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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Piety and Patriotism

Robert “Duke” Piroha’s letter in the Oneonta Star declared: “We don’t want God removed from our government buildings or money.”

Francis Bellamy a Baptist minister wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, when he was the chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association.  Rev. Bellamy structured a public school program around a flag raising ceremony.  He had considered placing the word “equality” in his Pledge, but knew some state superintendents on the committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

During my elementary and high school education, we recited a pledge which didn’t include the words “under God.” In 1954, Congress added those words, after a vigorous campaign by the Knights of Columbus. At this point the Pledge became both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.

The effort to undermine the separation of church and state doctrine reached a peak in the so called “religious revival” of the 1950’s.  Eisenhower inaugurated the prayer breakfast. Congress created a prayer room in the Capital and added the words “In God we Trust” to all paper money.

The 1960, Supreme Court decision in Engel vs Vitale ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to allow prayer, even though the prayer was non-denominational and students were allowed to abstain from the exercise.   Kennedy announced, that he understood many people were angered by the ruling, but that there was “a very easy remedy -not a constitutional amendment but a renewed commitment to pray at home, in the churches and with their families.”

In my opinion the historic roots of the deep division we’re now facing in our nation began when Congress added “under god” to the Pledge. Michael Parenti pointed out in his book Super Patriotism: “U.S. leaders repeatedly weave piety with patriotism.” Consequently, “We don’t want God removed from our government buildings or money,” is nothing more than blatant fear mongering.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Going Rogue

Sarah Palin is going rogue on the Republican Party. By endorsing the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 district’s special election, she has become a favorite of the tea party crowd.

With Palin’s endorsement in this special election the tea party crowd hopes to send a conservative right-wing candidate to Congress. They’re abandoning the moderate Republican candidate in favor of an extreme conservative.

The Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman has pledged to continue Bush’s economic policies of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, which has burdened the middle class with endless debt. Those are the same policies that destroyed our economy during the Bush administration.

On 10/1/09, Dede Scozzafava the Republican candidate in this special election said, that she wouldn’t sign a pledge not to raise taxes, because the income tax is just one form of tax, and that more people could be impacted if, for example, you refuse to increase income taxes under any circumstances, but instead raise other taxes or fees. However, after two weeks of conservatives and independents abandoning her campaign, she signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform.

The special election for an upstate New York congressional seat has become a litmus test for Republican candidates. It’s an early skirmish in what is shaping up to be a big battle within the conservative coalition, of the Republican Party. Many Republicans, who hope to have a shot in the presidential primary in 2012 are lining up to endorse Doug Hoffman against Dede Scozzafava. The conservative base may end up splitting the Republicans Party into two nonviable political parties for the 2012 elections.

Recently, Newt Gingrich warned: “If some people in the Republican Party want to go around the country purging everyone they disagree with, they’re going to rapidly make this a party for-minority party for a generation. And they’re going to guarantee the reelection of President Obama and they’re going to guaranteed Nancy Pelosi stays as speaker for the rest of her life.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ruined Country

Robert “Duke” Piroha’s letter in the Oneonta Star suggested: “We need term limits for all politicians, local to federal, and a law forbidding lawyers from running for any office. They have ruined this country.”

I never heard a call for term limits, when the Republican Party was in control of the White House, the Senate and the House. Limiting voters from having a choice to reelect a politician, that they consider a statesman is undemocratic.

Term limits during the 1930s would have ensured the ruination of America. The Great Depression started on October 29, 1929. Statistics by the Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly demonstrates that it was Roosevelt’s New Deal spending that got us out of the Depression.  In 1932, unemployment was 23.6%, in 1933, when Roosevelt took office, it was 24.9%, but by 1936 it had dropped to 17.0. 

Our Gross Domestic Product had dropped to 56.4, when Franklin Roosevelt became president, but in 1936 it reached 83. He carried 46 states in 1936, and was reelected four times. The Depression didn’t end until World War II, and it wasn’t tax cuts that ended it.  The Republican mantra of less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression and it won’t end this recession. 

Phillip Dennis organized the Texas Tea Party Patriots and believes the free market always prevails. When asked on national TV about the Great Depression and Hoover’s failed policies. Mr. Dennis said: “I wasn’t around then... I’m not that familiar with it.” Not unlike Hoover, Dennis insists, that we should be cutting taxes and doing away with restrictions on businesses. 

Regarding, “a law forbidding lawyers from running for any office,” our Constitution has specified the requirements for serving in the House, Senate and White House. Congress writes our laws and lawyers are specifically trained in that honorable profession. On the other hand, a Constitutional amendment banning Fundamentalist Christians and Papistical Catholics from serving in public office might not be a bad idea, because they seem to be ruining our country. However, that would be a glaring over generalization, which unlike Piroha, I’ll avoid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Illegal Immigrants

Robert “Duke” Piroha’s letter in the Oneonta Star, included the comment: “The majority of Americans don’t want illegals to have any benefits or rights. They are here illegally. Round them up and throw them out.”

Since 9/11, many American’s have succumbed to a medieval view of the world, that has resulted in curtailing access to our country, at a time when we desperately need the talent, energy and labor of our newest immigrants. Illegal immigrants perform essential services, serve in our military, pay rent and taxes on every thing they buy. As citizens, they’ll help balance the budget and pay into Social Security.

Immigrants are willing be laborers, maintenance staff, highway workers, janitors or service staff, changing sheets and bedpans in nursing care and do many other humble but essential tasks. They’re willing to work hard at underpaid jobs and endure substandard working conditions, because they’re determined to support themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, the fear and anger directed towards illegal Mexican immigrants has become irrational hatred, and has nullified some people’s ability to feel compassion and think critically. Deporting 14 million illegal immigrants is absolutely unrealistic, especially from a cost and manpower perspective.

The reason illegal immigration has become such an overwhelming issue is that Mexican farmers have been displaced by having to compete with powerful corporate agribusiness. They’re no longer able to compete in local markets, because the rice and corn imported from America is cheaper. Employers are eager to increase their profit margins at the expense of these desperately poor people. Illegal immigrants are encouraged to come across the border, because of lax workplace enforcement. 

Illegal immigrants have been exploited and the way to control this problem is to fine the American firms that hire people with fake documents or no documents at all.  The penalty needs to be significantly raised to a fine of $10,000 for the first offense, which should be sufficient to hurt the employer’s pocketbook. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crazy for God

In “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville insisted: “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” The crux of today’s problems seem to relate to those politicians, who are representing the religious views of their fundamentalist constituents.

Frank Schaeffer grew up in the religion of the far right.  He has authored: “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back.”

In 2000, Schaeffer worked for McCain, and tried to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush. He believes, that in 2008, McCain sold out to the religious right by picking Sarah Palen. Schaeffer doesn’t see any Republican, who has the moral standing required to provide real leadership.

According to Schaeffer there is a subculture “which is literally a fifth column of insanity.” He claims that it’s bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, to reject facts as a matter of faith. He stated: “A village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.  It’s as simple as that... we have a village idiot in this country, it’s called Fundamentalist Christianity.”

As a former lifelong Republican, Schaeffer insists, that until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would be better not to have a Republican Party, than have a party that caters to the village idiot. He says that there is no end in sight, because this subculture has as its fundamentalist faith, that they distrust facts and that for them it all has to do with the end of time and the return of Christ. He believes, that the Republican Party is totally enthralled by this subculture to the extent that there is no longer a Republican Party.

Monday, October 26, 2009

“Duke” Piroha

Recently, the Oneonta Star published the following inspirational letter, that was submitted by Robert “Duke” Piroha.

“What’s wrong with the USA? Politics! Today, neither of the major parties represents 80 percent of Americans. A majority of us don’t vote straight party, but for the person. Sadly, which party is in power represents the 10 percent of the extreme of their party and the rich. The rest of us are not represented. They are there to fill their pockets from ours and to gain power and a career.

“The majority of Americans don’t want illegals to have any benefits or rights. They are here illegally. Round them up and throw them out. We don’t want to ‘press one for English.’ We don’t want generations living on welfare. Help for a while to get on your feet, yes; forever, no.

“We don’t want our tax money going to countries that hate us. We don’t want to be in wars under false pretenses (Iraq). We want Social Security to be a locked box, like it was supposed to be. We want some form of health insurance for all. We don’t want God removed from our government buildings or money. We would like the worthless U.N. removed from the U.S.A. We can’t be everything to everyone else and not take care of our own.

“We don’t choose our representatives. The major parties do, and we choose the lesser of two evils from them. Unfortunately many good people don’t run because of the lack of money or the impossibility of a third party winning. The two parties dictate who can or can’t debate.

“We need term limits for all politicians, local to federal, and a law forbidding lawyers from running for any office. They have ruined this country. God help us.”


I’ve described Mr. Piroha’s letter as inspirational, because it has inspired me to prepare several responses to his statements for the Oneonta Star and this web site.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

“Say on Pay”

According to a new “Wall Street Journal,” the top banks and security firms are planning to pay their employees about $140 billion more than they did in 2007. It’s predicted, that Goldman-Sachs will dole out $743,000 in compensation per employee. That is double last year's total and up 12 percent from 2007 before the whole world melted down.

Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee points out, that the House passed legislation in August, and he’s frustrated, that because the focus has been on health care and climate change, people didn’t notice.

In 2006, the Democrats were still in the minority, when they first began to push for what’s called “Say on Pay,” and raise the question of executive pay. The top decision makers on Wall Street are able to take on the risks and if the risks pay off, they make a lot of money. However, if these top decision makers take risks, that go terribly wrong, they don’t lose any money, because they’ve been given the ability to take risks with everybody’s money, but their own. There’s agreement in Congress, that the risk structure is one of the reasons that Wall Street got in trouble last year.

The problem remains, that the board of directors and the top executives are friends. The notion of one day a year they’ll say, “OK, you’ll be labor and I’ll be management,” just doesn’t work. Congressman Frank hopes, that the Senate will soon adopt the “Say on Pay” legislation. President Obama is supportive of the idea, that shareholders have a vote, because some companies are paying far too much in executive pay at the expense of the shareholders.

A House bill insists, that all of the regulators of any financial institution; banks, the bank regulators, and the Security Exchange Commission put in rules, that don’t allow the kind of bonus structure, that provides an incentive to take a lot of risks, because if the risk pays off, they make a lot of money and if the risk fails they don’t lose anything.

There have even been cases, where the risk appears to pay off within a short period of time and they make a lot of money. However, if the deal later turns sour, they don’t have to give any of it back. Regulations have to spell out, that top decision makers cannot have one-way bonuses. Heads they win, tails they break-even, because it’s leads Wall Street scoundrels to take too many risks, and that endangers our society.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Less Oversight/More Profits

The Oneonta Star published an interesting letter to the editor by Deborah Blue.

“I thank Stephen Gayle for his letter on Sept. 22. He made an excellent point about public services, those services that are considered so necessary to modern life that their provision is usually seen as a moral issue _ food, water, safety, education, health care.

“I think the list should be continued. Would the people who are participating in these ‘Tea Party’ protests against health care reform turn away the fire truck or the police because they are publicly funded? Maybe they want to go back colonial days when fire protection was provided by private companies _ if you didn’t pay, your house burned.

“Do they use public libraries? Use a town swimming pool or camp in a state or national park? If they had a child going to a state university, would they volunteer to pay more to make up the part of the tuition that is covered by taxes?

“Do they want safe water in their home, or should town water supplies be up for bid to private companies that need to make a profit? Do they think we should put food safety into the hands of the private sector also _ Cargill or DuPont? Would they turn down new medication or treatments for diabetes or heart disease because the research was funded by taxes? Not go to a hospital or clinic that was publicly funded?

“The Tea Party ‘movement’ is a creation of big corporations and the right-wing media. The Republican Party and big business have become synonymous. They want less taxes, less oversight and fewer regulations, for their own profit. They’ve deceived a lot of people into a way of thinking that benefits them, and hidden their role in that deception.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting Started

At a town hall meeting in New Orleans, Obama responded to critics who accuse him of accomplishing little in his nine months in office, by saying “I’m just getting started.”

Obama was asked: “Why is it four years after Katrina we’re still fighting with the federal government for money to repair our devastated city? ... I expected as much from the Bush administration, but why are we still being nickeled and dimed in our recovery?”

Obama responded: “I make no excuses for the fact that the federal government did not work effectively with state and local governments immediately in the aftermath of the storm to make sure that everybody got the help they needed right away. And we are still working through the backlog of problems that existed. My expectation is that by the time my term is over, you guys are going to look back and you’re going to say: ‘This was a responsive administration on health care, on housing, on education, that actually made sure the money flowed and that things got done the way they were supposed to get done.’”

A fourth-grade African America boy asked Obama: “Why do people hate you? They’re supposed to love you. And God is love.”

Obama responded: “Well, now, first of all, I did get elected president, so not everybody hates me. If you were watching TV lately, it seems like everybody’s just getting mad all the time. Some of it is just what’s called politics, where, you know, once one party wins, then the other party kind of feels like it needs to poke you a little bit to keep you on your toes. Some people have lost their jobs and are frustrated. When you’re president of the United States, you’ve got to deal with all of that. I’m a pretty tough guy. Are you a tough guy?”

Then, our President bent over and hugged the little guy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wealth Inequality

America is a nations that harms its citizens, and like abused children, we assume we deserve no better.

Post FDR and preceding Reagan, most Americans were experiencing prosperity. Today, with the exception of Mexico and Turkey, we’re the country with the highest income inequality level. Since 2000, income inequality increased rapidly, which continued a trend that goes back to the 1970s.

Republican deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy have gutted the earnings and purchasing power of the middle class and crippled the nation’s economy. This has resulted in a decaying infrastructure, mandatory two-income families, bad schools, cheap imports, poor health, obesity, job out sourcing, increased consumer debt, privatization of public services, free-market monopolies, a corrupt financial sector and corporate-controlled media and government.

Businesses have suffered a great blow from wealth inequality, severely damaging the economy, because purchasing power has been slipping away from the middle class and working poor.

Since the 1970s, taxes on the wealthy have been drastically cut. Today, the highest income earners pay a mere 23 % tax. The greatest harm of the past thirty years, has been done to minimum wage workers, who saw their income drop. Consequently, nearly one in four American children currently live below the poverty line, one of the highest rates among the top 40 developed nations. Poverty among the elderly grew to nearly 25%. The 40 most developed nations provide a social safety net for low wage and retired workers, to guard against poverty. Only the three very poorest nations and our government does not provide basic income security for their citizens.

The year of reckoning for the Bush administration, was 2008, because the house of cards (off-budget war spending and tax cuts for the wealthy) began to collapse. By the end of 2008, wages were plunging and layoffs began in earnest. Long term unemployment will be with us for many years to come and unemployment benefits will likely be automatically extended.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The insurance industry has gotten people angrier by threatening, that if the Senate Finance Committee bill is passed, they’ll be raising peoples’ premiums.

Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer said on the “The Rachel Maddow Show” that if there’s no public option in the bill, you can hang that one on Harry Reid. Furthermore, a tremendous amount of credit should go to Senator Schumer for calling for the repeal of the antitrust exception. He’s fighting for the repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, that exempts health insurance companies from the antitrust regulations that apply to nearly every other industry, rules that protect consumers from anti-competitive business practices like price-fixing.

Passing health care reform with an effective public option is one key way to promote competition in the health insurance marketplace, but we must also eliminate this unjustified and unnecessary antitrust exemption currently enjoyed by insurance giants.

The Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, S. 1681, has been introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy. And, in the House, Rep. John Conyers has introduced H.R. 3596, that will eliminate the outdated insurance industry antitrust exemption, and force health insurance companies to compete fairly like virtually every other business in America.

Brent Budowsky is a columnist for “The Hill,” has called for the repeal of the antitrust exemption for the health insurance industry. Mr. Budowsky said; “It is time for alarm when so many power players believe the president (Obama) can be rolled... The question for Obama is whether inspired by Senator Edward Kennedy, he will wage the kind of fight he has to wage. This is not about getting one Republican Olympia Snow to pretend it’s bipartisan. This is about protecting the American people from the kind of rip-offs that we’re seeing on the credit card issue, even after the credit card bill was passed.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Latest Salvo

After fighting health reform with lies, deceit, and multimillion dollar ad campaigns, the health insurance lobby -- America’s Health Insurance Plans recently released a report on the “effects of health reform.” That report is full of flawed claims that reform would increase costs.

Many experts on healthcare reform called the report “deceptive” and “implausible.” Even the firm that wrote the report, Price Waterhouse, admits they only looked at parts of the health reform plan, because that’s what the insurance lobby paid them to do. In the early 1990s, Price Waterhouse did similar handiwork on behalf of Big Tobacco, who sought to bolster arguments that a new excise tax on tobacco would destroy hundreds of thousands of good American jobs.

The health insurance lobby has invested millions trying to convince Congress to oppose reform. The best way to cut through the spin is to tell our representatives to vote “no’ to deceitful lobbyists and “yes” to reform.

This isn’t the first time the health insurance lobby has lied, cheated, or used misleading reports. This erroneous report is just the latest salvo in a multimillion dollar offensive that appears designed to frighten voters and bully Congress into opposing reform. We must urge our representatives in Congress and tell them, that we’re counting on them to stand strong against pressure from the health insurance lobby.

Just days after releasing the report, the insurance lobby announced, that they’ll spend a million dollars on a television ad filled with debunked claims of Medicare cuts that could scare seniors away from supporting health reform.

In the coming weeks, healthcare reform will be taken up by the entire House and Senate, and the insurance lobby will take their attacks to new levels. Their lies will grow more extreme and it will be more important than ever that our voices are louder than those of the Washington lobbyists.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Small Businesses

President Obama said: “Our goal is not just to rebound from this recession, but to start building an economy that works for all Americans, where our stock market isn't only rising again but our businesses are hiring again. That’s our goal.”

Our economy is in much better shape now, than it was when Obama took office. Last January, our work force was hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month and our financial system was on the brink of collapse.

The Obama administration has put more than $1 trillion into bolstering financial institutions, giving them liquidity and presently they’re again making lots of money. Now, we need to loan money to the people who create most of the jobs in this country and that is small business. Last year, some Republicans were critical of the stimulus package. Nevertheless, the Bush administration loaned $700 billion to the multibillion dollar financial institutions. That money didn’t go to community banks, who make the loans to the small businesses, who create 65% of the new jobs in this country.

Democrats are to trying change the fact, that stimulus money hasn’t been adequately spread throughout our country. This isn’t going to be done overnight and it may take over a year, because forty percent of the stimulus money went to financial services firms, who aren’t lending the money as quickly as expected.

A lot of small businesses in this country need loans to survive the recession. We need to insist the Small Business Administration backing up larger loans, so that banks actively seek people with SBA loans. We need a federal program whereby a small business person can go to a bank for a loan and it’s backed by the federal government.

That is the way our taxpayer dollars helped Wall Street to send the Dow Jones Industrial over $10,000. Wall Street got their money, and access to the capital. Now, it’s Main Streets turn.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Final Question

Professor Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D. founded the Veterans Self-Help Initiative for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, while recovering from his experiences as a Marine Corps Officer during the Vietnam War. Recently, he wrote a public letter to President Obama asking a myriad of important questions. I’ve condensed those questions, but haven’t summarized Dr. Bica’s final question.

Before Obama decides to send more troops to Afghanistan, he should answer the question: “What does he expect an addition 40,000 more troops to accomplish?

Afghanistan is in chaos and confidence in the central government is at an all time low in the wake of a fraudulent election. For nine years our troops have been mired in a protracted war, with no foreseeable end. “How much longer will Obama ask our young men and women to continue to fight and die in Afghanistan?

According to Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, our commitment in Afghanistan will require 10 to 15 years to make a difference, if at all. “How many more lives is Obama prepared to sacrifice?”

The “war on terrorism” is costing the American taxpayer in excess of $3 trillion, and has become the second most expensive conflict in American history, trailing only WWII. The conflict in Afghanistan is economic suicide. “How many more lives and national treasure is Obama prepared to squander in pursuit of an undefined victory?”

The final question is a precise quote: “President Obama, it is time, long past, for decisive action to bring these occupations to an end. How much more failure, pain, suffering and sacrifice will you ask the American people to accept and endure in Afghanistan? At what point will you garner the courage to admit that the effort, though perhaps noble, is impossible or beyond what we are willing/able to endure/pay in lives and treasure? Should you continue on this road to disaster, I fear you will share the fate of another Liberal Democratic president, who, having become embroiled in quagmire, with too much invested in treasure, lives and reputation to just pick up and walk away, had to abandon his dreams of a “Great Society.” The Vietnam War defined and tainted the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. I have one final question President Obama, is Afghanistan your Vietnam?”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Melanie Shouse

A few years ago, Melanie Shouse was living the American dream when she transformed an old Dominos storefront into an expansion of her home business. But just as the store was opening, Melanie was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and given months to live.

Melanie had insurance, and she went straight to the experts at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. Working with world renowned doctors, she’s beaten the odds and stayed healthy for years. However, now her insurance company, a subsidiary of WellPoint, is refusing to pay for the medication her doctors have recommend.

Two weeks ago, Melanie went to WellPoint’s local office in St. Louis to confront CEO Angela Braly, who makes almost $10 million a year in salary and stock benefits, but defends the practice of dropping people like Melanie, who had insurance when they became sick. Braly refused to meet with Melanie, just like she had refused Melanie’s medication.

CEO Angela Braly is going to Washington, D.C., where she’s attending a convention of the biggest insurance company executives in America. That conference provides people like Melanie an opportunity to confront the insurance company CEOs who denied them care when they needed it the most.

Melanie and people like her will risk everything to demand that insurance CEOs stop dropping their coverage, stop denying care and stop opposing real reform in Congress. Those of us with healthcare insurance must continue to keep pressure on Braly and other insurance company CEOs, because we could be next.

A recent poll indicates, that 65 % of the American people support a public option, but in the Senate the votes don’t appear to be available to pass the legislation. Although the Senate Finance Committee’s bill doesn’t contain a public option, insurance companies are threatening to raise premiums, if that bill becomes law. Consequently, Senator Schumer is insisting, that it’s time to eliminate the antitrust exemption for insurance industry, that currently allows price fixing, collusion, and price gouges.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Founding Fathers

Robert Beckman took exception to my letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star. That letter was posted on 9/15/09, entitled “Why Bother.” Mr. Beckman wrote:

“Someone once said that a democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. That is precisely why the Founding Fathers constructed a constitutional republic with a federal government having limited and clearly defined powers with all other powers being reserved to the states or the people.

“It is obvious from his letter to The Daily Star that Jim O’Leary doesn’t understand the concept of the nation as originated by our forefathers and, sad to say, his conception is shared by many of his fellow Americans. Think of how democracy is practiced in Africa.

“In almost all instances democracy is one man, one vote, one time. Robert Mugabe was democratically elected president of Zimbabwe and has since declared himself president for life. The country is in complete disarray and the people are far worse off than when they were ruled by the British.

“Mr. O’Leary rails against the United States Senate because of the disparity of the population in the various states. But that is exactly why the Senate was formed that way, to protect the smaller states from being overwhelmed by the larger ones. Regrettably, Mr. O’Leary’s point of view seems to be winning.

“Prior to the 17th Amendment, senators were chosen by state legislatures. A good case can be made that the quality of the senators before the amendment was superior to those after. Where are the Daniel Websters, John Calhouns and Henry Clays in the modern era Senate?

“Our government was set up to have a House of Representatives to represent the people, the Senate to represent the states and the president to represent the federal government. How far we have come since that was true and the federal government was a small part of legislation enacted in our country.”

Apparently, Beckman strongly approves of the original concepts our forefathers had in mind, when citizens had to be land owners, white, and male in order to vote. The Constitution contained four provisions tacitly allowing slavery to continue for the next 20 years. Section 9 of Article I allowed the continued “importation” of such persons. Section 2 of Article IV prohibited the provision of assistance to escaping persons and required their return, and Section 2 of Article I defined other persons as “three-fifths” of a person for calculations of each state’s official population for representation and federal taxation.

Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution without the benefit of a crystal ball, and things have changed significantly since 1787. Today, two Senators for states with about the same number of voters as Staten Island is ridiculous, and I suspect, the signers of our Constitution would agree.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Financial Institutions

Yesterday, the Dow closed up over 10,000 for the first time in over a year. Wall Street is recovering quickly, but Main Streets across America continue to struggle with a national average of 9.8% unemployment.

Americans are fed up with unacceptable treatment from the giant financial institutions. They’ve squeezed every last dime from us with tricky banking and credit card fees. They destroyed our economy with risky investment schemes and scoop up $400 billion in our tax dollars to bail themselves out.

Today, they have deployed an army of high-paid lobbyists and a million dollar ad campaign to convince Congress, that it shouldn’t change the lax regulations and cozy relationships that got our country into this mess.

Earlier this year, our representatives in Congress passed the toughest credit card reform bill in history and our government is in the process of putting those reforms in place. Last month, customers began complaining about the ridiculous checking overdraft fees. Complaints from members of Congress prompted some banks to “voluntarily” cut what they were charging.

A proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency would protect customers from abusive financial schemes, fine print and confusing loan contracts so we know the risk we’re taking on. We’d have a regulator whose only job is to create sensible consumer rules, while making sure lenders and banks follow them, and going after those who don’t. States would share the job with Washington, so we’d have no more extra-risky mortgages, or hidden tricks in credit cards and loans.

The financial industry knows this would end their cozy deal, and they’re fighting it tooth and nail.  They’re lobbying against a watchdog that would prevent their risky schemes.  Their running TV ads attacking the concept of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. We must not let these charlatans to turn the table, because we must change how we do business in this country and return to sensible credit and lending practices.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Peace Prize to President Obama, who made a decision early in his presidency to promote American ideals through diplomacy, talk to rivals as well as allies, and to inspire us all to put what binds us together ahead of what pushes us apart.

Obama accept the award by saying: “I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”

Obama wants to bring world leaders together to deal with monumental challenges like nuclear arms proliferation, conflict resolution and climate change. He’s deeply commitment to constructive solution and building alliances for a safer America and a more peaceful world.

The Peace Prize reflects a world that all Americans want to build, and it should bring a sense of enormous pride, but also a sense of deep humility about the work that remains if we are to resolve the global problems facing humanity.

The Nominating Committee praised our President: “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”... “The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.”

Although, we remain mired in two wars, many of us continue to share hope, that Obama will end those conflicts, and lead our country and the world towards a more peaceful future. Obama has already taken a number of concrete steps toward that goal.

He started bilateral negotiations with Russia for a successor to the START arms reduction agreement.

He has jump-started diplomacy by restarting talks with Iran that have already proven constructive.

He has pledged to ratify a treaty to secure loose nuclear material around the world, and host a global nuclear security summit in Washington next year.

He has sent Secretary of State Clinton to an international conference for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

He secured international endorsements for a world without nuclear weapons, when he presided over a special session of the UN Security Council, continuing the momentum toward nuclear security and arms control.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Village Idiot

In an attempt to scare senior citizens like myself, we hear a litany of negative descriptions about how Obama is taking our country down the wrong path. However, I’ve recently learned about an evangelical subculture and has me fearing for our country for a different reason.

Frank Schaeffer grew up in the religion of the far right.  He has authored: “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back.”

In 2000, Schaeffer worked for John McCain, and tried to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush. He believes, that in 2008, McCain sold out to the religious right by picking Sarah Palen. Schaeffer doesn’t see any Republican, who has the moral standing required to provide real leadership.

According to Schaeffer there is a subculture “which is literally a fifth column of insanity.” He claims that it’s bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, to reject facts as a matter of faith. He stated: “A village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.  It’s as simple as that... we have a village idiot in this country, it’s called Fundamentalist Christianity.”

As a former lifelong Republican, Schaeffer insists, that until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would be better not to have a Republican Party, than have a party that caters to the village idiot. He says that there is no end in sight, because this subculture has as its fundamentalist faith, that they distrust facts and that for them it all has to do with the end of time and the return of Christ. He believes, that the Republican Party is totally enthralled by this subculture to the extent that there is no longer a Republican Party.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Diversity and Freedom

In 2007, Senator Kennedy said: “We want to be able to have a value system that is worthy for our brave men and women to defend. They are fighting overseas for our values. One of the values is that we should not, in this country, in this democracy, permit the kind of hatred and bigotry that has stained the history of this Nation over a considerable period of time. We should not tolerate it. We keep faith with these men and women who are serving overseas when we battle that hatred and bigotry and prejudice at home.”

According to Senator Carl Levin the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Congress took an important step to protect those who have been targeted because of the color of their skin, their religion, their disability, their gender, or their sexual orientation.”

Recently, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees agreed to a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, that includes a Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The legislation is likely be passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in the coming days. According to Senator Levin, this “landmark legislation embodies values of diversity and freedom that our men and women in uniform fight to defend.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand expects a hearing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will be held in the Armed Services Committee in October or November. She has asked Chairman Carl Levin to hold a hearing, because there’s an extraordinary amount of misinformation on the subject. Gillibrand believes, that the American public, and her Senate and House colleagues, need to hear the facts. She predicts, that as we begin to talk about the facts and present the evidence, they’ll have the support in Congress that is need.

She has pointed out, that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been in place for 16 years, and during that time our military has dismissed over 13,000 service members, more than 800 of them were in mission critical areas. Ten percent of our foreign language speakers in Farsi, and Arabic have been discharged, at a time, when there a great deal of pressure on our military. Gillibrand insists the bottom line is that people want these very talented and well-trained individuals to be serving in our military, when we have two wars and terrorism concerns all across the world.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Be Afraid

Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa warned: “So, if you support single-payer health care, if you support longer waits, crowded emergency rooms, lower quality of care—in other words, the rationing or the denial of care or the delay of care that you get in single-payer systems, do you want that for America?”

New York’s Senator Charles Schumer pointed out: “The main knock you’ve made on Senator Rockefeller’s amendment, I presume on mine, is it’s government run, but Medicare is government-run, and most people like it very much.”

Senator Grassley argued: “But if it comes to a single-payer, and that denies the American people choice. What’s good now about Medicare Advantage is people in my state have 44 choices to go to, and what you would be leading us to would be a system where there isn’t choice. Now, I want to give senior citizens choice.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson asked: “Now, you just made a statement that it will lead to a single-payer.  How in the world do you make that leap?”

Grassley pointed out: “Well, you know, there are health economists around here, and I can only quote two.  One is Heritage says that 83 million people are going to be forced out of their plan, employer plans, into public option. And Lewin Group says 120 million.”

In fact, the Heritage Foundation is a right-wing think tank, and the Lewin Group is run by a wholly owned subsidiary of United Healthcare Group, which is the second largest health insurance company in the country. Ironically, these are the research firms, that have been supplying congressional Republicans with their information regarding why health reform is such a bad idea.

Nevada’s Republican Senator John Ensign claimed: “... most of us heard from our constituents, the people are really afraid of the public option.”

Yet, a recent “New York Times”/CBS poll found that 65 % of Americans would like such a choice. Senators Grassley and Ensign might want to start getting their information from less partisan sources.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Disappointed Voters

Recently, the Middletown Times Herold Record published a letter, that was submitted by Paul Sybrandy, Vice president of the Matamoras Republican Club.

He wrote: “This is in response to the letter Oct. 3 titled “GOP mission: Hurt Dems.” The letter writer states that the entire Republican motive is to bring down the Democratic Party. Well, if that is true, which it isn’t, then the same could be said about the Dems when President Bush was in office.

“He also states that their main objective is to get re-elected even at the expense of the American people. What an incredibly absurd statement! Does that statement conceive a thought that Republicans are not American people?

“The last statement, and most inconceivable thing I have ever heard in the opinion section of this paper, states that he believes Obama has accomplished more in his short term than the Bush administration did in eight years. If by accomplished more you mean broke almost every campaign promise, then yes, I guess he has. Most Democrats I know even cringed when I read that statement to them. Are you serious? Really? Please don’t waste editorial space anymore with paragraphs like that.”
The above letter was followed by a letter, I had submitted: A mandate for health-care reform was given to President Obama and congressional Democrats. However, that mandate obviously means nothing to Republicans, who still have a great deal of influence in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told an attack group that if they’re “able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” A public option may not pass, because a few senators from sparsely populated states have had a disproportionate amount of influence over the Senate Finance Committee’s health-care proposals. New York has 8,624,000 registered voters, but health-care lobbyists have spent a great deal of money lobbying senators from sparsely populated states.

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi represents 265,000 voters, which is slightly more than Staten Island’s 201,794 registered voters. Some Democrats from sparsely populated states have received large contributions from health-care lobbyists, but New York’s representatives in Congress have not been obstacles to change.

Disappointed voters suspect that they’ve been deceived by Obama and their representatives in Congress regarding health-care reform. It’s become a serious problem for congressional Democrats, and of course Republicans enjoy seeing disappointed Democratic voters form circular firing squads, because it makes their job much easier.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"No Calluses"

Yesterday’s post entitled: “A Tough Candidate,” was about Congressman, Alan Grayson, who grew up in a Bronx’s tenements. His parents were teachers, and they made great sacrifices, to make sure that Alan received the best education possible. He was a sick child and his mother took him to the hospital four times a week for treatment. He insists that without health coverage, he wouldn’t be alive today. 
Grayson rode the subway to school each day, and he was the valedictorian of his junior high school. He was selected to attend an exclusive public high school, and he achieved the highest test score among almost 50,000 students who took the test.  He was admitted to Harvard, because they saw something special in him.
At Harvard, Grayson cleaned toilets, and worked as a night watchman. Nevertheless, he earned a bachelor’s degree in only three years and graduated from Harvard in the top two percent of his class. After four years, he returned to Harvard and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. Grayson has a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Government. His master’s thesis examined how to improve the health of older people. 
From the beginning of his legal career, Grayson gravitated toward the important question of how the Government spends the taxpayers’ money. He mastered the incredibly complex rules regarding government contracting and represented hundreds of clients in that field.
“Taxpayers Against Fraud” named Alan Grayson its Lawyer of the Year, and the Wall St. Journal lauded Grayson, by saying that he was “waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq.” 

As a member of Congress, Rep. Grayson referred to those Republicans, who were attempting to stall healthcare reform as “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.” A Republican member of the House approached Grayson and told him, that he didn’t like to be talked about that way. Grayson told him: “I wasn’t talking about you.  Look at your knuckles.  There’s no calluses.”

A tough candidate with a sense of humor is the kind of representation, the Democratic Party needs in Congress.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Tough Candidate

Congressman Alan Grayson summarized the Republican health care plan as: “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.” 

Republicans insisted Grayson apologize, but his response was: “I would like to apologize to the dead.  According to a study published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. That is more than 10 times the number of Americans who died in the war in Iraq.  It’s more than 10 times the number of Americans who died in 9/11.  I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America... The people who should be apologizing are the Republicans.  They’re the ones who should apologize for dragging us all through the mud here while we’re trying to improve health care in America.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee claimed: “This is an unstable man who has come unhinged.  The depths of which Alan Grayson will sink to defend his indefensible comments know no bounds.  This is an individual who has established a pathological pattern of unstable behavior.” 

Grayson replied: “America is sick of you, Republican Party.  You are a lie factory.  That’s all you ever do.  Why don’t you work together with the Democrats to solve America’s problems instead of making stuff up?”

A background check found, that Grayson graduated from Harvard, worked with Justice Scalia, Robert Bork and Justice Ginsburg. He built a multibillion dollar business, that traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Republicans claim, that Grayson is going to be in a tough reelection bid next year and he’s doing this for attention and to get money. Grayson’s response: “If I have to choose between my job and saving the lives of 44,000 Americans a year, I know what my decision is.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Who Are We?

Who are we as a people, and what do we stand for? Why is it, that we allow the richest 1% of Americans have as much financial wealth as the bottom 95 % combined. We certainly don’t have a democracy, when the richest 1% get to call the shots.  Their lobbyists are working every day and spending $1.4 million a day, on the health care lobbying to insure that their obscene profits continue. 

Without a doubt, they’re doing everything they possibly can to ensure the defeat of a public option in a healthcare reform bill. Those of us that share 1% of the wealth don’t have the financial resources to stop them, but we should have the votes. We need to pick up the phone or send e-mails to obstructing Democratic Senators (Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana) and urge them to support an effective public option in the health care reform bill.

Democrats in the House who don’t vote for a public option are not the type of representation we need in Congress. Next year, they’ll need to be targeted by finding a tenacious candidate to run against them in the Democratic primary and remove them from office. 

There is no compromise on this issue, because the compromise was the public option. We should have initially insisted on real change, i.e., single payer health care, that covers everyone, like every other western democracy has.

After inheriting the incredible catastrophes of two wars and the stock market crash, Obama extended an olive branch, but the Republican leadership smacked it out of his hand.  It’s time for Obama to say to Republicans, that the vast majority of Americans agree with me, so we’ll attempt to reform healthcare on our own.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Far To Timid

Rush Limbaugh and congressional Republicans don’t want healthcare reform, and want Obama to fail. The hostile accusations at town hall meetings and the ridiculous lies about the reform plan are part of the Fox News-Republican strategy. They want the government to fail, so that, they can say: “We told you the government can’t do anything.”

Franklin Roosevelt passed Social Security with scarcely any Republican support, and now, politicians of both parties don’t dare challenge the basic idea that all our elderly deserve retirement security.

A public option for health coverage doesn’t involve our government taking over the health care system. The idea is that only consumers, who wanted to enroll in a government-run plan would do so, and those, who preferred private insurance plan could get it. Those opposed to a public option claim, that they want to hold down spending and fight deficits. However, the Congressional Budget Office examined Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller’s strong version of a public option plan and determined, that it cut costs by insuring everyone.

The debate over the public option has tended to avoided substantive ideas and has been almost entirely ideological. Democrats have been far too timid in taking on the right wing’s arguments against a government-run plan. They’ve been defensive, but should instead be going on offense by insisting that only the government can expand human freedom by giving people options they wouldn’t otherwise have.

During the Senate Finance Committee’s public option debate, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa insisted: “The government is not a fair competitor. It’s a predator.” Maybe, Senator Grassley should try explaining how Medicare is behaving in a predatory manner by paying healthcare bills for the elderly. Perhaps, Grassley believes our government would be acting in predatory manner, by regulating predatory lenders or stock swindlers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Our Support Needed

The Council for a Livable World has endorsed four candidates who can win, even in this very difficult political environment.

Pennsylvania Representative Joe Sestak, a former three star Navy admiral, is challenging Senator Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary - the most closely-watched primary race in the country! Sestak faces an uphill fight for this seat, but it is not a daunting task. Though the Democratic establishment is behind Specter, Sestak has the strong support of the grassroots and net-roots communities. Sestak’s name recognition within the state may be low now, but he is a tireless campaigner and is used to upsets. Recent polls show this race tightening.

Robin Carnahan of Missouri is running for an open seat currently held by retiring hawk Republican Senator Kit Bond. The Council for a Livable World has endorsed Robin Carnahan for Senate because she supports smart national security policies that strengthen our military, bolster our international alliances, and keep our families and communities safe by moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Polls show she is currently tied with her likely Republican opponent.

Earlier this year, Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet was appointed to replace former Senator and now Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. A capable, reform-minded administrator, Bennet was plucked from his position as Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools. Bennet’s path to election next November has suddenly become less sure as Republicans have found a credible opponent, and Bennet is facing an unexpected Democratic primary challenge. Despite these challengers, however, Bennet remains the favorite.

U.S. Representative Democrat Paul Hodes is running for the United States Senate to replace retiring Senator Judd Gregg. Hodes already demonstrated his strong campaign skills and determination by unseating an entrenched incumbent Republican in 2006 and solidly winning reelection in 2008. The GOP has recruited a strong candidate, a former New Hampshire attorney general. Still, the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza has picked this race as the greatest chance for a Senate seat to switch from one party to another.

All these candidates will need considerable campaign funds to help defeat their opponents.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"Doesn't Add Up"

Recently, General Stanley McChrystal told CBS’s 60 Minutes: “If the people are against us, we cannot be successful. If the people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can’t be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically.” He admitted: “We could do good things in Afghanistan for the next 100 years and fail. Because we’re doing a lot of good things and it just doesn’t add up to success.”

It doesn’t add up, because General McChrystal like most politicians and generals, seldom listen to experts. Michael Scheuer was the CIA’s expert on Afghanistan, and in 2004, he wrote “Imperial Hubris.” Scheuer stated: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

Our politicians and generals insist, that they wants to win the battle for the hearts and the minds of the people in war-torn Afghanistan, with more troops and a new strategy, but more troops and a new strategy is not going to change the fact that we’re occupiers, casualties are going up dramatically and after 8 years of training the Afghan military remains incompetent.

The $ 12 billion a month, we’ve spent waging two Middle East wars, plus the loss of revenue caused by Bush’s tax cuts have skyrocketed the national debt to a record high. We can’t justify putting thousands of troops into Afghanistan, because the enormous costs of those wars has add up and is undermining recovery efforts at home.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Basic Health Care

We remain the only major county without a national health care program guaranteeing health care for all, but we’re spending far more per capita than any other industrialized country. Even more ridiculous is how we deal with primary care. It’s estimated, that 60 million Americans don’t have a doctor, and far more lack access to a dentist. Although, we have an overabundance of highly paid specialists, we’re experiencing a crucial shortage of primary health care physicians, dentists, nurses and other medical personnel.

Healthcare costs soar, because those lacking primary health care flock to expensive emergency rooms for their medical needs. People who have insurance are paying higher premiums, which pays for the cost-shifting that takes place in the present system in order to take care of those without insurance. Those lacking access to a doctor often delay getting the medical treatment they need, get sicker and end up in hospitals.

In their stimulus package, congressional Democrats doubled the amount of money going to community health centers and tripled the amount of money for the National Health Service Corps, which will increase primary health care doctors, dentists and nurses.

Community health centers were created more than 40 years ago, in legislation authored by Senator Edward Kennedy. Presently, community health centers provide primary medical care to 18 million Americans in underserved rural areas and inner cities. Their doors are open to patients with Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and those who have no insurance at all. Those centers provide services on a sliding-scale basis, and no patient who walks into a community health center is turned away because he or she lacks payment.

It’s a win-win situation, because as we increase primary health care access to all Americans, we actually reduce health care spending in our country by as much as $18 billion a year. Federal auditors have consistently rated community health centers as one of the most efficient uses of federal funds. Community health centers are a critical lifeline for millions of Americans and we must build upon their success by expanding them to all those in need.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Terminate Contract!

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the best-selling: “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Scahill writes, that two years after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, and the company’s contract has been extended. Blackwater has contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA.

In a sworn statement a former Blackwater employee alleged, that Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.” The former employee charged, Prince “intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.... Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as ‘ragheads’ or ‘hajiis.’?”

Another former Blackwater employee, an ex-US Marine, charged in a sworn statement that “Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq.” He claims, that he personally witnessed weapons being pulled out of dog food bags. Allegedly, “Prince and his employees arranged for the weapons to be polywrapped and smuggled into Iraq on Mr. Prince’s private planes, which operated under the name Presidential Airlines, which “generated substantial revenues from participating in the illegal arms trade.”

A lawsuit has been filed against Prince by four Iraqis who claim they were shot by Blackwater operatives a week before Nisour Square. According to Susan Burke, the lawyer for the Iraqis, Prince’s heavily armed private army went night hunting on more than one occasion. Night hunting entailed Prince’s men, armed with night goggles and riding in his helicopters over the streets of Baghdad, killing at random.

Why would Obama approve hundreds of millions of dollars for Blackwater to remain on the ground, representing the United States in these countries? At a recent hearing of the bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission, commissioner Linda Gustitus asserted that the State Department “helped to send a message to other contractors that you can do a lot and not have your contract terminated.”

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fundamental Principles

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His focus is in ethics, particularly as it applies to war and warriors. As a veteran recovering from his experiences as a United States Marine Corps Officer during the Vietnam War, he founded, and coordinated for five years, the Veterans Self-Help Initiative, a therapeutic community of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Excerpts from his most recent article: “The Moral Character of Our Country,” follow: “Recently, in a speech to Congress and to the American people regarding health care reform, President Barack Obama, quoting the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, reminded the nation that ‘What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.’

“What the revisionists fail to understand is that morality is not a tool of advantage for the strong and/or the privileged to be used and appealed to when it is in their interest to do so, and when it is not, to be modified, ignored, or manipulated. Nor is morality a prop, a facade through which we may proclaim our superiority and/or condemn others. If morality is to have any meaning at all, it must recognize as a fundamental principle the dignity and the rights - the lives and well-being - of ALL human beings. If we do not value persons, all persons, not just members of our particular community, religious group, ethnic group, gender etc., and respect their dignity and their rights, then all other things, whether it is property, possessions, national boundaries, the flag etc., lose their meaning and their value as well. Like justice, morality is blind and requires universal and equal application, holding everyone to the same standard. It is the hypocrite, the rogue nation, that attempts to modify the tenets of morality, or argues that it be ignored, or rationalizes loopholes (collateral damage) through which to pursue their individual or national interest.
“If President Obama truly accepts the wisdom of Senator Kennedy's insights quoted above, he must realize that morality - a respect for persons - certainly includes, but does not end with, whether we provide universal and affordable health care to our citizens. As Senator Kennedy so often reminded us, what we face in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is also, above all, a moral issue. If President Obama's acknowledgment of the importance of adhering to the dictates of morality and of preserving (perhaps, ‘salvaging’ would be better) our character as a nation and as a people is not just political rhetoric aimed at passing a particular piece of legislation, then he must act, quickly and decisively, to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the war in Pakistan. Morality demands it. At stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”