*Rudy the Alchemist – In a recent speech Rudy Giuliani proposes eliminating the alternative minimum tax that is expected to raise $1 trillion over the next 10 years. He says that he will cover this loss of revenue by proposing additional tax cuts, leaving people in the audience bewildered. Adding by subtracting. While most of the Republican presidential candidates are distancing themselves from Bush, Giuliani is cloning.
*Not so blind justice – Several weeks ago I noted the severe prosecution of Black young men in Jena, LA who reacted to racially motivated intimidation at their high school. I also noted that these young men were being supported by ColorofChange.org, an organization whose stated goal is: “started after Hurricane Katrina to make sure the next time disaster struck our community, there would be an organized, strategic and loud response from Black America and our allies.” This past week we saw the demonstration of peaceful grassroots support as over 10,000 people descended on Jena to seek justice for fellow Americans, the “Jena Six”. If you would like to know more about this organization and/or support these young men click on the above link. In a Phila. Inquirer editorial on Jena it referenced historian John Hope Franklin, who as chairman of the Advisory Board for the President’s Initiative on Race in 1997-98 said, “America will never be color-blind, so it needs a thoughtful alternative.” The editorial concludes, “An alternative that sees our differences and values them is the goal. But without national leadership to reach that dream, we’ll just keep applying ointment whenever a pimple signifying a much deeper disease breaks out.”
*Another step back in healthcare, and much more – Over the last few years, groups of large private investors have been acquiring nursing homes. With profit being the dominating objective, the level of care has precipitously declined. Residents have suffered and died as a result. The NY Times has a comprehensive report at this link. In the past, concerned family members have sued and regulators have issued significant fines. “But private investment companies have made it very difficult for plaintiffs to succeed in court and for regulators to levy chain-wide fines by creating complex corporate structures that obscure who controls their nursing homes.” When the President says that the private sector can do a better job than government in providing services it has a nice ring to libertarians and conservatives but it actually obfuscates the issue. Both sectors have been diminished in their ability to perform. Our government lacks the dedicated resources and will to oversee relatively uncomplicated areas such as food safety inspection and border protection to more complicated issues of comprehensive healthcare, self-policing and oversight of the business community. The private sector, with ever-growing resources, has a business model that allows it to minimize services for the maximization of greater profit because it has the “permission” of our government through the same lack of oversight, resources and will. The capitalism that we knew in the second half of the 20th century has been abandoned. It required broad competition, regulation and a modicum of ethics, humanity and nationalism. Globalization, profit-motive on steroids and a governmental free pass is the new environment. It is proving to be as harmful as global warming.
*On Friday Hillary Clinton issued a statement that she is not a lesbian. Later that day Barack Obama said that neither is he. Bush said he had a nephew that might be one. Seven Republican presidential candidates claimed that they did not have sexuality.
*Nominee for Attorney General Michael Mukasey has vowed to fire any Justice Department employee who shares sensitive case information with the White House or members of congress without his approval. This is in stark contrast to Alberto Gonzales who allowed his staff to share hundreds of cases with the Bush administration’s political cadre.
*Much ado about what? - At least one lawmaker is attacking the politicization of fear. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) attacked Republicans and the administration alike for hyping bogus claims of impending terror this past August in order to facilitate the passing of an exceptionally broad FISA reform act. Which brings to mind two recently discovered terrorist plots that were foiled – a 3 Stooges-like group in Florida (urged on by a federal undercover agent) that allegedly had intentions of blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago and a hapless group in NJ planning to attack McGuire Air Force base that were detected by a Circuit City clerk. Both incidents generated major news conferences and headlines. Since then, silence.
*Unlikely fundraisers – MoveOn.org ran the ad “General Betray Us” on the day that Petraeus gave his report to congress. The ad documented the misleading statements that the General would make. Subsequently, Pres. Bush, Republicans and right-wing pundits attacked MoveOn.org. Within two days citizens gave almost $1 million to MoveOn to support their efforts. The headline of the ad may have offended some peoples’ sensibilities. However, the content of the ad showed that the General was part and parcel of the political game being played behind the Iraq war, a game that has been in place since the erroneous warnings of WMDs preceded the Iraq invasion. I am not offended by the truth.
*My Senators at work – Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) voted to censure MoveOn.org for the political ad censuring General Petraeus. The concept of free speech did appear to inhibit their decision. Now that an important matter has been settled as the Senate flexed its atrophied muscle perhaps my Senators will deal with under-addressed immigration, health care, THE WAR. Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D-NM) comment seemed appropriate, “Let’s get some perspective here - ads don’t kill people - wars kill people. And it’s long past time to end this war.”
*Finally, an answer - Republicans have defeated legislation in congress that would give the troops more rest between deployments or set timetables for withdrawal or would force a change of strategy. To the question of why, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) was most revealing in a NY Times interview. He said, "If it goes bad, the nation loses and the Republican Party loses disproportionately compared to the Democratic Party." If it goes bad? With respect to political implications I would suggest that Sen. Graham reference “Waterloo” below.
* Waterloo 1 – Idaho is a very Republican state. Based on military deaths in Iraq, relative to state population, it has the highest troop loss in the country. Larry LaRocco, a Democrat and former representative has entered the Senate race on a platform that prominently includes an anti-war stance. In a recent editorial the Lewiston Tribune says, “Many Idahoans who are disheartened by their congressional delegation cheering on every incompetent move the Bush administration has made in the Iraq War feel deprived of a voice in the nation's capital. They are not deprived of a voice in next year's election, though. …LaRocco says he is not afraid to make his opposition to the war a major issue of his campaign. No matter which Republican he faces in the Senate race next year, that will no doubt offer voters a clear choice.” Evidence is mounting that the 2008 elections could significantly reduce the Republican party’s influence on national issues.
* Waterloo 2 - U.S. Federal Election Commission records show dozens of corporate executives who backed George W. Bush for re-election in 2004, including some of his top fund-raisers, are now helping Democrats running for president.
John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., and Terry Semel, chairman of Yahoo are among some 60 executives writing checks to Democrats such as Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois. Follow the money.
*A fine mess ~ una problema grande – Under a limited provision of Medicaid the federal government allows emergency care for illegal immigrants. NY state has just been notified that this care no longer covers chemotherapy. Officials and hospitals in the state are caught in the middle. This is not unlike the situation where cities that have enacted laws prohibiting landlords to rent to illegal immigrants are seeing the courts overturn the laws because they usurp federal authority, even though it is an authority not being exercised. The congress and executive branch continue to ignore this growing and increasingly complicated problem. The societal, humanitarian and economic implications for our country are daunting.
*Can’t fall far from the tree – Two months ago Senator John Warner (R-VA) stated that he would endorse Senator Jim Webb’s (D-VA) bill requiring troops to have as much down time as deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Warner stated, "Senator Webb's amendment, I would say without any equivocation, is designed to help protect the concept of the all-volunteer force, and it was for that reason that I joined him," This past week Warner voted against the legislation. In January, Warner drafted a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's “surge" of additional troops into Iraq. Then, on Feb. 5, he voted against bringing up his own resolution for debate. Can you say “prefrontal lobotomy”? Warner has announced he will not seek another term. I wonder if he will remember.
* A reader brought to my attention a NY Times book review of “In the Ruins of Empire”. A summary of observations: “The General declared that today freedom is on the march…Strewn in liberty’s path were a tar pit of internal wars, native fighters un-intimidated by modern weapons, unresolved policy disputes between the State Dept. and the Defense Dept, bales of American dollars, alliances of convenience with warlords and local militias of unknown provenance led by whiz-bang demagogues. Washington pursued ambiguous policies that officials on the ground knew were doomed; fewer troops were deployed than commanders requested; tours of duty were extended for war-weary soldiers who were unprepared temperamentally or by training to become part of a great social and economic reconstruction project; and support from the American public declined sharply…” The General was Douglas MacArthur. The subtitle of this book is, “The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia” written by Ronald H Spector. Sixty-two years later, that American experience is sickeningly familiar. It causes one to wonder what is taught in our military’s war colleges today. It is likely that history will be unkind to the U.S. military leaders whose silence and acquiescence contributed to this Iraq War tragedy.
*The altruism of Romney – While speaking to a select group of Republicans in Michigan, Mitt Romney said, “Republicans share the blame with Democrats for the nation's woes. He bemoaned excessive spending, insecure borders and ethical lapses." Thanks, but, no thanks. There is nothing to share or give away Mr. Romney. Our nation’s woes that you identify are owned by your Republican party and it has provided no evidence it has the ability to “share” in the solution.
*TV channels you cannot watch – It seems that there are television channels not being utilized that through new technology could provide internet access to millions of people. Last week the National Association of Broadcasters blitzed Washington with ads and lobbyists opposing such a use. This is perhaps the best indication that it would be good for the average American. For it to happen it requires the approval of the Federal Communications Commission. You can learn more about this technology at FreePress.net. You can sign a petition asking the FCC to approve the use of unused channels by clicking here,
*Shooting off one’s mouth to the NRA – As a federal prosecutor and then Mayor of NYC Rudy Giuliani sought tougher gun control laws. In both jobs he personally saw the carnage wreaked by guns on the streets of a major metropolis. This past weekend Giuliani addressed the National Rifle Association telling them his views changed following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He said, “It put a whole different emphasis on the things America needs to do to protect itself, and maybe even a renewed emphasis on the Second Amendment." 9/11 changed nothing with respect to NY street violence and citizens walking around with weapons will do nothing to prevent such terrorist attacks unless they are packing surface-to-air missiles. I certainly do not want a President who repeatedly shoots himself in the foot. Been there, done that.
*Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed; for or against, we must take sides. And the history of the future will differ according to the decision which we make. Ruth Benedict (1887–1948), U.S. anthropologist