Friday, December 19, 2008

GOP slams Bush over bailout

I may have been a little hasty and a little harsh in my criticism of Republican legislators. It seems we do have some Republicans with courage and principle. They are making me proud.

Politico just reported, "Republican leaders across the board have let loose on President Bush’s auto industry bailout in what may be some of the toughest GOP criticism of the Bush presidency." And, a "cast of other angry fiscal conservatives" are criticizing Bush.

According to Politico, John McCain is leading the charge. "It is unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry,” McCain is quoted as saying.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) makes the point that it is an illegal use of the TRPA funds to use those funds to bailout the auto industry. “These funds were not authorized by Congress for non-financial companies in distress,” Gregg said, “but were to be used to restore liquidity and stability in the overall financial system of the country and to help prevent fundamental systemic risks in the global marketplace.”

It is probably too late to impeach Bush. There is probably no easy mechanism to stop the President from misappropriating funds. I wish someone would introduce legislation to repeal TRPA or impound the remaining funds. This abuse of power should not be allowed to stand.

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Bush orders emergency bailout of the auto industry

The AP just reported: “Citing imminent danger to the national economy, President Bush ordered an emergency bailout of the U.S. auto industry Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans and demanding tough concessions from the deeply troubled carmakers and their workers.”

It looks like President Bush has determined to take one more dictatorial action before he leaves office and again give the Constitution the middle finger. I would like to throw a shoe at him.

The auto bailout failed. Congress has spoken. We live in a Democracy with an elected legislature and when Congress voted against the bailout that was supposed to end it. The Troubled Asset Relief Program was not passed to become the President’s private slush fund. Congress did not give Bush a blank check to spend that money however he wanted. The TARP was clearly appropriated to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions and restore liquidity to the market. It is illegal to take money specifically appropriated for one purpose and spend it on something else. If Congress appropriates money for children’s health care, is it OK if a president takes it and uses it to fund a military campaign? There is no difference. I more upset by the abuse of power than I am that the auto industry will get the bailout. If this is the way we are going to do business, we might as well abolish Congress and vest all power in a single individual.

Since the majority of the Democrats desire to bail out the auto industry, they won’t challenge Bush on this decision. Republicans, most of whom do not want the bailout, won’t mount a challenge a President of their own party who is on his way out the door. Bush will get by with this abuse of power.

For Democrats, I am convinced that what is achieved is much more important than how it is achieved and for Republicans, I am convinced that party is more important than principle. No one gives a damn about the separation of powers and the Constitution.

I am glad the Bush era is over, but with an acquiescent Congress and a public that doesn’t give a damn, I don’t expect any restraint on Obama or any future Presidents who may decide to rule dictatorially. I don’t expect Obama to govern with any greater respect for the Constitution than Bush; Obama has praised Bush’s decision.

I don’t expect it, but I hope someone in Congress has the balls to challenge the legality of the Presidents decision to commit this abuse of power.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Restoring my faith in America

Senate Panel Condemns Torture, Blames Rumsfeld

Last week, The Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report that blames Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush Administration officials for torturing suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and the detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The 25-member Senate panel, without one dissent among the 12 Republican members, unanimously approved the resolution.

The Committee Reported: "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

The Bush Administration had insisted the torture of prisoners in the war on terror was the fault of a "few bad apples," and that the U.S did not engage in torture. At the same time however, Bush defended harsh interrogation techniques and redefined what had generally been considered torture as not constituting torture.

The controversial interrogation practices condemned in the report including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and the use of dogs. "These policies are wrong and must never be repeated," Senator John McCain said in a statement.

The United States has long been on record as opposing torture. Numerous laws, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and various treaties clearly prohibit it. The US was instrumental in drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which bans all forms of torture. In 1990 Congress ratified the UN’s Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We have had a record of which we could be proud.

With the start of the war in Iraq, the United States began redefining and equivocating on US policies that prohibit torture. Waterbording which had long been considered torture was redefined as not being torture. In 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of 24 specific interrogation techniques for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In court filings, FBI agents reported that detainees at Guantanamo Bay were chained in a fetal position to the floor for up to 18 hours without breaks and had to lay in their own waste, were subjected to extremes of temperature, were gagged, held in stress positions while shackled, and subjected to loud music and flashing lights. Senior administration officials denied that these techniques were torture.

In 2004 the Abu Ghraib story broke and told of sadistic humiliation of prisoners and accounts of abuse, torture, sodomy and even the death of prisoners while being interrogated. Some military personnel were punished for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, but it became clear that Abu Ghraib was not simply a case of an isolated incident of individuals violating established rules but a case of there being a climate that tolerated, condoned, or ignored torture.

In 2005 in response to the outcry over the Abu Ghraib scandal, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act which banned all cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and required that all military interrogations comply with the Army Field Manual. From 2006 to 2008, in military appropriation bills and other legislation, Congress further defined and outlawed torture.
In 2006 the military issued updated field manuals and reiterated that "no person in the custody or under the control of DOD, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, in accordance with and as defined in US law." Specific techniques which were listed as prohibited including waterbording and many of the techniques used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Torture should not be practiced by the United States. Torture is counterproductive. It elicits false confessions and it turns the people we are trying to help against us. Abu Ghriab was a recruiting opportunity for Al Qaeda in Iraq. By the U.S. actions at Abu Ghriab we created our own enemies. After seeing the pictures from Abu Ghriab, I can understand how a neutral Iraqi would join the forces fighting the United States.

Torture is not only wrong because it is a counterproductive means of interrogation and wrong because it turns people against us. It is simply wrong. It violates standards of human decency.

I am not na├»ve. We live in a mean, harsh world. I don’t believe in turning the other cheek. I accept that innocent people die in battle. I accept that under the pressure of war people do things they would not normally do. I am not a pacifist, nor do I believe that if we are only nice enough our enemies will learn to love us. However, we must treat people with basic human dignity. To commit acts of cruelty and torture robs us of our own humanity. It makes us no better than our enemies.

I do not want America to be the kind of nation that tortures people. That is not who we are. That is not the United States that I know and love. I want to be proud of the United States of America and proud of our men and women in uniform. In the past, Americans could say with a clear conscious that American does not condone torture. We could say it is not American policy to treat people inhumanly. However, for a while, we could not say that.

President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld brought shame upon our county. I am glad that the US Congress and the military have put the U.S. back on record as unequivocally not engaging in torture and cruelty. My faith in my country is being restored.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On auto crisis, Sen. Corker is the voice of reason

By Gail Kerr, The Tennessean, December 16, 2008

Bob Corker was right.

You can say whatever you want about the motivations of the junior senator from Tennessee — that he was trying to set up a favorable labor environment to greet the new Volkswagen investors in his hometown of Chattanooga, that he's a union buster, that it's easy for a multimillionaire to coach from the sidelines.

Still, he was absolutely right. If the United Auto Workers and other unions and employee groups don't realize they've got to bend right now, they're going to be out of work. (link)

Comment
Gail Kerr is exactly right and she says it well.

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Groping Hillary


President-elect Obama's chief speechwriter Jon Favreau was photographed groping a stand-up photo of secretary of state nominee Sen. Hillary Clinton.
I have no brilliant insight or cutting commentary about this. I am posting it just because I find it funny.

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The Cost of Green

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, Wednesday, December 03, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Economy: Stimulating the economy with massive new investments in "green" infrastructure seems to be a popular idea, and President-elect Obama has made it a centerpiece of his program. Will it work? We doubt it. (link)

Comment
I accept the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and is primarily caused by human activity. I believe we must address the issue. However, the claim that solving the problem will be easy or cheap, I have always thought was pure unadulterated propaganda and wishful thinking. To go green will take money. It will take lots of money. It will require making everything that emits CO2 more expensive by either a carbon tax, or a hidden carbon tax in the form of a system of cap and trade; or massive subsidies to make alternatives cheaper; or regulations to prohibit carbon emissions and thus forcing consumers to use more expensive sources of energy and buy more expensive products. Take your pick but no matter how we approach it, it will be very costly.

This article says that the claim that “investments” in green technology will create five million jobs is simply false. It is more likely that 900,000 more jobs will be lost than created. I think we must get serious about addressing global warming, but don’t start by telling fairy tales.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to get a Bailout










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