Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Israeli War in Gaza

I have been reading the things those on the Israeli side have been sending me about how horrible Hamas is, and I have been reading such people as Glenn Greenwald about the Israeli atrocities against the innocent civilian population of Gaza.

I can't take a side right now.

First: I know the Israelis have committed crimes against humanity by cutting off food and medicine against the Gaza civilian population in the name of cutting off their supply of weapons. I also remember how the Israeli government used to demonize Yasser Arafat's al-Fatah organization, calling them terrorists. So they suppressed them and Hamas rose to take its place. Now they want Fatah back to be the moderate force in Palestinian government. That leads me to believe that if they are successful in suppressing Hamas, something more dangerous and radical is likely to arise to take its place. In fact, I have already read of such groups standing by to take over.

I also know how bad it is that Hamas fires rockets into Israel, even though there were no Israeli casualties from them till Israel started hitting back. I know there is no excuse for bomb-throwing, anyway. But I also understand human nature enough to know people who feel so frustrated are likely to take any action that feels good at the time to try to strike back, even if it doesn't do what one expects. Witness the death penalty in the U. S. for an example.

So my take on the subject is what I have said before: I sincerely believe that if the Palestinians had adopted the tactics of Ghandi instead of the tactics of violence, they would have had their own state already, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Thoughts for the New Year

Do you think it might get through some people's heads this year that we can leave failed philosophies behind now?

Main lesson learned: We tried conservatism and it failed. Bottom line.

The market does NOT regulate itself, and the private sector is not always better at doing things than the government.

Start with deregulation: We deregulated the airlines under President Carter, and we lost Eastern ("The second largest airline in the free world" they advertised themselves) and Pan Am ("Pan Am makes the going great"--great advertising song), and now maintenance is a scandal, you're lucky to get a bag of peanuts (airline meals are history), cabins are cramped, and now they're charging to check the first suitcase.

We deregulated the Savings and Loan industry under Reagan, and wound up on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars to bail them out when they ran rampant. That's why it was "Fredo" among the Bush sons who ran for president instead of Neal (Silverado S & L) Bush.

We deregulated the rest of the banking industry under Clinton and now we're on the hook for a trillion or more because of the irresponsible behavior of bankers gone wild. Even Alan Greenspan admits he was wrong.

The purpose of regulation is to keep things like these from happening, not to clean up the mess afterward. It's time to get serious about regulating so that everyone can compete fairly, and no one has to be put at unreasonable risk to begin with.

Can we learn now that deregulation doesn't work?

Now as to privatization, the no-bid contracts the Bush Administration passed out to support the Iraq invasion has cost far more than it would have if the Pentagon had run things in-house. Besides that, Halliburton should be prosecuted for murder for the poisoned water they furnished to GI showers, the year-old outdated food they served the troops, etc. They bought new trucks for each one-way trip within Iraq, abandoning a perfectly good truck so they could buy a new one at our expense. That's just the beginning. Books could be written volume on volume about the waste, fraud, and abuse that comes from privatization in Iraq alone, so I won't go on here.

I've talked about health care before. Another place where the private sector does it worse. Countries that support their health care system with taxes have lower death rates at every age, longer life spans, and more doctors per thousand population, at half the cost of our system. Taxes, schmaxes. So they pay an extra $50 in taxes so their child can have a nurse on their hospital floor at midnight. We pay an extra $100 in insurance premiums so some CEO can have maid service on his private yacht.

Speaking of taxes. That conservative bugaboo has been proven wrong by history. When Hoover cut taxes, 1929 happened. He raised taxes before he left office, but it wasn't enough. Roosevelt came in and raised taxes and pulled America out of the worst of the Depression. When they had made so much progress they thought they could slack off in 1937, they cut back on spending, and went into another recession. So the next year they cranked up the spending again and pulled out. JFK came in and cut taxes to stimulate the economy, and we had a recession. LBJ put on a surtax to finance the Vietnam War and we wound up with a balance budget and legendary prosperity. Nixon cut taxes, and we had another recession.

Fast forward to Ronald Reagan. First thing he did was cut taxes on his rich buddies. Right into a recession we went. The next year he signed what turned out to be the biggest tax increase in history followed in later years by a couple more, and Republicans are still bragging about the prosperity that followed. Bush came in and cut taxes on the rich, and the recession that followed brought Bill Clinton to the White House. First thing he did was raise taxes on the richest one per cent and Democrats are still bragging on the prosperity that followed. W came in and cut taxes for his rich buddies, and right into another recession we went. His idiotic policy was to continue the tax cuts, "make them permanent" was his mantra, and we still don't have as many Americans working full-time as we did in 2000.

2009 give us a new chance. Can we PLEASE learn from history now?