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Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Where is Bush? Where is Obama?

Over 500 civilians have been killed in the last few days of the Israeli invasion and bombing raids in Gaza. One Israeli soldier has been reported killed during the fighting.

500 civilians to 1 soldier.

And for those that are about to jump on the “Israel is protecting its borders from rocket fire!” bandwagon, let’s take a look at the context, and roll back a few months:

Last summer, Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is Gaza. This ceasefire lasted through October. By November, the ceasefire continued (for the most part) to be upheld on both sides. Israeli casualties during this period were zero according to reports I’ve seen.

Hamas offered repeatedly to extend the truce, even after Israel failed to meet its side of the bargain, which included allowing in humanitarian aid. Israel only did so after pressure from outsiders, including the U.S., yet didn’t permit as much aid as was agreed and rejected outside NGO workers, so the supplies were poorly distributed and likely never made it to the people that needed them most.

On November 4, Israel broke the ceasefire and invaded Gaza, directing attacks at “militants in Gaza.” Several Palestinians… civilians and “suspected militants” alike were killed. Home-made rocket fire from Gaza began sailing over Israel’s borders again in response.

The Obama team seems content to carry on the Bush torch and re-write history regarding Israel and Gaza:

First, they remain silent despite the enormous bombardment, aggression and violence perpetrated by Israel, hiding behind the “There is only one president.” bullshit line that hasn’t held up for the economy, the Mumbai massacre or nearly anything else that has come up during the transition. Yet it’s conveniently used now so Obama doesn’t have to publicly condemn the actions of Israel.

Second, an Obama spokesperson reported on the news that it was Hamas who broke the ceasefire, apparently forgetting the Nov. 4 attacks by Israel into Gaza.

So why is Israel attacking now? Why have they been mentally preparing the Israeli public for a large military operation through daily news reports and other means for nearly a month now?

Elections are coming up in Israel soon and it’s chillingly customary for the incumbent to show their toughness with an often horrific and deadly military display just prior. And, since Lebanon was such a failure in 2006 to wipe out Hezbollah (even though, like this massacre, the Lebanese civilian-to-Israeli soldier casualty ratio was off the scale), it’s always good to wipe away the failures of past military ventures with new ones before the voters hit the polling booths.

For those that need a refresher on 2006:

The Lebanese top police office and the Lebanon Ministry of Health, citing hospitals, death certificates, local authorities, and eye witnesses, put the death toll at 1,123 — 37 soldiers and police officers, 894 identified victims, and 192 unidentified ones.[145] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council (HRC) put the Lebanese death toll at 1,191,[26] citing the health ministry and police, as well as other state agencies.[145] The Associated Press estimated the figure at 1,035.[145] In February 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 800 Lebanese had died during fighting,[147] and other articles have estimated the figure to be at least 850.[148][149] Encarta states that “estimates… varied from about 850 to 1,200” in its entry on Israel,[150] while giving a figure of “more than 1,200” in its entry on Lebanon.[151] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council estimated the number of Lebanese injured to be 4,409,[26] 15% of whom were permanently disabled.[152]

The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded Israeli cluster bombs.[145] So far, these have killed 29 people and wounded 215 — 90 of them children.[153]

Source

Cynical as that might sound, you can look at Israel’s election history and it’s usually peppered with some sort of military incursion a month or two before voting day.

Fast forward to today: The BBC is reporting 500 civilians dead in Gaza and the first Israeli soldier was killed this weekend… after 7 days of fighting.

500:1 is a massacre, people. It’s time to stand up and speak out.

Sure, Israel has a right to defend its borders… and no one is denying them that right… but invading another territory and (clearly) killing indiscriminately is not a legitimate way to secure its homeland or reach its goals.

Write your Congresspeople or your elected officials or whatever representatives you have and demand action from your leaders. There needs to be a resounding voice from the world that puts an end to this bloodshed.

Would we tolerate any other country invading another territory and killing civilians in a 500:1 or even a 50:1 ratio? No, we wouldn’t no matter the supposed “cause” or “reason” for the aggression.

Obama’s first foreign policy test is on the docket and right now he’s failing. If we speak up now and he might not flunk the thing altogether.

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The party that was once the champion of small government, low spending and personal responsibility has left us with this legacy:

  • Largest unemployment lines in over 15 years;
  • Largest number of people receiving unemployment benefits in 20 years;
  • Largest and most expensive government in decades;
  • Likely to be the weakest economy in over 80 years if predictions that our economic crisis is “just getting started” happen to be true and the seemingly run-a-muck Bailout continues veering off course…;
  • Harshest repeal and tarnishing of Constitutional rights and Geneva Convention laws in 40 years.
  • Most incompetent and favoritism-based appointments to positions of power resulting in the deaths of thousands of American citizens and military personnel;
  • The largest number of firings, early departures and scandals surrounding political offices in my memory.

I’ve been trying to figure out how Republicans are going to get back to the platform of small government, family values, fiscal and personal responsibility, strong governmental ethics and reform and somehow push the ideas that “trickle down” or “top-down” tax cuts and policies work and are healthy for the economy. Are there any conservatives around that can help reconcile the post-Bush reality with the tenets of the Republican party?

Which of these things do you think can be recovered? Which of these things will no longer be part of the Republican political lineup. Or, how might they be transformed to better connect with the U.S. American people?

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Even though McCain supporters continue to boo on cue of hearing Obama’s name, McCain’s concession speech revealed the kind of candidate that I admire, and one that I personally feel would have probably made the campaign a far more close race.

Obama will not be a silver bullet to slay all of the boogymen that loom in the closet. Obama will probably not be able to solve a number of the issues he hopes to tackle. He still takes advice from those who are very friendly with the likes of Wal-Mart and who consider the company to be the “victim” rather than the millions of workers who get paid sub-standard wages, work beyond their hours for zero pay, and who lack any sort of useful benefits or job security. Obama still embraces the Monroe Doctrine-esque views regarding Latin America and Cuba… views responsible for the worst terrorism and violence committed in the 1980s and early 1990s. He still seems to be willing to blindly support Israel despite the terrorism that our surrogate carries out against civilians, let alone the always-alleged “militants.”

However, I do believe Obama will set us moving in a direction that better embraces the ideals espoused in both the United States Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Tonight’s election results alone speak to the beginning of that transformation. I hope we are at an end of hyper-divisive politics. I hope we find a way to advance political change without needing to belittle the other or tap into fear or lock people down according to artificial boundaries and arbitrary wedges and instead examine a person and their ideas, dreams and goals on their own merit.

As for economics, wealth and the pursuit of the “American Dream,” since the economy will likely be the premier challenge facing this presidency, I believe the “welfare, subsidies and tax cuts for the rich” approach that ignores or expects a “trickle down” effect to somehow keep the financial cogs turning has been proven both in theory and in practice to be a disaster and in the meantime, the people of the country have paid in blood and tears as they are evicted from their homes, have lost their jobs, have had their pensions torn out from under them after putting in the time and service to earn them, and have seen the “opportunities for wealth creation” that neo-cons parade so devoutly shrivel up or be shipped overseas due to tax breaks and further welfare handouts by the government to corporations. Trickle-down economics and deregulation DO NOT WORK. You can’t look at the surplus we started with 8 years ago, the policies that were passed in the meantime and then the huge mess we’re in now and say anything else. Now, will Obama’s policies work better? I guess we’ll see. I doubt he’ll be able to make any real changes, however, I hope that he’ll actually stop some of the blatant corruption that has run so rampant during Bush’s terms.

But let’s get back to tonight:

Barack Obama does speak of hope in a time when we need it dearly. His victory is a real opportunity for the children of United States who, until now, have always looked at the portraits of American presidents and never saw their own race represented. He does represent calmness and clarity and a willingness to listen… qualities that have been so damagingly absent during the Bush II era. We have a lot of work to do in order to recover our standing the world… but at least we won’t thumb our noses at the global community anymore and we might save a few lives by not calling out cowboy remarks like “bring it on” as our valiant soldiers fight and die in other lands. Obama represents a return to civility and respect that has been slim or entirely missing in our national discourse.

I guess we’ll see how things go… but I’m glad I’m not having to pack for Canada tonight.

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One of the latest things the McCain Campaign has been pushing is that middle-ground voters shouldn’t elect Obama because it would give the dems control of the Senate, House and presidency. Moreover, it looks like the dems are close to gaining the filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate.

I disagree with McCain that middle-ground voters should elect him over Obama. Put simply, I believe Obama’s plans for our economy and his views on the Iraq war are a bit better and more thought out than McCain’s.

However, I do agree with McCain and others that the Dems having a filibuster-proof Senate is a bad thing. I want legislation to be critiqued and challenged, refined and improved. I also want bills to be inclusive and mindful of conservative values and needs.

One of the main gripes I had with the Bush administration was that there was such an air of “my way or the highway” about policies. There wasn’t any middle ground sought. Either you fashioned bills precisely the way that the Bush camp wanted or he vetoed them. This severely limited the effectiveness of Congress and the Senate and a lot of important issues went unaddressed or were dropped from the agenda because there was just no point to bringing them up.

Now, electing John McCain when there’s a Dem-controlled Senate and House is also a bad idea because he’ll likely just continue the Bush-esque tactics of vetoing anything that comes across his desk that doesn’t fit with his world view–or worse, he may veto good bills just because he doesn’t want to be seen as being “pushed around” or giving into the Dems. On one hand, I imagine he’d veto things outright less than Bush. On the other hand, McCain has demonstrated he’ll act out of anger and spite… a toxic combination for good policy-making.

Put simply, not all Democrat ideas are good just as not all Republican ideas are good. However, when there’s a way to challenge an idea and it has to stand up to scrutiny of people with different views, you tend to get better, more refined products that then better serve the people.

I do think Democrats having the White House and majorities in Congress and the Senate is fine because we really need to be able to get a LOT of stuff done in the next four years and any ideological road blocks similar to what the Bush admin has practiced will really hurt us in the short- and long-run… people are losing their homes NOW. People are jobless NOW.

Yet there still needs to be checks and balances and there still needs to be a reality check provided by the Republicans to ensure the Dems don’t just pull the same shit the Bush administration did, but where the only difference is that their poorly-crafted ideologically-driven policies cater to the other side of the aisle.

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I just finished reading a NYT Op-Ed by Obama that I found particularly refreshing. While he didn’t address the fact that his plans for troop draw-downs and redeployments don’t include the thousands upon thousands of privately hired mercs that flesh out the battlefield, he did say a few things that address some of the most fundamental apprehensions that I have had about this “Mess-O-Potamia.”

I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. — Barak Obama (source)

This simple declaration, if carried out, will undoubtedly save thousands of lives on both sides of this war.

One of the critical components to understanding “why they hate us” is the fact that we have been uninvited guests in the Middle East for decades now, and our presence there is viewed as the utmost of insults. Unlike us, the folks in the Middle East haven’t forgotten that we overthrew the democratically elected government in Iran in 1953. Folks there haven’t forgotten that we supplied both sides of the Iran-Iraq war until we decided to tip the scales and bet on Saddam… and then subsequently made Saddam one of our biggest allies right up to and after the first incursion into Iraq. And perhaps the most poignant sting in the minds of the Middle Eastern people would be our unwavering and active support of the immeasurable number of atrocities committed by Israel over the last forty or fifty years.

To hear a politician talk about rejecting American Imperialist ambitions is a wonderful sound indeed. Of course, now we’ll need to see if he can stick to his words and put them into concrete action… a much harder feat.

Read the full Op-Ed

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Don’t get me wrong… I’m excited to think that the United States may finally end its racist monopoly on the country’s highest position of power. For all of our bullshit and crowing about freedom and our progressive democracy, the U.S. is one of the few democratic nations on the planet that has yet to see a woman and/or person who is not of the dominant race in this position of power. And, out of the choices that we Americans have faced for that office over the last 8, or even I’d go as far as to say 16 years, Barack Obama is the best candidate I’ve seen on the docket.

He speaks of hope. He has an understanding of issues of both race and class that, from what I can tell, is unparalleled to any past president. He seems grounded in a sense of fairness and rationality. He was spoon-fed the same bullshit yet still managed to vote with his conscience when going to war with Iraq. He’s able to form an argument and defend his position with useful, informed perspectives… something I have really missed ever since George took the reigns. Just the simple instance of hearing someone make a logical case for something they believe in has been so rare these past 8 years. But most importantly, he seems willing to listen to other people and is not afraid to have his ideas challenged… which I’d say is the opposite of our current president, who is so afraid of ideas outside the party line that he insulates himself from them almost entirely.

So yes, Barak is the best choice. Far better than anything Clinton had to offer… although what a shame that Hillary had to essentially paint herself as an aggressive, aloof hardliner in order to compete with the likes of the (republican) competition. I understand why she did it… electability and sexism. If she had been any less callous about her stance on the war or shown any signs of compassion, she would be labeled weak by the male population (and the many women who have been brainwashed by the system to consider such qualities a frailty).

I don’t think I need to go into why Barak is better than McCain considering that McCain is just as willing as the current administration to spin the truth. My favorite, tell-tale quote from McCain is the line about how, when he visited Iraq, he could walk “down the streets [of Baghdad] with no body armor on…” to which any number of news outlets then cut to photos of McCain wearing body armor, he and his delegation guarded by over 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawks and 2 Apache gunships overhead ensuring the area was safe. Clicky for more McCain bullshit. McCain, to me, is just another branch of the extremely privileged, out-of-touch with reality elites that think they know what’s best for us little people.

But why do I think Barak is only the best out of the available choices and not a glowing candidate in and of himself?

With Hillary out of the race, Obama promptly declared on CNBC: “I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market.” Jason Furman is heading up his economic policy. Mr. Furman is a Wal-Mart supporter who thinks the people who are desperately trying to get Wally World to raise its wages are the problem, not the fact that Wal-Mart pays extremely substandard wages and cuts corners in nearly every way possible regarding benefits and compensation. Hell, Wal-Mart is one of the biggest drains on government hand-out programs since it actually suggests that its employees make use of federal programs so that the company doesn’t have to worry about things like health insurance (Medicaid and other taxpayer subsidized health services) or paying enough money on which a family could live (food stamps usage has shown to drastically increase once a Wal-Mart moves into town).

Let’s step away from economics and markets and take a look at foreign affairs. Obama has said that he supports an “undivided Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel. Not even Bush has been this myopic and callous regarding both the UN Resolution and international consensus that regards Jerusalem as an international city.

Obama has also decided to continue the embargo against Cuba… which, last time I checked, was in violation of so many human rights that every government of the United States since the beginning of the embargo (1962) could literally have crimes against humanity charges successfully brought against them for supporting it.

And then there’s the reappearance of the Monroe Doctrine in his speeches… or at least the spirit of it. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Monroe Doctrine has been used by politicians to sanction U.S. military and covert intervention in Latin America since its inception. When we don’t like the way a democratically elected government is running things, Monroe tells us we have the right to support death squads and Contra forces to beat the population to an utter pulp until that country’s government is forced to stop its socially-minded programs for the poor and working class and spend its money and time on defending its borders and civilian population (Nicaragua). Or, it means we have the right to support brutal dictatorships or carry out coups to install tyrants and thugs as long as they keep the way paved for U.S. investors (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc.) . Read my article on Nicaragua for one example. If more info is needed here, just toss a comment at the end of this entry and it’ll be provided.

Obama has been quoted as saying we have “lost Latin America” (makes you wonder why we’re entitled to possess it in the first place…) and has talked about other ways we should be using our influence within the continent. Considering how many names of Latin American countries you can type into Google with the words “coup,” “dictatorship,” or “death squads” and then add “United States” and come up with a large number of hits detailing our sordid history within those lands, you would hope our best choice for president would be a little bit more aware of what he was saying….

And then there’s Iraq. Will Obama end the war he initially voted against? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Even though the Barak Obama website claims we will “have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months,” Americans should understand that merely means we will have, at best, half our troops home. It says nothing of the military training forces, mercenary troops, no-bid contractors and commercial enterprises that have been bleeding the country and its resources dry since they set foot in Iraq.

And, even if we did somehow miraculously pull all of our troops out of Iraq, Obama thinks we need to “finish the fight in Afghanistan” (Obama’s website). Okay, so Obama was against the obviously misguided war against Iraq. But saying we need to finish the fight in Afghanistan means he thinks it’s a conflict that is worth fighting… that we “should” be there. I do not share this view.

The purpose for attacking Afghanistan was to respond to the attacks of 9/11. Yet, even when the Taliban gave us an opportunity to bring the supposed mastermind of the attacks to justice (first they asked for evidence against Osama, then later offered to give him up w/o that requirement), we opted to dismiss their offer and proceeded to bomb the hell out of the civilian population. Since “we don’t do body counts” (Gen. Tommy Franks), we’ll never know the true number of civilian casualties… yet I can imagine that the continuing occupation of Afghanistan has only made it more difficult to distinguish civilian from “insurgent” as those fighting the U.S. and its allies have had to resort to guerrilla-style warfare in order to survive. (Hey, we did it vs the British, too.) Thankfully, some people have tried to keep a tally.

Afghanistan also paved the way for Iraq as it allowed us access to areas within the Middle East from which we could launch attacks, position troops and gather intel (for what little good that did us… heh). With these things in mind, I see the war raging in Afghanistan as little more than a punching bag to satisfy our need for vendetta for the crimes committed against us in September several years ago.

Now, for those of you who believe the War on Terror is a just cause, you may want to make sure you’ve thought the whole thing through thoroughly. My views on the subject are readily available.

So, yeah, Obama is the best choice out of a series of crappy ones. Let’s hope his desire for change keeps his mind open and flexible in the years to come if he indeed succeeds in becoming our nation’s next president.

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Everyone is talking about the elections, the primaries and the candidates. The media conglomerates are in a tizzy over who said what, comparing each front-runner to the next, and making predictions over who will ultimately win the chance to make a run for the White House.

The “issues” of this year’s race have been defined and we see many of the Usual Suspects return to the docket:

  • Iraq / Iran / war
  • The economy
  • Health Care
  • Abortion
  • Climate Change
  • Immigration

Today I’ll pick Health Care and run with it.

So what’s the debate? Or, a more interesting question that is on my mind is, “What are the limits of the debate?”

Currently, when talking about health care, you have republicans making references to some magical free market influences and all of the front-runners are in favor of a “consumer-based system” of some kind. They toss around buzzwords like “deregulation” and extol their stalwart efforts to avoid “raising taxes.”

Democrats say different things and have different suggestions, but the “debate” never leaves a narrow channel of discourse. The Dem. front-runners talk about health care for all, a laudable goal. Their buzzwords are “government subsidy” and “repealing” or “ending” the Bush tax cuts to pay for their plans.

A few Dems share ideas with their counterparts across the aisle and push the notion that their plans are superior because their solutions offer a healthy number of health insurance choices for the American consumer. The tacit capitalist assumption here is that this large number of choices will promote competition and therefore keep the costs of health care reasonable.

Sure, there are some fringe views and different plans of attack regarding the Health Care Problem, but of course, the entire debate is predicated on a huge assumption: Paying a private company for health insurance is a necessary and legitimate practice.

Completely absent from the debate are challenges to this notion. Furthermore, any mention that our health care system is in shambles because of the extraordinarily high costs of paying a third party for a service they almost never make good on is just as taboo. There is no call by any of the front-running candidates to tear apart this illegal, corrupt and immoral institution despite the volumes of evidence we can all read about or, worse yet, may have experienced in our daily lives.

The story is typical: Americans pay their hard-earned money to these health insurance companies assuming that, when tragedy strikes, they will be covered. They will be safe. Of course, as hundreds of studies and thousands upon thousands of personal experiences have shown, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. I’d even go as far as to say the average health insurance consumer is being cheated and outright abused. Anyone who has had to take an insurance company to task for an inappropriate denial of coverage or an outlandish bill will know exactly what I mean.

But we can’t bring this up. This isn’t an acceptable position to take within the “debate.” Instead, we’re supposed to choose the plan of a presidential hopeful that promises to drain the least amount of money from our pockets and marrow from our bones.

According to the limits of the discussion, the insurance companies have a right to exist… their function and place in society is assumed valid and useful even despite the horrendous track record of abuses, corruption and fraud that can be found with just a cursory examination of any of them. The moral issues… the human rights issues… are irrelevant and quietly dismissed before they can enter the discourse.

Maybe it’s time to change the scope of the discussion. There couldn’t be a better opportunity to put pressure on the candidates than now, while they are still duking it out amongst their peers for a shot at the title. Once the Primaries are over, each side will rest comfortably upon the ability to highlight the “differences” of their plan with their opponent and any thought of addressing the underlying assumption I’ve mentioned here will likely be lost entirely.

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