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Here are some of my thoughts on what's wise for my country to do.

Focus governmental and public attention on health, learning and conservation.

The US government, through the military and in other ways, would be more effective in ensuring our security if it devoted more of its resources, research and training to projects which help other nations and US States overcome problems and save lives -- rather than so often attempting violent solutions. Avoid torturing people, start teaching wise behavior. (We need to choose wise leaders, rather than hope for improved understanding by people whose first impulse is to attack and kill.)

(Movie suggestion -- All Quiet on the Western Front -- "A German youth eagerly enters World War I, but his enthusiasm wanes as he gets a firsthand view of the horror." 1930, ****, 01:45, B & W, English, United States)

Don't recklessly invade anyone else. Supply food, seeds, tools, medical supplies, radios, educational assistance and useful (skill-related) books, where there's a need.

Propose that the United Nations protect countries which agree to eliminate all nuclear, chemical & biological weapons and agree to comprehensive permanent inspections.

A few more details on the above foreign policy initiative: recommend that the United Nations (or NATO or other international group, such as a coalition of all democracies, if the UN won't do it) offer to all nations the following deal: the UN will do all in its power to defend your borders, will protect you from invasion and attack, and will extend some other forms of assistance (education, agriculture and health supplies), if you agree to the following: give up all weapons of mass destruction and research on them, and allow pervasive, unlimited inspections; allow free speech, conduct fair elections overseen (and conducted, if necessary) by international observers; guarantee fair trials and basic civil liberties -- and probably other requirements and more detailed incentives, including some personal protection for despots who agree to such positive changes in their countries. In most cases, large contingents of foreign helpers would not be needed full-time, and in many cases, volunteers could help, maybe through an expanded and internationalized Peace Corps. Lots of countries wouldn't want this deal at first, but one or a few might, and if the experiments went well, the process could spread, and would evolve with experience. I assume that the US and other large nations, even if willing to help such a plan work abroad, would not accept such a deal for themselves, at least until most other countries do, and the kinks are worked out.

Renew commitment to international consultations, negotiations, and (where possible) cooperation: stop refusing to talk with the governments with whom we have disputes -- Cuba, etc; lessen our tendency to act unilaterally militarily abroad (set a better example for others).

Stop US arms sales to other countries. Encourage the UN and/or international trade organizations to penalize countries which continue to sell arms, and reward those which stop.

Offer each of the Canadian Provinces statehood in the United States.

Give US citizens who live in Washington DC voting representation in the US Senate and House of Representatives. (Are you aware that US citizens living in our nation's capital are still not represented in Congress? DC residents can merely elect a Representative who is not allowed to take part in Congressional voting!) Republicans should be ashamed of themselves, and should be unelected, for continuing this vestige of slavery and taxation without representation. Pending their being allowed real Congressional representation, DC residents should be allowed to refuse to pay US taxes, and the President should pardon them if they are prosecuted for that.

Embrace your responsibility....
register_to_vote.gif

FEMA, the military, the National Guard and other Federal, State, local and charitable agencies need to develop detailed plans, manuals and instructive videos on how they can work together to help quickly and effectively, in emergencies -- without deadly red tape. For example, before and during crises, government needs to compile ever-evolving lists of needs, of supplies available, of transportation & other assets, and of ready workers (these lists should be freely and easily accessible by internet and by phone, and in widely distributed printed lists, etc), so that whatever is needed can quickly be gotten to appropriate people and places.

In all regions, durable shelters should be built as soon as possible -- before they are needed -- containing stockpiles of essential supplies, and prior arrangements should be developed for local, well-trained medical and security workers (and others required), to be augmented from outside when necessary. And several designated people (military AND civilian) need to have authority to order instant airlifts (by helicopter or cargo plane, etc) of water, food, rescuers, etc, which are always ready to be called. Governors and State disaster agencies should develop prior arrangements with non-governmental organizations and with other States and with other countries and with the United Nations, so that in emergencies, States can swiftly call on outside help, when the US Government is incapacitated or indifferent or inadequate, or has deployed its essential assets abroad.

When people who work in government retire, they should be forbidden by law from working for industries they were responsible for regulating in their government jobs. Sometimes government workers (not most, but too many) give special deals to private companies, and later are repaid by being hired by those companies.

nuclear_power_is_the_wrong_way.jpg
Nuclear Power is the Wrong Way

Encourage energy conservation; subsidize research and education on ways to conserve and on non-polluting energy sources; decrease and gradually eliminate imports of oil.

Return the tax rate on people earning over $200,000 to what it was in 2000.

Eliminate federal taxes on people earning under $27,000.

Balance the budget, pay off the national debt.

Double taxes on the top 270 polluters, yearly selected by EPA (taxes on those chosen would still be less than they were during the Eisenhower administration).

Phase out farm subsidies except for those using organic methods (support only growers who do not use pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers found to be toxic to humans by EPA).

Extend full medical, psychological and dental services to all US citizens, paid for by levitating the tax rate on those making over $200,000 per year, as mentioned above. Before such legislation works its way through Congress, begin by giving free preventive services to all citizens, in a way which requires no government funding. Examples: offer a complete annual physical exam to everyone in the US (no government spending on this: all hospitals & medical centers must provide these, 27 per physician, to be certified... the number adjusted as needed, up to one per practitioner week) and a free annual massage or acupuncture or chiropractic treatment (no govt spending on this; all masseueses, masseurs, chiropractors & acupuncturists must provide 10 of these, to be certified); and one free annual mental health visit with a psychologist or psychiatrist, and a free annual dental exam (no government spending on these; required for certification).

With help from other nations, feed the starving, worldwide, & provide basic education (reading, writing, conversing, gardening, home building): this will tend to lower population expansion, partly because those with adequate food & education feel less need to have large numbers of offspring who will support them in old age. And when health services are adequate, lower infant mortality rates cause fewer families to feel the need to have multiple children in hopes of insuring that one or more will survive tough conditions. Also allow the UN and various international agencies to restore the international family planning services which the GW Bush Administration caused to stop.

Given the current character of the political parties, vote for Democrats. They're not perfect, for sure, but they're sane.


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Suggestion to Congress:

Next time auto makers are about to fail, instead of giving a few-strings-attached loan or gift to any of the Big 3 U.S. auto makers, let's set aside the same amount of money, or more or less, and announce a contest in which any new or old organization can submit proposals for development of low-pollution, low-cost transportation. Maybe other car makers (or inventors of something better than cars) can do better than the old-timers. In deciding winners, the Congress can and should consider such factors as maintaining/expanding existing auto-making jobs. Why offer a no-bid contract, when a contest may give us more innovative choices, or force the Big 3 to think more creatively and usefully? Another possibility: rather than simply give the money or lend it directly to the Big 3, why not have the Government buy shares in those companies, and give voting control of those shares to such groups as the Environmental Defense Fund, The League of Conservation Voters, and Public Citizen? That would result in positive changes in auto company leadership, products and methods.

The United States national debt is now more than 8 trillion dollars.

So each U.S. citizen's share of that debt is more than $28,000.

Visit the U.S. National Debt Clock

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A few years ago, Samuel Alito became a Supreme Court Justice. Let's hope he turns out to be wise enough for the job, and/or that he grows and learns. Below is my pre-confirmation analysis (which has continuing relevance, so I'll leave it here awhile):

After watching the Senate hearings on Samuel Alito, I've decided to recommend that the Senate not confirm his nomination to the Supreme Court. Despite Alito's intelligence and emotional control and the sometimes clumsy questioning by Senate Democrats, I fear President Bush would get what he wants from this man -- a tendency to approve of Presidential and corporate actions even when they'd harm people. Alito would be a fine choice for many significant jobs, but not for this one, which requires some heart, not just detailed mechanical knowledge of the Constitution and laws. Republicans often say they don't believe in a "litmus test". As a long-time gardener, I've often used litmus tests when first creating gardens, and thus learned their usefulness. Litmus tests tell me how acidic or alkaline soil is -- sometimes these results are called sour or sweet. On the Supreme Court, we want a balanced Justice, not one who is too sour or too sweet. From Alito, the evidence suggests we'd get decisions which are too sour, too insensitive to human needs, rights and suffering. Until the Senate confirms someone new for the Supreme Court, Justice O'Connor will remain on the Court. She's the better option. Let her linger a couple of years, or until we get a nominee who'll more certainly ensure our safety, health and freedoms.

Samuel Alito, backed by his wife
samuel_alito-ap_photo.jpg
(AP photo)

There's been faulty reporting about what caused Mrs Alito to become teary-eyed and leave the hearing room on January 11. I watched (on C-SPAN, mostly) all of the questioning of Samuel Alito by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Mrs. Alito was easy to see, sitting right behind her husband, throughout the hearings. Contrary to several news accounts, including misleading tv editing of the hearings, she did NOT get into a visibly distraught state (with pain clear on her face) while any Democrat was questioning her husband -- questioning which was sometimes repetitive or challenging or unproductive, yet which was always appropriately friendly or at least respectful. On the contrary, her visible emotional distress and her departure from the room occurred during the questioning and comments by REPUBLICAN Senator Graham of South Carolina, one of the most pompous of Senators (though most Senators, and others with power and fame, develop some of that trait). Senator Graham was dramatizing, emphasizing and exaggerating what Democrats had said. Graham was spinning. Without his recklessly emotional appeal to hate the Democrats and pity the "poor" Alito (a politicizing tactic also used by other Republican Senators), the Democrats' reasonable questions could not reasonably have been seen as unreasonable.

It is the job, the responsibility, of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to probe all significant controversies and uncertainties related to the life and views of Supreme Court nominees, lest an unwise candidate get onto the court without adequate understanding of his nature, his background, his views, and his temperament (or hers). Just to sit there and praise nominees would be neglect of duty. Few of us want to be criticized or challenged, but one should expect significant scrutiny before getting a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court. If it upsets the squeamish or the relatives, that's not as harmful as allowing an unwise person to slip onto the Supreme Court because Senators are scared to ask about whatever seems important to them. If the questions were ungracefully repetitious, that's no reason to appoint Alito to the Supreme Court. (I'm convinced that George W. Bush's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was elected President in 1988 largely because of the public's pity for Vice Presidential Candidate Dan Quayle after the press belittled him. Empathy is a fine quality, folks, but don't give people positions of great power just because they're caustically criticized. A sympathy card will suffice.)

The primary specific "problematic" questioning in these hearings was aimed at discovering whether Samuel Alito shared the anti-female, anti-minority, anti-disabled and anti-gay statements by a Princeton alumni organization of which he has been a long-time member, membership about which he boasted when applying for a job in the Reagan Administration in 1985. In response to these reasonable questions he replied, repeatedly, that he does not agree with the organization's harsh sentiments -- perhaps a good enough answer, but this issue needed to be probed. Alito was also asked, as expected, about abortion-related issues, and his understandably vague responses gave no reason to hope (or fear) that he's abandoned the strong opposition to abortion he expressed clearly years ago. Several Senators wondered why Alito had approved of the police strip search of a 10-year old girl and her mother, who had not been mentioned on a search warrant. His response was that the subject of the warrant was a drug seller who could have hidden some drugs somewhere on these relatives. Another appeals court judge, whom Bush has since made head of US Homeland Security, said Alito's opinion was unreasonable. It at least needed to be examined, now, by the Senate Judiciary Committe. And several questions involved an appeals court case in which Alito did not recuse himself -- a case involving Vanguard Mutual Fund, of which he owns thousands of shares -- after he'd said he'd recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard, in Congressional hearings when he was appointed to the appeals court on which he now sits. I suspect that the stern Republican Senate majority, if faced with a Democrat who'd similarly broken such a promise to a Senate Committe, would charge that person with contempt of Congress.

Samuel Alito does seem more thoughtful and calmly articulate than the Constitution-scorning President who nominated him, and than some members of Congress -- but so are many other Americans, not all of whom are well suited to be Supreme Court Justices. Alito is apparently a generally fine, decent, dedicated fellow -- and brighter than most of the people most of us meet -- but is he one of the best to place in this particular, crucial job? In controversial cases, with split decisions, he'll likely tend to side with the powerful at the expense of the "little guy", much more than the judicial norm. We'll flourish better when justice includes some mercy.

Ad:

Below are links to the Democratic Party's 2004 Platform, largely still relevant, and some excerpts from that agenda.

democraticparty-takebackamerica.jpg
Click the image above to read "Strong At Home, Respected in the World" --
The Democratic Party Platform for America.

A new book by Kerry and Edwards
pic_ourplan.jpg
Download "Our Plan for America" (1.53 MB)

Overview of "Our Plan for America"

Restore America's Respect in the World and Make us Independent of Mideast Oil

Today, we face four great challenges above all others - First, to win the global war against terror; Second, to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; Third, to promote democracy, freedom, and opportunity around the world, starting by winning the peace in Iraq; Fourth, end our dependence on Mideast oil. To meet these challenges, Kerry and Edwards will:

* Launch and Lead A New Era Of Alliances.

The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale - to utilize every available resource to get the terrorists before they can strike us. Kerry-Edwards will lead a coalition of the able - because no force on earth is more able than the United States and its Allies.

* Modernize The World's Most Powerful Military To Meet New Threats.

Kerry-Edwards will ensure that our forces are fully prepared for the dangerous and vital missions they may face, and that America's military always remains second to none. We must extend our capabilities to better face new threats of terrorism, failed states and homeland defense.

* Deploy All That Is In America's Arsenal.

The war on terror cannot be won by military might alone. Kerry - Edwards will deploy all the forces in America's arsenal - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas - to make America more secure and prevent a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

* Free America From Its Dangerous Dependence On Mideast Oil.

To secure our full independence and freedom, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil. By tapping American ingenuity, we can achieve that goal while growing our economy and protecting our environment. Kerry-Edwards will create a new energy and conservation trust fund to accelerate the development of innovative technologies, such as more efficient cars and trucks, the development of biofuels, and creating clean, secure, hydrogen-based energy. Kerry-Edwards will also expand the supply of natural gas, assure 20% of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020, and make clean coal part of our energy solution.

Create New Jobs, Strengthen the Middle Class, and Ensure Educational Opportunity

* Reward Companies that Create Jobs in America.

The Kerry-Edwards plan will end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas and use the savings to reduce the corporate tax rate by 5 percent, cutting taxes for 99 percent of corporations. The Kerry-Edwards plan also includes a New Jobs Tax Credit for new hiring in manufacturing, other businesses affected by outsourcing, and small businesses.

* Strengthen the Middle Class.

As incomes decline and costs rise, families are having a hard time paying their bills, let alone saving for tomorrow. Health care costs are up by nearly 50 percent, college tuition has increased by 35 percent, and gas prices have skyrocketed. A Kerry-Edwards administration will provide relief to middle class families by cutting taxes and investing in health care and education.

* Invest in the Jobs of the Future.

To keep America competitive for the future, a Kerry-Edwards administration will invest in research and technology and provide tax credits to unleash innovation in broadband, energy and small business. They will also provide a tax credit on up to $4,000 for each of four years of college tuition. And they will work for responsible immigration laws that honor America's promise and strengthen America's economy and security.

* Restore Fiscal Discipline to Washington.

Kerry and Edwards have a record of fiscal discipline that is absent in this administration, and they have promised to live within the budget principles that helped lead this nation to balance the budget. Their plan will cut the deficit in half in four years, increasing economic confidence and keep interest rates from rising.

Provide High-Quality Health Care, Improve Education, and Strengthen Families

* Up to $1,000 of Health Care Premium Relief

The Kerry-Edwards plan will provide relief for employers who offer their employees quality health coverage by helping out with certain high cost health cases - saving families up to $1,000 per year.

* A Health Plan for Every Child

The Kerry-Edwards plan will pick up the full cost of the more than 20 million children enrolled in Medicaid. In exchange, states will expand eligibility for children's health coverage and low-income adults and enroll every child automatically.

* Manage Skyrocketing Health Care Costs

The Kerry-Edwards plan will improve health outcomes while reducing health care costs by cutting administrative costs, waste, fraud, and abuse; enhancing disease management efforts; and reforming malpractice insurance.

* World Class Education

The Kerry-Edwards plan will support more resources and more reform in our schools. The plan will fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act so students have smaller classes and more textbooks. The plan will make reform work for our schools, supporting innovations in public schools like smaller schools, all-girls schools focused on math and science, and charter schools. And the plan will invest in afterschool programs so that 3.5 million children have a safe, quality place to go after school.

* Every Classroom Has a Great Teacher

The Kerry-Edwards plan will raise teacher pay, especially in the schools and subjects where great teachers are in the shortest supply, and will improve teachers' professional development and training opportunities. At the same time, the plan will create rigorous new tests for new teachers; provide higher pay for teachers who have extra skills and excel in helping children learn; and ensure fast, fair procedures for improving or removing teachers who do not perform well on the job, while preserving protections from arbitrary dismissal.

* Every Young Person Graduates

Today 3 in 10 young people do not finish high school, and half of Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans don't graduate. Kerry-Edwards will keep better track of graduation rates to hold schools accountable for raising them; will offer more tutoring and mentoring to at-risk youth; will make big high schools smaller when they are not working for their students; and will strengthen the high school curriculum so all students can graduate with a meaningful diploma.

from http://www.johnkerry.com/plan/

kerry-edwards-plans-issues2.jpg

Click the image above for more details on Kerry's domestic and foreign policy agenda.

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What would You do if you were President? I don't see how Bush could have done a worse job, either on foreign or domestic policy, and honestly believe that most Americans would do better as President. Most who don't know what to do about tough situations will seek diverse advice; Bush does not. Bush, like Bin Laden and crew, erroneously believes that the use of force will cause others to be terrorized into obedience; such is rarely the case -- Americans are not going to feel agreeable or submissive toward anyone who attacks their people or property, and neither will Muslims.

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