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Change must come to U.S. in next presidential election

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A dear friend of ours, who died young, was a Flushing political district leader. One of his favorite remarks was, "Never believe what politicians say about themselves. Always believe what they say about their opponents."

Try it. It works.

A young friend of ours recently despaired that presidents really do not have much power.

With these views in mind, here, and in the next column, are some thoughts about the November election.

I believe it will be essential for the next president and Congress to end the partisanship that has gripped this country, especially in the last eight years, when the Great Uniter became the Great Divider. Too many Republicans followed his lead blindly and too many Democrats failed to help set the country on a proper course.

I believe the Iraq war must end as soon as possible. Our military leaders should be told to pull out quickly and efficiently. There should be no American military presence in Iraq. We must end confinement at Guantanamo Bay of those we consider captive enemies and bring them to justice within the American legal system.

We should concentrate our anti-terrorist efforts in Afghanistan. In August, America's senior terrorism analyst reported that al-Qaida was stronger than ever and the danger of attacks on the West is greater than it was a year ago. Military power and monetary help should be increased in order for Afghanistan to live in peace.

At home, I think we must work hard to construct a system of health care that will benefit every American. Other countries have done it. I am tired of having this important matter reduced to useless sound bites.

Every effort should be made to help people keep their homes. Many were foolish in following lenders' siren songs, but our government did nothing to end those come-ons until the crisis was upon us. People and communities cannot afford further erosion of residential areas through foreclosures and abandonment.

The United States should lead the way in fighting global warming. The federal and state governments should set examples which the public should follow. We can no longer live with the stupidity of Vice President Dick Cheney's quip that conservation is a personal matter or Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's comment that the jury is still out on global warming.

The energy question deserves long and considerate discussion at the highest levels of government. Public transportation must be supported. Higher standards should be set for everything that uses energy. All forms of energy should be explored with the realization that oil, gas and coal are wasting natural resources and nuclear energy has problems which must be resolved before we embark on building more such plants.

We should also pay attention to unintended consequences, like ethanol from corn.

If we are to have a government which serves its citizens, we need the means to pay for it. A thorough overhaul of the tax system is in order.

I was taught that the income tax was graduated. We have long since gotten past that point when. As investor Warren Buffett has pointed out, his secretary pays a larger percentage of her income in taxes than he does. In August, the Government Accountability Office reported that two out of every three United States corporations paid no income tax between 1998 and 2005.

If faith-based funding continues, those who receive money should be required to adhere strictly to all laws, including those prohibiting discrimination in hiring. The recipients might think again about any largess they receive: Will it keep them from speaking truth to power? Will it destroy the separation of church and state?

All judges, being human, come to the bench with agendas. They are not blank slates. What kind of Supreme Court and federal judiciary do we want? These men and women serve for their lifetimes and their decisions affect generations. The next president will appoint the judges who agree with his positions, regardless of what they say in confirmation hearings.

Every measure has indicated that the United States has fallen behind other wealthy countries in its educational programs. We do not need slogans. We need action so every American child has a useful education and comes into the world of work with the potential to have a good life.

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