Wednesday, August 22, 2007


NBB – Following the SVN special edition I set the aim this week to perform No Bush Bashing - so much for lofty goals. With the President starting his vacation (now over 400 days during his reign and likely to pass the record set by Ronald Reagan of 446) perhaps next week will be more charitable.

*Welcome home 1 - The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects members of the national guard and reserves from job loss, demotion, loss of seniority and loss of benefits when they are called to active duty (for up to 5 years). Between 2004 and 2006 16,000 returning military personnel have filed claims under this Act (about 50,000 were eligible but red tape dissuaded the other 70%). Resolution of filed complaints average 619 days. As often as 5 and 6 times being deployed, these men and women return home to find that they do not have the job they left when called to duty. The Justice Department has failed to prosecute employers who have acted illegally and the Dept. of Defense “has taken unprecedented steps to keep reservists reemployment problems secret.”
Welcome home 2 – The Bush administration is opposing efforts by Democrats to provide 100% free schooling for Iraq war vets. Similar to the original GI Bill in 1944 new legislation would provide for tuition, books and boarding. Current law covers 75% of tuition. The new bill would increase the annual cost from $2 billion to $5.4 billion (the $3.4 billion difference is what the Iraq war is costing every 2.5 weeks). A spokesman for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Keith Wilson, said the proposed plan “would make the administration of this program cumbersome”. An apropos word since putting one’s life on the line for one’s country is also “cumbersome”.
*Can I hear an Amen? - I had to smile when ABC News reported that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is creating problems for him with evangelical Christians. When the Christian right has George Bush on the pulpit all is well in the pews. Now they fear that a Romney presidency would spur the growth of Mormonism. The Republican Party encouraged a standard
of religiosity in the public forum. We await the judgment day of political penance.

*Now that’s really cool! – The New Hampshire Republican party just held a fundraiser. Participants were able to fire machineguns and obliterate rabbit cutouts and bowling pins. Rumor has it that next year, instead of fireworks, major donors can strafe the city of Concord. Dirty Harry meets Elmer Fudd.
*The enemy of my enemy… – As British forces pull back from Basra violence escalates. Is it Sunnis against Shiites? Is it Kurds against Sunnis? Is it Al Qaeda? No. It is 3 major Shiite militia groups vying for power amidst chaos. The International Crisis Group reports, “The city is plagued by the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors.” Is this the real progress report? I expect the progress report that Bush is promising in September will be so much crap (definition: an offensive term for nonsense, or something worthless or annoying).
*My letter to the Phila. Inquirer printed 8/9/07 - In the letter “We answer to God” the statement is made that one of the issues contributing to soaring homicide rates is, “over the last 50 years, since biblical influence has been removed from our schools, there has been a steady deterioration in our society’s morals.” I attended Philadelphia public schools 50 years ago and there was no biblical influence. There was more of a sense of community and perhaps better parenting. I would suggest that the biggest difference is the concentration of political power and wealth that in feeding its insatiable self-interest has resulted in policies detrimental to the common good.

*Stand at attention and pass the alms basket – The Inspector General for the Department of Defense released a report criticizing several generals, two colonels and a chaplain for supporting a film made by the Christian Embassy under the guise that they were participating in a documentary. These military officers offered their prestige and that of the U.S. government in allowing the production of a fundraising film for a non-governmental evangelical group. They just don’t get it and we cannot stand at ease!

*The cart before the horse before the cart - Lawmakers are considering relieving FEMA of its responsibility to oversee long-term disaster recovery. They claim that FEMA does not have the organizational structure to handle situations of crisis management that last more than a few weeks. Perhaps the next step will be to evaluate FEMA’s ability handle crisis situations during the first few weeks of a disastrous event.

*Chronic gag reflex – The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed last year’s decision and agreed with the Food and Drug Administration that a terminally ill patient does not have a constitutional right for access to experimental drugs. I am not qualified to argue the legal merits of this decision. I do wonder: Where is the common sense? Does a terminally ill person have to fear long-term side effects? Should terminally ill patients have every chance to extend their lives if they so choose? Can the prudent application of these experimental drugs lead to longer lives for others?

* The Romney Regiment – Mitt Romney is one of the vocal Republicans calling for support of the surge in Iraq. When confronted by an anti-war activist he defended his 5 sons not enlisting by saying they are showing their support for the country by “helping me to get elected”. Would there have been an Iraq war if the Bush twins and Cheney’s daughters and the neocon offspring had been required to participate in the first Baghdad landing?

*What’s mine is mine – Robert E. Murray is the owner of the Utah mine where six miners are missing. Following the Sago mine tragedy last year, Murray called his state’s efforts to pass stricter mine safety laws “seriously flawed, knee-jerk” reactions. One wonders how often Mr. Murray descends thousands of feet to a mine shaft to spend quality time with his employees? According to government records, federal mine safety regulators have levied $260,073 in fines against Murray’s mine since 1995. The mine has received 32 citations since the beginning of 2007. I assume that the fines are less expensive than the cost of improving safety. Is the oversight of mines seriously flawed? Is it a knee-jerk reaction to suggest incarceration for Mr. Murray?

*Rushin’ History – The Washington Post reports that two new manuals were issued for Russian high school history and social studies teachers. Written in part by Kremlin political consultants the last chapter of the history manual states, "We see that practically every significant deed is connected with the name and activity of President V.V. Putin," There was no mention of Mr. Putin’s political opponents and journalist critics disappearing from the great society.

*Mea culpa, mea rush to judgment – I have cited numerous examples of the federal government being lax in ensuring a safe and healthy environment for its citizens. Perhaps I had set the bar too high. They cannot protect themselves. Since 2002 the Dept. of the Interior’s headquarters is going through a $220 million renovation. Some staffers have suffered from headaches, nausea, rashes and respiratory difficulties attributed to the construction work. A report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health saw that the main problem was a failure to blow air out of the construction area and keep debris away from offices. Five years into the project the contractor just spent $70,000 for fans.
*Drug dealers, get out of my neighborhood – The National Women’s Health Network has an article explaining how data mining companies are now providing pharmaceutical companies with prescribing doctor statistics. “Drug reps use prescribing data to track how many of a physician’s patients receive specific drugs, how many prescriptions the physician writes for targeted and competing drugs, and how a physician’s prescriptions change over time… the purpose of prescribing data is to assist the industry to influence physicians to prescribe the most expensive drugs.” Some states are considering legislation banning the sale of prescription data. I think it is appropriate to ask our doctors when they do not prescribe a generic drug, “Why”?
*MSNBC examined job creation under Bush and Clinton. During Clinton’s eight years (when taxes were raised) about 23 million jobs were created, averaging 240,000 per month. The Bush years have averaged 77,000 per month. Allowing for the recession following 9/11 and calculating new jobs only from the fall of 2003 new jobs have averaged 177,000. The tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy have not created the jobs promised. And with the outsourcing of jobs overseas I would venture a guess that many of the jobs credited to Bush economics are lower level.

*Leaders on sabbatical – I have seen little mention of this phenomena. Two years before the actual election presidential candidates must be committed to fundraising and visiting states whose primaries are earlier and earlier. Of the 8 Democratic candidates and 10 Republican candidates six are Senators and four are Representatives. An article 2 months ago showed that McCain, for example, had missed almost 30 senate votes in a row. We now have elected leaders running for president and distracted from their responsibilities for up to two years. That is the term of a representative!

*Back from sabbatical - The WSJ reports that the Pentagon’s top contractor, Lockheed Martin, has found that over the last 5 years it has over-billed the government $256 million and is issuing a refund check. The article says it occurred at a time of heightened sensitivity in congress to defense-industry oversight. Is it unreasonable to expect “heightened oversight” to be occurring all of the time?

*Gov. Bill Richardson received a lot of heat this week when he fumbled the question, “Do you believe a gay person was born that way or a result of a life style choice?” The question and answers may be important from many perspectives but for my self the issue is moot. How an individual lives their life is none of my business. If they are responsible citizens, that is all that I have to know.

*Appealing Judicial Shifts - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit serves VA, W. VA, MD and the Carolinas. It has been the most conservative appellate court and the one that the Bush administration has gone to when it has needed a favorable ruling on enemy combatant and terrorism cases. There are now 5 vacancies on the court that have not been filled. Currently the makeup is 5 Democrat and 5 Republican appointees and its recently more moderate rulings have been setbacks for the administration. The President nominates the judges but they must be approved by the Senate. A very conservative nominee was pulled when it became obvious that the Senate would not approve William J. Haynes II. This philosophical shift may have a substantial influence on the interpretation and application of the law in America.

*Witness to history, witness protection program – Known as Bush’s brain, Karl Rove has resigned his position as White House senior advisor and said, “I’m grateful to have been a witness to history”. In an attempt to make the Republican party a permanent national fixture he is connected to a multitude of questionable/illegal maneuvers that include voter suppression, politicization of the Justice Dept. and most other departments in the federal government, lobbyist access to the core of our government with Jack Abramoff being the poster boy of this misadventure, violation of the Hatch Act, the leak of a CIA spy’s identity, ad nauseum. Congressional investigations of his activities have been stymied by Rove hiding behind Bush’s skirt of executive privilege. His damage to our democracy will be a legacy long remembered. “Rovian” will forever more be an addition to our vocabulary connoting negative manipulation of democratic procedures and principles.

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." -- Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820

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