How is the Economy Treating You?

How is the Economy Treating You?

The first quarter of 2010 has been a bonanza time for the Big Banks: Citigroup recorded a $4.4 billion profit, JP Morgan Chase $3.3 billion, Bank of America $3.2 billion. Goldman Sachs increased profits by 91% over the same quarter last year, coming in with a gain of $3.46 billion. In 2009 the Big Bankers roped in their best-ever paydays, at a total payout of $140 billion. The top 25 hedge fund managers “earned” an average of $1 billion, with the lowest paid getting $350 million. John Paulson took home more than $3billion for the two years preceding the melt down!

Please Join the conversation by writing your comments in the box at the bottom of this page, or going to The Pub (see top of page). Thanks, Bill

What the Pope Could Have Said

What the Pope Could Have Said

I learned a valuable lesson early in my political career: When you make a mistake or a misjudgment, acknowledge it quickly and repair any damage. What the Pope should have said years ago is that “What some priests have done is sinful and the response of the church is shameful. We must repent, both individually and as an institution; we must rid the church of all people in authority who violate the dignity and rights of others; and we must do everything we can to restore to wholeness those who have suffered such egregious harm.”

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Unemployment rose to 10.8% Under Ronald Reagan!

Unemployment rose to 10.8% Under Ronald Reagan!

In President Reagan’s first year in office, unemployment exceeded 8% so he cut taxes for the rich. In his second year the rate climbed to 10.8%. It wasn’t until he had been in office for 28 months that it dropped back to 8%. The Republicans, of course, blamed President Carter’s policies.  Now, with unemployment at 9.7% in President Obama’s 15th month in office, do you think that these same Republicans attribute the high rate to the Bush economic policies? Get real!

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Violent Words = Violent Action

Violent Words = Violent Action

A study from the Southern Poverty Law Center showed a growth in the number of extremist hate groups from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009, and 127 of them were militia groups. There is, in my opinion, a direct relationship between that increase and the incendiary language spoken on talk radio and in right-wing political sound bites.

Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post that “For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary, and anger from the far right… The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction— the right!

“The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day, and quite regularly at tea party rallies, is calibrated not to inform but to incite. Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, their country has been taken away, that their elected officails are traitors and their freedom is at risk. They (the Limbaughs and the Becks)  have a right to free speech, which I will always defend. But they shouldn’t be surprised if some listeners take them literally.”

The  St. Louis Post Dispatch  editorial (referenced above) stated that a Southern Poverty Law Center report “warned of potential threats from violent right-wing groups…”  The newspaper stated that these groups were encouraged by “incendiary rhetoric employed by politicians and conservative commentators who throw around phrases like ‘take back the country’,  ‘reload’, ‘anti-American’, or ‘traitor’. Such rhetoric may not be intended to incite violence, but it can further inflame paranoid people on the radical fringe. Words are important. Words have meaning. Words should be used with care…”

Please Join the conversation by writing your comments in the box at the bottom of this page, or going to The Pub (see top of page). Thanks, Bill

Israel, Palestine and Self-Defeating Violence

Amos Oz is a prominent Israeli journalist, novelist and professor. His op-ed piece in today’s (June 2) New York Times is a cogent analysis of why his nation’s action against ships bringing relief supplies to Gaza was wrongheaded. But his words go beyond this tragic incident and apply to any nation considering the use of military force.

He wrote that “force has its limits” and should be used as a last resort. However, he continued, “since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force… Monday’s violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid are the rank products of this mantra that what can’t be done by force can be done by even greater force… Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters.” The entire article is worth a thoughtful read at www.nytimes.com.

I agree with Oz, both in regard to this particular event, and in regard to the general issue of when the use of deadly force is justified. The continued repression of the Palestinian people will not solve the Israel-Palestine problem, and will not enhance Israel’s security. The two parties share responsibility for the perpetuation of the crisis, and both have a responsibility to abandon violence and work together for a peaceful solution.

As Oz wrote: “Force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land, and Palestinians are not alone in this land… Until Israelis and Palestinians recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact, we will all live in a permanent state of siege…”

Peace will not happen without a two-state solution… and this won’t happen without the strong participation of the United States. I was disappointed in President Obama’s weak response to Israel’s decision to board Turkish relief ships in international waters. He  simply stated his regret for the incident rather than declaring it unacceptable. I was further disappointed in the response from some Democratic members of Congress who expressed their unqualified support of Israel’s actions (see “Pro-Israel Dems Defend Raid” at www.politico.com).

It is time for the United States to speak with as much conviction about the human rights of Palestinian people as we do about Israel’s right to security. It is time for our president and our congress to abandon the policy of knee-jerk support of whatever Israel does, and to use American moral, diplomatic and financial power to bring both parties to the peace table.

I support Israel’s right to exist and to be secure. I support Palestine’s right to exist and to be secure. Oz is correct: until these two seemingly contradictory statements can be reconciled, Israelis and Palestinians will live in a permanent state of siege. This, in turn, undercuts American interests throughout the Middle East. The time for American leadership is now.