Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The President Holds a Roundtable with Alaska Native Leaders


President Obama spoke with Alaska Native leaders at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, AK.

Commemorating the End of World War II in the Pacific


Statement by the President on the 70th Anniversary 

Today we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the formal end of World War II in the Pacific, a conflict that tragically claimed millions of lives across Asia and Oceania and stretched several months beyond the war’s conclusion in the European theater. We salute the American servicemen and women of the Greatest Generation who answered the call of duty in the Pacific, as well as the allied forces with whom they served.  We remember those who endured unimaginable suffering as prisoners of war, and we honor the ultimate sacrifice of more than 100,000 U.S. service members who laid down their lives in the Pacific theater to defend our nation and advance the cause of freedom.  To them, and to the 16 million Americans who served in the Second World War -- those who are no longer with us and our proud veterans today -- our debt of gratitude can never be repaid.  We live in freedom because of their brave service.

The end of the war marked the beginning of a new era in America’s relationship with Japan.  As Prime Minister Abe and I noted during his visit in April, the relationship between our two countries over the last 70 years stands as a model of the power of reconciliation:  former adversaries who have become steadfast allies and who work together to advance common interests and universal values in Asia and globally. Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable.  Today it is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities, and values, and I am confident that it will continue to deepen in the decades to come.
 
Source: The White House Press Office

Governor Cuomo: Rebuilding the Upstate Economy


On September 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo published the following op-ed on The Huffington Post.

For many years, Upstate New York was treated like a second class citizen, forced to watch Downstate thrive as the Upstate economy dwindled. Upstate was literally losing population and jobs – and maybe most importantly, it was losing hope. Much of this was a function of the changing economy, which shifted manufacturing to overseas. Also, some people left Upstate New York for warmer climates in what has become a more mobile society. But it is just as true that the state’s policies contributed to the decline and the state did little to assist in Upstate’s transition to a new economy.

Four years ago we embarked on what many considered was a fool’s errand, trying to rebuild the Upstate economy. When I first announced our plans, the media and our citizens viewed the intention and possibility cynically. We carried on nonetheless. Today any objective source would admit significant progress has been made. Even the skeptics are startled.

We started on the toughest economic terrain, Buffalo. Today, evidence of a Buffalo renaissance is irrefutable. Just yesterday the Buffalo News Editorial Board said, “While Buffalonians have never been accused of being wildly optimistic, especially since the end of the heyday of Bethlehem Steel, even the most jaded has to admit change is in the air.”

But it’s not just Buffalo. Rochester’s future is lighting up with advancements in the photonics industry. According to The Democrat & Chronicle, “economic development officials and insiders are bordering on euphoric.” Utica scored a big win in attracting nanotechnology companies and securing 2,500 high paying jobs. One of the companies moving to Utica is General Electric. General Electric had left Utica decades before, leaving for greener economic pastures. General Electric’s exit was devastating to Utica. Today General Electric is coming home to Utica, bringing 500 jobs. It is a perfect metaphor for Upstate’s rebirth.

This progress did not come easily or inexpensively. Nor is the economic trajectory certain or uniform; regional performance varies. Most notably, the Southern Tier is still lagging. There is no reason to rest on our laurels. It is an ongoing process. We have worked tirelessly and invested millions for the progress we have achieved thus far. Our efforts were strategic and informed. I had spent eight years in Washington heading the Department of Housing and Urban Development and had invested billions in economic development all across the country. I have seen what worked and what didn’t work, and we brought the best examples of success to New York State. We pursued a five-point plan.

1. We have dramatically reduced state taxes. We’ve reduced income taxes, corporate taxes and manufacturing taxes to the lowest level in decades. We also controlled the growth of the tax which is most oppressive to Upstate New York – the property tax – with our property tax cap, while we aggressively promoted government consolidation and efficiency.

2. We invested state funds in building sustainable, regional, private sector economies, rather than the past practice of spending funds to slow the inevitable insolvency of failing governments that were losing their tax base. Our strategy is to build jobs, build businesses, keep our young people, attract newcomers and create a tax base that will allow local government to be sustainable. The state’s past theory of trying to prop up local governments would only necessitate the state to further increase its taxes, which would actually accelerate the decline of Upstate and its tax base. Our strategy of incentivizing the growth of private sector jobs is the best way to help a local government because with a sustained tax base, the local governments can support themselves.

3. We stopped the Albany based, top-down political decision making and invested in job growth by decentralizing decision making from Albany to the ten distinct economic regions in the state and engaging the local elected, business and academic leadership in designing plans for their region.

4. We injected a statewide competition into the allocation of our economic resources. This was new and controversial. Local governments and regions didn’t want to have to compete for funds. They wanted a state allocation handed to them. I understand fully their feeling, but I disagree. During the Clinton Administration, the federal government moved from entitlements to competitions and performance grants. There is little incentive for local governments to be efficient or effective with taxpayer funds. Government, unlike the private sector, has few performance benchmarks. I believe competition increases the level of attention and accountability. The past four years have seen the state’s ten regions compete against each other for resources. I have seen the competition work to increase the performance of all regions; the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth and the regions have plans that are stronger with a greater chance of success. The competition also helped forge alliances within the region. One of the challenges is to get local business leaders, politicians and academic leaders to unify and develop a joint and cooperative plan rather than the usual jousting with each other for the economic crumbs generated by their regional economies. One of the factors in a region’s success is the level of political and business collaboration. Infighting hinders economic progress dramatically. This spirit of competition with other regions actually provided a common goal that helped unify the local participants.

5. I firmly believe the state shortchanged Upstate New York for many years, and I believe it was shortsighted. When New York City had financial trouble in the 1970’s, Upstate bailed it out because at the end of the day we are one state, one community and one balance sheet. Now, we have modified the state’s funding priorities and have invested billions in Upstate New York. From the Buffalo Billion to the Regional Economic Development Council Awards to this year’s $1.5 billion Urban Revitalization Initiative, the state has invested more in Upstate New York than at any time since construction of the Erie Canal.

The applications for the state’s economic development funding will be due in early fall. The Regional Economic Development Councils all across the state are actively in the midst of preparing their business plans for submission. The stakes are very high with $500 million going to the regions with the best economic development plans. Everyone involved in the process has been asking me the same question: “How do we win?” Here are my tips:

· There is no “build it and they will come” economic theory. We want actual and specific business agreements and transactions that will result in the creation of actual jobs. For example, for a region to be successful in securing funding, it must have a tentative agreement to partner with a specific company to bring or produce x-number of jobs in that region. This is not a theoretical exercise. We seek propositions for actual pending transactions.

· Business development plans are best when focused on synergistic economic clusters. Clusters are a number of businesses that are involved in the same general enterprise, usually including research and development, manufacturing or related supply chain companies. Clusters often occur in concert with an institution of higher learning. The new economic clusters often build from that region’s existing assets. For example, Rochester, which has a long history of engineering and academics coming from the Kodak and Xerox era, is now developing a cluster economy in the photonics area. Often, the key to the future is found in updating the past.

· This is not a political (“small p”) process. The regions are devising a business plan. You cannot make everyone happy in development of a viable business plan. This is not the preparation of a Christmas list. Even with a $500 million capital infusion, a region cannot develop more than two or three clusters effectively. “Spreading out the funding” so that everyone gets something is not an economic strategy. It placates members of a committee during the application process, but only until the announcement day, when they find out they are not winners.

· “No copycat economic blueprints.” What works for one region may not necessarily work for another region. For example, Buffalo’s success cannot be duplicated by copying Buffalo’s plan. What made the Buffalo plan successful was that it was custom-designed, building on Buffalo’s assets. A region’s cluster strategy is built on that region’s assets, institutions and advantages. This state does not have one economy. It truly has ten regional economies and each region can do better or worse depending on the efforts of the local leadership. There is no statewide economic tide. Each region must paddle to move forward.

· “Swing for the fences.” Start by looking for a business opportunity that would make the region competitive not just statewide, but nationally or internationally. Also, explore the opportunity for government reform: consolidation, shared resources, equipment cooperatives, et cetera. The enemy of Upstate business development is high property taxes. Property taxes are a function of local government. The state has capped the growth at two percent and assumed the greatest cost (growth in Medicaid). We need and welcome local initiative to find creative ways to reduce the cost of local government.

· The competition calls for “regional” plans – provide them. We understand the economic engine of a central city, but we also understand that the economy has to work for the entire region and the plans that address the region comprehensively are the most competitive.

· Consult everyone, including all elected officials. Strive for consensus but don’t achieve consensus by sacrificing the plan’s integrity and intelligence. Forge consensus by developing the best plan to succeed and then get the entire community to buy-in, unified and motivated by the hope of a better future.

· Develop a plan that can be implemented even if you don’t win the competition. It is a function of collaboration and partnership that is accelerated by a $500 million capital investment. But the plan should be viable even without the investment, albeit harder and probably slower to achieve.

· Get the community excited. Only communities that believe they have a future actually have a future. It’s the taxi driver and waitress story. Everyone needs to communicate optimism. The way consumer confidence is a national indicator of economic success, I believe that likewise, resident confidence or citizen confidence is a predictor of a locality’s success. Residents who believe in the economic future of their region will purchase homes, improve the homes they have, invest in their business, tell their children to remain in the community and attract others to the community. Residents emanate confidence which affects the business community. Call it economic karma: believe in your success.

· Plans are not dreams. These plans must be detailed blueprints that are feasible and capable of implementation with identifiable timelines. We don’t want projects that are feasible in concept, we want projects that are feasible in practice. Local governmental approvals, if necessary, should be in place. Zoning must be in place. If a project requires other means of financing, those must be identified. The state is effectively functioning as an investment banker and will only commit to projects that are ready to go. 

The Upstate Revitalization Initiative is a major opportunity to extend the growth of Upstate New York. One thing is certain: we have proven that there is no reason for despair in Upstate New York. Communities that are committed, unified, and capably led can achieve remarkable progress in a relatively short period of time. I understand the roots of the economic distress of Upstate New York. There have been decades of decline and a parade of politicians promising help that never materialized. It’s hard to believe in the future again after so much disappointment. On the other hand, the evidence of rebirth is overwhelming and economic optimism is necessary to make revitalization possible. I believe in Upstate New York and, more importantly, Upstate New Yorkers should believe too, because the best is yet to be.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Secretary of State John Kerry to Appear on 'Keepin’ It Real' with Rev. Al Sharpton


Topic Will Be the Iran Nuclear Deal,
Kerry to Urge Listeners to Support It

WHERE:
WBLS 107.5 in New York
WOL 1450 AM in Washington, DC
Check listings here:

WHEN:
1:40 p.m. EST 
To listen live go to: www.waok.com

Source: The National Action Network

21 Quotes From The Pope's Encyclical Worth Noting

 
By Ted Glick

Laudato Si’ came out at the beginning of this summer. This papal encyclical by Pope Francis, all 157 pages of it, addresses the climate crisis but so much more. It addresses it in the context of the overall environmental crisis as well as the crisis of economic inequality and poverty worldwide.

To Pope Francis, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.” (page 94)
 
“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.” (pages 134-135)

I have heard this book described as reflecting an anti-capitalist analysis, but that word is found nowhere in its pages. Pope Francis does, however, make clear what he sees as the root of the “complex crisis” we are faced with. He describes it in these ways, among others, throughout the book:

  • “current models of production and consumption” (page 23)
  • “business interests and consumerism” (page 27)
  • “huge global economic interests” (page 29)
  • “present model of distribution, where a minority believes that is has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized” (page 35)
  • “new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm” (page 38)
  • “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule” (page 40)
  • “powerful financial interests” (page 40)
  • “When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society.” (page 57)
  • “The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’” (page 64)
  • “The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.” (page 74)
  • “The culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest, can make it easy to rubber-stamp authorizations or to conceal information.” (page 122)
  • “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.” (page 125)
For me, I find this kind of specificity about how the dominant system in the world operates refreshing and helpful.  

The people’s Pope puts forward a wide range of ideas and proposals for how to effect the kind of fundamental social and economic transformation needed. Most of the ideas are not new. Here is an example of the kind of mix he sees as absolutely necessary:

“A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources and ensuring universal access to drinking water.” (page 110)

What I found of singular and great importance in Laudato Si’ is how the Pope personalizes the solution to our multiple, complex crises. He definitely doesn’t see the solution coming about via new technology or some new ideology or even an updated Catholicism, though, as the Pope, he certainly sees the importance of active Catholic participation in the process of change and renewal. Instead, he says, speaking of our individual responsibilities, that “our goal is not to amass information or satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” (page 18)

He calls for “a bold cultural revolution … we need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.” (page 78)

“Men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.” (page 41)

“Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (page 63)

“It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” (page 107)

“If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.” (page 136)

Just in time, from out of the Global South and an institution with many serious internal challenges, a new Pope has emerged to help lead that institution and the world away from the brink. Thank God.


Ted Glick will join with others in an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC starting on Sept. 8, continuing until the day after Pope Francis speaks to the U.S. Congress. Past writings and other information can be found here and he can be followed on Twitter.

Marco Rubio, Political Religion, and the GOP


Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

Marco Rubio is only the latest Republican to state that if he were President, abortion would be illegal at any time of a pregnancy.  Further, there would be no exceptions, such as for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.  (For the latter, Rubio claimed that he didn’t know of any instances in which abortion would or could save the life of an expectant mother.  He’s not a physician, and apparently not a scientist of any kind either --- the reason he sort of gave for not taking a position on global warming.  But he is willing to say, in no uncertain terms, that there would never be an instance where abortion would/could be necessary to save the life of the mother, making any exception for that purpose totally unnecessary.  Ah well, as I --- and many others --- have said many times, consistency is not a property that runs abundantly in Repub. minds.)   Sharing the Rubio position aggressively are such Dominionist Repub. candidates as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.  Most of the other Repubs. are chiming in to a greater or lesser extent --- Scott Walker comes to mind --- but right now Rubio is the one out in front on this one.

There has be much response to the Rubio position.  The first level has been on the very correct “what, not even in the case of rape or incest [much less to save the life of the mother]?”  (Huckabee allowed that it shouldn’t be allowed for a ten year-old girl raped by her step-father.)  The second level has been on the long-standing and very correct position of the right of every woman to have control, if she wants it, over what is going on inside her body, and in the case of fetuses, up to the time of viability.  (The long-time The Nation columnist, Katha Pollitt, has recently stated this position very well.)

The next level up in terms of the potential impact of the ban-choice argument is that Rubio et al would enforce their views on abortion rights by the use of the criminal law.  This is the matter which I think we must now begin to face, and loudly.  Repubs. never talk about this themselves, and they are rarely questioned on it.  But what this policy would mean is that both licensed medical and nursing professionals performing abortions would be committing a crime punishable by a fine and prison (that is, if it to be treated like just about any other felony, and presumably the men and women holding to this position would make this crime a felony), and so would the formerly pregnant woman.  (The long-term, predictable, outcome of such a policy is presented in Chapter 7 of my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022.  It is entitled “The Morality Amendment” [which, by the way, would put abstinence-only sex education into the Constitution].)

But it is the next level up that concerns me the most.  That is that the Republican Party is basing its platform for national policy, not only on abortion rights, but also on the rights of the LGBT community, entirely on its own interpretation of certain texts in a particular English translation of the Bible known colloquially as the “King James version.”  (It happens that this so-called “inerrant word of God” [of course as presented to us by particular human beings selectively reading the text as they will] is a translation from the Greek and Latin authorized by King James VI of Scotland, I of England, created by a team of 48 scholars and theologians appointed by him.)  But well beyond that is the fact that virtually every Repub. candidate this time around wants to use the criminal law to enforce a particular religious view as to when life begins.  This is one of the most dangerous challenges that our nation faces.  This is just the sort of theological question that led to 150 years of murderous religious wars in Europe and England in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Further, the Republican Party wants to place its religious concept of pregnancy and pregnancy rights above all others.  Let us pause to remember that many pregnant mothers --- as well as many gays who want to marry the person they love --- are themselves religious.  So the Republican Party is saying that their religion, based on a particular form of Christian theology (that most would refer to as Right-wing), is to be placed above everyone else’s and that it and its interpretations are to be enforced using the criminal law.  My book is just one of those that details the very dangerous slope down which this sort of politicized theology will certainly lead.  See also, for example, Christian Nation by Frederic Rich.   Thus the state would be using the criminal law to uphold and defend one particular religious doctrine above all others

Contrary to this religious doctrine is the view, based in the First Amendment by the way, that it is the right of the pregnant woman, religious or not, to believe that life begins sometime after fertilization --- presently up to the time of fetal viability, as in Roe v. Wade.  And it is the right of gay couples to marry, under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  But I do firmly believe that if this struggle is to be won in the long run, by both the pro-choice movement and the gay rights movement it must be raised to the level of religious freedom and the potential outcomes of the drive to enshrine certain religious beliefs in the law, by criminalizing others, religious and non-religious alike.  This one is not going to won solely on the psitions that women have the right to control her own bodies (and of course they should be able to), and that LGBT people have the right to marry whom they choose, just because it is fair (and of course it is).  If the Republican Party is not caught up short, and soon, on the matter of their drive to put their particular religious beliefs into the law (already well underway, by the way) and then backing that up with the criminal sanction, this nation will ultimately doom itself to going back to the era of Bloody Mary, The 30 Years War, and Oliver Cromwell.

Oh yes, “The Duopoly Watch” aspect of this is that the Democrats play right into this narrative by never, ever challenging Republicans on the matter of religious freedom on either the abortion rights or the gay rights issues.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to his role with The Greanville Post, he is a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement, a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, a “Trusted Author” for OpEdNews, and the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive DemocracyDr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/, and available on Amazon.