Friday, February 8, 2008

The Republican Mess: Part 2 The Mortgage Crisis

In case you missed Part 1, it was The War.

Who recalls the Glass-Steagall Act? Don't worry, it was repealed. Democrats Senator Carter Glass of Virginia and Congressman Henry Steagall of Alabama introduced their bill to Congress in 1933, shortly after and because of the Great Depression. Glass, former Treasury Secretary, understood that the nation could not endure another Stock Market crash such as that which occurred 4 years earlier. He and Steagall introduced legislation which prohibited most banks in America from also dealing in security exchanges. Further, it guaranteed [FDIC] the deposits from bank foreclosures. Commercial banks were distinguished from investment banks.

Essentially, the act, also known as the Banking Act of 1933, kept banks from speculating with the depositors money; it was a 'safe' place to place one's savings and get a small return on that investment. These banks were the backbone of the American middle and lower classes for decades.

Unfortunately, this act was overturned in 1999 when Congress approved the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. President Clinton gladly signed the legislation. Republican senators Phil Gramm of Texas and Jim Leach of Iowa together with Republican Congressman Thomas Bliley co-sponsored the bill with essentially removed the barrier between commercial and investment banking. As a result, insurance, investing and banking were amalgamated.

Republican congressmen in the 90's undid what Democratic congressmen in the '30 had done. Safeguards were removed. Flexibility trumped trust. Security was sacrificed for speculation. And the current mortgage crisis is the result.

Interesting how the Republican Party guess wrong so many times, isn't it?

Why 2,200 Marines Will Go to Afghanistan this Spring

Because our 'allies' won't sent their troops. There's the hard truth of the matter. However, we Americans need to continue to be the policemen of the world, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently it is our destiny, the grand plan assigned to us.

No doubt, GOP likely nominee John McCain will tell the American people that we will have to continue to 'make sacrifices' to keep the 'terrorists on the run.' And many Americans will bobble their heads in agreement thinking that 'it's better to fight them over there..."

Oh, the shallowness of it all.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Is The American System of Government?

The Founding Fathers established a written Constitution as the Governmentof the United States. Their Constitution was unique for their time. They provided a Government of three branches: legislative, executive, andjudicial. While it seems that these are co-equal branches of national Government, the legislative is looked upon by the Framers as "the first amongequals." It was listed first and given the broadest power.

The Executivebranch is primarily the enforcer of congressional and judicial law and is charged with protecting the Constitution. The judicial branch branch of Government is charged with legal proceedings and justice and determines what is constitutional or unconstitutional.

However, while each branch is considered"separate but equal" there is much overlapping. For example, for a bill to become law it must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. The executive can veto it, but Congress can override the veto. All a President can do is accept it or veto it; the President cannot change it and then sign it. There is no "line item veto" for the executive listed in the Constitution as a power of the executive.

After the bill is passed and signed, the Supreme Court can determine if the law is right or wrong. So, there is a lot of overlapping, but the real power is in the legislative branch, as intended and written by the Framers. The Framers had just fought a long, costly and bloody war against absolutism. They knew the danger of one man rule and wanted none of it for the Government they created.

As time marched on, the executive took on more and more power of its own. However, from 2001-2006 the power of the Presidency sharply increased. With Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress, there was no effort to check the President. The Republicans held no over-sight hearings; there was no attempt to reign in the vastly increasing power of the executive. Many will recall President Nixon being referred to as the "imperial president". But, there is an important difference between Nixon and Bush. Nixon was an "imperial president only in theory as he was checked and balanced at every turn because he had a Democratic Congress with traditional Republican legislators like Goldwater and Dirksen who knew what liberty and freedom entailed. Lets not forget Gerald Ford or Sen.Baker of TN either. They knew. They knew the American Governmental System is based on law.

This was affirmed by the Supreme Court when they ruled that "no President is above the law." In 17 days, Nixon was gone. Bush and the "Republicans" of today maintain that the world crisis and its threat to the US requires them to "put aside ordinary legal rights." Bush flatly states that Congress cannot investigate the executive. He denies with impunity Congressional subpoenas. Bush is permitted to act as if he is above the law.

The preemptive attack on Iraq, thereby negating American foreign policy since 1789, is Bush declaring his power is unlimited. This is where he needed to have been checked, but Congress Democrats and Republicans refused the fight.

Does anyone care about executive dominance? This ought to be the battle of Nov. 2008.Why isn't the growth of absolutist power under Bush and the "Republicans" not the burning political topic? No Democratic or Republican presidential candidte has attacked executive branch supremacy? Is there a cry for executive restraint? This is the most important issue before the country. Bush does what Nixon onlythreatened to do......

Beautiful Photography for an Ugly February Day

Exhausted U.S. force in Iraq

The top U.S. uniformed military officer on Wednesday described a tired U.S. military force, worn thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military was exhausted by the repeated deployments to Iraq.

No kidding. I guess 'mission accomplished' on 5/01/03 was just a joke? Just political spin by Karl Rove? Funny stuff, wasn't it. Real funny.

Kids Playing Insurgent in Iraq

Lots of people here are surprised and angered to see a video of children acting out insurgent kidnapping scenes in Iraq. Not me. These kids have been watching war games 24/7 for most of their lives. A ten-year-old kid in Baghdad watching war unfold in his neighborhood all of his life would surely mimic that even in his play, much like I mimicked the 'cowboys and Indians' I watched on black and white TV in the 50's.

Who is shocked? Who finds it unconscionable? War is real to these children. Did anybody think that the Bush War was some TV drama? No, this is what you get when you initiate a preemptive war on a country and occupy it for 5 years. Think of the permanent mental scars these children will carry with them throughout their lives.

"We're bring'n freedom." Bull crap!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Patriotism: Voting or Dropping Bombs?

Author Michael Parenti's 2004 book, Super Patriotism, brings up that old argument of just what patriotism means. In the run-up to the Bush War on Iraq, lots of people were flying flags from their cars and houses and they plastered bumper stickers on their car bumpers to show their support for 'the war.' Americans seem to love wars.

They also seem to know just what patriotism is. When I was standing on the street corners protesting the up-coming war, lots of people rolled down their windows and told me about it. Some did it silently with a hand gesture; some did a double.

Not too many flags flying from cars these days in northwest Ohio and those bumper stickers have fallen off mostly. Not too many yellow ribbons on trees either. Apparently we have fallen out of that kind of patriotism for now.

In his book, Parenti lists these subjects that I find interesting:

What Does It Mean to Love Our Country?
“America—Love It or Leave It”
The Importance of Being Number One
Military Patriotism: For Flag and Missile
“USA! USA!” Sports for Superpatriots
The Divine Politicos
Messianic Nation
Follow the Leader
Patriotic Fear
The Menace Within
Are the Plutocrats Patriotic?
Support Our Troops (Cut Their Benefits)
Rulers of the Planet
“Why Do They Hate Us?”
Real Patriotism

I'm mostly interested in his last topic, 'Real Patriotism.' I think we saw that on 'Super Tuesday' all across America. Millions of citizens took time to vote; that is the essence of genuine patriotism. It didn't matter for whom they cast their vote, it was the act itself that ought to be lauded. Record numbers turned out in state after state. I think I know the reason for that 'surge' from the people. I suspect it is because of what didn't happen in 2004. And what happened in March 2003 when we were roaring Patriotism from the rooftops.

Americans getting involved in selecting their leaders is one of the best examples of Patriotism that there is. We ought to have bumper stickers available to slap on that say, "I did my patriotic duty: I VOTED!"

Obama is Winning Red States

What does it mean that Obama won these red states yesterday: Missouri, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Alaska and North Dakota? Why did Clinton not? Are the Democrats in these red states a different breed, have a different background, different issues? Iowa was a shocker a few weeks ago as well. What do the voters in these states see in Obama that they like?

As both Obama and Clinton agree on virtually every issue, there must be some reason why they chose the novice over the old-timer. Missouri, itself, is an interesting state, and I'm not sure if it was just Sen. McCaskill's endorsement. That state is a harbinger of the sense of the citizens and, as I recall, holds the record of getting it right most often. It was a squeaker, for sure, but Obama won.

Anybody from Missouri want to chime in?

I think of McCain's victories in the blue states, the Northeast, and wonder what that means- the flip side of the Obama wins in the red states. Odd stuff to ponder.

Northwest Ohio Rainbarrels for the Garden Event

My relatives who live in the Black Forest of Germany store all of their rainwater in barrels to use for their extensive vegetable garden in their back yard. It is both free and pure water. Now folks in Northwest Ohio can take advantage of the rain that now runs down to the sewers and into the lake for their gardens.

The American Rivers and the City of Toledo’s Storm Water Program are currently running a “sale” for rain barrels. Call 877-977-3135 to order, or order on line at Order online, then pick up locally. Delivery date is Saturday March 29th from 9 a.m. to noon at the Erie Street Market.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Comparing McCain, Clinton and Obama on the Issues

The 2008 Presidential Candidates on the Issues

  • Support Roe v Wade-----McCain N Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Support the Death Penalty-----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama Y
  • No Child Left Behind----- McCain Y Clinton Y Obama undecided
  • Embrionic Stem Cell Research-----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Drilling in ANWAR----- McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Support Kyoto Treaty -----McCain N Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Assault Weapons Ban -----McCain N Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Gun Background Check -----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Patriot Act -----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Guantanamo-----McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Torture -----McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Wiretapping -----McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Border Fence -----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Military Action Iran -----McCain Y Clinton Y Obama mixed
  • Iraq War -----McCain Y Clinton Y to N Obama N
  • Troop Surge -----McCain Y Clinton N Obama N
  • Iraq Withdrawl -----McCain N Clinton phased Obama phased
  • Minimum Wage increase -----McCain N Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Same Sex Marriage -----McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Civil Unions -----McCain states' right Clinton Y Obama Y
  • Constitutional Ban Same Sex -----McCain N Clinton N Obama N
  • Universal Health Care -----McCain N Clinton Y Obama Y

Correlation among candidates:

McCain and Clinton agree on 13 issues

McCain and Obama agree on 11 issues

Clinton and Obama agree on 19 issues

McCain, Clinton, and Obama agree on 11 issues


Obtuse Talk from John McCain, My Friends

No doubt, according to the polls, John McCain will wrap up the GOP nomination for president by late tonight. The 'straight talker' will then be on the road to sell himself to the American public. His greatest challenge will be himself: who will buy his moronic ideas.

Two weeks ago he promised the group gathered to hear him that 'there will be wars and more wars.' I'm sure that will resonate well with the electorate who wonders when the Bush War will end.

Yesterday, pandering to the very base of the GOP, he patted [symbolically] George Bush on the back and said, "You have to give George Bush credit: there have been no more attacks on America."

Now I'm not a politician, but it seems to me one need not be too clever to take that statement and throw it back in the face of McCain. Should he use it again in a debate with Democratic nominee, that person might say, "The other 42 presidents in the 224 years that they were in office kept us safe, but George Bush didn't." Is that too simple? I'm sure a word-meister could fine tune that message.

Of course, Senator McCain will tout his military experience against the Democrat, neither of whom have a service record. Yet, his continuing support and cheer leading of the Bush War might easily be spun into a negative.

Further, as the 'next' attack on America will no doubt be from a small terrorist cell, his 'grand army' scenario is clearly out of touch with reality. "Keeping us safe here by fighting 'them' in Iraq" is dopey at best.

Clearly, his 1960's military thinking is hardly an asset to him in this November's election. If he hopes to have any chance of keeping the White House in Republican hands, he needs to find a new message, one that will not be laughed at by the citizens who have been watching the Bush tragedy unfold for 7 long years.

Monday, February 4, 2008

"The Bush Tragedy" Newsweek Excerpt

When my friend received her Jan. 28 edition of Newsweek, she read the excerpt of a new book, The Bush Tragedy, with great interest. She phoned me and told me that I had to read it because 'it explains everything about the man.' It surely does.

The Newsweek excerpt is chilling in its starkness and honesty. For those of us who saw the weeping senior Bush at the termination of his other son's governorship of Florida, we now understand his tears more clearly. It is the tragedy of the son who became president.

The reasons that he went to war become more clear and most of us who were paying attention at the time were correct: vengeance in an twisted oedipal father-son tale. The ne'erdowell son tries to show his father that he is the better of the two.

The book title tells the end result.

Dick Cheney is painted differently than I had imagined: he seems not to be that marionette master that we often depict. It is Bush himself who made all of the calls, all of the tragic mistakes. Of course, the band of neocons that hung around in the White House were filling him with ideas and world-order platitudes, but it was Bush himself who crystallized the idea of a preemptive invasion, as vengeance for the supposed attempt by Saddam on the lives of his family- a fantasy that is still in doubt.

I take from this article not a smirk of 'I was right after all,' but a sadness that this man needed to play out his adolescent misgivings about himself and his father in a game of war that cost thousands of people their lives. I also fear the rest of his term in office; apparently he is getting worse, not better as the years roll by. He is an ill man.

Surprise: Newest Bush Budget Cuts Education, Health, Environment, Not the Pentagon

Same old, same old. For the 7th and thankfully last time, the George W. Bush 'budget' takes from the poor and gives to the rich and undeserving. Reverse Robin Hood. No surprise there. Three trillion dollars. Yes, 'T' trillion. Of course, it can't pay for itself so why is it called a 'budget?'

For the CEO's and other wealthy Bush contributors he has more gifts to dole out: tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts. Permanent, he says. Reverse Robin Hood indeed!

Alas, and not unexpected, Mr. Bush needs to 'pay' for those gifts to the wealthy and so he cuts programs for the poor, disabled, and elderly. After all, these folks are clearly expendable and not worthy to sit at the banquet table. Don't you love to see 'compassionate conservatism' in action?

Besides the wealthiest Americans, Mr. Bush has more goodies to give to the Pentagon, specifically a check for $515 billion, a 7% increase. I suppose that is to protect us from [insert name] because [name] has amassed a great military force and [name] want to invade our nation. No doubt some readers will be surprised to learn that there is no other nation in the world able to attack us, but they will nonetheless support this gift to the Pentagon.

Well, that's the good news from this $3 trillion expenditure. Now for the rest of the story. It seems that Mr. Bush, MBA, Harvard, has included only $70 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Poor arithmetic, Mr. Bush. They are expected to cost $200 billion, but hopefully nobody will notice that little accounting error.

If there are tax cuts and increased spending, Economics 101 class teaches us: you're screwed! I think it is called borrow and spend. Borrow and spend Republicans or tax and spend Democrats? Who took Accounting 202?

Trimming the fat. Butchers do it, so why not Mr. Bush? Let's see, what is it that the American citizens don't really need? How about education! Dumbed-down ain't all bad and much easier to control. He hopes to eliminate 151 education programs. He feels that if he skirted being educated so can the rest of us.

He has his trimming knife out and is ready to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs, so-called entitlements. 'Entitlements' sound like rich folk stuff, like the gifts he wants to give to the wealthy folks, the tax-cut people. Republicans generally say the word with disdain, as if the citizens actually aren't 'entitled' to the benefits. After all, they put money into it all of their lives; it really isn't a give-away: it's their own money, for christ's sake. But you know how the GOP loves to spin the truth.

Bush's budget also wants to cut funding for teaching hospitals and freeze medical research . It also would cut the budget for the Health and Human Services Department by $2 billion. So, the quality of life for the American citizens will deteriorate because we need to keep the wealthy and the Pentagon happy. In other words, we have fallen back to the Medieval times where we need to defend the castle, but eat porridge to pay for the king and his knights.

GOP to Block Disabled Veterans Benefits

GOP Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell intends to block a Democratic proposal to include 250,000 disabled veterans from receiving money from the so-called 'stimulus package.' They are 'Christmas tree items' added to the package by the Democrats.

Of course, McConnell has had no problem at all supporting and pushing through each of George Bush's 'emergency' authorizations for billions of dollars for the Bush War. I often see a pattern with these right-wing Republicans like McConnell: they love the troops but they really prefer healthy ones.

Apparently the dumbed-down voters haven't yet caught on to this reality and still believe that the GOP is the party of the military. The military veterans, apparently, don't deserve any help after they have been injured and can no longer 'serve' their country. Slick stuff indeed, but apparently it keeps working.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

America Still in Rape-Crisis

Like the father of a young girl who was raped in his own house, he still feels the guilt. George W. Bush was the father and the rape occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a gang rape. It was so stunning that he sat mindlessly, in shock, in an elementary classroom for many minutes before deciding to heed the Secret Service pleas to take cover.

That taped scene on that tragic morning is etched in my memory as it surely is for millions of Americans. And another: Mr. Bush standing on the site of the former World Trade Center with his megaphone assuring both the NY rescue workers and the American citizens, "“I can hear you! I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

But they didn't. The masterminds are still on the loose in the mountains of Pakistan/Afghanistan. The botched Tora Bora mission just one more insult to the raped nation. Days, then months went by with enormous amounts of ordinance blasting mountain tops but to no avail. By mid 2002, the hunt for bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri had led nowhere.

Prodded by his neocon advisers who had, years before, pushed for an invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bush agreed to a bait-and-switch tactic to substitute Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden. The American people apparently were ready for any kind of revenge for the rape and were fed many false statements that implicated Saddam in the rape, specifically that he had ties to al-Qaeda.

It brings to mind vigilante justice as demonstrated in the lawless days of the Old West. Hang'em from the old oak tree just in case they may have been guilty. Of course it was rather easy to pin the rape on Saddam as he was an 'evil' man already for his aggression in Kuwait eleven years earlier. Americans were willing to take the bait and use Saddam as the scapegoat for bin Laden.

Minions in the Bush Administration made regular appearances on the Sunday morning shows the rest of 2002, warning of WMD's, mushroom clouds, aluminum tubes, and the al-Qaeda connection. Then the grand power point presentation by Colin Powell at the United Nations with photographs of WMD locations, rolling biological vehicles and other sordid nasty stuff. Saddam was, in fact, part of the gang rape.

Finally, the clincher. The father stood before his family in the SOU address in 2003 and told us that Saddam did, in fact, acquire uranium from Africa. It was a lie, but he said it anyway to close the deal for the suffering family. It was now crystal clear that Saddam was a co-conspirator in the rape. And early on March 20, 2003, Shock 'n Awe was unleashed on Baghdad.

Today we know better. Saddam, although a dastardly dictator and murderer in his own right, was in no way involved in the 9-11 gang rape. There are still some hard core citizens who still believe all of the propaganda fed to them by the Bush Administration, but most Americans have turned away from all of that, realizing that they had been duped.

Yet, still, the invasion goes on, four thousand military deaths later. John McCain, the probable GOP presidential candidate still lauds the invasion, still talks about more and more wars. He touts his support of the surge and encourages the United States to stay in Iraq for decades if not permanently. Mr. Bush has no plans on leaving before his term ends.

What has happened to us, the rape victims? Here we are still waiting resolution of the crime but the masterminds are not awaiting trial. They are not even in jail. The open wound festers, the psychological shock remains because it is untreated, unresolved.

"We're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here!" There's a classic line still in vogue these days. Apparently the Bush administration [and John McCain] likes to drop that line from time to time to assure us that another rape will not occur. The question must be asked, are we really being kept safe from another rape by fighting in Iraq? Does that foil the next set of rapists?

Many Bush apologists will eagerly say, "We haven't had another attack since 9-11 because Bush has kept us safe." Of course, we hadn't had an attack in 230 years prior to that. Further, al-Qaeda is patient, unlike we impatient Americans. They are waiting for the right time, the right place, and the right planning before the next rape. No doubt, bin Laden and Al Zawahiri would love to do it on Bush's watch if possible, but that is not necessary if all of the other factors do not come together at that time.

As Col. Larsen has advised [previous post], there will be another attack, another rape of America. He is sure of that. And it will not be complex. He suggests it will be a biological attack, anthrax for example. Blasting insurgents in Iraq hardly eliminates a vile of weaponized anthrax from being opened at a sports gathering or a busy shopping mall.

The next band of barbarians are not going to carry guns and bury IED's along the roadways of America. They will be unarmed people who blend in nicely with the crowds, a vile of germs in their pocket.

Mr. Bush cannot stop the next rape, but he can stop pretending he will. He should stop building up false security in us, the rape victims. He is not protecting us, he is bamboozling us. That so-called war on terror going on in Iraq is just a ruse to lure us into false security. A good father would not do that to his children. A good father would do all that he could to instruct his children on how to protect themselves from and after another attack. To borrow a trite line from John McCain, he ought to give us some straight talk, not a trip to Disneyland.

Book, Video: Our Own Worst Enemy

Retired Co. Randy Larsen, USAF was featured this morning on C-Span 2 discussing his book, Our Own Worst Enemy. He is a refreshing speaker given his career in the military and he is candid.
His hypothesis is that we may not be able to stop a terrorist attack but we ought to be prepared to act subsequently. He isn't sure that we Americans are prepared to act and that we rely too heavily on the government to do that for us. He loves the line, 'Form a posse!'

It seems a sheriff of a large Texas county with but 20,000 inhabitants was asked, shortly after 9-11, how he would be able to react to a disaster in his county with only 8 deputes. "Form a posse!" he said.

Larsen said, "Since 9/11, the administration and Congress have spent too much time thinking at a tactical level, and too often technology has driven their strategy. No one doubts their good intentions, but this is a backward approach. Wasting money with good intentions make us no more secure."

Larsen is most worried about a biological attack, specifically anthrax, and wonders how the citizens will respond in the aftermath. In an editorial in the Washington Post back in 2005 Larson said, "Defense against bioterrorism presents a completely different challenge. The biotechnology revolution has made it virtually impossible to prevent terrorists from producing biological weapons and bringing them into the United States. The top priority for biodefense must be early detection, rapid response and recovery."

He believes that there needs to be a single person in charge of biodefense. I cannot verify that there is one. The Homeland Security website gives no information on that, but a link takes one to FEMA and, five links after that, this information on bioterror:

After a Biological Attack In some situations, such as the case of the anthrax letters sent in 2001, people may be alerted to potential exposure. If this is the case, pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand. The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.

When I was in grade school back in the 40's and 50's we had regular A-bomb drills just in case. Of course, they were essentially worthless, but at least we were aware that there was some plan, albeit dumb. What's Toledo's plan for a bioterrorist attack? Ohio's plan?

Surely we all could 'posse up' but shouldn't we know the drill?

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