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www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

December 1, 2008



Rice, Bush and Yet Another Wedge

There has been a Condoleezza Rice citing. The near-invisible Secretary of State for the Bush administration (a.k.a. The Administration of Diminished Responsibility) has come out of the shoe store long enough to weigh in on the India massacre and hostage mess this past weekend:

"What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads. I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation and that's what we expect."

What is sorely missing from any analysis by anyone during this newest quagmire is that Pakistan - already being blamed by Indian police officials for what occurred - is under the leadership of a new administration. (Pakistan has a new President and Prime Minister, the former a replacement for General Pervez Musharraf.) Certainly the attacks in India, likely by Islamist extremists and likely by extremists from Pakistan, was planned, at least in part, to help create a wider drift than already exists between the two neighboring and feuding countries.

Think back to Senator Joe Lieberman's words (which were echoed by Senator Joe Biden during the just passed 2--8 US Presidential election:

"Our enemies will test the new president early. Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration."
-Lieberman on Face The Nation

In this case, the administration being tested is the new Pakistani regime, one put in place, in part, due to the unpopularity and seemingly criminality of former President Musharraf.

Secretary Rice and President Bush have come forth to jump on the "blame Pakistan" bandwagon, and it isn't smart. Anyone who is paying attention (and it appears increasingly more and more that the Bushies aren't) realizes that the new government in Pakistan needs US help. They need our help to govern; they need our help to create a peace between them and their neighbor, India; and they need our help to extend that peace inward towards themselves. Piling on while pointing fingers might be the way in which the Bush administration usually operates, but in this case it's just another infusion of hate into an already horrific situation.

Isn't it funny how on the day Secretary Rice says that Pakistan should "follow the evidence wherever it leads" that President Bush also said his biggest regret was the "intelligence failure" on Iraq. One has to wonder how this administration could sit there with a straight face and tell Pakistan to do what they ignored. Remember, the evidence that brought us to war in Iraq took us out of a true coalition fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan's other neighbor. And when the lies were brought out to bear witness against the policies which took us to a seemingly never-ending war in Iraq, President Bush, Secretary Rice and all those who favored such a conflict came up with a litany of other reasons to keep our troops there. They included: The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein; We have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them there; al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were working together; and Saddam Hussein sought yellowcake uranium.

No one's going to seriously sit there and tell me that this enemy - this same enemy - hasn't been emboldened by the constant lies and evidence centered around the already defined conclusions which kept us in Iraq and out of the real war on terror that's helped lead us up to this moment.

Bush's admitted that he was "unprepared for war" would today be laughable if it weren't for the thousands of lives lost in Iraq and the fuel which helped create the situations we now see in India and elsewhere in Asia. Even today, bush's answer to the "bad intelligence" as a reason to go to war doesn't sway him from the fight he sought:

"That's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate,"
"The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."

Driving wedges into situations for political and personal gain has been trademarks of the Bush administration. We've seen them use every issue from immigration to stem cell research as a means of separating people who should be united, not divided.

The use of Pakistan's new government, in this case, is still just another wedge. But why? Is it that they really believe that pointing fingers at the new government of Pakistan will make us more popular in that nation? I doubt it.

Maybe they just can't help themselves. After all, driving wedges between people, cultures and nations is what the Bushies do best.

And it doesn't stop there. Rice decided to personalize the India terror acts for US citizens:

"We share the grief and the anger of the Indian people but of course Americans were also killed in this attack and they were killed deliberately because they were Americans,"

If there were no Americans killed would Rice even have bothered to come out of the shoe store? Is it really necessary for terrorists to kill an American or six to make us stand up and take notice? It certainly appears that it is the case to make sure the Bush administration takes notice.

I'm sure that identifying Rice's statements for what they are; realizing that the ineptitude which the Bush administration seems to keep piling on; and the things they keep on saying and doing which make our world so much worse are just not going to stop. With around fifty days remaining in their time leading the less-free-than-it-used-to-be world, one has to wonder what kind of havoc the Busies are going to be able to wreak with the time they have remaining.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

Mayors of cities all across America should take a long look at Philadelphia. So should President-elect Barack Obama and those expecting him to make the changes he promised in speeches given over the past two years of his campaign. The nation is on the financial skids and it is showing up in Philadelphia ways that will no doubt hit other, seemingly better-off cities and their leaders in due time.

Philadelphia may well be the cautionary template by which other cities–and the nation–will need to predicate any changes that require municipal or federal funding in the next few years.

When Michael Nutter was running for mayor and after his inauguration in January, he made extensive promises about changes he would make in the city’s infrastructure. Nutter’s proposals were exciting, but costly.

Those promises were sundered Nov. 6 when Mayor Nutter announced that the recession had hit Philadelphia very hard. “The economic storm has arrived with such force that a respected economist said it was as if the national economy had ‘fallen off a cliff,’” Nutter said. “Painful program and service cuts are necessary.”
Philadelphia is the only one of America’s ten largest cities to also be among the ten poorest cities, so it was not surprising that we would be hit hardest and earliest–and we will not be the last, that’s certain.
It’s also clear that what is happening in Philadelphia will be mirrored in the nation as a whole and that what Mayor Nutter is being forced to do here, President-elect Obama will be forced to do on a larger scale nationally.

Budget cuts hurt. How much they hurt depends on who you are, where you are and how much you need what’s being cut. Services impact the poor and working poor the most, and when those are cut, the people who can least afford to be slammed again are indeed hit hardest.

That will certainly be the case come January in Philadelphia.

Like President-elect Obama has outlined for the country, then-Mayor-elect Nutter also had scores of policy initiatives and plans for re-organizing and re-structuring that would benefit the city as a whole.

Then the economy went into free-fall and the city’s previously stable budget wasn’t stable anymore. Like everyone else, the city lost money in the stock market. But unlike for Wall Street, there was no bailout ready to cushion the blow. The amount the city has lost due to the economic crisis is huge. The impact that loss will have on the city, however, is incalculable.

According to Nutter, a $1 billion shortfall in funds has created a severe financial emergency for the city and the only way to address it is with major budget cuts. This also means that Nutter’s plans for improving the city, expanding services and creating new programs and services will be curtailed or forfeited altogether.

Last year Nutter pledged changes in taxes to benefit Philadelphians. These included continuing the plan to reduce the City Wage Tax to 3.25 percent for residents and nonresidents by 2015. Another Nutter pledge was to establish a schedule for eliminating the gross-receipts part of the Business Privilege Tax over five to seven years as well as a cut in the net-income portion.

Among the alterations Nutter has been forced to make to his original plans are postponing all these cuts until 2015.

Mayor Nutter also promised to finally fully fund the Housing Trust Fund which has desperately needed increased funding since as far back as when Wilson Goode was mayor.

The HTF finances all affordable housing projects in the city–many of which are currently in the process as homes are being built to replace former high-rise Section 8 housing that has been demolished. But under the new budget cuts, the $15 million Nutter pledged in a five-year plan has been cut by more than half to a mere $6 million.

Another big hit for the city is police protection. If you attended the Thanksgiving Day parade (the oldest in the country and the most charming), you likely saw many Philadelphia police officers along the parade route. But come January (hopefully after the Mummer’s Day Parade which brings millions to the city), police presence at parades will have to be paid for by those putting on the parades. This is either going to mean fewer parades or ones that are far less safe for parade-goers. What it will mean for the annual July 4th celebrations which generally bring at least two million people to the Parkway is unclear.

But beyond the parade issue, Mayor Nutter originally pledged to hire 500 additional police officers over three years.

That’s no longer happening, despite the fact that four police officers have been murdered in Philadelphia in the past year, the most recent two weeks ago. According to Everett Gilson, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, around 200 unfilled positions in the police department will remain vacant. In addition, overtime like that required in the recent searches for the killers of police officers, will be reduced. The police department instead will shift police from one place to the other to attempt to remedy the shortfall in officers. Two hundred police officers have been moved onto street duty from other duties to artificially increase patrol manpower. But at the end of this month, the number of police officers, just over 6,600, will be the same as it was when Nutter took office in January. There will be no new hires.

Several firehouses will also be shut down, making access to Philadelphia’s increasingly limited EMS system all the more strained.

In addition to these cuts and deferrals, Nutter plans to cut more than 800 city jobs and also cut salaries for administrators. Most cuts will be five percent, but Nutter has taken a ten percent salary cut himself effective with the other cuts in January.

The budget cut that has galvanized Philadelphians, however, is one that effects their children directly. The city will close 11 libraries, cut the Sunday hours of three others and close 68 of 73 public swimming pools.

This cut seems less dramatic now that the temperatures are below freezing and Christmas is less than a month away. But when schools let out in June and hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia kids are left with no outlet for their frustrations in the heat and unsupervised hours of another brutal Philadelphia summer, the impact of these pool and library closings are going to be felt not just by the kids who use them, but by everyone else in their neighborhoods.

Nutter may feel there are no other places to cut. But for decades a crushing debt in pension and health care plans for city workers has made it difficult for any mayor to manage to move their budget forward. Philadelphia municipal employees receive an average of $13,000 in services per person, per year, compared to $9,000 for state workers.

Everyone wants a pension, but few American workers actually have them. Everyone deserves health care. But shouldn’t the city be looking at its biggest financial burden–these pension and health care plans–and figure out a way to get more for less, the way the state has?

And where is the private sector in this crisis? Philadelphia’s sports’ teams alone should be kicking in some of this shortfall. Donovan McNabb should pledge to keep several city pools open. He could certainly donate some of his $30 million salary which has yet to secure the Eagles a Super Bowl win. He’s been paid for two seasons sitting on the bench. Shouldn’t he contribute something to the city that makes it possible for him to live his lavish lifestyle?

And it’s not just McNabb–he just happens to have the most outrageous salary. Philadelphia spent $1.5 million on the World Series celebration. While the Phillies and the city were certainly deserving of that celebration, shouldn’t Phillies management pick up some of the tab, given that it’s been 28 years since the last win?

The Mayor has gone to Washington, D.C. to ask for some of the proposed bailout money, but whether or not it will be granted is another story. The Bush Administration seems disinterested in bailing out Main Street.

The drama of the budget cuts is massive and cannot be overstated. But at present Mayor Nutter’s plan appears to be taking the city’s crisis out on the people who can least sustain the impact: the poor and working class. People in Chestnut Hill, the Far Northeast and Center City will have access to their private clubs in the heat of the summer months and so will their children. There are books and computers in their households already.

But for the three out of five Philadelphia kids who live at or below the poverty level in Germantown or Kensington or Grey’s Ferry, those libraries and pools are what make summer livable. Violence and heat are linked. Without access to air-conditioned libraries and cooling pools, how much more gun and gang violence can we expect?

The country is in the throes of an economic disaster. Philadelphia may be the canary in the mine, the harbinger of what other cities can expect in the coming year. But while cuts are certainly necessary, trimming the fat is the way the Mayor should go, not cutting the life-lines our poorest communities have.

In response to India's 911-like terrorist attacks, Robert Chapman writes:

The idea that there is some anti-terrorist success in not having an attack on American soil since 9/11/01 is ludicrous.

The Green Zone in Baghdad where the American Embassy is located is under constant attack. Press reports documented one a couple of days ago. Outside the Right wing whacko world, attacks on an Embassy are attacks on US soil.

Secondly, and more importantly, the last attack on American soil before 9/11/01 was in the War of 1812. Unless Bush/Cheney are willing to take the blame for dropping the ball and failing to do something that 38 other Presidents prevented, they should quit their crowing.

Finally, we know that the US is just as vulnerable to an attack now as it was in '01. We know that the terrorists have struck everywhere else in the world. It is not the crack anti-terrorist strategy of the Bush Administration that has spared us. It is the inherent difficulty of attacking America.

Bush/Cheney may have used the dearth of attacks since '01 as talking points, but they remain just empty talk.

And Denise adds:

We should definitely be concerned about the attacks in India, but we should not have the mouth piece of the Bush Administration already threatening Pakistan, even though it has been said that the group responsible has it's roots in India. Is there no reasoning anymore? The captured militant accuses Pakistan as the cause and Ms. Rice and Bush believe this. Reasoning (even though I could be wrong) would tell you that a captured militant's end result of this horrible incident would be to have the U.S. focus on Pakistan and further divide yet two more areas in this region.

There is a right way for dialogue regarding this incident and Rice's and Bush's finger pointing and tough talk do not help the situation. If a miracle happens we will see a more diplomatic approach that encourages these rivals to talk and come to an agreeable solution rather than have the United States dictate and become even more unpopular in a part of the world we are already hugely disliked.

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-Noah Greenberg