Thursday, September 20, 2007


*Integrity postmortem – The NY Times published an article about former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World.” Greenspan criticizes Bush, Cheney and the Republican-controlled congress for abandoning their party’s principle on spending and deficits. He says, “They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. …Mr. Bush was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits, as Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. The Republicans in Congress lost their way.” Recall that Greenspan favored these tax cuts that since 2001 have amounted to $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion). I find it interesting that a number of government officials, after they leave their position, have much criticism of the Bush administration. I find it disingenuous that while on the job their silence allowed deception and incompetence to proliferate.

*Greenspan spins the barrel – He says that he favored the invasion of Iraq because Saddam was a threat to the Straits of Hormuz, a major route for our oil supplies that needed protection. I seem to recall that the U.S. crushed the Iraq army in under a week. Quite the threat! At that time oil was $33 a barrel. Today a barrel of oil costs $80. Quite the protection!

*Conservative wisdom – Pat Buchanan is a conservative commentator with whom I often disagree. What he had to say about the President of Iran not being allowed to lay a wreath at the site of the 9/11 attack in NYC made a lot of sense. Whatever the motivation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his appearance at the site may have opened a door to diplomacy, something the U.S. sorely needs. The U.S. has a long history of diplomacy with some of the most horrible men who have walked this planet – Khrushchev, Mao, Khadafy and their ilk. It was in the U.S. and world interest to engage such men following their reigns of murder and destruction. There was only an upside to engaging Ahmadinejad at the World Trade Center site.

*An about face ~ industry seeks regulation – The NY Times is reporting that many major U.S. industries are abandoning positions of self-regulation or no regulation that have been supported by the federal government. Why the change? Fear of low-cost foreign competition, stricter state rules, potential consumer law suits and the anticipation that new regulations now will be more palatable than what may ensue as the Democrats gain more control in Washington.

* Taxation without representation - The citizens of Washington D.C., under current law, cannot elect someone to the House of Representatives. This week the inequity had a chance to be corrected. However, a bid to bring D.C. voting rights legislation to the floor failed by a mere three votes. The vote was not on an actual bill. The vote was on whether to even consider such a bill. D.C. is a major black city and Democratic in make-up. While the Republicans raised constitutional questions those issues could have been addressed through legislation and the courts. It is not surprising that they would oppose adding a potential Democratic vote in congress. The right of representation for Washington D.C. citizens was immaterial.

*A look ahead, empty pockets - Recent statements by various Bush officials indicate that they are planning for a long stay in Iraq. The cost will be in the trillions of dollars. For math-challenged people like me a trillion is 1000 billion. What will be left for healthcare, education, social security, basic human services, repair of infrastructure, food safety inspection…?

*Is it a small price to pay? - Following last week’s post a reader brought to my attention a web site that offers photos and much more of our military men and women who have served in Iraq and how this war has impacted their lives. The site is: Our government has gone to great lengths to shield Americans from the war’s reality. Recall that the media is banned from photographing caskets arriving home from Iraq. The consequences of the Iraq war deserve our attention.

*It is a big price to pay ~ non-enforcement of laws - The Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 requires that the financial systems of major federal agencies “comply substantially” with generally accepted accounting standards. Each year those agencies are required to release results of outside audits. The Department of Homeland Security has failed every audit since 2003. Its annual budget is $35 billion. The Defense Department has never come close to passing. Defense’s annual budget is $460 billion representing 20% of all federal spending. The departments seem incapable of providing even the most basic level of accountability by balancing their financial books. Our money is spent with little oversight. The question to be begged is who is enforcing the law? This is not unlike the illegal immigration crisis in this country. There are laws against entering the U.S. illegally and there are laws against employing illegal immigrants. And yet, both practices are rampant. The soap box politicians keep telling us that we are “a country of laws” and that we live under “the rule of law”. Blah, blah, blah. Where is the sheriff?

*The price of political corruption –Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-partisan watchdog holding public officials accountable. CREW just released its list of the 22 most corrupt congressmen (and women) in Washington. Nineteen on the list are Republicans and three are Democrats. This link provides the list and the details. Why is corruption so prevalent? Congress has vigorously opposed attempts to limit special-interest influence on elected officials as well as attempts to establish an independent commission to oversee and penalize ethics violations. And, some people are just outright crooks who won an election.

*The price of the corporate tax shell game – A USA Today article by Robert S. McIntyre, a Director of Citizens for Tax Justice says that corporate tax loopholes will cost ordinary citizens over the next ten years 3 trillion dollars. On one hand U.S. corporations face the highest tax rate of industrialized countries at 39%. However, due to loopholes and subsidies they only pay taxes on about half of their income. The extra funds left in the hands of corporate America certainly have not benefited the majority of employees as demonstrated by the number of jobs corporations outsource to foreign countries and the number of illegal immigrants they hire in this country. This system not only lacks fairness but is shortsighted. Corporations sell a product or a service. If the market lacks the resources to purchase what they produce, they are out of business. Unless the business community begins thinking beyond the next quarterly report they should start selling their stock short.

*A world apart – In 2005 Hillary Clinton gave a speech in New Delhi to Indian businessmen. She offered a blunt assessment of the loss of American jobs across the Pacific. "There is no way to legislate against reality," she declared. "Outsourcing will continue. . . . We are not against all outsourcing; we are not in favor of putting up fences." In 2007 the presidential candidate told a group of students in New Hampshire that she hated seeing U.S. telemarketing jobs done in remote locations far, far from our shores. Senator Clinton’s ties to corporate interests and money leave me in knots about her candidacy. The special interests supporting her are not that far, far away.

*Flash observations:
-China has announced that it will no longer give Giant Pandas to foreign countries as a way of improving international relations. There was no mention of whether it would improve product safety inspections as an alternative diplomatic booster.
-A Veco Oil Co. executive has testified that his company did in fact participate in the renovation of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) house. Stevens’ son is being investigated on separate corruption charges related to his tenure as President of the Alaskan senate. Is “genetics” a defense?
-Many of us sit at home frustrated with the Iraq war wishing things were different. Many people and organizations are being proactive. If you want to learn more and perhaps do something a good place to begin is:
- Republican constituents are angry with the Bush administration's aggressive drive to promote oil and gas drilling on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Energy development is tainting some of the country's most majestic landscape. If current and past presidents had put as much effort into reducing our need for oil as drilling for oil perhaps our purple mountain’s majesty would not be in jeopardy.
-Water-boarding (a suspect has water poured over his mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex) has been removed by the CIA as an approved interrogation technique. Other “enhanced interrogation techniques” remain in place.
-Fading presidential candidate John McCain has always identified himself as an Episcopalian. In a life-transforming religious experience, no doubt stemming from a desire to appeal to the Republican base to support his presidential candidacy, he is now referring to himself as a Baptist. Praise the Lord and pass the grits.
-A little discussed aspect of General Patreus’ report on the surge in Iraq was that it is his plan. The Iraq situation of “looking good, needs more time” is a familiar melody. With the Senators and Representatives offering more windy speeches than insightful inquiries for the General his appearance was not much of a test. Under this system of testing I would have graduated Magna Cum Laude.
-Leading Republican presidential candidates have avoided debates sponsored by Black and Latino organizations. In their world diversity ended in America when the passengers on the Mayflower disembarked. Praise the King and pass the spam and white bread.

*Quote of the week – “The Americans always try to pretend the responsibility for cleaning up this mess isn’t theirs and tend to shift blame onto Iraq, Iran and Syria for everything that goes wrong,” veteran Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman

*Ignoramus of the week ~ Come on down David Frye - Sgt. Yance Gray came from Ismay, Montana. He died in Iraq last week. His death gained attention because he was one of seven authors of a recent New York Times op-ed criticizing the continued occupation. Frye, a prominent Montana Republican, is saying Sergeant Gray probably wasn't smart enough to actually write the op-ed. These neo-conservative ideologues do not give a crap about the lives of Americans being wasted in support of an ideology of annihilation with potential consequences of self-annihilation. If you put a robe and mustache on these cretins you wind up with the Taliban.

*Doing a 180 – Newt Gingrich says he is making a grass-roots push to change how the country is governed so there will be less partisanship. This is the man who, when Speaker of the House in the 1990s, invented partisanship with the fury of a napalm attack. The transformation of Mr. Gingrich can be attributed to one of three factors; a guilty conscience, Alzheimer’s disease, a presidential candidacy.

*I only lie when I am lying - I noted last week that the Director of National Intelligence Mitch McConnell lied to congress about the effectiveness of laws authorizing warrentless wiretapping. This week he appeared once again before congress to request additional spying authority. How does congress determine legitimacy in the absence of credibility?

*Restoration of Civil Liberties – Senators Leahy and Dodd have proposed the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007. This would reverse one of the grievous elements of the Military Commissions Act that sanctioned the detention and jailing of U.S. residents without the opportunity to appear before a judge. This piece of legislation would reverse the error. You can sign on as a co-sponsor by clicking on this link.

*Black ops ~ black oops – A little discussed aspect of the war in Iraq is the large number of private security forces contracted by the U.S. government. These are jobs once performed by our military. They operate outside of the regular command with little oversight. In many cases they guard important U.S. officials. One of the largest of these firms is Blackwater. With strong ties to the Bush administration they have raked in billions of dollars in fees. This past weekend saw a catastrophe not unique to Blackwater and their counterpart contractors. A shootout with Blackwater mercenaries left 9 Iraqi civilians dead. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has ordered that Blackwater be expelled from Iraq. It will be interesting to see who wins this battle. I would not bet on the Interior Ministry. For those people calling for our State Dept. to stop using mercenaries they can’t. They are out of soldiers and Bush has no options.

* I feel that we are doing something so important that it is awesome—it is almost purifying. It has a deep religious meaning, of that I feel certain. Surely it is God’s wish that men not wage wars of aggression. The proof here is absolutely overwhelming. I would never have believed that men could be so evil, so determined on a course of war; of murder; of slavery; of dreadful tyranny. Never before has such a record been written and men will read it for a thousand years in amazement and wonder how it ever happened.
Excerpt from a letter written by Thomas Dodd, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals, from a new book:
My Father’s Narrative of a Quest for Justice By Sen. Christopher J. Dodd with Larry Bloom, Crown Publishing New York, 2007

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