Thursday, October 23, 2008

To the Point of Bankruptcy

by Dee Newman

For the past seven years Bush, as well as, McCain have been telling us "the American economy is the envy of the world . . . [that] the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

When we look at the facts, though, economic growth has actually been extremely weak under the Bush administration.

Since 1960, no administration ranks lower in economic growth than Bush's, including his father’s – which was 1.9%.

Nevertheless, it was not until February of this year when Bush signed the stimulus package that he finally admitted what most of us already knew – the economy is in real trouble and has been for a long time.

To sustain the myth, the Bush administration has barrowed and spent more than any other administration in our nation’s history – even more than the Reagan administration.

The effects of Bush’s deficit-spending have been to completely reverse the deficit-reduction of the Clinton years.

Furthermore, the massive trade deficits of the Bush years have added more than $1.5 trillion to our foreign debt.

Without China and Middle Eastern countries financing our debt the United States’ economy would already be insolvent.

The Dollar has shrunk to an all time low.

Wages have remained flat as the price of oil and food has climbed to record levels.

Inflation is on the rise.

Health-care coverage for most Americans has become increasingly precarious. Over 45 million Americans have no health care at all.

What's more, this administration has done absolutely nothing to help the average worker in this country.

Job growth has been extremely low – until this year averaging less than 900,000 jobs a year, compared to more than 2.5 million jobs a year during the Clinton administration.

As for this year, the U. S. government reported in August that the economy had lost jobs for the ninth straight month – bringing the total loss to over 700,000 jobs this year.

Bush’s only strategy has been to give out massive tax cuts, but tax cuts that heavily favored the rich and powerful – trickled down economics or as his Daddy use to say, voodoo economics.

In addition, between 2000 and 2006, the republican controlled congress gave out a record amount of pork. But, Bush did not veto or even threaten to veto one single spending bill, that is, until the Democrats took over and reduced pork by 40%.

On top of all this barrowing and spending, the Bush administration, also, gave massive handouts and tax cuts, not to the poor and hungry, but to big business (the energy companies, the defense contractors, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and yes, the financial industry), essentially everything they wanted, and all at the public's expense.

None of which produce the growth Bush promised.

And now, ”Bailouts!”

In other words – "Corporate Welfare."

Now, there is a lot of blame to go around, but it was Bush's decision to not only ignore, but also celebrate in hundreds of speeches the growth of the housing bubble. Let’s be honest, the insanity of the growth and deregulation of the mortgage market was one of the most disastrous economic mistakes in our nation's history.

The economic meltdown coupled with the billions of dollars we continue to spend on the Iraq War each month may well bring out precious country to its knees.

Borrow, borrow . . . spend, spend.

Osama bin Laden must be laughing his ass off.

As he has told us on numerous occasions since 9/11 – al Qaeda’s goal is to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.”

He told us in November of 2004 that al Qaeda had found it easy “to provoke and bait” the Bush administration. And, that America would suffer major human and economic losses while Bush’s buddies would rake in enormous profits.

“ The real loser is you," he said. "It is the American people and their economy."

How sad and depressing it is that the man Bush said he would capture "dead or alive" back in 2002 is still at large, and that it is his, Osama bin Laden’s words, not Bush's, that ring true, today.

A Peaceful Resolution

by Dee Newman

Until Israel withdrew its forces in 2005, it had militarily and illegally occupied Gaza for nearly forty years. Since then, it has continued to maintain a stranglehold on the area and its citizens, controlling the Gaza territory, its air space and territorial waters.

In violation of international law and the Geneva Convention, Israeli helicopter gunships and F-16 jet fighters have repeatedly inflicted collective retribution on the nearly one million civilians of Gaza.

The Israeli government’s illegal blockade – preventing food, medicine, fuel, and other necessities from entering Gaza through international relief organizations, the withholding of millions of dollars of tax revenue, and the prevention of relatives, professionals, friends and the news media from entering the area – has created one of the worse humanitarian crisis of our times.

When you systematically imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space, the rising tide of human misery eventually takes its toll and factional fighting among the imprisoned becomes a reality.

Was this the result the Israel government intended, all along?

The silence of the international community has been deafening, especially from the United States.

Each day, as the misery worsens and the deaths of the innocent increase, one wonders how the Bush Administration, the United States Congress, and the Press can remain so conspicuously mute. How our government can continue to provide billions of our taxpayer dollars to support a policy of vengeance that has never and will never work to reduce the hostilities?

The course of action that our government has chosen to support is not only illegal and immoral, it is also, extremely disproportionate. Examine and compare the numbers.

According to B’Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), the crude and primitive rockets launched from Gaza into Israel by Hamas have killed no more than thirteen Israelis in the past four years, while more than a thousand Palestinians in the occupied territories have been killed by Israeli forces in the past two years alone.

Nearly half of those killed by Israeli forces were civilians and nearly half of them were children.

These numbers do not take into account the loss of life from malnutrition, contaminated drinking water, the lack of medical supplies, and a crumbling infrastructure brought on by the illegal Israeli bombardment and blockade.

Though a comparison between 2007 and 2006 by B’Tselem reveals a decrease in the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, dropping from 657 killed in 2006 (523 in Gaza, 134 in the West Bank including 140 minors) to 373 killed in 2007 (290 in Gaza, 83 in the West Bank), the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians has also dropped from a mere 17 in 2006 to just seven in 2007. This is the lowest number of Israeli civilian casualties since the beginning of the Intifada.

And yet, Israel continues its illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza.

While the B’Tselem’s figures for 2007 show an overall reduction in civilian casualties for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, the facts still give cause for concern.

For example:

• In 2007, there was an increase of 13% in the number of Palestinians held in administrative detention without trial, which averaged 830 people.

• Israeli settlement population grew by 4.5% (compared with 1.5% population growth inside Israel).

• The number of Palestinian houses demolished in East Jerusalem rose by 38%, to 69 homes.

• Palestinians continue to face severe discrimination in the allocation of water in the West Bank, causing serious hardship in the summer.

• The number of Palestinians killed in intra-Palestinian clashes was the highest throughout the Intifada. At least 344 persons were killed, almost all in the Gaza Strip in the first six months of 2007. At least 73 of the dead, among them 22 minors, were not taking part in the fighting.

Sad, but true! In spite of the fact that nearly two thirds of Israelis would like their government to hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza and that Hamas has repeatedly offered the Israeli government cease-fire proposals, the Israeli prime minister has rejected them, outright.

Once again, silence has allowed a strident and belligerent minority to prevail.

If the Bush Administration, the Congress, and the Press were truly serious about peace in the Middle East, they would be actively and overtly supporting the united Israeli and Palestinian peace movements [lead by such organizations as the Parent Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), a grassroots organization of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis who have lost love ones in the conflict and who are promoting reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge]. They would be providing these peace groups a platform on which they could voice their non-violent initiative and push for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

We can no longer afford to sit silent and allow the hostility of a small but vocal and violent minority of extremists and religious fundamentalists from both sides influence and dominate the political landscape of the region.

The time has come for all of us to speak out and join hands with the peace-loving majority of Palestinians and Israelis and allow them to determine the future of the Middle East.

Quoting bin Laden

By Dee Newman

Quoting a message allegedly sent from Osama bin Laden in March of 2008, Senator McCain has tried numerous times to convince the American people that “the central battleground in the war against al-Qaeda is in Iraq,” inferring adamantly that if bin Laden says it is, then it must be so.

In her debate with Senator Biden, McCain’s running-mate also tried to use bin Laden’s words to convince us that the “central war on terror is in Iraq” and not Afghanistan.

“You don't have to believe me or John McCain on that,” Governor Palin asserted, “ . . . believe . . . the leader of al Qaeda.”

My question to Senator McCain and Governor Palin is – when did bin Laden become the “bearer of truth” for them?

It seems obvious to me the reason bin Laden wants us to continue to focus our attention in Iraq (where al-Qaeda never existed until we began our occupation of Iraq) is because (one) it is easier and cheaper to kill Americans there than it is to travel half-way around the world and kill them here. And, (two) bin Laden would rather have us spending our time and Treasury in Iraq than using it going after him in Afghanistan.

Quoting bin Laden to justify the war in Iraq not only gives him credibility, it reinforces and justifies bin Laden’s belief that he has the power to influence and manipulate the domestic and foreign policy of the United States.

In November of 2004 bin Laden told us that his goal was to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” He went on to say that he had found it easy “to provoke and bait” the Bush administration and that America would suffer major human and economic losses while Bush’s buddies would rake in enormous profits.

Sadly, it seems, under a McCain/Palin administration the “bleeding“ would continue, unabated.

A Case for Becoming a Vegan

By Dee Newman

Our attitudes, thoughts and feelings (conscious and unconscious) regarding other living sentient beings begin to form when we are very young and are primarily influenced and dominated by the fact that we are taught and encouraged to eat them at a very early age by people who we love and respect.

Even though, as children, we may, at first, refuse to eat the flesh of other animals, eventually we are coaxed and convinced by our culture and our parents (in the mistaken belief that it is necessary for good health) to consume the flesh of our fellow creatures.

Long before we are capable of truly understanding, of making an informed and conscious decision on our own, free from the bias and pressures of social and religious customs and conformity, our identities are formed and established by others for us.

And, as each year passes it becomes more and more difficult for us to find the courage to question and challenge what we have become, until, at last, in order to maintain our self-worth and sanity, the fortifications that defend out psyche become very nearly impenetrable.

Ignorance becomes our first line of defense. “Don’t tell me! You’ll spoil my dinner.”

Refusing to permit any intellectual, ethical or moral consideration to enter that part of our brain that would normally and easily recognize the injustice and cruelty of choosing to arbitrarily exercise absolute power over our fellow creatures, prevents us from understanding and identifying with the pain and suffering we inflict upon them, allowing us to cling to the false belief that we are innocent of any wrong doing that may cause our conscience discomfort.

Oh, how our “conscious does make cowards of us all.”

And if, by some miracle, our defenses are penetrated, our psyche stands ready and armed with a slue of self-justifying explanations and rationalizations for our callous indifference and morally indefensible conduct.

Being rational creatures somehow allows us to rationalize anything.

“Don’t bother me with such trivial concerns! There are far too many other problems in the world other than animal exploitation that deserve my attention, time and energy.”

There are the burgeoning effects of human over-population, the gluttonous consumption of the world’s resources, the fouling of the air, land and water, the destruction of the world’s rainforests, the depletion of the ozone layer of our atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, world hunger, homelessness, and the mass extinction of other species – just to name a few.

Yet, if we are able to put aside our prejudices, accept and overcome our feelings of shame and regret, and examine the human exploitation of our fellow creatures objectively, then we might be able to recognize that the suffering we inflict on the animals we kill and eat for food is not only morally wrong and extreme, but greatly contribute to most, if not all, of the problems listed above.

In fact, if the truth be known, the raising of animals for food is one of, if not, the primary causes of water contamination, air pollution, land degradation, the loss of biodiversity, and global warming.

The numbers of non-human animals produced and destroyed each year in the United States are incomprehensible. Hundreds of millions of cows, pigs, and sheep and nearly 10 billion chickens are cruelly raised and brutally slaughter by our nation’s animal agricultural industry annually. Although no government agency compiles the number of fish and other aquatic organisms killed for human consumption, it is estimated that, at least, another 10 billion of them are “harvested” each year.

Our vision of free-roaming happy animals living out their days on ideal lush green farms is far from reality. The overwhelming majority of animals we raise for food live miserable lives, not on storybook farms, but confined in dark, overcrowded and intensive flesh-producing factories.

The birth of Factory Farming began in the 1920’s with the discovery that vitamins A and D when added to animal feed no longer required animals to have sunlight and exercise for growth. However, it was not until the 1940’s with the development of antibiotics that the American animal agricultural industry truly began to increase productivity and reduce operating coats by implementing mechanization and industrial assembly lines.

On today’s modern factory farms, run by giant corporations and conglomerates, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy feedlots, windowless warehouses, wire cages, gestation crates, and other cruel methods of confinement.

Excluded from all laws that protect and prevent other animals (like our pets) from being severely mistreated, farm animals are subjected to and suffer from all kinds of human exploitation and abuse (including mutilation, debeaking, castration, genetic manipulation, branding and burning, just to name a few). In order to keep them alive under these inhumane and unhealthy conditions that would otherwise kill them and to fatten them up faster they are fed enormous quantities of antibiotics, drugs and hormones.

Their entire lives until the moment they die is filled with misery, pain and suffering. Once they have grown large enough to be slaughtered, they are packed into trucks and often transported hundreds of miles under extreme weather conditions to slaughterhouses. If they survive the journey, it is there, while many of them are fully conscious, that they have their throats slit. If they are fortunate (though many are not) they will have already die prior to being plunged into tanks of scalding hot water to remove hair or feathers or before their bodies are skinned or hacked into pieces.

Unfortunately, this mechanized madness of the American animal agricultural industry is concerned about only one thing – the bottom-line of maximizing output while minimizing costs. It treats farm animals as mere objects and commodities, caring little, if any, about the pain and suffering it inflicts upon them.

When most of us sit down to eat supper tonight, we will not have thought at all about how the food we have chosen to eat was produced, nor will we have considered how it may be affecting our lives, let alone the future of life on this planet.

Most of us are simply unaware that the chief cause of death and disease in this country comes from the running of animal flesh through our cardiovascular system; that the epidemics of heart and kidney disease, cancer and osteoporosis, just to name a few, are the direct result of eating and drinking the flesh and bodily secretions of other animals.

For example, every 45 seconds a person dies of a heart attack in the United States. And yet, the risk of having a heart attack can be reduced by 90% simply by eliminating meat, dairy products and eggs from our diet.

Few of us know that in the Quarter-Pounder we had for lunch today was a piece of the world’s tropical rainforests. Nor, do we realize that the ecological crisis of deforestation, topsoil erosion, ozone depletion, mass extinctions and the toxic defilement of our air, land, and water are directly related to and primarily caused by our continuing support of the obscenely wasteful and inhumane American animal agricultural system.

Throughout the world each year more than 60 million people die of starvation (a child every 2 seconds). They could easily be fed by the grains and soybeans the United States now feed to the billions of cow, pigs, and chickens we have created by artificial breeding.

It takes, for example, a 100 times as much water to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce a pound of wheat.

Livestock consumes 80% of all the corn grown in the United States and 95% of all the oats.

Nearly 60% of the U.S. agricultural land is used to produce beef.

Though an acre of land can only produce 165 pounds of beef, it can grow 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.

The amount of fossil fuel wasted each year in the United States to produce a meat-centered diet is astronomical.

The United States would not have to import a single barrel of foreign oil if less 20 % of our population became vegans.

Even if we continue to disregard any and all ethical and moral arguments against the rearing and eating of other animals, for just purely economic reasons alone the rationale and incentives to immediately begin phasing out the obscenely wasteful production of animal flesh for human consumption in countries like the United States and Great Britain are abundantly clear and obvious.

Great Britain now imports enormous quantities of vegetable protein to feed to cows, pigs, and chickens creating a huge burden on the nation’s balance of payments and increasing its dependence on foreign suppliers.

Economically, the production and consumption of non-human animals in the Untied States is, also, fiscally irresponsible. The nation’s most valuable export and its best resource to pay for costly imports like foreign oil is soybeans. Though it now produces three quarters of the world’s soybeans, more than 95% of the crop is fed to farm animals.

The case for radically changing our eating habits is obvious.

But, should we only eat vegetables?

Why not fish?

Since fish are not, for the most part, reared by the commercial fishing industry, they are not made to suffer until they are caught and killed. You would think that the ecological arguments, therefore, against eating intensely reared animals does not apply to fish.

However, the death of a commercially caught fish is much more prolonged than that of a cow, a pig, a sheep, or a chicken. Since fish have gills and cannot breath out of water, once they are caught they die a slow and agonizing death of suffocation.

Large modern fishing fleets with giant ships equipped with state-of-the-art-fish-finding sonar that systematically trawl fishing grounds with fine-gauge fishing nets catch everything in their path, including dolphins and other marine mammals, trapping and drowning them. These ships are enormous floating factories – containing huge fish processing, packing, and freezing plants.

In short, the fish don’t stand a chance.

This practice of extensive and intensive commercial fishing of the world’s oceans has rapidly and dramatically depleted a number of once abundant species of fish (from the herrings of Northern Europe to the California sardines).

Ninety percent of the ocean’s predator fish, such as tuna, marlin, cod, swordfish, halibut, skate and flounder, have all but been fish out. Scientists believe the depletion of these predator species have begun to caused a shift in the ecosystems of the world’s oceans. Smaller, plankton-feeding fish and jellyfish have already begun to rapidly increase in numbers.

In addition to the over-fishing and disruption of the world’s ocean ecology by the commercial fishing industry, there have been serious consequences for humans, as well. Throughout the world small coastal villages that have lived by fishing for centuries are now finding their traditional source of food and income disappearing.

Furthermore, the world wide environmental degradation of our streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans continues to deteriorate. Each year coal-fired power plants and chemical facilities produce and release hundreds of tons of mercury into our atmosphere, which eventually rains down upon the Earth poisoning the fresh water and oceans of the world.

As the price of oil continues to rise, coal becomes a very economically attractive source of energy, especially in those countries where it is abundant and inexpensive like the United States and China. Presently, 75% of China’s energy comes from coal-fired power plants. In the next eight years, China is expected to build another 560 of them.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the most common source of mercury exposure for U. S. citizens is the eating of tuna fish. Although tuna does not contain the highest concentrations of mercury, Americans consume far greater amounts of tuna than they do of other more mercury-contaminated fish.

We should, therefore, avoid eating fish, if not out of a concern for their suffering, out of concern for the well being of ourselves and the planet on which we live.

Becoming a vegan is not a great sacrifice. In fact, it is rather easy, far less expensive and significantly healthier for both the Earth’s and our physical wellbeing.

But, more importantly, becoming a vegan allows us to maintain our integrity. It is the moral actualization of the Golden Rule – of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, of allowing the needs and interests of other sentient beings to be paramount to our mere wants and desires.

Becoming a vegan will not solve all the world's problems. It will not completely prevent us from participating in all forms of nonhuman animal exploitation that pervades every aspect of our lives. But, if the majority of us would just simply stop eating them the amount of pain and suffering we cause to other animals would diminish dramatically.

Unfortunately, it seems, in our greed and relentless quest to conquer the Earth, we have become so estranged from her diversity, complexity and beauty – from that which truly gives us life (the mountains, rivers, forests and seas) – that we are no longer able to hear, see, feel, taste, or smell in the fried chicken, fish, and burgers we devour each and every day the pain and pitiful cries of the creatures we consume.

For some reason, as the calves are crated, the trees fall, the Earth erodes, and the poisons accumulate, we continue to go about our daily lives – careless, cruel and insidiously oblivious to all the pain and suffering we inflict upon our fellow creatures. If not drunk in our cabin, we are, at least, asleep at the wheel, continuing to make choices that not only catastrophically affect our own lives and the lives of billions of other sentient beings, but the life of the entire Earth.

Political Verse: The Judgment at Nuremberg

by Dee Newman

The judgment at Nuremberg was that War
Is evil. And, self-defense, its lone
Justification. Those persons, therefore,
Who initiate a war on their own
Must bear the sole responsibility
For all the children burned, crippled, and killed,
For all the death and pain and tragedy,
For all the waste and innocent blood spilled.
Though, the engraved subject and its exergue
Has long faded from our consciousness,
The victor's revenge of Nuremberg
May soon be revisited upon us.
I wonder, are we prepared to live by
The rules of criminal conduct that we
Once enforced on others and to apply
Those laws to our acting authority?
         The Geneva Conventions we signed ain't
         Out-of-date, old-fashion, nor are they ''quaint.''