Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The President Speaks with Agriculture and Business Leaders

President Obama joins USDA Secretary Vilsack for a meeting with agriculture and business leaders at the Department of Agriculture on the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

White House Press Briefing

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

Politics in Action: H. R. 3192 – Homebuyers Assistance Act

H. R. 3192 – Homebuyers Assistance Act
(Rep. Hill, R-AR, and one cosponsor)
Americans deserve clear and easy to understand disclosures of the cost of buying and financing a home, which is why the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to streamline conflicting disclosures that were required under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.  The Know Before You Owe regulation issued by the CFPB almost two years ago fulfills this mandate by requiring mortgage lenders and settlement agents to provide homebuyers with simpler forms that explain the true cost of buying their home at least three days before closing.  This summer, the CFPB extended the effective date for these requirements by two months, to last Saturday, October 3, 2015, to provide for a smooth transition and avoid unnecessary disruptions to busy families seeking to close on a new home at the beginning of the school year.

H.R. 3192 would revise the effective date for the Know Before You Owe rule to February 1, 2016, and would shield lenders from liability for violations for loans originated before February 1 so long as lenders made a good faith effort to comply.

The CFPB has already clearly stated that initial examinations will evaluate good faith efforts by lenders.  The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3192, as it would unnecessarily delay implementation of important consumer protections designed to eradicate opaque lending practices that contribute to risky mortgages, hurt homeowners by removing the private right of action for violations, and undercut the Nation’s financial stability.

If the President were presented with H.R. 3192, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Source: The Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget  

The President Speaks at the 34th Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service

NLRB Labor Violations Ruling

Business leaders testified at a hearing on a National Labor Relations Board ruling that companies can be held responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors.

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Source: C-Span

Representative Tim Huelskamp on House Leadership Elections


Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, talks about his group’s meeting with House Republican speaker candidates that evening and his view of the House Republican leadership elections overall.

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Source: C-Span

Senator Marco Rubio Economic Policy Address

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election, delivers remarks on the economy, taxes, and technology in New York City.

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Source: C-Span

U.S. House Legislative Business

The House convenes for a legislative session, with members expected to debate 10 bills under suspension of the rules, as well as H.R. 3102, which deals with Transportation Security Agency procedures at airports.

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Source: C-Span

Governor Cuomo Honors Eight Fallen Firefighters

Names Added to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial
as Part of 'Firefighter Appreciation Day'

The names of eight fallen firefighters have been added to the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial located at the Empire State Plaza. With the addition of these eight firefighters, the Fallen Firefighters Memorial now contains the names of 2,398 individuals who lost their lives in the line of duty.

"Today, we pay tribute to these brave individuals who gave their lives while protecting their neighbors and their communities," Governor Cuomo said. "With the additions to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial, we will help ensure that their sacrifices and their dedication to the safety of others will not be forgotten."

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and other state officials recognized the contributions of these eight courageous individuals at the 18th Annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony today in Albany. During the ceremony, Governor Cuomo issued two proclamations honoring the state’s career and volunteer firefighters. The proclamations mark Tuesday, October 6, as Firefighter Appreciation Day, and the week of October 5-11 as Fire Prevention Week.

Lieutenant Governor Hochul said, "New York is proud to honor the heroic service of our firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of protecting us from danger. This memorial is an enduring reminder that we cherish their bravery, their mission, and their loved ones. We bestow our everlasting gratitude to these eight individuals today, and on behalf of Governor Cuomo, we vow to never forget."

This year’s additions to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial are:

Timothy T. Gunther, Firefighter
Poughkeepsie Fire Department, Dutchess County – May 5, 2015

Joseph Sanford, Jr., Firefighter
Inwood Fire Department, Nassau County – December 23, 2014

Gordon M. Ambelas, Lieutenant
New York City Fire Department, Kings County – July 5, 2014

Fred Edwards, Firefighter
Liberty Fire Department, Sullivan County – May 7, 2014

Kevin J. Bristol, Firefighter
Peekskill Fire Department, Westchester County – March 3, 2014

Ross E. Huffer, Firefighter
Nesconset Fire Department, Suffolk County – February 27, 2014

Kevin E. Townes, Sr., Firefighter
Mount Vernon Fire Department, Westchester County – December 8, 2011

David E. Smith, Captain
Howells Fire Company #1, Orange County – April 11, 2006

The Fallen Firefighters Memorial, dedicated in 1998, honors the memory and the valor of our fallen firefighters, as well as pays tribute to the more than 100,000 New York State firefighters who put their lives on the line every day. On average, New York's firefighters respond to over 1.3 million incidents annually, which represents approximately 3561 events every day, 148 calls per hour, and 2.47 calls per minute.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "Firefighters across our state, both paid and volunteer, deserve our unwavering gratitude for their commitment to our communities. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day for all New Yorkers and we must never forget their sacrifice. The New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial is a lasting tribute to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice and it is my honor to join with Governor Cuomo and other elected officials to remember their lives and to memorialize those our State lost in the past year."

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "New York’s firefighters are true heroes. As others run out of burning buildings, they rush in to save lives, protect property and help their fellow New Yorkers. Those firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice must be honored and remembered for their bravery and dedication. We owe a tremendous debt to all of our state’s firefighters; they truly are New York’s bravest."

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said, "The New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial pays tribute to our fallen heroes and honors the sacrifices of the more than 100,000 brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect New York’s children and families. It is with a heavy heart that I offer my condolences to those across the state that have lost a loved one in the line of duty. I applaud the courage, valor and heroism exhibited by all firefighters across the state, and I thank them for their service and dedication."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Each and every day, firefighters across the state come to the aid of families in danger, protecting our lives, our homes and the people we care about most without hesitation. These men and women are truly heroes, and on behalf of the New York State Assembly, I’d like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives serving our communities as well as thank those who continue the brave and selfless fight to make New York a safer place."

John P. Melville, Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services said, "Today we honor eight individuals and their 2390 fellow firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty. No matter what size community they serve, all firefighters are dedicated to protecting their fellow citizens and communities from disasters, and we are grateful for their commitment, dedication and professionalism toward keeping us and our loved ones safe."

New York State Fire Administrator Bryant D. Stevens said, "This memorial serves as an everlasting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties. While firefighters understand the dangers they face, the names enshrined on this wall is a stark reminder to every New Yorker of this fact and of the sacrifices made by firefighters every day."

New York State Association of Fire Chiefs President Chief Daniel J. Schwertfeger said, "Today, I join fire chiefs and emergency responders from throughout New York State to recognize and remember our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice. We pay tribute to the families of the fallen and will ensure that their sacrifice will be forever honored."

Firemen’s Association of the State of New York President Robert McConville said, "Today we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Tens of thousands of firefighters across this great State put their lives on the line every day in to protect their families, their friends, their neighbors, and complete strangers alike. It is our duty never to forget those who have answered their final call."

New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association President Michael McManus said, "It is with heavy hearts that we remember the brave men and women who we have lost in the line of duty, protecting the citizens of New York State. We recall their bravery and sacrifice and extend our thoughts and prayers to their families and fellow firefighters."

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo 

'70 Years Ago', by Professor Joseph Dorinson

Seventy years ago, the most costly war in world history concluded on September 2, 1945 with the formal surrender of Japan. A fascist imperialist troika: Germany, Italy, and Japan, spearheaded by their malevolent leaders Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, wreaked havoc with “test” bombing of civilians in Guernica (subject of Pablo Picasso’s famous painting), blitzes of London, genocide in Poland, rapes and beheadings in Nanking (old spelling), and committing crimes against humanity everywhere. Their evil deeds brought us to the brink of annihilation.  Many of my relatives perished in the Holocaust.  A mantra learned in school urged us “Never to forget; never to forgive.” Historian John W. Dower correctly called it a “War without mercy.” Fortunately, the Allies won and treated their enemies with more mercy than justice. Because of “Cold War” exigencies, we rebuilt the economies and infrastructures of our enemies and many war criminals, including “The Rising Sun” emperor, went unpunished. Our newly minted ally Japan has never apologized for atrocities perpetrated on innocent civilians and “comfort women,” let alone offered monetary compensation. Philosopher George Santayana warned: “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

A reluctant United States entered the war after the Pearl Harbor debacle. Despite fighting on two major fronts--Europe as well as Asia—American combat casualties numbered only 291,000 compared to 7.5 million Russians and 2.2 million Chinese: our wartime allies but future foes in Cold War dynamics. Historically, denied access to British trade due to the punitive Navigation Acts, the United States sought trade with China as early as 1784 in pursuit of tea, silks, and porcelain. That aim turned predatory in 1900 when the so-called Open Door policy sanctioned the incursion into China’s domestic affairs in the wake of European exploitation of a vulnerable Qing Empire under the disingenuous guise of protecting China. Earlier, Britain, Germany, and Russia carved out spheres of influence and territorial carvings in violation of Chinese sovereignty. The United States wanted to join the feast. The Boxer Rebellion in 1900 followed by huge financial penalties (1901) shamed us into restitution (1908), a guilt-ridden hefty monetary sum that enabled many Chinese students to receive a western education.

Deeply embedded in American culture, racist tendencies colored our relations with certain immigrant communities. Seeking opportunities in this “Brave New World” (a rubric coined by Shakespeare), Chinese newcomers sought employment in mining, and on railroads, especially on the West Coast, where they encountered bitter conflict with Irish competitors. One union leader, Dennis Kearney egged his flock to attack Chinese, thereby instigating a wave of violence in 1879.  Restrictive immigration laws followed in swift succession in 1882, 1892, and 1924: targeting people from the Orient. These laws left numberless Chinese male workers deprived of women and family. Pernicious stereotypes permeated American popular culture with paranoid scenarios of “The Yellow Peril” fortified by the brilliant but evil genius: Fu Manchu (Boris Karloff in Yellow Face). His female counterpart, “The Dragon Lady” (Anna May Wong, a Chinese-American actress) employed sex and violence to snare gullible white heroes. American audiences were fed a steady diet of negative features attributed to Asian immigrants: opium dens, prostitution, and gambling.  One exception to this rule was the brilliant detective Charlie Chan, whose impersonators, however, were white actors who spoke in clipped, accented English. Evidence abounded in film, pulp fiction, radio, and comic strips. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, I feasted on favorite food at Chinese restaurants. My mother took our soiled clothes to Chinese laundries. When I was admitted to New York City’s and arguably our country’s outstanding high school (Stuyvesant), I discovered some of our best students were Chinese-Americans. In 1953, the highest ranking graduate was named Emile Chi, (Chinese father; Jewish mother). Today, Asian students, predominantly Chinese like their Principal, constitute 73% of this elite public school. Not until 1965 were onerous restrictions on Asians lifted in an era marked by Kennedy-Johnson liberal initiatives.

A major transformation occurred during the 1930s leading up to and through the Second World War. When the venal Japanese military invaded China for a second time in 1937, many Americans, often mired in isolationist indifference if not hostility, started to take note.  Reading books by Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck, Edgar Snow, as well as articles by Anna Louise Strong, they developed empathy for China. No incident did more to raise consciousness of Japanese brutality than the reports about “the Rape of Nanking,” in which 313,000 innocent Chinese people succumbed. Unwilling to challenge America’s isolationist sentiment at that juncture, President Roosevelt issued strong words of condemnation minus military muscle.  Sunday, December 7, 1941, the day that lives in infamy changed all that.

In 1940, President Roosevelt had authorized a credit of 100 million dollars to the Chinese government followed by additional aid via Lend Lease one year later. Though insistent, in concert with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that Europe remain the prime focus of Allied operations, Roosevelt sent General Joe Stilwell to advise Chiang Kai-shek or Jiang Jieshi, Kuomintang (KMT) leader and serve as Commander of U.S. forces in China along with General Claire Lee Chennault and his “Flying Tigers”—planes and pilots. Chennault put all of his eggs in the airpower basket while Stilwell preferred to gut it out with infantry boots on the ground.  Their bickering over priorities became moot when Japan captured Burma and its indispensable Burma Road. Henceforth, supplies had to be airlifted over “The Hump” from India to China. A famous American baseball star, "Hammerin'" Hank Greenberg flew over that hump, minus injury or slump, a number of times. That necessity proved inadequate to adequately supply the 30 pus Chinese divisions designed to attack Japanese held territory. Consequently, the planned offensive petered out. Nevertheless, FDR was pleased that Chinese troops, however inert, pinned down Japanese troops that might have been deployed elsewhere to contest the American strategy of island-hopping. Hence, as historian Rana Mitter has persuasively argued, China fought a successful defensive war at a huge cost of 14 million casualties that aided American action in the South Pacific.

Now, a newly minted ally, China posed a dilemma. Which group deserved American support: Chiang’s nationalists or Mao’s communists?  General Joseph Stillwell grew disenchanted with Chiang Kai-shek’s corrupt regime coupled with their disinclination to fight while “Vinegar Joe” admired the spirit and actions of Mao’s guerillas. So did the “China Hands”—like John K. Fairbank, John P. Davis, Jr., John S. Service, and Theodore White: officers in the U.S. Foreign Service scholars, and journalists who witnessed events in China, first hand. General Stilwell also strongly disagreed with General Claire Chennault, of “Flying Tiger” fame. Chennault insisted that air power in conjunction with Chinese ground forces could bring victory with primacy placed on air power. General Stilwell thought otherwise. For him, infantry, i.e. troops on the ground demanded priority. Based on subsequent battles and historical assessments, especially stemming from Viet Nam, Stilwell, not Chennault whose planes did indeed provide much needed relief to Chinese forces, proved prescient. Ultimately, Stilwell, a prophet without honor, was fired along with several experts in the Foreign Service at Chiang’s insistence and Ambassador Patrick Hurley’s approval. Evidently, President Roosevelt who initially supported Stilwell reversed course: seeking bi-partisan support (Hurley was a Republican) and fearing that Chiang might make a separate peace with Japan reluctantly removed the controversial general in favor of a more pliant commander: one who would not ruffle feathers.  Stilwell was held in high esteem by China scholars like Owen Lattimore and his associates who shared his views on China’s future. Victims of Joseph McCarthy’s “Red Scare,” they were ousted from government service, unfortunately. A right-wing cadre known as “the China Lobby” led by Time-Life publisher Henry Luce, Republican Congressman Walter Judd and Republican Senators William Knowland and the infamous Joseph McCarthy who staunchly supported the Nationalist regime (KMT) of Chiang Kai-shek. They blamed the triumph of Mao in 1949 on alleged spies in the State Department as the “Cold War” powered by virulent anti-Communism caused rifts in the once formidable New Deal coalition. Had these liberal scholars remained, we might have avoided the quagmire in Viet Nam.

American relations with China hit rock bottom during the Korean War. General MacArthur’s desire to crush North Korea brought coalition troops dangerously close to the Chinese border: putting the Yalu River electrical projects in jeopardy. Despite President Truman’s cautionary warnings, the zealous general pursued his problematic goal. When the forces of PRC counterattacked, catching MacArthur’s troops unprepared for such a massive assault in harsh winter weather, the imperious leader sought nuclear weapons to regain the military edge; he was summarily dismissed by his Commander-in-Chief.  As MacArthur lamented in his farewell address to Congress, “like an old soldier,” he faded away. Diplomacy ultimately brought an end to hostilities. Each side counted their losses while avoiding World War Three.

This impasse invites a revisit to “Cold War” causality. Key questions demand answers. Who was to blame? When and why did it start? The traditional view, put forward by historians Herbert Feis and George Kennan (also a policy-maker) blamed Soviet aggression propelled by ruthless ideology in 1947. Kennan formulated the “Containment Theory” to stifle Soviet expansion without which, he argued, the communists regime would self-destruct. This ran counter to former Vice-President Henry Wallace’s contention that diplomacy trumped war--hot or cold—with the Russians. Into the fray, cerebral journalist Walter Lippman offered a more nuanced analysis in which he concluded that both countries were at fault. He singled out the Truman doctrine because it threatened Russia’s vital interests, thereby launching what later earned the rubric of “revisionism.” Dating the origin of the “Cold War”--a phrase that he helped to popularize with his book with the same title—to 1945, Lippman encouraged subsequent revisionist studies by scholars: Dennis F. Fleming, Gar Alperowitz, William Appleman Williams and their more radical successors: Walter LaFeber, Lloyd C. Gardner, Athan Theoharis, and Gabriel Kolko who seemed to shift the burden of guilt to the American side of this controversial coin. From this debate, a third school emerged designated as the realists, a tough-minded group. They attempted to restore a balanced view minus the biblical “plague on both houses.” Representing this school, Han Morgenthau, Louis Halle, and Robert J. Maddox criticized the revisionists for distorting facts to suit their theses. Though more critical of “New Left” historians responding to their 1960s zeitgeist, the realists also understood the underlying fears that animated both communist countries and their capitalist counterparts; thus, suggesting in psychological terms, that even paranoids have enemies. Thanks to excellent research and illuminating texts from my distinguished colleague and dear friend, Yafeng Xia, we now know more about the intricacies of Chinese-American relations since 1945. With that knowledge, there is forgiveness as well as hope.

A succession of reversals in foreign policy--stalemate in Korea; defeat in Viet Nam--provided important lessons.  Realization dawned that communist countries did not in fact constitute a monolithic entity.  National interests often superseded ideological unity.  China, for example, engaged in armed conflict over border disputes with another communist country—the USSR. In 1956, the Sino-Soviet provided front page news. Earlier, Marshall Tito, leader of Communist Yugoslavia successfully challenged the hegemony of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Dissident factions emerged in Soviet satellites, namely, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. A shift in the political winds started in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent a trusted aide, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Hillsman to establish contact with PRC official for a possible rapprochement. Although the initiative failed to materialize, it became an imperative when China detonated a nuclear bomb one year later. Thanks to an avid ping pong player, Joseph R. “Tim” Boggan, an English Professor and colleague at LIU Brooklyn, a new era in Chinese American relations arose. Tim brought a team of players to China, where they were beaten by a superior home team. This sports event between representatives of two belligerent nations proved the value of sports as a political catalyst. Henry Kissinger followed quickly for productive sessions with a willing Chou-Enlai (or Zhou Enlai) spurring d├ętente and mutual recognition.  Seeking to drive a further wedge between two powerful Communist countries, a traditional divide and conquer stratagem that Great Britain had elevated into a fine art,  President Nixon abandoned his virulent anti-Communist agenda.  That ploy did not save his presidency from the Watergate Scandal; he was forced to resign in disgrace as “an unindicted co-conspirator.”  The China initiative, however, did furnish the venal, corrupt, and paranoid president a starring role in an opera, Nixon in China.  In 1979, the United States abandoned the island-bound Nationalist government and offered full recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). And the rest, you might say, is history with a benign twist.

No doubt, Santayana’s words ring true. We must learn from history.  And World War II provides many relevant lessons. The enemy at our gates is fascism redux. It may appear in a new uniform, a new face, a variation on an old religion. Collective security worked then, however belatedly; it can work now.  Once enemies, Japan, China, and the United States have common interests and common foes today, namely, uneven distribution of wealth, pollution, fanaticism, racism, and economic turmoil. Perhaps the mantra that I learned as a child requires revision. “Never to forget” remains but “never to forgive” must yield to a pragmatic approach. One important lesson American politicians currently ignore at our peril is our genius—re: historian Daniel Boorstin—is compromise and consensus.  In today’s New York Times (Sept. 23, 2015, A11) Chinese President Xi Jinping is quoted in an address to American business executives as well as Chinese business leaders: 

The Chinese government will not in whatever form engage in commercial theft, and hacking against government networks are crimes that must be punished in accordance with the law and relevant international treaties…China is ready to set up high-level joint dialogue with the United States on fighting cyber-crimes.

This statement is a happy departure from the belligerent words that were issued last year. It speaks volumes about our mutual need to settle disputes by consensus and compromise and augurs well for future bilateral, indeed multilateral relations among nations. I vividly recall the stirring words of the United Nations’ anthem,  written during World War II with music by Dmitri Shostakovich;  lyrics by Harold Rome:

            The sun and the stars are all ringing
            With song rising strong from the earth
            The hope of humanity singing
            A hymn to a new world in birth!

            United Nations on the march
            With flags unfurled,
            Together fight for victory --
            A free new world!

These words ring true today as well. Differences over several thorny issues—currency, intellectual property, copyrights, cyberspace intrusions, and territorial waters off the China coast—continue;  but on  the salient issues of nuclear proliferation, counter-terrorism, trade, global warming, and world peace, we have at long last established common ground. Twin towers of economic progress—China and America—have jointly crafted a road map for prosperity coupled with peace. While that road may contain potholes as well as obstacles, it also blazes a path to a secure future in these troubling times. President Xi Jinping’s state visit to meet with President Barack Obama marked a major milestone. It is a giant step, indeed a great leap forward. Let a thousand flowers bloom on each side with an equal number of doves, shades of Picasso, signaling peace.

About the author
Joseph Dorinson was Chairman of the History Department at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, and currently serves as a Professor within the department. A noted authority in the field of popular culture, Dorinson's research specialties span sports history (in particular, the Brooklyn Dodgers and African American sports heroes), humor studies, Russian immigration, Brooklyn and Jewish history, and World War II movies and music. Professor Dorinson has co-edited two books, Paul Robeson: Essays on his Life and Legacy (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002) and Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports and the American Dream (M.E. Sharpe, 1998) and has written many articles, including "A Life Worth Living: The Jackie Robinson Biopic" in The Brooklyn Film: Essays in the History of Filmmaking (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003) 

From The G-Man proudly welcomes Professor Dorinson to its growing list of contributing writers.