Saturday, April 4, 2015

BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS -- FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD.


The terms of the agreement framework between the great powers and Iran were more balanced between the two sides and stronger than expected in the agreed upon controls over Iran=s nuclear development. But the responses were predictable.  The Republicans went on the attack as they were expected to do on any proposal, of lack of one, which might have been the result of the negotiations. And, the Democrats tepidly and often with lack of enthusiasm supported the agreement negotiated by their past Presidential candidate John Kerry on behalf of their twice elected President Barack Obama.

History shows us that the immediate reaction to an international agreement is sometimes different than the ultimate historical opinion.   When the Webster-Ashburton treaty with Great Britain was signed in 1842, Americans thought it was a momentary thawing of relations with the United Kingdom and settling of the Canadian border.  History shows that it was the beginning of almost two hundred years of close cooperation between the three nations involved - the US, Britain and Canada.

When Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905   it was hailed as historic and he was awarded the Nobel Prize.  Within a decade both countries were involved, albeit on the same side initially, in World War I and the ending of the earlier war had few if any ramifications.

In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson personally negotiated at the worlds
first great summit the Treaty of Versailles.  A group of Republican Senators, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, announced before Wilson had even returned from Paris that they would oppose the treaty and US membership in the League of Nations. They succeeded and America retreated into isolation.  The verdict of history and of the American people in 1945, after the cataclysm of WWII was that Wilson=s League (for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize) might have prevented WWII and international collective security of democratic and peaceful nations became the keystone of US foreign policy.

And what of the postwar era?  History now shows that the policy recognizing the Soviet Union in 1933 (by FDR) and the subsequent American strategy of containment and then detente and then competition from Truman though Reagan were the right policies because of the demise of communism and the USSR.

Nixon=s opening to Red China has resulted not in a war with that power but almost a half century of peace and economic competition.  So he is hailed as a visionary.

Barack Obama has pursued a foreign policy, some points of which I have disagreed with, that prefers to use all peaceful means, e.g. economic sanctions against an enemy and negotiation with that enemy before resorting to military action.  His predecessor George Bush certainly seemed to do the opposite -- shoot first and talk later.  History will judge who was right in Afghanistan and Iraq; events will unfold in the next decade that will show us whether Obama is correct in Iran and Cuba.

Critics of this Iranian nuclear agreement compare it to Munich and the west=s appeasement of Hitler.  But even the severest critic of that agreement, Winston Churchill, said, to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war@.  And the prescient analyst of Britain=s failure to prepare for WWII, John F Kennedy, took office telling our people: Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate@.

Obama has chosen to advocate trying to coexist with Iran, as Presidents from FDR through Reagan coexisted with the Soviet Union; and, President=s since Nixon have followed a policy of amiable relations with China.  Is Obama correct? I don=t know - history will judge and events over the next decade will determine that judgment.

We lionize our Presidents who use military force to initiate policy (Polk in Mexico, McKinley with Spain, and Reagan in Grenada to list only a few). We should at the least respect that President who has heard the voice of the American people and for their children and grandchildren has decided to give peace a chance@.  

If the twenty-first century is not to be a repetition of the twentieth century=s brutal wars, genocidal killings and mass slaughters the President of the world=s greatest power must earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in his first year in office. With the restoration of relations with Cuba and the nuclear control agreement with Iran he has.  


3 April 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

SESTAK IS WALKING THE WALK



My former Congressman and retired Admiral, Joe Sestak, has started a walk across Pennsylvania. As he walks from county to county he highlights an issue of importance to the Commonwealth and gathers with local citizens to discuss it. Admiral Sestak ran for the US Senate I 2010 as a Democrat.  He lost narrowly in what was otherwise a banner Republican year. Now he is running again for that Senate seat.

Political pundits and consultants will tell you and anyone who wants to listen that you can’t run for the Senate a second time unless you hold an office or run for some high visibility office in the interim years.  And that’s what I told Joe Sestak in 2011.  But he has decided to again disprove the prognosticators and professional pundits and has been maintaining a campaign schedule across this Commonwealth since Nov. 2010.

Admiral Sestak is not a typical politician -- in fact don’t let his candidate skills and governing skills fool you He Is Not a Politician.  Neither politics nor polls sway his opinion once he has studied a question and determined his approach to a solution. He is in my opinion a pragmatic liberal who seeks the solutions that help the most people and hurt the fewest. 

As a retired military officer he is the antithesis of John McCain - holding to the belief that the military needs to be modern and strong and used only as a last resort when diplomatic and economic means are unsuccessful.  He long thought the Iraq war was a mistake and makes a sound argument for same as regards Libya. With chaos reigning in those countries today few would debate him on this.

He knows how to fight and hold his own in War and in Politics.  He took on and defeated two of the political giants of Pennsylvania: Cong. Curt Weldon and Sen. Arlen Specter. He cast his votes in Washington as a Democrat whom I would classify and independent progressive.

Now that Admiral Sestak has again decided to defy the odds and run a second time for the same seat after a gap of five years the self anointed “party leaders” have spent these past months denigrating his candidacy and floating every trial balloon they can blow up as a primary opponent.  They will argue that Sestak is not a friend of the Democratic organization nor its leaders and marches to his own drummer.  I was county leader of the Democratic of Delaware County during Joe Sestak’s terms in the House of Representatives -- they are right he does his own thing and doesn’t follow lock step the orders of party leaders.  I can personally attest to that.

I have been an elected state legislator and a county party chairman.  Our democratic system will work for all our citizens when conscientious elected officials do what they believe is right not what power or money tell them to do.

The US Senate was once considered the most deliberative body in the democratic lexicon.  Today it has become almost a joke.  It desperately needs more Senators of stature, ethical character, courage of conviction and unflagging devotion to the nation.

Admiral Joe Sestak has served our nation on the high seas and in the hallowed halls of Congress.  He is ready to serve again and this Commonwealth and this nation need him.



10 March 2015

Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama Acts In The American Tradition of Compassion


President Obama has been criticized by some supporters for a proclivity to procrastinate and over think possible actions to the point where when he finally acts it is often considered either too little or too late.  He also has the unfortunate, for a President, habit of thinking out loud when he is considering action so he gets into the position of having to explain away statements made before an action is taken if those statements contradict his ultimate decisions.  For example, when he professorially stated that the President did not have the authority to go further than his DACA immigration plan.  And, now when has to explain that away because he recognized that in fact he did have the authority to do more; -- in fact he may have the authority to do more than he has now done.

President Obama is the only office holder in our country elected by all the American people casting a vote for the same position.  As such he is the one charged with preserving our republic, and taking all necessary action to do so.  If Thomas Jefferson hadn’t purchased territory from France without waiting for a constitutional amendment, as his congressional critics wanted, our nation might today not extend west of the Mississippi River.  If Andrew Jackson had not met South Carolina’s attempts to nullify federal laws with firm adherence to use of force there might have been a Civil War in the 1830's - one that would have been won by the slave states and led to two nation's one slave and one free.  If Abraham Lincoln had not exercised his power to combat secession (a power his predecessor as President denied) we might not be one nation today.  If Theodore Roosevelt had not exercised his power to act as he did in Panama and Columbia (without a Senate ratified Treaty) there would have been no Panama Canal and a century of an America hemmed in by two oceans.  If FDR had not exercised the power to close the banks for a few days upon his inauguration the entire bottom might have fallen through right then and there; instead America was able to begin the long climb back to economic health without the extremism of fascism or communism.  And, if Harry Truman hadn’t used his executive pen to order the integration of the Armed Forces the transformation of this country into a color blind society might not have begun.

Now, President Obama exercising the same authority that others before him have (notably George H W Bush and Ronald Reagan) has dealt with the problem of millions of illegal immigrants now resident in America.  He has both deported those who have no legal right to be here while now opening a way for those who have been here for years and contributed to this country to attain a legal status and when the Congress finally faces up to its responsibility a path to citizenship.  I am one of those who would like to have seen him go further by including the parents of the DACA youngsters; in fact I would like to see him use his pardoning authority to pardon all those physically present in this country today from any form of prosecution for violation of immigration laws - a true total Amnesty.

Immigration has been a political issue in this country since the 1790's when the Federalists imposed a 14 year waiting period for obtaining citizenship because the then French and European immigrants were supporting the Jeffersonian Democrats.  Like all matters involving our government it will continue to be a partisan issue.

President Barack Obama acted !  He has done what he and most Americans believe is the right thing to bring this huge undocumented population into the American body politic.

Let those who oppose his executive order do so on the merits of their arguments.  Let them offer their alternative proposals.  It is unfortunate that most of those who oppose this order do so because this President is black, or because this President is a liberal Democrat, because most of the immigrants affected are Latino.

My mother was born in Germany and came to this country at the age of six; my father’s ancestors arrived here in 1607. So depending how you view it I am either thirteenth generation American or first generation American. My father's ancestors built a great nation that opened its’ arms to my mother and her family in the 1920's.  No one stopped those fearless immigrants of the seventeenth century and no one closed the door to my mother's family.

We have struggled every time a different people have found America a refuge and it has strengthened us and made us a great nation. President Obama has used his authority honed by Jefferson and Roosevelt to open that door again to those who found a way to get here.  He is a President who expended his political capital to get health care for those who didn’t have it and personal security for immigrants who lived in the shadows of our society -- neither one a major voting bloc.  When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, when FDR authorized rural electrification and when LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act it wasn’t as a reward for those who voted for them nor with expectation that the beneficiaries might vote for them - it was because it was the Right Thing to Do.

President Barack Obama has joined those of our great Presidents who have Stood for American Values and Done the Right Thing.



21 November 2014   

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WE NEED A 21st CENTURY DEMOCRATIC PARTY


As Republican Party attempts to remake its’ image as a party that is capable of and should win the Presidency in 2016, the Democratic Party faces a critical point in its over 200 year history.  Democrats face a defining moment that will determine what their party stands for in the 21st century.

When Jefferson and Madison founded the party in the 1790's it was a liberal response to a conservative and largely nationalistic Federalist Party philosophy.  In the 1830's, led by Andrew Jackson, Democrats became a party of workingmen and on- the- make businessmen in the north and nouveau riche planters form the South.  From the end of the Civil War until 1896 the Democracy , as it was called, was the party of the South and northern city machines built on immigrant votes (actually a Republican put it aptly when he called the Democrats the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion).

In 1896 from the west came a great tide of Populism - anti monopoly and anti Wall Street; advocating direct election of US Senators and initiative and referendum, along with labor reform and opposition to imperialist adventures, particularly in the Philippines. When the Bryan Populists merged with the urban Progressives and won the election of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party became essentially a Progressive party (with a southern component that on economic issues was somewhat progressive.)  And, so the Democratic Party as FDR unfolded his New Deal became the party of progressive economic and social reform and world leadership.  With battles within the party against  conservative southern segregationists the moderate liberals won out and the party was in a liberal mold through the 1960's.

With Vietnam and the opposition to that war the party shifted left on international issues and lost first to Nixon and then to Reagan.  After the defeat of Mondale-Ferraro in 1984 the party attempted to pivot to the center and led by Clinton it became a big-business friendly party supporting liberal social ideas (but often slowly and compromisingly).

Today there is a Democratic Party that is officially Liberal and Progressive. On social issues there are few Democrats who are not pro-choice; pro-equal rights (including gay rights); pro non-military world leadership; and there are few who do not give at least lip service to liberal economic values e.g. social security; affordable health care for all; regulations to stop air pollution and to reign in big banks. In its attempt to be all things to all component constituent groups with a center left bent it has become a party that is defined by what it defends when the radical right wing Tea Party Republicans attack government rather than what it stands for.

Democrats need to do more than defend Republican attacks on Social Security and oppose their privatization schemes.  Democrats must support strengthening social security by extending the wage tax to all employment income (not just the current first $108,000 which effectively allows the lower end of the upper class to finance their own retirement plans while keeping the rest of us worried about whether there will be social security for future generations). Democrats need to support increasing the benefits of social security including the death benefit (of $250).  Expand and Strengthen Social Security should be the Democratic bumper sticker.

Democrats need to do more than blame Republican grid lock for lack of immigration reform The Democratic Party should insist on and support a President using his constitutional power to pardon to grant what in effect would amount to amnesty to the 12 million undocumented persons in the nation today and then advocate a reform of the legal immigration system.

Democrats need to do more than bemoan gridlock.  They need to become advocates across the nation for the non-partisan reapportionment of legislative districts; the California system of non-partisan primaries that result in contests in general elections in so called one party districts; and  direct election of the President of the United States.

Democrats need to do more than fight Republican attempts to suppress the vote. Our party needs to work, talk and march for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act and expansion of the electorate (by including seventeen year olds). Let early voting; use of mail; simplification of absentee ballot procedures and same day registration/voting become national positions of our party.

Democrats need to do more than compromise with moderate Republicans to pass watered down economic reform measures.  We Democrats need to stand for another New Deal for a restoration of the American Dream for a large vibrant middle class.  We bailed out the big banks and General Motors we need to bail out an entire generation of student debtors who will never realize the American Dream if they have to spend their time and earned income paying off educational mortgages instead of home mortgages.

Democrats need to fight the Republican cave in to greed.  We need to demand that outsourcing jobs not benefit  corporations with tax breaks.  Democrats need to oppose all these free trade agreements with underdeveloped nations that result in our economy suffering while theirs gains and return to the partnership with Europe where our economic and work place values are shared.


Democrats need to learn that you win some elections and you lose some elections. Not every loss is a verdict against the defeated party’s programs; especially as in this part election it was the result of the lowest turnout since 1942 (first elections during WWII).

The Democratic Party will be the majority party of America; and will again lead this nation in a liberal progressive crusade to build a classless good society.  We must follow a four point mantra:

Democrats Must Advocate and Democrats Must Act

We Must Stand for Progressive People Oriented Policies

Our Elected Officials Must Take Actions Implementing those Policies

And,  Democrats Must Speak To and For All Americans


19 November 2014


Friday, November 7, 2014

WHY REPUBLICANS WON THE 2014 MID-TERM ELECTIONS.

   
When most Americans stay home on Election Day, Republicans win and that they did this past Tuesday.  Apparently the Republican Party now controls more legislative seats in state capitals and DC and more Governorships than at any time since the 1920's.  But the good news for liberals and progressives is that after the 1920's came the 30's and a liberal Democratic dominance of states and the national government that lasted essentially for almost 40 years.

There have been times in our nation’s history when the country was deeply divided ideologically and party wise: the 1790's with the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans; the 1840's with the Democrats and the Whigs. In recent decades with the party ideological realignment of the 1970's we have seen a fiercely partisan battle between radical conservative Republicans and liberal progressive Democrats.

I do not believe these cycles are absolutely predictable nor automatically recurring. As the nation has matured, and the electorate expanded, and the media and educational system have dumbed down the populace, electors' reasons for voting and resultant partisan divisions have changed.  There are three things that people today base their vote on: personality, party affiliation, and positions on issues (each of these being applicable to both the candidate and voter).

I would argue that when voting for a high visibility office, e.g. President or Governor or US Senator, electors vote primarily based on the personality of the candidate or what they perceive as that personality. It is a gut reaction of the voter based on what they have read or seen or heard about the candidates, filtered through the vagaries of the voters own personality, and is not always either quantifiable nor predictable.

As for positions on issues, I find that voters gravitate towards candidates that they assume agree with their positions -- but if confronted with a difference they will often either excuse the candidate or downplay the salience of the particular issue to them.  When voting on a ballot question the voter will answer Yes or No based on the voters opinion.  So we have the strange results last Tuesday of voters in some states voting Yes to increase the minimum wage and at the same time electing to office some opponent of any minimum wage. Position on the issue determined one lever pulled down and personality of the candidate the other.  When faced with barely considered nor media covered row offices or down ballot spots the voters will still to some extent vote party.  By voting party I mean voting ones party identification (and more and more Americans are identifying as independent -- in fact we’re almost 1/3 D, 1/3 R and 1/3 I by self -identification). 

While I believe that some of President Obama’s actions and some of his inactions may have cost some Democrats votes or discouraged some from voting I also still believe that history shows that all politics is local.  The Colorado and Virginia Senate races were close because both Democratic candidates were dull on the stump - one lost and one won.  President Wilson lost his last mid-term elections as he was winning WWI and Winston Churchill lost his right after he won WWII.  Post election analysis in the immediate days after the election is about as accurate as most of the pre-election predictions -- just consult Presidents Dewey and Gore. 

The Republican party is where it’s dominant Tea Party faction wants it to be back in the 1920's in terms of governmental power.  And in two years we liberal progressives will be back where we want to be completing the Great Society.  As the Republicans run against terrorists and diseases we Democrats should run in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt - Against Fear Itself.


7 November 2014  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

OBAMA LEADS -- NOW WILL CONGRESS AND THE PEOPLE FOLLOW?



President Obama has offered what so many have called for a strategy and a plan to destroy ISIS - the latest and strongest iteration of the jihadist movement that now engulfs the middle east, north Africa, the horn of Africa, Mali, Nigeria and the Central African Republic,and the Asian nations of Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines

Whether they are Islamic fundamentalists or thugs and bullies these people have declared war on everyone else, they slaughter Christians, Jews, Muslims who do not accept their version of Islamic theology (especially Shiites), and anyone who is not them.

As the President said in his speech of Sept. 10 only America has been able to lead the nations of the world when international crises arise. Only America can unite the humanitarian nations to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; only America could stand forth and push for the sanctions against Russia in a non war attempt to preserve the independence of Ukraine.  And, it is clear that only America can unite the western and Middle Eastern world against this threat from ISIS

But, will America follow the President.  Already the Republicans complain that he isn’t doing enough soon enough.  And many on the left raise questions like “What is the end game?” “How long will it take?”.  The hindsight offered by history often causes us to forget what was occurring at other times.  In 1942 if FDR was asked what the end game was he would have said the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. As for how long it would take he would have said as long as it takes.  As for the unforeseen consequences Roosevelt and Churchill did not foresee two Germany’s as part of a cold war for 45 years.  Nor did Stalin envision a democratic Japan allied with the West.

Evidently we now expect our President not only to be courageous, cautious, thoughtful, emotional, wise and in tough with the common people, but also clairvoyant.

Should the President have armed the Syrian moderates sooner?  Yes.  Should he have bombed Assad’s forces in 2013? Yes.  But, the same can be said of the things that Britain and France should have done in 1937 and 1938 and didn’t. 

We do not have the luxury of playing partisan politics with foreign policy.  It took two World Wars to teach us that and I believe we successfully navigated the Cold War because we adhered to that non partisanship.

We have an intelligent thoughtful President who like Woodrow Wilson has done all he could to keep us out of new wars.  But as we learned with Russia in Ukraine you need a partner if you wish to engage in the dance of Peace.

In the case of ISIS there is no partner and while many nations should, and will join us we Americans have to be willing to support our President and as JFK entreated us “bear any burden” to preserve the basic values which of not only our nation but of the major religions and cultures of the world. 



11 September 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

PUTIN -- QADDAFI -- BEN LADEN label them MURDERERS.


Because the United States agreed to negotiate and is doing so with Iran rather than use military force to stop the Iranian production of nuclear weapon; and, because the United States chose to negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons rather than respond with air strikes against Syria; Putin, the 21st century Russian Czar, has miscalculated and seen American willingness to talk rather than shoot as a sign of weakness.  Twice in the last century the rulers of Germany and then once the ruler of Japan made the same mistake.  America may take a long time to get roused in anger enough to unleash our military might but when we do dictators have learned to pay a heavy price.

Obama is trying to use 21st century multilateral methods to combat the new Stalin.  Whether he succeeds will remain to be seen.  But Putin would be well advised to ignore the Republican party propaganda in DC about Obama being weak and recognize that on this issue -- the freedom of the people of Ukraine-- Obama will remain strong.  Shooting down a plane is akin to sinking ships a hundred years ago (Lusitania) an public ire will grow not diminish.

Unfortunately too many of my liberal friends (I consider myself a liberal) are bemoaning the “lack of clear evidence of Russian involvement” some have even taken to blaming the United States for starting the Ukraine crisis (which began when Putin forced his puppet President of Ukraine, Yanukoyvich, to drop plans to integrate with the EU which led to a popular uprising in Ukraine).  Both Putin and our domestic liberal commentators say the answer is to guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO.  Firstly, Ukraine has never applied nor indicated interest in joining NATO--they want to be in the EU.  Secondly, Ukraine in 1994 gave up their nuclear weapons as part of the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing their territorial integrity only to have that integrity violated by a nuclear power.  Now, guarantee that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO, should they ever apply, and we invite Putin to take more aggressive action later.

The history of the 20th century is replete with occasions when democratic nations could have stopped dictators when they first made aggressive moves.  And when the democracies didn’t act the resultant wars costs millions of lives.

It is time we accepted that not everything in foreign affairs is complex - likewise not everything is simple.  Because the Bush-Cheney administration lied our country into a war in Iraq does not mean that Obama-Biden are lying us into peace through strength.  Because the English translators of the Russian language recordings released by Ukraine used complete sentences and deleted curses doesn’t mean the recordings are fake -- those who understand and speak Russian find the actual language credible.

Russian separatists aided or directed by Russians used a Russian supplied weapon to shoot down what they thought was a Ukrainian cargo or troop plane.  They made a mistake. They should have admitted it and pointed out that mistakes are made in wars.  Instead Putin blames Ukraine.  When a fox broke into my grandfather's chicken coop and stole two hens instead of trying to remove the danger and kill the fox, Putin would blame my grandfather for building the hen house and filling it with chickens.
Obama is Right.  This is a wake up call!  And if Europe doesn’t want to wake up then America must lead.  In the 20th century in WWI and WWII we followed.  During the Cold War we led.  Now it is time for us to lead again. This may be our last chance to bring Russia into the world community as a peaceful partner as Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to do.  This may indeed be our last chance to put together a world of old powers (Germany, France, United Kingdom and Russia) and the emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) We can lead that combination -- we must not let it become a new division with Russia leading one part.  Putin has shown the world what he is capable of doing - now America must show the world that we will not allow him to bully the other nations on this globe. 


19 July 2014