The Audacity To Be Great

Greatness is a rare quality.  Of 44 presidents only a handful have achieved greatness:  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR and John Kennedy.  The first three had it forced upon them through circumstance, mostly war, while Kennedy achieved greatness by turning an entire country around in just a thousand days and setting the stage for LBJ’s Great Society reforms.  The 1960’s were the last real decade of progress in America and we have regressed ever since the Reagan Revolution began turning back the clock.  Greatness is an immense responsibility and I believe Barack Obama is possessed of it though he seems unwilling to embrace it.  The man has the capability, the qualities, the capacity to be another great, transformative figure in American history but he seems unwilling to embrace it and run forward.  His campaign promised greatness and his avid supporters certainly anticipated him being a great president.  

Perhaps it is the inexperience of only several years as a Senator and being thrust into the “fierce urgency of now” or perhaps it is simply the weight of the office and dealing with new and constant crises and issues daily.  Bringing the nation back from the precipice of depression required greatness but then he slid into the mire of a badly managed health care debate.  Finding greatness in peacetime (and to most Americans, in spite of two wars this is peacetime) is more difficult than dealing with a revolution, a civil war or a world war.  Greatness is normally something men rise to because of circumstances.  Today’s circumstances again provide fertile ground for greatness.  

We are coming off an era of Republican mismanagement which has resulted in chaos:  the rich have gotten richer while the poor have expanded exponentially and the middle class shrunk until our economy cannot take any further debt.  I mean consumer debt, trade debt and budget debt.  The GOP strategy of starving the federal government with debt has worked because are actually considering dismantling our essential social safety nets Social Security and Medicare.  This was the goal of Republicans since the New Deal and the plan began under Reagan with these massive federal deficits.  

Barack Obama faces the burden of explaining how these failed policies threaten the nation.  He must restore the tax rates on the wealthiest among us to their pre-1980 levels and cut the vastly bloated defense budget rather than the GOP goal of gutting Social Security and Medicare.  Difficult decisions demand greatness and today we must have greatness to preserve democracy, restore freedoms and balance our financial condition following recovery from this economic collapse.  Much must be done and it will require great leadership.  The President cannot sit back and allow Congress to take the lead, we need strong, capable, inspiring leadership.  The times demand it just as they have over our storied history.

Some men cannot escape their destiny.  I believe the fierce urgency of now which propelled Sen. Obama to seek this leadership mantle requires he step up and provide the great leadership these times demand.  Without it the country is rudderless.  Steering a course through turbulent waters requires a great captain, a great crew and a plan for navigation.  We know where we must go, we have a courageous crew in the American people and we must now find the political will and courage to venture forth on the journey.

Will President Obama step up and embrace the fierce urgency of now?  Only if we, the people, demand it of him.  We, the people must also remember the words of President Kennedy who reminded us “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”  What can you do?  re-engage in the process.  Sitting by while those working to stop progress, to stall progress, to enshrine the limits on our rights and freedoms enacted during the previous Administration cannot be tolerated.  You worked hard and loyally to bring Sen. Obama into office but that is when the real work began.  It did not end on November 4, 2008.  You simply cannot sit idly by and allow other forces to undermine what you fought to achieve.  Greatness never occurs in a vacuum it has to be attained and it has to be borne by all of us so the weight is shared. I believe Barack Obama has it in him to be a great President but only if we demand it of him.  That part is up to you.

Remembering Those Who Served

Today we commemorate Memorial Day when we set aside one day to remember those who served the nation in wartime.  America has a long history of conflicts, some justified and some not but those who served did so because they were called or had a calling.  I often see bumper stickers saying “freedom isn’t free” but it is.  The Continental Congress met and drafted a Declaration on July 4, 1776 declaring all white, male property owners to be free men.  Since then we have expanded that to all people (though some are more free than others and are quite vocal about claiming they aren’t) and it didn’t cost anything to make that declaration of rights.  Preserving freedom is what isn’t free.

The Revolutionary War freed thirteen colonies from the oppression of a corporatist state and unbound the chains of British corporations which settled our new world.  The Civil War preserved the union of those states and freed an entire race of people for whom greed and plunder were their chains.

Two world wars preserved freedom for tens of millions while enslaving others under tyranny.  Americans served in all of these conflicts and I had ancestors who fought in all of them.  Patrick O’Rourke charged up into Devils Den at the battle of Gettysburg to save the position from charging Confederates and died on the spot.  Today there stands a monument to his heroism.  My father served in the Navy during World War II on the destroyer USS Chateau Thierry convoying transports across Atlantic seas infested with German submarines.

Today I remember my own relatives who fought and died and remember we’re all still here, still free (to whatever extent freedom remains after GW Bush) because of their efforts and those of every other man or woman who served.  Freedom is free until it is threatened.  Today we remember those who paid the price to preserve it at those critical times.

Who in your family tree served and how do you remember them today?

Israeli Forces Murder Gaza Aid Relief Workers

Israeli Defense Force sailors intercepted, boarded and took control of six aid vessels headed to Gaza in a convoy sponsored by Turkey killing ten people.  The action in international waters is the latest outrage by an out of control, rogue nation bent on destroying Palestinians.   Once the subject of genocide themselves Jews in Israel now seem hell bent on perpetrating similar atrocities on Palestinians.  When will American Jews wake up to what is happening, what their dollars are financing in this horrible oppression?  U.S. aid to Israel is funding much of the blockade of Gaza which is starving men, women and children and resulting in rocket attacks on Israeli settlements.  Until Israel stops building settlements in captured territory which is not part of its nation violence will continue.  This attack on humanitarian workers seeking to bring aid to a starving and oppressed people is outrageous and should be condemned by all who value peace and justice.

Israel: A Terrorist State?

Well today the answer to that question would be a resounding “yes”. Israel has committed an act of piracy and terrorism by attacking a flotilla of humanitarian vessels carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli commandos landed on six foreign-flagged vessels in international waters and murdered at least 10 of the people (unconfirmed reports of higher numbers are starting to come in). They then towed the ships to ports in Israel and have kidnapped and detained all the passengers including U.S. Citizens.

They now want to claim that there were small knife-type weapons (and are now Twittering that a few pistols were found) on the ships and that the flotilla was populated by violent people. Yet I notice that no commandos were killed by these, so-called “violent” people.

Israel landed military forces in international water on foreign flagged ships…did they not expect the people on board to fight back against an act of piracy??

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed regret for the deaths but blamed the violence on organizers of the flotilla, calling the effort a “political provocation” by anti-Israel forces.

And so now Israel responds to “political provocation” with military action in international waters??? Where is THAT written in international maritime law?

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said soldiers were forced by violent activists to respond with live fire.

Israeli forces did not belong on those ships to begin with General! They were in international waters! If armed assailants board my ship in international waters I certainly have the right to defend myself, my passengers, my crew and my ship you great pillock! What the hell is wrong with you? What did you expect them to do…shove flowers in your guns and sing Kumbaya??

And since when is delivering cement, building materiale and olive trees such a horrible thing that it deserves a military response?

I am waiting on an email about the details of the supplies.

Israel consistently steps over the line , violating international laws (falsifying passports using foreign national information to carry out an assassination, white-phosphorous bombs in the latest Gaza incursion, now this) and people shrug. Israel needs to hear a message that this type of illegal behaviour is just not acceptable.

CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at: mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at: feedback@mfa.gov.il

It wouldn’t hurt to contact the State Department, the U.N. the White House and your Senators and Representatives.

UPDATE:

It seems that Greek Cypriot authorities prevents 30 MP’s from 9 European nations from boarding the flotilla. They also ordered a halt to the departure of ANY small boats after the flotilla left in order to prevent the MP’s from joining the flotilla in international waters.

It almost seems, to a suspicious mind, that the Greek Cypriots knew there was going to be a military response to the flotilla and the people might get killed.

I can’t help[ wonder if there would have been such a response if the Members of EU Parliament were onboard the flotilla.

The Audacity to Hope Anymore

There was a time when so many of us in the population, after years of hopelessness, felt inside that we could finally make real change and it unfortunately passed. I remember when I first heard the first black U.S. Senator from Illinois. It all started when I was watching my daily bit of morning news on CNN sometime around 2005-2006. I was feeling discouraged about Bush pulling off getting a second shot at destroying democracy, but I was otherwise nonpolitical. I could see things just get harder, from being able to pay for college to maintaining full time hours at work. I felt like everytime Bush said something on TV it seemed like as if a third-grade just handed like lines to read off paper on color crayons and he read it word for word mindlessly. Nothing he said made sense and it seemed like the President of the United States lost the respectability that was a given to the position. All of a sudden, I started to hear from this “young and up-and-comer” that made such a stir at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with his keynote speech there. The talking heads were all asking, “Who is this man?” I started talking to my friends about it and next thing I know I was reading his Audacity of Hope book.

Sen. Barack Obama sounded like he had such a reasonable head on his shoulders and he was down-to-earth. I was amazed about his multicultural background and some of the ideas that he brought up in his book were very positive and noteful of underrepresented and underemployed Americans in their humble situations. He did bring up trying to sow the red and blue divide, but her also spoke of how ‘good’ government could have a place to represent the needs and protections of everyday Americans, regardless of class. Obama also mention about breaking through the Washington games and tactics. His speeches that I accessed online were almost pastoral, bringing visceral excitement and energy back into our hearts and souls towards wanting to improve our country again. After I watched them, I realized that it nearly brought me to tears! I’ve never had a reason before to think and look after things bigger than myself before and the motivation was so compelling I felt I could walk with him to the ends of the earth.

From there I became an active observation everyday, from watching the inception of his beginning campaign starting at the town hall in Springfield, Illinois, the same place that Lincoln read his address to when he surpassed his ‘rock star’ status and became a serious challenger to the presidency with his upset primary win in Iowa in 2007. I cheered at every win, jeering back at all the people that once told me at the begining that it wasn’t a good time for a black man to run for the presidency; even before, African Americans knew his face and name!

During the 2 year primary battle between him, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich, I had a hard time with holding true to then Sen. Obama with so many “great” candidates to look at. It got to the point where it depended on who said what to who to decide who to stick with, and it was a frustrating and mind-boggling experience. But again, Obama prevailed, and by the general election, I fought all the right-wing, racist spin and reactionary fear-mongering they churned up to stop the Obama train. I even worked for the Obama campaign for last-minute door-to-door canvassing for the change that America was desperately needing after 8 horrible years of the Bush Administration.

I worked the local polls with keeping the long lines (that wrapped around the block)going and keep people voting well into the night. I remember getting back the results and jumping into the air, giving hugs and getting exhilarated at the thought of America achieving the accomplishment of finally having the first black president in my lifetime!!! After the parties, the drinks, the celebration and the exuberance of his victory finally passed, I patiently waited for the progressives to reveal their next move to work against the still-sitting CEO-in-chief’s attempts to circumvent the Constitution until then President-elect Obama could officially be sworn in.

We all counted the days, even the other country leaders did as well, on what he was going to do when he got into office to change things around. Then President-elect Obama even preemptively received the Medal of Honor to anticipation of the change of Washington we were all waiting for. By the time his inauguration came, that was attended by millions, and the months after the high started to slowly go and the balloon started to deflate. We started getting new stories of our new Commander-in-Chief/Nobel Peace Prize winner deciding to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, signing off to predator-drone strikes during his first few months in office.

I remember trying to tell myself there had to be a perfectly good explanation as to why he was allowing TARP funds to go out to the big banks without any strict protections that would provide that the wealthy management firms would  open up credit to small businesses, homeowners being foreclosed on and students receiving loans for their college education. But then, I started to see that AIG and Citibank were receiving massive amounts of taxpayer money in a Marie Antoinette fashion to use for their executives’ own bonuses repeatedly and Main Street got left to fall apart.

Millions of job were continuously shed and there was no representation or change that we were promised to receive during his campaign. I desperate clung onto the idea that there was something going on that I didn’t understand and that somehow it wasn’t President Obama’s fault about it. But when I noticed that the only job created around me were construction jobs, not the “clean energy” jobs that he promised, that my friends and I were slowly losing our jobs from under us, that unemployment benefits and the safety nets were the first to be cut from even the middle class to access when they lose their white-collar jobs, I finally realized in a rude awakening that I wasn’t getting the Change that I could believe in. That I was much poorer than I was before the election, and that he was more concerned with chatting with the Wall Street cronies that gambled and lobbied for deregulation until our economy exploded and they received all the taxpayer money in their bonuses like it was entitled to them.

Now, a year into his presidency, we now have 39 days-worth of an off-shore oil drilling disaster in our oceans near the Gulf of Mexico by the oil company, BP, that he allowed to be initiated on his watch instead of the clean energy jobs he promised us and the new nuclear power plants that he’s building with taxpayer money that are the first in 30 years to be constructed since the Three Miles Island nuclear crisis of 1978.

I’m now suffering from the withdrawals of excitement of Hope and Change happening under his watch. Unfortunately, that is not the case, it’s all turning into disappointment. So, now, I’m learning that Change isn’t going to happen from a politician, it has to happen through us, the consensus. We have to demand for it to happen, and that is something that has happened at every junction when we had a great political leader.

The hard work never stopped at the election. Even though, President Obama is disappointing all of us, we have to realize that it is our responsibility to remind him of what he was elected and mandated to do. We must say engaged and hold his clay feet to fire of democracy, empathy and social justice. Hopefully, we can take this heartbreak from this lesson and do what we had needed to do to clean up the mess that George Bush has left for us to tackle. If we want a great leader, we must make a great leader out of him by demand him to do great things.

Oily Politics Led to Environmental Disaster

by Walter Brasch

           Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) had a good idea to slow or stop the Gulf Coast oil spill from reaching shore. Build artificial barrier islands, he told the federal government. He wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River to strengthen and connect the existing barrier islands. The $350 million plan, which Jindal demanded be paid for by BP Oil, would establish an 80-85 mile barrier, about 200 feet wide and six feet high. The barriers would also protect the marshlands, the federal wildlife preserves, and a fragile ecosystem.

           When the federal government didn’t respond, he threatened to have Louisiana do the job itself, and had his attorney general notify the Corps of Engineers that under the 10th Amendment the state had a right to protect itself during an emergency. After two weeks of discussion and analysis by the Corps, President Obama ordered the first of six islands to be built. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, the on-scene commander, said the first island would be a prototype; if it worked, five more would be built.  Jindal wants 24 islands, but believes the first six are a good start.

           The oil spill, more than 200,000 gallons a day and entering its sixth week, is now the size of Delaware and Maryland combined. Eleven workers are dead, 17 are injured, from the explosion of BP’s Deep Water Horizon, April 20. Several hundred thousand marine mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have been killed by the spill. Even those oil-soaked birds and mammals that hundreds of volunteers have helped clean may be only days from death. About 34,000 Brown Pelicans, recently taken off the endangered species list, and seagulls continue to dive through the oil-soaked ocean to get to the food supply. Thousands of migratory birds, during a two to three week rest in the Gulf Coast barrier islands on their flight north from South America, are dying. Sea Turtles, manatees, and dolphins still need to come up through the oil slick for air; eye irritations are the least of the problems they encounter. For about 5,000 dolphins, this is also their birthing season; mothers who survive may have oil on their teats; their calves may die from lack of nutrition or from ingesting the oil. The affected areas of the Gulf are also the spawning grounds for tuna, marlin, and swordfish. Even the fish, which may survive by staying below the spill, are affected by the oil. The coral reefs are being destroyed by the oil and what is needed to be done to break up that oil. More than 700,000 gallons of chemical dispersants, used to help break up the oil, add to the destruction of the balance of nature. Its toxicity may affect sea life for at least a decade.

 The $2.5 billion fishing industry, a major part of the life of the Gulf, has been devastated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed about 46,000 square miles of fishing fields, about one-fourth of all fishing waters in the Gulf. The lucrative shrimp, oyster, and clam industries are not only closed, but the effects will last for more than one season. Boat captains and their crews are idle. Tourism at the beginning of what is normally a lucrative summer season is almost non-existent.

           Had the barrier islands been in place several years ago, the effects of the spill would have been significantly less. Erosion, combined with deep water oil drilling long before the Horizon explosion, had destroyed natural barrier islands and wetlands. A $14 billion proposal by the Corps of Engineers, supported by Louisiana, environmentalists and the oil industry to restore the area levees, wetlands, and barrier islands was rejected by President George W. Bush. Both he and Vice-President Dick Cheney, former oil company executives, were more concerned about protecting the oil industry than the people who would be affected by Big Oil.  Besides, they had a war to wage in Iraq, and $14 billion was too much to spend on domestic protections.

           Much of the $100 billion damage from Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, was not from the wind and rain but from the failure to provide adequate protection.

           It is that same protection, those same barrier islands that were destroyed by the oil industry years ago, that would have significantly slowed or stopped the nation’s worst environmental disaster, one caused not by nature but the incompetence of mankind.

           “Drill, Baby, Drill” was once an in-our-face slogan of certain politicians and the oil industry that feeds them. It is now but a reminder that when mankind destroys the environment, there will be tragic consequences.

           [For more information about the barrier islands as protection for the environment, read Walter Brasch’s critically-acclaimed book, ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, available at amazon.com and other bookstores.]

News & Notes May 29, 2010

As we enjoy this Memorial Day weekend let’s remember those who have served our nation in wars, both foreign and domestic.  These people didn’t ask to be sent to war but fought because our leaders either chose to do so or were forced to do so.  They served with honor and distinction and they deserve our gratitude.

Why is it Pennsylvania has the worst drivers around?  I’m so fed up with bad drivers, inconsiderate drivers and reckless drivers.  I think it is because we have little effective traffic enforcement because we rely so much on the Keystone Kops who are overburdened and have few, if any, resources to enforce traffic laws.  The result is people who routinely run stop signs, red lights, tailgate, speed and refuse to yield the right of way.  It’s dangerous out there and the loss of property damage and severity of personal injuries cost far more than effective police protection would.  Yesterday I was terrorized by yet another company vehicle (Spayd’s Greenhouses) whose driver had no regard for my or anyone else’s safety while driving a truck with the company name plastered all over.  By the way the Ace of Sweeps trial is set for July 6th.

One of the things I appreciate about Santa Fe is the politeness and friendliness of its drivers.  They refuse to go through an intersection until you, the pedestrian, exercise your right of way and cross.  Here pedestrians don’t even have the right of way unless it is posted.  Here drivers will run you over as soon as look at you if they look at all.

Jim Gerlach voted against the Defense Appropriations Act and Manan Trivedi let us know about the vote.  I can think of two reasons Gerlach might have done so, one legitimate and one not.  Since the bill contains the repeal of DADT did Congressman Gerlach vote against defending our country rather than allow LGBT people to serve openly and honestly or did he do so because of the hugely bloated Pentagon budget?  The DoD appropriations bill has doubled since Bush took office in 2001 and that isn’t including the cost of two wars.  If we really want to get serious about cutting the deficit the Pentagon is the first place to go.

I continue to be astounded about the lies coming from BP.  Tony Heyward couldn’t tell the truth if he were waterboarded.  Perhaps we should torture these BP executives with water from the Gulf.  Mother Jones has an eye opening article about it here  and here are two videos of former EPA investigator Scott West:

West investigated BP after a massive spill in Alaska and knows how dangerously this company cut costs at the expense of safety.  What might happen if a hurricane comes into the Gulf and moves all this oil soaked water inland?  The Bush Administration cut off the EPA investigation and allowed BP to get off with little more than a slap on its wrist.  There has been no accountability, no personal responsibility on the part of these corporate criminals, for their crimes.  The Gulf disaster is the logical and expected result of such failure.

President Obama is visiting Pittsburgh next Wednesday to speak at Carnegie Mellon University.  I cannot cover this event and am searching for someone in that area to do so for the blog.  If you are interested contact me at PAprogressive(at)Gmail(dot)com.

Jacy Good was severely injured just a few miles from my home on her way home from graduation at Muhlenberg College in Allentown when a distracted driver ran a stop sign and and resulted in their car slamming into an oncoming truck.  Both of her parents were killed and Jacy was in a coma for some time.  Now she is a crusader for a tough distracted driving law in Pennsylvania.  The bill is in Harrisburg but the Republican State Senate watered it down considerably last week.  By a vote of 44-3 they said police can only stop and ticket a driver for texting, talking on a cell phone, doing make-up, reading a newspaper or other reckless behavior after they have killed someone like the Goods.  Jacy, as we all should, thinks any distracted driver is dangerous and should be stopped before they kill someone, not after.  We all see these reckless drivers every day.  They are part of what make our roads and highways so dangerous and Pennsylvania drivers so poor at this task.  Its time to pass a tough law not one which is watered down.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has launched a new website exposing Pat Toomey.  We had Ed O’Neil on Democratic Talk Radio May 20th and he still has voluminous files on Toomey from his two Congressional campaigns against him in the 15th District.  The Sestak campaign needs to contact Ed for his extensive knowledge about Toomey.

White House Details Sestak Offer

The White House released details of the job offer provided to Congressman Joe Sestak in exchange for his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate primary against Arlen Specter.  Republicans have been trying to make hay out of this since Sestak was first asked a question in an interview about getting any offers to drop out.  He answered truthfully with a simple “yes” and since then accusations of impropriety and have been raised by Republicans for whom this was SOP in the Bush White House.  Where was their outrage when Karl Rove was making deals like this constantly?

According tot he White House Rahm Emmanuel got Bill Clinton to approach Sestak about keeping his Congressional seat but also getting an unpaid, high level position on a presidential commission for which he was qualified in return for dropping out.  Because the proposed position was unpaid nothing illegal was offered or proposed.

I’m not sure why the White House thought Joe would accept such a minimal offer.  He entered the primary race so Democrats would have an actual Democrat for which to voter last week.  Remaining in his Congressional seat and accepting an unpaid position which did nothing but raise his profile accomplished none of his goals.  Those goals were to represent Pennsylvanians in the Senate so they would have an actual Democratic representative there voting for the interests of working people.  Arlen Specter showed over 30 years that he wasn’t that person.  The White House offer is shocking only in that it was so insignificant.  

Using intermediaries is a time honored tradition when high ranking people seek to better organize primary races and fill out their fields of candidates.  It is an important function of Party Chairs to do this actually and it is done routinely.  How often do we see elections where there may be three candidates for one slot and none for others?  It happens all the time and is a sign of a bad Party Chair.  Good Chairs speak with the candidates, determine the strongest and try to convince the others to run for other open seats.  In this case the White House wanted to keep Specter in the Senate and Sestak in the House and sought a solution.  The fact their offer wasn’t grounded in reality, didn’t take into account the Congressman’s reasons for running or the reasons so many Democrats were urging him to run, and was quite insignificant meant, perhaps, they weren’t all that serious.  Maybe it was an attempt to make it appear they were trying to help Specter but not so committed as to make a serious offer, something like Secretary of the Navy.

The release of the details actually boosts Sestak because it shows he is a man of integrity who cannot be bought off even by the President.  That illustrates his independence from the White House and reminds us he didn’t back away from or attempt to elude a difficult question.  When asked he gave an honest answer.  It wasn’t his duty to provide details and he was most likely unaware of them anyway.  This was the White House’s duty to explain what was done, how and why.

Update:  The details released by the White House (they sent me a copy so I’m using that as my basis for this article) say no offer to be SecNav was ever given and never considered because that post was filled even before Specter switched parties.  The efforts to convince him not to run happened in June and July of 2009.  He was offered, By former President Clinton, a role in Executive Branch Advisory Boards for which he was eminently qualified due to his 31 years of service in the Navy.

Update II:  Joe Sestak released this statement today:

“Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton.  During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.  He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no.  I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.

“There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.  I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.”

The Bush Legacy: Recession, Korea, Massey Energy, BP

I recall discussions during the last presidential election about how long it would take to restore good government, repeal George W. Bush’s disastrous policies, retake America’s position in the world and simply repair the damage done by deregulation.  Bush’s reckless foreign policy created the monsters in North Korea and Iran, created a business climate which began killing miners and other workers by installing foxes to guard the henhouses, slashed the budgets of countless government agencies charged with regulating businesses and protecting the public, dismantled the EPA, OSHA and other agencies and pursued reckless rhetoric which made the world far more dangerous.

We continue reaping the results of Bush’s follies.   War is about to break out on the Korean peninsula and it can traced directly back to three reckless words:  axis of evil.  When President Bush uttered that phrase in a SOTU address then followed it up with by invading Iraq he sent an indelible message to the other countries cited:  you are next.  Iran and North Korea then greatly accelerated their nuclear programs as a deterrent and we’re in the mess we find oursleves now.  

Massey Energy’s total refusal to comply with laws and regulations are the result of Bush’s policy of allowing mining companies carte blanche.  This may be more a Cheney legacy but Bush was President and owns the disaster.  Cheney favored total deregulation of all energy and mining operations and we witnessed mine disaster after mining disaster.  The BP oil spill is a direct result of BushCo’s refusal to do anything to regulate the industry.  Instead they literally got in bed with the oil industry, shared drugs, porn and gifts and now we have a catastrophic disaster.  BP’s CEO seems incapable of speaking without lying and President Obama needs to take a more public role in leading efforts to make them accountable.

Republican economic policies directly led to the unregulated derivatives trading which turned Wall Street into a giant casino only Vegas would envy and destroyed the global economy when its house of cards collapsed.  Sen. Phil Gramm led this effort for the GOP (and was aided by some corporate Democrats) but it was the GOP economic ideology which has led to the recession and the massive budget deficits.

You cannot blame these disasters on Barack Obama as much as you might try:  they are all the direct results of the failed Bush Administration.  It will take years to roll back all of the reckless and disastrous policies of the past eight years.  Having one disaster after another soming home to roost from them makes it even more difficult.

House Repeals DADT

The House of Representatives voted last night to repeal the failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  It has failed because it has failed us on a national security level.  When thousands of military personnel, including key linguists, are summarily dismissed simply for being open and honest about who they are this policy fails all of us.  The amendment passed on a vote of 234-194.  Congressman Patrick Murphy was the point man for achieving this success and this accomplishment is a feather in his cap.  His statement last night:

“Tonight, Congress took a historic step toward repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and toward ensuring that every American has the same opportunity I did to defend our nation,” said Rep. Murphy. “Patriotic Americans willing to take a bullet for their country should never be forced to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. I will not rest until the repeal of this discriminatory policy that hurts national security is signed into law.”

In his floor speech he quoted former Air Force Sgt. David Hall:  “I assure you I am fit for military duty,” Hall told Congressman Murphy. “Please stop discharging patriotic Americans who just want to serve the country they love.”

Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi issued this statement shortly after the vote:

“I applaud fellow Iraq War veteran, Congressman Patrick Murphy for the courage to push forward his amendment allowing for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today in the House of Representatives.  This policy has cost our nation so much since it was enacted in 1994.  Over 14,000 highly motivated and skilled servicemembers have been released from the military as a result of the policy, and a 2005 report by the GAO estimates that taxpayers have spent $1.2 billion in the process of investigation, termination, and the training of replacements as a result of this policy.

“When we crossed into Iraq in 2003, we never once looked to our left or right and worried about someone’s sexual orientation, their race, gender, religion or otherwise.  The only thing that mattered to us was whether or not each of them were prepared and able to perform their duties and complete the mission.

“As we move into the Memorial Day weekend, I honor every single American who has stood up to serve and has paid the ultimate price out of one simple ideal; love for their country.”

Manan Trivedi served in the Iraq War as a Battalion Surgeon with the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment Marine Corps Infantry Battalion as an officer in the U.S. Navy.  He is also the Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District.

I applaud the House for finally acting on this heinous policy and establishing policy which lead to a time when all Americans can serve equally and honorably.  I salute Congressman Murphy for his courage in leading the charge on this issue.  He makes us all proud.