Monday, April 30, 2007

Bush Never Much Thought About His War

The most powerful man in the world never much thought about why he was going to war in Iraq. That's pretty much one of the key points that George Tenet has made about George W. Bush. It's not news though. We already knew that President Bush doesn't think much about anything. He's the kind of guy who shoots from the lips and shrugs when things don't go his way.

Here's an AP article from over the weekend about the chaos in Iraq and the death of 9 Americans:
A car bomb exploded Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala as the streets were packed with people heading for evening prayers, killing at least 58 and wounding scores near some of the country's most sacred shrines. Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of nine American troops, including three killed Saturday in a single roadside bombing outside Baghdad.

With smoke clogging the skies above Karbala, angry crowds hurled stones at police and later stormed the provincial governor's house, accusing authorities of failing to protect them from the bombings usually blamed on Sunni insurgents. It was the second car bomb to strike the city's central area in two weeks.

Several more Americans have died since then raising the total of Americans dead in April to 104; the combined coalition casualties for April are the highest since the Iraqi elections of January of 2005. It should be noted that the British are having increasing problems in what was once the relatively peaceful areas of southern Iraq which is predominately Shiite. As Bush stubbornly continues to ignore the advice of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, right wing Republicans in Congress and around the country should think long and hard about supporting an incompetent president who thinks he has all the answers.

Dan Froomkin of White House Watch has some thoughts on Tenet's somewhat tardy revelations:
As President Bush drove the country to what has turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq, did he ever have any doubts about whether it was the right call? Did he ever even consider there might be another way?

The new book by former CIA director George Tenet adds more evidence to the conclusion that once the president's mind was made up, there was no looking back. Inside the White House, the only debate about the war would appear to have been about how to sell it.

The administration's response to this latest charge has been angry -- yet vague. Bush's defenders are still unable to offer up one concrete piece of evidence suggesting that the costs that could (and would) be suffered by American troops and the Iraqi people weighed heavily enough upon the president that he ever seriously questioned his initial decision.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Bush was interested in invading Iraq long before 9/11; certainly Rumsfeld and Cheney were interested in the project before Bush became president. But we have an incompetent in the White House surrounded by ideologues who have a poor understanding of the world. Bush is the kind of man who does not harbor doubts, who has all the answers and who doesn't believe he makes mistakes; combine that recipe for disaster with sheer incompetence and there's going to be trouble no matter where such a man is put. Putting Bush in charge of the most powerful government in the world will go down as America's greatest strategic blunder.

Technically, you can only impeach a president for treason and high crimes and misdemeanors but not for gross incompetence; perhaps the words 'gross incompetence' should be inserted in the US Constitution. But it's increasingly clear Bush has actually committed any number of crimes that are impeachable; he is protected, however, by a stubborn right wing base, a compliant media (though less so than three years ago) and an increasingly deluded group of politicians who are unable as yet to acknowledge his crimes and failures. But dissastisfaction with Bush is growing even among Republicans. And there is still the matter of ignoring the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that included Republicans and was led by a Republican. Bush has no explanation for his inadequate performance.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saudi Arabia and George W. Bush

Although Bush has had a close relationship with a number of powerful individuals from Saudi Arabia, his strange 'can't do' presidency has done damage to our relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. Because the Iraq fiasco is in their backyard, the Saudis have particular reason to be disturbed. We continue to be allies with Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries though of course it is a difficult relationship at times.

Several bits of news in recent days have come to my attention and they highlight the complexity of our relationships and the dangerous damage Bush has done to our foreign policy (without the president having any clue where to go next). For all of Bush's posturing, the question hangs dismally in the air: how is Bush's war on terruh going? Here's Mary of The Left Coaster reminding us that Bush's war on terror has unfortunately done an effective job of creating more terrorists:
Based on the State Department report that the number of terrorist incidents in the world were up 29% in 2006, it would appear the answer is not so good.

Then there is that report from McClatchy today that the Saudis are unhappy to find that the detainees emerging from Gitmo are more extreme than when they went in. Enough so that the Saudis are providing them extensive help including counseling, financial aid and even match-making in order to woo them away from their attachment to terrorism.

Give the article and links a read. Bush's pretentious and ultraconservative ideas about how to do things are obviously not working. But Bush is not the only president who has ever made blunders. Among various presidents who have made blunders, we have to include Franklin Roosevelt, the greatest president of the 20th century. The difference between Bush and Roosevelt is that Roosevelt was a pragmatist; if he made a mistake, he talked to some experts and tried something else until he got it right. When Bush makes a mistake, he simply repackages his policies, tries a new public relations campaign and gives us more of the same.

Saudi Arabia is not pleased with Bush and one can hardly blame them. Among other things, we have made Iran stronger in the region and that does not make the Saudis happy. Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the US and close friend to the Bushes, Prince Bandar, appears to be in eclipse thanks to Bush's mangling of our foreign policy. Here's that part of the story from Helene Cooper and Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times:
Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandar’s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.

For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.


Since the Iraq war and the attendant plummeting of America’s image in the Muslim world, King Abdullah has been striving to set a more independent and less pro-American course, American and Arab officials said. And that has steered America’s relationship with its staunchest Arab ally into uncharted waters. Prince Bandar, they say, may no longer be able to serve as an unerring beacon of Saudi intent.


Robert Jordan, a former Bush administration ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the Saudis’ mixed signals have come at a time when King Abdullah — who has ruled the country since 1995 but became king only in 2005 after the death of his brother, Fahd — has said he does not want to go down in history as Mr. Bush’s Arab Tony Blair. “I think he feels the need as a kind of emerging leader of the Arab world right now to maintain a distance,” he said.

Arab Tony Blair? Ouch. It's appear the British Prime Minister will be appearing as a metaphor for political poodles for some years to come. That never described the Saudis, even in the best of times. One cannot ignore that our relationship with them has always been complex just as our relationships with other Arab countries on the Saudi peninsula have also been complex.

Today we read in the paper that after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration ignored, mishandled or botched almost a billion dollars of aid from various countries around the world. The aid from those countries included generous offers from Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Kuwait eventually acted on its own and donated large sums to the Red Cross and to the Katrina fund headed by Bill Clinton and Bush's father. Call it aid from friends, call it good public relations, it's worthy of note and should be remembered.

Even our oil relationship is becoming curiously more complex. The Saudis were not happy when Bush talked about ending our dependence on foreign oil a couple of years ago but the Saudis understand the oil situation better than anyone given that they're still sitting on the world's largest reserves and they know the numbers better than anyone. But note that a curious thing has happened in Kuwait. Years ago, the Kuwaitis raised the total of their oil reserve by a significant amount; the economists were happy with the numbers but various geologists and oil experts always considered the numbers suspect. Kuwait's recent trend towards democracy, as slow as it is, has apparently led to something of an accounting because the Kuwaitis themselves want a say in their own energy policy and they need facts to develop that policy. The result is that, practically speaking, the Kuwaitis now assume a smaller total reserve of oil left and they're pragmatically thinking, from their own point of view, of how they can stretch the time that they can make their reserves last for the benefit of their country. There are hints that the Saudi may be quietly doing the same thing: moving towards the long view instead of simply pumping as much wealth as they can as they move closer to a time when their oil production begins to significantly decline as all oil producers eventually do in a given region. The long view for the Saudis means not producing as much as they can, but holding back reserves for their own future. That may or may not be happening but it is in the interest of Saudi Arabia. Not suprisingly, if one is paying attention, that is also in the interest of the United States: it will force us make transitions in our energy policies while there is still oil to pump and a reasonably healthy economy (flawed though it is in some ways) to facilitate such a transition.

Iraq is a fiasco, and a foreign policy blunder of historic proportions, but both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to continue to pay attention to what is going on in the Middle East and particularly along the Persian Gulf. It is in our interest to keep paying attention, but it is important to be realistic and recognize we may not always get our way, particularly until the United States restores its credibility, preferably without resorting to reckless military adventurism. In fact, the time is rapidly approaching where war is far more expensive than simply working on partnerships with various countries throughout the world, whether they are friends, competitors or foes.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What Bush Will Be Doing This Summer

Before I explain what Bush will be doing on his long annual vacation in Crawford, Texas, this summer, let me note a post by James Fallows (hat tip to Kevin Drum) about former CIA Director, George Tenet and the run up to the war in Iraq:
Tenet, as mentioned earlier, would have better served his country (and his reputation) by speaking up more promptly about the Bush Administration’s failure ever to have a “serious debate” about whether it was worth invading Iraq.

But his failing was telling the truth too late — not sticking to, well, a lie like the one Bartlett uttered yesterday (according to the AP) as part of the White House’s attempt to rebut Tenet:
“This president weighed all the various proposals, weighed all the various consequences before he did make a decision.”
I say plainly: that is a lie. To be precise about it, no account of the Administration’s deliberations, by anyone other than Bartlett just now, offers even the slightest evidence that this claim is true. Innumberable accounts offer ample evidence that it is false. I have asked this direct question to many interviewees who were in a position to know: was there ever such a meeting or discussion?

The answer is: there was no discussion. Tenet, who allowed himself to fall under the spell of Bush and did too little to stop the machinations and pressure coming from Cheney and his crowd, is trying to set the record straight very late in the day. I'm not sure we're ever going to get the full story but it's become obvious that every time we get more details, the failure of Bush's presidency just becomes all that much more obvious. Think of it. We went to war without a discussion. We went to war without a realistic strategic assessment of what we were trying to accomplish (sorry, right wing or neocon fantasies about the world don't count). We went to war without a plan. We went to war with an incompetent president and vice president and a secretary of defense who should have been left retired after serving in government for too many years.

When President I'm-the-Decider Bush goes to Crawford, Texas, this summer, he'll be kicking a big can down the road. The name on the can will be 'Iraq' and he'll be kicking it all the way to the next presidency. But it won't be the only can he'll be kicking on those dirt roads of his, just the biggest one. He'll be kicking a can with Nancy Pelosi's name on it, and Harry Reid's name on it, and Henry Waxman's name on it and he'll be kicking a can with Alberto Gonzales's name on it and George Tenet's name on it and Paul Wolfowitz's name on it and he'll even be kicking a can with Carol Lam's name on it and David Iglesias' name on it. Then he'll go have dinner but he'll send out Karl Rove to kick a few more cans and then late at night, when the lights are out, he'll sneak out and he'll kick two more cans in the moonlight when no one's looking: a can with Dick Cheney's name on it and Karl Rove's name on it and he'll be kicking those two particularly hard.

No one should feel sorry for George W. Bush. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group provided Bush with the perfect opportunity to partially redeem himself, but he spurned the opportunity. He has chosen to kick the can. In the end, no one is more to blame for Bush's failed presidency than the shrub himself. George W. Bush will be blaming a lot of people in the years to come—and that too will be a measure of his failure.

Labels: ,

New Bunker Buster Could Stimulate Arms Race

In the absence of diplomacy, new weapons always run the risk of increasing the likelihood of a worldwide arms race. Arms races in themselves increase the likelihood of war. We know there are people in the defense industry who would gladly welcome such circumstances. We know political insiders have been making money off of Bush's war in Iraq.

I've been watching out of the corner of my eye the development of bunker busters for some time. Here's the story from a month ago on one of the more advanced, non-nuclear models:
Boeing issued a press release today, crowing about the detonation of company's new, ginormous bomb. DANGER ROOM's David Hambling had the lowdown on the test, ten days back...

The U.S. just detonated an absolutely enormous bomb, in an underground test: a king-sized bunker-buster, six times larger than what's currently in the American arsenal.


But, unlike competing technologies MOP is very simple and won’t take much work - you just need a big enough plane to carry it (a B-2 should do).

Sometimes you don’t need to actually use a weapon. MOAB was only a prototype, but the video of the test was a potent propaganda weapon. MOP is being funded (to you, $30 million) by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA),which “safeguards America and its allies from weapons of mass destruction by providing capabilities to reduce, eliminate, and counter the threat, and mitigate its effects.” In other words, it’s aimed at WMD sites, especially those dug too deep for the BLU-113. Perhaps this test is a really signal to someone that their deep bunkers are not deep enough.

Given the recklessness and incompetence of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, I'm not sure I appreciate the editorializing in the article. Bunker busters are two-sided swords that risk creating more problems than they solve. There are also strategic considerations that are difficult to discuss on an open blog but those considerations point even more strongly towards the need for comprehensive diplomacy. To be honest, I suspect the chance of war with Iran is probably less than it was fifteen months ago but the chance fifteen months ago wasn't all that small. Bush and Cheney are slowly being boxed in by their own arrogance and increasingly apparent criminality. They know if they go much further in their behavior, such as starting their second illegal war, they run the very real risk of actual prison time. Yet, Iran is a serious international problem and its leaders should think long and hard about how close they are to joining the community of nations before they go much further on the road to nuclear posturing. Nuclear proliferation is no joke and if Iran develops nuclear weapons, all kinds of international rearrangements and diplomacy will likely be necessary.

One thing that should be kept in mind is that real diplomacy in regard to Iran has yet to be tried by the Bush Administration. The odds of war have become less but there are too many variables to rule out military action that leads to a wider war. It may be time for a completely new approach. It's time for the United States and other major industrial powers to sit down with the nations of the Middle East and talk about a simple subject that everyone is avoiding: the finite amount of oil that is left in the oil producing countries of the Middle East and where things should go from here. Everyone, including the industrialized nations, the Third World nations, and the Middle East oil producers have a right to a future: it's time to start talking. And every topic should be on the table in the diplomatic sense. Americans can no longer afford political leaders who play ostrich as the future begins to rush towards us. Our country needs to talk and the world needs to talk.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, April 27, 2007

Returning to the Gilded Age: Wealth, Corruption, Cronyism, Institutionalized Privilege

The wealthy are different than the rest of us. Or so many of them believe. The wealthy are entitled to a different set of rules. Or so many of them believe. The wealthy are entitled to more wealth simply because they are already wealthy. Or so many of them believe. Paris the heiress certainly believes she's entitled to more wealth and a different set of rules. Poppa Bush and Junior never got it through their heads that they were born on third base. They have little idea what the rest of us live like. Some of Bush's wealthy Saudi friends even have a term for the rest of us: they call us 'donkeys,' though the term is usually applied to laborers and domestic workers. But it's not intended to be an endearing term (I worked for a sarcastic man once who liked to call his workers, 'you peons,' to their faces; he was clueless that his attitude and vocabulary were major factors in a strike that was more about respect than wages).

The wealthy these days have a large number of wannabes among right wing Republicans. One only has to look to Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff and the horde of neocons profiting off of Bush's war in Iraq. They are entitled. Simply for knowing people. Or so they believe. The Gilded Age has very much returned and it's getting worse. The corruption is becoming more obvious and unlike the Gilded Age, America is not the cutting edge of manufacturing and new ideas like it once was. Look at Toyota. It's now the world's biggest auto company. America is slipping and it's slipping because Republicans are out of ideas and are coddling wealthy people who no longer have anything to offer.

Truthout has a column by Paul Krugman of The New York Times on the new Gilded Age:
One of the distinctive features of the modern American right has been nostalgia for the late 19th century, with its minimal taxation, absence of regulation and reliance on faith-based charity rather than government social programs. Conservatives from Milton Friedman to Grover Norquist have portrayed the Gilded Age as a golden age, dismissing talk of the era's injustice and cruelty as a left-wing myth.

Well, in at least one respect, everything old is new again. Income inequality — which began rising at the same time that modern conservatism began gaining political power — is now fully back to Gilded Age levels.


...according to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, average tax rates on the richest 0.01 percent of Americans have been cut in half since 1970, while taxes on the middle class have risen. In particular, the unearned income of the wealthy - dividends and capital gains - is now taxed at a lower rate than the earned income of most middle-class families.

I don't have a problem with people making money with their capital but I do have a problem with unearned income being taxed less than earned income. Earned income is a reflection of our national strength; it is a reflection of our ideas and hard work. There are many people living off of unearned income who contribute very little to our society. I don't mind a tax break for the elderly and disabled who have unearned income but perpetuating such a system for generations turn us into something that has little to do with our democracy: a society for the benefit of aristocrats rather than the benefit of hardworking Americans.

We have a problem. Children without health insurance is not a myth. Seasonal workers like teachers who have no insurance in the summer is not a myth. Stagnant wages is not a myth. A lack of a real energy program is not a myth. Rising energy prices is not a myth. An economy shifting its jobs overseas is not a myth. The right wingers have nothing to offer and as long as the Republican Party allows itself to be dominated by right wingers and voters keep voting for them because of the irrelevant noise they make and games they play, the strength of America will continue to wane. John Edwards talks about these things with much clarity and thought. The mainstream media, of course, is stark raving mad as they argue about why Edwards hesitated to think, to actually think about his answer to the question about who he looks to for moral authority while a corrupt, incompetent and lying president in the White House drives our nation into the ditch. The Gilded Age too had its fools.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Carol Lam Outstanding Attorney of the Year

Republican Carol Lam is the one who prosecuted and convicted Rep. Duke Cunningham whose corruption and shennigans was uncovered by the conservative newspaper, San Diego Union Tribune (with later help from the North County Times). Cunningham was not working alone and apparently Carol Lam's investigations were getting too close for the comfort of the White House (there's a potential link to Dick Cheney, for example) and she was one of the attorneys fired after the November elections for purely political reasons.

Carol Lam's peers in San Diego, a largely Republican county, selected her as the outstanding attorney of the year; Truthout carries the story:
Carol Lam, one of eight former U.S. attorneys across the country whose dismissals have ignited a political firestorm and calls for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has been named outstanding attorney of the year by the San Diego County Bar Association, the organization announced Wednesday afternoon.


Lam, a senior vice president and legal counsel for Qualcomm, Inc., since February, said Wednesday that the award is "a great honor."

"I'd like to be accepting the award on behalf of the United States attorney's office," Lam said. "The attorneys in that office surely deserve it more than I do."

In a news release announcing the award for Lam and 10 other awards, the bar association said Lam "has demonstrated the highest level of ethics and professionalism and fought government corruption and corporate misdeeds."

While US attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, it should be noted that there traditionally has been a fire wall between the activities of the US attorneys and the political arm of the White House. There has been no such firings on such a scale in recent decades.

The obvious interference of the White House in Dept. of Justice matters is currently being investigated by several committees in Congress. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales remains under a cloud of suspicion and discredit as he continues to refuse to provide an adequate explanation of why eight US attorneys were fired and seems unable to recall the circumstances of their firing. He has been asked by Congress to provide a full answer for the dozens of occassions he told them that he couldn't recall or didn't know specific details of the firings despite the fact that e-mails and testimony exist showing that the Attorney General was indeed involved. The scandals of the George W. Bush White House continue.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bill Moyers Interview

Bill Moyers continues to be a voice that needs to be heard. On Truthout is an interview of Bill Moyers by The Christian Century; Moyers has much to say but here's a brief excerpt:
If the Bush administration were to ask you for your advice, what would you say to them?


What would I say now? Fire the ideologues and assign them to scrub the floors at Guantánamo for penitence. Stop confusing neocon pundits with Old Testament prophets. Read the Bible for humility's sake, but for policy's sake commit to memory the report of the Iraq Study Group. Don't sacrifice any more soldiers to prove you're in charge; get the soldiers out of the line of fire between Sunnis and Shi'ites. And remind your hirelings of Winston Churchill's definition of democracy as the occasional necessity of deferring to the opinions of other people.

What kind of response did you get from your speech to cadets at West Point, in which you spoke about the limitations and liabilities of war making?

For 30 seconds after I finished there was just silence in that large auditorium, and I thought: "You really blew it this time. You not only lost them, you insulted them." Then one by one, cluster by cluster, row by row, the cadets started standing up and applauding. I had to struggle to contain my emotions. I would like to tell you it was because they agreed with me. The truth is, I think, that they appreciated hearing a civilian talk openly about what they constantly wrestle with privately - the conflict of conscience required in obeying orders from leaders who have taken leave of reality. They listened like no audience I've had in a long time. And afterward they kept me up late in a lively give-and-take.

Earlier in the day I met for over two hours with a score of top cadets who were on their way to compete for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and the like. They wanted to talk about the environment, science, philosophy, politics, history. The cadets are smart, disciplined and sophisticated people. One just hopes they get the civilian leadership they deserve.

(snip) [Answer to different question:]

Sometimes I think there are too many voices inside my head. Maybe I read too much. But they make sure I never think a matter settled. I'm with Mark Twain on this: "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

What do you think of the success of satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

There can be more truth in a flash of wit than in a full-throated pronouncement by a pundit. I once told Stewart that if Mark Twain were alive today, he would be on Comedy Central. Stewart looked at me as if he wouldn't welcome the competition.

As always, it's difficult to cover Bill Moyers thinking with a a few excerpts. Read the full interview. And click here for a link and thoughts on his West Point speech.

I enjoyed his quote of Mark Twain. I should have a Mark Twain post up in a few days that I've been meaning to do.

There's a striking difference between the words of Bill Moyers and those of George W. Bush. Even when Moyers returns to some of his common themes, he always finds ways to keep the material fresh and to find new ways to makes his ideas accessible. Bush merely turns himself into a parody of a president, parroting the same tired lines over and over without adding insight, facts or reason into his ridiculous statements.

When you hear Bush for fifteen minutes, he encapsulates completely the foolishness of his presidency; there's no need to hear more because every new speech or press conference is the same material over and over—essentially propaganda. It's why we're floundering in Iraq: Bush and his closest advisers don't understand what they're doing and they have no ideas. But, by God, they're determined to put on better photo ops! Karl Rove likes to criticize Hollywood but he has worked hard to turn Bush into a Hollywood product: John Wayne strutting on an aircraft carrier. I grew up liking John Wayne movies and still do but the characters he played were fantasies; there is a place for fantasy in our lives but not in the White House. In the meantime, the nation has been missing a real president for over six years. Somebody like Bill Moyers would have been the real thing. He wouldn't have strutted; he simply would have gotten the job done.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When Bush Presidency Flounders, Corruption Continues

Despite efforts by the Bush Administration to block investigations into criminal wrong-doing by possibly the most corrupt generation of Washington Republicans since the 1920s, the investigations continue. Bush has been standing on a phony pedestal made of cheap construction materials and he's now paying the price. Karl Rove can't hide the obvious cracks anymore no matter how many photo op games he plays or how much bunting he lays on to hide Bush's tottering pedestal and what's going on behind.

American Pundit reminds us that we are now up to 11 Republicans just by way of the Abramoff investigations:
So far, eleven (11) Republicans have pled guilty to charges of bribery and fraud in the Abramoff case.


Last week, the FBI raided the home offices of two more Republican Congressmen: John Doolittle (R-Calif) and Rick Renzi (R-Ariz). They'd be searching Congressman Jerry Lewis' house as well, if Attorney General Gonzales hadn't fired US Attorney Carol Lam.

Former Congressional leader, Tom DeLay, who's a walking case of corruption all by himself, is now accusing Democrats of treason (sorry, pointing out an incompetent and flawed president and demanding accountability happens two or three times a year in corporate America; Bush, is after all the MBA president who never ran a successful corporation).

The reality is that DeLay never misses an opportunity to draw attention to himself with low blows. One of the scams that Jack Abramoff was involved in, apparently with the help of officials in the White House, was making it legal for sweatshop workers in Saipan to use the Made in USA label while avoiding US labor laws. Apparently, protecting the legitimacy of the Made in America label is for suckers, according to Tom DeLay who met with Jack Abramoff on the issue several times. Betraying the American worker seems to be a specialty of Republicans these days who wish to change the subject when their scams are exposed. There's no question that corrupt and authoritarian Republicans like Tom DeLay are going to braying loud between now and 2008 as a way to distract from the corruption and failures they have contributed to in recent years.

The Republicans will rebuild their party but let's hope they have the wisdom not use Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Duke Cummingham, George W. Bush or the host of characters who have made a shambles of today's Republican Party.

Labels: ,

Bush Ignores Bipartisan Iraq Study Group, Then Whines

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group threw President George W. Bush a lifeline after almost four years of a failed and frankly fraudelent policy in Iraq.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More on Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales

Four years ago, when I first started devoting considerable time to writing about Bush's flawed war plan for Iraq and the various wrongdoing that was coming to light, I was somewhat in despair because too many people writing about these things on the left were so shrill it was highly unlikely that they would get the attention of most Americans who very much needed to know about the nonsense that was becoming increasingly obvious. And the mainstream media was either drinking the Kool Aid like Judy Miller of The New York Times or they were shrugging as if they were watching some vaguely interesting but ultimately unimportant drama (Ted Koppel, as one example, though normally a very fine reporter was infuriating at times: it's a business, it's process, we have to make money, blah, blah, blah). Times have indeed changed. I don't know how much hope there is to change things but at least in 2007, as bad as things are, there is a glimmer of hope. When people begin to recognize we have a problem there is always a glimmer of hope because if you have the facts, there is a chance you can begin to change things for the better.

Indeed, things are bad and there are a growing number of people focusing on the catastrophe that is the Bush presidency. Frank Rich of The New York Times has an article (via Truthout) on some of this and, like me, he's now unavoidably using multiple adjectives and descriptive nouns that still aren't adequate for describing Bush and his presidency (bold emphasis mine):
...the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer's metastasis - the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.

Yet each man's latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What's being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.

In another article on Truthout, Elizabeth de la Vega, "a former federal prosecutor with over 20 years' experience, was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California," explains what's supposed to happen and why the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzalez and his White House handlers has become so dysfunctional and politicized:
Then there's the "Urgent Report" system instituted at DOJ in recent years. Section T3-18.200 of the US Attorney's Manual requires US attorneys' offices to send immediate reports to the highest levels of the Attorney General's Office whenever there are "major developments" - defined to include even procedural motions - in "important cases," which include any cases that present a "high likelihood of coverage in news media, or Congressional interest."

For cases involving public figures, the US Attorney's Manual requires that "appropriate officials, including the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, the associate attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the attorney general" be advised of the initiation of any case "in which public figures or entities are subjects of the investigation." Bottom line? The attorney general is notified immediately, not just when charges are brought in a public corruption case, but when the file is opened and every time that any activity, even procedural, occurs in the case. It was precisely such an Urgent Report that former San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam used to notify the Attorney General's Office on May 10, 2006 that search warrants were going to be conducted in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case. The next day, of course, was when Alberto Gonzales's top aide wrote an email talking about the "very real problem we have right now" with Carol Lam.

Think about this for a moment. San Diego County is a generally conservative county, mostly Republican, with several Republican-leaning newspapers, including the San Diego Union Tribune, which broke the story on Duke Cunningham. The last time I looked most Republicans frown on bribery and corruption as much as anyone else, particularly when it is so blatant as it was in the case of Duke Cunningham. When Carol Lam, a Republican by the way, opened an investigation into Duke Cunningham, much of the evidence of corruption was already laid out by the newspapers. Opening the case and beginning the investigation was a no brainer and would be obvious in virtually any district in the nation where there is respect for the law. But Alberto Gonzales's top aide suddenly said they have a problem. If you're a criminal or trying to politicize everything, I suppose that would be one way of looking at it.

Labels: , , ,

White House Correspondents Wimp Out at Dinner

Rich Little was a flop but that wasn't the problem. The association for the White House correspondents picked about as safe a comedian as they could while they concentrate on those seven and eight figure salaries so many of them are shooting for. Here's something to think about. Does anyone think Jonathan Swift would have been easy on our boy king? Does anyone think Mark Twain would give George W. Bush a free pass for trying to resurrect the Gilded Age? Will Rogers would have twirled his lariat and had you thinking the Decider-in-Chief was dizzy with all that rope tightening around him.

These kind of dinners are not supposed to be safe. Not with an incompetent president. Not with a president who thought it was funny to look behind his chair for WMDs. Not with a president who increasingly rambles even when he's speaking to a carefully selected audience. The White House correspondents should be a little restless six years into Bush's presidency with so little for the Mayberry gang to show for it. The president's behavior is a disgrace. The correspondents know it and they continue to act as if it's a kind of parlour game. How's his style? How his haircut? Is he aging? Did he do a good job of putting on a photo op? Was his strutting effective? Does he look like Mister Rogers in that flight suit or like John Wayne? Ah, being a White House correspondent is apparently a difficult life.

Here's a story from Editor & Publisher, people who still care about journalism and the functioning of our democracy:
Rich Little, with shockingly dyed hair, said at the outset that he is “not political” but rather a “nightclub performer who does a lot of dumb, stupid jokes,” then proved that.

He started with a couple of Canada (his native country) jokes and a weak Sen. John McCain, which bombed...


Little followed by doing six presidents, including a man he “loved,” Ronald Reagan. He put in false teeth to play Jimmy Carter saying that when he was a peanut farmer “I had the biggest nuts in the county.”

As the presidents got more recent, the impressions got weaker: George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and then possibly the worst impression of all, the current president. But he closed with the one he is most famous for, Richard Nixon, saying, “Let’s bring him out of the mothballs one more time.”


Speaking to E&P afterward, probably aware that his routine went over rather poorly, he said, "this is not the easiest audience in the world." But he said Bush told him when it was over, "absolutely perfect."

Some in the crowd walked out in the middle of the routine-- far more than left during Colbert's performance last year.

Embarrassing. Harry Reid says something to the effect that we're losing in Iraq and the media types, particularly on the right, go nuts. I've said for over three years we're gaining nothing out of this war. We'll end up spending $2 trillion for what? A strut on an aircraft carrier? What are we gaining from Bush's incompetence, lies, cronyism, ideological rigidity, and repeated blunders, all quite visible in his fiasco in Iraq? What are we gaining? Does anybody buy the garbage that if we don't kill Iraqis, they'll come here? Sorry, but the 9-11 attackers came by way of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and most of them were from Saudi Arabia. The logic of attacking Iraq does not hold.

Should it take five years to finish the first war? Should it take ten years to finish the second? Should these idiots be allowed to start a third? It's not about losing. It's about a president and vice president who don't know what they're doing. Other than engaging in fantasies about bringing democracy to the Middle East at the point of our guns and fighting terrorism in about as half-assed a way as one could possibly ask for, Cheney and Bush have no policy in Iraq worthy of the name. It's stall, it's dodge, it's tantrums and overblown rhetoric, it's pompous statements about running out of patience or insurgents in their last throes, it's bluster that only the Republican base deludes itself into buying.

Are Bush and Cheney impeachable? Of course they are. Should it happen? Yes. Will it happen? No, not in the current political environment with a media that still does a poor job of revealing the damage the current administration is doing to our country. But enough Americans are aware of what's happening that Bush and Cheney can be held accountable. It's time for a special prosecutor. Forget the incompetence. There's plenty of dishonesty and deception in the current White House for a special prosecutor to deal with. There are plenty of laws being broken. A special prosecutor needs to be appointed by Congress.

If we are to keep our country strong, it's time to bring most of our troops home while keeping troops in strategic position to keep the neighbors out of Iraq. It's time for Bush and Cheney to negotiate a settlement in Iraq and Iran; and if they won't, it may be time for Congress to appoint people who will. There's nothing in the US Constitution that says the American people have to put up with arrogance, gross negligience and obstinate incompetence. Bush, not the Democrats, not Congress, not the American people, is the one who chose to ignore the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. The people of the Iraq Study Group, both Republicans and Democrats, have a record of competence. Our president does not. The surge is a profoundly flawed political stunt that puts our troops at risk. It is not a change of strategy: it's just more of the same.

Let me ask it again. Are we losing? Sorry, but that's the wrong question. The question is this: do we have an administration that knows what it's doing? The answer is no. Bush has no trouble talking like a tough guy but he didn't know what he was talking about when he launched the invasion and never had an honest strategic purpose for invading Iraq in the first place, and even if he had managed to come up with an honest strategic purpose, it's highly unlikely he could have executed it with cronies, ideologues and party hacks. We're still a strong and powerful nation. But the current president is a failure. The rest is just hot air and a lot of self-justifications by the right and a lot of nonsense by a media that still can't fully acknowledge the crisis in Washington and particularly the White House.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The White House Correspondent's Dinner

King Lear: Dost thou call me a fool, boy?

Last year, Colbert was brilliant and punctured the external bubble that surrounds President Bush. Bush, however, has layers of bubbles.

The White House correspondents are handling the president with only one kid glove these days instead of two. It's an improvement but not by much. Have the correspondents learned much, or are they more interested in the media slots that offer seven and eight figure salaries these days? The White House press room has often been the path to riches in the media. And a kind of senility regarding the responsibilities of the press ('But I have my family to think about!' (Does this include third and fourth cousins?)).

William Douglas of the McClatchy Washington Bureau has an interesting take on this year's White House Correspondent's dinner:
Impressionist Rich Little hasn't been hot since Nehru Jackets and go-go boots were hip. But the mild-mannered 68-year-old nightclub performer will be the headline act at Saturday's White House Correspondents Association dinner - and the salve for the dagger-sharp tongue of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who at last year's dinner satirically slashed President Bush and the Washington press corps beyond recognition.

The selection of Little after Colbert's pointed monologue has produced tons of jokes (What? Nipsey Russell wasn't available?) and amplified screams from the blogosphere that Little's invitation proves how soft the White House press corps is on Bush.


The idea behind hiring Little - best known for his impressions of Richard Nixon, Clint Eastwood and other old-school personalities - was to have a nice dinner where Bush could get "singed but not burned" by the evening's entertainment, according to Steve Scully, president of the White House Correspondents Association.

"You can't invite a guest of honor to come and be a political pinata," said Scully, a political editor at C-SPAN. "There's a very fine line we don't want to cross out of respect for the institution of the presidency."


It's hard to be funny, according to comedian-director David Steinberg - and it's even harder in Washington, D.C.

"It's always been a weird audience," said Steinberg, host of TV Land's "Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg." "It takes itself too seriously. They don't realize that the comedian won't hurt them."

TV Land? I don't know if Douglas is writing a serious article or has a very dry sense of humor. I know I laughed a lot reading the article. TV Land? Rich Little? Classics? Dinosaurs? Fossils? Mayberry?

There was an old tradition of court jesters giving succor to their rulers but they were at times given license to mock the king. By all means, parody the nonsense that surrounds a court. Tell the emperor the truth but do it with humor. Puncture that hubris of the Khan but do it gently, but not too gently—those bubbles are made of tough material.

King Lear was an old and foolish king who split his kingdom between two daughters who did not exactly revere him and he banished the only daughter who truly loved him. He issued his decrees based on his fantasy view of his world rather than based on the world as it truly was. As expected, fiasco followed. Here's Shakespeare, Act I:
King Lear: Dost thou call me a fool, boy?

The Fool: All thy other titles thou hast given away that thou wast born with.

Earl of Kent: This is not altogether fool, my lord.

Fool: No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would have part of it: and ladies too, they will not let me have all fool to myself; they'll be snatching. Give me an egg, uncle, and I'll give thee two crowns.

Lear: What two crowns shall they be?

Fool: Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg! When thou clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
[The Fool sings]
Fools had ne'er less wit in a year:
For wise men are grown foppish,
They know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.
Lear: When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?

Fool: I have used them, uncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mother: for when thou gavest them the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,
[more singing]
Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.

I'll leave to the reader to decide if George W. Bush or his father is the current King Lear. The father is not innocent in the current presidential debacle but, like Lear, he is a more sympathetic character.

But Rich Little, if he chooses, has an obvious target in George W. Bush and even Dick Cheney. Both are playing a game of trying to out-Nixon Nixon and classic mimic Little is still a superb master of glowering while he mutters, "I'm not a crook." I doubt Little will have the nerve to puncture Bush's balloon or to bring down the president's hubris a notch or two. The truth is that the country would relish it and the country needs it. We need to know that the White House correspondents themselves know that there's a limit to how much they should be expected to take our emperor seriously, particularly a failed one.

As things now stand, whether court jesters, or licensed fools, or stand-up comedians show up at the correspondent's dinner, there's a pretentious quality to these correspondents who wish to honor the presidency while we have a president who does little to honor and respect the US Constitution or even the history of his own office.

Labels: ,

We Need Special Prosecutor to Babysit Bush His Last Two Years

Almost every day a new scandal breaks out that involves the Bush Administration. I can understand the arguments that impeachment is not politically viable in the current environment but it's clearly time for Congress to appoint a special prosecutor. It's apparent that Alberto Gonzales and the entire Justice Department are so utterly under the thrall of the White House that we can no longer expect an independent Justice Department to investigate wrong-doing by government officials since those same officials are often politically protected by the White House.

On Slate, Dahlia Lithwick points to a revelation at the Alberto Gonzales hearings that makes clear the integrity of the White House is at all-time low:
One of the finest moments comes when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., busts out a big, big chart. Which happens after almost everyone has gone home. The chart compares the Clinton protocol for appropriate contacts between the White House and the DoJ on pending criminal cases with the Bush protocol. According to Whitehouse, the Clinton protocol authorized just four folks at the White House to chat with three folks at Justice. The chart had four boxes talking to three boxes. Out comes the Bush protocol, and now 417 different people at the White House have contacts about pending criminal cases with 30-some people at Justice. You can just see zillions of small boxes nattering back and forth. It seems that just about everyone in the White House, including the guys in the mailroom, had a vote on ongoing criminal matters.

It's not the job of the Justice Department to do the political bidding of the President; it is the job of the Justice Department to uphold the laws of this nation and to guard those laws with reasonable caution from political interference. The United States became a nation when King George III sought to subvert the law (he, the king, in his own estimation, being the law—or 'the Decider') for his own political ends. We should not forget that Benjamin Franklin threw in with the break from England after being deliberately humiliated by what amounted to a political lynching by the king's ministers and cronies. Respect for the law and putting those laws in writing with a document that outlined what the government could do and not do was what our country was founded on; deciding on a republic was simply part of how those laws were to be implemented, changed from time to time and respected without arbitrary change by those who are the most powerful.

Washington and the media can no longer avoid or make light of the fact that the White House over six years has repeatedly been violating hundreds of laws with impunity, and in some cases, the violations have occurred quite literally millions of times as in the illegal use of e-mails on Republican National Committee accounts as a way of avoiding legal requirements to keep track of government business from the White House—the people's business, mind you.

The New York Times has an editorial on the Alberto Gonzales hearings:
If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.

I first used the word 'apparatchik' back in 2003 on the AOL message boards. I was criticized for being shrill which generally was not the case with most of my posts at the time. Since I was trying to reach moderates and perhaps even rational conservatives, I dropped the term though I felt it accurately described the political public relations types that seemed to be orchestrating so many press releases and conferences during that period. When The New York Times starts using such a term, we know, four years later, that there has been a sea change in how President Bush is viewed by a majority of Americans these days.

We have a crisis and the only proper way to deal with that crisis is to hold George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and many of the top Bush Administration advisers accountable. It's time for a special prosecutor—the blatant corruption at the top of the Justice Department makes that evident. Congress needs to appoint a special prosecutor who can begin to restore a sense of integrity where in fact it must exist: among those who are charged with upholding the law. What is apparent is that the US Attorneys who were fired, although they were all Republicans appointed by Bush, were largely fired for not doing the political bidding of an increasingly corrupt White House. It is time to recognize that we have a problem. Our democracy is bleeding. And Congress must act.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alberto Gonzales: Mayberry Mafia Consiglieri, Part II

We are the most powerful nation in the world. The world looks to Washington for leadership. Or at least it did once upon a time. Whether Republican or Democrat, we would like to think that the best and the brightest are representing our nation and that there is real respect for the law. Our government is not perfect but there are standards and those standards are expected to be upheld and when they are not, there are supposed to be consequences, not just public relations moves before we see more of the same. Something is seriously wrong in Washington and most of it is visible in the White House. The best and the brightest do not appear to be members of the Bush Administration. The best and the brightest are clearly not leading in the White House. And the scandals and the corruption and the gross incompetence continue.

Alberto Gonzales is an embarrassment and should resign. His testimony today was so ridiculous it makes you cringe. TPM Muckraker has the full coverage (here's the link to this week's coverage: TPM Muckraker April 15 to April 21); there's truly not much to add. Congress is obligated to keep hammering at Alberto Gonzales and others of his top staffers until some satisfactory answers are forthcoming or resignations take place. The American people simply cannot afford the Department of Justice to become totally corrupt. This is scandal that comes straight out of the White House. Alberto Gonzales is doing the bidding of Karl Rove and the bidding of George W. Bush. It is embarrassing to our history. It is embarrassing to present this scandal to the world.

But the scandals go on. There's Paul Wolfowitz, his girlfriend and Wolfowitz's hypocritical assertion that he wants the World Bank to be free of corruption (selectively, no doubt, and to the advantage of the Bush and his friends, apparently). Maureen Dowd of the New York Times has this to say in her latest column:
The weekend meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were consumed with the question of how the bank chief could fight corruption while indulging in cronyism. Who could focus on a weak yen when you had a weak Wolfie with a strong yen for Shaha? In addition to the story about Paul Wolfowitz's giving his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Raza, a promotion and a $60,000 raise because he felt guilty that she had to be transferred from the World Bank to the State Department when he took over, the New York Times reported on Tuesday on more imperialist hanky-panky.

...when Wolfie was No. 2 at the Pentagon, the office of his consigliere, Douglas Feith, directed a private contractor to hire Riza, then at the World Bank, to spend a month traveling to Iraq to study ways to set up the new government.


As they rushed to war, the neocons delighted in blowing off international institutions and diplomats, treating them as impediments and whiners. So it only made sense that Wolfie wouldn't hesitate to blow off rules he didn't like once he began running an international institution himself.


Astonishingly, W., Wolfie, Dick Cheney and the Prince of Darkness himself, Richard Perle, have learned nothing from their mistakes of blindness and hubris, except to sweep them under the bed and indulge in more blindness and hubris.


Shouldn't Rummy and Cheney have followed their own advice: You go to war against the country you have, not the one you imagine?

Hmm, that's not a bad last line but I would add one more: shouldn't we have a president who tackles real problems and not the ones he imagines? Of course, that would require a level of integrity the current occupant of the White House does not have.

Let's end by focusing once more on the Department of Justice, run by Bush yes-man, Alberto Gonzalez. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster provides the details:
It is a basic operating principle of Rovian political theory to cover up your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities by redirecting attention towards attacking your opponent on the same issues, and keeping that opponent on defense. We know pretty clearly now what this GOP mumbo-jumbo about voting fraud was all about. [Linked to the McClatchy Washington Bureau]:
For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

This is the president who read speech after speech about bringing 'democracy' to the Middle East. This is not pretty and I take no pleasure in saying it. We have a liar in the White House. We have an incompetent in the White House. We have a rigid ideologue in the White House. We have a hypocrite in the White House. Quite clearly, we have a problem. The more Bush's shortcomings and failures become evident, the more Bush is compelled to wave his arms and talk arrogantly and belligerently about his authority as 'the Decider.' He is a failed president whose flaws become more evident every day. Congress, the media and the various members of our government must keep Bush in check and keep the government running until Bush is either impeached (I know, not likely) or until he leaves office. And Americans need to think long and hard about how a flawed man like George W. Bush became president in the first place.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bush's Bubble Troubles Continue

For a growing majority of Americans, the painful disconnect between what Bush says and what the reality is continues. A growing number of his supporters and allies are joining the ranks of Bush's critics. Even the Republican rank and file no longer support him with their usual enthusiasm.

The conservative magazine US News has a column by John W. Mashek:
All two-term presidents seem to suffer from a fatigue factor, but none like what George W. Bush is going through.

The Bush second term has been battered by the never-ending war in Iraq, a failing policy on the environment, a mess on the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and the self-destruction of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. There are other flaps as well but you get the picture.

Poll after poll show Bush's popularity and performance in office is in the mid-30s or so. Vice President Cheney has embittered friends as well as enemies with his rhetoric and behavior.

With the help of many Republicans, including rubber stamp Republicans in Congress, Bush is failing Americans on issue after issue. Back in December, Bush had the chance to regroup after the November elections and the timely recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that provided him the chance of political cover. But Bush chose to ignore the Iraq Study Group and the many experienced and successful foreign policy hands who said it was time to change course. Bush's arrogance and rigidity got the better of the president and his failed presidency continues with no relief in sight.

Here's just one issue, this one felt particularly hard in California, that's irritating everyone, including many Republicans; here's the story from the San Francisco Chronicle:
About 44 percent of Californians said they've had to cut back on such expenses as food and clothing to afford rising fuel prices, according to a Field Poll to be released today. But responses were sharply divided between higher- and lower-income groups.

The poll found lower-income workers -- those earning less than $40,000 a year -- were twice as likely as those earning more than $80,000 to feel the pinch, with 62 percent reporting reduced spending and 54 percent describing the price rise as "very serious."


Californians pay an average of $3.33 per gallon at the pump compared with $2.86 per gallon for regular nationwide, the AAA auto club reported Monday. San Francisco and Oakland both set records, reaching per-gallon rates of $3.45 and $3.35, respectively.

According to the Field Poll, voters cited the oil companies and the Bush administration as those most responsible for the price increases.

The oil companies have donated far more money to Republicans in recent years than Democrats. Obviously the oil companies found their men in Cheney and Bush, both former oil executives. Neither have come to grip with America's growing energy problems and oil companies are only too happy to make record profits. It's hard to find a single issue where Bush has done something useful for the majority of Americans. Even Bush's tax cuts are meaningless for most Americans if most people end up paying more for credit, gasoline and health care while wages continue to stagnate.

Here are Bush's latest poll numbers from All Headline News:
President George Bush's quarterly approval rating, for his 25th quarter in office, has reached a new low. According to a USA Today / Gallop Poll, only 35 percent of Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing in the Oval Office.

Bush continues to live in his bubble surrounded by staffers who tell him exactly what he wants to hear. It's an unhealthy situation and most Americans now understand that we have a problem. The only suprising thing about Bush's poll numbers are the number of Republicans still supporting his failed presidency. But even that is beginning to change.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 16, 2007

World Oil Reserves Not Being Replaced

The biggest clue that we are facing a major energy problem is that worldwide we are using more oil than we are finding to replace it. This has been going on for some years though there have been ways in which the problem has been somewhat ignored, partly because of places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that are not only known for their large reserves but that are known for having inflated their reserve numbers in the last twenty years. Of course, American oil companies are particularly motivated to publicly minimize the problem.

Here's a story from Oil Online:
The world is currently producing more oil annually than it is replacing with new reserves. That sobering conclusion emerges from a new survey of global liquids reserves published by Energy Intelligence.

In contrast to the gradual rise in global oil reserves that has been reported annually in most surveys based on public sources, the new assessment shows that the trend in worldwide liquids reserves is actually one of stagnation and modest decline. The PIW Reserves Survey shows global oil reserves declining by almost 13 billion barrels, or 0.9%, over the last two years to 1.459 trillion bbl at the end of 2006 on a "proved plus probably" basis. Global oil reserves are liquid hydrocarbons, natural gas liquids, tar sands and crude oil, that are economically recoverable at current prices.

The PIW survey uses a somewhat broader definition of reserves than the other surveys based on public sources and it applies that definition consistently and systematically across all countries, fully accounting for production declines and new additions.

There's been some industry flimflam that things like oil sands are adding significantly to our reserves but that appears not to be happening at the rate touted in industry p.r. Bush's war in Iraq is a major historical fiasco but Bush's biggest fiasco in the judgment of years to come may be his refusal to deal rationally with a growing energy crisis faced not just by the United States but by the world. We have lost six years in that growing crisis and we are likely to lose another two years before Washington begins to come to grips with possibly the largest threat to our nation's economy and future.

I can't emphasize enough that cheap energy is no longer being found in anyone's backyard. Today, most new oil is coming from deep sea drilling or remote areas in the arctic or in the few last unexplored remote regions of the world. Cheap oil, especially light sweet crude, has reached the end of an era of growth. We may or may not have reached the era called peak oil but we are certainly in for a bumpy ride in the next five to ten years.

Bush and Cheney are oil industry appeasers. They have chosen to leave things to market forces but there is no sign whatsoever that Big Oil is ready to transition to new energy sources (the oil industry has had the numbers for years and essentially has known for thirty years that we have a problem). We need government action and major cooperation with a variety of industries to develop new sources of energy and greater efficiency with the energy we have. Like the Republican appeasers of the 1930s, the current Republican leadership has its head in the sand. Danger is approaching and it may be the biggest challenge our nation has faced. I might add that stealing other nation's oil does not solve the long-term problems. It's time we get our act together.

Labels: , ,

Alberto Gonzales: Mayberry Mafia Consiglieri

Despite the fact that the Attorney General of the United States is a political appointee, the Attorney General is expected to uphold the laws of the United States and not bend them for political purposes. We know today's Republican leaders have nothing to run on and can only win by raising the most money, suppressing votes and smearing their opponents; that is too often the essence of today's Republican Party despite a rank and file who are generally honest and hardworking (though all too often, not particularly insightful about the nature of their leadership).

The firewall that is supposed to exist between the president and the attorney general has completely broken down. Alberto Gonzales is the consiglieri of George W. Bush and is quick to do the president's bidding even when it is against the law or not in the interest of the American people or our democracy.

The best source for the scandals coming out of the White House and Justice Department continue to be Talking Points Memo and TPM Muckraker. There are a number of others to read but I find myself returning repeatedly to Dan Froomkin of White House Watch who today has an incisive paragraph that summarizes Alberto Gonzales' current defense:
Judging from his prepared statement and his Washington Post op-ed, Gonzales will continue to insist that, while he doesn't really know why he fired the attorneys, he simply cannot believe that he did so for improper reasons.

Alberto Gonzales is either a fool who needs to be removed or a criminal who needs to be removed. I'm tired of playing guessing games with administration figures who suffer repeatedly from amnesia and outright stonewalling while things keep happening that stink to high heaven. I hope members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, feel the same way. It is time to act.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In the Age of OR



Bush's Ideological Presidency Exhausting Itself

The next two years could get ugly and it's not clear that the fever of right wing Republican gibberish has truly run its course. But any notion that the ultraconservatives have anything useful to offer the overwhelming majority of Americans is over, it's done, it's finis. Scandals, corruption, cronyism, corporate favoritism, incompetence and sheer strategic failure are among the many dismal hallmarks of the Bush presidency. If the Republicans have anything to offer, it can only begin by disowning George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and any number of others presently caught up in their dark, self-serving vision.

Here's a post from Mahablog that I highly recommend because it puts things in important historical perspective while highlighting a possible road to the future:
... Kuttner closes, “How many times does conservatism have to fail before we get a successor who reclaims American liberalism?”

That’s a good question. The last time conservatism failed utterly and spectacularly was at the end of the 1920s. Franklin Roosevelt won four presidential elections not only because conservative domestic policy enabled the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, but because right wingers of the 1920s and 1930s for the most part were isolationists who thought Hitler and Mussolini were reasonable guys we could do business with. The Great Depression and World War II provided overwhelming empirical evidence to the American people that the Right had been wrong.

Although moderate Republicans (e.g., Dwight Eisenhower) emerged from the FDR years with some appreciation for what he had accomplished, the more extreme Right nursed a seething, resentful rage against all things New Dealish. The Cold War gave them a means to rehabilitate themselves. By a campaign of “hysterical charges and bald-faced lies” the Right persuaded much of the country that Democrats were soft on communism and lax on national security. And in the 1960s through the 1980s the Dems’ association with civil rights, equal opportunity, and antipoverty programs caused a flood of white middle class Americans to switch their votes from Democratic to Republican.

In part through skillful manipulation of mass media the Right has been able to dominate our national political discourse since the late 1970s. In spite of the Right’s incessant whining about “liberal media,” Americans have had the right-wing perspective of just about everything pounded into their heads lo these many years, whereas real liberals and progressives (as opposed to moderate-to-conservative political hacks who play “liberals” on television) were all but banished from public view. Were this not the case, I think liberalism would have been reclaimed years ago. ...
There's much more but then I would have to post the whole article. Better yet, give it a read and give a look at Robert Kuttner's article.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bush Administration Literally Commits Millions of Crimes

For many decades, someone in the White House has had the responsibility to make sure records are preserved. Given the games that Richard Nixon played, a law was passed that required that presidents and their advisers keep track of their phone calls and correspondence. They are doing the public's business. There are times when a president conveniently claims executive privilege and that may fly or not, but on political matters there can be no executive privilege and there can be no such privilege when a White House official such as Karl Rove extensively uses e-mail accounts from the White House through the National Republican Committee (RNC). There are red flags all over the place on the issue. We know, for example, that convicted felon Jack Abramoff was using RNC accounts to discuss things with Rove's assistants at the White House.

The idea that Rove 'accidentally' lost his e-mails is just another cookie caper: "But I thought those were just old cookies in the cookie jar so I stored them by the trash can; I never imagined anyone would throw them out. I know what you're thinking! Honest, I didn't eat them! Anyway, the trash has already been taken so I can't possibly be guilty." Sure. Right. It's special prosecutor time.

Paul Kiel of TPM Muckraker has a transcript of a White House press briefing; here's the part I'd like to discuss a moment:
Dana Perino gave an explanation of sorts:

I don't have a specific number for you. Again, I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million emails lost, but we'll see if we can get to you. If it was 5 million, I think that, again, out of 1,700 people using email every day, again, there was no intent to have lost them.


Now, one of the things that occurred -- and we're also trying to figure out how many emails possibly could be sent by 1,700 employees on a daily basis. I don't know if the numbers are staggering. My inbox is staggering so -- we'll work to find that out. But there was a conversion sometime between 2002 and 2003 to convert people that were using Lotus Notes when we first arrived to Microsoft Outlook. And I know that the tech people worked to get us all transferred over. We had to save our Word documents and all to make sure that they weren't lost in that transition.

I don't have a specific number for you. Again, I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million emails lost, but we'll see if we can get to you. If it was 5 million, I think that, again, out of 1,700 people using email every day, again, there was no intent to have lost them.

Five million e-mails by 1700 employees is not all that much. Assume six years in office and 250 work days for each year; over six years, that's 1500 workdays. If each employee only writes 2 e-mails a day, that over five million. We actually could be talking about a much higher number.

But here's something to consider: there appears to have been no effort made to make sure the e-mails were preserved. Perino's story ignores the obvious problem: no one apparently bothered to make sure the White House and other officials were complying with the law. That in itself raises legal issues. Whoever is in charge of records keeping is in trouble. Whoever the White House counsel is who handles such matters (such as making sure staffers comply with the laws that apply to the White House) is in trouble (hey, does that include Alberto Gonzales again?).

The fact that RNC accounts outside the White House system existed can only be explained as an attempt to deceive Congress, various watchdog agencies and the American people. Across the board, including laws involving other matters, the number of laws that Bush and his advisers are breaking and the number of times they have been doing it is staggering. We must face the fact that criminality in the executive branch, particularly when political appointees such as Karl Rove are involved, is now extensive. Congress must act and the media needs to recognize we have a problem.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Karl Rove May Need Very Own Special Prosecutor

In scandal after scandal, Karl Rove's name keeps popping up. After repeated trips to the grand jury to explain himself, and a certain amount of jawboning, he managed to wriggle out of legal prosecution during the Leakgate investigation and we may now know why. Larry Johnson of No Quarter has some relevant details:
News that White House staffers, which includes Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, used RNC email accounts in order to avoid the scrutiny that normally comes with the White House email account raises an interesting question--Did Patrick Fitzgerald know this? It appears the answer is no.

If that is the case then we are looking at the potential for new obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case. Why? For starters there are the subpoenas the White House received in 2003. They were required to turn over all emails relating to the Valerie Plame case, not just White House emails. Just when you thought the Plame case was at a dead end it looks like the hubris of the Republicans have given it new life. ...
Josh Marshall has more details on what is clearly a growing scandal involving Karl Rove and other White House staffers violating the law to avoid accountability:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) just sent a letter to Alberto Gonzales.... Waxman spoke to RNC Counsel Rob Kelner. According to Kelner, even after the RNC began saving Karl Rove's emails, in response to orders from Pat Fitzgerald, Rove himself apparently continued to delete the messages himself well into 2005.

White House officials are required by law to keep records of their calls and letters. These officials work for the American people and their records are public property; keeping records is a way to make sure there is transparency in our government. We need a much closer look at the shennigans of master political operator Karl Rove. A special prosecutor is in order.

Labels: , ,

Senator Johnson Getting Ready to Come Back

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is getting ready to come back. Newsday has an AP story by Mary Clare Jalonick:
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said Wednesday that the senator would be in the rehabilitation facility "for a while longer" and would undergo outpatient therapy before returning to the Senate. She would not speculate on how long that will take.

When he does return, Fisher said, Johnson is expected to use an electric scooter to get around. Staff and Capitol workers are widening aisles and doorways in his office, as well as the area around his desk, and Johnson's personal bathroom will be refurbished to make it easier for the senator to use.

There's a lot of work to do in Washington. Let's hope Johnson's recovery continues and that he's back soon.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Majority of American Say Gonzales Should Go

We need to believe in the integrity of our government and Bush and his closest advisers have given us far too many reasons in the last six years to believe that integrity has been put on a low priority for any number of reasons that are not pretty. I've been watching Purgegate closely for the past several weeks and Alberto Gonzales fits the cookie metaphor perfectly. Asked if he's taken cookies from the cookie jar, he smiles innocently into the camera with his hands behind his back, rocks from side to side and, while he denies having taking any cookies, a steady trickle of crumbs can be seen landing behind him on the floor as he tries to get rid of the evidence without entirely succeeding. In this case, the cookie crumbs are e-mails and contradictory accounts given by other people.

One of the ridiculous aspects coming out during this scandal are the number of people who have been hired openly or sometimes surreptiously by the Bush Administration who are not qualified for their jobs but are hired anyway because of their perceived loyalty to Bush and his right wing causes. We have lawyers being hired that are from fourth-rate schools such as Pat Robertson's college. But a more insiduous issue that has emerged is that the White House is deliberately using non-White House e-mail accounts to avoid accountability (one wonders how many e-mails went back and forth between convicted felon Jack Abramoff and the White House after all). If we care about the rule of law, if we care about the US Constitution, if we care about transparency from people who work for us, this is no way to run a government.

Since 2004, a growing number of Americans have been catching on to George W. Bush. The 2006 elections are evidence a loud and clear message to Washington that we expect better. But there are still Americans who don't get it. The Los Angeles Times has a poll on Alberto Gonzales and US attorney firings:
Most Americans believe Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales should resign because of the controversy over his office's firing of federal prosecutors, and a big majority want White House aides to testify under oath about the issue, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll has found.

The survey, conducted Thursday through Monday, found that 53% said Gonzales should step down because he claimed he had no role in the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys last year — an account later contradicted by Justice Department documents and congressional testimony by his top assistant.

Senate and House Democratic leaders have asked White House aides to testify under oath about the firings, in part to answer questions about the roles of Gonzales and Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist. Bush has rejected those requests, but the poll found that 74% of the public believes his aides, including Rove, should comply.

Even among Republicans, 49% said they thought the aides should testify; 43% said they should not.

I'm astounded that 43% of Republicans still think it's okay for Justice of Department officials and White House staffers doing official government business not to testify under oath when serious questions have been raised about their performance. Ultimately, the American people determine the rules, not Bush and his advisers. It is the job of Bush and his advisers to execute the laws, not rewrite them at their convenience, or use them or not use them at their pleasure. When national security is involved, we sometimes are too slow to hold government officials accountable, but when pure politics is involved and officials are not being straight with the American people, we have a right and a responsibility to demand a complete explanation...under oath.

Officials who swear to uphold the US Constitution are expected to uphold the law and to have the highest integrity. There have been too many outright lies and contradictions coming out of the White House and Justice Department for them to hide behind 'executive privilege' or to invoke bizarre interpretations of the law that seem to be pulled out of the dark ages, or out of their hats. Fortunately, 74% of the public believes the officials should testify under oath. There's still hope for our democracy.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 09, 2007

NY Times Review of Brzezinski's Latest Book

I keep going back to Zbigniew Brzezinski's anaylsis of the current situation in American foreign policy for the simple reason that I feel he has about the best take out there on the current world situation. The New York Times has a book review by Jacob Heilbrunn that captures several key aspects of Brzezinski's thinking in his latest book, Second Chance:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, has steadily warned that American arrogance might well lead to catastrophe abroad. And unlike his ingratiating Republican counterpart, Henry Kissinger, he was an early and vociferous opponent of the Iraq war.


If Bush senior lacked the vision and boldness to reinvent American foreign policy after the cold war, Clinton was bedazzled by the notion that globalization would bring an end to world conflict. Brzezinski awards Clinton good marks for successfully enlarging NATO. But he argues that Clinton badly erred in failing to achieve an accord between the Israelis and Palestinians. At his marathon sessions with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat at Camp David in July 2000, Clinton may have striven for peace, but there was too much “emphasis on immediately assigning blame for the parties’ failure to emerge from the meeting with an agreement in hand.” Overall, Brzezinski says, Clinton “did not leave a historically grand imprint on the world.”

So disdainful is Brzezinski of George W. Bush that he barely even pauses to discuss him. Instead, the neoconservatives surrounding Bush trigger his ire. According to Brzezinski, the Iraq war’s “only saving grace is that it made Iraq the cemetery of neocon dreams. Had the war been more successful, America by now might be at war with Syria and Iran, pursuing a policy driven more by Manichaean notions and dubious motivations than by any sober definition of its national interest.”

Had the war been more successful..... This is the observation so many people in the media and even some of the more hawkish Democrats miss. Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East, as defined and conceived by the neoconservatives, had built into it an essential flaw and that flaw can be summarized most easily by simply saying that Bush's new conception of foreign policy (or archaic, since his policy harks back to the 19th century) was defined by hubris, a hubris that had little conception of the limits of American military and economic power in the current, post-colonial era and how much Bush was overreaching with the tools he had, mainly military and diplomatic. From its inception, Bush's foreign policy was strategically flawed. His foreign policy and military policy was also hampered by a level of incompetence rarely seen in the last 75 years of American administrations. In a sense, the incompetence of the Bush inner circle prevented the larger fiasco from happening. There is, of course, still the risk of stumbling into a wider war, a war that will do absolutely no one any good and may do profound damage to the United States and also the world economy which has the potential to damage the United States even further.

My understanding of world affairs is still evolving and one thing is becoming clear: the neglect of a serious energy policy on the part of the United States for the last 30 years has put us into a situation in 2007 that undermines what we can do and not do in world affairs. We are a superpower with increasing self-inflicted vulnerabilities. Our enemies understand these vulnerabilities far more than the average American (in some respects, Cheney seems to understand those vulnerabilities as well, but his conservative ideology led him to foolhardy conclusions about how to deal with those vulnerabilities). We still produce a significant amount of oil but the fact we have to import so much at a time when world oil production is having trouble keeping pace with the demands of the next five to ten years does not leave us much room to play the dangerous games favored by Bush and Cheney; in regards to Iran and the lack of a serious effort at diplomatic talks, those dangerous games can easily backfire at any time to everyone's peril.

It is important for the sake of our national security to keep boxing in Bush and Cheney to keep them from damaging us any further. And it is important to get public discussions about energy on a much higher plane with a much greater sense of urgency. Even if Iraq stabilizes and our relations with Iran improve, we have an array of problems that have been neglected and that need to be dealt with, particularly in the area of energy.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 07, 2007

UN Signs Off on Global Warming Threat

A UN panel has issued a warning that global warming is probably being caused by human activity and that we may have to do something about it. Okay, that's a somewhat watered down warning but here's the story from Beth Daley of The Boston Globe:
In a report released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists for the first time linked changes being observed in nature on every continent and in most oceans to rising temperatures from greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, emitted by power plants, factories, and cars.

If emissions are not reduced, the panel warned, 20 percent to 30 percent of plant and animal species could face increased risk of extinction, and rising temperatures could cause widespread human suffering from more frequent droughts, floods, and outbreaks of disease.


The report's release in Brussels was delayed for several hours in part because officials of several governments, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China, debated wording with scientists, including how the report characterized scientists' certainty that global warming is already influencing physical and biological systems. According to IPCC rules, all governments had to sign off on the document; its release was preceded by four days of intense negotiations with officials from more than 100 countries. The wording was ultimately changed to reflect less certainty, over the objections of the panel's scientists. The final report says it is "likely" that manmade warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems.

...the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China. Let's put that in context. The United States is the biggest consumer of oil and probably has the world's largest deposit of coal. China is increasingly a big consumer of oil and also has one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer of oil. The United States and now China are the two biggest polluters in the world. It's not hard to notice a major conflict of interest. All three countries are going to have to deal with reality sooner than they would like. It's time to adapt.

Of the three, the United States is the most capable of innovation and in fact it is probably still the leading innovator in the world though one can argue that Europe as a whole is pretty much even with the US. Nevertheless, it's time for the United States to show leadership again instead of simply protecting the investments of the wealthy. Innovation has always meant jobs. Finding new ways to clean the environment and produce energy will create jobs. It's in our interest then to lead.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 06, 2007

Another Reason We Need Reform in Washington

We invaded Iraq to bring the Iraqis democracy. No one believes anymore that democracy is the main reason Bush went to Iraq. In fact, most days, Bush is still peddling the canard that we're in Iraq so the 'terrorists' don't come here (never mind, we're the ones who went there). And of course the biggest immediate threat to our democracy these days is the incompetent and authoritarian behavior of the Bush Administration itself. There's a bitter irony in all this: people like myself write on blogs like this partly because we believe we are defending the US Constitution; our constitution, in fact, gives every citizen the right to defend that constitution and offers checks and balances in our government to protect that constitution. I have sworn no oath to defend the US Constitution but any number of government officials in the Bush Administration have sworn to protect and uphold our constitution and they are doing any number of things to undermine the highest law of our land. Go figure.

But there are issues afoot that go far beyond the ideological claptrap of the Bush Administration. An issue like globalization goes back a number of years, at least into the early 1990s. One of the things globalization was supposed to do was help democratize nations and lead to a better life for workers (there was mumbo jumbo about the tide rising for all workers).

Of course, globalization has fallen far short of many promises made by its proponents, both Republican and Democratic (Bill Clinton was certainly one). I was never entirely against globalization but it was disturbing early on to see that the concept was too easily embraced and implemented by corporations and conservatives who had little interest in the progressive possibilities of globalization (and Clinton was frankly sluggish in this area).

Now we have American corporations and their proxies actively opposing better conditions and wages for workers. Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect reports:
...the conduct of America's corporate titans in China is ... disquieting. There, since March of last year, the government has been considering a labor law that promises a smidgen of increase in workers' rights. And since March of last year, the American businesses so mightily invested in China have mightily fought it.

Beyond the Starbucks of Shanghai, the China of workers and peasants is a sea of unrest, roiled by thousands of strikes and protests that the regime routinely represses. Cognizant that they need to do something to quell the causes of unrest, some of China's rulers have entertained modest changes to the country's labor law. The legislation wouldn't allow workers to form independent trade unions or grant them the right to strike -- this is, after all, a communist regime. It would, however, require employers to provide employees, either individually or collectively, with written contracts. It would allow employees to change jobs within their industries or get jobs in related industries in other regions; employers have hitherto been able to thwart this by invoking statutes on proprietary information. It would also require that companies bargain with worker representatives over health and safety conditions.


As documented by Global Labor Strategies, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization headed by longtime labor activists, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the U.S.-China Business Council embarked on a major campaign to kill these tepid reforms. Last April, one month after the legislation was first floated, the chamber sent a 42-page document to the Chinese government on behalf of its 1,300 members -- including General Electric, Microsoft, Dell, Ford, and dozens of other household brand names -- objecting to these minimal increases in worker power. In its public comments on the proposed law, GE declared that it strongly preferred "consultation" with workers to "securing worker representative approval" on a range of its labor practices.


First, about one-fourth of the global labor force is in China. Opposing steps toward the formation of unions there suppresses the wages of so many workers that its effect is felt worldwide. Second, since authoritarian China remains an adversary of the United States and a backer of some genuinely dangerous authoritarian regimes, blocking even the most modest steps toward the development of a civil society and democratic rights there poses a threat to U.S. security interests. Third, since the Bush administration champions the spread of democracy globally, why hasn't it taken America's leading corporations to task for retarding democracy's growth in China?

I'm all for free enterprise and competition; that's why it may be time to wean our corporations from their autocratic culture and back into our democracy. Countries who try to protect their privileged class only end up stifling opportunities for others and the economy of those countries always suffer from such measures. Franco's Spain is a classic example of economic suppression and stagnation and the fact is, we're heading in that direction.

Republicans, and right wing conservatives in particular have forgotten some important lessons about our country. Corporate laws are derived from our government and the government exists for the people, not for corporations and certainly not for a privileged sense of autocratic rule. Reform has saved our country several times before and our country has grown stronger after such periods of reform. We're overdue for some serious changes. For one thing, we're heading for some serious challenges and we need a dynamic and creative economy that can deal with those challenges.

Thought experiment: visualize the auto makers of Detroit dealing with the coming challenges. They're not even remotely ready to take on those challenges. If we have an oil shock in the next year or two, few companies in our country are in a position to deal with such a scenario. Actually, for many years, Detroit and big oil have been the albatrosses slowing our country down and putting our future at risk. Real innovations requires involving everyone, including workers down the line, and it requires real economic openness and opportunity; in other words, real free enterprise and real competition with the government occassionally stimulating various sectors such as research in new sources of energy.

Labels: , ,