Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"We're No Longer A Christian Nation."

On June 28, 2006, Senator Barack Obama delivered a controversial speech on religion and politics to the Call to Renewal conference sponsored by Sojourners, a respected Christian progressive organization.

 His remarks set off a firestorm among liberals as he stated that they must put aside their religious biases, and reach out to others, including evangelical Christians, as a reconciling essential in a democracy.


"... today I'd like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we've been seeing over the last several years...

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

 Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. 
Hungry Democrat Taking The Bait

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands.

At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.


... over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives -- in the lives of the American people -- and I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we're going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that's deeper than that - a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds - dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets - and they're coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They're looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them...

And I speak with some experience on this matter. I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were... It wasn't until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma. 
Obama's Church

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith...


That's a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans - evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse...

In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Farwell’s and Pat Robertson’s and Alan Keyes’s will continue to hold sway.


More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children." Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.


Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.

A little kool-aid will help you change your mind

 Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds.

I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby - but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix.I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws.

But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth.

I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.


I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology - that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap -- off rhythm -- to the choir. We don't need that.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not. They don't need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country.

We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation... And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.


Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

 And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you've got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don't need and weren't even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.

Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It's going to take more work, a lot more work than we've done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do -- some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice.

Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

"We're No Longer Just a Christian Nation."

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?

Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.

I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.


Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences.

To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.


Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible's inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages - the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ's divinity - are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't.

Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen.

No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that's not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

"Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you."


The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:

"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded... I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."

So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.


Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country.

They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position.

And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to others... A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.

It's a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

A Judeo-Christian nation? Not anymore.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Before you vote in the national election, Consider this

Let's Try This Card

Researchers have discovered that Obama’s autobiographical books are little more than PR stunts, as they have little to do with the actual events of his life. The fact is we know less about President Obama than perhaps any other president in American history and much of this is due to actual efforts to hide his record. This should concern all Americans.

A nation-wide network of researchers has sprung up to attempt to fill in the blanks, but at every opportunity Obama’s high-priced lawyers have built walls around various records or simply made them disappear. It is estimated that Obama’s legal team has now spent well over $1.4 million dollars blocking access to documents every American should have access to. The question is why would he spend so much money to do this?

The president who campaigned for a more “open government” and “full disclosure” will not unseal his medical records, his school records, his birth records or his passport records. He will not release his Harvard records, his Columbia College records, or his Occidental College records—he will not even release his Columbia College thesis. All his legislative records from the Illinois State Senate are missing and he claims his scheduling records during those State Senate years are lost as well. In addition, no one can find his school records for the elite K-12 college prep school, Punahou School, he attended in Hawaii.

What is he hiding? Well, for starters, some of these records will shed light on his citizenship and birth.
Obama's Occidental College Record

For example, Obama’s application to Punahou School – now mysteriously missing – would likely contain a birth certificate. And, according to attorney Gary Kreep, “his Occidental College records are important as they may show he attended there as a foreign exchange student.” Indeed, Obama used his Indonesian name “Barry Soetoro” while attending Occidental. Kreep has filed lawsuits challenging Obama’s eligibility to be president and as part of his lawsuit he requested Obama’s records from Occidental. However, Obama’s lawyers quickly moved to stop Occidental from honoring this request.

Furthermore, now that at least three document authentication experts have declared the scanned “Certificate of Live Birth” Obama’s campaign team gave to a pro-Obama website to be an obvious phony; we know that he is hiding something here as well.

Over 49 separate law suits have been filed on the eligibility/birth certificate issue alone, with several of the suits making it all the way the United States Supreme Court, only to be denied a full hearing.

What’s more, there are questions about how he paid for his Harvard Law School education since, despite a claim by Michele Obama, no one has produced any evidence that he received student loans.

The Obama’s will not release any student loan details despite repeated requests from the Chicago Tribune. However, it appears that his Harvard education may have been paid for by a foreign source. Khalid Al-Mansour, an advisor to Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talah, told Manhattan Borough president, Percy Sutton, that he was raising money for Obama’s Harvard tuition. Incidentally, Prince Tala is the largest donor to CAIR, a Muslim group declared by the U.S. Government in 2007 as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist financing trial. At least three of CAIR’s leaders have been indicted for terrorist activities. Al-Mansour’s admission opens up speculation as to whether Muslim interests have assisted Obama’s career in the hope he would eventually be in a position someday to promote their interests.
Khalid Al-Mansour

More recently, it was discovered that Obama’s Selective Service card may have been doctored. Federal law requires all American males to register for the Selective Service (the draft) in case a major war broke out. Blogger Debbie Schlussel has discovered solid evidence that Obama’s Selective Service registration form was submitted not when he was younger as required, but rather in 2008 and then altered to look older. Indeed, the forgers forgot to alter the “Document Location Number” which shows that it is clearly a 2008 form. This is fraud and it’s a felony and Schlussel allegations are backed up by Stephen Coffman, a former high-ranking Federal agent. Moreover, the document shows a September 4th, 1980 date and the location of the transaction as Hawaii, but at that time Obama was thousands of miles away attending Occidental College in Los Angeles.

The real reason why Obama probably did not submit this form as a teenager is that he assumed his Kenyan or Indonesian citizenship exempted him from this requirement. But clearly, as he grew older and entered politics, he saw that any documents revealing a foreign birth – Selective Service registration, birth certificate, school applications, etc – would be problematic if he ran for the presidency. Thus, it is not a coincidence that every document which contains information about his birth or citizenship is either missing, sealed, or has been altered.

Indeed, everywhere one looks into Obama’s background, we find sealed records, scrubbed websites, altered documents, deception and unanswered questions. Can anyone imagine for a second if John McCain or George Bush had blocked access to his school, medical, and birth records? It would have been headlines but as with everything else concerning Obama, the media has given him a pass on this.

Of all these marvels, the latest mystery and probably most perplexing is that of Obama’s social security number. It appears that Obama has multiple identities in term of possessing numerous social security numbers. Orly Taitz, an attorney who has filed numerous suits against Obama regarding his eligibility to serve as president, appears to be the first to discover this. In her suit, representing a number of military officers who are refusing to serve under an ineligible commander in chief, she hired private investigator Neil Sankey to conduct research on Obama’s prior addresses and Social Society numbers. Using Intelius, Lexis Nexis, Choice Point and other public records, Sankey found around 25 Social Security numbers connected with Obama’s name.

However, it may not be as many as 25, since Sankey also searched using closely related names such as: “Barak Obama,” “Batock Obama,” “Barok Obama,” and “Barrack Obama.” There may very well be some Kenyans living in America with the same last name and a similar first name. In any case, I will exclude these records for the purpose of this research and focus only on names spelled exactly like his name. Moreover, we can verify many of the Social Security numbers as valid since they’re connected to addresses at which we know Obama resided. Needless to say, there are also a slew of address and social security numbers connected to addresses in states that Obama has no known connection to.

In Obama’s home state, Illinois, Sankey tracked down 16 different addresses for a Barack Obama or a Barack H. Obama, of which all are addresses he was known to have lived at. Two Social Security numbers appear for these addresses, one beginning with 042 and one starting 364.

In California, where Obama attended Occidental College, there are six addresses listed for him, all within easy driving distance of the college. However, there are three Social Security numbers connected to these addresses, 537 and two others, each beginning with 999.

There are no addresses listed in New York where he attended Columbia University, but there is one listed for him in nearby Jackson, NJ, with a Social Security number beginning with 485.

In Massachusetts – where Obama attended Harvard Law School – we find three addresses, all using the 042 Social Security number. After Obama was elected to the United States Senate in 2005, he moved into an apartment at 300 Massachusetts Ave NW; the Social Security number attached to that address is the 042 one. Yet, three years later, Obama used a different Social Security number for an address listed as: 713 Hart Senate Office Building. This was the address of his United States Senate office. This Social Security number began with 282 and was verified by the government in 2008.

This mystery grows even stranger as other addresses and Social Security numbers for Barack Obama appear in a dozen other states not known to be connected to him. Again, I am excluding those records names not spelled exactly like his name.

Tennessee, one address with a Social Security number beginning with 427 Colorado, one address, with a Social Security number beginning with 456. Utah, two addresses, with two Social Security numbers beginning with 901 and 799. Missouri has one address and one Social Security number beginning with 999. Florida has two addresses listed for his him, three if you count one listed as “Barry Obama.” One is connected to a Social Security number beginning with 762. In Georgia there are three addresses listed for him, all with different Social Security numbers: 579, 420, and 423. In Texas there are four different addresses listed for him, one is connected to Social Security number 675. There are two addresses listed for Barack Obama in Oregon and one address listed for him in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

All told, there are 49 addresses and 16 different Social Security numbers listed for a person whose name is spelled “Barack Obama.” In some cases, the middle initial “H” is listed. If you were to expand the search to include closely related names such as: “Barac,” “Barak,” and “Barrack” Obama, you would find more than a dozen additional addresses and Social Security numbers.

Finally, the one Social Security number Obama most frequently used, the one beginning with 042, is a number issued in Connecticut sometime during 1976-1977, yet there is no record of Obama ever living or working in Connecticut. Indeed, during this time period Obama would have been 15-16 years old and living in Hawaii at the time.

Nevertheless, all this mystery surrounding Obama appears to be a generational thing. A researcher have discovered nearly a dozen aliases, at least two different Social Security numbers, and upwards of over 99 separate addresses for Ann Dunham, his mother. We do know she worked for the ultra liberal Ford Foundation but we also know she may have earned some income from pornographic poses, as evidenced by photos recently discovered by some researchers—how embarrassing. The only thing researchers are able to find out about Obama’s mother is the fact she made porn. I’m sure that’s a first for presidential mothers.
Frank Marshall Davis

But we also know that Obama’s mother and grandparents associated with Communist Party leaders such as Frank Marshall Davis, a man who, according to Obama’s book, Dreams from my Father, was his main mentor during much of his Hawaiian boyhood (although Obama tried to disguise his identity in his book). During the Cold War, Davis was named by congressional investigators as a key member of a secretive pro-Soviet networked that existed in Hawaii at that time.

The lack of documents regarding Obama also extends to his mother and to his grandparents. Indeed, researchers have been unable to find marriage licenses for his mother’s two marriages, assuming she was ever legally married. Ditto goes for the marriage license for Ann’s parents. They cannot find birth certificates for her, her parents, or for even for her grandparents. Even more so, despite Obama’s boast of his grandfather’s military service, there’s no record of that either. For reasons no one knows, much of Obama’s life, his mother’s life and his grandparent’s life has been erased from the records as if they never existed.

 But why would someone obtain so many Social Security numbers? According to investigators, those who create additional Social Society numbers are typically engaged in criminal activities such as Social Security fraud, tax fraud, real estate fraud, campaign contributions fraud, voter fraud and so on. While the private investigator who compiled this list says multiple social security numbers does not automatically prove there’s criminal activity involved, he states that “having said that, I have personally experienced many, many cases where such information has led to subsequent exposure of fraud, deception, money laundering and other crimes.“What is interesting to note is that Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, was a volunteer at the Oahu Circuit Court probate department and had access to the Social Security numbers of deceased people.

It is clear that more research needs to be done on this issue.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Daddies Home

It's Good To Be Back Home

President Ali Abdullah Saleh made a surprise return to Yemen on Friday after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in a move certain to further enflame battles between forces loyal to him and his opponents that have turned the capital into a war zone.

Abdullah Obal
  Saleh, who did not immediately appear in public after his return, called for a cease-fire and said negotiations were the only way out of the crisis. The statement, however, suggested he does not intend to step down immediately and was likely to only anger protesters who have been demanding his ouster for months and the military units and armed tribal fighters that back the opposition. Abdullah Obal, an opposition leader, said he believed Saleh "returned to run the war and drive the country into an all-out civil war."
Trides men fighting for the opposition in Yemen

The cannons are now speaking. Gunfire is doing all the talking," he said. "The opposition can't meet in this atmosphere. The military people are the masters of the situation now."

The crackle of gunfire continued to be heard over Sanaa after the president issued the cease-fire call. This week, the long deadlock that endured even during Saleh's absence broke down into the worst violence in months as forces loyal to the president's son attacked protesters in the streets and battled troops led by one of the regime's top rivals, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a former Saleh aide who joined the opposition early in the uprising.
You Will Stop This fighting or I Shall Kill You All

 Around 100 people have been killed - mostly protesters as regime troops hit their gathering with shelling or barrages of sniper fire from rooftops. Residents have been forced to hunker down in their homes or flee the city as the two sides exchanged bombardment over Sanaa from strongholds in the surrounding hills.Saleh's return is a blow to already crumbling efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to work out a peaceful handover of power.

Washington is eager for some sort of post-Saleh stability in the strategically placed but deeply divided and impoverished nation in hopes of continuing an alliance against al-Qaida militants in Yemen - the terror network's most active branch, blamed in several plots for attacks on U.S soil.
Anwar al-Awlaki al-Qaida leader in Yemen

The two countries have been pushing a deal by which Saleh would resign in return for immunity from prosecution. Obal accused Saleh of igniting the current violence to wreck the deal - and he said the opposition was hardening its position. "The initiative can no longer give guarantees against prosecution amid all this killing," he said.

In Washington, State Dept spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the deal was still the basis for a solution in Yemen. "Whether President Saleh is in or out of the country, he can make this happen by signing this accord, stepping down from power and allowing his country to move on," she said.
President Salrh way of stepping down

 Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were believed to be trying to keep Saleh from leaving Saudi Arabia. Obal blamed the two countries for not exerting enough pressure on Saleh to step down.

Saleh went to the kingdom for treatment after he was severely burned over much of his body and wounded by shards of wood in a June 3 explosion at his presidential compound in the capital Sanaa. His departure fueled hopes that he would be forced to step down, but instead he staunchly refused to resign, frustrating protesters who have been taking to the streets nearly daily since February demanding an end to his 33-year old rule.As time passed and Saleh recuperated, he was widely expected to stay in the kingdom - and the timing of his return today was a surprise.

The fighting continued after Saleh returned at dawn Friday. Heavy clashes and thuds of mortars were heard throughout the night in Sanaa and into morning hours. Two people were killed overnight after mortars hit the square in central Sanaa where protesters demanding Saleh's ouster have been camped out for months, a medical official said on condition of anonymity. Another two anti-Saleh fighters were killed in a flashpoint neighborhood, where a standoff between Saleh loyalists and a powerful rival tribe have raged. Witnesses said a mortar shell landed on the group of anti-Saleh fighters as they ate breakfast, killing the two, and injuring scores.

By noon, thousands of Saleh supporters and opponents poured into the streets for parallel rallies in different parts of Sanaa during a lull in fighting. The rallies revolved around Friday prayers and also included funeral ceremonies for those from each side killed in the clashes.

Reflecting Yemen's widening rift, each side blamed the other for igniting the latest violence.

At the pro-Saleh rally along Boulevard 70 in southern Sanaa, sermon leaders accused the opposition of attempting a coup and warned against civil war. Saleh's supporters carried his pictures along with those of the Saudi king in a tribute to the neighboring country where Saleh was recovering. Some chanted, "We love you, Ali."

At the opposition rally on Boulevard 60, demonstrators carried pictures of those killed in the violence as speakers urged security forces to stop killing their own people.

"His return means more divisions, more escalation and confrontations," said Abdel-Hadi al-Azazi, a protest leader. "We are on the verge of a very critical escalation."

Yemeni TV announced his return Friday morning, but did not show any footage of him. Saleh's statement, carried on the state news agency, called for a total truce and "a cease-fire to allow for room for an agreement and consensus among the political players."

"The solution won't be through cannons and barrels, but through dialogue, understanding and ending the bloodshed," he said.
Example of Good Health

State TV said Saleh was in good health.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been trying to persuade Saleh to sign onto a deal proposed by Gulf Arab states, under which he would resign and hand power to his vice president to form a national unity government in return for immunity from any prosecution.

The mercurial Saleh has repeated promised to sign the agreement, then refused at the last minute.

The latest violence erupted after he recently delegated his vice president to restart negotiations with opponents on the deal. It was considered another stalling tactic by Saleh, and it was followed by a violent crackdown on protesters in Sanaa and other cities.

Yemen's turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the Arab world set off largely peaceful protests in this deeply unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Saleh's government responded with a heavy crackdown, with hundreds killed and thousands wounded so far.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Economic Back Breaking Of America

Let The Taxing Begin

Obama fired off a shot in what I call "class warfare" Monday. Proposing $1.5 trillion in tax hikes on millionaires to cut the nation's rising deficit.
The Re-Election Proposal

He has proposed a multi-faceted bill, the American Jobs Act, which uses a mix of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments, to try and create jobs. The tab for the bill, estimated at $447 billion, will be covered by proposals that include a limit on itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers, to provisions that cut tax breaks currently in place for oil companies and corporate jet owners. It also includes a provision for the newly formed deficit reduction “super-committee” to come up with alternative ways to fund it.

In his speech from the rose garden Obama outlined his plan on how to pay for his second stimu...I mean, Jobs Plan, and, just like you thought, he's going after the wealthy, us that earn from $250.000 and up.

 "This is not class warfare, it's math," Obama said. "I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or teacher is class warfare."

Obama drove home his demands that millionaires and billionaires need to start paying higher tax rates than America’s middle class. The only catch here is that they already do.

 Explain to me why somebody who is making $50 million a year in the financial market should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that?
And although the so-called “Buffet Rule” from Obama looks towards correcting this gaff, it seems as if the president offered up a goof of his own.
According to private and governmental data made available the wealthiest Americans pay much more in taxes than the middle class and poor, not to mention that 51% of the population doesn't pay any taxes what-so-ever, and on average pay at a higher rate and contribute a larger share of the overall amount of taxes that the government rakes in.

While Warren Buffet wrote in a recent editorial that he paid a lower tax rate than anyone else in his office last year; the billionaire investor happens to be just one exception, households making more than $1 million this year will pay an average of 29.1 % of their revenue in federal taxes, while households in the $50,000-$75,000 rage will pay nearly half that rate with an average payback of 15 %.

According to Buffet, he paid 17.4 percent of his taxable income last year.
Information from the Tax Policy Center reveals that households making only $20,000 will on average pay only 5.7 percent in federal taxes this year.
Middle class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward, If you agree or disagree with the commander-in-chief, you have to give it to him this time: he’s right.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that people who make most of their money in wages pay a higher tax rate, compared to those who get their income from investments.

The lesson here? Maybe Buffet’s secretary should start looking into stocks.

 Obama’s soak-the-rich plan is bringing out the worst in his fellow liberals. If you want to understand exactly what’s wrong with their mindset on taxes, and why it is irreconcilable to reality, you must read Michael Tomasky’s column in the Daily Beast.
Not because Tomasky points out the deficiencies. On the contrary, he recites nearly every one of them with gusto.
Michael Tomasky

To begin, Tomasky states that taxes — not spending, not debt, nor cultural politics, nor anything else — have been “the biggest problem in our politics for the last 30 years.” By “biggest problem,” he apparently means what follows:

The anti-tax revolt that started in 1978 in California (Proposition 13) has destroyed this country. Our taxophobia has made the rich vastly richer and reduced the amount of money for the public benefits the rest of us depend on, and a hundred other horrible things besides.

One can hardly argue against “a hundred other horrible things” that Tomasky hasn’t specified, but there’s plenty to discuss about what’s wrong with the rest of that second sentence.

Part 1: “Our taxophobia has made the rich vastly richer:


The top marginal tax rate in the Internal Revenue Code is what’s made the rich “vastly richer”? Not such economic trends as the shift toward an information-based services economy, or the ever more rapid rise of global manufacturing competition, or the change in the way corporate boards have awarded executive compensation? Or any of the things Tomasky means, several paragraphs later, when he acknowledges, “A hundred factors affect economic performance”?

Certainly, lower tax rates have allowed higher earners to keep more of what they earn, which has compounding effects on wealth, but the tax code does not explain why those higher earners are earning more than did the higher earners of earlier generations. Which is where the “problem” Tomasky identifies really begins. If you agree that this is a problem, the tax code is not the place to “fix” it.

Part 2: “…and reduced the amount of money for the public benefits the rest of us depend on…”:

 I didn’t realize columnists at the Daily Beast were on welfare — and with “the rest of us,” Tomasky is necessarily excluding those public functions (e.g., the military) that benefit everyone regardless of income. But that’s a side point. Have lower tax rates really “reduced the amount of money” sent to the government?

From 1944 (the first year federal revenues exceeded even 14 % of GDP) through that year Tomasky so rues, 1978, federal revenues averaged 17.6 percent of GDP.

From 1979 through 2010, the last complete fiscal year, federal revenues averaged 18 percent of GDP.

Hmmm. That can’t be correct. We all “know” that Republicans since Reagan have been starving the beast. The post-1979 data must be skewed by the Clinton years, right?

Well, federal revenues certainly flourished under Bill Clinton, averaging 19 percent of GDP. But even if we exclude 1993-2000, federal revenues since 1979 have still averaged 17.7 percent of GDP — that is, just a tad more than they averaged before 1979.

But we all “know” that George W. Bush completely obliterated the federal fisc with his ruinous tax cuts.

Not really. Federal revenues from 2001 to 2008 averaged 17.6 % of GDP. Exactly what they averaged before that dread year of 1978.

It turns out that the Clinton years were an anomaly in modern tax history. Do Tomasky and his fellow travelers truly believe that those eight years were the only ones in which America wasn’t being “destroyed”?

So, the premise of Tomasky’s piece is demonstrably wrong. But that doesn’t stop him from making another crucial error.

Presumably, he writes, President Obama’s plan “will include taxing capital gains and carried interest at the same rate (for millionaires only, that is, not for middle-income Wall Street dice-rollers) as regular income.” Presumably, he’s right about that.

Yet, a bit later, he suggests that Rep. Paul Ryan is “stupid, a liar, or something even more malevolent, a morally diseased ogre who secretly believes with his delirious mentor [Ayn Rand] that the rich deserve every handout government can offer them” for saying Obama is engaging in class warfare and claiming these tax increases won’t work economically. Set aside for now Tomasky’s repugnant rhetoric — it hardly qualifies as an argument — that anyone who disagrees with Obama’s position on taxes must lack intelligence, honesty or morals. He unintentionally undermines his own claims — and the argument for raising capital gains tax rates — here:

Under what recent president was the economy strongest? Bill Clinton. Under what recent president were tax rates the highest? Bill Clinton. I don’t claim direct cause and effect. A hundred factors affect economic performance. But I certainly and emphatically claim that recent history disproves Ryan’s [claim that tax increases don't work] to such an extent that he can’t possibly be taken seriously.

If Tomasky won’t claim direct cause and effect, it’s not out of modesty. It’s because it’s not true.

Under which years of the Clinton presidency was the economy strongest? I don’t think anyone would dispute that it was the years 1997 through 2000, when real GDP growth surpassed 4 percent every year. But which part of tax policy changed during this second term of Clinton’s? Not the individual income tax rate; that increase came in 1993. No, it was the tax rate on capital gains, which actually fell in 1997. Tax receipts and the economy soared.

Now, they soared because of the tech bubble, which produced the growth and stock earnings that were taxed in such large numbers. Like Tomasky, I’m not claiming direct cause and effect. But unlike him, I know it defies logic and the facts to claim that the Clinton years prove higher taxes on capital gains won’t hurt the economy.

I’ll leave Tomasky to his opinions as to whether all of this will make for good politics. But, if the American public understands what really happened during the past 30 years, he’ll be wrong about that, too.
"We shouldn't balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class," Obama said. "We can't afford these special lower rates for the wealthy."

The President also vowed to oppose any GOP attempt to slash Medicare unless Congress agrees to raising taxes on the rich.

The Republicans immediately denounced Obama's proposal.
Mitch McConnell

Veto threats, a massive tax hike, phantom savings, and punting on entitlement reform is not a recipe for economic or job growth-or even meaningful deficit reduction, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
 The ever stupid New York city's billionaire Mayor Bloomberg said "I don't think class warfare's a great idea."
Charles Schumer

But the always stupid Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Democrats are on the winning side of this tax fight.

"The American people are so strongly with us," Schumer said. "The president has a winning hand and he is going all in."

Elsewhere in the city, the tax the rich sentiment appeared to be strong.

Obama's plan calls for letting the Bush-era tax cuts for people making $250,000 and more expire, closing loopholes and cutting deductions that enable millionaires and corporations to pay next to nothing in taxes.

It also calls for $580 billion in cuts to mandatory benefit programs, including $248 billion from Medicare.

The Obama administration also counts savings of $1 trillion over 10 years from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama's deficit reduction plan comes a week after he proposed $447 billion in tax cuts and new public works spending to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

He is submitting his deficit fighting plan to a special joint committee of Congress that is charged with recommending deficit reductions of up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

Obama's plan calls for no changes in Social Security and no increase in the Medicare eligibility age.