Saturday, November 17, 2007

11/17/07

*You can’t make this stuff up – An Inspector General (IG) is supposed to be an independent overseer of the activities of a government agency whose responsibility is to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. Meet Howard Krongard, IG of the State Department, whose foremost mission appears to have been aiding the Bush administration by covering up rather than investigating. The accusations against Krongard include: blocking an investigation of Blackwater, accused of smuggling arms into Iraq that wound up on the black market; stalled investigations of waste in the building of the U.S. embassy in Iraq (that is now $144 million over budget); refused to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to pursue wasteful spending and procurement fraud; and he threatened the careers of his own employees if they spoke to congressional investigators. Oh, did I mention that his brother is on the board of Blackwater?

*Broken Contract: The Limits of an All-Volunteer Army – This is the title of an excellent article by Lawrence J. Korb that addresses a subject that has received insufficient attention – the affect of the Iraq war on our Army. “One of the lessons of Iraq is that our nation's All-Volunteer Army (AVA) has suffered significant long-term damage waging a long war it was not designed to fight.” Note: not designed to fight. Korb feels that long-term commitment of ground forces should have been accompanied with a draft. I would speculate that the draft was not instituted because Bush and Cheney knew that Americans would have strongly resisted such a move by employing Viet Nam-like protests. The alternative was to misuse our military, and Korb states, “To meet its needs the active duty Army has had to lower its educational and aptitude standards to unprecedented levels; raised the age for enlistment to 42; shortened enlistments to as little as 15 months; and given bonuses of up to $70,000 for new recruits and up to $150,000 to keep soldiers in. Even with these steps, the Army has had to grant moral waivers (including for felony convictions) to more than 10 percent of its new recruits. West Point graduates are leaving the service in numbers not seen in 30 years, leaving the Army short thousands of Captains.” In his feeble and misguided attempt to protect America Bush has actually weakened the country’s ability to protect its citizens. AND, our military leaders have been silent about their own devastation. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

*The cost of an orgy ~ @$1.5 trillion – A new study by congressional Democrats, “The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War”, says: “The economic costs to the U.S. of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion. The "hidden costs" include higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.” The amount is double the $804 billion budgeted for these wars through 2008.The real costs of the Iraq war amounts to $20,000 for each American. Given that some experts feel that the price of oil cannot be fully attributed to the war in Iraq the cost still remains abhorrent in terms of treasure, life and limb. They impeached Bill Clinton for screwing one person in the White House. Apparently there is no penalty for screwing 300,000,000 people from the White House.

*The cost of pork ~ Still bad but better – Citizens Against Government Waste, which monitors government spending, estimates that over 8000 earmarks or pork spending (a congressman directing money to a specific project) will cost taxpayers $18 to 20 billion this year. When the Republicans controlled congress earmarks totaled $29 billion (reference “Nonsense repeated” below).

*Between a nut and a hard place - Mike Huckabee is a Republican presidential candidate and Baptist preacher. Appearing on meshuganah (mentally imbalanced) Pat Robertson’s TV program Huckabee discussed his qualifications for president. Unique and convoluted would best describe his remarks. “People look at my record and say that I’m as strong on immigration, strong on terror as anybody. In fact I think I’m stronger than most people because I truly understand the nature of the war that we are in with Islamo fascism. These are people that want to kill us. It’s a theocratic war. And I don’t know if anybody fully understands that. I’m the only guy on that stage with a theology degree. I think I understand it really well.” Mike Huckabee appears to have no clue how to address the increasing terrorism in the world. “Islamo Facism” is not a political or religious movement. It is a Bush administration slogan created to cover a failing policy that actually has contributed to the growth of terrorists. Slogan as policy is a path of blind faith. America needs serious and capable leaders to deal with the dangers we face, leaving Mr. Huckabee without a prayer.

*The censoring of Santa Claus ~ speaking of nuts – Santas in Sydney, Australia have been told not to use “ho ho ho” because it may be offensive to women. It was suggested that the alternative be “ha ha ha”. Brilliant! Women just love when you laugh at them.

*The U.S. Constitution is not a menu – Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KA), Republican presidential candidate, has an article in the Washington Post where he says,” The conservative movement in America will succeed to the degree that it is faith-filled.” This group is fond of quoting the Constitution on the right to bear arms but ignore the Separation of Church and State. I have no problem with a person of any faith being a politician. I do have a problem with a politician imposing the tenants of his particular faith on all of society. We have seen the damage caused by a president that selects only those parts of the Constitution that serves his ideology and self-interest. The results are distasteful.

*Enough of Big Brother - Donald Kerr is the principal deputy director of national intelligence. He says: “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity... Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.” My reaction is, NO WAY! The Bush administration’s approach to the challenges facing our country is to operate in the shadows of state secrets while aggressively avoiding the oversight and checks and balances required by our political system. We have seen how that has worked out. Further secreting their incompetence and transgressions would be absurd. Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said, "If Mr. Kerr does not believe he can uphold the Constitution, he should resign." I would not give this group further spying power because it bypasses our Constitution and, I DON’T TRUST THEM!

*Nonsense repeated repeatedly is still nonsense – The Oakland Raiders are a big, nasty football team (20 years ago), Columbus discovered America (Leif Erickson), if you elect Democrats they will overspend your tax dollars. The Republican propaganda machine has been working overtime to convince voters that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. The claim is ancient history. Clinton’s presidency left this country with a surplus. For the last six years it is the Republicans that passed spending bills that leave this country in a terrible debt situation. Making matters worse, Republicans reduced America’s tax revenue from the wealthy, are spending over a trillion dollars for the Iraq war, blocked the importation of less expensive drugs from Canada, instituted non-negotiation of drug pricing with the pharmaceutical companies and a host of other legislative and policy decisions that reduced the financial welfare of most Americans. Republican fiscal responsibility is an urban legend.

*Fire sale on souls – As part of an investigation the FBI secretly video taped Pete Kott speaking to a lobbyist. Kott is the former Republican speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives. He admitted, "I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie... Exxon's happy. BP's happy. I'll sell my soul to the devil.” His comments would be lyrical in a blues song but repugnant in the political landscape. Unfortunately, this mentality is not isolated. Ney and Cunningham are already in jail and we can expect to see another dozen “esteemed” politicians facing corruption investigations in the near future.

*Gay (Military) Pride – According to the UCLA School of Law’s Williamson Institute more than 1 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have served in our armed forces. 65,000 gay patriots are on duty today around the world. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law currently in effect asks brave men and women to serve their country in the shadows because if their sexual orientation is known they are dismissed. This is very unfair to these individuals and it makes no sense given the needs of our military. Two organizations that are working to change the law are Service Members Legal Defense Network and American Voters for Equal Rights. You may want to consider knowing more about this issue and supporting their work. I for one cannot relate to the idea that a country that prides itself on the concepts of “democracy” and “equal rights” can at the same time be exclusionary. The civil rights movement dramatically exposed America’s hypocrisy with respect to Black Americans. Until all citizens are treated equally that Stars and Stripes we wave so fervently should be at half mast.

*Bad to the core – The American Freedom Campaign is publicizing the HBO Emmy Award winning documentary "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib". “The Bush Administration would like you to think the shocking and disturbing images that came out of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 were due to the actions of "a few bad apples." Unfortunately, the degrading and humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners was not the brainchild of some low-level soldiers in the field. In fact, the soldiers were following orders and instructions from the very top of the chain of command.” You can learn more about this documentary and where it is being screened: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=EQplyxyKhv1b4MwLzrleCUoQK50ve1Cy.

*Republican leadership prefers operating in the dark – There is a bill in the Senate that would require senators to make available on line the names and amounts contributors have made to their campaigns. This procedure has been in place for the House of Representatives for the last six years. It is an element of transparency that is seriously needed in the political process. Although the senate bill is co-sponsored by 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans, Republican leadership is doing everything they can to stop this legislation. The primary opposition is coming from Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (KT) (whose corrupt activities I recently noted) and Senator John Ensign (NV) who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

*Thanksgiving Visitors – Because I have written letters to the editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer I was invited to submit a letter for the November 22nd Thanksgiving Day edition stating what I am grateful for this year. I wrote:
In comments to friends, letters to the editor and on my views of the news website I have been extremely critical of the president and his administration, the congress and many national leaders. I have spoken out against torture, domestic spying, corrupt politicians and the overreach of religious fundamentalism. In many countries around the world I would have been silenced. I am grateful that on Thanksgiving the only knocks on my door will be family and friends arriving to share a wonderful dinner and the freedoms that define America. We will offer thanks for these very special gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving

1 comment:

Ruth & Scott said...

Congrats on another brilliant column and much-deserved validation by the Inquirer. It's people like you who keep the light of freedom alive. Happy Turkey Day!