Archive for September, 2010

September 18, 2010

Christian Terrorism: The Bosnian Genocide

by Ben Hoffman

Right-wingers have been expressing their hatred of Muslims since right-wing propaganda outlets got them riled up over plans to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero in N.Y. Right-wingers are a gullible bunch. They’ve been convinced that spending money on our infrastructure is a bad thing, that trying to make health care more accessible is a bad thing, and that regulating the banks that brought down our economy is a bad thing. They’ll believe almost anything if it gives them another reason to hate.

The most vocal of the haters are almost always religious Christians. They make excuses for things like the Spanish Inquisition and other massacres saying those were before the Christian church was reformed. Apparently it wasn’t much of a reform. We had Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh murder 168 people. We’ve had Christian terrorists attack abortion doctors. And of course, the KKK.

One of the most brutal acts of Christian terrorism is often overlooked. That is the Bosnian Genocide, which refers to the attempted annihilation of Muslims by Christian Serbs in former Yugoslavia from about 1992-1995.

On July 1995, Bosnian Serbs killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys, as well as the ethnic cleansing of another 25,000–30,000 refugees, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina in what is now referred to as the Srebrenica massacre.

The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. In 2004, in a unanimous ruling on the “Prosecutor v. Krstić” case, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), located in The Hague, ruled that the massacre of the enclave’s male inhabitants, accompanied by the forcible transfer of all of the women, children and elderly, constituted a crime of genocide. Theodor Meron, the presiding judge, stated:

By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.

In February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concurred with the ICTY judgement that the atrocities committed at Srebrenica constituted a genocide, stating:

The Court concludes that the acts committed at Srebrenica falling within Article II (a) and (b) of the Convention were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.

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Serb forces committed several major massacres during 1995 : the first Markale massacre, Tuzla massacre (on May 25), the second Markale massacre and the Srebrenica massacre.

After the second Markale massacre, NATO responded by opening wide air strikes against Bosnian Serb infrastructure and units in September.

At that point, the international community pressured Milošević, Tuđman and Izetbegović to the negotiation table and finally the war ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on November 21, 1995. The final version of the peace agreement was signed December 14, 1995 in Paris.

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Of course, right-wingers have spun all the facts on the U.S. involvement in the Bosnian conflict because, 1) it was an act by a Democratic president, and 2) because the criminals were Christians and the victims were Muslims. Had we intervened sooner, many more lives could have been saved. But at least we did intervene and the region has been peaceful since that time. It was one of America’s more successful foreign interventions.

September 18, 2010

The Corporate Power Grab

by Ben Hoffman

Weekly Address: President Obama Castigates GOP Leadership for Blocking Fixes for the Citizens United Decision

Back in January, in my State of the Union Address, I warned of the danger posed by a Supreme Court ruling called Citizens United. This decision overturned decades of law and precedent. It gave the special interests the power to spend without limit – and without public disclosure – to run ads in order to influence elections.

Now, as an election approaches, it’s not just a theory. We can see for ourselves how destructive to our democracy this can become. We see it in the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. We don’t know who’s behind these ads or who’s paying for them. Even foreign-controlled corporations seeking to influence our democracy are able to spend freely in order to swing an election toward a candidate they prefer.

We’ve tried to fix this with a new law – one that would simply require that you say who you are and who’s paying for your ad. This way, voters are able to make an informed judgment about a group’s motivations. Anyone running these ads would have to stand by their claims. And foreign-controlled corporations would be restricted from spending money to influence elections, just as they were before the Supreme Court opened up this loophole.

This is common sense. In fact, this is the kind of proposal that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades. Yet, the Republican leaders in Congress have so far said “no.” They’ve blocked this bill from even coming up for a vote in the Senate. It’s politics at its worst. But it’s not hard to understand why.

Over the past two years, we have fought back against the entrenched special interests – weakening their hold on the levers of power in Washington. We have taken a stand against the worst abuses of the financial industry and health insurance companies. We’ve rolled back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. And we’ve restored enforcement of common sense rules to protect clean air and clean water. We have refused to go along with business as usual.

Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws. And a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents. It’s a power grab, pure and simple. They’re hoping they can ride this wave of unchecked influence all the way to victory.

What is clear is that Congress has a responsibility to act. But the truth is, any law will come too late to prevent the damage that has already been done this election season. That is why, any time you see an attack ad by one of these shadowy groups, you should ask yourself, who is paying for this ad? Is it the health insurance lobby? The oil industry? The credit card companies?

But more than that, you can make sure that the tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads do not drown out your voice. Because no matter how many ads they run – no matter how many elections they try to buy – the power to determine the fate of this country doesn’t lie in their hands. It lies in yours. It’s up to all of us to defend that most basic American principle of a government of, by, and for the people. What’s at stake is not just an election. It’s our democracy itself.

Thank you.
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This November, we have a choice: vote for a government of the people or one of large corporations. The more power given to big business and the wealthy means less power in the hands of the people and ultimately the destruction of our country.

September 16, 2010

Good sites for America

by Ben Hoffman

http://dontkilljobs.org/

http://ourfuture.org

September 15, 2010

Government regulation of the market economy arose during the New Deal out of a desire to save capitalism rather than destroy it.

by Ben Hoffman

Since the collapse happened on the watch of President George W. Bush at the end of two full terms in office, many in the Democratic Party were only too eager to blame his administration. Yet while Bush did nothing to remedy the problem, and his response was to simply reward the culprits, the roots of this disaster go back much further, to the free-market propaganda of the Reagan years and, most damagingly, to the bipartisan deregulation of the banking industry undertaken with the full support of “liberal” President Clinton. Yes, Clinton. And if this debacle needs a name, it should most properly be called “the Clinton bubble,” as difficult as it may be to accept for those of us who voted for him.

[…]

Clinton betrayed the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms that capitalism needed to be saved from its own excess in order to survive, that the free market would remain free only if it was properly regulated in the public interest. The great and terrible irony of capitalism is that if left unfettered, it inexorably engineers its own demise, through either revolution or economic collapse. The guardians of capitalism’s survival are thus not the self-proclaimed free-marketers, who, in defiance of the pragmatic Adam Smith himself, want to chop away at all government restraints on corporate actions, but rather liberals, at least those in the mode of FDR, who seek to harness its awesome power while keeping its workings palatable to a civilized and progressive society.

Government regulation of the market economy arose during the New Deal out of a desire to save capitalism rather than destroy it. Whether it was child labor in dark coal mines, the exploitation of racially segregated human beings to pick cotton, or the unfathomable devastation of the Great Depression, the brutal creativity of the pure profit motive has always posed a stark challenge to our belief that we are moral creatures. The modern bureaucratic governments of the developed world were built, unconsciously, as a bulwark, something big enough to occasionally stand up to the power of uncontrolled market forces, much as a referee must show the yellow card to a young headstrong athlete.

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September 12, 2010

Religion (quotes from Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg)

by Ben Hoffman

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do, going all the way back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac because God told him to do that. Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing.

Maybe at the very bottom of it… I really don’t like God. You know, it’s silly to say I don’t like God because I don’t believe in God, but in the same sense that I don’t like Iago, or the Reverend Slope or any of the other villains of literature, the god of traditional Judaism and Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character. He’s a god who will… who obsessed the degree to which people worship him and anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who don’t worship him in the right way. Now I realise that many people don’t believe in that any more who call themselves Muslims or Jews or Christians, but that is the traditional God and he’s a terrible character. I don’t like him.

I think the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief; and anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.

I’m offended by the kind of smarmy religiosity that’s all around us, perhaps more in America than in Europe, and not really that harmful because it’s not really that intense or even that serious, but just… you know after a while you get tired of hearing clergymen giving the invocation at various public celebrations and you feel, haven’t we outgrown all this? Do we have to listen to this?

September 11, 2010

The Spanish Inquisition Game Show: Convert Or Die! (Christian Terrorism)

by Ben Hoffman
September 11, 2010

9/11 – We Must Never Forget

by Ben Hoffman

We must never forget how the Bush administration didn’t take the threat of terrorism seriously before 9/11 and then how the first Supreme Court appointed president used it to pass his radical agenda. The consequences of Bush’s response to 9/11 were the doubling of the federal debt, getting us involved in two wars at a cost of some three trillion dollars and over 4,000 American lives, the loss of all credibility in world affairs, the huge spike in oil prices, the collapse of our economy, the violation of the Geneva Conventions, violations of our Constitution, and the list goes on.

We must never forget 9/11 and what conservatives did to our country.

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September 11, 2010

Nine Years Since The Bush Administration Allowed Us To Be Attacked

by Ben Hoffman

When George W. Bush was moving into the White House, Bill Clinton warned him that Osama bin Laden would be his number one concern for security. Clinton had tried several times to kill bin Laden. The U.S. struck bin Laden’s base in 1998. Clinton was thwarted, not by Muslims protecting bin Laden, but by the Republicans in Congress who were more interested in bringing down the Clinton presidency than in protecting our country.

There were several warnings in 2001 of an impending attack. While on vacation in August of 2001, George W. Bush received a briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.” Bush didn’t take the threat seriously. CIA Director George Tenet didn’t meet at all with Bush during the month of August, even though intelligence had discovered that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. The CIA had issued several warnings that terrorists might fly commercial airplanes into buildings or cities. Yet Bush continued to take the longest vacation ever taken by a U.S. president. Bush had spend 40% of his time in office on vacation while bin Laden was planning his attack on the United States.

We all know the story of how Bush continued to read the book The Pet Goat and interact with children for nearly a half-an-hour after he was briefed about the attack. Those children now have the image of our Commander-in-chief sitting there doing nothing, permanently etched in their minds.

After attacking Afghanistan, Bush let bin Laden get away after having him cornered in Tora Bora.

Bush used the 9/11 attack to get his agenda passed, including tax cuts that would double the federal debt.

In 2003, in response to the 9/11 attack that was carried out by Saudi Arabians and planned in Germany, Bush attacked Iraq, getting over 4,000 U.S. troops killed at a cost of well over a trillion dollars.

Republicans are weak on terror, yet they manage to manipulate the public into thinking they’re the tough party though the mainstream media and the Republican propaganda channel: Fox “news.”

And so continues the decline of America.

September 10, 2010

Don’t Believe In God? Join The Club.

by Ben Hoffman

Finally some secular groups are fighting back against the religious nuts who have pretty much destroyed our country. Here is the site of one umbrella group:

http://unitedcor.org/

I’ll post more on this topic tomorrow — the anniversary of the day when religious nuts attacked our country and killed 3,000 people.

September 10, 2010

Obama’s Tax Cuts – Two Votes: One For The Middle Class, One For The Wealthy

by Ben Hoffman

His position, he said, is to work first on an extension of the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year. After that, Obama added, Republicans and Democrats can debate or vote on whether to continue extending the tax cuts for the wealthy.

“My position is, lets get done what we all agree on,” said the president. “What they’ve said is, ‘We all agree that the middle-class tax cuts should be made permanent. Let’s work on that, let’s do it.’ We can have a further conversation about how they want to spend an additional $700 billion dollars to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires. That, I think, is a bad idea. If you were going to spend that money there are a lot of better ways of spending it. But more to the point, these are the same folks who say they are concerned about the deficit — why would we borrow money on policies that won’t help the economy and help people who don’t need help.”

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September 8, 2010

Reports of Democrats’ Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

by Ben Hoffman

New polls show Republicans and Democrats in a dead heat.

PRINCETON, NJ — Republicans and Democrats are tied at 46% among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of congressional voting preferences, marking a shift after five consecutive weeks in which the Republicans held the advantage.

These results are based on aggregated data from more than 1,650 registered voters surveyed Aug. 30-Sept. 5 as part of Gallup Daily tracking. The results reflect more competitive voting intentions than has been the case recently. Republicans’ leads over Democrats among registered voters in three of the previous four weeks were the highest Gallup has measured for this midterm election campaign, and higher than any GOP advantage Gallup has measured in a midterm election year since 1942.

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It’s been less than two years since Bush left office. Republicans have been trying to convince voters that their history began on January 15, 2009 with a clean slate, but that only worked for so long. The economic mess, the huge national debt, and the two disastrous wars are the fault of Republicans, and all the lying in the world will not change those facts.

September 7, 2010

Medical Insurance Company Abuses: The Public Option Should Be Put Back On The Table

by Ben Hoffman

California regulators are seeking fines of up to $9.9 billion from health insurer PacifiCare over allegations that it repeatedly mismanaged medical claims, lost thousands of patient documents, failed to pay doctors what they were owed and ignored calls to fix the problems.

In court filings and other documents, the California Department of Insurance says PacifiCare violated state law nearly 1 million times from 2006 to 2008 after it was purchased by UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation’s largest health insurance company by revenue.

Regulators said the companies broke promises to maintain smooth operations for 130,000 of PacifiCare’s customers, resulting in what insurance officials nationwide believe is the largest fine ever sought against a U.S. health insurer.

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“This is about intentional disregard for the interests of doctors, hospitals and patients in California, and the pursuit of cutting costs at any means possible,” said Adam Cole, the insurance department’s general counsel. “It’s a story of intense corporate greed.”

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September 7, 2010

Republican Anti-American Activities: Obstructing Obama’s Judicial Nominations

by Ben Hoffman

Republicans are blocking every bill and every nomination just because they can. It’s bad for our country and time to get rid of the procedural filibuster. Get rid of Senate Rule 22.

(AP) A determined Republican stall campaign in the Senate has sidetracked so many of the men and women nominated by President Barack Obama for judgeships that he has put fewer people on the bench than any U.S. president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago.

The delaying tactics have proved so successful, despite the Democrats’ substantial Senate majority, that fewer than half of Obama’s nominees have been confirmed and 102 out of 854 judgeships are vacant.

Forty-seven of those vacancies have been labeled emergencies by the judiciary because of heavy caseloads.

Even some Republican senators have complained. Sen. Lamar Alexander took to the Senate floor in July to plead with his own leaders for a vote on an appeals court judge supported by Alexander and fellow Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

With Congress returning Sept. 13 for a session shortened by members’ desire to campaign for re-election in November, there’s little time to reverse the trend. Some say there’s little chance of reversing it as polls show a rising chance the Republican Party will capture the Senate, which could stiffen Republican resistance to confirmation votes.

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September 7, 2010

Investing In America: Tax Write-Off for Capital Investments, Money For Infrastructure, Permanent Tax Breaks For R&D

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON — As part of his emerging program to jolt the economic recovery from its stall, President Obama will call this week for allowing businesses to deduct from their taxes through 2011 the full value of new equipment purchase, from computers to utility generators, to increase demand for goods and create jobs.

The upfront deduction would allow businesses of all sizes to keep more money now and would give large corporations, many of which are sitting on cash because of uncertainty about the economy, an incentive to spend and invest.

It would cost an estimated $200 billion in revenues, though the ultimate net loss would be $30 billion over 10 years, administration officials say, since businesses would eventually deduct the depreciated value of the equipment in any case.

The proposal for 100 percent expensing through 2011 will be part of a package that Mr. Obama will outline on Wednesday in Cleveland in a speech on the economy.

The stimulus initiative will also include proposals for an additional $50 billion for infrastructure investments and a new infrastructure bank for projects over the long term, which Mr. Obama described at a Labor Day event in Wisconsin on Monday.

And it will have a provision to expand and make permanent a tax credit for corporations’ research and development expenses; for three decades, the credit has been enacted temporarily, given its revenue cost, and then always extended, but with frequent lapses that frustrate businesses.

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The tax break for capital investments will primarily help small businesses since big businesses are sitting on cash and tax breaks won’t give them incentive to spend money on things they don’t need. Small businesses are what drive growth and are needed for a healthy middle class.

Much of the money in last year’s stimulus went towards infrastructure improvement and there’s another $50 billion in the proposal for more improvements including a government run bank to finance innovative transportation projects. Uh, oh… sounds like socialism…

Naturally, Republicans and the right-wing sheep will oppose this. They hate government and only want tax cuts and deregulation (and to ban abortion, ban gay marriage, merge church with state, and other government intrusions into our personal lives). They’ll claim government spending is out of control and Obama and the Democrats are bankrupting our country (even though Reagan tripled the federal debt and Bush doubled it).

The war in Iraq cost some THREE TRILLION DOLLARS and we have little positive returns from that investment. It did create jobs and propped up the economy for much of Bush’s tenure, but also put our country deep in debt.

These proposals by the Obama administration are reasonable and should be passed as soon as possible.

September 7, 2010

One Nation Working Together: Liberal Response to the Teabaggers

by Ben Hoffman

We all deserve a just and fair chance to achieve the American Dream. Our national identity is rooted in the ideal that all people – regardless of race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, heritage or ability – should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

One Nation Working Together will chart a bold, pragmatic path toward a more unified, sustainable, prosperous future by building support for these core principles and policy ideals.

Friday night (September 3) on “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, progressive talk show host Ed Shultz laid down a challenge for Americans to put aside their differences and come together. for what is truly needed and important in our country at this time: more jobs so that every person in America who wants to work can get a job and be able to support his or her family now and into the future. Schultz announced that he is joining the One Nation Working Together movement and will be a featured speaker at the October 2 One Nation Working Together march in Washington.

He proclaimed: “This is about now and this is about jobs. Labor has been under attack for the last thirty years. It is my motivation to be a part of this and to motivate the audience of this television show to get on this platform; to be a part of this march on Washington on October 2nd.”

Too many of our fellow citizens are hungry, homeless and hopeless in this country. And instead of indulging in the politics of fear and isolation that seem to dominate, we are coming together to work as one toward concrete goals that bring justice to our communities.

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