Posts Tagged ‘Commentary

02
Jun
09

Fiscal Discipline and the State and Defense Departments

CapitolBuilding

icon_digg  At the beginning of  May President Obama announced an across the board budget reduction for each federal department and a complete revamping of overdue change in the way Washington typically does business.  Throughout all forms of media we learned of the fifteen different departments, including the the overly expensive “Defense Department” revising and slashing their respective budgets as directed by the president.

Personally of course I do not possess the ability to carefully analyze, digest and render judgment on each department’s cost reductions and understand there value to the overall needs of there justifications.  However, the two budgets of most interest were the State and Defense Departments. The State Department in regards to Central Asia and the DoD’s as it  pertains to Iraq only.

It also requires mentioning that “I recognize the 2010 budget presented to congress was not of President Obama’s Administration, instead authored by the Bush Administration, which included numerous “earmarks”; regardless of this fact, my posting is basically unconcerned with the monetary size or the needless earmarks themselves, but only to suggest for consideration aspects of unfinished business within congress regarding the Department of Defense and the reckless “fat” that should be trimmed within the proposed State Department budget.”

Defense Department:

kbr_logo-smRegarding the DoD budget, I sincerely want to secure the recovery of all monies wasted and pilfered by KBR, the Army’s leading Iraqi and Afghan contractor who is linked to “the vast majority” of suspected combat-zone fraud cases that have already been referred to congressional and DoD investigators.  The total amount paid to KBR, for their services (or lack of services) by our government amounts to 13 billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defense Contract Auditing Agency as found KBR’s contracts for awarded work, accounts for forty-three percent of the Pentagon’s total audited Iraq contracting dollars.  Furthermore, according to the agency’s data, thirty-two cases are now under current investigation.

The Army has paid an additional $83.4 million in added “bonuses” to KBR, despite documented accusations of its inferior electrical wiring work that was incorporated into military facilities and the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which has been linked to the electrocution of at least four soldiers and one contractor (please review the reference sources below for details).

A Senate Democratic Policy Committee has determined that more than half of the aforementioned bonuses, $48.9 million, to be exact, were awarded to KBR after the DoD sounded an alarm in early 2007 regarding what was described as pervasive problems with KBR.

Let us not forget the Halliburton Company was the parent company to KBR where former Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton’s Chief Executive Officer from 1995 to 2000 before becoming George W. Bush’s running mate.

While serving in the Bush Administration, some critics have charged Cheney’s received “deferred” compensation from Halliburton which represented a conflict of interest and questioned Halliburton’s winning of lucrative government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The contractual money awarded to KBR for work, unsatisfactorily completed, must be fully accounted for and returned before any additional contract is awarded to KBR.

State Department:

federal-reserve-smThe State Department is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, which is another costly, long-term commitment in South Central Asia when this money could be used more effectively for other uses back here in America.

The White House has asked Congress for and seems likely to receive $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad,  with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.  The request also includes funding for two additional Consulate Offices in other regions of Pakistan.

I seriously question this request and needless spending for the following reasons:

  • Financial burdens on our economy still remain an issue here within the U.S., especially at the state and local levels.  Most Americans know and subscribe to the notion that there’s only so much money to go around.
  • Pouring additional money into any country without knowing what the political outcome may be or the final implementation of how a free democracy will best be served, is money unwisely spent.  Currently it appears as if a civil war within Pakistan (pro-government forces versus a Taliban backed regime) could develop over the next three to six months.
  • It behooves me to comprehend why we need three “Super Embassies” within the Eastern Hemisphere; Cairo, Baghdad, and now the proposed expansion of the Islamabad embassy.  Three large embassies located approximately within less than four hours of flight time from one another.

Cairo, Egypt to Baghdad, Iraq is 800 miles,
Baghdad, Iraq  to Islamabad, Pakistan is 1,600 miles
Cairo, Egypt to Islamabad, Pakistan is 2,400 miles

  • How are we the American public going to benefit from this expense?

This last point is of the utmost importance, since one of the primary reasons for the State Department’s justification of existence is to arrange and promote American business interests within countries.  How can this objective successfully be accomplished with an unstable and perhaps corrupt government in Pakistan.

Other major State Department projects are planned for an expanded embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan; and for consulate offices to be setup in the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, our government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.  Again, I wonder how this is going to go down with our thousands of already homeless, here in the states and aid our laid off auto workers desperately trying not to become homeless?

What’s my Point:

Tom-Serious-80x54After several of our embassies were destroyed or listed as targets for terrorist activity; our State Department requested much needed funding to enhance the security aspects of our embassies and consulates, which I agree, funding needed to be authorized and construction for security re-enforcement undertaken.

However, I feel there are defined limits to be adhered to and there should not be a blanket, coverall “card blanc” policy towards proposed State Department expenditures.

Our president who I believe comprehends the American people, more so, than any other president in the past thirty-five years has acted in a diligent prudent manner, requesting each of his fifteen departments, he oversees, to cut unnecessary items from their budgets.

This can be witnessed here, where the President as taken the following action (links added by myself for reference):

The programs in Terminations, Reductions, and Savings are ones that do not accomplish the
goals set for them, do not do so efficiently, or do a job already done by another initiative. They
include these ten:

  • LORAN-C, $35 million. This long-range, radio-navigation system has been made
    obsolete by GPS.
  • Abandoned Mine Lands Payments, $142 million. This program is now used to clean
    up mines that are already cleaned up.
  • Educational attaché, Paris, France, $632,000. The Department of Education can use
    e-mail, video conferencing, and modest travel to replace a full-time representative to
    UNESCO in Paris, France.
  • Los Alamos Neutron Science Center refurbishment, $19 million. The linear
    accelerator housed here was built 30 years ago and no longer plays a critical role in
    weapons research.
  • Even Start, $66 million. The most recent evaluation found no difference on 38 out of
    41 outcomes between families in the program and those not in it. Strengthening early
    childhood education is accomplished through significant investments in proven, more
    effective programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Early Learning
    Challenge Fund.
  • Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, $1 million. The Foundation would
    spend only 20 percent of its 2010 appropriation on the fellowships it awards.
  • Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, $125 million. This program benefits very few
    taxpayers, and has an extremely high error rate: GAO found that 80 percent of
    recipients did not meet at least one requirement.
  • Javits Gifted and Talented Education Program, $7 million. Grants from this
    program go to only 15 school districts nationwide, and there are no empirical measures
    to judge efficacy.
  • Public Broadcasting Grants, $5 million. USDA made these grants to support rural
    public broadcasting stations’ conversion to digital broadcasting. That transition is now
    almost complete.
  • Rail Line Relocation Grants, $25 million. This program, duplicative of a merit-based
    program, is loaded with earmarks.

The efforts detailed in Terminations, Reductions, and Savings are part of a larger and longer
effort needed to change how Washington does business and put our fiscal house in order.

Rarely, do I agree with the media who have criticized the President for this small cost savings reduction or members of our legislative branch of government, who infer this is a small amount of the overall 2010 budget.  However, I feel the federal government should look again for additional cost savings measures and rescind programs and projects that may not be needed at this time.

I do hope in the coming four years both the Defense and State Departments act responsibly to fiscal spending along with both Congress and President vetoing  any and all requests for haphazard expenditures, at least until our country is relieved from some of its financial burdens.

Finally, consider authoring an e-Mail to both your House Representative and Senator, requesting an update on the status of where the KBR investigations presently are and your opinion regarding another expensive new embassy in Pakistan along with two new and additional Consulates offices in Lahore and Peshawar.

Reference Sources and Documents:

Newswire Articles and Updates

Defense Department:

The Use and Misuse of Reconstruction Funding Affects the War Effort in Iraq and Afghanistan

Senate Committee Hearing Contractor KBR Misconduct in Iraq (pdf)

Senate Document Questionable Contracting Practices by KBR and the Pentagon (pdf)

House of Representatives Committee Hearing – Statement Thomas Bruni KBR Engineer (pdf)

Senate Document Request to KBR – Blackwater Payments (pdf)

Department of Defense base budget for 2010 (pdf)

Department of Defense Organizational Chart (pdf)

State Department:

State Department FY 2010 Budget in Brief (pdf)

State Department Organization Chart – May 2009 (pdf)

White House:

Remarks by the President on Reducing Spending in the Budget (pdf)

Budget Fact Sheet (pdf)

Fiscal Year 2010 budget overview (pdf)

Accompanying Video:

The President Announces Key Spending Cuts in His Budget

The President discusses his budget reductions a change in the way Washington does business. May 7, 2009.

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27
May
09

Afghanistan our New Challenge

600afghanistan_woman

icon_digg The war in Afghanistan has been in progress for almost eight years, two years shy of the former Soviet Union’s losing duration when they invaded the country in 1979.  Today, we are finding ourselves in the same predicament as they were some twenty years later, with the only difference being the stakes are much higher with the spreading battlegrounds reaching into Pakistan with its nuclear weapons potentially falling under the Taliban’s control.

Should we be there, yes – but unfortunately we have made the same mistakes the Soviet Union committed in assuring their failure:

  • The difficult terrain features Afghanistan offers to foreign armies
  • The ability of small numbered Afghan troops to quickly mobilize, strike swiftly and rapidly disperse into the general populous
  • Modern military technology is mostly limited to air support supremacy only
  • The appearance of armed foreigners in Afghanistan has always been met with arms in the hands of the Afghans.

This last point is perhaps the most important reason of why the war is dragging on and why the U.S. has not been overwhelmingly successful in conflicts such as this before, such as: Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and Iraq.

The aforementioned conflicts, like Afghanistan presents itself, are fundamentally based upon religious differences among the populous and invading foreign powers, where political dissimilarities were secondary and ideological dissimilarities were a distant third.

We have all heard the saying “winning the hearts and minds”, which in my opinion is preached but never practiced; we as Americans are told this usually after our military leaders realize the conflict is going to be long and drawn out.

Our picture of the real social and economic situation in the country was insufficiently clear.

History should have been our textbook to use in the Afghan War!

As mentioned when the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979 they in essence installed there own president, Babrak Karmal, as we did with Hamid Karzai with both presidents’ first steps rendering hopes for the problems facing their country being resolved with foreign aid and support. However, nothing new emerged and their policies that could have changed for a better attitude of a significantly increased portion of the Afghan population towards their new regime never did reach or as in today’s situation reach maturity.

Moreover, the intensity of the internal Afghan conflict continued to grow, and the military presence was associated with forceful imposition of customs alien to the national characteristics and feelings of the Afghan people.

Both the Soviet’s and our current approach did not take into account the country’s multiple forms of economic life and other characteristics, such as tribal and religious customs.  One has to admit that we as the Soviets essentially put our bets on the military solution while developing a counterrevolution with force.

As always we were acting out of our best intentions, trying to transplant the approach to which we are accustomed onto Afghan soil, and encouraging the Afghans to copy our ways. All of this did not help our cause; it bred feelings of dependency on the part of the Afghan leaders in regard to both the sphere of military operations and economic solutions.

The war in Afghanistan is continuing and our troops are engaged in extensive combat actions. Finding any way out is becoming more and more difficult as time passes.

President Obama is fully committed, as we should be, in winning this war; the reasons are straightforward and simple to understand:

  • To stop the spread of terrorism in the Eastern hemisphere and establish a permanent military base within Central Asia from which we can protect both our Middle East and Asian allies and our own vast interests in the region.
  • Insure nuclear arms in Pakistan are secure from radicals and groups obsessed in conveying their politically motivated messages of ideological concepts
  • Halting the flow of narcotics for worldwide consumption
  • Eliminating wide scale corruption in aspects of Afghan society

We must face reality in Pakistan; we have poured billions of dollars into the country with, in my opinion very little to show for, other than a much un-needed amount of political bickering and the simple fact the Taliban is gaining more control of the country than ever before.

Here again is our overall lack of understanding the people within Pakistan and as in Afghanistan talking about “winning the hearts and minds” but doing so in such a way to render us as invaders rather than saviors.

Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos all turned around their agricultural communities from harvesting drug producing crops to alternative methods of land usage.  This was not an easy task, but accomplished through government sponsored programs and education of the farmers.

Additionally stringent law enforcement was required, not necessarily on the farmers themselves, but more so on the distribution or middlemen and drug lords.

Today, production and the exporting of drugs within these aforementioned countries has been drastically reduced.

Corruption has driven the country since its inception and something that cannot be eliminated by a proclamation or two by the country’s top officials.  The elimination of corruption cannot be only approached from a typical top-down or grassroots approach of bottom-up; instead it must facilitate both of the following equally and in conjunction with one another:

  • The populous requires an education as to the harmful effects caused by a corrupt government and the benefits received from quick law enforcement.
  • Strong and courageous leadership who understands the needs of the populous and willing to enforce or institute corruption laws to protect not only the people but his own position in the government.

An excellent article, authored by Chak Sopheap for UPI Asia, entitled “Cambodia needs anti-corruption culture” details the current corruption problems taking place in Cambodia and the harm it is causing on the Cambodian people.  Well worth a read!

What’s my Point:

Lets stop by throwing needlessly money, bullets and bombs at the Afghans and Pakistanis by starting first of all; educating ourselves with the understanding of their culture, traditions and language or give up the tired old line of “winning the hearts and minds” of the people and simply conquer them, which is less time consuming and possibly less costly.

However we as Americans would be bound to rebuild their country in our own image, such as we did after World War II with the countries of Japan and Germany, along with Korea, after the Korean conflict.

I wonder what the international community’s attitude would be towards us, if we conquered Afghanistan and Pakistan?  Also, I wonder about the overall cost of rebuilding these two countries?

Reference Documents and Newswire Updates:

Related Newswire Stories:

Remarks by the President on National Security (pdf)

Press Briefing by Sect. of State Hillary Clinton on Humanitarian Aid to Pakistan (pdf)

Press Briefing by National Security Advisor General James Jones on the President’s meetings with President Karzai of Afghanistan and President Zardari of Pakistan (pdf)

Accompanying Video:

From Afghanistan

Photos by Scott Carrier from Afghanistan. Taken for his Harper’s Magazine article:
http://hearingvoices.com/webwork/carr…

Music by Eva Cassidy from her Live at Blues Alley
http://www.evacassidy.org/

08
May
09

What Makes Guantanamo Bay Special

guantanmo

icon_digg For the most part there’s very little agreement that I have with the Bush Administration; especially there authored and enacted policies regarding offshore retention prisons and numerous violations in respect to torture in regards to the Geneva Convention.

However, I do subscribe to the fact there are organizations and individuals with the devoted intent to destroy our beloved country at any means possible.

Furthermore, these aforementioned leaders of these organizations and their members must be found, brought to justice in a court of law and sentenced accordingly.

As for the trial proceedings, I’ll trust and place my faith in President Obama and Attorney General, Eric Holder’s decision(s) to choose the correct course of action, which at the time of this posting is being decided.

For the incarceration phase of punishment, it must be within the continental United States!  Meaning, in my own personal opinion “Guantanamo Bay, Camp Delta” must be closed.

I cannot comprehend that we do not have a facility secure enough to house these convicted terrorists.  Within our penal system, in the US, we confine the likes of serial killers, psychopaths, treasoners, drug lords and mafia bosses without one of these criminals ever escaping and endangering the public.

So to me, Guantanamo is just a blight on our country’s reputation of justice and fairness.

There are others who feel the same as I; and yet others within the GOP especially who are using their same old scare tactics that has got us into our current mess with the international community.  An article posted on the Huffington Post, entitled: “On Guantanamo, The GOP Attacks Hard Working Americans” and authored by Adam Blickstein has the following to say (excerpt):

After failing for 8 years to actually keep the world safe from terrorism, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and especially Dick Cheney, are embarking on a renewed push to rehabilitate their failed reputations and political prospects.

In going on the offensive on Guantanamo and torture, though, they not only expose themselves to the American people who see through these transparent attacks, but also to the reality that America has successfully held dangerous terrorists within our own criminal justice system for decades now, some of whom executed attacks on American soil.

They are: Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, who was incarcerated for a time in the nation’s largest city, New York, and now resides in it’s most secure prison, the Supermax facility in Florence, CO where according to a former warden he has never left his cell; also at Supermax, Zacharias Moussaoui, convicted of conspiring to kill Americans for his role in the 9/11 attacks; the 6 perpetrators of the East African embassy bombings are also there, as is the shoe bomber Richard Reid.

All these dangerous men have been kept in secure facilities for years now with none of these terrorists being released into our “backyards” as the GOP would like us to think. So how would the transfer of Guantanamo detainees be any different?

Within an additional article, again on the Huffington Post website, and article entitled: “GOP Promotes ‘Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act’ To Prevent Gitmo Closure”, authored by Jason Linkins, which basically states the same as my beliefs and those of Adam Blickstein. Here is an excerpt from Jason’s posting:

The new and exciting idea from your House GOP is a bill called the Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act, which is SUBLIME. At long last, someone had the guts to stand up and express the visionary idea that terrorists should be kept out of America. This will finally keep terrorists out of America, unless they somehow start dealing in subterfuge, or something.

Actually, the bill is merely a backhanded attempt to prevent the closure of Guantanamo Bay, by turning the matter into an internecine war between state governments over who shall house the prisoners presently in detention at the GITMO facility. Greg Sargent summarizes thusly:

The bill attempts to place restrictions on transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, and has two primary features:

It prohibits the Obama administration from transferring any Guandetainee to any state without approval from that state’s legislature and governor

Before transferring any detainee to any state, it requires the administration to notify Congress of the name of the detainee, and to stipulate to Congress that the release would not hamper continued prosecution of the detainee and wouldn’t negatively impact the state’s population.

During World War II we had the “Japanese Inurnment Camps”, which after forty years we apologized to those loyal Japanese-Americans who suffered are mistakes in political policy.

I’m not comparing the individuals in the Inurnment Camps to those individuals housed at Guantanamo Bay, instead I am comparing the concept of “specialized confinement centers” during war and holding people in legal limbo outside of our justice system in camps and under conditions, which prevents the American public, news media and international organizations access to it’s inhabits.

Complementing my posting, for reference, are the following pdf documents and YouTube Video:

JTF-GTMO Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Camp Delta

International Committee of the Red Cross (Guantanamo Bay Report)

The Complete List of Congressional Leaders Briefed on Torture (pdf)

Related Newswire Articles regarding Guantanamo Bay

GOP’s Anti-Guantanamo Scare Campaign Parodied

29
Apr
09

Change is in Our Future Not Our Past

returning-vet

icon_digg15 Every good past President has looked to the future, while every failed administration has suffered with the past, in part by their own misunderstandings of the failure(s) and to fully concentrate on moving their own agenda’s forward!  Consequently, we the American public are as much to blame, for their failures as they are.

Today in office we have elected a forward looking Chief Executive, tasked with the mission of tackling the previous administrations failures and deceptions; while moving onwards his own vision of how America should be.

To me, this means let the president delegate responsible, for corrective action on the issues concerning Gitmo, torture, Rove, FOIA and FISA to his appropriate cabinet members and select committees within congress.

We as diligent citizens and supposed caretakers of our country should and must be focused on issues such as health care, getting out of Iraq, the economy and perhaps an over looked issued by many, an improved, affordable plan to enhance our current educational system of higher learning.

We have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear over the past several months, will these jobs ever come back?  The answer is “No”!

Soon we will have thousands of veterans returning from overseas, will they remain in the military service?  Again, the answer is possibly “No”!

So what are the solutions to the aforementioned issues within the Obama Administration?  I feel the president has chosen the most correct choice by relying on what made our nation what it was in the “past” – “Education”.

But, as we all know, including the president, both the cost and quality are the downsides for most of us, even the slightly “upper middle class”.

As quoted by President Obama (President Obama on Higher Education and Reforming Student Loans):

Over the past few decades, the cost of tuition at private colleges has more than doubled, while costs at public institutions have nearly tripled. Tuition has grown ten times faster than a typical family’s income, while inefficiencies in the student loan system provide lenders billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies instead of making college more affordable for all Americans.

staff_report_ed-chart

When we review the 60’s, the days of placing a man on the moon and the golden times of NASA; education was at our country’s forefront, even while the Vietnam War was in progress, education was considered a must for survival in the Cold War overall and personal success in life as an individual(s).

We must not accept taking a backseat within the international community, as we have and again noted by the President in his Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting:

Our schools continue to trail other developed countries and, in some cases, developing countries.  Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others.  Another assessment shows American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world.  And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

Complementing while confirming the aforementioned is the following from Gallup Polls with an article entitled: “Public Discontent With Quality of U.S. Education, where we can see the American public over the past eight years have been frustrated with the Bush Administration’s progress on education:

A three-year aggregate of Gallup data (2002-2004)* on attitudes toward the public schools indicates that 44% of Americans are very (11%) or somewhat (33%) satisfied with public education, but a slight majority, 55%, are either very (25%) or somewhat (30%) dissatisfied. Despite these negative perceptions about the quality of the U.S. education system, past surveys have demonstrated that most Americans are happy with their own educations and the educations their children receive.

20040518_1

So, should you subscribe to the fact our nation’s higher learning institutions are to expensive and our primary education system(s) of public schools are not performing as they should; how is the president and perhaps more selfishly “us the American public” going to resolve the educational systems and turn their services into “jobs” and an increased standard of living for all of us?

The President has prepared congress for needed changes, staring with his Fiscal Budget for 2010 with major investments in broadband networks, clean energy technologies, and health information technology, as I’ve quoted him here (Fact Sheet A Historic Commitment To Research And Education):

President Obama has already made science and technology a top priority:  The Recovery Act includes $21.5 billion for research and development, the largest increase in our Nation’s history, and well as major investments in broadband networks, clean energy technologies, and health information technology.  The President’s FY10 budget includes sustained increases in basic research, $75 billion to make the research and experimentation tax credit permanent, and funding to triple the number of the National Science Foundation’s graduate research fellowships.  The President is committed to restoring integrity to science policy, and making decisions on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology.

Also, the President has enacted steps within his own Executive Branch (President Obama Meets with Family Struggling with College Costs, Underscores Need to Eliminate Wasteful Spending in Federal Student Loan Program, Reinvest Savings in Making College More Affordable):

Today, President Barack Obama met with a family struggling to afford the cost of college and underscored his commitment to cutting wasteful spending on federal student loans by ending taxpayer subsidies to banks.  President Obama discussed the strain that rising tuition costs are placing on middle class families and his proposal to end the private Federal Family Education Loans program that lines the pockets of the banks who serve as middlemen while costing the American people $5 billion a year.

As I elated to earlier, since this is a failure of past administrations to attend address the president has wisely delegated this national concern to Vice President Joe Biden, who in my own opinion as been doing an outstanding job for the president in seeing all measurers are brought to the forefront on getting legislation authored and past in a bipartisan manner.

Vice President Biden has implemented “Middle Class Task Force” to find solutions and assist him in seeing colleges become more affordable through a series of town hall meetings. Here in an excerpt from such a meeting in St. Louis, the excerpt is entitled: “Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

An obstacle to federal student aid is the unnecessarily complicated application process that is often intimidating to families and students seeking loans. In order to qualify for aid, students or their parents must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which contains well over 100 questions on income, assets, family characteristics, personal characteristics, and other items. Completing the FAFSA requires families to sift through paperwork and transfer numbers from tax forms that they may or may not have readily available.

The following is a downloadable pdf report, which bears reading, regarding steps being taken by the Obama administration to lower college cost to the middle class desiring to enter college and making the application procedure more simplified and friendly:

Middle Class Task Force Staff Report (pdf)

So, what’s the Point:

Much “to do” recently has been made in the media over the release of torture memos and the president’s first 100 days in office, which are all constructive concerns and self-servicing pats on our own backs for electing the “right person for the right job”, but lets not get hung-up on the issues of witch hunts and arrogance that got us into the trouble we’re in today.

Lets keep pressing forward in correcting mistakes and apathy of the past with “new ideas” and approaches that will insure we’re never in the fix we are in today.

After all wasn’t it President Bush who said “Fool me once and you’re a fool, fool me twice and I’m a fool”.

The following selections of videos cement President Obama’s commitment to the middle class and his devotion to insuring every American is entitled to higher learning:

Opening the Doors of Higher Education

Taking a defiant stance towards those banks defending the status quo, the President proposes cutting out the middle man in student loans for a savings of almost $50 billion over ten years.

Additional Videos:

Real Tax Cuts Making a Real Difference

Flanked by Americans who have benefited from his Making Work Pay tax credit, President Obama speaks about his tax policy and how it is helping people across the nation.

Taking on Education

The President explains the urgency of changing the way we educate our children, and offers four pillars of reform.

Meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talks about the source of his passion for education reform — and why he thinks it’s about more than education, it’s about social justice.

Update 2 May 09:

Universities in Crisis? From Compartmentalization to Collaboration
Michael Roth | President, Wesleyan University

In the last several days there has been a flurry of articles bemoaning the condition of American higher education. Two stand out. In the New York Times religion professor Mark C. Taylor enjoyed comparing American graduate education to the US automotive industry. Ouch. It was small relief that he seemed to be thinking mainly about a handful of humanities disciplines. In the New York Review of Books, Andrew Delbanco traced the steady erosion of the American promise of social mobility through post-secondary education. In the wake of a financial crisis that has drained endowments and led to decreased public support for higher ed, Delbanco wonders how America can prevent its best universities from becoming finishing schools for the rich. In this post I will comment on Taylor’s view, and in a future post I’ll write about access and social mobility.

Update 04 May 09:

Tom Vander Ark: 2020 Forecast: the Future of Learning
from HuffingtonPost.com by Tom Vander Ark

“You will have a teacher as a personal tutor who will follow you through your school years, help you and train you in planning and developing your learning strategies, follow up your school work and be available for support and control. As you learn to set your goals yourself and to plan your own time, you will be allowed to take a greater responsibility for your own studies. Thus, our method of working will teach you to take personal responsibility and to become independent.”

This quote is not from a future scenario planning exercise, it’s a description of a school, actually 22 schools with 10,000 students, but as you may have guessed from the spelling, they’re not in the US. The chain is Kunskapsskolan in Sweden where a national voucher system supports innovative schools. Their web site is a pretty good description of where learning is headed–at least in places where leadership is focused more on kids and the future than adults and the past.

Volcker’s ‘Great Recession:’ Unemployment Will Be Redefined
from The Huffington Post News Editors

Post-recession America may be saddled with high unemployment even after good times finally return.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished forever in industries such as auto manufacturing and financial services. Millions of people who were fired or laid off will find it harder to get hired again and for years may have to accept lower earnings than they enjoyed before the slump.

22
Mar
09

We The People – Not Wall Street

r-treasury-huge

icon_digg21 An article published in Hoffington Post by Jeffery Sachs details our country’s problem in dynamic proportion and with crystal clear clarity regarding the plain, unchecked greed that has encompassed those few and selected individuals on Wall Street and residing in Washington.

At one time the word “Capitalism” was understood by all, but this aforementioned greed group of personalities decided among themselves to refine the meaning.  It sickens me when I hear the word “Socialism” when used with our current economical affairs; why, because as the article states, we Americans perceive the older traditional meaning, whereas Wall Street and their allies are leading us to believe we are wrong and the President’s Economic Team is leading the country’s banking system into Socialism.

An excerpt from the article:

During the last 20 years Wall Street has had its way with us. On a bipartisan basis it provided the Treasury Secretaries, filled the regulatory agencies, paid itself unconscionable bonuses, and stuffed the campaign coffers. The greed knew no bounds. The distortions of public policy — right up to Greenspan’s infamous decision to leave financial regulation up to the firms themselves — have wrecked the world economy.

Truer words could never have been authored, our President was correct when he clearly spoke the words during his campaign “Change Must Come” and in this case to Wall Street and those who have backed and reinforced that fabled street for the past thirty years.

Another excerpt from this article:

The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history’s most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don’t matter in the great matters of finance.

Today as never before, if we as a nation are ever to hold our heads up high again, we must challenge our leaders and demand from them “That we the people control government, not those on Wall Street.

The article I’m quoting from is Capitalism and Moral Sentiments.

Lets us not forget these famous words spoken:

Gordon Gekko “Greed is Good”

Gordon Gekko “Greed is Good” http://www.forexsetups.com Trade like a professional.

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.

11
Feb
09

The President’s Honeymoon Never Started

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Continue reading ‘The President’s Honeymoon Never Started’

10
Feb
09

What’s Russia’s Problem of not Jumping on our Troubled Economy

Sometimes we become wrapped so tight in our own world we forget how other look or feel towards us Americans.  Since our economical troubles began late last September, just about every country has weighted in with both proposed solutions and/or condemnations or any combination there of, regarding what we have caused to the international community at large, but one country has been relatively silent over the economic burdens around the globe, and that country is Russia.

For me, this is rather amazing, since Russia’s economy has been performing very well over the past few years; so along came the international down turn, what’s their reaction?

A fellow blogger (Andrew) posted this interesting article, entitled: “Fresh Angle on US-Russia “New Era”” yesterday, which is primarily devoted to an editorial authored by Mark H Teeter, an American writer residing in Moscow, and Mark’s view of how the Russians are perceiving the world’s economy.

Here are some excerpts from Andrew’s posting:

Sometimes the Moscow Times opinion editorial columns can be a little overbearing. While undoubtedly well written and informative, they are almost universally po-faced. Amid this environment of solemn political analysis and grave social policy, Mark H Teeter brings a delightfully light touch and sharp wit to his keenly observed bi-weekly columns about life and news in Russia.

Most weeks he addresses US-Russia relations through the prism of an American living in Moscow, and this week must have provided a bonanza for Teeter, as Barak Obama apparently “pressed the reset button” on US-Russia relations, and wants to reopen nuclear arms control talks with the Kremlin.

(Note to self: I do wish the press wouldn’t refer to the pressing of any kind of button when it comes to nuclear arms. It causes a certain… frisson. NTS2: And speaking of uncouth Obama press coverage, when will they stop referring to the fiscal stimulus bill as Obama’s stimulus package?

Anyway, back to Teeter: funny guy, sublime writer, irreverent vignettes on US-Russia relations and cultural differences through the eyes of a veteran American expat in Moscow.

Today, Teeter has managed to trump every single one of the major op-eds and foreign policy wonk notes I’ve read on the start of a another new ‘new era’ of Russo-Yankee relations.

Click here for an engaging read.

What makes Andrew’s posting more than interesting is Mr. Teeter’s ability of comparing both of our country’s past history and relating it to the present, all with a toung -in-cheek approach.  Here are a few selected excerpts from Mr. Teeter’s editorial in the Moscow Daily Times, entitled: “U.S. Russianists and Reset”, with high lighted sections I have talked the liberty of enhancing.

U.S. Russianists and Reset

09 February 2009
By Mark H. Teeter

Both Russians and Americans are acutely anxious about national fiscal policy these days. Perhaps we should let history suggest where our worrisome bailout billions might serve good ends for both countries — and others as well.

Sometimes a little panic is a good thing. When the Soviet Union put the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit in 1957, official Washington soiled its collective shorts. The U.S. response to Sputnik was very American — throw money at it — but with one salutary difference: For once in our national life, we threw smart money.

Beyond a predictable increase in military spending, Sputnik also inspired Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act, which provided major financial aid to education — particularly in science, math and foreign languages, notably Russian — so we could “catch up with the Soviets.”

Simultaneously, the government began funding education of another, and wholly novel, variety: It hired U.S. citizens to tell Russians about the United States — in person. In 1959, the U.S. Information Agency opened its first exhibition of “Americana in Moscow,” with young U.S. exhibit guides enthralling huge crowds of information-starved Soviet visitors with accounts of their country, its values and themselves.

The ensuing three decades proved how smart these two investments were. U.S. performance in the targeted areas improved substantially, helping the Cold War die of both natural causes and George Kennan’s “containment.” But wait, it gets better. The NDEA and its derivatives, along with further USIA exhibits, also produced a corpus of U.S.-Russia specialists who are now poised and ready to refit the U.S.-Russian relationship after decades of mismanagement and neglect. “Cold War II” could soon be history.

Just who should “press the reset button,” as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden aptly put in Munich on Saturday? Here are a half-dozen Americans, the tip of a modest iceberg, who spent significant time in the 1970s as either U.S.-subsidized exchange students at Soviet universities or USIA exhibit guides — or both — and have stayed conversant with things Russian ever since: Harley Balzer, professor of Russian studies at Georgetown; Blair Ruble, director of Washington’s Kennan Institute; Laura Kennedy, deputy commandant and international affairs adviser at the National War College; Thomas Robertson, former Russia director at the National Security Council and ambassador to Slovenia; Rose Gottemoeller, previous director of the Carnegie Moscow Center; and John Beyrle, U.S. ambassador to Russia.

The extent to which the Obama administration takes their advice and uses their skills may dictate how much the U.S.-Russian relationship improves on multiple fronts. Or doesn’t.

Even before Munich, things were warming up in several areas. Gottemoeller, a former Rand Corporation analyst, was named point person for breaking the U.S.-Russian nuclear negotiations logjam. Muscovites who have seen her in action call the appointment a boon to both sides. Beyrle, moreover, went on Vladimir Pozner’s national television program recently and inspired myriad viewers to reconsider the United States and U.S. intentions. One veteran of Russia’s “surveillance organs” wrote that he “listened to [Beyrle] for a few minutes and came to believe an entire country.” Now that’s “your tax dollars at work.”

All right, today’s learning points for the bailout-obsessed: 1. A stimulus package or subsidy plan is neither the Big Rock Candy Mountain nor a free lunch. It’s an investment, and it has to pay off twice — next month and next generation. 2. Education, in all its domestic and cross-cultural forms, always pays for itself — and a good deal else.

Oh, and point 3: The Iranians launched their own Earth-orbiting sputnik last week. Any more questions?




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