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Second Stimulus – What Ended the Depression?

September 30th, 2009

There’s been a lot of shouting since the end of summer and name-calling in the Capitol. On the outside, meanwhile, respected economists say a second stimulus (including healthcare reform) is necessary to pull us out of this ‘Great Recession.’

Nevertheless, Republican leaders say the President is “bankrupting America,” that we can’t possibly spend any more, borrow any more.

Let’s look at some facts; about calamitous crashes and the climbs back out of them.

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Great Recession Unemployment: Since December 2007, employment has fallen by 6.9 million. As of August 2009, 14.3 million people were unemployed. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]

Great Depression Unemployment: At the height of the Depression in 1933, 12.8 million people were unemployed. [Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum]

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Obama Stimulus Cost: $816 billion over ten years (2009-2019). Jobs saved/created: 1.5 million as of the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2009. And an estimated 3.5 million as of this time next year.

New Deal Cost: (adjusted for inflation) $500 billion over six years (1933-1939). Over the course of the New deal, the government created jobs for more than 8.5 million people. Still, millions remained unemployed.

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WWII Cost: $5 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars, 16.1 million enlisted; 406,000 died.

Instead of unemployment, we had a labor shortage. But it took a war to do it.

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“The New Deal brought jobs and relief to millions of Americans. It did not, however, end the depression. The depression ended because of World War II. During the war the nation’s economy was devoted to the production of weapons and other materials necessary to win the conflict.” [Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute]

The point of all this is to show that, in a catastrophic emergency, we have the capacity to do whatever it takes to save our nation. As patriots, as citizens, as human beings, we have to believe it is worth saving.

So, which would you rather have; a second stimulus to create jobs for the 14 million citizens out of work? Or another massive war with hundreds of thousands of deaths?

The choice is up to you.

Call 202/224-3121 and tell your members of Congress which one you prefer.

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Oh, and the ‘bankrupt’ idea didn’t seem to come up when the previous administration was on these two spending sprees:

The bailout of the banks: after 30 years of the conservative ‘Reagan Revolution’ that ripped up regulations and let the bankers run free: $700 billion and no jobs for ordinary folks.

Iraq War Cost: $3 trillion and 4,344 deaths (as of 9/15/09).

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That ‘Big Crowd’ Photo of the Anti-Obama Crowd? Fake.

September 17th, 2009

Oh what fools we mortals be…

The roar and riot and political rot of those who would ‘Bury Obamacare with Kennedy’ (an actual sign from the ‘protest’) seems to have gotten carried away with their organizers’ attempts to dissemble and deceive. Not only did one of their ilk disrespect the entire nation during our Presidents’ address to a Joint Session of Congress, but the various right-wing organizers of the event widely circulated an alleged photograph of their little ‘uprising.’

According to the political fact-checking site, politifact.com:

“Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, said the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. But the day of the rally, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

“‘It was in no way an official estimate,’ he said.

“We asked Piringer whether there were enough protesters to fill the National Mall, as depicted in the photograph.

“‘It was an impressive crowd,’ he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, the crowd ‘only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,’ he said.

“Yet the photograph so widely posted showed the crowd sprawling all the way to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

“There’s another problem with the photograph: It doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the ‘tea party’ crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

“Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, ‘The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.’

“It appears that the photo was actually taken in 1997 at a rally for Promise Keepers, a group for Christian men.”

Don’t you hate nasty facts? They always seem to get in the way of deceitful propaganda.

Well, our President’s no fib-teller. And he needs our support. Go to BarackObama.com and see what you can do to make his vision for change a reality. He needs you; our country needs him; and this moment is too important to our nation’s history for us to allow it to pass without his agenda achieved.

As he said when he arrived, “Let’s get to work!”

The President at Wakefield

September 9th, 2009

Has there been anything as unreal as the enormous row — created by the far right and ‘covered’ by cable news — over our President’s visit to Wakefield?

First, his opponents claimed he wasn’t born in the United States, even though his birth certificate was on his website all of last year.

Then he was ‘taking away our freedom’ and ‘creating death panels to pull the plug on grandma,’ according to the folks who brought you the ‘town hall’ riots last month.

Things seemed to be spiraling out of control as extremists began appearing with guns at some of the President’s events, the most outrageous of which was in Phoenix where police said the gun-toters were not breaking the law, but if something untoward should happen with those guns, “we will intervene at that time.”

Imagine the outcries that would have erupted, had an officer of the law expressed that attitude about a display of guns in the presence any other president.

Now it’s gotten personal. The crazies decided they would use Arlington’s Wakefield High School as the scene for their next showdown with the most intelligent and wise president we’ve had in generations.

And what was their issue this time?

The President was going to preach ‘socialism’ to our children and use a national speech to indoctrinate them into a foreign ideology.

Well folks, it’s over; and his speech was inspiring.

His message could not have been clearer to the students for whom it was intended: “I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down. Don’t let your family down or your country down. Most of all, don’t let yourself down. Make us all proud.”

No demagogic forest fires; no Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler apparitions. Just our impressive new President, setting aside time to tell kids to get with it, and take school as seriously as he — a troubled young man — did when he turned around his life in his youth.

Now it’s back to our starving economy, hemorrhaging jobs, bank fraud, Israeli settlements, torture committed in our name, and wars and untold crises that never appear on our radar but engulf him every moment.

Thanks for coming over, Mr. President. We in Arlington are grateful for your visit and hope you’ll stop by any time you, Michelle or the girls want.

You see, America, we’re proud of our President, and embrace him openly. We want the world to know that we welcomed him to our wonderful community.

Arlington Board Says ‘NO’ to HOT

August 21st, 2009

A voice of reason has broken through the constant chatter about the metro area’s infamous HOT lanes. Instead of ‘High Occupancy Toll,’ they ought to be called what they will become, High Income Toll lanes.

Name it what you will, but this Bonus for BMW’s, or Cruises for Cadillac’s, or Lightning on a Lexus, will only speed the way for those who, in this economy and this region, have the bucks to shell out “an estimated trip cost of $5 to $6” per HOT trip. [ Virginia DOT ]. Think of a mom, on minimum wage, who has to get home fast to help a sick child. Can she afford to cough up that much? It may be chump change for some, but it can be food or electricity or rent to others.

And now, thanks to a suit filed by County Attorney, Sephen Mac Isaac, a court is going to have to consider what apparently none of the officials overseeing this new massive river of concrete on 395/95, took into consideration. That would be the deterioration in quality of the air it would shed on us Arlingtonians, who have a habit of breathing most days. [ Washington Post ]

Oh, we’re such complainers, aren’t we? Always caring about peoples’ health and economic problems. If only we were like the Town Hall screamers and trampled all over the rights of individuals in need, this mammoth rich-guys speedway would be within reach.

Fortunately for all of us, the work had to stop, because the economic crash (why aren’t any Wall Street bankers in jail?) has collapsed state revenue and ‘the market’ is skittish about buying the bonds to support this “private/public venture.” [ Washington Post ]

You won’t fund us shedding any tears. Yes, construction halts mean jobs lost, and that is terrible in any instance. But why not put those same workers along Columbia Pike to construct the long agreed-upon trolley [ Pike Transit ] that will surely cut down on the Pike’s daily tsunami of rush hour fumes.

So, thank you, County Board, for standing up for us to halt HOT, and for your continued work to weaken the movement to widen I-66.

A Moment to Last Forever

August 15th, 2009

In June of 1966 I was a religious ‘brother’ on my way to potential priesthood. All second year members of this particular religious order were allowed to visit their hometowns for two days.

This was after one year of a ’see no tv, read no newspapers, and observe-Grand Silence-most-of-every-day’ (you couldn’t talk to anyone) novice life; followed by my first year as a physics major at Loyola U. in Chicago.

When I got to Springfield, Illinois, my hometown, I said hi to my family and — after calling up my high school senior love and asking if we could talk — borrowed the family car to meet Mary Ann Templeton. I’d not been allowed to write to her, and we hadn’t seen or talked to each other since the night of our high school graduations, two long years before.

I think I probably picked her up at six in the evening. We drove to a park by Lake Springfield, parked the car, and talked till five the next morning. No kissing or hugging, no deep breathing, just talk … about how we felt about each other and what the future might hold.

At one point late in the night, we decided to walk to the empty, darkened playground. I reached over to hold Mary Ann’s hand, as we walked over a ditch, but she held back. She sat in a swing and we looked up.

There were the stars, the magnificent stars the way the sky used to look before ‘light pollution’ knocked out that stunning sight in most cities and towns.

We still talk about that night, and both of us say to each other, again and again, “Look at the stars.”

Milky Way on the Prairie

That’s a moment I’d like to have lasted forever.

August 10th, 2009

Lincoln Gave Him Strawberries

February 11th, 2009

As he lay on his cot at Carver U.S. General Hospital in Washington, D.C., Caleb Brewster of New York heard a knock on the door at the end of the ward. And when it opened, he saw the President, Abraham Lincoln, standing tall in the doorway. Caleb watched the President walk down the rows of cots, hat in hand, speaking to an occasional soldier.

Then he stopped at Caleb’s side and bent over to talk to him. And… well, here, you read the story, as told to Doc Hartley of The Kansas City Star in 1914 by Caleb.

Imagine. It’s 1864 and you’ve been shot at Spottsylvania Courthouse, just 70 miles south of Washington, by a ‘miniball‘ which has mangled your right hand.

You find yourself in a military hospital in Washington, far away from the home you left three years ago in New York. Outside a nearby window you’ve seen the President, sometimes alone, on horseback as he rode to his summer ‘cottage‘ at the Soldiers’ Home, three miles north of the White House.

One day, standing alongside your humble cot in the hot ward, that same tall, bearded President reaches to shake your hand. Your right having been damaged, you extend your left, and Preident Abraham Lincoln asked when you’d been hit, And after hearing of your wounding at Spottsylvania, he shakes his head sorrowfully as he stands to leave.

Growing up in Springfield, Illinois, I heard that story many times, and was able to read it, just as you see it in the link above.

Our mother, Jean Hartley Penning – the granddaughter of Caleb - took her six post-War children to visit Lincoln’s home on Seventh Street and his magnificent tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery nearly every February 12, the date on which Lincoln had been born in 1809.

So, today has special meaning for all sons and daughters of Springfield. We honor his memory while we celebrate the presidency of Barack Obama, who opened his campaign on the steps of the old state capitol, where Lincoln had received visitors after learning of his victory. And where, on June 16, 1858, he delivered words nearly as applicable to our condition today:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. … I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

For President Obama seemed to speak similarly February 9:
“We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It is a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the sake of our future and our children’s. The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That is the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead. After a day of speaking with and listening to the fundamentally decent men and women who call this nation home, I have full faith and confidence that we can.”

With President Lincoln as his guide, we must hope and pray our new President can equally bind our nation’s wounds and lead us from through this terrible moment in our history.

This is how I, as a great grandson of Caleb Brewster, will remember this day. One filled with the memory of Caleb and our slain 16th president; and with hope that our 44th will bring us together to meet the challenges of our own time.

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Note: I now own the Carver U.S. General Hospital photograph. I purchased it on eBay February 10, 2009.

Answering That ‘Forwarded’ E-Mail: “The Democrats Didn’t Bring Change”

October 13th, 2008

You know how it goes. A friend who ‘forwards’ lots of e-mails sends you this one: “HERE IS THE CHANGE!,” which dumps all over the Democrats, saying they’ve done nothing since the won the majority in ‘06. Don’t groan and delete it. Copy all those who’ve been sent the ‘forwarded forward’ and start your answer this way:

Think about it.

Sure, the Democrats got control of both houses in ‘06. But they hold the Senate by one vote, and that one belongs to McCain’s best friend, Connecticut’s former Democrat Joe Lieberman [ MSNBC.com ]. It takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, which must approve anything passed by the House before it can go to the President [ C-SPAN ].

So the Republicans have blocked nearly everything the Democrats have tried to move forward [ New York Times ]. Besides, we have a Republican president who threatens to veto or does veto everything the Congress may manage to put together that could have brought change [ About.com ].

For six of the past eight years we have ‘enjoyed’ an administration and GOP Congress which deregulated nearly every sector of the economy they could [ Google News Archives ]. The party had complete control of all three branches of government. Recall that the GOP-appointed members of the Supreme Court put George W. Bush into office… not the voters [ US News ].

Recall that in 2004 John McCain did a complete 180 and decided to throw his lot with Bush, after working against him for his first four years. There are photos of McCain — who stood by the President all through the 2004 campaign — embracing Bush [ msn/MSNBC.com ], the very man who tried to crush McCain and his credibility in 2000 [ The Boston Globe ]. McCain threw his former ‘maverick’ principles aside and welded himself to the pro-war, anti-regulation Bush agenda [ The Hill (D.C. newspaper) ].

And what did that deregulatory atmosphere bring us?

Economic collapse, the root of which came from a cleverly composed amendment by a Republican U.S. Senator, Phil Gramm of Texas, who quietly slipped his ‘hands-off Wall Street’ amendment into a must-pass bill at the end of the 2000 session of Congress [ The Texas Observer ].

That one move allowed Wall Street executives to concoct and trade and re-trade to one another ‘instruments’ — not tangible products — that led to the creation of a virtual ‘house of cards,’ as one stock analyst wrote in an e-mail [ New York Times ] , that finally began to collapse, as the free-wheeling, shaky ARM mortgages began to re-set starting in 2006 [ The Heritage Foundation ], leading to the economic disaster we’re now experiencing.

The Phil Gramm who made that move is the same Phil Gramm who said we are in a ‘mental recession’ and ‘a nation of whiners,’ as people lost their homes and then their retirement savings, and finally their livelihoods, as the stock market wizards swooned toward catastrophe. The same Phil Gramm who was ‘officially’ — and presumably still unofficially — John McCain’s top economic adviser [ The Washington Times ].

So, the Dems barely have control of the Senate, giving the GOP virtual control over it. The Dems have the House, but anything they pass is halted in the evenly-divided, filibuster-prone Senate [ McClatchy Newspapers ].

The choice, though difficult for some to consider, is becoming clearer every day. The stakes are too high to put at the head of our government a former ‘maverick’ — who turned into a Bush advocate — and his ‘heart-away-from-the-presidency’ v.p. pick, who is clearly not up to the job of assuming the duties of the Presidency, should McCain have a heart attack or his cancer recur [ The Independent-U.K. ].

She said the other night that the Constitution is ‘flexible’ when it comes to the duties of the vice president, yet the words of the Constitution could not be more precise: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.” Article I, Section 3 [ The United States Constitution, Cornell University School of Law ]. That is the only reference in the Constitution to the vice president, other than his or her election. He or she shall be the President’s successor in the event of the President’s death or incapacitation [ 25th Amendment ], and shall be President of the Senate. Period. No ‘flexibility.’

Times are too desperate to cast a purely partisan eye on this election. We have spiraled down terribly over the past eight years, and particularly over the past four years. “Getting government off the backs” of business [ The Idaho Statesman ] led us to this stage. Government had to step in, we have been told by the current occupant of the White House [ Associated Press via MSNBC ], because the unregulated system he nurtured fell apart. A new executive with an entirely different point of view is called for.

And on January 20th — the date that’s brought us too many scoundrels and 28 years of unhinged, wealth-tilted presidencies [ Time magazine ] — he will raise his right hand, saying, as stipulated in Article II, Section 1 of The Constitution [ The Constitution, Library of Congress, 1789 image ], “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”

And this time we’ll have a president who means it.

So, on November 4, get up out of your bed, go to your precinct, and, together -– all across this immense land — we’ll get our country back again.

God save this great nation.

Purple Thumbs There - Will Mine Be Counted Here?

August 30th, 2008

Purple Thumb.

It has become the shorthand for free, fair and first elections in emerging democracies and in U.S.-conquered nations. First used by Delaware’s Pete DuPont in the June 21, 2005, Wall Street Journal, “Iraqis held their third purple-thumb election last week …” the purple thumb represents the unsaid guarantee that a free and fair election has taken place.

That same electoral hue was later adopted by our President, when he spoke to the UN General Assembly in September 2006: “To the people of Iraq: Nearly 12 million of you braved the car bombers and assassins last December to vote in free elections. The world saw you hold up purple ink-stained fingers, and your courage filled us with admiration.” [
White House press office ]

Yet, the concept of an admired and fair “Purple thumb” election seems to mean nothing in our “We’re Number One! God Bless America!” country; where suppressed turnouts and election day equipment ‘shortages’ and ‘malfunctions’ have become the expected norm on our national polling days.

With the appearance of George W. Bush on the national stage, each presidential election -– upon which the stability of our nation and the world is dependent -– has been guaranteed to feature numerous attempts by his political party to throw every obstacle possible to prevent or discourage voting among certain classes of voters; usually the poor and minorities, particularly African-Americans. [ People for the American Way ]

Yet our current president -– widely noted as ‘the worst in our history’ [ History News Network ] -– called the June 25 Zimbabwe election “a sham,” adding, “The Mugabe government has been intimidating the people on the ground in Zimbabwe.” He termed this “an incredibly sad development.” [ PBS ]

Do you know what’s ‘incredibly sad,’ Mr. President? How about the black voters in north Florida, who in 2000 experienced outright police intimidation, as they approached many precinct polling stations [ Business Network ] …. And the reported examples of manipulated election 2004 results, caused by a deliberate low allocation of voting machines in high minority precincts. [ Fox News ]

In the President’s home state of Texas, the town of Prairie View — home of the historically black Prairie View A&M University — was the scene of a concerted attempt by white local officials to prevent Prairie View A&M students from voting in the 2006 elections. The area’s Waller County Justice of the Peace, DeWayne Charleston, told the New York Times, “The cold war’s not over — they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” after he reported local election officials had not recorded thousands of black student registrations he had personally gathered prior to election day.

More often than not, these blatant attacks on U.S. citizens’ right to vote under our Constitution — the one Mr. Bush swore to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ — are successful; leading to another unfair, GOP-skewed final tally.

In 2000, as we all know, the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to Mr. Bush, following an extremely close count; twisted in his favor by a deliberately confusing ballot prone to miss-votes, the aforementioned police harassment in North Florida, and removal of alleged or redeemed felons from the voter registration rolls. [ Palm Beach Post ] All carried out under the jaundiced and cynical eyes of Republican Secretary of State (later Congresswoman) Katherine Harris. [ The Guardian-UK ]

In 2004 the down-to-the-wire ballot tampering took place in voter operations overseen by Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. [ USA Today ]

Who knows what the Grand Old Party will have lurking in the wings this election, seen by many as the most crucial in more than a generation? [ The Guardian-UK ]

That’s why Senator Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party are hiring attorneys and poll watchers to stake out polling places for evidence of harassment and challenge any precinct voter rejections and/or ballot counting missteps. [ South Florida Sun-Sentinel ]

Tragic, isn’t it, that the ‘greatest nation in the world,’ and the planet’s beacon for democracy cannot assure every eligible citizen that he or she will be able to vote; and can leave tens or hundreds of thousands (millions?) of its citizens with uncertainty as to whether his or her vote was counted.

If any nation on this globe needs purple thumbs, if any one country has a voting system that cries out for impartial international monitors, it is the United States of America. The Land of the Free, and home of the heretofore suppressed voter.

Help make sure this will not happen, not this time, not this election. Find out what you can do at the Verified Voting Foundation.

“The work begins anew. The hope rises again, and the dream lives on.” [ Senator Edward Kennedy ]

What is This Georgia/Russia All About?

August 19th, 2008

John McCain sees Russia’s invasion of Georgia as a gift from heaven, a chance to bellow and practice the art of Bush-warism.

In reality, it’s a complex picture well-described in The Nation magazine by its publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, who writes,

“I am heartsick at the violence and brutalities on all sides. Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian friends have all suffered. Yet commentary in the US media, almost without exception, has turned a longstanding, complex separatist conflict into a casus belli for a new cold war with Russia, ignoring not only the historical and political reasons for South Ossetia’s drive for independence from Georgia but also the responsibility of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for the current crisis.”

Read this informed commentary in full at The Nation.