my pissant two cents

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scooter Libby will never spend a day in prison

Here's a simple scenario:
Libby's attorneys wait until the last possible moment to request a new trial, which will be denied. Then they wait until the last possible moment to appeal, while Libby remains free pending his appeal. Every possible obstructionist and delaying tactic is dragged out by Libby's attorneys, making a normally long appellate process even longer. Then comes January 19, 2009, or so, and Scooter gets his pardon.
Then he gets a radio talk show, like fellow right-wing convicts Gordon Liddy and Oliver North. As if the whole shameful episode never happened.
What is Bush's motivation for pardoning Libby?
Cheney was not subpoenaed to testify. Libby never testified about what Cheney knew and when he knew it. After Libby's attorneys assured the judge and the prosecution that Libby and Cheney would testify, they never did, even though such testimony might have secured Libby's acquittal. Observers called it a grievous tactical mistake, from a defense team known for not making mistakes.
Could it be that the White House promised Libby that his silence would buy him a clean slate? Do you doubt that such a thing is likely?
Remember that Bush's father granted a blanket pardon to his confreres involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, rendering moot the independent-counsel investigation by Lawrence Walsh that had already convicted John Poindexter and North, and indicted Caspar Weinberger. It was a very merry Christmas.
As if that weren't unseemly enough, Bush the Lesser, in the early days of his presidency, issued an executive order that would prevent the impending release of President Reagan's records, which might have held further evidence of wrongdoing by Iran-Contra co-conspirators who were then working, or would work, in Bush II's White House (Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, and current CIA Director Robert Gates among them).
The Bush people are known for shameless acts to protect their interests. To call them a den of thieves is to slander thieves everywhere. In their world of corruption, pardoning Scooter Libby would barely merit notice.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The “Half Hour” that I will never get back

I just watched Fox News Channel’s attempt at political satire. “The Half Hour News Hour” wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But then, I’ve worked in real television news.
The show opens with a half-clever premise, that Rush Limbaugh is President in January 2009. But it quickly reveals its humor level, as Limbaugh—apparently quite comfortable in his glass house—congratulates Howard Dean for “finally getting the medical attention he has desperately needed for so long.” Lacking the faintest vestige of irony, Limbaugh blames “two years of a Democrat [sic] Congress” for making America’s international reputation a shambles, and promising “commander-in-chief excellence.” That’s as close as it came to mentioning Bush in the entire program.
Then “VP” Ann Coulter trots out her catchphrase, warning viewers that if they don’t stay tuned, “We’ll invade your countries, kill your leaders and convert you to Christianity”
It doesn’t get any funnier than that. I don’t mean that in a good way.
“Anchors” Kurt Long and Jenn Robertson (a game show host and Canadian comedy writer, respectively, who wisely don’t use their real names on the show) kick off the program-proper with a headlines segment. From a none-too-subtle “Hillary is a lesbian” slag, to a double-jab at Dennis Kucinich and Air America, it was a collection of undeservedly self-congratulatory smirking.
They made a recurring joke of actor/environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr., amazingly putting together a poop joke, a joke about homelessness, and another about prison rape, nailing a rare trifecta of unfunny premises. Begley narrowly outpaced Sen. Barack Obama, about whom a fart joke and a body odor joke were made. But one suspects the Senator will be a frequent target, insofar as this show can be expected to stay on the air.
Another butt of repeated jokes is the ACLU, which has been “protecting criminals [like Rush Limbaugh (http://www.aclu.org/privacy/medical/14969prs20040112.html)] from people like you since 1920.” Ha ha. Lawsuits to protect drug suspects from forced blood tests and to protect free speech, even for white supremacists (and I wonder how many Fox News viewers weren’t the slightest bit bothered by that), are how liberals are destroying our nation, get it?
A couple of skits, one on Che Guevara t-shirts and another on global warming, fell sadly flat, as actors Dom Irrera and Jonathan Mangum obviously read their cue cards and gave wooden deliveries of unfunny lines. Long and Robertson did no better, with their schticky reading owing more to Ted Baxter than Ted Koppel.
Veteran comedy writers Ned Rice and Sandy Frank are responsible for this dreck, which ought to bring their many writing awards into question. As pretty much everyone surmised, it was a collection of juvenile, mean-spirited jabs at liberals, full of the usual scorn and derision. They managed to make fun not only of Suzanne Somers, because her house burned down, but also children with cancer.
The depth of the derision wasn’t quite so surprising as the complete absence of wit.
But then, satire is by its nature a subversive art, skewering the powerful and poking meaningful fun at the self-important. It requires insight and impulse. It simply does not go with a conservative agenda, which seeks above all to stifle anything that challenges the orthodoxy.
Instead of insight, what we get from Rice and Frank is a collection of put-downs and insults that would be great in a junior high lunchroom. If that’s what Fox viewers need to feel protected from those mean guys on Comedy Central, they’re welcome to it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Forgive me if I'm a little skeptical

Bush Administration minions spent Sunday trumpeting the “evidence” that evildoers in the highest reaches of the Iranian government have masterminded a cunning plot to kill Americans and foment chaos in Iraq.
These unnamed U.S. sources say that Iranian agents are smuggling high-powered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into Iraq, and that those explosives were so sophisticated and well machined that they could only have come from Iran. The sources blamed these IEDs for the deaths of 170 Americans.
But I’m having trouble buying any of it.
It all seems a bit too convenient. For starters, where did they come up with 170? Who conducted that investigation, what evidence was compiled, and what arithmetic yielded that number? It’s odd that they could reach such a precise conclusion when everything else in Iraq is utterly devoid of precision.
And how do they know the Iranian government is behind it? Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace says he’s seen no evidence that supports such a claim. So why the definitive statement casting blame on Tehran?
Bush’s people have been rattling sabers in Iran’s direction for years now. Painting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the latest incarnation of Hitler, they have refused to participate in multi-lateral diplomatic efforts to keep Iran’s nuclear aspirations on a purely non-military basis, and have made clear their willingness to exercise the military option to enforce their will. Sending aircraft carrier groups to the region is widely seen in diplomatic circles as an American show of force intended to create “strategic ambiguity.”
Ahmadinejad, of course, has done nothing to help his cause, denying the Holocaust and spouting anti-American rhetoric that makes Hugo Chavez speeches look like an “Up with People” revue. But as president he has precious little power. In the Islamic Republic of Iran the ayatollahs carry the authority, specifically the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
So why all this sudden concern over Iran? According to a 2005 article by Washington Post reporter Dafna Linzer, the official U.S. intelligence position is that Iran is “within five years” of building nuclear weapons. But, Linzer wrote, that has been the U.S. position since 1995.
And who are these unnamed sources casting Tehran as the new archvillain? When stumping for the Iraq invasion, former Secretary of State Colin Powell had the guts to stand before the United Nations and present his case, even though it was made up entirely of lies. If he was willing to do that, how much credence can we put into “evidence” that no one is willing to vouch for?
The timing of the announcement is also suspect, coming just after the announcement that the Pentagon cooked the data on Iraq leading up to the war. The Defense Department’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, made that point clear to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday. While the actions carried out by a faction headed by neo-con warmonger Douglas Feith weren’t technically illegal, Gimble said, they “did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers.”
While some Republicans on the panel tried to undermine the importance of that revelation—notably shameless crackpot James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who lauded Feith’s Office of Special Plans cabal for its “probing” work—many Democrats were duly troubled by it. Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) called Gimble’s testimony “devastating commentary” on the administration’s manipulation of the intelligence.
It seems that a healthy skepticism is finally working its way into the Democrats’ collective psyche. Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) appeared on the Sunday talk shows, expressing serious doubts about the administration’s reliability.
Even a former Bush staffer says this smacks of escalation by Bush’s people. Hillary Mann, former National Security Council director for Iran, told Newsweek, “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something (America) would be forced to retaliate for.”
And that is where the American public needs to focus its attention. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has said repeatedly that all it would take is a manufactured crisis, like a Gulf of Tonkin or sinking of the Maine-like incident, for the Bush people to green-light an invasion that they’ve been itching for since the “Axis of Evil” speech. Let’s not forget that nearly a year ago, Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that U.S. agents were carrying out covert operations in Iran that might just provide that provocation.
Here are some other data the American people might want to think about as the chickenhawks squawk at Tehran: Iran is about three times the size of Iraq, with almost three times the population. Those facts come straight from the CIA website, so presumably they’re accurate.
Of course, with these guys, you never know.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Suddenly, I feel much better.

Here are a couple of interesting facts:
Number of Democratic incumbents in the House who lost-- 0.
Number of Democratic incumbents in the Senate who lost-- 0.
And suddenly, all feels a little brighter in the America I remembered.
Those facts, my friends, constitute what they call an "ass-kicking." But despite all of the evidence to the contrary, the GOP yakkers are saying that it wasn't a referendum on the president or Iraq, and the corruption issue isn't relevant.
Bollocks. It's all of those things, and they got their asses handed to them. Which makes me happy deep inside, where I can still feel childlike joy.
A couple of issues of note. Virginia uses electronic voting, so any recount is going to make it very difficult for Allen to pick up 8,000 seats. But state law allows for a process lasting several weeks before the numbers are finalized. That leaves a lot of time for chicanery and shenanigans, and that gives me hives.
In the event that Webb wins, the Dems have a plurality of one, not an outright majority. That means they have to keep Lieberman on board. He could easily jump ship-- I have no faith in him, since he's proven himself so clearly a whore. The GOP could offer him a juicy committee chair, and he could quite easily say, "The Democrats rejected me and Republicans accepted me, so...." And then it's a 50-50 split, with Cheney casting the deciding vote. So what plum do the Dems have to offer Lieberman? Nothing too good, I hope.
On the Lieberman issue, I'm still pretty upset with MoveOn. Their push-poll months ago when they asked their donors' blessing to go after Lieberman was, I believe, the first step to this precarious situation. Not to say that I think ill of Ned Lamont or any of his many supporters. He ran a great race and made a huge impact. Unfortunately, its ultimate effect was to push Lieberman farther to the right. Now a Democrat-in-name-only is not even that. And that split allows the right to claim a victory over those shrill, angry bloggers on the left who tried to drag the noble Democrats into a politically-correct, Bush-hating, litmus-testing witch hunt.
As to Rumsfeld's resignation, I'm surprised, but not shocked. Bush told the American people last week that Rumsfeld was his guy and wasn't going anywhere. But today he said that he fudged that fact (read: lied) because he didn't want to influence the election. Same reason why the Baker report on Iraq policy is being held now, and why "Phase II" of the Senate Report on Pre-war Iraq Intelligence, which was to focus on the White House's misuse of the intelligence, was held until after the 2004 election (and we're still waiting on that one...).
It was a political move, like everything else in George Bush's world. First, it takes the huge Democratic ass-kicking off the front page. Second, it allows the lame-duck Senate to confirm Gates while they still have the majority, without too many pesky questions being asked. Third, it means that credit for any change in Iraq policy can be claimed by Bush/Gates, rather than attributed to new congressional leadership and oversight. And finally, Rumsfeld can easily dodge congressional hearings, because now it would look like Democrats picking on a frail, old retired man, rather than holding to account the defiant, belligerent jackass he heretofore has been.
I fear that the right-wing blowhards have done such an effective job of vilifying Nancy Pelosi as a frothing-at-the-mouth Red that she will do everything possible to prove them wrong, and thereby hamstring herself and the Democratic majority. Hardly any point in your opponent attacking you when you've already taken a dive.
I'm interested to see how the media spin comes out. I see Wolf Blitzer playing Bush apologist in an interview with Pelosi as I type this, falsely accusing her of calling Bush a "liar," and repeating Bush's mantra that "Stay the Course" is no longer his mantra. Earlier, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux called Pelosi "disrespectful" at Bush's press conference this morning. Several reporters have trotted out the impeachment scarecrow, despite the Democratic leadership's promise that they wouldn't go that route (a pledge I think is fantastically ill-advised). And why the hell would anybody care what indicted former GOP thug Tom DeLay has to say about anything at all?
What will Keith Olbermann say on tonight's broadcast, I wonder. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert. Funny that these are the news sources I'm looking forward to hearing from tonight. I know what to expect from pretty much everyone else.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Richard Berman is a filthy liar

Columnist distorts truth, makes money by attacking unions and their leaders

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, April 11, 2006

By Dave Saldana

Richard Berman's guest commentary ("The Private Sector: Power to the people? " April 4) raises a few interesting questions.

First, does Mr. Berman believe that American workers are stupid? He must, inasmuch as he asserts that they are unable to see the glaring truth that their bosses are so much better than unions. The 52 percent of working people who side with labor apparently lack capacity to understand that union workers are getting shorted, despite the fact that AFL-CIO research shows the average union worker's wages are 28 percent higher than nonunion workers', and non-union workers are five times less likely to have health insurance. (Source: AFL-CIO Voice@Work Campaign).




Related Coverage

Letters to the Business Editor: 4/11/06




In attacking card-check elections, Mr. Berman claims it is susceptible to "harassment and intimidation." But who exactly has the power to harass and intimidate? He claims 9,000 incidents of union violence or intimidation in the past 30 years. Yet in 1998 alone, 24,000 workers lost their jobs for exercising their right to form a union, according to Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner. Her research shows that bosses illegally fire workers in 25 percent of union organizing campaigns, and nearly eight in 10 workers believe they're likely to be fired for trying to organize. Any worker who's tried to organize can tell you about bribes, spying and threats to fire workers or close the business. So precisely who, Mr. Berman, is coercing whom?

Mr. Berman points to 13,815 discrimination claims against unions since 2000. That seems like a lot, until you see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received complaints of 114,935 discriminatory acts by private employers in 2005 alone, and that was a 5 percent decline from 2004. (Source: Washington Post 3/30/06).

He also claims that $400 million in fines have been paid in Labor Department racketeering investigations. What he fails to note is that, according to the DOL inspector general, the biggest fines were paid by corporations and their officers for defrauding unions (more than $100 million in a single instance), and the investigation includes nonunion workplaces. (Source: DOL Office of the Inspector General Semiannual Report to the Congress, pp.33-38, www.oig.dol.gov/public/semiannuals/54.pdf).

So the question for Mr. Berman is, by leaving out this information, is he merely being lazy or is he deliberately trying to mislead the reader?

Mr. Berman's resume suggests the more nefarious answer. A lobbyist for Big Tobacco, restaurants and bars (he attacked Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to press for an increase in the legal limit for driving under the influence), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he has opposed banning cancer-causing pesticides, increasing the minimum wage and the Americans with Disabilities Act. His favored tactic is to smear the opposition, once telling fast-food trade publication Chain Leader, "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger."

It appears that Mr. Berman has never met a corporate cause too disgraceful to take its money.

Mr. Berman also is drawing the attention of the IRS. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint in November 2004 challenging the tax-exempt status of one of Mr. Berman's "Astroturf," or fake grass-roots, organizations. CREW says Mr. Berman takes corporate donations to form 501(c)(3) "educational" organizations, then hires himself as the executive director of the organization, and in that capacity hires his lobbying and public relations firm Berman & Co., thus funneling as much as 79 percent of the donations into his own pocket. In a business that is not known for its candor, Mr. Berman strains credibility. (Source: www.citizensforethics.org/filelibrary/BermanBrief.pdf).

There is no doubt that many unions could do much more to ensure that their organizations are truly democratic, providing their members with authority to decide the union's path and oversight of its officers' conduct. The facts, however, demonstrate conclusively that union members do better than their nonunion counterparts in wages, benefits and job security.

Mr. Berman is ill-equipped to address those facts, so he ignores them. If Mr. Berman's criticisms held any water, he wouldn't have to bend the truth, blur the facts and cook the data to support them.

It is not the working people of America who don't understand the relationship between labor and management, Mr. Berman. It's you. But fortunately for you, you're very well paid to be so badly informed.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The usual suspects

It’s hard not to laugh about former White House policy advisor
Claude Allen, busted for ripping off a Maryland Target store in
a nickel-and-dime scam. Allen is accused of buying goods,
putting them to his car, then taking identical items off the
shelf and returning them for refunds. This from a guy Bush
nominated to a federal appeals court in 2003.
Allen is about to learn a lesson that Hunter S. Thompson wrote
about many years ago: “In a closed society where everybody’s
guilty, the only crime is getting caught.”
The Republican machine is about as closed a society as you can
get; Jeff Foxworthy couldn’t come up with relationships that
unnaturally close. You’d drive yourself batty trying to unravel
who’s greasing whose palm, who’s scratching whose back, and who
paid whom for what.
And man-oh-man, are these guys guilty. Lately, the GOP roll call
reads more like a rap sheet. Here’s a short list of notable
Republicans convicted, indicted, or under investigation recently:
•Rep. Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader– “The Hammer” is indicted
for money laundering in connection with the redistricting of Texas.
DeLay is accused of funneling corporate donations to his PAC
through the Republican National Committee to fund state
legislative candidates. It’s quite a feat to get nailed for
corruption in Texas, where they say an ethical politician is one
who stays bought. DeLay’s constituents in southeast Texas
recently gave him an overwhelming victory in a primary race.
•Sen. Bill Frist, Majority Leader– Dr. Frist is under investigation
by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider
trading. Frist owned a big chunk of stock in his family’s business,
Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Frist wasn’t supposed to
know that, because he sometimes has to vote on healthcare issues
that can affect the stock’s performance, clearly a conflict of
interest. Years ago it was put into a blind trust, where Frist
said it would not influence his vote. But somehow, Frist directed
the trustee of his blind trust to sell the stock Frist didn’t know he
owned just before its value took a 9-percent nosedive that Frist
didn’t know was coming.
•Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (CA)– Duke pleaded guilty and got
100 months in prison for accepting bribes for defense contracts.
The first Navy fighter ace of the Vietnam war took millions of
dollars from a contractor named Mitchell Wade, and another named
Brent Wilkes (also linked to DeLay), to push for equipment and
services the military didn’t want or need. Wade bought Cunningham’s
home for $700,000 over market value, gave Cunningham a yacht to
live in rent-free (registered to Wade, but named “Duke-Stir”), and
showered him with cash and loans that Wade repaid.
•Rep. Katherine Harris (FL)– The former Florida Secretary of State
whose obstruction and delay helped the Supreme Court to hand the
2000 election to Bush is now under Cunningham’s cloud. She
reportedly accepted illegal contributions from Wade, then lobbied
on his behalf for a $10 million contract. Harris went into hiding
and may abandon a Senate run after the scandal broke.
•Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former V.P. Chief of Staff– Libby is
indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation
into the leaking of the covert status of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent
and wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The leak is believed to
be payback for Wilson’s exposing the Bush Administration’s lie that
Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. Wilson knew it was a lie
because the Bush White House sent him to Niger to check it out. So
to punish Wilson for outing Bush as a liar, Bush’s people responded
by outing Wilson's wife as a spy.
•Jack Abramoff, Republican lobbyist/fundraiser– Where to start?
“Casino Jack” bilked Indian tribes out of millions by working with one
group to shut down rival casinos, then took the rivals’ money to open
them up again. He also established a rent-a-legislator operation that
took corporate contributions to buy lobbyists who used to work for
legislators who voted on laws that allowed corporations to avoid
regulations that were developed by lobbyists who used to work for
legislators to whom corporations gave campaign contributions. And
Abramoff got paid at every step. No high-tech computer scams, no
James Bond schemes. Just good, old fashioned corruption.
The list could go on: Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, implicated in Abramoff’s
bribery scandal; Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition
and candidate for Lt. Governor in Georgia linked to Abramoff’s Indian
casino scam; Focus on the Family moralist James Dobson, also linked
to the Indian casino scandal. And let’s not forget Dick Cheney, a man
so scary that he shot a guy, and the victim apologized. “I’m terribly
sorry you shot me in the face.”
These folks make La Cosa Nostra look like a kid selling quarter slugs
in a video arcade. And that’s before you get to the big-ticket items
like Iraq, Katrina, and illegal wiretaps.
Sometimes the wheels of justice grind very slowly, but they grind
very fine. So be patient. Waiting for the Republicans to finally get
their just desserts is like watching a bull get devoured by a
caterpillar. It takes an awful lot of bites, but eventually the bull
will fall.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

two parts punk, one part ?

I am 65% Punk Rock.
Punk Like Hank.
The intelligent punk. Tuff and Smart. I may be able to maintain a train of thought long enough... What the fuck was I talking about?