Thursday, October 23, 2008


Dear Joe the Plumber,

My name is Joe the Soldier. I noticed you have been getting a lot of attention in the national media lately. I even saw a couple clips of interviews with you on the Armed Forces Network while I was eating in our chow hall in Diyala Province. I watched you complain about everything from immigration to taxes while I ate an omelet which was prepared by Pakistanis and sponsored by Uncle Sam. I tried to ignore your rant, but as I peered over the crowd of smiling, laughing Infantrymen who wolfed down their breakfast before rolling out to patrol the streets of Iraq, my gaze kept returning to the plumber from Ohio who seemed so unhappy to be standing in his driveway with the liberty to complain about his government. And it was at that moment that I was inspired by your shiny head to reflect; you and I have some similarities, but quite a few more differences.

Let's start with the similarities. Like you, my name really isn't Joe. We both use that moniker because...well, it sounds good. You made $40k last year. That is pretty close to my base pay in 2007, and far more than that of the Soldiers which I just described. I believe we both genuinely want to live the American Dream.

Let's look at the differences. You recently showed up at a Barack Obama rally to ask him why he will raise your taxes. Apparently you didn't hear that he will only raise taxes on those with a quarter million dollars of income, or you actually believe that, as a plumber, you will make that much money. Either way, as a Soldier, I can't afford to be that inattentive or unrealistic. You cast yourself as a regular guy, a common man in Middle America. Yet in each interview you continue to complain about the price you pay for membership in the world's greatest nation. I could find many things to complain about too, but my sense of duty shifts my focus to the fruits of our labors and the benefits of all the sacrifices that I have witnessed. I hope you enjoy your freedom as much as you enjoy complaining about how much it costs you, but I honestly don't mind if it is such a high price that you may have to sacrifice a little to keep it...join the club!

Possibly the most striking difference between us is that you have forgotten the legacy which the great generations in our history passed down. It is a legacy of mutual sacrifice and shared hardship. During World War Two, most people didn't complain when they were drafted, they gladly went to fight in a just war. Those who were unable to fight were a part of the war effort at home. They put their cars on blocks and rationed goods to ensure that the troops had what they needed. Taxes were much higher back then. But there were no tax cuts in those days because the country could not afford it in a time of war and it seemed immoral to pass the cost on
Times have really changed since then, haven't they Joe? Since the start of this war, our national debt has risen to almost $11 trillion thanks to multiple tax cuts to the richest Americans. I can't understand why you, Joe, as a plumber, are fooled into advocating for these millionaires who complain about their taxes returning to the level they were under Ronald Reagan. Isn't it strange that a plumber making $40k per year is complaining on behalf of the top 1% of income earners while our Armed Forces, comprised mainly of middle and low-income Americans(the sons and daughters of plumbers you might say), are sent to fight two wars because "Freedom isn't Free?"

I am sorry Joe the Plumber, I can't sympathize with your complaints. Partly because I don't believe that a plumber will make $250k, meaning you will actually get a slight tax cut if Obama becomes President. But mainly because I think you can handle the taxes you are currently paying. You supported this war, right? You think we should have the best military in the world,don't you? Well, those things cost money. As an American making $40k, you already paid close to the lowest tax rate of any similar wage-earner in the Industrialized World. And look at the return on your investment: you get to live in America and complain about all those taxes you paid! I do believe that we both want to live the American Dream, but after 14 months in Iraq with a unit that lost 12 heroes to the Ultimate Sacrifice, I am sorely disappointed that you whine so much about the meager price you are asked to pay for it.


William H. Smith. Captain, United States Army

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


There are many in the heartland of America who fear that the presidential race may yet come down to just that: fear about race versus values. Some have al ready made their minds up that they won't vote for someone "who is not like them". Yet, for all those who call themselves an American, is not what makes our country great itself greater than is the measure of, or absence of, a man's melanin?
For the voter who can make a choice based on pocketbook and kitchen table issues and not pigment or skin tissue, a quiz:
If you are man with a female child, and you want your daughter to be valued as much as any man, are you strong enough for her to ignore the color of the champion who fights for her? If you are a woman who believes that you, your mother, your daughter, your sister or your aunt should have the sole right to make choices which affect your and their lives, which is the only candidate that supports a woman's right to choose?...
If you are a veteran, voting against increasing veterans benefits on six different occasions and against the new GI Bill should matter. Better yet, if you are a u nion member, and you want to protect... no...strengthen the right to organize, can you make a conscientious choice between color and collective bargaining?
If on the one hand, if the only color that counts is green and every penny in your pocket counts, do you really want to support a candidate that will tax your employer provided-health care benefits and make you wait for a health care tax credit that will end up fattening the pockets of out of state insurance executives?
If you are a senior citizen, what does color have to do with preventing cutting $1.2 trillion in benefits from Medicare to pay for those health care tax credits? Not a thing. Speaking of benefits, do you really want your Social Security benefits tied to the stock market? The stock market just crashed, big time. Imagine if Social Security too had been privatized. Seniors just dodged a very big bullet..Bluntly, a candidate's ethnicity does not threaten your poc ketbook and does not take food off your table; what does present a clear and present danger to every American family is policies which support doing the same thing the same way while looking for a different result. Who deserves a tax break or the corporations that just robbed America blind?
Does it make sense to cough up $300 billion more for a taxpayer-funded buyout of all distressed mortgages in America to further bail out the lenders who stuck the taxpayers with a $700 billion dollar cash-for-trash scheme? There is only one candidate who offers a tax cut to 95 percent of America's working families and not to the lenders, banks, or corporations that just ripped off America's workers and retirees.
If NAFTA caused your factory to be shut down or your job to be shipped overseas, can you ignore all that noise about whether someone is white or not and focus on whether a candidate's position against outsourcing jobs is right or not? & nbsp;Only one candidate has pledged to link trade deals to preserving American jobs and to end tax breaks for companies sending American jobs overseas.
And while on the subject of jobs, in today's world you can't get a good one without a good education. If you believe that education is the pathway way out of poverty and to a good paying job and the ticket to the American dream, is it not more prudent to vote for someone who personally experienced the struggles ordinary families go through to get their children through school and to vote for someone who has pledged to fully fund America's educational system.
In all theses instances, that candidate is indeed...that one...Barack Obama.
There is something to be said about being judged by the content of one's character and not by the color of one's skin. As someone wrote recently, there is a big difference between having character and being one. Pigmentation should not have a place in politics. No one is being asked not to see color, just to ignore it long enough to pragmatically focus on pocketbook issues which will directly impact you and your family. For the nation's sake, I ask that you vote your issue and not your skin tissue.
Some will no doubt have to hold their nose while they cast their ballot. If doing so is what it takes to hold on to what's left of the American dream, well, that's a form of personal sacrifice we should all embrace for the sake of our families and the future of the greatest country on earth. In that instance, pushing past our personal prejudices would be the ultimate act of outright unselfish patriotism.

Gregory Murray

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is John McCain a Crook

The controversial George W. Bush-sponsored poll in South Carolina mentioned John McCain's role in the so-called Keating Five scandal, and McCain says his involvement in the scandal "will probably be on my tombstone." What exactly did McCain do?

In early 1987, at the beginning of his first Senate term, McCain attended two meetings with federal banking regulators to discuss an investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan, an Irvine, Calif., thrift owned by Arizona developer Charles Keating.
Federal auditors were investigating Keating's banking practices, and Keating, fearful that the government would seize his S&L, sought intervention from a number of U.S. senatorsAt Keating's behest, four senators--McCain and Democrats Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, and John Glenn of Ohio--met with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, on April 2. Those four senators and Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., attended a second meeting at Keating's behest on April 9 with bank regulators in San Francisco.Regulators did not seize Lincoln Savings and Loan until two years later. The Lincoln bailout cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million.

In November 1990, the Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the meetings between the senators and the regulators. McCain, Cranston, DeConcini, Glenn, and Riegle became known as the Keating Five.(Keating himself was convicted in January 1993 of 73 counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud and served more than four years in prison before his conviction was overturned. Last year, he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and was sentenced to time served.
McCain defended his attendance at the meetings by saying Keating was a constituent and that Keating's development company, American Continental Corporation, was a major Arizona employer. McCain said he wanted to know only whether Keating was being treated fairly and that he had not tried to influence the regulators. At the second meeting, McCain told the regulators, "I wouldn't want any special favors for them," and "I don't want any part of our conversation to be improper."

But Keating was more than a constituent to McCain--he was a longtime friend and associate. McCain met Keating in 1981 at a Navy League dinner in Arizona where McCain was the speaker. Keating was a former naval aviator himself, and the two men became friends. Keating raised money for McCain's two congressional campaigns in 1982 and 1984, and for McCain's 1986 Senate bid. By 1987, McCain campaigns had received $112,000 from Keating, his relatives, and his employees--the most received by any of the Keating Five. (Keating raised a total of $300,000 for the five senators.)
After McCain's election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat.McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights.
And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain's wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall.The Senate Ethics Committee probe of the Keating Five began in November 1990, and committee Special Counsel Robert Bennett recommended that McCain and Glenn be dropped from the investigation. They were not. McCain believes Democrats on the committee blocked Bennett's recommendation because he was the lone Keating Five Republican.

In February 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee found McCain and Glenn to be the least blameworthy of the five senators. (McCain and Glenn attended the meetings but did nothing else to influence the regulators.) McCain was guilty of nothing more than "poor judgment," the committee said, and declared his actions were not "improper nor attended with gross negligence." McCain considered the committee's judgment to be "full exoneration," and he contributed $112,000 (the amount raised for him by Keating) to the U.S.

Here's the kicker, Folks....after helping Keating steal all that money from his investors, on Thursday,August 21, 2008, Senator John McCain actually hired Charles Keating to help John McCain get to the White House. Crooks of a feather, one might say.