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Saturday, June 28, 2008

LIBERAL AND DEMOCRATIC COLLUSION WITH THE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS

As I write today, 84% of the country say the nation is "on the wrong track." Gasoline prices are far too high; millions of good-paying American jobs have been shipped to cheap slave labor markets overseas; domestic wage rates are mainly frozen or in decline; foreclosures are on the rise; Congress is bitterly and almost evenly divided among partisan lines; the President's job approval rating stands at an abysmally low 26%, and the rating for Congress is about half that of the President. It is no secret there is massive dissatisfaction with government and its failure to deliver for the benefit of the majority of citizens. It would be easy to blame the Republicans and conservatives for the current sad state of affairs, as they have dominated or held power for the majority of the past 8 years. But the Democrats and even some liberals must also share the blame.

To hear many Republicans tell it, the Democratic Party has gone so "far left" it is no longer mainstream. This, however, is an absolute myth. On most issues, notably the economy and security, today's Democratic Party is FAR to the right of where it was a generation ago. There are no longer demands being made for a 32 hour work week at the same pay level as a 40 hour week; there is no longer a push for expanded abortion rights; corporate AND personal tax rates have been rolled back far below where they were 30 years ago (and NOBODY is advocating a 70% tax rate on uppermost incomes); there is no longer a push to vastly expand government programs. The problem with today's GOP and conservatives is that THEY are also FAR to the right of where THEY stood 25-30 years ago. Worse yet, since the "Republican 'Revolution'" of 1994, they have grown increasingly rigid, ideological, and intolerant. To them, anyone not 100% in lock-step agreement with them is derisively rejected and labeled as "liberal", "socialist", "protectionist", "far left", "extremist", "out of the mainstream", or whatever other nasty, negative, scornful nickname they wish to hurl at the moment. Well, they are dead wrong.

There is nothing "mainstream" about rewarding the wealthy minority with huge tax increases. There is nothing "mainstream" about shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with inferior, lower paying ones. There is nothing "mainstream" about encouraging the influx of huge numbers of illegal aliens as a source of cheap labor to benefit big business. So much for the myth of the Republican Party being the "mainstream" or "majority party!"

Since even before the Great Depression, the Democratic Party has traditionally been known as the party of working people, the poor, and the oppressed and disaffected. In practice, it passed legislation to provide more economic balance and fairness, more individual liberty, and more regulation of business to ensure good working conditions and safer products for the people. Unfortunately, significant numbers of Democrats and liberals have joined conservatives and Republicans in recent years on a number of measures and have effectively turned their backs in large degree on their core constituency of working people, the poor, and the oppressed and disaffected. Instead, they have fallen victim to corporate America's and the military industrial complex's lobbyists to support laws NOT for the benefit of the people but rather for the benefit of special interests. And THAT is why the wealthy and corporate America has been thriving (and why the rest of us HAVEN'T), and why there is so much dissatisfaction today.

The Democrats have caved to corporate lobbyists on nearly all free trade legislation since the 1980s. They have joined Republicans in rolling back industry regulations and oversight, lowering taxes for the wealthy, even in approving illegal wiretaps and the unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus. Great liberals like Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, JFK, and RFK must all be spinning in their graves!

The Democratic Party, and especially its liberal faction, must get back on track to truly represent and legislate for the benefit of their core constituency, who are REALLY the majority of the country! They must no longer wither in the face of bogus conservative and Republican charges of being "extremist", "soft on terrorism", "too far left", or any of the rest of that rubbish. Instead, they must stand their ground and expose the Republicans for what THEY truly are: Too far right, too pro-business, too anti-labor, too pro-wealthy, and too authoritarian. When the liberals and Democrats once again go to bat for their core constituency and abandon their placating of corporate America, they and their government will once again enjoy lengthy and sustainable support.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

WAR ON TERROR, OR WAR FOR OIL?

On September 11, 2001, radical Islamic extremists under the direction of Osama bin Laden murdered more than 3,000 innocent U.S. citizens with airplane hijackings and subsequent crashes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Immediately, President Bush and Congress correctly and justifiably called for a "War on Terror." The world empathetically stood behind us as we quickly deployed troops to Afghanistan with the stated aim of capturing bin Laden and bringing him to justice, as well as destroying his terrorist group al Qaeda and toppling the murderously oppressive Islamic fundamentalist regime, the Taliban, which had seized power in Afghanistan and was providing sanctuary for al Qaeda. In those days, we acted purely in reaction and self defense and were arguably exercising truth, justice, and the American way. Now, nearly 7 years later, bin Laden is still at large, our resources and focus have shifted largely to our occupation of Iraq, Taliban strength is again on the rise in Afghanistan, and world opinion has shifted solidly against us BECAUSE of our Iraq invasion and occupation. What has become of the "War on Terror"? Was it aptly named, or has it become perverted in its evolution? Or, was it just a cleverly expedient slogan used to camouflage our true intention, that being our desire to wage a war for oil and control in the Middle East? Evidence would unfortunately fall on the side of the latter rather than the former.

After a short time, our forces in Afghanistan had removed the Taliban from power and forced them to retreat to the rugged and inhospitable mountains at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. We thought we had narrowly missed capturing bin Laden and had maybe even injured him. But we didn't know for sure. We established a new government and set up free elections in Afghanistan, and the pursuit of bin Laden became minimalistic and faded into obscurity. Then, the Bush administration began building its false case for invading Iraq; a short war and lengthy occupation followed, and an active hunt for bin Laden stopped, for all practical purposes.

Several disturbing thoughts are raised by the Bush administration's handling of the "War on Terror" and after it became the war in Iraq in early 2003. For example, if the actual aim of the "War on Terror" was to capture the head terrorists, why have we abandoned the chase? And if an additional aim was to prevent another 9/11 style attack by foreign agents on our soil, why then are our borders and ports as leaky as seives? Our southern border, with rare exception, is easy to cross over by virtually anyone. Rational thinking would suggest that, immediately following a massive terrorist attack, our borders and ports and all incoming shipments would have seen huge increases in inspections and security personnel. Such has not been the case. Rational deduction would strongly suggest in light of this that the Bush administration is not really concerned with potential terrorists entering our country unseen and is instead more in favor of open borders to allow a huge influx of cheap immigrant labor for the benefit of big business. The fact that only 1% of our incoming shipments receive a proper customs inspection suggests that the current White House is not really concerned with dangerous materials entering our ports, but is more dedicated to preventing multinational corporations' imports from being delayed, regulated, or fined. Does it not seem that prevention, awareness, and protection would be proper tools to use in a genuine war on terror? Why then has the Bush administration failed to employ these? Finally, if another stated aim of the "War on Terror" was to overthrow oppressive dictators like Saddam Hussein who were supposedly developing nuclear weapons, why did we not take the same actions of invasion, occupation, capture, and execution of the oppressive Kim Jong Il of North Korea, who already HAS nuclear capability? Evidence suggests we were far more interested in Saddam Hussein because of his OIL, and since North Korea had no oil, we selectively left Kim Jong Il alone.

Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has testified publicly that the Bush administration began plans for an invasion of Iraq immediately after its inauguration in January, 2001, nearly 8 months BEFORE 9/11. Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz had all long advocated an invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, provide the United States with a direct and ongoing presence in the Middle East, and secure our grip on the region's vast oil resources. In the 1990s, these three, along with George W. Bush, his brother Jeb, and a host of other neocon, hardcore right-wingers, were charter members of a conservative think tank/advocacy group called "Project for a New American Century." This group advocated, among other things, pre-emptive military strikes against Iraq, Syria, and Iran to overthrow their leaders and establish our firm foothold there. When this group came to power in the White House, they began to implement their plans. 9/11 gave them the perfect opportunity to build a case against Iraq, rally public support by dishonestly tying Iraq to al Qaeda and nuclear weapons, and then proceed with the military phase of their plan.

Bush and Cheney are both former oilmen. The price of gasoline has more than tripled since they took office in 2001. Oil companies' profits continue to set record highs. Cheney's former company, Halliburton, has received BILLIONS in numerous NON-BID defense contracts since we first invaded Iraq. What began as an honest "War on Trror" has morphed into a war for profit and plunder. Since we have basically abandoned the hunt for bin Laden, left our ports and borders open to invasion by anybody, and left other oppressive dictators in power without toppling THEM, I repeat my question: Are we conducting War on Terror, or war for oil? The evidence strongly suggests the latter rather than the former. By definition then, we are engaged in unlawful imperialism, and we should GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ!

NEXT WEEK: LIBERAL AND DEMOCRATIC COLLUSION WITH THE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS

Saturday, June 14, 2008

THE FAILURE OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM

American liberalism has failed America in recent times. Its goals and policies unquestionably mirrored the values and benefitted the majority of the country at one period, but it became corrupted by years in power. This process led many to turn away from it as a political philosophy, and caused the growth in appeal for conservativism, culminating in today's disastrous neo-conservative Bush administration.

Liberalism came to power and blossomed as a result of conservative Republican mismanagement of the economy leading to the Great Depression. Then as now, conservative Republicans believed that government should have little or no say in the workings of the free market. So, they sat in office and did virtually nothing as people suffered, lost homes, starved, and jobs and savings disappeared. Their belief was that the economy would eventually straighten itself out on its own and that prosperity would return. But it didn't. By 1932, with the unemployment rate at nearly 25% and wages supressed, voters finally had enough of the conservatives' steadfast clinging to purist economic principle while the rest of the country suffered, and they threw the rascals out of office in a landslide.

FDR was elected President, with a huge Democratic majority. Liberalism had come of age and quickly began to exert power through huge reforms. This "New Deal" program, as FDR called it, established a wide array of government sponsored and operated programs for the benefit of poor and working Americans. Government employment/public works programs like the WPA and CCC came into being. Workers were finally given the legal right to organize labor unions to bargain and leverage themselves to obtain better pay and working conditions. The 40 hour work week and overtime pay were established. Unemployment benefits were created, as was Social Security, and welfare benefits for the poor. Conservatives shook their head in horror, screaming that the country could not afford to have the government aiding the people in that fashion. Then as now, they believed the only truly justifiable government expenditures were for the military, police, schools, and postal service. But the electorate reveled in the bonanza of benefit, hope, and opportunity the New Deal was bringing to them. And the electorate was correct. Liberal programs had found a way to help nearly everyone in the country, not just the rich and powerful. With the advent of World War II in Europe in 1939, the government began building a defense industry to cope with demand for guns, tanks, and planes by besieged Allied countries. This helped spur the economy tremendously, and, with our entry into the war in 1941, this economic activity showed exponential growth. The liberals stayed in power and all the liberal reforms were kept in place by popular demand. Liberal power had been a success, as they had truly delivered for the public.

Liberal dominance of the government and economy continued almost uninterrupted after the war, except for a brief period in the very early '50s. In the 1960s, the liberals again delivered benefit for a large segment of the country with the passage of Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and many other bills. But liberals, with strong conservative urging, also involved us in the civil war in Vietnam, both sides mistakenly seeing it as making a stand against Soviet and Chinese communist expansion. This, along with several other factors, caused a split in liberal ranks which cost them the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections and led to a long decline in their power and influence.

By the 1970s, American liberals had enjoyed nearly uninterrupted control of Congress for decades. Their Congressional leadership began to become influenced and corrupted by lobbyists, special interest groups, big business, and big labor. The measures they proposed and passed did not seem to resonate so well with increasing segments of the population. This is when I believe their failing the country began. For example, in an effort to forcibly achieve integration in public schools, they instituted a wildly unpopular system of busing poor and minority students into wealthier and whiter schools, and vice versa. Though their aims may have been noble, the practice was heavy handed and impractical and led to racial disharmony and backlash. During this period the liberals also began to turn their backs on churches and the faith-based community. This population segment had always been an ally for social and racial justice in previous decades. By prohibiting the free expression of a person's religious beliefs in schools and public institutions, liberals not only deprived these people of their constitutional rights but also pushed them over to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. By trumpeting very loudly support for controversial issues like state-funded abortion and gay rights, the liberals gradually found their appeal narrowing considerably and eventually lost power to a newly dominant conservative plurality. A final liberal miscue was how liberals gradually became the anti-military party. In reaction to excesses of the Vietnam War like the My Lai massacre, congressional liberals became harsh critics of our military and wanted it pared down. This has led them to become labeled with the not-entirely-true monickers of "soft on communism" and later "soft on terrorism." But worst of all, in later years, while pandering to special interest and splinter groups, liberals (and their main organ, the Democratic Party) have apparently neglected and/or abandoned their main original constituency: Poor, needy, and working Americans. They have allowed conservative Republicans to steamroll all over these people and engage in illegal imperialistic war. This is perhaps liberalism's biggest failure.

Public disenchantment with neocon military adventurism, as well as neocon economic mismanagement, has given today's liberals an opportunity to reassert themselves. But if they ever hope to achieve massive influence again, it is vital that they get back on track to launch programs and policies beneficial not for big business or special interest groups. They MUST again deliver for the poor, needy, and working citizen. And they must stop treating the religious community as if it was a group of aliens from Mars. Liberals and churchgoers share many common social values. They pared up for many beneficial reforms in the 1950s and 1960s, and they can and MUST do so again! There are signs and faint stirrings of this activity beginning to be slowly shown by Barack Obama and a number of other Democrats. If liberals are to overcome their recent failures and return to success, it is absolutely essential this trend continues!

NEXT WEEK: WAR ON TERROR, OR WAR FOR OIL?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

THE METAMORPHISIS OF AMERICAN CONSERVATIVISM

Today's American conservative has changed markedly from those of previous generations. Still present is the paranoia I described in last week's blog, and there is still firm support for the fundamental tenets of a strong national defense and minimal governmental involvement in the free enterprise system. But, oddly enough, the movement has morphed to now include some of liberalism's beliefs and practices.

The so-called "Republican Revolution" of 1994 brought total legislative control to the Republican Party for the first time in 40 years. As the conservative wing of that party had gradually grown stronger and stronger since Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, it now controlled the party completely. When conservative George W. Bush ascended to the presidency in 2000, this meant total power for the conservative bloc in both the legislative AND executive branches. These new conservatives differed from those in the past. Accordingly, they became known as neoconservatives, or "neocons."

Neocons demonstrated early on their cohesiveness and their intolerance for opposition. The halls of Congress and the rhetoric coming from both the White House and the GOP became bitterly partisan. Democrats were given far less input in Congress and in helping to shape public policy than had the opposition party in previous times. Compromise and even prolonged discussion of legislative agenda became tremendously reduced. The Republicans began to enjoy the trappings of power which they had not experienced for so long, and they became corrupted by the desire to hold onto and even increase that power. This led them to alter some of their long held beliefs and practices and explains the reasons today's conservatives differ from their precursors.

Conservatives in both parties have long opposed massive deficit spending. As modern Republicans soon learned, it is not easy to hold onto or increase power and reach by saying "no" to expenditures for certain constituancies. Thus began a gigantic growth in earmarking, the practice of adding special spending allotments to bills late in a legislative session so they will easily pass without much scrutiny or fanfare. That is how $200 million Alaskan "bridges to nowhere" are created, and that is how key contractors and/or campaign donors get their rewards. The downside, of course, is that we taxpayers inevitably fund the bill and foreign governments like China and Saudi Arabia underwrite our government's deficit, giving them increasing say and involvement in our internal affairs. (I must add that today's GOP did not invent this earmarking practice, but they greatly accelerated it). So, to maintain power, the neocons have forsaken the long held tenet of fiscal responsibility, to the detriment of the entire country.

Prior-era conservatives also believed that government should remain small; that states' rights should take precedence over the federal government's, and that the state has no right to unduly regulate or inhibit citizens' individual freedoms or enterprise endeavors. Earlier conservatives also strongly believed in the separation of church and state; that the state shall not impose its own religion on the people, and that people were free to choose to believe as they wished or not at all. Many of these ideas have been modified or discarded altogether by these neocons, still firmly in control of today's Republican Party. With Bush's massive Medicare adjustments and expansion of Homeland Security, today's federal government has grown tremendously, a fact no classical conservative can be proud of. The influx of the religious right into political conservative ranks has also led to a demand for the government to regulate social behavior. Indeed, their influence has become so strong that today's presidential candidates are now subjected to a de facto litmus test of their religious (Christian) beliefs. Neither Abraham Lincoln, nor Teddy Roosevelt, nor Richard Nixon, nor any other candidate prior to this generation was ever subjected to such a thing. Some neocons are even pressing for government involvement in fostering Christian values and education, tenets of theocracy rather than democracy, and a blatant violation of our Constitution. These radical new conservatives even insist that Supreme Court nominees must conform to their belief structure. Whereas in past times, these beliefs and duties were spread and performed by clergy, today's neocons wish them to be part of and performed by government.

Lastly, earlier time conservatives believed in minimal involvement in other countries' affairs and believed America should only involve itself in war in cases of attack, not intervention against unfriendly governments, or due to fear of attack. George W. Bush and modern neocons trashed that notion altogether in 2003 with the unprovoked attack on Iraq. The "justification" for going to war in Iraq was that it's leader, Saddam Hussein, was developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons for use against the United States and that he was working in harmony with the terrorist group alQaeda. This involving of the U.S. in a pre-emptive rather than reactive war was a major breach from practice of all previous American history, and a dangerous one at that. It has cost us half a TRILLION dollars as of this writing and has seriously damaged our credibility and relations with the rest of the world. Related activities, such as the suspension of habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial, something King John gave the western world in 1215 and has been in practice ever since until Bush did away with it), plus illegal abduction and torture of SUSPECTED terrorists, are practices now true conservative could ever support.

MODERATE Republican Dwight Eisenhower warned us as he left office in 1961 to beware and resist the rise of the military industrial complex, that group of ideologues and industrialists who support nonstop American military intervention all over the world, and who, worse yet, profit from it. He was drawing on very wise and pragmatic conservative doctrine in issuing that warning. In the midst of today's neocon White House and GOP presidential candidate sabre-rattling against Iran the same as Bush did against Iraq, it would be wise for us all to reject the neocon mindset and its candidates altogether! The neocon element which controls today's Republican Party is far removed from classic conservativism and from the mainstream public as well. Its agenda will be disastrous for this country and must not be supported.

Next week: THE FAILURE OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM