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Yesterday, the President announced an historic decision.  He announced that the U.S. will “normalize” relations with Cuba.  He plans to reopen the embassy in Havana, and is looking to relax economic and travel sanctions against Cuba.  After over 50 years of attempting, miserably I may say, to isolate the small nation to force a regime change, the U.S. is going to end its attempt.  Of course, conservative heads started exploding all across the country.

The embargo was first begun in 1961 after Fidel Castro took control of this tiny nation.  This embargo was actually passed in 1960 under President Eisenhower who wanted them because he feared a communist regime in Cuba, which could open the door for Soviet Troops being stationed just 90 miles off of our coast.  The plan was to topple the regime by imposing economic and travel restrictions thus destroying its economy and forcing the people to revolt.

This plan turned out to be a total disaster.  I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I remember the fear on the faces of my parents and others in the neighborhood.  Most Americans thought the world was going to end during our lifetimes.  We were on the brink of war, not only with Cuba but with the Soviet Union.  Missiles were surely going to fly.  We were able to extricate ourselves from this perilous situation, but one cannot forget that our hostility towards Cuba in the first place was a contributing factor in creating the situation.

We continued with this failed plan for over a half century.  The regime did not fall.  The regime solidified its power and control over the people of Cuba.  Let’s face facts, if a people are being told that the reason they are suffering is because the big bully in the neighborhood is denying them the opportunity to a better life, those people will blame the bully not the people in charge.  As a result, there was more anger at the U.S. than there was towards Castro.

All of the talk about “rewarding” the dictators rings very hallow.  We did not place an embargo on Cuba when Batiste was the dictator.  Batiste took political prisoners.  Batiste repressed his people.  It was a dictatorship based on a two-class society.  The very rich and the very poor.  The very rich being his cronies.  When Castro took control, he maintained the two-class system of the very rich and the very poor.  The very rich being those favored by the government.

We also funded the “overthrow” of a democratically elected government in Iran to set up the Shah as ruler because we didn’t like the elected government.  The Shah also had political prisoners.  He repressed his people.  He refused to hold free and open elections.  We didn’t place an embargo on his country.  Hell, we made it possible in the first place!

So why all this fuss over Cuba?  Look at some of the comments from conservatives yesterday:

“This is a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve, and this announcement only perpetuates the Castro regime’s decades of repression,” outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a sharply worded statement.

“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called Obama’s announcement “another concession to tyranny” by his administration.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) released a statement saying the Obama administration’s agreement did “nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took to Twitter after Obama’s remarks to say he will “do all in my power” to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. “Normalizing relations with Cuba is  bad idea at a bad time.”

As you can see, this not a definitive partisan outcry.  However, I have some questions for these people.

In 1961, we assisted Cuban Nationalists in attempted revolution against the regime in Cuba.  It failed miserably at the Bay of Pigs.  Did we try to assist Russian Nationalists to revolt against the Soviet Union leadership?  No.

When Republican President Richard Nixon first started his famous “détente” with the Soviet Union, where was the outcry?  Did Nixon demand that all political prisoners be released before opening dialogue?  Did Nixon demand that all of the Gulags be closed before opening a dialogue?  Did Nixon tell the Soviets that they had to hold free elections with multiple parties participating and ending its dictatorship before he opened dialogue?  No, Nixon made no such demands.

When Nixon went to China to “normalize relations” did he demand any of the above from the Chinese?  Did he tell the Chinese they must recognize Taiwan before he would normalize relations?  Again the answer is no.  So, why do we have to include those conditions on Cuba?

I never liked Richard Nixon.  I voted against him twice.  He did more to unravel our democracy than any candidate before him.  Although, admittedly he would never win an election in today’s Republican Party since he would be considered too liberal for the party base.  But I will give him credit where it is due.  He did help open relations with our enemies.  He believed that open dialogue between enemies is the best way to prevent war.  He was right.  I will even suggest that his “détente” with the Soviet Union was one of the contributing factors in the Soviet Union’s fall.

The outcry from conservatives over “normalizing relations” with Cuba isn’t because it isn’t the right thing to do.  It is because President Obama has proposed it.  Everything this President has done, or tried to do, has been met with outrage from the Republicans.  That is what this is all about.  Even Republicans know that our conduct over the last 50 years towards Cuba has failed.  Just about all of our allies are trading with Cuba.  Why shouldn’t our companies be allowed to trade with them?

This is the right move at precisely the right time.  History is on our side.  By having normal relations with dictatorships, those dictatorships eventually fall.  Isolating a nation because of differences in politics or policies is not the answer to changing a regime.  Yes, sanctions do help under certain conditions.  But it never changes a regime, it only gives them a reason to be even more repressive.  Our policies towards Cuba over the last 50 years have proven that.

 

This is the time of year when we fondly look back on our childhood.  I remember growing up on the South side of Chicago in the 50s and 60s.  I remember those cold winter days and nights that seemed to warm up with all of the decorations on just about everyone’s house.  As everyone does, as a small child I was taken to see Santa Clause and ask for my presents.  It was a joyful time of year.

With the middle-class being very strong during those years, everyone seemed happy.  I know that everyone wasn’t really happy with everything, but at least during the holiday season everyone appeared to be happy.  Of course the vast majority of people in our neighborhood were Christian, but there were Jews and some athiests in the neighborhood as well.  Even back then, we often told people “Happy Holidays” as a greeting.  Especially people we did not know personally, because we didn’t know what holiday they were celebrating.  Merry Christmas was something we said to people we knew were celebrating Christmas.

During the sixties the cry about the “commercialization” of Christmas really became louder.  This concern goes way back in history, but with people actually making a livable wage they were spending what they could afford on presents.  This, along with the growth of television created a host of commercials about everything from toys to clothes to tools to appliances.

Over the years this holiday season has changed dramatically.  In my youth, stores did not open on Thanksgiving just to get more money.  People were not forced to work that holiday for the sake of greed and profit.  Workers actually were a valued part of a company.  People really did stay with one company for their entire career because that company valued them.  That too has changed.

So here we are some 50 years from my youth and we are about to celebrate the holiday season.  There are still some complaints about the holiday season being over-commercialized.  But more and more we have started hearing the wails of people who believe that there is an actual “War on Christmas.”  Rather than spending time talking about what Christmas means to the average Christian, the Conservative Christian Cult is talking about how those “others” are trying to take Christmas away from us.

During this season there are basically four holidays celebrated.  One is Christmas.  Another is Chanukah.  One is Kwanzaa.  Each of these holidays have a very real meaning to those who celebrate them.  I know I said four and listed three.  That is because people who do not believe in any of these religions or cultural holidays still celebrate the holiday season.  They simply attach a more secular or humanist view to them.  That is just as much of a holiday as the others and is the fourth holiday.

Who has the right to refuse to honor those people and their holidays?  Why is it okay to say Merry Christmas and not Happy Chanukah or Happy Kwanzaa?  Or, for that matter Happy Holidays?  The only answer can be that some people refuse to recognize those other holidays.  They refuse to offer tidings to anyone who does not celebrate Christmas only in the traditional Christian theology.

That is the real shame and the real problem about the holiday season.  Rather than celebrating the holidays and offering good cheer to everyone, some have made it into a cultural war.  The real “War on Christmas” is being fought by those who want to fight this cultural war.  That is not in the tradition of Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa.  That is mean-spirited and hateful.

So I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Very Happy Holiday.   Whichever holiday you celebrate, may you find warmth, happiness, and cheer with your family and friends.  I will share one little private tidbit with you.  While we sit down to our holiday dinner, remember there are thousands of Americans who won’t be able to be with their family.  These include our military, police, fire, border patrol, doctors and nurses, and a whole bunch of others who must work on Christmas to help protect us.

When I retired from the Coast Guard, we started a little family tradition of our own.  We set out a complete set if dinnerware and leave the chair in front of it empty.  This is to remind us of all those who cannot be with their families on that day.  We even offer a little toast to them for their dedication and sense of duty.  Without them, our holiday season just wouldn’t be the same.

As we celebrate, remember, unlike our ancestors in ancient times, we don’t have to light bonfires in order to coax the sun to come back and warm us.  It will be back in a few months.  But maybe we should be building bonfires anyway.  Just to remind us that what really counts during the holiday season is the love we should all have for our fellow humans whatever they believe.  Otherwise, that child in the manger Christians celebrate will weep again this year.

 

Ever since President Obama was elected back in 2008, the right-wing of the Republican Party has been trying everything it can to “delegitimize” his administration.  This attempt has taken many forms.  With the rise of the Tea Party, one tactic that has gained favor is ignoring federal laws that do not sit well with the right.  Meaning, if a state is controlled by the right-wing, they can simply ignore laws in their state that the Federal Government has passed.

We remember sheriffs saying they would not enforce new gun regulations.  Some states even passed laws that would have sheriffs arrest Federal Agents enforcing Federal Law that they state says they don’t recognize.  All of this in the name of liberty and states rights.  Of course it was all nonsense and Texas in the proving ground for this hypocrisy.

In the last election in November, voters in Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking in their community.  The state that calls itself the oil capital now has a community that has banned fracking.  That must be a real black-eye for Texas and their right-wing state legislature.

But since Texas is the loudest proponent of ignoring Federal Law when it suits their purpose, the Denton law must be upheld, right?  Wrong!  Texas isn’t going to take this lying down.  Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman Christi Craddick, who is responsible for oil and gas regulation said:  “It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s … We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job.”

Then we have Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, who wrote a letter saying, “While we applaud the city’s efforts to promote the welfare of its citizens, we must make sure it is done in a manner consistent with existing state laws … the Legislature has made regulation of underground mineral estates and the methods for producing them a matter of State agency regulation.”

In the vote, the anti-fracking law passed by 59-41 percent.  That is what most people call a landslide.  But, the Republican Party, you know the party that says the state is the perennial foe of everything right-wing people believe in, claims that the people in Denton have no right to such a declaration because the state is the only entity with a say-so in the matter.

The odd thing is that the State of Texas has been in perpetual conflict with the Federal Government saying the Feds don’t have the right to tell a state what to do.  These conflicts have been over voting laws, healthcare and, particularly, environmental regulations.  In 2013, former Texas attorney general and current Gov.-elect Greg Abbott boasted that he sued the Obama administration 25 times for perceived overreaches.

In Texas as well as many other states, they argue that their ban on same-sex marriages is legal because it was passed by a ballot initiative.  Since the people voted for the ban, it is legal and the Federal Government should keep its nose out of the state’s business.  When courts overturned these bans, the states called it government overreach.   Now these same anti-Big Government Republicans are using the State’s Big Government to stomp over the voters of Denton, Texas.

This vote was not something out of the blue either.  There are 272 active wells in the city and another 212 just outside the city limits, so Denton residents ought to know as much as anyone about fracking.  As a result, they voted to ban fracking in their community.

But see, according to the State of Texas, these citizens were “duped”.  David Porter, another leading member of the Texas Railroad Commission suggests, “Denton voters fell prey to scare tactics and mischaracterizations of the truth in passing the hydraulic fracturing ban.”   Mr. Porter sounds more like a PR man for the oil industry rather than a public servant.

This misinformation must have been pretty good.  You see, the main opponents of the ban, energy giants Chevron, Chesapeake Energy and XTO Energy (a subsidiary of Exxon), outspent the pro-ban group, Frack Free Denton, by almost 10-to-1 and still lost.  Either the message from Frack Free Denton was really good, or the people didn’t believe the oil companies.  I am guessing they just didn’t believe the oil companies.

As you know, fracking is the process of shooting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to jostle natural gas loose from shale formations.  This process has proven to be the cause of numerous environmental problems including air and water pollution.

The bevy of chemicals used in fracking and their health effects are just beginning to be documented.  On top of that, many states have laws that says the chemicals used in fracking is “propriety information” and therefore can be kept secret from the public.  Additionally, places where there has been heavy fracking are experiencing earthquake outbreaks that never occurred before.  Finally, property values around fracking sites have plummeted.  So the people in Denton, Texas has said enough is enough.

Commissioner Craddick defended frackers, saying, “Most of them are active in their communities where they’re doing business and trying to give some dollars back.”   That is so weak of an argument it is almost laughable.  Even Craddick admits that Denton residents don’t own the minerals underneath their homes and town, so we know they aren’t getting any money directly from their extraction.

Adam Briggle, a University of North Texas assistant professor specializing in bioethics and a leader in Frack Free Denton, says that economic benefits from fracking has very little effect on Denton.  As a matter of fact, he says:  “Royalties paid to the City of Denton account for less than 1 percent of the city budget. Taxes from wells amount to only about 0.5 percent of all city property tax revenues. The biggest beneficiaries from fracking in Denton are out-of-town companies and absentee mineral owners.”

As you can see, the cry from conservatives against “big government” isn’t a fight against big government at all.  It is really a cry against democracy.  Here is a town in a state that cries all of the time against “big government” being swatted down by “big government”.  Why?  Because they had the audacity to vote that their town is more important than out-of-town companies making money by polluting its environment.

Next time your conservative friends talk about the loss of “freedom” and “liberty”, ask them about the people in Denton who tried to express their “freedom” and “liberty” and was stomped on by the State of Texas.  I am sure they will give the same lame excuses as Craddick has given.  To conservatives it isn’t about “freedom” or “liberty”, it is all about how much money their benefactors make on the backs of the “little” people.  That is their true definition of “freedom and liberty.”

Congress has passed a budget for 2015.  Well, they sort of passed a budget for 2015.  In their “cromnibus” they have budgeted the full year for every department except the Department of Homeland Security.  They funded that department only until February 27.

Additionally, this budget had a rider that gives banks the right to get back into the “swaps” business.  That means that the big banks can go back to risky trading that caused the 2008 economic meltdown.  After that meltdown, the Dodd-Franks bill was passed by Congress.  One of the provisions of that bill meant that if banks wanted to engage in “risky” trading, they could not use money insured by the FDIC.  They had to go outside of the normal bank channels.

Most of the banks continued with this trading, but had to set up different companies to do so.  That meant that the FDIC was not on the hook if things went south again.  But, Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas introduced the rider in the middle of the night before the House voted on the budget.  The unfortunate part of this rider is that it was written by none other than Citigroup!  That’s right, the banks wrote the bill that allows the banks to re-engage in risky trading on the taxpayer’s dime.

Remember in 2010 there was a splinter group in the Republican Party that was railing against the bank bailouts?  That group called themselves the TEA Party.  TEA stood for “Taxed Enough Already”.  The addition of this rider in the budget was a great time for these ultra-conservatives to hook up in a bi-partisan way with liberal Democrats who were against this rider as well.  They could have forced the rider out of the bill.

That didn’t happen.  The TEA Party raised no voice against this rider even though it opens the door to another economic meltdown that would force the taxpayers to bail out the banks again!    No, their only concern was “defunding” the President’s Executive Order on Immigration Reform.  They didn’t care about the banks writing a bill that only benefits them at the potential risk of the American Taxpayers.

As a result, they went along with the budget bill and it passed both houses.  However, the Department of Homeland Security is still hanging out there without full funding for 2015.  We will have another fight in February over their budget when the Republicans have control of both houses.

Let’s take a look at that as well.  The Republicans are screaming that the Executive Order is “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.  It isn’t amnesty at all.  It is a three-year hiatus on deporting illegal immigrants who have family members in the U.S.  Yes, they will be able to apply for legal status, but there are a series of things like paying back taxes and going through a criminal background check first.  Additionally, all of this is funded through fees, not the annual budgets of any agency in the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security is made up of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Patrol, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Agency, United States Coast Guard, Secret Service, and others.  If you take a close look at these departments, they all have something to do with keeping illegal immigrants and/or drugs out of the country.

These are the very agencies that help protect us from not only illegal immigrants, but terrorism as well.  If this department is not funded, then the Border Patrol won’t be conducting patrols on our borders.  The Coast Guard won’t be as efficient in protecting our harbors from terrorists.  ICE won’t be able to deport illegal immigrants.  And the beat goes on for other agencies as well.

These are all things the Republicans, and especially the TEA Party, are screaming should be increased.  Yet, they are willing to defund these agencies to “defund” an executive order which does not rely on the budget to pay for its activities.  You and I both know that is insane.  But, the Republicans and the TEA Party are anything but sane.

So, we have a sort of budget for the Federal Government through 2015.  But because of the politics being played by the Republicans, we face another economic meltdown because the banks can use taxpayer insured money to go back to playing casino in the markets, and we have a real potential for terrorists and mass illegal immigration because the one department of our government on the front line of these battles isn’t funded through the whole year.

The Republicans added these riders to the bill because they knew that the Democrats and the President did not want to have a government shutdown right before the holidays.  They knew they were playing hostage again, and this time they won.  I am sure that if we waited until after Republicans took control of both houses next month, the bill would have been much worse than it is.  That is what they were counting on.

What the Republicans are really doing with this “cromnibus” is playing Russian Roulette with our economy and our security.  It is not the first time they played this game with the economy.  The deregulation of the banking industry was a direct result of the last economic meltdown.  This is the first time I can remember them playing this game with our security.  Seems the Republicans do not support our security as much as they claim.

Should another economic meltdown occur, or another terrorist attack take place on our soil, the Republicans will be directly responsible because they are totally irresponsible with these two riders they placed in the “cromnibus” just passed.  Just another example of Republicans proving they support their big dollar donors and not the American People.

If you really want to know the true ideals of someone, simply listen to their arguments for or against something.  The Senate’s CIA Report is giving us a window into the souls of several people who were in government and/or involved in what the right wants to call “enhanced interrogation techniques” which the rest of the world calls “torture”.  It is also easy to define the morals of anyone simply by listening to them as well.

I served 20 years in the military.  Torture is torture no matter what funny names you give it.  My time in the military began during the Vietnam war.  We knew that our enemy was torturing our personnel being held as POWs.  That was something we were all concerned about.

During WWII, the Japanese conducted torture on POWs as well.  The odd thing was that the Germans who committed genocide throughout the war against Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Slavic People, and the Mentally Insane did not torture our POWs.

After the War, there were military tribunals who tried and punished the enemy for these crimes including the torture of POWs.  One of the techniques used and called “torture” was waterboarding.  There was a case before WWII where an American Military Officer was court-martialed for conducting waterboarding in the Philippines.  So, as you can see, waterboarding has been considered “torture” long before 2001.

Not only is the U.S. signees to the Geneva Convention, it is also signees on the UN Ban on torture.  The Bush administration broke both of those agreements when it decided that torture was “legal”.  They will tell you it was “legal” because the lawyers they brought in to tell them it was legal said it was legal.

Dick Cheney is totally unapologetic in his defense of the torture his administration conducted.  In an appearance with Fox News’ Bret Baier Wednesday night he said “People have been very concerned about waterboarding, calling it “torture,” Cheney said. “First of all it was not deemed torture by the lawyers, and secondly it worked.”

The lawyers he is talking about were his lawyers.  He brought in several lawyers to determine what is torture, basically told them what he believed and miracle of miracles they said that waterboarding was not torture despite the fact an American Officer was convicted of torture for doing the exact same waterboarding in our past.  I guess these lawyers don’t believe in precedent.

As to whether or not the “technique” worked, the report by the Senate Report, Senate Armed Services Committee, and the CIA’s own Inspector General contradict his claim and say it did not work.  All three reports that the one person the right loves to cite as an example of it working, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, started talking long before he was subjected to these “techniques”.  They report the “techniques” were not necessary to get information from him.

But the real killer or indicator of Dick Cheney’s lack of moral character came when Baier asked Cheney about Gul Rahman, the detainee who died in a CIA “black site” in Afghanistan in 2002 after being chained half-naked to the floor of a freezing room and left overnight.  Cheney’s response was “Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did.  And I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details, I’m sure there were instances cited in the report, I haven’t read the report.”

He always comes back to the same argument.  “Americans died in the attacks” as if that is justification to purposely hurt people with “techniques” that we have promised not to use and prosecuted others who have used them in the past.  And, remember, they did this in our name!

But lying to the American people is second nature to Dick Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration.  Remember the lies they told us about why we had to go to war in Iraq?  Or, how they lied to us when memos about the authorization of the use of torture leaked in 2002?  Their response was “that nobody was being tortured, that existing laws were being observed, that it has abided by international conventions barring torture, and that detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere have been treated humanely.”

Or, how about when Marc Thiessen, who was a speechwriter for Bush, wrote in his 2010 book that “no one was tortured, maybe a few people were roughed up, but no deaths in custody took place in the C.I.A. interrogation program.”

If anyone had any doubts about the twisted, sick mindset of Dick Cheney and his cronies, this report is giving us clear vision into their souls.  Fox News is also showing us their true colors in their utter fictional insistence that these techniques were not torture and saved lives.

Torture does not save lives.  Torture only allows sick, twisted, evil people to “have fun” with people they despise.  That is not justice.  That is not interrogation.  That is pure evil, and that is what Dick Cheney has let loose in our name.

For a long time, I thought that Cheney should be tried for his crimes.  I am now beginning to believe that since he doesn’t consider these “techniques” as torture, we should subject him to the same “techniques” to see if he changes his mind and tells us the truth for once.  But I doubt it will work.  In my opinion, Dick Cheney is the face of Pure Evil!

I was going to hold off on saying anything about the CIA Report that was released yesterday.  I wanted to actually read and digest the information contained in it before making any statements.  However, with all of the apologists running around telling us how effective these torture techniques were, my anger keeps growing by the minute.

I am not going to write about what is in the report since I haven’t read the whole thing yet,  But, I am going to write about the whole argument surrounding torture practiced by the last administration.  I am going to say this as plain as I can.

Torture is the most vile, evil and intolerable form of interrogation imaginable.  The only people who participate in torturing prisoners are sick, evil, pathological criminals who do not deserve a single word of praise of any kind!

Please understand me.  I am not making a sweeping accusation against every member of the CIA.  I know people who work there, and they would never be party to any of this idiocy.  They are really trying to protect us through real intelligence gathering on our enemies.  I even know people who resigned from the agency when all of this first came to light.  They were even more disgusted than I was.  But that does not remove the fact that members of the CIA were involved in torturing prisoners.

The right-wing is all in an uproar about the release of the report.  Apologists from the Director of the CIA, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, et al, are all singing the praises of the CIA for conducting such techniques.  They claim that torturing prisoners “saved lives.”  They are lying through their pearly white teeth.  Instead of “saving lives” they have put the lives of American Armed Service Personnel and American Civilians working abroad in danger.

The military has known for decades that torture does not work.  We have seen, and some of our service members have experienced torture at the hands of an enemy.  That torture did not work then, and it does not work now.  So why do people believe that torture works?  Because they are very sick individuals without any regard for the rule of law or common decency.

America is a signatory to the Geneva Convention.  That means we are not allowed to torture prisoners.  Until the George W. Bush administration we abided by that agreement.  I don’t want to hear any more stupid arguments how these prisoners were not “prisoners of war” they were terrorists.  That has always been a bogus argument to justify the sick nature their treatment.

There is another argument that goes we were justified because we were attacked.  Well, we were attacked on December 7, 1941.  We did not treat prisoners in that war as we have treated these prisoners.  We abided by the agreement.  Again, this is just another sick argument to justify the fact that we allowed sick people to mistreat prisoners.

The torture techniques used by the Bush Administration basically constitute criminal atrocities!  The absolute idiocy in all of this is the only person from that administration who is serving any jail time is a whistleblower who brought the torture to light in the first place.

Here I am going to say something that may sound hypocritical and probably anger a lot of people.  If I was President right now, due to the political pressure we already face, I probably wouldn’t attempt to declassify all of the report in order to prosecute the previous administration and those responsible for the torture.

Instead, I would probably go on TV with an address to the nation.  In that address, I would acknowledge the report and everything in it.  I would explain what I believe needs to be changed in regards to the CIA so this sort of thing could never happen again.  I would even put forth a plan that Congress could vote on to make those changes.

One thing I would definitely do is to say:  “In order to fix our problems, we need the cooperation of anyone who may have been involved to tell us the truth about what happened.  Therefore, I grant a pardon to the previous administration and those in the CIA who may have been involved so they can be fee to tell the truth in the necessary upcoming hearings on Capital Hill.”

Before you go completely crazy over my suggestion, please understand my reasoning.  By granting a “pardon” the President will be placing a very big “C” for criminal on the previous administration.  He will be signaling to the world that we understand that these people committed criminal acts.  Because of a simple pardon, the George W. Bush administration will be known throughout history as an administration who committed atrocities.

In the meantime, when we see another headline talking about the killing of an American by a group like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or another terrorist group, we will know that the George W. Bush administration is fully responsible due to their own acts of barbarism.

I have believed that the one thing that really made Americans stand out from the crowd was our ability to face adversity and fear with a calm and reason.  The Bush administration used fear as an excuse to torture people.  As a veteran and a citizen I find that unforgivable.

I finished up my shopping for this holiday season yesterday.  My wife is retiring early next year and she needs some leisure clothes.  As I wandered around looking for something she would like, I was struck by something.  I noticed, especially when it comes to apparel, that American Consumers are being exploited on a regular basis and don’t even realize it.  That exploitation is not for the good of American Workers but rather foreign workers.

First a little background.  In 1993, NAFTA was shoved down our throats in a fast-track vote in Congress.  Since then, we have seen China become a “Preferred Trade Nation” and the South Korea free trade agreement passed.  Since 1993, America has lost almost 3 million factory jobs.  If we still had those factory jobs, our unemployment rate would be about 3% and the economy would be booming.

These job losses are a direct result of these trade agreements.  They have made it much easier for companies to shut down American Factories and ship them overseas to places like Mexico, China, and South Korea.  Almost all of the garments you are currently wearing come from foreign countries even though the company selling them is supposed to be an American company.

This move overseas has also resulted in more companies avoiding their taxes.  And, as we have heard recently, more companies are buying up foreign companies just to say the home country of the company they bought is now their new corporate headquarters.  Again this is a ploy to avoid or seriously reduce U.S. Tax obligations.  Because of these trade agreements, we are losing jobs and our government is losing revenue which increases our deficit.

That brings us back to my shopping yesterday.  I don’t care what you want to purchase, every company now is putting their logo on everything you buy.  For example, if you purchase active wear from Nike, you either have Nike on the clothes or the Nike Swoosh logo.

Nike, like the other active wear companies, hire professional sports stars to hawk their products.  Then they sell their products at huge profit margins.  For example, Nike pays stars like Michael Jordan millions of dollars annually to use his name on shoes.  They make the shoes in China.  The pay rate in China is about 1 dollar per hour.  That may even be a bit high.  So, including material to make the shoes, Air Jordans probably cost the company about 20 – 30 dollars a pair to make (that is a guess not actual fact).  They then import the shoes into the U.S. and sell them for well over $100.

Nike is not alone in the either.  Other companies do the same thing.  Who can blame them for wanting to compete?  But, the part where exploitation comes in is these stupid logos on the front of everything they make.

It isn’t just active wear companies either.  You find logos on just about everything you buy.  If you want a Polo brand shirt, you have their logo on the front.  If you buy a winter jacket, there is a logo on the front.  They are everywhere and we can’t help but wear them.

The exploitation part is that you are actually being used as a walking billboard for the company you purchase from.  Take something as mundane as a ball cap.  Many golfers wear caps while playing golf to keep the sun off of their heads.  They usually purchase a cap that bears a company name on it.  Then they go out and play golf and become a walking billboard for the company whose name is on the hat.  Problem is that hat cost the golfer anywhere from $10 to $30 depending on where he bought it.

As a result, the golfer is basically paying a company to advertise for them.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Shouldn’t the company be paying us to advertise for them?  If people like Michael Jordan can be paid millions of dollars to advertise, shouldn’t the average person be paid at least hundreds of dollars to advertise for the same company?

As I said, this isn’t just with athletic and active wear.  Your winter jacket has a logo on it.  Your polo type shirts have logos on them.  Your shoes have logos on them.  Your hats have logos on them.  Your jeans have logos on them.  About the only thing that doesn’t have a logo on them is your underwear.  If you were allowed to walk down the street in your underwear, there would be a logo on that too.

The concept of having a logo on clothes is not, in itself, offensive.  The fact that I don’t have a choice that the logo is there, and therefore being used by the company as free advertising, is offensive.  Especially when that product is not made in America.  Look, I try to buy American every chance I get.  But, as everyone knows, that is becoming harder and harder as time goes by.

Just about everything we purchase today either comes from another country, or at least parts of it comes from another country.  Meaning jobs that could help boost our economy and our middle-class are being lost forever.  So, we are basically being forced to purchase clothes we like at exorbitant prices and then give the company free advertising to boost their profits.  Profits that are not helping Americans at all.

I can only think of one way to fight back.  We need legislation passed through Congress that expressly prohibits logos on any apparel that is not 100% made in the U.S.A.  That way we can easily distinguish the companies who benefit American workers and those who don’t.  Yes, I know you can always look at the label to find out where it was made, but I bet hardly anyone does.  Especially with the small print on the labels.

This may seem like a trivial matter to most people.  But the best way for Americans to “Buy American” is to make it easy for the consumers to know what is made in America.  Only allowing American Companies who actually manufacture their apparel in America is a good way to start.  At least that way we have a better means to choose if we wish to advertise for a product by wearing it.

If we are going to be forced to freely advertise for companies, let’s at least make sure we are advertising for truly American Companies with their factories employing American Workers.  I Bet that would boost the economy!

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