Archive for the ‘Commentary Blog’ Category

The Debate Over Obama’s First “Broken Promise”

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

By all accounts, we should have been headed into recession after 9/11. Bush swooped in with his tax cuts to delay the inevitable. It worked, which may be why Obama is so hesitant to repeal them. There are few things a president can do that will have a major, lasting impact on the consumer-driven economic cycle.
More on Obama Transition
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

James Madison, Militarism, and the Motives of the Radical Jihadists.

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

On a surprise trucking mission from Aspen to Carbondale this morning, I was listening to the Con Man ask questions about radial Jihadism, including an obvious question: “Why do they hate us?”

A caller had called in with three quotes from James Madison.  I was surprised to draw a connection from the radio show to two books that I recently read.  Neither one was specifically about Madison, but both contained new information that I had digested.

One book is Undaunted Courage, by Stephen E. Ambrose,  and the other is Nemesis by Chalmers Johnson.

In Undaunted Courage, Madison was the Secretary of State to President Thomas Jefferson.  As president,  Jefferson provided a vision to his cabinet:  to ensure that the United States would have sovereignty from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and that no European power would pose a threat to that.  Simply put: North America belongs to the United States, and no army of Britain, France, or Spain would be tolerated near her borders. (Obama was recently quoted, as claiming to provide “a vision” for his cabinet to carry out.  To my amusement, this quote was highly criticized by right wing talk radio.  I will let you draw your own conclusions)

In fact, when Madison traveled to France to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans (Jefferson never imagined the entire Lousiana territory was up for sale at the time) from France, Madison also carried a message from Jefferson to Napoleon.  That message informed him that should France station a single soldier in New Orleans, the United States would consider it an official act of war.

Now, back to the question of the day:  Why do the radical Jihadists hate us?  Could it be because of our presence in the Middle East?  Jefferson had a Manifest Destiny about the soverignty of the United States in North America (which is why Napoleon, being the smart man that he was, assumed that the American pioneers were going to spread out all over Louisiana anyway, so he might as well make some money off of it). Our federalism was designed to be the opposite of the imperialism of European Nations.

However, now the United States has military bases in over 30 countries across the globe!  This includes Germany, Austrailia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Britain, and Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.  (Surpring to me: not in Mexico.  Not surprising to me: not in France!)

How would you feel if there was a Colombian military base in Nebraska?  How about an Egyptian base in New York?  A Japanese base in California?  Israelis in Colorado?!

“Hell no!” is what any sensible citizen of any nation will say.  Could you imagine?   With that said: what is our place to station troops in another country?  Jefferson would be appalled at such an idea.

In Nemesis, the author opens up about “Militarism and the Breakdown of Constitutional Government”, claiming “The United States has been continuosly engaged in or mobilized for war since 1941.”

Johnson (as well as the caller on Conniff’s show) quotes Madison:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Madison also said:

In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.


Madison knew the threat of militarization (and fear that the U.S. would ever be in control of another military dictator such as King George III), which is why he and his peers incorporated a very important balance of power in the Nation’s governing document.  According to the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, and the President is the commander in chief of the military.

However, the Bush Doctrine changed all that.   This power was stripped away from the Legislative Branch and rewarded to the Executive Branch, thus throwing the fragile balance of powers defined by the Constitution.  The President can now use the military, (as well as CIA operations designated as so “top secret” that they cannot even disclose budget spending dollars to Congress!) to preemptively strike against any sovereign nation believed to be harboring “terrorists”.

Putting the final straw on the militarization outrage is the most striking, shocking, and appalling news to me this week: The Pentagon’s plan to deploy 20,000 troops in the U.S. for domestic security. Specifically, the 3rd Infantry, 1st Brigade — a combat brigade!

This act ensures that the President will have the resources necessary to enforce martial law instantaneously, at any time, for any reason.  On January 20th, Madison’s fears will be realized when George W. Bush transfers a military dictatorship over to Barack H. Obama.

We may as well have just burned the last copy of the U.S. Constitution.



Another Aspen Daily News Letter: Addressing Development up the Slope of Ajax

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008



I’m not a geologist, real estate developer, or member of any community task force, just a construction worker who came here a year ago because I heard there was “a lot of work about to start” on South Aspen Street. Although the Lodge at Aspen Mountain never materialized, I’ve stuck around town and have been keeping a close eye on the Aspen Daily News for information about this particular plot of land.

One article last winter spoke of a man who was skiing and fell down a mine shaft. Another recent article spoke of the problems at the Residences at Little Nell job, in which the mountain was sliding into town, disrupting the foundations of the buildings above the project and triggering multiple lawsuits. Among all this, I’ve read many times about a plan to develop further up the mountain on Aspen Street.

It doesn’t take a geologist to do the math here. Steve Skinner has it right when he points out that this mountain is “riddled with mines and tailings and geologic infirmities.” No one can possibly know the extent of the damage that 150 years of mining has caused to the structure of the mountain, yet we just keep digging and digging away at the base. Environmental considerations aside, what self-respecting developer or contractor is going to risk millions of dollars on a building with a foundation in “Swiss cheese”?

Keep the development off the slope. Install a high-speed quad lift on Dean Street. Add a couple of bars and retail shops for the middle class to spend their money. If you want big, luxurious houses that sit vacant for half a year, build them on the golf course.

Adam L. Reiner

Citigroup Bailout: Feds Offer Massive Rescue Package To Financial Giant

Monday, November 24th, 2008

“To big to fail.” I have heard this a lot lately. What exactly do they mean? Wasn’t this the purpose of breaking up monopolies and establishing anti-trust measures by Teddy Roosevelt and others in the beginning of the 20th century: to ensure no corporation would grow “to big” to threaten economic disaster if they were to fail? Where did we go wrong on this?
More on Financial Crisis
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Letter to the editor of the Aspen Daily News

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

I’ve never done this before (and now, looking back, I don’t know why!), but I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, and they actually printed it! I’m excited, so I’m sharing the news.

Here is my letter.

And here is the original news article.