Friday, August 31, 2007

It's A Family Affair

100th Post

Sometimes I wonder how some people ever make it out of da hood with the families they have. As if Michael Vick didn’t have enough problems with his guilty plea on Federal dog-fighting charges, his indefinite suspension from the NFL, and state charges pending, his estranged father crawls out of the woodwork to try and make a buck. I don’t care what the family says to try and put on a good face, this man was estranged from his son for most of Michael’s childhood. This man has the nerve to claim that he was an influence in his son’s life, after he admits to drug and alcohol abuse. The MSM in an effort to sell more papers or commercials only add to the vulture mentality by even talking to this clown.

Now I know from his plea that Michael Vick was neck deep in the Bad Newz dog-fighting enterprise. I have been critical of his involvement, but I’m a stranger. I am not saying that parents or siblings should be in denial concerning a loved one, especially one who is providing their livelihood. But I believe there are some things that need to stay in the family. I think this may be a cultural issue, because I see white folks all the time on television airing all their families business. In the case that you know your relative is guilty you don’t have to pretend they are innocent; that is not what I am suggesting, but you don’t go in the media and sell them out. How about that infamous “no comment”, it works for all those white folks when they get in trouble. Instead we get Mr. Michael Boddie, the estranged father of Michael Vick and husband of Brenda Vick, in an effort to cash in on his sons misfortunes giving him up to the public.

It has been documented that Mr. Boddie has requested large sums of money from his son to live on and Michael Vick has declined, although he does pay for his father’s apartment and gives him money to live on. Mr. Boddie however wanted a lump sum payment of anywhere from 1 million to 700,000 dollars. It should also be noted that Mr. Boddie and his son have not spoken directly in months, so does he have an axe to grind here? Only he can judge that, but I find it ironic that he would choose now to disclose this information.

Michael Boddie defended the request for money. "That's not asking for much from my son," he said. "Most fathers would want $10 million, $20 million."

Boddie also admitted to past problems with alcohol and drugs, and said his son's childhood surroundings help to explain Vick's legal troubles.[1]

And most fathers wouldn’t turn on their sons either, because they didn’t give them money. There is obviously some reason that Mr. Vick chose not to give him this money, because by most accounts he has taken care of those people in his family that were influential in his life. His mother has a mansion in Virginia. Mr. Boddie displays his true character by using this opportunity when a son would typically turn to his father for advice and support into an opportunity to add more fuel to the fire. Whether Mr. Boddie’s allegations are true or not, there is such a thing as family and families should not turn on one another when one is down. Mr. Boddie typifies what is wrong with the Black family. This is the legacy Black fathers are leaving their sons. For some reason Mr. Boddie lost the position to influence his son and to come back now and pretend otherwise is a disgrace.

But Boddie added of Vick: "Nobody dragged him. My son has a fascination with animals anyway. He's a natural dog lover. In our neighborhood in the projects, little boys would get dogs to chase cats in the lumberyard. The big thing with little boys, [they'd] get a dog and sic 'em on the cats. That's what they'd do for fun . . . Yeah, [Vick] did that as a kid. Every little boy in the projects did that. It's a fascination thing. That's just part of his culture growing up.[2]

Ok; on second thought Mr. Boddie don’t try and help. To claim that your son is a “natural dog lover” and then present the evidence you use is difficult to fathom. Just for the record; dog lovers do not fight dogs and cats, or dogs against dogs, or kill them. This is why the “no comment” rule should be in place for most family members. With family members and friends like Michael Vick has had, going to prison might introduce him to a better class of people sadly to say. It is hard to believe that these people turned on him so quickly. Where is the loyalty? Where is the love? I think one of Michael Vick’s attorneys stated it best.

A spokesperson for Vick's defense team replied with a statement attributed to another of Vick's lawyers, Daniel Meachum, that said: "It is a disgrace that Mr. Boddie, who chose for nearly 22 years not to be part of Mike's life, would at this time seek to capitalize on his son's current situation." The statement did not address the specifics of Boddie's account.[3]

Nothing like your family to put salt on that ole nasty wound.



[3] Ibid.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tales from the Lazy Acre

According to Forbes Magazine, American workers on average are becoming lazier as compared to the rest of the world. It appears that we are working fewer hours per week than many of our global competitors.

(Fortune Magazine) -- We Americans pride ourselves on being a hard-working bunch, so here's a thought to spoil your Labor Day rest: By global standards, we're lazy. We've been getting lazier. And the days of the American dolce vita may be numbered.

The surprising report of our relative sloth arrives in new research from the UN's International Labor Organization, which looks at working hours around the world. When it comes to what we might call hard work, meaning the proportion of workers who put in more than 48 hours a week, America is near the bottom of the heap. About 18% of our employed people work that much.

That's a higher proportion than in a few other developed countries like Norway, the Netherlands, and even Japan. But it's actually lower than in Switzerland and Britain, and way lower than in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand. It's drastically lower than in what may be the world's two hardest-working countries, South Korea and Peru, where the proportions are about 50%.[1]

American workers should be ashamed of themselves. How are we going to compete in the global marketplace working less than 48 hours a week? The corporate bosses want you to know that if you don’t increase your hours, they will take their jobs elsewhere. Once again the corporations are using fear tactics to try and coerce the American work force. As if the reason our jobs are being out-sourced is because we are not working hard enough. How is it that every work force study states that productivity is up in America, fewer workers are doing more work. Now instead of doing the work of 2 or 3 workers, we now need you to do the work of 4 people, you don’t mind do you?

It kills me how these guys can interpret the results of this study to take a swipe at the American worker. What this study shows is that we are getting more done with fewer people working fewer hours, it’s no wonder the stress levels of the average worker is through the roof. Increased working hours can create family problems, dissatisfaction, and increased absence. What was not reported in this article was that Americans work on average 70 more hours than the Japanese and 350 more hours than the Europeans.

Why not talk about how it is the corporations who are limiting the overtime to save labor costs. According to a study done by Cornell University 46% of workers want to put in more overtime than they currently are.[2] Many workers want to work overtime due to job insecurity and financial strain. Many workers feel that if they work overtime in the event of a downsize they will be less likely to be let go. There is also the pressure of making ends meet. Because wages have to a large degree flat-lined, for many workers the only way to keep pace with their living expenses is to work increased hours. There are many workers who are not being paid an overtime rate who are still seeking extra hours. So it isn’t that American workers are not working enough or willing to work, so then what could it be? What could be behind this article in Forbes?

My guess is to scare American workers to accept less and work more. It is a plot to discourage workers from organizing, especially now that discussions are being held in the Congress on the Employee Free Choice Act. Corporate bosses and apologists have been using the outsourcing card for some time to extricate concessions from workers and in every case the outsourcing still took place, because no matter what American workers are willing to give up it will never match what the foreign labor markets are giving. How can we match a country where the median daily income is 2 dollars a day?

I want to see the survey that compares the working hours and compensation of American CEOs against their foreign counterparts. Let’s see who really needs to be working more hours for their pay. I haven’t heard of Forbes publishing that study on CEOs and I probably never will.

The problem is not that the American workers are not working hard enough or long enough, it is that the corporations are taking too much of the profits from their hard work. There are some fundamental problems with the capital allocation system in America and unless we correct it soon, it won’t matter how hard or how long any of us work. Workers in America must be given the opportunity to unite and organize; we will only be able to defend our rights through collective bargaining. The corporations will not defend the rights of the workers, they never have and they never will. Their goal is to get as much work for the cheapest labor and they have shown in the past that they will try to achieve this goal by any means. The welfare of the American worker is not one of their goals.

So listen up all you lazy Americans, let your Congress people know that you support the right of workers to organize freely and without undue management pressure. Support the Employee Free Choice Act, so that with the stroke of a pen even us lazy Americans can get organized.



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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Total Recall

At the VFW convention, Mr. Bush proved once again why reading and studying is overrated. In a desperate attempt to build support for his Iraq War policy in front of a friendly crowd, Mr. Bush drew comparisons between the Iraq War and other wars of the past. Remember, this is the administration that lambasted anyone that had previously tried to compare this quagmire with the one in Vietnam just months ago. Now, this war has parallels to the Korean, WWII, and the Vietnam Wars. Not only did this president not serve in Vietnam, he obviously didn’t study it either. This just shows how desperate this administration is for reasons to continue this debacle.

In reminding Americans that the pullout in 1975 was followed by years of bloody upheaval in Southeast Asia, Mr. Bush argued in a speech on Wednesday that Vietnam’s lessons provide a reason for persevering in Iraq, rather than for leaving any time soon. Mr. Bush in essence accused his war critics of amnesia over the exodus of Vietnamese “boat people” refugees and the mass killings in Cambodia that upended the lives of millions of people.[1]

It is interesting how some people can take bits of history and weave them together to make anything look good. Mr. Bush in invoking the SE Asia analogy failed to mention some significant points that led to the upheaval there. Many of the people who were killed or imprisoned in Vietnam were people who were allied to us and who we left behind, similar to what we are doing today in Iraq. I guess Mr. Bush is suggesting that our staying in Vietnam was not long enough and that victory there was also just around the corner. As far as Cambodia is concerned, it was precisely our involvement in the region that created the despot, Pol Pot and the subsequent Khmer Rouge that created the killing fields that he speaks of. We destabilized the region in our pursuit of the communist menace. To use one catastrophe to justify another one is amazing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, our history buff added a reference to the occupations of WWII. However, according to real historians this reference is dubious at best for the following reasons.

But historians note that Germany and Japan were homogenous nation-states with clear national identities and no internal feuding among factions or sects, in stark contrast to Iraq today.
The comparison of Iraq to Germany and Japan “is fanciful,” said Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that the American and allied militaries had eliminated the governments of Japan and Germany, and any lingering opposition, and assembled occupation forces that were, proportionally, more than three times as large as the current American presence of more than 160,000 troops in Iraq.

“That’s the kind of troop level you need to control the situation,” Mr. Simon said. “The occupation of Germany and Japan lasted for years — and not a single American solider was killed by insurgents.”[2]

So it is disingenuous to compare our current situation to that of WWII, this administration will stop at nothing (even rewriting history) to try to gain support for this failed policy. They continue to claim that success is just around the corner but as more intelligence reports come in, they refute this rosy scenario. Iraq is a bottomless pit with no end in sight. We can continue to delude ourselves, but eventually the reality on the ground will dictate our awakening. The surge is a short-term fix to a long-term problem; its results will be short-term. Unlike us Americans, the Iraqis do not have the luxury of living from one election cycle to the next, this is there reality. Instead of providing them with these “band-aids” we should be putting in place long-term solutions that will provide them the tools to one day be independent and self-governing.

Vietnam today is a unified and stable nation whose Communist government poses little threat to its neighbors and is developing healthy ties with the United States. Mr. Bush visited Vietnam last November; a return visit to the White House this summer by Nguyen Minh Triet was the first visit by a Vietnamese head of state since the war.

“The Vietnam comparison should invite us to think harder about how to minimize the consequences of our military failure,” Mr. Bacevich added. “If one is really concerned about the Iraqi people, and the fate that may be awaiting them as this war winds down, then we ought to get serious about opening our doors, and to welcoming to the United States those Iraqis who have supported us and have put themselves and their families in danger.”[3]

It is time to allow the international community to come in and help the Iraqis to build the institutions that lead to stability. Our presence as much as we would like to think otherwise, is not adding to the stability of this country. All of the historic references in the world cannot change that reality. We can continue to lay the groundwork for more strife upon our departure through sectarianism and division as we did in Vietnam or we can provide our support for the unification of all Iraqi citizens. Continuing to support the current government will not unite this country; they are proving incapable of doing so. It is time we use our considerable influence to bring all parties together in an international peace conference to negotiate a true unified peace for the safety of all Iraqis. That is of course if we were serious about the welfare of the Iraqi people.

[2] Ibid.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

No More Free Food

This past week some very brave military personnel put in print their thoughts on the situation in Iraq, post surge. Their uncompromising appraisal of the situation on the ground was both refreshing, but hardly news to those who understand international history. As they have so aptly stated our position in Iraq has always been a tenuous one, our presence has always been based on our ability to provide what the Iraqis could not provide for themselves. Due to the incompetence of the prosecutors of this war, we have been unable to provide very much of the things needed by the Iraqi people.

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.[1]

Here is why we will never get the report necessary from the military to end this war. Technically, we are superior militarily. There is no General who will want to be the one to say that the war is lost. Anyone that even hints at it is quickly replaced by one more suited to the world view of the current administration. Generals are like quarterbacks in football, no matter how bad the situation they always feel that they have the necessary tools and abilities to right the ship. The problem is that a bad team is a bad team, no matter who is leading it. Sometimes wars are not won by military superiority, in today’s conflicts they are won through ideas and principles. Areas that a military is not equipped to combat and certainly not designed to win. So where does that leave us?

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.[2]

Well, we can kill them all and let God sort them out or we can allow the Iraqis to determine the future of Iraq. I know this flies in the face of all of our policy wonks, but that is because they are still looking through the prism of past conflicts and outdated concepts. The future of Iraq cannot be dictated by American politics or standards. The more we set up timetables and benchmarks the more we isolate the Iraqis and set ourselves up for failure. While wanting to insure that all Iraqis share in the benefits of democracy is an admirable goal, it is an American goal and may not be a goal shared by the majority of Iraqis. We do not have the manpower or the political will to enforce such a program. How we could invade Iraq and dismantle their infrastructure and not expect those that have been oppressed to seek redress is beyond my comprehension. We cannot be all things to all people. Our efforts to do so will only end up generating animosity from all parties.

It is time to accept that there will be no easy choices or answers in Iraq. There are going to be winners and losers and we as a nation have to come to terms with that reality. We cannot fix this. Instead of having one dictator, the Iraqi people now have a bunch of smaller ones each with their own agenda and scores to settle. We seemed surprise that their government is dysfunctional; we have created it to be so. It is our ace in the hole; it will always allow us the option of blaming the Iraqis for the failure of this policy. In our ignorance of the history of the region we have fashioned a government that has no popular support and therefore no public confidence.

How can we be surprised at the results when here in America we exhibit the same behavior? When the political party that has been out of the majority regains that majority there is politicization and purging of our institutions, the difference is the Iraqis haven’t yet learned the subtleties of say a Karl Rove. Make no mistake about it we opened this Pandora’s Box and once opened it cannot be closed, atleast not by us.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”[3]


[2] Ibid.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Conservative Reformers

It is sometimes alleged that Rove's arguments have not fully prevailed in the GOP -- which is true. It is further alleged that these arguments have been discredited by events -- which is not true. The complications of Iraq have obscured Rove's victories, not undone them. And his key historical insight is unavoidable: Republicans win as conservative reformers.[1]- Michael Gerson

Truer words have not been spoken. The end of the Rove era in the White House is not the end of the Rove era in America. Karl Rove has poisoned politics and our judicial system for years to come. The genius of Mr. Rove is that he remembered that all politics are local, it took him years but gradually at the local levels of government he built up the Conservative machine that took two national elections. Karl Rove took what he learned in Texas and expanded it nationally.

What did he learn in Texas? He learned that the way you build a movement is at the lowest level of the political spectrum. He started with the local elected offices and began getting elected those that shared his conservative agenda from the County Attorneys to the Municipal Judges. He realized that the way you build a movement is not with large televised rallies, but by developing support among the locals.

As those local politicians got elected to higher and higher offices the Conservative agenda grew through their loyalty to Rove. Texas went from purple to red and not just light red, but scarlet. With the help of Tom Delay and a group of conservative judges he consolidated a small Republican majority into a Conservative stronghold. Hopefully the courts will overturn the redistricting plan of Rove and Delay, but in the meantime the damage has been done. Texas is red.

With the same formula of divisiveness and “conservative reform” candidates, Rove was able to propagate his small majority (2000) into a larger Republican majority (2004). Once again, he used the loyalty of these conservative reform candidates and stacked conservative judges to politicize the Executive Branch and the Courts. Because of this politicalization, even if the Democrats win back the White House and expand their majority in the Congress, the effects of Karl Rove will reverberate for a generation. Loyalty was no longer to the Country or even to the President, but to the Republican Conservative agenda. Rove became the ultimate party boss, dispensing jobs and retribution to anyone who would have the nerve to stand up to him. With most Federal Appeals Courts and the Supreme Court under the Conservative influence, we are only beginning to feel the effects of Rove’s politics. I believe that whoever is elected will have a difficult time trying to undo the conservative tilt or initiate any progressive policy changes.

On the political front we are already seeing the effects, with more and more of the major candidates both Republican and Democrat emulating the Rove model. As the general election nears we will see his influence from both sides, especially if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. The onslaught they have waiting for Hillary will be like nothing we have ever seen in American politics and Hillary being who she is will use some of what she has learned from all of her previous experience to reciprocate. This should prove a most interesting election.

Was Karl Rove a failure being run out of town? Hardly, because of what he has done the conservative agenda is alive and well and will be played out in the courts of this country for years. Because he was able to turn back so many progressive policies, it will take atleast two election cycles just to get back to square one. In the meantime no new progressive policies will be enacted and the courts will be continuing with the precision of a laser to abolish the rights of the people.

This thing was never about the Congress and a majority; it was always about the courts. The courts are where the laws are interpreted and filled in. The Congress passes the legislation, but it is the courts that define the laws. Rove always knew that. The whole Republican majority for a generation thing was a smoke screen for what he was really after, the courts. Whoever controls the courts controls the agenda. Because we are a country of laws, whoever can define those laws controls the country. Think about what the Conservative agenda is and has been. What do the conservatives want? And then think who can give it to them, only the courts. The courts can do what the Congress and the President can’t do without Constitutional amendments or majorities. Don’t like Roe v. Wade, overturned. Don’t like Miranda, overturned. Want prayer in School, now legal. Want the Ten Commandments, now legal. Don’t like gay marriage, illegal. Don’t like affirmative action, illegal.

The ripples of this thing are only beginning to be felt. You watch how the things we once took for granted begin to disappear, as Karl Rove goes riding off into the sunset with the Bill of Rights firmly tucked underarm.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now What?

Now that Michael Vick is preparing to plead guilty in Federal court to the gambling and dog-fighting charges the vultures are starting to circle. It never seems to fail whether you are on your way up or on your way down, everybody wants a piece of a great athlete. Those same people who are calling for his head have no trouble using this story to further their careers or to market something. Michael Vick is selling as much in disgrace as he did in triumph. He is being posterized as much as he is being demonized.

Let me state again for the record what those men did and what others like them continue to do is reprehensible. In my opinion, cruelty to animals is indefensible and maybe a symptom of other deeper issues. However I don’t understand why cases like this continue to divide us along racial lines. More than dividing us they become polarizing instances of racial injustice or athletic privilege. These cases share amazing similarities in that they involve black celebrities who are accused of some heinous crime that you would think we could all agree on. Yet as usual in America nothing is ever what it appears, nothing is ever cut and dry when it comes to race.

In cases like these there is rarely any middle ground that all reasonable people can gravitate to. You have the off with his head crowd or you have the it’s really not that bad crowd. What Michael Vick did was bad in most civilized societies, let’s be real. However is it worthy of the death penalty or a lifetime of banishment to the nearest leper colony? That depends on who you talk to; I for one think no and not because I take any less umbrage with what he did. In our society we accept that none of us are perfect and that we all make mistakes. Many of us believe that everyone has a potential to be rehabilitated and should be offered the opportunity. The problem I have is with the hypocrisy of those who cry for the death penalty, when asked who is without sin they obviously raised their hands.

But more than anything, people are angry with Vick because they understand that dogfighting is a gratuitous form of cruelty. This was a calculating, deliberate and sustained cruelty, perpetrated over a number of years. Sixty-six tortured and battered dogs were found on his property, and affidavits say he personally helped kill eight others. Lots of crimes are committed in a moment of passion, with one lapse in judgment or snap of the temper. This isn't one of them.

The crimes may have been committed against canines, but at issue is basic humanity. Commit those crimes against people, and the words we'd use for it are fascism, and genocide. Don't kid yourself: The people who are so angry at Vick are angry for all the right reasons.[1]

Michael Vick did not invent the sport of dogfighting. The problem is that those who find the practice cruel realize that it is continuing as they read this and so Michael Vick represents all those who have gotten away with it before him and all those who are getting away with it now. Their anger is not only towards what he did, but also the pent up anger and frustration of knowing it continues and that there are people who enjoy such cruelty. Michael Vick is the face of this cruel sport to many, but really he is just one man who for whatever reason found pleasure in this activity. I don’t believe in his mind it was a calculated plot to be a dog serial killer. We are not raised with the same understanding of animals or share the same beliefs in the rights of animals. For too many of us we assume that everyone was raised with the same values, beliefs, and experiences; so how could anyone do this? Well given your level of those three things they couldn’t, but we don’t all share those three things. The writer says, “If these crimes had been committed against humans,” they would have another name and if they were committed against roaches we wouldn’t even be here. I don’t understand why you would have to try to make this crime more despicable to escalate the anger quotient. I think we get the message.

On the other side you those who would justify any behavior based on racism, childhood, or their own economic incentives. Is the outrage unjustified and racially motivated? No, there are many people of all racial persuasions that find this to be cruelty to those unable to defend themselves. What shall we do then? Let him off with a warning or a slap on the wrist? The following are some comments from the head of the NAACP Atlanta chapter; this is why black leaders have no credibility.

"At this point, you're not looking at guilt or innocence," White said, referring to the possible harsher sentence Vick could have received had he taken his case to trial and been found guilty. "You're thinking, 'What I better do is cut my losses and take a plea.' But if he saw this as the best thing to do at this point for his future, then I think he made the correct choice."

White said he regretted that the plea deal will mean all the facts of the case might never be known.

"Some have said things to save their own necks," White said. "Michael Vick has received more negative press than if he had killed a human being."

White said he does not support dogfighting and that he considers it as bad as hunting.

"His crime is, it was a dog," White said.[2]

This is inaccurate and it completely ignores the facts we already know. Michael Vick attended, gambled, and killed dogs in a dogfighting enterprise he ran. In order for this process to reach a conclusion and for the rehabilitation to begin he has to acknowledge his role, if not, then there can be no healing. If he were in fact innocent he has the wherewithal to fight this, hell we’ve had guilty people fight and win. I’m sure if we checked the NAACP Atlanta chapter books there might be a large contribution from Mr. Vick.

So what’s next? That will depend on Michael Vick. He can use this to become a better person or he can use it to descend further into anger and cruelty. I pray that he will allow this experience to reshape him and help him to see the limits we all share. I don’t recommend prison for anyone, but I know of many people who have used it as a stepping stone to a better life. He is still a youngman and if he wants to continue his football career, I don’t think we should hinder that. So let’s take the rocks out of our pockets and give him an opportunity to learn from this.



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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fair Trade vs. Free Trade

I began recently to wonder if one can have free trade and fair trade, or is it an either/or proposition. On the one hand, I believe that in order for developing nations to improve the livelihoods there has to be some form of trade with more developed countries. I also believe that we must do as much as we can to insure that any trade agreements do not infringe on the rights and livelihoods of our citizens. How is one to reconcile these two seemingly opposite positions? I believe that they can be reconciled but first we have to have some basic ground rules.

I believe that there cannot be free trade in country where the people are not free. Globalization by its very nature requires freedom of movement of people, yet the globalization being touted today is only freedom of movement for capital. Since capital is not real or human, what they are really advocating is freedom of movement for the owners of the capital. In other words the large corporations should be able to override the will of the local people for the sake of trade. In addition, these corporations should be able to shop the world for the lowest possible wages and environmental laws to maintain their profits.

I am not a trade guru or a corporate/media talking head. I am just an ordinary working American who lives in the real world, not a world of graphs and charts. And what I know is that free and fair trade has not come about through any of the globalization treaties we have seen in recent years. On the contrary, while corporate profits are up, average worker wages have flat-lined and in some cases decreased. Jobs are being outsourced by the millions. Entire industries have shut down in the states and moved elsewhere.

“For decades we took for granted that everyone agreed with us economists that free trade is good, protectionism is bad. Somewhere along the way, that stopped being the conventional wisdom,” acknowledged U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. “And whereas the default vote on a trade bill in Congress used to be a ‘yes’ vote, the default vote on a trade bill now in Congress is a ‘no’ vote.” Why? Because lots of people are no longer convinced that a rising tide of trade lifts all boats — and there's evidence to back them up.

For three decades, the richest 10 percent of Americans have been growing even richer much faster than everyone else. Over the past five years, real wages for all the rest of American workers have been almost flat. Many blame globalization.[1]

I have yet to hear a compelling argument of why this is happening. Normally in an economy when productivity is up wages follow, in this economy that is no longer the case. We have experienced strong growth in productivity for the last five years and yet wages have not increased. So the average American is working harder for the same or less money and they wonder why globalization is getting a bad name? I am all for developing countries becoming more developed and have less poverty, but we have to do more to help the workers in this country to cushion the blows from globalization. It isn’t like the money isn’t there. When one CEO can make over 140 million dollars a year, the money is there. The problem is we are not spending it properly; we need to readjust our priorities. Globalization that does not take into account people first is doomed to failure.

This includes not only the people here at home, but the people in the developing countries as well. We must always put people first in our negotiations, in our planning, and in our implementation. For too long we have allowed corporate interest to supersede the interest of people. We have created these oligarchic and monopolistic entities that have more power than the governments that charter them. We must not continue to watch as our corporations engage in a race to the bottom to see how low they can go on wages, on the environment, and on human dignity.

I believe that free trade and fair trade are not mutually exclusive, but that in order to institute them we must allow greater worker organization all over the world. Only by allowing the workers to organize can we begin to offset the uneven system we have in place today. One group of workers cannot be organized and protected and another group not, this would only lead to the exploitation of the unprotected workers as we have today. For decades we have allowed the trade decisions to be made by the money grubbers and the politicians, we see where that has led us; maybe it is time to allow the workers to become involved in the process. For too long we have negotiated these treaties without gauging the impact they will have on our workers or the workers in the other countries. It is time we began to consider the impact they will have on our workforce and how we can reduce the harmful effects of globalization.

I think that the union bill currently in the Congress will go a long way to bring the workers concerns into this process. We need to strengthen our organized labor; the decline of wage growth and industry relocation overseas can be correlated to the decline of organized labor in this country. All those promises of management that organizing workers would lead to outsourcing of jobs was just a smoke screen, the outsourcing happened anyway only without organization, the workers were left high and dry. Is there such a thing as fair, free trade? Yes there is but it will only happen if we demand it.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Language of Defeat

As I was channel surfing one night I came across Senator John McCain on the Charlie Rose Show. If these guys weren’t so frightening they would be laughable. As I was listening to him speak, I couldn’t get over how he kept using the same catch phrases from decades ago. It’s as if these guys are living in a time warp, this is still 1950 in their minds and nothing can change that. The rhetoric is still the “gunboat” philosophy that has characterized our foreign policy for a generation.

He continually used the buzz words, “Israel” and “projection of American power”. Is it just me or have these guys been cryogenically frozen for the last 60 years? The world has changed their view of it has not. As long as our foreign policy is being conducted by those who are still living in some “glorious past”, we will never be safe or free. We must adjust our foreign policy goals to reflect the real world and not some false assumption provided by “analysis” that haven’t seen the real world in who knows how long. The more we continue to bang the same song on the same drum the sooner we escalate our descent into irrelevancy. We are becoming nothing more than the sandlot bully, gone are the principles and credibility of democracy. They have been replaced by the tenets of greed and racism.

I think what shocked me the most was an exchange between Mr. McCain and Charlie Rose when Mr. McCain was talking about the Chinese building aircraft carriers and how that was something we needed to watch closely. According to Mr. McCain the aircraft carrier allows the host nation to project its power around the world. Charlie Rose retorted that we have aircraft carriers why shouldn’t the Chinese, it was at this point the hypocrisy became unbearable. Mr. McCain said that the difference was that the US “didn’t have a history of imposing its power on other nations”. Charlie Rose then asked if the Chinese had such a history and Mr. McCain said no, but they still had to be watched carefully.

First of all the line about the US not having a history of imposing it’s power on other nations by the use of aircraft carriers was ridiculous. I think Mr. McCain is suffering from selective amnesia, so just in case let me just refresh his memory. Obviously he has forgotten about Iraq, Grenada, the whole southern hemisphere, Cuba and the list goes on and on. For our leaders to go on television and make these types of statements, it is no wonder the credibility of the US is at an all-time low.

This rhetoric of good versus evil has to stop. The politics of the cold war must be replaced by the diplomacy of the new world. We can’t continue to kill those who don’t agree with us. At the same time we silence dissent at home by violating the very document that is supposed to stand for democracy. Before we start trying to repair what’s wrong in the world, maybe we should spend a little time righting what is wrong here in this country. With this shoot first and ask questions later foreign policy, it is we who have the rest of the world leery. Is America the source of all that is wrong in the world? No, but we have to accept our culpability where applicable and strive to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

The current crop of politicians and media types appear to have learned nothing from the past and are dead set on repeating the same mistakes. Mr. McCain and others, the world has changed and continues to evolve, it is a shame that you people have not. If my truths do not evolve, but remain steadfast in false premises then I have learned nothing. Worse than the fact that I have learned nothing is that with this mindset I am incapable of learning, which is not only foolish but dangerous. It is this mindset that will cause us to be defeated in Iraq as it has caused our defeats in the past.

There's no principles in what you say
No direction in the things you do
For your world is soon to come to a close
Through the ages all great men have taught
Truth and happiness just can't be bought-or sold
Tell me why are you people so cold

I'm...... Going back to Saturn where the rings all glow
Rainbow, moonbeams and orange snow On Saturn
People live to be two hundred and five
Going back to Saturn where the people smile
Don't need cars cause we've learn to fly On Saturn
Just to live to us is our natural high

We have come here many times before
To find your strategy to peace is war
Killing helpless men, women and children
That don't even know what they're dying for
We can't trust you when you take a stand
With a gun and bible in your hand
And the cold expression on your face
Saying give us what we want or we'll destroy

Stevie Wonder

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Teach A Man To Fish

MALELA, Kenya — CARE, one of the world’s biggest charities, is walking away from some $45 million a year in federal financing, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.

CARE’s decision is focused on the practice of selling tons of often heavily subsidized American farm products in African countries that in some cases, it says, compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.[1]

There is a saying that goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” When I read this story I was reminded of this saying, because the saying is not contrasting a good and an evil. The saying is contrasting two goods and the better of those two options. I have always been conflicted by our efforts to feed the starving in foreign countries, not because I don’t believe in feeding starving people or in helping those less fortunate. I, like many of you am just heart broken when I see those images of starving children in those commercials and infomercials.

My reticence comes from a different place altogether, it is based in the science of human reproduction actually. Here is the scenario, the reason most people in these places are starving is because the eco-systems are failing. Usually it is a drought or some other natural phenomenon that has caused the agriculture of these places to not be able to provide food for their populations. The land cannot sustain the people living there. Let’s look at population growth in relation to hunger or the lack of. The more people eat, the more they repopulate, the more they repopulate, the more people there are to feed. So rather than alleviating the problem, using the current methods we are actually creating more people that are going to starve. If the land cannot sustain the number of people that are there now, how will it sustain more people?

The way a lot of these feed the hungry programs work is that we take all of our surplus, subsidized products and give them to the aid organizations in lieu of donations, the aid organizations then sells them on the open market in the starving countries and use the money to fund their programs. Sounds like a win/win situation on the surface. The aid organizations get to feed the hungry and make money to continue their work. The hungry people get to purchase food at a greatly reduced price.

With these programs what we are doing is dumping our surplus agribusiness products onto their local economies further crippling their already fragile agribusiness. The local farmers cannot compete with the sheer enormity of our dumping in the market place. The good news is that the people get food; the bad news is that their agribusiness never gets to flourish and so their economies continue to falter and their agribusiness continues not to be able to sustain the people. It is a catch 22 for the local people.

The Christian charity World Vision and 14 other groups, which call themselves the Alliance for Food Aid, say that CARE is mistaken; they say the system works because it keeps hard currency in poor countries, can help prevent food price spikes in those countries and does not hurt their farmers. Not least, they argue, it also pays for their antipoverty programs.

But some people active in trying to help Africa’s farmers are critical of the practice. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center uses private money to help African farmers be more productive, said in an interview that it was a flawed system that had survived partly because the charities that received money from it defended it.

Agribusiness and shipping interest groups have tremendous political influence, but charitable groups are influential, too, Mr. Carter said, because “they speak from the standpoint of angels.”[2]

Feeding the hungry is a noble thing and a charge from God, so I completely support it in theory. The problem is when the practice will actually cause more suffering in the long run than it alleviates. It seems that instead of helping to make these local people self-sustaining the goal of the aid agencies to keep themselves self-sustaining. I believe that this practice must be discontinued for the sake of those countries long term futures. Is it our goal to keep these countries in the aid/welfare mindset or is it to help them one day to become productive and self-sustaining? The long term interest of these people has to supersede any short term aid solution, no matter how benevolent it may appear. If these people are ever to realize their destiny as free and independent people fully accepting their place in world, they must be allowed to develop their own economies and food sources. A country that can’t feed itself cannot be independent.

CARE’s idea is that a profitable business is more likely than a charitable venture to survive when foreign aid runs out.

“What’s happened to humanitarian organizations over the years is that a lot of us have become contractors on behalf of the government,” said Mr. Odo of CARE. “That’s sad but true. It compromised our ability to speak up when things went wrong.”[3]

So when you are watching those commercials or are getting out the checkbook to donate to these feed the hungry campaigns think about what it is you really want to support. We must make our feelings heard through our donations and elected officials. Let’s help, but let’s help them to become healthy and independent. So, instead of giving them our surplus fish, let’s give them our know how and support to learn to fish on their own. This would be a project well worth our support and dollars.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Drug Wars V

Another Plan Columbia

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 7 -- The Bush administration is close to sealing a major, multiyear aid deal to combat drug cartels in Mexico that would be the biggest U.S. anti-narcotics effort abroad since a seven-year, $5 billion program in Colombia, according to U.S. lawmakers, congressional aides and Mexican authorities.[1]

After 36 years of the “War on Drugs” and billions of dollars can someone tell me what the purpose of this war is? As much as I try to comprehend its purpose I just don’t get it. The quantity and purity of illegal drugs is higher than they’ve ever been. The price of illegal drugs is the lowest in history and yet this farce continues. The body count on American streets continues to escalate due to the illegal drug trade and we continue to blindly follow an ineffective, punitive policy that has done little to stem the tide of this epidemic.

Now in an effort to help Mexico rein in its drug cartels we are negotiating a deal to send them 5 billion dollars am I the only one that thinks there is something wrong here? I won’t bore you with a laundry list of all the underfunded and admirable programs we could fund with 5 billion dollars. Instead we continue to throw money at a criminal solution to a public health problem.

News Flash- People take drugs because either it makes them feel good or it provides an escape from our screwed up world, no amount of law enforcement can change that. Unless we are willing to lock up every drug user in America, we have to develop another strategy to this issue. I’m sorry does anyone here remember Prohibition and how well that worked? I am not writing these posts because I like or condone the use of drugs. I have seen the ugly side of addiction and continue to see it daily during my volunteer work for my Church. I know firsthand the dangers and pitfalls of drug abuse, but I also know the limits to trying legislate human conduct.

The original Plan Columbia was an idea formulated by President Andres Pastrana of Columbia as an aid package to help revitalize the Columbia economy. He believed that the illicit drug trade in Colombia was a social issue due to the extreme poverty of his countrymen. He surmised that the reason they harvested the illegal drugs was because they couldn’t make a living wage anyway else. Wow, what a novel concept! To show you how this country can take a perfectly good and just cause and twist it to meet our political objectives, the Clinton Administration decided that to win points back home with “get tough on crime crowd” completely rewrote the policy to change it from social development to a law enforcement plan.

The final version of Plan Colombia was seen as considerably different, since its main focuses would deal with drug trafficking and strengthening the military. Ambassador Robert White stated: "If you read the original Plan Colombia, not the one that was written in Washington but the original Plan Colombia, there's no mention of military drives against the FARC rebels. Quite the contrary. (President Pastrana ) says the FARC is part of the history of Colombia and a historical phenomenon, he says, and they must be treated as Colombians...[Colombia] come and ask for bread and you (America) give them stones." In the final U.S. aid package, 78.12 percent of the funds for 2000 went to the Colombian military and police for counternarcotics and military operations.[2]

The Columbians ask us for bread and we give them guns and bombs. Rather than helping them to reform their economy and help them prepare for the future, we provide them with more ammo to maintain the status quo. I hope the Mexicans are students of history, because this Plan Mexico is appearing a lot like the Plan Columbia. While it will score political points for both the Mexican government and the Americans it will do little to correct the real problems affecting the people of Mexico. The immigrants coming from Mexico are not coming here to escape the druglords; they are coming here to escape the economic poverty that has forced the poor into the arms of the drug smugglers.

Instead of arming these governments to the teeth, maybe we could actually send them some aid to help revitalize their ailing economies. No, that would mean they wouldn’t have to come to America and work for less than minimum wage picking fruit and butchering our cattle. For decades we have undermined the laborers and peasant farmers of these nations, we have supported corrupt dictator after dictator. It is time to provide these people with a true way to stop supporting the drug cartels by providing them with an honest price for their crops and an honest job to work. Until we do this, people will continue to make a living the best way they can.



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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mickey Mouse Killed By Israeli Interrogator

"Tomorrow's Pioneers" sparked an international furor in April when it began featuring Farfour, the Mickey Mouse look-alike who sounded more like Iran’s firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than a Disney character.

Mustafa Barghouti, then serving as the Palestinian Authority's information minister, called the show a "mistaken approach" to helping Palestinians and tried unsuccessfully to force the show off the year.

The Israeli government and activists who monitor Palestinian programming accused Hamas of poisoning the minds of young children with the show.

After two months, Farfour was beaten to death on the show by an Israeli interrogator. Nahoul, a larger-than-life bee, is now carrying his message.[1]

Tomorrow’s Pioneers is a weekly television show for Palestinian children shown on the Hamas television network. On the show an 11 year old, Saraa Barhoum takes calls from other Palestinian youth concerning issues they are facing with the occupation. The show provides moral lessons, through stories and cartoons. The children call into the show and talk about how the occupation has affected their lives, they sing songs that deal with liberation, religion, and martyrdom.

While reading this story I was torn for a number of reasons, but because I haven’t actually seen the show my comments are speculative at best. The show has been criticized by Israel and the American Government for inciting anti-Israeli sentiments. While Saraa was being interviewed an Israeli missile exploded in the building next door causing the crew and Saraa to run for cover. So, it isn’t the occupation, assassinations, or indiscriminate violence that is fueling these anti-Israeli feelings among the Palestinians, it is the kid shows. You know I never did trust those damn cartoons, I always thought there were some subliminal messages being sent and now I know.

From what I can tell the show is propaganda, but is it anymore so than say Captain America or Superman; fighting for truth, justice and the American way? And what about all those Disney and WB cartoons during WWII, those were definitely sending a message to support our troops and our vision. So, besides the obvious of the pot and the kettle thing, I do find it a little disturbing when an 11 year old is talking about becoming a martyr. There are so many other things her young mind should be focusing on; instead because of her circumstances she does not have the luxury of dreams and fantasies. For many Palestinian children the dream is as simple as a safe place to grow up in and the opportunity to lead normal lives free from coercion.

Instead of focusing on the programming on the Hamas network, maybe if the Israeli and American governments focused more on changing the apartheid policies being waged against the Palestinian people the Hamas programming would change. How many more Palestinian children have to die before there is a real effort at peace? How many more children will have to give up their future and their dreams before the International community will call Israel on their land grab and refusal to negotiate in good faith?

It’s not the cartoons that are fueling this, it is the results of the cartoon. The mouse dying at the hands of an Israeli interrogator and its real life lessons, this is what is inflaming the Palestinians. Should children be used to promote violence? No, but should children be given the truth of their circumstances and about the perpetrators who are carrying out the policies responsible for these circumstances? Absolutely!


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The Kiss Of Death

You know you’ve lost your groove when the “so-called” leading country of democracy supports a group in elections and that group consistently loses. These loses are not just in one country or region, but all over the world. There is no political group in the world today that wants its party or movement supported by the US. It seems that having the support of the US is the worse endorsement you can get. I remember a time when the world looked to America as the beacon of hope and worthy of emulation, I guess those days are long gone.

“It’s the kiss of death,” said Turki al-Rasheed, a Saudi reformer who watched last Sunday’s elections closely. “The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win.”

The paradox of American policy in the Middle East — promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West — is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose.

Lebanon’s voters in the Metn district, in other words, appeared to have joined the Palestinians, who voted for Hamas; the Iraqis, who voted for a government sympathetic to Iran; and the Egyptians, who have voted in growing numbers in recent elections for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. “No politician can afford to identify with the West because poll after poll shows people don’t believe in the U.S. agenda,” said Mustafa Hamarneh, until recently the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. Mr. Hamarneh is running for a seat in Jordan’s Parliament in November, but he says he has made a point of keeping his campaign focused locally, and on bread-and-butter issues. “If somebody goes after you as pro-American he can hurt you,” he said.[1]

This should show the neo-cons that even if they try to promote democracy at the end of a gun it won’t work, whoever they support is going to lose in a free and fair election. It looks like we are back in the puppet regime, dictator mode again. You know that it is so much cleaner and just requires bribe money. Free elections are so messy and you can’t predict the outcomes. There is nothing worse than to expend all that money and all those lives only to get a government that will be hostile to you anyway. That ole dictator ain’t looking so bad right about now.

In part, regional analysts say, candidates are tainted by the baggage of American foreign policy — from its backing of Israel to the violence in Iraq. But more important, they say, American support is often applied to one faction instead of to institutions, causing further division rather than bringing stability.

The problem is not necessarily the support itself, Mr. Nassif said, but that it invariably skews conflicts, worsening rather than easing sectarian and ethnic tensions.

“When the U.S. interferes in favor of one party, their interference leads to an explosion,” he said. “The U.S. openly says it supports the Siniora government, but it should say we support the Lebanese government.”[2]

If I didn’t know better I would say he was advocating even handed treatment, but that couldn’t be right. Whether you support Barack Obama or not, the one thing I have to agree with him is that we have to begin to do things another way. The same old rhetoric and business as usual politics is not working, it is not working here or abroad. The world is tired of the same old crap coming out of Washington no matter who is espousing it. If whoever comes into office is not willing to change how we do foreign policy then it won’t matter who wins.

We must get to the place where we are once again viewed as the country that supports the rights of the people and not a divider of the people. Promoting division and factionalism in the long run only hurts our interests and our standing. I don’t really hear that from the current crop of candidates; it seems that they disagree more with how it was done, more than what was done. This would be a dangerous omen to the rest of the world.


[2] Ibid.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Big Tobacco vs. Kids

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said, “Today’s debate comes down to this: Do you favor big tobacco or children?”[1]

This quote was in reference to the Children’s Health Care Bill recently passed by the House. This is what I don’t like about politicians, Republican or Democrat, here they have an opportunity to do something worthwhile and beneficial for many of the nation’s children and to redirect our priorities and they do it how? As usual by raising taxes, I don’t have a problem with paying taxes. I believe that in order for our society to provide a safety net and to provide vital services we have to pay taxes. The problem I have is that right now we pay enough taxes, having the money is not the problem in Washington. The problem in Washington is how those tax dollars are allocated. So rather than moving some of that money from the bottomless military budget, the corporate subsidies, or any other program that would actually signal a change, they just raise more taxes.

Now of course because they are taxing the evil tobacco companies it should be done without much resistance. The tobacco companies are an easy target and are always good as a whipping boy for politicians, but this belies the problem. The problem is how the money is being raised, not from whom. The taxes you levy against tobacco will not be paid by the tobacco companies; it will be paid by consumers. Since most poor people are under stress, guess who smokes more? So you are taxing the poor to pay for health care for the poor?

By a vote of 225 to 204, the bill passed, with support from 220 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Ten Democrats joined 194 Republicans in voting against it. The bill would provide coverage for more than four million uninsured children in low-income families, prevent cuts in doctors’ Medicare payments scheduled for Jan. 1 and raise the federal cigarette tax 45 cents a pack, to 84 cents.[2]

There is such a lack of courage in Washington today. If I thought there was a snowballs chance that big tobacco would have to pay the increase I would be all over it, but the truth is they won’t and these guys know it. In this way they can look tough on corporations and yet not be doing anything. Everybody knows people are going to smoke regardless, it is an addiction. Raising the cost of it is only putting a hardship on the consumers, not the tobacco industry. But isn’t it a good thing, it will make people quit smoking? No, it is a bad thing just like all the other laws that infringe on our right to choose. I don’t use seatbelts and I shouldn’t have to, if I want to drive that way it is my choice. As long as my choices do not infringe on the rights of others, so be it.

When it was created in 1997, the children’s program focused on families with incomes less than twice the poverty level. But many states have obtained federal waivers to cover children with somewhat higher family incomes, because those families cannot afford private insurance.

More than eight million of the 43 million Medicare beneficiaries are in plans offered by companies like Humana and United Health. Since December 2005, enrollment in private plans has shot up 40 percent.

On average, the Congressional Budget Office says, Medicare pays the private plans 12 percent more than it would cost to cover the same people under the traditional Medicare program. The House bill would eliminate the differential, saving $50 billion over the next five years and $157 billion from 2008 to 2017.[3]

Here are the good parts, it will expand the coverage for children and it will stop the over payments that the privatization of Medicare that Bush and his cronies tried to expand. Its funny how with all the talk of private insurers being more efficient and cost effective, that it costs more to use a private insurer than Medicare. This is a case of more “sound bite” logic that doesn’t pass the smell test. The reason we want to privatize is not for efficiency or savings, it is to give more of our tax dollars to the corporate whores who patrol Capitol Hill. What happened to free enterprise and capitalism? These are the same guys who berate the developing countries for not allowing free enterprise and they get more government handouts than anyone. Sometimes the hypocrisy with these guys gets to the point of the absurd.

Yes, let’s give health insurance to more Americans especially children, but let’s do it with the funds we already have. You’re telling me we can give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest, but we can’t find any money for health insurance for our kids? No Mr. McDermott the question isn’t big tobacco or children, the real question is tax cuts and corporate welfare or children? Stop picking on the little guys and go after the people you were elected to watch over.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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