Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Response to the State of the Union Courtesy of Howard Zinn

Instead of sharing my thoughts on President Obama's State of the Union address now, I'll give the first word to the late Howard Zinn.

"The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.

Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back."

"TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Howard Zinn 1922-2010

Just a little something to think about as you listen to all the pundits.

Rest in Peace Mr. Zinn

More thoughts on the State of the Union tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Geithner On Move Your Money: Not A Good Idea (VIDEO)

Hmm. And I should believe that Mr. Geithner really cares about the best interests of my family because ....... ? I just can't help but recaling that the Obama administration's fight for Tim Geithner was the reason that they didn't want to risk another confirmation battle over Tom Daschle. In hindsight, how prophetic was that decision.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in a Corporate State

I woke up on Thursday morning in a Republic based on the principles of democracy and capitalism. Tonight I go to sleep in a corporate state and wondering if my vote will ever matter again.

It's very hard to find the words to express how I feel about the Supreme Court ruling giving corporations unlimited influence in elections. No words can describe the sense of foreboding.

In response to the Court's ruling in the case of Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

"It is important to note that the decision does not affect McCain-Feingold’s soft money ban, which will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the political process. But this decision was a terrible mistake.

Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.

Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law.’ Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible."

While the tea partiers and birthers were busy disrupting town hall meetings, denying the President's citizenship, lying about "death panels" and generally trying to scare people with term Socialism, Wall Street and K Street were laughing all the way to the bank and conducting a coup.

Am I totally surprised by the Supreme Court decision?

After eight years of Bush/Cheney/Gonzales, very little surprises me. If you recall, author Naomi Wolf tried to warn us in her book "The End of America", to be aware of the 10 steps to closing down a democracy.

Did the Supreme Court think that the world was so distracted by the crisis in Haiti that they wouldn't notice this decision? Did they think that the conservatives would be so giddy, or liberals so dismayed, over the Senate race in Massachusetts that this decision would just fly in under the radar? Author Naomi Klein certainly tried to warn us of the many ways that governments use "shock strategies" to implement pro-corporate policies.

So no, I'm not totally surprised by this decision.

What does catch me completely off guard is the timing. i thought surely something like this could happen in 2012 or 2016 but not now. How could something like this happen in the middle of the term of a President elected with a mandate for change, in the middle of a populist up-rising. Just when President Obama is ready to stop playing nice with Wall Street and try to reign in corporate greed with regulatory measures, the conservative Supreme Court which Wall Street helped seat says, "We'll show you just how powerful we are."

And friends, they are powerful.

As he often does, Keith Olbermann summed up what so many of us are thinking in his special comment.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tonight as I lay me down to sleep I, and millions of Americans who care about democracy, know exactly how Dred Scott felt.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Guess It's the Thought That Counts

Today the New York Times reported that Wall Street firms are reaching in their pockets to give to Haiti relief efforts. The Times reports:

"Banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have each pledged $1 million to various charities and humanitarian organizations, according to news reports and press releases.

One of these banks, Citigroup, has suffered perhaps even more than others: its Haitian headquarters collapsed, and several of its employees have died, according to an internal memorandum obtained by DealBook. Citi is giving $2 million to relief efforts, Vikram S. Pandit, its chief executive, wrote in the memo."

However before we all start believing that Wall Street has finally found a soul. here's a little perspective on their donations courtesy of Credo Mobile:
"Wall Street employee bonuses this year are estimated at $47 billion - Haiti's GNP was $7 billion. The most any bank has pledged is $2 million. Is there no shame?"

In all fairness, Reuters is reporting that, "
Citigroup is sending a team with medical equipment, humanitarian supplies, and satellite phones to Haiti, to help the company's employees and support emergency response efforts.."

But friends, let's do the math.

$6 million is less than .013 percent of $47 billion. And we're talking about a percentage of employee bonuses for people that nearly wrecked the global economy.

That's a disgrace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

FoxNews Basically Ignores Haiti ... Surprise, Surprise

Media Matters Reports:
"On January 13, Fox News' three top-rated programs for 2009 -- The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and Glenn Beck -- devoted a combined total of less than 7 minutes of coverage to the earthquake in Haiti, instead choosing to air such things as Beck's hour-long interview with Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly's discussion of Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, and Sean Hannity's advocacy for Massachusetts candidate Scott Brown's Senate campaign"

It should come as no surprise to anyone that an organization that promotes on-air personalities who spew some of the most vile, racially divisive and hateful rhetoric in a generations would limit coverage of a disaster involving so many black faces. After all, these are not the images that appeal to their audience. It might actually remind them of their humanity.

FauxNews no longer makes any attempt to veil the fact that their chief reason for existing is profit. Profit at any cost.

Who Is Really Being Judged?

First, allow me to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year.

In my last message I asked fellow Christians to share more of Christ and less of their religiosity during the Christmas season. Since publishing that post I've been struggling with a new topic but, as always, if I wait long enough life's events have a way of directing me.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that the foundational scripture for my website is John 3:16-17:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."

And that message of love without judgment lends itself to this post.

By now you have heard of the horrific 7.0 magnitude earthquake which has devastated the tiny country Haiti. Also by now you may have heard that a well known Christian fundamentalist leader has blamed this and the many other tragedies suffered by the people of Haiti on a "pact with the devil."

Friends, not only do I find that comment to be extremely callous and judgmental but in my humble opinion, comments like that are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. Recall this lesson from the Gospel of John:
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light." -- John 9:1-5 (MSG) The Message

Doesn't this suggest that instead of seeing natural disasters or other tragedies as God's punishment against people, we should consider that God is really watching us to see how we respond to the crisis. Instead of trying to assign blame shouldn't we be "energetically at work for the One who sent us", the One who we claim to represent? Aren't we warned against judging others?
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. -- Matthew 7:1-5 (MSG) The Message
I know that from time to time we're all tempted to judge the behaviors of others or try to make causal connections between events. Sometimes it may even be appropriate. However, as Christians, are we really reflecting the teachings of Jesus if we're always offering help to hurting souls with one hand while we're beating them over the head with judgment with the other hand.

Just a thought.

Visit CNN's "Impact Your World" site to learn how you can respond to the crisis in Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why We Must Not Suffer from "Haiti Fatigue"

As relief efforts are beginning to respond to the victims of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has devastated the nation of Haiti, there are already signs of what might be described as "Haiti fatigue". While there has been an outpouring of love and support for the victims of this horrific disaster, one commenter on a social network wrote: "They're always asking us to give to Haiti, when will it ever stop?" Other comments have not been that kind.

So in response to anyone who is wondering why the world should keep pouring support into Haiti, I'd like to share a post that I shared in September 2006. After you've read this I hope that you will consider helping in anyway that you can. To find out how you can help go to CNN's website, Impact Your World ( )

Thank you.

Did You Know That Haiti Had to Pay For Its Independence?

" In 1825, France charged Haiti for its independence.
It took Haiti 122 years to pay off the debt, gobbling up as much as 80 of the country's revenues in some years--at the expense of investment in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. It's time to pay Haiti
back, say two members of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti."

For years I've heard the arguments contributing Haiti's extreme poverty to its corrupt leaders and the influence of voodoo. However, until I read the following article I had never heard of the "independence tax" imposed on Haiti by France. It's clear that when France set the slaves free they intended to keep them in financial bondage for generations. Makes you think twice about the proposals of financial restitution to Native Americans or the children of the African slave trade, doesn't it?

Justice for Haiti
by Anthony Phillips and Brian Concannon Jr.
September 01, 2006

Anthony Phillips works with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon Jr. directs the IJDH, found at is an analyst with the IRC Americas Program.

A meeting of international diplomats and financiers in Port-au-Prince this summer ended up with a commitment of $750 million in foreign aid to Haiti over the coming year. This generosity will build badly needed roads, schools and hospitals, which will make a real difference to ordinary Haitians—the poorest people in the Americas—in the short-term. But what Haiti really needs to permanently end centuries of misery is not the world’s charity, but its justice.

The July donors’ meeting refused to discuss the one fair and lasting solution to Haiti’s grinding poverty: restitution of the independence debt imposed by France in 1825. The debt—calculated at $21 billion in current dollars—dwarfs current aid commitments and its payment would allow Haitians to develop their economy without the attached strings that keep poor countries dependant on international aid.

Haiti won its independence from France in 1804, through a bloody 12-year war, becoming the second independent country in the Americas and the only nation in history born of a successful slave revolt. But world powers forced Haiti to pay a second price for entrance into the international community. They refused to recognize Haiti’s independence, while French warships remained off its coasts, threatening to invade and reinstitute slavery.

After 21 years of resisting, Haiti capitulated to France‘s terms: in exchange for diplomatic recognition, Haiti’s government agreed to compensate French plantation owners for their loss of “property,” including the freed slaves; compensation to be paid with a loan from a designated French bank. The debt was ten times Haiti‘s total 1825 revenue and twice what the United States paid France in 1803 for the Louisiana Purchase, which contained seventy-four times more land.

The debt was a crushing burden on Haiti’s economy. The government was forced to redirect all economic activity to repay it. A huge percentage of government revenues—80 percent in some years—went to debt service, at the expense of investment in education, healthcare and infrastructure. The tax code and other laws channeled private and public enterprise to export crops such as tropical hardwoods and sugar which brought in foreign currency for the bank but left the mountainsides barren, the soil depleted and the population hungry.

Haiti did not pay off the independence debt until 1947. Over a century after the global slave trade was eliminated as the evil it was, Haitians were still paying their ancestors’ masters for their freedom. After the debt was paid, Haitians were left with a chronically undeveloped economy, rampant poverty, and a spent land—today relatively minor environmental stresses like tropical storms cause catastrophic damage in vulnerable Haiti.

Economic instability has engendered political instability. Haitians have endured more than 30 coups since 1825, and most of the resulting rulers have been malignant dictatorships.

The independence debt was not only immoral and onerous, it was also illegal. In 1825 aggression and oppression did not violate international law, but the reintroduction of slavery—the threat underlying the debt agreement—did. It had been banned by three treaties that France had signed by 1815.

Haiti has a new democratic government, and an opportunity to make a clean break from the past. The $750 million that the international community has promised towards this transition is a lot of money, but it is less than a year’s interest on the $21 billion dollars that France owes Haiti. Moreover, if the past is any guide, not all of the promised money will arrive, and much of it will come with strings attached—loan repayments, import tariff reductions, privatization of government services, etc.—that will perpetuate Haiti’s dependence on international help.

If the international community really wants to help Haiti, repayment of the independence debt will be at the top of the agenda, not off the table. A just repayment of the independence debt, by contrast, would allow Haiti to develop the way today’s wealthy countries did—based on national priorities set inside the country. It would also right a historical wrong, and set a strong example of good neighbor policies for a global neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Comment on Robert Reich's, "What's Ahead for the Economy and Politics in 2010"

There is little doubt that Robert Reich's assessment that "jobs" will be the overriding concern on the minds of voters during the midterm elections is correct. As he states in his post, "What's Ahead for the Economy and Politics in 2010":
"The Democrats have enough votes to enact health care -- the hurdle Bill Clinton failed to jump, contributing to the Republican takeover in 1994 -- but when it's enacted, expect the spin machines on both sides to be at full throttle. And because health care legislation won't be implemented for another three or four years (depending whether the House or Senate versions prevail), Americans won't be able to test the veracity of these wildly divergent claims.

Foreign policy is just as unlikely to tip the scales. Sad to say, absent a draft most American families will read about American deaths in Afghanistan much the way they've absorb the U.S. body count in Iraq -- as news items rather than personal tragedies.

Issue Number One -- the overriding concern that will determine more than anything how many seats the Democrats lose next fall -- is jobs. If unemployment is 10 percent or more next November, the Dems are in danger of losing the House and will almost certainly be short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate."

Again, I think that this is an assessment with which every political pundit can agree. But if I may be so bold to add, the second issue that will be a major concern on the minds of all voters will be kitchen table issues like the costs of utilities and food. And many of these concerns will be weather related.

In 2009, farmers across the nation suffered severe losses due to weather which was either unusually wet or unusually hot. Now as 2010 begins much of the nation, even the deep South, is experiencing extreme cold. These are the types of conditions that generally send both food and heating costs skyrocketing. If the current winter weather patterns persist, even Americans who are currently employed could be driven to the brink of bankruptcy by simply trying to keep a warm roof over their heads and food on their tables. And God forbid any of these families face a serious heath issue.

If things are bad in states like Michigan and the Democratic strongholds of the Northeast now, a harsh winter could make them much, much worse. And before they celebrate too soon, incumbent Dixie-crats and Republicans shouldn't count their chickens to soon.

I see very little that the White House Congress can do to address these issues before the midterm elections. So, if add the numbers of the currently unemployed, those who have suffered foreclosures and all those who may be hanging on by a slim thread due to high utilities, debt, food and/or prescription costs, incumbents on both sides should prepare to be swept out.

Read Robert Reich's Full Article at HuffingtonPost

Related Articles:

Living On Nothing But Food Stamps, NYTimes

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Response to "Where Does A Democrat Go From Here?"

In an article for The Huffington Post author Marianne Williamson asks the question: "Where Does A Democrat Go From Here?

In her article Ms. Williamson expresses the growing disenchantment that many progressives are feeling with the policy decisions of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

She writes:
"I remember when there was a moral force at the center of the Democratic Party. I see it sometimes still, in a Sherrod Brown, a Dennis Kucinich, an Anthony Weiner. But they're not reflective of the general tenor of the Democratic Party anymore, and I think we would all do well to wake up to that fact. We elected Obama and then he sort of became someone else. He's doing a lot of good things in various areas, but he's certainly not changing the new bottom line: that corporations get to run the world.

He bailed out the banks, but he didn't stipulate that they had to start lending again. He got us health care, but he wouldn't say a word about single payer and he wouldn't raise a finger for the public option. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, but accepted it with a speech that was an apologia for war."

I, too, have been asking myself the question, "What Now?". And I have arrived at this answer.

If your allegiance is to a political party and you measure progress in terms of elections won or loss, then you go nowhere.

However, if your allegiance is to the progressive ideas of peace, civil rights, ending poverty, consumer protections, environmental protection, etc., you may want to consider registering as an Independent and subsequently casting your votes for the best candidate of any party during future elections.

Unlike Ms. Williamson, I don't believe that President Obama has suddenly transformed politically. I believe that his decisions as President are actually fairly consistent with his actions as Senator.

Remember June 2008 when then Senator Obama voted in favor of granting immunity to the telecom companies that illegally spied on US citizens.

It was John Edwards, not Barack Obama, of whom Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne credited in July, 2007 with "making the poor visible again".

It's true that Senator Obama voted against the war in Iraq which was a chief reason that he won support away from "that hawk, Hillary Clinton". However, candidate Obama made it clear during the August 2007 Democratic Presidential Debate that he would not hesitate to go after Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan if there was good intel on his location.

And I certainly can't recall candidate Obama specifically promising to reign in the banking or health insurance industries. So while I am a little disappointed by a few of his decisions, I can not say that I am surprised. Yet in still, I understand the disillusionment of many progressives and understand their need to voice their criticisms.

Criticizing President Obama's political actions does not mean that you do not support his presidency as some Democrats are trying to say. The truth is that supporting this President, or any other, should never mean remaining silent about the things that matter. Didn't we learn anything from the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic for trying to silence their critics?

The simple reality is that neither major political party will ever be able to represent the beliefs of their constituents until there is campaign finance reform. And since I believe that there will be a public health care option before there is real campaign finance reform, we, like Marianne Williamson, must use whatever platform we are given to speak truth to power, even when our own party is in power. As Martin Luther King, Jr stated: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Mahatma Gandhi challenged each of us to become the change that we want to see in the world, And in this age of politics, if we choose to participate in the political process we must also be our own moral force.

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
-- Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Read Marianne's Article at HuffingtonPost