Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cost Containment

A healthcare bill that provides hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to the insurance companies without a public option, without strong cost containment is a gift to the private insurance companies.

The vast majority of the American people want to have a choice between a public plan and a private plan. Therefore, Congress should model the final bill to contain a national public option, which will provide real competition, greater choice, and lower costs.

Presently, the Senate reform bill needs to be changed. It would require most Americans to have insurance, but even with subsidies some people could pay up to 20% of their income on health care. The final bill must ensure families aren't required to spend more than they can handle. Healthcare reform should be paid for with a small surcharge on the wealthiest Americans. Furthermore, insurance companies are exempt from laws designed to prevent monopolies and price-gouging. In the final bill these defects must be fixed.

Despite what the president wants, despite what the American people want, despite what the House wants, and despite what a majority of Senators want, every Republican Senator and Independent Joe Lieberman are insisting on no public option. Rather than cave in and end up with a bad bill, the Democratic leadership should admit, that they don’t have the required 60 votes and attempt reconciliation.

Real healthcare insurance reform could be initiated by determining, which members of Congress think it’s appropriate for insurance companies to deny care for a pre-existing condition or terminating health care insurance, because a person was sick in the previous year. We could determine, which members of Congress oppose negotiating prices with drug companies for every Americans, as the Veterans Administration presently does. We could expand and strengthen Medicaid, by adding 15 million more people to the health insurance rolls. We could expand primary health care and community health centers, because sixty million people in this country don’t have access to a doctor, dentist, mental health counseling or low-cost prescription drugs.

These issues might get 60 votes in the Senate, without giving huge subsidies to private insurance companies. A Happy New Year for millions of Americans is still a possibility.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Minority Rules

Presently, we’re stuck with a dysfunctional Senate.  Regarding health care reform, Republican Senator 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.”  Obama responded: “Think about that. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics.  This is about a health care system that is breaking up American families, breaking America’s businesses and breaking America’s economy.”

Right-wing writer Bill Kristol of “The Weekly Standard” told Republicans, that they need to resist the temptation to work with Democrats to find a solution to our health care crisis.  Kristol advised: “This is no time to pull punches.  Go for the kill.”

Their plan is to oppose health care reform to weaken our President and defeat his entire agenda for change.  If the American people buy into the strategy of the “Party of No’ to do nothing, it will ensure more of the same.  It will saddle our children and grandchildren with a burden of exploding costs and declining care that they may never overcome.

House Democrats have passed over a hundred bills, that are awaiting action by the Senate.  Senate Democrats have been working very hard, but they’ve been forced to deal with an undemocratic 60 vote majority rule to invoke closure.  A Democratic Senator, who claims that he’s representing the religious views of his fundamentalist constituents on funding for abortion joined with the “Party of No’ to delay meaningful healthcare legislation.
  
In a democracy we get the government that we deserve, but the Senate is far from being a democratic institution.  For example a states like Montana gets two Senators, even thought it has about the same number of voters as Staten Island.  Politics has always been the art of the possible, but what is possible in the Senate seldom represents the informed views of a majority of Americans.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Come Home

“A sharp turn toward another Vietnam” by George McGovern

“As a U.S. senator during the 1960s, I agonized over the badly mistaken war in Vietnam.  After doing all I could to save our troops and the Vietnamese people from a senseless conflict, I finally took my case to the public in my presidential campaign in 1972.  Speaking across the nation, I told audiences that the only upside of the tragedy in Vietnam was that its enormous cost in lives and dollars would keep any future administration from going down that road again.

“I was wrong.  Today, I am astounded at the Obama administration’s decision to escalate the equally mistaken war in Afghanistan, and as I listen to our talented young president explain why he is adding 30,000 troops -- beyond the 21,000 he had added already -- I can only think: another Vietnam.  I hope I am incorrect, but history tells me otherwise.

“Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all believed that the best way to save the government in Saigon and defeat Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Cong insurgents was to send in U.S. troops.  But the insurgency only grew stronger, even after we had more than 500,000 troops fighting and dying in Vietnam.

“We have had tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan for several years, and we have employed an even larger number of mercenaries (or ‘contractors,’ as they’re called these days).  As in Vietnam, the insurgent forces are stronger than ever, and the Afghan government is as corrupt as the one we backed in Saigon.

“Why do we send young Americans to risk life and limb on behalf of such worthless regimes? The administration says we need to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But the major al-Qaeda forces are in Pakistan.

“The insurgency in Afghanistan is led by the Taliban. Its target is its own government, not our government.  Its only quarrel with us is that its members see us using our troops and other resources to prop up a government they despise. Adding more U.S. forces will fuel the Taliban further.

“Starting in 1979, the Soviets tried to control events in Afghanistan for nearly a decade.  They lost 15,000 troops, and an even larger number of soldiers were crippled or wounded.  Their treasury was exhausted, and the Soviet Union collapsed.  A similar fate has befallen other powers that have tried to work their will on Afghanistan’s collection of mountain warlords and tribes.

“We have the best officers and combat troops in the world, but they are weary after nearly a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Why waste these fine soldiers any longer?

“Even if we had a good case for a war in Afghanistan, we simply cannot afford to wage it.  With a $12 trillion debt and a serious economic recession, this is not a time for unnecessary wars abroad.  We should bring our soldiers home before any more of them are killed or wounded -- and before our national debt explodes.

“In 1964, Johnson asked several senators who were not running for reelection that year if we would campaign for him.  He assured those of us who were opposed to the war in Vietnam that he had no plans to expand the U.S. presence. Johnson won the election in a landslide, telling voters he sought no wider war. ‘We are not about to send American boys nine or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves,’ he assured during his campaign.

“But once elected, Johnson began to pour in more troops until American forces reached exceeded 500,000.  All told, more than 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam, and many more were crippled in mind and body.  “This is to say nothing of the nearly 2 million Vietnamese who died under U.S. bombardment.

“Johnson had a brilliant record in domestic affairs, but Vietnam choked his dream of a Great Society.  The war had become unbearable to so many Americans -- civilian and military -- that the landslide victor of 1964 did not seek reelection four years later.

“Obama has the capacity to be a great president; I just hope that Afghanistan will not tarnish his message of change.  After half a century of Cold War and hot wars, it is time to rebuild our great and troubled land.  By closing down the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can divert the vast sums being spent there to revitalizing our own nation.

“In 1972, I called on my fellow citizens to ‘Come home, America.’  Today, I commend these words to our new president.”

George McGovern, a former senator from South Dakota and a decorated World War II combat veteran, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972.

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

The decision has been made and we’ll have to wait 18 months to see the results of Obama’s decision. What ever happens, our government can no longer be accused of cutting and running, because the people of Afghanistan have been given an opportunity to determine their own destiny.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Karzai’s Alliance

The road to success for President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy runs through India, because reversing the Taliban’s momentum requires getting rid of their sanctuary in Pakistan. While Pakistan is aggressively tackling its domestic Taliban, it has consistently declined to act against Afghan Taliban groups based on its soil. The Afghan Taliban is believe to be useful, since it’s seen as a dominant influence against Pakistan’s archenemy, India. Unless India can be persuaded to take steps to ease tensions with Pakistan, some believe, that Pakistan won’t be willing to shut down the Afghan Taliban.

Indian influence has expanded after we invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban. India had been a longtime supporter of the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban coalition that dominated the Karzai government, and it poured hundreds of millions of dollars of aid into supporting the new regime.

Events northwest of the Khyber Pass have had a central place in the strategic calculations of generations of rulers in Delhi, dating back to the imperial Mughals and the colonial British. The Taliban has forged links with fundamentalist groups waging war on India in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

That is the reason India has pumped over $1.2 billion in development aid to the Karzai government, funding infrastructure projects ranging from highways to hydroelectric dams to a 5,000-ton cold storage facility for fruit merchants in Kandahar. India is building schools and hospitals, as well as flying hundreds of Afghan medical students to train in Indian colleges.

The popularity of Bollywood music and Indian soap operas confirms India’s significant cultural influence in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai went to university in India, while his former electoral opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, belongs to the old Indian-backed Northern Alliance.

Pakistan’s generals view India’s growing influence in Afghanistan as motivated by an intent to destabilize Pakistan. During her trip to Pakistan last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed the notion that India was trying to foment trouble in Pakistan. She told a former top-ranking Indian intelligence official and prominent strategic analyst: “The Pakistani fears are completely imaginary.”

India is unlikely to change its strategy in Afghanistan. It’s developing a port at Chabahar in Iran, which could become a key point of entry for Indian goods and material into Afghanistan because Pakistan refuses India land transit rights to the Afghan border.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Commercial / Investment

Americans have become cynical regarding our government’s ability to solve this economic crisis, especially the way the TARP program has been handled. Congress gave the Bush administration half of the money that was requested, but attached conditions to the second half of the bailout money. The Democrats in Congress told Treasury Secretary Paulson that he’d get $350 billion, but they required an opportunity to evaluate the results, before approving the rest.

Many members of Congress were disappointed when the Bush administration decided to use none of that $350 to reduce foreclosures, which had been a central part of the economic solution. Congress made it clear to the Obama administration, that it will not be able to spend any of the additional money unless something is done to reduce foreclosures.

The money that Treasury Secretary Paulson gave the banks, isn’t being loaned by investment banks to enable people to buy cars and homes. Consequently, Congress insisted that no money can be used in the second half of the TARP program until they get assurances that money put into government-insured commercial banks is going to be recycled back into the economy in the form of reasonable loans.

Congressman Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has made it clear, that he wants the remaining TARP allotment to help homeowners, lower compensation for bank executives, help smaller banks, and provide more accountability.

The pay of executives employed by non-federally backed investment banks that have received TARP money would be capped in a standardized manner, regardless of what type of aid they received under the program. It would also make the pay limit provision retroactive to existing program participants. Frank has insisted: “If they don’t like it, they can give the money back,” referring to the retroactive limits on executive pay.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starting the Process

The alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be brought from Guantanamo Bay to New York to stand trial, along with four other suspected terrorists.

Obama: “I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice. The American people will insist on it and my administration will insist on it.”

Attorney General Eric Holder insisted: “I’m quite confident that we can safely hold people there, that we can protect the people who surround the courthouse area and bring these cases successfully.”

NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said: “It‘s highly appropriate that those accused in the deaths of nearly 3,000 human beings in New York City be tried here. And the NYPD is prepared for the security required.”

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents lower Manhattan, including Ground Zero said: “Most of my constituents are solid, intelligent, level-headed people, and they want justice done and they want traditional American justice, which is that a person accused of a heinous crime is tried in the area in which the crime occurred. And that’s what we’re going to do here. One of the leaders of the victims’ families, who is thrilled that we’re finally going to get a chance to see justice done and to get these terrorists tried, given full benefits of American law and then the full penalties of the law. ”

Republican Mitch McConnell claims: “There are needless risks from this decision. Our cities will face enormous security problems and our communities will be potential targets for attack.”

Congressman Nadler responded: “That’s blatant nonsense and fear mongering. The terrorists certainly want to hurt us, and if they could, they would, regardless of any trials. We have very dangerous people in our maximum security prisons in various places in the United States. Nobody escapes from one of them. We conducted the trials and convicted them and sentenced them to long terms in prison—the people who bombed the World Trade Center, the Muslim terrorists back in 1993. There is no danger from these terrorists.”

Terror trials in civilian courts are not new. The terrorists responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Sheikh who wanted to blow up New York landmarks; shoe bomber Richard Reid, who attempted to bring down a transatlantic airliner; and 9/11 conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui; have all been tried and convicted in federal courts and some of them in NY City.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Higher Authority

 Article 6 of our Constitution says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”  Our First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,”...  Our Constitution and Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of a national religion by the Congress or the preference of one religion over another, non-religion over religion, or religion over non-religion.

Originally, these restrictions only applied to the federal government, but in the late twentieth century the Supreme Court began restricting the promotion of religion by state governments.  In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”

Recently, in Asheville, North Carolina a city council member was sworn in with a solemn affirmation instead of a “so help me, God.”  A local conservative newspaper editor and a southern heritage activist are threatening to remove him from office because he’s an atheist.  They point to the North Carolina State Constitution Article 6, Section 8,which states: “The following persons shall be disqualified from office.  First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”  Arkansas, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi have similar laws on their books.

In the 1961, the Supreme Court stressed that it’s not just nonreligious people who ought to be concerned with this sort of attack, because having a government that is able to compel you to take a religious oath is a violation of a private matter, that applies to religious and nonreligious people alike.  

According to our Constitution and Supreme Court we’re not a Christian nation. Nevertheless, we might want to commit ourselves to helping the least among us, because there might be a higher authority. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Your Liberties

Robert Olejarz’s letter in the Oneonta Star insisted: “no corporation... can strip you of your liberties wholesale the way government can. If they could, they’d be the government.”

A virtuous government protects citizens from greedy international corporations. During the Bush administration international corporations owned our government and used our government to destroy the middle class. Consequently, the inequality of wealth in America is soared to an unprecedented level. Prior to the financial crisis we had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world. The crisis hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top 1%. The gap between the top 1% and the remaining 99% of our population has grown to a record high.

The profits of the economic elite are now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth. Workers between the age of 55 – 60, who have worked for 20–29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

Home foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter of 2009. It was the worst three months of all time, as 937,840 homes received a foreclosure notices. About 3.4 million homes are expected to enter foreclosure by year’s end, and some experts estimate that next year will be even worse.

Reportedly, 25 million people are unemployed or underemployed. They urgently need to increase their income, and they’re quickly running out of options. The unemployment rate is expected to rise further and remain high for several years. Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking.

What liberties are being stripped away by Obama, that are more important than the tragedies mentioned above?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

JOBS

Of the past 12 presidents the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats. At the bottom of the list is Bush the younger, Bush the elder and Herbert Hoover.  Since 1989, only Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus.

Obama has stated: “We cannot hang back and hope for the best when we’ve seen the kinds of job losses that we’ve seen over the last year.  I am not interested in taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to creating jobs.  What I’m interested in is taking action right now to help businesses create jobs.  Right now.  In the near term.”

We’ve heard about supply and demand.  Supply are those items that are for sale. Demand are those customers, who are expected to be buying those items.  Today, we’ve have all kinds of items and services for sale, but few people are able to purchase them.  The demand side of the economy has come to a halt, because of the credit disaster.  We have supply, but fewer people are buying.  Hence, less demand.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

History Lesson

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

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

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

In late 2000, Senator Phil Gramm got legislation through Congress that set derivatives free from virtually any regulation. In 2004, Bush’s Securities and Exchange Commission scrapped a 20-year-old rule that made banks keep a certain amount of cash on hand to cover investment losses. Warren Buffett was the first to noticed, that the “Gramm amendment” enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction,” and that act directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.

The banks were allowed to decided how much cash they had to keep on hand, and that new rule was pushed by Henry Paulson, who eventually, became Bush’s treasury secretary. In 2008, Paulson decided how the first half of the $700 billion in TARP funds were spent.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chumps

Americans are blaming Obama for the recession, but they’re wrong. On 2/23/09, “Time” magazine listed those responsible for the current economic crisis. At the top of the list was Angelo Mozilo the chief executive of Countrywide Financial Corporate. The ranking was the consensus of opinion of 10 business and economics columnist.

Countrywide provided subprime loans for years, but began giving mortgages to people, who couldn’t pay them back and they knew very well they weren’t going to be paid back. Countrywide put those mortgages, into a pool and sold them to investors around the world. That was the chain of events that ultimately allowed there to be an enormous amount of credit, and Countrywide used that access to easy loan money to seduce people into buying houses they couldn’t afford. Historically, banks held mortgages, but after they unloaded those mortgages, banks no longer had a direct financial incentive to care whether people were going to pay those mortgages back.

Number two on the list was former Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who was the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. He wrote and surreptitiously pushed through Congress the 1999 repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks from Wall Street.

Warren Buffett was the first to noticed, that the “Gramm amendment” enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction,” and the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.

On 7/9/08, in an interview with the Washington Times, John McCain’s economic adviser Phil Gramm downplayed the economy, despite it having been the top issue of concern to voters in public polling. Gramm said: “We have sort of become a nation of whiners.”

A majority of Americans have become uninformed chumps, because they’re unable to admit, that Ronald Reagan was dead wrong when he claimed: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Our government is the only institution that can protect the middle-class from the unrestrained greed of international capitalism.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blue vs. Beckman

Deborah Blue is a frequent letter writer to The Oneonta Star. Her letters suggest, that she is a liberal Democrat, who is very effective at writing letters of rebuttal. In my opinion Robert Beckman is a very accomplished Republican letter writer, who tends to submits letters of rebuttal defending the powerful elite. In this match up, I believe Ms. Blue won round #1, by writing the following:

“This is regarding Robert Beckman's letter of Nov. 17, in which he states that food, shelter, clothing and health care are necessities, not rights, and as such should be provided by charity, not the government.

“Taking care of the community by making sure everyone has a minimum level of food, clothing, shelter, health care and education makes my country more free, not less. It makes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness possible. One way to judge good governance is whether it protects the weak from the powerful, and whether it provides safety, equality of opportunity and economic fairness, which allows people to take advantage of opportunity. The idea that access to the necessities of life should be a free-for-all, claw your way to the top fight, with the winners tossing a few charitable crumbs down, is an insult to everyone in this country and to what America could be.

“No one benefits when someone who is ill with an infectious disease doesn't get treated because of lack of insurance, when a parent can’t afford medication, or when families file for bankruptcy because of a car accident. Most uninsured people work full time or more at jobs that don’t offer insurance and pay so little that the choice is shelter and food versus insurance.

“If ‘Americans have always provided services to satisfy these needs,’ as the letter stated, why do we have this situation? Where are the free clinics, bankrolled and staffed by all those people who believe government has no place in health care? What percentage of their income are they willing to donate to local funds for uninsured patients? And will doing these things, as good as they are, fix the basic inequities and flaws in the system?”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Continuing Tragedy

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research this recession began in December 2007. The fact that there are more than 7 million fewer Americans with jobs is an indication of the human tragedy many in our country are continuing to endure. Fortunately, we’re no longer seeing the severe deterioration in the job market that we saw last January. According to the Congressional Budget Office the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” has already created and saved up to 1.6 million jobs.

Nevertheless, small businesses have continued to find it difficult to get the loans they need to start up or grow. Obama has proposed to increase the guarantees for Small Business Administration backed loans, and has asked his Treasury Secretary to continue mobilizing the remaining TARP funds to facilitate lending to small businesses.

Recently, the Obama administration proposed, that we increase investments in our nation’s infrastructure beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, because we need to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. There are more worthy projects than there are dollars to fund them, but over time they’ll create more jobs. These essential public works will engage private sector companies and stimulate hiring all across the country.

The Recovery Act has already begun funding more than 10,000 of these projects throughout America. It’s providing funds for work on roads, bridges, water systems, Superfund sites, broadband networks, and clean energy projects.

It was planned so that the impact would be felt over a two-year period, because Obama wanted to eliminate waste and do it right. The potential for abuse in programs of this magnitude, while operating at an accelerated pace is enormous. Therefore, Vice President Biden’s staff will be making sure to the extent humanly possible that the investments are sound, the projects worthy, and the execution efficient.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Strive for Justice

The conclusion of Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

“We see that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint - no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith - for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

“Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

“But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached - their faith in human progress - must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

“For if we lose that faith - if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace - then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

“Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, ‘I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."

“So let us reach for the world that ought to be - that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protester awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.

“Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that - for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rot from Within

More of Barack Obama’s powerful Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights - it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

“It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

“And that is why helping farmers feed their own people - or nations educate their children and care for the sick - is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action - it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

“Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more - and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.

“As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we all basically want the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

“And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities - their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.”

“The test of a first-class mind is the ability to hold two completely opposite ideas in your head at the same time and still be able to function.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nature of Peace

President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech continues:

“This brings me to a second point - the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

“It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

“And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists - a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

“I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests - nor the world’s -are served by the denial of human aspirations.

“So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.

“Let me also say this: the promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach - and condemnation without discussion - can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Together as One

Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech continued:

“The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries - and other friends and allies - demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen UN and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali - we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.

“Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant - the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

“Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

“I have spoken to the questions that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me turn now to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

“First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior - for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure - and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Gradual Evolution

“So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths - that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. ‘Let us focus,’ he said, ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.’

“What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

“To begin with, I believe that all nations - strong and weak alike - must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates - and weakens - those who don't.

“The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait - a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

“Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention - no matter how justified.

“This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

“I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

“America’s commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Truth Acknowledged

“I am tired and sick of war... It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” - William Tecumseh Sherman

President Obama acknowledges the terror of war, but also recognizes the present nature of our society by writing:

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

“I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago - ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.’ As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

“But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

“I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

“Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions - not just treaties and declarations - that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

“So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another - that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama’s Vision

“For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations - total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of thirty years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

“In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations - an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize - America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

“In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

“A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

“Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.

“I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama’s Speech

An excerpt from the beginning of President Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech:

“I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations - that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

“And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women - some known, some obscure to all but those they help - to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

“But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries - including Norway - in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

“Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict - filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

“These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease - the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

“Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics, and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”

To be continued.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Catherine Mason

It was great to see a letter by Catherine Mason of Springfield Center published in The Oneonta Star. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the number of letters, that I wanted to respond to, but was limited by the Star to one every 30 days. Catherine reponded to a letter by Robert Beckman, which I had found very annoying. Her persuasive response stated:

“The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is unattainable when the necessities of life are missing. That is why it has always been recognized in this country that citizens who for whatever reason cannot afford food and shelter should be helped in some way. Lofty talk about life and liberty rings hollow when you are desperately poor.

“The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have health care as a right of citizenship. As a result, 48 million Americans have no health insurance. Fifty percent of all bankruptcies in this country are now medically related.

“The dire economic fallout from so many Americans being un- or underinsured means that government has responsibility to address this problem for the greater good of all.

“The Robert Beckmans of the world may find this easier to understand than the moral responsibility government owes its citizens as individuals. Lack of affordable health care means that many Americans, including many infants and young children, die prematurely: their right to life has been violated, cut short. Lack of affordable health care means that many Americans are denied the full liberty that comes with being healthy; at the same time they are denied the right to the pursuit of happiness, including the right to work.

“Beckman states: ‘Free health care by the government is not a moral right. It is an insult to freedom and liberty in America.’

“I counter by saying government’s responsibility is to do what it can to create the circumstances within which Americans have a reasonable chance to enjoy freedom and liberty.

“It is our broken health care system that truly is an insult _ and a grave and present danger _ to freedom and liberty in America.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Charles Cook

An excerpt from “The Economic Crisis and What Must be Done” by Charles Cook

“The United States does not control its own destiny. Rather it is controlled by an international financial elite, of which the American branch works out of big New York banks like J.P. Morgan Chase, Wall Street investment firms such as Goldman Sachs, and the Federal Reserve System. They in turn control the White House, Congress, the military, the mass media, the intelligence agencies, both political parties, the universities, etc. No one can rise to the top in any of these institutions without the elite’s stamp of approval.

“This elite has been around since the nation began, becoming increasingly dominant as the 19th century progressed. A key date was passage of the National Banking Act of 1863, when the system was put into place whereby federal government debt was used to collateralize bank lending. Since then we’ve paid the freight through our taxes for bank control of the economy. The final nails in the coffin came with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
In 1929 the bankers plunged the nation into the Great Depression by constricting the money supply. With Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, the nation struggled through the decade of the 1930s but did not pull out of the Depression until the industrial explosion during World War II.

“After the war came the Golden Age of the U.S. economy, when the working man, protected by strong labor unions, became a true partner in the prosperity of the industrial age. That era lasted a full generation. The bankers were largely spectators as Americans led the world in exports, standard of living, science and space exploration, and every measure of health, longevity, and culture. Roosevelt had kept the bankers subservient to the interests of the economy at large. The Federal Reserve was part of the New Deal team, and interest rates were held at historic lows despite a large federal deficit. One main impact was the huge increase in home ownership. After World War II, the G.I. Bill allowed home ownership to grow further and millions of veterans to attend college. The influx of educated graduates led to productivity growth and the emergence of new high-tech industries.

“But the bankers were laying their plans. In the early 1950s they got the government to agree to allow the Federal Reserve to escape its subservience to the U.S. Treasury Department and set interest rates on its own. Rates rose throughout the 1950s and 1960s. By the time of the interest rate hikes of 1968, the economy was slowing down. Both federal budget and trade deficits were beginning to replace the post-war surpluses. High interest rates were the likely cause.”

Richard C. Cook is a former federal analyst who writes on public policy issues. He is an advisor to the American Monetary Institute on its model monetary reform legislation soon to be introduced in Congress.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Regulatory Firewalls

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act.” His bill would require Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to submit to Congress within 90 days a list of all commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, that Geithner believes are too big to fail. He would then have a year to break up entries listed on the Too Big To Fail List, so that their failure would no longer cause a catastrophic effect on the American or global economy without a taxpayer bailout.

Sanders reports, that Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. hold half the mortgages in America, control two-thirds of the credit cards, and have amassed 40% of all deposits. They must no longer be in a position to bring down our entire economy.

The FDR administration pushed Congress for restraints on Wall Street to curtail the wild speculation of the late 1920’s. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 separated government-insured commercial banks and the non-federally backed investment banks. By keeping consumer and speculative capital separate, it made it possible to understand the activities of all financial organizations.

Congress repealed Glass-Steagall and replaced it with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Billionaire Warren Buffett warned, that Republican Phil Gramm’s amendment enabled a shadow banking system, and allowed for the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction.” It allowed the stockbrokers, insurance companies and banks to merge for the first time since the 1930s, and ushered in a new era of financial irresponsibility.

Reinstating the regulatory firewalls that were ripped down a decade ago, re-regulating the energy markets to end rampant oil speculation and regulating or abolishing the various financial instruments that are at the heart of the current financial crisis, will prevent having to pay for another costly bailout.

Monday, December 07, 2009

“Patience with God”

Frank Schaeffer grew up in the religious far-right, and with his father Francis helped shape the evangelical movement in America. He 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.” His most recent book is entitled: “Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism).”

Schaeffer is very concerned about evangelical groups that are enthralled by an apocalyptic vision. They’re using Biblical references such as: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office,” “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”  According to Schaeffer these evangelicals represent the millions of people who turned the “Left Behind” series into best sellers.

Frank Schaeffer finds the present situation frightening, because evangelical groups are ramping up their biblical language and it’s coalescing with those branding Obama as Hitler and “not a real American.”

Timothy McVeigh’s t-shirt on the day of the Oklahoma City bombing said: “The tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants.” A man carrying a loaded weapon at a tea party rally, outside an Obama talk carried a placard making reference to the same Thomas Jefferson quote.

Schaeffer insists, that there is a crazy fringe to whom all of those little messages, that have been pouring out of FOX News are resounding. He points to a bumper sticker, that says: “It’s open season.” According to Schaeffer, they’re “trolling for assassins.  And this is serious business.”

He concludes: “It’s just not a question of who’s doing it. The bigger question is: where are the people speaking out against these things? I don’t hear those voices raised in the evangelical fundamentalist community.  And until I do, my opinion is, they are culpable.”

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tea Party

Most tea party conservatives continued to vote Republican, after Bush’s trillion-dollar tax cuts for the rich, which when combined with two wars turned Clinton’s $6 trillion projected surplus into Bush’s $5 trillion added debt. These conservative refuse to take responsibility for being wrong on taxes, two wars and now the healthcare debate.

One in four American children currently live below the poverty line, which is one of the highest rates among the top 40 developed nations. Poverty among the elderly grew to nearly 25%. The Agricultural Department reports, that 17 million households didn’t have enough food last year.

Approximately, 45,000 Americans will die every year, because they lack healthcare. Of those that died 2,200 of them were veterans, because 1.5 million veterans don’t have health insurance. Furthermore, we have 130,000 homeless veterans living on the streets.

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.

A single-payer system in Canada operates with a mere 1% overhead, because it’s not necessary to spend money on deciding who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered. We continue to have the most cumbersome bureaucratic health care system in the world. About 31% of every dollar spent on our health care goes for paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits and eventually back to members of Congress in the form of campaign donations.

Insurance companies don’t do a single exam or perform an operation. They have no value. Walmart gets great deals on drugs at very low costs, because they’re so big, but our government allows the insurance companies negotiate for us, when they don’t have any incentive to get a bargain for us.

Tea party conservatives promote tax cuts, wars and needless suffering.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Amendment 2837

The idea of a Medicare for All type, single-payer healthcare system will be heard on the Senate floor. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont filed Senate Amendment No. 2837.

The idea that healthcare is a basic human right that could and should be delivered to each and every person in this nation is not a new one. Our President knows that; our Congress knows that, but this struggle to reform the broken, profit-driven system has carried us a very long way from the spot that would allow us to finally extend that basic human right to all.

Reportedly, 45,000 people die every year in this nation without access to healthcare. Poverty among seniors has dropped more than 60 percent since the adoption of Medicare. Millions of Americans file for personal bankruptcy - one every 12 seconds - because medical crisis hit them too hard. And of those bankrupt folks, two-thirds had health insurance.

Medicare has its flaws, but overall it has provided seniors and the disabled with the best access to care that this nation could offer since the 1960s. Among those not covered by Medicare or the VA, the numbers of personal bankruptcies due to medical crisis and unnecessary deaths have soared.

Public financing and private delivery of healthcare through a Medicare for All type system would be an elegant, cost effective and proven way to fix much of what is broken while retaining that sense of personal choice over healthcare decisions that Americans value so highly. Yet, the discussion has been muted by the powerful profit-based insurance and health industry interests that stand to gain so very much by expanding and entrenching their hold over the U.S. healthcare system through this reform process.

Call your Senators. Tell them you want them to vote for amendment number 2837.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Robert Olejarz

Robert Olejarz of Sidney wrote: “The TEA Party movement is just a small reaction to a government that, for the last 96-odd years, has incrementally broken the restraints of the Constitution to become what it is today, a meddling controlling tyrant that thinks it can live our lives better than we can.”

Woodrow Wilson support the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited gender-based restrictions on voting, thereby giving women the right to vote.

After three Republican presidents in a row, the Great Depression started in 1929. Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, and unemployment had reached 24.9%, but by 1936 it had dropped to 17.0%. Roosevelt signed the “Social Security Act” in 1935. The Republican mantra of less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression, develop the atomic bomb or win WW II.

Truman’s Fair Deal expanded Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act, and public housing. He urged Congress to approve the Marshall Plan. A reconstruction plan that reduced communist influence in Western Europe. The popularity of the communist parties faded and the trade relations forge in North Atlantic alliance persisted throughout the Cold War.

In 1969, the first humans landed on the Moon. Thus, fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s.

LBJ became president after the assassination of Kennedy. He completed Kennedy’s term and was elected president by a large margin in 1964. Johnson was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws that upheld Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, and aid to education.


President Carter did recognize the problem and in a televised speech, he predicted: “With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse. Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the president and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the ‘moral equivalent of war’ except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.”

Carter proposed 10 principles for our national energy plan, but those principles were attacked by oil conglomerates, and when Reagan took over, those principles were ignored and Carter’s programs gutted or terminated. The Republican Party continues to support Bush’s pre-emptive, imperialistic invasion of Iraq, which clearly demonstrates that destruction and conquest has become their choice.

Clinton created jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus. Republicans haven’t produced a president in the past 40 years that balanced a budget.


Obama is trying to make the lives of all Americans better, which is a highly cherished tradition for Democratic presidents.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

“On the Planet”

Donald Urtz wrote: “Although it’s far from perfect, he (Obama) wants to dismantle the best health care system on the planet”

Before resigning, our Comptroller General, David Walker issued an exceptionally critical assessment of our country’s future in a report that warns of dramatic tax increases, slashed  government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments holdings of US debt. 

Walker was a nonpartisan in charge of the Government Accountability Office, which is described as the investigative arm of the Congress. He was a former senior executive at a prestigious auditing firm and was appointed to a 15 year term during the Clinton administration. 

The cost of healthcare is expected to reach $4.4 trillion by 2018, and if health care reform fails, Medicare and Medicaid risk going broke, state and federal budgets will be unsustainable, and then our government will have to make some very tough decisions, because there will be no good options.

The cost of our present health care is unsustainable, and failure to act soon will see premiums increasing, benefits eroding, and the rolls of the uninsured swelling to include more than a million additional Americans.

If we fail to act, one out of every five dollars we earn will have to be spent on health care within a decade. In thirty years, that trend that will mean lost jobs, lower take-home pay, shuttered businesses, and a lower standard of living for all Americans.

Federal spending on Medicaid and Medicare will grow over the coming decades by an amount almost equal to the amount our government currently spends on our nation’s defense.

“Far from perfect,”and “the best health care system on the planet,” is inaccurate, because our present health care is unsustainable. Perhaps, Urtz and the Republican Party want to see Medicaid and Medicare go broke.


 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

“HOW SHAMEFUL!”

Donald Urtz wrote: “... our president has made a habit to travel the world to apologize for us. HOW SHAMEFUL!”

I’ll assume Urtz was referring to Obama’s speech in Cairo, in which, he addressed the 1953 CIA-backed coup against the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. That coup is a grievance shared by the Iranian people, and it was the first time a sitting president had publicly admitted American involvement in the coup.

Obama didn’t apologize to the Iranian leadership. He said: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government,” Being honest about the 1953 coup isn’t an apology.

In fact, as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Congressman Ron Paul said: “When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk.”

Obama’s speech in Cairo, also listed our grievances against Iran and the terrorist acts that the regime has sponsored. He said, “For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against US troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.”

It’s shameful, for Urtz to suggest, that those who denounce our government’s policies in the Middle East are terrorist sympathizers.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Red Ink

Donald Urtz insisted: “Obama has done everything possible to made (sic) a bad situation worse by putting our great grandchildren in a sea of red ink.... he wants to dismantle the best health care system on the planet _”

Those remarks are false, because Obama and most Democrats in Congress are doing everything possible to prevent the situation from getting worst for current and future generations of Americans.

We remain the only major county without a national health care program guaranteeing health care for all, and we’re spending far more per capita than any other industrialized country. We’ve the most cumbersome bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31% of every dollar spent on our health care goes for paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, and profits. Drug companies are charging Americans the highest rates in the industrialized world. 

According to an independent study by Thompson-Reuters, the international news and information organization with expertise in health care and science, our health care system wastes as much as $800 billion every year.  Other findings include $300 billion of waste every year coming from unnecessary care, like the overused of antibiotics and lab tests.

Up to $200 billion, of waste is created by fraud. Administrative inefficiency and redundant paper account for 18% of the waste. Medical mistakes and preventable conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes cost, as much as, $50 billion a year.

The non-partician Congressional Budget Office projected the Senate bill would cut the deficit by $127 billion over the next decade, and in its second decade could save an additional $650 billion. 

Critical thinking requires collecting impartial factual information. Facts and reason can’t be ignored and unsubstantiated opinions can’t be substituted for truth. Many Americans have lost their capacity to solve the challenges, that we face, because they’re incapable of thinking critically.