Friday, December 24, 2010

Chrismas Questions

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 23, 2010

This special time of year demands a departure from the usual. In that spirit, my brother and I have decided to break from the routine nature of our friendly but spirited debate of current issues and to offer instead our personal thoughts and wishes for the Christmas season.

So, as opposed to the standard fare of offering my opinions about the latest legislation or topic du jour, I decided to challenge you to consider some Christmas Questions.

1. Was there really a record producer somewhere who thought “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” would be a good investment of his time and effort? – And did he really think it would be funny after it was heard the first time?

2. Why do people get offended by the appearance of a Nativity Scene on public property? What are they afraid of?

3. What are children being protected from when the word “Christmas” is removed from public school calendars and assembly programs?

4. What is it about this holiday that inspires so many songs, stories, poems, lectures, sermons, paintings, movies and family traditions?

5. Could it be possible that the reason this day is so unique is because the person whose birth it represents is so unique?

6. What if all the songs about Him are true? What would you do differently if you knew He really was “God with us”?

I hope each of you finds some quiet time during these hectic days to admire a Christmas display, to listen to a child giggle, to read a Christmas story, to sing a Christmas Carol to yourself, to watch Jimmy Stewart or Ebenezer Scrooge “figure it out”, to give a special gift to someone you don’t even know and to say a solemn prayer of gratitude for our great nation.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good and prosperous 2011!

Looking Past Our Differences

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 23, 2010

I am not terribly unique. I, like most people (even those who claim they are not “political”), have strongly held positions on many issues. I passionately embrace debate and relish spirited discussions. Few who know me would deny my voice is among the loudest when I am standing on my soapbox or upholding my opinion in the face of challenge.

But this time of the year is a special time. Often, we put aside our differences when we gather with our family and friends in celebration of the season. Certainly, my brothers see me as their ultra-liberal kin, but they are as likely to throw an arm around my shoulder or share a joke with me as they were before I began filling their email boxes with left-wing rants. When we gather around the table or the tree we tend to avoid conversations about things upon which we disagree.

In the din of opinion, commentary, and voiced outrage that we continually find ourselves surrounded by, it is sometimes difficult to see that we largely share common values. We world citizens tend to cling to bonds of family and friendship. Most of us celebrate our disparate holiday customs and traditions without contempt for others. For the most part, there is peace on earth and goodwill extended to all men (and women, and children), regardless of race, creed or religion.

This is true despite the inclination of many who insist on manufacturing the “War on Christmas” every year from thin air. Jon Stewart from the satirical fake news show The Daily Show recently led off a Christmas special parody demonstrating this phenomenon by saying “the season just wouldn’t be the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing”. The point he was making was that in spite of the fact that most of us celebrate our holidays with nary a thought to those who practice a different religion or none at all, there are those who wish to resurrect the same conflict year after year.

As intently as Fox news and Glenn Beck strive to convince me otherwise, the high school my son attends still hosts Christmas concerts featuring songs about Christian traditions and themes. At the choral concert you’ll hear the words, Christmas and Messiah as well as a whole list of other Christmas-related terms. The audience members of varied backgrounds and ethnicities applaud and cheer in unified ovation. I have not seen one person walk out in disgust.

When I finish a transaction at a store or bank this time of year I say “Merry Christmas” and hear the sentiment returned in more cases than not. If someone wishes me “happy holidays” I don’t take offense and I have not yet had someone twist my arm and force me to change my similar greeting to one that honors their Christian celebration.

Political correctness isn’t the enemy of holiday cheer. Media personalities and pundits who benefit by inspiring rage and discontent among their viewers, listeners and readers are.

As corny and cliché as it may sound, this is my most favorite time of the year. I look forward to friends and family enjoying food and drink around my table. I love the anticipation and delight in the faces of my children on Christmas morning (even now that they’ve grown into young adulthood). I admire the light displays that grace the neighborhood houses as I drive at night. Every Christmas Eve, I savor the emotion and serenity of my church’s annual candlelight service. Most people I know celebrate the season in similar ways and don’t notice any assault on their belief system.

My wish for all who read this column is that you enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate. I wish you a belated Happy Hanukkah. I wish you a belated Happy Solstice. I wish you a merry Christmas. I wish you a happy New Year.

Lessons Learned: the Value of the WikiLeaks Dump

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 9, 2010

All right-wing attacks on liberals like myself (and accusations of America-hating treason) aside, the fact is that an overall concern for national security is a bi-partisan value. I care as much about threats posed by our nation’s enemies and as much about the protection of lives and operations conducted by our troops, ambassadors and diplomats as do conservatives like my brother Gordon and his heroes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

That said, I cannot bring to myself assign much negative consequence to last week’s dump by media organization WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents for public consumption.

Obviously, the State Department and the Obama administration have been quick and harsh in their condemnation of the leaks uncovered and published by Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Cable communications that they assumed were private correspondence have been made public, embarrassing officials and complicating diplomatic relations. To be fair, some of the information that has come to light has presented potential game-changers for at least a few missions abroad.

But I think it is valuable to take an honest and candid look at what we have really learned from this massive revelation, instead of simply jumping on the political bandwagon, labeling WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, and calling for the arrest of an international whistle-blower.

First of all there were documents that were released that told us little we didn’t already know. We have always known that the State Department and American officials attempt to operate covertly and secretly. This is part of the business of foreign policy and is no shocker. It was also no surprise that the leaders of Middle Eastern countries have called Iran a threat. Those nations have a vested interest in security and a madman like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the neighborhood would make most people nervous. Many facts that came out may have elicited an interested “hmmm” but were largely assumed or were accepted public knowledge.

There were also items of embarrassing humor. For instance, we “learned” that Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi is a paranoid prima donna who hates to fly over water and requires that his “voluptuous” blond Ukrainian nurse accompany him everywhere. Again, this is no shocker. We have seen the spectacle of his 2009 visit to the U.S.

But there are other gleanings that have real utility to us all as citizens of the United States. There are facts that are aligned with what we already know or suspect, but which bring nuances and specifics that are vital to important discussions that must be had.

Saudi Arabia, long considered an ally in the Middle East, has also been eyed with some suspicion, especially during the George W. Bush administration. WikiLeaks documents imply that Saudi King Abdullah has urged the U.S. to bomb Iran in order to stop her nuclear program. However, Saudi funding of groups like Al Qaeda casts shadows on the intentions of this so-called ally. With growing talk over how to deal with Iran, it is imperative to consider the influence the Saudis may have in the matter.

On the subject of Iran, cables were released last week that implied that while the Obama administration outwardly advocated diplomatic strategies to change the behavior of Ahmadinejad and of the Iranian state, there was little belief that those measures would be successful. This revelation told us two things. First, we learned that there was little concrete commitment to a diplomatic resolution; second, we learned that the Bush era tactic of carrots and sticks had remained in place and is the sole mode of operation for the current administration. Not only does this fact refute the assertions of Obama critics that his departure from Bush policy points to his weakness on national security (since there is no policy change at all), it opens up dialog about how the United States should approach relations with Iran going forward.

I found the documents discussing the corruption and graft, rampant within the Afghan government, particularly interesting. While I wasn’t surprised in the least to hear once again that corruption reached the very top of Hamid Karzai’s administration, the sheer magnitude of the corruption is sobering. With the recent admission by Obama that combat troops will be committed to Afghanistan until 2014 (an extension over the original 2011 estimate), I think that further dialog about the chances for success of the mission and the risks of prolonged involvement in the region is necessary. This new information confirms old suspicions and reminds a war-wearied U.S. populous of the dire nature of this conflict.

The WikiLeaks website has been the victim of attacks on its servers and the technology on which it operates. Julian Assange is under investigation and has been targeted for prosecution by several world governments. The leadership in the United States has shown rare bi-partisan unity in its condemnation of the leaks. It is difficult to say what the final outcome of the WikiLeaks “scandal” will be. But whatever our opinion of the organization, its founder and its intent, it is undeniable that the WikiLeaks dump has contributed to the political discourse already, and I feel that is an asset to our democracy.

Wikileaks Exposes Need for New Plumber

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 9, 2010

As you may have guessed already, I find myself disagreeing with my brother’s assessment of the Wikileaks scandal. Keith concludes his column with the idea that an indiscriminate “dumping” of classified documents and confidential communiqués is an “asset to our democracy”. I do not agree. I believe it is a dangerous and costly liability – one that should be dealt with quickly and completely so as to stem the unrestricted flow of protected communications, prevent further leaks and to protect the identity and welfare of valuable informants.

In fact, many corporations and other governments have moved to restrict Wikileaks’ access to the Internet. However, our “Plumber-in-Chief” has decided to send his Attorney General, Holder, on a mission to coax the organizers of the World Cup to bring a soccer tournament to America. Priorities, man, priorities.

I think we need to make an example of Julian Assange the way our forefathers made an example of Benedict Arnold. Perhaps, if he was dealt with properly, (some have suggested execution, I prefer life imprisonment with no electronics) future generations would not be warned against “being a Benedict Arnold” but instead, they would be admonished: “Don’t make an Assange of yourself.”

Keith opens with a claim that he “cares about the lives of… our troops, ambassadors and diplomats.” Yet, he seems to downplay the significant damage done and enhanced risk being placed upon those very lives.

There are reasons why people must speak “off the record” and there are reasons why some secrets must remain secret. In fact, a very wise world leader (King Solomon) once said “…do not reveal the secret of another, lest he who hears it reproach you, and the evil report about you not pass away.” (Proverbs 25:9,10 NASB)

We live in a very dangerous world. We have terrorists plotting against us, we have rogue leaders seeking weapons of mass destruction, and we have allies that depend upon us for their safety. Therefore, we need an Intelligence network that can operate with the assurance that its communiqués are secure. People in our Intelligence community and in our military risk their lives to acquire and maintain contacts in foreign lands and those contacts take similar risks to keep our men and women informed. If there is no sense of security, there will be no more information.

In dangerous times we must take advantage of every source of information we can find. We must be assured the information is accurate and untainted by fear of disclosure. Secretary of State Ms. Clinton, was rightly distressed and troubled by the revelations, which did not disclose specific wrongful acts by the U.S., but did divulge intimate conversations; that divulgence will inhibit frankness and candor in the future.

Among the many ironies being played out by this scandal is the fact that many on the Left who saw the Valerie Plame ordeal, which centered around the disclosure of a CIA Operative’s identity, as a serious breach of National Security and classified information, see no similar breach in this case when we have the potential for far greater risk. Conversely, those on the Right who tried to downplay the risk to Plame, are now screaming for the head of Assange on a platter. I felt then, as I feel now, that state secrets should and ought to be secret. Not because I feel the state is always right and the citizens should leave the governing to the “experts”, nor is it because I feel the press should be fettered in its investigations of government. It is solely because I believe in the rule of law. The law is what separates us from anarchy and despite Keith’s attempt to claim that somehow the means used to “open political discourse” is justified by that end, I believe Wikileaks, its founder, and many of his sympathizers have anarchy on their mind.

The other irony in this mess is the statement made by Assange in which he claims that his intent is to create a “better world”. I suppose his definition of a better world is one in which no secrets are safe and no one dares to confide in another. I do not think that world would be better.
However, I do believe he may have ushered in a better world if this experience causes us to think twice about the safety of electronic communication. Perhaps we will return to face-to-face conversation and perhaps we will be more wary of the “send” button, for we have to realize that once a message hits cyberspace, it is no longer between just two people.

The final irony is the most humorous. According to a Reuters report from London, dated 12/2, Assange – who claims that Wikileaks is “an organization devoted to revealing secret documents” – was working on the next document dumping project from a “secret, undisclosed location”. Pardon me, but if this story wasn’t so serious, I’d be laughing milk through my nose right now.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

An Exercise in Futility, or an Open Door for Change?

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 25, 2010

The President’s Deficit Commission, AKA National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, has finally delivered a Draft Proposal that outlines in a brief (by Washington terms) 50-plus page report, their plan for reducing our deficit and – as the name optimistically describes – bringing fiscal responsibility and reform. I read the report and I glanced at the many charts and tables they provided. It was an interesting exercise.

The commission was created earlier this year by an executive order of President Obama. Its charge was to incorporate ideologies from both Republicans and Democrats and to deliver a bipartisan solution to the very real and present danger of our runaway deficit. It was co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former Clinton Chief of Staff, and Republican Alan Simpson, a former U.S. Senator from Wyoming.

They worked with sixteen other members of the commission and came up with some bold steps that, according to their projections, would reduce the deficit/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the current 9.1% to 1.6% by 2020 and increase revenue/GDP levels from the current 14.6% to 21.6% the same year. It also predicts a balanced budget by 2037 and a positive deficit/GDP (i.e. a budget surplus) by 2040.

It is at times like these that I wish I could be as naïve and gullible as my leaders think I am. I wish I could believe they really could look ahead to 2040 and see our budget in perfect balance, our spending under control, and our revenues increasing. I also wish I could believe in the tooth fairy, the lottery commercials and hair growth products.

However, I am bound by the constraints of reality and I know these figures and projections are as reliable and as likely as the global warming figures and projections.

Any attempt to inject responsibility and reform into any institution will most certainly be met with resistance and protest – to do so in a governmental budget is to invite screams and squeals from every corner.

Before I add my own screams and squeals to the din, I feel I must be fair and offer up a few words of praise.
First of all, I am pleased to see that they are at least looking at the dangerous storm clouds on the horizon and they are cognizant of the need to address this threat to our national security and solvency.

I agree with the premise made in their opening “values” statements, in which they give ten defining principles that guided them as they sought solutions. Among these are the principles that we must start slowly, we must protect the truly vulnerable who are dependent upon social aid programs, we must cut waste, we must look at every program – including defense spending and even Social Security and Medicare spending – for cuts and savings.

I am in favor of putting everything on the table, and removing the Sacred Item – Do Not Touch! label from programs and subsidies that have failed to produce the desired effects, or have – like the misdirected welfare policies that destroyed the family structure – produced deleterious effects.

The commission recommended several cuts, which I approve. Among those were:
- Freezing Defense Dept. salaries and bonuses and non-combat pay
- Cutting Cost-of-Living increases for all Federal programs – including Social Security
- Cutting Federal work force by 10%
- Eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
- Cutting some redundant weapons programs from Defense spending

The increased revenue would supposedly come through some new taxes such as a 15 cent/gallon gasoline tax and by eliminating certain tax credits such as the Mortgage Interest Deduction and Child Tax Credit. Of course, we know how the travel industry, housing industry, and the pro-family lobbyists will respond to each of those proposals. I won’t even mention the idea of raising the Social Security retirement age they are recommending, for fear of sparking the howling protests we have seen from those across the pond.

As you can guess, this commission is making few friends and its chance of getting any serious consideration of passing these proposals through a divided legislature is paper thin. However, it has opened the door to a room we must all enter sooner or later – no matter how chilly and dark that room may be now – we have to walk in and sit down to the table and offer some sacrificial offerings.

I am in favor of a strong defense and I believe we should be the strongest military force on the planet, because I believe we are the most moral force on the planet. But I also believe our military can still be strong while cutting costs. I am opposed to most taxes, but I am aware that the privilege of living in a great nation requires something from every citizen.

The cost of doing nothing is far too great. Our deficit must be brought under control. Nothing should be held sacred and beyond the reach of the golden scissors – including that monstrous health care bill passed through bribery and manipulation last spring.

Let’s Get Serious

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 25, 2010

When one looks at the current national debt and deficit dilemma it is undeniable that the assertion of President Obama’s appointed panel that a real solution must include both spending reduction and increased revenue rings true. Regardless of one’s political affiliation one must accept the fact that only a combination of tax increases and spending cuts will prevent leaving the tragic legacy of our irresponsibility to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So, when a bipartisan commission makes a public statement that nothing is off the table it sounds hopeful that there is serious commitment to this end.

Unfortunately, a quick review of the draft proposal that was released last week reveals that not everything is on the table.

The most glaring omission from the proposal is the much-politicized Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The $700 billion in revenue that would be generated by allowing the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent is a bold step indeed. Apparently it is one that is an untouchable sacred item. My brother Gordon would argue that the tax cuts were necessary to bring jobs and speed economic recovery. Ironically, the cuts created zero net jobs during Bush’s terms of office, which saw unemployment nearly double during their span.

Apparently corporate welfare is the only acceptable form of government assistance to both parties in Washington. The commission lists, as one of its goals, the reform of the tax code to make “America the best place to start and run a business and create jobs”. However, one of the proposals under the tax code section is the elimination of a credit for domestic production. Once again, it is plain to see that the commission lacks serious commitment toward its stated goals if it is eliminating incentives to create local jobs. The only local employment we are insuring by offering the proposed breaks to corporations is at the executive level. Meanwhile the working class continues to suffer while the wealthy are once again the beneficiaries of government spending and legislation.

It is heartening to see cuts in defense spending on the table (and to see them receiving a nod of approval by my fellow columnist). In fact, I was happy to see a reduction in overseas bases was the second largest line item in the commission’s proposed cuts. Unfortunately again, many cuts effect those who can least afford them. Cuts designed to “modernize” the health benefits of soldiers and veterans will hurt military personal at the lowest incomes and the veterans who have bravely served their country. A freeze on non-combat military pay will add to the suffering of those low-income families who turned to military service in a time of economic crisis.

And even with a $100 billion reduction in military spending, the U.S. expenditure on defense far outweighs that of other countries. China (the number 2 nation in defense spending) spends only 1/6th of the U.S. expenditure and our defense budget is more than the next 23 nations’ combined budgets.

It is good to see the out-of-control military spending addressed, but reigning in the Pentagon’s budget is far from serious reform. Unless we look at the impact of supplemental military spending on the deficit and upon the foreign lending that allows us to sustain it, the discussion is simply rhetoric. An appeal must be made to tailor foreign policy with a mind toward constraining spending. Neither side of the political aisle denies that the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the deficit and to our dependency on foreign aid. Yet few have suggested including these costs in the current debate. Even the president has ignored the cost when recently admitting that our military commitment in Afghanistan will last at least three years longer than expected (at undeniable economic expense, as well as the human toll). A bloated military, beholden to no-bid contractors, with wasteful spending makes us no safer.

Recent efforts to improve national security through the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia were blocked by Senate obstructionism. Despite the Obama administration’s contradictory promise of billions of dollars in investment toward modernizing weapons systems, Republicans still oppose reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. The military-industrial complex continues to hold our nation and its leaders hostage nearly fifty years after President Dwight Eisenhower made reference to it.

I found the commission’s words disingenuous when it mentioned that “Throughout our history, Americans have always been willing to sacrifice to make our nation stronger over the long haul.” Yes, it is true that during points of our history citizens have made great sacrifice to preserve the common good. The “Greatest Generation” is a testament to selflessness and a true spirit of patriotic commitment. However, this spirit is largely dead in modern America. We would rather ignore or dispute the facts of global warming than give up our luxuries or our SUVs. Those at the top of the income pyramid refuse to sacrifice even 3 percent of their millions and billions. The cry of “no compromise” is the loudest in our capitals and in our political discourse.

Still, this commission is applauded for making the “tough” decisions of asking those who can hardly afford it to make further sacrifices. Two of the biggest targets for cuts in this proposal are Social Security and Medicare, which provide vital support to the neediest among us. Is this really the best that 18 experts can come up with? Shouldn’t we get serious about the real issues?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who Are the Real Losers?

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 11, 2010

Many who have followed my columns might expect me to be despondent or depressed following last week’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. True, there were disappointments like Tom Reed’s victory in the 29th Congressional District, and the amount of seats lost to Republicans in the House of Representatives as a whole. But unlike many on my side of the political spectrum, I’m not donning sackcloth and moping around the house.

First of all, the results weren’t a huge surprise. Historically, the party in power loses Congressional seats in times of economic crisis. Certainly, the public knows that the economic and financial decline in which the United States still finds itself mired began long before President Barack Obama occupied the White House. Still, fear and anger must find their targets and Obama and the Democrats fit the bill. Punishment was doled out in the form of ballots, and control shifted. Republicans claimed victory and retribution, and argued that the message of the people was heard loud and clear on Election Day.

But what was that message? Rush Limbaugh and other insist that it is a rejection of President Obama and his “dangerous agenda”. However, in 2008, 53 percent of Americans voted for Obama and the hope of change. That’s far too great a majority to account for “white guilt”, as Limbaugh would assert. It is hard to believe that people who voted for Obama’s campaign promises just two years ago would vote against those same policies in 2010. Any who voted for Obama but voted against Democrats this go around were likely disappointed that more was not done to further progressive issues. For instance, the arduous process of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy angered some. I found the provisions of the health care reform that Democrats fought for to be inadequate. Unfortunately, expressing dissatisfaction at the ballot box in an election like this one does little to redress the shortcomings of which we complain most loudly.

There was also a factor that was undeniable in the lead up to, and in the days following, the recent elections. The Tea Party movement was an unmistakable influence upon the outcome. Not everyone who voted an incumbent out, or installed a GOP candidate in office, would describe himself or herself as a member of the Tea Party, but the movement’s message infected the media. It was trumpeted so loudly by the right wing that it was nearly inescapable and the same points were so oft repeated that it became hard even for normally centrist or left-leaning voters to resist its appeal.

The Tea Party ran its campaign on the same promise Obama did in 2008: change. This time change means a rollback of progressive values. Any advancement made by the Democratic President and the Congress (as insignificant as it has been) is targeted for repeal when the new dynamic in Washington is in place.

Of course, this agenda has no hope of success in the near term. The Senate (even with narrow margins) remains in Democratic control and the President is sure to veto any attempt to completely strip laws like health care reform from the books.

Republicans are really hanging their hopes on 2012. Senator Mitch McConnell has already made statements declaring that the best hope for undoing current policy is removing Obama from office. Fortunately, for McConnell and his crew, Republican wins in gubernatorial races will pave the way for state redistricting that will seriously impact the 2012 elections. Mitch McConnell’s cautioning is intended to dampen expectations, especially among the extreme right wing that conservative agendas will be advanced in the 112th Congress.

That doesn’t really matter. The GOP is happy to be the party of “NO” going forward. While Tea Party favorites like Michele Bachman (a Congresswoman from Minnesota who has her eye on a leadership position in the House) have threatened to shake things up in Congress, the current Republican elite will likely remain in power. McConnell and presumptive House Speaker John Boehner understand the way Capitol Hill operates and the limitations on their real control. Some have said this will bring conflict between the Tea Party establishment and those who are pragmatic about Washington politics, but I really don’t think it matters much to the average Tea Partier.

Many would be happy to see gridlock for the next two years. Limbaugh has devoted much of his broadcast time over the past couple of weeks to telling Republicans in Congress that he and his followers will not tolerate cooperation or compromise with the President or members from the other side of the aisle. Voters, he has said, do not want compromise. And apparently, in at least some cases, he’s right.

A Nevada Tea Partier, Ronald Hanvey, summed it up well. “I want gridlock. I don’t want any more laws.”

That is what I find saddest about the outcome of the recent election. The only change that has come to Washington in the post-Obama era is greater division and partisanship. A celebration of obstructionism is no victory. Neither is the rejection of the democratic ideals of cooperation that made our representative form of government unique and cherished in the world.

The real losers in the election on November 2nd weren’t the Democratic politicians. The real losers were you and me. We are losing the vision of our forefathers, of the United States as the shining example of democracy and liberty. We are losing the integrity of our republic.

We have allowed an extremist minority to shape the political landscape. We have forfeited our ideals to the political quagmire. We have given up on reforming Washington. Unless we stand up and vote for real democracy we have all lost.

Analyze This…

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 11, 2010

As I look forward to the fourth Thursday of November, AKA Thanksgiving Day, I know this year I will be saying, as I do every year, a special prayer of gratitude for our great nation and the blessings we enjoy as American citizens. I will also be looking back to that first Wednesday of this November with a grateful heart and a solemn realization of the fact that when we awoke that morning and tuned into news, there were no stories of violence, bloodshed or rioting in the streets. Truly, it is no small virtue of our uniquely American system of government that we can have these political revolutions and reversals while still maintaining the rule of law and order. Give yourselves a much-deserved pat on the back America!
Now, let us go forward and try to analyze the evidence and statistics of this election.

I am not going to fall into the trap that has captured so many other analysts who think they know “what the American people think”, as if the American voter is a monolith. I cannot say this election is a rejection of or acceptance of any one particular ideology by the American populace as a whole. I only know what one American thinks, (me) and no matter what the experts say, they don’t really know “what America thinks”. Exit polls are not an exact science and votes are cast in privacy.

Only two short years ago we were told America had just held a “historic” election. We witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as our first black president who held the favorable opinion of over 60% of the American people and shared his party’s power in both legislative houses. It seemed the best possible scenario for change. And change did come. Deficits ballooned, legislators who were supposed to represent the voters enacted laws through trickery, bribery and closed-door dealing, town hall meetings became shouting matches between concerned citizens and obstinate officials, and disappointment clouded the once hopeful faces. The historic beginnings soon became politics as usual and politics at its worst.

Again, we are being told this election was “historic” and “unprecedented” and destined to “change the political landscape”. I find such talk humorous because every election is, and should be, noted in history books. Every day is technically unprecedented and each new officeholder is destined to bring change, no matter who they are and no matter the office they occupy.

However, in some respects this election is extremely noteworthy and I believe history books will justly note that 2010 was the year that changed the nation’s legislative process for decades to follow. I do not believe we can understate the impact of what has occurred, especially when we consider the fact that, as Keith mentioned in his column, the newly elected governors will determine some of the new congressional districts.

As we look at the state legislatures, and governor’s mansions across the nation, we see more and more of them now held by people who ran on strong conservative tickets. Over 675 state legislative seats now belong to Republican candidates and in 20 states, both houses carry Republican majorities. This bodes well for those of us who value our Constitutional right to defend ourselves, hold human life as sacred, believe in a limited federal government, ascribe to sound fiscal policies based upon free market forces and rest behind the security of a superior military.

While I agree with Keith when he says the chance of repealing Obamacare in this upcoming congressional term is between slim and none, I believe the newly elected representatives should send repeal bills to the Senate as often as possible and they should be accompanied with bold new alternatives and proposals that will use proven techniques and free market solutions to the challenge of health care for all.

However, I must disagree with Keith’s assertion that somehow “we lost” – just because he did not happen to agree with the majority rule aspect of our republican form of government. An “extremist minority” – no matter how well financed – cannot override the majority. Unless he has some evidence of a vast right wing conspiracy that somehow defrauded the election process, we must accept the fact that the people spoke their will on November 2, 2010 just as they spoke their will in November of 2008.

The integrity of our republic is still alive and well, and for that I will give sincere thanks.

Who I like in 2010 Election and Why

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 28, 2010

Well, it’s that scary time of year again. You know what I’m talking about. The darkness falls early upon our leaf-strewn lawns and little people appear from every corner in masks and costumes asking for treats. No, I am not talking about Halloween, I am referring to that other “Autumn in America” tradition known as the Election Cycle. Each cycle seems to leave our national face a little dirtier and more wrinkled than the last as campaigns dig deeper and deeper into the muck of negative advertising.
With a commitment to clean the air a little, Keith and I have decided to give our choices for the various positions by listing what we perceive as the positive attributes of each candidate and to refrain from pointing out the negatives of their opponents.

New York State Governor
Carl Paladino will receive my vote for Governor of New York State for many reasons. First of all, I believe a successful businessman exhibits a drive and determination that transfers well to the executive branch of government. A chief executive must be able to make hard choices and delegate authority and I think Carl has demonstrated he has that capability.

Within Carl’s plan for an improved business climate in our state is his position on Welfare Reform. I found it very interesting and attractive. He proposes the development of what he calls The Dignity Corps. Modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, a successful program initiated during the Great Depression, the Dignity Corps would utilize underused minimum-security prisons as training centers where able-bodied welfare recipients can develop skills and gain the self assurance and pride that comes from gainful employment. Obviously, this proposal would face opposition from those invested in the status quo of welfare dependency, but we have to see that our state cannot sustain the current system. Difficult decisions like these are necessary if we are to see his promised 10% cut in taxes and 20% cut in state spending.

United States Senators
Jay Townsend is my choice for the six-year term of U.S. Senator, currently held by incumbent Chuck Schumer. Townsend is committed to sound fiscal policies that would slow down the growth of the federal government. Jay recognizes that the health care bill and the stimulus package approved by the U.S. Senate last year have been detrimental to our economy. The increased size and scope of the federal government has siphoned tax money from the states and Jay Townsend intends to fight for lower federal spending, limited federal regulation and lower federal taxes.

Joe DioGuardi has my vote for the unexpired two-year term in the U.S. Senate once held by Hilary Clinton and currently filled by Ms. Gillibrand. DioGuardi would bring the unique vantage point of a certified public accountant to the halls of the Senate. In fact, he outlines a five-point plan that would overhaul the current system by holding our federal government to the same accounting, reporting and budgeting standards that publicly traded corporations and businesses are held to by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His plan would include the publishing of accurate information about the finances of our federal government along with the amount of debt owed to foreign sources. He would also call for the chief financial officer to become a cabinet-level position who would take over some of the duties and responsibilities currently filled by the Treasury Department. This would increase efficiency and accountability.

United States House of Representatives
Tom Reed receives my support in both the special election and general election for the seat of the 29th Congressional District. Tom has proven his ability to create jobs as he has operated four different businesses and he recognizes the onerous burden of increased taxes and regulations that stifle economic growth. He voices support for the House Republican plan to lower the lowest tax rates from 15% to 10% and from 10% to 5%. This would encourage increased consumer spending and saving, which, in turn, would spur the economy and job creation. Reed recognizes that “the so called stimulus plan was a horrible mistake” and he claims that a common sense approach must be applied to our government the way families and businesses apply common sense solutions to their challenges. In other words, any future spending increase must be paid for by a reduction in spending in another area.

New York State Senate and Assembly
I will cast my votes for Tom O’Mara and Christopher Friend to represent me in our state government. O’Mara has seen first-hand the dysfunctional quality of our state legislature and is committed to the need for a new state Constitutional Convention to reform the workings of our state government.

Christopher Friend recognizes the overwhelming burden the state’s Medicaid system has placed upon our counties and he has witnessed certain improvements that have already been made in the system by Tom Santulli, and offers further suggestions such as requiring Medicaid recipients to use generic drugs and other cost saving proposals.

Well, those are my choices. Obviously, your choices may differ, but I urge you to put forth your own effort to use the sources available to you and to make deliberate, positive selections. I encourage you to visit the very helpful website published by The League of Women Voters in which you can find information about the ballot in your area and the candidates:


by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 28, 2010

As in every U.S. election cycle, there is no shortage of speculation or commentary surrounding this fall’s line-up of political races. Republicans are claiming premature victory in reclaiming a majority control of the House of Representatives and even of the Senate. Democrats are feverishly ramping up fundraisers, advertising and e-mail campaigns in an effort to stem any shifting of tides. Pundits and media personalities are falling over each other to offer their own predictions.

Amid the shouts and din of pre-election rhetoric, my brother Gordon and I offer our analysis. The old standard that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone you shouldn’t say anything at all makes this a difficult piece for me. That’s not because I am a negative person. It is just that the political climate has so deteriorated into the muck and the mudslinging (and that there is so much anger among groups like the Tea Partiers) that it is difficult to find things that a candidate stands for among the things he or she stands against. I will do my best.

New York State Governor
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has a history of working for the people of our nation and our state. He has applied and engrained work ethic to social problems in public service on a regional and national level. Among issues he has tackled are human rights, civil rights, homelessness, crime and corruption.

Cuomo understands that the still lagging economy is an important issue to New Yorkers just as it is important to the rest of the nation. He has plans to make New York the jobs capital of the United States. Key in his strategy is offering a $3,000 tax credit to companies for each unemployed New Yorker they hire. The strategy also includes organizing around regional industry clusters, reducing the cost of doing business in the state and increasing small business’ access to capital. Offering incentives to private sector businesses who keep jobs local makes more sense than sending the unemployed to prisons (even if they are called “training centers”).

United States Senators
Charles Schumer has been fighting for New Yorkers as a U.S. Senator since 1998. He has been the state’s Senior Senator since 2000. His record and experience make him a known quantity as a voice in Congress. During his career he has stood up for education, energy, the environment, health care, jobs and security. He will continue to do that work as Senior Senator. His commitment to health care reform, for instance, is evident in the prescription drug legislation he has helped author, his work to make healthcare insurance and services more accessible for all, and his support of hospitals and health industry professionals. He is also working to create jobs and lower tax burdens for New Yorkers.

Kirsten Gillibrand has filled the Senator’s seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, since January of 2009. She is committed to Democratic values and has worked to ensure that affordable health care is available to all, and that economic recovery comes to New York and to the nation. One priority that is important to Kirsten, as a parent of young children, is education. Gillibrand values public education and believes that quality education is not only worth funding well, it is vital to the future of our children and the future of our nation. Economic growth is impossible without access to quality education. Kirsten Gillibrand stands for public schools in an election year where some candidates are pushing for eliminating public education.
United States House of Representatives

I believe so much that Matt Zeller is the choice for the 29th District that I’ll be voting for him twice. He has served our country in Afghanistan and is ready to fight for New York and our nation in Washington. Zeller has plans to bring jobs to New York and take a practical approach to energy concerns (two issues that are, in some ways, interconnected). Matt believes that investing in jobs and technology is not a horrible mistake. Instead of rushing into a natural gas mining operation that could irreparably damage our environment and our drinking water (and imperil us all), he believes in investigating the process thoroughly and putting people to work advancing alternate forms of energy. These are plans that strengthen the economy and address national security, while safeguarding our resources.

New York State Senate and Assembly
I support Pamela Mackesey in the State Senate. She’s committed to building jobs, lowering the tax burden and reforming Albany. She recognizes that our state government is oversized and out of control. This fact should win her support among Democrats and Republicans alike.

I support Jason Jordan for Assembly in New York’s 136th District. He represents fresh leadership and promises to work to provide living wages, improve education and reclaim jobs that have been outsourced overseas.

As expected, my brother and I come down on either side of a predictable line. I may seem like a party hack but, on principle, I reject the idea of endorsing any one candidate over another. I encourage you to investigate the issues that are important to you before you enter the polling place on November 2, and find out who best represents your values.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friendly Fire

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 14, 2010

Among the many horrors and tragedies of war, the most horrific and most tragic consequences of battle are the casualties created by misplaced “friendly fire”. The idea that artillery designed for and aimed toward the enemy could actually strengthen the foe’s position by injuring or killing those “on your side of the line” is hard to comprehend.

Even more difficult to comprehend, however, is the idea that the commanders would see the casualties and yet make no attempt to redirect the fire or move the victims from sure harm. While this would certainly call for a court martial of those commanders in a conventional war, in an ideological war, it seems the commanders receive high praise and advancement in their careers.

The ideological war of which I speak and the Friendly Fire to which I refer is the War on Poverty and the Federal Welfare System.
This War on Poverty was declared during the Lyndon Johnson administration in the mid-60’s as the key component of his quest for a Great Society, in which social programs and government bureaucracies would create a utopia with a more equitable distribution of this nation’s great wealth. It has been over 46 years and over $15 trillion since Johnson made his declaration of war and vowed he “would not rest until the war was won”.

Can we rest now? Has the war been won? I think not.

The number of American citizens living in poverty when the first battle cry was issued in 1964 was estimated to be around 39 million, today – despite trillions of taxpayer dollars and conservative as well as liberal ideas for solutions to the problem – we still have over 39 million citizens living below the poverty line.

In fact, it was recently brought to my attention, via a forwarded email from our editor, Karen Frick, that the disparity between the wealthy in our society and the poorest among us still exists and tragic situations are faced daily by those who seem to have “fallen through the cracks” in the many social programs our government has instituted as part of this war.

What then should we do? Should we follow the plan set forth by President Obama who has proposed federal and state spending within the welfare system during Fiscal Year 2010 to reach $888 billion – that is more than Bush spent on the Iraq War in his whole term of office ($622 billion) – and that is only the beginning. Obama has plans to continue the increased spending for the next decade. According to his budget projections, total federal and state matching funding for welfare recipients will exceed $10.3 trillion. That amounts to $250,000/person or $1,000,000/family of four!

I propose that spending more money, establishing more social programs and creating government bureaucracies are not the solutions to poverty. I believe it is time to re-calibrate our weapons and adjust our aim.

Studies have proven that since the War on Poverty began, there has been a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of marriage and stable two-parent families within the black community. According to U.S. Census statistics, the number of children born to unwed mothers within the African-American population was only slightly higher than those of the rest of the population (14% for blacks compared to 3% for whites). However, a sharp curve developed after the War on Poverty was declared and government programs initiated a marriage penalty for those who were placed on the welfare rolls. The current percentage of children born into homes without a father within the black population now exceeds 73%!

Studies have also proved that – with controls adjusted for all other components – that marriage and stable families are associated with lower rates of poverty. (Calculated from data in U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2006–2008. See Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey at

I believe the intent behind the War on Poverty was noble in its inception and I do recognize that standards of living have improved for the poorest among us (just ask AT&T, Verizon and Sprint how many cell phone customers pay their accounts with taxpayer money, or survey the number of cable subscribers and high-speed Internet users within the poorest communities), but I am not sure the methods currently in use serve to reduce the overall causes of poverty.

We can best serve the poverty stricken by heeding the advice of Benjamin Franklin who said (I am paraphrasing here) that “We do not help the poor by making them comfortable in their poverty, we help them most by driving them out of it”, and that is done by making them uncomfortable! Or to follow the advice of Patrick Moynihan, quoted recently in a George Will column, who said (again paraphrasing) “The creating of bureaucracies to serve the poor is like feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses” (I’ll let you follow the reasoning there).

In conclusion, we do have an obligation to help our fellow man. We must do what we can to help “the least of these” but we cannot do it by merely spending money (redistribution of wealth). We must address the causes of poverty. For example, we must educate our youth about the consequences of poor choices. The surest preventive to poverty is to stay in school, don’t have babies before you’re married, get a job and show up! Otherwise we will continue to see more casualties from our “friendly fire”.

Under Fire

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 14, 2010

In his column, my brother Gordon speaks of “friendly fire” in the war on poverty. As I read his assessment, I found it hard to distinguish who Gordon believes are the casualties in this war. If one goes by common definitions, one would have to assume that he meant the poverty-stricken. However, it is clear that he sees the wealthy as the real victims and levels his own weapon directly at the poor themselves.

Gordon’s stereotypical view of African Americans as a plight of the welfare state is alarming but not surprising when it is compared to the sentiment of conservative pundits such as David Horowitz and Rush Limbaugh, who continually assert that low-income America in general and minorities in particular sponge off the welfare system and taxpayers. Judging from Gordon’s harsh criticism of the family values of an entire class of American citizens and of President Barack Obama, one must assume that he sees any policy from this administration that addresses poverty as an attempt by Obama to pamper his kinfolk by rewarding the stereotypical black welfare mama.

Most disturbing to me was my fellow columnist’s remedy for the wealth gap in the United States. Apparently, all we need to do is show the “least among us” just how much it sucks to be poor. Apparently, these misguided souls have made it their life’s goal to live in sub-par housing, endure the rigors and stigma of assistance programs, and document for official record their economic, personal and lifestyle choices (which are the confidential rights others enjoy unconditionally). Apparently, they only need to be made more uncomfortable than they already are. You’ve got to love compassionate conservatism.

Since Gordon made reference to Jesus’ words and since he is fond of applying biblical texts to his columns, I think it is worth examining the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) question in regard to social justice. In the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, He doesn’t offer family or career planning advice to the throngs of hungry gathered to hear His message. He and his disciples took the small portion donated and redistributed it. I find it interesting that the religious right tends to argue that a disdain for social justice is some sort of Christian value (Glenn Beck calls social justice a liberal conspiracy and an attack on Christianity). However, biblical texts present the teachings of Jesus as progressive values that promote equality, charity and tolerance – especially toward the less fortunate among us.

Gordon mentions an article about the growing wealth gap in the United States, which we both received from the BVW editor. He fails to mention the article’s focus on the disconnect between the wealthiest among us and the poorest. The plight of lower-income America is largely lost on the affluent. In fact, although the current recession has been extreme, the top income earners (especially those in the top ten percent) have weathered the downturn with less impact than in other milder downturns. They have also suffered far less damage financially than those of middle and lower incomes.

Part of the reason for the disconnect is that, during the Bush administration when tax policies disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Americans, unemployment rose steadily. In fact, while many conservatives criticize President Obama’s failure to create more jobs, jobless reporting shows that unemployment nearly doubled from 3.7 percent to 7.1 percent during Bush’s presidency. Meanwhile, income earners in the top ten percent experienced an income growth of 10.3 percent annually.

This brings up a disconnect I find even more troubling. Some in the working class favor extending the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthy at the expense of those of lower income. Judging from the Republicans’ reaction to the sunsetting of tax cuts for the wealthy, and legislation that would penalize corporations that ship American jobs overseas, there seems to be a willingness among conservatives to vote against their own financial interests. Perhaps this reflects the conservative rhetoric that praises feeding the income elite and promises that the crumbs will feed the common man.

At the core of this ideology is an unnatural glorification of the supply-side economic model that has plagued the nation for decades and led to the financial and industrial collapse that propelled the U.S. into one of the most severe recessions that we have encountered. Another part of the equation is the demonizing of the current administration with terms like “communist” and “socialist”. What results is a mistrust of the administration and a predisposition to oppose any action (however beneficial) that the administration takes. Dismissing these policies out of hand is not the way to address the economic problems we face.

Instead we need to examine the factors and policies that created the ever-widening wealth gap. Corporate America’s exorbitant rewarding of executives while it outsources jobs and production away from workers in the United States is one factor. The income imbalance that pays CEOs nearly 300 times the salaries of average workers is another. A devaluation of the middle and working class has left one in seven with income below the poverty level. Attacking the victims of poverty and calling them lazy and ignorant is not only ineffectual, it is demoralizing and insulting.

Smoke and Mirrors

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 30, 2010

Election years are a crazy time in America and, by extension, a crazy time for the American public. Campaign posturing, rhetoric and attacks flood our media and infect our daily conversations. Politicians hit the road, glad-handing and clawing for position. Promises are made and mud is slung. The same types of things happen each time there is an election of consequence, and as we gear up for this coming November, the cycle is repeating.

However, this year has a new dynamic. An influencing element has been added to the mix. The Tea Party movement has reached critical mass and has been credited with wins in primary races and with a general shakeup of the political landscape. Former Alaska Governor and GOP cover girl Sarah Palin is basking in praise and adoration, and Radio and Fox News personality Glenn Beck is riding a wave of self-proclaimed success.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Tea Partiers, though. Following the victory of movement favorite Christine O’Donnell in the Republican primary for Senate (Delaware), a few in the GOP leadership were critical of the influence of the Tea Party in the primaries because they felt the prospects endangered candidates who could win in the general election. Even Karl Rove spent much of his appearance on the conservative Sean Hannity show criticizing O’Donnell and bringing into question her qualifications and background.

Of course, the conservative punditry was quick to spank Rove and others who deviated from the radical right wing’s agenda. Radio host Rush Limbaugh spent what seemed like hours (of course, I often have that misperception of time whenever I force myself to tune into his show) spouting off about how Rove was a turncoat. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer received a similar bashing for calling into question Sarah Palin’s endorsement of O’Donnell.

Republicans have long realized that the Tea Party and those who wield power in the conservative realm are a force to be reckoned with. Therefore, it didn’t take long for a political ploy to take shape. The result was the recent announcement of the GOP’s “Pledge to America” document.

This 21-page piece was formulated as a way to reclaim favor among the extreme and radical right by spewing rhetoric and making claims they cannot back up. Not only are the promises to reduce the deficit, spending and taxation unattainable. The arguments they are making are misleading.

The focal points of the Pledge are a repeal of healthcare reform and making George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent. The former is an interesting approach since the public cannot even visualize the impact of repealing policy which has only begun to take effect, and which has yet to impact the public. The latter is a technique which has largely proven successful for the Republicans because voters can often to be trusted to get behind tax cuts in almost any form.

However, it is unclear how much support can really be garnered in the current economic climate. According to recent reports, nearly 1 in 7 Americans is now below the poverty level. Sparing the wealthiest in the top two percent may not be all that attractive to the remaining 98 percent who are feeling the real strain of the recession. The tired conservative claim that Bush tax cuts built jobs is hard to swallow when the policies of the Bush administration and the failure for wealth to trickle down from supply-side surpluses has landed us in the muck of economic decline.

In any event the document is unlikely to move policy very far. It isn’t really intended to. The Pledge to America is merely intended to shift some of the wind from behind the Tea Party to behind the Republic Party’s sails. If it can propel the Republicans to victory in November and gain them a majority in Congress, it will have done its work.

Perhaps this is a good thing, since the proposals laid out in the document are potentially threatening to our livelihoods. Health care protections that prevent denial of coverage for children would be removed under the plan. Social Security and Medicare reforms would potentially privatize the systems and put benefits at risk for those who most need them. Concessions made to the wealthy will do little to provide economic relief to any but the wealthiest themselves, and will serve only to further widen the wealth gap.

Thankfully, the Pledge to America is like the explosive pyrotechnics used by illusionists to hide the real “magic” being performed. An explosive puff of smoke and cleverly concealed mirrors hide the mechanism behind the works. Meanwhile Republicans are baiting the voters with promises of economic prosperity and preparing for the switch that would leave most of us underserved and unrepresented.

“Is There Not A Cause?”

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 30, 2010

“Is there not a cause?” Those familiar with the Biblical story of David versus Goliath, recorded in 1 Samuel, chapter 17 will recognize this rhetorical question David asked of his brothers in verse 29. Just before he went to a nearby brook and picked five smooth stones to arm himself against the mighty giant, David had to remind the naysayers that there are things worth fighting for, despite the odds, and even when all others may run away from the battle, a true champion believes in his cause and goes forward.

Many, including my fellow columnist, are acting like David’s brothers. They cast a doubtful eye toward the recently released Pledge to America, in which the Republicans outlined their objectives for their next term as the majority party in Washington, and say the goals are – in Keith’s words – “unattainable”.

Well, the leaders of the GOP have chosen their own five smooth stones and they may indeed be less successful than our shepherd hero, but we should at least give them a fair hearing.

The pledge begins with a preamble outlining the cause and reminding us of the unique origin and mission of our great nation. They claim that America is more than just another nation on the world stage; it is an idea and an inspiration to the rest of the world, and as such it is worth our best efforts to keep it viable and secure.

Before I go on to describe the good points I believe are in this short document, I must take a few minutes to dispel a few myths in Keith’s article.

First of all, there is the well-worn myth that the “Bush tax cuts benefit only the wealthiest of Americans”, and they should rightfully be allowed to melt away in January 2011 like last winter’s snow and drip into the nearest storm drain.

The facts are, according to a report filed on with figures drawn from a Congressional Budget Office document published in 2007, that the richest 20% of all tax filers saw their tax burden rise from 81.2% of total tax revenues in 2000 to over 85.3% in the year 2007. During that same period, the lowest 20% saw their tax refunds almost doubled.

To repeal the Bush tax cuts would, according to another study published by The Tax Foundation (a non-partisan organization of tax experts), raise the tax burden of “the typical middle income family with a median income of $63,000 by about $1540.” The burden would also be borne by those who have enjoyed the child tax credit as well as those who will see the return of the marriage penalty should the Bush tax cuts be repealed.

That is why I am relieved to read that one of the five stones chosen by the Republicans will make these cuts permanent and prevent the increased tax burden should they be repealed as scheduled in January 2011.

Keith also repeats the myth that the Bush tax cuts did not produce jobs and that the economy suffered from a lack of tax revenue. The facts, again, prove otherwise. According to information found at, CBO documents bear out the reality that the tax revenues increased and the economy did rebound from the devastating effects of 9/11, precisely because of Bush’s tax policies.

Another stone in the sling of the Republicans involves a repeal of the unpopular and unwieldy Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) passed by the slimmest majority and the most reprehensible political maneuvering in our history. This bill has, despite Keith’s assertion to the contrary, already “impact(ed) the public”.

For example, several large insurance companies have recently stopped offering child-only policies precisely because PPACA allows parents to wait until their child gets sick before paying the premiums for the coverage. Therefore, these companies dropped the policies on the exact day the new rules went into effect. It is no wonder the Democrats are not bragging about this accomplishment when they present their legislative resumes to their constituents, and it should be no wonder that a responsible and responsive Congress should repeal it before it does more damage to our nation’s health care and economy.
The Pledge outlines the need for this repeal and gives some valid and workable reforms in pages 14 – 16, should you decide to download and read the document for yourself. (It can be found at as well as other sites.)

I am also encouraged by the common sense approach to national security displayed in the Pledge. They rightly claim that Iran’s and North Korea’s leaders present a concrete threat to our safety and world peace and we cannot afford to leave our missile defense unfunded.

There are many more good proposals contained within this document and even if you discount it as mere political posturing, they have taken the bold step of putting it in writing that we can all see and remind them of should they fail to follow through. This is in sharp contrast to those who put their promises on ethereal teleprompters.

Solution to Campaign Finance Pollution

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 16, 2010

As we head toward another election season we are once again reminded of the bittersweet essence of the uniquely American system of choosing our legislators. We see the political signs popping up in our neighbors’ yards and along our highways, and we hear the incessant commercials on our radios and televisions.

For me, it brings about a series of mixed emotions. I am proud to be a citizen of a country where we still have the right to vote and I enjoy the suspense and drama of watching the competition played out before our eyes and ears. However, I am also embarrassed by the patronizing and the petty sniping that has become a common element in almost all of the campaigning.
It seems that we reach new heights – or should I say new lows – each election cycle. Advertisements and billboards scream out negative messages and/or unattainable promises. The atmosphere seems to become clouded with an air of darkness and we soon long for the election to be over if only to have our airwaves and scenery cleansed of the political pollution.

It is obvious that this pollution does not come without a price. Advertising and transportation to speaking events does not come cheaply. Costs of running a successful campaign continue to mount as a recent Star-Gazette article noted the rising cost of our local Primary battles. For example, the Democratic (NYS) Senate primary race in the Buffalo district has seen over $400,000 spent in the past two months alone. It is a ridiculous amount but it pales next to the over $900,000 spent in a three-way Democratic primary in 2004 – this was for a NYS Assembly seat, not the Governor’s mansion!

We can see clearly that this is not a poor man’s game and the cost of running a campaign excludes many more qualified candidates while retaining the most corrupt and/or the most persuasive salesperson.

You may ask if there is any solution to this pollution. Well, many attempts have been made over the years. We erected a bureaucracy called the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to monitor and regulate the flow of money and the tone of the messages. We have designed legislation to restrict or stifle undue influence. Yet the problem continues. Loopholes are found and stretched to accommodate larger and larger amounts of money to be poured into the cesspool and the pollution spreads.

Recent attempts to regulate the amount of money available to politicians (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – AKA McCain-Feingold) have done nothing more than applied pressure on one side of the balloon. It led to the swelling known as “the 527’s”. These are the unregulated groups who can spend freely to deliver messages that can greatly influence public opinion but remain outside the realm of the FEC’s regulatory arms. A brief search on or will reveal to you how much money has been spent by these organizations in recent campaigns. It will amaze you.

What then, should we do? Should we add even more power to the FEC to control these groups as well? I, for one, do not agree with any attempt to regulate free expression in any form; even though I know that the majority of 527 money goes to speech I do not agree with. For example, of the over $400 MILLION spent in 2008 by 527’s, over 70% of it was spent by left-leaning organizations such as (which dropped its 527 status after 2008) and others like the Soros-linked America Coming Together.

What solution is left to us if we follow the Supreme Court’s interpretation that political speech is protected by our Constitution as well as the money used to produce that speech?

It is a fact that the two most corrupting and corruptible influences in our society are money and power. They are like twin snakes that like to slither around our political process like verminous night creatures, enjoying the dark corners and the back rooms of society.

The solution, according to at least a few thinkers who are much more astute than your humble columnist, is simply to limit the corruption by limiting the power.

In other words, if we were to truly cut the size and reach of the government’s power to regulate and finance the many areas of our lives, we would cut the need to influence that government’s decision-making process.

Imagine a world in which politicians are limited in their power as well as in their length of “service” (i.e. term limits). They would no longer have the pull to bring the lobbyist to their door with bags of money. If they lose the “power of incumbency” they would not be as attractive to those who wish to tempt them.

Another solution to the pollution would be to allow the “sunlight” of public disclosure. I believe that every donation should be publicized and every action committed in response to that donation should be disclosed.

These are simple solutions but I do believe that they would be much more effective than further regulation and/or limitations on free speech.

After the Election Campaign

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 16, 2010

My brother Gordon and I seldom agree on political matters. The nature of our personalities and beliefs often separates us so far from each other that any common ground seems almost unfathomable. However, occasionally we agree on a premise or two.

Gordon and I both recognize the corruption that is polluting the political process in the United States. Both of us see it as a negative influence. Still, we have differing views on the breadth of the problem and the course of a solution.

He sees the campaign financing as merely free political speech, but the reach of ambitious funding goes further. The talons of corporate influence are sharp and long, and they rip the liberties of the whole to shreds while they pierce the Constitutional protections provided by the nation’s founders.

While my brother focused on the influence of money on campaigns and elections, I see the aftermath of the elections as the bigger and more important issue. The financial favors that propel candidates into office come due as politicians begin to take their positions as legislators and leaders. Committees become pet projects of corporate investors and the interests of those companies soon overshadow those of the constituents they are sworn to serve.

Gordon sees the remedy for this corporate lobbying in a reduction of power in government. His perspective is that if legislators are relatively powerless they will cease to be prized by those who seek to influence their votes.

However, a neutering of government (while it may eliminate the desire to lobby Congress) will only leave corporate interests unchecked at the expense of the interests of the rest of us. This is a dangerous prospect.

A glaring example of weakened governmental power is featured prominently in the headlines nearly every day. As reports of contaminated water supplies, livestock death and disease, and deadly natural gas pipeline ruptures surface, the debate over the controversial hydro-fracturing extraction process continues in our own hometowns. Yet, the dialog is stymied because the industry is free to conceal vital information about the safety and health risks of the fracking. They are allowed to do this primarily because the natural gas exploration industry is exempt from mandatory disclosure of the chemicals and solutions they are injecting into our land. Local leaders can’t seem to do enough to cater to the industry and seem to be eager to approve exploration without allowing sufficient investigation into the potential risks. Weakening governmental controls further would leave fewer safeguards against contamination of our water and the endangering of our lives.

Reform is necessary in our government, but an impotent regulatory body isn’t the answer. Restricting committee membership would do a lot to curb corruption and the pollution of the legislative process by lopsided lobby interests. Congressmen and senators who are beholden to corporate donors should not be allowed to serve on committees upon which the interests of those corporations depend. Representatives of districts containing military installations or military contractors should not serve on committees charged with defense-related decisions or funding allocation. These conflicts of interest are glaring and seem obviously problematic, yet little is done to prevent this influence.

Gordon is also right that the McCain-Feingold act did little to address the ills of campaign financing. There is little political will to right the capsized boat of electoral politics. The machinery has too much momentum and there are too few politicians who are trying to wean themselves off the corporate teat. The fact is that unless there is a loud enough outcry at the grassroots level there will never be meaningful change in the bankrolling of politicians and the corruption that results.

Part of the problem plaguing the campaign environment is the strength and influence of the two-party system. Fundraising standards and pressure to meet quotas require candidates to whore themselves out to corporate interests. The Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee are perverting the election process and destroying democracy in attempts to fulfill political agendas and control power at all costs. Candidates are often caught in the middle and constituents left unrepresented.

A three (or more) party system is not on the near horizon. Too much has been invested in maintaining the current broken power struggle to allow candidates much success outside of the two major parties. But hope of real reform and meaningful change rests in breaking out of the stranglehold the two-party system has over politics and policy.

As we get ready to plunge into the nasty heat of the 2010 election season, we would do well to remember that the real harvest of the fruits sown by campaign financiers will take place long after the ballots of November have faded into history’s memory.

Bumper Sticker Reactions

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 26, 2010

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Republicans used the real fear and legitimate rage felt by many Americans to strengthen the executive branch, maintain power and build support for radical policies. As a nation, we were shaken by such an atrocity and allowed ourselves to be ruled by our emotions – and the strongest of these was a sense of vulnerability that many had never felt before with regard to the United States’ superpower status. Conservatives took advantage of that emotion and it became more than a policy wedge. It became a campaign platform.

In the nine years since 9/11 some healing has taken place. Rage over the attacks has lost its stinging relevance and people have begun to think about other issues that affect their daily lives. The economic strategies of the past have left us with a weakened financial system, a severe wealth imbalance, a deep recession and struggling industry. The political power has also shifted and Democrats occupy the White House and a narrow majority in Congress.

Fortunately, in a year of mid-term elections and a buildup to a presidential election in 2012, Republicans were recently handed a gift. A few weeks ago the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted against protecting a building on Park Place, two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center. This will help pave the way for the construction of a 13-story Islamic community center.

Immediately, the public relations machine kicked into gear. The day after the August 3 decision, Rush Limbaugh began his radio program with a declaration that the terrorists have won. Republican political operative Newt Gingrich made statements calling the proposed mosque and community center an “assertion of Islamic triumphalism”. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani referred to it as a desecration. Sarah Palin called on her twitter followers to “refudiate” the planned mosque (later replacing her made-up word with “refute”). The already enraged Tea Party movement adopted the “Ground Zero mosque” as a banner and waved it to whip up fury at the grassroots level. Sobbing and enraged callers flooded talk radio’s phone lines with impassioned protest. Opposition to an Islamic center within walking distance of Ground Zero quickly became a climate of renewed anti-Islamic sentiment.

The Dove World Outreach Center (an organization with an agenda antithetical to its name) is planning a massive burning of Korans to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Republican congressional candidate Allen West (a Tea Party player in Florida’s 22nd District) describes Islam as “very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country because we ride around with bumper stickers that say co-exist.”

The bumper sticker (featuring symbols like an Islamic crescent, peace sign, male/female sign, star of david, Wiccan pentacle, yin-yang sign, and Christian cros that replace the letters making up “C-O-E-X-I-S-T” ) “incenses” West because he believes anyone who would drive a car bearing it “represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.” Apparently, those liberties don’t include the freedom of religion that was part of the appeal for the nation’s founders, who were escaping the persecution they had suffered in the Old World.

Judging from recent polls showing that a majority of Americans oppose the mosque, West’s sentiment is shared by many. Fan pages and comments on Facebook and other social networking sites invite people to voice their opposition. The mosque has become a media hot button with newspaper, television, radio, and blogs alight with commentary.

I believe the core of the opposition is a blurring of lines. The words “Islam” and “terrorism” have become synonymous. Even my fellow columnist has contributed to this attitude. Gordon has described Islam as a creed that calls for the extermination of those who don’t share the Muslim belief. In reality, Islam is nothing more menacing than any other religion. It is undeniable that there are Islamic extremists who have perpetrated acts of violence in the name of Allah. However, a look at history reveals similar acts in the name of Christianity, with its crusades, inquisitions and witch hunts. Blanket condemnation of any religious persuasion based on the acts of extremists is wrong-headed.

In the specific example of the mosque, the rush to judgment ignores some important facts. The project’s founder, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has dedicated much of his career to interfaith activities and has sought to build bridges between Islam and the West. He has been an imam in the area for decades, and has been vociferous in condemning the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and terrorism in general. In fact, a memorial to victims of the attacks is included in the plans for the community center.

There is room for reasoned dialog on the location of this mosque and the significance of the building (not part of the World Trade Center) that currently stands there. However, the impulse is to react to bumper sticker sentiment. This sticker, though, reads “intolerance!” in boldface, and precludes peaceful coexistence. It defies the legacy of religious tolerance inspired by the nation’s founding fathers.

In the interest of Tolerance

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 26, 2010

Imagine, if you will, that you are a descendant of a proud Iroquois tribe. You carry your ethnic heritage with justifiable pride and you regularly visit the ancient burial grounds to pay your respects and memorialize those who have walked this earth before you. Each year you lay a flower and say a prayer over their final resting place. This year, however, you arrive at that sacred place to find the noise and stench of diesel engines breaking the usual silence and sweet aroma of the forest site. You watch as bulldozer blades rip the topsoil from the whitened bones of your ancestors, exposing and scattering the ribs and vertebrae as if they were nothing more than dirt. Would you be willing to allow the construction to go on – in the interest of tolerance?

Now imagine, if you will, that you are the child of a woman who was one of those airplane passengers who perished that fateful September morning in 2001. You have heard the voices recorded from the cockpit on that awful day and you know that the last words your mother heard before the plane crashed through the walls and glass of the World Trade Center were: “Allah Akbar!” Now, you are walking to the place where your mother’s incinerated remains flew through the air and settled upon the sidewalks and gutters. Your intent is to pay your respects to her on her birthday. You are in the midst of a silent prayer, when through the window of a nearby building you hear those words again said in unison by hundreds of praying Muslims: “Allah Akbar!” – “All praise to Allah!” Would you be willing to accept the premise that the existence of that mosque at this place was an effort to “build bridges between Islam and the West”? Would you accept it being there – in the interest of tolerance?

I contend that there are certain areas and certain sites that retain more than just material significance; they should be, and are sanctified, by what took place there or by what they represent. Therefore they should be treated differently than other pieces of real estate. For example, we would not want to see a McDonald’s golden arch or a Wal-Mart parking lot near the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. We would not want to see a Japanese flag flying over the memorial dock in Pearl Harbor where the buried destroyer still cries tears of oil for those who perished in that brutal attack that forced us into World War II.

Those who are planning the erection of the mosque near Ground Zero deliberately chose the site because of its moral significance to us and its morale-boosting relevance to Anti-American Islamists in Saudi Arabia and other nations who call themselves the Muslim Brotherhood, whose stated goal is: “to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within.” Despite the spoken claim that they chose this spot to open dialogue between those who follow Islam and those who have other beliefs, a careful reading of their own scriptures proves that they accept no compromising position when it comes to their beliefs.

It is also a known fact that within the Muslim faith it is their practice to erect mosques at or near the point of important victories. Hence, there are mosques that overlook monumental sites like the place where the second Jewish temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in the eighth century and on the grounds of the destroyed Christian Church of St. Vincent in Cordoba, Spain.

My brother echoes the words of President Obama and others who say this is an issue of religious freedom and he makes the claim that we who make up the vast majority who oppose this mosque are intolerant. He fails to mention, however, the same poll showed that the majority of those who oppose this mosque at this site have no opposition to a mosque within two blocks of their home. The facts are that there are several mosques scattered all throughout NYC and none are facing opposition or protest.

Another thing Keith and others who share in the support of this building fail to mention is that another church, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed when the towers collapsed, has been denied permission to rebuild in its original footprint adjacent to Ground Zero by the same committee that has approved the construction of this mosque.

Furthermore, I find it very ironic that construction of a highway project or a hospital can be shelved for years while researchers and analysts study the populations of some irrelevant insect or endangered rodent to determine if the continuation of the project would “offend” the little critter or harm the habitat in any way, yet we Americans who value the sanctity of innocent life must be tolerant of any offense or any harm done to us or our memories.

Controlling the Message

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 12, 2010

The term “Political Correctness” or “PC” is an emotionally charged and contentious one. Regardless of whether one falls to the left or the right of issues, one will often react harshly to being referred to as PC or as trying to be politically correct. Seldom is the phrase used without being intended as an insult or carrying a negative connotation. This is just as it was planned when the term was coined.

Labeling something or someone as politically correct effectively manages the debate, disarms those who disagree and marginalizes the issue itself.

My brother Gordon gives the definition of politically correct as changing society’s behaviors and language to minimize offense. I think this a worthwhile endeavor.

We had few hard and fast rules in our household as my wife and I raised our children. The one central commandment was simple: respect others. It was a variation on the Golden Rule and it served us well. Virtually every offense a child commits out of spite or carelessness is a violation of the respect that humans ought to have for each other. If we are good parents we teach our children to “minimize offense” (however we define that) and be good world citizens. When children begin their first social interactions in churches, preschool or in their kindergarten classrooms, respect for others is expected of them (and has been long, long before the advent of political correctness). There is absolutely nothing wrong with minimizing the offense we inflict on others, in our lives and in the world.

But Gordon’s definition of PC wasn’t the only one I found as I prepared for this week’s column. offers one defining it as “relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.” Now, this seems pretty close to what Gordon mentioned when he spoke about driving with a focus on the rear view mirror. For many, it is more than painful to look at the transgressions of our past, it is an admission of guilt of which they would choose to absolve themselves. The difference between historical context and driving a car is that the open road seldom doubles back upon itself. However, those who refuse to listen to history are doomed to repeat it. The shift in attitudes toward ethnic groups in America, for instance, was necessary in order for us to move along the path toward honoring the promise of equality of which our forefathers spoke. Our treatment of certain immigrants during our history is shameful by today’s standards. Our legacy of slavery and discrimination against black Americans is worthy of our regret. However, our instinct is often to wave a hand of dismissal and expect those we have wronged to “get over it”.

A second definition of political correctness on reads: “Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.” This is the overcorrecting to which my brother refers. Of course, terms that quantify are relative. Is it overreacting to be appalled and demand an apology when an elected official uses “the ‘N’ word” (or other derogatory ethnic term)? When Rush Limbaugh coins the term “feminazi” to describe a strong activist woman, should we just defend it as free speech and ignore the consequence of his language?

The problem is that political correctness isn’t simply about minimizing offense in the sense of preventing someone’s feelings from being hurt. We aren’t just overly sensitive to slurs and epithets. Actions and language have consequence. During the dark days of slavery, slurs were used to present blacks as something less than humans in order to allow slave owners to buy and sell people as if they were mere property. After the abolishment of slavery, the terminology remained as a barrier to equality. As long as we maintained the distinction between whites and “coloreds” it was easy for us to relegate them to the back of the bus or force them to use the bathroom down the hall. Referring to our enemy in Vietnam as “gooks” allowed us to sleep at night as we sent our troops to destroy their villages and slaughter them in huge numbers.

Today, in a nation that many decry as too PC, we still use language as a powerful weapon to subjugate others and control the debate. Our politicians and media personalities use the term “illegals” (as well as other derogatory terms) to denote primarily Mexican immigrants as a way to remove the human attribute from the discussion. It’s easier to talk about stripping rights and freedoms from people, if one sees the situation in generic terms. The pejorative labels we have attached to lesbians and gays have allowed us to easily deny basic human rights to an entire group of Americans. That language and attitude allowed ridiculous laws to be written and enforced for decades (many “sodomy” laws are still on the books). Sadly, the fact that a moral judgment is attached to this terminology makes it even more dangerous.

The PC label is highly effective at controlling messages. Many will use it to drive a wedge of division between “us” and “others.” Many others will shy away from the label and spurn it to the point of accepting language or behavior contrary to their sensibilities. We must recognize that the matter at hand isn’t simply minimizing offense. We need to have the foresight to look down the road at the real consequence of our language and actions.

In Defense of Public Education

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 29, 2010

In the last edition of this column, my brother Gordon and I discussed New York State’s budget and taxation and ended up talking about (among other things) public education. Because column space (and the tolerance of readers) is limited, so broad a topic as the budget itself (even without exploring taxes and their implications) is nearly impossible to cover well in this forum. There are simply too many issues to consider and too much to examine. Therefore we felt a narrowed focus on one aspect – education spending – was worthy of a follow up.

Gordon’s previous essay was in part an indictment of public education and an encouragement to the governor and state legislature to cut spending in that area. As one who has home-schooled his children and currently teaches at a private school, Gordon’s perspective on education is different than my own. I can appreciate that. Unfortunately, among some, that perspective amounts to a desire to weaken the current public system.

There are activist groups out there claiming to be committed to educational reform. One such group, the conservative Center for Education Reform, seems more intent on dismantling the current system. According to its Mandate for Change document, “If we fail to fix our failing schools, however, if we fail to replace our public education system, which as a whole is itself monumentally broken, we, the people, may soon find that we are fundamentally unequipped to govern ourselves let alone to provide governance to others we thought in greater need.”

I firmly believe that a well-informed, well-educated electorate is the key to a healthy democratic republic. However, I doubt the motivation behind the Mandate and disagree with the methods the group wishes to apply. Interestingly, this group seemingly rejects the conservative trend toward smaller government by asking Congress and the Obama administration to promote its agenda by asserting federal influence into states’ educational policies. Their five-fold strategy focuses on two components designed to restructure the current system: charter schools and school choice.

Charter schools are institutions that receive local, state and federal funding but lack the oversight of local school boards and districts. Advocates insist that charter schools improve educational quality, but a 2009 review by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter schools underperformed traditional public schools in many areas. Recently an Elmira group’s charter application was denied by the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute on the grounds that its instructional program, plans for assessing student achievement, professional development program, and trustee competency failed to meet standards. Still these schools siphon needed funds away from public districts and the SUNY Institute has announced plans to expand the program to more than double the current number of charter schools in the state. Federal incentives and a growing trend toward Wall Street investment in charter schools promise to exacerbate the problem.

“School choice” has often been code terminology to refer to an attack on the public education system. The premise is that public schools are too broken to provide adequate education so parents must be given the choice to seek other alternatives. This is a right every parent now enjoys. However, advocates of “choice” (many who see themselves as proponents of the free market) want to divert public moneys toward private schools in the form of vouchers or direct funding of private institutions. Again these programs cut into the resources of public schools.

I happen to believe in the public school system. A product of the system, I saw the dedication of teachers whose effort and inspiration were invaluable assets to my intellectual growth. As a parent, I shared the frustration of staff and faculty who were overworked and underpaid and struggling to provide a quality learning environment under sometimes overwhelming restraints. The system isn’t perfect, but it has value, and many of the professionals who choose public education as a vocation over higher salaries and greater opportunity are committed to making a difference.

Should we concern ourselves with the cost of public education? Absolutely. We should demand that taxpayer dollars are well spent. We should strive to ensure that money allocated toward providing safe facilities, supplies, equipment, books and instruction is spent wisely. We should require that efficiency be a prerequisite in the stewardship of public funds. We should hold districts and boards accountable for the level of education our children receive. We should look at the role of teachers’ unions in budget negotiations. We should reward teachers who perform well, while trying to eliminate poor teachers. These are all reasonable considerations.

What we should not do is react emotionally without taking into account the big picture that is public education. For millions of children, public education will continue to be the only choice for education; the only hope for a better life. Enacting policies that undermine and bankrupt the system is a disservice to these children.