The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, June 23, 2006

New York Times | A Look at Republican Priorities: Comforting the Comfortable

A Look at Republican Priorities: Comforting the Comfortable
The New York Times | Editorial

Friday 23 June 2006

Two weeks ago, the Senate killed an effort to repeal the federal estate tax on multimillion-dollar fortunes. The "no" votes were a stand for budget sanity and basic fairness. But the pro-repeal camp doesn't want to take no for an answer.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an estate-tax cut that is a repeal in everything but name. The so-called compromise would exempt more than 99.5 percent of estates from tax, slash the tax rates on the rest and cost at least $760 billion during its first full decade. Of that, $600 billion is the amount the government would have to borrow to make up for lost revenue from the cuts, which would benefit the heirs of America's wealthiest families, like the Marses of Mars bar and the Waltons of Wal-Mart Stores. The remaining $160 billion is the interest on that borrowing, which would be paid by all Americans.

No lawmaker who voted for the compromise gets any points for moderation. Like the earlier full repeal bill, this one is unfair and grounded in intellectual dishonesty. The goal is not to pass good legislation, but to get this top priority for big-shot constituents nailed into law before the November elections produce a legislature that's more responsible on fiscal matters.

In an attempt to rally support, House lawmakers have included in the bill another, totally unrelated, tax cut - for timber companies, worth $900 million over the next three years. The measure, based on the theory that American timber companies are at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, is essentially a special-interest giveaway that would encourage every business with international competitors to demand its own tax break. There is much to reform on the competitiveness front, but it should be done comprehensively, not on the basis of who has the senators best positioned to carve out a special deal.

The timber provision is a blatant attempt to extort "yes" votes out of four Democratic senators who have supported the timber industry in the past, but who have opposed estate-tax repeal: Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both of Washington, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The idea is that if a few Democratic opponents can be enticed to vote for the estate-tax cuts, Republicans who have previously broken with their party over the issue might also go along, notably Senators George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

All this effort for a bill that would put $760 billion in new debt on the backs of Americans in the name of making a handful of extremely rich people even richer. Congressional leaders may know how to count votes, but otherwise their math is pathetic.



Go to Original

A Look at Republican Priorities: Afflicting the Afflicted
The New York Times | Editorial

Friday 23 June 2006

At the same time that Republicans are fighting to exempt the richest estates from taxes, they are blocking a raise for the nation's poorest workers.

Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully this week to raise the federal minimum wage, which stands at just $5.15 an hour. It has not been increased in nearly a decade, and at its current stingy level, the rate flies in the face of Americans' belief that those who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded. A minimum-wage worker earns just $10,700 a year, nearly $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Since the minimum wage was first adopted, there has been a long tradition of bipartisan support for regular raises. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush all signed increases into law. Americans across the political spectrum strongly support the minimum wage, and believe it should be significantly higher. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 83 percent of Americans favored increasing the minimum wage by $2.

Nevertheless, since 1997 minimum-wage increases have regularly been blocked in Congress. The restaurant industry and other low-wage employers that make heavy campaign contributions have thrown their weight around with great success. A bill sponsored by Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to increase the minimum wage by $2.10 over two years drew the support this week of 52 senators, including eight Republicans, but Republican leaders threw up procedural barriers. And in the House, Republican leaders are not letting a minimum-wage increase come to a vote, apparently because it would pass.

Just 23 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. These dismal ratings are no surprise when Congress's highest economic priority is handing out tax cuts to millionaires and oil companies, and its one point of fiscal restraint is protecting employers from having to pay a decent wage to factory workers and waiters.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Yoss - George Bush and the Setting Sun of Conservatism

George Bush and the Setting Sun of Conservatism Hotlist
by Yoss
Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 06:13:40 AM PDT

Last week, Josh Marshall had a post over at TPM where he examined what he sees as the coming death of conservatism:

With all the efforts now to disassociate President Bush from conservatism, I am starting to believe that conservatism itself -- not the political machine, mind you, but the ideology -- is heading toward that misty land-over-the-ocean where ideologies go after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. Sort of like the way post-Stalinist lefties used to say, "You can't say Communism's failed. It's just never really been tried."

But as it was with Communism, so with conservatism. When all the people who call themselves conservatives get together and run the government, they're on the line for it. Conservative president. Conservative House. Conservative Senate.

What we appear to be in for now is the emergence of this phantom conservatism existing out in the ether, wholly cut loose from any connection to the actual people who are universally identified as the conservatives and who claim the label for themselves.

New polling released today seems to confirm this...


The last six years have been a grand experiment for the conservative movement, with their complete control of the government giving them every opportunity to bring their ideals to bear on the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, things have not gone well.

As I stated in my earlier piece, Why Conservatives Will Never Love a Free Iraq, the realization of the conservative policies in Iraq has highlighted problems that exist at home as well:

The problems that conservatives have with a free Iraq are numerous and complex, but at the crux of the matter are the three areas in the political realm that they had hoped to craft and thereby control inside of the new Iraq. The domestic policy, foreign policy, and economic policy inside of this nation were to be set back at "Year Zero", in a movement more reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge than the American Dream. But as these rapid-action plans have gone into place, the difficulties in realization have put the conservatives in the place of defending their policies, and taking any small step of progress as a major victory that even they know isn't true.

They understand they are losing direct control over the Iraqi plan, their great experiment, and they aren't happy. This wasn't supposed to happen this way, and the evidence all points to a failure in ideology, rather than on a personal level.

But what evidence do we have to support that these failures are translating into a change of heart at home?

The Evidence

In 1989, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. released a book entitled, The Cycles of American History, wherein he meditated on various topics related to history and politics in the United States. One theory contained within its pages, promulgated by his father in the 1930s, speaks to the 'cycle' of American politics, and the inevitable rise and fall of political parties:

The realignment model was first launched by Samuel Lubell in 1952 with a famous astronomical metaphor. The American political solar system, Lubell suggested, had been marked "not by two equally competing suns, but by a sun and a moon. It is within the majority party that the issues of any particular period are fought out; while the minority party shines in reflected radiance of the heat thus generated...Each time one majority sun sets and a new sun arises, the drama of American politics is transformed. Figuratively and literally the new political era begins. For each new majority party brings its own orbit of conflict, its own peculiar rhythm of ethnic antagonisms, its own economic equilibrium, its own sectional balance."

Both Schlesinger Jr. and his father believed that these cycles existed on something of a decade and a half scale, whereby the liberal and conservative movements in the country would fight for dominance and then fade after their rise to power. Whether or not you agree with the infallible nature of this argument, one must admit that American political history, at least in the modern era Executive branch, has been characterized by these swings of power.

What interests me is the idea that the conservative movement's meteoric rise in the mid-1990s, coupled with the apparent mandate they were given in their post-9/11 response, has accelerated and intensified this process. Bush and the conservative movers and shakers have had six years of nearly complete control over the direction of our government, and our nation, and the results are quickly eroding the foundation of the conservative movement. This has not been a slow process, but rather one that has come quickly, as the American people have been faced with a near daily deluge of radical actions they were not prepared for. Unfortunately for the conservative movement, this accelerated political cycle may spell disaster for their movement for many, many years.

Want proof? Look at this new Gallup Poll:

The May 8-11, 2006, Gallup Poll on Values and Beliefs finds most Americans (59%) agreeing that government policies have a "significant effect on the moral values of people in this country;" only 38% dispute this. Gallup asked the same question in 1996, and found similar results (58% versus 39%).

The public is divided, however, on whether the federal government should be involved in promoting moral values, with 48% saying it should and 48% saying it should not. In 1996, Americans took a very different view on this matter, with 60% saying the government should be involved and 38% saying it should not.

That change appears to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Gallup regularly asks a similar question -- whether the government should promote traditional values or not favor any set of values. Last September, 50% of Americans said the government should promote traditional values and 47% said it should not favor any values. That was the closest the gap has been in the 13-year trend on this question. Prior to that, there had been roughly a 10 percentage point margin in favor of promoting traditional values.


The key here is that under a Republican controlled government, the belief that the government should be involved in promoting 'traditional values' has decreased. Please read that again, just so you can be certain it processed properly: The conservative school of thought is killing itself.

This is completely earth-shattering for the conservative movement, because it reflects that their actions over the last six years have actually turned people away from them, rather than rallied the American people around their value system. They have failed, and the American people are tired of it. These are the first signs of a real public opinion change on the issue of social conservatism as a movement, and it reflects what I see as a growing trend against the conservative ideology.

What Next?

The post-9/11 leadership we have seen will stay with us forever, as a reminder of these failures. It is as if we have stared at the sun too long, and no matter where we look we are followed by an indescribable stain of color and emotion. Rather than serving as a reminder of strength and courage however, this blemish on the American psyche is indicative of a political sea change in the works.

I agree with Josh Marshall that we will not see a complete 'death' of conservatism, in that it will completely disappear from the political landscape. Rather, I think the Bush administration's legacy will be the fact that it put the ideals of the conservative movement into the hearts and minds of every American. Unfortunately, the failures of nearly every policy undertaken by this administration, and the ineffectiveness of the Republican-controlled Congress, means that this indelible mark may be their downfall, rather than their salvation.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/22/91

Joshua Micah Marshall - The Death of Conservativism

With all the efforts now to disassociate President Bush from conservatism, I am starting to believe that conservatism itself -- not the political machine, mind you, but the ideology -- is heading toward that misty land-over-the-ocean where ideologies go after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. Sort of like the way post-Stalinist lefties used to say, "You can't say Communism's failed. It's just never really been tried."

But as it was with Communism, so with conservatism. When all the people who call themselves conservatives get together and run the government, they're on the line for it. Conservative president. Conservative House. Conservative Senate.

What we appear to be in for now is the emergence of this phantom conservatism existing out in the ether, wholly cut loose from any connection to the actual people who are universally identified as the conservatives and who claim the label for themselves.

We can even go a bit beyond this though. The big claim now is that President Bush isn't a conservative because he hasn't shrunk the size of government and he's a reckless deficit spender.

But let's be honest: Balanced budgets and shrinking the size of government hasn't been part of conservatism -- or to be more precise, Movement Conservatism -- for going on thirty years. The conservative movement and the Republican party are the movement and party of deficit spending. And neither has any claim to any real association with limited or small government. Just isn't borne out by any factual record or political agenda. Not in the Reagan presidency, the Bush presidency or the second Bush presidency. The intervening period of fiscal restraint comes under Clinton.

Take the movement on its own terms and even be generous about it. What's it about? And has it delivered?

Aggressive defense policy? Check.

Privatization of government services? Check.

Regulatory regimes favoring big business? Check.

Government support for traditional mores and values on sex and marriage? Check.

That about covers it. And Bush has delivered. The results just aren't good.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/008733.php

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dean Baker | Wall Street Rules

Wall Street Rules
By Dean Baker
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 21 June 2006

The idea that the government, or some arm of government, is controlled by a special interest group naturally prompts outrage. The government should be answerable to the public as a whole, not special interests that have extraordinary political power.

For this reason, it was striking to see a piece ("Confusion From the Fed Head") in the Washington Post's Outlook section in which Richard Yamarone, an investment analyst, matter of factly asserted that Wall Street controls the Federal Reserve Board of Fed. As Mr. Yamarone put it, "The Fed chairman may be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but his real bosses are on Wall Street."

This statement is an incredible indictment of the U.S. political system. The Fed has far more direct impact on the U.S. economy than any other agency of the government. It can control how many people in the United States have jobs. While the media tend to speak of the Fed's actions in euphemisms, when the Fed raises or lowers interest rates (its main policy tools) it is deciding whether the economy should create more or fewer jobs.

Cuts in interest rates are intended to boost the economy. Lower interest rates make it easier for families to buy cars and homes and for businesses to invest. If more cars and homes are sold and more factories or offices are built, then more people are employed. In the opposite case, if the Fed raises interest rates, it makes it harder to buy cars and homes and for businesses to invest. This means that fewer people will be employed.

As a practical matter, it is often easier for the Fed to destroy jobs than create them. Sometimes lower interest rates will not be sufficient to boost the economy. (A worker concerned about losing her job may be reluctant to buy a new car regardless of how low the interest rate falls.) By contrast, if the Fed raises interest rates high enough, it can be sure that it will eventually slow the economy and reduce employment.

The Fed generally decides to throw people out of work when it gets concerned about inflation, as is the case at present. The logic is simple; if unemployment increases, then workers will find it more difficult to push up wages. Bosses will decide that they can just hire another worker from among the unemployed if their current workers ask for pay increases. Since wages are a cost to businesses, if wages rise less rapidly, then costs will rise less rapidly, and firms will probably slow the pace at which they raise their prices. In other words, by using unemployment to slow wage growth, the Fed can restrain inflation.

It is important to understand that this method of restraining inflation does not affect everyone equally. The people who lose their job when the Fed raises interest rates tend to be factory workers, retail clerks, and custodians, not doctors, lawyers, and CEOs. In other words, the Fed controls inflation by forcing the middle class and poor to face higher unemployment and take pay cuts.

There is also an important racial component to the Fed's inflation fighting. As a rule of thumb, the unemployment rate for African Americans tends to be twice the overall unemployment rate, while the unemployment rate for African American teens is typically six times the overall average. This means that if the Fed pushes up the overall unemployment rate from 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent, it will raise the unemployment rate for African Americans from roughly 9.0 percent to 13.0 percent. It will raise the unemployment for African American teens from roughly 27 percent to 39 percent.

It is important to understand these facts when we hear it asserted (correctly) that the Fed answers to Wall Street. The most disadvantaged people in society are the ones who suffer when the Federal Reserve Board decides to clamp down on inflation. While many economists pretend that the decision to raise interest rates to slow inflation is an exact science, like physics, the fact is that they have almost no idea how inflation moves through the economy. The vast majority of the economics profession got inflation completely wrong in the nineties.

What does this mean? Wall Street doesn't like inflation. It hurts profits, end of story. Therefore, Wall Street demands that the Fed raise interest rates to throw poor people and African Americans out of work. That isn't the assessment of a crazed radical. You heard it from an investment analyst in the Washington Post.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. It can be found at the CEPR website, www.cepr.net.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/062106O.shtml

Troops echo frustration over war in Iraq on Yahoo! News

Troops echo frustration over war in Iraq

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press WriterWed Jun 21, 7:58 AM ET

While Staff Sgt. Randy Myers was dodging roadside bombs in Iraq, his congressman was calling the war a lost cause.

Sixteen-term Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), a decorated Vietnam veteran and military hawk, has become the face of the Democrats' anti-war movement since he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops last fall. His oft-repeated criticism of the Bush administration's war policies also has earned him the wrath of Republicans.

In Murtha's southwest Pennsylvania district, however, many share the war critic's views.

At a welcome home ceremony this week for Myers and other troops from the Johnstown, Pa.-based 876th Engineer Battalion, the crowd cheered when a Murtha aide welcomed the troops on the congressman's behalf.

Myers said he backs Murtha, an opinion echoed by a number of other troops and their families. Several share his frustration with the conflict.

"I'm not sure we're doing a whole lot of good," Myers, 46, said of the U.S. presence in Iraq. "Everybody thinks we are. We're trying to, but we're not going to change what they want to do, and if they don't want to change, they're not gonna."

Said Sgt. 1st Class George Wozniak, 36, of Murtha: "He's definitely for a strong military and he definitely supports the troops."

Patriotism runs deep in Murtha's district in the Allegheny Mountains, where joining the military is a family tradition and often an economic necessity. Many served in Vietnam and that war exacted a heavy toll, with Allegheny County losing 421 men and Washington County, part of Murtha's district, losing 67. Memorials to those killed are scattered throughout the towns and cities of western Pennsylvania.

Not far from Johnstown was the setting for the Oscar-winning 1978 movie "The Deer Hunter," which explored the impact of Vietnam on the young men of an industrial town.

Doubts about Iraq have surfaced in the region. A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday found that 25 percent in southwest Pennsylvania said all troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, while 38 percent in Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs said they should all be withdrawn.

The battalion was part of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the largest group of the state's Guard troops to fight in a combat zone since World War II. The approximately 2,000 troops were based in Anbar Province, one of the most dangerous sections of Iraq. Fifteen Pennsylvania troops from the brigade were killed during the deployment.

"I would like them out of there," said Bonnie Shable, 53, whose husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class James Shable, served in Vietnam and Iraq and returned home with the battalion this week. "I think we've done what we're going to do over there and it's time for everybody to come home."

Divisions over the war and a timetable for pulling out U.S. forces have roiled the Democrats. Republicans, looking to capitalize on the issue in an election year, have accused Democratic critics such as Murtha of espousing a "cut-and-run" approach, hoping the argument will resonate with voters.

His criticism has angered some in the district. Unopposed in 2004, Murtha has a GOP rival this time — Diana Irey, a Washington County commissioner.

Ruth Ann Biesinger-Sliko, 55, a physical education teacher who came to see a fellow teacher and six of her former students return from Iraq, said Murtha has lost her vote because of his negativity about the war.

"I think that makes the guys feel terrible when he starts, you know, bashing. I think you need to support the guys," Biesinger-Sliko said. "I think it's created a lot of bad feelings for the people whose families are over there."

Vice President Dick Cheney and White House adviser Karl Rove have assailed the congressman, with Bush's political adviser saying Democrats like Murtha "may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be there for the last tough battles."

Murtha, a Marine who did two tours in Vietnam, fired back. "He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, 'Stay the course.' That's not a plan," Murtha said of Rove on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Murtha remains popular in his district, in large part because of the federal dollars he has delivered. The homecoming ceremony this week was at an armory on a hillside dubbed "Fort Murtha" because of that largesse. Next to the armory is the John P. Murtha Airport, which is a few miles from the John P. Murtha Neuroscience and Pain Institute.

"I just believe everything he says is very true," said Cindy Saylor, 49, whose 19-year-old son was among those who returned home. "I think we need to get out of there. People are getting killed needlessly."

Not everyone in the district is happy with Murtha's outspokenness or higher political profile. The congressman has said if Democrats capture control of the House, he will seek the job of majority leader. Murtha also plans to speak at Democratic meetings in New Hampshire and Florida in the next few weeks.

A banner proclaiming, "Welcome Home Soldiers: Got-R-Done," greeted the troops when they returned. Many of the soldiers declined to be interviewed. Or, when asked about Murtha, said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.

Tom Geiger, a 79-year-old World War II veteran, said he thinks Murtha is "50 percent right and 50 percent wrong."

"Maybe they should have searched a little bit more" for weapons of mass destruction, Geiger said. "But once you're into it, you're stuck with it."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060621/ap_on_go_co/murtha_hometown_troops&printer=1;_ylt=AsKufV4lCjhZPhu.6sui1FOMwfIE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Thom Hartmann - When Democracy Failed - 2005

When Democracy Failed - 2005
The Warnings of History
by Thom Hartmann


This weekend - February 27th - is the 72nd anniversary, but the corporate media most likely won't cover it. The generation that experienced this history firsthand is now largely dead, and only a few of us dare hear their ghosts.

It started when the government, in the midst of an economic crisis, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. The intelligence services knew, however, that the odds were he would eventually succeed. (Historians are still arguing whether or not rogue elements in the intelligence service helped the terrorist. Some, like Sefton Delmer - a London Daily Express reporter on the scene - say they certainly did not, while others, like William Shirer, suggest they did.)

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted.

He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world.

His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

Two weeks later, the first detention center for terrorists was built in Oranianberg to hold the first suspected allies of the infamous terrorist. In a national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable for window display.

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

To get his patriotic "Decree on the Protection of People and State" passed over the objections of concerned legislators and civil libertarians, he agreed to put a 4-year sunset provision on it: if the national emergency provoked by the terrorist attack was over by then, the freedoms and rights would be returned to the people, and the police agencies would be re-restrained. Legislators would later say they hadn't had time to read the bill before voting on it.

Immediately after passage of the anti-terrorism act, his federal police agencies stepped up their program of arresting suspicious persons and holding them without access to lawyers or courts. In the first year only a few hundred were interred, and those who objected were largely ignored by the mainstream press, which was afraid to offend and thus lose access to a leader with such high popularity ratings. Citizens who protested the leader in public - and there were many - quickly found themselves confronting the newly empowered police's batons, gas, and jail cells, or fenced off in protest zones safely out of earshot of the leader's public speeches. (In the meantime, he was taking almost daily lessons in public speaking, learning to control his tonality, gestures, and facial expressions. He became a very competent orator.)

Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a formerly obscure word into common usage. He wanted to stir a "racial pride" among his countrymen, so, instead of referring to the nation by its name, he began to refer to it as "The Homeland," a phrase publicly promoted in the introduction to a 1934 speech recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda movie "Triumph Of The Will." As hoped, people's hearts swelled with pride, and the beginning of an us-versus-them mentality was sewn. Our land was "the" homeland, citizens thought: all others were simply foreign lands. We are the "true people," he suggested, the only ones worthy of our nation's concern; if bombs fall on others, or human rights are violated in other nations and it makes our lives better, it's of little concern to us.

Playing on this new implicitly racial nationalism, and exploiting a disagreement with the French over his increasing militarism, he argued that any international body that didn't act first and foremost in the best interest of his own nation was neither relevant nor useful. He thus withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in October, 1933, and then negotiated a separate naval armaments agreement with Anthony Eden of The United Kingdom to create a worldwide military ruling elite.

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious man and that his motivations were rooted in Christianity. He even proclaimed the need for a revival of the Christian faith across his nation, what he called a "New Christianity." Every man in his rapidly growing army wore a belt buckle that declared "Gott Mit Uns" - God Is With Us - and most of them fervently believed it was true.

Within a year of the terrorist attack, the nation's leader determined that the various local police and federal agencies around the nation were lacking the clear communication and overall coordinated administration necessary to deal with the terrorist threat facing the nation, particularly those citizens who were of Middle Eastern ancestry and thus probably terrorist and communist sympathizers, and various troublesome "intellectuals" and "liberals." He proposed a single new national agency to protect the security of the homeland, consolidating the actions of dozens of previously independent police, border, and investigative agencies under a single leader.

He appointed one of his most trusted associates to be leader of this new agency, the Central Security Office for the homeland, and gave it a role in the government equal to the other major departments.

His assistant who dealt with the press noted that, since the terrorist attack, "Radio and press are at out disposal." Those voices questioning the legitimacy of their nation's leader, or raising questions about his checkered past, had by now faded from the public's recollection as his central security office began advertising a program encouraging people to phone in tips about suspicious neighbors. This program was so successful that the names of some of the people "denounced" were soon being broadcast on radio stations. Those denounced often included opposition politicians and news reporters who dared speak out - a favorite target of his regime and the media he now controlled through intimidation and ownership by corporate allies.

To consolidate his power, he concluded that government alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the nation's largest corporations into high government positions. A flood of government money poured into corporate coffers to fight the war against the Middle Eastern ancestry terrorists lurking within the homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas. He encouraged large corporations friendly to him to acquire media outlets and other industrial concerns across the nation, particularly those previously owned by suspicious people of Middle Eastern ancestry. He built powerful alliances with industry; one corporate ally got the lucrative contract worth millions to build the first large-scale detention center for enemies of the state. Soon more would follow. Industry flourished.

He also reached out to the churches, declaring that the nation had clear Christian roots, that any nation that didn't openly support religion was morally bankrupt, and that his administration would openly and proudly provide both moral and financial support to initiatives based on faith to provide social services.

In this, he was reaching back to his own embrace of Christianity, which he noted in an April 12, 1922 speech:

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers ... was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

"In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders...

"As a Christian ... I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice..."

When he later survived an assassination attempt, he said, "Now I am completely content. The fact that I left the Burgerbraukeller earlier than usual is a corroboration of Providence's intention to let me reach my goal."

Many government functions started with prayer. Every school day started with prayer and every child heard the wonders of Christianity and - especially - the Ten Commandments in school. The leader even ended many of his speeches with a prayer, as he did in a February 20, 1938 speech before Parliament:

"In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that, as in the past, so in the years to come He would give His blessing to our work and our action, to our judgment and our resolution, that He will safeguard us from all false pride and from all cowardly servility, that He may grant us to find the straight path which His Providence has ordained for the German people, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right, never to falter, never to yield before any violence, before any danger."

But after an interval of peace following the terrorist attack, voices of dissent again arose within and without the government. Students had started an active program opposing him (later known as the White Rose Society), and leaders of nearby nations were speaking out against his bellicose rhetoric. He needed a diversion, something to direct people away from the corporate cronyism being exposed in his own government, questions of his possibly illegitimate rise to power, his corruption of religious leaders, and the oft-voiced concerns of civil libertarians about the people being held in detention without due process or access to attorneys or family.

With his number two man - a master at manipulating the media - he began a campaign to convince the people of the nation that a small, limited war was necessary. Another nation was harboring many of the suspicious Middle Eastern people, and even though its connection with the terrorist who had set afire the nation's most important building was tenuous at best, it held resources their nation badly needed if they were to have room to live and maintain their prosperity.

He called a press conference and publicly delivered an ultimatum to the leader of the other nation, provoking an international uproar. He claimed the right to strike preemptively in self-defense, and nations across Europe - at first - denounced him for it, pointing out that it was a doctrine only claimed in the past by nations seeking worldwide empire, like Caesar's Rome or Alexander's Greece.

It took a few months, and intense international debate and lobbying with European nations, but, after he personally met with the leader of the United Kingdom, finally a deal was struck. After the military action began, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told the nervous British people that giving in to this leader's new first-strike doctrine would bring "peace for our time." Thus Hitler annexed Austria in a lightning move, riding a wave of popular support as leaders so often do in times of war. The Austrian government was unseated and replaced by a new leadership friendly to Germany, and German corporations began to take over Austrian resources.

In a speech responding to critics of the invasion, Hitler said, "Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say; even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier [into Austria] there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators."

To deal with those who dissented from his policies, at the advice of his politically savvy advisors, he and his handmaidens in the press began a campaign to equate him and his policies with patriotism and the nation itself. National unity was essential, they said, to ensure that the terrorists or their sponsors didn't think they'd succeeded in splitting the nation or weakening its will.

Rather than the government being run by multiple parties in a pluralistic, democratic fashion, one single party sought total control. Emulating a technique also used by Stalin, but as ancient as Rome, the Party used the power of its influence on the government to take over all government functions, hand out government favors, and reward Party contributors with government positions and contracts.

In times of war, they said, there could be only "one people, one nation, and one commander-in-chief" ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer"), and so his advocates in the media began a nationwide campaign charging that critics of his policies were attacking the nation itself. You were either with us, or you were with the terrorists.

It was a simplistic perspective, but that was what would work, he was told by his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels: "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."

Those questioning him were labeled "anti-German" or "not good Germans," and it was suggested they were aiding the enemies of the state by failing in the patriotic necessity of supporting the nation's valiant men in uniform. It was one of his most effective ways to stifle dissent and pit wage-earning people (from whom most of the army came) against the "intellectuals and liberals" who were critical of his policies.

Another technique was to "manufacture news," through the use of paid shills posing as reporters, seducing real reporters with promises of access to the leader in exchange for favorable coverage, and thinly veiled threats to those who exposed his lies. As his Propaganda Minister said, "It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion."

Nonetheless, once the "small war" annexation of Austria was successfully and quickly completed, and peace returned, voices of opposition were again raised in the Homeland. The almost-daily release of news bulletins about the dangers of terrorist communist cells wasn't enough to rouse the populace and totally suppress dissent. A full-out war was necessary to divert public attention from the growing rumbles within the country about disappearing dissidents; violence against liberals, Jews, and union leaders; and the epidemic of crony capitalism that was producing empires of wealth in the corporate sector but threatening the middle class's way of life.

A year later, to the week, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

In the months after that, he claimed that Poland had weapons of mass destruction (poison gas) and was supporting terrorists against Germany. Those who doubted that Poland represented a threat were shouted down or branded as ignorant. Elections were rigged, run by party hacks. Only loyal Party members were given passes for admission to public events with the leader, so there would never be a single newsreel of a heckler, and no doubt in the minds of the people that the leader enjoyed vast support.

And his support did grow, as Propaganda Minister Goebbels' dictum bore fruit:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

Within a few months Poland, too, was invaded in a "defensive, pre-emptive" action. The nation was now fully at war, and all internal dissent was suppressed in the name of national security; it was the end of Germany's first experiment with democracy.

As we conclude this review of history, there are a few milestones worth remembering.

February 27, 2005, is the 72nd anniversary of Dutch terrorist Marinus van der Lubbe's successful firebombing of the German Parliament (Reichstag) building, the terrorist act that catapulted Hitler to legitimacy and reshaped the German constitution. By the time of his successful and brief action to seize Austria, in which almost no German blood was shed, Hitler was the most beloved and popular leader in the history of his nation. Hailed around the world, he was later Time magazine's "Man Of The Year."

Most Americans remember his office for the security of the homeland, known as the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and its SchutzStaffel, simply by its most famous agency's initials: the SS.

We also remember that the Germans developed a new form of highly violent warfare they named "lightning war" or blitzkrieg, which, while generating devastating civilian losses, also produced a highly desirable "shock and awe" among the nation's leadership according to the authors of the 1996 book "Shock And Awe" published by the National Defense University Press.

Reflecting on that time, The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) left us this definition of the form of government the German democracy had become through Hitler's close alliance with the largest German corporations and his policy of using religion and war as tools to keep power: "fas-cism (fâsh'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

Today, as we face financial and political crises, it's useful to remember that the ravages of the Great Depression hit Germany and the United States alike. Through the 1930s, however, Hitler and Roosevelt chose very different courses to bring their nations back to power and prosperity.

Germany's response was to use government to empower corporations and reward the society's richest individuals, privatize much of the commons, stifle dissent, strip people of constitutional rights, bust up unions, and create an illusion of prosperity through government debt and continual and ever-expanding war spending.

America passed minimum wage laws to raise the middle class, enforced anti-trust laws to diminish the power of corporations, increased taxes on corporations and the wealthiest individuals, created Social Security, and became the employer of last resort through programs to build national infrastructure, promote the arts, and replant forests.

To the extent that our Constitution is still intact, the choice is again ours.

Thom Hartmann (www.thomhartmann.com) lived and worked in Germany during the 1980s, is the Project Censored Award-winning, best-selling author of over a dozen books, and is the host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk radio program. This article, in slightly altered form, was first published in 2003 by CommonDreams.org and is now also a chapter in Thom's book What Would Jefferson Do?, published in 2004 by Random House/Harmony.

http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0222-22.htm

Private Contracts Take Beating in Report

Private Contracts Take Beating in Report
By Heather Gehlert
The Los Angeles Times

Wednesday 21 June 2006

Rep. Waxman says the administration is using more outside firms even as the federal payroll rises, and the end result is billions in waste.

Washington - The Bush administration has greatly expanded the use of contracts with private companies to provide public goods and services even as the number of government employees has increased, a congressional report has found.

But the administration's tilt toward doing business with private companies has failed to bring promised savings and has been characterized by "significant waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement," according to the report released this week by Rep. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee.

Of particular concern, the report said, were contracts related to domestic security, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina recovery.

Waxman's report is described as the first comprehensive assessment of contracting under the Bush administration, which had vowed upon taking office in January 2001 to provide services more efficiently while reducing the size of government.

It reveals an 86% increase in contracts with private businesses, from $203 billion in 2000 to $377.5 billion a year in 2005 - a growth rate nearly double that of federal spending as a whole.

At the same time, federal payrolls also have grown: The government now has about 1,874,000 civilian employees, up from 1,738,000 five years ago.

"We've never seen [private] contracting on the scale that we're seeing now," Waxman said. "Nearly 40 cents of every dollar appropriated goes to private contractors, which is a record level."

Yet, Waxman said, his biggest concern is not the growth in contracts, but the abuse of them.

Poor contract planning and weak oversight, the report said, have led to government overspending and corruption by companies that have padded their invoices, charged for services not provided and received award fees for jobs that were completed late.

"Taxpayers should be outraged at the billions of dollars that have been wasted," said Waxman. "And the Bush administration isn't learning from its mistakes, it's repeating them."

In many cases, the report found, the types and terms of the contracts have made them ripe for abuse:

* Spending on cost-plus contracts - under which the government bears the risk of cost overruns - has increased from $62 billion in 2000 to $110 billion in 2005.

* Spending on no-bid contracts - those granted without competition from other companies - rose 110%, to $97.8 billion, during the same period.

* Spending on monopoly contracts, which allow the government to buy goods and services without defining them in advance, nearly doubled, to $15.3 billion.

The report comes as the federal government's handling of contracts is increasingly in question. On Tuesday, the government's onetime chief procurement officer, David H. Safavian, was convicted of making false statements and obstruction of justice for concealing his relationship with disgraced former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The jury's decision in Safavian's case, Waxman said, "underscores the findings of the new report."

"The corruption and inappropriate influence of special interests in government contracting has gone virtually unchecked and erodes the public trust in the federal government," he said.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate rejected - for the third time - a proposal to form a special committee to investigate contracting improprieties in war zones.

"It's scandalous that the GOP Senate refuses to look into the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in the war in Iraq to see that the funds are carefully and honestly spent," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a written statement after the vote.

Kennedy's comments echoed the concerns outlined in Waxman's report, which also identifies several smaller pieces of $745.5 billion in federal contracts awarded between 2000 and 2005 that the auditors deemed wasteful, fraudulent or mismanaged.

In 2003, for example, the Border Patrol was found to have paid $20 million for security camera systems that malfunctioned or were never installed. That same year, the Transportation Security Administration awarded Boeing Co. $44 million for installing and maintaining airport luggage screening equipment - a job that was never evaluated.

In 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency bought $915 million worth of temporary housing and offices for Katrina victims and relief workers. More than a third of them have never been used.

"The lesson of this report is that there's a massive amount of spending, and yet we very clearly aren't spending it smartly," said Peter Singer, an analyst with the Brookings Institution, a centrist public policy center in Washington. "When the overspending is not just in the billions but in the hundreds of billions - that's worrisome."

A spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for overall procurement policy, said it made sense to turn to the private sector for providing security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and cleaning up after Katrina - two disasters that affected everyone, not just government.

Tapping private-sector expertise allows the government to "bring the full strength of American ingenuity to bear as we seek solutions," said OMB spokesman Scott Milburn.

But, he added, contracting requires constant oversight to make sure "the public's money is spent responsibly."

--------

Times staff writer Joel Havemann contributed to this report.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/062106J.shtml

Bob Geiger | GOP Kills Bill to Police Halliburton

GOP Kills Bill to Police Halliburton
By Bob Geiger
AlterNet

Tuesday 20 June 2006

Republicans in Congress have made it clear they're willing to fight for military contractors' right to lie, cheat and defraud taxpayers.

I suppose it's old news at this point that the Bush administration lied us into the Iraq war and that the cost of this mess will be fully realized by the next generation when Bush leaves office with the biggest budget deficit in U.S. history.

And, while Democrats have been complaining for years about the GOP-led Congress abandoning its oversight of the executive branch's wrongdoing, a vote that took place in the Senate last week shows how the Republican desire to ignore fraud and abuse extends right into killing legislation that would help stop defense contractors from ripping off the American people.

In an effort to stop companies like Halliburton and its subsidiaries from cheating our troops and stealing from Americans, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), introduced S.AMDT.4230 and attached it to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated in the Senate. The bill was intended to improve contracting "by eliminating fraud and abuse and improving competition in contracting and procurement."

"I think when you are at war, when a massive quantity of money is being pushed out the door, that we ought to decide to get tough on those who would be engaged in war profiteering," said Dorgan in fighting for his amendment last week. "I dare say that never in the history of this country has so much money been wasted so quickly. And, yes, there is fraud involved, there is abuse involved, and it is the case that there is a dramatic amount of taxpayers' money that is now being wasted."

Dorgan's bill - cosponsored by 17 Democrats and called the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 - was tabled by a roll call vote of 55-43, effectively rejecting the amendment. Every single Senate Republican voted against the measure to make the contracting process honest and impose penalties on those who break the law.

And just what were the stern rules that the GOP didn't think their buddies at Halliburton should have to live with? The text of the legislation spelled out that Bush and Cheney's defense-contractor buddies would be in trouble if they did any of the following:

"Executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which such activities occur."

"Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact."

"Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry."

"Materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action."

The measure called for those found guilty of violating the law to be imprisoned for up to 20 years and be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,000 - a drop in the bucket for these guys - or a percentage of their ill-gotten gains.

And Senate Republicans still saw fit to reject penalizing companies engaging in overt war profiteering and fraud despite Dorgan spending a considerable amount of time on the Senate floor trotting out example after example of the hideous abuse that has been occurring in Iraq.

"What we have discovered is pretty unbelievable," said Dorgan last week. "We have direct testimony from physicians, Army doctors, and others about providing nonpotable water for shaving, brushing teeth that is in worse condition as water than the raw water coming out of the Euphrates River."

"Let me describe some of the firsthand eyewitness issues in Iraq," Dorgan continued. "Brand new $85,000 trucks that were left on the side of the road because of a flat tire and then subsequently burned. 25 tons, 50,000 pounds, of nails ordered by Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the wrong size, that are laying in the sands of Iraq. 42,000 meals a day charged to the taxpayers by Halliburton and only 14,000 are actually served."

After telling the amazing tale of the KBR Halliburton subsidiary ordering hand towels for soldiers embroidered with the "KBR" logo, to allow them to double the price of the towels, Dorgan told one Halliburton whistleblower's story of his company serving food date-stamped "expired" to American troops rather than throwing it away.

"[Halliburton was] serving food at a cafeteria in Iraq for the soldiers, and a man named Roy who was the supervisor in the food service kitchen said that the food was date-stamped 'expired,''' said Dorgan. "In other words, it had a date stamp, which meant the food wasn't good anymore, and he was told by superiors that it doesn't matter. Feed it to the troops. It doesn't matter that they had an expired date stamped - feed it to the troops."

But apparently the support-the-troops types on the Republicans side of the aisle only support them until their major contributors are caught feeding them possibly-tainted food before they go into battle - at that point, I guess the love is gone.

The best the Republicans could offer in response to Dorgan was a lame statement by Senator John Warner (R-VA), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who said that his committee is on the case and that "the organization is now in place to try to monitor the situations the Senator has enumerated."

There was no mention from Warner of where the hell his committee - and the GOP - have been for the last four years with all of this going on.

I'll leave you with one other Dorgan horror story in which he describes a massive amount of money paid to four contractors to install air-conditioning in a Baghdad building.

"The contract goes to a subcontractor, which goes to another subcontractor, and a fourth-level subcontractor," said Dorgan "And the payment for air-conditioning turns out to be payments to four contractors, the fourth of which puts a fan in a room. Yes, the American taxpayer paid for an air-conditioner and, after the money goes through four hands, there is a fan put in a room in Iraq."

I guess that's fiscal conservatism Republicans can truly embrace.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/062106J.shtml

A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide - New York Times

A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide
By SUSAN SAULNY

NEW ORLEANS, June 20 — Sgt. Ben Glaudi, the commander of the Police Department's Mobile Crisis Unit here, spends much of each workday on this city's flood-ravaged streets trying to persuade people not to kill themselves.

Last Tuesday in the French Quarter, Sergeant Glaudi's small staff was challenged by a man who strode straight into the roaring currents of the Mississippi River, hoping to drown. As the water threatened to suck him under, the man used the last of his strength to fight the rescuers, refusing to be saved.

"He said he'd lost everything and didn't want to live anymore," Sergeant Glaudi said.

The man was counseled by the crisis unit after being pulled from the river against his will. Others have not been so lucky.

"These things come at me fast and furious," Sergeant Glaudi said. "People are just not able to handle the situation here."

New Orleans is experiencing what appears to be a near epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, one that mental health experts say is of an intensity rarely seen in this country. It is contributing to a suicide rate that state and local officials describe as close to triple what it was before Hurricane Katrina struck and the levees broke 10 months ago.

Compounding the challenge, the local mental health system has suffered a near total collapse, heaping a great deal of the work to be done with emotionally disturbed residents onto the Police Department and people like Sergeant Glaudi, who has sharp crisis management skills but no medical background. He says his unit handles 150 to 180 such distress calls a month.

Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the deputy New Orleans coroner dealing with psychiatric cases, said the suicide rate in the city was less than nine a year per 100,000 residents before the storm and increased to an annualized rate of more than 26 per 100,000 in the four months afterward, to the end of 2005.

While there have been 12 deaths officially classified as suicides so far this year, Dr. Rouse and Dr. Kathleen Crapanzano, director of the Louisiana Office of Mental Health, said the real number was almost certainly far higher, with many self-inflicted deaths remaining officially unclassified or wrongly described as accidents.

Charles G. Curie, the administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the scope of the disaster that the hurricane inflicted had been "unprecedented," and added, "We've had great concerns about the level of substance abuse and mental health needs being at levels we had not seen before."

This is a city where thousands of people are living amid ruins that stretch for miles on end, where the vibrancy of life can be found only along the slivers of land next to the Mississippi. Garbage is piled up, the crime rate has soared, and as of Tuesday the National Guard and the state police were back in the city, patrolling streets that the Police Department has admitted it cannot handle on its own. The reminders of death are everywhere, and the emotional toll is now becoming clear.

Gina Barbe rode out the storm at her mother's house near Lake Pontchartrain, and says she has been crying almost every day since.

"I thought I could weather the storm, and I did — it's the aftermath that's killing me," said Ms. Barbe, who worked in tourism sales before the disaster. "When I'm driving through the city, I have to pull to the side of the street and sob. I can't drive around this city without crying."

Many people who are not at serious risk of suicide are nonetheless seeing their lives eroded by low-grade but persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and stress-related illnesses, doctors and researchers say. All this goes beyond the effects of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, Mr. Curie said. Beyond those of Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Ivan.

"We've been engaged much longer and with much more intensity in this disaster than in previous disasters," he said.

At the end of each day, Sergeant Glaudi returns to his own wrecked neighborhood and sleeps in a government-issued trailer outside what used to be home.

"You ride around and all you see is debris, debris, debris," he said.

And that is a major part of the problem, experts agree: the people of New Orleans are traumatized again every time they look around.

"This is a trauma that didn't last 24 hours, then go away," said Dr. Crapanzano, the Louisiana mental health official. "It goes on and on."

"If I could do anything," said Dr. Howard J. Osofsky, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Louisiana State University, "it would be to have a quicker pace of recovery for the community at large. The mental health needs are related to this."

The state estimates that the city has lost more than half its psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and other mental health workers, many of whom relocated after the storm. And according to the Louisiana Hospital Association, there are little more than 60 hospital beds for psychiatric patients in the seven hospitals that remain open here.

Because of a lack of mental heath clinics and related services, severely disturbed patients end up in hospital emergency rooms, where they often languish. Many poorer patients were dependent on a large public institution, Charity Hospital, but it has been closed since the storm despite the protests of many medical professionals who say the building is in good condition. Big Charity, as the locals called it, had room for 100 psychiatric patients and could have used more capacity.

"When you don't have a place to send that wandering schizophrenic directing traffic, guess what? Law enforcement is going to wind up taking care of that," said Dr. Rouse, the deputy coroner. "When the Police Department is forced to do the job of the mental health system, it's a lose-lose situation for everyone."

"When the family comes to see me at the coroner's office," he added, "it's a defeat. The state has a moral obligation to reinstitute this care."

Sergeant Glaudi and others said some people struggling with emotional issues had no prior history of mental illness or depression.

The symptoms cut across economic and racial lines; life in New Orleans is difficult and inconvenient for everyone.

Susan Howell, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans, conducted a recent study with researchers from Louisiana State to see how people were coping with everyday life in the city and neighboring Jefferson Parish. Ms. Howell managed a similar survey in 2003.

"The symptoms of depression have, at minimum, doubled since Katrina," she said. "These are classic post-trauma symptoms. People can't sleep, they're irritable, feeling that everything's an effort and sad."

The new survey was conducted in March and April, and canvassed 470 respondents who were living in houses or apartments. Since they were not living in government-issued trailers, it is likely that they were among the more fortunate.

Jennifer Lindsley, a gallery owner, also feels the sting of missing her friends.

"When you can't get ahold of people you used to know, it leaves you feeling kind of empty," Ms. Lindsley said. "When you try to explain it to people in other cities, they say: 'The whole world is over it, so you've got to get over it. Sorry that happened, but too bad. Move on.' "

Some people have decided to leave solely because of the mood of the city.

"I'm really aware of the air of mild depression that pervades this entire area," said Gayle Falgoust, a retired teacher. "I'm leaving after this month. I worry about living with this level of depression all the time. I worry that it might affect my health. I know the move will improve my mood."


http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/21/us/21depress.html?_r=1&ei=5094&en=3d45668f5d7fee35&hp=&ex=1150862400&oref=slogin&partner=homepage&pagewanted=print

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

W's History of Sadism

The Boston Globe mentioned it in a 1999 article titled "For George W. Bush, early life a wrangle between East, West":

Bush's fraternity was also a curious clan -- making news after the school newspaper reported that DKE pledges were being branded in a hazing rite.

"There's no scarring mark, physically or mentally,'' Bush said at the time, defending the practice to the Yale Daily News.

See also "Cartoon on Bush recalls Yale frat hazing" carried by the Yale Daily News in 2005:

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau '70 said he thinks a little-known fact about President George W. Bush '68's past -- that his first mention in The New York Times occurred in 1967 when, as former president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter at Yale, Bush defended the fraternity's practice of branding its pledges with a red-hot coat hanger -- deserves more national attention.

Suskind: W personally ordered Mentally Ill Terrorist be Tortured

Suskind: W personally ordered Mentally Ill Terrorist be Tortured Hotlist
by Magorn
Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 02:46:00 PM PDT

Ron Suskind's new Book is currently garnering media attention for it story of the Subway attack that wasn't, but there FAR bigger Revelations in his book.

For example:

Bush personally ordered the torture of a suspected terrorist mastermind who turned out to be nothing more than a mentally ill Al-Qaeda flunky, just to save face.

This amazing bit of news is courtesy of the WaPo's review of Suskind's book


When Abu Zubaydah. Was captured he.. [was] described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations [however] ..Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like [who]they supposed him to be... [he] also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was the go-to guy for ...minor logistics [like} travel for wives and children"

That judgment was ... briefed to the President ...yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives ..planning death and destruction on the US"


And when Zubadayah Couldn't deliver any info on terrorist plots:?


Well, Bush had already said it, and in the spirit of his adminstration's habit of "creating their own reality" it was now officially true, so when Zubaydah wasn't forthcoming with the details of plots he knew nothing about:

under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

And here's the Stunner. Bush Personally Ordered his torture, because he was worried about losing face:

"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

This question ranks only slightly below "Will no One rid me of this Meddlesome Priest?" as an obvious indirect command. Not Surprisingly, just like Henry Plantagenet's goons, the CIA took the hint and ran with it:


Interrogators did .. strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep

Now let's keep firmly in Mind all of this Torture (best to call things what they really are, I find) , was going on MONTHS after the CIA and the FBI had conclusive proof this guy was not merely insane, but actively suffering from multiple personality disorder:


CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

and it Bears repeating again


Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," {long BEFORE the torture was ordered-ED}

Amazingly, after being tortured for weeks and months, the crazy Al-qaeda flunky suddenly remembered anything his interrogators wanted him to remember. Zubaydah, gave up details of All KINDS of terrorist plots. Too bad they were, technically speaking, completely made up fantasies:


Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty

And of Course


With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target."

Wasting, of course, thousands of man hours, Millions of dollars, and letting who knows how many REAL plots go undetected because our law enforcement apparatus was occupied chasing fantasies?

This is normally the part where I throw in a concluding paragraph telling you what I think It all means, but frankly I can't do better than this sentence from Suskind's book:


"the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/20/17465/8520

Media Matters - "President O'Reilly" would run Iraq "just like Saddam ran it"

"President O'Reilly" would run Iraq "just like Saddam ran it"

On the June 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly declared that if he were the president of Iraq, he would run the country "just like Saddam [Hussein] ran it," by establishing curfews and shooting violators "right between the eyes." O'Reilly added that what he proposed is "not the kind of country I want for Iraq," but reasoned that "you have to have that for a few months to stabilize the situation so the Iraqi government can get organized, can get security in place and get the structure going."

Later in the broadcast, responding to a caller who identified himself as a former Marine who had been stationed in Tal Afar, Iraq, O'Reilly reiterated his plan for Iraq:

O'REILLY: The curfews work. You shoot on sight. That's it. And if the Italian press doesn't like it, tough. The New York Times doesn't like it? Too bad. War is a performance business.

O'Reilly's remarks were first noted by the weblog Calling All Wingnuts.

From the June 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: So because -- what you have here now is a tipping point in history. A tipping point in history. So you have to win the Iraq situation. Now, to me, they're not fighting it hard enough. See, if I'm president, I've got probably another 50-60,000 with orders to shoot on sight anybody violating curfews. Shoot 'em on sight. That's me. President O'Reilly, curfew in Ramadi, 7 o'clock at night. You're on the street, you're dead. I shoot you right between the eyes. OK?

That's how I'd run that country -- just like Saddam ran it. Saddam didn't have explosions. He didn't have bombers, did he? Because if you got out of line, you're dead.

Now, is that the kind of country I want for Iraq? No. But you have to have that for a few months to stabilize the situation so the Iraqi government can get organized, can get security in place and get the structure going. So, any area that is giving you trouble, you have a 7-to-7 curfew. And you can't come out of your house. That's it. And if you do, we shoot you. That's how you control it. All right?

http://mediamatters.org/items/200606200008

"High Infidelity" by Steve Benen

High Infidelity
What if three admitted adulterers run for president and no one cares?

By Steve Benen

Last month, The New York Times published a 2,000-word, front-page dissection of Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage. It contained no real news, few named sources, and plenty of gossip masquerading as political coverage. Observing that the Clintons typically spend 14 days of each month together--hardly unusual for a couple that includes a senator and a peripatetic former president--the Times opted for the half-empty conclusion that the two lead "largely separate lives." The story also made an oblique reference to a Canadian politician named Belinda Stronach, the significance of which would likely be grasped only by insiders and people who read tabloids at supermarket check-outs. In a cover article last year, the Globe claimed that Stronach and Clinton were more than just good friends.

If the Times had evidence to support the innuendo, it decided not to print it. But despite the vaporous quality of the story's facts, David Broder's Washington Post column just 48 hours later indicated that a new conventional wisdom was forming, one which sought to undermine Hillary's presidential ambitions. After describing his boredom at a substantive speech the senator gave to reporters on energy policy, Broder concluded that the failure of reporters in the post-speech Q&A to grill Hillary about her personal relationship with her husband was the "elephant in the room."

Of course, there was once a time when reporters believed that the sexual peccadilloes of American leaders were a private matter, and the nation was probably better off for that belief. In the late 1990s, Broder himself argued several times that these kinds of stories don't do voters any favors. But the rules were shifting, thanks largely to the mainstream press and the GOP's relentless pursuit of Bill Clinton. Now the Times piece suggests that we're in for three long years in which reporters will judge Hillary Clinton's character by rumors about her husband. But it may be Republicans who have the most to lose.

Lurking just over the horizon are liabilities for three Republicans who have topped several national, independent polls for the GOP's favorite 2008 nominee: Sen. John McCain (affair, divorce), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (affair, divorce, affair, divorce), and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (divorce, affair, nasty divorce). Together, they form the most maritally challenged crop of presidential hopefuls in American political history.

Until relatively recently, a self-confessed adulterer had never sought the presidency. Certainly, other candidates have been dogged by sex scandals. In the 1828 presidential election, John Quincy Adams questioned whether Andrew Jackson's wife was legitimately divorced from her first husband before she married Old Hickory. Grover Cleveland, who was single, fathered a child out of wedlock, a fact that sparked national headlines during the 1884 election (though he managed to win anyway). There have been presidential candidates who had affairs that the press decided not to write about, like Wendell Wilkie, FDR, and John F. Kennedy. And there have been candidates whose infidelities have been uncovered during the course of a campaign: Gary Hart's indiscretions ultimately derailed his 1988 bid, and in 1992, during the course of his campaign, Bill Clinton was forced to make the euphemistic admission that he "caused pain" in his marriage.

But it wasn't until 2000 that McCain, possibly emboldened by Clinton's survival of his scandals, became the first confessed adulterer to have the nerve to run. Now, just a few years after infidelity was considered a dealbreaker for a presidential candidate, the party that presents itself as the arbiter of virtue may field an unprecedented two-timing trifecta.

McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money. In 2000, McCain managed to deflect media questioning about his first marriage with a deft admission of responsibility for its failure. It's possible that the age of the offense and McCain's charmed relationship with the press will pull him through again, but Giuliani and Gingrich may face a more difficult challenge. Both conducted well-documented affairs in the last decade--while still in public office.

Giuliani informed his second wife, Donna Hanover, of his intention to seek a separation in a 2000 press conference. The announcement was precipitated by a tabloid frenzy after Giuliani marched with his then-mistress, Judith Nathan, in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, an acknowledgement of infidelity so audacious that Daily News columnist Jim Dwyer compared it with "groping in the window at Macy's." In the acrid divorce proceedings that followed, Hanover accused Giuliani of serial adultery, alleging that Nathan was just the latest in a string of mistresses, following an affair the mayor had had with his former communications director.

But the most notorious of them all is undoubtedly Gingrich, who ran for Congress in 1978 on the slogan, "Let Our Family Represent Your Family." (He was reportedly cheating on his first wife at the time). In 1995, an alleged mistress from that period, Anne Manning, told Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy: "We had oral sex. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" Gingrich obtained his first divorce in 1981, after forcing his wife, who had helped put him through graduate school, to haggle over the terms while in the hospital, as she recovered from uterine cancer surgery. In 1999, he was disgraced again, having been caught in an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

Despite the scandalous details, whether the press will air them is still an open question. When it comes to personal morality, liberal commentators have long argued that the press has one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans (and another one entirely for the Clintons). It's possible that the mainstream media will fail to apply the same scrutiny to the known transgressions of Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain as the Times did to rumors about Hillary Clinton's husband. But for that to happen, the press will have to resist four powerful political dynamics that will almost certainly be pushing to get the story out.

Cheat and greet

The first dynamic is the competition among the contenders in a crowded GOP presidential primary. Right now, at least 10 high-profile Republicans are eyeing the race. If a candidate with an adulterous past pulls ahead, the stragglers may be sorely tempted to play the infidelity card--if not openly, then through their surrogates. In 2000, George W. Bush's allies went well beyond raising McCain's affair--they spread bogus rumors in advance of the South Carolina primary that the senator had fathered an illegitimate black child. This strategy helped to deliver Bush a key primary victory and, arguably, the nomination.

But if GOP operatives dangle the infidelity bait, and the press fails to bite, its importance to Christian conservatives won't be so easy to ignore. Since the press awoke to the phenomenon of evangelicals in 2000 and so-called "values voters" in 2004, reporters have become fond of gaming out every possible permutation of evangelicals' political concerns. Evangelicals' attitudes towards the marital problems of McCain, Giuliani and Gingrich might actually deserve such an inquiry. In 2000, for example, James Dobson issued a personal press release specifically to "clarify his lack of support for Senator McCain." "The Senator is being touted by the media as a man of principle, yet he was involved with other women while married to his first wife," Dobson said. He also cautioned that McCain's character was "reminiscent" of Bill Clinton's--possibly the ultimate insult in conservative circles.

These remarks received little attention in 2000, possibly because reporters hadn't yet grasped the extent of Dobson's influence, but Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokesperson for Dobson's Focus on the Family, recently made it clear that the adultery issue hasn't lost any of its toxicity among evangelicals. "If you have a politician, an elected official, and they can't be trusted in their own marriage, how can I trust them with the budget? How can I trust them with national security?" she asked me. Although Earll was reluctant to discuss specific politicians, she noted that a candidate who "had an affair and then moved on and restored that marriage" might find forgiveness with Christian conservatives, but someone "who had an affair and then left his wife" would not.

If the press still doesn't focus on the GOP infidelity issue and one of the adulterers manages to win the nomination, a third dynamic will kick in: hopping-mad Democrats. After enduring the trauma of the Clinton years, and the indignity of John Kerry fending off baseless reports of a fling with a reporter in 2004, it's hard to imagine Democrats playing nice in 2008, especially in light of the high bar Republicans have set for themselves on "character" issues. What's more, there's not a single known adulterer among the 10 or so names most commonly mentioned as potential Democratic presidential contenders. What would any of them lose by unleashing their attack dogs on his or her opponent's checkered past (presuming they don't have a skeleton in their own closet)?

Finally, if the Democrats fail to plant this story in the press, one final force will be beating at their doors: liberal bloggers. Witness the indignation that swept the progressive blogosphere immediately after the Times piece ran on the Clintons. Hullabaloo's Digby fumed at the Times' "cheap, tabloid coverage of politics when the world is on fire." Matt Stoller at MyDD noted published rumors of a Jeb Bush affair with then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, adding, "Get ready for a slimefest." Bloggers are likely not only to relentlessly push the mainstream press to start covering Republican candidates' adultery, but may also ferret out new information about those past indiscretions that could prove awfully tempting to establishment reporters.

Of course, the right-wing blogosphere will be pushing back just as hard, aiming (along with GOP campaign operatives) to intimidate the mainstream press into not covering Republican infidelities. The party with years of experience exploiting "values" for electoral gain will no doubt dismiss the marital troubles of Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain as "old news" and the "politics of personal destruction," marking any reporter who brings up the subject guilty of "bias." Indeed, it's likely that establishment reporters will be grateful to have that argument as an excuse to steer clear of the subject altogether. But an excuse is all it will be. After all, in every presidential campaign, the press typically rehashes known facts about a candidate's past (think Bush's National Guard service, or Kerry's Vietnam record) on the theory that many voters aren't aware of them, and that new information relevant to voters often will emerge in the retelling.

It'd be dishonest to say that liberals won't take some satisfaction in seeing the Republicans undone by their own standards. But if the top three Democratic presidential hopefuls each had extra-marital affairs in their backgrounds, it stands to reason that Republicans would have something to say about it--and if the past is any guide, those concerns would find their way into the papers. Of course, you could argue that we'd all benefit if reporters didn't write about any of this. But you could also argue that the support voters gave Bill Clinton suggests that they can handle the truth and are capable of distinguishing between public and private behavior. Perhaps the very fact that Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain are even considering presidential runs reflects a growing maturity in American politics.

What you can't argue, however, is that it's OK for the press to scrutinize one party's candidates and not the other's. If Hillary Clinton's marriage has been publicly dissected on the front page of the newspaper of record, why should the marital infidelities of GOP candidates be off limits? The answer is, they shouldn't be, and despite the mainstream press' deep reluctance, they probably won't be.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer. His blog is The Carpetbagger Report.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0607.benen.html

The Rude Pundit - Two Captured American Soldiers and the Implied "What If"

Two Captured American Soldiers and the Implied "What If":
Chances are, maybe even by the time you read this, the two American soldiers, captured by the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, will be dead, probably in some horrible way, probably with their bodies dumped like all the horribly murdered Iraqis in the blood and gore-strewn landscape that are the markers of Iraqi liberation. The Rude Pundit can't help thinking, though, about the implied "What if" of the capture, on the field of battle, of American soldiers, prisoners of war, if you will.

What if we get pictures of the soldiers, nude, cowering, screaming in a corner, shitting themselves on the filthy floors of a makeshift cell, as their captors hold snarling dogs on leashes just out of bite range of the soldiers?

What if we learn that their captors decide that the soldiers can offer intelligence that can be of use to al-Qaeda and, in order to get that information, the captors put the nude soldiers into rooms that are heated to hellish temperatures, followed by rooms that are impossibly cold with colder water tossed onto them? What if the soldiers are made to stand for days on end? Put into stress positions that fuck up their muscles and limbs? Denied sleep? Had loud music played into their cells? Kept in isolation and fed bread and water for days, weeks on end?

What if they strap one or both of those Americans to a board and hold them underwater until their drowning reflex forces them to panic, thrash, claw desperately for air, only to be brought up to breathe and then placed underwater again? And again? Until the captors get the answers they seek?

What if those captors take the nude, sleep-deprived, shit and piss-covered, nearly drowned and dog-frightened American soldiers and handcuff them to beds with women's panties on their heads, snapping photographs and laughing, talking about publishing the photos so that everyone can see the soldiers with their panty-sniffing heads and terror-shriveled cocks, so that all of al-Qaeda can laugh at what pussies Americans can be made to seem?

What if, and, really, does it need to be said, they are made to stand, hooded, with faux electrodes attached to their nuts and fingers, told that if they don't start answering questions, well, testicles only can take so much electroshock before they just pop like squeezed grapes?

What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit...anymore"?

And what about the good right-wing punditry? Would Rush Limbaugh look at the photos of the nude, cowering Americans and say it looks like fraternity hazing or some such shit? Would others dismiss it as a media fabrication? Or would they just pathetically overlook everything done in our American names to Iraqis, Afghanis, and others, calling madly for the heads of the captors, not even thinking about the irony of such a statement?

It goes without saying, but, considering the times, perhaps it needs to be said: the Rude Pundit wishes none of this on Privates Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. He hopes they are found or released safe and sound. But he also wishes none of this on our prisoners, whether in Iraq, at Gitmo, or in secret prisons or countries of rendition where fuck-all can happen with no law, no regulation, no hope to bespeak our putative humanity.

http://www.rudepundit.blogspot.com/inde

Without DeLay, Has the GOP Lost its Moral Compass?

Published on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 by TruthDig
Without DeLay, Has the GOP Lost its Moral Compass?
by Molly Ivins


Gee, the Republicans seem to have lost their moral compass since Tom DeLay quit. Who knew it could get worse without that pillar of rectitude from Texas? What a snakes’ nest of corruption and nastiness.

The latest involves Speaker Denny Hastert and a land deal.

Hastert had sold to a developer a 69-acre portion of a 195-acre farm that had been purchased in his wife’s name. The developer also purchased an adjacent plot of roughly equal size owned in trust by Hastert and two of his “longtime supporters.” The area west of Chicago is growing madly, and Hastert—through an earmark appropriation process—dedicated $207 million in taxpayer dollars as the first appropriation on the Prairie Parkway, which will run 5.5 miles from the Hastert land. Went through in the fall of 2005. Three months later, Hastert and his partners sold the land for a $3-million total profit, $1.8 million to Hastert.

In a staggering display of brass-faced gall, Hastert is now claiming a freeway running 5.5 miles from his land is not close enough to affect the price of the farm. Then what did the developer pay the extra $3 million for? Hastert is said to be furious with the Sunlight Foundation, which broke the story, and the Chicago newspapers, which pounced on it gleefully. This is what I don’t get about Republicans. Apparently they think they are genuinely entitled to get these special deals.

Also making news is California Rep. Jerry Lewis, who is in deep with a lobbying firm that is El Stinko. This wouldn’t matter so much if Lewis were just another congressman, but he is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the one that hands out the money. Lewis’ family and friends have profited nicely from contractors and lobbyists who court his favor. Such cozy arrangements.

Just for example, one Lewis aide, who had gone to work for the lobbying firm and then returned to the congressman’s staff, was paid $2 million by the firm in 2004 while on the public payroll.

With a fine sense of ethical behavior, members of the House have voted to continue earmarking, including $500,000 for a swimming pool in Lewis’ district (bringing the total federal money allotted for this pool to $1 million).

Meanwhile, back on the Jack Abramoff and related fronts (lest we forget good old Dusty Foggo, ex-No. 3 at the CIA), a letter had been found, despite initial denials by the Department of Homeland Security, from the now-convicted ex-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham recommending that the government use the limo firm that allegedly ferried whores to the poker parties given by defense contractors who were paying off Cunningham.

Don’t Democrats have scandals, too? Yes, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana is in deep doo-doo. Among other things, the Fibbies found $90,000 in cash in his freezer. So the Democratic caucus kicked him off his important seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Republicans just keep on trucking.

Meanwhile, the entire Department of Homeland Security is beginning to look like a Republican playground. According to The New York Times, over 90 former officials at DHS or the White House Office of Homeland Security are now “executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars’ worth of domestic security business.” Now isn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?

Can Republicans run anything right? Where is the CEO administration that was supposed to straighten out government? It may be that Bush deserves credit for having initially opposed a DHS, knowing that Republicans would make a giant new federal agency. But he later changed his mind and supported the thing. The rest of us thought we were getting an agency that would provide homeland security, but what an endless saga of misspent money, stupid decisions, waste, fraud, abuse and political logrolling—and still no port protection.

It seems to me there is a direct connection between the Republicans’ inability to run anything governmental ("Heckuva job, Brownie") and the fact that they don’t believe in government. The simplest purposes of government have long been defined for us—to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. It is, or should be, a benign enterprise, making life better for citizens.

I carry no special brief for government—many years of studying the Texas Legislature will disenchant anyone. But if you are put in charge of government, the least you can do is run it well. Bill Clinton took government seriously—he was interested in how to make it work better, interested in government policy. Clinton declared the era of Big Government over and indeed pruned the federal structure and finished with a surplus. Bush is giving us fat, bloated, inefficient, corrupt government, all of it running on a huge deficit—not counting the expense and growing body count in Iraq. As the man said: “2,500 is just a number.”

To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0620-20.htm