Archive for August, 2010

The Mask Slips for Some (finally)

August 24, 2010

It isn’t hard to see that someone like Tom Tancredo is a complete fraud if you look closely.

Here is a 2005 Denver Post article that provides a clue for any discerning, open-minded reader:

“As a Republican student activist, Tancredo spoke out in favor of the Vietnam War. After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in June 1969, he became eligible to serve in Vietnam. Tancredo said he went for his physical, telling doctors he’d been treated for depression, and eventually got a “1-Y” deferment.”

Here is a man that for years preached of the righteousness and necessity of Vietnam, until, of course, it was his turn to go and then all of a sudden he’s got anxiety and “depression.”  Sounds a lot like another conservative ‘tough’ guy named Richard Cheney, who, infamously, had “other priorities” when it was his time to go to Vietnam.    Besides starting his blog, one of the best things Markos ever did was make Tancredo haughtily huff and puff his way off MSNBC by simply confronting him with the unadulterated truth of his all-too-typical, Chickenhawk Republican hypocrisy:

The same Denver Post article I linked to earlier notes that he was a member of a conservative group of Colorado state lawmakers known as the “House Crazies.”  And, again, I can’t help noticing that the Tancredos and Cheneys of the world sure are “crazy,”  brave and reckless when the ideological currency they’re shilling for, and/or gambling with, consists of other people’s lives; aren’t they?

The draft-dodging is just the most obvious aspect of Tancredo’s fraudulent nature, but now the “Tea Party” of Colorado (the type of people who always loudly purport to know the real TRUTH the librul media hides from stupid people like me) are belatedly discovering the brutal TRUTH about this man in typical, bitingly hilarious “Black is White” fashion.  According to TPM after Tancredo implored Colorado Tea Party activists, last December, to “think strategically” and not abandon the GOP because it would be “suicidal and would only result in splitting the conservative vote and guaranteeing the re-election of liberals and socialists,” and after they complied, like the gullible lemmings they are, staying within the Colorado GOP framework, he went ahead and (surprise, surprise) acted singularly and exclusively in his own interests by doing the exact thing he warned them not to do, abandon the GOP to run for Governor as an Independent, thereby throwing a fairly certain GOP statehouse pickup to the Democrats.

Well…the Tea Bag folks finally noticed the hypocritical brazenness of this swindle and are upset and starting to ask questions about the non-existent integrity of Mr. T, saying things like:

“You want to impose your personal choice and will over the will of the people. You are subverting the process and our will. This is the opposite of the liberty movement and what we are about.”

I mean, I almost feel bad for these people, but it really strains my capacity of belief that they actually expected something different from this man other than craven, blatantly selfish opportunism.  One tea part e r even used the “H-word” lamenting the “hypocrisy he showed in asking us to get involved and not go third party and then he goes third party himself.”

In a perfect world they’ll learn their lesson and wise up, but um…yeah.   Until they do and hacks and con-men like Tancredo are denied a foothold in public life by voters like them, America will not achieve its true potential.

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Straight From the “Please Stop Punching Yourself in the Face” Files

August 22, 2010

Blackwater.  The name itself conjures up murky, muddy murderously opaque machinations.  I guess that’s why they “rebranded” (one of my least favorite words in the English language) last year and decided on the innocuous, nondescript, nonsensical Xe Services; that and maybe all of the extra-judicial killings, investigations, indictments etc. etc. the outfit formerly known as “Blackwater” always seemed to be mixed up in.   Jeremy Scahill’s excellent book on Blackwater is perhaps one of the scariest I’ve ever read and should be required reading for anyone attempting to completely understand America during the Bush era.

So it was with great incredulity that I noticed a New York Times headline this past Friday that screamed “Blackwater Reaches $42 Million Settlement with the U.S.” The article, written by James Risen (author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration),  details the “export control” violations Blackwater was guilty of in accruing such massive fines.  They are specifically:

illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers, according to company and government officials familiar with the deal.

Risen goes on to note that:

The settlement with the State Department does not resolve other legal troubles still facing Blackwater and its former executives and other personnel. Those include the indictments of five former executives, including Blackwater’s former president, on weapons and obstruction charges; a federal investigation into evidence that Blackwater officials sought to bribe Iraqi government officials; and the arrest of two former Blackwater guards on federal murder charges stemming from the killing of two Afghans last year.

What a list!

What I’d love to know is why truth and justice, red-blooded, God-fearing, America loving patriots like Blackwater founder Erik Prince absolutely never seem to abide by, and operate within the boundaries of, the laws and statutes our nation was founded on.  It literally seems like prosecutors and investigators would have a harder time uncovering legal activities undertaken by Blackwater.  I understand the concept of “the fog of war” and the fact the very act of providing security in warzones is fraught with gray areas and ever-shifting rules of engagement, but Blackwater has always been infamous for it’s “cowboy tactics and the use of excessive force.” Come to think of it “cowboy tactics and the use of excessive force” could actually be the subtitle of the entire nightmarish Bush experience.  Prince is a perfect example of the corrupt, hyper-American, hypocritical ‘christian’ type which flourished in the last decade making millions (on top of those he inherited) off of murder and mayhem, in the guise of protecting average Americans from the evil, bloodcrazed Muslims hiding under our beds.

Well no more!  In another astonishing Times article by Risen, Erik Prince is so tired of your ungrateful, heathen ass taking his unselfish, lawful and Christlike efforts to protect you for granted that he is taking his ball and going home…to Abu Dhabi!!

No, really.

According to Risen, current and former colleagues of Mr. Prince said:

“he was bitter about the legal scrutiny and negative publicity his company had received.

‘He needs a break from America,’ said one colleague, speaking only on the condition of anonymity about Mr. Prince’s long-rumored move.”

I’ve been writing fiction for years and I wish I had the creativity and satirical flair to make something like that up.  I don’t know what’s more scary about this guy: how hypocritical and pathetic he is? Or how dangerous?

Which brings me full-circle to the initial impetus behind this post-which is the fact that despite all the indictments, investigations and fines Blackwater/Xe has accumulated, Risen reports that the State Department “dealt with the violations as an administrative matter, allowing the firm to avoid criminal charges” and, more importantly, that “by paying fines rather than facing criminal charges on the export violations, Blackwater will be able to continue to obtain government contracts”(emphasis mine).   That is inexplicable.  I cannot understand why the State Department under President Obama would countenance funneling yet more money to these corrupt fanatics.  Maybe their logic is that you need corrupt fanatics to fight the corrupt fanatics in Karzai’s Afghanistan.  Regardless it is starting to really reflect poorly on us citizens that we sit in silence as the outrages pile up and ever-more scarce, hard to come by dollars keep reaching the pockets of men like Erik Prince who run companies like Blackwater/Xe that have demonstrated time again their blatant disregard for our laws and the sanctity of innocent lives, which their appalling charade as men of god makes even more galling and despicable.

Late update (via Sam Stein at Huffington Post):

Apparently unnamed private “security companies” are using American Tax dollars to engage in “mafia like” activities according to Hamid Karzai who made these statements this morning on ABC’s “This Week” in an effort to “appeal” directly to the American tax payer.  Karzai went on to say he wants these companies out of the country by the end of the year.

How depraved, dangerous and corrupt do you have to be to wear out your welcome in Afghanistan?

Revolving Door-Social Security edition

August 10, 2010

LittleSis undertook a project earlier this year wherein we (I participated as a research analyst) looked at the composition of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was loaded with longtime Social Security Looters, to discern any and all connections, no matter how seemingly minute, between the participants, and more importantly, whether they stood to gain financially from privatizing Social Security.  We uncovered some interesting things.  The final summation has yet to be written, but I learned a lot about important and influential think tanks and non-profits such as the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (it’s billionaire founder is perhaps the key figure in the crusade to privatize and loot Social Security), the Concord Coalition and the Hamilton Project, founded by omni-present, professional economic disaster catalyst Robert Rubin.

William Greider has been doing excellent work on this subject for years, including this recent piece wherein he expertly dissects the Deficit Commission, correctly describing Obama as being “arm and arm with GOP conservatives like Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who for decades has demonized Social Security as a grave threat to the Republic.”   In Greider’s estimation this pairing can be devastating because:

“Obama’s initiative rests on two falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda—the notion that Social Security somehow contributes to the swollen federal deficits and that cutting benefits will address this problem. Obama and his advisers do not say this in so many words, but their rhetoric implies that Social Security is a big source of the deficit problem. Major media promote the same falsehoods. Here is what the media don’t tell you: Social Security has accumulated a massive surplus—$2.5 trillion now, rising to $4.3 trillion by 2023. This vast wealth was collected over many years from workers under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) to pay in advance for baby boom retirements. The money will cover all benefits until the 2040s—unless Congress double-crosses workers by changing the rules. This nest egg does not belong to the government; it belongs to the people who paid for it. FICA is not a tax but involuntary savings.”

The numbers Greider cites in that excerpt are confirmed by research conducted by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.  Yet, as the Social Security project started, I naively believed that these ideas and concepts wouldn’t gain widespread Democratic acceptance until, of course, I started to hear actual rumblings of acquiescence from Democratic ‘leaders’ such as Steny Hoyer, who in May of this year said, in a speech to the Bipartisan Policy Center, in terms “as stark and dire as any Republican would use” according to the Hill, that:

“‘By 2025 the debt held by the public will exceed the historical high of 109 percent of GDP, reached at the end of World War II. By then the money we spend on interest on that debt, along with the ‘Big Three’ entitlements, will equal 18.5 percent of GDP — and that spending will consume virtually all of our revenues,” Hoyer warned, adding: “’We have a very short window of time in which to act.’”

Notice how Hoyer’s words conform almost exactly to what Greider termed “falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda.”  Scary talk about Social Security and other “entitlements” causing debts?  Check.  The act of cutting said benefits cast as the time-is-running-out catch-all solution?  Check.   The author of The Hill’s recap of Hoyer’s speech excerpted above, A.B. Stoddard, noted almost as an aside that Hoyer “has long had an interest in taking on this heretofore untouchable issue.”  Could that be because for the last 3 years Hoyer’s Senior Policy Adviser was a man named Ed Lorenzen?  In a perfectly insidious-insidery piece of Revolving Door precision Lorenzen arrived to work for Hoyer in 2007 directly after a stint as the Concord Coalition’s Policy Director. Lorenzen initially came to my attention last month because I noticed this: (emphasis mine)

“House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) today announced staff changes in his leadership office.  Hoyer has hired James Leuschen as Senior Policy Advisor, replacing Ed Lorenzen, who will be joining the Peter G. Peterson Foundation as a Senior Policy Advisor to the CEO. In acknowledging the departure of Ed Lorenzen, Hoyer said: “’I want to thank Ed Lorenzen for his years of service to my office and the Democratic Caucus.  He is a tireless worker, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is fortunate to have someone with his outstanding expertise.'”

This is text-book case of the Revolving Door at its worst as well as a perfect example of how talking points like those advocated by the Concord Coalition and the Peterson Foundation gain entrance into mainstream, supposedly liberal, debates.   They deliver their acolytes into behind the scenes Policy Advisory positions in offices on both sides of the aisle to guide and give words to empty cipher politicians like Hoyer, who become their spokespeople and do their bidding and dirty-work against the public interest for cash to get re-elected so they can perpetuate their power and old boys and gals martini network into infinity.   Lorenzen got Hoyer to advance these ridiculous and destructive Wall-Street favored proposals, inject them into more mainstream, less obscure channels, giving them a veneer of respectability and bi-partisanship (at least to Beltway media types) and even though he is no longer working directly for Hoyer, he’ll always have complete and total access to his office with ghost-written talking points and face time whenever they are needed.  Mission accomplished.  Time to cash in.  This is how it works.

To recap: Mr. Lorenzen bookended his time as the Senior Policy Adviser to the second most powerful Democrat in the House with positions in 2 of the pre-eminent organizations attempting to loot and privatize Social Security.  I’m sure the fact that while Lorenzen worked for Hoyer as his Senior Policy Adviser, Hoyer was viewed to “have long had an interest” in the hugely unpopular “fix” Social Security enterprise and actually used the exact same cynically manufactured, manipulative and factually challenged propaganda regarding Social Security put out by Pete Peterson and his ilk is surely just one of those exceedingly rare, yet far too common, aw-shucks “Wouldn’t you know it” by God coincidences that somehow always seem to happen in Washington DC these days.