Today's Note from a Madman

Monday, December 12, 2005


I would be remiss if I didn't note that Eugene McCarthy passed away this weekend at the age of 89. The Minnesota Senator was a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement that drove LBJ from office. Hubert Humphrey got the nomination in 1968 and lost to Nixon. Nevertheless, I believe that McCarthy's courageous stand against the war was the political beginning of the end. Rest in peace Senator McCarthy.
-Robert Scardapane

What Kind of Progressive am I?

Bear in mind, I am less concerned with Democrats taking back the House and the Senate than I am with good and caring people taking over. I don't believe that one has to be a Democrat to be a good and thoughtful leader any more than I believe that a Republican can't be one no matter what.

Take a look at what has become of Senator Joseph Lieberman. At one time I called myself a "Lieberman-Democrat." But since his alignment with the Bush administration over the occupation of Iraq (after all, the MISSION is ACCOMPLISHED... Just ask President Bush), it appears that Senator Lieberman can't see the truth as it stands in front of his face.

Needless to say, I am no longer a "Lieberman-Democrat."

-Noah Greenberg

Does Our Defense Spending Make Sense?

The right wing war hawks say that defense spending is sacred. There is nothing sacred at all about spending 41% more on defense in 2006 than in 2001. Do we really need to build new classes of attack helicopters, submarines, bunker busting nuclear bombs and a missile defense system? I am not so sure. Large weapon systems have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Those systems are relics of the cold war.

Some say that we need to bulk up for a potential war with China. Really?

Right now, the Chinese will win a war without even firing a shot. All they got to is call in the treasury bonds and refuse to ship America all those goodies you find on the shelf in Wal-Mart's. Our economy would soon collapse.

Without a strong economy, a nation's defense can not be strong. The next politician, Republican or Democrat, that tells me the answer is education will earn my scorn. Was education responsible for manufacturing leaving this country? I think not. The same goes for the outsourcing we see in the knowledge based jobs. Money is simply trumping all common sense. The free enterprise system is eating the middle class for lunch.

Do I propose protectionism? To some degree, it has become necessary. All of the European nations are protectionist to an extent. Perhaps, it's time for the 30% tariff on Chinese imports. But, what about the WTO? Well, what exactly do we get from our membership in the WTO? Since Bush took over, all the WTO decisions are against us. The latest and greatest is that the WTO wants control over setting our limits on H1B visas and wants to eliminate prevailing wage requirements. Now, if that isn't trashing our sovereignty I don't know what is.

It's time to nurture the means of production in our own nation before we find ourselves unable to make anything at all. Heresy or just survival. I think the latter.

-Robert Scardapane

The Irresponsible Spender

So Bush is doing what Republicans do best. When confronted with the immigration problem by both sides (Democrat and Republican), he comes up with a compromise that does nothing to solve the problem.

Solution number 1: Allow workers from Mexico to come into the US and take US currency back across the border every night to spend in Mexico. These workers will, of course, not make the minimum wage, pay taxes or contribute, economically in any way toward the economy of the United States, with the exception of making the corporate CEO's richer because of the lower wages and zero benefits they have to pay.

This first solution does an additional disservice to the American people. Even if you assume that, as Vincente Fox, Mexico's president believes, that these migrant workers do jobs Americans don't want to do. We'll never really know if that's true or not because Americans aren't offered those jobs.

I ask you all to go back to your youth. Some of you in my generation (I'm 45 years old) will remember the jobs we had when we were in high school and college. As a senior in high school, I worked in a very busy Brooklyn (NY) restaurant called Seniors as a bus boy. A few years ago I went back to Seniors as a patron. I wasn't surprised to see that all of the bus boys working there were of Mexican or South American descent. It has gotten much harder for our children to get that same job we had as kids: the bus boy; the stock boy; the part time job at the local motel.

So Mr. Fox, don't tell me what jobs Americans will work.

The second solution that President Bush came up with is to throw money at the problem. With no real plan, Mr. Bush decided that we need to spend more on border security. How many more agents are you going to hire for some 800 miles worth of border Mr. Bush? Are you going to build a wall? Maybe you could dig out the Rio Grande, extend it to the Pacific and make it a shipping lane for water commerce and cruises. You could take the billions of tons of silt and dirt you remove and build up the barrier islands around New Orleans.

After all, imagine how much money you friends could make off of a project like that.

-Noah Greenberg

The INC - A Media Invention!

One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam.
-Rolling Stone Magazine

The Iraqi Nation Congress, led by Ahmad Chalabi, was a media creation! The INC is the group that fed the Pentagon and newspapers, via Judith Miller, false information on Hussein's WMD. In a real sense, the Iraq War was engineered by a media company!

-Robert Scardapane

More Fuzzy Math

Jobless claims are up. But the Bushies say it's still because of Hurricane Katrina... even the new claims.

They say the economy is strong, even though new jobs can't keep up with population growth or immigration. Just how is that possible?

The jobless claims increased by over 6,000 two weeks ago. The Bushies claim that to be indicative of a strong job market. They blame the short Thanksgiving week for that increased figure... So, it's the Turkey's fault.

The unemployment rate is constant at just above five percent. Well if new jobs are being created and people are falling off the unemployment roll, and given the "fact" that new jobs are being created, shouldn't that rate be lower?

Here's a math problem. Say GOP City has 100,000 people who want to work. 5,000 of them have no jobs and collect unemployment.. An additional 150 people move into GOP City the past month. In that same past month, the "elders" of the city say that they created an additional 5,150 jobs. How are there still 5000 people left unemployed?

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2005 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

When the 9/11 Commission appointed by President Bush delivered it's report card last week on how the federal government is protecting the nation against terrorism, the Administration got a failing grade. Virtually nothing has been done since 9/11 to prepare against another terrorist attack, an attack which everyone from the bi-partisan Commission led by Republican and former New Jersey Governor Tom Keane to the CIA and FBI states is inevitable.

The U.S. is not equipped to handle a terrorist attack or its aftermath, Keane noted last week as he delivered his findings, his anger barely controlled at the lack of progress.

Keane made the corollary that the Bush Administration has ignored for over three months: Hurricane Katrina was the Administration's opportunity to prove its readiness for a sudden disaster, like 9/11. Yet the Administration still failed on all fronts, Keane noted: For example, the ability of police and federal agents to communicate during Katrina was as erratic and unreliable as it had been the morning of 9/11, and led as it had on 9/11, to loss of life, injury and massive suffering.

Keane's report didn't address the aftermath of disaster, but there again Katrina provides a terrifying glimpse into what would happen if/when the U.S. is attacked again: Services would shut down, people would be without food, water, shelter, medical attention–all the most basic necessities–for an unknown period of time. And when the immediacy of the disaster had passed, there would still be only limited help for the victims and survivors–or so has been the legacy of Katrina. Survivors have experienced first-hand the Bush Administration's lack of preparedness for a massive disaster.

Katrina displaced 1.3 million people from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. As Christmas approaches, 600,000 of those people are still without jobs or income. Two-thirds of those are virtually homeless, housed by relatives or strangers kind enough to take them in, or warehoused by the federal government which has given them until January 3rd to find alternative shelter. But without income, how does one find housing? All these people had houses in New Orleans; now they have nothing.

Nearly four months after Katrina struck, New Orleans–the ground zero of Katrina–remains a shambles, its survivors still suffering. Electricity and water have yet to be restored in much of the city. Nor have they been restored in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi hard hit outside New Orleans. A quick drive through Pass Christian or Waveland reveals once thriving towns now nothing more than acres of debris–the shattered houses reduced to mere sticks, the occasional car or SUV overturned like King Kong tossed it aside.

In New Orleans the French Quarter is finally open for business again, but in the Ninth Ward where I used to work, there is nothing but gutted houses marked with the inevitable signs of tragedy: spray-painted notations of the dead inside, roofs chopped out where people tried to escape the raging flood when the levees broke a few miles down. This part of town will have to be bulldozed and totally rebuilt. But when, and by whom? Residents of this neighborhood were let in only a week ago after more than three months. There was little they could salvage.
The death toll from Katrina was lower than expected–just under 2,000. But the displacement has been monumental, unprecedented in American history. What's more, there has never been an instance of a U.S. city of its size being destroyed, raising many questions about whether and how to rebuild.

New Orleans is a singular city in the American landscape. There is no other town like it in America and frankly, it should have been better protected. Not only does New Orleans house America's largest and most prosperous port, but it also houses a culture that exists nowhere else in the nation. Aside from its incomparable beauty and ineffable charm, New Orleans is a seat of both vital commerce and essential history.

If terrorists had destroyed the levees instead of Katrina, would there be a question about rebuilding? Wouldn't the President and every conservative in Washington be saying, "If we don't rebuild the terrorists win"?

New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast decimated by Katrina can and must be rebuilt and rebuilt in their former image–not like some Disneyworld theme-park.

But beyond the rebuilding is the *recovery.* A 12-year-old boy whose mother was killed when their house flooded is now living with an aunt. She cannot get services for him because she is not his legal guardian. She can't get a death certificate for her sister because the body hasn't been found. She cannot have her declared dead for seven years.

This is the story of the aftermath.

In the past few weeks there have been myriad revelations about the failure of the President, the Office of Homeland Security and FEMA to assist during the Katrina disaster. A series of emails between Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and President Bush reveal an increasingly desperate Governor pleading for help with an only marginally interested President.
What if it had been a terrorist attack instead of a hurricane?

Four months after Katrina struck, at least 600,000 people remain in dire straits, unaided by government, unable to recover their lives without such aid. The terrible scenes of Americans screaming and crying for help that we all witnessed back in August should never have happened. The news reports that we heard of thousands living without water, food or toilets in the Superdome and the Convention Center were sickening. This suffering happened because the government failed on every level to protect its citizens. Katrina should have been a wake-up call for the Bush Administration.

It hasn't been.

Katrina devastated more than one of America's most beautiful and historic cities. It devastated the lives of 1.3 million people. Half those people remain one step from homelessness.

Katrina breeched more than the levees of New Orleans, it breeched the trust of Americans in the ability of their government to help them in a disaster or a terrorist attack. This tragedy–like 9/11, so unprecedented--raises the question of what responsibility our government bears toward it citizens. Katrina reduced the people of New Orleans and the surrounding area to Third World status–a status they have yet to rise above in the intervening months.

A basic tenet of a democratic republic is that government take care of its citizens. The Bush Administration has not taken care of the victims of Katrina–not New Orleans, the Gulf Coast nor the thousands still trying to recover some semblance of the lives they had before that fateful day in August.

What if it were, as Keane intimates it could be at any time–*us*who are the next victims of disaster or terrorist attack? When will our government be able to protect us and keep us safe? Or are we, like the survivors of Katrina, on our own to scape by as if this were not the richest country on earth, but some developing nation with no safeguards for its citizens in place?
Let's help the Katrina victims *now.* And let's plan and prepare for the next Katrina or 9/11 before it is too late.

In response to "A View from the Right", Ms. Billie Spaight writes:

The Safety Net

If Bush was any more conservative, we may as well join Iran and Iraq because we are already far too influenced by religious fanatics who do not care about the well-being of the common people. While I agree that welfare should not be given out like candy to anyone, I think there are cases in which it is necessary to have a safety net.

There are regions in the country where people find it tough to get jobs. Certain types of people are routinely passed over for jobs--and I don't mean only racial minorities but also people with disabilities, people who are short or unattractive, and people who are older. No matter how hard they look they find it tough to get jobs. I've Been There, Done That and I know of at least three people in my life who are there right now.

I feel also that medical care IS an entitlement (life is one of the three things promised us) and that we should have a universal health care system.

Trickle down economics has already proven to be a HUGE failure. When I was out of work and searching, it did NOT trickle down to me. It was all dried up before it ever got there.

Lest your friend think I am a welfare case wanting to spend other people's money--let him think again. I am self-employed and pay double taxes so my proportion of supporting the safety net will always be twice what most people pay.

I believe in giving back to the community and I am willing to do this. Yes, I would like lower taxes but not if it means more sick and dying and homeless people. If corporate welfare (which is a much larger slice of the pie than individual welfare) were cut along with all the money spent killing Iraqis that aren't even after us, we could afford to take care of our own.

Also, for perspective's sake, again, my position on Israel is not exactly totally pro-Palestinian either as I believe strongly in the State of Israel, so I am NOT an anti-Semite. I just know that Iraq is not connected with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda.

Many thanks for letting this "mad" (as in angry) woman share.


...And Robert Scardapane writes:

This opinion piece was about as upside down as it gets - elitist to an extreme. Bush is not conservative enough - that says it all. This was a definite turn off and I'll make no further comments.


...And Casey Sweet writes:

The premises behind the thoughts expressed here seem weak, faulty, or unsubstantiated and based more on opinion than fact. Life has more nuance than black and white opinions of good and bad, right and wrong. To break it down.

Rightie: It is all your perspective. What should we care more about the safety of our county, our soldiers and our allies in Iraq, or the constitutional rights of terrorists.

This is a false premise that there are people (supposedly referring to all progressives and liberals) who care more about the constitutional right of terrorists than their own citizens. What were you smoking when you came up with this conclusion or is it just a piece of slander to try and dominate the discussion when, in actuality, this twisted thinking came out of your mind. Because you attribute such thoughts and actions to others does not make it true. Slander does not equal truth no matter how loud.

Rightie: We will leave when the country can support its own security needs and is not at risk of becoming another Iran or Syria. The Iraqis still want us there. They know that they need us now.

Don’t you see that we pushed Iraq towards the direction of Iran and Syria and the government about to be installed in Iraq is going to reflect much of Iranian thinking? Do you think our soldiers went to war to die so they could install an Iranian influenced government that takes women’s rights backwards? Do the Iraqis want us there or are you cherry-picking thoughts of Iraqis like Chalabi who have so embedded themselves with us that they do not want to loose the U.S. meal ticket? Does it comfort you to think that “they know they need us now” as if we have finally convinced them they are dependent on us. Is that our mission in the world?

And, in a sidebar, we are interested in building a democracy in Iraq and “staying the course” yet we cannot even stay the course in Louisiana and Mississippi and promise those UNITED STATES citizens as much as we promise Iraqis (e.g. rebuilding infrastructure to a higher standard, creating jobs, etc.). Though it does seem in both Iraq and Katrina hit areas we have guaranteed the Halliburtons and Brown & Root’s and other businesses associated with government officials that they can overcharge and loot the budgets. That they have in common.

Rightie: I too was upset about the tax break. I think it did not go far enough and was not permanent. It did not really affect me much, but the rich pay most of the taxes, why should they not get the biggest tax break.

Boy, you drank too much Kool-aid. When did you come to believe that people earning passive income (that means they did not work at a job to earn it) should pay substantially less taxes than those who earn by working. This is an elitist view to believe the rich are entitled to their money, merely because of their rich stature and the wage earners deserve less. I keep wondering if people who believe as you do live in the “world of aspiration” hoping to someday be in the forgiven rich tax bracket. Why are wealthy individuals subsidized to grow their riches and working class people taxed heavily? Did you also approve of the Bush gang allowing businesses to bring their hidden, offshore profits back into the U.S. for a 5% tax assessment instead of the typical corporate tax rates of 30% or more? Or how about the $9 billion that disappeared in Iraq never to be found and no one in our government wants any oversight or seems concerned. Are you in favor of oversight of these types of abuses? If so, your party shows not inclination to do such.

If you take an economics course you will learn about how those dollars trickle down through society when they are spent by people who earn them, and are far less effective at contributing to social welfare and prosperity, when they are given out to people in the form of food stamps unemployment, welfare and all those other entitlements which serve as a disincentive to work.

Talking about “it’s all in your perspective”, your view of economics is up for big debate as you know there are many perspectives and trickle down economics has been highly disputed. First, you premise is again flawed. You assume that the dollars are only going for food stamps, unemployment, welfare, and other entitlements. Yes, some monies go there, but let’s not forget about transportation, education, military, environment, and the many other categories that use tax dollars. Warren Buffet once talked about how useless it is to give a tax break to the wealthy and that he is not going to spend more because he already has enough to spend. That putting the money in the hands of working families is better for a country which is combination of economy and community. Why not give tax breaks to the working classes who will spend it?

Rightie: I also have a problem with Bush. He is not conservative enough. Spends too much, does not cut enough programs, has not vetod a single spending bill, but given the alternative he is the best we got. Both Gore and Kerry would have been disastrous for this county. Both go out and speak nonsense, continually contradicting their own statements, and criticizing others with no plan of their own.

Now we have some agreement. Bush has spent like a drunken sailor and much of it benefits big business and political goals and hurts individuals (though most people are not paying attention and will feel the effects in the future if not now). A prescription drug program that costs hundreds of billions and 50% more than the public was told when it was proposed and passed. Seniors can’t even understand the many choices of the program, the government refused to negotiate prices with pharmaceuticals, and many seniors are not online savvy and those facts illustrates how ill conceived and unconcerned the party is with providing real benefits.

As far as Gore or Kerry being disastrous to this country that is where you have NO substantiation. All you have is opinion, and since you are so far right your opinion on what a progressive or liberal might have done has no credibility. You probably slandered Clinton even as he built up surpluses and the economy benefited both the rich and working. One person’s “nonsense” is another person’s rational, thoughtful consideration of all options, people who see life is more than superficial rigidity of right/wrong, black/white, and yes/no which tends to lack in intellectual curiosity. All you missed echoing here was “flip-flop” but your comment that they “continually contradicted their own statements” suggest that is what you want to convey without revealing the psychologically embedded chant of many on the right.

If Bush and his cabinet were more flexible to look at nuances and embrace the bigger perspectives we would be more protected here at home (refer to the recent “F’s” given to this administration by the 9/11 commission, below 5% of containers being inspected at ports, etc.), have effective efforts during disasters no matter the color or economic status of victims (refer to Katrina), not have numerous and heinous instances of torture (refer to Abu Gharib and other instances recently), not have appointees to important positions that are unqualified and unable to do their job (refer to FEMA and others), not have secret groups meeting to plan (or create) an Iraq war before there was any need for one (refer to White House Iraq Group or WHIG), not lie about how many Iraqi troops are trained only to find out hardly any are after over 2 years…I could go on and online citing what has happened where there is evidence of the Bush gang mishandling (at best) the resources, support, and heart of Americans.

Rightie: We need a strong conservative like Newt or a newer face like Allen or Romney to begin their March toward the president. These straight talking, straight walking, do what they say and say what they mean guys, who are not afraid to propose unpopular options because they are in the best of the country, but are at the same time articulate enough to lead the nation to follow.

“In the best of the country” is a perspective that seems flawed and inaccurate to me and their decisions may not represent what I feel is good for this country. “Best for the country” is not an absolute like black/white, right/wrong, or good/bad. It is a personal point of view that many or few may agree on. I, personally, would not vote for or desire to follow any of these people you mention and I am familiar with them all. However, I do not suggest they should not run and might be better for the party than Bush (and definitely could think better on their own) and tend to be more straight-talking (though Newt has created too much baggage for himself and would never have a chance). BUT, don’t assume because they appeal to your very conservative nature that their decisions translate into “the best for the country.”

On a sidebar regarding “best for the country”, those who believe they have the right to dictate a woman’s decisions about her body are definitely not thinking “the best” for a majority of the country who believe Roe vs. Wade should remain. (I always say -- as soon as women are given control over what a man does with his private parts I will consider the legal sharing of a birth decision. Many women already share such a decision by choice, but should not be forced to any more than a man is forced to inseminate a woman.)

Rightie: When that happens we will welcome you back on the right side of center.

No offense, but to be welcomed to your “right side” would be an insult to my life and what I stand for. It would mean sacrificing a part of my humanity and putting all my needs above those of the bigger community and I don’t embrace that level of selfishness (and I do benefit from some of the tax breaks and still do not agree with them). It would mean embracing big business as the heir apparent to all government programs and special interests, often at the expense of citizens (refer to energy bill, bankruptcy bill mainly written by members of those industries and strongly supported by those receiving large donations). It would mean I would have to believe that it is better to fight and reconstruct Iraq than to allocate our resources to fight our own war on poverty and reconstruct Katrina hit areas. It would mean continuing to not allocate Homeland Security funds in a way that does not offer much protection to our country (remember there was 8 years between the first WTC attack and second on U.S. grounds and so far 4 years is only half way to that benchmark and it does not comfort me living in NYC.) Not to mention that I would have to give up my belief in my own right to choice as a woman and turn that right over to others (mostly men). Shall I go on as the list is endless.

If I were to take on the rigidity of the right I would say as a progressive – let’s get a progressive president in the White House who can think on many levels at once and truly make decisions in the best interests of ALL groups of Americans (not just big business) and lead with dignity, intelligence, fairness, thoughtfulness, compassion, and regain our image in the world so the world will want to partner with us against terrorism. And on a highly personal note, let’s make it someone who doesn’t act goofy like Bush who people make fun of and question his intelligence. Never has a tarnished badge of ‘questionable intelligence’ been worn so boldly as with this president so that the ‘little people’ feel that he is one of them and they could have a beer with them. I do not want a president fulfills the beer-drink image!!!

In response to "A Merry and a Happy (Fill in the Blank) to All", Eddie Konczal writes:

I'm a practicing Catholic, go to Mass every Sunday, and celebrate Christmas every December 25 - as millions of Christians have been doing for a couple millennia now. I don't think someone saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is going to interrupt, break, or have any other sort of deleterious effect on this tradition. In fact, I will even say "Happy Holidays" myself if I'm not sure of someone's religious affiliation. If I know someone is Christian, I'll say "Merry Christmas." If I know someone is Jewish, I'll say "Happy Hanukah." (Hey Noah - "Happy Hanukah!") And so on. It's really not that hard.

I also don't think there is a "secret liberal plot" to "take Christ out of Christmas." As long as there are Christians to celebrate Christmas, Christ will be part of the celebration.

I do, however, think there is a corporate plot to make as much money as possible out of Christmas and other year-end holidays. I blame Corporate America more than any other entity for the secularization of Christmas.

To all fellow Christians, Merry Christmas. To everyone else, Happy Holidays. And to all a good night!

Quotes of the Day

"Let me tell you, those gravestones don't say 'Republican" or "Democrat', they say 'American,"
-Rep. John Murtha

"The Iraqis will make no progress until the Americans leave,"

'Nuff said.

-Noah Greenberg

Alito Quotes

Provisions in a U.N. document "will undertake to provide broad protections for children... Unless the federal government actually intends to undertake these responsibilities on a national level (and we would vigorously oppose such an undertaking on federalism grounds) we believe that the Department of State should make clear in negotiations that it is unlikely" that the US would agree to those terms. "Their fulfillment will be at the discretion of the (individual US) states."
-Samuel Alito, 1987

Basically, Alito, who a the time was working for the Reagan administration, was against the world-wide protection of children's rights because it may interfere with state's rights to "execute" children under the age of 18.

In another memo from 1986, Alito suggested that illegal foreigners have only "limited rights" under the US Constitution. In response to that, Bruce Fein, a conservative Constitutional analyst who worked with Alito in the Reagan administration said:

"He (Alito) seems to be saying that there is no constitutional constraints placed on U.S. officials in their treatment of nonresident aliens or illegal aliens. Could you shoot them? Could you torture them? It's a very aggressive reading of cases that addressed much narrower issues."

We have a real humanitarian here for you.

Hey, Judge Alito, just because you have both a foot and a mouth doesn't mean they should fit the former into the latter.

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg