We've heard the president and his spokesman and other administration officials call all of their broken trusts, "phony scandals".
We watched multiple Sunday morning news shows try to challenge the "phony" claim, only to listen as the Secretary of the Treasury did his best to obfuscate what happened that led to the IRS scandal. He actually had the audacity to try to make a case that the treatment of the "right" and the "left" was evenhanded and equal. Secretary Lew went on to say that supervisors were removed from their positions, and tried to make that the end of the story. He didn't say who. He didn't say they got demoted. He didn't say they got fired. He didn't mention that Lois Lerner, the IRS director of Exempt Organizations and the woman who refused to give sworn testimony to the Congressional Committee and "took the Fifth", has not been demoted, replaced, or fired, she has been given a nice gift in the form of an extended paid leave. A reward for deceit.
This type of action on the part of the Obama administration is not new. It has become commonplace for the Obama team to ignore constitutional restrictions. It has become commonplace for them to selectively decide which laws they will prosecute and which they won't. And, importantly, it has become commonplace for them to challenge the separation of powers called for in our constitution. The Supreme Court was embarrassed by the president during his State of the Union message. They were embarrassed again when, just recently, the Attorney General refused to accept the findings of the court and announced he is going to require the state of Texas to comply with the 60-year-old decision that was overturned by the court's recent decision. Please understand, the separation of powers requires cooperation by the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. It is incumbent of the Executive Branch, through the offices of the Attorney General, to enforce the ruling of the courts . . . but this administration arbitrarily refuses to do so. That's dictatorial!
The president and his team have repeatedly talked of bypassing Congress when they don't get what they want. One such example was the president making "recess appointments" when the Congress was in session. Such appointments can only be made when they're not. The Constitution provides two specifics in this area. The first is that the Constitution gives Congress the right to make its own rules. The other issue is that there are certain cabinet level and other appointments that the president can make that must receive "the advice and consent" of the Senate. Brazenly, knowing that he had people he wanted to appoint who would not have received the endorsement of the Senate, he chose to appoint them anyway as "recess appointments" when the Senate was technically in session. That's not upholding the Constitution now, is it?
Perhaps the most disturbing scandal of all is Benghazi. Four brave Americans were brutally murdered. Our ambassador was one of those four and he was raped/sodomized, suffered any number of wounds, his body dragged through the streets, and tossed into a ditch along side a road. We watched as our in-territory diplomats testified that they had people that could have been to Benghazi in an hour. Other sources indicated that significant military might could be have been flown across the Mediterranean from Italy. But all were told to "stand down". That cowardice was followed by words to the effect "We couldn't have gotten there in time." That excuse has two major flaws. The first is, how did the decision maker(s) know how long the battle would rage before our men were killed? The second point is that it appears the killings took place about six hours after the attack began. This tragedy demands answers. Not the "What difference does it make?" from former Secretary of State Clinton. And not the lies about the attacks being caused by some obscure video. Serious answers starting with, Mr. President where were you when the attacks in Benghazi were going on? What could have more importantly occupied your time than the Benghazi raid and the lives of our citizens? (If a soldier leaves his post and goes AWOL while his unit is engaged with the enemy, he can be charged with desertion.) And why have all the survivors of the Benghazi attacks been hidden from Congress? Why haven't their names been released? Why are they prevented from telling their story?
Transparent administration? It's depending on you to be mute and stay uninformed . . . and so far, it's working.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Monday, 05 August 2013 08:41
"Good fences make good neighbors," goes the old adage. That civilizing thought refers to such friendly structures as the beautiful rock walls of New England, elegant split rails in the South, iconic whitewashed pickets of the Midwest and even privacy fences in neighborhoods all across our country.
But the neighborly adage definitely did not contemplate the 700-mile, 20-foot-high, drone-patrolled, electronically monitored fence of steel and razor wire that our government has erected across our nation's border with Mexico, from the tip of Texas to California's Pacific Coast.
This thing is not a fence, but a monstrous wall of hostility, a deliberate affront to our Mexican neighbors. As Sen. John McCain aptly put it in a recent debate on immigration, our Land of the Free has constructed "the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall!"
There are four big flaws with the theory that you can "secure" a border (i.e., keep people from crossing it) by throwing up a big ol' wall. First, it doesn't work. A 20-foot wall quickly begets 22-foot ladders — people are innately inventive, and those determined to get in or out will find many ways to do it.
Second, walls create bigger problems than they resolve, for they are deeply divisive. Our Mexican wall is ugly, both literally and in the unmistakable message of contempt it screams nonstop at the Mexican people. It's generating bitterness toward us — and that turns neighbors into enemies.
Third, that wall has physically ripped healthy relationships apart. For centuries, families, friends, businesses and cities themselves were thoroughly integrated into unified communities across the artificial line drawn on a map.
Fourth, such walls are insanely expensive — so far, Washington has hurled tens of billions of dollars at this one to build, maintain and police it. Enforcement alone costs $18 billion per year. In addition, states have dumped untallied billions into it.
Can these policymakers even spell w-a-s-t-e? Yet the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in June to waste another $46 billion to build 700 more miles of the hateful wall and double the number of militarized border agents. Is there no other need in our country for that money? Nothing constructive we might do with it?
But I shouldn't be too harsh on Washington, for both Republicans and Democrats are beginning to respond aggressively to economic needs. "It has been a tough time," says one Washington insider, noting with relief that a new spending proposal "could help out."
Unfortunately, he and Congress aren't referring to your tough times or helping out with your needs. No, no — they are rushing to the aid of the multibillion-dollar military-industrial complex. The government, you see, has not been getting our nation into enough wars to satisfy the insatiable appetite that Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other war profiteers have for government money. But now they've spied a new place they can militarize with their high-tech, high-cost, razzle-dazzle weaponry: yes, that border we share with Mexico.
In recent months, these corporate predators deployed an army of lobbyists to Congress, armed with mass campaign contributions. Targeting the immigration issue, "border security!" is their battle cry. They've already conquered the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill, stuffing it with $46 billion for goosed up militarization of the 2,000-mile border. They've literally turned the immigration bill into a corporate honey pot. More drones! More electronic gadgetry! More agents needing more weapons, night vision goggles and other war toys!
Various corporate lobbyists put their specific wish lists directly in the Senate bill. Rather than calling generally for the purchase of certain categories of hardware, it mandates brand-name purchases. For example, the bill requires the Border Patrol to buy six airborne radar systems from Northrop at $9.3 million each and 15 Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky at $17 million apiece.
What we have here is the emergence of a full-fledged monster — a Border-Industrial Complex that literally will tax us with an ever-expanding policy of permanent border war.
How long before they use the cry of "terrorism!" to militarize the Canadian border, too? And what after that? My guess is they'll want to seal off those pesky antiwar radicals in places like Vermont! Ultimately, they can fence all of us in. Or is it out?
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
It's good to be the king ... of class warfare hypocrisy. While he lectures his political opponents about their neglect of middle-class America, President Obama is headed to Martha's Vineyard. Again. Because nothing spells populist like a $7.6 million, 9.5-acre estate owned by one of Chicago's wealthiest corporate financiers.
The sprawling summer manse of David Schulte is actually a downgrade from the Obama family's previous summer digs. The $21 million, 28.5-acre Blue Heron Farm that had hosted Obama and his massive entourage since 2009 isn't available for rental anymore because a British mogul snapped it up.
But don't be bumming. The Obamas won't be slumming. Schulte's Chilmark, Mass., complex boasts pond and ocean views, an infinity pool and a basketball court (natch!). Cell towers were installed around Schulte's home to boost phone service. The Vineyard Gazette reports that the Secret Service has 70 rooms booked nearby.
Homeowner Schulte deserves special attention. If this deep-pocketed donor and private-equity whiz were a Republican, the Occupy hordes and left-wing super-PACs would have made him a household name by now. The SEIU already would have picketed his private residence. Cher, Bette Midler and Chris Rock would be tweeting furiously about this privileged white robber baron in all caps.
Schulte, you see, earned his money in much the same way the demonized Mitt Romney did: through corporate restructuring and rescuing debt-burdened companies. He and his former partner, Sam Zell, have happily embraced the nickname "grave dancers" since the early 1990s. By 1993, their billion-dollar "vulture fund" based in Chicago had purchased all or part of Jacor Communications, the embattled media conglomerate; Sealy Corporation, the mattress empire; and the distressed Schwinn Bicycle Company.
The duo also scooped up Santa Fe Energy Resources (an oil and gas company) through a partnership and refinanced Revco D.S., the drugstore chain. Schulte called his financial playground "the land of broken dreams," according to the Los Angeles Times, which described the partners as "bottom-fishing."
Team Obama had plenty of brutal depictions for GOP private-equity mavens during the 2012 campaign: "Looter." "Corporate raider." "Greedy Gekko." "Heartless profiteer." Liberal media outlets likened Romney's cohorts to mobsters, strip miners and cannibals. "Bain was just like the Donner Party," comedian Stephen Colbert snarked. "They ate the weak."
Super-PAC Priorities USA Action, run by former Obama spokesman Bill Burton, teamed with shameless campaign mouth turned CNN talker Stephanie Cutter to smear Romney's private-equity record. They falsely accused Romney and Bain Capital of allowing laid-off steelworker Joe Soptic's wife to die of cancer — even though she had insurance coverage after he lost his job, Romney was no longer with the company when Soptic's plant closed, and the wife died seven years after Romney's departure.
Like Schulte, Romney's Bain record includes many successful turnarounds that saved workers' jobs, pensions and health benefits — including Staples and Sports Authority. When Democrats do it, it's creative capitalism. But when Republicans do it, it's a criminal enterprise.
The double standards are rich. But Obama's coffers are richer. Democratic demagoguery means never having to say you're sorry for throwing stones at glass houses, while vacationing in the compounds that "vulture capitalism" built.
(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Can Huma save Anthony Weiner? Why Huma "stands by her man." What is Huma thinking? These and other pseudo questions top our political news these days.
One appreciates the enormous entertainment value of the repetitiously lewd former Rep. Anthony Weiner, as of this writing still a candidate for New York City mayor. But this obsession also reflects a political culture that turned our politicians' nephews, daughters, sons and wives into mini royals.
The conversation demotes the important consideration of whether these soap opera figures can serve the little people, the voters. Why Huma Abedin stays with her beyond-strange husband should be of no consequence to New Yorkers, except perhaps for the 0.001 percent of them who care about sexual propriety in others.
If the electorate concludes from his antics that Weiner is out of his mind and therefore unfit to run Gotham, that's another matter. How Huma is taking it all is her concern.
The parallel between the hyperventilating coverage of Britain's royal birth — third in line, third in line — and the forced celebration of our elected officials' relatives is disturbing.
Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick and product of the Washington suburbs, recently established primary residency in her father's home state of Wyoming to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Enzi for the Republican nomination. Liz's entree to politics, chiefly as a talking head on TV, comes from her close kinship to the former vice president. Her agenda, one suspects, is to bag a senatorial seat from which to advance the Cheney financial interests in Washington.
Of all the dusty towns to choose from for demonstrating her loyalty to Wyoming, Liz picked the posh ski resort of Jackson Hole. Proximity to the big money must be a comfort.
Caroline Kennedy, best known as the daughter of John F. Kennedy, is President Obama's nominee as next ambassador to Japan. It's true that academics, business leaders and other non-career diplomats have done the job well. But what makes Caroline Kennedy, a socialite, the best choice to represent the United States before our fourth-biggest trading partner?
We get it. This is Obama payback for the Kennedy family endorsement in his race for the Democratic nomination. That doesn't make it less aggravating.
Back in 2008, there was sickening talk about the Kennedy family "passing the torch" to Obama, rather than Hillary Clinton. Years of stories detailing various Kennedy boys' abuse of women blew that flame out long ago, except in some cliche-frozen corners of the media.
Still, the torches keep getting thrown at us, as in the recent headline crowning an unusually servile New York Times piece: "Caroline Kennedy, Catching the Torch."
Imagine, she deigns to converse with ordinary folk bothering her. "Ms. Kennedy is said to be patient and gracious during these encounters, as she deflects and gently parries, leaving the other person feeling as if he or she has had a significant conversation, even if almost nothing at all was really said."
Hope the reporter got an autograph.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale adds his two cents: "The Japanese will be thrilled with this news. They love the Kennedys over there. ... I think they will be honored."
I think they will be insulted. As for the American people, you wonder what kind of attention Joe Blow needing help in Tokyo is going to get from an Ambassador Caroline. At best, "a feeling" he has had a significant conversation.
This plea may be futile, but Americans need reminding that politicians are here to serve us. We, the little people, have no obligation to revere their relatives. We got rid of our royals over two centuries ago. We don't need mini royals now.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 08:54
It was nearly 100 years ago that Estelle Lindsey was the first woman elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. It was 60 years ago that 22-year-old Roz Wyman was the youngest person elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. By the 1990s, one-third of the city council — five of 15 — was comprised of women.
Today, it is one in 15.
And that's an improvement over last week — before Nury Martinez won a special election and became the only woman on the council.
No woman ever has served as mayor of Los Angeles. This year saw the first woman to make it to a runoff. She lost.
Los Angeles is 54 percent women. Its city council is 93 percent men. What is wrong with this picture? Why aren't people standing up and demanding an answer?
Oh, there have been a few articles since people woke up and realized the clock had been turned back a century, but most of them could have been written decades ago.
Why no women?
Because of the difficulties of raising money, some people say — this in a city with a system of public financing in city races (although of course private money still matters). Because women are more policy-oriented than power-oriented, some people say — but of course, the council does do policy, and LA is a weak mayor/strong council system. But in my own informal survey, when I bring it up, people mostly shrug or roll their eyes. Who knows? And, maybe, who cares?
Does it matter that there is only one woman in the room?
Having been the only woman in various rooms for the past few decades, I'm sure of the answer to that one. It does matter.
I don't pretend that all women think alike, that only a woman can represent other women, that men can't possibly understand. But as Martinez's own background makes clear, each of us brings our own experiences to the decisions we make and the positions we take, including experiences shaped by our gender.Under attack in the campaign for not taking a strong enough stand against child sex abuse by a teacher while she was serving on the school board (neither she nor anyone else knew about it), Martinez responded by making public something she did not tell her own parents until she was in her 20s: that she herself was the victim of abuse as a child at the hands of a neighbor.
It also matters because politicians are role models and because the city council can be a key stepping stone to higher office. The newly elected mayor, Eric Garcetti, previously served on the council.
There are lots of reasons not to run for office, but they apply equally to men. Sadly, it is still true that women running for elective office have a much easier time convincing voters to elect them to legislative positions than to executive positions. The old stereotypes about women not being "tough enough" or decisive enough, about not being "CEO" material, stereotypes that continue to plague women in corporate America (even those who are leaning in so far they are on the verge of falling flat), have long had their parallels in politics.
So it's no surprise, on that score, that California has two women senators but has never had a woman governor; that neither of our two largest cities has ever had a woman mayor; that women hold on so tightly (myself included) to the possibility that Hillary will run again in 2016 and finally crack the cement ceiling at the top.
If not Hillary, who? And what does that say?
We are supposed to be long past the old "years of the woman" that dominated the '80s and '90s, where during each cycle we would say, "This is it." It wasn't. It still isn't. And if we don't take notice, Los Angeles may not be the only place where we're heading backward instead of forward.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 12:48