Saturday, February 28, 2009

Operation Northwoods: Prototype for 9/11?

This is right up there with my calls to ally with Iran and overhaul our money-based economy for a resource-based one on the controversial scale. However, like those posts, this is still highly valid, and proven through extensive reading and research. This might also be one of the more scary things about our government, its manipulative capabilities, and its determination to justify the means to an end you'll ever read.

Yesterday, our president proudly announced that we will cease all combat operation in Iraq by the end of 2011. However, this is just a formality-- Iraq's government has all but kicked us out thanks to the agreement that was signed at the end of last year. After about eight years and almost $3 trillion spent there, one must look at what got us there in the first place. If not for 9/11, would we have gone into Iraq at all? Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say, but I think it's doubtful the American people would have supported a war as much as they did if they weren't fearful of yet another terrorist attack. But nevertheless, we all remember Bush and Cheney tirelessly bombarding the mainstream media in the months leading up to our invasion of Baghdad, lobbying for an Iraq war. There were the aluminum tubes allegedly being used for WMD construction, there were those alleged WMD stockpiles Saddam was getting together for an attack on the US, the whole mess about the yellowcake, and even more, Saddam's alleged ties to the perpetrators of 9/11.

Reeling from a devastating terror attack on our biggest city, the American people wanted blood. And if those guys in Iraq had something to do with it, then by all means, we supported our government in going after them. We all now know these aforementioned reasons proved to be little more than complete fabrication, and it's hard to call the war anything but a total catastrophe, given the sorry state of affairs over there to which our military and government directly contributed. But point being, as unfashionable as the war is today, it once had the overwhelming support of a good portion of the populace, especially in the wake of 9/11. If not for 9/11, I doubt very much the people would have allowed such a war to happen. In this note, I'll be looking back several decades in history at a false-flag conspiracy plan orchestrated by the government which would have led us into a similar war with Cuba in the sixties. You can thank JFK for this never taking place.

What Was Operation Northwoods?
One of the reasons conspiracy theory, especially regarding 9/11, is so unpopular is that people dont want to/can't even begin to fathom their own government and their own elected officials planning to kill their own people for some ulterior gain. However, this isn't a new idea for our government. In 1962, the military drew up a plan for covert operatives to commit acts of terrorism in US cities, which they were to blame on Cuba. This was ultimately intended to drum up US support amongst the people for a war with Fidel Castro. Specifically, Operation Northwoods aimed to "develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington." More notably, Northwoods called for the use of hijackings and bombings along with the planting of contrived evidence to point the finger at Cuba after enough people and property had been destroyed. From the document--

"Incidents to establish a credible attack (not in chronological order):
1. Start rumors (many). Use clandestine radio.
2. Land friendly Cubans in uniform "over-the-fence" to stage attack on base.
3. Capture Cuban (friendly) saboteurs inside the base.
4. Start riots near the main base gate (friendly Cubans).
5. Blow up ammunition inside the base, start fires.
6. Burn aircraft on base (sabotage).
7. Lob mortar shells from outside of base into base. Some damage to installations.
8. Capture assault teams approaching from the sea or vicninty of Guantanamo city.
9. Capture militia group which storms the base.
10. Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires--napthalene.
11. sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims (may be in lieu of 10).
b. United States would respond by executing offensive operations to secure water and power supplies, destroying artillery and mortar emplacements which threaten the base.
c. Commence large-scale United States military operations.
3. A 'remember the Maine' incident could be arranged in several forms:
a) We could blow up a ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame it on Cuba.
b) We could blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anywhere in the Cuban waters. We could arrange to cause such incident in the vicinity of Havana or Santiago asa spectacular result of Cuban attack from the air or sea, or both. The presence of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of the vessel could be fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack. the nearness to Havana or Santiago would add credibility especially to those people that might have heard the blast or seen the fire. The US could follow up with an air/sea rescue operation covered by US fighters to "evacuate" remaining members of the non-existent crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.

4. We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.

James Bamford, a journalist, summarized the operation a little more effectively in his April 2001 book, "Body of Secrets."

"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war."

Thankfully, Operation Northwoods never took place, as President John F. Kennedy rejected the proposal outright, and then fired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lemnitzer shortly afterward.

Why would we want a war with Cuba?
War is very profitable. Just look at what happened to our economy during World War II and the period after; industry put aside its profit conquests for the time being to make war equipment, people rationed out their own supplies so the soldiers could have all they needed, we bought war bonds, and when the soldiers came home, families enjoyed massive amounts of wealth and lived excessive lifestyles, consuming everything en masse.

Also, our money is printed from the Federal Reserve, our central bank, with a specific amount of interest attached. War, being very expensive, calls for more Fed money to be printed, with more interest, which can only be paid off with more money from the Fed. In times of war, the manufacturing industry benefits greatly by selling weapons and equipment to both sides; Rockefeller's Standard Oil corporation, the dominant energy giant of the times, had a partner called IG Farben. This German company was most famous for its manufacturing of Zyklon B, the gas used to kill Jews in German concentration camps. IG Farben also made a fuel additive used by the Luftwaffe in its bombing campaign of Great Britain. As Standard Oil fueled the American side and IG Farben the Nazis, Rockefeller profited doubly through the marriage cartel between the two companies.

Industry also boomed in wartime for IBM, the computer manufacturer. They made a registration system for concentration camps, and made lots of money through their German clients. These systems also required regular maintenance and upkeep, which could only be done by IBM employees, in person. Putting two and two together, this means IBM turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed daily as they maintained the Nazi's machines at camps like Auschwitz and Dachau, in exchange for wartime profits.

Should Operation Northwoods have gone through without a hitch, and we were to start a war with Cuba, you can be sure America's energy and technology corporations would have found ways to make ludicrous profits as they strategically marketed to each side during the conflict. The Fed would have increased the American money supply, and banks all over would see more business in wartime. New York financiers and Wall Street elites would have lined their pockets in the market while Americans and Cubans lost their lives daily in a war waged on false pretenses.

What does this have to do with 9/11?
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society."
-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, 1962

As I mentioned earlier, conspiracy theorists are harangued in society and media outlets for the radical beliefs, particularly when it comes to 9/11. It is an extremely unpopular thing to do to suggest that 9/11 might not have been perpetrated independently by a radical Islamic terrorist group, or that our government had some knowledge of what might have happened or what was going to happen beforehand and took no action, or that our government, in fact, assisted in the destruction of the towers or the Pentagon. Those who don't accept the media and the government's explanation for 9/11 are heavily ostracized and any credibility that was is taken and ripped to shreds; this is why journalists, independent bloggers, and anyone else in the information proliferation business are very hesitant to even mention an ulterior motive behind 9/11, for fear of being regarded as one of those loony conspiracy theorists. However, my friends and my readers already regard me as sort of a loony anyhow, and I think I can safely question the word of my government and the media I consume when such evidence as this exists.

The mere existence of this document proves that 9/11 conspiracy theorists aren't completely out of their minds. This document proves that government is indeed very capable of orchestrating attacks on its own people as a means of achieving an end. And the great detail in the description of what actions could have been taken is proof that were there to be a false-flag conspiracy plan enacted, it would be done through highly specialized, secretive, and organized bureaucratic means. As the Northwoods document clearly states, the Pentagon clearly intended to terrorize American civilians to justify a war with Cuba. With the existence of the document, it isn't too radical of an idea to think that maybe, just maybe, the government could have orchestrated the 9/11 attacks as justification for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, our government had been looking for an excuse to go to war with the Taliban since June of 2001.

In his book, "The Power Elite," C. Wright Mills talks in the beginning about how the circles of the political directorate, the corporate executives, and military leaders all work in tandem in order to more efficiently attain their own goals. From the early twentieth century to now, the government has evolved from an insignificant collection of states and small central leadership in Washington to an all-powerful, globally influential, highly centralized body of power. Just as business evolved from thousands of independent operators in the early 1900s to what is now complete domination of the global economy by a few hundred multinational conglomerates. Just as the military went from local militias used for national security in the Revolutionary War to now; an impenetrable, high-tech, giant, multi-billion dollar branch of our budget, consuming more than half of our total tax dollars each year. Mills goes on to talk about how the political elite's influence is both checked and supported by the interests of the corporate elite, as business in states is necessary for job growth and production. Similar to how military interests and contractors work closely with the State, in both marketing newer and more expensive defense systems and technology each year, playing key roles in both economic growth and political gain. Essentially, these three power groups have seen exponential growth in power and influence since the inception of the Bush administration, particularly after 9/11 and the onset of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. All things considered, it's not an inconceivable notion to have for the government to orchestrate a massive attack on its own soil, as all three branches of the elite would see great benefits and large increases in power from the ensuing conflict. Again, the mere existence of Operation Northwoods proves this point.

I should also mention David Ray Griffin brings up several interesting points in his recent book, "9/11 Contradictions." I haven't finished it yet, but he goes through several very interesting contradictions in the government's account of the 9/11 attacks, which conflict directly with numerous media reports. Whle he doesn't suggest any conspiracy, the book is meant to educate members of congress about the holes in the 9/11 commission report, and to demand a new investigation that examines the facts for what they are. One example is Vice President Cheney's time of entry into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker under the White House. While the Commission report states he entered the bunker just before the Pentagon was hit, Griffin cites several media reports, as well as the accounts of secret service agents in the bunker who say Cheney entered the bunker just after the towers were hit, as much as 15 minutes before the Pentagon attack. One account Griffin cites tells of a White House Aide repeatedly running into the bunker, teling Cheney that an aircraft is approaching, and asking if "the orders still stand." Cheney replied twice to "Stand down," and even cursed at the aide when asked a third time if "orders still stand." The Commission report infers that the "orders" must have been whether or not to shoot down United 93, the plane in Pennsylvania presumably headed toward Washington, given their official time Cheney entered the PEOC. However, in the conflicting account, the aide had asked Cheney about the orders still standing before the Pentagon was hit, meaning Dick Cheney knew a hijacked plane was going to hit the Pentagon, and took no action.

There's an entirely different set of controversy about the nature of the craft that struck the Pentagon, as well as the crash of United 93. Accounts mention that pieces of debris were immediately collected by Pentagon officials shortly after the crash, and that the crash site itself carried virtually no plane debris, despite most plane crash sites being filled with nothing but destroyed plane parts. There's also the shadiness of the alleged hotel security camera video with a clear view of the side that was struck, which was confiscated by Pentagon officials.

All that being said, this again leads back to the existence of a 40+ year-old document that features detailed plans of our government executing terror attacks on civilian and military targets as means of justification for a war. That plan was devised, refined, and signed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff before being passed on to the president. Were Operation Northwoods to be okayed at the executive level, we would have seen 9/11-like attacks on American cities and military sites by "Cuban" terrorists, and we would have marched into a war with Cuba with the people crying for blood, much like we did with Afghanistan in 2001 and with Iraq in 2003.

In short, our elected officials are not above the murder of those it governs to make high profit returns for the companies who get more business in wartime.

Operation Northwoods was declassified in the 1990's by the National Security Council, along with other documents pertaining to Kennedy and his assassination. Hopefully information and awareness will spread amongst the people, and this will hopefully lead to a newer, more thorough investigation of 9/11. If not that, then I at least hope differing opinions and ideas of 9/11 will be more accepted in the media and society. I also hope the term "conspiracy theorist" will be less attributed to Roswell loonies, and more toward those with simply a different idea from the norm. Here's to hoping the concept of not taking the word of the government and the mass media as gospel, especially about one of the most heinous acts ever committed on US soil, becomes more acceptable in the future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Bible says being gay is a sin. What else does the Bible say?

An episode of the West Wing had a similar bit once, and I found this especially profound. Let me know what you think.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. In October 2002, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

The Letter
Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Society's Treatment of Bernard Madoff vs. an Average Marijuana Offender

We are a capitalist society, and have been taught since almost infancy that our free enterprise system is the gold standard for any economy. Thus, we grow up idolizing money, all of us taught to hope for a sweet job that pays a ton of money once we enter the real world. We are taught to hold up those who rise up in the world and accumulate the most material wealth as definitive cultural icons (The American Dream). And whether or not you're a newshound like me, you were most likely witness to the seemingly utter contempt of the poor by the conservative right in the presidential election.

Barack Obama's comment to Joe the Plumber about "re-distributing the wealth" raised such a fuss in conservative media outlets that it became a crucial last straw to grasp for conservatives in the home stretch. While the 2008 election slipped through the GOP's hands from the last debate to November 4th, this comment alone caused quite a stir in the mainstream news media for a long time. (We all remember the "How dare Obama suggest we divert an insignificant portion of six-figure income Joe's taxes to give benefits to the poor, those worthless wards of the state?" frenzy the media was in) Essentially, opportunistic capitalists and high-income earners will continue to be endlessly deified by the media; especially from conservatives.

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with the news lately, a New York financier named Bernard Madoff stole $50,000,000,000 from investors via the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. In the wake of the $800 billion stimulus, massive bank bailout at $700 billion, and a measly (ha!) $17 billion bailout of the American automakers, $50 billion kinda sounds like spare change. Newscasters gloss over this item every once in awhile, but they fail to convey how large of a number this is. They haven't even begun to even talk about how hideously evil and greedy it is for ONE dude to bilk investors out of $50 billion dollars($50,000,000,000. Looks like a lot, eh?) so I'm going to do it for them.

A Brief History of Past Corporate Greed
"The people in these companies are the greediest group of fuckers EVER. I know this, because we have a lot of greedy people in this country. And the greediest of the greedy saw what these guys did and went, 'Wow. That's really fuckin' greedy. I wish I thought of it."
-Lewis Black, 2004

Remember the corporate fiascos in the early 2000s? Namely, Enron, Adelphia. Tyco, and MCI/Worldcom? These scandals got all kinds of news coverage, and these guys were harangued for their outrageous greed, along with that greed being the chief cause of financial ruin for tens of thousands of employees and investors. Enron exec Jeffrey Skilling sold $33,000,000 worth of stock through insider trading. Scott Sullivan and David Myers of Worldcom embezzled $3,800,000,000 from the company. In 2004, Dennis Kozlowski was accused of taking $600 million with Tyco's CFO. Because, like Lewis Black said, you gotta buy shit. These acts were treated as ultimately despicable in the media, but these men were largely exonerated in the end, thanks to their access to top-shelf expensive lawyers. the worst punishment any of them received was Ken Lay's unexpected heart attack while he was on vacation, golfing, before he even started to serve his sentence. The worst part? Skilling's $33,000,000 he got so much flak about isn't even a thousandth of what Madoff allegedly stole.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are struggling in a tough job market, a down housing market, mountains of debt, and exorbitant healthcare costs. And that's not to mention those much worse off than we are; the genocide victims in Darfur and Congo, the child soldiers in Rwanda ordered to shoot their own families in order to eat, disaster victims in the Gulf, and the untold millions of destitute Chinese and Taiwanese people. While the wealthy power elite capitalize off of their unfathomable greed, the rest of us languish while elected officials take little to no action. While the media continues to let the outrageously greedy off the hook time and again.

However, our justice system always makes sure to punish offenders of the most insignificant of crimes; cannabis smokers. As mentioned in my first blog entry on this site, we spend $40,000,000,000 per year in the war on drugs, and detaining a marijuana offender costs us about $20,000-$30,000 per year. Such a blemish on one's record can very likely destroy any opportunities of a meaningful career, thus making that person's life that much more difficult in a down economy and in the midst of sky-high unemployment rates. However, in stealing $50,000,000,000, (That's enough to pay off Kentucky's record budget deficit 100x over) all the punishment Bernard Madoff has received thus far is house arrest.

Basically, inhaling smoke from burning a plant is a criminal offense worthy of jail time. However, stealing 277,777 times the amount (yes, that's correct) someone in my field gets paid per year just means you can't go out at night.

what I'm going to attempt to do in this blog is to try and help people fathom how despicably greedy Bernard Madoff really is, because the mainstream media has failed to convey how disgusting of an act he allegedly committed. I'm going to do this by comparing his treatment in society compared to society's treatment of the average marijuana offender.

Society's Perception of the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in History
A Ponzi scheme is essentially a structure that promises high returns to investors. This return comes from other investors, who get their returns from even more investors. Madoff allegedly organized this, possibly with the help of his wife, and his own son was the one to finally blow the whistle to the authorities. In the wake of the discovery, Madoff was put on house arrest, meaning the only punishment he's received so far so stealing the life savings of an untold amount of investors is that he can't leave his house after 8 PM. Another famous name to receive house arrest for horrific crimes was Cambodian Dictator and Khmer Rouge Leader Pol Pot. While executing 2 million people/sentencing political dissenters to forced labor is by far a more despicable act than theft, it should be noted that Pol Pot died of largely natural causes before he even went through a tribunal. This was in 1998, decades after the dissolution of his party.

Madoff's alleged theft on December 10th was brilliantly timed; it came right in the midst of a historic presidential election, pre-Christmas spending frenzies, and Israel's invasion of the Gaza strip. Into the new year, we had Obama's inauguration, erratic weather patterns, and the controversial stimulus bill for the media to worry about. Thus, this despicable act of greed was and has been constantly swept under the table or briefly discussed in between the aforementioned news events. Essentially, the media has failed to put the pressure on Bernard Madoff, or to inform the people of the the full extent of his greed. In the media's light treatment of the former NASDAQ chairman, and through the leniency of his current terms of house arrest, media consumers could eventually come to their own conclusions; one of those possibly being that unhinged, wolfish capitalism and immeasurable greed isn't that big of a crime.

The icing on the cake was that Madoff's return rate was a steady, suspicious, proportionate increase for years. In fact, one financier had alerted the SEC about the situation years ago, but the SEC took no action. Now, as thousands are smarting from a huge financial loss, Madoff sits comfortably in his Manhattan apartment and peruses the streets of New York City--that is, until 8 PM, of course. To date, that's all that's been done about literally one of the biggest acts of greed in human history. And at the ripe age of 70, and due to his access to top-level lawyers, the trial will be dragged out until his death. As a result, Madoff will most likely die in the midst of wealth and comfort before even serving one day of his sentence. That's the way of the American justice system.

Society's Treatment of an Average Marijuana Offender
Meanwhile, as Bernard Madoff was executing an alleged $50,000,000,000 Ponzi scheme, one man in Salt Lake City faced 55 years in jail for his first marijuana offense.

in 2004, Weldon Angelos sold 8 ounces of marijuana to some undercover police officers in the religious puritan capital of the world (Salt Lake City). He was later sentenced to more than a half-century behind bars. While he was carrying a gun at the time, lawyers for Angelos argued that 55 years without parole was unconstitutional. Angelos has already served five years of his sentence, but won't be a free man until more than four decades have passed.

Taking into account time off for good behavior, the Bureau of Prisons estimates his release date as Nov. 18, 2051, when Angelos will be 72.
-Salt Lake City Tribune, Feb. 22, 2009

By making one mistake, Angelos' life was literally torn to shreds. With no prior felony convictions, Angelos will have spent more than half of his life incarcerated. Angelos is a Hip Hop producer with three children who broke the law (a rather silly and outdated one, I might add), not a rapist, a murderer, or a greedy financier. However, rapists, murderers, and Wall Street string-pullers all seem to get fairer treatment in the press and with the people.

In other words, something's wrong with this system. Why does a man who bilked thousands out of their life savings get a free pass and house arrest, but a guy who sold some harmless plants to some cops get 55 years in jail without parole?

What you can do with $50 billion
I don't feel I've illustrated my point enough, so here are just some of the things $50,000,000,000 can buy. Obviously, that's a whole lot of money, but I'll name some of the big things that come to mind.

MonSanto: Market Cap- $45 Billion
MonSanto is one of the world's largest agriculture and farming corporations. If you have bought milk anytime in your life, you have given MonSanto your money. The recent fuss about suspicious chemicals and synthetics entering the milk supply was MonSanto's doing. MonSanto has also been under fire for their manufacturing of herbicides and pesticides which have been proven to cause cancer in human beings. In short, one could theoretically use $50,000,000,000 to buy MonSanto, shut it down, and indirectly stop the spread of cancer.

California's Budget Deficit- $16 Billion
Kentucky is struggling with a $456 million budget shortfall. Alcohol and tobacco companies were up in arms very recently about some new taxes that went into effect to raise revenue for the state. Programs have been cut across the board, jobs have been moved out of state, and education has been put to the chopping block once again. However, $456 million is chump change when it comes to what Bernard Madoff stole. As I mentioned earlier, $50,000,000,000 is enough money to pay off Kentucky's deficit more than 100 times. But I'm talking about California- at $16 billion, they've got it way worse than we do.

It should also be noted that California's economy is one of the largest in the world. People depend on California for all kinds of things from clean energy research and development to fine wine. Fixing their deficit wouldn't just help California or the United States, but the rest of the world as well.

Sony: Market Cap- $36 billion
Next to AOL/Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, Sony is one of the world's largest media conglomerates. Buying this corporation would mean ownership of countless movies, rights to some of the biggest record labels (artists, producers, songs) and a plethora of video games, being that Sony made PlayStation. with $50,000,000,000, one could buy this media giant and still have almost enough to bail out California. Speaking of bailouts...

Bailing out the American Auto Industry Three Times Over- $51 Billion
While Congress and Former President Bush allowed $17 billion to save American auto manufacturing jobs, Madoff could almost do this three times over, just with the money he stole. With three times as much money originally allotted, these industries would boom; not onyl would regular joes get to keep their jobs, these companies would expand their workforce and operation, and would tower over Toyota. The money could also be used by these automakers to make more fuel-efficient, desirable automobiles. In short, Madoff's $50 billion (plus one billion more) could make the American car market flourish for years to come.

By now, I hope you have some grasp of just how much money one man stole. If not, think of a heck of a lot of money. Now triple that. Now square it. Now add some zeroes to it. Get the idea?

I mentioned in my case for legalization the benefits of cannabis/hemp manufacturing, food consumption, energy use, and other ways the plant can be versatile for the benefit of mankind. Weldon Angelos sold 8 ounces (a half-pound) to cops, and got thrown in jail for 55 years. Such a lengthy sentence must be reserved only for the most heinous crimes, surely. While $50,000,000,000 can buy media conglomerates, agriculture giants, and bail out states, marijuana has been proven do things like make you sleepy, make you hungry, mellow you out, and enhance sensory awareness. Pretty dangerous, if you ask me.

I don't really know why Madoff hasn't been slain by the masses yet, or why he's under house arrest instead of being tortured in Gunatanamo Bay, or why the investors who were affected haven't had the chance to take at least one swing at Madoff's head with a blunt instrument. I also don't know why a first-time offender got more than a half century in prison for peddling plants. Maybe one of you can answer that for me? I doubt the media or the government will.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Could Result from Mexico's Oil Discovery

I'm currently in the midst of reading Paul Roberts' "The End of Oil," a late 2004 book talking about oil's waning in the global energy market despite nearly complete dependence on petroleum in most advanced societies. I'll have a blog entry analyzing the book's points in detail later on when I finish it, but I had to write about something that piqued my interest.

Mexico just happened upon a veritable cornucopia of oil. The new oil field is said to contain more than 3.8 times Mexico's total reserves, and holds around 10,000,000,000 (10 billion) barrels. Now, this doesn't come near Saudi Arabia's Ghawar oil field, or Russia's massive oil reserves, but this is still a huge discovery that will undoubtedly have a great impact on the world energy market. And you can bet Mexico will make a killing off of their new discovery, as they rightfully should in this economy.

However, my brother pointed out that this could pose some questions and create some sticky situations, and United States officials will have to play their cards carefully in light of this new discovery, both politically and economically. Two of these situations would cause drastic harm to both the energy market and the world energy economy, but we could profit potentially from one other situation. I'll analyze each scenario in depth, and mull over the possible consequences of each one. again, this is all subjective as this story deepens, and just my individual perspective.

1. Alternative Energy Research and Development is Delayed, Oil Dependency Increases
Remember in 2004, 2005, when the Bush empire was at its peak? when everyone drove SUVs, the religious right was the leading authority in public education, and when our foreign policy stance was a giant middle finger to all countries that weren't America? Mexico's new discovery could potentially mean we halt the progress we've been making toward renewable and sustainable energy, as that's still mostly in the experimental stages. Gas could become cheaper, and people could possibly go into another frenzy over buying those now cheap, once fashionable SUVs and pickup trucks. As we become more friendly with Mexico and start to import more oil from them, I could very well see the preference of lawmakers to choose an easier route and choose oil trade with Mexico instead of invest funding in shaky alternative energy research. It's similar to how Kentucky's legislature, this year, chose to hike tobacco and alcohol taxes to raise money instead of look outside the box to generate revenue, like a comprehensive tax reform bill. However, I think this solution can be ruled out, as Barack Obama strongly campaigned on a platform of leaving foreign oil dependence behind in favor of a renewable energy grid.

2. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iraq's Influence Diminishes in Global Energy Market, Iraq's Economy Suffers
Paul Roberts mentioned that a majority of the world's oil reserves lie in the Gulf area; Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, and Iraq are some of the world's swing producers of oil and natural gas. Moreover, the OPEC oil cartel has had a stranglehold on world oil prices since its inception. With Mexico's new oil discovery, OPEC's influence would wane, as Mexico becomes a key player in the oil game. After we switched from a coal-powered army and navy to an oil-fueled one in World War II, the United States learned quickly that oil was key to political, economic, and military clout. Thus, oil has been a starting point for war for decades. One example is Kuwait's threat to Iraq's economy in the late eighties as their oil industry competed directly with Saddam Hussein's in Iraq. Iraq was reeling from a recent chemically-fueled war with Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini (many of Iraq's weapons supplied by the Reagan administration) and their economy was in shambles. After getting the green light to invade Kuwait from the US Embassy in Baghdad, Saddam waged war on Kuwait, all because of an economic threat from a neighboring country's oil reserves. That being said, Iraq, in the midst of civil war and sectarian violence, would also face an enormous economic plight as they now have another competitor in the global energy market. This could potentially mean more US involvement, but here's to hoping that doesn't happen.

3. USA and Mexico Become Key Trade Partners, Further NAU Progress
This would be the most profitable scenario, and could very likely happen. Mexico's government is looking for help in any way they can as their country has been thrown into utter chaos due to the violent drug war currently going on. Mexico has been described as the #3 most dangerous place for journalists behind Iraq and India, due to the severity of the situation there. Right now, all efforts by law enforcement and government to fight the growing drug cartel have all been ruthlessly quelled. However, with this 10 B barrel oil discovery, Mexico now has a solid playing card to use in getting more potential foreign aid. In the long-term, this could theoretically mean that the United States would soften its immigration laws, and possibly its marijuana laws to ease the severity of the drug war, in exchange for providing aid to Mexico as they would provide us with oil. Of course, this would also quicken the process toward the North American Union and the introduction of the Amero as the new form of currency, uniting the economies of the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Pres. Obama has spoken about his enthusiasm for making the NAU a reality, undoubtedly making all of my conspiracy theorist readers cringe with terror. I'll most likely write a new blog entry about the NAU if and when it actually is implemented.

This story is still developing, and there's no telling what will actually happen, but these are some of the scenarios you may see start to develop in the news media once Mexico emerges into the oil market. You can read more about this via the hyperlinks I posted.

Your thoughts and comments, as always, are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hooray Freelance Journalism!

I figured since I write for fun, I may as well get paid for it too, right? Thus, I've re-written my jobs feature for print/online, and submitted it to Politico for possible publication. And hey, if it gets published, I get $100. It's currently in editing, and I don't know if it will make it to the website or not, but that'd be pretty cool if it did. I've copypasta'd the story below. Feel free to check it out.

Displaced Workers Place Blame on Local Government
By Carl Gibson

MOREHEAD, KY- In her sixties, Donna Fife is currently taking vocational classes after she lost her job with Cintas in Bath County; one of many victims in the current recession.

"I was in the workforce for 40 years," Fife said. "And now that's gone."

Fife and over 150 others are taking advantage of free job training at the Rowan Campus of the Maysville Community Technical College in Morehead. Their former employer is providing two years of unemployment checks for each worker, along with two years of tuition-free classes. The Bath facility officially closed at the end of January. For some workers, the sewing factory was their first and only job.

"I honestly don't blame these companies for closing down," 14-year Cintas Veteran Jennifer Carpenter said. "I blame our government for letting it happen."

Both Carpenter and her husband worked for Cintas and Carhartt, respectively. Citing lower demand, Carhartt has ceased several manufacturing operations in Kentucky along with Cintas. Carpenter says the pressure is on to find work soon without any regular household income.

"Now you've got both incomes gone, and you've got three kids to raise," Carpenter said. "But you can't depend on the government, because the government's what's got us in this kind of shape to begin with."

State Senator RJ Palmer represents Bath County. He said it's now more crucial than ever to entice potential employers with incentives to relocate to Eastern Kentucky. Bath County Judge-Executive Carolyn Belcher said in a weakened economy, that's easier said than done.

"You hear how tough it is to get loans and credit for start-up companies," Belcher said. "People who might have been planning expansions at one time are probably pulling back."

On the other hand, Governor Steve Beshear believes state government isn't doing enough to help companies currently in Kentucky stay in business. Beshear said Bath Manufacturing is just one example.

"Most of our incentive packages are geared towards attracting new businesses to move in here from other places," Beshear said. "We need to concentrate on existing businesses and keeping jobs here at home."

Senator Palmer said to keep jobs in Kentucky, future tax incentives should be focused more toward the service sector.

"Manufacturing seems to be on the decline, and services seem to be on the rise," Palmer said. “We should tailor our training toward that as well."

Jennifer Carpenter is considering job training in respiratory care or nursing. She said there's a bleak future for the state's manufacturing jobs if current economic trends continue.

"All of our jobs have gone overseas and across the border," Carpenter said. "Are they going to have to build fences to keep us out of these other countries, to raise our families?"

Despite her age, Donna Fife said she is determined to get training and find more work. The 62-year-old added whatever field she ends up choosing, it will be far different than what she's used to.

"I've been in sewing for forty years, and the sewing is gone," Fife said. "Whether it's medical or business, or whatever, you're gonna have to do it."

As recently displaced workers start taking classes, Judge-Executive Belcher said proper training will be a key to future success. She believes Cintas' former employees will find work soon, due to their work ethic.

"We're talking about stable, long-term employed people," Belcher said. "A really good piece of the workforce that employers are going to be looking for."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why the United States Must Ally with Iran

I recently read Robert Baer's "The Devil We Know," which is a late 2008 book that gives an in-depth analysis of Iran's status as a new world superpower. It completely changed my outlook on Iran and what to do in the Middle East, and I'm writing this to sort of spread the knowledge I gained from reading this book. Baer spent years in the Middle East as a CIA operative, gathering intelligence by immersing himself in their culture and lifestyle, and talking to everyone from family members of terrorists to the King of Bahrain. If anyone can relate the enigma of Middle Eastern culture and thought to Americans, it's Robert Baer.

He stresses that he is not an Iranian sympathizer, and recalls memories of seeing his colleagues blown up and beheaded by Iranian soldiers and terrorists. This is simply a very informative and sometimes frightening account of the global powerhouse Iran has become. And after reading it, I've found that it is imperative that we come to terms with Iran; if not as an ally, at least as a strategic partner. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Iran and the Middle East in general. I'll continue to read and research on Middle Eastern politics, myself.
Iran has become a dominant political and military force in recent years. Their religious fervor and relentless patience has allowed them to politically control Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan through proxies (independent actors who answer to Iran's orders) and their biggest proxy, Hezbollah, has become the most legitimate and feared military power in the Middle Eastern region, especially after defeating Israel in Lebanon two years ago. Hezbollah has also branched out to other countries in the Middle East, exercising their authority in the name of Iran. Iran has also gained control of nearly every important oil corridor in the Middle Eastern region, and is one of the world's largest producers of oil along with one of the world's largest producers of natural gas, giving it immeasurable economic clout. The Bush administration has given us nothing but misleading information since 2001, and now is the time to set the record straight on how wrong we've been about Iran. By further isolating and antagonizing Iran, we give them all the advantage they need to continue the spread of their empire right under our noses.

This will undoubtedly be the longest blog I've ever written, so I've taken the liberty of separating this into individual sections, so you can read at your leisure and pick up where you left off. I think it's important, especially now with a new administration and the Iraq war in jeopardy, for Americans to read this and know a little more about something on which we've been completely misled for decades. And if you don;t read anything else in this blog, check out the ending sections, as you'll probably see Obama enact a lot of these policies during his tenure. First, we must dispel the myths given to us by the government over the past few years.

Myth #1. Iran is a terrorist state.
The last act of terrorism Iran sponsored was in 1996, when they truck-bombed the Khobar Towers Marine Barracks. Iran knows that continued acts of terrorism take legitimacy away from the empire status they are trying to attain, as well as the hegemony in the Middle East that they strive to obtain. Iran did engage in terrorist activities in the 70's and 80's, and Imad Mughniyah, a Hezbollah commander, was one of the more well-known terrorists acting under Iran's orders several decades ago. However, Iran's Ayatollah refused to give him political power and influence after Iran started building its empire, as he was too much of a radical to be trusted. Hezbollah's preferred political warrior can be seen in Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of the organization.

Nasrallah has been compared to Saladin, the Shia Muslim warrior who drove out the Crusaders in the 12th century AD. Nasrallah led the effort to end Israel's 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2006, being the only Muslim commander able to beat Israel's seemingly unstoppable army. Along with proving himself as an effective soldier and strategist, Nasrallah has also proven himself as a diplomat, when he struck an agreement with Israel in 2004 for the release of hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. Middle Easterners regard this is as one of Hezbollah's landmark achievements, and Nasrallah is credited with the endeavor.

Iran encourages Hezbollah in its diplomacy, and condemns aimless acts of violence by exiling those who promote terrorism for political gain. In fact, most of the senseless violence and terrorism that happens in the Middle East is executed by Sunni Muslim takfiris. Takfiris are extremist Muslims who see the world as being composed of believers and non-believers. Takfiris are adamant in their stance that non-believers cannot be saved, and must be killed without mercy. In fact, one of the main reasons the United States is so unpopular with the people of the Middle East isn't because of democracy or freedom, it's because we've supported the efforts of extremist takfiris since the Reagan administration. This brings me to myth #2.

Myth #2. Shia Islam is the religion of terrorists and extremists.
Iran, being a Shia nation, is often condemned by western leaders for supporting violence and terrorism. And through the media's coverage of the Iraqi Civil War that broke out between Sunnis and Shias, we've also seen the troop surge work as we team up with Sunni militants in Sunni neighborhoods in central Iraq to fight Shias. Shias have been second-class Muslims for centuries, ever since the Sunnis took control of Mecca, Islam's holy city, in the 13th century.

I won't go as much into detail about the intracies of Shia and Sunni Islam as Baer did, but I did learn the main difference between these two sects of Islam; Sunnis take a fundamental and literal approach to Islam, and their conservative interpretation of its writings and lack of central religious leadership often lead to senseless violence against Shia Muslims. Shia Muslims, on the other hand, have central religious leadership through the Ayatollahs, who train Imams, dictate Muslim law through a determined religious hierarchy as in Catholicism, and most importantly believe in Ijtihad, or a metaphorical interpretation of the Koran. While one of the main tenets of Islam is martyrdom, or the sacrifice of one's life for the greater good, Baer found that Shias can logically explain why they martyr themselves and why they praise their martyrs, while Sunnis closed the door in his face, and gave the standard platitudes of martyrdom serving the purpose of "defeating the nonbelievers." Shia martyrs have a set target in mind, politically or militarily, and the families of the martyrs were almost always willing to talk to Baer about the importance of their son's or their daughter's death; it was always with a goal in mind. And their martyrs were always glorified because of it.

If we want to remain a strategic player in the Middle East, it's obvious that everything we've been doing up to this point has been wrong. In an effort to stop the Russian spread to Afghanistan in the 1980's, we supplied Sunni Muslim takfiris with arms and money with little oversight. The Afghans beat the Soviets, but in the long-term, we ended up creating the Taliban, a Sunni Muslim takfiri organization that ended up controlling the politics of Afghanistan, and enforcing its rule through brutish means. Through the Bush family's support of the Royal Saud family in Saudi Arabia, we ended up supporting yet another oppressive, unpredictable Sunni regime, and Sunni takfiris from Saudi Arabia carried out the 9/11 attacks. So not only have we spurned Iran (overwhelmingly Shia nation) through these policies, we've created tremendous backlash which has caused thousands of American deaths.

The empire of Iran is being spread primarily through Islam; the Middle East has taken vast steps away from secularism and has almost completely embraced Islam as both a religion and a way of life for all of its people. More importantly, Iran's influence in Iraq (I'll talk about this in another section), Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Palestine is heavily Shia-driven. The only part of the Middle East that is Sunni-controlled is the oil-rich gulf. Combining centuries of Sunni oppression fresh in the minds of Shia Hezbollah, Shia Iran, and Iran's proxies, along with the notoriously weak militaries of the gulf nations, an Iranian takeover of the gulf would be imminent, were it not for the United States' support of Saudi Arabia. However, with our waning strength and influence in Iraq in the midst of bloody civil war, and the battle of attrition being waged on our troops and economy, Iran knows that patience is key; we can't stay in Iraq forever, and the Saud family will eventually fall. The Middle East is practically in Iran's hands as it is.

Baer puts it very simple; as Americans, who would we rather support? Radical Sunni takfiris, or the Shias; the destined masters of the Middle East?

Myth #3. Iran Could be Defeated in a War with the United States
Now, it's important to know Iran hasn't been a Muslim nation for a very long time, considering the context of Iran's history. For thousands of years, Iran's religion was Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster. He believed that there was simply a struggle between light and dark, between good and evil. Zoroaster believed that Asha, or the good and righteous forces, were constantly at war with Druj, the forces of falsehood and disorder. Iran very reluctantly converted to Islam several centuries ago, but Baer notes the fundamentals of Zoroastrianism are still very much evident through the lifestyle of the Iranian people. The people of Iran see the influences of western culture in Lebanon, Israel, and the gulf Arabs (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates) as imperial colonialism; combine that way of thinking with a history of both Zoroastrian dualism (good vs. evil) and the Muslim belief of martyrdom, you have a nation full of people willing to die for what they believe is right. This means Iran can potentially be much more dangerous than we could imagine. Iran has a definitive military stranglehold on the Middle East.

The most fascinating part of Iran's power is how secretive it is. While the United States has a trading embargo with Iran, and while US intelligence keeps close tabs on the arms Iran buys, Iran has easy ways to get around these barriers and get state of the art arms technology from Russia and China through its proxies. Hezbollah is basically another arm of Iran, and Hezbollah's nature of operation is so secretive in itself that a majority of its commanders are still unknown to US intelligence. Hezbollah can very easily set up one-time companies with Iranian funding made in a false name and solely for one particular transaction. In buying current state of the art electronics, missile systems, tanks, and explosives from China and Russia instead of from western sources, Iran can get fantastic prices on arms that would normally cost up to 400% more from the United States or Britain. Because of recent purchases made through such means, Iran now has anti-air missile capability, meaning that potentially Israeli bombers would be shot down long before reaching their targets.

Iran learned from its mistakes after barely scraping out of the Iran/Iraq war in the eighties. Iraq's army under Saddam's regime was the #2 army in terms of active membership and equipment behind Israel, and in conventional military situations, it was almost unbeatable. Ayatollah Khomenei, Iran's Supreme Leader in the 1980's, sustained heavy losses to his military when engaging Iraqi forces head-on. However, Iran's success with guerilla warfare through truck bombings, car bombings, and martyrs with suicide vests more than made up for its losses on the battlefield. Iran recaptured several key cities that Iraq had encroached upon through guerilla means, and eventually forced Iraq to draw up terms for a ceasefire; Saddam's tanks were blown up easily with a truck bomb or an IED, and Iraq's troops were confused and lost in city skirmishes, where guerilla warriors thrive and succeed. This was a landmark victory for Iran, as they had defeated one of the most feared armies in the Middle East through unconventional guerilla tactics.

Presently, Iran has adapted from its former losses, and its military has become more and more familiar with guerilla tactics; in trucks loaded with explosives, with only on or two aboard, Iranian military forces can travel alongside civilians, undetectable by Israeli and United States intelligence. Hezbollah, Iran's chief proxy, forced Israel from Lebanon in 2006 through these same guerilla means. The United States outspends the nine nations behind us in military spending combined. Iran and Hezbollah aren't even in the top ten, and they defeated Israel. A military struggle with Iran would be just as fruitless as our campaign in Iraq has been. We could shell Iran's cities, destory their means of conventional warfare, and decimate their army as easily as we destroyed Iraq's. However, the Iranians would fight ceaselessly through guerilla means, which we are incapable of stopping. To top that off, we'd have Hezbollah on our hands, and suddenly be in a sticky mess as hundreds of troops would be sent home each week in coffins.

We could nuke Iran until there's no buildings left, but Iran would win a war with the United States through attrition; they're willing to martyr themselves and rig trucks with explosives and IEDs. On the other hand, the American people wouldn't stand for heavy military losses and economic deficits. Military options with Iran would be futile and costly. Even if we were to go to war with Iran, all the Iranian government would have to do is close the straight of Hormuz; one of the world's busiest oil corridors. Should that happen, we'd be brought to our knees as oil costs would rise to $200 a barrel in a day.

Baer makes the point that because of new guerilla warfare tactics, military strategy has completely changed globally since the onset of the Iraq War (2003). Guerilla warfare has beaten the United States in Iraq time and again, and the United States is still convinced it can win the Iraq conflict through conventional means. In completely decimating Iraq's army, we've further impeded our ability to train a competent Iraqi security force, and simultaneously aided Iran's conquest for empire in Iraq and elsewhere, as Saddam's army was virtually the only force capable of keeping Iran in check.

Myth #4. Iran's Politics are too Radical for Middle Eastern Dominance
Baer recalled one meeting with the King of Bahrain in a London hotel. Bahrain is very worried about Iran's power; after being freed from the British protectorate, Bahrain has only been independent for 37 years. They have a population of slightly more than 1 million (comparable to Louisville, Kentucky) a net worth of about $24.3 billion (USD) and an exclusively ceremonial military. Added to that, Bahrain was once a part of the Persian Empire before the British, and Iran wants it back. Iran, with its military of approximately 545,000 and the combined clout of its proxies could take Bahrain in a day.

As mentioned earlier, Iran has gained political influence in Shia countries with the aid of Hezbollah. However, Iran's new status as a powerhouse in Middle Eastern politics isn't due to just the power of its army or its proxies, but through its image of the prime enemy of the Sunni takfiris and western colonialism. I'll explain.

Imad Mughniyah, one of Hezbollah's most notable fighters, was recruited into Hezbollah by a man named Sheikh Hossein in a small apartment in Lebanon. Mughniyah was born into a poor family of olive farmers, and grew up in Beirut. While Mughniyah suffered in poverty, he saw western influence in Lebanon's capital; the wealthy, clad in western dresses and tuxedos, climbing out of limousines, hitting the nightclub scenes, living a decadent western lifestyle. This was after political leaders failed to live up to empty promises of eradicating western culture and making Lebanon into a Shia Islam state. Sickened by the west's pervasion of his culture, he was a prime target for Hezbollah, as he saw the group as the only resistance movement dedicated to the cause of anti-colonialism. Mughniyah, the poor son of a farmer, was given a purpose in life as a soldier in a movement dedicated to an anti-western cause. He became notorious in his murderous acts of terrorism against Israeli and American targets.

Mughniyah's case is so much like many of the other Hezbollah recruits, which is why they are such a rapidly-growing party in the Middle East. If you were a poor, frustrated baker's son or a street vendor in a country which has long been in the shadow of the Sunnis and the American-backed Israelis, is it so hard to fathom joining a resistance movement dedicated to fighting that oppression? Shia Muslims are so persuaded by Hezbollah to join their cause and fight the Americans/Israelis. This is why Iran controls most of the Shia Middle Eastern countries in every way but name. And this is how Hezbollah has become the #1 most feared army and political party of the Middle East. Iraq is a case much like Lebanon's.

Baer is well aware of how America has directly contributed to the wide sectarian divide in Iraq by removing both a central authoritative figure and by dismantling Iraq's army. The majority of Iraq's population lives in the southern part of the country, which is heavily Shia. The Sunnis have controlled Baghdad and central Iraq, although their influence has been waning since Saddam's death. The kurds in the north have been wanting their own state, Kurdistan, and for it to be internationally recognized. This is where Iran comes in.

Southern Iraq is already very friendly with Iran and thus susceptible to its political influence. Central Iraq is only still Sunni because of American occupation and aid; we've been aiding the Sunnis since the 1980's, and not surprisingly, are aiding them in their sectarian war with the Shias. As soon as we pull out, Sunni Islam in Iraq will be no more if Iran has any say in the matter. This leaves Kurdistan.

While the Kurds have been rejected by Turkey, and attempted to keep a neutral stance in the Sunni/Shia war elsewhere in Iraq, Iranian proxies have been playing politics with Kurd leaders, and winning them over to their side with their message of a movement against what they see as western colonialism and the influences of a decadent culture from the west and from the gulf Arab nations. Baer recalls several meetings with Kurd religious and political figures, all who had good things to say of Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran. The final blow was when he stepped out of a vehicle as he was on his way back from Kurdistan to get pictures of the landscape. He was approached by an armed guard who told him pictures weren't allowed, due to Iranian orders. Baer found this as the missing piece of the puzzle; Iran promises Kurdistan military protection and aid, and the Kurds, in return, trust Iran and answer to authorities in Tehran. Thus, Iran has political influence in both southern and northern Iraq. Without American forces fighting with the Sunnis in the central region, Iraq basically belongs to Iran. This is only the beginning of how Iran wins over allies to their cause.

There is still one power player in the Middle East besides Iran and Israel, and that's Saudi Arabia. The Bush family has been a longtime friend of the Royal Saud family for decades, mostly due to oil trade. Baer has traveled Saudi Arabia, and talks about how overwhelmingly decadent and westernized the nation has become. There are vast desert palaces spanning hundreds of acres; lush hotels with gold-plated rooms, shopping malls that span miles and miles, multi-story airliners, the list goes on. Oddly enough, the United States is the #2 fattest country in the world with a 33% obesity rate, beaten only by Saudi Arabia with a 35% obesity rate. Saudi Arabia is also a haven for Sunni takfiri militants, and is also a friend of the decadent United States, to boot. Through its growing Shia population and low standards of living, a majority of the Middle Eastern people justify their hatred of Saudi Arabia using the above factors.

And while the Saudis don't like to admit it, they are grossly mismatched in both troops and equipment should a war begin between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In spite of Saudi Arabia's anti-western rhetoric and Sunni extremism against Americans, Saddam Hussein's threat to Kuwait in 1990 provoked Saudi Arabia to run in terror to the United States for border security. They weren't satisfied with their own safety until the US fortified their borders with troops of our own. If Iran decides to go to war with Saudi Arabia, it would be through proxies and guerilla warfare, along with relentless martyrdom. Not only would the Saudi army be helpless, the United States would likely be forced to sit by idly, as we're smarting from almost $2.4 trillion spent in Iraq. This is aside from all of the military and economic losses we've sustained in Afghanistan. If Iran or Hezbollah threatened Saudi Arabia, the Saudis would fall quickly and easily.

Myth #5. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wants to Destroy Israel with a Nuclear Weapon
While they'd like to become a nuclear power simply to be competitive, destroying Israel with a nuke is not in the political interests of Iran. If one takes a logical approach to it, launching a nuke at Israel would render Iran's decades of accomplishments useless, political and military. Not to mention Israel is more than capable of launching a completely destructive retaliatory attack if they knew Iran would launch a nuke at them. Thus, Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran, just as Iran has nothing to fear from a nuclear Israel. Iran isn't really concerned with Israel in its quest for empire in the Middle East. Iran is perfectly capable of bringing down the gulf Arab nations one by one, and by uniting the Middle Eastern people through Shia Islam. Israel would simply wane in power and influence as Iran made its conquest. Without a United States alliance, Israel would crack under the pressure.

And besides, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a powerless figurehead. The power has always been with the Supreme Ayatollahs; first through Khomeini's revolution in 1979, and then through Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's leadership after Khomeini died in 1989. As President, Ahmadinejad must submit to the will of the Ayatollahs. Despite his radical stances on Israel and his outrageous statements against the west, Ahmadinejad is powerless to act in his own. Khamenei is much more cautious in his leadership, and knows how futile a campaign against Israel would be. Khamenei knows full well the power Iran holds through its own influences on Shia nations and the power Iran has in Hezbollah. Iran has nothing to gain either through nuclear weapons or through Israel's destruction.

How to Reconcile with Iran
If you've made it this far, you've read how Iran has slowly become a political, military, economic, and religious hegemon in the Middle East. You've also read about how we've grossly underestimated all of Iran's power and clout. Now you're probably wondering what in the world we can do in the face of such a potential threat. Baer offered three possible solutions to the Iran issue, followed by 9 points of reconciliation once we meet with Iran's leadership for unconditional talks.

1. Contain Iran
This would involve us staying in Iraq indefinitely. Iraq and Afghanistan are a few strings from totally falling apart, and right now, the United States is those last few strings. To gain back the land NATO has lost to the Taliban, we'd need to deploy an additional 200,000 troops to Afghanistan, meaning we would be matching the peak of Soviet occupation. To restore order in the countries where we're currently at war, we'd need another half-million troops on Iran's borders. For this war to be sustained, we'd need to reinstate the draft and be prepared to spend several trillion more dollars to keep troop levels up. Alternatively, we could have a similar bombing campaign like we did with Iraq from 1991 to 2003. However, in an interview with the New York Times, Defense Secretary Gates said this would likely "strengthen Ahmadinejad and solidify the Iranian people's support for their regime." As Baer notes, this would start a new thirty-year war, or possibly a hundred-year war. And as mentioned earlier, the USA doesn't have the military or economic means to keep this up for ten years, so this solution is out.

2. Provoke a Massive Sunni-Shia Civil War
To best make this work, we would arm Sunni takfiris in Lebanon as Reagan did in Afghanistan in the 1980's, so Hezbollah and Iran would have to interrupt their imperial conquests to fight a Sunni insurrection. This would also hurt Iran's colonial credentials as they would be forced to help Hezbollah. Hezbollah would also be forced to give up its resistance movement against Israel. However, the last time we tried something like this, it caused more damage than it helped cease. By arming takfiris in the 1980's, we helped create the Taliban, a regime we are now fighting to contain. We also helped arm Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, as 9/11 was carried out with leftover US arms from the Soviet era and growth of a takfiri movement we helped start. This situation would be no different, and would cause a whole new series of problems. So this solution is out.

3. Settle with Iran
It would be somewhat of a bitter defeat to acknowledge that Iran has indeed become a global superpower and to meet with them as equals, but at last the question could be answered; would Iran be a better ally to the United States than the Sunnis, whom we've blindly trusted for so long?

With both of the other options out for obvious reasons, this last solution is the only feasible one. It would be a great political shift; Baer compares it to the British walking away from their empire after World War II. However, as difficult as it sounds, I think Barack Obama is smart enough and humble enough to acknowledge defeat in Iraq, and to ask the Iranians for help. Iraq is already halfway partitioned into sects; we could work with Iran in dividing Iraq into four parts- Shia South, Sunni Kurdistan, Sunni Anbar Province, and Shia Baghdad. We could allow the Iranians to control the Shia parts of Iraq they already control through proxies. This would elt Iran control the Shia holy cities of Basra, Najaf, and Karbala, making them more watchful as it is. Along with being more efficient and less violent, this would take some of the burden off of our shoulders and allow us to withdraw our troops in a timely fashion and phase in peacekeeping forces.

Baer proposes that there is no alternative. How much more taxpayer money will we forfeit to keep the vastly corrupt gulf Arabs in power, or to keep the gold-plated hotels in Dubai open? The mess in Iraq is now so convoluted that we don't even know who we're fighting anymore, much less why we're fighting. If congress' estimate of $2.4 trillion a decade in Iraq is correct, why not instead invest that money in alternative energy, and let Iran deal with the Middle East's problems? Military options are out, obviously. Sanctions also don't work; after 30 years of sanctioning, Iran can still get anything it wants from Russia and China. Out of all the Middle Eastern nation we can depend upon, Iran is the only one that is capable of delivering. The Sunni gulf Arabs are all teetering on the edge; Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the decadent United Arab Emirates, Qatar's small population, Algeria's war-torn government? Iran is the only capable state in the gulf presently.

All evidence clearly points to Iran and Hezbollah as the two rational Middle Eastern actors, if we ignore their words and look at their actions. Iran is the only ally we can afford to have, as opposed to Sunni takfiris that we can;t even find, let alone talk to. Iran has proven that it is willing to be diplomatic and meet to discuss political demands. Iran was very reasonable in these talks, and none of their demands included that we stop being allies with Israel or convert to Islam. Baer proposes a series of quid pro quos that must be met for an Iranian/American settlement.

Guarantee Internal Security to Iran
This would entail the expulsion of Iranian opposition groups in Iraq, and a stop to Americans calling for regime change in Iran. We would also stop contact with Iranian resistance groups like the Baluch and the Iranian Kurds. A stable Iran means a rational Iran. In return, Iran would stop sending arms to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Joint Patrols in the Persian Gulf
Baer proposes we establish a Tehran/Washington hotline so any potential confrontation with Iranian ships in the gulf can be avoided. A crucial first step to acknowledging Iran's role in gulf security would be to establish military communications between Iran and the USA. In return, Iran would stop challenging ships we send into the gulf.

Ease the Trade Embargo on Iran
If this happened, the western oil companies would be allowed to do business in Iran's oil fields, meaning an economic boom for the entire global oil market. In return, Iran would put a moratorium on arms shipments to Hezbollah.

Give Iran a Defined Security Role in Iraq and Afghanistan
Iran would take on direct responsibility for Basra and the Shia south. The USA would announce timetables for withdrawal and start to negotiate for UN peacekeeping forces. Here's the best part; the USA and Iran would team up in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran has shown that it is willing to work with the United States through the efforts of the Northern Alliance, an Iranian proxy and an ally of the USA. The alliance helped the USA capture Kabul in 2001. We owe Iran at least this much, what with our failed promises of securing Iraq and after calling for Iranian regime change since the 1970's.

Combine Hezbollah and Lebanon's Military
Baer writes that Lebanon is all but ready to crack into pieces as ethnic groups continue to feud. With Iranian involvement in Lebanese law enforcement, this would get Lebanon on the right track to becoming a peaceful nation. Besides, Hezbollah would never willingly disarm otherwise.

Allow Mecca to be Shia and Sunni-controlled
As long as they don't become homes for terrorism or recruiting terrorists, the USA shouldn't have any interest in whether or not Mecca and Medina are Saudi-controlled or not. We should instead support Iran as they request equal rights for Shia Muslims in the Middle East. It doesn't serve any interest for Saudi Arabia to continue abusing Shias. This would also lead to a better-coordinated effort between the USA and Iran in eliminating dangerous Sunni takfiri groups.

Force Israel to Cooperate with UN Resolution 242
This resolution calls for Israel to withdraw its pre-June 5, 1967 boundaries on Palestine, which it has not done. In return, Iran should be expected to impose a cease-fire on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This will convince Iran that international law is impartial, and the Palestinians would be happy with this resolution as well, given the 1993 Oslo Accords. This would also ease Iran away from its aggression toward Israel.

Put All Middle Eastern Nuclear Arms Under International Supervision (Israel Included)
Again, this would help convince Iran that international law will be followed by all nations, and that international law is impartial.

Establish an International Body to Audit Oil Supplies and Set the Price for Oil
Baer proposes that it is in Iran's interest, along with other oil-producing nations, to know how much oil is left in the Earth's oil reserves. Besides, vast swings in oil prices don't serve anyone's interests. And all of our interests would be served by a regime that sets the world's oil prices.

Given the circumstances, the United States doesn't really have any other choice than to ally with Iran. However, this way is a way of dealing and reconciling, instead of surrendering. It would also do wonders for the Middle East's relationship with the United States. We can cede Iran's quest for empire without ceding any of our core national interests. Recognizing Iran as an equal and as a world superpower would be much less violent than the usual way of creating an empire. This wouldn't be a support of the Shias against the Sunnis, but rather simply supporting a Middle Eastern state that has delivered results time and again.

Baer writes a lot of people thought Mao's China would never be a key trade partner for the United States decades ago, or that we would work with China in stopping the Soviet Union. And we all remember the results of blind confrontations with Chinese Communism in Korea and Vietnam. This way of reconciling with Iran is a way of learning from our mistakes, and making the best decision possible with the least possible violence. We would counter Russia and China's growing power with an Iranian alliance. For example, if Russia threatened to shut off western Europe's natural gas, Iran would be there to make up the shortfalls in the gulf. If any gulf Arab nations dissolved into civil war such as Iraq's case went, Iran would step in and keep the peace. This solution works politically, militarily, and economically.

The next few years will be interesting. I hope Obama's foreign policy team is considering these options; with these solutions, we could make a very profitable Middle Eastern relationship for decades to come.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hip Hop Doesn't Deserve the Bad Rap

One of the most upsetting things about our culture is the blatant disregard of entire genres of music. Sadly, this happens all too frequently in eastern Kentucky, usually with Hip Hop music being the undeserving victim. I'll be one of the first to admit FM radio does Hip Hop a great disservice with so many bad songs getting all the airtime, but this doesn't mean Hip Hop should automatically be labeled as "bad music." Like any other genre, Hip Hop music brings fresh and creative innovations to the table, and contributes in a unique way to the overall music scene.

When I use the term "Hip Hop", I don't refer to the garbage played to excess on FM airwaves. The popular urban music today I classify as "Rap." Rap is in reference to the soulless, profanity-laden, unintelligent, pornographic lyrics written by rappers like Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, and the Ying-Yang Twins. "Rap" music is generally the uninspired garbage pumped out by record labels made specifically for marketability, and is frowned upon by music lovers for good reason. When I mention Hip Hop, I'm referring to those who have broken ground for today's Hip Hop artists. A Tribe Called Quest, Grandmaster Flash, and De La Soul were some of the early Hip Hop greats that blazed the trails followed today by great Hip Hop artists like MF DOOM, Nappy Roots, Common, and the Jurassic Five.

To fully appreciate Hip Hop music, one must understand the evolution of the genre, and society's perception of current black music trends from the roots of late nineteenth century Jazz all the way to The Roots, a current Hip Hop group. Early jazz critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt defined Jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of blacks with European music." When one looks at how current black music is perceived by most whites in eastern Kentucky, the same could be said for Hip Hop as it was for Jazz. MC's, DJ's, and Producers of true Hip Hop music today are inspired by the same cultural differences and social conflicts that inspired early Jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton. Essentially, Jazz and Hip Hop braved the same hardships from society and have evolved accordingly. Jazz has earned its place in American hearts as a respectable form of music. It's high time Hip Hop gets the same treatment.

Hip Hop doesn't receive the same lush treatment as Jazz because of instrumentation; however, in good Hip Hop, those same musical nuances heard in Jazz are also easily identifiable in Hip Hop music. Whether machine-made or live, the production of both Hip Hop drumbeats and bass lines are complex and intricate, and require a learned rhythmic knowledge that must be constantly honed. Cee-Lo's "I'll Be Around," features beats by Hip Hop producer Timbaland complete with horn sections, hand drums/percussion, and vocal harmonies. All of these elements could be reproduced on stage for a live audience featuring live musicians.

The centerpiece of most Hip Hop is the MC, the equivalent of a rock band's lead vocalist. The lyric writing of Hip Hop isn't just inventive from a writer's perspective, but the delivery of lyrics in a Hip Hop song must be variated and creative, as opposed to simply sung cut-and-dry to guitars and drums, as in Rock music. Good Hip Hop lyrics are inspired by and written about real-life situations, social injustices, and racial hardship. A fine example of inventive lyrics can be found in Common's song, "Food," about a man who has to live a life of crime to provide for his pregnant wife and two children.

"I call my man 'cuzo' like I'm kin to him,
He tryin' to stay straight; the streets is bendin' him."

The lyircal delivery of Skee-Lo's lyrics in his 1995 single "I Wish" is especially profound, in the way he rhythmically and gracefully dances on his lyrics through spoken word. Busta Rhymes' MCing in his single "Gimme Some More" is widely renowned by Hip Hop critics for the impeccability of his annunciation despite the lightning speed of his delivery.

Not all great Hip Hop is lyrical, either. Some of the genre's best music can be found through instrumental tracks, involving a DJ scratching rhythmically on turntables to a beat and bass line. When listening to "Holy Calamity" by Handsome Boy Modeling School, even the most inexperienced Hip Hop listener can appreciate the advanced skill level of DJ Shadow during the four-minute turntable solo. The song also has a complex structure as in other forms of music; there is a defined verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format, despite the song not having any spoken lyrics.

In being unfairly grouped with Rap, Hip Hop has gone largely under the radar for many American music lovers disenfranchised with FM rap. Some of the key Hip Hop greats have accused modern rappers of ruining the appeal of the genre for new listeners with the classlessness of their music and lyrics. The main gripe of Hip Hoppers is Rap's domination of pop radio due to its club appeal, while the musical eccentricity and uniqueness of Hip Hop gets very little radio and club play. In an interview on a West Coast Hip Hop radio show, widely-renowned MC Snoop Dogg publicly criticized Soulja Boy, a current trendy Rap artist, on the simplicity of his music. Classic Hip Hopper Ice-T also followed Dogg's example with a similar attack on Soulja Boy, saying the 17-year-old rapper "singlehandedly killed Hip Hop."

While it's still a relatively new genre in America, and a completely new genre for lots of people, Hip Hop deserves its elite place in the hearts of music lovers along with Jazz, Funk, Soul, and R&B music. It's time Hip Hop be recognized by the popular music community, radio stations, and music lovers everywhere as a legitimate musical art form. As Naughty By Nature said 15 years ago,

"I live and die for Hip Hop,
This is Hip Hop for today.
I give props to Hip Hop,
So Hip Hop Hooray, Ho!",

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Love My Job (Hooray Journalism!)

Not every job lets you ask direct questions to the powers that be. However, despite 16 hours a week at federal minimum wage and a net worth of $17, I have access to a monthly interview with the Governor of my state where I get to ask him about anything newsworthy.

What I've started doing is taking your questions, as in you, the voters, combining the most relevant ones with questions of my own for various stories I'm working on, and asking them directly to Gov. Beshear. Then, I'll post each interview for all of you to hear what he had to say about the issues that affect you the most. Speaking of which...

That's from just today. This is usually a teleconference with multiple reporters. However, I was the only one who called in, so I ended up getting an exclusive 15 minute interview with the Governor. We talked about Sec. Napolitano's visit/Ice storm recovery efforts, jobs, education, the new teacher student loan re-payment plan, the stimulus package, tax reform legislation, restoration of voting rights for former felons, a bill regarding the possible restriction of adoption for unmarried couples, and Dan Mongiardo's candidacy. You should be able to hear the interview in its(almost) entirety via the link above.

I'll let you know when the next conference is, and I'll be sure to keep asking him about the issues that affect you voters the most. Hooray journalism!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What the media hasn't told you about the stimulus and GOP opposition

At just the end of January, 150 workers at the Cintas uniform plant, formerly known as Bath Manufacturing, were laid off. Many of these people had been at BM since its opening around 20 years ago. Some of them had come from Carhartt's plant which was also closed a few years ago, due to outsourcing and automation. A good number of these people had only worked this job, and didn't have training in any other field. These people all have families to care for, children to feed and clothe, and bills to pay. Luckily, Cintas gave its employees a great severance package; this included an unemployment check for the next two years and free tuition toward vocational training at the Rowan MCTC campus for an associate's degree in a number of fields.

I'm currently working on an in-depth report for radio on these displaced workers, and have spoken with Sen. RJ Palmer and Bath County's Judge-Executive along with some of the workers at a recent MCTC open house. I plan to speak with Rep. Sannie Overly and Governor Beshear in the early part of the week and get their take on these workers and the state of Kentucky's economy as a whole. When I asked a woman who had been laid off what her question to her elected officials would be, this is what she said-

"I don't blame Cintas. They did right with me. They took care of us. I blame the government for letting the economy get this bad. I blame them for not doing enough."

We all know by now, if any of you watch the mainstream media, that jobs are on the decline to say the least, and that this recession is getting worse. And if you've been paying attention to the news in Kentucky(or to my feed in the left column), you'd know we're in the midst of a $450+ million dollar deficit and our government has cut programs across the board. Our president has the difficult task of finding a way to create around 3 million more jobs in one of the worst economic spells in our nation's history. After being president for about two weeks and change, he's brought forth an extensive bill that aims to put money into infrastructure, education, renewable American energy, and new ways of taxation. The full text of the bill can be found here. Or, if you don't want to slog through 300 pages, you can find summaries here, here, and here.

This bill also proposes detailed solutions for fixing healthcare, adapting our economy to the needs of the 21st century, helping displaced workers like those I spoke with last week, and saving jobs and services in the public sector. More crucially, this stimulus plan has allotted money to potentially help states in severe economic trouble, like Kentucky, create jobs of their own and help save vital programs like affordable public education. If you'll read the criticisms of this bill, they harangue Obama for sneaking in unnecessary earmarks for things like National Mall lawn restoration and new cars for federal government use. Social conservatives have a problem with the allocation of funds to give sex education that isn't focused on abstinence. Fiscal conservatives are at loggerheads with the president on the proposed funding of arts education in schools and with money set to go toward anti-smoking efforts. Big Oil and its political minions are against the potential $1 billion toward Amtrak and more funding toward renewable energy. While a few of these criticisms hold water, and while I by no means readily agree with every provision of this proposal, this stimulus is needed far too much to stall progress based simply on disagreements with minor, inconsequential components of the package.

Outrageously, House Republicans all voted a unanimous "NO" to the stimulus recently, and now the bill is being hashed out in the senate. Republican leaders have been mouthing off to the press about their drooling over a juicy opportunity to block the stimulus package's progress, ending it before it reaches Pres. Obama's desk.

After being trounced in November, the GOP has been gaining momentum after selecting a black RNC chairman, and now they have an opportunity for more political gain should they block the stimulus bill. Should this happen, Republican legislative leaders and potential challengers for the 2010 midterm elections will capitalize doubly from stopping progress and the potential creation of jobs and economic and environmental reform. Not only will they have struck a blow against the president, the liberals and the democrats, but they will energize their ideological base, and future efforts to stall the democrat's endeavors will gradually gain more grassroots support.

Essentially, House and Senate Republicans are presently more interested in political gain than they are in creating new jobs.

I've read plenty of conservative criticism to the president's plan, especially on the funding of contraception and safe sex education, but I have yet to hear any leaders from the GOP and conservative base propose innovative solutions of their own on how to fix the credit situation, the housing crisis, the job market, climate change, efficient use of energy, or education. In this post, I'll be defending some of the most important parts of the stimulus bill that don't see as much of the press coverage.

Energy Independence and Sustainability
The president has allotted a total of $54 billion to reduce our dependence on foreign oil sources and to develop ways to use energy wisely and sustainably; $32 billion for an energy grid that supplies power from green sources (wind, solar, biofuel, hydro, geothermal), $16 billion to retrofit homes to the new energy grid, and another $6 billion to help mid to low-income families weatherize their homes.

We cannot afford to invest in radical, oppressive Sunni regimes like Saudi Arabia and the UAE for oil- moreover, we cannot afford to ceaselessly burn fossil fuels and needlessly harm the environment with our methods of extraction and use. This money would be used to make sure we have steady footing in the green energy market, meaning we could potentially be in the vanguard of the green movement; a world leader in green technology and a shining example to rapidly industrializing countries like China and India. This could provide some obvious economic advantage over those countries as well, as we would start to produce our own clean energy sustainably and renewably for relatively little cost in the long-term.

Reforming our Economy for the 21st Century
In an earlier blog entry, I announced and explained my support of The Venus Project, a rough outline for a resource-based economy, rather than a money-based system. While Obama's plan differs a bit from Fresco's, they both agree we have the science and technology available to make significant economic progress. Obama has proposed $16 billion be used for nationwide wireless broadband internet access ($6 billion) and for more scientific research grants, facilities, and equipment ($10 billion). Should this plan go through, not only will we potentially unearth efficient new ways to do business, but American businesses will have unprecedented new advances in communication; this new system would better orchestrate delivery, inventory, manufacturing, and consumer demand. The possibilities would be veritably limitless.

Transforming Public Education to Meet Tomorrow's Needs
One of the more popular talking points for Reagan-ites and proponents of small government is that public education is a state responsibility, rather than a federal one. However, this is a dead idea- in today's global economy and fast-paced online society, our government can no longer ignore states that languish in key areas. Take Kentucky and education, for instance.

Obama has allotted a whopping $141.6 billion for public school reform- this includes $41 billion for school modernization and repair initiatives, the Education Technology program, Title I, and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Proposals also include $79 billion for state relief so programs like KEES and others don't get cut. That money would also fund an incentive program aimed at rewarding states that bolster education, along with various other public services. Finally, this provision allots $15.6 billion for pell grants, helping college students like me and you get job training without sending us into tens of thousands of dollars into debt; another $6 billion would go toward modernizing public universities.

This is maybe the most important provision for states like Kentucky- we're damned if we do and damned if we don't when it comes to education. The more debt we run into, the more we cut education and other key programs. And the more we cut these programs, the less opportunity we have to get the education needed for quality jobs, leading to more people leaving the state for education and careers. On this path we're in now, Kentucky has virtually nothing to offer to potential employers looking to relocate; without an educated workforce or places to educate a potential workforce, we're in progressively worse shape each year. In the long term, this stimulus plan could potentially mean lots of help for Kentucky. Kentuckians, of all people, should be behind this endeavor.

A Computerized Healthcare System
In my most recent entry, two primary healthcare measures were observed- one was a government-offered plan to the uninsured, and one was a modernization of current healthcare records. The infrastructure has been proposed to cost $24.1 billion; $20 billion would be used to help prevent casual mistakes in the recording of information, organize records efficiently, and overall provide more effecive healthcare without all the bureaucratic mess we have now. $4.1 billion would be allotted for preventative healthcare measures (wouldn't anti-smoking programs sort of fall under this category, too?) and research for more effective methods of healthcare.

While I'd like to see an overhaul of publicly-owned pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare market be consolidated into a solely government-owned operation, this is a step in the right direction. Ideally, this would mean that walking into a doctor's office would only require you to give your name and an ID, and your plan, claim, and payment could be processed almost instantly. This means doctors can actually spend their time being doctors instead of insurance couriers.

More Help for Displaced Workers
Like the folks at Cintas, a high cost of living and the outsourcing of jobs has led to displacement for millions. $102 billion has been included in the stimulus package to increase unemployment benefits and provide more training for those needing 21st century job skills ($43 billion). This $102 billion includes $39 billion for the keeping of employer-provided health insurance, and more short-term medicaid options. Also included is $20 billion for food stamp benefits. Conservatives like to call that "pork barrel spending," and equate food stamp recipients with the cultural stereotype of the wifebeater-clad lottery ticket/big screen TV purchaser. In reality, food costs have risen while wages have remained stagnant. This is aimed at simply easing the burden for those who struggle with buying enough groceries to feed their families.

Much-Needed Relief for States
Presently, taxes would need to be raised even more on the middle class for states to continue hiring necessary public sector jobs like firefighters, police officers, teachers, garbage collectors, and the like. With a proposed $91 billion, $87 billion would fund a temporary increase in the matching rate for state medicaid programs, and $4 billion more would fund state and local law enforcement.

So, there you have it. I was, too, at first assaulted by right-wing commentators' protests on the cable news networks, complaining about the stimulus using misleading facts and associations of dectuple-figure (12-digit) numbers with controversial legislation regarding abortion, contraception, and things of that nature. Indeed, the more controversial parts of the stimulus package are inconsequential in comparison to the funds being spent on the programs that matter- the programs that would create jobs and reform our economy and energy system for the better.

I admire Barack Obama for sticking to his guns and being the agent of change that he built himself up to be in his campaign. And God willing, this necessary change we need won't be stopped by petty partisan politicking from the right. There's simply no place for it in such dire times.