Monday, April 30, 2007

I Thought He had The Weapons

This was the line used by the top spy in America during the lead up to the war in Iraq in his new book. If it weren’t so tragic it would be laughable. He states this as though it gives him cover from what this has turned into. That line would be appropriate for someone like me who doesn’t control the most sophisticated spy network in the world. However it loses something when said by Mr. Tenet. Mr. Tenet it was your job to know, your not knowing is precisely the evidence to indict you; not acquit you. Mr. Tenet truly believes that this excuse should exonerate him from the same criticism that he heaps on Mr. Cheney.

The fact that the vice-president had to hype the intelligence should have set off a red flag. Mr. Tenet was the top spy in the country, his job was to suspect everyone and everything. His argument is not persuasive for a number of reasons.

1) Mr. Tenet knew that the main exile promoting regime change and weapons of mass destruction had been released by the CIA because he was unreliable and a crook. This same said exile was coordinating all of the other exiles making the rounds around Capitol Hill and the television shows. Are we to believe that watching Mr. Chalabi directing this farce that Mr. Tenet didn’t remember that months earlier he had kicked Mr. Chalabi off the payroll?

2) There were a number of reporters who were reporting that the evidence did not match the rhetoric. These reporters were not receiving top-secret briefings; they were contacting the experts who knew truth. They did not have to go globetrotting to find them; they merely picked up the phone and called them. Mr. Tenet did not have access to these same experts and people on the ground in Baghdad?

3) The gravity of the situation. You do not commit 150,000 of our young men and women without being sure. Mr. Tenet stated that the evidence against Saddam was a “slam dunk”. In his book he backs away from that comment saying it was taken out of context. While Mr. Tenet was CIA Director never once did he mention that the comment was taken out of context.

4) Mr. Tenet blamed the politicians for the rush to war, but this also does not pass scrutiny. The CIA Director is supposed to rise above political pressure and give an honest and objective assessment of the threats as he sees them. By allowing himself and his analysis’s to be pressured he put partisanship and politics over our national interest.

5) By saying that he thought the weapons were there he is admitting to being incompetent at best and complicit in the rush to judgment at worse. How are we to believe that with billions of dollars in the CIA budget, spy satellites and U-2 planes, and access to the inspectors, that the information the reporters found so easy to acquire the CIA Director could not?

No, Mr. Tenet it is a little late to try and divorce yourself from this catastrophe. You marched right along in lockstep with the rest of this administration in the rub up to this war. You even received a medal for God’s sake. Now you want us to believe that you were some innocent bystander, that doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Mr. Tenet you let your country down when it needed you most. If what you write is true; when we needed you to be strong and courageous you behaved like a coward. Enjoy your medal Mr. Tenet because of you there will be a lot of those given away posthumously.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

How Much Is A Haircut?

What really troubles me about the media hype concerning JRE’s recent “barbergate” incident is where the focus of the reports are leading. The media is trying to marginalize him with charges of being a narcissistic hairball.

These charges would be laughable if they weren’t so diabolical. Let’s review the evidence shall we. Prior to this hoopla the media was reporting that all of the other candidates were trailing Senator Edwards in presenting real solutions and policies to confront the issues facing our country.[1] The frontrunners were big on theory, but short on specifics. Senator Edwards was making real political hay by actually addressing issues. He has come out with specific plans on how to deal with Iraq, global warming, and poverty. So while the other candidates are dancing around the issues, Senator Edwards has been providing the American public with the facts to judge his candidacy.

What better way to derail this momentum than to present him as being a fluff candidate who is only concerned about appearance and without substance. I’m sorry; to me we have bigger issues to deal with in this country besides how much Mr. Edwards pays for a haircut. Does he pay more than I do? Yes he does. But I am sure he pays more for other things than I do as well. It is his money; he can do with it what he chooses. He has earned the right to do so. Does anyone question how Mayor Bloomberg spends his billions? I could care less what he does with his money, what matters to me is what he does with the public money. There has never been any question concerning Senator Edwards and his fiduciary duties as a public servant or as an attorney. This is a smoke screen to try to cloud the issues of this campaign with day time talk television fodder. What I, you, or your father paid for a haircut is irrelevant, what is relevant is where does he stand on the killing field that Iraq has become.

This conversation would have merit were it not for who they are charging. No candidate has articulated the needs of the poor in this country better than John Edwards, not just during this buildup to the election, but throughout his public life. A fluff candidate; you have to be kidding me! Is there some rule against a candidate wanting to look his best? To show you the media is no longer reporting news, but trying to make news the haircut became a discussion of his “sexuality”. Is there no limit to where these people will stoop to sell newspapers or kitty litter?

I, for one, will not allow the media to define what the issues in this campaign will be. I think I know what is important and what is not. Please media stars, let’s go back to reporting the news and not trying to create it. I have got to believe that there some really important issues and decisions this country has to make right now, besides where we will be getting our haircuts.


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Friday, April 27, 2007

The value of a life…

How many Iraqi’s have died and how many more will die before this madness will end? No one really knows how many of them have already died. Tracking their death toll just doesn’t seem to be as important to the news media.

Estimates range from approximately 60,000 civilian deaths (Iraq Body Count project) to 655,000 total excess deaths due to the war (second Lancet survey of mortality).

The Iraq Body Count (IBC) project's figure of 56,574 to 62,296 civilian deaths reported in English-language media (including Arabic media translated into English) up to 18 February 2007 includes civilian deaths due to coalition and insurgent military action, sectarian violence and increased criminal violence. The IBC says the figure likely underestimates because: "It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media." [1]

The Lancet study's figure of 655,000 is based on surveys and sampling methods and estimates total excess deaths (civilian and non-civilian) up to July 2006, and includes those due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc. [2]

The United Nations reported that 34,452 violent civilian deaths occurred in 2006, based on data from morgues, hospitals, and municipal authorities across Iraq.[3] For comparison, the IBC reports approximately 24,500 civilian deaths in 2006.[4] The Lancet study's excess mortality rate figure of 14.2 deaths/1000/year as of June 2006 corresponds to approximately 370,000 deaths in 2006.[5]

A figure of 100,000 to 150,000 was estimated by Iraq's Health Minister in a November 2006 press conference, based on extrapolating the recent 2006 rate of 100 deaths per day recorded in hospitals and morgues backward to March 2003. War-related deaths (civilian and non-civilian), and deaths from criminal gangs. [6]

"At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently"—as of June 2006. "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths. ... The [Los Angeles] Times attempted to reach a comprehensive figure by obtaining statistics from the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry and checking those numbers against a sampling of local health departments for possible undercounts." [7]

The Iraqi government has of course disputed these figures and now has refused to release any figures.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The United Nations accused SEARCH
Iraq on Wednesday of withholding sensitive civilian casualty figures because it fears they would be used to paint a "very grim" picture of a worsening humanitarian crisis.
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Whether the government of Iraq releases figures or not the amount of human suffering cannot be denied. They can no more hide the toll on human life than Saddam Hussein could during his reign. The world needs to know how costly in human terms this situation is becoming in order to prepare for the massive job that is awaiting us. At some point the world will need to reach out and help these people heal and reconstruct their lives. These are not just facts and figures these are human beings worthy of life and dignity.

Although no one really knows the exact number, everyone can agree that it has been a lot. I read a report the other day and it talked about how most Americans have a fairly accurate idea of the number of American war dead from the Iraqi invasion. However, when it comes to the number of Iraqi war dead there is a remarkable lack of awareness by the American public to the devastation that has been visited upon these people. Many in the world believe that we as Americans are unconcerned with the deaths of anyone who is not American or Jewish. That in our minds and opinions their lives are not as valuable. It is this belief that feeds a lot of the animosity directed towards us by other nations.

I believe that all life has value. Each and every one of us is a unique creation of God and therefore of value to God. We should begin to express our outrage and concern for not only the American lives lost, but also the lives of any human being that is slaughtered throughout the world. It is easy to become overwhelmed and numb to the slaughter going on throughout the world. The images that are constantly being beamed to our televisions of carnage and inhumanity can cause one to become insensitive to the plight of others. They are over there and they are different from us, but does that make their lives any less valuable? Are they deserving of any less compassion because they don’t look like me or believe what I believe? I certainly hope not. We should be equally appalled wherever suffering is occurring. Of course it is human nature to care more about those who I identify closely with, but it doesn’t have to be an either or situation. There is enough compassion to go around for all suffering people.

Let’s let the world know that we value all human life equally. We all share a kinship with one another that goes beyond borders and colors and politics.

“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?”

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

McCarthyism Is Alive And Well

Last night I watched the Bill Moyers Journal[1] entitled, “Buying The War”. What this administration did in the run up to the war was criminal. They bullied, coerced, and lied throughout the whole process. What the media did was worse than criminal, it was cowardly. It merely points out the need for all of us to remain vigilant, because we no longer have any one willing to question the party line. The overriding sentiment expressed by reporter after reporter was a pervasive fear that they would be cast as unpatriotic if they questioned the information being put out by the administration. Does this sound familiar?

The main thing that troubles me is what will prevent this from happening again? None of the reporters whose job it was to investigate these claims has expressed any remorse concerning their behavior. They continually made excuses why they acquiesce to these false claims. I applaud the few reporters that were willing to risk their White House dinner privileges to tell the truth. They included Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, and Bob Simon. The insanity of it is that these men did not have to conduct secret investigations to get at the truth; they just called and talked to the people who knew about the issues being reported. What a novel concept. While the mainstream press was calling pundits, these guys were calling the real experts who were telling a different story than the one being reported. If I were a “so-called” journalist I would feel ashamed, because do to their lack of courage we have men and women in Iraq who are dying. This is not some fluff story that “just got away” this ladies and gentlemen was about life and death and the carnage that has ensued. How these people get up every day and go to work is a mystery to me knowing that they have blood on their hands.

Once again, this proves that hype and hysteria still carries the day in America. Over and over we heard, “this is a post 9/11 world” to justify the lies and deceit. As if 9/11 gave this administration the license to suspend democracy, the free press, and personal freedoms. It’s funny we decry what Putin and others do, yet when a crisis arises here we do the exact same thing. Just because you say it isn’t the same thing, doesn’t make it different.

For those too young to remember, McCarthyism characterized some of the darkest days in American democracy. It was named after a Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who through fear and intimidation made wild accusations and caused many people to be harmed in the name of democracy. It was during a time of fear of a communist plot to overthrow the government and infiltrators were considered to be everywhere.

McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about Communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" later took on a more general meaning, not necessarily referring to the conduct of Joseph McCarthy alone.

During this time many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned,[1] laws that would be declared unconstitutional,[2] dismissals for reasons later declared illegal[3] or actionable,[4] or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.

“Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence”. Call me crazy but didn’t we also have a case that was presented as fact based on inconclusive and questionable evidence? The former Secretary of State Colin Powell stated before the United Nations that we had “irrefutable proof” to back the claims for war. He detailed item after item of how Saddam Hussien was in violation and deserved to be toppled and Iraq invaded. Mr. Powell was sacrificed to sell this war. He had credibility that none of the others had. When Colin Powell said it, you could take it to the bank. This administration is gaining notoriety for providing human sacrifices. Mr. Powell today couldn’t sell umbrellas in Seattle.

The thing that frightens me the most is that all those hacks or pundits who sold this war to us and help to stroke the flames of unpatriotic fear are still employed. They are still making the rounds of the talk shows and their opinions are still being quoted. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. We should be boycotting any shows that still parade these hacks as experts and let them know that their services will be no longer required. How can you now claim any objectivity or credibility after this debacle has been exposed? What this incident has shown was that politics trumped the people. It is a sad state of affairs when politics are more important than the nation itself. This policy continues to this day in the daily headlines concerning this administration.

Yes my friends, McCarthyism is alive and well and just like before it must be defeated and exposed for the malignancy on democracy that it is.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

Since 9/11 there has been much talk about the war on terror and on whether we are winning or losing. I submit that we are losing the war on terror.

How can I say we are losing after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? How can I say that when we have had no more terrorists attacks here at home? I believe that the war on terror cannot be gauged based on those criteria alone. The goal of terrorists is not to win militarily because usually they are a lesser force, no the goal of terrorist is to get us to change how we live. How we view ourselves and each other. The reason I say we are losing this war is not based on what the terrorist are doing, but based on what we have done in response to the terrorist threat. We now have more repressive legislation at home, we have resorted to torture and imprisonment without due process, and we use fear and paranoia to justify any and all activities.

Of course it would be easy to blame an administration that used the attack to enact its agenda and justify its world view. But these things could not have been done without our acquiesce. We live in a democracy that is supposed to have checks and balances. We are four years into a failed foreign policy and we just now want to institute oversight and review. I am far removed from the civics’ class of my youth, but even then we learned that in a democracy the people are the “deciders”, not one man no matter what the justification. Are you smarter than a fifth grader? When in a democracy is having a healthy debate about the path of this country’s foreign policy “aiding and abetting the terrorists”? When in a democracy are all the citizenry guilty until proven innocent. No my friends the terrorist are winning, because America is no longer America. In a democracy there will always be opportunities for terrorist to act, that is the price of having a free society. It is not the acts of the terrorist that defines us; it is our responses to those acts that define us; if we are truly a democracy. We can respond as we have with the politics of fear and divisiveness or we can respond as a true democracy and tell the terrorists of this world that we will not live in fear and attack each other. Of course there have always been those who have used our fears to promote hatred and division. I remember from my civics days a gentleman by the name of McCarthy who made quite a name for himself hyping the fears of others.

The next administration will need to heal this land and reunite us as a nation. This will not be an easy task considering all of the damage that has been done. The first thing will be to roll-back the imperial presidency and return this country to a healthy democracy. The democracy we learned about in the fifth grade; remember the one “of the people, by the people, for the people”. It will require letting the world know that we do not have imperial aspirations on other lands. It will require us to once again take our role in the world community not as a bully, but as a leader by example. We must be a beacon of hope and freedom that the downtrodden of the world can look up to; a respecter of international law and international cooperation, and above all a nation that believes in diplomacy for solving conflict and uses force as a last resort. I believe that John Edwards can and will embody this philosophy more than the others. It is now up to us to choose what type of country we want for our children; what type of democracy we want to give them. Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When will it end?

Why is it that the administration can not acknowledge what the rest of us can plainly see? The war in Iraq has deteriorated into an ethnic cleansing/civil war. Why must they persist to ignore these facts?

The answer I am afraid lies in a secret and very controversial law that the American and British governments are pressing the Iraqi government to enact. This secret law being drafted and shortly to be signed involves the oil wealth of Iraq. It is disguised as an effort to reapportion the oil wealth to include all parties, but that is not it’s true purpose.

That’s right the same oil wealth that British PM Tony Blair stated on March 18, 2003, "Oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people".

And of course there was Secretary of State Colin Powell who stated on July 10, 2003, "The oil of the Iraqi people... is their wealth. We did not [invade Iraq] for oil”.

This new legislation being drafted and sure to be pushed through involves the exploration and development of Iraq’s massive oil reserves. It would allow British and American oil companies to lock in PSA’s (Production Sharing Agreements) signed today for 30 years. These PSA’s would allow foreign oil companies to keep 60-70% of the profits from the oil while they recoup their costs and then keep another 20% of any future profits. On the surface this may not seem too bad until you look at the other OPEC countries and their agreements. All of the major oil producing countries in the world do not participate in the PSA’s. Their leaders recognize that their oil is the wealth of their people and keep it as a state trust. None of them would be crazy enough to sell that wealth using these PSA’s.

What’s wrong with PSA’s you may ask? The problem is not in the PSA’s per se, it is in the terms and the timing. Iraq would be negotiating from a weak position and could get locked into a bad deal for decades. This would not only hand cuff the current efforts at reconstruction, but many future efforts as well. Iraq has been devastated not just by this invasion, but years of UN sponsored sanctions. They are going to need a complete rework of their infra-structure, not to mention their lack of housing. Our military has bombed them back to the Stone Age; the only people with consistent services are those hiding in the “Green Zone”.

I am not against capitalism, but I am against greed. Should the companies that risk their time, money, and manpower be compensated? Of course they should be, but not at the expense of those people who have already lost so much. Because of the political system that was in place before the new leaders have been without for so long they are allowing their short sightedness and greed to prevent them from seeing that they are impoverishing their country for years to come. Regardless of the terms of any PSA they have enough oil reserves to make money, this is not the issue. The issue is whether there will be enough to share with all Iraqis and to provide all Iraqis with a decent opportunity to overcome this devastation.

We should let our voices be loud and clear, “Iraqi oil is for the Iraqi people!” Let’s not allow the big oil companies who have a history of price gouging and price fixing in this country to create another “Saddam” that our sons and daughters may have to go fight again.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Can’t Buy Me Love

Is it just me or is there an obscene amount of money being raised? What does all this money mean to the body politic as a whole and to the aspirations of our potential candidates? Whatever happened to our desire to have publicly financed elections?

It appears that publicly financed elections are good as long as it is not an election I’m in. There was much talk about campaign reform when there was no campaign. Now that the architects and sponsors have joined the fray we have lost our zeal for cleaning up the process until the next “swift boat” incident. Does it really take a half billion dollars to be president of the United States? And if it does; what does that say about our process. It seems like every cycle we set new all-time records for money raised and money spent and after each we say we want reform (everyone but Mitch McConnell, but at least he is honest about his dishonesty), only to start the cycle all over again when the dust settles.

It has been stated that you cannot buy the presidency, but money has never hurt. One of these elections it would be nice to have an election based on ideas and plans, not based on how much money you were able to raise. Already the media has proclaimed the front runners and eventual nominees based on the money earned in the first quarter of an election that is two years away. I wish I could be that sure of what was going to happen to me tonight let alone two years from now. The only problem with prognosticators is that they are rarely if ever right. I remember when Howard Dean raised all the money on the internet and made online fundraising viable; he was pronounced a “force to be reckoned with”. The thing is that money does not always translate into voters or true support. If that were in fact the case then instead of having elections we would just have fund raisers and whoever raised the most money wins.

While money is important and helps to get a candidates message out to a wide range of voters, campaigns are more than money. Campaigns are about people, they are about ideas, and who can communicate those ideas most effectively. Campaigns are about meeting people, they are about endurance and sounding fresh after giving the same speech over and over and over. Campaigns are about relationships, relationships between the candidate and his supporters, the candidate and the undecided, and the candidate and the media. This could actually be good for Senator Edwards; both “front runners” have enough money to bludgeon each other before the primaries even begin. Make no mistake when this process gets started the kid gloves will come off, both of these people are serious campaigners and they want this nomination. It may appear to be civil now, but it is going to get ugly and standing above the fray will be Senator Edwards unsullied by the excesses of both those campaigns.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Duke Threesome

While I applaud that our justice system finally worked and those three young men were released from their ordeal. I have to be honest; I have mixed feelings for a number of reasons. While these young men were not guilty of what they were charged, they are by no means “innocent” and to see them paraded around like some exonerated recently released from 20 years for a crime they didn’t commit naïve school boys is a little much for my palette.

One of the main reasons for my mixed feelings is that as most Black people know from experience there have been a lot of Black men sent to the penitentiary in a similar fashion and without the services of high price lawyers remain there. It seems that the scales of justice are once again kept in balance not by just innocence, but also by the weight of gold. Am I saying that I wanted those boys to go to penitentiary? No of course not. It would just be nice to believe that someday we could provide that type of justice for all Americans.

Another of my concerns is the backlash that will come back to their accuser, who is obviously an unstable woman. How anyone that talked to this woman could not have known that she had some major issues is beyond me. I know I may be a little cynical, but I have never bought into the “stripping” my way through law school scenario. I have known a lot of college girls that have made it through without resorting to that. Also, if you didn’t want to get naked in front of a bunch of men no one could pay you enough to do it. This woman is obviously in need of some help and not jail time.

The one deserving of jail time in my opinion is the DA and his investigators. It was their job to sort through the contradictions and make sure that justice was served. Now maybe people will realize that there are some DA’s that allow blind ambition to color their judgment and maybe we won’t be so quick to condemn the accused. Until something like this happens to “fine, upstanding” young men it goes unnoticed and unreported. Mr. Nifong is worthy of disbarment and jail time for allowing this tragedy to continue just to influence an election. This type of behavior is unconscionable and deserving of more than a slap on the wrist. This man deliberately used the power of his office to slander and defame these men. He allowed them to be judged guilty by public opinion based upon his inflammatory statements. There were many times in this process when he could have ended this “snipe hunt” and didn’t. It is one thing to not know, it is quite another to know and proceed anyway.

And finally; I have concern for us as a society that once again we have been too eager to judge and believe the worst. Maybe it is a reflex action for all the times we should have believed and done something and didn’t. I don’t know. But I know that we have to do better. What happened to these young men was despicable, but let us not forget that there are others for whom this type of justice is a way of life. If there were one lesson that we take from this ordeal, I would hope that it would be for all of us to be slower to judge. Now that we have the 24 hour news cycle everything is sensationalized and it is so easy to jump to conclusions, but we have a principle of justice here that says everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That guilt is proven not by the news media, but by a jury of our peers with all the relevant facts. Hooray for justice, lets share it with all Americans.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Is In Charge Here?

I am about to broach a subject that has always been a contentious one, yet one I can no longer ignore. The question I have to ask is who is in charge of our foreign policy?

At the risk of ruffling the feathers of the Israeli lobbyist and their American minions and being painted with the anti-Semitic brush which by the way seems to be getting larger and larger, I can’t help but wonder who decides how our foreign policy decisions are made and implemented. Do not get me wrong I am for continued support to the state of Israel and its viability as an ally. However, at some point our foreign policy has to be ours. There are times when our goals and Israel’s goals are not the same. Even with the closest of married couples there are times when their interest diverge.

For years we have reports of Israel protesting and vetoing our foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East giving the other players in the region the impression that our brokering is one sided and heavy handed.

“…Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”[1]

The question we must ask is, “Are the US interest and the Israeli interest identical?” Let’s look at some empirical data that may help in finding the answer to this very important question.

“Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.”[2]

So we are subsidizing each individual Israeli to the tune of $500 a year. The problem with this is that there are other states that are having a lot worse time right now than Israel and could use that money. Remember, there is only so much foreign aid dollars to spread around. There are countries that are a lot more impoverished that could use some of that money. Could we agree that Israel could begin to take on a larger share of its own defense and economy?

Let’s take a look at what all this money is buying, surely it is buying us unfailing support from our ally.

“A final reason to question Israel’s strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally. Israeli officials frequently ignore US requests and renege on promises (including pledges to stop building settlements and to refrain from ‘targeted assassinations’ of Palestinian leaders). Israel has provided sensitive military technology to potential rivals like China, in what the State Department inspector-general called ‘a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorized transfers’. According to the General Accounting Office, Israel also ‘conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally’. In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which it reportedly passed on to the Soviet Union in return for more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official called Larry Franklin had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat. Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the US, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value.”[3]

Here is an example of how they undermine our goals: Ms Pelosi went to Syria with the assurance that Israel sought peace with Syria and yet when she arrived to pursue that stated goal we get the double talk.

“Shortly afterward, however, Mr. Olmert’s office issued a clarification of his message, insisting that, “although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.”

To begin serious peace negotiations, the Israeli statement said, Syria must end its support of terrorism and its sponsorship of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations; refrain from providing weapons to Hezbollah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon; stop its support of terrorism in Iraq; and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the government in Iran.”

Loyalty is a two-way street and it appears that “our ally” is only loyal when it fits in with their strategic goals, not when it meets ours. In our efforts to return our country to the position of global leader, we should begin to look at all of our strategic alliances, not just the one with Israel. We should look at our relationships with dictators, despots, and other assorted characters we now find ourselves in bed with. Either we want to promote democracy or we don’t. Either we will apply our foreign policy evenly or we will not. We as a nation must decide this and then stick to it. Gone are the days of the cold war acceptance of any and all partners. The days of your enemy is my friend and vice versa. There are many opportunities around the world where we could lead the way towards freedom and tolerance, but these opportunities require something that recently has been in short supply, diplomacy and engagement. Are we peacemakers or not? This is the question that will determine the “soul” of America.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God….

[1] John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's essay 'The Israel Lobby'

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Defending the Indefensible

Here is an excerpt from one of the confessions of an “enemy combatant” that claimed to be tortured by US interrogators. Read it and then please consider how it makes you feel as an American, not a Republican or a Democrat, but just as an American.

“PRESIDENT (of the tribunal): Please describe the methods that were used.

DETAINEE: (CENSORED) What else do I want to say? (CENSORED) There were doing so many things. What else did they did? (CENSORED) After that another method of torture began. (CENSORED) They used to ask me questions and the investigator after that used to laugh. And, I used to answer the answer that I knew. And if I didn’t replay what I heard, he used to (CENSORED).”[1]

Officials defended this censorship by arguing that interrogation methods are so secret that they cannot be discussed, even by the prisoner. But they also said that Al Qaeda members are trained to claim torture and that Mr. Nashiri lied. If so, why censor the transcript? His answers can’t help Al Qaeda. Tragically, the most likely answer is to spare United States intelligence agents and their bosses, who could face charges if the Military Commissions Act is ever repealed or rewritten. The law gives a retroactive carte blanche to American interrogators for any abuse they may have committed.[2]

How can any person who respects the freedom and rights of humans defend this type of behavior? Have we become so afraid after 9/11 that we are willing to condone any type of behavior in the name of fighting terrorism? If we continue to follow this path; what will separate us from them? It is a slippery slope that we are on folks and I believe that once we start down this slope it will be difficult if not impossible to turn back.

While the loss of 2,973 Americans[3] is tragic and unjustified under any conditions, can we now justify holding 6.6 billion people hostage as a result? We have declared war not only on the terrorists but on the whole world as well. When we start using the language of “either you are with us or against us” we force the world and ourselves to either accept everything we do or “embolden the terrorists”. Life despite what some in this administration would like us to believe is never that black and white. By defining the struggle in those terms we declare war on ourselves and our democracy. No one said having a democracy would be easy, no one said defending a democracy would be easy either. Living in a democracy we put our beliefs to the test every day. Those beliefs include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that these are unalienable rights granted by a beneficent Creator.

I do not believe that the way you defeat evil is with evil. I do not believe that the way you save a democracy is with a dictatorship. We have to kill the democracy to save it? I am not following that logic. As a democracy we have to maintain the high ground even when that high ground is difficult. I submit that it is when democracy is the toughest to defend, is when it must be defended the more. There are those who want to take shortcuts and easy outs to defeat this invisible enemy, but there are none. It is frustrating fighting a war without borders or an enemy with no state, but we will not defeat this enemy by might. We can only win this war by our ideals and our leadership, not by torture and injustice. This administration has lost the high ground in this war. By condoning torture and turning this into a war of cultures they have lowered our standing not just with our enemies, but with our allies as well. In the long run how we choose to defend our democracy will determine if we save our democracy. You will never know love, until the unlovable shows up. Anyone can love the cute kitten, but it is the wolf that truly tests our doctrine of love. Some people believe that democracy cannot survive terrorism; I believe that terrorism cannot survive a true democracy. One thing that the fall of communism should have taught us is that everyone wants to live in freedom. That freedom is defined in different ways by different people, but isn’t that what freedom is. We cannot expect everyone’s freedom to look like ours nor compel them to make it so. All that we can do is to promote an atmosphere where freedom in any form can flourish. That process though must begin at home with us, we must say no to those who want to lead us astray from democracy in the name of war. Torture can never be condoned under any circumstances in a democracy. By resorting to torture we are demonstrating to our enemies and our friends that democracy does not work or that our belief in it is not real. They can then tell their potential converts, “See we told you it was not genuine or that it will not work.” Our country has been the greatest experiment in human history. Can people from so many different backgrounds come together for a common cause and live in peace?

There is a principle in our system of justice that states it is better to let nine guilty men go free, than to punish one innocent man. We do not always live up to that ideal, but it is that goal that separates us from those who choose to attack us. The system of secret prisons, torture, and state sponsored kidnappings must end. Our continued use of places like Guantanamo and imprisonment without any redress undermines our democracy not only in the world, but at home as well. Our domestic policies that place everyone under the umbrella of suspicion are not the answer to terrorism. I say that it is these policies, not the questioning of them, which in fact are emboldening the terrorist. The more they can change our democracy into a fascist system the more they win. We must stop defending the indefensible.


[2] Ibid


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Desperate Times

Throughout the course of human history there have been certain times that have required remarkable men to meet desperate and difficult challenges. The list includes Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, King. These men were ordinary men who through circumstances beyond their control were presented the opportunity to rise above their common lives to experience greatness. While these men share very different backgrounds and challenges the thing that they did share was strength of character and courage of convictions.

Today, our world is in desperate need of such a man who is willing to overcome his "commonness" to lay hold of greatness. Our country and our world has been ravaged by partisianism, sectarianism, and fanaticism. Overcoming these strife's will take a man of courage and vision. It will require someone who is not leading by opinion polls, but by an "internal compass". The thing that George W. has shown is that the country will follow a leader with a vision, the problem was that his vision was flawed.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish"

People do not follow programs or plans-these things are important because they are the nuts and bolts-but people follow visions. Look at the history of man, those who were able to move and change history were those who were able to articulate a vision. Mr. Rove is a master of this, however just as Mr. Goebbels was, the problem is that their visions were not to unite but to divide.

Now is the time for leadership and a vision that will unite the "many Americas" into one America. If we are to lead the world we must do so united and morally centered. As a result of the actions of the current administration we have surrendered much of the moral high-ground at home and abroad. It will be difficult to restore our position in the world. It will require consensus building and not gun boat diplomacy. If our way is right we should not have to export it at the end of a gun. If our path is true, terrorism can not stand against us. They may attack us, but they will never defeat us. The politics of fear and division must end if we are to truly win the war on terror and not destroy ourselves in the process.

Is John Edwards this man of vision and destiny? I don't know, but I pray that he is...

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Learn From Past Mistakes

Let me start out by saying that I have been a fan of John Edwards for awhile now. I watched as he became the senator for North Carolina defeating the incumbent Fairchild when many said he didn't have a chance.

I think that the campaign of John Kerry made many serious mistakes in the last cycle. Two of the monumental mistakes I thought was not allowing Senator Edwards to attack the vulnerabilities of George Bush enough and the second was allowing the Rove machine to define the campaign. He had the Kerry campaign reacting instead of acting and creating the message he wanted disseminated. While this of course is all spilt milk and that election is over, I think that there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from that campaign.

I think that we as democrats have conceded too many "hot button" issues to the Republicans in an effort to be politically correct. In an effort to be all things to all people we have appeared to be shifty and pandering. If George W. has taught us anything it is that the voters will follow someone who stands by his beliefs even if they are dead wrong. I think the voting public has in the past viewed Democrats as pandering to too many interest and not having a solid base of core beliefs. Instead of saying why the voters should not vote for the Republican candidate we must show them why they should vote for our man. This will be especially tempting now that we have a weakened President and the waters have been bloodied because of Iraq. However, I think the more prudent course would be to again develop our core issues or our central values that are not going to appeal to all of our old interest groups, but that represent the common interests of most Americans and stick to them come hell or high water. While public opinion is important, it is also just as important for a leader to lead and sometimes where they lead is not popular, but it is right. It is also the duty of a leader to educate and show why this may be unpopular, but it is the right path to go.

It is time we began to craft strategies and solutions that we can stand on and not just criticize the other guys ideas. Not only must we be able to articulate the problem, we must also be able to articulate the solution, which is always the more difficult.

I believe that John Edwards will be our next President. Ms Clinton unfortunately has too much baggage that she will not be able to get rid of for the general election and America is not ready to elect a Black President despite what the polls say. Polls are always misleading, most people answer those questions the way they think they are suppose to, not necessarily how they truly feel. They say one thing and vote another. Mr. Edwards it is time to get out in front on the issues and more than just Iraq. It is the driving force today, but it will take more than that to govern...

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Previous Posts

I will be posting articles that I have posted to other blogs to this site in the coming days. If you are already familiar with them, please bear with me. I just want to make sure they get archived on this site.

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I Don’t Recall

Is there any better defense in the whole world than, “I don’t recall or remember”? I recently spoke to an attorney friend of mine and he said the key to political survival is “plausible deniability”.

In laymen’s terms that simply means that your, “I don’t remember that conversation or briefing “can be convincing in the absence of proof to the contrary. It appears that every politician or business executive worth his weight in salt has learned this valuable lesson. By saying, “I don’t remember” technically you are not committing perjury or lying because who can say if you remember or not? Everyone knows we all have different levels of concentration and recall. There is the level when a co-worker is painfully describing his exciting vacation to the Maple Leaf Festival in Des Moines, there is the level when your wife is describing how she dented the car, and there is the level when the doctor tells you, you have cancer.

It amazes me how these men who have built illustrious careers based on their levels of concentration can at a moment’s notice all of a sudden not remember some of the most crucial information used to make major decisions. How have these men risen to these top echelons of power and yet be so incompetent? Or is it incompetence? Maybe these guys are using the “crazy like a fox” defense.

I have a theory as to how these guys are able to pull off this seemingly uncharacteristic lost of reason. Those posing the questions do not seem to viscously attack the absurdity of this notion for fear that someday they will need this “selective amnesia” escape clause. We cannot expect the wolves to guard the hen house. We the people must let it be known once and for all that we will no longer accept this answer as plausible or acceptable. We cannot guarantee who remembers what, but what we can do is get rid of them anyway for being so incompetent. It seems like every week there is a parade of politicians or executives having memory loss. No more; if you cannot remember then you need to be retired or fired. There are plenty of people in this country who still have some degree of recall left. As long as we passively allow these charlatans to continue to hide behind this cowardice we will never get to the truth about anything.

Granted there are some things I have forgotten; but I remember every person I ever fired and why. I remember every lame brained scheme I ever tried that failed and it cost me money, not billions but hundreds. I remember every time I cheated on my wives. The point is that there are certain things no matter how hard I try to forget I can’t and there are some things no matter how hard I try to remember I can’t. However, there are also some things I remember that I would rather forget for fear of exposure to the public eye. This is not amnesia, it is cowardice. One is excusable, the other is not. If you were man enough to conceive of these things, be man enough to own them. Why is it that success is the child of many fathers and failure is the bastard child? What irks me the most about these guys is not that they are ashamed for what they have done or proposed, but the fact that they got caught doing it. I guess there is no honor among thieves?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where Are Our leaders?

The Don Imus incident once again illustrates our lack of “real” leadership. The real issue we should be discussing is not the comments of a white radio personality who has made a career of being offensive. The majority of black’s in America have never heard of Don Imus. Don Imus was not offensive to Blacks as much as he was offensive to the white myth of racial tolerance.

There are two issues that stick out in my mind that should be under consideration. The first is how we have allowed a few individuals to speak on our behalf for their personal enrichment and secondly, how we continue to depict ourselves in a degrading light for the same goal of personal enrichment.

To begin, let us start with our “so-called” leaders. It never fails that when there is opportunity for self-aggrandizement and personal gain our two favorite civil rights leaders show up to offer the offending party an opportunity for public penitence. Of course this opportunity comes at a cost to not only the offending party or “victim”, but also to our legitimate feelings of outrage. Any chance of the situation being taken seriously immediately disappears when Messer’s Jackson and Sharpton show up. Due to the past history of both men they bring baggage to any situation they intervene in. My initial question is who has appointed these two; spokesmen for anybody?

I recall in the 80’s and 90’s, two “so-called boycotts. One involved the Coca-Cola bottling company which was spearheaded by Mr. Jackson and his organization. For those who do not know, one of Mr. Jackson’s sons was rewarded with a Coca-Cola distributorship, a very lucrative business. Then of course there was the “boycott” of Anheuser-Busch again spearheaded by Mr. Jackson and his organization. And again, another of Mr. Jackson’s sons was rewarded with a Budweiser distributorship. Mr. Jackson has a history of using his organization and the threat of civil rights action for his own or his families personal gain. He has also demonstrated a lack of moral judgment in his own personal life and yet he continues to want to be the moral compass of others?

It now appears that Mr. Sharpton has recognized the profits in using threats and bullying tactics to gain personal rewards. Mr. Sharpton has a history of supporting fabrication and self-promotion.

The Imus affair will never be taken serious because it smacks of hypocrisy. We have an industry known as hip-hop that has made millions using worse language and depicting the lowest values of the black community. The excuse for allowing this to continue is that it is artistic freedom and that they are just speaking about street life in America. While these are partly true, I don’t think they completely explain what is going on in our communities.

It is time we stop allowing others to define who are or appoint themselves as, our leaders. It is time we hold our leaders accountable and put an end to those who enrich themselves at the expense of those less fortunate. Even during slavery, the darkest period of our history in this country you had blacks willing to sell out their brothers to live in the masters house.

We need leaders who are willing to tell the truth, not only about what others are doing to us but also about what we are doing to contribute to our own suffering. The biggest enemy to the Black man today is lies and ignorance, not Don Imus. We must be willing to stop being entertained and discuss those issues that continue to enslave us. Issues such as the drugs poisoning and turning our neighborhoods into war zones, our refusal to live morally, and our continual usage of language that demeans all of us. Over 50% of all unwed women bearing children are black, yet we only constitute about 12% of the population. This represents a breakdown in our moral fiber. The biggest threat against young Black men is not the Klan, but other young Black men. We buy our children the latest “Jordan’s” and fashions, but won’t but them a book. It is time for us to stop looking for enemies on the outside and begin to turn the mirror on ourselves. To continue this discussion please check out my other blog, Fornication: Our Dark Little Secret

So again I ask, where are our leaders?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Exclusive Privilege?

The Don Imus flap and subsequent firing has got me to thinking. Do members of the same race have an exclusive right to use certain words amongst themselves that members of other races cannot use? Is hate speak not hate speak if it is uttered by a member of the offended group? These seem to be some of the many questions that this event has brought up. I do think that for some time, these questions have been just under the surface of polite conversation. All you have to do is turn on the radio or walk down the street and listen to a group of young men of any racial or ethnic group to hear references made to each other that others would consider inappropriate.

For some reason we, in the black community tend to do it more than others. I have heard a number of theories as to why we do it; from slavery to a sense of self-hate. I am not really sure why we do it, but we do it a lot. I have found that the more we do it, the more the society as a whole has taken the liberty to do so as well. They beg the question if you use the “N” word so freely amongst yourselves why can’t we? Obviously there are no negative connotations involved in your usage or is there?

We, in the black community have since I can remember always used certain negative figures of speech to describe one another. Our women are reduced to “hoes” and “bit****”. Our friends are our “nig***”. The list goes on and on. What does using these terms of “endearment” say about us and our view of ourselves?

What Don Imus said was indefensible and wrong. Should he have been fired? Probably, the reason I say that is because he is listened to from all accounts by millions of people and if he had gotten a free pass that would have embolden the next person to push the envelope a little more or given some person the justification to say it at the office or at the store. These guys get their “cred” by pushing the envelope, its what drives their listeners. See how far we can go and get away with it. We as a civilized society have to have boundaries in what can be said publicly. This of course will not stop what people think, but at least you can’t say it.

I heard an interesting interview with a Black woman who wrote a book entitled, “Ghetto Nation” by Cora Daniels[1]. According to her the nation in an effort to capitalize on the hip-hop phenomenon and everyone’s desire to be “cool” has promoted the most negative aspects of black culture. In doing so, they have exposed the country as a whole to this “ghetto mentality”. This “ghettoization” has permeated everything from clothes and cars to our language. It is an interesting concept and worthy of more study.

I recently wrote a piece for JRE’s blog titled, “The End Of Civility”[2]. In the piece I discuss how we as a nation thrive on conflict today. We watch “reality” shows just to see others in conflict. For a few examples I cite: my all-time favorite; Jerry Springer, the “Judge” shows, and the confrontational shows like “Cheaters”. Things thatjust a few years ago would never be said publicly are now being espoused by regular folks in casual conversation.

Is there an exclusionary privilege to negative words? God, I hope not. I hope that someday soon we all decide that certain words no longer should be a part of our conversations no matter what color we are and no matter who uses them. I hope that someday as a nation we can have a national conversation about these and similar issues that separate us…



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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Disenfranchising The Vote

It is a shame that 42 years after the landmark Voting Rights act, we still have those who want to prevent minorities, the poor, and mostly first time voters from having their voices heard. After years of complaining of wide spread voter fraud on the part of Democrats and aggressive prosecutions of individuals, the truth is that this is a red herring. A smoke screen used by some Republicans to marginalize these voters and institute various forms of poll taxes and other types of voter impediments.

The truth be told there are no wide spread conspiracies to corrupt our electoral process. Were it not for the vigorous prosecutions of individuals (the majority of whom were black, poor, and democratic) there would have been no prosecutions at all. Until now, no individuals who accidentally violated voter laws have ever been prosecuted. Think about it, we are spending millions of dollars to prosecute poor individuals casting one vote due to either misunderstanding or misinformation provided to them by those who are supposed to understand the laws. By prosecuting individuals in this manner we are sending a message to those communities that if you vote; you could be sent to jail, deported, or tied up in legal action. This is significant because it strikes fear into communities that normally are afraid to exercise their voting rights anyway. By making examples of those brave enough and concerned enough to exercise their right you are in effect saying voters beware and in turn suppressing that community’s voice. Can you imagine what those first time voters must be thinking after being arrested for voting? Make no mistake, news like that travels fast in those communities sending a chill through any would be voters in the future. Further reinforcing the mindset, “This is why I don’t vote” throughout the whole community.

Instead of setting up barriers to participating in our democracy, we should be working on ways to include more of our citizens in this process. With less than 50% of all registered voters even showing up to vote, it is incumbent to a healthy democracy to get as many people voting as possible. Why for instance was it important to get as many Iraqi’s to vote as possible and not important to get as many Americans to vote? The reason it is important to get a high voter turnout is because it allows everyone to feel that they have a say in what goes on in the democracy and prevents a select few from deciding for the many. It also removes the opportunity of fringe elements to recruit from the disenfranchised. We, as Americans must resist any attempt to limit our voting rights. It may be this group today and you tomorrow. A wise man once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let’s not allow anyone to roll back the hard won gains of the past with misinformation, division, and scare tactics. Let’s say no to those who want to limit participation in our democracy and reach out to extend that democracy to all those who are willing to join us.

It amazes me that the same administration that praised the participation of foreigners in democracy around the globe is working so hard to limit that participation at home. Are we not good enough to enjoy the fruits of democracy? Shame on those who want to limit the access to our democracy based on fear, division, and race.

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