Sunday, April 30, 2006

Big Brother is watching: FBI discloses it secretly sought data on 3,501 residents in 2005…

Even if you’re innocent, the Patriot Act allows the FBI to coerce disclosure of personal records about innocent people without getting approval from a judge. The Bush administration admitted it has done just that with an “administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter

The Associated Press reports, “
The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from seve.” The FBI reported, “it received a secret court's approval for 155 warrants to examine business records last year under a Patriot Act provision that includes library records.” Alberto Gonzalez had previously denied the use of the Act to get individual library records.

Bush administration continues its spiral downward: Colin Powell asks Condoleeza Rice the same question that John Kerry asked…

Libby Quaid, Associated Press Writer, reports, “Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic, Colin Powel, her predecessor at the State Department.” Powell asked Rice “whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.”

It wasn’t long ago that John Kerry asked the same question: "The president rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mr. Morality, Rush Limbaugh, arrested on prescription drug charges…

First there was falafelphilia, Bill O’Reilly. Yesterday, Mr. Morality, Rush Limbaugh, was arrested on prescription drug charges. It’s reported Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the state attorney's office.” Limbaugh, who is always quick to degrade lawyers, “came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and was released an hour later on $3,000 bail.” A warrant has been issued for Limbaugh “for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription.”

Mr. Morality, Rush Limbaugh, arrested on prescription drug charges…

Mr. Morality, Rush Limbaugh, arrested on prescription drug charges…

First there was falafelphilia, Bill O’Reilly.  Yesterday, Mr. Morality, Rush Limbaugh, was arrested on prescription drug charges. It’s reported “Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the state attorney's office.” Limbaugh, who is always quick to degrade lawyers, “came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and was released an hour later on $3,000 bail.” A warrant has been issued for Limbaugh “for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription.”

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Justice is a fickle thing....

Legislature Likely to Pass Expropriation Bill

Legislature Likely to Pass Expropriation Bill

Although the Legislature is expected to approve a constitutional amendment to restrict the government's right to take private property for private development, the extent of the proposal is still being hammered out. The bill has now doubled in size. Senate amendments include new rights to trials by jury, new compensation rules for property owners, exemptions for ports and chemical pipelines, and other provisions.  Robert Travis Scott, New Orleans Times-Picayune  04/25/2006 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune    

Monday, April 24, 2006

Checkbook Democracy: VP Cheney’s Tax Return Shows Katrina Tax Benefits for Non-Katrina Charitable Contributions

When I was a kid, my Sicilian grandfather used to joke that Republicans were people who couldn’t enjoy a meal unless they thought someone was hungry. And, with a Republican Vice–President like Dick Cheney, it’s no surprise many think Republicans are the epitome of greed. It’s one thing for a guy like Cheney to live on the “cush” for decades, camouflaging income from government contracts as legitimate labor. But, it’s entirely different to profit from another man’s misery, especially when you’re their elected leader. It appears Cheney did just that.

TaxProf Blog reports that Michael S. Kirsch, professor of law at Notre Dame, examined Cheney’s tax return. It appears the Republican VP was a “major beneficiary of the Hurricane Katrina tax relief act.” He claimed “$6.8 million of charitable deductions” or 77% of his adjusted gross income, well in excess of “50% limitation that would have applied absent the Katrina legislation.”

But, none of Cheney’s contributions went to “Katrina-related charities.” Although the legislation was hawked to the public as “as providing relief to Katrina victims,” it allowed the wealthy - the “haves and haves more…the elite,” otherwise called the Bush-Cheney base, to benefit from the Katrina tragedy without helping Katrina victims.

Cheney’s tax maneuvers bring new meaning to the term “gross income.”

Government of the people?

"It is a government of the people by the people for the people no longer it is a government of corporations by corporations for corporations” Rutherford. B. Hayes

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Justice is a fickle thing.....

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Republcian Bitch of Buchenwald and the mentally unsatable rabid right….

Conservatives are fond of referring to the left as “loons.” However, the rabid right has whackos are varied and sundry. You have Bill O’Reilly and his falafel sexual fantasies (now called falaphilia). And, of course, Rush Limbaugh’s Noreiga-style-drug habit is now legendary. But, the most rabid and mentally unstable of all is Ann Coulter, the Queen of Mean. Here is some vintage Coulter:

Coulter on "Kill Bill, Part III" -

"In this recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he [Bill Clinton] 'did it,' even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate." [Coulter's book High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (Regnery, 1998)]

Coulter on "Can’t live with’em, can’t kill’em" -

"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo." [Coulter's December 21, 2005, column ("daisy cutter" is a nickname for the 15,000-pound BLU-82 bomb -- the largest conventional bomb in existence)]

"I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about, oh, civilian casualties. I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning." [Quoted in a January 10, 2005, article in the New York Observer]

Coulter on "freedom from the press"-

"Would that it were so! ... That the American military were targeting journalists." [February 7, 2005, edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer]

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." [Quoted in an August 26, 2002, article in the New York Observer]

Coulter on “Christianity”

"We should invade their [Muslims'] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." [September 13, 2002, column]

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dysfunctional conservatives: Nebraska moves toward segregated schools…

The bizarre conservative circus that began performing in the 80s has reached its desired crescendo. With the help of Ernie Chambers, the only African-American in its legislature, Nebraska moves toward segregated schools:

“Nebraska's 49-member, nonpartisan Legislature approved the measure by a vote of 31 to 16, with Mr. Chambers's support and with the votes of 30 conservative lawmakers from affluent white suburbs and ranching counties with a visceral dislike of the Omaha school bureaucracy. Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican facing a tough primary fight, said he did not consider the measure segregationist and immediately signed it.”
The measure calls for “dividing the Omaha public schools into three racially identifiable districts, one largely black, one white and one mostly Hispanic.”

Watch out! Here comes, Jim Crow!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Man on the run: Rummy becomes “art of a sort” and the object of military scorn…

Reuters reports, “A play ["Stuff Happens"] that skewers Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as arrogant and war-mad has opened to a largely favorable welcome in New York this week, even as former generals turn against him in Washington.” What arrogant? Did they say, “war-mad”? “Former generals turn against,” our Rummy?

Ah, yes, former US generals have ambushed Rummy. The group reads like a "Who's Who" of top military brass.

Maj-Gen Batiste, commander of 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, is “disillusioned with the way the war was being conducted that he turned down a promotion that would have made him the second most senior US serviceman in Iraq.” Read: Batiste: Generals’ call for SecDef’s ouster ‘coincidental’

Maj-Gen Swannack, commander of the elite 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, says Rummy “tried to ‘micromanage’ the war, with disastrous consequences. ‘We need a new secretary of defence, because Donald Rumsfeld carries far too much baggage with him.’" Read: Swannack opposes Rumsfeld

Lieutenant-General Greg Newbold, a former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the “invasion of Iraq ‘was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions - or bury the results….The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood’". Read: Why Iraq was a mistake, by Lieut. General Greg Newbold (Ret.)

Maj-Gen John Riggs said, "They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda." Read: Gen. Riggs Joins in Calling for Rumsfeld to Quit

And Maj-Gen Paul Eaton described Rummy as "incompetent - strategically, operationally and tactically". Read: A chorus of dissent against the defense secretary

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bush...Big Brother...Big Liar....

"Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like." Justice William O. Douglas - (1898-1980), Democrat, U. S. Supreme Court Justice - Source: Points of Rebellion, 1969.

Who would have thought that the late 60s and early 70s would repeat itself? And, yet the lies, the turmoil, the death, and destruction has repeated itself.

"We have found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush told America to justify the mass killings in Iraq. "We found biological laboratories." However, The Washington Post reports, as a result of a secret fact-finding mission, Bush knew his claim was a lie:

“A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.”

The fact-finding mission was composed of “nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons. The taskforce was “dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers.”

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bush Administration fails again: U.S. Poorly Handled Katrina Aid from Other Nations

Bush Administration fails again: U.S. Poorly Handled Katrina Aid from Other Nations

Federal auditors say mistakes, omissions and bureaucracy resulted in a huge loss in cash donations from 36 countries to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Government Accountability Office says because the U.S. does not typically receive aid, it does not have a plan or policy in place to receive donations. Legal restrictions required almost half of the $126 million in cash to be placed in non-interest-bearing accounts. Associated Press, The Advocate 04/06/2006 Read Article: The Advocate

To waffle: To speak, write, or act evasively about.

To waffle: To speak, write, or act evasively about.

At first Pres. Bush didn’t know: "I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." President Bush, 9/30/03. "I'd like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information." President Bush, 10/28/03

Then he did know: “Defendant’s (Libby’s) participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller on July 8 (2003) occurred only after the Vice President advised defendant that the President specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE.” Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s court filing.

Now Pres. Bush isn’t sure: “McClellan volunteered that the administration declassified information from the intelligence report — the National Intelligence Estimate — and released it to the public on July 18, 2003. But he refused to say when the information was actually declassified. The date could be significant because Libby discussed the information with a reporter on July 8 of that year.” White House Declines to Counter Leak Claim

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Oppertunity egalitarianism: In defense of minimum wage...

Here are some of the arguments raised against minimum wage and repeated so often they become postulates: “minimum wage is equivalent to legislating unemployment,” “creating prosperity ex nihilo,” and “it only benefits those who want to be seen as to be doing good…regardless of consequences.” But, there's no evidence for any of these arguments; besides the arguments are cynical. Most Western industrialized capitalist nations have some for of minimum wage.

“Nearly three-quarters of EU Member States have some form of statutory national minimum wage, with sectoral collective agreements playing the main role in setting minimum pay rates in the remainder of the countries.” Most advanced industrialized countries understand that, if given the chance, all business will arbitrage labor, that is buy labor for the cheapest price. While minimum wage doesn’t prevent a business from running “an efficient, well-run business with satisfied employees,” it does prevent a business from putting up labor to the lowest bidder. But why is minimum acceptable to most Western industrialized capitalist nations.

First, minimum wage is part of classic capitalism. You are allowed to run your life as you see fit, but with rules. For example, a man can switch jobs as often as he wants, but he can’t steal a former employer’s clients. No rules lead to “bare knuckle” economics – survival of the economic fittest. That’s why there are anti-trust laws, rules against price fixing, etc.

Second, minimum wage is part of the American tradition. In Agrarian Justice, Thomas Paine – “founding father”- presents the best argument for minimum wage, social security, income tax, estate tax, and other aspect of this “social contract” we call America. All the people at the bottom make the accumulation of wealth possible. Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world, knows he didn’t make his fortune by himself. Buffet would not have become wealthy were it not for all the people below. When Buffet was presented with the idea of cutting taxes and social security, he told Lou Dobbs:

LOU DOBBS: That's a progressive idea. In other words, the rich people would pay more?

BUFFETT: Yeah. The rich people are doing so well in this country. I mean, we never had it so good.

LOU DOBBS: What a radical idea.

BUFFETT: It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be.

LOU DOBBS: Exactly. Your class, as you put it, is winning on estate taxes, which I know you are opposed to. I don't know how your son Howard feels about that. I know you are opposed to it.

The illusion is, “I do it without government, you should do it without government.” But, the entire reason America’s social contract works is because of government, otherwise it would be a free-for-all. Every company would use the Enron business model and every individual would use word or fist or guns, etc., to get what he needs. Most people object to rules that limit them, but have no objection to rules that limit others.

In Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek, the liberal contemporary father of capitalism, gives one of the best arguments for minimum wage: because we can afford it!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Opportunity egalitarianism: Minimum wage...

Opportunity egalitarianism means equality in economic and social opportunity. America should be synonymous with opportunity egalitarianism. Yet, over the past ten years, Members of Congress have raised their own pay by $31,000, but the minimum wage hasn’t gone up a cent. At $10,700 a year for a full time worker, the current minimum wage of $5.15 is more than $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. In the wealthiest country in the world, no one who works for a living should have to live in poverty.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The New Orleans Ninth Ward liked Huey Long...

The New Orleans Ninth Ward, where I grew-up, is a working class neighborhood with working class values. The working folks in the Ninth Ward liked Huey Long. They liked him so much they modified a labor song about Joe Hill to memorialize Huey’s legacy. Here’s that song, as best I can remember it:

I dreamed I saw Huey Long last night,
Alive like you and me.
Says I to Huey, “You’re long time dead.”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.

“In Baton Rouge,” says I to Huey,
him standing by my side.
“You told the greedy to share the wealth.”
Says Huey, “I never died.”
Says Huey, “I never died.”

“The corporate bosses, they shot you Huey.
They filled you full of lead.”
“Takes more than bullets to kill a man,”
Says Huey, “And, I ain’t dead.”
Says Huey, “And, I ain’t dead.”

Now standing there as big as life,
Eyes bright and with a grin.
Says Huey, “What they could not kill
Lived on with working men.”
Lived on with working men.”

“From New Orleans to Shreveport,
Where they hammer or set a tong.
Where workingmen defend their right,
It’s there you’ll find Huey Long.
It’s there you’ll find Huey Long.”

I dreamed I saw Huey Long last night,
Alive like you and me.
Says I to Huey, “You’re long time dead.”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.

Moral egalitarianism: Lawsuit Accuses Geico of Racial Discrimination

Moral egalitarianism is equality in moral worth regardless of education, employment and social status. Not so for Corporate America!

A federal lawsuit filed by three former policyholders accuses Geico of discriminating against African-Americans by using education and employment status to set rates. The complaint claims doctors and lawyers "routinely" have lower premiums than blue-collar workers despite having similar driving records. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and seeks class-action status. Jonathan Stempel, Reuters 04/03/2006 Read Article: Reuters

Big Oil Playing Hide and Seek…

Opportunity egalitarianism is equality in economic and social opportunity. Corporate America simply won't play by the rules.

Editors write, despite sky-high prices, oil companies are evading royalty payments based upon a bureaucratic mistake in a 1995 federal law that does not offer specific wording on when royalties from leases must be paid. In the battle between taxpayers and major oil companies, taxpayers keep losing. "Energy corporations now reaping record profits should comply with the law rather than using their resources to fight against paying their royalties." Houma Courier, 04/04/2006

Big Oil can’t help it. It’s in their nature to cheat, steal and connive! Meanwhile working folks continue to do all the heavy lifting.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Economic egalitarianism: Labor arbitrage....

Economic egalitarianism means equality with respect to material possessions.

Under neo-conservatives, international corporatist, like ExxonMobil, search the world for “cheap labor” and even “cheaper natural resources,” trying to arbitrage the mad dash to the bottom of the economic ladder.

The world-view of the international corporatist is an economic landscaped laden with workers who compete to live but will never own anything. The unlikely partners of the international corporatist are the former communist governments who willing sell-out workers to the lowest foreign bidder. Read: Happy Meals, Unhappy Workers, a report on Vietnamese workers who earn less than $2 a day making stuffed animals and Happy Meal toys for U.S. consumers.

Shame on the Republican-led Supreme Court...

Conservative dislike for American egalitarianism is blatant and disturbing. One need only look at the constitutional definition of war, who has the prerogative to declare it, and who has the prerogative to wage it, to conclude that the radical fringe of the conservative movement is determined to destroy America’s balance of powers.

“The Constitution," James Madison wrote, "expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war [and] the power of raising armies. A delegation of such powers [to the president] would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.”

Yet, radical conservatism has done just that. Under the guise of fighting a "war terror," the Republican-led United States Congress has relinquished its prerogative to declare war and have willingly surrendered that authority to Pres. Bush.

Decades ago, America would have been aghast at the thought of giving former Pres. Lyndon Johnson unprecedented presidential powers to fight his "war on poverty." Similarly, America would have been shocked if Congress had given former Pres. George H. W. Bush unprecedented presidential power to fight his "war on drugs." Yet, this Republican-led Congress has allowed Pres. George W. Bush to accumulate and concentrate power in himself to fight his "war on terror."