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Martin O'Malley was taking action on behalf of immigrant children before Hillary thought it was cool

Lis Smith @Lis_Smith retweeted Fin Gomez
GovernorOMalley took heat from the left & right for standing up for #borderkids. But he stood up when it mattered

from July 11, 2014:

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley broke publicly with President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday, calling for a more humane policy toward the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States.

“It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death,” the Democratic lawmaker told reporters. O’Malley also criticized the “kennels” in which those who have been detained are being kept and calling for the children to be placed in “the least restrictive” locations, including foster homes or with family members in the U.S.

“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said. “It is a belief that unites all of us. And I have watched the pictures of young kids who have traveled for thousands of miles. I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their children across a desert where they can be muled and trafficked or used or killed or tortured. But with the hope, the hope, that they would reach the United States and that their children would be protected from what they were facing at home, which was the likelihood of being recruited into gangs and dying a violent death.”

Hillary Clinton told CNN last month that most of those detained should be sent back. “They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are,” she said. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the parents of the migrants need to know that “it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay.”

O’Malley went so far as to call the children “refugees,” a term with legal weight that would allow most of them to remain in the U.S. He called on Congress and the President to avoid modifying the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. That measure requires that children who are not from Canada or Mexico who have crossed the border to be given an opportunity to see an immigration judge to make their case for amnesty. Lawmakers on both sides, as well as the White House, are reviewing ways to amend that law to ease deportations of the tens of thousands of migrant children, who are largely from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

O’Malley said “the whole world is watching” how the U.S. responds to the humanitarian crisis.

“We have to do right not just by these kids but by our kids and protect the children who are here, put them in the least restrictive settings, get them out of these detention centers and these kennels where they are being cooped up, and operate as the good and generous people that we have always been,” he added. “That’s what’s at stake here, as well as the lives of these kids.”

read: http://time.com/2978026/martin-omalley-minors-immigration/


CASA Applauds Gov O’Malley’s Unwaveringly Moral Response to the Humanitarian Crisis on the Border

statement released by CASA (MD. Immigrants Rights Org.) Executive Director, Gustavo Torres:

“I applaud Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for stressing that children fleeing violence and abandonment in Central America should be treated as children that deserve our support. In stark contrast to other public figures that have called for their quick deportation, Governor O’Malley has urged that arriving migrant children receive fair, humane treatment and, above all, a fair legal review of whether they should be allowed to stay. We have heard from our colleagues across the country that they are relieved to hear the Governor become an indispensable voice for the immigrant community. We have let these colleagues know that this is hardly the first time the Governor has served as a hero for immigrant communities. Across his governorship, he has been a true friend of New Marylanders and addressing the abominable treatment of children at the border is only the most recent example of his leadership.

Like the Governor, CASA believes that as an American society we must ensure the protection and humane treatment of the children arriving at the border. We hope that most children are immediately reunited with family members inside the United States. We also believe that Maryland and Virginia need to do our part to provide opportunities to house children in facilities where they can receive adequate counseling, education, and legal services. Governor O’Malley is working with federal officials to find an appropriate Maryland location as quickly as possible. We agree with him that Westminster would have been a mistake. We have now seen two locations in our region – Lawrenceville, VA and Westminster, MD – respond with virulent racism at the thought of children joining their communities. We don’t believe that humane treatment of children includes their relocation to hostile, anti-immigrant communities. Between our two states there are a plethora of communities that would treat the children with the love they deserve. We urge the federal government to confer with local leaders and organizations to provide insight and historical perspective about these sites before moving forward.”

CASA de Maryland and CASA de Virginia are their state’s largest immigrant rights organizations. Our almost 60,000 members work with CASA to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in low-income immigrant communities.


CASA de Maryland, supported O'Malley's decision to question the Carroll County site (a position distorted and mischaracterized by CNN, Politico, and by WH leaks to selected news orgs.).

"When we heard about the proposed Westminster site, our immediate thought was that the only place in Maryland less hospitable to children fleeing violence in Central America would be inside the Frederick County Sheriff's Department building," said Kimberly Propeack, an attorney with the group.

"We think he is right to question why the administration would propose the most anti-immigrant locations rather than the many other parts of the state where children will be sheltered and loved," she said.

Lis Smith ‏@Lis_Smith (July 2014)
Good look at what @GovernorOMalley is doing to find housing for #borderchildren http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/maryland-solicits-foster-parents-for-migrant-youths-as-omalley-meets-with-faith-leaders/2014/07/28/6a489d5a-1672-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html

The state of Maryland stepped up its efforts Monday to recruit foster parents and solicit other assistance from the public to help with the flood of unaccompanied migrant children coming into the country from Central America.

An appeal for help was posted on the state Web site as Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) met in Annapolis with a group of religious leaders for the second time in as many weeks to talk about ways to assist the federal government with the crisis.

O’Malley administration officials also indicated they had passed along several potential temporary housing sites to the federal government and that Montgomery County was among the possibilities for hosting a facility.

The action came as O’Malley has continued to speak out on the issue, urging the Obama administration to show compassion and resist sending the children back to dangerous situations in their home countries.

During a political stop in Nebraska on Saturday night, O’Malley, who is weighing a 2016 White House bid, told a Democratic dinner audience that he believes “in American generosity and the compassion of our people.”

“We do not turn our back on innocent children who arrive at our doorstep fleeing death,” he said.

read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/maryland-solicits-foster-parents-for-migrant-youths-as-omalley-meets-with-faith-leaders/2014/07/28/6a489d5a-1672-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 2,000 children have been relocated to Maryland in the first six months of this year.

Martin O'Malley ‏@GovernorOMalley
The greatest power we have is power of our principles. We're not a country that should send children away & send them back to certain death

*listen*: https://soundcloud.com/americarising/martin-omalley-we-are-not-a-country-that-should-turn-children-away

Martin O'Malley made an impressive stand this week in the face of potentially withering criticism

From articles predicting the death of his nascent campaign; to former officials and past community leaders (some disgraced, some convicted); to fictional television personalities and pundits; O'Malley faced an aggressive push to envelop him in a myriad of mishaps and missteps from his past terms as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

O'Malley responded to the wave of orchestrated (and manufactured) controversy by traveling to his old governing ground in Baltimore and facing critics, hecklers, and questions head-on. He managed it all with his characteristically unflappable, appealing, and engaging style.

On Tuesday, O'Malley walked into a West Baltimore community meeting and mingled and marched outside afterward with protesters. In the process he was able to connect with some of the familiar elements of his former community in which he had played a prominent role in aiding and providing a positive influence.

Peter Crispino @PeterCrispino
O'Malley in prayer circle outside Simmons Memorial Baptist

Katie Wall @NBCKatie
O'Malley comforting church members at the burned down senior center in East Baltimore.

On Wednesday, O'Malley went to a food giveaway at the St. Peter Claver parish hall in northwest Baltimore's Sandtown neighborhood, lifting pallets of food and water, and packaged food to be collected by people whose local Save-A-Lot and CVS has been looted in the midst of the Baltimore uprising.

daveweigel @daveweigel
...No riot.


Throughout it all, O'Malley conducted almost a dozen prominent interviews in which he confronted and answered the questions swirling around his visit about his past performance in office and produced some extremely eloquent commentary about the present demonstration for justice in Baltimore, even as he defiantly pushed back criticism of his efforts to reduce crime as mayor of the troubled community from 1999 to 2006.

Several reports also highlighted his presence in Baltimore and praised him for his efforts. He was, after all, the ONLY potential presidential candidate to bother to visit the community.


lapared @lapared · Apr 29
Martin O'Malley takes a walk through Baltimore and shows real leadership via Daily Kos - http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/29/1381092/-O-Malley-Takes-A-Walk-Through-Baltimore

Lis Smith @Lis_Smith · Apr 29
Imagine what politics would look like if more pols showed the chops that @GovernorOMalley did yesterday http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/04/28/martin-omalley-takes-a-walking-tour-of-an-angry-baltimore/

Boyd Brown @HBoydBrown · Apr 29
Great read on "Citizen O'Malley" volunteering and leading in his hometown. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-29/martin-o-malley-baltimore-s-prodigal-mayor-gets-to-work

Patrick Mellody @OneMellody · 11h 11 hours ago
...A must read from a true Baltimorer. GovernorOMalley: We Are Capable of More http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gov-martin-omalley/we-are-capable-of-more_b_7179780.html …”

Theodore M. Jamison @tmj4ever · 10h 10 hours ago
This is why I like Martin O'Malley: He tells it like it is. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/blog/bal-omalley-its-not-just-policing-20150430-story.html

Jake Tapper @jaketapper · 5h 5 hours ago
Exclusive: @GovernorOMalley defends #Baltimore record in an interview http://cnn.it/1JEyiRM #TheLead

...despite all of the attempts to put a negative spin on this week for Martin O'Malley, the controversy provided him widespread exposure, and an excellent opportunity for him to demonstrate his character under fire. I think he came through it all (still ongoing?) actually elevating his stature and going a long way in establishing his unique, people-oriented brand of politics and calm, steady leadership in a fantastic preview of his expected campaign.

Chris Dickens reads Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland and the former mayor of Baltimore, the names of people Mr. Dickens said had been brutalized by the police. photo/ Jason Horowitz

Three basic and enduring elements to unrest occurring around protests against police violence

One important element is the quest for justice and reform which motivates the vast majority of demonstrators. The apparent police killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, for example has sparked organized and sporadic protests from a majority of peaceful residents and individuals with the aim of galvanizing attention and action from the local government and federal officials.

There is also an element of anger and frustration which has compelled some residents to take to the streets and there have been violent confrontations with the massive array of police force which has responded to the protests with intimidating tactics, and, in some cases, with their own brand of oppressive violence against demonstrators. There have also been several recorded incidents of confrontations with non-protesters which have involved threats, physical attacks, and racist verbal attacks.

one account:

The other element which is often conflated with the other two mostly understandable and defensible reactions to police violence, is the human element of opportunism in which we find individuals taking advantage of the unrest in the community and the relative chaos surrounding the demonstrations by looting and vandalizing. These are certainly not attempts to address police violence. They are lawless and reprehensible acts which do nothing more than exacerbate an already volatile situation. They are not orchestrated by the protesters seeking justice and police reform and accountability, and they are regularly denounced by those demonstrators as antithetical to their efforts. Conflating them with the protest actions is a mistake; a cynical deflection, at worst.

One thing that I think should be remembered is that these communities which experience unprovoked killings and violent attacks by police of unarmed and disproportionately black residents live with these injustices almost every day. When those communities rise up in protest, there is going to be a myriad of reaction which reflects all of these elements of resistance and opportunism.

Highlighting or focusing solely on the more egregious elements of these uprisings doesn't negate or assuage the root causes of the unrest. These communities are forced to endure what amounts to decades of injustice, indifference, and abuse. Expecting a completely rational and methodical reaction from residents to a chaotic and oppressive system of governance and law enforcement is unrealistic and unreasonable. What I would hope is that, as we take time to correctly denounce the violence and criminality from some in the community, we also expend the same, or more, energy in addressing the systematic and persistent abuses directed toward residents from those charged to protect and serve.

The Real Segun Idowu @RevrendDoctor · Apr 26
If ever a photo should exist to explain how we feel every day, from the moment we arise til we fall asleep.

ron fullwood @ronfullwood

The TPA is an anti-democratic surrender to autocracy, mostly designed to thwart Democrats

The trade promotion authority that President Obama is asking Congress to grant him is an outrageous subversion of the democratic process. The trade deal under consideration involves a third of the world economy; as opposed to the 10% that NAFTA covered. It's a major undertaking which will govern concerns raging from the environment, workers' rights, currency, and employment.


The “trade promotion authority” bill, or TPA, would allow the White House to cut new trade deals with Asian and European nations, and then pass them through Congress using expedited procedures. Under these rules, the deals cannot be amended or obstructed, and they get a simple up-or-down vote.

The fast-track authority would likely pave the way for both the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the European Union, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a dozen Asian nations. Both deals are vastly larger than NAFTA, and would involve about two-thirds of the entire world’s economy. Currently, the United States has trade agreements covering just 10 percent of world trade.

I agree with Sen. Chuck Schumer, the man most observers expect to lead the Senate Democrats when Harry Reid resigns; and Sen. Sherwood Brown; that the fast track authority the WH wants is a 'abdication' of Congress' responsibilities.

Sen. Schumer:

“This process is not good...We are supposed to vote on TPA, tie our hands and not vote on amendments, before we’ve seen what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

If passed, the agreement between Senate republicans and Democrats on granting TPA, would permit President Obama to expedite the process of authorizing trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – currently being drafted by the US and 11 other Pacific nations – and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union.

Yes, the TPA would allow two months before the President signs the trade pacts; four months before Congress votes on it...


If the agreement, negotiated by the United States trade representative, fails to meet the objectives laid out by Congress — on labor, environmental and human rights standards — a 60-vote majority in the Senate could shut off “fast-track” trade rules and open the deal to amendment.

Also, in a sop to Wyden, there is extended support to retrain workers displaced by off-shoring (I thought that wasn't supposed to be a consequence.")

The supermajority required to shut down fast track is a non-starter for the Democratic minority. Even though no one expects a majority of Democrats will vote for the trade pact, there appears to be sufficient amount of republican votes, coupled with a handful of Democratic supporters of the TTP which makes that olive branch to critics in Congress an insincere and obviously compromised one.

In effect, this fast track authority isn't some device which is designed to keep the republicans from thwarting an initiative from our Democratic president (they very clearly support this corporate-crafted trade agreement); it's a tactic designed to keep members of President Obama's own party from altering the trade pact with their decidedly progressive interests and concerns. That makes President Obama's complaints of betrayal from Democrats over their vocal opposition to reported provisions in the pact self-serving, cynical, and knowingly insincere.

Make no mistake about it, the President knows full well that he has as many votes as he needs to ram an already signed trade pact through Congress. All that's left for him now is to, somehow, get Democrats to knuckle under and pipe down so his victory party won't appear to be, mainly, a republican-sponsored affair.

Hillary Campaigns One More Day in Iowa at Fruit Company and Meeting at State Capitol

Hillary Clinton greets workers at Capital City Fruit Company in Norwalk, Iowa - April 15, 2015 (Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)

Norwalk, Ia. – Owners of Iowa small businesses told Hillary Clinton on Wednesday that problems they face include taxes that are too restrictive, an immigration system that doesn't allow them to hire workers they need, and health insurance expenses that continue to increase too much...

Iowa was Clinton's first destination after she declared her candidacy on Sunday. On the second day of a two-day trip, her campaign organized a roundtable discussion staged in a warehouse at Capital City Fruit, a supply chain manager of fresh fruits and vegetables based in the suburban Des Moines city of Norwalk.

"We need to be, we have to be, No. 1 again," she said. "Slowly over time it's become more difficult — more expensive, more red tape, unnecessary regulations that have really put a damper."

Clinton also expressed concern about the high cost of prescription drugs, especially for those with rare medical conditions.

"We need to drive a harder bargain negotiating with drug companies about the costs of drugs," she said, noting the "height of ironies" that medications developed in the United States are often sold more cheaply overseas.


(Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)

New business owners also talked about how student debt impacts their business and personal finances.

Surrounded by crates of tomatoes, strawberries and oranges, Hillary Clinton stepped into a huge warehouse for a small gathering to talk about how to jump start small businesses.

Bryce Smith owns the Family Fun Center in Adel. He was one of the business owners selected to talk with Clinton. Smith said young people can't start businesses with so much student debt, one of Clinton's big issues.

"That's a real barrier. We need to tackle student debt. I'm grateful to you for your insight no one else has," said Clinton.

read: http://www.kcci.com/news/clinton-wraps-up-iowa-tour-today/32378506

Kelsey Kremer/The Register

Clinton vowed to try “to build on what works in the Affordable Care Act” and said she would look into health care providers competing across states in a free-market system.

“It would be interesting to find out why in Iowa, a well-established company like yours is being asked to pay so much more for a private plan,” she told Brendan Comito, who owns a fruit distributor and complained that his premiums have risen by 13 percent over one year.

“I will defend those important changes in the Affordable Care Act because of somebody like you, Jennifer,” she told Jennifer Hansen, the owner of a small boutique, who revealed she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

On immigration , she said, “We are really missing out on economic opportunity because we haven’t been able to agree on comprehensive immigration reform.”

read: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/hillary-clinton-iowa-campaign-trail-policy-agenda-117005.html

Kelsey Kremer/The Register

In an hour-long “conversation” with small-business leaders in Norwalk, a suburb of capital city Des Moines, Clinton ticked off several core issues that now ignite liberals. She pledged to take on low wages, unequal pay for women and immigration reform, as well as tackle an economic deck that she said was “still stacked in favor of those at the top” – and even the US supreme court on marriage equality.

Above all, the former secretary of state attached her name firmly to Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, apparently unperturbed that Republicans intend to make Obamacare a major lever of their attack against the eventual Democratic nominee – whomever that will be – in the 2016 presidential election.

“I am committed to building on what works in the Act because 16 million people now have insurance who didn’t have it,” she said.

Clinton delivered her remarks inside a cooling shed at a fruit distribution firm in Norwalk, surrounded by ripening objects – tomatoes on one side of her, members of the American media on the other. She appeared to be relaxing into the new role of a low-key candidate of the left, as high on domestic street cred as diplomatic frequent-flier miles, which Team Clinton has carefully built up around her since a formal campaign launch on Sunday.

read: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/15/hillary-clinton-iowa-progressive-voters-wage-inequality-gay-marriage-healthcare

Hillary Clinton posing with Iowa House and Senate pages, clerks and a few others at the Iowa Capitol on Wednesday, April 15.(Eric Bakker/Special to the Register)

Hillary Clinton stopped by the Iowa Capitol to meet privately with Democratic lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, but about 150 people were waiting to meet her when she entered the building.

"I think she touched on a lot of good general points of an overall vision for America," said Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines. "I know that the speculation was that she didn't really want to come to Iowa eight years ago, but just from her demeanor today I think that she's glad to be here, was listening to what we had to say, and so we'll see where it goes."

Clinton stopped to talk with onlookers only briefly as she entered the building, taking a moment to snap a photo with five-year-old Silas Mueller who was wearing a Raygun t-shirt that said "Iowa: Wave the next time you fly over."

His mom, Carrie Miller of Grimes, said in 20 years they would look back on that photo.

"I'll say that my son took his picture with the first woman president, which is very cool," Miller said. "That's why we came today."

read: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2015/04/15/hillary-clinton-iowa-visit/25815175/

Simpson College junior MacKenzie Bills shakes hands with Democrat Hillary Clinton Wednesday, April 15, 2015, as Clinton makes a stop at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa. (Michael Zamora/The Register)

After her gathering with small-business owners before the cameras, Clinton held a closed-door meeting with Democratic members of the Iowa general assembly at the state capitol. She gave what one attendee described to the Guardian as “a very progressive speech”, re-emphasizing her liberal talking points on immigration reform and getting money out of politics but also “listening a lot and being humble”.

“She was introduced and received more as the nominee” than as a candidate, said the attendee, who asked to remain anonymous – and noted that former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, seen as Clinton’s most legitimate challenger from the left, did not get the same kind of attention when he spoke to Democratic legislators just a week ago.

read: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/15/hillary-clinton-iowa-progressive-voters-wage-inequality-gay-marriage-healthcare

(Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)


Hillary Kicks Off Campaign With Roundtable at Kirkwood Community College

more Hillary campaign photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hillaryclinton/

bigtree sidebar:

One thing that I want to make clear about this 'photo essay' (and others) I've put together for this campaign season is that these aren't necessarily an endorsement of what's reported in the articles or approval of statements or remarks of candidates I choose to highlight. In the Obama/Clinton matchup, for instance, while I supported Hillary in that race (my fourth choice in that election), I also posted similar photo/article essays for Barack Obama. In this primary, I'm leaning toward Martin O'Malley, but I hope to share several more of these types of daily news posts featuring other announced candidates.

Hillary Kicks Off Campaign With Roundtable at Kirkwood Community College

Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich, participates in a roundtable with educators and students at the Kirkwood Community College's Jones County Regional Center, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Monticello, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP

MONTICELLO, Iowa – Democrat Hillary Clinton, at the first official event of her presidential campaign, spelled out the ideas that she said will be at the heart of her campaign.

"I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans in four big areas," she told four students and three educators at a roundtable staged in an automotive technology classroom at a community college...

"We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday," she said, as a handpicked audience of 20 and about 60 reporters looked on. "We need to strengthen families and communities because that's where it all starts.

"And we need to fix the dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment," she said. "And we need to protect our country from threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon. So I'm here in Iowa to begin a conversation about how we do that."

“I want my granddaughter to have every opportunity, but I want every child to have every opportunity,” she said. “That’s one of the main reasons that I decided to run — because, believe me, I know that it’s not going to be easy, that I’m going to have to work hard to earn every single vote and get every caucusgoer I can round up to show up next February. But I just felt like I couldn’t walk away from what I see as the challenges we face. I want to build on what we’ve done to get out of the terrible recession and get back on our feet. We have to run the race.”

read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/04/14/hillary-clinton-iowa/25777397/

Hillary Clinton smiles after speaking with Kirkwood Community College student Andrew Lorimer in the Auto Tech Lab of the college's satellite campus in Monticello, Iowa. Michael Zamora/The Register

The Democratic presidential hopeful kicked off the roundtable with a few remarks. The upshot? She's a huge fan of Kirkwood's approach to dual enrollment and the opportunities it gives students to get actual workforce skills. "The cooperation between the college and the high school is something I want to see a whole lot more of," Clinton said.

And she talked up her past record on education and children's issues. (Read more about it here.) "I've been fighting for children and families my entire adult life," she said. She talked about her early work with the Children's Defense Fund, going door-to-door and trying to figure out if students with disabilities had access to the kinds of services they needed.

"I do agree ... that we have to do more to open up our education system so that we are meeting individual students where they are and where they could be with the right motivation," she said. "I do think we have to have accountability measures, but not at the expense of individualized learning that has to go on."

And when it comes to the NCLB law (that's right, the law actually came up at this very early campaign event) Clinton said, "We've learned what works and what doesn't work so well." The challenge now: "How we take a system that has so much potential and has produced so many positive outcomes for so many people .. instead of arguing about education."

read more: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2015/04/hillary_clinton_talks_college-.html

Rick Wilking/Reuters

Democrat Hillary Clinton blasted executive pay and tax rates for hedge-fund managers on Tuesday, using the first stop of her low-key campaign rollout in Iowa to highlight her promise to help Americans struggling toward economic recovery.

"There is something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days," Clinton said, perched on a stiff metal chair in the automotive shop of a community college.

Clinton also repeated her concerns, first voiced on Sunday, that chief executives make 300 times more than the average worker, and sympathized with students discussing the high cost of a college education.

"People are struggling," Clinton said at Kirkwood Community College. "I want to stand up and fight for people so they can not just get by, but they can get ahead and stay ahead."

read: http://news.yahoo.com/clinton-unfair-fund-managers-pay-lower-tax-rate-212808340.html

watch on c-span: http://www.c-span.org/video/?325353-1/hillary-clinton-education-roundtable-iowa

Tuesday was the first day of organized events for Clinton's campaign. On the way to her community college event, Clinton, her staff and a small number of pooled press stopped for a prearranged visit to Jones St. Java House in Le Claire, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

Clinton greeted a few patrons in the coffee shop and spoke about the long, cold winter, according to reports from the small pool of reporters who were allowed by the campaign to attend the event.

She was met by Mayor Robert Scannell of Le Claire, his wife and Jeff Williams, husband of the coffee shop's co-owner and a small business owner.

Clinton ordered two drinks: a masala chai and a caramallow latte, and also asked for a cup of water with lemon.

Clinton, according to an aide, met with three Iowans at the coffee shop: Sara Sedlacek, a Planned Parenthood employee, Austin Bird, a student at St. Ambrose University, and Carter Bell, president of the University of Iowa College Democrats.

The newly minted presidential candidate, who needs to perform well in Iowa to dispense with negative memories of her 2008 campaign, joked with staff that she is going to "drink my way across Iowa."

read: http://www.kcci.com/politics/clintons-iowa-campaign-starts-in-a-coffee-shop/32362268

watch: http://www.reuters.com/video/2015/04/14/hillary-clinton-orders-chai-and-water-wi?videoId=363853581&videoChannel=1003

Michael Zamora/The Register

bigtree sidebar:

This is the first 'photo essay' I've put together for this campaign season. One thing that I want to make clear is that these aren't necessarily an endorsement of what's reported in the articles or approval of statements or remarks of candidates I choose to highlight. In the Obama/Clinton matchup, for instance, while I supported Hillary in that race (my fourth choice in that election), I also posted similar photo/article essays for Barack Obama. In this primary, I'm leaning toward Martin O'Malley, but I hope to share several more of these types of posts featuring other announced candidates.

Definitions and Solutions for White Privilege

I've read several threads which are asking for 'solutions' and suggestions on ways to address the issue of 'white privilege' in America. These are certainly important questions worthy of consideration and debate. I hesitate to express even small criticisms of characterizations of what white privilege means - most often with these definitions coming from white individuals, which isn't something I feel is damning or seriously inappropriate. That said, I do feel it's much more important to listen to the expressions of non-white individuals who feel subject to negative aspects and consequences of disparities in treatment, opportunity, or other realities of our existence in society.

Of course, while correctly pointing to the sometimes condescending or subjugating attitudes of some white people toward black individuals, it should be remembered that there are also stereotypes made and perpetuated against white Americans. The difference, of course, is the consequence in a majority white society in which black people are regularly discriminated against, judged, repressed, or attacked in a disproportionate measure by many in that white majority. Still, we should refrain from assuming these patronizing and subservient attitudes are universal and inherent in all white individuals; just as it's imperative to refrain from stereotyping black individuals.

Many black Americans, myself included, grapple with the way racism is so ingrained in all of our everyday insecurities about ourselves and others; and how its almost impossible for black Americans today to put aside those insecurities when so many perceptions of us and so many actions and attitudes of us are still so negatively skewed in ways which allow whites opportunities to define black lives outside of the boundaries of opportunity, acceptance, and understanding that they afford their own.

I had the opportunity to illustrate this to a former white soldier who had experienced verbal abuse upon his return home. He regularly characterized blacks who had run afoul of the law as 'thugs' and 'criminals' and I asked him to put himself in their place by questioning whether he thought he had served honorably and was a good soldier. When he replied in the affirmative, I pointed out that he was able to remove his uniform and avoid the stereotyping that had motivated the people castigating him for his service; but that blacks had no way of removing their 'uniform' or changing the color of their skin which compels so many to associate them with the worst our society has historically labeled our race with.

Point is, we need to avoid entering into interactions with each other assuming the worst of what we believe or assume about each other. It's, perhaps, naive and disarming, but that's the only way we'll be able to move beyond these barriers of perception; on either side of the racial divide. Easier said, then done, I know - but, we can all do our part to push past these artificial and contrived images of ourselves. Our national history has affirmed this possibility. There's no reason at all to second-guess ourselves or become overly cynical about our respective intentions now.

What I'd really like to express here is that it's not reasonable to expect black Americans to respond to acts of racism directed toward them - or to racism directed toward other black Americans which has been highlighted recently with the increased profile of disproportionate killings of black individuals at the hands of white law enforcement officers - with an analytical focus on solutions; solutions like engendering trust between police and our community. It just seems, to me, strange to expect that black Americans should be expected to generate attitudes like trust, acceptance, understanding, or respect in white individuals harboring the worst of instincts, beliefs, or fears toward their black counterparts.

The reaction which has come from Ferguson residents to the killing of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, for example, has been more of an expression of anger and frustration, than an overall petition for redress. That's not to say that there aren't specific demands for justice associated with the protests. There are detailed and enumerated demands for justice coming from that very organized community of individuals.

However, there's also a conscious and deliberate effort to make the community uncomfortable in their daily lives and livelihoods in an attempt to transfer some of the angst and frustration black residents feel to the consciousness of white citizens who are not likely subject to the same level of abuses and injustices which have led to far too many killings by authorities and other violence directed disproportionately against the black community. That deliberate transference of angst is what I would consider a natural reaction toward injustice; more than I would expect victims to reflexively concern themselves with persuading white officials and authorities to trust or treat them equitably.

We are, after all, imbued with as much personal pride and self-respect as the next person. We don't necessarily regard ourselves as subservient to anyone else's prerogative or initiative in every interaction. We should expect that we would be treated equitably in our interactions with others; in our interactions with authorities. It's perfectly understandable that we would act defensively when we are not, and we all know that defensiveness isn't always rational or accommodating.

I'll attempt some rationality in my response to the issue of institutionalized racism and offer some solution...

One of the remedies I'd suggest in response to advantages (and disadvantages for black individuals) which come with white privilege would be the elevation of more black individuals to positions of authority in businesses and institutions which confer or arbitrate rights which come into question. Since that occurrence is, in and of itself, leveraged and dependent on an equitable system of judgment and opportunity, the problems and neglect in providing those rights is likely to persist.

For centuries, the realities of patronage, wealth, and political power have been impediments to social changes which would level the playing field for minorities and blacks in America. Yet, these are only a part of the privileges afforded white individuals, as blacks often find that even these advantages fail to insulate them from denial of opportunities and protection from discrimination at all levels of interaction with society.

Racism certainly isn't practiced today like it was when slurs, slights, and outright discrimination were allowed to flourish under the umbrella of segregation and Jim Crow. But, it has still been used by some, over the years since the dismantling of that institutionalized racism, to manipulate and control the level of access and acceptability of blacks in a white-dominated political system. Open racism hasn't been in fashion for decades, but the fear and insecurities which underlie discrimination and prejudice still compel some to draw lines of distinction between black and white aspirations and potential for success. What is often unspoken is the reluctance some Americans have in envisioning blacks in a position to make decisions for a white majority, resulting in attempt to set boundaries and define the roles blacks must assume to achieve success and approval.

The gains blacks have made in our political institutions have not kept pace with even the incremental gains which have occurred in the workplace, for example. We may well have an abundance of black CEOs, military officers, business owners, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. However, Americans have yet to support and establish blacks in our political institutions with a regularity we could celebrate as 'colorblindness.' And, to be fair, not even many blacks would likely agree that we've moved past a point where race should be highlighted (if not overtly emphasized), in our political deliberations and considerations.

I watched and listened as the highest official in the country, a black man, responded to the Eric Garner decision against prosecution of the officer involved by raising concerns over 'trust.' Trust in our justice system; trust in police practices; is such a remote and unlikely possibility to me right now that I'm almost ready to just tune the those sentiments out from any public official or officer who purports to speak down to me from their positions of authority and influence.

Yet, there was something refreshingly direct in President Obama's statement which, perhaps, wasn't made as clear in the snippets offered along with news reports of the non-indictment of the cop filmed committing what was ruled a homicide, a murder of Eric Garner, by the city coroner. There was something in his statement which finally connected with my own thoughts and determination. The president used the word, "accountability," to buttress his concern about Americans "being treated equally under the law."

"I'm absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law," President Obama said at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

"We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement," he continued.

"When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem. It's incumbent on all of us as Americans ...that we recognize that this is an American problem and not just a black problem. It is an American problem when anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law."

That sentiment, so eloquently expressed, I believe, is directly on point. To me, there is nothing short of accountability from these police officers and police departments which will assuage my concern and commitment. I don't see any way that 'trust' will ever be achieved without a clear avenue for accountability, both within the institutions and from our courts. Standards, training, and even cameras on officers are essentially meaningless without accountability for the actions of these officers and officials of the law. In the case of Eric Garner, strangleholds were already against police policy, and it's clear that filming the killing did little to effect accountability and justice for the assailant.

Moreover, there really isn't any provision of law which mandates 'trust' - or even understanding, or respect for each other - as a condition of our rights to equal treatment under the law. Those are certainly fine aspirations, but our rights are inherent in the Constitution which (improbably, at the time of its inception) asserts that we are all created equal. That's where our rights are drawn from, not from any expectation that we love or respect each other before they are administered fairly.

The only way to ensure proper management of departments and policy is for individuals employed to 'protect and serve' to fear for their own liberty or job security if they violate provisions or laws in their duties. There's far too much comfort in these police departments and impunity in the actions of their officers, creating an authoritarian atmosphere where officers feel safe in using excessive force without repercussions or serious rebuke.

That effort is going to require individuals in positions of power who respect those rights and who are committed to enforcing them. There's really nothing less which will bring about the changes many want to see in the disposition of these rights. The law is where our protests and demands originate and reside; the rest of those aspirations should flow from that demonstrated understanding of equal treatment in any legal reprimand from police or adjudication in court. We begin with our demands and exercise every instigation of democracy (and civil disobedience) to achieve them.

I believe we're long past the point where blacks need to prove their worth to anyone to expect equal justice under the law. We need to force the system to adhere to justice, to respect our rights, no quarter. That effort isn't always going to be rational, accommodating, or solution based. We're only human, and there are consequences which can arise from angering a people or backing them into a corner. I don't expect the black community to stand still or just genuflect in the face of oppression. If the white community is uncomfortable with that, perhaps it's time to consider how they're going to modify the ways they interact with the black community. If not, perhaps they'd better buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Official White House Photos from this weekend's Easter Egg Roll

In Pictures: The White House Easter Egg Roll

President Obama and the First Lady welcomed more than 35,000 guests to the South Lawn of the White House for the 137th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year’s theme was #GimmeFive to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Take a look at the big day in photos:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama take photos at the Instagram #GimmeFive photo booth in the East Room prior to the Easter Egg Roll. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The First Lady and the Easter Bunny listen to ID4GiRLS sing the national anthem. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Children rush through the open gate in search of eggs. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama blows a whistle to begin the Egg Roll. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President and First Lady cheer on Egg Roll participants. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama reads “Where the Wild Things Are” to children. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President high-fives children after reading to them. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama participates in drills during a basketball clinic. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President talks to a little girl playing with her shadow on the basketball court. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President reacts to a tennis shot. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The First Lady reads Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Things You Can Do That are Good for You!” to children. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

A young girl listens as the First Lady reads. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

full set of pics (larger images)


Obamas Celebrate Annual Easter Egg Roll at White House (pics)

Joni Mitchell: My Heart and Soul

____I've been a fan of Joni Mitchell since I was about 11 years old; more so in my teenage years. I used to lie on the hot grey slate by our swimming pool in our suburban neighborhood our family had exiled to a few years after the D.C. riots following the killing of MLK and listen to her and James Taylor croon together on 'You Got a Friend.' I'd listen for hours to our local AM radio station, WINX, with F.Scott Fitzgerald buried in the church next door to their studio, on my transistor radio as they played 'Big Yellow Taxi' over, and over, and over again in between songs by artists like Carole King, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Bill Withers. Almost every song swirled in my adolescent head, feeding my summer daydreams and adding texture and pattern to my childhood crushes.

We had a local alternative radio station at the other end of our town in Bethesda, Md. which was a natural extension of the two head shops, 'Good Stuff' and 'Marco Polo,' where I bought my chamber pipes, strawberry-flavored rolling papers (and the little hand roller), water pipes and bongs, and my first LSD from some stranger in the back of the shop of Marco Polo on a huge waterbed they had on display surrounded by blacklights, lava lamps, and beads hung from the doorways. WHFS featured amazing DJs like Damien (his dad, Jacob Einstein, was general mgr.), Weasel, Cerphe, and others, and broadcasted the D.C. area's first FM station's tunes from 'high atop the Triangle Towers' building directly across the street from the Psyche Dell, a tiny but amazing bar and beer store which featured bands on the weekends like the 'Nighthawks,' 'Evan John and the H-Bombs,' and 'Root Boy Slim' on the weekends.

Damien or Weasel would intersperse all of the great Joni songs throughout their sets and they became a natural part of the fabric of my hippie-wannabe life. I remember one particular night in my room listening to HFS in a half-sleep while tripping on some weak acid and I was dreaming I was in a small church courtyard and saw a young nun in full habit come out of the stone building's massive wooden door with her head down and her hands folded before her. She lifted her head to the sky and began to sing 'Woodstock'...

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm going to try an' get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Now standing in the middle of the small yard littered with gravestones and flowers, she continued...

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

At the end of the song (in my acid-addled dreamstate) she folded her head and slowly walked back into the stone church and closed the great door behind her. I woke completely convinced I had witnessed something divine and miraculous and was forever smitten by Joni's beautiful song which she later said she wrote for her then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, as consolation for not being able to attend the historic gathering in NY.. The song still haunts me with the image of that nun and that iron-gated church.

I was something of a JD in my youth; a petty thief, an opportunistic vandal, and an inveterate pothead. Many of my days were spent taking off in someone's car into the countryside, barefoot with our bongs and guitars, to some green field, some crop of rocks, or some comfortable woods to sit in a circle and pass the pipe around. I was a peaceful soul, but I could also be a rouge and a hopelessly misbehaving scamp.

I recall one day when I was out of weed and the only person in sight in our unbearably quiet neighborhood was a quirky, small kid who I had witnessed other more devious and corrupt acquaintances than myself take advantage of when he had weed or money to buy some. I had him all to myself that day and I was determined to have my own way with the unfortunate fellow and convinced him to take me to his house where I hoped to either steal something or get him to give up money for some pot... or anything I could gain.

We went down to a lower room in his house and I noticed a really nice stereo in the corner and I spotted Joni Mitchell's live album, 'Miles of Aisles,' stacked against the wall. I couldn't resist and asked if I could put it on the turntable. Like I said, I had brought this fellow to his house to take full advantage of someone I thought was a rube and beneath me. I had found a bottle of liquor and had it secreted away in my jacket as I put the record on to play. When the record began to play, something incredible happened. I had never heard anything so beautiful in my life and the words and music cut right through my heart and soul.

There I was, posturing as a toughie; a bully, an impossible cad; and this music was stripping away that absurd veneer with every sweet note and every gentle chord. I started to cry...not just cry, but actually weep uncontrollably, right there where I stood. It was all I could do to keep this kid from seeing my tears. I was, all at once, embarrassed and disarmed by the sweetness of the sounds coming from the stereo. I put the bottle of booze back where I found it, apologized to the fellow, and hurried away, completely ashamed of myself and transformed back into my natural state of peace and love that I had obviously gleaned from the gentle music of my time which featured Joni Mitchell as its heart and soul.

I still get a tear thinking back on that day; still recall my utter stupidity and chagrin, vividly, when I put on my own 'Miles of Aisles' album and hear those songs like it was yesterday all over again...

Blue, songs are like tattoos
You know I've been to sea before
Crown and anchor me or let me sail away

Hey blue, there is a song for you
Ink on a pin underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in

Well, there's so many sinking now
You've got to keep thinking
You can make it through these waves

Acid, booze and ass
Needles, guns and grass
Lots of laughs, lots of laughs

Everybody's saying that Hell's the hippest way to go
Well, I don't think so but I'm gonna take a look around it though
Blue, I love you

Blue, here is a shell for you
Inside you'll hear a sigh, a foggy lullaby
There is your song from me

Power Of Mischief - Into War

...from a book I put together in 2004, reposting on this twelfth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Power Of Mischief - Into War

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.
~President Bush officially announces the start of the attack on Iraq, March 19, 2003

More than 140 years ago, Lincoln sought to reassure a gathered group of faithful that he would not take them to war to end the scourge of slavery in declaring that there would be "no bloodshed unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defense. "Shortly thereafter, he would nonetheless, lead the country into war to, as he proclaimed, ". . . to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of the National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs (of slavery) already long enough endured."

In his inaugural, President Bush wasted no time, after a quick nod to the "noble" surrender of his rival Gore, to declare that in his view America was, ". . . one of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer."

In two years however, he would abandon all restraint and warning to zealously persuade an insecure nation to engage in a war with Iraq; admonishing Americans that the "peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people" now depended on them. He sought to reassure a skeptical opposition and world community in his declaration that he had no ambition to possess Iraq. He proclaimed: "We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people."

So dubious was the threat posed by Iraq, so tenuous was the distinction between the enemy and those "oppressed" who were to be liberated, that President Bush was compelled to profess respect "for Iraq's citizens, for their "great civilization" and for the "religious faiths they practice," and at the same time, scorn them as enemies who had "no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality."

Lincoln's justification for war did not require any rhetorical hedge. He insisted that in his opposition to slavery, an adherence to the principles of liberty and individual rights which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, would more than provide for the preservation of the Union.

"In my hands," he spoke, "is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland," he said, "but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time."

"It was that," Lincoln continued, "which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men."

But, our current president's war was not waged in defense of any lofty ideals of democracy or liberty. This war with Iraq was the invention of a banished ruling class - enriched by the selling of the influence of their positions in government - who had nursed their broken ambitions in exile, and had instinctively constructed their sympathetic webs of wealth to obstruct the remedies of the reformers and hatch the next generation of world capitalists who would inherit the patronage of the next conservative presidency.

The invasion of Iraq was a clumsy attempt by President Bush to usurp the power from a vanquished nation of innocents; a suffering class of people who were already devastated by the bombing of the first war, and by the economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. at the insistence of the U.S., which served to enrich Saddam Hussein and steadily impoverish and starve everyone else.

This administration pulled the nation into war to compensate for, and to draw attention from, their failure to apprehend the ringleader of the attack on the World Trade Center. President Bush made the appeal to the nation in a manner which exploited our deepest fears as he warned the nation about the potential for a future Iraqi assault on our country, or on our allies, of a magnitude that would far exceed the devastation of the horrendous suicide attack in New York.

President Bush claimed that: "Iraq is (was) expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons; Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons; is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons; Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons; It is seeking nuclear weapons; Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program; the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sabin nerve gas, VX nerve gas; Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas; Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States; Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past; Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes for gas centrifuges, used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," President Bush warned the nation.

"The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East," President Bush counseled. "It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaida. The danger is clear," he warned. Using chemical, biological, or one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other."

The deception in the president's warning was in his knowledge of the nature of the evidence provided, that of which appears to have been cobbled together from dissidents and informers who had little or no contact with the regime, or were motivated by offers of money or asylum, or to satisfy some personal vendetta against the Iraqi government; and used to bolster the administration's preconceived tilt toward war.

Saddam Hussein was, without question, the leader of a brutal dictatorship. As many as 300,000 Iraqis are believed to have been deliberately murdered by the regime in the "Anfal campaign" against the Kurds, and the assaults on the Marsh Arabs and southern Shi`a populations, which resulted in thousands of more dead. Between 1977 and 1987, some 4,500-5,000 Kurdish villages were systematically destroyed, and the survivors were forced into concentration camps. Many of the atrocities took place at a time when the U.S. was actively supporting Hussein in a manufactured revolution against the Iranian government, whose leaders had humiliated Americans in the '70's hostage crisis.

Iraq used chemical weapons in 1983-1984, during the Iran-Iraq war. It has been reported that some 20,000 Iranians were killed by mustard gas, and the nerve agents tabun and sarin.

In 1988, Iraqi soldiers invaded Kurdistan and rounded up more than 100,000 Kurds and executed them. In March 1988, in the town of Halabja, more than 3,000 civilians died from chemical gas attacks by the Iraqi military.

Iraq has been rightly condemned by the U.S. and most of the international community for these and other deadly actions against its citizens and its neighbors. But Iraq did not operate against its enemies alone or without our knowledge, and in many instances, U.S. support. Nightline, in Sept. 1991 reported that the Atlanta branch of an Italian bank, BNL, was able to funnel billions, some of it in U.S. credits, to Iraq's military. The U.S. apparently knew of the transfers and turned a blind eye.

"Sophisticated military technology was illegally transferred from a major U.S. company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to South Africa and Chile and, from there, on to Iraq. The Iraqi-born designer of a chemical weapon plant in Libya set up shop in Florida, producing and then shipping to Iraq chemical weapon components. The CIA, the FBI and other federal agencies were made aware of the operation and did nothing to prevent it."

The report further states: "During the 1980s and into the '90s, senior officials of both the Reagan and Bush administrations encouraged the privatization of foreign policy, certainly toward Iran and Iraq. They made a mockery of the export control system; they found ways of encouraging foreign governments to do what our laws prohibited. They either knew or, if not, were guilty of the grossest incompetence, that U.S. companies were collaborating with foreign arms merchants in the illegal transfer of American technology that helped Saddam Hussein build his formidable arsenal."

It summarizes that, "Iraq, during much of the 1980's and into the '90s, was able acquire sophisticated U.S. technology, intelligence material, ingredients for chemical weapons, indeed, entire weapon-producing plants, with the knowledge, acquiescence and sometimes even the assistance of the U.S. government."

The New York Times reported in Aug. 2002 that during the Reagan administration, the U.S. military provided Saddam with critical intelligence that was used in Iraq's aggression against Iran, at a time when they were clearly using chemical and biological agents in their prosecution of that war. The United States was an accomplice in the use of these materials at a time when President Reagan's top aides, including then- Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci and Gen. Colin L. Powell, then national security adviser, were publicly condemning Iraq for its use of poison gas, especially after Iraq attacked Kurds in Halabja.

The classified support reportedly involved more than 60 military advisors from the Defense Intelligence Agency who provided detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for air strikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq. A retired intelligence officer recalled that, in the military's view, "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern."

A 1994 Senate Banking Committee report, and a letter from the Centers for Disease Control in 1995, revealed that the U.S. had shipped biological agents to Iraq at a time when Washington knew that Iraq was using chemical weapons to kill thousands of Iranian troops. The reports showed that Iraq was allowed to purchase batches of anthrax, botulism, E. coli, West Nile fever, gas gangrene, dengue fever. The CDC was shipping germ cultures directly to the Iraqi weapons facility in al-Muthanna.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University has a collection of declassified government documents that detail U.S. support of Saddam's regime. This is the collection that contains a photograph of Saddam Hussein shaking hands with Ronald Reagan's Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, who apparently said nothing to Saddam about his nuclear weapons program or his use of chemical weapons.

Bush I, who ultimately triumphed in making Kuwait safe for future monarchies, said of his own military adventure in Iraq, "We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a New World Order, a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations."

That was utter nonsense. The rule of law that was enforced in the ousting of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was nothing more than the product of a patronage that was forged in the U.N. with U.S. taxpayer-funded payments to Saudi Arabia's King Faud, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Hussein, and others. The risk to the world community, as stated by the president then, and by this president today; that an enriched Saddam would align with some radical Muslim theocracy, would be in sharp contrast to the campaigns against those very forces in which Iraq had waged war at our bequest and with our eager assistance.

The Bush I administration's stated objective in their Gulf war was to protect the flow of Mideast oil to the U.S. and to prevent Iraq from obtaining a seaport from which Iraqi shipments would supposedly depress an already sputtering world market. Saddam Hussein had not threatened the American people in his power grab for a greater share of the oil pie. Indeed, the U.S. must have been aware that the overproduction of oil by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia prior to Iraq's invasion was a move to drive the price of oil down, and in the process, weaken Iraq.

Aside from the question of the danger that the expansion of Saddam's dictatorship may have posed to the region, the defense of Kuwait's territorial integrity was a foreign concept to H.W. Bush who had participated in and overseen the ordering of the mining of the Nicaraguan harbor, the invasion of Grenada, the overthrow of the president of Panama and the installation of a U.S. puppet government there, as well as the acquiescence of Britain's invasion of the Falklands in 1982.

The Bush I administration issued a national security directive which listed among its objectives; ". . . the defense of U.S. vital interests in the region, if necessary through the use of military force; and defense against forces that would cause added damage to the U.S. and world economies." More importantly, the security directive declared that access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key, friendly states in the area were vital to U.S. national security. It was on that basis that President Herbert Walker Bush waged war with Iraq.

More than 250,000 individual bombs and missiles were dropped or fired in 42 days onto Iraq in that first war. Some 244 laser-guided bombs and 88 cruise missiles were reportedly delivered against Baghdad targets. The people of Iraq suffered from power outages and systems failures caused by bombing attacks on their weakened infrastructure. Medicine deteriorated without proper refrigeration. Food spoiled; water stagnated and became dangerously polluted.

The citizens of Iraq, already starving and impoverished as a result of the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.N., at the bequest of the U.S., were not 'liberated' by the destruction. Of Iraq's 545,000 troops in the Kuwait Theater of Operations, about 100,000 are believed to have lost their lives.

Before the imposition of sanctions in the '80's, and before the war, Iraq boasted the region's best schools and hospitals, and enjoyed the smallest gap between the rich and poor of any of its neighbors. Also, Iraq's educated class ranked among the region's best. Six weeks of intensive bombing reduced Iraq to what was described as a pre-industrial state. Unemployment soared and the black market flourished, resulting in a widening of the gap between the impoverished majority and those few who managed to cling to wealth.

Before sanctions were imposed, ninety percent of Iraq's income came from oil exports. Once sanctions restricted oil sales, lack of basic food and medicine soon reached catastrophic levels. The country's water, electrical, and oil systems, and other infrastructure were devastated in the bombing campaign. Human Rights Watch documented the effects of the first U.S. aggression against Iraq and found that more than 500 civilian buildings and homes were targeted and destroyed with no apparent connection to any threat to the U.S. or its allies.

Middle East Watch, in a more damning account, tells of some 9,000 homes, housing some 72,000 people, that had been destroyed or badly damaged during the bombing. Some 2,500 of the buildings reported destroyed were in Baghdad and another 1,900 in Basra.

The American death-count from that first Gulf war was 346 total from all causes, out of 511,000 troops deployed from August 1990 to February 1991. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, thirty-six percent of the 581,000 retired veterans serving at the height of the 1991 Gulf War have filed health claims. Of that number, 22 percent of the claims remain pending, or have been denied. More than 11,000 Gulf War veterans, whose average age was 36 when the war began, have since died, many from illnesses their families believed were war-related from exposures to chemical weapons that troops found and destroyed, depleted uranium from U.S. armor-piercing munitions, pollution from oil well fires, experimental vaccines, and anti-nerve agent pretreatment pills, among other toxins.

The nation's reward for the blood and sacrifice of our men and women in the armed forces in that Gulf war was a further decrease in production by the Mideast oil giants under OPEC- the group which controls around half the world's oil trade. That resulted in the doubling of U.S. oil prices from $20 a barrel to $40 (slightly more than we pay now), and the fostering of a crippling recession.
As the National Security Strategy of 1991 stated, "Economies around the world were affected by the volatility of oil prices and the disruption of economic ties to countries in the Gulf. Egypt, Turkey and Jordan were particularly hurt."

Oil profits for industry CEO's and administration shareholders must have soared. No sacrifice there. As a consequence of the U.S. hostile presence in the region, radical Muslim groups were able to portray our military invasion and the positioning of our bases in Saudi Arabia as an affront to the teachings of their religion and were able to convince others of like mind to band against what they viewed as groundless U.S. imperialistic expansion; putting America at an increased risk of retaliatory terrorism.

The Bush's routs of Saddam may have made them appear to be warrior kings. But in the context of their overwhelming domination of the inept Saddam and the hapless Iraqi army, they more resemble Don Quixote. In the classic tale of the ideal vs. the real, Quixote battles windmills that appear to be giants, and sheep that look to him like armies. He believes himself the victor, comes to his senses, only to be trapped by his delusion; forced to play the conquering hero.

"We're making great progress in Iraq, Bush II said recently in Lexington, Kentucky. "I don't care what you read about."

He claimed that schools and hospitals are reopening, children are getting immunizations and water and electricity is coming back. "Life is getting better," he said. But in the same instance Mr. Bush was quick to add, "We must fight this war until the work is done."

Today more than 300- U.S. troops have died in ambushes and accidents in Iraq since Bush II declared an end to "major combat" there May 1, 2003. An average of three to six Americans is being killed each week in Iraq and another 40 are being wounded. U.S. soldiers are facing an average of 15 to 20 attacks a day, including roadside bombs, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said. In fact, up to 40 attacks a day are not uncommon.

To date, more than 490 American soldiers have died since the war began March 20, according to Central Command and the Pentagon.

The most definitive total of violent civilian deaths in Baghdad since mid April has been published by Iraq Body Count (IBC), a research group tracking media-reported civilian deaths occurring as a consequence of the US/UK military intervention and occupation.

CNN recently reported that, "Though Bush administration officials say U.S. inspectors have found evidence that Iraq tried to hide equipment to produce banned weapons in the future, none have been found in Iraq since Saddam's ouster."

"It's very simple. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told NBC. "Saddam Hussein was the problem with weapons of mass destruction," Rice said when asked why Bush was seemingly unconcerned about the inability to locate his main justification for the war.

David Kay, having just returned from the Iraq weapon's hunt, on Oct. 5 told the House and Senate Intelligence committees that Saddam Hussein may have mislead them about his chemical and biological arsenal. Most of his report, however, claimed that the Iraqi dictator had the capabilities, chemicals, and facilities to restart production quickly. Kay was reportedly shown video of Bush saying last September that Iraq "possesses biological and chemical weapons." Kay said, "We have not found specific evidence that would indicate that." At the same time as his report was being released, the Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee was accusing the CIA of using "outdated and piecemeal" data in compiling its assessment of the Iraqi threat.

The Bush administration has requested an additional $600 million to continue the hunt for Saddam's bio or chem weapons. The money would follow an estimated $300 million already spent on the weapons search. Even though the United States has not been able to find any of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that he had cited as a justification for confronting Iraq, President Bush declared that, ". . . investigators had found evidence of a "clandestine network of biological laboratories" and "advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles."

In full chemical gear, in the heat of the desert, the men and women of our armed forces were mustered into battle against a ghost of the past; a remnant of our political manipulations, gone bad. The nation was riveted to the military television news as live images of our needlessly bulked warriors advanced on the doomed city of Baghdad. Amid the warnings of a chemical or biological catastrophe, we prayed and hoped that the reports were an exaggeration. We held our anger at a leadership that, we told ourselves, certainly would not manipulate our soldiers for some ghoulish, voyeuristic tv propaganda. But it appears that our military and our government knew full well that any material they had supplied Saddam with had, long ago, been confiscated by weapon's inspectors or had degraded.

The images of the heat-stressed warriors trapped inside of their chemical gear out of a leader-propagandized fear of a nonexistent chemical/biological attack, are enough to break faith with any trust in the words or motives of this administration and its war hawkers. Not that the suits would likely have helped much in the event of such an attack. An inspection of the Army's supply of gas masks and chemical detectors by an Army audit agency found a majority of them to be potentially defective due largely to lax maintenance policies.

"Up to 90 percent of the monitors and 62 percent of the masks were either completely broken or less than fully operational," said the report from the Army Audit Agency, which added, "The actual status, requirements, surpluses or shortfalls, and true costs of Army efforts to defend against aggression through chemical and biological weapons weren't known."

In an address in which President Bush appealed for an additional $87 billion to fund the occupation of Iraq and other military projects, he proclaimed that: "For a generation leading up to September 11, 2001, terrorists and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response."

"Since America put out the fires of September 11, mourned our dead, and went to war," President Bush extolled, "history has taken a different turn. We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power."

"We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure," he promised.

In his rhetoric, President Bush effectively used the terrorist attacks to justify his assault against Iraq. But Osama Bin Laden, the alleged ringleader of the 9-11 attacks, was not in Iraq. The rebel leader, in fact shunned and denounced the leadership of Saddam Hussein as a betrayal of fundamental Islam.

The random exercise of our military strength and destructive power will not serve as a deterrent to these rouge, radical terrorist organizations who claim no permanent base of operations. The wanton, collateral bombing and killing has undoubtably alienated any fringe of moderates who might have joined in a unified effort of regime change which respects our own democratic values of justice and due process. Our oppressive posture has pushed the citizens of these sovereign nations to a forced expression of their nationalism in defense of basic prerogatives of liberty and self-determination, which our false authority disregards as threats to our consolidation of power.

The Bush league plans to scatter our forces around the globe in order to preempt terrorist groups from attacking. "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge," President Bush told cadets in June 2002 at a graduation address he gave at the United States Military Academy.

Business Week has reported that "about 50% of the Army's active-duty troops are on foreign soil already, and in many key military specialities, the deployment percentage is much higher." They document over 122,000 Army personnel in Iraq, including more than 3,000 National Guard soldiers and 5,000 reservists. Another 5,000 Guard soldiers and 7,000 reservists are serving in Kuwait. The numbers of those killed by our troops, threatening or innocent, are disregarded by our military and our government. The deaths of our own soldiers are rarely discussed by the president.

The scarcity of active-duty forces and security concerns in Iraq has made it necessary to activate a large number of Guard and Reserve troops. A new order, requiring 12-month tours, means many Guard and Army Reserve troops could have their original year long mobilizations extended for anywhere from one to six months.

The Project on Defense Alternatives finds that the U.S. typically maintains:

-More than 200,000 troops on foreign soil and more than 50,000 personnel afloat in foreign waters; in recent years an average of 35,000 of these personnel have been involved in contingency operations, mostly around Iraq and in the Balkans;
-There are more than 800 foreign U.S. military installations including 60 major ones;
-There is a U.S. military presence in 140 countries including significant deployments (ie. multiple hundreds or thousands of troops) in 25 countries.
-The U.S. has made strong commitments to help defend or support the defense efforts of 31 nations, and has significant defense cooperation commitments with another 29 nations.
-The United States also conducts more than 170 overseas Joint Combined Services Exercise Training exercises annually; about 40 percent of these have a multinational component; such as the JCS program involving special operations forces.

These figures are in addition to the current forces deployed as a result of the ‘war on terrorism' in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The United States will spend an estimated $116 billion to this year on its NATO commitment to defend Europe; excluding Bosnia and Herzegovinia with about 1,600 U.S. troops respectively. Japan follows with 43,000 U.S. troops; then South Korea with its 37,000 American troops; Afghanistan- 9000; Egypt- 800; the Phillippines 500. This a full plate for our all-volunteer force; not withstanding the possibility of future missions in hot-spots like North Korea and the uncertainty in Iran. There's even talk from the administration of spreading the ‘war on terrorism’ to the newly-independent Russian provinces.

"We have our best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war," Bush said after 9-11. "The United States bears a disproportionate responsibility for security." His position was in sharp contrast to candidate Bush, who had complained for months about former president Clinton's "nation-building."

There are many reasons why Bush's strategy of preemption is misguided and wrong. It is a license to release the aggressor nation from their responsibility to pursue - to the rejection of their last reasonable admonition - a peaceful resolution to any perceived threat. And, with a deft flex of military and political muscle the presumption of innocence, even in the face of a clear absence of proof, is a conquered victim of the tainted consensus of a cabal of purchased adversaries; " either with us or against us."

Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

Preemption is a corrosive example for those countries who may feel threatened enough by their neighbors to move to resolve their fears militarily instead of engaging in the long-established enterprise of diplomacy and negotiation. Indeed, the appointment of Colin Powell as Secretary of State, our nation's top diplomat - the general who's army's killing of Iraqi innocents is rivaled in this century only by the enemy he sought to capture - is a discouraging message for those in the region who had hoped the hunger to divide the region militarily had waned with the end of the first war.

A common mantra coming out of the White House these days was echoed by Vice President Cheney in a speech this October before the Heritage Foundation: "We are fighting this evil in Iraq so that we do not have to fight it in our own cities," he counseled. This is a dangerous misconception which only serves the narrow administration view that Saddam Hussein was a potential orchestrator of a worldwide Muslim terror offensive against the U.S. and its allies. A great deal of the information which the White House used to support the link to the 9-11 terrorists was the product of misinformation provided by the very dissident groups which we were funding here in the United States. The rest of the intelligence, as we have discovered in the aftermath of the invasion, was cobbled together from conflicting sources within the government to reflect the administration's assertions that Saddam posed an immediate threat to the U.S..

Whatever proliferation of weapons that may have occurred in Iraq would have been exacerbated by our invasion, as any WMD's that might have existed would, by now, have been dispersed, perhaps to Syria or Iran. What is the value in using Iraq as a terror magnet? It has resulted in daily attacks on our soldiers by an Iraqi resistance - possibly aided by some outside terror network; likely no more than remnants of the Republican Guard or the like. What is it about our operation in Iraq that would support the argument that we won't have to fight them (terrorists) on our shores? Most observers predict another devastating attack in the U.S. is inevitable if not imminent.

Further, by likening Iraq to the worldwide Muslim terror offensive the president does what Hussein could not; he binds Iraqis to the Muslim extremists. He practically invites them to join the battle there and ally with the forces that threaten our soldiers daily. This will not create a democratic wedge against Muslim extremism in the region. Democracy cannot be imposed. If they don't understand that, they don't understand democracy.

Sadly, American soldiers serve as targets in Iraq, and their lives are no less important than ours here in the states. Inviting attacks on Americans overseas is an amazing retreat from the peaceful influence of a great nation of justice; humbled by bloody, devastating wars; and witnessed to the power of liberty, and to the freedom inherent in the constitution we wisely defend with our peaceful acts of mercy, charity, and tolerance.

"Peace," Herman Wouk wrote, "if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act but the coming of a state of mind." All else that we pursue should be a means to that peace; and a wholesale rejection of violent postures which just invite more violence.

"There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is 'bring them on'," Bush spoke to reporters in the White House Roosevelt Room in July. How then should the American people judge the alarm and outrage that subsequent administrations have expressed about Saddam's murderous aggression against others outside of Iran that he considered a threat to his regime; Or against those who we would regard as enemies of the United States?

Is it moral to support another country's genocide of a people that our own leaders would, if given free reign, commit to slaughter at the whim of their supposedly clean hands, in the name of liberation and justice? Is it moral for the U.S. to commit slaughter by proxy, and then condemn our accomplices as incarnations of intolerable evil? Does morality manifest itself in our ambitions or in our actions?

This nation will have to make that determination with their votes and with their participation in our political system, in matters that relate to the conduct of America's foreign affairs, by involving themselves in deliberations that intend to determine which course will make our nation most secure; to decide: Whether it is best to arm ourselves, and the world to follow, with the hollow reasoning of keeping up with perceived threats to our ‘security’; or is it more reasonable and more practical to reach out to the world diplomatically, to lessen the animosity toward America that our military interventions have engendered.

Our aggression resigns the nation to a perpetual global threat against the United States and our interests. Diplomacy provides hope that the killing among all countries would end, by the force of our collective resolve; not at the point of a weapon.

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