April 28, 2006

Some Names Have Changed, But The Song's The Same

Over the last few months we've all noticed a slight metamorphosis going on in the White House. Dubya swapped out Chief-of-Staff Andy Card for Joshua Bolton. More recently he swapped out Presidential Spokesliar Scott McClellan for Tony Snow, a former Fox News contributor. As we ask ourselves why these changes (and I'm sure there are more to come) are taking place, we also have to ask ourselves if the strategy is going to work?

Obviously the Bush Administration saw its popularity and polling numbers deep in the crapper, and thought a few cosmetic changes will fix this problem. However, what George & Dick are too thick to realize, is that this problem is so much deeper than a few ancillary, relatively insignificant players. Let's face it - Andy Card really never had any true power in the White House, and Scott McClellan never had any credibility in articulating what was going on in the White House, mainly because the White House itself has no credibility.

What the American people are seeing is that the Bush Administration is made up of a bunch of evil, deceitful, manipulative, money-grubbing bastards who don't care one bit about the people in this country or any other. They don't care one bit about the economic climate in this country or any other. They don't care one bit about the environmental climate in this country or any other. They care about making profit for themselves and their friends, and about grabbing power and control.

The Reverse Robin Hood

The whole basis of the Bush administration's strategy has been to shift the wealth from those who don't already have much, to those who already have most of it. Really. They're stealing from the poor (and middle class) and giving to the rich! They're doing this by shifting the tax burden from the rich to the middle class by instituting huge tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthier populace. (By the way, not only does the middle class bear the brunt of that burden, but so will our children, and our children's children, and our children's, children's children).

Now with gas prices in the $3.00+ / gal range, I see yet another Reverse Robin Hood. Let's face it - the working people are paying for the profits of the money-grubbing oil companies. And who benefits? Bush & Cheney's friends in the oil industry, of course. I'll just call them "Their base".

The Bushies continue to say that "... there's no magic wand that will bring down gas prices....", but I disagree. There are certainly some things that our government could do to bring down the price of gas:

  • The Bush Administration could threaten the oil industry with Windfall Profits taxes if they don't adjust their gas prices to voluntarily limit their gargantuan profits.
  • Many experts believe that the price of oil is very much a function of the turmoil in the Middle East. Well... isn't our government the cause of so much of that turmoil? I say "Pull Out!". Leave the Middle East to the Middle East'ers and get rid of that American Imperialistic mentality. If we pulled out of that region and stopped pissing off the Islamic community, maybe the turmoil will dissipate and we can move on to a relationship of economic cooperation.
  • When we had the chance to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, what did we do? Just the opposite - we increased our dependence on foreign oil? Tell me George, why did you roll back the very achievable fuel-efficiency standards that were established in the Clinton Administration? Why did you give tax incentives for gas-guzzeling Hummers?

The Rot Starts At The Root

The American people have begun to realize that our country is headed in the wrong direction because our government is corrupt, self-serving, and deceitful. Changing a few ancillary players will not fix this because the problem goes right to the top, with George & Dick.

If you want to fix this America, vote Democratic in the next election. If you want to fix this, give the House & Senate back to the Democrats so we can get impeachment proceedings underway for both of these clowns.

America can't wait for 2008.

April 21, 2006

Presidential TV Show Round-Up

As my readers well know - I'm a huge fan of two TV shows in particular which are centered around the American Presidency. Even though they're fiction, I'm particularly intrigued by their content and perspective which invariably hit home-runs in my book.

A "Commander-In-Chief" Veto

This week the ABC series "Commander-In-Chief" resumed after a 6-week hiatus. Those of you who've read my blog in the past know that I'm a big fan of this program, not just because the president is a woman, and not just because she's an Independent, but because she governs with her head and her heart instead of using a coalition of political contributors to formulate all of her policies & decisions. In this week's episode she's sponsoring a bill to address the homeless problem in our country.

And then there're the evil Republicans

As we know, President MacKenzie Allen's nemesis is the Speaker of the House - Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland) who is jockeying & posturing for a run for the oval office himself. He pressures a political colleague/lackey to attach an amendment to her 'Homeless Initiative Bill' that increases prison space in his home district. It's an obvious pork-barrel political move, but President Allen (Geena Davis) is ultimately forced to veto her own bill in order to block the amendment (which, by the way, cost more than the initial bill for the homeless initiative).

What did we learn from this episode? We learned that a president with a strong heart and a solid footing in common sense can make a difficult decision when s/he knows an injustice was done. We learned that a president doesn't have to succumb to the manipulation of lobbyists or political power-brokers. And we learned that a president can do the right thing, which isn't necessarily the 'right' thing.

Lawmaking & Swift-boating

At the risk of getting a little off track, this episode also shines a light on how lawmaking works in Washington. After a well-intentioned bill is sponsored by a legislator (or several), it undergoes a metamorphesis through a barrage of attachments from self-serving, lobbyist-influenced Congressmen/women & Senators until the bill is nothing like what was originally introduced. We've seen this a zillion times such as when Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina relief was attached to a Defense appropriations bill. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing. Or, how about when a multi-million dollar attachment is added to an energy bill to build a bridge in Alaska? Or, as an example in reverse, when an well-meaning attachment is derailed, like reducing tax-cuts for the wealthy to help pay for war-time Defense spending.

The problem arises when a lawmaker votes against a bill in protest to one or more of those undeserving and/or costly pork-barrel attachments. When it comes down to a final vote, after all the attachments have been afixed, the lawmakers can only vote yea or ney on the bill as a whole. Invariably a lawmaker may vote against a bill even though s/he agrees with parts of it in principle. However, that won't stop political enemies from using a lawmaker's voting record for smearing (or "swift-boating") purposes, making it look like they're for-or-against a particular issue because of a vote on a bill 'package', even though that stand on the issue is far from the truth.

Revisiting John Kerry the "Flip-Flopper"

Think of how many ignorant sheeple actually believed John Kerry, a decorated war veteran, was against supporting our troops after being exposed to the Republican's (i.e. Roveian) misleading message. No - he was against a pork-laden, bloated, Defense supplement that didn't include a moritorium on tax cuts for the wealthy to help pay for it, didn't include healthcare coverage for returning veterans, and did include cutting combat pay for active soldiers. But the neo-cons controlled 'the message', and all the ignorant sheeple heard was that John Kerry was a flip-flopper who voted for the war and against the troops.

By the way, not only did John Kerry NOT vote AGAINST the troops, but John Kerry did NOT vote FOR the war either, although so many Republican pundits and media talking heads purported & reported as such. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, then I invite you to read Kerry's speech on the Senate floor leading up to the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. After Bush's statement a month before - "If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force... It's a chance for Congress to say, 'we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.' That's what this is all about.'' - and Bush's cooked-up/cherry-picked/coerced/fabricated intelligence on Sadaam's WMD's, John Kerry voted for the resolution as a show of support for the President, but only as an absolute last resort, and only with overwhelming international support. He did not endorse the war.

Oh, but I digress. Back to the fiction...

The West Wing's "Requiem"

The euphoria was subdued after Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits, Democratic presidential candidate) won the election on the heels of the election-day death of his Vice-presidential running mate - Leo McGarry. Of course this wasn't the original story-line, but the actual death of actor John Spencer necessitated a re-direction in the plot. There were a number of sub-plots in this episode, not the least of which was a myriad of 'hook-ups' between the various players, but what I wanted to focus on was what President-elect Matt Santos was pushing as his first priority in proposed legislation having just won the presidential election.

Even as he's interviewing potential leaders in the House and negotiating with all the people looking for jobs in his new administration, his highest priority was legislation on lobbying reform. He wanted to eliminate the flow of money between lobbyists and lawmakers. How radical is that! This is something I've been preaching for a long time, and here on The West Wing, the president-elect is hell-bent on pushing it through as his highest priority. And why is it such a high priority? Because lobbying reform is the predecessor for all of the other legislation that will follow. In order for the president to move his agenda forward, he wanted prevent the dirty, scummy, slimey, money-grubbing lobbyists from buying their own legislation (or obstructionism) which would derail his agenda. Instead, he believes that lobbyists should argue for their legislation on the merits of their legislation. Novel idea, don'tcha think?

The other thing I thought was interesting in this episode was that President-elect Santos argued several times in favor of appointing a Republican to one of his cabinet posts (I believe he had a specific individual in mind for Secretary of Defense). Another novel idea? Well, not really. As we recall, President Clinton appointed a Republican - William Cohen - as his Secretary of Defense. Has Dubya crossed party lines to appoint the most competent person possible for any position in his administration? Not that I can recall. In fact, not only has he NOT crossed party lines despite his "I'm a uniter, not a divider" rhetoric, but he has consistently appointed people in his administration based on loyalty and political payback, instead of competence and ability.

In Summary

Again, I know it's fiction, but I can't help but draw the comparisons. Here are two separate leaders (one a President, one a President-elect), making the correct decisions and leading with vision, heart, and common sense. They're acting in the best interests of the country, not in the best interests of the lobbyists and political contributors. But unfortunately, this is fiction and Geena Davis & Jimmy Smits really are only 'acting', while the reality we're stuck with, is the opposite end of the spectrum.

April 14, 2006

If I Were President - Part 4 - Ethical Conduct

"The people running our government are liars and cannot be trusted."

One of the key things I've learned as a blogger and political activist, having been astute and aware of the goings on in Washington, and incessantly craving any and all news & opinion from both progressive and conservative sources, is that corruption is utterly rampant in our government. I've addressed it in several other articles in my blog, particularly under the guise of campaign finance. But there's more, much more to bring to light.

There's more to bring to light, because unethical behavior is much more than just corruption. Corruption implies some flow of money for political favors, but ethical behavior, particularly in our elected representatives, is paramount to a working democracy. Ethical behavior is a requirement for trust & integrity. Ethical behavior in our elected officials implies that they're making decisions and advocating for the betterment of their constituency, not themselves.

The Lying

At the root of ethical behavior is that of telling the truth. This is where I have a huge problem with the current administration. Every day, more and more, the reality is reinforced, that the people in the Bush Administration (and I do mean ALL of them) simply do not tell the truth... at all. Sometimes it's proven immediately, and sometimes it takes a while, but by and large, EVERYTHING spewing out of the pie-holes of these assholes is false. And I don't just mean un-true... I mean KNOWINGLY false.

Just this week, after hearing reinforcement of the fact that Bush himself was an integral player in the classified intelligence leaks of 2003 (i.e. the attacks on Joseph Wilson & Valerie Plame), we're hearing that the WMD's the Bushies were claiming to have found in Iraq, weren't even close to being weapons of any kind. Let's revisit....

Yes, we know that there were no WMD's found in Iraq, even though many ignorant sheeple still think there were. They did find however, some trucks that the Bush Administration was claiming to be mobile weapons labs. The fact is, even AFTER these trucks were discovered to be anything but weaponry, the Bush Administration continued to purport that they were mobile weapons labs and that we finally found the WMDs!

This is just one more straw in an already broken camel's back to remind us that the people running our government are liars and cannot be trusted. There are whole volumes dedicated to the subject such as Al Franken's "The Truth (with Jokes)" & "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them", David Corn's "The Lies of George W. Bush", and Eric Alterman & Mark J. Green's "The Book on Bush: How George W. (mis)leads America". I have read all of these and highly, highly recommend each of them.

In my opinion, nothing said by any of these neo-cons can be accepted as either true or honest. In fact, I would go so far as to say that with anything they claim, we should assume the opposite.

So Here's My Point...

The people we (s)elect to govern us must be held accountable to the highest ethical standards. These are the people who will make so many critical decisions in our proxy. These are the people who allocate our tax dollars for the betterment of our country, our environment, and everything in between. These are the people who speak for us to neighboring and far-away nations. These are the people whose actions today will shape our future.

These people should be a model of ethical behavior. As our leaders they should be setting an example. They should be epitome of integrity. But they're not. Instead, they are lying, conniving, reckless, selfish, evil, manipulative, imperialistic bastards. The poll numbers tell a very interesting story... the people see right through them.

If I were president, I would hold the highest regard for integrity & ethical behavior. I would demand honesty. I would tell the truth and expect nothing less than that from EVERYONE in my administration.

April 07, 2006

If I Were President - Part 3 - Finance Reform

Just under a year ago I published an article about corruption in government. Now, as I talk about what I would do "If I Were President", I'd like to draw from that article because I feel the content is still fresh and meaningful, particularly as scandals continue to engulf Washington.

One of the biggest problems with our political system is that our politicians are so utterly corrupt. And the reason they're so utterly corrupt is twofold. Firstly, there is a tremendous requirement for money to finance their campaigns. All of the staffing, promotion & advertising, office supplies, and vote-purchasing doesn't come cheap ya know. Secondly, there is a tremendous amount of money being waved in front of them by lobbyists who represent business interests. These two forces create a vicious & relentless cycle of corruption in our political system. More notably, our 'elected' politicians clearly do not represent the interests of their constituencies, or even the country. They represent, advocate, legislate, and wheedle for the interests of their contributors - big & powerful businesses & industries.

Follow The Money

Now think about the flow of money... You as a consumer overpay for many of the products you consume, because some of that cost goes to finance the product's manufacturer's operations & strategic direction. That manufacturer in turn funnels umpteen thousands (or perhaps millions) of dollars into the coffers of politicians who are on the hook to legislate favorably for them. The politicians, as a way of scratching the backs of the lobbyists & industries who finance them, promote legislation which rolls back regulations and protections, that come back to hurt us. In the end, we as consumers have virtually financed global warming, increased pollution, lower wages, lower standards of living, increased instances of worker fatalities & injuries, increased outsourcing of American jobs, increased deficit & debt, increased war-mongering and violence internationally, etc. I could go on and on.

The point is that the people in Washington, who we've elected (or selected) to represent us, have absolutely no desire, will, or impetus to do so. Their only desire is to create a perception that they represent us, while they really represent their contributors. That's the way Washington works.

Corruption is starting to surface

Over the last few months we've seen a number of political figures disgraced over corruption. Each of them have been Republicans whose thirst for power and money have overtaken their purpose and calling for why they were either elected (or selected) for their position. The most prominent names (Tom Delay, Scooter Libby, Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Jack Abramoff) fill our airwaves with the sweet sounds of Republican/Conservative downfall. However, we know (and hope) that there are many more shoes to drop. We know that Karl Rove had everything to do with the outing of Valerie Plame. We know that Dick Cheney had everything to do with the fabrication & manipulation of intelligence to justify and sell the war in Iraq. We know that Donald Rumsfeld had everything to do with the torturing & mistreatment of detainees in all of our prisons, as well as the complete and utter bungling of every facet of the wars in both Iraq & Afghanistan. We know that Condoleezza Rice had everything to do with the Bush Administration's failure to recognize and prevent 9/11. Again, I could go on and on. And those are just the scandals. But for a deeper look into the Bush Administration's corruption...

A Plug for "Bushit!"

Right now I'm currently reading this publication from Jack Huberman. The long title is: "Bushit! An A-Z Guide to the Bush Attack on Truth, Justice, Equality, and the American Way". Every American must read this book. It's a clear, concise, and cataloged accounting of corruption in the Bush administration. It goes far beyond the scandals and deep into the legislation, appointments, decisions, and policies which were spawned by lobbyist and industry contributions, and resulted in damaging, harmful, and destructive deregulation.

I've also read Huberman's earlier publication - "The Bush-Hater's Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency in the Past 100 Years". This book literally changed my life and set me on a course of political activism. This was published in December of 2003 however, so it's a little dated. "Bushit!" is Huberman's follow-up published in January of 2006. It's nothing short of amazing.

So, what to do...

Before we do anything else, we absolutely must take strides to eliminate, or at least reduce, the corruption in our government. The only way to do that is to eliminate (yes, completely eliminate) the flow of money from lobbies/business/industry to politicians. The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act took some small strides to reduce and regulate campaign contributions, but it didn't go nearly far enough.

Political campaigns need to be publicly financed with tax dollars. I know this sounds radical. On the surface it may even sound offensive if one stops to think that their tax dollars may go to finance the campaign of 'so-and-so' whom they don't want to support. Americans however, need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and realize that either way, we pay for it. Whether it's through the taxes we pay or the products we purchase, we pay for these political campaigns. There are some basic questions each American needs to ask themselves:

  1. Do I want my Senators and Representatives with or withOUT corruption?
  2. Do I want my Senators and Representatives to represent my interests or the interests of their contributors?
  3. Do I want my Senators and Representatives to be constantly trolling for money or doing their jobs?
  4. Do I want my Senators and Representatives and President to steer my country down a dangerous path of pollution, oil-dependency, deficits, deceipt, war-mongering/profiteering, economic disaster, big-brother government, fear, media manipulation, inequality, and American imperialism & arrogance? Or, do I want them to steer our country down a path of world peace, media independence, environmental protection, consumer protection, fiscal sanity, domestic tranquility, civil & human rights, truth, justice and equality?

If you stop and think about it in these terms, it's a no-brainer.