Photo credit: Reuters

Monday, July 30, 2012

You Want My Vote?

Dear Mr. President,
After reading some of my letters, several people said “You must really hate Obama.” No, I don’t hate you but I am angry, frustrated, shocked, at times outraged at your betrayal and I won’t vote for you again. You had so much promise, so much potential, but you squandered it. You could have done great things, been a great president, but you sold out for who knows what or why. You presented yourself as someone with vision, a sense of morality and a desire to do the right thing, as someone who would change the disastrous course America was on but instead you continued that course and accelerated it. I feel betrayed, even violated by you. Gulled into believing your lies and false promises, believing you when you said you would address global warming and didn’t; believing you when you promised to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich and instead extended and increased them, believing your promise to regulate the Banksters of Wall Street so they could never again destroy the economy, and instead you passed toothless rules that did nothing. You bailed out the elites and turned your back on those who elected you. You promised to restore transparency in government and did just the opposite. You praised whistle-blowers as essential to democracy and then prosecuted them with a vengeance unseen in the history of America. You promised to fight for single payer health care and took that option off the table before negotiations even began. But most of all, Mr. President, I feel betrayed by your false promise to deliver us from the nightmare of the Bush years, of torture and renditions, of secret prisons and unjustified wars; betrayed by your covert drone wars, your kill lists and targeted assassinations. The wars go on, Guantanamo remains open, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, injustice prevails, the future looks bleaker than ever,and you want my vote? You sign legislation that permits indefinite detention of anyone anywhere and want my vote? You militarize America, set the stage for mass repression of dissent, and ask for my vote? You count on being the lesser of two evils, campaign this time, not with lies and empty promises, but with the vague slogan of “Forward” and think that’s enough to scare me off Romney and my vote? Not this time, Mr. President. I’m not voting for you or Romney. I’m casting my vote for someone with a sense of morality and justice, with a vision of a Green America and a plan for peace. Jill Stein for President!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Obama's Dumb War

Dear Mr. President,
I didn’t mention in Wednesday’s letter (because of that 2,500 character limit on electronic messages to the White House), the $275 million fleet of 15 refurbished Italian-built C-27A transports, grounded since last December because of a lack of spare parts and adequate maintenance. Curious, I googled and found that these planes, built in the 1970s and 80s and “not known for easy maintenance,” were refurbished and upgraded at a facility near Naples, Italy by Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA. Since Alenia Aermacchi is based in Washington D.C., there is the illusion of “American taxpayer dollars going to Americans.” Alenia did, however, hire L-3 Holdings, an American contractor, to perform maintenance (a separate $107 million contract). But L-3 apparently failed to perform (grounded for “safety issues”) and a contract dispute followed. Then I checked out the rest of the U.S.-funded Afghan Air Force: $648 million to buy and refurbish 31 Russian built Mi-17 transport helicopters; in 2009, $44 million for 4 more of them; in 2010; a sole source $900 million contract for 21 more (this includes spare parts and maintenance); and last week the Pentagon signed another sole-sourced $171.4 million contract with Russia for 10 more. Sole source contracts with Russia! I didn’t find the cost of the 11 Russian built Mi-35 heavy attack helicopters or the 12 light Cessna transports or the 6 Cessna trainers and 6 MD 530F training helicopters built in Mesa, Arizona, but with the $300 million spent on Shindand Air Base and the $355 million contract for the Brazilian Super Tucano fighters, the total is already over $2.8 billion, almost three-fourths the entire GDP of Afghanistan. And for what? For more death and destruction. No benefit to the average Afghani, tremendous benefit to the Russian, Italian, Brazilian and American merchants of death; the arms merchants, middle-men and contractors (DynCorp, I noticed, is hiring Mi-17 Crew Chief Flight Instructors to train American and Afghan crew members) who build and sell and maintain the killing machines, the tools of war. War is good for business and, as Calvin Coolidge said, the business of America is business. But $3 billion for an Air Force with almost no operable airplanes? This is your war, Mr. President, and it is not a “smart” war. This is just another dumb war in a long line of dumb wars. It is your responsibility, your Albatross, your shameful legacy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Business As Usual

Dear Mr. President,
I read today that a $300 million upgrade to Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan is almost done. New 8,000 foot runway, new buildings, new hangars, new sign: “Home of the Afghan Air Force,” everything but new airplanes for the newly trained Afghan pilots. Held up by a law suit filed by Hawker Beechcraft (HBC) of Wichita, Kansas and lobbying by the Kansas congressional delegation. Turns out the $355 million contract for attack fighters went to a U.S. company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, based in Sparks, Nevada, to supply 20 Super Tucano turbo-prop fighters made by Embraer of Brazil. The Super Tucano is used by other militaries while HBC’s bid was based on an untested version of the AT-6, a trainer used by the Air Force and Navy. The HBC bid was rejected, they protested, the GAO threw out their protest, and HBC filed suit. Under pressure, the Air Force voided Sierra’s contract and started the bidding process over again. The planes will not be delivered until 2016 or 2017, long after we’re gone and the Taliban is back in power. The article also states that this is not the first time HBC and their Republican allies have stopped delivery of the Super Tucano. In 2011, Gen. McChrystal requested four of them to support Special Operations but Brownback and Tiahrt lobbied to stop it because American tax dollars should go to American workers. So much for supporting the troops. But what about the Hawker part of Hawker Beechcraft? I remembered Hawker as British, so I googled and found that Beech was bought by Raytheon in 1980 which also bought Hawker from British Aerospace in 1993 and called them Raytheon Aircraft. In 2007, Raytheon sold the business for $3.3 billion to a consortium—Onex Partners, a Canadian investment firm, and GS Capital Partners, i.e., Goldman Sachs. It was one of those highly leveraged buyout deals—the kind which made RomneyBain rich and a lot of Americans poor—and the company, now Hawker Beechcraft, struggled under a mountain of debt. This contract was a life-and-death situation and when they lost it and lost it again, they filed for bankruptcy. The latest twist in this sad tale? Two weeks ago, Superior Aviation of Beijing bought HBC. Meanwhile the Afghans are still waiting for the Air part of their Air Force. Like I’ve said before, the only winners in war are those who feed off it—the arms makers and dealers. Business as usual. Thought you’d like to know this behind the scenes stuff, Mr. President. Still doing my bit for democracy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

True Heroes

Dear Mr. President,
Sometimes I feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Or maybe Cassandra that no one wants to hear. I write these letters, I send them both by USPS (save the USPS!) and the White House web site to up the odds that somebody might read one, but no response. I post them on my blog. Very few readers, no comments. A month or so ago I got a hit from Malaysia. Cool! My first foreign country. Maybe your half-sister? Or maybe the CIA? Then a few weeks ago I started getting hits from other countries: Germany, Romania, Brazil, S. Korea… and last week Russia. Russia! How’d they find me? The next day the Russians were back, and the day after that and the day after that. Then came China. More foreigners now read my letters online than Americans. At first I was pleased and curious. Who are these people? Then I got a little anxious, even paranoid. Are they CIA? KGB? NSA? Maybe the FBI is compiling a dossier on me. Maybe I’ll get a knock on my door in the middle of the night. Maybe I’m moving up on the list of “nominees” for your Kill List. Who knows what’s going on any more, what with all the secrecy and attempts to silence dissent. After watching you for the past 3½ years, watching you gut the Constitution, violate domestic and international law, ignore every campaign pledge you made in 2008 and then learn you personally approve every name put on your weekly Kill List, I‘m entitled to be paranoid. I think you’re capable of almost any evil. So when the Russians started showing up every day I wondered who they were, but as a friend points out, there’s a lot of dissent in Russia right now, resistance against Putin’s rigged election, against the repressive laws he’s putting in place, and maybe the people reading my letters are dissidents wanting to know how Americans view their government, maybe gaining encouragement in the knowledge that others are resisting repression and injustice. I’ve embraced that view. I’d rather believe that’s the case than that they’re secret agents gathering evidence against me. And I’m cheering them on, drawing encouragement from them as well. Resistance to oppression and injustice anywhere is resistance to oppression and injustice everywhere. Democracy and freedom requires constant struggle and is easily lost. Unlike you, Mr. President, I believe it takes more courage to put down arms and resist than to take up arms and fight. I believe the true heroes are not the armed warriors but those who peacefully resist injustice.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Going, Going, Gone Postal

Dear Mr. President,
Section 8 of the Constitution states: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…” It then lists a number of specific functions associated with this, including “To establish Post Offices…” Post Offices! Up there with coining money and declaring war. Unlike you or Congress, the Founding Fathers felt the Post Office important enough to the welfare of the country to declare it in the Constitution. Now, however, we’re told the Post Office is in crisis, bleeding red ink. Not true! The USPS is in good financial shape. The crisis we hear about was manufactured by Congress in 2006 when they passed a law mandating approximately $5.5 billion annual payments from 2007 to 2017 to fund retiree health care for the next 75 years! No other government agency is bound by a requirement like this. The law also prohibits the P.O. from reclaiming $11 billion overpaid into one of its pension funds and to further ensure the USPS goes into a death spiral, Congress choked off any possibility of new revenue by prohibiting competition with other businesses like banking or insurance as in many countries. The 2011 and 2012 $5.5 billion payments cannot be met says the P.O., although service will not be affected since revenue is enough to cover operating expenses but not the extra $5.5 billion. The Senate passed a bill to alleviate this self-inflicted wound but House Republicans have no interest in saving this national asset, so the Post Office plans to eliminate Saturday delivery, slow service, shut down half their processing centers and 3,600 post offices and lay off 200,000 employees. Talk about a job killer! It’s obvious that, even though the P.O. has not received direct taxpayer dollars in decades, the rightwingnuts want to kill off another service for the common good. In their fantasy, a privatized system of mail delivery will rise out of the ashes, a capitalist’s dream, a citizen’s nightmare. And where do you stand? As usual, more or less with them. Last September you “compromised”: cut service, cut jobs and raise rates but refund $6.9 billion of their overfunded pension money and spread retiree health funding out over a longer period to reduce annual payments. Not a word since. Are you poring over the list of post offices to close with the same dedication and intensity you give your weekly Kill Lists? Jill Stein for president!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-dum

Dear Mr. President,
The latest Times/CBS poll shows you’re in trouble, in a dead heat with Mitt. 58% said you haven’t delivered on your 2008 campaign pledge for change. Well, duh! Any fool can see that. Mitt’s even tied with you on the question of who would do a better job dealing with terrorism and national security. Maybe they just don’t get the drone wars or the morality of Kill Lists and assassination of Americans without a trial or commando raids into countries we’re not at war with. Maybe they don’t understand the logic of shipping bales of Ben Franklins, U.S. taxpayer dollars, to Afghanistan for Karzai and his cronies to rip off and put in their bank accounts in Qatar where they’ll live in luxury after we pull out and the Taliban takes over in 2014. Maybe people are pissed off that you bailed out the Banksters of Wall Street and left everyone else to fend for themselves. Or maybe they’re pissed off that you extended the massive Bush tax cuts for the rich. Maybe they’re pissed off that the debate you and Mitt are having is not about whether to give more tax breaks to the rich, just a matter of how much: Mitt’s plan gives them about $70,000 per year while yours only gives them $20,000 a year. Meanwhile, the city of Stockton, which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy this month, has the highest foreclosure rate in the country; they’ve cut police by 20%, firefighters 30% and other city workers by 40% and there’s no bailout for them. The police no longer respond to calls unless there’s blood on the ground according to one resident. Homeless shelters are now at 160% of capacity, domestic violence has soared—reported cases quintupled in the past 4 years—and the violence is getting worse. “People have lost their sense of hope and stability and with that comes a lot of anger,” says Joelle Gomez, executive director of the Women’s Shelter. Stockton is not an isolated case either; it’s happening all over the country and you’re not doing a damned thing about it. As one person in the Times/CBS poll said “Obama promised a lot of promises and he failed at every one of them without exception.” See why I think you’re in trouble? Your slick lies got you into office once but people are on to you now and they’re pissed. They don’t like Mitt but you’ve you betrayed them badly so they’ll try someone else even if they know he’s going to be a disaster too. But there is an alternative to Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum and that alternative is the Green Party. Jill Stein for president!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Foreclosure After 50

Dear Mr. President,
The lead story in the National section of yesterday’s New York Times was “Facing Foreclosure After 50.” It turns out that homeowners in their 50s, 60s and 70s are now the fastest growing age group facing foreclosure. 1.5 million of them have lost their homes to foreclosure and those most at risk are the oldest: “Among people over 75, the foreclosure rate grew more than eightfold from 2007 to 2011, to 3 percent of that group of homeowners.” Among those profiled in the article was Roy Johnson, 79, who had lived in his home outside Atlanta for 48 years. He could no longer make the mortgage payments and moved into his daughter’s basement. It had nothing to do with subprime loans—“most foreclosures are now the result of prime loans” —or living beyond his means—“most older Americans facing foreclosure are frugal but are unable to live on fixed incomes with the rising cost of living.” No, it’s because of the economic meltdown brought on by the Banksters of Wall Street and the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in America. “[O]lder Americans are losing their homes because of pension cuts, rising medical costs, shrinking stock portfolios, and falling property values…” Mr. President, you’ve done almost nothing about foreclosures, legal or otherwise. No prosecution of flagrant criminal activity, no regulation of banks to keep it from happening in the future, and no effective programs to help those in distress. In 2009 you announced a program to help homeowners in danger of losing their homes but it had so many restrictions and requirements that almost no one qualified. Then, in March of this year, you announced a $25 billion settlement with the 5 biggest mortgage lenders that would help underwater homeowners but almost none of it went to homeowners; instead, loopholes for banks diluted much of it and state governments siphoned off most of the rest. Once again, the people it was supposed to help were left to twist in the wind. But what do you care? You’re set for life, part of the 1%. You have nothing to worry about. That is, you have nothing to worry about, unless you’re indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I won’t hold my breath however. Justice has a double standard and people like you with wealth and power and friends in high places rarely find themselves hauled into court no matter how egregious their crimes. It’s why we need a new vision, a new era, a new leader. Jill Stein for president!