized network of extremists, who advocate the murder of abortion providers. They’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to stop abortion is to murder providers.  They recruit people to engage in acts of violence and they celebrate the violence that takes place.

The National Abortion Federation, sent out a security alert to abortion providers after the November election, because in tracking abortion violence they’ve noticed an increase of activity outside abortion clinics, after they’ve lost an election. Obviously, anti-abortion extremists resorted to violence, whenever they don’t see themselves winning legislative or judicial battles.

Following, the heinous murder of Dr. Tiller, our Attorney General, Eric Holder responded by providing Federal Marshal protection to the most vulnerable physicians, who the National Abortion Federation thought might be targeted.  He instructed the FBI to contact each of the clinics in their areas and assess their threat levels, security risks and to work very closely with the clinics, to make sure that we don’t see more violence.

Not unlike al Qaeda, it’s very hard to predict where violent extremist will strike, and by what method. There was a decrease in anti-abortion violence after the murder of Dr. Slepian in 1998, due in part to a strong law enforcement response, and the conviction of the three anti-abortion terrorists, who were on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Two years ago, a bomb outside a clinic in Austin, Texas malfunctioned.  Clinic staff found it and called the ATF, who were able to detonate it without a loss of life. 

In a civilized democratic society, we can’t allow people to use violence to advance their anti-abortion agenda to stop abortions from taking place in the United States. I've read that the only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Make Allowance

Whenever, a letter writer disagrees with my informed opinion, by resorting to personal attack, I recall a verse from a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

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

Barack Obama’s thoughtful speech at Notre Dame provided an important message for all of us. Obama pointed out: “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.

“Understand - I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it - indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory - the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

Obama’s speech sought common ground, but it’s impossible to find common ground with hate filled fanatics, who intend to carry out the ultimate personal attack by killing health care providers.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Murders Praised

When Dr. David Gunn was murdered in 1993, the militant anti-abortion movement made a hero out of his killer.  At least six of the people, who publicly declared themselves supporters of Dr.  Gunn’s killer, by signing a public declaration praising that murder, went on to do time for anti-abortion violent terrorism, including two murders.  Within two years of Dr. Gunn’s murder, seven more people were wounded at abortion facilities, and four more killed. The same radical fringe is calling Scott Roeder a hero and praising him.

Steve Deese, a radio talk show host on WHON in Ohio asked:  “Are babies in Kansas safer today than they were yesterday while George Tiller was still taking in oxygen?  Yes—is the answer to the question.  Maybe the fact that we have a lawless society that has not protected these babies from this infanticide created the Scott Roeders of the world, who in very John Brown-like fashion, illegally took matters into his own hands, saying if the system will not deal with an evil then to hell with the system.”

David Leach, who publishes a newsletter called “The Prayer and Action News” to which Scott Roeder submitted articles. Mr. Leach told The Associated Press, that: “He will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott sacrificed everything for them.”  Leach told the Iowa Independent: “So far, the Bible discussion I have seen overwhelmingly supports anyone willing to sacrifice everything in order to physically stop an abortionist from killing thousands of babies.” 

The Prayer and Action News web site stated: “So far, the only way to save hundreds, arguably thousands of unborn lives now has been to destroy abortion buildings or kill abortionists.”

Regina Dinwiddie is a longtime anti-abortion militant told CNN, that Tiller’s murder was: “absolutely justify,”  and told The Associated Press that she’s glad about Dr. Tiller’s death saying: “I wouldn’t cry for him (Dr. Tiller) no more than I would if somebody dropped a rat and killed it.”

Dan Holman, a member of anti-abortion group in Iowa called “Missionaries to the Preborn,” told CNN, that Dr. Tiller’s death was something to cheer, and that he thinks abortion would justify assassinating the president, who Holman considered, “Deserving of death.”

A reign of terror has existed for over 30 years. There have been eight murder, seventeen attempted murders, forty-one bombings, and one hundred and seventy-one arsons.

Friday, June 12, 2009

“Choice”

Freedom of choice provides women the opportunity to decide what is right based upon their own ethical, moral and religious beliefs. I’ve read that it shouldn’t be called pro-choice and pro-life, but “pro-choice” and “no-choice,” because that is what anti-abortionists are aiming to achieve.

Policing the anti-abortion terrorist movement is a federalized law enforcement responsibility.  After Dr. David Gunn was gunned down in Pensacola, Florida, Congress passed a law that made it a federal crime to use force to intimidate or to physically obstruct individuals from entering reproductive health care clinics.

Six murders later, Clinton’s Justice Department established a national task force on violence against health care providers.  That task force was supposed to reinvigorate federal involvement in the fight against violent extremist. Our federal government began training local law enforcement, coordinating investigations and prosecuting anti-abortion violence.

The Justice Department task force was expected to focus on connections that may exist between individuals involved in criminal anti-abortion activities. It serve as a clearinghouse to collect information relating to acts of violence against abortion providers, and coordinate data identifying national trends related to clinic violence. That includes data like attempting to glue-shut the doors of abortion clinics, threats of violence on anti-abortion web sites, publishing articles in newsletters, that argue killing doctors who perform abortions is justifiable homicide.

The task force was aware that Dr. George Tiller’s alleged killer Scott Roeder had served 16 months in prison for carrying explosives, but they were unable to prevent Tiller from being assassinated.

Apparently, the only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

Scott Roeder has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for murdering Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller’s assassination was not the act of an isolated, single nutcase guy, who just decided to go into some church and blow somebody away. It was the inevitable result of 35 years of constant, relentless anti-abortion fanatics offering hate speech, violence, intimidation, assassinations and the message that it’s OK to kill abortion providers.

In April of 1996, Scott Roeder was arrested in Topeka, Kansas, when authorities found bomb-making materials in his car.  He served 16 months in prison for that offense, and the judge called him a “threat of danger to the public.” In 2007, Roeder posted the following message on an anti-abortion website: “Tiller needs to be stopped.  Sometime soon, it would be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tiller’s church—inside not just outside—to have much more of a presence.” The day before Dr. Tiller was murdered, Roeder was spotted at an abortion clinic trying to pour glue into the facility’s locks. Employees chased him away, wrote down the license plate number and reported the incident to the FBI.

The 1994, President Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate, or interfere with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services. That includes not just murder, assault, arson, and property damage, but also death threats, burglaries, harassing phone calls, hate mail, and blockades. The FBI was to investigate these crimes, working closely with a variety of law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice.

Republicans pulled the plug on that legislation after they took control of Congress by cutting its the funding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Against All Enemies

Career counterterrorism expert Richard A. Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. He was the nations crisis manager in Bush’s White House situation room on 9/11. His book “Against All Enemies” is a chronology of the facts before, during and after 9/11.

Clarke had pointed out, that former Vice president Cheney had pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Speaking at the National Press Club on the day after Clarke’s article: “The Trauma Defense,” was published in The Washington Post, Cheney attempted to blame 9/11 on Richard Clarke. Cheney said: “Dick Clarke, who was the head of the counterterrorism program in the run-up to 9/11, obviously missed it.  The fact is that we did what we felt we had to do, and if I had it to do all over again, I would do exactly the same thing.” Actually, it was Cheney who “missed” the warning signs, not Richard Clarke.

New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s book, “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,” reprinted some of Clarke’s e-mails warning the Bush regime of an impending al Qaeda threat. They included:

May 26, 2001: “Bin Laden’s network plans advancing.”

June 23rd: “Bin Laden’s attacks may be imminent.” 

June 25th: “Bin Laden and associates making near-term threats.”

June 30th: “Bin Laden planning high-profile attacks.”

Time Magazine has reported that Clarke had used a powerpoint presentation, to outlined his thoughts to Condoleezza Rice . The presentation read, “Response to al Qaeda: Roll back.” Clarke developed the proposal in the winter of 2000-01, but his proposals spent another four months making their way laboriously through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by Bush.

Blaming 9/11 on Clark, who was attempting to warn senior Bush officials about an imminent attack by al Qaeda is a contemptible lie. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trauma Defense

On 5/31/09, an article entitled: “The Trauma Defense of 9/11 Is No Excuse,” by Richard A Clarke was published in “The Washington Post.”

“Top officials from the Bush administration have hit upon a revealing new theme as they retrospectively justify their national security policies. Call it the White House 9/11 trauma defense.

“‘Unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans,’ Condoleezza Rice said last month as she admonished a Stanford University student who questioned the Bush-era interrogation program. And in his May 21 speech on national security, Dick Cheney called the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a ‘defining’ experience that ‘caused everyone to take a serious second look’ at the threats to America. Critics of the administration have become more intense as memories of the attacks have faded, he argued. ‘Part of our responsibility, as we saw it,’ Cheney said, ‘was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America.’

“I remember that morning, too. Shortly after the second World Trade Center tower was hit, I burst in on Rice (then the president’s national security adviser) and Cheney in the vice president’s office and remember glimpsing horror on his face. Once in the bomb shelter, Cheney assembled his team while the crisis managers on the National Security Council staff coordinated the government response by video conference from the Situation Room. Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive. I remember the next day, too, when smoke still rose from the Pentagon as I sat in my office in the White House compound, a gas mask on my desk. The streets of Washington were empty, except for the armored vehicles, and the skies were clear, except for the F-15s on patrol. Every scene from those days is seared into my memory. I understand how it was a defining moment for Cheney, as it was for so many Americans.

“Yet listening to Cheney and Rice, it seems that they want to be excused for the measures they authorized after the attacks on the grounds that 9/11 was traumatic. ‘If you were there in a position of authority and watched Americans drop out of eighty-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people,’ Rice said in her recent comments, ‘then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again.’

“I have little sympathy for this argument. Yes, we went for days with little sleep, and we all assumed that more attacks were coming. But the decisions that Bush officials made in the following months and years -- on Iraq, on detentions, on interrogations, on wiretapping -- were not appropriate. Careful analysis could have replaced the impulse to break all the rules, even more so because the Sept. 11 attacks, though horrifying, should not have surprised senior officials. Cheney’s admission that 9/11 caused him to reassess the threats to the nation only underscores how, for months, top officials had ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al-Qaeda attack.

“Thus, when Bush’s inner circle first really came to grips with the threat of terrorism, they did so in a state of shock -- a bad state in which to develop a coherent response. Fearful of new attacks, they authorized the most extreme measures available, without assessing whether they were really a good idea.

“I believe this zeal stemmed in part from concerns about the 2004 presidential election. Many in the White House feared that their inaction prior to the attacks would be publicly detailed before the next vote -- which is why they resisted the 9/11 commission -- and that a second attack would eliminate any chance of a second Bush term. So they decided to leave no doubt that they had done everything imaginable.

“The first response they discussed was invading Iraq. While the Pentagon was still burning, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld was in the White House suggesting an attack against Baghdad. Somehow the administration’s leaders could not believe that al-Qaeda could have mounted such a devastating operation, so Iraqi involvement became the convenient explanation. Despite being told repeatedly that Iraq was not involved in 9/11, some, like Cheney, could not abandon the idea. Charles Duelfer of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group recently revealed in his book, “Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq,’ that high-level U.S. officials urged him to consider waterboarding specific Iraqi prisoners of war so that they could provide evidence of an Iraqi role in the terrorist attacks -- a request Duelfer refused. (A recent report indicates that the suggestion came from the vice president's office.) Nevertheless, the lack of evidence did not deter the administration from eventually invading Iraq -- a move many senior Bush officials had wanted to make before 9/11.

“On detention, the Bush team leaped to the assumption that U.S. courts and prisons would not work. Before the terrorist attacks, the U.S. counterterrorism program of the 1990s had arrested al-Qaeda terrorists and others around the world and had a 100 percent conviction rate in the U.S. justice system. Yet the American system was abandoned, again as part of a pattern of immediately adopting the most extreme response available. Camps were established around the world, notably in Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners were held without being charged or tried. They became symbols of American overreach, held up as proof that al-Qaeda’s anti-American propaganda was right.

“Similarly, with regard to interrogation, administration officials conducted no meaningful professional analysis of which techniques worked and which did not. The FBI, which had successfully questioned al-Qaeda terrorists, was effectively excluded from interrogations. Instead, there was the immediate and unwarranted assumption that extreme measures -- such as waterboarding one detainee 183 times -- would be the most effective.

“Finally, on wiretapping, rather than beef up the procedures available under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the administration again moved to the extreme, listening in on communications here at home without legal process. FISA did need some modification, but it also allowed for the quick issuance of court orders, as when President Clinton took stepped-up defensive measures in late 1999 under the heightened threat of the new millennium.

“Yes, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice may have been surprised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- but it was because they had not listened. And their surprise led them to adopt extreme counterterrorism techniques -- but it was because they rejected, without analysis, the tactics the Clinton administration had used. The measures they uncritically adopted, which they simply assumed were the best available, were in fact unnecessary and counterproductive.

“‘I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities,’ Cheney said in his recent speech. But this defense does not stand up. The Bush administration’s response actually undermined the principles and values America has always stood for in the world, values that should have survived this traumatic event. The White House thought that 9/11 changed everything. It may have changed many things, but it did not change the Constitution, which the vice president, the national security adviser and all of us who were in the White House that tragic day had pledged to protect and preserve.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

We're an Oligarchy

On 6/6/09, the following guest commentary by Irving Wesley Hall, was published in “The Oneonta Star.” It’s entitled “What’s good for GM is now good for China”

“I remember the hullaballoo in January 1953 when GM CEO Charles Wilson, President Eisenhower's nominee for Secretary of Defense, testified, ‘For years I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.’

“GM was the world’s largest car manufacturer. The United States was the world's unchallenged industrial powerhouse. For Americans, Honda, Toyota and Suburu might as well have been exotic Oriental dishes. Today, General Motors is undergoing the second-largest industrial bankruptcy in history. It’s closing fourteen more assembly plants and slashing 21,000 family-supporting jobs. GM will have fewer than 40,000 workers building cars in the United States, one-tenth of its work force of 400,000 in the 1970s.

“Fears are spreading throughout GM’s vast chain of suppliers and dealers that this bankruptcy will lead to cascading business failures. Large plants that stamp metal parts or build engines will be shuttered, including one in Massena. GM will reduce 6,000 dealerships to 3,600. Dealership closings will cut an additional 100,000 jobs. These layoffs come after a nationwide loss of 741,000 jobs in January alone _ the most since 1949. GM will no longer make Saturn, Pontiac, and Saab and will shift production of its remaining lines to new facilities in foreign countries.

“According to Ralph Nader, shipping production to China has long been GM’s strategy. Despite GM’s bankruptcy, the Obama administration government-orchestrated shrinkage has already cost taxpayers $50 billion. The Wall Street Journal estimates ‘the rescue of the car industry could cost taxpayers close to $100 billion.’ Nader asks: ‘Why are we using tax dollars to facilitate the export of whole plants and jobs to communist dictatorships in China and to oligarchic, authoritarian regimes in Mexico who have turned workers into serfs and denied them independent unions and other rights that workers should have in any country that we have trade dealings with?’

“Today, what’s good for General Motors is good only for Communist China and transnational corporations that benefit from cheap labor. GM’s bankruptcy and Obama’s shortsighted response exemplifies the self-destruction of our country’s economy over my lifetime. Before I retired as a teacher, I warned my students about several dangerous economic trends that have accelerated over the last two decades. The United States has degenerated from a world power based on industrial production to an overextended military empire based on debt and consumption. Our citizens have gone from well-paid industrial workers with comfortable savings accounts to cash-starved consumers with staggering credit card payments.

“According to the Federal Reserve Bank, we Americans owe $971 billion in credit card debt. That’s $3,184 per person or $8,299 per household. Consumer loans for automobile, furniture and consumer electronics total $1.617 trillion _ $5,298 per person or $13,821 per household, per a November 2007 report. As bottom-line obsessed CEOs moved good jobs overseas, factory workers became Wal-Mart clerks selling Chinese products. For decades, real wages have stagnated as prices continued to rise.

“Fifty years ago a man was able to support a family on a union member's wages while his wife stayed at home to care for the children. Now almost half of private-sector workers subsist on the minimum wage. Both mothers and fathers have to work to feed their families _ sometimes two jobs or more! According to one estimate, only three out of 10 children have stay-at-home moms! Who has time to read, to think, to become an informed citizen or understand what’s happening to us? Is there any wonder that so many of us are deeply in debt? How can we afford new cars or find time to take political action for our common good?

“Corporations that outsource jobs and use off-shore tax havens have prospered, while working folks have watched the American dream turn into a nightmare. Our savings evaporated with the 401(k) speculators’ scam and now our last nest egg _ the value of our homes _ is disappearing because of the mortgage fraudsters. In the last year, U.S. households’ net worth has declined by $13 trillion.

“In just fifty years _ under both Democratic and Republican administrations _ the United States has gone from the world’s major creditor to the greatest debtor. Taxpayers spend $2 billion a day just to service the national debt. Over $1 trillion of that is held by Japanese and Chinese bankers. Obama’s administration has pushed the nation’s marketable debt to $6.36 trillion. Who profits from this earth-shaking debt? Financiers and the transnational corporations driven by short-sighted greed. Financial capital has squeezed out industrial capital and largely controls both the executive and legislative branches in Washington.

“I recall the outcry when George W. Bush raised $25 million for his 2000 presidential campaign from financiers, war makers, and big oil. In 2008, Barack Obama raised $150 million from the same contributors. He who pays the piper calls the tune. How else can we explain Obama’s choice of Wall Street executives to deal with the economic crisis that they created? Why was AIG too big to fail but General Motors allowed to collapse? Obama’s Wall Street approach to the GM bailout typifies his bankers’ priorities. GM’s restructuring is being directed by financiers who’ve never seen an assembly line and are looking for a fast return rather than a long-range solution to America’s desperate energy and transportation crisis.

“If Obama really believed in the change he promised, he’d immediately initiate a national dialog on re-industrializing America. He’d ship the bankers to China and tax their ill-gotten gains to fund committees of workers, engineers and visionaries in each factory that GM plans to close. Locally and nationally, these folks can dramatically increase jobs through conversion to production of mass transit vehicles, hybrid or all-electric cars, and alternative energy devices such as windmills and solar panels. Why wait for Obama?

“Before it is too late, GM and Chrysler’s eager and skilled work force must gear up for this nation-saving mission. Not enough time? In Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately converted the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns for the war effort. Re-industrialization is change we can believe in _ but we will have to make it ourselves.”

******************************************************************************
I’ve known Irving Wesley Hall for sometime, and sent him the following e-mail.

Excellent guest commentary in the Star, but it’s too late, because we’re already an Oligarchy. From a pragmatic point of view Obama is America’s only hope and that is why I'll continue to support him. Jim

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sugar Free Cookies

Many of us have learned, that honey catches more flies than vinegar. However, supporters of Bush’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” scoff at that concept.

Former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan disclosed, that Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, Abu Jandal began to cooperate with interrogators regarding the 9/11 terror attacks after being offered sugar free cookies.

According to Soufan, Abu Jandal didn’t touch any of the cookies, that had been served with tea, because he was a diabetic and couldn’t eat anything with sugar in it. At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, and that gesture took the edge off Abu Jandal’s angry demeanor. Soufan explained: “We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him. So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures.”

Initially, Abu Jandal had no intention of cooperating with the Americans and refused to even look at them. He ranted about the evils of the West and insisted that the attacks on 9/11 had been orchestrated by Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad. Interrogator Soufan believes, that after the sugar-free cookies: “He could no longer think of us as evil Americans. Now he was thinking of us as human beings.”

A 2005 memo, by a Bush administration official revealed that CIA interrogators waterboarded alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in one month.

An Air Force military interrogator, said that he believed that the Bush administration’s torture policies actually cost “hundreds -- if not thousands” of American lives.” He continued: “Torture does not save lives, and the reason why is that our enemies use it as its number one recruiting tool. These same foreign fighters, who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Haditha and My Lai

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

Recently, Sears referred to the Haditha killings, which took place in 2005, when allegedly innocent Iraqi men, women and children were killed by Marines. Initially, a Marine Corps communiqué reported that 15 noncombatant were killed by a bomb blast and eight insurgents were subsequently killed when the Marines returned fire against those attacking their convoy. A Time magazine reporter’s questions prompted our military to investigate the incident. According to a Pentagon official, the investigation claimed it found evidence that “supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed women and children.”

In 2007, the investigating officer recommended that Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich be tried for negligent homicide in deaths of two women and five children. At least three officers had been officially reprimanded for initially failing to properly report and investigate the killings. In 2008, charges against seven of the eight Marines were dropped. The investigating officer conceded that the central issue was, who is to be believed and he was disinclined to recommend a trial, because he thought it was unlikely any Iraqi would agree to come to the U.S. to testify.

Colin Powell’s “My American Journey” revealed; “one of the darker chapters of American military history. A platoon headed by 1st Lt. Wm. Calley entered the hamlet of My Lai and herded 347 old men, women, children and even babies into a ditch and shot them.” The number of victims could be much higher, but the Pentagon’s cover up continues.

In “The Arrogance of Power,” Senator William Fulbright pointed out: “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.”

Our political leadership must never completely trust the military, nor civilians our political leadership.

Friday, June 05, 2009

“Experience and Heritage”

This will be the final excerpt, I'll quote from Sonia Sotomayor’s lecture, entitled “A Latina Judge’s Voice.”

“Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

“There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

“I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.”

******

An article, by George Packer in New Yorker Magazine concluded: “Conservatives will not be able to understand the elusive nature of Obamaism and counter its formable appeal until they remove the impediment of their own insular, rigid ideology.”

This white male respectfully disagrees with those that consider Sonia Sotomayor a sexist or a racist. However, I recognize and greatly appreciate the fact, that they’re impeded by their own insular, rigid ideology.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

“A Better Conclusion”

Again, I'll quote from Sonia Sotomayor’s lecture, entitled “A Latina Judge’s Voice.”

“Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

“Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions.

“However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

“I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?”

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

“Acting Intuitively”

Quoting from Sonia Sotomayor’s lecture, entitled “A Latina Judge’s Voice.”

“When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court... I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state.

“As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women... Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then “as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically” but instead of “acting intuitively.” I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes’ movement.

“While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address.

“The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.”

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

“Newyorkrican”

Quoting from Sonia Sotomayor’s lecture, entitled “A Latina Judge’s Voice.”

“Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

“Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

“America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between “the melting pot and the salad bowl” -- a recently popular metaphor used to described New York’s diversity - is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.”

Monday, June 01, 2009

Judge Sotomayor

Judge Sotomayor was born to Puerto Rican parents, grew up in a South Bronx housing project and was raised from age nine by a single mother. She excelled in school and worked her way to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University. Eventually, she became an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School.

Sonia Sotomayor was first appointed to the Federal District Court by President George H.W. Bush, and was confirmed by the Senate without opposition. Subsequently, she was elevated to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton. Today, she is admired as one the finest legal minds in America, and as a trailblazing Latina whose career has spanned nearly every aspect of the law.

Judge Sotomayor’s vast knowledge of the law, excellent temperament and a lifetime of experiences make her a great choice. She’s authored 400 legal opinions, and understands how laws affect people, businesses and government. She would bring more federal judicial experience to the bench than any Supreme Court justice in 100 years. Over her three-decade career, she has served in a wide variety of legal roles, including as a prosecutor, litigator, and judge.

Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected the rights of working Americans, ruling in favor of health benefits and fair wages for workers in several cases. She has shown strong support for First Amendment rights, including in cases of religious expression and the rights to assembly and free speech. Sotomayor has a strong record on civil rights cases, ruling for plaintiffs who had been discriminated against based on disability, sex and race. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor prevented baseball owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with the players, thereby ending the longest professional sports walkout in history.

Some criticize Judge Sotomayor for having said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male that hasn’t lived that life.” More often than not, I would agree with her, because she pledged: “I’ll strive never to forget the real-world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses, and government.”

Tomorrow, I’ll begin posting excerpts from Sonia Sotomayor’s controversial lecture, entitled “A Latina Judge’s Voice,” which was delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.