Saturday, October 07, 2006

Samm Simpson Interview

Here is an interview I did with Florida congressional candidate Samm Simpson.

My first question is why did you decide to run?

Simpson: I got sick of the lies, greed, corruption, malfeasance and lack of backbone and accountability of the current Congress. Torture, the loss of civil liberties and the trampling of the Constitution were motivators. I've also had family members with serious issues that I could not find help for. We are discarding the less fortunate in this society while spending 9 billion a month on an unjust immoral war. It's not right. We need new priorities.

What is your current relationship with Raymond James & Associates?

Simpson: I had a 17 year career with Raymond James, from 1984 - 2001, where, in 1992, I was named VP of Marketing. During my tenure, I ran the Corporate Media Studio and interviewed hundreds of economists, financial advisors, market strategists, educators, portfolio managers for an audio program - and some video - that was distributed nationally. I have no current association with the firm. I am quite grateful for my time there.

You have worked in radio. The FCC is looking into easing media ownership regulations of newspapers, radio, and television? How do you feel this will effect the public?

Simpson: I'm concerned about the consolidation of the media. There are very few players, I think we need a more diverse group of ownership and would fight for less of a monopoly, not more. The public needs more than three or four points of view from stations that spout the same line.

Do you believe the FCC should regulate blogs that raise money for political candidates?

Simpson: No opinion.

I have read your campaign blog. It reads very progressive. Harry Truman said voters will always choose a Republican over a Democrats running on Republican issues. Democrats in Florida seem to move to the right and get beat in elections. Why are Florida Democrats scared off running as Democrats?

Simpson: I consider myself a moderate. It's reasonable, and moderate to want the Constitution to be upheld. It's reasonable and moderate to demand a good public education for our children. It's reasonable and moderate to provide health care for citizens. It's reasonable and moderate to use our military for defensive, not offensive, action. It's reasonable and moderate to want our seniors and veterans to not fall through the cracks. And, it's reasonable and moderate to work for an environment not poisoned by corporate greed.

Simpson: I can't answer the question about why Florida Democrats are scared off running as Democrats. I can only speak for myself. This is my first race. I'm not scared. I don't watch the propaganda on television.

The American public has turned against the President. His brother Jeb Bush has a 60% approval rating in Florida. How can progressives gain ground in Florida? Are the current internet and grassroots efforts enough?

Simpson: I consider my self a moderate. Internet and grass roots are fantastic tools. It just takes a little more time. There is still a need for television, print and direct mail.

Bill Young has the advantage of incumbency and a huge campaign war chest. How do you plan to overcome that?

Simpson: I can't and I don't plan too. This race is about what our vision of the future is. Mr. Young has co sponsored a bill H.R. 282 that authorized covert action in Iran. He voted to give the President the right to call anyone he wants an enemy combatant. He believes in the paradigm of the "global war on terror" and would be sure to stay in Iraq or Iran or where ever the neoconservatives want to go for the next twenty years.

Simpson: I see a different future. An end to the occupation - I'll attach a document that details my plan to get out of Iraq. More talking, More food, more water and medicine. Less bombing. Less Lying. Less Stealing. It's really very simple.

What kind of feedback have you received from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?

Simpson: They have me on their web site, but no money. Since I don't have 100,000 they won't give me money. They don't listen to grass roots. They are making a mistake.

You said on your blog that, if elected, you would vote to investigate the Bush administration's role in prewar Iraq intelligence. Are you refering to the Office of Special Plans set up by Douglas Feith?

Simpson: Doug Feith, he's now teaching somewhere in a college setting. It wouldn't just be Mr. Feith. It would be everyone. Ms. Rice, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, even Gonzales. Since the Administration has passed a law forgiving themselves of war crimes, we'd need to reverse that too. More importantly, we would open another investigation of 9/11. The first one was a whitewash. .

Have you wondered why the Bush administration went into Iraq in the first place? A staffer in Ron Suskind's famous New York Times piece said they aren't sure why they went into Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a horrible military tactician? What do you think was the mindset of the President and administration neoconservatives?

Simpson: They've wanted to get into Iraq (and Iran and probably Saudi Arabia and Syria and Lebanon) for years. It's for greed and geopolitical positioning and, although we have no treaty - to assist Israel. And to control the oil.

A criticism leveled at Democrats is that they haven't offered a plan for national security. What is your plan?

Simpson: Put the 9/11 Commission recommendations in place. Have ONE frequency for ALL first responders around the country to be able to communicate and significant training for all the gadgets that have been thrown at them. Protect our nuclear power plants, water plants, ports, chemical plants. Change our NAFTA and CAFTA laws to ensure environmental protection and local labor protection. End the occupation of Iraq and stop inflaming the Islamic community.

Your website stated that fossil fuel hurts our national security. How can Americans be convinced to use alternative sources of energy?

Simpson: Well, if Bush bombs Iran and oil goes to 200 a barrel and gas goes to 8 bucks a gallon, it won't take much convincing.

What are your thoughts on the Leon County problems with Diebold machines?

Simpson: Ion Sancho is an American Hero.

I noticed that with Diebold and FCAT grading scandal that the words "trade secrets" were used. This appears to be a violation of the spirit of the Sunshine law.

Simson: We won't have fair elections unless we have a national commitment to having a paper trail and machines that are the same EVERYWHERE.

Will Congress have to step in so Florida homeowners can have hurricane insurance?

Simpson: It is possible that a federal plan for comprehensive damage from hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes, etc, may need to be initiated.

District 10 is vulnerable to a hurricane. How will will you protect your constituents who worry after seeing how Katrina devastated New Orleans?

Simpson: I will fight for FEMA to NOT be a part of Homeland Security. Florida has an excellent track record, as does Pinellas County, for emergency help and shelters. I will complement that with a much more coordinated, and dedicated federal response. THis is a question, however, that is nearly impossible to answer. People insist on building more condos on the beaches at their own peril. I would hope that when and if nature comes to reclaim herself, we would do well to get out of the way, and, in the rebuilding phase, utilize space and time and institute a solar revolution and environment restoration project as part of the process.

Below is the document that Simpson sent me.

***

A Strategy for Iraq Disengagement
Ms. Samm Simpson


There is an old military doctrine called the First Rule of Holes: If you find yourself stuck in one, stop digging." --The late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, US Navy (Ret.)

It's time to admit the facts. This is a war built on lies and this current mission is in vain. Over 50% of the American people support immediate withdrawal and over 70% of the Iraqi people want the occupation to end. Our standing in the world is falling, our enemies are multiplying, our federal debt is skyrocketing, and our brave men and women are being devastated with life long injuries and memories.

And, worst of all, our world has become less safe.

Why won't our administration leave? Perhaps they are still in pursuit of their neoconservative Pax Americana agenda, which includes occupying a "stable" government to assure protection for the no bid U.S. contractors.

On March 19, 2003, we "shocked and awed" and invaded this land preemptively on false pretenses. There was no link between 9/11 and Iraq. There were no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. There were no WMDs. On April 7, 2003, US tanks entered Baghdad. General Jay Garner (placed as "viceroy" in Iraq in January of 2003) assured the Iraqi people that elections would be held in 90 days and went about the business of preparing for food distribution in the relative calm that prevailed.

That calm wouldn't last. Garner was fired by Rumsfeld and replaced with Paul Bremer, who ordered a halt to all elections, and began giving out imperial orders. The first was to disband the army. A half a million armed men were out of work. "Bring it on," says our President. National elections wouldn't be held until 2005.

Iraq has been a mistake and we must take immediate steps to for withdrawal our presence. First, we must disavow permanent military bases and tell the world we will not privatize Iraqi oilfields. Then, begin talks with all parties and plan for a final date for all troops to be out. At that point, the first people to come home are the corporations that have squandered, according to Rep. Waxman, $745 billion dollars in reconstruction dollars. They come home along with their 25,000 security guards who have been roaming the country with impunity. After that, while we are still using diplomacy with Iran, Iraq, and the various forces, we begin systematic withdrawal of our occupation force. Congressman Murtha's plan to redeploy to the perimeter should be considered. But I do not support a continued presence in Iraq, regardless of what has been spent on the 104 acre American Embassy replete with 15 inch thick concrete walls and it's own electrical supply system and fast food amenities.

Portions of Iraq are in rubbles, The Administration looks upon the 100.000 - 200,000 Iraqi civilian deaths as "collateral damage." Fresh water and electricity are hard to come by. I spoke to an Iraqi pharmacist, Dr. Entisar Mohammed Ariabi in March of this year. She is the mother of five children. She told me that when they say goodbye to each other in the morning, they mean "goodbye". They pray to Allah that if they are attacked, they will die, because there is no medicine for the wounded. And if they are kidnapped, they have no money for ransom. Death squads roam. Abu Gharib images are still imprinted in minds.

The American Military presence created the climate for this chaos. Additionally, according to Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution, more than 25,000 of the troops now stationed in Iraq are private military contractors who are NOT subject to the Military Code of Justice and have no congressional oversight. Our tax dollars are directly or indirectly paying for bands of mercenaries who do what they will.

There will need to be some sort of national peacekeeping force - but they should not be accountable to the United States. Rather, the United Nations with a contingency of Arab forces would be better suited to the task.

Antonia Juhasz, a leading expert on international trade and finance policy in her book "The Bush Agenda,” writes, "Contractors that are providing services to the military will automatically leave as their contracts become irrelevant, This includes Halliburton's contract worth over 11 billion for construction, housing, meals, water, transportation and infrastructure support for troops; The $628 million dollar contract to International American Products of Irmo, SC, for US base camp construction and services, the $259 million contract to Advanced Systems Development of Arlington, VA for information technology troop support and dozens of others like these. . . The end of these contracts will lead to savings of tens of billions of dollars, including money that remains unaccounted for or has been wasted. ( P. 315, 316)

I believe that the many of the US contractors that have been paid billions of dollars, have failed the Iraqi people, and have either lost or wasted vast sums of taxpayer dollars through cost plus and no bid contracting. Again, Juhasz from her book entitled "The Bush Agenda. " " The United States has appropriated nearly $30 billion in US taxpayer money for reconstruction projects in Iraq. Not a cent of this money is required to stay in Iraq as investment in Iraq's long term economic growth. These contracts are also the most unnecessary because they pay American firms bloated rates for work that Iraqis can and should do themselves . . . As of October 14, 2005, 2,784 projects had been started, 1887 had been completed and 897 are ongoing and not expected to be completed until 2007. Hundred of additional projects - particularly those with water and electricity sectors were planned and contracted for, but never got underway and have since been abandoned by the Bush administration."

As the contractors payback what is left over from their unfinished contracts, we can put those dollars into an international reconstruction fund; Juhasz suggests Tiri or Transparency International as two leading anti corruption organizations and experts on post war reconstruction.

Why is it wrong for the world to know that we have made a grave mistake? Why is it wrong to stop the destruction and start the rebuilding? Why is it wrong to turn to our shores and begin to transform our energy policies so we will never have another war over oil and gas resources? Why is it considered cowardice and unpatriotic to seek the truth about these misguided and destructive policies? Let's return to our own shores and pick up the pieces of our health care system, our public education, transform our energy policy and return hope and vision for our people.

Yes, this is a new world after 9/11. But there is no nation called Terror. We can find a better way to fight and dismantle terrorist networks. It starts this November when we stop this Administration’s reign of propaganda, fear and global imperialism.

Contribute to Samm Simpson's campaign.

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