Cinco De Mayo Madman

Thursday, May 5, 2005



DeLay's ethics impact real people

It's been nearly eight years since I last saw Tom DeLay. I was a high-school teacher on the small Pacific island of Saipan. DeLay was on a fact-finding mission. I regret that we didn't get a chance to talk.

A visit by a sitting member of Congress is still extremely rare on this tropical outpost, more than 3,000 miles west of Hawaii. Saipan is the capital of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory created after American marines expelled Japanese forces in World War II. Today, Saipan welcomes tens of thousands of tourists annually. Visitors tour battlefields, snorkel crystal waters, and golf the island's world-famous links.

I'm sure Mr. DeLay, joined by his wife and daughter, enjoyed his stay at the island's finest resort. But it was government business, not tourism, that brought him to Saipan. Like many residents, I was pleased to see that DeLay had made a personal effort to assess our situation. The island was experiencing remarkable changes. By the mid-'90s, the territory's lenient labor and immigration laws had created a free-market haven for a burgeoning garment industry. Unlike Guam and Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) was authorized by Congress to maintain its own minimum wage and non-resident worker laws.

Local optimism about DeLay's visit stemmed from a belief that the solution to Saipan's problems transcended political partisanship. The Department of the Interior had recommended a gradual annual increase in minimum wage over the next decade and encouraged vigorous enforcement against labor violations. With Congressional approval, these moderate and necessary steps could proceed.

Regardless of our political leanings, we believed that pressure from Washington was needed to challenge vested interests. Even the island's community of conservative Southern Baptist missionaries - a group not particularly known for seeking government regulation - shared this conclusion. In fact, local evangelicals and Catholics worried openly about an unregulated environment that had emboldened efficiency-minded factory managers to force abortions on their immigrant employees.

We now know that DeLay was blind to these injustices. Earlier this week, the Associated Press used an open records request to confirm what many of us suspected after DeLay's 1998 visit. The congressman's trip was a political favor for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a man he called "one of my closest and dearest friends." Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, remains at the center of an ongoing ethics investigation into DeLay's travel expenses and close relationship with lobbyists.

Such relationships made DeLay a particularly useful ally after the CNMI governor's office, working in concert with garment industry officials, hired Abramoff. In the late '90s, the CNMI paid out an astronomical $8 million to Abramoff's firm Preston & Gates. Not coincidentally, the legislation aimed at reforming island labor practices never saw the House floor.

In the weeks ahead, we will hear more about DeLay and "possible ethics violations." This language is unfortunate. For many Americans, ethics violations are viewed as technical oversights, fiscal improprieties, or personal abuses of power. Such thinking ignores the profound impact a leader's decisions can have on real people.

For the tens of thousands of laborers and native islanders who have suffered under prolonged government corruption, DeLay's ethical choices have had an impact. Real human beings have been cheated in their pursuit of a livelihood. Real human beings have seen their traditional cultural connections severed. And real human beings have learned that constitutional rights are too easily skirted.

I still wish I could speak with Mr. DeLay. I have no idea whether he broke any House ethics rules when he visited Saipan. But given the renewed interest in his actions, I would like to ask him more about the factors that determine his political decisions. "People know that Majority Leader DeLay stands on principles and bases his voting decisions on the merits," a DeLay spokesperson argued last week. I, for one, remain unconvinced.

-by Stephen Mucher as forwarded by Robert Scardapane

Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?
What could you do for her?

A wife and mother of a child finds out she is pregnant. Just into her third month, she finds that she needs to quit her job and stay at home to rest. Her husband makes a decent living, but it will still be a struggle for the couple. They are confident that they'll get by.

The husband's job offers him an employee-contribution health insurance plan, but little else. He pays for about 40 percent, or about $380 per month for him, his wife, their child and their soon-to-be-born child. Money will be tight. They are confident that they'll get by.

One day, on his way to work, the man falls ill and dies.

There is little savings to tap. There are no relatives to ask for help. The widow has no job, nor could she work if she had one.

How will she, her child and her soon-to-be-born child make it to the day of birth? Wh will help her? Who will help her children? Who will help her after she gives birth?

Before telling this woman that she must have a child, answer those questions and get back to me. President Bush and people like Grover Norquist really don't care. Is this an extreme case? Yes. Have cases like this happened in the past? Probably. Is there any contingency plan for women like this? If there is, I haven't heard of it, at least not on the federal level.

The question is: Can anyone take away this woman's right to choose without offering her any hope or any help?

Where are you on this line?


-Noah Greenberg



In response to "Chinaholds notes on the US economy," Jack Kashinsky writes:

Yes Noah, you are correct, China, along with a number of other countries does hold US notes.

A consequence if this is that as our deficits and imbalances increase the amount of interest the government (the taxpayers) is charged increasing. The US is no longer considered a good credit risk, and some countries, notably Japan, are becoming extremely uncomfortable.

Every time the Lipper (GW) spends money that must be borrowed, and with every negative import/export imbalance, brings us closer to the time when our credit is so bad that it will no longer be acceptable regardless of the interest rate.

I guess that we simply have to agree to disagree on the illegal alien problem. The exploitation of Mexico started well before the not too Civil War, and are being perpetuated by selfish non caring American business people. The lipper loves it since the exploiters contribute a lot more to his war chest that the poor Mexicans, who can't even vote.

There are many unfortunate US citizens also, but trust me, they are not in the same poor straits that the Mexican illegal's are. If the unscrupulous privateers paid wages appropriate to the task, the invasion of illegals would clear up overnight. Many indigent Americans would then gladly take these positions.

Jack writes: In regard to the Social Security stats, this is just the beginning. The Lipper wishes to eliminate ALL OF THE ENTITLEMENTS.

Madman writes in response:


The goal is "to get it (government) down to the size where I can drown it in a bathtub,"
-Grover Norquist, the Executive Director of the College Republicans, boardmember of the NRA, and head of Americans for Tax Reform

The plan would seem to be to increase the size of the deficit so much that without drastic government reform, the government would cease to be able to function at any level. That being the case, ALL federally funded programs would be eliminated and ALL the neo-cons would be able to start from scratch. If that were to happen, you could bet the NEW federal government would look a lot like Grover Norquist dreams. And Mr. Norquist has the RIGHT bunch of people in charge to make his dreams come true - the Bushies.

-Noah Greenberg

In response to the "Fed Spin," Robert Scardapane writes:

Inflation ... Slowly growing economy ... Stagnant wages and high long term unemployment ... There's a word for this phenomena - stagflation. The Fed does not deny there is inflation - to do so would be laughable as the numbers are plain enough. They do deny that the economy is slowing by claiming we are in a "soft patch" due to rising oil prices.

Well, excuse me but this is the second significant "soft patch" in two years and isn't it likely that oil prices will continue to rise? Mr Fed, get used to the word stagflation, it's all a matter of how bad will it get.



"It seems as if it is clear ... that the British people wanted the return of a Labour government but with a reduced majority. And we have to respond to that sensibly and wisely and responsibly."
-British Primer Minister Tony Blair after his winning his third term while having his Labour Party lose their large majority

It appears that Mr. Blair is willing to concede that his government needs to view its affairs in a different light in order get things done.

Tony Blair appears to be listening (Or at least he's faking it pretty good). Are you listening President Bush? Can anyone say "Lame Duck?"


-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg