Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shooting Gnats with a Machine Gun 666 to 1

In Tomgam’s post of January 14, 2010, Shooting Gnats with a Machine Gun 666 to 1, Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse write about the changing American image of our enemies. Explaining how the image of the Japanese warrior changed from inferior fighters who had congenital nearsightedness, inner-ear defects, lacked individualism, and who were poor pilots flying inferior planes, to, once we were at war with them, invincible, natural-born jungle and night-fighters, ruthless, cruel, and blind to any human values. In time, fear took hold in America resulting in the debasement and internment of Japanese Americans.

Similarly, after September 11, 2001, America’s image of Al-Qaeda changed. Al-Qaeda became from what was previous a somewhat insignificant group of terrorist into a superpower that required the full strength of the world’s most powerful armed forces to combat. Fear of Muslims gripped America, and some Americans even initiated a call for internment camps.

Government has deliberately and shamefully engaged in fear mongering as a political tactic to frighten citizens and influence their political views on such things as gun legislation, terrorism, war, healthcare, the federal deficit, climate change, or combating disease. Ostensibly, in order to protect us from our fears, it puts into place security measures to remedy those fears and protect our nightmares from becoming a reality. Each time that was done, it shaved away more of our personal liberty.

Creating public fear is the oldest tool in the statecraft toolbox for revving-up home front support for war. The American government has created a culture of fear, it has become an art form, exploiting it whenever they feel public support is lacking. Fear creation is a key indicator that we should be skeptical, for when our government through the media propagandizes fear, Americans should pay really close attention. Americans have not, and have failed repeatedly to comprehend that fact.

Fear is what has empowered the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has kept the Afghan war going for nine years, making it difficult to close Guantanamo, and to bring our troops home from Iraq. Fear has enabled the very lucrative business of war. It has enabled preemptive and protracted wars. As a result, we gave George W Bush unprecedented war powers, and subsequently allowed war funding and troop deployments in excess of what is logically necessary for success.

According to Engelhardt and Turse, active duty U.S. troop strength has a 666 to 1 advantage over the estimated number of al-Qaeda fighters worldwide.

The 2009 estimate of Afghan’s Taliban fighters is estimated at 25,000, not including about 100 Al-Qaeda fighters. There are approximately 277,946 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and non-ISAF troops in Afghanistan with approximately 193,800 Afghan National Army and police.

Al-Qaeda and Taliban assets are minuscule in comparison to U.S. forces. Their tactical armaments are very limited and unsophisticated.

The United States has spent trillions of taxpayer dollars on the Global War on terror. American and allied troops are supreme with very sophisticated land, sea, and air assets, and yet we cannot succeed in Afghanistan.

Combat, non-combat, and civilian casualties have greatly exceeded those of September 11, 2001. In terms of cost-benefit, i.e. cost and casualties versus any success, we have been significantly trounced.

Americans laud America as being the most powerful country and military force in the world. We have outgunned the Taliban and Al-Qaeda 666 to 1, and still cannot accomplish the mission, so how can we, in all candor, pat ourselves on the back as being so special.

Of course, based on the facts, we clearly should not. But there is an alternative motive at work in our government and by our military: the very lucrative business of conducting a protracted war, of which the war on terrorism enables exceedingly well.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


January 10th was the publishing anniversary of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, a forty-seven page political pamphlet calling for American colonist to proclaim their independence from England’s governance, and promoting establishment of a constitutional republic. It has been alleged George Washington was so persuaded by Paine's words that he stopped supporting the King of England, and Common Sense inspired Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence.

Without this publication, chances are we would not be the United States of America we know today: it shaped America. And, via example, the noted quotation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” certainly inspired by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, may never have been conceived without Paine’s groundwork.

The essence of Common Sense lies within Thomas Paine’s vision when he wrote, "we have it in our power to begin the world over again"; it lies within the vision of Robert F. Kennedy, who put forth, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”; and, it lies within President Ronald Reagan’s declaration, “For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies,” and he further stated, “All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government”; it’s essence lies within the vision of Barack Obama wherein he said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Its essence dictates that hope is reserved for people, not governments, and that change founded on hope requires new ways of thinking by the people.

One of the most often repeated quotes in American politics is by our own [Massachusetts] former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill, who said, "All politics is local": meaning political success is achieved when a congressional representative represents the everyday concerns of the place of traditional values commonly known metonymically as Main Street. I am fairly certain that Tip’s perspective came from his long experience and not from some enduring value taken from Common Sense. However, it fundamentally, too, is very much within the essence of Common Sense.

Common Sense’s idealism, advocation of principles, and profundity is as significant today as it was in 1776. Now as then, Common Sense conveys the same powerful message: “the government depends for its legitimacy entirely on the consent of the governed."

Today, however, we have seemingly lost our sense of those ideals. That’s apparently because Americans have adopted a view that the Constitution is of the government and not of the people, and they tend to blame government, whether it is federal, state, city, or town, rather than themselves for America’s, or their individual community’s, failures. America has acquiesced to a fading spirit, and instead adopted an unwillingness to stand up for what they believe.

If Americans are concerned over the decadence of their freedoms, and if they authentically want a “government is best which governs least,” then, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

That change begins with each one of us, extends to the family, expands to the community, which in turn influences other communities, and empowers the State.

An additional resource that adds a great deal to the very significant contribution Thomas Paine has made to America, and to the message that I was conveying: “The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine” by Mark Wilensky

Mark Wilensky commented on the original
Pembroke Express post: “I'm a fifth-grade teacher in Jefferson County, and an crucial part of teaching civics is providing students with our primary sources: the founding documents. This is critical in understanding what “We the People” really means. Today, as they did over 230 years ago, those documents instill in students the belief that all our voices are important. Every one of our citizens are given the right to pursue liberty. Futures do not have to be inevitable and "Little voices" can make dramatic impacts on events. That is Thomas Paine's greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to all the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. A belief that power should radiate from the citizens. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized as a integral part of the American miracle.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Do Truckers Get Traction? Absolutely!

Congratulations Scott Brown. You were a good candidate, you ran a good campaign, and all I can honestly say is good job!

Moreover, Mr. Chilcott’s view that “Truckers get traction” is true; however, in a storm they also throw sludge in your windshield, and will always obscure your view. Truckers seem to think they own the road. They are that idiomatic “elephant in the room,” or should I say on the road.

I am proud of Massachusetts, in that its citizens turned out and voted their convictions, no matter how ill-informed I think they were, or how opposed I am to their philosophy.

However, with the election of Scott Brown, voters in Massachusetts did send an undeniable message to Washington: we don’t want healthcare reform. It is such a serious issue that it makes it the most disturbing outcome of this election.

It all boils down to this: republicans (epitomized by the elephant) are for the rich; democrats (epitomized by the donkey) are for the poor. In essence that is what the two parties represent, and because of that, with the election of Scott Brown, compassion, an indifference to infirmity, the sufferings of the indigent, and diversity took a back seat.

Independent voters are those folks who will not commit to a cause until they see what’s in it for themselves. They are more motivated by their gut reaction than moral conviction. They are aloof until they know who the candidates are. A great majority get their information on the issues from tabloid sources like Fox News, Limbaugh, Carr, and Severin. They vote the candidate rather than a conviction on philosophy. They seem to be more willing to commit themselves to being a sports fan of the Patriots than they are consistently to stand up for a philosophy that declares how human beings should be treated. At least that has been my observation with family, friends, and those I have known over the years; not all, but a significant majority. Those are the folks who, apparently, gave Scott Brown his victory. And, despite their perception of his independence, what they essentially have is Senator Brown, the GOP’s new man in town, not the new independent man in town.

Even though a Democrat, I am an independent voter. I declare myself a Democrat because I want people to know philosophically who I am as a person. I will, independent of party affiliation, support the entity that will be pro-peace over war and pro-compassion over the creation of wealth. I don’t look for a clever brain; I look for wisdom and a good heart, whether that is in the candidate or the party that progressively supports those things that will accomplish that end.

I am not saying that Senator Brown is not a decent, good, and moral man, but what we can expect from Scott Brown is an opposition to change (that’s the definition of conservatism, i.e. to be conservative); support the same free market that is responsible for our disastrous economic meltdown; support of tax cuts for the wealthy, and to hell with the bread and butter of America: the American worker; and to work against any meaningful healthcare reform, unless it is beneficial to private insurance providers -- that’s what he supported in Mitt Romney’s (who, by the way, Ted Kennedy defeated in the 1994 senatorial campaign) Massachusetts, and we should expect no different from him in Washington.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When Silence Is Not Golden

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Times have changed since the zeitgeist of the Vietnam era. Today, it’s a different war in a different place and fought under different circumstances. This courageous speech, nevertheless, has great depth and speaks to the contemporary issues and attitudes that are as "incandescently" clear today as they were then.

I strongly urge you to take the time to read this very profound declaration by Martin Luther King, Jr.: Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence, written by his friend and speechwriter, Dr. Vincent Harding, and delivered on April 4, 1967. It is a speech given at great personal risk. It is a speech that will be pertinent for all time and for all people. It is the most significant speech of my lifetime on the issues of peace over war, and of the unacceptable neglect and exploitation of the world’s poor -- an exceedingly powerful speech that should awaken one’s conscience.

It’s a speech I will always remember as being more significant than his “I have a Dream” speech, in which he stressed the importance of nonviolent resistance, vividly painting his vision of a better future for people of all color, even though that speech is more celebrated. Not that one is better than the other, but because I feel his Vietnam speech is more universal.

At the time, Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi," and the Washington Post declared that Dr. King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In the late 50s, I recall my contemporaries referring to Dr King in slanderous, hateful, and bigoted ways. They associated Dr. King’s movement with that of Malcolm X, who was an advocate for black separatism. They called Dr. King a communist, a hypocrite, and an adulterer.

In the early 60’s, I was a road musician traveling throughout New England, the Southern Atlantic states, the Deep South and along the fringes of the Midwestern states. My experience and observation of the treatment of black and brown Americans in the Deep South changed all that I had been told while living and working in Boston. The views of Time magazine, the Washington Post, and Bostonians toward Dr. King’s movement were misguided. While traveling in the Deep South, especially in rural areas, I was cautioned that it would be dangerous to give anyone a reason to believe I was a Northerner, and so, therefore, others who I was traveling with would speak for me, or go in to a business for me to purchase whatever I would need. So, I quickly recognized the enormity of risks Dr. King and civil rights activist were undertaking. From that point on, I developed a great admiration and respect for Dr. King and his work. That experience resulted in a major sea change in my life. As I learned more about Dr. King, it also introduced me to the non-violence philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi.

Additionally, about that time, as I became more disheartened over Vietnam and with what I was personally experiencing, I gained an interest in what Dr. King was writing and saying in opposition to the Vietnam War. When I first read Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence I was sad, humbled, and not a very proud American. His words of war and peace, and of the poor, soon became my platform with friends, colleagues, and associates.

He said, A time comes when silence is betrayal. And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The time is long overdue when Americans should not be silent regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not be silent when we hear the war drums beating in relation to our difficulties with Iran. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. certainly would not be silent. He would dust off his old speech on Vietnam, change a few keywords, and give precisely the same speech.

Through the prism of my experience, on MLK day I always reflect on, and I am amazed, just how far we have come, and yet, disappointingly, how far we have to go.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Executive Excess: Final CEO Pay Numbers Reveal Jaw-Dropping Retirement Packages

Conservatives will acquiesce to executive pay excesses because as conservatives they possess an inclination to maintain the traditional order of things, an opposition to innovation or change, or in other words, maintain the status quo. That by basic definition is conservatism.

In regard to executive excesses, conservatives will say that is how the free market works. Middle class and lower class workers do not create jobs or wealth. Their mindset has always been that unless one can provide jobs and has the ability to create wealth, a person really is of little significance to society.

However, without these lower classes of people, the CEO, the upper class, or any business entity, would not make a profit or acquire wealth. They acquired what they have from the spending and labor of middle class and lower class people. They represent the greatest number of consumers.

Conservatives, who have the same mindset as these CEOs, want to continue to let health insurance companies manage our healthcare. To maintain what has been traditionally done. In authentic conservatism fashion, they want the status quo maintained. These are the same folks, as the article points out, who wanted to privatize Social Security. Just think where we would be now if the management and investment of Social Security were left up to Wall Street. These, too, are the same folks who will cancel or increase your auto or home insurance policy because you may have had an accident. Maybe I am confused, but isn’t that exactly the reason insurance is purchased in the first place.

If I have $100, and I equally distribute that amount to 9 other people, each of us will have $10. However, if it is determined that I deserve more than the others do because I manage the money, and I impose a fee of $1 from each of the 9, then I will have $19 and all others will have $9. Now, to some that may seem reasonable, and I suppose it is in consideration of the free market paradigm. But, if I instead pay myself $91, then everyone else will have a mere $1 each. That is unreasonable. This hypothetical fundamentally will be no different based on whatever complexity of scale is envisioned, or complex praxeological differences there may be in the market place.

There essentially is not any difference in the example than the game of monopoly. There may be some nuances that make it different, but it is essentially the same concept when it comes to the distribution and the vicissitudes of money. In “What's Wrong with Monopoly (the game)?,” by Benjamin Powell, he points out “the game seriously misrepresents how an actual market economy operates.” Nevertheless, when the complexities, variances in human nature, and all other dimensions that may exist are removed, in the end it amounts to the same thing.

That’s the situation: if someone acquires some privilege to have more dollars than someone else does, and the Fed does not print more money, everyone else, in the larger scheme of things, will have less. Of course, people simply use credit to purchase what they don’t have cash to pay for, paying their debt incrementally. And, those same folks with the same aforementioned mentality continue to gouge us with interest rates -- just consider how credit card companies circumvent credit law, and are now increasing interest rates in anticipation of the new law protecting consumers from sudden increases in interest rates.

In every sense of the word, all of these folks, from CEOs of big oil, insurance companies, retailers, to any other free market capitalist, for the most part are scoundrels. Their sole motivation is profit, and they will sell their soul for the sake of profit. “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

So, technically, for example, if Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Lee Raymond, receives a pay increase, a bonus, or some other compensation, he gains a greater piece of the pie while others will receive less. Of course, that doesn’t happen, because consumers will simply borrow more, inflate the economy on borrowed money, create a situation of "irrational exuberance," the fed will fire up the printing press, and eventually we will all be in economic difficulty again, and again, and again. If we are going to depend on a money-based economy, it is absolutely necessary to return to the gold standard.

Literally, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The solution to the problem, and just about to every problem: We need to evolve over time to a moneyless society. It’s absolutely necessary to take the profit out of many things, eventually out of everything, but especially, right now, healthcare. And, by the way, over time, it can be done; it is not a utopian concept.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A terrorist war Obama has denied

By Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a conservative, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, political commentator, contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and The New Republic, a Fox News contributor and a regular panelist on Fox’s Special Report, a weekly panelist on Inside Washington, served as a speech writer to Vice President Walter Mondale, and is an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post. Even though I am not in sympathy with his point of view, one would expect that he would provide exceptional commentary.

I understand Limbaugh’s, Beck’s, O’Reilly’s, Fox News’s, and Townhall Magazine’s commentary slant. However, I wonder why outstanding writers like Krauthammer use those same partisan writing devices: writing that is destitute of ideas and incapable of any but the most elementary sentiments; it’s provocative, sarcastic, inflammatory and does not add anything to a meaningful, substantial debate. More and more political commentators from both the left and right resort to using this biased, obfuscatory style. The reason why is simple: exploitation for partisan purposes that is not meant to promote understanding, but to fire-up contempt towards the opposite view.

Of course, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, was completely out of touch with the events surrounding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit when she said, the system worked.

However, Krauthammer is wrong when he says Napolitano renamed terrorism as man-caused disasters [man-made disasters]: Wikipedia defines terrorism as a man-made disaster, headlined as a sociological hazard.

But, what blows my mind is when Krauthammer interjects: Heck of a job, Brownie. Why was that written? What was meant by that? As was said in a blog reply to this article: Nice article but alas Krauthammer unfortunately decides to out of left field throw in a nonsense barb about Brownie. Why he chooses to conflate a hughly [highly] successful rescue that saved thousands of people from the roofs of flooded areas with a security failure is beyond me? It does not speak well of him that he chooses to perpetuate a falsehood rather than deal with the truth.

Krauthammer writes that President Obama has played down and denied the terrorist threat, has banishes the term war on terror, and has declared the war over, pledging to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. This may be what his conservative readership wants to hear, however, it is certainly far from the truth.

President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech is clear evidence that he has not played down nor denied the terrorist threat, nor has he declared the war over, or has he ever pledged to cleanse post 9/11 counterterrorist sins. Moreover, War on terror, war on drugs, and war on poverty are used where war is a metaphor representing strategies, tactics, remedial or combative action. Arguably, terrorist and drug cartels are similarly America’s enemies, which equally do not have national boundaries, whose armies are covert and who both mercilessly target civilians. Terrorism is a tactic; how can one declare war on a tactic.

Krauthammer criticized Obama for referring to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an isolated extremist, a suspect, and by subjecting him to our criminal justice system is therefore protecting him from interrogation.

I guess Krauthammer believes that terrorists are not extremist, and at heart are run-of-the-mill warriors. A lawyer, which by training President Obama is, will always refer to those who commit crimes as suspects until proven otherwise in a court of law. And, when he claims Obama is protecting Abdulmutallab from interrogation by subjecting him to our system of justice only means that Krauthammer prefers torture to legal and disciplined interrogation.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Right Opinion: American Values

Contributing to the debate: The Right Opinion: American heroes unjustly dishonored

We should not be overusing the word hero to express our esteem for anyone who is simply doing something they chose as a profession. That accolade should be used only when someone is truly extraordinary, going beyond what would be expected, putting oneself at risk above and beyond what is necessary to overcome some exigency. These Navy Seal warriors, who have attained the rank of Petty Officer, which is the rank of a noncommissioned officer from whom there are high expectations, did only what was expected: capturing a terrorist. The hero overuse diminishes the honor that should be bestowed on those who actually accomplish feats that are far beyond what is usual, normal, or customary. These men are valorous as any man or women who face an enemy in combat, but a hero, no.

Petty Officers McCabe, Keefe, and Heurtas have not been convicted of anything, yet. Furthermore, Representative Ted Poe introduced House Resolution 977, honoring these men for their capture of Ahmed Hashim Abed. The resolution has been referred to the Armed Services Committee. So, it looks like they are to receive the honor this article expresses they deserve.

Additionally, these men chose to decline a non-judicial resolution of their case, and instead chose to go before a special court-martial. They claim that they did no harm to the prisoner in their charge. The charges against them are considered comparable to a misdemeanor.

So, in their valor, America has not let them down, and unless they have violated Just Law mandates or military law, their careers will not be impeded.

The article’s tone is that Abed’s accusation should simply be ignored

But, how can it be ignored? How can it reasonably be declared that the accusation by Ahmed Abed and the investigation that ensued be considered metaphorical equivalent to spitting in the face of freedom?

It is precisely because America pursues justice for all that Ahmed Abed’s accusation is being adjudicated.

American values, to which we aspire, must follow a course that is inclusive of our dealings with all the world’s people, nations, friends or foes alike.

It is precisely because of our values that we should be proud Americans. It is because of those values that we are admired as a benevolent nation: a nation who values freedom, who values equitable treatment by adhering to the principle of moral rightness in action, attitude, and provides due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law, and a nation who will standup for humanity. The embracement of these values makes it incumbent upon America to act in accordance with that role. Consequently, America must provide national and international leadership through best examples and best practices. That is exactly why we must afford those who hate this nation, or have committed inhumane acts against us or others, the very constitutional rights, freedoms, and justice we enjoy and that they disdain.

There is nothing radical about this view; there is nothing in the language of justice expressed here that is or is not politically correct. It is not an Obama view or a view of his administration, or congress, it is authentically an American view, a Christian view (certainly a view that Jesus Christ would embrace), and a view that all people of mainstream religious faiths embrace, and the action taken pursuant to Abed’s accusation is just, moral, and the right course of action for America to take.