Friday, May 22, 2009
NEW YORK - Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, issued the following statement on the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday:
"Even after almost eight years of war, too many Americans see Memorial Day as just another summer holiday. Memorial Day should mean much more than barbeques and clearance sales. It marks a solemn day of remembrance for the more than one million American service members of all generations who, on the field of battle, made the ultimate sacrifice," said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. "IAVA is honored to join our Commander-in-Chief, other veterans' organizations, and families of the fallen in the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. We are humbled to have this opportunity to pay our respects to the generations of Americans warriors who have given their lives in defense of our country."
In addition to participating in events nationwide, IAVA has created an online 'Wall of Remembrance' where people can submit what Memorial Day means to them, or text or tweet a message of support to our troops and veterans. http://www2.iava.org/o/436/t/8492/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=1956#petition
For more information on the Memorial Day events IAVA will be participating in or to visit the Wall of Remembrance.
Froma Harrop points out the impact of illegal immigration on the working poor in a column which appeared in the Houston Chronicle [www.chron.com]:
(excerpt from the column)
Advocates of open borders — both defenders of illegal immigration and cheap-labor businesses — have run a campaign to demonize E-Verify precisely because it does the job. It enables enforcement of the law without scenes of ICE agents hauling away poor foreigners in handcuffs.
We still await a comprehensive immigration plan, which would deal with the millions of illegals already established in this country. A “path to citizenship” for this group would be reasonable, but only if it’s the last amnesty. That is, the E-Verify system would have to be in place so employers can’t ignore the ban on hiring undocumented workers in the future.
The advocates hold that rather than stop the flow of undocumented workers, the United States should just keep legalizing everyone.
Their argument is as follows: Wages for low-skilled jobs are dismal because employers can exploit illegal workers. Make them legal, and companies would have to improve pay and working conditions for all.
There’s some truth in that, but you can’t get around basic labor economics. From heart surgeon to street sweeper, every worker is subject to the law of supply and demand. The more people there are after the same number of jobs, the less anyone has to pay them.
The United States accepts 2 million legal immigrants a year, more than the rest of the world combined. No American has to apologize for drawing the line at illegal immigration.
Our working poor deserve the same protections against unfair competition that our doctors get. And in this economy, their need has grown desperate.
Harrop is right. Illegal immigration lowers wages. That is why United Farm Workers founder Caesar Chavez was a strong advocate of immigration enforcement.
Progressive radio talk host Thom Hartmann notes:
The reason why thirty years ago United Farm Workers' Union (UFW) founder Caesar Chavez fought against illegal immigration, and the UFW turned in illegals during his tenure as president, was because Chavez, like progressives since the 1870s, understood the simple reality that labor rises and falls in price as a function of availability.
In 1969, Chavez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valley to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of illegal aliens as temporary replacement workers during a strike. Joining him on the march were both the Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. Chavez and the UFW would often report suspected illegal aliens who served as temporary replacement workers as well as who refused to unionize to the INS.
Working Americans have always known this simple equation: More workers, lower wages. Fewer workers, higher wages.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Federal environmental officials have found that Chinese-made drywall - suspected of causing serious corrosion in homes throughout Florida, Louisiana and other states - contains three materials not found in samples of U.S.-manufactured wallboard, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office.
Tests on drywall samples were done at the request of Sens. Nelson and Mary Landrieu, who have initiated an investigation into complaints from homeowners in their respective states, Florida and Louisiana, that drywall in newer or rebuilt homes smells like rotten eggs and is causing corrosion of copper wiring and household appliances. In addition, homeowners are complaining of health problems such as asthma, coughing, headaches and insomnia.
The just-concluded tests by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency found that Chinese-made drywall contained sulfur that wasn’t in U.S. drywall, strontium at levels ten times as high as in U.S. drywall and two other organic compounds generally found in acrylic paint that were not detected in any U.S.-made wallboard.
Still, the EPA said more testing is needed, including air sampling in affected houses, to determine whether the drywall is in fact the cause of corroded wiring and appliances and the reported health problems. Tomorrow, Nelson and Landrieu will be filing an amendment to provide emergency funds for the investigation and continued testing.
“We now know there are three things in there that aren’t in other drywall samples,” Nelson said today, after his office reviewed the EPA’s first drywall testing results. “We’ve got the ‘what’ and now we need the ‘why’ – and, how do we fix it?
“In the end, I think all this stuff is going to have to be ripped out,” Nelson said.
“These initial tests provide some answers for our impacted homeowners, but also raise more questions,” Landrieu said. “Sen. Nelson and I are continuing to work closely with federal officials to get answers for families with sick children and pets, construction workers and builders removing the product, and local health officials who are concerned with dumping the drywall in their landfills.”
In February, Nelson asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the investigation of problems in homes constructed with the imported drywall, and for an interim ban on the product. He and Landrieu then filed legislation aimed at initiating a recall in addition to a ban - as more and more people around the country were reporting problems in their homes built with imported drywall. Lawmakers complained the CPSC was slow to react to consumer complaints and Nelson called for the removal of the agency’s chair, Nancy Nord. President Obama recently announced a new chair of the three-member CPSC board.
The potential scope of the problem looms large. Nelson represents Florida, where an estimated 36,000 homes are believed to contain Chinese-made drywall. Landrieu represents Louisiana, where tons of the drywall was used in post-Hurricane Katrina construction. All told, it’s thought that between 60,000 and 100,000 homes nationwide may contain tainted drywall. Besides Florida and Louisiana, problems also have been seen and reported in the press in Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and California.
27 Democrats in the U.S. Senate including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and 105 Democrats in the U.S. House have affirmed their support for gun rights.
Gun rights advocates found an unlikely ally in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday as lawmakers passed a measure allowing concealed, loaded firearms to be carried in national parks.
The House approved a measure Wednesday to allow concealed firearms in national parks.
The proposal passed 279-147, winning overwhelming Republican support and that of a significant number of more conservative rural and western Democrats.
The Senate voted 67-29 on Tuesday to attach an identical measure to a bill cracking down on credit card fees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was among 27 Democrats backing the measure.
Under the measure, any person with a state permit to carry a concealed weapon would be able to bring that weapon into parks and wildlife refuges unless a state law specifies otherwise.
The firearms language is now expected to be included in the final version of the credit card legislation, which lawmakers want to deliver to President Obama's desk by Memorial Day.
Blue Steel Democrats, the blog of the Oregon Democratic Party's Gun Owners Caucus, makes a good case for the legislation:
Crime against park rangers and visitors has seen an increase in recent years and this prudent, bipartisan legislation should ensure that criminals won't find National Parks easy hunting grounds for defenseless victims. (See previous post for more information: "Guns in National Parks: Yes, No, or Sometime?")
Saturday, May 16, 2009
President Obama is under attack from the progressive blogosphere as a result of his decision to reinstate military tribunals for suspected terrorists but is the criticism fair ?
The Boston Globe reports that Senator Patrick Leahy D-VT, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is defending the President's decision:
"I objected to the military commissions that were created by the Bush-Cheney administration because they stripped away critical protections in our laws," Leahy said in a statement yesterday. "People in American custody must be treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with our laws. I look forward to reviewing the Obama administration's proposals for providing a fair system of military commissions."
Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen gave his insights in today's Washington Post:
"Rather than betraying the left, President Obama has effectively isolated it with his decision to continue to use military commissions to try alleged terrorists. "
"First he got Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to endorse his decision by acknowledging publicly that, "military commissions can play a legitimate role in prosecuting" detainees. "
"And by granting detainees additional legal protections beyond those offered by the Bush administration, Obama appears to have limited public criticism largely to interest groups and human rights groups such as the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First. "
"Obama also obviously saw an opportunity to announce his decision when the liberal Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- who could have been expected to be an outspoken opponent of his decision -- was clearly distracted. He announced his decision on a day during which CIA Director Leon Panetta defended the agency in the ongoing dispute about what Pelosi knew about waterboarding and when she knew it. "
"If the president is able to avoid serious and sustained criticism from the left for his decision to continue to employ military tribunals, he will be better able to deal with the equally thorny issue of how and when to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and what to do about the detainees still housed there. "
The President appears to have acted on the basis of national security interests and while annoying some on the left, he will be supported by mainstream public opinion.
Freda Stevens, a party activist and candidate for State Representative in Florida's 100th District, presents the case for welcoming moderates and conservatives into the Democratic Party. While ideological diversity can pose some problems in reaching a consensus about how to govern, there is no question that the party with the largest tent wins. The declining Republican vote in many areas of the country is a good example of what happens when a political party becomes too intolerant of differing beliefs. Democrats must be careful not to fall into the same trap by moving too far away from the mainstream.
Political reform is not a new concept to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party "Big Tent" position accepts a democrat because he or she fundamentally agrees with a majority of party positions. The beauty of the Democratic Party is she includes every end of the spectrum.
FDR Democrats, Truman Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, New Democrats, 21st Century Democrats, Democratic Leadership Council founded by former President Bill Clinton, Democrats for Values, and Democrats for Life of America are conservative to moderate leaning democratic groups. Each group has a significant role in shaping our great country.
Some of the most powerful presidential, congressional, legislative, and local democrats have moderate to conservative views that differ from the mainstream left side of the party. Moderate to conservative democrats may be fiscal conservative, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-business, and/or pro-War.
20 republican House seats, 9 Senate seats, the Governor's office and all cabinet seats, and the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Senator Mel Martinez are open in 2010. Although, I support Fair Districting, if my fellow conservative to moderate democrats would stand up and take their place then gerrymandering would be obsolete.
It is our time to take back control of the Florida Legislature, the Governorship, and reshape the Florida Democratic Party platform.
Freda Stevens, President
Florida Democrats for Life
PRO-LIFE AND PRO-CHOICE ACTIVISTS CLASH IN MADISON,WISCONSIN
The LA Times reports:
At a time when President Obama is trying to convince opponents in the abortion battle that they can find middle ground -- in rhetoric, if not reality -- a new Gallup Poll shows that more Americans describe themselves as "pro-life" than "pro-choice."
For the first time since it began asking the question in 1995, Gallup reported Friday, a majority of adults questioned for its annual survey on values and beliefs -- 51% -- said that when it comes to abortion, they consider themselves "pro-life"; 42% consider themselves "pro-choice." (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
Most Americans are not as pro-life as the Vatican or Dr. Dobson and certainly nothing approaching a majority of the public has ever been as pro-choice as Planned Parenthood. It is significant, however, that a narrow majority of Americans now select the pro-life rather than the pro-choice label. This polling does give greater momentum for policies to discourage abortion although far from a mandate to ban all abortions which has only 22% support. Less than a quarter of the American public
(23%) oppose all restrictions on abortion. A solid majority - 55% of Americans favor a middle ground approach to the abortion question.
The poll results confirm that the hard-line pro-choice position is a distinctly minority view in this country but also discredit the pro-life movement's unrealistic claims that banning abortion is just a Supreme Court decision away.
President Obama and Congressional Democrats should be paying attention to this polling data. It is time to show support for reasonable measures to curb the abortion rate by strengthening the safety net for expectant mothers and their children. Passage of the Pregnant Women Support Act sponsored by pro-life Democratic Senator Bob Casey would be a step in the right direction.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Bill would target nations that manipulate currency values to receive export and manufacturing advantage
Washington, DC –Senator Jim Bunning (KY), Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17) and Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) have reintroduced the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act. The bipartisan coalition of lawmakers was joined by business leaders, industry groups and labor who have been harmed by the unfair disadvantages in manufacturing and export that currency misalignment can create. The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act would target exchange rate misalignment between the U.S. Dollar, Chinese Yuan and other major trading partners, in order to reduce the unnatural comparative advantages that command economies can use against market economies.
“This is one of the most broad based coalitions I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” said Congressman Tim Ryan, “Democrats and Republicans, manufacturers and labor, and representatives from all over the country have come together on this common sense legislation which only asks countries to live up to the standards they agreed to when they joined the WTO.”
“China continues to illegally subsidize products by a third of the costs by manipulating their currency to undercut American goods,” said Congressman Tim Murphy. “The time has come for Congress to stand up for American workers and not allow China to run roughshod over the American economy. With this legislation we will finally force China to stop cheating and level the playing field for America’s manufacturers,”
“The global economy is facing its greatest challenge in modern times. Families in Michigan and across the country are having a hard time putting food on the table. I frequently hear from workers worried about finding good paying jobs and businesses that are unsure how long they will be able to keep their doors open,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “I’m fighting to level the playing field for them. This crisis is an opportunity to reflect on the mistakes of the past and update our trade laws to ensure that they are fair and transparent. Our laws must provide mechanisms to cite countries for manipulating their currency and also provide remedies, so U.S. workers are not put at a competitive disadvantage.“
“American workers and businesses have been competing with both hands tied behind their backs for too long, and it’s time to treat illegal currency intervention like the outrageous trade subsidy it is,” said Senator Jim Bunning. “Our legislation will put in place the tools and policies necessary to level the playing field with our trading partners and help protect American businesses from those countries who manipulate their currency in order to achieve an unfair trading advantage.”
The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act has 39 cosponsors.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The Courthouse News Service reports on former President Jimmy Carter's testimony concerning energy security before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Carter said he prefers windmills, nuclear energy and clean coal as an alternative to oil-based energy.
When he visited Spain, he said, the windmills were both beautiful and had helped the country on its way towards obtaining half of its energy from renewable sources.
To promote nuclear energy, Carter described its almost infinite supply. The nuclear warship USS Jimmy Carter will never have to be refueled, he noted. The ship's power plant will outlast the hull. As for nuclear waste, he said, "We can continue burying nuclear waste material for a long time. It doesn't take much."
Carter argued that coal is unlikely to disappear as a source of energy for practical reasons. The United States already uses mostly coal for energy. He said we need to develop a way to use it cleanly.
Before leaving, Carter imparted a bit of political advice. Only the president can bring about a real change in our energy policy, he said, and that change must be accomplished through one comprehensive bill so that everybody gets a little of what they want.
Carter expressed support for President Obama, saying, "I'm not preaching to him because he knows what he's doing."
Andrea Orr of the Economic Policy Institute [www.epi.org] explains why it is important to enforce H-1B Visa laws not only to protect the living standards of American workers but also to prevent the exploitation of guest workers by big business.
Enforcement needed in H-1B Visa laws
Economic Policy Institute
By Andrea Orr 05-12-09
The H-1B visa program was designed to allow U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in special circumstances when they could not find an American citizen who qualified for the job.
By that definition, it sounds like a reasonable way to allow high-skilled guest workers into the country, but there is a major problem: The companies, usually in the high-tech sector, that hire these workers from abroad are not required to exhaust the pool of American workers first. Many that rely heavily on H-1B workers have admitted to using this guest worker program as a way to lower their labor costs.
More than two years ago, EPI’s report, Outsourcing America’s Technology and Knowledge Jobs, outlined how multiple loopholes and generally poor enforcement had seriously eroded the original intent of the H-1B program. http://www.sharedprosperity.org/bp187.html Today, as U.S. unemployment rises at an alarming rate, reform in the H-1B visa law is badly needed. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who recently reintroduced reform legislation, along with Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) argues that the H-1B visa program “should complement the U.S. workforce, not replace it.”
Along with displacing American technology workers, EPI’s report found that the H-1B visa program also had the effect of decreasing wages for guest workers, and discouraging young people in the U.S. from pursuing careers in science and engineering. Although there is a common assumption that U.S. employers search for American workers before hiring from abroad, no such labor test exists and the government has no audit process for uncovering abuse. Even the Department of Labor has stated that H-1B workers “may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job.” Far from being a course of last resort, H-1B hires are often the first route companies pursue. Some companies have even advertised jobs expressly for H-1B visa holders.
Why would they do so? Even though employers are supposed to pay their H-1B workers the same wages they would pay an American, they can easily skirt that rule and in interviews with the Government Accountability Office, some have admitted to doing so. Tata Consultancy Services, for example, has said that the wages it pays H-1B visa holders are 20% to 25% less than what comparably skilled American workers would earn.
Such revelations suggest that the visa program, as it is implemented today, may be almost as bad for the guest workers as it is for displaced American workers. Another common misperception about the program is that guest workers use it as a path to citizenship. In fact, companies that hire foreign workers rarely sponsor them for green cards, instead keeping them in a state of limbo, where they have little power to fight for higher wages or better working conditions.
Current law allows some 65,000 H-1B workers in the country, though during the dot-com boom earlier this decade, that number rose as high as 195,000. And while high-tech companies such as Oracle and Microsoft and Google maintain there is often no comparable talent to be found in the U.S., those assertions are getting harder to justify. The San Jose Mercury News recently reported that high-tech companies in Santa Clara, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley, announced more than 20,000 job cuts during the first quarter of this year. It said that nationwide, there have been more than 84,000 high-tech job cuts. http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12328724?nclick_check=1
Sunday, May 10, 2009
CQ Politics called my attention to this funny video from "The Public Service Administration" taking a light-hearted look at libertarianism in action.
The video description on You Tube gives a couple of amazing links documenting libertarian praise for life in "government free" Somalia. The tea party crowd sees this anarchy as a model for human "freedom" even though life would be "short, nasty and brutish." Hat tip to Tom Hobbes.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
As Richmond-Area Jobs Are Cut, Senator Webb Urges Defense Department to End Procurement Exemptions that Send Jobs Overseas
Tells Secretary Gates that Domestic Procurement of Fibers Will Support U.S. Manufacturers and Strengthen Defense Industrial Base
WASHINGTON,DC—Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) yesterday called on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to discontinue two unwarranted exemptions related to procurement of para-aramid and fire-resistant fibers from foreign suppliers that result in manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas. Webb said that a prompt review by the Department of Defense will clearly document why the exceptions should not be applied for defense-related procurements.
“Current law mandates an annual review [of the exemptions] by the Secretary of Defense,” Senator Webb wrote in a joint letter with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
The senators’ letter to the Department of Defense comes on the heels of DuPont’s announcement yesterday to cut 2,000 jobs. DuPont’s Spruance plant in Richmond, Va. is one of the world’s largest manufacturing sites for products such as Kevlar(R) and Nomex(R) fibers, Tyvek(R) nonwoven and Zytel(R) resins. The company also has a plant under construction to produce Kevlar(R) in South Carolina.
“There is simply no justification for foreign-based procurement of materials needed for defense products when such items are now available in the U.S. marketplace,” said Senator Jim Webb. At issue are two outdated exemptions to the Berry Amendment that allow the Defense Department to look abroad if suitable materials aren’t available domestically.
“Domestic materials are not only available, but U.S. manufacturers in Virginia and across the country are suffering severe job losses because we are not adequately procuring them. Defense Secretary Gates is required by law to conduct an annual review of this exemption. I hope he will do so expeditiously and conclude that continued use of the exceptions is damaging our nation’s defense industrial base and hindering much-needed economic growth,” continued Webb.
The Berry Amendment requires the Department of Defense to give preference in its procurement to domestically produced, manufactured, or home grown products—most notably food, clothing, fabrics, and specialty metals. DOD was authorized to apply two exemptions to the amendment in 1998 and 2008 for the procurement of para-aramid and fire-resistant fibers, respectively, at a time when there was limited domestic competition. Conditions in the U.S. marketplace have since changed.
To view a complete copy of the letter from Senators Webb and Graham to Secretary Gates, please visit: http://webb.senate.gov/pdf/ltrgates.pdf
Spotlight on taking back the red state of Alabama. Since I have posted a couple of videos featuring Artur Davis on this blog, it is only fair to give equal time to his worthy opponent in the Democratic primary. Ron Sparks, twice elected as State Agriculture and Industries Commissioner, is a fighting populist with a strong message on jobs and education. A vocal advocate for country-of-orgin labeling of food and agricultural products, Sparks has served as President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Bret Kincaid, public policy community editor at Evangelicals for Social Action [www.esa-online.org] asks why Preident Obama and our Congressional leaders seem determined to exclude single payer advocates from discussions about health care policy. Single payer a/k/a Medicare for All has broad public support but almost no backing in Congress. Most members of Congress are in the pockets of the insurance industry and far too timid to even discuss single payer as an option.
Now that Arlen Specter has switched to the Democratic Party, and Al Franken is likely to be seated in the US Senate this summer, the Democratic Party in the Senate is better poised to defeat Republican filibusters of President Obama’s policy reform of healthcare. Unfortunately for President Obama, this past weekend Specter told Meet the Press that he would oppose public health insurance, the topic I explored in my April 22nd issue of the ePistle.
It is reasonable to assume, then, that if Specter would oppose Obama’s public health insurance proposal, he would certainly oppose what is probably the most radical healthcare reform proposal—the single payer plan (SPP), or what is being strategically dubbed “Medicare for All.” Specter’s opposition to a SPP is just the tip of the opposition iceberg, and the iceberg includes hefty industries like insurance and an array of other healthcare-related interest groups with gobs of dollars to throw into paid advertisements to scare us with the specter (no pun intended) of long lines, low quality, and rampant inefficiencies (as if none of these serious problems exists now).
It is troubling that Obama reluctantly allowed only two proponents of SPP into his White House Forum on Healthcare two months ago attended by about 120 stakeholders. This is strangely contrary to his typical disposition to reach out to draw Americans into the political process. Opinion polls are mixed on this issue, and public opinion is quite malleable depending on what respondents are asked and what language is used in surveys. A public opinion poll done last year by Kaiser doesn’t bode well for SPP: When asked to choose among seven healthcare reform options, the SPP came in last place. Still, when asked in another Kaiser poll whether the respondent would support “a public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private insurance plans,” 67% of respondents said they would.
The support inside Congress seems much clearer, if dimmer for a SPP. If congressional opinion of last Congress is any indication, SPP proponents have a very steep mountain to climb. According to a rough survey done by Medicareforall.org, only 3% of Senators and 20% of Representatives supported a SPP. Perhaps even more deadly is the fact that Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, a key player in the legislative process around healthcare reform, recently said, "I don't think a single-payer system makes sense in this country."
I believe a SPP makes a lot of sense as a remedy for achieving universal healthcare coverage. It is made appealing by a growing number of interest groups advocating a SPP, probably the most prominent one being Physicians for a National Health Program. And our Canadian and European counterparts, who enjoy a right to healthcare, are perplexed and appalled at the fact that some 47 million Americans are without health insurance. But there are potential flaws in a SPP, just as there are in every proposal floating around out there. And reforming healthcare —a $2 trillion industry—will immediately create many winners and losers in the healthcare industry, unsettling millions of people who earn a living directly or indirectly from it.
We should move cautiously, but we should move nonetheless. The issue is too important to leave policy reform strictly to the insiders. Let’s get up to speed on the key details of Medicare for All and competing proposals (including Obama’s), prayerfully decide which most conforms to biblical justice, and then join the legislative process informed and committed to loving our neighbor.
Bret Kincaid is associate professor of political science at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.
Friday, May 08, 2009
THE MAP ABOVE SHOWS the states with higher rates of child poverty in dark green.
WASHINGTON -- During the campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama excited anti-hunger activists by committing to end child hunger by 2015. Understandably, the plan for how to accomplish that goal has not been fully sketched out.
In a new paper released by the Democratic Leadership Council, "Fulfilling the President's Call," senior fellow Tom Freedman and Share our Strength Founder Bill Shore write that a relatively small outlay of federal funds could incentivize states to set aside the necessary resources to take on the mission of ending child hunger in their state in a short time.
There is no substitute for a strong role for the federal government in ending childhood hunger. But there is also an indispensible complementary role at the state level. Critical programs ranging from food stamps to child nutrition must be adequately funded at the federal level but also executed more effectively by the states.
This proposal urges the Administration to embrace a stronger partnership with states to ensure they have the strategic resources they need to close the gap between children who are eligible for assistance and those who actually receive it.
There are enormous resources available, but they are too underutilized to help hungry children. A smart focus on leveraging those existing resources, and on using state, private sector, and nonprofit local partners to help lead and implement a local plan, makes the most sense.
Read the full report at:
Any shift toward single payer health care in the U.S. is going to be a very gradual change due to the power of insurance companies. We have to find some way to reduce health care costs and offer universal access to medical treatment.
Taiwan is perhaps the best model for a national health care system.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89651916 The Taiwanese system seems to cover everything and yet Taiwan spends less than half of what the U.S. spends in GDP on health care. One reason why the system in Taiwan may
work is that it stresses prevention and incorporates the holistic approach of traditional Chinese medicine. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/7/26
"I tried a case or two in my day as a lawyer. I never went to a jury and said you are bigoted, you are not smart, you are valueless and you are expedient. And now here's why I want you to give my client a nice chunk of money."
"I will run for Governor with the proposition that the Democratic Party has a home for all kinds of people in this state."
Congressman Artur Davis D-AL
Candidate for Governor
Thursday, May 07, 2009
According to a report from Reuters, China's military expansion appears to be targeting the United States:
China's build-up of sea and air military power funded by a strong economy appears aimed at the United States, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday.
Admiral Michael Mullen said China had the right to meet its security needs, but the build-up would require the United States to work with its Pacific allies to respond to increasing Chinese military capabilities.
"They are developing capabilities that are very maritime focused, maritime and air focused, and in many ways, very much focused on us," he told a conference of the Navy League, a nonprofit seamen's support group, in Washington.
"They seem very focused on the United States Navy and our bases that are in that part of the world."
China in March unveiled its official military budget for 2009 of $70.24 billion, the latest in nearly two decades of double-digit rises in declared defense spending.
Community leaders, workers join ranks to spotlight 7.2 million U.S. auto-related jobs across America
Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2009) – More than 7.2 million paychecks are dependent on U.S. autos, including health care, education, service, retail and other jobs. That’s the message workers, community leaders, elected officials, labor leaders, and others will bring to an 11-state, 34-city “Keep it Made in America” bus tour the week of May 11. Regular tour updates will be posted at www.madeinamericatour.org.
Leo W. Gerard, USW international president, says, “This jobs crisis goes deeper than auto companies and assembly workers in Detroit. Reducing U.S. auto manufacturing drives down overall employment, from the people who make auto catalogs and shipping boxes to workers making glass for windshields, rubber for tires and other materials.”
Workers from the bus tour, business leaders, national labor leaders, mayors, federal lawmakers and economists will join ranks again on May 19th at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a day-long ‘teach-in’ conference on the impact of the automotive supply chain in communities.
Bus tour participants will include workers from steel, iron, glass, plastics and rubber, aluminum and auto parts facilities, local auto dealers, community employers, and local community and elected leaders. The tour is sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition (MMAC), and the United Steelworkers (USW).
Organizers cite President Obama’s comments at his April 30 press conference on his first 100 days as saying: “If you are considering buying a car, I hope it will be an American car.” The “Keep it Made in America” tour supports the President’s call that recognizes the millions of jobs tied to the fate of the U.S. auto industry.
Auto parts suppliers drive economic growth in states all over the country. Auto parts suppliers are either the top industrial employer, or among the top five industrial employers, in 19 U.S. states. Among the states on the “Keep it Made in America” tour, auto parts suppliers are the top industrial employer in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. Auto parts suppliers are among the top five industrial employers in Illinois, Arkansas and Alabama.
The USW president says, “Nationwide, if we cut American auto jobs to support auto imports, the consequences for service sector jobs will be severe. The waitress at the neighborhood diner, the teacher at the community school, accountants, bankers, firefighters, and police officers will all likely see their jobs affected. We need to send a message to Congress and the Obama Administration that Americans recognize we must make things here. We don’t need more off-shoring. We need jobs – we need to rebuild domestic manufacturing and our auto industry.”
“You’ll notice that Shreveport is nowhere near Detroit, but making quality American vehicles and making parts for those vehicles has created terrific business opportunities in our community for other manufacturers, auto dealers, advertisers, radio and TV stations, and dozens of other local companies,” said Cedric B. Glover, Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana. “These are the companies that form the tax base to pay for local services like schools, police, and fire departments, and they sponsor kids’ programs and contribute to local charities. Our quality of life has benefitted from opportunities afforded by the U.S. auto industry.”
“We all have a stake in a strong domestic automobile industry. That’s why we will put forward a plan to strengthen the automotive supply chain and get America back to work,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a labor-management partnership.
May 11-May 14 Bus Tour Routes
For more details in bus tour stops: www.americanmanufacturing.org. A website with stories from the tour and conference, www.madeinamericatour.org, will premier on May 11.
St. Louis, MO to Arlington, TX (May 11-14) - St. Louis, MO, Cape Girardeau, MO, Humboldt, TN, Memphis, TN, Little Rock, AR, Texarkana, AR, Shreveport, LA, Longview, TX, Arlington, TX
Indianapolis, IN to Fairfield, AL (May 12-14) - Indianapolis, IN, Louisville, KY, Owensboro, KY, Bowling Green, KY, Springfield, TN, Nashville, TN, Spring Hill, TN, Decatur, AL, Fairfield, AL
Merrillville, IN to Dayton, OH (May 11-13) - Merrillville, IN, South Bend, IN, Logansport, IN, Kokomo, IN, Ft. Wayne, IN, Bowling Green, OH, Van Wert, OH, Dayton, OH
Dearborn, MI to Bay City, MI (May 11-12) - Dearborn, MI, Hamtramck, MI, Sterling Heights, MI, Pontiac, MI, Wyoming, MI, Lansing, MI, Saginaw, MI, Bay City, MI
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
BISHOP JOSEPH MARTINO OF SCRANTON,PA leads effort to purge pro-life Democrats from the Church as Catholic parishes and schools close down within his diocese.
As a Christian and a social traditionalist, I have no desire to bash the Catholic Church or any other religious institution but something is terribly wrong when a Bishop uses his position to pursue a narrow partisan political agenda. Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino this week attacked the decision of King's College to invite pro-life Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania as a commencement speaker. According to the Bishop, Casey's vote to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services is "an affront to all who value the sanctity of human life." And yet we are not hearing criticism from the Catholic Church of Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and other pro-life Republicans who also voted to confirm Sebelius.
At the blog of Commonweal Magazine, Eduardo Penalver was puzzled by the Bishop's action:
So, as I understand Martino’s position, consistently opposing legal abortion, both by speaking out on the issue and by opposing specific items of legislation (as Casey has done), is not enough to qualify you to speak at a Catholic college. You must agree with each and every one of the good Bishop’s prudential judgments about exactly how to go about forwarding that agenda. If you do dare to disagree with Bishop Martino about whether opposing a particular nominee to head HHS is the right place to take your stand, you will no longer be deemed to be a person with sufficient moral stature to be fit to address Catholic college students and your invitation will be interpreted as an “insult” to the pro-Life movement. Got it?
A comment on the blog Get Religion summed up the situation well from a Catholic perspective:
I’m a pro-life Catholic, and I feel that the bishops are justified in refusing communion to Catholic politicians who have supported explicitly pro-abortion (or pro ESCR)policies, although I wonder how prudent it is. I also feel Bishop Martino’s actions towards Casey are totally unjustified and are quite different from other prelate’s statments to politicians. Casey opposes embryonic stem cell research, supported Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, publicly opposes abortion, and has voted for a number of limits on it. Whether to confirm a nominee for a bureaucratic position is a different kind of issue and is totally beyond the competency of a bishop, and Bishop Martino risks causing greater scandal than Casey’s vote does by convincing people that the Catholic episcopate is primarily concerned with partisan issues. Casey’s vote wasn’t courageous, but how much to defer to a president regarding his nominations is surely a prudential issue, particularly given concerns about not having senior leadership at HHS when a flu pandemic is being suggested. Especially since abortion policy is certainly set at the White House.
I agree with him that Casey’s vote in favor of reversing the Mexico City policy was a mistake, but it should be noted that similar funding was already available to organizations like Planned Parenthood in the US, so anyone who has voted for HHS’s budget in the past 20 years has probably voted to give money to providers of abortion.
The reason Martino’s actions are so important (along with the fact that they are totally unique among bishops - note that the strongly and outspokenly pro-life Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City did not condemn Sam Brownback for supporting Sibelius) is that Casey, although he represents all of Pennsylvania, is from the Diocese of Scranton.
I might add that Senator Casey is the lead sponsor of abortion reduction legislation recently endorsed by the Catholic Bishops ! http://rightdemocrat.blogspot.com/2009/04/catholic-bishops-support-democratic.html
The real offense of Senator Casey is that he is a loyal Democrat. Just as some Protestant evangelical leaders have promoted the idea that one must be a Republican voter to be a true born again Christian, a right-wing element within the Catholic Church wants to make support for the GOP part of being a faithful to Rome.
Bishop Martino might have a considerable amount of work to do if he wishes to purge all Democrats from the Catholic Church. In the last election, Catholics attending weekly mass split 50 to 49 between the McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden tickets.
A more thoughtful Bishop of Scranton might be more focused on revitalizing the parishes and schools of his diocese rather than carrying out partisan political attacks against pro-life Democrats.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Idaho's KBOI News/Talk Radio reports:
Ammunition is selling so fast, local gun shops are having a hard time keeping it stocked for gun owners. Much of it is being attributed to fears that the Obama Administration and Democratic-led Congress will enact strict new gun laws. Democratic First District Congressman Walt Minnick says there's no possibility any gun control measures will be passed in the current U.S. Congress. Minnick says he's one of 52 conservative ``blue dog'' Democrats in the House who oppose further gun control and that nothing can pass the House without their support.
"People and politicians should stop worrying about guns and pay attention to the economy, jobs and health care," Minnick told the Idaho Statesman. "We shouldn't be devoting time and energy to divisive issues."
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
IT'S TIME FOR ANOTHER ERA OF TEDDY ROOSEVELT STYLE TRUST-BUSTING.
Writing at the New Way Forward blog www.anewwayfoward.org, Joe Costello points out the urgent for real reform of our banking system:
We’ve all heard of derivatives, but no one knows what exactly they are. However, it is more important to understand the impact they had on the financial system, and that is relatively easier to discern. One important thing derivatives and other financial innovations allow is for Wall Street and the banks to get around well established practices, rules and regulations on carrying reserves. In a money system such as ours, based on fractional-reserve banking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional-reserve_banking,(also see Greider’s “Secrets of the Temple” for nice explanation), this is extremely important. Simply, it just allows greater and greater leverage, or to most of us, that simply means more debt. It’s not so important when things are going up, but its life and death when things are going down. One of the nuts in Ms Tett’s piece:
The implications were huge. Banks had typically been forced to hold $800m reserves for every $10bn of corporate loans on their books. Now that sum could fall to just $160m….(they) had pulled off a dance around the international banking rules.
Basically, we the taxpayers are now supplying all the reserves on losses the banks failed to put aside, though they’ve stolen, and I mean that literally, all the profits.
We haven’t even come close to starting a discussion on reforming the banking system and until we do there will not be much of an economic recovery. There’s way too much dreck around and under any healthy rules of finance much of the American banking system is insolvent, and will remain so until action is taken. Outside of generating profits for Wall Street, and they generated a lot of profits, the financial innovations of the last three decades are of little value. Talk about touching them, Wall Street will squeal like the stuck pigs they are, yet we need a much deeper conversation, for example, maybe the banks shouldn’t be large money creators for society.
Anyway, we’re a long way from any conversation, to start it, the American people will first have to win back their political system from Wall Street. What say you?
Read Gillian Tett’s piece in the Financial Times
WASHINGTON, DC – On April 27 ChinaAid delivered more than 50,000 signatures to the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton representing concerned citizens in the U.S. and around the world who are asking for the immediate release of Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights attorney who was kidnapped by Chinese officials more than 80 days ago. Copies of the petition have also been given to the U.S. Congress and the Chinese Embassy.
Gao Zhisheng was last seen on February 4 being hauled away by Chinese police officers. He has defended persecuted Christians and others who have been abused by the Chinese government for their beliefs. Sources inside China say he is undergoing severe torture. The petition is the first installment of signatures on behalf of Gao.
ChinaAid will continue the petition and calls all those concerned to sign the petition at www.FreeGao.com and continue to pressure the Chinese government for his release. The petition delivery to the U.S. State Department is the latest in a series of actions on Gao’s behalf.
Senator Dorgan’s Speech on the Floor of the United States Senate:
I want to say a few words about China and a very courageous man in China who we believe now is in a Chinese prison and likely believe he is being tortured and I think it's very important for our country to speak out about this issue.
Let me say first there are many thoughtful and independent people in China today who understand the importance of human rights, individual rights, the importance of legal institutions.
Some -- a few -- work for the Chinese government. Many work at universities or are at universities. Many are with U.S. companies and law firms. They care about the rule of law. They work with our agencies in our country on food safety, improving safety for coal miners and others. Those are the folks in China who get it.
There are independent men and women in China who also take a different approach. They apply what they know about the law and rights in a very aggressive way and they choose to send the alarm when the rights of vulnerable people are violated. And they do so at great, great risk.
They defend the interests of consumers whose children are poisoned by powdered milk. They help the families of earthquake victims. They represent the rights of illegally detained Tibetan monks.
They stand up for their country and its people. And for doing this, they are claimed to be enemies of the state. So who are the enemies of the state?
I want to tell you about one man today, a man that is very courageous. A man named Gao Zhisheng. His wife is visiting Washington, D.C. today, and I want to tell you about him because it is so important for me to do so. This is a photograph of this courageous lawyer from China. Gao Zhisheng, his son, his wife, his daughter.
He disappeared 80 days ago, has not been heard from. We know that two years ago he was arrested by the Chinese secret police and put in prison and tortured. Tortured with electric shock and other devices I won't describe.
What was his transgression then? He wrote an open letter to the United States Congress asking us to pay some attention to the lack of human rights that existed in China. For writing an open letter to members of the United States Congress in 2007, Gao Zhisheng, one of the most distinguished human rights -- noted and distinguished human rights lawyers in China, was imprisoned for 58 days and brutally tortured.
Now, in 2009, he was detained 80 days ago by ten members of the secret police in China and has not been heard from since.
Let me tell you what his transpired. Mr. Gao Zhisheng has represented some of the most vulnerable people in China. They include persecuted Christians, coal miners and others. He always believed in the power of law; using the law to battle corruption, to overturn illegal property seizures, to expose police abuses, to defend religious freedom. He's a devout Christian. He fought to protect those who engage in peaceful spiritual and religious practice in China.
And in 2005, they took away his license to practice law, closed his law practice. As I said, in 2007, they arrested him, threw him in prison and tortured him. Eventually he was released and brought back home and placed under police surveillance at home. The surveillance proved almost harsher than prison. In fact, a member of the communist police moved into their living room, prevented his daughter from going to school; his 16-year-old daughter barred from attending schools. 24-hour surveillance.
The treatment for that family in recent months was so brutal that they decided their survival depended on escaping China. But Gao was too closely monitored and could not think of leaving them without placing his family at great, great risk.
And so in January, Gao's wife, six-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter were smuggled out of China. They then traveled to the United States. And after his family fled China 80 days ago, ten security agents took Gao from his bed and he hasn't been seen or heard from since.
Now, we know this situation is extremely grave because we know what the Chinese have done to him in their prison system previously. They have not offered the slightest word about his whereabouts, despite the repeated denials by United Nations agencies. We know he was seized by ten agents of the Chinese government. And our government, foreign governments, NGOs and the media have all asked for information about this courageous human rights lawyer.
And the Chinese government has said nothing. Chinese government has signed or ratified most of the international human rights commitments that require it to come clean about Mr. Gao. And I call on and we call on today the Chinese government to allow Mr. Gao to have access to a lawyer, access to his family and to publicly state and justify the grounds for the continued detention of this courageous person.
The right to speak freely and the right to challenge the government, all of these are enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, yet it appears the Chinese government and the Communist Party that runs that government is intent on upholding the violation of these basic constitutional rights in the case of Mr. Gao.
As I indicated, I am chairman of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China. We have the largest and the most significant repository of those who are imprisoned in China based on human rights violations and other issues; those who are being held in Chinese prisons, we have the largest repository of information about all of them.
There are many today that languish in dark cells, dark cells of Chinese prisons, just because they spoke out to defend the rights of others. None have done so more than Mr. Gao, who is a noted and celebrated human rights lawyer, who has lost his law office, lost his license, been imprisoned now twice, has now disappeared into the prison system, where tortured before, we expect is being tortured again, and we need to put a stop to it.
We need to find a way to convince the Chinese Government to tell us what has happened to Mr. Gao; what have they done with him, how do they justify it and when, when, when will they tell us that they will release this man to be with his family and begin to accord people like Mr. Gao, and others who stand up for the rights of others, the same human rights that we would expect them to be given?
China will be a significant part of our future. I understand that. My -- my plea today with respect to China is to ask the Government of China to do the right thing with respect to this courageous and brave man. And as I indicated, his wife is with us today here in Washington, D.C. and I am not permitted to point her out, but she too is a very courageous woman and she would like very much to have this courageous man, her husband, released from detention in China and be given his freedom.
"In the first 100 days of this new Administration, USDA has moved quickly to respond to these difficult economic times by creating jobs, increasing food aid to those in need and revitalizing rural communities," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Over the next 100 days and beyond, we will continue our hard work to ensure that as an every day, every way Department USDA helps our nation fight climate change, provides a nutritious diet for all Americans and maintains a strong safety net for America's farmers and ranchers."
The innovative new geospatial mapping web-function debuted today at www.USDA.gov/recovery shows exactly where and how USDA is spending every dollar of Recovery Act funding across the nation. USDA has entered a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), so that HUD projects funded by the Recovery Act will also be featured on the geospatial map. By launching this website, and publishing a progress report at www.USDA.gov, USDA is working to deliver a government that is open and transparent, responsive and accountable to the American people.
Throughout the country USDA has taken swift action to implement the Farm Bill and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. These actions have resulted in bold new projects and initiatives that will spur rural economic activity and contribute to the nation's overall financial health. Since January:
* USDA has distributed all of the nearly $170 million in Recovery Act funding for direct farm operating loans. The funds went to 2,521 producers in 47 states and nearly 20 percent are going to socially disadvantaged producers.
* USDA has worked with state partners to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by $80 each month for a family of four. Over the next two years, this benefit increase will create or save 100,000 jobs.
* USDA announced $84.8 million in Recovery Act funding to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities. And just yesterday, we announced more than $600 million in funding to provide safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment systems for rural towns in 34 states. These efforts will create jobs and revitalize rural communities.
* To make America a leader in the fight against climate change, Secretary Vilsack has worked in collaboration with the Department of Energy to make $25 million available for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.
* To ensure better health for America's children, USDA has updated the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) to begin distributing new food packages which for the first time include fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and reduced-fat dairy options.
* USDA has kept faith with the American people by working to deliver a government that is open and transparent, responsive and accountable. In the first 100 days, USDA has cut waste and avoided unnecessary costs saving the American taxpayer tens of millions of dollars by finding efficiencies in programs and administrative processes.
* Secretary Vilsack has also made civil rights a top priority, taking definitive action to improve the Department's record and to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider. Last week he announced a temporary suspension of all foreclosures within the Farm Service Agency's farm loan program for 90 days to provide the opportunity to review the loan granting process for possible discriminatory conduct. Vilsack has also ordered an external analysis of program delivery in USDA's field offices to get specific recommendations as to how we can provide services equitably.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Democratic Congressman Eric Massa of New York and Independent-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have made a common sense suggestion. A temporary closing of the border might reduce the spread of swine flu and save many lives. Of course, the action would not be politically correct in an era of open borders and could be "bad for the economy" but doesn't public health come first ?
From The Hill's Briefing Room:
The Obama administration and Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano should not have taken closing the border with Mexico off the table as a method to contain swine flu, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) argued Thursday.
"We urged Secretary Napolitano to please keep that option open. We're not recommending it," Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said on Fox News. "It just seems to us that if we get to a point where contagion can be carried by proximity and there are more of the cases in Mexico then we want to keep separate for a while."
While some lawmakers such as Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) have called for a closed border with Mexico, where swine flu cases have run amok, the administration has rejected calls for such a response, reasoning it would damage the political and economic relationship with Mexico.
"If you close the border with Mexico even temporarily, it would have tremendous economic, dislocating effects. It'll also dislocate a lot of personal lives of people who go back and forth most every day," Lieberman explained. "But if we get to a point where public health experts tell us that closing the border temporarily will save lives in this country, then that's a choice that we've got to make."
WHAM-TV News reports:
Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) is calling on the federal government to close the border with Mexico until flu fears subside.
Congressman Eric Massa wants the American military to seal the Mexican border and he wants stricter screening of travelers to make sure the flu can't spread.
President Barack Obama echoes the advice of the World Health Organization [WHO] when he says health experts do not support closing the border with Mexico. "At this point they have not recommended a border closing. From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States," Obama said.
However, Rep. Eric Massa disagrees with the president; he believes swine flu can spread further.
"The barn door should not be left open for more cases to spread more hot spots, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. This is something that will ultimately help Mexico, as we do what we can do, to contain the spread of disease," Massa said via phone.
Massa acknowledges that it would take a large number of American troops on the border, and he says this has nothing to do with illegal immigrants.
“This is about the hundreds of thousands of people who commute back and forth every single day,” Massa said. “We have to break the chain of transmission. It's a very difficult decision."
Other members of congress from Western New York such as Chris Lee disagree with Massa.
They point out that stopping cross-border travel would have an enormous economic impact, and they defer to the WHO.
Massa said it's not easy to go against the president, but he believes the new flu virus will infect more people if the border remains open.
The congressional Homeland Security Committee says that closing the border is not necessary yet, but some members of Congress do support setting up health screening stations on the southwest border.
U.S. Embassy in Saigon - 1975
On 34th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, Webb Resolution in Support of "Vietnamese Refugees Day" Passes Senate
Delivers Senate Floor Speech to Mark Anniversary
Washington, DC—On the 34th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, Senator Jim Webb D-VA introduced a Senate resolution expressing support for designating May 2, 2009 “Vietnamese Refugees Day.” The resolution, S. Res. 123, was unanimously passed last night in the U.S. Senate.
The resolution commemorates the arrival of the Vietnamese refugees in the United States, documents their harrowing experiences and subsequent achievements in their new homeland, honors the host countries that welcomed the boat people, and recognizes the voluntary agencies and nongovernmental organizations that facilitated their resettlement, adjustment, and assimilation into mainstream society in the United States.
“The events following the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, have never really been given the proper attention,” said Senator Webb in a speech on the Senate floor. “As a consequence of that bitter day in April, 1975 there are now more than two million Americans of Vietnamese descent. We are better off as a nation for their contributions to our society, at every level. It was not always easy for these refugees when they arrived, but they won the rest of us over with their perseverance, their reverence for education, and their dedication to their families.”
Webb continued: “It is important that Americans understand this journey, because those who lived it deserve a fair place at the table as we continue to work toward better relations in the Vietnam of today. It is important to build a proper bridge between our country and Vietnam, for the good of both countries, for the health East Asia, and for the benefit of all the people inside today’s Vietnam.”
To read Senator Webb’s resolution expressing support for designating May 2, 2009 “Vietnamese Refugees Day,” please visit: http://webb.senate.gov/pdf/vietrefday.pdf
Senator Webb’s full remarks on the anniversary of the fall of Saigon follow:
“Mister President, today is a day that, for Vietnamese around the world, is as significant as the distinctions that are often made in other cultures between B.C. and A.D. Thirty-four years ago, on April 30th, 1975, the Communist forces from North Vietnam finished their conquest of the south, and the struggling, war-torn country of South Vietnam ceased to exist. Many who fought on the communist side and others who supported them believe that the motivation for pursuing this war was the unification of the country and independence from outside influence, and in many ways the position that they took, and the loss of 1.4 million communist soldiers on the battlefield in pursuit of that position, is understandable. But it is just as understandable to recognize and honor the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people of South Vietnam, who fought long and hard at a cost of 245,000 battlefield deaths, for a government that, like our own here in the United States, allows true political and individual freedom.
“Those aspirations fell to the wayside as North Vietnamese tanks entered Saigon, in blatant violation of the 1973 Paris Peace accords, and instituted a harsh, Stalinist system of government that was marked at the outset by cruel recriminations toward those who had resisted its takeover. And thus, for millions of Vietnamese around the world, April 30th is a reminder of the loss of everything, including their homes, their way of life, and their hopes for a prosperous and open future for the country that they loved.
“Americans in general tend to avoid or ignore this day, and the significance it has not only on the Vietnamese but also on our own history. But it is important for us to look back on that day and on the war itself, not in anger but in fairness, in a way that gives credit where credit is due. And it is also important, for all of the reasons that led many of us to support that war endeavor, that we commit ourselves to working together to build the right kind of dialogue with the present government of Vietnam in order to help bring a better future for the Vietnamese people, and a more stable strategic environment in east Asia as a whole.
“Frankly, I believe this war still divides Americans in a way that they still feel but no longer openly discuss. I’m not sure we can even agree on the facts, much less the rightness or wrongness of our policies, that caused us to commit our military to that battlefield, with the eventual loss of 58,000 dead and another 300,000 wounded. Was it right to go into Vietnam? Was it important? If you ask those in academia, the predictable answer, growing ever more predictable as the years cause us to summarize the war ever more briefly, is that it was a mistake. And yet, here is a piece of data that should still cause all of us to think again. In August, 1972, eight years after the Gulf of Tonkin incident that brought us full-bore into Vietnam, even at a time when the nation had grown weary of bad strategies, after tens of thousands of combat deaths, and years of massive antiwar protests, a Harris Survey showed that 72 percent of Americans still believed that it was important that South Vietnam not fall into the hands of the communists, with only 11 percent disagreeing.
“Over the years, we’ve lost the reality of those concerns. Too often in today's discussions that examine the Vietnam War, we are overwhelmed by mythology. I hear it said quite often that this was a war between the United States and Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could be more offensive to the millions upon millions of Vietnamese who supported the South Vietnamese government and its long-term goal of a stable democracy. Our attempt to help that government was no different than the manner in which we assisted South Korea when it was attacked after being divided from North Korea, or the motivation that caused us to support West Germany when the demarcation line at the end of World War II divided Germany between the Communist east and the free society in the west. We were not successful in that endeavor in Vietnam for a number of reasons. But it would be wrong to assume that this was an action by our country against the country of Vietnam, or that it was motivated by lesser ideals.
“We hear a lot of dismissive talk about the domino theory and the supposedly unjustified warnings about what was going on in the rest of the region with respect to efforts that were backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China in the runup to our involvement. But these were valid concerns at the time. The region had seen a great deal of turmoil during and after World War Two. Most of the European colonial powers had receded throughout Southeast Asia, largely because of the enormous costs of that war, leaving poverty, war damage and unstable governments behind. Japan had withdrawn from the territories it had invaded and occupied. Governmental systems throughout the region were in transition, many in chaos. The communists had moved into power in China. Within a year North Korea invaded South Korea, and were joined on the battlefield by the Chinese. Indonesia endured an attempted coup, sponsored by the Chinese. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew, the brilliant leader who created modern Singapore, has said many times that the American effort in Vietnam was a key contribution in slowing down communism’s advance throughout the region, and allowing the other countries in the region to stabilize and prosper. The point, simply made, is that there was a great deal of strategic justification for what we attempted to do.
“This brings us to April, 1975. A North Vietnamese offensive had begun in the aftermath of a vote in this Congress to cut off supplemental funding to the Government of South Vietnam. This was combined with a massive refurbishment of the North Vietnamese Army, with the assistance of China and the Soviet Union, that allowed the offensive to kick off at a time when our South Vietnamese allies were attempting to reorganize their positions in order to adapt to the reality that they were going to get markedly less funding in terms of vital supplies such as ammunition and parts for their American-made weapon systems, as well as medical supplies.
“The events following the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, have never really been given the proper attention, probably because proper attention would embarrass so many people who had downplayed the dangers of a communist takeover. A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. Two million Vietnamese fled their country -- usually by boat -- with untold thousands losing their lives in the process, and with hundreds of thousands of others following in later years.
“This was the first such Diaspora in Vietnam's long and frequently tragic history. Inside Vietnam a million of the South's best young leaders were sent to re-education camps, where 240,000 stayed for longer than four years. More than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as 18 years. An apartheid system was put into place that punished those who had been loyal to the U.S., as well as their families, in matters of education, employment and housing. The Soviet Union made Vietnam a client state until its own demise, pumping billions of dollars into the country and keeping extensive naval and air bases at Cam Ranh Bay.
“As a consequence of that bitter day in April, 1975 there are now more than two million Americans of Vietnamese descent. We are better off as a nation for their contributions to our society, at every level. It was not always easy for these refugees when they arrived during the late 1970’s, to a country that had been so torn apart by the war itself. But they won the rest of us over with their perseverance, their reverence for education, and their dedication to their families. Our gain, at least in the short term, was Vietnam’s loss.
“It is important that Americans understand this journey, because those who lived it deserve a fair place at the table as we continue to work toward better relations in the Vietnam of today. Not to undertake a new round of recriminations. Not to re-live the bitterness of the past. But to build a proper bridge between our country and Vietnam, for the good of both countries, for the health East Asia, and for the benefit of all the people inside today’s Vietnam.
With respect to the region, Vietnam remains one of the most important countries in terms the manner in which the United States should be preserving all of its legitimate interests on the East Asian mainland. With the steady accretion of Chinese influence to the north, the expansion of India to the southwest, and the evolution of Muslim influence in Southeast Asia in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern reaches of the Philippines, Vietnam, along with Thailand and Singapore, are absolutely vital to our posture as an Asian nation.
“With respect to the Hanoi Government, with which I have had a long and not always pleasant relationship since 1991 when I first returned to Vietnam, I have a great appreciation for the very significant strides they have made since those early days. The relationships that are now evolving between Vietnam and the United States are healthy. In the long term I believe they are going to be successful. And even though I remain proud of my Marine Corps service in that war so many years ago, I welcome them. When I first returned to Vietnam in 1991 I went to Easter Mass at the Hanoi cathedral. There were perhaps 20 people in the church, all of them elderly. Last Christmas I attended Christmas Mass and there were at least two thousand people in the church, overflowing into the courtyard. People can argue around the edges, but this is progress. We need to reward those strides with reciprocal behavior, even if we remain at odds on some issues. There is a lot to be proud of in terms of the transformations that have been going on in Vietnam. Vietnam is growing. It is growing economically. It is growing politically. It is reaching out to the rest of the world. It is acting responsibly in the international arena. We have much work to do. We have much work to do in terms of encouraging more openness and greater political freedom. But we are on a pathway where, with the right kind of continued dialogue, I believe that is going to occur.
“And so I would like to re-emphasize that the best legacy for those of us who care deeply about this issue, and who remember all the tragedies of the war, will be for us to see Vietnam, the Vietnam of today, as a strategic and commercial partner and also as a vibrant, open society whose Government reflects the strength of the culture itself, a strength that has been demonstrated over and over again by the Vietnamese who have come to this country and who, I am proud to say, are now Americans.”