Friday, May 29, 2009

The King of all he Surveys

The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, at a public press conference yesterday, chastised a reporter for asking about the rationale for the overturning of the term limits law by the City Council. The mayor made comments about the begins signs of a turnaround in the economy. The ailing economy was one of the major reasons sited by members of the City Council and the supporters of the overturning of the law on term limits as to why the mayor and the City Council should be allowed to serve beyond their two term limit.

The reporter asked a perfectly legitimate question about whether the rebounding economy took away one of the reasons for the extending of term limits. The Mayor reacted angrily and said that the voters will speak to that on November 3rd and called the reporter a "disgrace". I actually think that Mike Bloomberg has been a very good mayor for the city of New York. There is something appealing about a man who has so much money that he cannot be bought by special interests and isn't beholden to the dogma of either national party. However, the downside of having a mayor who is basically above the fray means that he sometimes feels that he is above being questioned as well.

Mike Bloomberg was all for term limits when he ran for Mayor. Rudy Guliani had floated the idea that he be allowed to stay on to shepherd the city through six additional months in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. Bloomberg was the first to quote the famous line about the cemeteries being filled with "indispensable" people. Of course he used exactly the same argument that Guliani did, by claiming that he was the only person qualified to lead the city through these difficult economic times. His master stroke was including the City Council in his plans.

He could have made his desire for another term known in more than enough time for it to be put on the ballot, but he knew the easiest path would be to skip the voters all together. The voters of this city had twice voted for term limits, but that did not matter to the mayor. By including the City Council in his plan, he allowed those already in office to basically vote to allow themselves to remain in office. The ridiculous argument floated by a lot of the City Council members was that if almost half of them were forced out due to term limits then the city would suffer because it would take the new members a few years to figure out what they were doing. This argument does not acknowledge the fact that in four years we will be faced with an entirely new City Council. If the argument was that experience matters, then in four years we will face a city council that will be 100% new. There will be no seasoned council men or women to mentor the new members. That does not seem to matter to the people currently on the Council and Bloomberg knew it wouldn't.

So the mayor stands poised to win a third term in November (along with large chuck of the City Council), which he will no doubt do with an overwhelming majority of the votes. There is simply no candidate who can stand up to the onslaught from a multi-billionaire mayor. And as King Michael oversees the land, he finds it an annoyance to answer questions that do not fit into his view of the world. King Michael is indifferent to the will of the people unless their will coincides with his desires. King Michael rules at his leisure and we his humble servants are fortunate to be able to bask in the glow of his magnificence. That reporter should count himself lucky that the words out of the king's mouth were "you're a disgrace" and not "off with his head".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Running Scared

Yesterday, the Senate handed President Obama a resounding defeat. They voted 90-6 against the funding for the closing of Gitmo. This astounding vote can only be described as an absolute victory for the Right wing fear machine. Since Obama announced that he was going to close Gitmo, the voices on the right have been screaming that this will certainly make us less safe. Republican representatives have been using every available pulpit to assert that they are not willing to take these dangerous detainees in their state prisons.

It seems almost laughable to hear the Right talk about these detainees as if they were master criminals from fiction. It would seem that we have everybody from the Joker to Lex Luther and they are just waiting for the opportunity to be on American soil so that they can reap havoc on the citizens of this country. The fact that we already have convicted terrorists in our prisons does not seem to matter to the Right. Those guys are apparently just the B team. The people we have in Gitmo are the real criminal masterminds. Never mind the fact that no one has ever escaped from a supermax prison, to hear the Right tell it, those super fortified detention centers are no match for the brilliant and devious minds of the detainees at Gitmo.

Before yesterdays vote, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California gave an impassioned speech in which she explained that the supermax detention centers in her state were more than capable of handling these detainees. She also said that she hoped that her fellow Senators had not been swayed by any words to the contrary. Of course she then went out and voted against the funding herself. Amazingly, this was not the most egregious action in the Senate yesterday. That prize would have to go to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. After having voted against the funding, he gave a press conference in which he stated that he didn't want these people released onto American streets. He was reminded by a reporter that the President wasn't talking about releasing anyone, but just transferring them. He responded that you can't put them in prison unless you release them??!?!?!?!?! I have no idea what he could have possibly meant, but when the leader of the Democrats in the Senate is spewing ridiculous right wing talking points, you know that something has gone terribly wrong.

Maybe I don't understand. Perhaps our federal prisons are as easy to get out of as jury duty. Who knows? I somehow find that hard to believe though. As stated before, we already have terrorists in our prisons. They have not managed to escape and unless we are bringing the inmates from Arkham asylum, I don't think that we'll have a mass escape any time soon. The Republicans love to play the politics of fear and this time it seems to have ensnared most of the Senate. I thought that the Democratic Senators were smarter than that, but then I tend to give people too much credit.
UPDATE: Here are the six brave souls who voted for the measure: Durbin (D-IL)Harkin (D-IA)Leahy (D-VT)Levin (D-MI)Reed (D-RI)Whitehouse (D-RI). They deserve our thanks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

90-5, or Walking Tall and Chewing Gum

Senator Dodd’s “Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act,” passed the Senate by a jaw-dropping landslide vote of 90-5 (Who the hell are these 5 abstainers?

Did they hold out because the bill doesn’t go far enough? …Yeah, right.)

Now the House and Senate are expected to author a compromise that Congress can vote on by the end of the week, although there are rumblings after this sweeping approval that the bill may be strengthened, not watered down. Let’s hope. President Obama wants Congress to send him a bill by Memorial Day.

The bill was cosponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), please contact your Senator’s website and commend them on a fine job against a nefarious and powerful foe that bleeds Americans every single day. Think of them and their efforts every time you get your credit card bill. If your Senator was one of the five opposers? Well, I think you know what to say to them.

My collaborator on this blog pointed out that the Obama administration has been accused, by political opponents, as well as supporters of taking on too much reform, setting too many goals. These opponents have their own myriad of reasons why they’d like the new administration to do less. Ironically some “supporters” have taken the cynical view that it is simply a tactic to justify a lack of results on the thornier issues: using an overcrowded slate of ambitions as an excuse/rationale for failure on politically compromising challenges in legislation and policy. If President Obama signs this into law, it’s one more campaign promise kept as opposed to several others that seem relegated to the limbo of deliberation and inaction that plagues ambitious administrations operating under the always fractious political unity of the government and the nation. -But I’ll take it.

Some of the most powerful and well financed lobbyists and special interest groups in Washington, from the ABA, to lawyers who defend collection agencies opposed this legislation. The credit card companies have successfully fought this legislation in the past, but something was very, very different this time around: the companies themselves are in no position to cloud the issue. Companies like CitiGroup, Chase, Discover, Bank of America, et al… have been at the very top of every headline related to the global banking crisis. They tried again, as in many years before, to win votes and spike this legislation with conditions and loopholes to make this bill ineffective and useless or kill it outright on the floor.

This time, the Senate could not turn a deaf ear to millions of Americans suffering under criminal practices like “Universal Default” and retroactively shifting APRs, and could not instead defend the interests of banks and credit card companies who were surviving on the tax money paid by the same citizens they are still exploiting.

The ABA said today that this bill’s passing into law would jeopardize credit and access to credit cards at all for some consumers; something I’ve always supposed the credit card companies reserved the right to jeopardize in any case.
–If you don’t agree, try to correct an inaccuracy on any of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. After you go through that labyrinthine nonsense of snail mail, letters and such, see how long it takes to affect your credit score. I tried this in November of 2008, it’s now after 1Q 2008 and with the noted exception of TransUnion, I still haven’t seen any adjustments and corrections despite the fact that the record of my accounts reflected (and some still reflect) errors such as thousands of dollars that had already been paid down. Remember that the credit card ratings bureaus' clients are in fact the industry itself, and not the card holders. Why on Earth would the bureaus ever operate efficiently, fairly or transparently and give you the rating you deserve when it would only force their clients to give you a smaller rate of interest?

If this were my bill, I’d apply the same draconian rules at regulating these companies that they’ve applied to me, you, and our fellow taxpayers who were recently forced to bail them all out. This legislation should be retroactive. These companies make a standard practice of raising interest rates on existing debts, retroactively. This is what loan sharks do, and it’s actually illegal. These companies make new rules, or change conditions and then apply them retroactively to cardholders. This used to be called Vigorish in my town, and if the Feds caught you charging it, you went to jail like you deserved to.

The regulations in this bill would roll back at least five years if I had my way, and not dragging its way into effect next year sometime. This “give back” should be part of the price they pay for destabilizing the world economy and shoving us and our fellow consumers in scores of other nations around the world into a recession.

As for the Democrats who have brought this badly needed regulation against these crooks? Thank you for your bold step in our name and in our defense. Thank you and please march on, walk on… walk and chew gum at the same time. I’ll buy you a stick of Adams, Beaman’s, Wrigley’s or a pack of Hubba Bubba.

Push for healthcare reform, education reform, housing reform, stop corporate welfare and subsidies, stop the off-shoring of jobs by American companies, close the tax loopholes…
Do all of those things I thought I’d never see in my lifetime.

…And thank you Senator Dodd, for getting the ball rolling.


Healthcare on life support

I just wanted to add my two cents to the healthcare article that SJ wrote. He always says it better than I do, but here are my thoughts. As we go to sleep tonight there are at least 48 million Americans without healthcare. I have only one question to ask to the 250 million Americans who are fortunate enough to have healthcare. Is that okay with you? Our current healthcare system was basically set up under the Nixon administration with the promise of providing quality healthcare to all Americans. Yet how can it be that more than twenty five years after the Nixon administration opened the gates for HMO's to decide the level of medical care we should receive, that there are more Americans without healthcare than ever.

There is a simple answer to that question. Medical coverage is now a matter of dollar and cents. The medical insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their bottom line is that they only make money if they take in more than they pay out. That means that they would like your insurance premiums to be more than the medical care that you are provided with for that year. Judging by immense profits that the medical insurance companies have been amassing over the last two decades, they have been doing a very good job at making sure the ledger balances in their favor.

When the former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan was in front of a Congressional committee trying to explain what went wrong with Wall St., he said "I thought they would do the right thing". What he meant was that he thought that the people whose only job was to make as much money as they possibly could, would also take it upon themselves to police their own greed. That was akin to letting wolves loose in a hen house and expecting them to make sure that they left enough chickens alive so that everyone would have omelets the next morning. The health of Americans is now a "for-profit" enterprise. The insurance companies "do the right thing" by making sure that their profits are as big as possible. After all, they have stock holders to answer to. The health and well being of their policy holders is not their primary concern. They have thousands of people hard at work right now, trying to find a way to deny needed medical procedures for their policy holders. The system is now set up so that less medical help you get, the more money they get.

The "for-profit" system is what those fortunate enough to have coverage have to endure. The almost 50 million without health insurance have a different set of problems. While having insurance is not a guarantee that you won't end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt because of uncovered "experimental" treatments, or denied claims, or non pre-approved emergencies, but at least you usually get treated at the hospital. Try to show up at a hospital without medical coverage and see how you get treated. Hospitals have been known to try and ship people to other hospitals for emergency care because they don't have medical coverage. They have been known to put sick people in cabs and drop them off in the middle of the city because they don't have medical coverage. There is no such thing as preventative medicine for those without health insurance. A simple infection can turn deadly without proper treatment, but under the current system, those without coverage are almost destined for the more serious situation.

At the end of the day, the question has to be, what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to be a country where we let children and the elderly die because of the lack of affordable medical care? Do we want to be a country where possible life saving treatments are denied because they hurt the bottom line? Our healthcare system is broken. The insurance companies, along with the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical companies seem hell bent and milking every penny possible from the pockets of the American workers. The lobbyists for the "Triangle of Terror" (that's my trademark, by the way), spend tens of millions of dollars every year to make sure that our representatives in Washington keep the gravy train rolling. I have always believed that we as a people are better than our current healthcare system would reflect. We are generous when people are in need. We spring to the aid of neighbors during time of crisis. We help strangers half way around the world that we will never meet. I simply cannot believe that the majority of Americans are happy with a system that holds human life as cheaply as our healthcare system does.

Is Universal healthcare possible in America? The answer is obviously yes. The American people cannot be afraid to do what's right. The opponents of healthcare reform will say that the government will now be deciding whether you get to have surgery. They will say that you will have to wait much longer for life saving treatments such as transplants. They will say that we are not socialist and that providing healthcare to everyone is a socialist idea. They will try and convince the majority of Americans that they currently get treated like they wealthy do and that reform will lead to them being treated like the poor are. If Americans were to closely examine the current system they would realize that they are already being treated like the poor. Healthcare reform is absolutely necessary for us to move forward as a world leader in this new century. The health of our citizens should not be one of those things that gets worse as time goes on, but somehow it is. We rank behind every developed nation in western hemisphere in life expectancy. We rate no better than in the thirties in overall infant mortality rates. We can do better and we must do better. There is a better way, we just have to demand it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blue Cross Fires the First Shot Across the Bow…

-of America’s future.

Back as recently as February, we discussed the imminent threat to Healthcare Reform posed by lobbyists and the Healthcare industry they represent. Well, it’s already starting.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Blue Cross Blue Shield has created commercials and an "informational" website that will “warn” Americans about a government-sponsored health insurance option, currently called the “Public Plan.” The Obama administration has proposed this plan as a leaner, not-for-profit system that will push out more coverage and service to all Americans by largely appropriating the money and revenue that: shareholders; executive payrolls; rampant price gouging on administrative fees; procedure prices; and financing charges currently comprise. This would be a far more affordable option for Americans who can’t afford private insurance (COBRA is a joke, and if you grew up on “G.I. Joe” cartoons also kind of scary) and a huge weight off the back of American industry, like our own American automakers for example, who are collapsing under the cost of insuring American workers among other negotiated operating loads, while their counterparts around the globe lean on the support of their respective nationalized healthcare systems and build cars more “cheaply” thanks to their reduced cost of “labor.”

American industry needs Healthcare Reform as much as we do, maybe more.

Predictably, the Healthcare industry is already saying that this plan will threaten the state of the existing marketplace; in that sense they are not lying. But they were clearly being dishonest when they pledged to do what they could to curb rising health costs and address the masses of underinsured and uninsured in America.

If Americans fall for this nonsense, this ridiculously transparent act of self interest and greed that stabs at the heart of our country’s future, then we will continue to lose what market share we have in the global industries. We will continue to increasingly depend on the foreign manufacture of… well everything, because no domestic business I can imagine will be able to compete with foreign concerns who operate under governments that understand Healthcare is a right. A right that when guaranteed, keeps society as well as individuals safe and strong.

As many a Free-Market Conservative over the last twenty five years has proclaimed: business that operates unfairly doesn’t need regulation to step in and correct it, -its incompetence or criminality will force its demise in the marketplace. The trouble is we’re not talking about a failure at making candy bars or golf clubs. We’re talking about a failure at keeping Americans healthy and alive.

Were health insurance affordable and mandatory, wouldn’t the mass participation ensure its feasibility? …but there’s no money in that is there?

I hope enough people have the sense to see that caring for a nation should not be a concern governed by profit and loss sheets, but when money’s at stake, hope is never enough is it?

Even when we're talking about each other's lives.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crucify the FCC

The FCC is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by terrestrial radio, broadcast television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions. The FCC is not made up of publicly elected individuals.

What I’d like to know is after all of the years of this commission’s haranguing of Howard Stern, and most recently CBS, due to the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson nipplecast is:

Why doesn’t the FCC ever fine television networks for egregious factual inaccuracies and lies?

While judgments like “offensive,” “tasteless,” “biased,” “unfair” and “profane” are entirely subjective; the factual truth is never open to interpretations of its concrete meaning. A factual truth such as “2+2=4” can only ever be presented as “2+2=4,” and not “2+2 doesn’t equal 4, only 4 equals 4; Liberals want to focus on the number 2 only and take attention away from 4…” Statements like the second hypothetical example are inflicted on news audiences, under the guise of opinion and “news analysis,” but the second statement is a lie, not an opinion: 2+2 always equals 4, regardless of who says it, or why, and irregardless (thank you President Nixon for that bizarre but oft appropriate term) of anyone’s desire to only chant 4 equals 4 over and over. A preferred fact such as “4=4” does negate another fact such as “2+2=4” -no matter how undesirable or politically compromising that other fact may be.

This dynamic is playing out right now, with Republicans like John Boehner, and people who aren’t even in elected office anymore like Dick Cheney, attempting to switch the issue of a potential investigation on what we now know factually to be a torture program instituted by the Bush administration, into a matter of “who knew what when” among Democratic Party members, specifically Nancy Pelosi.

This is a great big “dodge:” the question is, who was responsible for designing and authorizing the unconstitutional, illegal torture policy?
Pointing out political opponents who also broke or abetted the violation of the nation’s laws does not absolve George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John C. Yoo, et al from their crimes. The manner in which this dodge is repeated, promoted and presented illustrates just how ineffectual and useless the FCC is, as a commission that supposedly regulates the quality of television content, specifically the news. John Boehner’s opinions about what Nancy Pelosi knew, or was told or even her actual guilt in the matter does not settle the possible criminal torture issues for Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. When a talking head on Fox News like Sean Hannity says that the complicity or knowledge of Democrats during the Bush Administration’s ramp up to torture and war make the investigation of all their illicit actions unnecessary; that is a lie. It is not opinion.

It is intentionally obfuscated reasoning.

The comedian Lewis Black said last year that the country has devolved to a point where a Democrat sees an SUV run over a cat and says “That cat was run over,” and a Republican sees the same event as says “That cat committed suicide, and we’ll start a special commission to find the suicide note.”
We can disagree about truths, even the so-called “self evident” ones, but we cannot disagree about the facts. -A cat has been run over. –A nation’s Constitution and rule of law has been violated.

If the FCC can’t ensure that the facts are always presented ahead of and in tandem with opinion, then what use are they as a regulatory body? They currently exist to inform me about what other people find offensive, like a nipple, or Bono cursing at an award’s show. I know these things offend other people. I don’t need the FCC to tell me that. I need the FCC to make sure that the news is always the news and that entertainment and opinion never masquerade as the former.

You see, the biggest lie Fox News tells the world daily, is that it is a "news network."
It is from that statement that all of its lies emanate.

I doubt the FCC will ever do a thing about lies, so what use are they to any of us in America?


Friday, May 15, 2009

Who Is Chakib Khelil?

Answer: One of the most important men on Earth. You will not find him on TIME’s annual list of the 100 most influential people. Chakib Khelil is Algeria’s oil minister and he runs OPEC. When oil prices go down around the globe, OPEC slashes production in order to raise the price of a barrel of crude.

In what manner should this be legal, ethical or acceptable to the rest of the world? In America this comes under the definition of racketeering.

The global economy is no longer edging toward recession. We’re here. One of the direct consequences of the erosion of finance/ which erodes industry/ which erodes jobs/ which erodes consumer spending/ which further erodes industry back again and so on, is that the fear of diminishing oil supplies has been superseded by an enormous decrease in use and demand. In any other industry, rational capitalists would say that the laws of supply and demand were at work and that the fall in prices (consequences of fall in demand) were a natural, even a necessary consequence.

Not where OPEC is concerned.

When the great demand for oil is not there, OPEC creates an artificial scarcity in supply; which while not creating a greater use or demand, simply gouges the prices already paid.

This is ridiculous. It is naked gangsterism on the world stage and every single president, Fed Chairman and Treasury Secretary we have ever had just sits back and smiles like a jack ass while these crooks collude and disrupt the world economy. If you’ve ever wondered whether the actions of the World Bank, WTO and IMF make “freedom” a relative term around the world, OPEC deserves the same skepticism and suspicion... maybe more so.

Of all of the solutions and policies aggressively opposed by the Establishment in America, like healthcare reform, progressive taxation, Social Security, environmental causes, increasing investments in public education: opposition to fuel alternative initiatives and the obstruction of energy independence are among the most indefensible. Lack of alternatives to importing oil have made the entire populations of nations the world over into indentured pawns of OPEC; their governments mere flunkies in tow. The United States and the United Kingdom in particular find themselves in a strange place in this new century, whereupon the petrol spending of their citizens enriches the most fascistic and hierarchical of nation-states in history, like Saudi Arabia, while their Royal families and respective administrations abet and encourage religious fanatics to blame the West for all of the inequities (whether social, cultural, political, economic) in their region in a brilliant and diabolical distraction from the fact that they will not apportion the region’s oil wealth to help the working classes and the poor (Kuwait is a notable exception to this norm.) Thanks to the Carlyle Group and the efforts of about three generations worth of Bushes in America, the issue of how oil is generated, priced and foisted on the world will never be as transparent as it should. The fact of the matter is it’s never even discussed. Rises in the prices of oil are greeted with the same dumbstruck wonder as would a sudden squall in the Florida Keys.

I believe there is a strong likelihood that OPEC’s manipulation of crude prices will make the ongoing global recession worse in the coming months and years. I cannot think of a better reason for the United States and other countries to stop buying foreign oil, and stop buying it now. The 9/11 attacks didn’t seem to be a great enough incentive for Americans to stop driving enormous SUVs and making OPEC’s constituent members richer than they’ve ever been: making the terrorist organizations in those countries bolder still. Instead the last Bush administration worked to reclassify SUVs as light trucks… no one batted an eyelash. No one questions why trillions of dollars fly out of this country, to enrich nations that think nothing of letting violently radical elements in their society kill people on their way to work around the world. I’ve never heard George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz complain about it once since September 11, 2001. I guess they think it’s perfectly fine for Americans to keep indirectly subsidizing their own mass murder while the Royal families of the oil producing nations buy ever bigger monster yachts and jewel bedecked Bentleys with the gas money made from Western nations. When the ever growing unemployed, poor youth in Saudi Arabia ask why there is no fresh water in their villages and towns, the House of Saud will probably shrug and point to the West. I’m sure Osama Bin Laden laughs his ass off every time his countrymen turn the screws on us. Only an American dependence on his construction business would be a greater injurious irony.

The nations of Earth need to conserve; set strict mileage standards for all new cars; develop renewable energy sources and move away from an economy and way of life that sees driving two hours every single day as “normal.”

OPEC is a cartel.
Their drug is oil.

Just say no to OPEC’s oil.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Hail Mary Play

Dick Cheney has been touting the fact that President Obama has made the country less safe since about one month into his term. The former Vice President has made it clear that he thinks that the use of torture (that is plain English for the code words "enhanced interrogation techniques") is essential to the safety and well being of the citizens of this country. He has gone so far as to basically admit that he and former President Bush were not only aware of the torture program, but in fact green lighted the policy.

There are some who would say that his current media blitz is just Cheney's attempt to protect his legacy. There are others who would say that he is genuinely concerned about what he perceives to be a serious flaw in our national security. Cheney would probably say that he loves his country so much that he is willing to state his case regardless of the repercussions. However, I suspect that the real reason that notoriously press shy Cheney has suddenly made himself more available than a prostitute at Hunts Point is much more diabolical.

I believe that Dick Cheney goes to bed at night praying for another terrorist attack on the United States. He really see that as the only way that he will be fully vindicated. His mantra of "we kept America safe" can only fully appreciated if we are attacked again. Of course he conveniently washes over the fact that the worst terrorist attack in our history took place on his watch. In his mind, that fact is secondary to the "kept us safe" lie. He in fact repeats it so much that in his mind it's true. The 9/11 attacks weren't his fault. The fault for those attacks lays solely in the laps of the Clinton administration. In his mind the Bush administration started on 9/12/01. The discarding of the Bill of Rights, the subsequent breaking of international law, leading the country into an unwarranted war and the lies and deceptions that followed are all part of the "correct" way to run the country.

He prays that this country will suffer a devastating attack so that he will be able to say, "I told you so". He wants the country to recognize him as the ultimate patriot. He wants the American people to agree with him and say that our rights need to be sublimated in order to protect us from extremists. He wants the country to live in fear. He prays that future events will somehow vindicate him and the Bush administration in the eyes of history. He does not care what the cost in human lives may be. He does not care what the cost to the rule of law may be. He does not care what the cost to our reputation may be. He only cares about himself. There can be no other answer to someone whose current mission appears to be to undermine the current administration.

Words like treason and unpatriotic were thrown around whenever someone had the audacity to question the motives and actions of the Bush administration. It is almost comical to watch the other side of that equation. The far Right likes to wrap itself in the flag while attacking the current administration at every turn and throwing around words like secession and revolution. Dick Cheney is just the leading example of the most hypocritical element in our society. Political dissent is a critical part of our republic. It is necessary for the best ideas to come to the fore. However, Dick Cheney is not only expressing an opposing view (a view that in truth supports continued illegal activity), I believe that he is hoping that actual harm befall our nation. His legacy can only be rehabilitated by such an action and he knows it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Muddy the Waters

The former Vice President has been on a damage control tour of talk shows to try and press his case for the use of torture against terrorist suspects. The Republicans and their talking heads have taken the tact of trying to accuse Nancy Pelosi of lying about knowing about the torture policy. Dick Cheney has even gone so far as to point the finger at former President Bush as having known about and approved of the torture policy. Dick Cheney's main point however is still that torture was an effective tool in preventing attacks on the United States.

The point as to whether torture was effective or not has become a main point of contention on both sides. I have stated in the past and will reiterate the point that the effectiveness of torture is not important. People being tortured will admit to almost anything. Dick Cheney and the Republicans have been successful in altering the national debate. Dick Cheney has admitted and we have documentation to prove that the Bush administration did in fact carry out a policy of torture. We have more than enough legal history to prove that the techniques approved and used by the Bush administration are indeed torture. If we accept that fact, then the conversation should not be about who knew what when, but who approved and initiated the program.

I have no doubt that Democrats like Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi might have indeed been briefed on the techniques that were used. That is wholly beside the point. Even if they knew about the torture, they were in no position to do anything about it. The CIA briefings were classified and anyone in those meetings was bound, by law, not to talk about them. The less than esteemed former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, said that since Democrats have been in charge since 2007 they should have made Waterboarding illegal if they thought that it was so bad. Of course he forgets the point that waterboarding was illegal and continues to be illegal. There is no need to make any new laws to make it so.

The question of torture is a matter of law. There is no grey area. Claiming that some Democrats may have known about the practices does not make the use of those practices any less illegal. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. If our leaders can decide to enforce only the laws that are convenient, then our system of government is not only corrupt, but invalid. Torture is illegal. The people who initiated a program of torture need to answer for their actions. That is it. Our nation's laws and international laws and treaties were violated in the name of the citizens of this country. It is the citizens themselves who should be demanding that the people who approved and initiated this illegal program of torture should be brought to justice. It is the people who have to adhere to the rule of law who should be outraged that their good name has been sullied by those in government. It is the people who have to rise up and shout that no one is above the law.