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 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 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 20, 2008

Bailout or Gift Card?

Bailout by Trickle-Up Gift Card—Part I

     The effort to correct the financial crisis in the United States has been largely ineffective, and for good reason. The people in charge, mostly at the top of the economic arm of the Bush administration, but aided and abetted by similarly minded people in Congress, continue to focus on the top of the pyramid instead of thesr-giftcardjpeg bottom.
     We continue to beat the drum here in favor of some “trickle-up” economic thinking instead of “trickle-down.” So here is a proposal for consideration that is outside the box of what everyone has been hearing from those in charge.
     This proposed solution, as with much of outside-the-box thinking, probably has some holes in it others will be quick to point out, but at least consider it as a possible point of departure for figuring out a solution.
     This proposal was inspired by one of a series of off-the-wall suggestions from largely uninformed and somewhat naïve people (and this proposal may give us membership in that group) in response to proposals from the top.
     Most are based on faulty math and false statistics, so let us begin with some true figures. The $700 billion bailout package the federal government currently is sitting on is equivalent to nearly $7,000 for each of the 111.2 million U.S. households. There are 138 million taxpayers, but millions who don’t earn enough to pay taxes.

     Throwing that much money at every U.S. family without strings attached would only encourage more of the same reckless spending without solving the financial or any other problems. But the idea does suggest a trickle-up solution that inspires us to give some serious thought to the basic idea.
     We see a possibility of solving not only the financial crisis, but many other social crises in America with that $700 billion. Unfortunately the people in charge of those funds don’t see the little people way down there at the bottom of the pile have looked only at the top of the financial pyramid because of trickle-down groupthink. Even our suggestion begins with the classic Republican economic model of tax credits to be filtered back into the economy through private enterprise.
     The stimulus checks so far have been ineffective in overcoming the financial collapse, in part because they are too little at a maximum of $600 per taxpayer and totally unstructured. Even if those checks had stimulated anything, they would have had only a narrow impact.
     The incoming Obama administration faces many more problems than the financial crisis, although it currently takes first place in concern. The major issues include the climate crisis, the associated issue of U.S. dependency on both foreign and domestic oil, the individual-based credit crisis, the savings crisis, foreclosure crisis and on and on.

     So what if the government, instead of worrying about big business and those at the top of the financial pyramid, it focuses instead on a “trickle-up” plan, beginning at the bottom of that pyramid.
     That brings us to the proposal. Shoot holes in it as you will, but at least consider it as a takeoff point for considering a solution to the crises at hand. We can already see some problems with foreign trade agreements, political problems and other likely attacks on the proposal, but let us consider it as a new way of looking at the situation.
     Instead of bailing out anyone, give not a three-figure stimulus check to each American taxpayer, give each of the 111 million households (rather than each of the 138 million taxpayers, since the very bottom does not make enough to pay taxes) a gift card similar to those offered by stores and good only in that store, valued at $5,000 to $20,000.

Next: Part II–Gift cards for, cars, cards, loans and green 

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

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)

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