Friday, January 30, 2009

Prosecuting Bush administration not politics, but matter of national security

After ignoring the grassroots movement to impeach Bush, which had twice as much support as impeaching Clinton and about as much as impeaching Nixon the night before he resigned, the mainstream media is now pooh-poohing the idea of prosecuting Bush administration officials for their domestic and war crimes.
If restoring Constitutional checks and balances and showing that the rich and powerful aren't above the law, especially laws of basic human decency like the Geneva Convention, isn't reason enough, there are some very immediate national security reasons to do so, related to 9/11 and the Iraq War.

In the case of 9/11, that day George W. Bush said,
I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

The Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 found that the Saudi government helped the hijackers, and declassified FBI documents show a Saudi agent picked up two of the hijackers at LAX, set them up in an apartment in his own building, and funneled checks to them from the Saudi ambassador's wife.

Did the Bush administration use this information to punish Saudi Arabia or change the nature of our relationship with them in any way?


He even protected them by classifying the Saudi pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry's report and tried to smooth over uproar caused by the sketchy details that did leak out.

He likewise said little to nothing about Saudi terrorists entering Iraq even though more came from there than any other country according to Israel, our Pentagon, and even the Saudis themselves.

Why didn't Bush do anything about this? Even if you don't believe the Bush administration was involved in 9/11, covering up the Saudi role is at least a bigger crime than Richard Nixon covering up a second rate burglary.

Worse, it means that we may be vulnerable to another terrorist attack because for all the Patriot Act bluster and trampling of our civil rights, the Bush administration did nothing punish or restrain the real perpetrators.

There is a similar issue with how we became involved in the Iraq War. What was once considered a conspiracy theory, that the Bush administration intentionally lied to get us into the war, is more or less accepted as fact by the mainstream media now.

However, if we don't prosecute those responsible, they are free to return to government at a later date, and do the same thing. That is exactly what Cheney and Rumsfeld did after lying about the nature of the Soviet threat in the 70s.

While the lies and liars from within the administration are pretty well documented, their helpers outside the administration, like those who forged the Niger document claiming that Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake, have not been outed and put out of business.

Perhaps most importantly, we have not had a public airing of WHY Bush bothered to trump up a war against Iraq and who it was meant to benefit. There are some clear clues like Cheney's secrecy about the energy task force he led that was pouring over maps Iraq's oilfields, and the Bush commissioned Hydrocarbon Law that would have given 88% of Iraq's oil income to foreign oil companies, a law that Iraqi legislators refused to pass even after being offered millions in bribes each by the oil companies. But those are just clues.

Without a definitive record of who lobbied for the war, who listened to them, and how they got their way, we are vulnerable to being misled into a war again in the future. If those who planned to profit from the war were punished, we would be even less likely to see it happen again.

It is a matter of public record that Bush diverted our attention from those responsible for 9/11 and fabricated a case for war, leaving us vulnerable to terrorist attacks from those he protected and squandering military resources we should have saved for real threats.

We are less safe because of it, and without the complete investigation and prosecution of those responsible, we will continue to be at risk.

If it does not happen, it would be because our government is looking after the interests of the very wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

TO OBAMA: Tell the wealthy to stop being selfish crybabies

I was visiting Obama's website the other day, and one of the sections was on "service," and it occurred to me that themes of public service are always directed at the poor and middle class.

Someone is always coming up with a bill for kids to pay for college by doing community service or joining the military, and conservatives especially like to lecture us about doing volunteer work and giving to charities (so they have an excuse to cut the government programs that perform the same function on a broader scale).

I remember in 2004, John Kerry was going to make an appearance at a college, and I hoped he would address how Democrats would help students avoid the crushing debt of student loans or having to work full time and go to school part time, so they can't finish their bachelor's degree until they're thirty or pay off their student loans until they're dead. Instead, he talked about what THEY should do for their country, as if providing cheap labor at a fast food restaurant wasn't doing a big enough favor for the wealthy in this country.

How often is a similar speech given to the financial elite of this country?

I know what the immediate retort to this will be.

The wealthy have their charitable foundations, scholarships, and advocacy for this or that cause.

But most of their "charity" work would not be necessary if they acted responsibly in all the things they did with their money to further enrich themselves. The things they should be asked to do for their country:

  • Every employee of yours or companies you invest in is paid enough that they never have to apply for food stamps or other public assistance.
  • Those employees should never have to wonder how they will pay for medical treatment for themselves or their children or be bankrupted by seeking it out.
  • Only close a factory because you can't make a profit there anymore, not because you could shave some labor costs by moving it to Bangladesh, or your accountant told you that firing people makes the company look more profitable in the short term and tweaks your stock price.
  • If you own or invest in an industry that does have unavoidable fluctuations in labor needs, make sure the community can take care of those workers.
  • If you invest in a factory or mine, ask yourself if you would like to breathe the air or drink the water nearby, and if not, do what needs to be done to correct it.
  • When it comes time to pay taxes, ask yourself if paying what you actually owe will cramp your lifestyle one iota. Will you have to sell your primary residence, your only car, or pull your kids out of private school? Or do those taxes only cut into your bragging rights at the club and how many generations of your kids can survive without doing the honest day's work it took you or your ancestors to accumulate that wealth in the first place.

If they did these things, their charitable contributions and advocacy would be far less necessary because there would be fewer problems and fewer that the government couldn't afford to address.

But the wealthy have rarely been faced with the call to service the middle class and poor routinely hear.

Instead, politicians get in line with the orphans and blind and talented kids who can't afford college and beg the wealthy for a handout. And if the politician grovels extra well, and does EXACTLY what the rich tell him to do in Congress, the politician will be rewarded when he leaves office with a job as a CEO, do nothing board member, consultant, or lobbyist.

For at least the last thirty years, we have not treated the wealthy in this country as citizens but as Greek gods who we must not offend lest they withhold their bounty of jobs and prosperity. We have allowed them to tell our supposed representatives in Washington how to run our economy and foreign policy and they have obeyed to the least jot and tittle.

Our elected officials have become so servile that when Wall Street demand $700 billion dollars with no strings attached, an amount greater than we have spent on the Iraq War so far, and greater than the entire federal budget just a few years ago, Congress scrambled to give it to them as quickly as possible and they saw no irony when some talked a few weeks later about cutting the budget for programs that help the rest of us.

The results of this worship of the already rich is that the wealthy have become exponentially wealthy, the middle class is become poorer and the working class, apart from a few skilled workers, is being left without a way to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table. Our tax money goes to the pockets of the wealthy, and then they lecture us about how irresponsible we and our government are for running up so much debt.

And when the profits from our labor and subsidies from our tax dollars aren't filling their pockets fast enough, they demand our children go to war and die to seize more oil or keep banana pickers in Central America from demanding a decent wage.

So it is time to stop saying to the rest of us, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and time to not ask but REQUIRE this of the wealthy.

We must say to the wealthy:

The middle and working class don't want to steal your wealth--we even like to imagine we are one invention, novel, business or lottery ticket away from becoming one of you. We simply want you to stop being crybabies, pay your fair share of taxes, treat every employee as if they were your own child, and every community where you build a factory as if it was your own neighborhood.

If that doesn't register with you, imagine that all your investments were with Bernie Madoff and his ilk, and you were kicked out of the country club, the board room, and your house. Have you created an America where you could build that wealth again through hard work or could you even survive?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

TO OBAMA: in every war speech, add military & economic reality check

I posted the following to the's Citizens' Briefing Book of ideas for Obama. If you like what I have to say, go there and vote it up. If you don't, go make a better suggestion.
Congress should be required to detail in any authorization of military action or funding of on-going military action and the president should be required to cite in detail in any speech about military action the following:
Once that is discussed, people will wonder why we are even considering attacking that country, which leads to what Napoleon said wars are really all about:

"There is only one thing in this world, and that is to keep acquiring money and more money, power and more power. All the rest is meaningless."

The Bush administration and our Congress, including most Democrats, have been profoundly dishonest about this in the current Iraq War. Therefore, they should be required to enumerate the following about future military conflicts:
  • Describe the historic business interests the United States or other foreign powers have had in that country. Obviously, with Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela, that interest is oil. Oil is also less obviously but equally our interest in the Sudan, Nigeria, and a good deal of AFRICOM.
  • Describe in detail which business interests have lobbied for the military action, how much they have given to members of Congress who did and didn't vote for the action, how much money they plan to make in the invaded or intimidated country, and what percentage of their profits they pay in taxes to the United States.
In the current Iraq War, we still haven't heard details about what oil companies demanded of Cheney in his energy task force, but we do know they were pouring over maps of Iraq and lists of which countries had oil contracts there. After the invasion, Bush forced them to privatize most of their economy and is pressuring to pass a Hydrocarbon (oil) law that originally gave 88% of the oil income to oil companies, a deal other oil rich Gulf countries would never accept without a gun to their heads (which Iraq has).

While the Iraqi cabinet approved the law,the parliament figured out it was a bad deal, so the oil companies actually tried to BRIBE them with millions of dollars each to pass it--and they STILL wouldn't pass it.

  • Describe in detail what the average American will get for sacrificing our tax dollars and soldiers lives for these business interests.
In the case of Iraq, our reward from oil companies was continued demands for tax breaks & subsidies, being gouged at the pump, AND demand for more drilling rights in federal lands with no obligation to sell the oil here or even drill it in a timely manner to help prices here.

As we saw with the Wall Street crisis this fall and even more clearly with how they spent our bailout money on mergers, exorbitant executive bonuses, and lavish parties, America's financial elite are not only incompetent and morally bankrupt, but they are a threat to the economic security and safety of average Americans.

The economic pain we are feeling now is just a taste of what they have dealt out to other countries for decades, crushing their dreams of democracy and decent standard of living just to get a few more percentage points of profit.

Unfortunately, George W. Bush was not an aberration, but their greed, callousness, and incompetence lurching into plain view for all to see for the first time.

Just because they have scurried back to the shadows doesn't mean they aren't still calling the shots.

The way to start to pry their sociopathic hands from wheel of state is to demand our elected officials state publicly what the financial elite demand of them in private before another generation of Americans is further impoverished, killed in their wars, and asked to take the lives of those who stand in the way of their profits.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush to pardon at last minute to give more time for crimes

President Bush will not grant any pardons until immediately before Barack Obama's inauguration, so that he won't leave any of his administration's crimes unpardoned, a high ranking White House official said.

"We plan to be working until the very end of the administration, and the president wants to make sure his cabinet and staff are protected from prosecution for all their work," the official said.

In an earlier press conference, the president had revealed his thinking on this, saying, "One mistake my dad made was pardoning his fellas for Iran Contra on Christmas Eve, which my advisers tell me is nearly a month from the leaving office day. They could a done a lot of work for Poppy in that month and they wouldn't a had immunity. That would have a tragedery, which is to say a strategic tragedy."

The official said president Bush will take a stack of pardon forms with him to the inauguration with most of the crimes of administration officials filled in, but space left to write in last minute actions on behalf of the administration.

A likely candidate for needing a very last minute pardon is Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. His claim that Wall Street needed $700 billion or the country would collapse into chaos hasn't stood up under scrutiny of economic data and looks even more suspect since the money doled out was used on mergers, executive bonuses, and massive parties with male prostitutes and swimming pools full of cocaine. Those receiving the bailout funds will likely be pardoned in order of their contributions to the George W. Bush Presidential lieberry.

Dick Cheney will certainly be pardoned, but the nature of his last minute actions needing pardon is not clear. It may be anything from negotiating his salary for his return to Halliburton based on the size of last minute no-bid contracts he can throw to the company, coercing the CIA into claiming that Osama bin Laden is hiding in Venezuela, or simply strangling a child's puppy to savor the moment when the life goes out of its eyes.

Karl Rove's last minute pardonable offenses are also difficult to predict. His role in outing covert CIA agent Valerie Plame and the firing of US attorneys unwilling to pursue partisan prosecutions is already on the record, and growing evidence points to his role in electronic vote rigging. His last contribution could come in any of these areas: smearing, undermining our judicial system, or tampering with elections.

Since Alberto Gonzalez has already left the administration, his pardon could be completed now since his role in drafting and approving memos that allowed torture so long as it didn't result in organ failure or death is firmly in the past. Gonzalez has done nothing noteworthy since, largely because he can't find a job. The corporate world loves toadies, but even they have some limits of taste if not decency.

The greatest mystery is what President Bush himself will do that will need pardoning. Ironically, in spite of his own claims of guilt in authorizing torture and warrantless wiretapping and joking about lying about WMD in Iraq, legal scholars are unsure if Bush can be prosecuted for any of the actions of the administration since he probably didn't actually authorize anything and could barely read let alone understand the talking points on cue cards about his administration's actions.

"It's a classic legal conundrum," Professor John Doakes of Bethesda University said. "How incompetent does someone have to be before they aren't responsible for their actions? For example, if someone gives a monkey a gun, and he shoots someone, who do you prosecute, the monkey or the person who gave them a gun?"

Bush may pardon himself just to be safe even if he might not actually know what a pardon is.