Setting the Record Straight

May 18, 2009

Pelosi Should Resign

Pelosi A Patsy, Time To Go

Nancy Pelosi should resign as speaker of the House.
No, not because she knew about torture of terrorist detainees from the beginning. That’s the stupid part of this current dust-up. Her biggest sin goes far beyond the consequences of knowing about that shameful episode. The consequences of the big sin are being played out down Pennsylvania Ave. as she allows herself to be distracted and victimized by GOPcha.
Veteran Republicans as well as Democrats have known, along with many reporters, staff members, lobbyists and other veterans that the CIA and the rest of the intelligence lies with ease—if not outright lying, dissembling at the very least. One former CIA official was uncharacteristically blunt once when he said, “Of course we lied about that. That’s what we do.”
The problem is we should not even be discussing the issue at this point. It should have been mooted two years ago, by a process Pelosi should have begun, but instead blocked. That is the biggest reason why she should resign.
sr-pelosigo Most immediately, she should resign because she fell for the one of the oldest in the GOP’s bag of tricks—when the heat is on, practice a bit of legerdemain. Ironically, she enabled the trick to be played on her even before she took her seat as speaker.
The Republican Party has proved itself once again the master of the sleight of hand. A lounge magician relies on shifting the audience’s attention to one hand to help cloud what the other hand is doing to make the trick seem magical.
She allowed the GOP to shift the focus away from the entire Republican party that not only knew about the torture as soon as Pelosi did, its members aided, abetted, suggested, pushed, condoned and covered for it, all knowingly shredding or ignoring the Constitution to make it all seem legal, somehow. What kind of political fool would allow that same party to shift the attention away from all of them and onto one Democrat?
All that is bad enough, but she set the stage for the issue to be relevant at this point in the game, or even a subject for discussion.
As speaker-to-be, Pelosi took off the table the possibility of impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush and his Dr. Strangelove sidekick, Dick Cheney during their final two years of mayhem.
An impeachment inquiry, even if it failed to lead to the ouster of the two real culprits, would have settled several issues that are going to haunt us now for months, if not years.
Barack Obama has shown this to be the case in his shift on treatment of the terrorist detainees (suspected terrorists, that is) and giving them a day in what is essentially a kangaroo court that lies down the road as the detainees continue to be held under illegal circumstances.
Obama would not have been able to make this sad mistake if Pelosi and her majority Democrats had done their job as soon they won control in 2007, to re-establish the supremacy of the Constitution and the belief the American system of justice works for everyone.

If all that had occurred, Pelosi might still be a respected and influential speaker of the House, attributes she is not now likely ever to achieve.

(from: http://www.straightrecord.com)

April 25, 2009

Punish All Torturers

Do Look Back, Play the Blame Game–

In his first three months in office, President Obama has revealed a major weakness that he needs to correct for the sake of future generations. He needs to drop the idea of “looking forward” at the expense of “looking back.”

His most glaring lapse to date has been his indecisive flip-flop on what to do with those who authorized or carried out torture techniques against terrorism suspects in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

Only by “looking back” and providing the same justice to the U.S. torturers at all levels that we meted out after World War II against Germans and Japanese. Unless we do so, the United States will be seen as holding itself above the law applied to the rest of the world.sr-nurembergbig

At the Nuremburg war crime trials, U.S. policy was that “just following orders” was not a defense for the Nazis who carried out the war crimes. Some of those were executed.

At the Far East military tribunals, the U.S. policy was that waterboarding was without a doubt a form of torture. Some of those carrying out the torture orders were executed.

Somehow, punishing those who “just followed orders” given by the CIA, U.S. military officers and even Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice or the president and vice president, short of executing them somehow does not seem to be so harsh.

Since one cannot prove a negative, it cannot be said with any assurance that those trials deterred nations and people from war crimes in the ensuing six decades. Even if our current torture had saved the United States from a dozen 9/11s, as Cheney might yet claim, the torture still would have been wrong.

But we can say those two sets of trials should have been seen as a clear indication there existed an international agreement such crimes were never to be repeated.

Until now.

It is overly simplistic to say those who ordered and/or carried out the crimes of torture were acting legally because the Justice Department declared such acts to be legal. Particularly the toady Justice Department during the Bush administration.

Just declaring it to be so does not make something legal. Laws are made by legislative bodies and are to be administered by the executive branch. And, sorry to say, carrying out an illegal declaration of law or an illegal was shown in those post-World War II sets of trials is no defense for the torturing.

All of this behavior should have been led to articles of impeachment against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney before they left office, but impeachment has no solution other than removal from office, so that chance has been forever lost.

But now that they, and Rice and Roberto Gonzales and the rest of the gang are out of office, they can be charged with crimes and let prosecutions trickle on down to those who poured the water and performed all the other illegal forms of torture.

The United States must carry out these proceedings and mete out the justice. It already has slapped the rest of the world on international law issues through grotesque display of arrogance by withdrawing its membership in the International Court of Justice that applies anti-torture laws to the rest of the world.

Similarly, the Obama administration must get over this “not playing the blame game” attitude towards those responsible for the financial collapse that is only now trickling down to the rest of the world with repercussions yet to be felt abroad that could make the great depression-like impact on the U.S. seem like a picnic by comparison.

From (www.straightrecord.com)

February 11, 2009

Grammar Rant

We Verb You To Quit Saying 24/7

If I were the Grammar and Usage Czar:

–Nobody would be “tasked” to do something. The person would be assigned or directed or ordered or requested or asked or commanded or ordained or appointed.

–Nobody would be allowed to use the expression “twenty-four/seven” or its newest variant “twenty-four/seven/three sixty-five.” It would be at all times or around the clock or all day or every day or always or without end or any of useful alternatives.

–Particularly in television, reporters or anchors would not be allowed to describe something as happening “as we speak.” “Police are investigating as we speak” is redundant; the present tense of the verb takes care of all that.

–“As well” should be consigned to the trash heap. “They sold new models, but also sold used cars as well.” “Also” or “and” or something else would do without the “as well.”

–Speaking of “well,” that would not be allowed to be the first word in every television reporter’s story: “Well, Skippy, the city….” “Well, today was to be the day….”

–Everyone would be assigned to study the objective case and nominative case. They would never again say “It made no difference to Joe and I” or “Mail it to Mary or I.”

—Veritas

(from www.straightrecord.com)

February 10, 2009

Grand Old Partisanship

 

Making Petty Points
      They still don’t get it, the Republicans. With almost-daily reports of harm to the economy, dithering and delay are the mantra of Republicans in Congress debating the economic stimulus.

  sr-stockmanreaganjpeg    Some of them made speeches reminiscent of David Stockman and Ronald Reagan and trickle-down economics: Give the rich a tax break and in their generosity, they will spread the wealth to the lowest. That has not worked. It will not work, but Democrats in Congress have had to accept some portions of that argument just to get enough support to enact the stimulus legislation.

      GOP leader John Boehner said President Obama’s plan for the economy, with its enormous deficits to come, has to be paid for by the current generation’s children and grandchildren. Where was Boehner when our just-past Imbecile-In-Chief, George W. Bush, frittered away a huge surplus left to him by Bill Clinton, and rushed and lied the nation into a trillion-dollar war in Iraq? Republicans did not whimper about deficits or future generations then.

      Where was the Republican leadership when Bush’s hatred of federal oversight and regulation led to the excesses that brought the “meltdown” to Wall Street and the banks? Where were the howls about golden parachutes and billions in bonuses?

      We would not be debating a recovery, let alone one that will cost record deficits, if Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress had not led the nation down those paths.

      Lost in the shouting is a basic fact of spending: A person of modest income gets $1,000, whether in a new job or an outright grant, and spends it mostly on necessities, across a broad spectrum of labor-intensive goods, produced in ways that create jobs. A super-rich person gets $1,000, say from a tax cut, and his high-end spending goes out to a more limited spectrum of goods and labor force.

      Some of the arguments are just silly. Some critics say that giving a boost to the arts, for example, is not productive because it does not create jobs. Just taking my city as an example, spending on the arts brings tourism that is the biggest generator of jobs and prosperity.

      Just from the standpoint of practicality, tax cuts are heavy on paperwork and delay, compared with the more direct effects that come with generating new jobs, boosting aid to localities, helping the homeless and poor, or boosting working families’ purchasing power.

      The hubbub over recovery has forced a new definition of pork barrel. Some of what is “pork” in ordinary times could be recast as “recovery projects” in the deep recession. So members of both parties should be careful not to allow too much of the necessary infrastructure spending to become dismissed as “pork.” There is still inexcusable pork-barrel spending, of course. Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” would still be “pork,” even under a shifting definition. But a meritorious public works project long postponed only because of the recession could add to the recovery by creating jobs.          –Veritas

(from www.straightrecord.com)

February 2, 2009

Same Old Party

GOP Still Doesn’t Get It
     The Republican Party took a big hit in the Nov. 4 elections, all across the country and not just at the top of the ticket. Subsequent hand wringing within the party suggested there was a widespread realization the party needed a major change.
     Republican behavior since then shows the party still does not get it. From Nov. 5 on, Republicans around the country have spouted the same old lines they have always had, most of them Pavlovian responses, led by the same old “tax cuts!
sr-steelejpeg6     Choosing Michael Steele as chairman of the national GOP is not going to help the party change. Steele embodies two elements sacred to the party and its old thinking—Christianity and business. He was born on an air base (to a widow, but with no reference to a military father or the circumstances), he was educated in Catholic Schools and even attended a seminary set to become a priest, and most importantly from a political point of view, he was a corporate lawyer who helped the Wall Street gang that built the unsupported economic bubble that just burst.
     Republicans probably chose Steele because he is black, a token they hoped would attract African-Americans, and presumably Hispanics, away from the Democratic Party they so overwhelmingly backed in the election.
     The wealthy black face that stood out when he addressed a sea of white faces at the Republican Convention is not likely to understand any more of the needs of the nation’s poor and minorities (shamefully, usually the same) than his audience. His only public break with party doctrine has been that he supports affirmative action.
     The GOP response to the stimulus package offered by the new administration to help fix some of the mess left by the previous Republican administration was just about the same response it would have made 10 years earlier. Ditto the response to bringing back some regulation to help balance the greed that has been driving the nation.sr-rushlimbaugh2
     Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as president, the GOP was hurling negative invectives his way and Rush Limbaugh, whose ability to generate interest declined as George W. Bush brought the party down, returned to set the same petty oral agenda for at least the next four years.
     The GOP has never served the interests of the poor, the minorities or even much of the middle class and indicated in the first three months after the election it probably never will.
     The Republican Party’s only salvation may be to split into two parties, ceding one part to the right-wing nuts who salivate at the mention of key words to wallow in the world of hatred and meaningless issues. The remainder would work to build party of moderates that just might attract enough voters away from the Democratic Party to be viable once again, representing not only business interests, but the interests of the customers of business as well.

 

January 19, 2009

The Bush Legacy

His Best Effort

     The exiting Bush crowd, including his dwindling supporters and apologists, spent the final days of the administration in one last attempt to put a favorable spin on the past eight years.
     He and Dick Cheney even attempted to move back the period through which a historical look at their failed presidency would be viewed. Historians generally agree that because of the emotions of the time and disclosures not yet made, a period cannot be judged honestly until about 20 years after the fact. Bush and Cheney kept mentioning 50 years for a reasonable look-back, no doubt because they figured most of us who lived through their mess would be dead by then.
     Much of the spinning got to be downright ridiculous. It also led to more Bushspeak, as in this sentence in one of his many departing interviews, during which he apologized for nothing: “I am disappointed that weapons of mass destruction were not found” in Iraq.
     If one takes a good look at that sentence, it is an amazing admission that his detractors were correct—that he wanted any excuse to invade Iraq, for whatever reason we still don’t really know. He is not apologizing for or seeking an excuse for what his defenders blamed on bad intelligence; he actually wanted there to be WMDs in Iraq to justify his invasion.
     There were many other such moments, many that evoke laughter among his detractors, others that prompt puzzling headshakes, and other misstatements and mischaracterization of the truth.
     One of the worst mischaracterizations, however, occurred during his own recounting of his administration’s achievements and similar lists compiled by his supporters. He claimed one of his major achievements was the adding prescription coverage to Medicare.
     As supporters of national health care, we also believe that was an excellent move, but only if done correctly. But because it was passed at a time when Republicans virtually controlled all three branches of government, it was deeply flawed and has become one of myriad problems left for a new Democratic administration and Democratic Congress to repair.
     Because the GOP exists chiefly to serve the rich and big business, its leaders left out of the Medicare prescription drug package a practical way to pay for the massive addition to an entitlement program.
     That also is one of the many ironies afflicting the exiting crowd that always railed against budget-busting entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. The Bush/Gingrich leadership is replete with such contradictions, but Medicare Part D takes the cake. sr-bushexitexitjpeg
     Understandably, the pharmaceutical industry, already one of the nation’s wealthiest industries, wanted drugs covered under Medicare insurance to create a huge expansion of their domestic market. But they wanted to sell them at the prices they set.
     Democrats tried and failed to get some type of provision added to the benefit to keep down the cost, so they offered amendments all along the way to ensure that the government, through the Medicare program, would negotiate with the drug makers for the same volume discounts it negotiates with other suppliers.
     Not only did the Democrats fail to win that provision, the Republican majority flipped that proposal around and added language to the bill specifically barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices. So much for labeling Democrats as the “tax and spend” party.
     Thus, we have another growing mess from the Bush legacy, one he and his supporters say is one of their best efforts.
     Thank you, Mr. President—and don’t let the door hit you in the behind on your way out.

December 15, 2008

Bleeping the Bard for Blago

Macblago and Lady Macblago

     Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wife has been tagged with the nickname Lady Macbeth for her role in his plots to extort a job from President-elect Obama and favorable treatment from the Chicago Tribune. That inspires an update of two Shakespeare speeches:

  

             Macblago, thane of Illinois:sr-macbethdaggerjpeg
        Is this a bleep’n phone which I see before me,
        The receiver in my hand? Let me extort thee.
        I have funds not, and so I phone thee still.
        Art thou not, bleep’N prez, sensible to my need     
        For secretary of health? Or art thou but   
        An honest man, a Chicago weirdo,
        And I a bleep’n gov, left without a brain. 
NY Times

 

                    Lady Macblago:
Now, damn’d Rod, now I say—one, two, three jobs.
Tis time to bribe. Hell with em. Bleep, my Rod, bleep, a prez and
A Trib? What need we fear who taps us, when it’s you who
Goes to jail? Yet, who would’ve thought those bleep’n men would bleep’n
Have none our bleep’n graft in them?                                

  

(from www.straightrecord.com)

December 12, 2008

Blago Seeking Bandits

Taking Hubris to the Max in Illinois

      It takes an ego as big as the moon to consider oneself a candidate for high public office such as U.S. senator or governor. A reporter who has spent a career rubbing shoulders with people of high office should be immune to such feelings, but it never ceases to amaze just how much hubris some of these people can have.sr-blagojpeg
     The prize, which we hope will remain his for generations, goes to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat. His case is one of massive hubris overlain by extreme corruption and, most surprisingly, naivete.
     His case would be arrogance on a massive scale anywhere in the country, but in Illinois, he has got to be kidding. The FBI (unbleeped) affidavit summarizing the case showed he had been under investigation for corruption since the day he took the (ha-ha) oath of office in 2003. The U.S. attorney is from outside Illinois because a former senator with the same last name urged his nomination, believing someone from Illinois unlikely to fight corruption.
     His wife, Patti, is the daughter of a 32-year Chicago alderman and nobody needs to be reminded of what that means. Blagojevich succeeded a Republican governor who is now in jail for corruption, a two former governors who were indicted after they left office; and that was all since Chicago’s Al Capone days.
     Probably because of its long history of corruption problems, Illinois is unique in that it has the Better Government Association, formed as a result of the Capone-led corruption. And guess what; it often works with Illinois news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, in its investigations. And the Tribune itself was investigating the U.S. attorney’s investigation of Blagojevich and in contact with that office.
     Blagojevich had to know he was under investigation and even said to a fundraiser (over the phone), “You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody’s listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?” Turns out it was.
     And yet, with all that behind him, Blagojevich apparently was naïve enough to believe he could shake down the Chicago Tribune and the president-elect and get away with it. As one Chicago wag said, “he doesn’t need a lawyer; he needs a psychiatrist.”

    “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton  

(from www.straightrecord.com)

December 7, 2008

Obama’s Good First Move

Jobs and Infrastructure

 

     We may be accused of belaboring the subject, but our two main mantras on this site bear constant repeating—“those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and the theory of “trickle-up” economics should be applied to government as a whole. 

     President-Elect Barack Obama has given the first solid indicsr-obamainfrajpegation he may attempt to take this country down the path we believe to be the key to remaking America. He is beginning with a “killing two birds with one stone” solution to two of the country’s major domestic problems.
     A trickle-up view of economics sees the people at the bottom of the income scale as the starting point, lifting them up to enable them to contribute more to society and become the buyers who keep small and then ever-larger businesses in business.
     For too long, our economy has relied on the trickle-down theory of helping businesses expand in the belief they will then hire more workers and help the entire economy: the trickle-down theory. The main difference between the two major parties is the Republicans believe to serve that theory, all federal funds should be channeled through businesses, e.g., that health care should not be direct from the government to the citizen, but should be provided with tax credits to be spent buying health care from a provider, a business.
     The trickle-up theory says that if the money is given directly to a universal health-care system, more funds would be available because they would not be siphoned off by a corporate, for-profit bureaucracy.
     HMO stands for “health maintenance organization,” an entity that was supposed to lower health costs, by working to keep their members healthy before they can contract a more-costly disease or other ailment. The meaning of HMO has been lost almost since they day they were created.
     The current economic crisis resulted from the collapse of a house of cards built on the failed “trickle-down” theory taken to its lunatic zenith, creating a situation where the gap between the rich and poor in this country is now the largest it has ever been. Keeping the middle- and low-income in their status has meant fewer buyers for the goods in American commerce. The crisis adds to that by taking away disposable income from the middle-class and keeping the low-income in their place, both income classes increasing without a job.
     The lame-duck Republican administration, as with most administrations, relied on lagging statistics to decide whether to respond to inflation and recession that was felt first at the low-income level and left to trickle up to engulf the middle-class while the statisticians waiting for months on the numbers that would prove what the lower-income classes already saw. It should not have been a surprise that any increase in the cost of fuel and food is going to affect first those without disposable income.
     So it was not surprising that when the outgoing administration saw a credit crisis building towards collapse, it attempted to solve the problem at the top, believing the solution would trickle down to the bottom.

 sr-msbridgejpeg1    Ever since the 1970s, even before the first oil crisis led to an economic crisis almost as big as the current one, experts have been warning about our collapsing infrastructure, e.g., roads, pipes, wires, dams, bridges, tunnels, much of which needed to replaced decades ago. The infrastructure is a looming crisis almost as big as the financial one.

    So now, with an administration set to take charge with intelligence behind it instead of ideology, Obama has chosen to help out bottom half of American society by pumping money into finally dealing with the infrastructure, a huge task not seen since the Great Depression and one that would provide jobs for all the unemployed and the soon-to-be Under the trickle-up theory, the top half of the economy will benefit from having more people with money they have to spend, and in some cases some they do not have to spend.
     There are many other things that need to be done to get the nation back on track, but providing jobs while halting the deterioration of the infrastructure is an excellent start for the incoming Obama administration.

(from www.straightrecord.com)  

November 21, 2008

Guzzling From the Tin Cup

The Best Favor Detroit Did Not Want
     Doubtless, the U.S. auto industry won’t see it this way, sr-dingelljpegbut Congress did Chrysler, Ford and GM a huge favor as their CEOs testified elsewhere on Capitol Hill. House Democrats ousted John Dingell as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
     As we noted in Help the U.S. Auto Industry: Vote Against It, as chairman, and before that as a high-ranking member on the panel, the Michigan Democrat did grave harm to the auto industry by giving them what it asked for. What it asked for essentially boiled down to “help us fail to compete with foreign automakers.”
     Just before the gas crisis in the early 1970s, Congress wanted to require catalytic converters on all cars to reduce pollution. Dingell helped the automakers defeat the first measures, while foreign automakers began including them on their cars.
     Dingell also helped automakers defeat efforts in Congress to require cars to have low-impact bumpers as a safety feature and to reduce weight to reduce fuel consumption, again while foreign makers included them on their cars.
     He also helped the automakers prevent stronger CAFE standards governing fleet fuel-efficiency. Together, they wrangled an exemption of trucks and certain large cars from the standards and even gave them a business-tax advantage. Foreign automakers widened the gap between average miles per gallon on their cars versus domestic ones.
     After the gas crisis eased and energy-conscious President Jimmy Carter was ousted from the White House, lights were turned back on federal monuments and all the calls for alternative energy sources began being ignored. At the same time, U.S. automakers began promoting ever-larger behemoths for the road, spending billions on advertising to begin a new trend.
     An advertising pro once told us the mantra on Madison Avenue had become “you can sell a boomer anything,” and this was the age of the all-consuming boomers. The macho-vehicle rage began and Detroit reaped the higher profits on more-expensive machines exempt from the CAFÉ fleet averages. Toyota, Honda and others continued heavy research on greater fuel-efficiency, alternative propulsion techniques and alternative fuels, and churned out the high-quality cars that resulted from that work.
     When Detroit began seeing the flight to better-quality cars made abroad, its best response was from Lee Iacocca who claimed that at Ford, “quality is job 1” even before the company lifted a hand to try better quality.
     With all their congressional goodies in hand, Detroit-based automakers decided they did not have to compete with foreign-made cars and didn’t. So when the muck hit the fan with the latest fuel crisis, their downfall was secured.
     As far-sighted managers, foreign automakers bucked the effort by Detroit to paint them as home-wreckers by locating research and manu- facturing plants in the United States and hiring Americans to build their cars.
     Of course, members of Congress heard none of this explanation during the round of hearings on the industry’s request for a piece of the financial meltdown bailout, pleaded for by CEOs of the “Big 3” who had flown to Washington on private jets with huge expense accounts and tin cup in hand.
     But House Democrats, most of whom favor the bailout because of the union jobs they think would be saved, did the auto industry a favor and doubtless will put in back in condition to compete, if it survives.
SCENES FROM A COMMITTEE     The new chairman is Henry Waxman, a tireless and dogged California Democrat who wages war on behalf of the environment and consumers, a combination that is just what the auto industry needed lo these many years instead of the Democrat who helped them on their path to oblivion.

(from http://www.straightrecord.com)

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