Monday, September 29, 2008

Missing from the first debate: honesty about OIL & foreign policy

In the first presidential debate, this little nugget by John McCain caught my attention:

That wasn't just about a problem between Georgia and Russia. It had everything to do with energy.

There's a pipeline that runs from the Caspian through Georgia through Turkey. And, of course, we know that the Russians control other sources of energy into Europe, which they have used from time to time.

John McCain in presidential debate Sep. 26, 2008

You would think there would be nothing noteworthy about talking about how oil effects our foreign policy--except that was the ONLY specific reference to it in the debate apart from both McCain and Obama making very indirect references to "breaking our dependence on foreign oil."

That's a nice thought, but I'd rather hear some specifics like:

  • Did the oil industry prevent us from punishing Saudi Arabia for 9/11? The Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 found that the Saudi government was responsible, but Bush classified that section of the report, and nothing else was ever said about it again.

  • For McCain & Biden: did you vote for the Iraq War because someone quietly convinced you that controlling Iraq's oil would somehow benefit average Americans, or did you know it was only meant to help oil companies?

  • Why haven't any of the candidates addressed the Hydrocarbon Law Bush tried to push on the Iraqis that would have given 88% of their oil profits to American big oil companies, and given those companies a seat on the committee that made decisions on their oil reserves? Don't you think that might have pissed off some Iraqis enough to take a shot at our troops?

  • What do you expect to happen to the price of oil if we attack Iran?

  • Do you plan to try to occupy Iran?

  • Is it a wise foreign policy to kill so many people, making enemies that will last long after the last drop of oil is gone?

  • Why do you talk to us like fucking children about terrorist boogeymen instead of the real geopolitical motives for what we are doing in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Basin: trying to gain control of the last spigots of the world's diminishing oil supplies?

  • Speaking of which, exactly how did you expect Russia to react if we tried to take over their oil trade with Europe and the rest of the world?

  • How do you expect both Russia and China to react if we achieve our goal of controlling all of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea oil flow? If we were them, would take it quietly?

  • The cliche about "breaking our dependence foreign oil" implies that our wars in the Middle East are to secure oil to run our economy. However, if that was our motive couldn't we simply do what China is doing in Canada, Venezuela, and the Sudan: buy it with long term contracts?

  • Isn't war to secure oil only necessary if another world power has it and is withholding it, OR if an oil company wants to force terms on the natives that they wouldn't accept without a gun to their heads?
To the extent that those running for the highest elected office in America DON'T talk honestly about this, they are castrating our democracy by withholding what would allow us to make an informed decision about who to vote for, and showing loyalty to a constituency in a smoke-filled room at the country club and not to American citizens as a whole.

Sort of like what happened when they tried to give away $700 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars to the already wealthy.

apply methods of War on Terror to Wall Street economic terrorists

The money lost on Wall Street didn't just disappear. Like a street scammer playing the shell game, they move the pea around and around then slip it off the table into their hand so it isn't under any of the shells. In this case, their hand is off-shore accounts, and it is the same hand any bailout money will end up in.

These Wall Street scammers have done far more damage to our economy than any Middle Eastern terrorists have, so we need to use the Bush administration's methods on his buddies:

  • No assumption of innocence, especially for execs at companies seeking bailouts. If you buy or sell something that isn't a tangible product or service for a living, you are a danger to society. The less an average person can understand what it is you buy and sell, the greater danger you are to society. If you doubt that, watch the documentary THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM about Enron.

  • No fourth amendment rights to restrictions on searches. If they get the cash, we get to dig through their trash--their personal trash. And bank accounts, phone records, or anything else that would tell us where the money went.

  • Likewise, no fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. We should use every means at our disposal to find out what they know about money laundering, hiding assets, and which politicians and regulators are on the take. There has been some great advances made in lie detection technology in the last decade. Brains scans can determine if someone is lying with 100% accuracy, and even if they won't speak, they can detect whether or not someone recognizes a photo or some other stimulus. We should give those technologies their first real world test.

  • Forfeiture of property beyond what they stole or scammed. This requires borrowing the forfeiture rules from the War on Drugs, were if they find one pot seed in your carpet, they'll take your car or house even if it was from someone who was housesitting for you. If forfeiture is supposed to be a deterrent to drug dealers, it should be equally effective on these equally greedy bastards.

  • Pre-emptive military strikes on countries that harbor Wall Street types and their assets. We cannot wait for the United Nations to act against the Cayman Islands, Seychelles, and Lichstenstein. We must strike before the economic terrorists can move their assets to another safe haven. We cannot wait for the final proof that could come in the form of a Great Depression.

  • Torture. If torture works on ideologically motivated prisoners as the Bushies claim, imagine how much more effective it will be to get off-shore account numbers from some pampered trust fund baby. Hell, you wouldn't even have to strip them naked. Just take away their valets and they won't know how to put their own clothes on.

  • Access to attorneys. If they can contact an attorney, they could use code words or even facial expressions to give approval to shift assets to different shell corporations or off-shore accounts.

  • Renditions. It is very likely that even the Americans most hurt by these assholes won't have the stomach to waterboard or sexually assault a banker, broker, or hedge fund manager. Therefore, we should consider outsourcing this work to a country that has a better track record of dealing with oligarchs run amok: Russia. It would also help stabilize relations after the Bush administration & McCain's saber-rattling in their direction.

    Prison sentences could also be outsourced. Imagine how much we could save on gaurds, food, health care, and accommodations if we store these assholes in CHINA.

These terrorists steal not merely to enrich themselves, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America's middle class grows fearful, politically weaker, and smaller in number. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.

We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause.)

Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.

This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world.

I also want to speak tonight directly to the capitalists throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of profit blaspheme the name of the wealthy. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack capitalism itself. The enemy of America is not our many capitalist friends; if you want to make a living providing clearly defined financial services on honest terms that don't exploit the desperate or push the middle class into poverty, we have no quarrel with you. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government and politicians of any party that supports them.

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice -- assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.

Thanks to George W. Bush's speech writers and legal advisor like Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, and Jay Bybee for these policies and words

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain falsely blamed troops for torture during debate

During the first debate with Barack Obama, John McCain said this would solve the torture problem:
So we have a long way to go in our intelligence services. We have to do a better job in human intelligence. And we've got to -- to make sure that we have people who are trained interrogators so that we don't ever torture a prisoner ever again.

Wow. So the problem is ignorant interrogators, not the people in the White House who gave the orders?

Didn't CIA interrogators refuse to use the methods they were ordered to use until they got the legal cover from the torture memos, written under the guidance of then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales who went on to become attorney general?

The resulting memo defined torture as only "death, organ failure or the permanent impairment of a significant body function."

The few soldiers prosecuted at Abu Ghraib weren't trained in interrogation techniques, but they were following orders from the interrogators at the prison who told them to "soften the prisoners up" for them, and the methods they used were remarkably similar to a then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's torture memo said to be posted publicly at Abu Ghraib by prison commander Gen. Jane Karpinski.

Recently, it was discovered that the White House principals actually met to micromanage torture methods like sleep deprivation and waterboarding, and incredibly, Bush said he knew and approved, according to ABC News.

The Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Contrary to the Bush administration spin on this, the military is hardly ignorant on torture nor do they approve of it apart from Bush's handpicked generals.

The abuse at Abu Ghraib was first reported by an Army MP, Joseph Darby.

When Navy lawyers at the Pentagon, who work for JAG became aware of the torture policy, they contacted the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Human Rights and urged them to publicly and strenuously oppose it.

In November of 2006, then dean of West Point, US Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, flew to Southern California to ask the producers of the TV show 24 to stop glorifying torture since it was influencing the thinking of cadets more than the training they were getting at West Point.

Perhaps most daming evidence against the "blame the troops" position on torture is the Army's own interrogation manual. In addition to describing as torture virtually every technique approved by the Bush administration, it gives this simple test of whether something is torture:
If your contemplated actions were perpetrated by the enemy against US PWs [prisoners of war], you would believe such actions violate international or US law.

FM 34-52
Jesus said it more simply, "Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).

All the Christians who have supported Bush have forgotten that in their lynch mob blood lust.

To his credit, John McCain bucked the Bush administration on torture for a while and even wrote a moving op-ed on why it was a bad idea.
Our commitment to basic humanitarian values affects--in part--the willingness of other nations to do the same. Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and Al Qaeda surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more traditional enemies, if not in this war then in the next.

(John McCain, Newsweek Nov. 21, 2005)
Unfortunately, McCain gave up this moral and pragmatic position to gain the support of the Bush administration and voted to give Bush the discretion to use torture.

After being involved in the torture debate since it broke out in 2004, McCain knows this is not an issue of poorly trained soldiers but of elected civilian leaders and their appointees who put their own personal agendas ahead of our military's traditional ethics, our laws, and the Geneva Convention, which we helped write. They put their own agendas and personal gains ahead of the safety of our troops with their torture policy, as McCain's own earlier words testify to.

Instead of defending the troops, McCain is siding with the worst president in our history and blaming them for the conduct of the White House, which has used the troops as human shields to deflect responsibility for their own war crimes.

That is beneath contempt.

At a future debate, I want McCain to be asked who bears primary responsibility for the torture that has occurred: the troops in the field or the civilians who gave the orders.


Declassified torture memos

NY Times guide to torture memos

Geneva Convention against torture

Overview of Abu Ghraib abuse: 60% or more innocent

The most famous torture victim's story

Detaining, abusing, & raping children

VIDEO: Torture Memo Author Asked if President Can Bury Someone Alive

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

bailout could make Democrats in Congress ''rope a dope'' strategy blow up in their faces

I don't really believe it was a strategy in the first place. A sizable number of Dems are as business-owned as the GOP.

But to the extent they have even bothered to explain their acquiescence with nearly everything Bush has proposed, they have fallen back on saying ''You don't get in the way of someone committing suicide.''

So they vote with the GOP and wait for the natural consequences of those policies to convince the public of how disastrous they are.

But suppose the White House makes the stakes insanely high as they have with the bailout, Democrats do their usual shtick of token complaining and grousing, then vote for the bailout--but Republicans DON'T.

Then the mother of all pork and corruption belongs to the Democrats.

And that is exactly what one right wing pundit said:

"God Himself couldn't have given rank-and-file Republicans a better opportunity to create political space between themselves and the Administration. That's why I want to see 40 Republican 'No' votes in the Senate, and 150+ in the House. If a bailout is to pass, let it be with Democratic votes. Let this be the political establishment (Bush Republicans in the White House + Democrats in Congress) saddling the taxpayers with hundreds of billions in debt (more than the Iraq War, conjured up in a single weekend, and enabled by Pelosi, btw), while principled Republicans say 'No' and go to the country with a stinging indictment of the majority in Congress."


As they did with Social Security, Democrats need to draw a hard line, and stop this.

Passing it will not only screw the country but give the GOP a club to beat the Dems with.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What did Wall St. demand from Main St. in Bankruptcy & Welfare Reform bills?

In both cases, Wall St. demanded more stringent controls on help given to the working and middle class.

They made it harder for the middle class to get relief through bankruptcy for credit card and medical debt in the bankruptcy bill.

They demanded a time limit on welfare benefits and that mothers must go to work to a certain number of hours to get their benefits even though there was no provision for childcare and the mom would usually make LESS than the cost of childcare. No matter. McDonald's and other corporations wanted more bodies and they didn't want to have to bid for them with higher wages.

Based on their own logic, there is nothing wrong with us demanding some changes in behavior in return for our financial help.

If we really wanted to follow the corporatists own logic, we would foreclose and take ownership of any financial institution we bail out.

At the very least, we should set these demands outlined by former labor secretary Robert Reich, Sen. Bernie Sanders, or columnist Robert Scheer who said we should ban foreclosures for at least a year to force banks to renegotiate with homeowners, which would keep houses from sitting empty and causing a glut on the market that drives down prices.

This is a turning point in our political history.

Either our elected officials stand by their Wall Street, country club friends, or they stand with the people they were elected to serve.

They cannot do both.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain's wife vows to give her fortune away to Lehman & Merril Lynch victims

Cindy McCain gives away her fortune to bankrupted Merril Lynch clients

In a scene reminiscent of It's a Wonderful Life, John McCain and his wife Cindy appeared at a Merrill Lynch office and passed out cash to investors who had lost their life savings in the firm's crash.

As investors clamored at the teller's window, Cindy dumped out a suitcase of money, began to ask how much each one had lost, and gave each piles of freshly printed money.

"There's plenty for everyone!" Mrs. McCain said.

Later she told reporters that her husband was despondent when he saw the news of the Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch crashes. "Not just because they were his biggest donors and lent him their corporate jet, but because of what it would do to the little people who put their trust in their social betters, the wealthy."

She said presidential candidate and senator McCain felt guilty for supporting decades of deregulation and carrying water for Wall Street.

"John thought if Wall Street did well, it would trickle down on the little people, the voters. Instead of a trickle of pure, life-giving water, it was more like the trickle out of John's diaper when he forgets to take his incontinence medication."

Concerned that her husband's despondency could accelerate the deterioration of his health and mental faculties, or spark a temper tantrum that would take several of their household staff to contain, she struck upon the idea repaying bankrupted investors out of her own personal fortune.

"Daddy left me oh-so-much money when he died, and since John is a senator, we don't have to spend it on ANYTHING. People are always giving him meals and trips and airplane rides. People that visit politicians are ever-so-generous!"

McCain gave away $30 million before the Merril Lynch office closed, and said she will make it right with every investor, or give away every penny of her $200 million personal fortune trying.

Senator McCain smiled soporifically throughout the proceedings because of a heavy dosage of xanax.

"Karl Rove is taking the day off, and he said it would be best if John was drugged since that's what they did to President Bush to keep him out of trouble when Karl was busy."

Mrs. McCain said if an bankrupted investor needs money before she can get to them, they can go to a nearby McCain campaign headquarters and make a withdrawal.

"Or any Republican candidate," she added. "I'm sure they all feel just awful about how this whole deregulation thing turned out and want to make amends, not just with words, but in the one way that counts: money."

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Sopranos, Bush, & collapse of Lehman Brothers

The collapse of Lehman Brothers made a story from a couple of weeks ago float to the surface: Lehman Brothers hired Jeb Bush as an "advisor."

This reminds me of how Tony Soprano ran protection rackets on construction sites. In addition to a cash pay off, the contractor was expected to provide a certain number of "no work" jobs, where his guys showed up but didn't have to do any work, and "no show" jobs, where they didn't even have to show up.

The purpose was to give Tony's henchmen some legitimate income to make it less obvious that they were full time thugs.

In exchange, the construction company avoids missing supplies or massively inflated prices on them, vandalism, strikes by certain unions, or even extra grief from building inspectors who are on the mafia payroll or whose bosses are.

When a corporation hires the wife, child, or brother of a politician, in this case the president of the United States. A business that hires someone in that capacity might find the investigations of regulators or even law enforcement suddenly becoming less aggressive or even going away--in this case, at least long enough to hide money off-shore and burn the books.

Donations are the more obvious way of doing it, as was the case with Charles Keating and the five senators (including presidential candidate John McCain) he bought to chase regulators away from finding out he was robbing his S &L by making loans to friends who wouldn't pay back the loan, but would figure out a way to cut the loot with him. Depositors were robbed since their money was what was loaned. Keating's S & L ended up costing taxpayers $3 billion for the portion of their deposits that were federally insured. Overall, the looting caused by deregulating S & L's cost taxpayers $125 billion minimum.

Charles Keating's scam is a lot like a bust out on the Sopranos. That's when they get their hooks in a business, use the business to buy things they have no intention of paying for, and sell them for 100% profit, run up the credit cards, and give all the proceeds of the business to their friends and not employees, and once the business is bankrupt, sell everything in the store and the fixtures. It is done in such a way that the Sopranos are not responsible for any of the debt, but the original owner is destroyed financially.

That is also what the Bush administration is doing to us.

They have run up a massive debt to transfer wealth to their corporate cronies in contracts in Iraq and "no work" weapons systems like missile defense. Once our credit is destroyed, they will tell us we need to privatize and sell off everything from our police forces to our education system, to the water from our tap.

Once they have drained everything of value from us, they will move to the Cayman Islands, Paraguay, Dubai, or simply build the walls around their gated communities that much higher and hire more Blackwater mercenaries to protect what they have stolen.

I wish this was just a dystopian, science fiction fantasy, but in fact, it is what we did to South America since the 1970's, starting with Pinochet in Chile, Russia and the former communist countries after the the fall of the Soviet Union (actually LOWERING life expectancy and the standard of live from Soviet times), and just before the turn of the century, we did to Asia, causing an economic meltdown there. It is called neoliberalism by those who invented it, but increasing called "the shock doctrine" by those on the Left who survey the damage.

None of this helps the middle and working class, but instead robs them to put money in the pockets of thugs in Brooks Brothers suits.

How many more times do they have to steal workers pensions, do the "bust out" on some financial institution like savings & loans or mortgage banks, or their attempted raid on social security, before we treat these guys like what they are: criminals.

More on Sopranos & Bushies

Friday, September 12, 2008

You can get Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience in just 2 seconds!

All you have to do is look at these photos of Russia's Big Diomede Island, which can be seen from Alaska.

The Russian island has been uninhabited since World War II. The American one has a population of 146.

The island on the left is part of the United States.
The one on the right is Russian.

Here's a better view of just the Russian one:

And our rock island and Russia's from space:

Man, I don't know about you, but after looking at those photos, I feel much more qualified to talk to Vladimir Putin about strategic nuclear weapons, which countries to let into NATO, and whether we are risking a world war by trying to encroach on Caspian Sea oil or by attacking Iran.

Don't you feel it too?

Thank you, Sarah Palin, for helping so many of us to become foreign policy experts by looking at a rock that happens to belong to another country.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain ethics reform: Dept. of Lobbyists

John McCain gives a "thumbs up" to his proposed Department of Lobbyists

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain introduced a sweeping ethics reform proposal today that included the creation of a new Department of Lobbyists in a speech before the Chamber of Commerce in Velva, North Dakota.

The text of his speech follows:
My friends, I have said many times that I am a maverick who is not afraid to take my colleagues in the Senate to task for their lack of ethics, whichever party they belong to. The problem of how those in Congress relate to big business and corporations is shameful.

Everyday, corporations or wealthy individuals will make contributions to our campaigns and our shell foundations and PACs , or even give high paying jobs to our wives or children, fully expecting tax or regulatory relief, government contracts, or even subsidies in return.

Too often though, elected officials fail to keep their end of the bargain. They make half-hearted attempts to service their donors, then abandon even that effort if some newspaper or website starts to ask questions. Worse, some don't even make the effort in the first place, pretending that the donation was given out of some idealistic agreement with a candidates ideology, not a fee for service.

My friends, there is a word for not doing what you are paid to do, and that word is FRAUD.

Those in Congress must be held accountable and must be forced to do their patriotic duty for those who supported them financially.

Therefore, I will create a new Department of Lobbyists that will exist solely to expedite service to political donors. They will keep a central database of donations and inform donors of the level of service their donation entitles them to, from a letter to a regulator telling them to back off, to five senators showing up at the regulators office to give him an attitude adjustment.

This will also make life easier for lobbyists. Currently, to seek favors, they have to visit each and every politician they will need on their side, wine and dine them, or provide escorts of their preferred gender. With the new Department of Lobbyists, they will only have to make ONE stop. The DOL will then give the marching orders to the relevant congressmen and senators.

The Department will also serve a valuable function for retiring legislators. We all look forward to working as consultants, lobbyists, CEO's, and board members for our past donors when we leave office, but actually negotiating for the job can be awkward and time consuming. There is nothing more embarassing than asking for a CEO job when a defense contractor thinks you only rate a couple of paychecks as a consultant. Just as there will be a set schedule of expected favors for past donations, there will be a set schedule of after-office jobs for favors done in office. If an elected official has his heart set on a certain position but hasn't done enough favors to qualify for it, the Department could tell him how to make up for his shortcomings.

The best person to run this new department would of course be a lobbyist. Any number of the members of my campaign staff would be qualified to be Secretary of Lobbyists, but for his outstanding service in inciting the Georgia-Russia conflict, Randy Scheunemann, a lobbyist for Georgia, has shown himself to be head and shoulders above his peers.

My own story with the Keating Five should be a tragic reminder of why this new department is needed. Savings & Loan owner Charles Keating made good faith donations to myself and four other senators, fully expecting that we could end a regulatory fishing expedition into his business practices. Because there was no streamlined process, we failed to intervene soon enough or thoroughly enough to protect Mr. Keating from eventual criminal charges.

If we had the Department of Lobbyists to help us help Mr. Keating, he might have retired to Bermuda to live off of kickbacks from loans he gave his friends, who had no intention of repaying, which left depositors holding the bag. Instead, he ended up in prison.

My friends, if I am elected, the Department of Lobbyists will be just the beginning of my ethics reform. If I have to, I will go to the gates of Hell to serve my donors, whether they are trying to outsource jobs, loot their employees pensions, pollute the air and water with coal or nuclear plants, or secure oil reserves in some God-forsaken Middle Eastern backwater.

That is the way America is supposed to work, and under a McCain presidency, that is how it WILL work, so help me God.