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)

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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 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)

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.

January 1, 2009

Part II: Rethinking Israel v Palestine

Israel is There To Stay, Get Over It

     The United States was only 85 years old when it fought a Civil War over a fundamental split of the populace. Why would we expect countries in steady conflict for more than 85 decades to come to terms with differences even broader.

     The three religions had been at war with each other for nearly two millennia, so why would a collection of countries created after World War II as the United Nations believe that dividing, with Resolution 181, what was then Palestine between Jews and Arabs would work.sr-jpalestine

     Not only were lands of the Palestinians taken from them to create a state at odds with their religious beliefs, the land happened to contain Jerusalem, seen by all three of the area’s religions as their home base. Of course the Palestinians would resent the action and not go quietly into a goodnight.

     Six decades later, what is left of Palestine and the artificial state of Israel thus remain at loggerheads, both employing the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth attitude that is doing nothing to resolve the crisis.

    The dispute is not going to be resolved by giving a scrap of land called Gaza, all that is left of Palestine, its own statehood, even though that would be a fair concession. There remains this wedge of land now known as Israel from which ancestors of Palestinians were driven and which continues to be a thorn in their offsprings’ sides.

     The U.S. position of defending Israel at all costs is a holdover from the Cold War days when the Soviet Union sided with the Arabs and the United States with Israel—our disastrously failed enemy-of-our-enemy-is-our-friend policy.

     This isn’t to say we should abandon Israel; it is to say we need a new way of thinking about the situation and to move away from the same policy that has failed for the past 60 years.

      Who knows what foreign affairs geniuses might come up with once challenged. Perhaps the right answer is a demilitarized zone similar to the one that has been successful for about the same length of time in keeping the two Koreas apart. Perhaps it is a corridor to Jerusalem cut across Israel from Gaza similar to the one from West Germany through East Germany to Berlin that lasted almost as long.

     The partition cannot be undone. Much as Palestinians and their supporters in the region may like it, the rest of the world is not going to support erasing Israel or moving it. It is there to stay and the Palestinians need to face the music and try to accommodate themselves to the reality and see what they can negotiate for themselves.

     New thinking is the challenge of the Obama administration, which in turn must convince the rest of the United Nations to think outside the box.

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

December 31, 2008

Israel v Palestine at 60+

Same Problem, Same Thinking, Same Result

     One of the dumbest decisions a collection of nations ever made occurred in the years immediately after World War II. The consequences of the decision, which was based as much on emotion as anything else, is playing out today as it has been for 60 years.

     The conflict between the muslim Arabs of the Middle East and Jewish Israel has no end as long as those who might have an impact on a resolution continue to try to make a dumb decision work. If ever there was an up-to-date illustration of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, it is the Bush administration incursion into Iraq.

     The Barack Obama administration needs some new thinking on the issue and the rest of the involved world needs to take heed. We do not know what the solution is, we only know there needs to be a new way of thinking about the situation.

     We do know that this back and forth revenge, retaliation, tit for tat, whatever you want to call it, has been going on since 1948 without a solution, so why continue looking for one in the same old worn-out policies.

     The time to think outside the box is becoming urgent as Russia works to restore the cold war, meaning aid and support on the side of opponents of anything the United States favors, in this case, Israel.sr-jpalestine_british_mandate_1920

     The region between Syria, Iraq, Arabia and Egypt to what is now the Suez Canal was handed over to the British Empire to administer after World War I. That empire has a poor history of preparing any of its minions for independence.

     Also, as we have learned most recently with the fall of the Soviet Union and other empire collapses of recent decades, artificial mergings of conflicting ethnic, cultural religious, historical or any other pairings of groups that have their own ways of life simply do not work.

     In Iraq today, it is the Shiites vis a vis the Sunnis, kept unified, as usual, through dictatorial means. That is no different than the British attempt to keep India unified as one country, even though present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh were totally unrelated to India, even hostile to it. Pakistan still is, Bangladesh is just trying to survive.

     What could world leaders have been thinking when they created a Jewish state in the aftermath of discovering the holocaust? To give Jews land, they had to take it from someone else. The someone else lived in the British Mandate of Palestine.

      There probably is no greater conflict in the recorded history than the religious schisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which came about within a few hundred years of each other in the same area before and during the Dark Ages, a period when nothing rational ever was accomplished.

Next: Part II, Israel v Palestine Rethink

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

December 30, 2008

Deny Away Home, Dubbya

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

     A front-page newspaper headline summed up not only 2008, but the eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush: “Bush not worst president, say wife, Rice.”sr-laurarice
     Separate Associated Press interviews with Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice elicited the denials, but the reporter apparently did not bother to ask, “Who was worse?”
     Bush and soul mate Dick Cheney made interview rounds in the waning days of their disastrous administration, trying to spin a good face on the administration one last go-round.

     All four repeated that history is yet to be written. It is true most historians would tell you an accurate historical judgment needs to wait until at least 20 years after the fact to avoid mixing in the emotions of the time.
     In this case, however, it is likely that 20 years later the Bush administration’s ineptitude will be the focus of historians in 2028 just as the opinions about Richard Nixon held true through 1994, 2004, and, we dare say, will be the historical opinion far into the future.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

December 22, 2008

Gift Card From Your Government

Trickle-Up Bailout Card—Part II

     Instead of bailing out the economy by spreading government money at the top of the income pyramid, we suggest the government concentrate instead on the bottom of the pyramid, spread the bailout money there and let it trickle-up through the economy.

     But our proposal also relies on some social engineering attached to the funds. Since the ails of the domestic auto industry are front and center now, we will begin with that.

     Call it a bailout by gift card, the giver being the store of last resort, the federal government. The givees would be American households, each with a choice of which gift card to receive.

     Under the plan, the household would receive a huge amount of the equivalent of cash (huge having much more meaning at the bottom of the scale than at the top) they could not spend frivolously (except in the many instances of buying an unnecessary car), and that in turn would stimulate the neediest segments of the economy as well as benefit the societal problems of the environment, alternative fuels, credit, savings and many others.

     As we saisr-giftwrappedcar2jpegd in Part I, there may be many problems with the proposal, but the thinking in Washington has been nowhere near considering a new way of dealing with the financial crisis while at the same time steering the American public in the direction they as well as the U.S. automakers should have been moving before the economic bubble burst.

     1. Gift card for a car, $20,000 for one of the “big three,” $5,000 all others. The card would be good only for cars that meet government-set criteria, the social engineering part of the proposal. They must meet some combination of a minimum mileage standard, carbon footprint standard, reliance on alternative fuels, safety and a few other concerns. Those cars currently produced have been rated on most of those standards by the Environmental Protection Agency.
      The U.S. automakers were selling about 3.6 million cars a year in 2000 when they were riding high. In November of this year, the month they went begging for a bailout, they were selling about 2.1 million. Thus, if the $20,000 stimulus led to 1.5 million sales, presumably the automakers would be out of financial trouble with time to retool and begin making only cars that meet those government criteria. There is $30 billion of the $700 billion bailout funds, leaving $670 billion.
     2. Gift card to pay off credit card debt, but coupled with new usury laws at the federal level more stringent than new ones scheduled to take effect, perhaps limiting the cards to pay off debt capped at a certain interest rate. The average American household has $8,000 in credit card debt and 48 million spend more than they earn. That amounts to $384 billion, trimming the bailout fund to $286 billion if all 48 million took that option.
     3. Gift card to pay off student loans, recover mortgage stability, cover the cost of alternative energysr-foreclosurejpeg sources or a variety of other “green issues.” Recent figures put 2 million homes facing foreclosure because of the credit crisis, and at an average of $35,500 to save each household, the cost would be $71 billion. About 6 million outstanding student loans amount to $85 billion, or an average of $14,600 each. A $10,000 card would cost $60 billion. Those two programs would cost $157 billion, leaving $129 billion worth of cards for those who select from other government priorities.
     4. Subject the gift cards to taxes, but couple that onerous requirement with a supplementary card in the form of a certificate of deposit, treasury bill or federal bond that would not be redeemable for at least another year, to cover those who do not plan well for the extra tax burden of having thousands added to their tax bill the filing period after they receive the gift card. The forced savings also would be beneficial in introducing some people to the idea of the value of having savings to help them weather crises such as this one.

(from http://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 11, 2008

Another Imperial Presidency?

 

The Dangerous Path of Executive Orders

      A disturbing juxtaposition of news items began the week as the United States began its transition of governments. The new government will behave as the old in at least one respect.sr-bushobamanxtjpeg
     And lay this one on the Democrats who took control of Congress and announced immediately (through the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) that there would be no attempt to impeach President Bush.
     The head of Barack Obama’s transition team, John Podesta, said, “There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that. I think that he feels he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.”
     But Podesta, and the Obama camp, apparently does not realize that course the Bush administration set was enabled to a great extent by broadening the use of executive orders way beyond its legal authority and is the basis of many of the impeachable offenses the Democrats declined to address.
     To wit, from the New York Times: The U.S. military was given authority through an executive order signed by Bush in 2004 to attack Al Queda anywhere in the world, even in countries not at war with the United States, a gross violation of international rights.
sr-bushsignjpeg     Before that, we learned executive orders were signed with impunity to violate constitutional rights, the Geneva Convention and all sorts of domestic and international laws as the Bush administration behaved as if it was above and beyond any and all laws.
     That behavior established a dangerous behavior that eventually could lead to an authoritarian state if the checks and balances embodied in the U.S. Constitution are not used to hold that behavior in check.
     The best way to do that would have been to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush, even if there was no real sentiment to take them to the ultimate and oust him from office. The great value of the proceedings would have been to let future presidents, including Obama, know they do not have this power, regardless of how powerful and regal they may feel in the Oval Office.
      That needed to be done because once a president, or anyone else for that matter, is given authority, regardless of how ill-gotten it is, is not likely to want to give it up, as we have warned on this site before.
      Our worst fears have been realized, in the person of John Podesta, who presumably is relaying the sentiment of the Obama presidency to be.sr-branchesjpeg
      Congress needs to step in say, “Hey, wait just a darn minute here. We are in the same party, but we didn’t support Obama to be elected as king, merely as a president. Back off or we’ll start tying your hands.”
      Beyond that, somebody needs to take the Bush executive orders to the Supreme Court, and get the judicial branch to do its part in bring- ing the executive branch back within the constraints of the Constitution. This might be a good activity for the Republicans while people biased for their party are still running the court.
      Obama assumption of Bush violations is not change we need. Legislative and judicial branches with the guts to rein back in the executive branch is the change we need.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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