Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama: I Have Just About Given Up on Him.

Trying to review the most important issues so far:

1. The "Recession/Depression" or "The Crash"
>>>Obama continues the bailout of those bloated financial institutions which were the cause of national and world-wide misery through their recklessness and greed.
>>>What do I think he should have done?
>>>Stopped all bailout money to Wall Street. Federal taxpayer money should have gone to alleviate the victims of the sub-prime feeding frenzy -- the vast majority of ordinary Americans cajoled, tricked and pressured into believing the mortgage companies into buying homes beyond their means by using sub-prime contracts.
>>>Allowed the big financial houses to prove the validity of free market capitalism by either swimming or sinking. The first way: we didn't need to give them our money, and if they sink -- a valuable lesson for all of us to reconsider Capitalism. Simply put: Capitalism is not the answer to all of our problems. To a very large degree: it is the SOURCE of our problems.
>>> Instead Obama chose Larry Summers and Tim Geithner ---both possessing the same mindsets behind the financial irresponsibility. The blind leading the blind.
>>>Now Obama stung by the loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts and the rise of a new right wing "populist" movement, aka The Tea Party People, etc. --- is being depicted as the enemy of the people and the pawn of wealth, power and Wall Street. So, now he has decided to get tough (or, at least "talk" tough).He had the initiative when he took office. Now, he's on the run. And how? Helping those on Wall Street who were the source of the crash heard and felt around the world -- he not has incurred the wrath of ordinary Americans, whom he has neglected and who are feeling the pain.

2. Winding down the wars in Iraq. Slowly, much too slowly winding down Iraq. As for Afghanistan: doubling, tripling our presence over the Bush administration.

We should never have stepped foot in Iraq. We have gained nothing of significance. We have lost billions of much need U.S. dollars and many servicemen. As for the Iraqis -- some authorities believe our invasion has resulted in the deaths of over a million Iraqis. And, our rebuilding efforts have been stained with graft, fraud and work that is often shoddy, and almost always overcharged to us the taxpayers. The private corporations have loved this war. What a deal for them !! You would think they could have done better than the many shoddy structures they have left behind. We had the mistaken idea that democracy was like some kind of shoe that one size or style fits all. These are a few of the reasons why things are still a big mess in Iraq.

As for Afghanistan, we did have a reason to clear out the alQaeda training camps and capture their leaders --- but that was eight years ago. What are doing still there? While Bush was President we had accurate information where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. Instead of sending in U.S. troops to the site, we relied on native Afghan gunmen, probably related to those around Osama and maybe friendly with the Afghans who were allowing him to hide out. I suppose we knew it would be a bloody battle and the U.S. troop losses might be unacceptable to the American people and damaging to those holding political power. So, we screwed up. However, we have had seven more years. And, many more U.S., Nato troops killed, and many innocent civilians.

It would make more sense, IMO, to withdraw most of our forces and rely on intelligence and covert operations, and old fashioned police work to track down Osama. We would have a better chance this way. And, the bonus would be: we would be less hated in the Arab streets throughout the world -- if we stopped killing Muslim civilians (aka collateral damage).

Even if we would capture Osama tomorrow ---- it is doubtful that this would make much of a dent in terrorist goals and operations. The bomb materials in the possession of the Nigerian in the recent Detroit airliner episode --- could have come from Hamburg, Paris, Syria, Sudan --- almost anywhere. Such a relatively simple device does not require the advice of Osama or those close to him.

Obama took ages to make up his mind, but most of us knew he would send more troops in because if he did not he would be castigated by the GOP as weak, soft on terrorism, reckless in preserving America's security. Even if Obama thought it was a stupid idea to increase the troops ---- he would have had to convince himself otherwise.

Health Insurance Reform: Obama should have used the "single payer" model or Medicare for All as his proposal. It should have been worked out in advance by a group of knowledgeable physicians, experts in public health with few if any private insurance "experts". Instead, he gave a somewhat vague idea of what he wanted and turned the process over to Congress !! And, in the Senate that meant Max Baucus, the top recipient of money from Big Pharma and the Major Health Insurance Companies in both house of Congress. This was a disaster. Baucus used as his chief expert a woman who had previously been a top person with a major health insurance company.
Before the work started, several polls indicated that around 60-65% of Americans wanted single payer. What they have received as yet has been nothing nothing but the results of Congressional sausage making -- as messy as it has been ugly. The GOP offered no help, no ideas -- just a locked-in-step opposition. Meanwhile the big private health insurance companies' legions of lobbyists swarmed the halls of the House and the Senate cashing in their chips.

With no clear direction, with millions being spent during the process by the private corporations, with many of our representatives deep into the pockets of the vested interests --- well, it was impossible to come up with anything credible. Obama's decision to allow things to work themselves out with no forceful definite framework of his own was fatal. If you want to arrive at something of value --- you have to set your goals high. In the eventual negotiations, the side that has set its demands even higher than their expectations --- will usually find the final result more satisfying.

Obama must learn that it is better to stand for something in the interest of the common good, of the Median American, and go down to defeat, even a series of defeats -- than to cajole, wheedle, seek consensus at any costs -- and end up with a result that is somewhere between worthlessness and disaster.

The Economy: Obama's stimulus package should have been two to three times bigger than it was --- regardless of conservative democrats, and (naturally) all of the Republicans rending their garments and gnashing their teeth about the budget deficit. (Remember: we had a surplus when Clinton left office. Why is it not embarrassing for the GOP to preach fiscal frugality?? Oh, I forgot, they have been seized by selective amnesia over the eight years prior to Obama's entry. Notice that they never mention that two term President. What was his name? I've forgotten.)

China's stimulus package was three times the comparative size of Obama's and now -- they are leading every nation in recession recovery. They are booming again.

BTW --- the stimulus package should have been primarily devoted to massive public work projects: highways, bridges, reservoirs, i.e. infrastructure -- which has been criminally neglected by almost all recent administrations. Projects of this sort would have put millions back to work and would not be frivolous and piecemeal -- but instead creating tangible results of lasting value.

FDR had the right approach then, and Obama would have been better off if he looked to this great President's solutions.

No, I don't plan to watch Obama's State of the Union Speech. I will either read it, scan it, or listen to segments. Obama is a fine rhetorician. He needs to be a more effective implementer of real change --- and talk does not do that.

When you talk, you whisper; when you act, you shout. I think Emerson said this.

bob hochwalt

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's Ideas on Education

A few off the top comments:

Charter Schools are not the solution for the chief problem of having an even handed, well staffed, well equipped, well supervised public school system. They have their place for specific groups and needs. However, they are overrated in general, and are not held to solid education standards in most cases. They need to have more transparency and accountability.

Longer School Year and Day: I think these ideas have merit. Students learn better in more contiguous blocks of time. The summer break may dissipate some of the effectiveness of teaching. Students in many countries spend more time in school.

Caveat--- These ideas will cost money. Money for increased teacher salaries, cost of keeping the buildings open, air conditioning for schools that currently don't have it, etc.

Merit Pay for Teachers: Since I was a teacher, people will expect me to be opposed. And I am.
In fact, I wrote a paper when teaching outlining arguments against it when it was being considered at my high school.

Before I present the reasons why IMO it is a bad idea, let me say that my experience, limited mostly to one high school where I taught for 28 years, is that you can divide teachers into three groups (not thirds): one group (25% could just be let go and replaced with better material); one group (about 50%) do an acceptable job, but could do better with good supervision; the final group (25%) are very dedicate, see themselves as professionals, and if all of the administrators were sick for a week or two and these teachers were housed in tents --- they would still do a great job. About two thirds of administrators could be replaced.

Better teachers and administrators could be hired. However, in the case of teachers, if you want entice many prospective quality teachers into the schools -- salaries will have to be raised. Otherwise, they will use their talents in more lucrative occupations. (Today, though, with the recession might be a different story.)

However, I don't think will will get a better educational system through merit pay; it sounds good, but has many problems.

What's wrong with the Merit Pay Idea:

---It will destroy the professionalism of teachers and turn them into car salesmen and saleswomen. Professional teachers really care about their subject and the students they teach.
They will speak up before administrators and let them know when their often silly ideas are going to damage the important matters being done.

(When I was teaching elementary school, fifth grade, our young principal wanted to impress the parents and more or less ordered that all teachers have each student make a life size image of him/herself to be place in the student's seat. Time should be taken out of instruction to make sure these images looked good. He felt it would impress parents, the superintendent and gain him points. Mrs. Anderson, an older woman and fellow fifth grade teacher and I instead put up around our room examples of the projects we had been working on in our classrooms, with some examples of students' work. Quite a few parents who had children in other grade levels expressed delight in finding in our classroom what they really wanted to see --- instead of the silly student "dummies" that their third grade child's classroom had on display.)

(Another example: I returned to my high school after retiring a couple times just to see how things were going. On one occasion, I spoke to a friend, a younger man who had been the school principal for about five years. He told me something like this: (Names are not the actual ones.) "You know Bob, when you and Ralph, and Agatha, and Lou left, I secretely thought 'Now, I won't have these oldtimers speaking up at my staff meetings offering ideas different than mine, and challenging my plans.' However, now, I feel sorry about losing you people: You teachers were the backbone of this high school."

BTW: we all had tenure. Tenure is often pointed out as something teachers should not have. I disagree: if the district has good supervision, waits three to five years before granting tenure, then they will most often build a group of professional educators that are real professionals -- not "yes men", not always easy to bully, but responsible and dedicated. What if one of them starts drinking, or just becomes "lazy"--- well, there are ways to remove tenured teachers. It takes time to gather evidence, but it is certainly not impossible, a little inconvenient.)

---If the type of teachers you hire are the kind that need bonus or merit pay to do their best -- you have not hired dedicated teachers. They work regardless of the salary.

---Teachers form, in most schools, a cooperative community. This collegiality and willingness to exchange ideas and feed off each other would be ruined by merit pay. For example, I had a way of teaching paragraphs to average and below average kids. And, it worked, but I would not have shared it with another teacher who needed help --- if there were merit pay.

---Competition would squelch cooperation; breed jealously; infighting, resentment and this would be obvious to students.

---Who decides on which teachers get merit pay? I hope not the principals: most are totally unqualified, don't know good teaching when they see it, and don't have the time. And, there is definitely a tendency for administrator to grant merit pay to those teaches that cooperate or even "butter" them up.)

---Merit pay is usually based on how well a teacher's students do on standardized tests.

What tests? Who designs them? What do they measure? In math do they not only measure mechanical application of math processes -- but math thinking? In history do they stress fact or understanding of the lessons of history? In English do they have students write a paragraph, and are these paragraphs examined by one, preferably two teachers?

America seems to like solving problems often by coming up with some "super-efficient" not excessively costly ( and frequently unproductive) way of dealing with problems. We don't want to look at the reasons for American students poor showing academically, e.g. we have the greatest pecertage of poverty than most of the main modern industrialized nation. Learning has a lot to do with the environment before and outside of school.

No, we want some magic tests, given at intervals, that will measure quantifiable values and determine what schools are doing best and what teachers. Often classes are grouped for effectiveness in teaching. How does this fit in? The more "competitive" teachers will drop everything they do and focus themselves and their students on one thing --- really knowing what these tests are expected to cover. I had a critic teacher that way, who took an entire six weeks to pound into her students what she thought the tests would cover. She told me that she was an outstanding teacher because her kids did better than the other teachers on these tests.
Actually, I thought she was a rather mediocre teachers, uninspired and uninspiring, not connected with the kids, not engaging their minds.

--- Teaching is not a technology but more of an art. The personal interaction between students and their teacher is of great value. Can any set of tests laid like a template on top of this human enterprise really tell the story, and show realistically the effectiveness of the total process?

What Might Make for Better Educational Results?

----Better supervision of teachers. In my experience almost all principals and assistant principals do not make good supervisors. Many were not particularly good teachers, and did not want to be teachers. They, from the start, wanted to be administrators. No, the school system would have to hire teachers who would monitor, aid, assist, and demonstrate to the other teachers. This could be set up as a part of curriculum instruction department. Some districts might select the master teachers and have them teacher fewer classes of their own, so they can observe and assist other teachers. They would receive more pay for this job, and would have to have the personalities that could work with other teachers in ways that did not create resentment. (And again, who will pick these "master" teachers? I hope not the principals.

--- Better administrators: In my opinion, administrators should be wise and sensitive educators, instead of schedule builders, paper shufflers, and people handlers. When I taught, I thought 25% of the teachers should have been let go and at least two-thirds of the administrators.

--- Attention to Social Problems: Poverty, Healthcare and Unemployment. Now, this suggestion is not liked by our political leaders because it is too radical (radix, Latin for root). Addressing the roots of problems is time consuming, costs money, requires intelligent planning, making changes in the system. Too complex! Too much trouble! Give us the Easy Fix!

Arne Duncan--There were much better choices for Secretary of Education. Ones that would have looked at the national situation realistically, from an educator's point of view, a real educator, one who cares about kids and learning. That's an educator. Period.

--- Duncan has been chief of staff of the Chicago Public Schools for the past ten years with a not terribly impressive record.

--- Obama knew him from working with him in Chicago and by playing basketball with him.

>>> Here is what Gary Stager: teacher educator; educational journalist and writer says about Arne Duncan ( and I have heard similar comments from other educators and progressives.)

Duncan spends millions on standardized testing, turns public schools into military academies and endorses Teach for America, an organization built upon the perverse proposition that the most qualified teachers are those without qualifications. Teach for America's political wing, Leadership for Education Equity, fought hard to ensure that a competent teacher educator would not be nominated. They sure got their wish with Arne Duncan.

Arne Duncan is a strong supporter of merit pay, which like social promotion is based on ideology and wishful thinking, not fact. He is also a proponent of paying children for good grades.

Riddle me this. If Arne Duncan is such a "reformer with results" who did such a swell job leading the Chicago Public Schools, why did President-elect Obama send his daughters to private school?

Duncan is a fan of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and never met a standardized test he didn't love. His education policies and practices are indistinguishable from those of the Bush Administration. In fact, the current unqualified Secretary of Education Spellings virtually endorsed Duncan while she posed for for a photo-op with him four days ago. Today she praised Duncan's nomination while spinning her own tall tale and invoking romantic visions of student accountabily.

--- Who would be a better Education Secretary? One is Linda Darling-Hammond, professor and educational expert from Stanford. She is critical of both the less than successful and ineptly name --- "No Child Left Behind" and the reliance on educational tests for the way out of our school problems.

She was Obama's education advisor during his campaign, but was ferociously opposed by right-wingers as Secretary. So Bi-Partisn Barrack picked his basketball buddy, Arne.

Here is what Jim Korn, educator and educator-bloggers said about Darling-Hammond:

How refreshing to think of a top education official with a deep knowledge (or any knowledge) of and commitment to student achievement, educational renewal, teacher quality, research, professional development, public education.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Should 9/11 Become a National "Holiday" ?

Personally, I do not believe it would be a good idea to make the anniversary of 9/11 a national holiday.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, took the lives of 2,403 Americans and began WW II for Americans. The attack on the Twin Towers took the lives of 2,974 and began "The War on Terrorism".

Pearl Harbor's anniversary is not a national holiday, yet many people remember it, and our media including newspapers and television bring it to our attention.

America's desire for justice and/or revenge led us to attack Iraq and bring about the deaths possibly of as many asone million Iraqis, almost all civilians. There were 19 men responsible for hijacking the four airliners. There were mostly from Saudi Arabia (an ally) and, as far as I know, they were all Muslims.

America's response to this attack has created among many Americans hatred for Muslims in general, and created the term of War against Terrorism -- for what should really be police action against a relatively very small number of terrorists.

Now, some will not like this, but is there any reason for 9/11 having happened? Were these nineteen madmen, ninetten crazed fanatics? I think if we look at the possible causes for those outside our borders harboring ill will towards us has some validity.

We have for many years had an American economic empire which has shortchanged third world countries throughout the world --- benefitting very little the masses of their people, but enriching their ruling elites and our corporations. And, I should add, making sure Americans have low prices for commodities like oil as well as other resources for our industries. These "other peoples"-- many of whom are impoverished -- are to some extent this way because Americans were devoted to their own standard of living. There are limits to the earth. Now, many of these countries, especially in South America are demanding that that in justice these precious natural resources bring benefits to their own people -- first.

Americans, in general, seldom put themselves in the place of people in other lands, especially the third world. We don't see ourselves as they see us. For example, we are spreading throughout the Muslim world American "culture" --- much of which is materialistic, immoral, and ungodly to those in Muslim nations. Islam's Koran does state that Muslims have the right to defend themselves when Muslim nations are being "attacked" -- put in situations where their lives and their faith is endangered.

We are not the "good guys" we think we are. Historically our nation has not always been a "good guy". We can look at our history and see the Mexican War, the conquest of the Philippines. the decimation and humiliation of our native Americans, the long struggle for the slaves to become really Americans, the mistreatment of American workers by large corporations that spawned the labor movement. and so on.

I think that creating a 9/11 national holiday will serve as a means of preserving feelings of hatred and revenge (and not just against the nineteen involved). Truthfully, our nation's actions over many years and our failure to be aware of international problems --- was a partial cause of the disaster. We may not like to hear this, but there it is. What good would a 9/11 holiday do?
Would it be used to promote a climate of fear leading to the U.S. becoming a police state? Would it be used to build an even large war machine that we have --- for Our Security. So that no one, no nation, no individual could ever damage us again. Security such as this is part pipe dream and part too costly in everyway. We need to protect ourselves, to have reasonable security, but there are limits, which when exceeded, create a less desirable U.S.A. and world.

Even national holidays like Independence Day and Memorial Day have become mostly "mini" vacations for most Americans,, i.e. a day off. How many of us pick up The Constitution on the Fourth of July? Or do we set up the loudest and most spectacular fireworks we can? The same is true of Memorial Day. When I grew up Memorial Day was a special day for most of those I knew. The focus of the day was visiting the graves of family members, tidying up the site, adding flowers, reminiscing, and usually a special dinner or lunch. It was a quiet day, a thoughtful day, a meaningful day.

9/11 should be remembered and it should be learned from. We should try to construct a world and a nation that will be less likely to foster anger and hate. Mourn the dead. Yes, but this, frankly, will be done mostly by the relatives of those involved. There are more important lessons to learn from 9/11 than the American deaths.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Final" Word: Free Speech, Demonstrations, Protests, and Riots

People throughout the world are protesting the current situation in Gaza where an excessive Israeli military response to the attacks by Hamas on southern Israel is causing large civilian casualties and vast destruction. Hamas used mostly homemade rockets; the Jews -- used one of the most sophisticated military forces in the world (financed heavily by U.S. taxpayers). Approximately 5 Israelis have been killed by the rockets. About 400+ (and escalating) Palestinians civilians have been killed by Israel in retaliation. A type of "an eye for 100 eyes" policy. Yesterday, Israeli force demolished a United Nations Hospital in Gaza. (?)

Who started the last round of violence? Who knows? Every time Israel starts a new settlement or for that matter builds a new home in the West Bank ---- they are acting in a violent manner -- destroying the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, and ignoring the 1967 "boundaries" which most peace plans refer to.

Several weeks ago riots broke out throughout Greece led mostly (not entirely) by young Greeks enraged at what appears to have been the unjustifiable killing of a young Greek by overactive/repressive police. Riots or protests in support of the Greek youths erupted in Spain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere.

I felt pleased by both the riots and the responses. Not pleased at the destruction and violence, but that there is still the capacity of ordinary people to protest, demonstrate and in extreme cases to riot against injustice. Despite the spread of "democracy" throughout the world -- this "democracy" is usually flawed, sometimes seriously. Democracy, at least, in part, in name only.

Governments are placed in power by elections often crooked, in which an often compliant, biased, or fearful media provides totally ineffective, slanted, confusing... information to the electorate. Elections in which many of those running are picked by the power brokers, wealthy, corporations, and arrogant and power hungry political parties and their leaders. Once in power, many times these "democratic" regimes ignore the interests of the common people, the masses, Mr. and Mrs. Median --- and pursue the interests of a small 5% of the nation's people.

Through science/technology, governments are learning how to keep track of people, of what they read, what they think, with whom they associate, where they live, what associations they belong to, etc.

Recently PBS present a BBC political drama, The Last Enemy, on five successive Sundays. It will probably be shown again, but when? If it does -- don't miss this exciting and frightening presentation. It is set in the near future in Britain -- a country with probably more surveillance cameras on streets -- than any other -- however, we are all moving that way.

Here is some information from the program's creator:

Who is the last enemy?

In a sense it's Stephen, because he is the compliant man who turns around and stands up to the state. In the eyes of the state, the last enemy is the individual. After all, it wasn't a country that sent airplanes into the Twin Towers. It was a group of individuals. The suicide bombers here in Britain were individuals. But when the state starts targeting individuals as the enemy, we need to be alert to protect the rights of individual

There is a phrase in Britain that we are "sleepwalking into a surveillance society." So I decided to have a central character who isn't aware of what is going on. He is a reclusive mathematician named Stephen Ezard, who is totally focused on finding the mathematical structure of the universe. At the start of the series, he's been away for about four years in China. When he arrives back in the UK, he's our ambassador. He's seeing what's happening around him with fresh eyes, and it's a shock to him. The story is set slightly in the future. Everyone has ID cards and the idea of tagging individuals with implantable electronic chips is just coming in.

For further information on this television production.

P.S. Notice the way protesters and demonstrators are suppressed by the conventions of our two major parties -- I am thinking of 2008 and 2004 in particular. Protestors are "allowed" to yell, give speeches, wave placards in vacant lots surrounded by chain link fencing eight blocks or so away from the convention activities. Demonstrate comes from a Latin word to point out or to show. How can a group of people do this when they are isolated from those for whom their message is intended? It's freedom of assembly with its implied meaning of protest or support -- in name only. It's a joke. You really can't have freedom of assembly without allowing some interference in people's lives -- and I don't mean the demonstrators.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain: War Hero, Patriot, Military and Foreign Affairs Expert

What exactly is the advantage of having a person with a military background as President? Better disciplined? Loves America better?
We have a volunteer army. Most of the volunteers are young men from small towns in rural America that are dying out. The other greatest number are from the slums of our big cities. I don't think they are joining primarily because they love America, but because they are desperately looking for some way out of a dead end
future. Most of them would prefer NOT to be stuck in a chaotic war, esepcially one that was pointless to begin with and is still lumbering on.

What is a war hero? A hero is defined by one dictionary as one who exhibits courage, is idealized because he/she exhibits courage in past situations, is admired because of outstanding achievements, or who seems to possess noble qualities. When most people think "war hero" their image is of a person who exhibits extraordinary valor in combat. Of course, one can argue that every soldier who jumps aboard an unarmored Humvee often without proper body armor is a hero. Most people, though, think a war hero is a person who moves outside the requirement of duty and puts his life in jeopardy to ensure the mission is a success, to save the lives of his fellow soldiers -- over and beyond the call of duty.

John McCain was one of many bomber pilots in the Vietnamese War, dropping bombs usually from high altitudes, out of the range of anti-aircraft guns. He was shot down. He was a POW for five and half years. Some were there longer; some shorter. There were close to 800 POW's in Vietnam. If McCain is a war hero because of his hardships as a POW, there were 700+ other war heroes. I am not going to get into whether McCain had it worse or easier than most POW's. There seems to be some question on this point.

If a person were a genuine war hero, is this a qualification for President? What does it bring to the office? Will a former war hero be a more courageous President? Will he be one that loves his country more as President? Should we have more of a reason to think we and the nation are more secure with him/her as President? Will being a "war hero" really enable him to be an effective and constructive U.S. President?

John McCain is a Patriot. This is another theme that the GOP and McCain himself frequently emphasize. Are they implying that Obama is less of a Patriot because he was not in the Navy, not shot down over Vietnam and not in a Vietnamese Prison for five+ years? Do any of the things that Mc Cain did which provide him the opportunity to call himself a Patriot --- also cause him to be able to do a better job as President?

Are teachers, doctors, bricklayers, bus drivers patriots? I suppose it depends on how you define patriot. I think we need to start becoming patriots of the world. We have to make a start sometime.

I looked up six or seven definitions of the word patriot. Here is one that is fairly representative:
One who loves his country, and zealously supports its authority and interests. I also looked up synonyms for the word patriot: nationalist, loyalist, chauvinist, jingoist, flag-waver.

We must be careful in today's world not to be too nationalistic. Nationalism is becoming a dying concept as we realize that the world does not end at the borders of our country. We are citizens of the world -- or should be. My country right or wrong is not patriotism and is more properly called jingoism --- or just plain -- stupid. Act local. Think Global.

Does being in the military, claiming to be a war hero, and taking pride in being a patriot ---
make a Presidential candidate the ideal person for directing military strategy? Does having been a regular soldier, a regular sailor, or a regular pilot --- give a person expertise as a military tactician? I don't think so. If the former military man was an officer in charge of planning tactics, e.g. Eisenhower, Colin Powell -- yes. Although Eisenhower knew quite a bit about military planning he had generals who worked these matters out when needed. However, having been a general, admittedly, would give him a better frame of reference in these matters.

Will having been a bomber pilot give McCain talent in defending the security of the United States? Should we feel safer having a war hero and a a former bomber pilot as our national leader?

It has been said that McCain is expert in foreign policy. So far in the campaign he has not said anything that I have heard to demonstrate expertise in this field. In fact, he tends to act, at times, before thinking. Not a good trait in international relations. I sought in his career in Congress evidence that he took an interest in foreign affairs, that he was on the foreign relations committees of Congress, that he initiated major foreign policy initiatives --- I could not find anything significant. Several times in the campaign he has made mistakes in knowing the facts about national boundaries, matters of foreign policy, and displayed a tendency to utilize our military power first, rather than diplomacy first. There are other nations and other peoples with needs, concerns and interests. We must make a start in seeing ourselves as a participant, a player in world events -- rather than the one in charge, the kingpin. the "main man".

We are all in it together. Think global. Act local.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain, His Terrorist Connections

What is terrorism? As I see it, terrorism is using violence to instill fear in people so to defeat or control them -- for one's own interests and purposes. Terrorism, in its most extreme form inflicts pain, suffering, misery and death upon non-combatants as a way of weakening the enemy.

Much has been said about the (bogus) connection between Obama and Bill Ayers, who was considered a terrorist in the late sixties as part of the Weather Underground, an organization that engaged in bombings to bring the country's attention to the Vietnamese War and the need to call it quits. Obama was eight to ten years ago at this time and, and, of course, did not work with Ayers and the Weather Underground. About twenty years later, Ayers not convicted, became a highly respected scholar in the field of education, social justice and urban problems. Ayers and Obama were thrown together in organizations at this time because of mutual interest in urban matter and poverty. They were not conspiring to instigate terrorist activity. This is total nonsense.

Now, let's take a look at John McCain and his support of the Contras. The Contras were a creation of Reagan and his supporters. A well funded group of para-militaries whose purpose was to overthrow the Sandinista Socialist Republic in Nicagarua. Tne Sandinistas were originally a rebel army composed mostly of ordinary civilians, supported by many intellectuals, some enlightened members of the upper class, and ocassional activist members of the Catholic Church. In 1979, they succeeded in seizing control of the country from the Somoza family, who ruled Nicaragua from 1936 to 1979 as a military dictatorship. The Sandinistas began the work of restoring the land to its people and setting up a democratic socialist nation.

Everyone expected that the Somozas, the U.S. government, much of the upper class, and the army, would stage a counter attack.. The United States, then under Reagan began in 1981 to fund the "Contras" militant and organized terrorists under the pretext of being "freedom fighters intent on stamping out "communism" in the struggling nation. Reagan would not tolerate any nation in Latin American that was not friendly/subservient to the United States. And, of course, all of these nations had to have a capitalist economic system. The Sandinista government was socialist and would have evolved into a democratic socialist nation. However, Reagan and American right wingers were outraged that they had overthrown a military dictatorship with excellent relations with the U.S. government; that was cooperative in allowing American corporations to use Nicaragua as a source of profit at the expense of its people and its own use of its natural resources. Therefore, the new government had to be taught a lesson: cross the interests of the U.S. and you are in trouble. The Western Hemisphere is our patch, our territory.

Instead of the new democratic government being able to get organized, to set up new structures, to take care of the needs of its people --- it had to spend its time, energy, and few resources defending itself against the richest nation on earth and the band of violent terrorists that they had "hired" to topple their government by terrorists acts, by creating chaos. The Sandinista government was forced to become more authoritarian, had to institute martial law, had to do all the things that a nation sometimes has to do to defend itself. Of course, by doing this, the Reagan administration could then say, "See how dictatorial they are. It's a police state?" "Yes, Ronnie, and you and the terrorists you empowdered did this. Are you happy now?"

McCain was good friend of Oliver North, who played a key part in raising money for this attack upon Nicaragua by getting the green light from Washington to sell $48 billion in battlefield missiles and other weapons to Iran, classified then as a sponsor of international terrorism. This was a money laundering scheme to provide surreptiously funds for another band of terrorists -- our own mercenaries: the Contras.

McCain supported politically and financially the Contras and their terrorist tactics, which included mining the harbors of Nicaragua in defiance of world legal opinion.

This is what Human Rights' Watch said about the Contras in 1989: "...the Contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants, and mistreating prisoners." Details (not for the squeamish) of Contra tactics can be found at this url.

McCain was a friend, supporter of G.Gordon Liddy, a rogue militant who had seen some time with the army and the FBI. He masterminded the Watergate break-in and served four and half years for his part in the crime that led to Nixon's premature departure from office.

I think it is fair to label Liddy a terrorist. Some examples: during his radio show he advised his listeners that if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tries to disarm you: "Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests ... Kill the sons of bitches."

More examples: Liddy proposed to kidnap anti-war activists during Vietnam War and plotted the murder of an unfriendly newspaper columnist.

McCain took part in a fundraiser for his re-election in 1998. In 1999 McCain appeared on Liddy's talk show radio, where McCain told Liddy on air:
"I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family. It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulation on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

Obama has never supported what Ayers was doing when he, Obama, was eight years old. However, John McCain has never withdrawn his words and actions in support for terrorists like The Contras, Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy. McCain was a knowing adult when he befriended and supported these terrorists.

One would think that Mc Cain would have some sense of shame. Apparently, terrorism on behalf of causes McCain's supports is not terrorism.

What kind of foreign policy would a McCain foreign policy be?

(A major source, but not the only one, for this blog came from John K. Wilson -- the author of five books, including the new book "Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest" (Paradigm Publishers) and the forthcoming "Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies." His previous books include “The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education” (Duke University Press) and “Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Common Courage Press). He is the founder of Institute for College Freedom at www.collegefreedom.org. He lives in Chicago, and can be reached at collegefreedom@yahoo.com.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama & Ayers

I have been doing some research on the connection between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama.

Bill Ayers was part of the radical left in the sixties and seventies. He helped to found the Weatherman, a more militant version of the SDS -- Students for a Democratic Society. He was a leader in this group -- responsible for bombings of statues and buildings during this time period.
Bill and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn went underground for several years. When the U.S. government in 1977 dropped the charges against Ayers and his wife because of prosecutorial misconduct --- they resurfaced and entered American society again.

William Ayers, since then, as far as I can see has led a life devoted to working towards social justice, eradicating poverty, helping urban youth overcome their problems. In pursuing this course he has become a well known and respected educator, a "Distinguished Professor," in the College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago. He teaches primarily in these areas: social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.

In 1997, the city of Chicago named Ayers "Citizen of the Year," for his dedicated work on behalf of the poor. He has been for many years a valued member of the Woods Fund of Chicago, founded in 1941, a philanthropic foundation combating poverty. Diane Harrington, the president of this group has said that Bill Ayers is and has been on their board because of his academic credentials and his "passion for social justice".

When Bill Ayers was engaged in "radical" politics, Obama was a child, eight to twelve years old.

Obama became actually acquainted with Professor William Ayers in 1995 at a luncheon of those interested in school reform in Chicago. Obama was teaching law at the University of Chicago and Ayers an educator interested in eradicating poverty and urban squalor.

Without going into great detail, I can say that I consulted about six to seven good sources including the Washington Post and these are my conclusions:

• Ayers since the eighties has been quite a different person than he was in the sixities and part of the seventies. He has a thirst for social justice and concern for the poor. He has attended numerous institutions of higher learning which led to his position of Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at his university. This title is given by the faculty to the one they feel deserves it for his work in the classroom and in the larger society. He is a leader in his academic world and much admired among the vast majority of Chicagoans for his selfless work in helping that city. Naturally, there are those who still remember his role in the sixties, and can never forgive him. As a personal aside -- may I say that if Jesus can forgive and if Jesus spent a very large part of his ministry tending to the poor and the downtrodden --- these harsh criticis should not only find it in their hearts to forgive, but to admire his man who has come to the place he is today.

• I found numerous times when Ayers and Obama's paths crossed from the mid-nineties until the start of Obama's campaign. They were all at places and doing things in a group, sometimes small and sometimes large where their interests converged. Since they both have interests in improving society especially for those who need it the most --- this is hardly unnatural and certainly not suspicious.

John McCain has not been without things in his political career for which he can be proud. He promised quite emphasically at the beginning of his quest for the Presidency that he would run a clean, honest, truthful campaign. I do not believe he has done that, and his desperate attempt to make something out of nothing, i.e. "the Ayers Connection," is disappointing for any who had respect for him. It's not a good way to come to the end of one's career.