Saturday, June 14, 2008

* My rock garden – Several years ago I placed a number of rocks by a flower garden. The landscaping still looks beautiful but I have no expectation that the rocks have any more intelligence now then when first placed on my property. My rock garden is analogous to the Bush administration. They arrived in Iraq several years ago and, like a rock, they are no more intelligent now then when they instituted this immoral war. If anything, they have regressed while justifying and juxtaposing their original sin. McClatchy Newspapers is reporting that “the United States is demanding 58 bases (28 more bases than currently in place) as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely (hello, John McCain)… Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran (a concern of international magnitude).” Many Iraqis see this proposal as “more abominable than the occupation.” The Bush administration is in place for about 7 more months. It is imperative that what have been a demonstrably weak congress and a compliant military somehow find the courage and ability to keep Bush and Cheney in check. The alternative is further devastation of our military and treasure and a worsening of our ability to address the Iraq quagmire once the rocks drop out of office.

* George Bush in free-fall – not the reality, the game – A reader forwarded an online game that has our 43rd President free-falling through the sky. With your cursor you can stop him from falling and flipping. My cursor chose the passive approach.

* Freedoms in free-fall ~ not the game, possibly the reality – Most of us treat it lightly that the U.S. government’s spying on its own citizens is increasing but at a rate unknown under the blanket of “national security.” The Soviet Union once called it state secrets. A reader brought to my attention an ACLU dramatization of what you may experience by 2010 when ordering a pizza. I smiled during the one minute video presentation. Upon reflection, my smile faded.

* Economics and individual rights ~ boosting the economy and helping America be America – When the recent court ruling in California announced the state would recognize same-sex marriages cash registers started ringing. “…wedding businesses started getting calls from thousands of gays and lesbians planning their nuptials. Many businesses have begun wooing the couples — Macy's, for example, recently took out a huge ad in several newspapers celebrating the ruling and promoting its wedding registry.” According to a UCLA study, “Same-sex weddings could swell the wedding industry's coffers by $684 million (over the next 3 years).” It is a win-win situation for everyone except the arrogant religious-right pretending they have the “God-given” right to tell people how to conduct their lives.

* Concentrated wealth and power control America ~ forces that have seriously wounded our country – In the late 19th and early 20th century congress enacted laws such as the Robinson-Patman Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to control the power of corporations. Eventually, the essence of these laws waned, controls on financial institutions were negated and we saw the rise of private equity firms that face few controls and pay a tax rate of 15% (higher than the rate paid by file clerks working for these companies). “The equity firms such as Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts take over companies with little of their own money, lay off workers and reap the profits when they resell.” Their involvement in the economy benefits few. Their economic power, as expressed through lobbyists to influence congress, makes for a bad situation for the American worker and consumer and the American economy. Their influence over Republicans and Democrats in congress is egregious. In October of 2007 the Senate decided “its schedule was too busy” to try to close the tax loophole that allows these investment firms to be taxed at a 15% rate. One of the reasons that this is a problem is the old adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It was never more appropriate than it is today. “The richest 1 percent of Americans currently hold wealth worth nearly $16.8 trillion, $2 trillion more than the bottom 90 percent.”

There was a ray of light when congress ignored its responsibility to address this serious situation in the person of Barack Obama when he said, "If there was ever a doubt that Washington lobbyists don't actually represent real Americans, it's the fact that they stopped leaders of both parties from requiring elite investment firms to pay their fair share of taxes, even as middle-class families struggle to pay theirs. When I'm President, the American people won't have to spend record amounts on lobbying to get their voice heard in Washington. I will close tax loopholes for big corporations...."

The past decade reaffirmed historical evidence that greed on steroids does not allow for equity or fairness in the marketplace. Taxation is only one aspect. Fair paying jobs, workers rights, work place safety, product safety, competition and consumer rights have all suffered as business interests have come to dominate the national and international landscape. Only a strong president and legislature can effectively change the playing field as it now exists. It is imperative that Americans realize this reality and change the makeup of the White House and the Congress through their votes. To do less is self-destructive and imperils the requisite framework for a viable democratic structure. In the not too distant future we will learn if the American people choose to be governed within a democracy or ruled by an oligarchy. There is no gray area. Obama and John McCain offer us the stark choices that will define this country going forward.

* Our tax dollars at work ~ well, actually on sabbatical – When you think that the Bush administration could not have screwed up the aid to Katrina victims any more than has been reported, they continue to exceed our expectations. It seems that $85 million in household supplies intended for the New Orleans flood victims living in government supplied trailers actually wound up sitting in warehouses for two years. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) realized that the cost of storing these goods was $1 million per year they gave the goods away to federal and state agencies. The intended recipients of these basic necessity products were the ones living in FEMA-provided trailers, also known as toxic tin cans because they contained dangerously high concentration levels of formaldehyde. Dealing with a large-scale disaster is a challenge for the best among us. When those assigned to address the aftermath of such disasters are themselves challenged in competence and integrity, victims are further victimized and as a society we fail our neighbors. As our thoughts and best wishes go out to the many residents of the mid-West seeking shelter and safety from record flooding, we hope for a better response to their needs than were afforded our Gulf Coast neighbors.

* A nation of laws – On Friday bold type headlines told us that the Bush Administration lost another Supreme Court decision with respect to its handling of detainees at Guantanamo. The Court ruled unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commission Act of 2006 that at the administration’s urging, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants. There is no doubt that some of those held are terrorists, but we have also seen evidence that many who are or have been imprisoned were held without evidence of wrongdoing. That is contrary to a nation of laws and the reason why all elements of the system must function transparently and with oversight. Following 9/11 the Bush administration, through a psychotic overreach for power and a psychological weakness of fear, rushed to undermine the legal structure of the country and the laws it swore to protect. Their misconduct and malfeasance will continue to be exposed and reversed.

The other very interesting aspect of this 5 to 4 court decision is which Justices opposed the majority ruling. Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas have demonstrated that their judicial philosophy is more attuned to a legal system and society that would allow a George Bush to function unfettered, a business community to dominate the economic rights of the country and a far, far right view of the social and civil rights of the citizenry. It is these jurists that John McCain cites as examples of the type of judges he would appoint to the Supreme Court. One more appointment of such judges gives them a majority on the Supreme Court. The November presidential election has much more in the balance than the next four-year presidency. Appointments to this highest court are for a lifetime.

* “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, as to why Guantanamo detainees are subject to the rights of habeas corpus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice recap, Stephen, with esp. good links. - RZD