The FBI is at it again. Having well and truly dropped the ball that could have prevented 9/11, the FBI is back to doing what it does best, spying on people for daring to exercise their rights to compassion, free speech and lawful assembly.
They may also be gathering information about foibles of the powerful, the famous, anybody, in fact, who could make things uncomfortable for the Bureau if the feebs didn’t have a leash on them. We will never know to what extent the legacy of J. Edgar persists.
What we do know is bad enough to make Pennsylvania Avenue look like a melon truck spilled its load. Heads should roll, but they won’t.
According to an article by Nicholas Ricccordi in the March 27, issue of The LA Times, the FBI is now investigating Vegans, Quakers and misdemeanor mischief.
Terrorism now includes throwing something through a window during a demonstration, as at the anti world trade demonstrations in Seattle. That used to be a local police matter. Now it is a federal case.
In Pittsburgh, FBI agents photographed people handing out flyers at an anti-war rally. The Bureau explained that they were looking for a particular individual and that the case was closed when they determined he wasn’t there. No word on what happened to the pictures.
In Austin, Texas, an FBI counterterrorism agent showed 35 slides purported to list terrorist and anarchist organizations to a class at the University of Texas. The list included Food Not Bombs and Indemedia. Food Not Bombs gives vegetarian meals to the homeless. Indemedia news articles on the Internet.
In Florida, the FBI has decided to stop worrying about Castro and to start tailing Quakers. Agents were seen photographing license plates at a Society of Friends anti-war rally. Quakers protesting war. Who knew?
I suppose all the Bureau’s anti-terrorism activity shouldn’t be too worrying, unless someone is actually planning another attack. After all, we are talking about the FBI. They couldn’t even figure out that they had someone selling secrets to the Russians. Not even when the Russians started liquidating all the FBI’s prime sources.
The way the mole, Robert Philip Hannsen, came acropper was that a Russian double agent told the CIA what Hannsen was up to. It was such a neat trick that the FBI used it against the CIA and caught Aldrich Ames.
Posted by tammyswofford at 8:14 AM
Greenland’s glaciers are sliding into the North Atlantic at an alarming rate, at least alarming to people who study climate and the oceans. These are same people that are getting worried about Antarctica’s rapidly shrinking ice shelf.
What has gotten these people concerned is the realization that "glacial" no longer means exceedingly slow. These massive chunks of ice can really move when conditions are right. In the normal course of events, glaciers move by accretion and gravity. Snow falls on them and is compacted by yet more snow. All this snow adds weight to the glacier. The weight overcomes the friction with the ground, and the glacier microns its way down the valley.
Except now, the snow on top of the glacier is melting and the water, instead of running down the top of the glacier, is working its way through cracks and fissures in the ice to the ground below. What seems to be happening is the water gets into the cracks, and then the movement of the ice closes them, forcing the water down to the ground where it spreads out. This reduces the ground-ice friction and the glacier moves ahead in a series of significant bounds, rather like earth quakes.
There is enough ice on Greenland to raise the world’s sea level by 17 feet. That doesn’t seem like a lot until you reflect that Houston, 50 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, is only 50 feet above sea level. The coastal plain rises about one foot per mile. Thus, a 17 foot rise in sea level moves Houston 17 miles closer to the Gulf of Mexico, and the community of Friendswood, Texas, and NASA, become beachfront property.
In Antarctica, the problem is different. The ice shelf is already in the water, so no rise in sea level will occur if it melts. But, if it melts, thousands of square miles of sunlight reflecting white ice will be replaced by heat absorbing water. As the ocean’s temperature increases, you can expect an increase in the size of hurricanes that get their energy from the water’s temperatures.
Given all this, how much money to we really want to spend on rebuilding New Orleans?
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:39 AM
908,700 served... 58,000 died... 100,000 fled
"To all who shall see these presents, greeting...." The beginning line of the draft notice, which young men dreaded receiving.
I have been honored to read a manuscript of a retired military officer who served in Vietnam as a young lieutenant, a battalion commander when he was seasoned and mature, and then moved into the Pentagon supporting the Department of Defense. His writings have touched my heart. I was a child during that war. I did not understand until now the combination of deep sentiment, resentment and soul-searching questions of our young men. I did not understand their angst regarding being drafted for a conflict which they did not support. I did not understand the issues of conscience for those who did not want to kill or face their own mortality at a young age. But almost one million American citizens did serve on active duty from August 1964 until May of 1975. Several names were added to the wall of the Vietnam Memorial in 2005 and the number now stands at 58,249, the remembered dead, with approximately 1,200 names being those of MIA's and POW's. We honor them. But today, I want to honestly share my thoughts regarding the 100,000 who fled.
During the war era, approximately 209,000 were accused of violating the draft laws. Our government issued 25,000 indictments resulting in 8,750 convictions. Less than 4,000 of the convictions resulted in jail time. Of the 100,000 draft dodgers (and 1,000 deserters) approximately 90 percent fled to Canada.
Mark Satin wrote a book in 1967 titled, "Manual for Draft Age Immigrants to Canada". Published first in Toronto, January of '68 and republished as a second edition a couple of months later through House of Anansi Press, it sold 65,000 copies in the U.S. These were obtained by mail. This was the unofficial underground manual of emancipation from the clutches of war.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter inititiated two different programs to bring legal remediation. The first, offered amnesty if there were no other legal charges pending. The second, was for military deserters (AWOL's) to receive limited pardons. Preceding this, President Gerald Ford had introduced the Presidential Clemency Board in a speech he made on Sept. 16, 1974. Offering a conditional amnesty based on a requirement of fulfilling up to 24 months of alternate service, receiving a "big chicken dinner" (bad conduct discharge) and signing an oath of allegiance, there were few men who took his offer.
So what do I think today? I do not believe in carte blanche amnesty. It spits in the face of those who did not flee, stuffed their fears, and went to war anyway. It dishonors the vets who still wave the flag, some of them double amputees seated in wheelchairs at the local hometown parade. It rubs salt in the wounds of the families who buried their dead, and visit the cemetery to put flowers on the grave. It angers people like me, who visit the Wall in D.C. and gently touch some of the names, thanking them for service, wishing I could tell their families how sorry it makes me feel that their loved ones lost their lives. When I think of our veterans who faced punji traps, "Bouncing Betty's" and immeasurable hardship my admiration for them runs deep. Yes, it was a horrible war. Blood flowed by the gallons. But the men who ran? When they ran, surely they lost a part of themselves.
But of course, I love America most! I love it more than my family. I love it more than all held dear because everything, is wrapped up in this land. I can lose my family. But I cannot lose America. I can lose my life. But I will die, an American. Our nation did survive those tumultous times and continuous on today, steady and strong. We will continue on even after Iraq. But I could never flee this land. Nearly fifty percent of those who fled eventually returned. For the rest, I pose this question, "Was it worth it to lose America?" I will be buried, in the earth of this land.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:09 AM
Blogger’s note: I am sure the following has an author, but it came to me via e-mail without attribution. I would dearly love to credit the author, but this is just the thing for a Friday and I cannot deprive any readers that may not have seen this.
It is said that only a true genius can entertain two opposing views at the same time. If that is so, President Bush’s knee jerk supporters surely must belong in Mensa, or are totally unconscious. You be the judge.
In order to support Our Only President one must believe:
That Saddam Hussein was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when George H.W. Bush made war on him, a good guy when Cheney’s Halliburton did business with him and a bad guy when George W. Bush decided to attack him.
That trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade
with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
That a woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but
multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind
That the best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in
speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
That providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing
health care to all Americans is socialism.
That HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public
That global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science but
creationism should be taught in schools.
That a president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable
offense. A president lying to enlist support for starting a war in
which thousands die is solid defense policy.
That government should limit itself to the powers named in the
Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the
That being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a
conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our
prayers for your recovery.
That what Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest,
but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.
The unknown author with an assist by Tom Gordon
My Name is America. I can be seen in the face of the citizen. People of many nations represented by the Lady in the Harbor, torch in strong arm, with Liberty her light.
My name is America. I can be seen in the houses of worship, dotting the landscape to anchor both our history and our future. People and faith in God; a combination of solid worth.
My Name is America. I can be seen in commerce and industry; technology and mercantilism. I am on the assembly line, in busy shops and malls, where my people work to maintain an enviable economy.
My Name is America. I can be seen in vast wheat fields of Montana and rows of corn in Kansas; the beef industry of Texas and dairy of Minnesota. I am seen in bountiful harvest which feeds the mouths of my children.
My Name is America. I can be seen in the soldier. He keeps his oath and performs his duty; completes his mission and returns to either his family or the Creator who gave him breath.
My Name is America. I am strong, resilient and proud; unchanging yet ever moving forward. Generation to generation, each calling out to the next, "My Name is America!" May God Almighty continue to bless this great land!
*The pictures are courtesy of Brownie Troop#138 from Garden Ridge Elementary. They greeted the returning troops at DFW International Airport recently. Naturally, they gave away boxes of their delicious cookies. A nice welcome home for the troops!
I have absolutely nothing against debt. In the right hands, and for the right purposes, debt can be the lever that moves worlds.
The first thing a student learns in the sixth grade…OK, the second thing a student in the sixth grade learns after the miracle of compound interest is that one doesn’t borrow to cover normal operating expenses. Those must be paid out of revenue if the proprietor is to prosper.
The reason for this is quite simple. Normal operating costs recur. Thus, if you borrow to pay your workers this month, next month you are going to have to pay them just as much as last month, and you are going to have to pay the interest on the money you borrowed last month.
Debt should only be used to fund projects that increase revenue. Debt should not only pay for itself, but produce a profit. It makes sense to borrow to buy a new factory or a field, but not to buy clothes, groceries or office supplies.
Quite simple really. Unfortunately, not simple enough. While your average sixth grader can grasp the concept, our duly elected officials at all levels from the White House to the Dallas, Texas, City Council cannot.
In Washington they are about to raise the national debt ceiling, the upper limit of money the government can borrow, to $9 trillion. That is 80% of our Gross Domestic Product, the value of every good and service we produce.
The Bush administration has increased the national debt by almost 50% in five years and expects it to jump to $11.5 trillion by 2011.
And, what are we using all that borrowed money for? An ill-advised war in Iraq, an absolutely ridiculous prescription drug program, tax cuts that have yet to trickle down as we were promised they would. What that borrowed money is not being used for is education, children’s health insurance and infrastructure. Anything, in fact, that would increase our Gross Domestic Product and our ability to repay that mountainous debt.
Things can only get worse. As our debt load increases, the number of investors willing to take a chance on us will get smaller. We will have to pay higher interest rates to convince them to buy our bonds. Since we are borrowing to pay the interest on the money we have already borrowed, we will have to borrow even more.
In March 2001, President Bush said, “Future generations shouldn’t be forced to pay back money we have borrowed.” The only way they won’t is if we default.
With all of the squawking about Senator Hillary Clinton, the Dubai Ports connection with Bill, and the evident corruption, it becomes necessary to take a trip down memory lane. It is good to determine if this was just a big "oops" for Lady Hillary or merely another link in a chain. Oh there is just so much to review and so little time! So I will just hit on a few of my personal favorites and leave the rest to the readers to fill in the puzzle.
Marc Rich. Ah, who can forget the sad tale of the fugitive financier who was forced to flee America for that burden under which the rest of us labor. Yes, fellow citizens, he fled.... because of a charge of tax evasion. No need to worry though. With wife Denise a cozy friend and benefactor of Bill and Hillary because the largess of her husband's wealth, his crime, was such a petty little thing. A presidential pardon? No problem, Denise. And by the way, we appreciate the donation!
Then there was the Greek tragedy of epic proportions which caused Senator Hillary Clinton to say she was, "....very disappointed and saddened." Naturally, it had to cause angst when she learned that her own brother (Hugh Rodham) had been paid $400,000 dollars to secure the release of two convicted felons, Glen Braswel and Carlos Vignali. Oops. Another Presidential pardon.
Then there was the messy little affair of Johnny Chung who ran the White House like his personal slot machine. You just cannot trust anybody these days, Hillary.
Nine hundred F.B.I. files. Yes, yes. Hillary was using those to prop up the broken couch legs in the East Room of the White House. No way! She was NOT involved in a little personal espionage of her Republican opponents for political gain. How can we even make the leap to such a logical conclusion?
What makes her eligible to have her boarding pass scanned for outer space travel is the remarkable mental disconnect she seems to have regarding these events. And if she really is so clueless regarding things of pivotal importance in her own life, she should certainly not be in charge of the affairs of our Republic. I sincerely hope we will give her a thumbs down at the voting booth. And it will be a good two for one deal. We want to keep Bill from unpacking his suitcase at the White House too.
You just have to love ole Helmut. I guess he just does not remember the smell of burning flesh. Or maybe the eleven miles of brick that surrounded the Warsaw ghetto is easy to forget? Of course, there is only a small piece of it left, so just as the wall is dismantled, surely it is far enough in the past that the whole miserable affair of what evil the Germans perpetrated on the Jews can just as easily be discounted, brick by brick.
Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Enlightment and Propaganda for Adolph Hitler was an interesting fellow. Although he was called the "Poison Dwarf" by those who did not like him, he had an incredible gift for sociopathic lying. This is the guy who said, "If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." He definitely told some whoppers to the world and the German people. Obviously, the man still has some followers such as Helmut Kohl. He likes to tell whoppers also.
Then there is certainly the pesky little task of destroying hundreds of legal and historical documents that remind us here in America why it was good that we entered this fight. Just read up on the Wannsee Conference of 1942 that nailed down the "final solution" against the Jews. But beyond the obvious reason (can we confirm it?) that the Japanese bombed the hell out of us at Pearl Harbor, some of us have relatives who were in Germany as the liberating force and they saw the bones of the Jews of Auschwitz or Treblinka. Their stories still ring out even though the majority of them have also gone the way of all mankind. Although deceased, their stories remain as stalwart sentinels of a time when things went horribly wrong in the history of "civilized society."
Once I cared for an elderly Jewish lady in the hospital. Declining mentally, she shouted out many times and cried in fear that the bombs were falling. She was transported back to another place and time, when she was a young girl and to be a Jew, meant to wear a yellow star. That morning while bathing her I lifted up her arm. Under it, I found the tattoo; the reminder of her trip into hell with the Germans. Several times that day I lifted her arm to look at the thing again. And I also calmed her fears when she cried out to escape the horror of a day long ago.
President Ahmad-i-Nejad, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others who are unwilling to accept the truth of the past should never be in a position to lead into the future. They are better suited to line up with Heaven's Gates members and take a ride on that UFO tailing the Hale-Bopp Comet. Though I doubt that these two particular men would ever choose voluntary castration for a more "ascetic lifestyle". They are too bully about the lies they choose to perpetrate. But they certainly qualify in other areas to have their boarding passes scanned.
Who is Sandra Day O’Connor and why is she saying such terrible things against the Republicans?
With a nod to Woman’s History Month, and as courtly a bow to Justice O’Connor as these old bones can manage, let’s look at Nina Totenberg’s NPR report on the justice’s recent remarks at the Georgetown University law school.
She barely pulled her punches in singling out Tom Delay and John Cornyn as the head Goths in a U.S. turn toward dictatorship, strong language from a seemingly frail lady. “Republican proposals and their sometimes uncivil tone pose a danger to the independence of the judiciary, and the freedoms of all Americans.”
What Justice O’Connor is saying is Republican (Tom Delay) yammering about not wanting judges to legislate from the bench really means they want judges who will legislate their way from the bench. In a thinly disguised reference to “some Republican leaders,” she alluded to John Cornyn’s remark about judges who have been killed or had their families killed, got what they deserved for their decisions, as an assault on the independence of the judiciary.
O’Connor, who came to the Supreme Court thanks to 91 senatorial votes in her favor and support from both Barry Goldwater and Ted Kennedy, knows quite a bit about an independent judiciary.
While on the bench she was a states’ rights, pro law enforcement, anti-abortion conservative who voted against all those constituencies when she felt the law said differently. The frail little lady from Arizona was a judicial giant compared with ideologues like justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito. She didn’t vote her conscience. She didn’t vote her constituency. She voted what she believed the law said. Well done thou good and faithful public servant.
Tuesday night I stoked my hidden killer instinct watching the new television show, "The Unit". The drama provided by the special forces men was better than the backdrop melodrama provided by the one pregnant wife. But it still had pretty solid dialogue and a decent plot. Wednesday morning, we got another little sniff of what Donald Rumsfeld is up to, building his own private army which comes under his direct command. The Dallas Morning News ran a small piece on page 13A titled, "Special Ops Teams in U.S. Embassies". This Special Ops command reports directly to Mr. Rumsfeld and falls outside of the jurisdiction of other national intelligence agencies. If you have read some of the Jack Higgins books, they run a similar theme, with a special cadre of officers working out of "the basement" of the White House and reporting directly to the president.
So for readership benefit I will now open up the world of special ops to you, as experienced by this combat-trained Navy nurse! What you are about to read is entirely true, except for the things which are placed in parenthesis. Enjoy the view from the eye of the storm!
As the Commandant for this particular field exercise I had many tasks in front of me. Going over the flight manifest one last time, I confirmed the names of each sailor who would be flying to the field that morning. Pilots from the Republic of Singapore were on hand to escort us. They had just purchased a few Chinooks from the government of the United States and were trying out their new toys, with Navy on board. Fax'ing the flight manifest over to HQ, I gave the heads up for our group to head to the field to load onto our aircraft.
Arriving at our (secret) location, known only to (Donald Rumsfeld) and our families, with rotors going full tilt and engines roaring, our detachment disembarked off the back of the two helicopters with our assault packs, web belts, canteens and gear like a bunch of ants coming out of a hill. That is what I think we must have looked like because as we landed Delta Force was parachuting down into a field to the left of us. With their chutes billowing in the blue Texas sky, I already knew the envy factor had grabbed me. What a life! The crazy medic was shooting down to earth with an eighty pound pack on his back with intravenous fluids, and all the supplies they carry to back-up their team members. This particular medic, had been in Afghanistan when he took a bullet to the jaw. After noting a couple teeth on his tongue, he inserted a nasal trumpet up his nose to keep his airway open and kept moving until someone relieved his position. The scar, was quite nice.
Spent the rest of the morning practicing "hot runs". This is where you line up stretchers with the "injured" and on a signal, you start loading the craft from the back, locking each stretcher into place. You then come off the front of the craft with your head ducked, because the rotors are going and they dip down to about five feet and decapitation is not a good way to die. The last group loading then takes off with the crew and they fly around, come back, and you repeat the process again and again. The goal is to improve your time. One time, we got everything loaded and off the ground in less time than it takes you to place and get an order at the MacDonald's drive thru. You practice, like you are moving under hostile fire conditions. It is both exhausting and rewarding. In the afternoon we were joined by Delta Force. Being handed compasses, topographical maps and coordinates we set out in the afternoon to find our fallen comrades hidden among the scrub brush of Texas. The goal was to be the first team to plot all the coordinates, find the target, return to the home base to collect the prize.
Walking along through the tall grasses, fording a small creek, Delta Force would point out, "You can eat this bug, but not that bug." Cutting off cactus with their K-Bar that were big enough and sharp enough to carve your liver out with one sweep, they gave us pieces to eat. Reminding myself that it tasted a bit like a deli pickle I made a mental note to remember that cactus is a source of rehydration. Drinking that one canteen of water an hour was tough too, because about every 90 minutes I was looking for a piece of Texas scrub brush to go empty my bladder in private. I had been forever psychologically damaged by the nurse that told me her own sad tale. Once she was in the field with the Marines. Walking about a mile to find a little privacy, as soon as she dropped her drawers, the bushes all had eyes and whistles. Don't you just hate it when those guys are camouflaged so darn well?
Late that night up until about ten p.m. found us making small traps to catch little varmints to eat. I tied funny knots to broken tree branches until my fingers were sore. One of the Delta guys casually mentioned, "Hey! If you nurses want to come out here some other weekend we will get a gaggle of goats." I responded, "What for?" Looking at me with the gaze one gives only to the dumb and innocent he said, "Why to teach you how to cut their throats, silly." As critical care division officer of a nursing unit, I had to decline the offer. Hey! We are the life-savers here! But Delta Force, they look at you with dull little coal black eyes and say, "If you hand me a paper clip I can kill you with it." Don't let the eyes fool you. They have more compartments in their brain than in my own refrigerator at home.
Had a medical friend who went to Asia on a team with Navy Seals also on board. I cannot tell you why they were there because as the saying goes, "If I tell you I will have to kill you." But she did mention that a restaurant served them cat instead of chicken. And she showed me a nice picture of buckets of candied cockroaches for sale in an open air market. It was quite the trip! Oh, for the life of a special forces guy! Too bad, I am a girl. smile
LCDR Tammy Swofford, NC, USNR
I never thought the day would come when I felt sorry for the current squatter at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It is one thing to be pilloried by people who don’t think the way he is supposed to think. It is quite another when his own side are heaving the brick bats.
For reasons that were lost on David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, which was holding a program on Bush’s economic policies, the White House declined to send a representative. It probably wasn’t an oversight, but you can never be too sure. Any it certainly was not because the administration agreed with what was going to be said about it. The administration just ignores criticism, from whatever source.
And this program packed a lot of criticism. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative with impeccable credentials as a Reagan administration functionary, was on the panel because he has written a book about the Bush presidency, entitled, “Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.” Mr. Bartlett described the administration as: “unconscionable,” “irresponsible,” “vindictive” and “inept.” “If Bush were running against Clinton today, I would vote for Clinton,” said Bartlett. Perhaps he is trying to hype book sales among the left.
On the other side was Andrew Sullivan, whose forthcoming book is “The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How to Get It Back.” Unfortunately, Mr. Sullivan failed to take up cudgels for Mr. Bush. He described the president as “reckless” and a “socialist,” before accusing him of betraying “almost every principle conservatism has ever stood for.”
The poor Bush administration, even the ref got into the act. Boaz, in his role as moderator, moderated the tone of the debate by blaming Bush for a “48% increase” in federal spending in just six years, a “federalization of public schools and “the biggest entitlements since LBJ.”
No wonder the Democrats are having such a tough time. The Republicans haven’t left them anything to say about the administration.
Welcome to the world of the truly weird. Starting with the weirdest first, we have the Oscars. I can remember when people actually cared, but the opening was a lot truer than actually funny. It pictured a group of former emcees turning down another gig. Can’t say I can blame them.
John Stewart was clearly the bottom of the barrel and he must have known it to pull so many dead lines. Then, no sooner had Stewart blasted Hollywood for being liberal than George Clooney, of all people, had the presence of mind to make the Liberal case.
After seeing “Three Kings” and “The Perfect Storm,” I was convinced that anything with George Clooney would be better without him. I was wrong. Not because he won an Oscar for his role in Syriana, or even for his performance in “Good Night and Good Luck.” Clooney, in accepting his Oscar, pointed out that it is the Liberals who talk about things other people don’t want to. Thinks like AIDS, genocide, race relations, poverty and ignorance. Without liberals making noise on these subjects, nothing would ever be done about them.
Then, the Supreme Court made, what on the face of it, seems like a logical decision. The high court held that if colleges and universities accept money from the government, it also has to let military recruiters on campus. It is an eminently sound decision.
But, what about the other end? If a corporation does not pay taxes, should it be allowed to recruit on campus? There is a body of sound economic thought (if such a concept is not an oxymoron) that holds that businesses should not pay taxes because it already has to pay the taxes of its workers both through FICA and because the employer has to raise wages to cover taxes.
That would be fine if corporations were merely corporations. But, thanks to an 1886 Supreme Court decision (Santa Clara v Southern Pacific Railroad), the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to corporations. That means that corporations are people, entitled to all the protections the Constitution affords.
However, corporations are managing to escape the Sixteenth Amendment (Income Tax). That doesn’t seem fair. Surely the corporate person has as much duty to support the country as any other person. If the corporate argument holds, shouldn’t the same hold for farmers who employ laborers to harvest crops? How about the yuppie couple who hire a nanny? Shouldn’t they be excused taxes on the grounds that the nanny is paying them?
The taxpayers of this great country are paying George W. Bush more than $400,000 a year, which is far more than anyone else has ever paid him. But who is Mr. Bush working for? It sure isn’t the people who are paying him.
The Dubai deal is merely the most recent evidence of that. For those of you who have not been following the fine print on this stinker, the deal approved by the treasury includes provisions that would make it next to impossible to monitor the company’s behavior, much less seek redress in court since DP World would not be required to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil and would not be required to appoint an American citizen to accommodate government requests. If Bush has set his stamp on government, this is it, an odor of corruption and incompetence in all three branches.
According to a piece by Timothy Egan in the New York Times, over the past five years, the Department of the Interior has been a virtual revolving door of special interests taking special care of their special friends, starting with the secretary, Gale Norton, who never met an environmental regulation she didn’t try to eviscerate. Take, for instance, the strange case of J. Steven Griles, who left his appointment at Interior when it was discovered that his old lobbying firm was paying him $248,000 a year. Griles insists that he broke no Interior Department ethics rules, which must say something about ethics at Interior.
Then, there is the serendipitous situation of the Westlands Water District, a group of San Joaquin Valley California landowners. Thanks to the good offices of the Department of the Interior, the district is going to receive up to 1.15 million acre-feet of water (about 375 billion gallons) a year for 25 years at a cost of $40/acre foot. All this water used to irrigate 580,000 acres, but between 90,000 and 200,000 of those acres now have too heavy a mineral content to produce edible produce, and thus would not seem to need irrigation. Why does the district need so much water? Could it be a boondoggle which would allow the farmers to sell the excess for up to $200/acre-foot, four times as much as it cost them? We could ask the man in charge, Jason Peltier, now a senior executive appointed to the Interior Department helping to oversee the awarding of new water contracts. For the decade before his appointment, Mr. Peltier lobbied for, among others, the Westlands Water District.
Mr. Peltier is not alone in coming from groups that stand to benefit financially from decisions being made at Interior. William G. Myers III was a lawyer representing ranching interests that rely on grazing their stock on public lands before he became the department’s solicitor from 2001 through 2003. Bennett W. Raley represented clients against the Department on the use of public water before he became assistant secretary for water and science from 2001 to 2004. Rebecca W. Watson is a lawyer who represented mining, logging and oil and gas interests before becoming assistant secretary for land and minerals management.
Molly Ivins recently republished a Los Angeles Times rollcall of stench. These are some real beauts.
-- "The highway safety agency ... is backing auto industry efforts to stop California and other states from regulating tailpipe emissions."
-- "The Justice Department helped industry groups overturn a pollution-control rule in Southern California that would have required cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other fleet vehicles."
-- "The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off enforcement of consumer protection laws passed by California, New York and other states."
-- "The Food and Drug Administration (claims) FDA-approved labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad immunity from most types of lawsuits."
And who can forget Senator Bill Frist’s Christmas present to the pharmaceutical industry? Frist, who has collected some $270,000 from the industry, snuck a provision into a Defense Department appropriations bill to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits. Under the Frist rule, people could only win a judgement against a pharmaceutical company if they could prove the company deliberately set out to harm them, wilful misconduct. The fact that they ran an unsanitary facility, faked test results, hidden test results etc, all could be swept under the rug. It is really too bad that the patient died from the medication, but since the company didn’t mean for the rat feces to get into the capsules, had no idea its contractor testers were faking results, and honestly didn’t think that certain test results were significant, there is nothing that can be done.
Just remember, these guys are the government and they are here to help you.
In his surprise stop-over in Afghanistan, President Bush made a stunning statement. We are going to bag the big one after all. Osama bin Laden! Yep. It is only a matter of time.
I usually do not like to rain on any party, especially if it involves the Commander in Chief rallying the troops who have probably been suffering near small bowel obstructions from eating too many MRE's (meals refused by Ethiopians). But from my small perch on the world stage, I think we just need to cut our losses and move on, as far as hoping for the photo opportunity like the one we had with Saddam Hussein. The picture of our medic checking him for lice and examining his teeth was a great morale booster. But as an officer, Osama bin Laden has my grudging military respect. The man issued his Fatwa of Jihad against Jews and Crusaders back on February 23 of 1998 when it hit the newsstands of London in the Arabic paper, Al-Quds al-'Arabi. We have been hot on his tail since then. There has been a lot of bragging and bravado, a lot of spitting into the wind. But the Ace of Spades continues to elude us.
Four months after his fatwa, both ABC News Tonight and Nightline released video of Osama bin Laden speaking from his camp in Afghanistan. He stated that he was ready if U.S. forces attempted to track him down. He sniped at the "....weakness of the American soldier." He predicted a black day for America. That day came and the date is seared in our national psyche.
Commenting on that particular footage U.S. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stated, "Osama bin Laden may be the most dangerous non-state terrorist in the world." We found out that Sandy Berger was right. But we have also found that Mr. Berger thought intelligence-gathering consisted of stuffing classified documents into his underwear and socks.
And it is in the environment of a moribund C.I.A. that Osama bin Laden laid his plans well, cultivated an organization built on fierce loyalty and established his many escape chutes for his personal safety. He was wrong about the American soldier. We are neither weak nor fearful. We are bound with an oath that is taken seriously. But he was absolutely right about one thing. We have not been able to catch him.
It is not the fault of the American soldier. It is not necessarily the fault of our Commander in Chief. Our government has caught up with many targets in the al-Qaedah organization. But I am realistic. Osama bin Laden has evaded capture. It has been eight years since he first issued threat. May the words of our President come true. For the sake of all of us.
LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR
Thanks to summer jobs, the G.I. Bill, a partial scholarship, and a working wife, I emerged from college debt-free. And still, the move from a furnished student hovel into an unfurnished apartment, and from blue jeans and old uniform shirts into suitable business attire was a strain we could not have borne but for the good offices of the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul, haberdashers and furniture purveyors to the disadvantaged. The good news was that everybody we knew was in the same boat so economy was a well understood virtue. We had exports then, and the nation’s economy was not so desperate for consumer spending that excessive acquisition was a virtue.
So, it was with a great deal of sympathy that I listened to Tamara Draut, the author of “Strapped: Why America’s 20-and 30 Somethings can’t get Ahead,” describe how, three days before payday, she and her husband were pouring through their CD collection to find things they could sell for grocery money, on NPR Tuesday night. While it is tempting to point out that if they hadn’t spent their money on CDs in the first place, they might not have to sell them at greatly reduced prices to put food on the table, smug comments miss an important point. At today’s prices, I doubt that I could have gotten out of school without taking on student loans, even though the military’s college bonuses seem more generous than the $243/month I got. College costs have more than quadrupled since my days in academe.
The truth is that many of today’s under 35s leave school with a staggering debt load, higher expenses and wages that haven’t risen appreciably in the last 10 years. College costs have shot up as state and federal governments have reduced their contributions. On top of that, room and board are stratospheric compared to my $75/month house and $8.00/groceries.
Talk about mixed messages! On one hand, kids are told that they have to go to college to get ahead. And, on the other hand, we have made college so expensive that the kids taking the necessary, but low paying jobs of teaching, nursing, etc., won’t be able to get out from under the debt they took on to get their sheepskins. Even the kids with great jobs, like the young lawyers getting into white shoe Wall Street firms at $125,000 a year to start could be looking at six-figure debts before they see their first paycheck.
I think it is time to rethink this situation. It been more than 60 years since we encouraged the demobilizing troops to go to college rather than to flood the labor market. The economy needed time to gear up to be able to absorb all the new workers coming out of the military after V-J Day. Maybe it is time to put a college education on a more competitive basis, and encourage colleges to downsize. At the same time, we have to do more to make sure those who earn a place in college or in a technical or trade school, are able to attend. We really can't afford to waste the brains we have in any discipline.
Right now, we have more college graduates than we can use and a lot fewer crafts and tradesmen than we need. Perhaps, if we taught trades as if they were professions, which they are, we would have the benefits of excellent tradesmen who know how to run their businesses. It might even kick start the next big thing. Tinkering tradesmen have given us the automobile and the airplane, to name but two world changing inventions.
Every young person should be encouraged to go as far as his abilities can take him or her. But, if someone shows a phenomenal ability to take things apart and improve them, but is absolutely defeated by algebra or calculus, that person might be far happier and far better off going into a trade rather than banging his head against a wall trying to be a graduate engineer.