Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Polish Death Camps

Poland has objected to Obama's reference to a "Polish death camp" while honoring a Pole who helped make the world aware of the Holocaust taking place in Nazi death camps in Poland.  The Polish objection shows their sensitivity on this issue, but certainly what Obama meant was that this was a death camp in Poland, not a death camp run by the Polish government.

Nevertheless, when I lived in Poland I was struck by the fact that they almost always referred to atrocities of the the World War II era as having been carried out by the Nazis, not by the Germans.  The Germans are still here and still next door neighbors of Poland, but the Nazi government is long gone.  So, the Poles live up to the standard that they are demanding from Obama.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Rembrance

Just for the record on Memorial Day, I want to remember the two men in my unit, A Battery 2/94th Artillery, who were killed at Firebase Barbara and whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial wall:
Paul Kosanke, and
Willie Austin, Jr.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Congressional Letter re Finance

I sent the following to my two Colorado Senators:

Please support Sen. Sherrod Brown's SAFE Banking Act of 2012 to rein in "too big to fail" banks.  JP Morgan's $2 billion loss announced yesterday shows how seriously out of control our banking industry is, only a few years after the 2008 Lehman debacle.  Although JP Morgan claims that its "hedging" was not in violation of the Volker rule, I think that it likely was.  JP Morgan was just gambling with its depositors' money, trying to make a quick buck, which was almost riskless, because the US taxpayers are still guaranteeing the assets of the "too big to fail" banks.

Simon Johnson of MIT and the IMF has called for Jamie Dimon to resign.

You are just throwing away America's money guaranteeing the foolish bets of fat cats on Wall Street.  I can't tell you how disappointed I am that President Obama threw Elizabeth Warren under the bus after all she did to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  She was the only one in Washington speaking out for the middle class, and now she is gone.

I don't have much hope.  The US Congress is largely dysfunctional.  We have no fiscal policy.  Ben Bernanke has so far saved us from disaster with monetary policy, but he can't singlehandedly save the world.  You could give him a little help.

Two of the most important additional things the Congress could do are

-- Put the Bowles-Simpson proposals back on the table to address our financial crisis.  They were reasonable; they addressed the most important issue facing the US, and they have been ignored by the Congress.

-- Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.  The repeal of Glass-Steagall, led in Congress by Republican Phil Gramm and signed by President Bill Clinton, was responsible for the financial crash of 2008 and the current rogue activities of the big banks.  Banks should be banks, not gambling casinos.  

War Didn't Help

In today's NYT, Paul Krugman talks about how World War II pulled the US out of the Depression, although people back then also said that stimulus would not work.

It reminded me of the difference between World War II and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  First Roosevelt in WW II called on all of America to pay for the war, although it still ran up enormous deficits.  Bush said, "Go shopping," to support the Iraq war; you don't need to pay taxes.  If Bush had attempted to pay for the Iraq war, we probably would have had fairer, more equitable taxes, which would have done something to mitigate the perception that the current US tax system is seriously unjust.  We grew up hearing about the merits of the American progressive tax system that taxed the rich more than the poor, and now we find that we have a regressive tax system that taxes the poor more than the rich.  The Republicans argue that the rich still pay the bulk of the taxes, which is true, but only because they earn the bulk of the income.  Also, defenders of the current system seldom bring payroll taxes into the discussion, because if they did, the disparity would be even worse.  It's true that many very poor people don't pay income tax, but many more of them pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

The other disparity between the rich and the poor that the war widened is between those who defend America and those who stay home and make money while the soldiers fight.  In the old days, especially when there was a draft, the stay-at-homes were shamed as "war profiteers," but today they are hailed as "entrepreneurs."  In WW II almost everybody who was healthy fought; today almost all soldiers come from the lower classes, and disproportionately from small towns and rural areas, where there is still some feeling of patriotism.  Ironically, the 9/11 attack on the twin towers was directed at America's richest 1%, but the 1% by and large didn't fight back, it hired the 99% to fight and die for them.  Now when those soldiers come home seeking jobs, the 1% that owns everything usually turns its back on them.

The US has regressed so far back toward the old feudal system that we don't need new laws or an updated Constitution, we need a new Magna Carta.  Welcome to the 13th century!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Guantanamo Trials Are Legal Failure

The "trial" of the 9/11 terrorists in Guantanamo signals a significant failure of the American legal system.  The victims of 9/11 deserve better, because no one will believe that justice will have been done.  The prisoners may be guilty, but many victims of lynchings and other mob violence over the years have also been guilty.  The sign of civilization would be a fair trial, but Congress and the Obama administration have balked at allowing a fair rial.  The military lawyers in Guantanamo will do their best, but they have been put in an impossible situation.