Thursday, July 9, 2009

* A time to grieve, but for whom – If anyone other than his family is grieving at the death of Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1967, I suggest stripping off the black cloth of mourning. This once head of Ford Motor Co. and eventual president of the International Monetary Fund proved to be one of the best and brightest but also one of the worst leaders in American history. He intentionally misled then President Lyndon B. Johnson and the American people about a North Vietnamese attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin – an attack that never occurred. McNamara’s deception led to the bombing of North Viet Nam and resulted in the escalation of a war that would claim over 58,000 American lives, 350,000 American casualties and untold numbers of Asian lives. For many of the American military personnel who survived Viet Nam tragic lives followed from loss of legs and arms, mental illness, joblessness, homelessness and a host of illnesses from exposure to the chemical known as Agent Orange. I for one do not wish that Mr. McNamara rest in peace. I suspect that in the future the same will be written about several members of the Bush administration for their criminal and immoral role in the Iraq War. Amen.

* If you reside in Pennsylvania the foul odor assaulting your senses is not environmental, it is political. Former state senator Vincent Fumo was recently found guilty of a long list of crimes (137 to be exact) and he is about to be sentenced. The Philadelphia Inquirer featured an article about the well-connected pols who have stepped forward pleading for leniency at the Fumo sentencing. Below is my letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Tuesday’s front page article “Rendell lends support to Fumo” epitomizes the stench of Pennsylvania politics and failed leadership. Vincent J. Fumo is the poster boy for and has been found guilty of pay to play politics, fraud, misuse of office and funds and destroying evidence among a list of crimes that is longer than his years of “service.” There is no question of his egregious and criminal acts. Now that he is about to be sentenced, who steps up to ask for mercy? There is the governor of PA, U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady, and former PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala. The “good old boy network” is not good for the citizens of PA and it has gotten very old. The aphrodisiac of power knows no shame!

* Un-American – This is a term we have heard quite often this decade. It is an accusation usually hurled by Republicans/Conservatives at critics of an unprovoked war, individuals who support the rights of gay citizens, citizens that believe torture is immoral, and lovers of freedom offended by the government spying on citizens. I thought about this when reading of Switzerland’s opposition to its international bank UBS disclosing data to U.S. tax authorities on 52,000 Americans who are holders of secret Swiss bank accounts. If one were hiding money in a Swiss bank it seems reasonable to conclude it is being done to avoid taxes, to avoid paying one’s fair share. It is clearly an un-American act and yet I have not heard the lapel flag pin faux patriots offering their outcry. Maybe some of them are waiting until they move their hidden accounts to the Cayman Islands.

The Swiss claim that such revelations would break their banking laws. Not reporting money to the IRS to avoid paying taxes breaks U.S. law so in a very real sense the Swiss are aiding and abetting criminal activity by U.S. citizens. In response to the Swiss intransigence perhaps the U.S. should impose a 500% tariff on Swiss cheese and watches. The other alternative would be to follow the propensity of our Neocon brethren and drop a bunker bomb on the Swiss vaults.

* Speaking of what it means to be an American – Conservative icon Pat Buchanan offered this interesting perspective in an interview this week: “I put democracy far down the line. I think a devoutly Christian, conservative, traditionalist country—even if it’s a monarchy—is fine with me.” I guess that being a real conservative means never having to say you are sorry for ignoring the Constitution of the United States of America or the history of what brought settlers to the new world - fleeing the religious persecution that took place under a monarchy. It is obvious that being extremely intelligent does not preclude one from being a fool.

* Speaking of big cheeses - A report in the Washington Post offers an interesting insight into the lobbying efforts of the healthcare industry to influence or impede legislation on healthcare reform. In this historic battle you and I are David versus Goliath:

~ The healthcare industry is spending $1.4 million per day as it attempts to influence legislation.
~ “The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues… At least three of every four major healthcare firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls”
~ “The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.”

It will require a great deal of citizen action to overcome the mountain of resources being utilized by the folks that have brought us the current state of affairs in healthcare and who wish to maintain the status quo. Seventy-six percent of Americans want a public option to healthcare. As overwhelming as this statistic may be the healthcare industry and their friends/advocates/hired guns in Congress stand in the way. Change will only happen if we the people assert ourselves.

Health Care for America Now has a petition you can sign that will be forwarded to your Representative at this link. offers a letter to your Senator about healthcare reform at this link. If you want to contact your elected officials directly Project Vote Smart, at this link, provides the tools to locate your congressmen’s contact information to let them know your vote will depend upon their actions. If you want to become more active in the effort to achieve healthcare reform Organizing for America has a site where you can sigh up for an event to make phone calls or canvass door-to-door at this link. If you wait for the next increase in your health insurance premium or co-pay it may be too late.

In case you are accepting the band aid solutions the health insurance industry claims it will institute to improve healthcare and control costs a Senate committee report noted the following: “Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid.” Insurers have systematically underpaid for so-called out-of-network care. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo described the underpayments “as a scheme by health insurers to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates." Who do you trust?

Some resources on healthcare reform:
~ Physicians for a National Health Program
~ California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
~ Health Care for America Now
~ The U.S. House's Health Care Reform Discussion Draft
~ National Health Care Policy Study Group

* “One reason the Kennedy and Johnson administrations failed to take an orderly, rational approach to the basic questions underlying Vietnam was the staggering variety and complexity of other issues we faced. Simply put, we faced a blizzard of problems, there were only twenty-four hours in a day, and we often did not have time to think straight.”
Robert S. McNamara, “In Retrospect” (a memoir), 1995

Postscript: One wonders if this week Mr. McNamara is explaining to his maker how he did have the time and mental acuity to intentionally mislead his country into an unnecessary escalation of war marked by death, destruction and tragedy for millions of human beings?


Sue Katz said...

Riveting and enlightening as always, Stephen. Let's not forget the role of Swiss banks in ripping off Jewish families during and after the Holocaust, using their secrecy tradition to avoid paying out to families.

Anonymous said...

good point, sue, about the swiss banks and their lack of moral integrity which is certainly a theme in stephen's blog this week...fumo, mcnamera, et al. hmm, wonder what Cowboy Al makes of all this?

Anonymous said...

oops, anonymous is really me, ruth z.

Anonymous said...

apparently you have not done your research on the Swiss banking issue.
One country can not demand another country to comply with it's laws. tax laws or others. what if the Iranians bullyed the US into complying with their laws.(no freedom to assemble,speech,dress,etc)
How about tax laws. The US is a big tax haven. non resident aliens pay no tax on interest earn in our banks. What if Germany demanded that we turn over those names to their gov't to be taxed in Germany? would we do it? no way. it would violate OUR laws.
there are many,many more reasons why we should backoff this laughable venture. do your research on both sides of a topic.

Anonymous said...

Cowboy Al always appreciates the fact that Stephen voices an opinion and gives us food for thought. I might not always agree with him, but the fact that he is willing to stand up and voice his opinion makes him a special individual.
Cowboy Al