Thursday, February 28, 2008

FBI Investigations: Clemens vs. LifeCare

Nearly two years ago, I asked the FBI to investigate my concerns regarding the White House Lessons Learned Report on Hurricane Katrina. The circumstances around Fran Townsend's silence over LifeCare's 24 patient deaths warranted probing, at least in my mind. I never heard one word back from any accountable official. No one ever addressed my questions.

Now I see the FBI will investigate baseball pitcher Roger Clemens for perjury for his February 13th testimony. Wow, the FBI took on the case within a month. I've been waiting nearly two years. What's more troubling to the nation, a juiced up pitcher or an overheated dead hospital with patients in need of rescue? Apparently the FBI believes it's the former. One final thought, did Fran Townsend retire so she wouldn't have to be sworn in on this issue? She cited the constant threat of subpoena as a reason for leaving. The White House refused to share her e-mails with Chief of Staff Andy Card during Katrina. Where's the FBI when you need them?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Barack & Hillary Like Wall Street Money

A look at Barack and Hillary's top campaign contributors reveals amazing similarities. Their lists are peppered with big Wall Street investment houses and high dollar legal firms. They even share a number of top donors.

1. Goldman Sachs $475,000
3. J.P. Morgan Chase $283,000
4. Lehman Brothers $274,000
5. National Amusements $266,000
7. Citigroup $248,000
8. University of California $240,000
9. Skadden, Arps $229,000
14. Time Warner $190,000
15. Morgan Stanley $190,000
17. Kirkland & Ellis $163,000
18. Latham & Watkins $161,000

2. Goldman Sachs $426,000
7. J.P. Morgan Chase $232,000
6. Lehman Brothers $255,000
8. National Amusements $218,000
4. Citigroup $354,000
15. University of California $162,000
9. Skadden, Arps $199,000
14. Time Warner $164,000
3. Morgan Stanley $369,000
11. Kirkland & Ellis $183,000
17. Latham & Watkins $149,000

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama share 11 of their top 20 donors. They share many positions as well. I find it hard to believe Mr. Obama can participate in these muddy waters and remain clean. However, one can hope...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rock the House!

Nearly half the members of the House of Representatives temporarily walked out yesterday. They did so under protest. I think the people should exercise a similar protest this November and give every House member a one way ticket back to their home district. Send 1/3 of the Senate home as well.

Could yesterday's action have been a warm up? It gives me hope that my goal of every incumbent permanently leaving can be accomplished. Vote them all out. A pox on both their houses.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Will the Real CIA Interrogators Please Admit Their Age?

White House mouthpiece Dana Perino gave another flimsy excuse for the Bush administration needing to torture people in American captivity. It turns out the Army Field manual is not the standard for interrogation anymore. Her excuse for the change? Young people, not old enough to drink, need explicit guidance on how to treat enemies in their hands. At the White House Press Briefing Dana had this to say:

This is done at the CIA, and it is done by professionals who are given hundreds of hours of training, who are — I think General Hayden said an average age of 40; who are being asked to do very hard work in order to protect Americans. The Army Field Manual is a perfectly appropriate document that is important for young GIs, some so young that they’re not even able to legally get a drink in the states where they’re from.

But Dana isn't the only one changing stories. Even John McCain flip flopped from his years ago position:

Senator John McCain (Republican), a former US navy pilot who was captured and tortured in Vietnam, wants an unequivocal ban on all "cruel and inhuman" treatment of prisoners in US custody, including those held by the CIA.

Why do I have a recollection of inexperienced CIA agents being blamed for interrogations gone awry? A look back at news reports show:

1. ABC's sources said that just over a dozen CIA interrogators were trained and authorised to use the "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

2. In a CIA facility in Kabul known as the "Salt Pit", an officer, described as young and inexperienced, used the "cold treatment" on a detainee, who was left outdoors, naked, throughout a freezing Afghan night. He died of hypothermia. The case is being investigated, along with several others in Afghanistan and Iraq where interrogators - CIA officers, civilian contractors or members of the special forces - went well beyond the guidelines and suspects died as a result.

3. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was US Secretary of State, said last week that he knew of more than 70 "questionable deaths" of detainees under US supervision up to the end of 2002, when he left office. That figure, he added, was now around 90.

4. America's covert forces are operating in a climate of impunity, described by Cofer Black, then CIA counter-terrorism chief, who told a congressional committee in 2002: "After 9/11, the gloves were off." At one point, according to Newsweek, the Bush administration formally told the CIA it could not be prosecuted for any technique short of inflicting the kind of pain that accompanies organ failure or death.

5. The CIA went ballistic when a former agent revealed prisoners had been waterboarded.

6. Military and CIA leaders lamented the impact of TV agent Jack Bauer.

US Army Brigadier General] Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise — that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security — was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires”...

Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally.

7. Meanwhile Bush high ups praise the Bauer model.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has said that "24" "frankly, . . . reflects real life" in presenting scenarios with "no clear magic bullet to solve the problem," and to former CIA Director James Woolsey, who has said that "24" is "quite realistic" about the threats that it depicts. And then there's the pop culture shout-out from former presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who said that if the government captured a would-be suicide bomber, "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that point, let me tell you."

8. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly defended that same fictional federal agent in 24, who often tortures terrorist suspects to save lives.

9. Harper's reported the psychologist used to create the urgent interrogation techniques were themselves inexperienced.

10. Yet, an experienced interrogator's knowledge and wisdom are ignored.

So who needs explicit instruction on interrogation, Dana? It looks like everyone needs to go back to school. Please implement "No White House Left Behind," and that includes wannabe's:

"I made it very clear that I think that waterboarding is torture and illegal, but I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual," McCain said before voting against holding the CIA to the field manual, which bans waterboarding.

And what does the Field Manual prohibit? It forbids eight methods including waterboarding, forced nudity, electric shock, use of dogs and mock executions. It looks like McCain's unequivocal ban got equivocated.

Bush to Veto Any Limits on His Right to Waterboard

How far down the rabbit hole does one have to go on this issue before becoming completely disoriented? It turns out, not far, but Congress' latest act sent the populace plunging. The New York Times reported:

The Senate voted Wednesday to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods that have been used by the Central Intelligence Agency against high-level terrorism suspects. The vote, following House passage of the measure in December, set up a confrontation with President Bush, who has threatened to veto it.

The Senate action is the latest chapter in a long-running battle between the Democratic majority in Congress and the Bush administration over the treatment of detainees, an issue certain to play a role in the presidential election campaign.

The leading Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war who steadfastly opposes the use of torture, voted against the bill. Mr. McCain said the ban would limit the C.I.A.’s ability to gather intelligence. “We always supported allowing the C.I.A. to use extra measures,” he said.

At the same time, he said that he believed “waterboarding is illegal and should be banned” and that the agency must adhere to existing federal law and international treaties.

The White House again said Mr. Bush intended to veto the bill, on the ground that it would interfere with successful intelligence gathering. And Tony Fratto, a presidential spokesman, said that at least in the case of waterboarding, Democrats were criticizing a method that American interrogators no longer used.

Whoa! McCain says waterboarding is illegal, a violation of federal law and international treaties and he voted against the bill? White House mouthpiece Fratto looks like a fool for saying "it's a method interrogators no longer use." How do we know? It took Bush 4-5 years to confess to its past use. Tony, it's still on the menu for use. Why else is George W. going to veto the bill?

How many years has torture been the top topic? At least three, if my recollection is correct. No wonder American government is despised around the world. We're supposed to be the shining light. Not any more. It's now clear John McCain can't lead us from our dark place. And the Supreme Court is no help at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Salute Before Shooting

Patriotism is the reason Congress wants to give immunity to telecommunication companies for their participation in illegal government spying. So next time you plan on committing a crime, be sure to salute. Or better yet, as you offend, wave a small American flag at the videocamera. Then ask the House and Senate to provide retroactive immunity. Ask Bush to berate the people's legislative on your behalf.

If they'll do it for telecoms, surely they'll come to the aid of the average citizen. After all, it's government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

America's Divided Tax History

America's tax history is apparently unAmerican, at least in the eyes of tax cutters. During World War I the top marginal tax rate reached 77%. During World War II it rose to 94% and fell only slightly afterwards, remaining at 91% until 1963.

During the Second World War, Encyclopedia Britannica made a film about despotism. It targeted Adolf Hitler and his ilk. The video cited one mark of a despotic society, control of power by a select few. Around the six minute mark, the narrator cites a regressive tax structure as unfair to the poor and a clear sign of despotism.

This despotic tax structure of yesterday is widely hailed as the fair tax of today. But is it really fair? Today during the time of a long war, our government continues to lower tax rates. Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are off budget, driving up debt but not held against the federal money manager.

To recap, America's top tax rate for individuals at key points in time:

Vietnam War-70-77%
War on Terror-35%
Great Depression (bdeginning)-24%
Stock Market Crash 1989-28%

This does not mean low tax rates cause economic crashes. Our economy is much more complex than that. But it does show leaders' unwillingness to ask Americans to sacrifice during a time of "war". Our history shows something very different.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tzipi's Ready for Next Military Assualt

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be ready the next time Israel acts to reduce a threat to their nation. According to Haaretz, Tzipi wrote:

"The Foreign Ministry contributed to a significant change in Israel's decision-making process and created the understanding that Israel's repertoire holds not just military tools, but also political tools used by those in the foreign service." Livni plans to appoint a special team to deal with future emergency situations of varying sorts. "The role of the foreign ministry is not just to explain military procedures, but also to initiate, coordinate and translate the reality to a process that serves the national interests of Israel."

Care to bet Tzipi has her team ready for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities? Israel recently announced their new satellite that can see through any weather into Iran. They plan to monitor Iranian troop movements. A massive internet outage hit the Middle East, after three undersea cables were damaged or cut completely. Haaretz also reported on a recent inflammatory statement by the Iranian President. Mossad estimated Iran would have a nuclear weapon within three years. (Update 2-7-08: Iran has advanced centrifuges capable of making nuclear weapons grade uranium much faster, in less than half the time.)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the West Wednesday to acknowledge Israel's "imminent collapse."

Ahmadinejad said it during a victory celebration over the West regarding Iran's nuclear program. Two days before Russia delivered the final installment of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr facility. In an eerie calm before the storm moment, the Western media let it pass with little to no comment.

After Israel's initial blow, Uncle Sam will likely rush to contain any blowback from our ally's attack. One support for this is the recent appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to a key committee advising on Iran. He joins two fellow PNAC'ers, neoconservatives who called for regime change in Iraq and Iran in their 2000 report.

If President George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert want to salvage their faltering reputations by going out with a bang, they need to act fast. The pieces are in place for the pre-emptive strike. The question is what happens afterwards? Neither leader is known for their planning skills.

Bush Looking Like Churchill

President George W. Bush may end up rather Churchillian as history reviews his signature accomplishments. Consider Sir. Winston's words on Iraq just after World War I:

Winston Churchill [the secretary of state for war and air at the time] was particularly keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment". He dismissed objections as "unreasonable". "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes… [to] spread a lively terror…" In today's terms, "the Arab" needed to be shocked and awed. A good gassing might well do the job.

George Bush did his version of shock and awe in 2003 and it's still going. Weeks ago, U.S. planes dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives in a 10 minute period.

What makes an Arab recalcitrant? Is it foreign forces trying to make them into something they're not? After WWI, the British challenge was to craft a country from disparate areas made up of widely different cultural groups.

But what enables an outside group to enforce its will on native peoples? Contempt is a good start. Churchill clearly showed it towards Arabs.

Who is worthy of contempt? The ignorant for one. A World Bank report cited decreasing literacy and school enrollment in the Arab world. A different study found 30% of the 300 million people in the Arab world are illiterate. Thus, around 90 million are candidates for contempt from the educated West.

However, it turns out the United States might be guilty of a similar failure to learn. Prince Andrew lamented the inability of American political leaders to learn from the British experience. Andrew said there had been "occasions when people in the UK would wish that those in responsible positions in the US might listen and learn from our experiences"

The timing of his lamentation is curious, especially given neo-con Paul Wolfowitz's return to the Bush administration. He's chairing the committee advising the Executive on Iran's nuclear program. President Bush is currently working to reign in the recalcitrant Persian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's President.

The puzzle pieces are coming together: failure to learn, relying on massive force to institute change, and the use of weapons of mass destruction against inferior people possessing widespread ignorance in a country with lots of oil. I feel another Churchill/Bush like event coming.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Suppressing Hitleritis

The United States suffered numerous outbreaks of Hitleritis the last four years. People infected are known to become feverish, make inane comparisons to Adolf Hitler, or invoke the Nazi menace in some trivial, current day situation. It appears members of the Presidential campaign camps may need to be quarantined, unless a more suitable treatment can be found.

A member of Hillary Clinton's campaign took offense to Barack Obama's Illinois mailing, which showed a young couple sitting at a table, appearing to puzzle over a stack of bills. This promotional piece unleashed the tell tale signs of an early infection:

"I am personally outraged at the picture used in this mailing," Len Nichols, a supporter of the so-called universal mandate said. "It is as outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie,Illinois."

In late 1970s, the American Nazi party won a court battle over the right to march through the predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, home to many Holocaust survivors. Despite their victory, the white supremacists decided to hold their demonstration in a Chicago park instead.

Should Mr. Nichols be quarantined or is a broader response needed to address the rapid spread of the dreaded Hitleritis? Having watched the rise and fall of the disease since 2005, I can point to one factor that dramatically reduced the incidence and prevalence of the disease.

Virtually no one used the Hitler comparison while a real leader in a military uniform suspended the constitution, sacked the chief justice, shuttered the independent media, and jailed thousands of lawyers and political opponents. For over a month, no American leaders made a Nazi reference. Rather than quarantine hundreds of highly paid campaign consultants, President Bush could let Pakistani President Musharraf put back on the uniform. That might quell the spread of this horrible disease. Who wants to hear endless, inane Hitler comparisons this election season? Not me.