Archive for October, 2011

10/31/2011

Gingrich Sees Problems, But No Solutions

FOREIGN POLICY: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich often points out what is wrong, but offers no solutions. He said Obama was mistaken to intervene in Libya against Gaddafi. He thinks Greece should not belong to the European Union, but offers no answer to the Euro Crisis. He expressed concern over trade with China, but stated no Free Trade alternative. He worries about civil war in Mexico, but has no suggestions. He named North Korea and Iran as threats, but said nothing of what he would do. He predicted a more dangerous Pakistan, but did not say how to divert it. He said Reagan was wrong to trade arms for hostages, but did not say what he would have done. He wants loyalty oaths.

FOREIGN AID: Newt came up with a bad idea to replace direct foreign aid to developing countries with a system of bribery conditioned upon whether or not their votes in the UN are consistent with ours. His approach would force nations to choose between receiving aid, or exercising free and democratic votes.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Newt was correct to demand a release of all Fed documents, and an audit of the agency, as he suggested they have too much power, deal with billions in secret, and fail to explain why they bail out one group over another.

HOUSING CRISIS: Gingrich correctly said the Countrywide lobbyists made it too easy to buy a home during the past decade, but neglected to discuss a solution to the current housing crisis.

LABOR: Gingrich showed a lack of fitness for the White House as he suggested dismantling the National Labor Relations Board. Newt wants paychecks instead of food stamps, which is fine, but failed to explain where jobs would come from. His idea to make the unemployed get job training would depend on the details.

IMMIGRATION: Newt’s plea to “secure the borders” sounds the same as other Republicans, but he skips over implementation. It’s fine to suggest a modern visa program, to require U.S. History in schools, and to establish English as our official language, but it is doubtful Newt would actually go ahead and force employers to verify the Social Security numbers of job applicants.

HEALTH CARE: Like other Republicans, Newt would repeal the new health care law, and just like them, he offers no answers to the health care and health insurance crisis. He was critical of the insurance mandate imposed in Massachusetts, but failed to suggest any regulations to control health care costs or insurance premiums. Newt makes simplistic attacks on Medicare by referring to abusers as “crooks,” but throws the baby out with the bath water, as he thinks young workers should have a right to choose, code for destroying the system as we know it.

ENERGY: Gingrich wants a safe way of taking care of nuclear waste, but he fails to explain how that is even possible.

TAXES: Gingrich appeared to be heading somewhere when he said GE paid no income taxes, but then he failed to suggest a solution to corporate tax avoidance. He instead pushed the discredited idea of eliminating Capital Gains Taxes.

EDUCATION: Gingrich would divert badly needed public tax dollars to religious schools by expanding Pell Grants for K-12.

NO SOLUTIONS NEWT: Gingrich offered no solutions to our trade deficits with China, violence in neighboring Mexico, or the Euro Crisis. He seeks to bribe votes in the UN. He has no answers for the Housing Crisis. He would make life harder for working people by dismantling the NLRB. He had no realistic solution to the flow of illegal immigrants. He stated no answer to the galloping cost of health care, and health insurance premiums. He wants to destroy Medicare as we know it. He appears willing to use nuclear power, but has no solution for nuclear waste. He would help bankrupt the federal treasury by giving capital gains taxes away, and by diverting public funds to religious schools. With answers like those suggested by Newt, who needs problems?

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10/26/2011

Greece Limited By Euro Monetary Union

Although the U.S. Congress controls Fiscal Policy under an unlimited Constitutional power to tax and spend, and Monetary Policy through the Federal Reserve Bank and the ability to “coin money,” European Union states, such as Greece, who elected by treaty to adopt the Euro currency, are no longer able to use a national Monetary Policy to print money, or a Fiscal Policy to spend in excess of limits set by the European Central Bank.

European unification has been a work in progress since the 1950s when certain European states created a Common Market for the purpose of trading, under a system that allowed them to maintain their control of over national economics. A Customs Union was added in 1968 to abolish tariffs between the member states, and to establish a common tariff as against goods from the outside.

The existence of several currencies and a desire for a easier flow of capital led to a Monetary Union, which created a European Central Bank in Frankfurt, abolished German Marks, French Francs, and other currencies, and replaced them with the Euro in 2002, by making it the exclusive legal tender in Euro Zone states.

The problem with the Monetary Union is the lack of a Political Union to oversee it. Unlike the U.S., where all 50 states obey Washington DC on national matters, the EU is a collection of independent countries that happen to have a Central Bank. The EU Parliament cannot pass national legislation, like the Congress; they can only follow existing treaties, or propose new ones.

It is doubtful the recent European Monetary Union financial crisis will cause the independent countries of the EU to form one Political Union. It is more likely to have the opposite effect.

The problem is national governments like Greece already gave up aspects of national control under prior EU Treaties. When the Monetary Union was made, the EU Framers required the various national governments to coordinate their economies. National Debt, for example, was not to exceed 60% of GDP. Countries that previously used Monetary Policy were no longer able to do so, since these powers were transferred by treaty to the Central Bank.

National governments that previously spent their way out of recession, now had their Fiscal Policies controlled by the EU Central Bank, which imposed spending caps. Their Stability and Growth Pact (1997) required states to pursue balanced budgetary policies, and imposed sanctions against those that failed to adjust.

The European Central Bank has the authority under treaty law to restrict the democratic wishes of the Greek people and to operate without regard to political pressures. The risk is a renunciation of the EU Treaty by Greece, which may trigger others to follow, in a manner like South Carolina’s secession from the U.S. in 1861.

While the EU is not going to allow member states to default, the question is whether the Greeks will allow the Central Bank to reduce their jobs and pensions without a secessionist revolt, which Greeks may feel is their only option, since the Bank now controls their national Monetary and Fiscal policies, under the EU Treaty.

10/25/2011

Santorum Should Give Up Campaign

Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum should withdraw from the Republican presidential primaries, because he advances a foreign policy that promotes U.S. intervention abroad, offers no solutions to America’s economic problems, and would federalize social issues reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment.

MILITARY: Santorum, who had no objection to raising the Debt Ceiling, loves to waste money on the military. If President, he would use our exhausted troops as a force around the globe. In one debate, he said he would not close a single U.S. military base worldwide, under the false belief every one of them is essential.

911: The Senator demonstrated a lack of understanding in the debates as to why 911 occurred. He thought the hijackers only wanted to kill Americans, because “we stood for freedom.” Rick has a lot to learn, and is clearly is not ready for the White House.

MIDEAST: He would not remove any troops from the Iraqi region, saying he would fight to win and stay until we succeeded. Politicians like the Senator, who never served in the military, are quick to send someone else into battle, without a clue of an end game, or how success or victory could be achieved.

IRAN: Santorum constantly beats the dumb for war against Iran, even though they have not done anything since 1979 to deserve our criticism. He fails to understand why the Iranian students held Americans hostage in 1979. They knew the Shah had been installed by the American CIA in 1953, and when he fled in 1979, they wanted him back, so they could put him on trial for crimes he and his regime had committed. So they held Americans hostage with the hope they could be traded for the Shah. During one debate, Congressman Ron Paul had to explain to Santorum the Iranian rift with the U.S. actually began when we overthrew their leader in 1953, and then started interfering in their internal affairs.

ECONOMY: With respect to economic issues, Santorum pointed out a drop in manufacturing jobs from 21% to 9%, but offered no solutions. He objected to the successful loans made to keep the auto industry alive. He would have done nothing about the 2008 banking meltdown. He continues to oppose government action to do something about the housing and mortgage crisis. His plan is to abolish public sector unions. He thinks giving tax breaks to manufacturing is the only answer, as he would reduce corporate taxes from 35% to zero. He offered no solution to the health care crisis and would instead repeal Obama’s health care law. He supports privatizing Medicare under the Ryan Plan. He offers no answer to help ordinary people afford private health insurance.

SOCIAL ISSUES: Unlike President Kennedy, who was a left-of-center Catholic, Santorum is a right-wing conservative Catholic, who would interject his personal religious views in public policy.  He would outlaw abortion, and would order his Attorney General to criminally prosecute doctors who performed them. He would push gays back into the closet in the military by reinstituting “don’t ask don’t tell.” Although laws as to marriage and divorce have always been made at the state level, he would throw out the 10th Amendment, and would govern families from Wash. DC.

Santorum was badly beaten in a re-election bid in Pennsylvania, as the people of that state finally realized what he stood for. It is time for Santorum to give up his national campaign, and if he fails to do so, Republican voters must turn him away in their primaries.

10/22/2011

Turkey Takes Iraqi-Kurds Out of Way

Turkey’s Army crossed the border into Iraq on Oct. 19, 2011 to fight Iraqi-Kurds, because they had attacked and killed 24 Turkish soldiers in a raid staged on behalf of the Turkish-Kurd minority.

Although we hear about Kurds and a place called Kurdistan, the UN has no country by that name, and very few of us are aware of who the Kurds are, where they come from, or what they want.

Turks, Arabs, Persians, and Kurds are ethnic groups in the Middle East, who share a common Islamic religion, though some are in the Sunni Muslim branch, and others belong to the Shiite school.

The ethnic Kurds live in an area that spreads across Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Western Iran, and Northeastern Syria. Kurdistan was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1453-1918), until Britain seized it in WWI, and drew new borders that severed the Kurdish people into four countries. The Kurds resisted, as they fought for autonomy (1919-23), but the British Empire prevailed.

In Turkey, Turkish-Kurds made an early attempt to secede, but failed (1925). In Iraq, the Kurds fell under the control of the majority Arabs of the Sunni and Shiite Islamic faith. Since Britain created Iraq, the Arabs have refused to allow a separate Kurdistan, because the Kurds occupy the lands that have most of the oil.

After Iraq overthrew their king, a new 1958 constitution made the Kurds and Arabs equal partners, under a law that was to allow for an autonomous Kurdistan, but the dominant Arab Baath Party failed to deliver, causing the Kurds to launch a full-scale revolt (1962-64). The uprising ended with another pledge to create a separate Kurdistan, but yet another broken promise.

The Iraqi-Kurds used mortar attacks against the City of Kirkuk in 1969 to renew their struggle, until an amended constitution (1970) once more promised autonomy, but no change came. Iran, which had its own Kurdish minority, then started a surrogate war against Iraq, by feeding an Iraqi-Kurd insurrection (1971-74), which escalated into an Iraqi-Kurdish War (1974-75). The Iraqi Army shelled mountainous Kurdish towns, causing the Shah of Iran to open his borders to 250,000 fleeing Iraqi-Kurds. That war ended when Iraq cleverly convinced Iran to sign a treaty in which they jointly agreed to oppose their respective Kurd minorities (1975).

When Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq in 1979, he kept control over the oil fields of Kirkuk, by subduing the Iraqi-Kurds. As his fragile peace with Iran frayed, however, Iran encouraged Iraqi-Kurds to revolt, prompting the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). During this conflict, 60,000 Iraqi-Kurd served as guerillas in the fight against Iraq, while demanding a separate state. Hussein once and for all decided to demolish 1,276 Kurd villages, and to exterminate the Kurds with poisonous gases (1987-88). Although most of those asphyxiated were non-combatants, Hussein claimed a right to kill any insurgents who had been allied with Iran.

Following the Gulf War (1991), when Iraq was pushed back out of Kuwait, the Kurds seized another opportunity to revolt. But 700,000 of them ended up fleeing into the mountains, where American aircraft were needed to drop relief, under Operation Provide Comfort (1991). The U.S. also protected the Kurds by imposing a No-Fly Zone against Iraq, north of the 36th parallel.

Turkey subsequently launched an offensive against the Kurds, and helped Iraq, in the Iraqi-Kurdish Civil War (1994-97), by keeping the beleaguered Iraqi-Kurds from crossing the Turkish border.

When President Bush invaded Iraq in the Iraq War (2003), the Iraqi-Kurd minority finally thought the day had come for an independent Kurdistan, but Bush did nothing to create a new state, since the Shiite-Sunni Iraqi Arab majority and Turkey objected.

So today, it appears the Kurds will never have an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, or anywhere else, since the neighboring states will not agree, and the world will not intervene on the side of the Kurdish minorities. The best hope for the Kurds is for the Turks of Turkey, Arabs of Iraq, and Persians of Iran, to grant equality to their respective Kurdish minorities, so attacks by and against Kurds may finally come to an end.

10/20/2011

Libya Liberated: Obama Gets A Grade

(Editor’s Note: I wrote this story when Tripoli was taken 8-24-11, and reprinted it today, upon the capture and execution of Col. Gaddafi)

After seven months of fighting, the 42-year regime of Col. Gaddafi has been overthrown, and the Libyan people are now free to establish a democratic form of government. While the rebels obviously deserve the lion’s share of the credit, as they risked their lives, others are also entitled to recognition, including the UN, NATO, France, Britain, the U.S. and President Obama, as the fall of Qaddafi would not have happened without their support.

President Obama, for his part, earned excellent grades throughout, as he made correct decisions at every critical stage of the uprising.

When the rebellion started in March, 2011, Obama correctly recognized the rebels as the authentic voice of the Libyan people, and viewed Gaddafi as lacking legitimacy, as he took office in 1969 via a military junta, and not through a free and fair election.

Obama’s next decision was to intervene in an internal uprising. Since Libya had not invaded another country, Obama could have said it would be wrong under international law to meddle in their internal affairs, but he did not. For humanitarian reasons, he got involved. If he had done nothing, Gaddafi certainly would have annihilated the rebels.

Obama correctly ruled out U.S. ground forces. Although weapons would have to be used to remove Gaddafi, for a variety of reasons, the President correctly realized the rebels themselves would have to wage the fight. U.S. troops would have only allowed Gaddafi to rally Libyan people against the great infidel.

Obama also refused to act like a crazy Texas cowboy and go it alone. As an early policy decision, Obama set up a coalition of willing NATO partners, before taking any military action.

Obama’s imposition of a No-Fly Zone with our European allies was a smart move, as it saved the rebellious populations in the east from air attacks by Gaddafi and his henchmen. Taking control of the sky was an essential early step towards victory.

Obama’s next policy move was to secure legal authorization from the UN Security Council. A UN Resolution gave NATO the right to use military force to protect the civilian people and authorized the bombings that followed. If the U.S. had not taken the lead in this regard, Europeans would not have followed, or acted at all.

The subsequent decision to covertly arm the rebels with rifles, trucks and other weapons, even though there was an uncertainly as to what they stood for, was also a correct move, as it allowed them to advance from Benghazi in the east, to Tripoli in the west.

Although Obama did not request or obtain a formal Declaration of War from Congress, and arguably violated the War Powers Act by using American air power for over 60 days, (since the U.S. had not been attacked), the Republican-controlled House did not object, or defund the operation, and tacitly approved of it.

No American lives were lost in the operation to remove the regime of Col. Gaddafi, and Obama deserves credit for standing with the rebels, intervening against a 42-year dictator, wisely holding back on the use of U.S. ground troops, refusing to go it alone, using NATO, obtaining UN authorizations, pushing the Europeans to stand up and fight, imposing a No-Fly Zone, and covertly aiding the rebels with arms and technical assistance.

Hopefully, the Libyans will now take it from there, and will create a political system that limits their leaders to relatively short terms in office. Obama did his part. The rest is up to the Libyans.

10/19/2011

Republican Debate: Nevada (10-18-11)

The Republican Presidential candidates debated in Nevada.

DEFENSE SPENDING: Ron Paul said there is a lot of money in the military budget that does no good. We have an empire with 900 bases in 150 countries, and would be safer if we were not in so many places. Why keep troops in Korea, Japan, or Germany? We have more weapons than all other nations combined, Paul said, enough to blow up the world 20 to 25 times. Bachmann said defense spending should be on the table, but not 500 million. Gingrich would determine our threats, and calculate the cost of a response. Santorum would not cut a penny of military spending.

AFGHANISTAN: Ron Paul said the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan, because the Soviet Union was brought down by entering that country, and the same thing will happen to us.

FOREIGN AID: Romney said we spend more on foreign aid than we should, and we should let China do it, because it makes no sense to borrow from China to give aid to others. Paul would cut all foreign aid, including aid to Israel, saying the Constitution does not authorize it. Aid to Israel does not help, but only teaches dependency. We take from the poor, Paul said, and give to the rich in poor states. He said look at the aid we gave to Egypt. We spent billions pumping up a dictator, and yet they are hostile to us. Cain would give foreign aid to friends, like Israel, but not enemies. Bachmann opposed cutting foreign aid to Israel, since she believes they are our greatest ally.

ISRAEL: Bachmann incorrectly accused Obama of being the first president since Israeli independence to put daylight between our nations. (She never studied Eisenhower’s stand at Suez in 1956)

UN & PALESTINE: Perry thought it was a travesty for the Palestinian Authority to go to the UN to seek statehood. He asked why the U.S. is contributing to the UN. He would defund it.

LIBYA & IRAQ: Bachmann wants Libya and Iraq to reimburse us for the cost of bombing their countries. She wants our troops to have immunity for any and all wrongdoing committed in Iraq.

IRAN: Bachmann accused Iran of an attempted assassination on U.S. soil. The number one global issue, she said, is Iran and nuclear weapons. She called their leader a genocidal maniac, but offered no proof to back up her claim. Santorum also said our central threat is Iran. Neither candidate explained how or why they see Iran as a credible threat to the U.S.

TERROR: Paul said Reagan negotiated with Iranian terrorists for a return of hostages. Gingrich said Reagan made a mistake. Bachmann would not release anyone at Guantanamo. Can would not negotiate. Santorum would never negotiate, period.

WALL STREET: Cain had said: “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, and you are not rich, blame yourself.” He said Wall Street did nothing wrong; they did not spend a trillion for no good. Protesters should be in front of the White House, Cain said. Ron Paul accused Cain of blaming victims. He would protest in front of the Federal Reserve and in Washington. The bailout was supported by both parties, Paul said. They bailed out big corporations, who ripped off people in the derivatives market. They thought the world would end if we did not bail banks out. The middle class got stuck. Paul said if money was given out, it should have gone to people who lost their mortgages, not the banks. Romney called the protests dangerous class warfare, and said Obama is to blame over the past three years, as he says he has no idea how the private sector works.

HOUSING: Santorum said Romney, Perry, and Cain supported TARP. Cain said people on the top who took risks got bailed out in 2008, but the market should have been allowed to work. Perry wanted Congress to act, but did not want TARP. Santorum said Perry supported the particular TARP plan on the House floor. Romney said government should not give a couple thousand dollars to buy a new home, or to keep banks from foreclosing.

JOBS: Perry wants to focus on the 9% unemployed. Santorum said no more products “Made in America” hurts the middle class. Gingrinch wants America off food stamps and on paychecks. Romney said half the jobs created in Texas were filled by illegals.

IMMIGRATION: Texan Ron Paul said a fence is not the answer to illegal immigration. We worry more about the Afghan and Pakistan borders than our own, Paul said, and need to bring our National Guards home so they can guard our borders. Perry blamed the federal government for failing to secure the 1,200 mile Texas border, and for the huge number of illegals looking for jobs. Businesses who hire illegals ought to be penalized, Perry said. He does not want to repeal the 14th Amendment as to citizenship by birth. A fence could be built, Perry said, but it would take 15 years and 30 billion. He instead recommended strategic fencing where it matters, and predator drones to direct boots on the ground. Perry accused Romney of hiring illegals to work on his property, but Romney denied it, saying it’s hard to know if lawn care contractors employ illegals. When he learned they hired illegals, they were let go. Perry also accused Romney of offering amnesty to aliens. Romney said Perry was the one open to amnesty, and accused him of creating a magnet by giving aliens a $100,000 tuition credit, a practice that must end. We must stop employer magnets by enforcing E-Verify. Romney also said 4.5 million want to come here legally in an orderly way. He said Perry’s Texas had a 60% increase in illegal immigration, while California and Florida had none. Cain would build a fence and have it electrified. He would promote a path to citizenship, and shut the back door, so people could come in the front door. He wants to empower states. Bachmann accused Obama’s aunt and uncle of being illegal aliens. She took a pledge to build a wall, saying illegals cost 113 billion a year. She would also enforce English as the official language. She said they cross the border to have anchor babies and the welfare that come with it. Gingrich said to 50 million Latinos, not all of whom are illegal, that America is the most open nation to immigration in history.

ENERGY: Paul said it’s wrong for 49 states to dump nuclear garbage in Nevada. Romney said Nevadans should have the final say and not have it jammed down their throats.  He wants energy independence, using our own natural resources. France gets 70% of their energy from nuclear power, Perry said. He wants 1.2 million people working on energy. We shouldn’t rely on OPEC, saying we should be energy independent. We need not subsidize energy. Gingrich wants a safe way of take care of nuclear waste.

HEALTH CARE: Paul said we need more medical competition. Americans should be allowed to opt out of Obama’s health care. Bachmann said even the Obama Administration realized they cannot afford Long Term Care. Santorum said Obama failed to focus on the cost of health care, which is the real problem. He said Romney has no credibility, since Obama’s plan was basically his. Romney called Obama’s plan unconstitutional, which should be repealed, as it is a huge burden on the economy. He would turn Medicare over to the states. He said his plan for Mass. was not for the entire nation. The idea of the individual mandate came from Gingrich, Romney said. His state relied on private insurers. The uninsured got private not government insurance. When it comes to knowledge about health care, Romney said I am the doctor. Gingrich admitted supporting the individual mandate in opposition to Hillarycare, but the Heritage Foundation came up with the idea. He said a small business is Mass. is being ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 for not paying $750 month in premiums.

TAXES: Cain tried to defend his 999 tax plan, which would impose a 9% federal sales tax and repeal all tax breaks. He argued it would remove all hidden income taxes in goods and services, and was not a value-added tax, but a single tax, which was revenue neutral. He failed to convince anyone it would not raise taxes on those making the least. Bachmann, a tax lawyer, also wants to abolish the tax code, but said Cain’s 999 plan would destroy the economy. She warned if Congress was given a new sales tax, it would never go away. She argued it would be applied against products at every stage of production. Everyone should pay taxes, she said, even if it is only $1. Santorum said 84% of Americans would pay more under Cain’s plan, which eliminates all deductions and exemptions. Getting rid of deductions would mean those with home mortgages would pay more, and people with three children would pay the same tax as a single man. He favored cutting the tax rate for manufacturing to zero. Perry, whose state already has a 6.25% sales tax, said Nevada’s is 8%, and New Hampshire’s is 0%, but no state wanted a 9% federal sales tax; they want flatter and fairer taxes. Romney said to a cheering crowd, Nevada does not want a 9% federal sales tax on top of an 8% state sales tax.  Paul opposes Cain’s plan, because it is regressive and increase taxes. He would replace income taxes with nothing. Gingrich wants to reduce capital gains taxes to zero.

RELIGION: Perry disagreed with the pastor who said Mormonism is a cult. Romney said the Founders appreciated the Freedom of Religion. The Founders went to great length to create a nation with a Constitution that respected all.

10/18/2011

Bachmann Is No Commander-in-Chief

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is not fit to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, because she has no statewide, national, or worldly experience, little knowledge of international law, and several incorrect views on foreign policy.

While she opposed the military operation that President Obama successfully prosecuted in Libya, claiming no American interests were involved, she remains overly willing to engage in armed conflict in Iran, even though there is no evidence they are building a bomb, or pose any credible threat to the U.S.

Bachmann has obviously not studied Middle East history, because she criticized President Obama for suggesting a Palestinian peace plan that would require Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, and give up lands illegally occupied for 44 years.

Bachmann lives in the past, as she still sees Cuba as a sponsor of global militarism of the sort used during the Cold War, even though the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and Cuba no longer receives any weapons or instructions from Russia.

Bachmann incorrectly concludes the elimination of Osama bin Laden had something to do with our mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and worse yet, she shows little or no regard for the Geneva Conventions, and international law, as she thinks the U.S. somehow has a special god-given right to engage in torture.

Bachmann’s Evangelical religious views make her unqualified in an era when we need a President who will take on fundamentalist viewpoints all across the globe. We need one who believes no government should ever establish a religion. Bachmann’s problem is she would interject religion in politics, and not separate the two.

We need a President like Obama who supports democracy against the rule of tyrants, such as Gaddafi in Libya. Our next leader must not be a sucker for fabricated proofs of the sort that drew President Bush into Iraq. He must understand special interests are right now trying to trump up another phony case for war, this time against Iran. We need a candidate with courage to broker a peace in the Mideast, which means not blindly taking Israel’s side, but rather considering the views of the Palestinians. Our next leader must respect international law, and understand that if we torture, our soldiers will likely be subjected to do the same abuse.

Since Michelle Bachmann is not a person who will ever be fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief, the Republicans should not advance her cause any further. If they do, all Americans should be prepared to rally to her defeat, whether she runs in 2012 as a Presidential candidate, or as a Vice-Presidential sidekick.

10/17/2011

Uganda: Obama Fights the Lord’s Army

Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, that borders the Congo-Kinshasa (west), Southern Sudan (north), Kenya (east), and Rwanda and Tanzania (south), has just witnessed the arrival of special U.S. military forces sent by President Obama to execute Arrest Warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been fighting for decades near the Ugandan-South Sudan border.

Historically, Obama’s men are not the first Westerners to enter Uganda, as England sent explorers in 1862, Christian missionaries in 1875, and soldiers in 1894 to establish a British Protectorate. Afterward, more Englishmen arrived, as a 1,081-mile railroad was built through Kenya to the port at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.

Following independence in 1962, Uganda’s first president (1962-66) maintained relations with Britain and did business with them.

45 years of trouble started in 1966 when Milton Obote (1966-71), overthrew the government, abolished tribal kingdoms, and nationalized businesses. Relations with the outside were severed completely, as Uganda slipped into darkness, when a coup led by the infamous Idi Amin Dada (1971-79), seized control, dissolved parliament, outlawed political parties, and murdered troops loyal to Obote. Amin expelled British businessmen, and 70,000 Asians, who controlled most professions and industries. 300,000 disappeared during his reign of terror, which continued, until the Uganda-Tanzania War (1978-79) forced him into exile.

Outsiders stayed away when Obote returned in 1980, because he reinstated tribal favors, and triggered a civil war (1981-86), which sacrificed another 100,000. Political unrest continued, as a coup headed by Yoweri Museveni ousted Obote in 1985, and imposed one-party rule, fearing many parties would reignite tribal tension.

Although electoral stability returned in 1995, when a multi-party system was implemented, enabling Museveni to win elections in 1996, 2001, and 2006, the country became involved in external conflicts. As the Tutsi Tribe fled from neighboring Rwanda, they were permitted to set up bases in Uganda, from which they later launched the Rwandan Civil War (1990-93), prompting the UN to station observers along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

Uganda then intervened in the 1st Congo War (1996-98) and 2nd Congo War (1998-03) on the side of the Tutsi Tribe, because the Congolese leader was supporting the Rwandan Hutu Tribe. In the Democratic Rep of Congo v Uganda (2000), the International Court of Justice found Uganda violated the ban against unilateral force and the laws of war, when they entered the Congo, killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property.

Museveni’s Ugandan government remains engaged in a fight with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Christian group, based in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, whose leader, Joe Kony, has evaded an Arrest Warrant, issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, and has rejected a peace plan, because his opponents are not willing to dismiss the warrant.

Now, President Obama has intervened in Uganda with 100 Special Forces troops to assist in a kill or capture mission against Kony, an action authorized by the LRA Disarmament Act passed by Congress in 2009. If Obama succeeds in defeating the Lord’s Army, perhaps Uganda will finally move away from their 45-year history of tribal war, anti-Western feelings, civil war, military dictatorship, border area conflicts, adverse court rulings, and other problems, and may finally become a stable political democracy of the sort envisioned when independence was granted in 1962.

10/14/2011

Sales Tax: Cain’s Half-Baked Idea

Herman Cain, who is not a credible Presidential candidate since he has never held an elected office, was nevertheless allowed to participate in the Republican Debates, because they felt they needed a black face on stage. After Cain explained his 9-9-9 Plan, including a proposal to impose a 9% national sales tax, he remains too frightening to even consider for President, since his sales tax idea is regressive, and would hurt everyone, except the very rich.

The untested Cain would throw out the entire Federal Tax Code, including individual and corporate progressive income taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and individual and matching Social Security payroll taxes. He would instead implement a 9-9-9 plan, (if he could ever find a Congress to agree), which would establish a flat 9% income tax on corporations and individuals, and a 9% national sales tax.

His flawed plan is based in part on incorrect assumptions. In a recent debate, Cain thought individuals now pay 15.3% in Social Security Payroll Taxes, when in fact they only contribute 7.65%. It is the matching 7.65% employers pay that pushes the total up to 15.3%. He tried to suggest individuals would save 6%, since they would pay only 9%, instead of 15.3%. In fact, the cost of most goods for the unemployed would go up 9% under his sales tax, without any offset whatsoever.

A 9% National Sales Tax would be regressive and would fall disproportionately on the unemployed, and what remains of the working and middle classes. It would force Americans to pay a 9% tax on necessities, like food, clothing, and other essentials, and this would be on top of state sales taxes, typically 6% or so.

On the other hand, his plan would be a major windfall for the rich. At present, when someone dies, only those estates worth more than one million pay any federal taxes at all. Cain would completely abandon this source of revenue, which in recent decades has already been significantly depleted by Republicans.

He would also give away taxes on Capital Gains. When people work hard and actually earn money, they must pay taxes on their income. If someone is so rich they do not need to work, and can realize Capital Gains from investments, without working, Cain would completely excuse this source of income from taxation.

Cain’s plan would also substantially give away federal revenues from any person or corporation currently in Income Tax brackets above 9%. Once again, individual millionaires, and those corporations making millions or billions, would profit the most.

Cain would also gut Social Security Payroll Taxes. In one debate, he said he wanted to phase out the Social Security retirement system, the most popular government program ever invented. His tax plan would not phase it out; it would destroy it over night.

Perhaps the worst part of Cain’s ill-conceived 999 Plan, and his National Sales Tax, is the hypocrisy. While he wants revenues to equal spending, and opposes raising the national debt, he dries up the federal coffers, and yet supports our unfunded wars abroad.

Frankly, Cain’s plan is about as dumb as he is, as it would bankrupt the U.S. Treasury. Where do the Republicans find these Sarah Palin types? Why do they give them give them center stage? It is time to send Herman Cain back to the kitchen of his pizza place, where his time would be better spent throwing something other than his half-baked ideas into the oven.

10/13/2011

Myanmar: Prisoner Release a Good Move

Myanmar, an Asian country surrounded by Thailand (southeast), Laos (east), China (northeast), India (northwest), and Bangladesh (west), witnessed the release of political prisoners yesterday, in what appears to be a thawing in the brutal regime that has gripped the country for past several decades.

Historically, Myanmar was known as Burma. British-India captured Burmese coastal areas in 1826, and expanded into Rangoon and Lower Burma in 1853. After Britain annexed the rest of the country in 1886, they administered it from India. Burma became a separate colony, when it was severed from India in 1937. In WWII, the Japanese occupied Burma (1942-45).

As Burma gained total independence from Britain in 1948, they slipped into civil war (1948-51), which was not settled until the Karens Tribe was awarded a separate area (1954). The country then lost their grip on democracy in 1962, as 50 years of military rule began. Under the first military junta, one ruler presided for the next 26 years (1962-88), 750,000 Indians were returned to India in 1965, when their businesses were nationalized. By 1970, 50,000 guerillas were fighting the government from Thai bases.

The second tragic episode in Burmese history commenced when another military junta deposed the first in 1988, causing things to go from bad to worse. Burma renamed itself Myanmar in 1989, as a hard-liner became Head of State and imposed Martial Law. Opposition leaders were put under House Arrest. When the junta lost the 1990 election in a landslide, they refused to step down, prompting 200,000 to demonstrate for democracy, and the regime to torture and kill pro-democracy activists. 160,000 were moved into resettlement areas in 1990, as many others fled to Thailand.

The West finally stepped up pressure against the brutal government in the past decade, as sanctions were imposed by the U.S. in 2003. Following the suppression of protests by Buddhist monks in 2007, the Red Cross accused Myanmar of abuse, prompting the EU to impose sanctions. Despite these measures, relief was delivered in 2008, after a cyclone had killed 80,000.

Although elections were held in 2010 for the first time in two decades, they were labeled fraudulent by the West, because a key opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was not released from House Arrest, until one week after the balloting. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party won 80% of the seats, and in March 2011, their leader, Thein Sein, who had retired from the military in 2010, became the first civilian President in 50 years.

Perhaps Myanmar is now finally moving in the right direction with civilian leadership, and the release yesterday of political prisoners. The world can only wait and see if they are now on track towards serious political change, or if the past practices of the repressive regime will continue.