Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PET PROJECTS---WAS HASTERT'S EARMARK A WISE INVESTMENT?




In the space of three years, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), made a $2 million dollar profit on a real estate investment back home in Illinois. During that time, the speaker intervened in negotiations over a mammoth transportation spending bill to get $207M in federal funding earmarked for two nearby highway projects, including an interchange just 5-1/2 miles from the Hastert property. Was the speaker taking care of folks back home---OR WAS HE TAKING CARE OF HIMSELF?

Evidence of the latter is rather thin. Land prices in the area were soaring even before the new highway money came about. A partner in the company that bought the land said the price was set in 2004; the earmark wasn't approved until last year.

BUT IF THE STORY OF MR. HASTERT'S EXCELLENT INVESTMENT IS NOT, AT LEAST AS IT HAS UNFOLDED SO FAR, ONE OF POLITICAL SCANDAL, IT IS A CAUTIONARY TALE ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE. With the explosion of earmarks in recent years comes the temptation for lawmakers to use them for personal gain.

Mr. Hastert isn't the only politician to be questioned recently about whether earmarks rebounded to his benefit; Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CALIF) doubled his investment on a four-acre plot after snagging $9.5M to build a freeway interchange and spur commercial developement near the Air Force base about 16 miles away. Rep. Gary Miller (R-CALIF), got $1.28M for street improvements near a development he co-owns.

As was reported earlier, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W. VA), used his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to get earmarks directing $250M in federal funds to five West Virginia nonprofits he helped set up. These groups paid generous salaries to Mollohan associates and former aides, who in turn contributed to Mr. Mollohan's campaign committees and a Mollohan family foundation.

The politicians deny any wrongdoings. "I owned land and I sold it, like millions of people do every day," Mr. Hastert said. BUT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AREN'T THE SPEAKER; THEY DON'T HELP CONTROL MILLIONS IN FEDERAL FUNDING. Mixing real estate investing and earmark pushing makes for risky political business. A county commissioner who pushes a local project that could help boost an investment is going to face tough questions from voters. When members of Congress act like county commissioners---but with an oversized checkbook---THEY CAN EXPECT THE SAME. This is another argument for cracking down on earmarking gone wild.


***I think that the Hastert family has made enough off of the people. It's time to go Mr. Speaker!!!!! It makes you wonder why Mr. Hastert didn't show up to any of his appearances during the 4th of July break. SCARED OF THE QUESTIONS MR. HASTERT. MR. DEEP POCKETS!!!!!


Source of Information: Washington Post
July 5, 2006

THE DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT? WHAT DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT?

Perhaps I shouldn't take these things personally, but reading over new legal filings by the Justice Department in an unusual, and unusually important, federal lawsuit challenging the validity of the phony Deficit Reduction Act that President Bush signed in February, it suddenly struck me: could it really be that everything I learned back in junior high school about the working of American government was wrong?

Maybe not everything. But the Justice Department's reasoning for why the suit should be dismissed sharply conflicts with my understanding---and most Americans' understanding---of what it takes for a bill to become law. If that reasoning prevails, it will be very bad for democracy.

Brought by Public Citizen, and set to be heard on Monday, the case I'm referring to is one of a handful of pending suits seeking to block the law's unfair cuts in student loans, Medicaid and Medicare. It bases its argument on the most elemental constitutional violation imaginable: although the measure was signed by the president and approved by the Senate, it was never approved in the same form by the House.

This travesty began last December with an inadvertant clerical error after the Senate approved the bill by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking a tie. Owing to that accidental change, the version that passed the House by a mere two votes differed from the Senate measure. A provision on Medicare calls for covering the rental of certain medical equipment, like wheelchairs, for 36 months, instead of the 13 months in the Senate version. Although that might sound like a minor deviation, it adds up to a $2B difference.

Made aware of the discrepancy, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist apparently made a command decision NOT TO TRY TO FIX IT BY HAVING THEIR CHAMBERS VOTE AGAIN, this time on the same measure. Given the closeness of the first votes, after all, there was no guarantee a rerun would end in passage. Besides, rank-and-file Republicans weren't exactly pounding on their leaders' doors to demand another chance to go on record in favor of deep spending cuts in popular programs benefiting the needy.

Instead, the leaders barged ahead. Mr. Hastert signed a statement with the president pro tempore of the Senate attesting that the act had been approved in identical form by both chambers WHEN EVERYONE KNEW THAT HADN'T HAPPENED. AS FOR PRESIDENT BUSH, HIS HANDS ARE HARDLY CLEAN. HE WAS WELL AWARE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT BUT CHOSE TO IGNORE IT AND SIGN THE BILL ANYWAY---a dismaying reminder that the president's instinct to cut constitutional corners aren't limited to the war on terror.

In briefs filed last week, the Justice Department does not dispute this rendition of what happened, or the constitutional rule against transmitting one-house bills to the president's desk. Instead it contends that a musty 1892 Supreme Court ruling requires courts to accept as fict MR. HASTERT'S FICTIONAL CERTIFICATION THAT BOTH CHAMBERS PASSED THE SAME BILL. IN OTHER WORDS, TO ENACT LARGE BUDGET CUTS AFFECTING MILLIONS OF AMERICANS, THE HOUSE AND SENATE NEEDN'T BOTHER TO GO THROUGH THE TEDIOUS AND POLITICALLY FRAUGHT EXERCISE OF PASSING THE SAME LEGISLATION. IT SUFFICES FOR LEADERS OF EACH CHAMBER TO FUDGE AND SAY IT HAPPENED.

Obviously, the government lawyers making these claims never took a class with my eigth-grade social studies teacher, Mr. Pagliaro. He told students it takes an approving vote of both the House and Senate for a bill to be enacted, and he cited what still seems to be pretty reliable authority:

IT SAYS SO IN THE CONSTITUTION!


****The Constitution is something that the Bush administration and their Republican cronies, as you can see, don't like to refer too. It takes away a lot of the rights that this president thinks that he is entitled too! Why does he think so? Because he was told so by people like Cheney and Karl Rove. We all know that Bush isn't a very smart person. He just takes somebody elses word for it! That's why he's going to wind him up in jail!


Source of Information: The New York Times
By: Dorothy Samuels
July 8, 2006

THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED CONGRESS CONTINUES.....



Congress having trouble passing even sure things

Divisions within the GOP are creating logjams

WASHINGTON (AP)---Could a Republican-controlled Congress, pass a bill to protect the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance from court challenges?

No problem, especially if proposed during the patriotic season leading up to the Fourth of July, Republican leaders thought.

No way, it turned out.

The bill, the first item on the GOPs trumpeted election-year "American Values Agenda," could not make it past a House committee.

Even worse for the Republicans was that they could not blame the Democrats. one of the GOPs very own, Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, voted no. Seven other Republicans skipped the committee meeting entirely.

***These wedge issues are not what the American public is looking to get done! These kinds of Republican tactics are getting old. This administration and their Republican cronies in Congress has made this world and this country a very "unsafe" place to be and we all know that there are more important issues out there! GROW UP REPUBLICANS! You have screwed up this country so bad that it's going to take the American people a long time to repair it if we can!

So it goes this year for House Republicans, their majority in jeopardy for the first time in more than a decade. Take an unpopular president, factor in deep divisions in the GOP ranks and add to that Democrats determined to regain control. It all means a Congress having trouble doing its most basic job: passing legislation.


'YOUR TYPICAL LEGISLATIVE MEAT GRINDER'

Republican leaders tried to shrug off the setbacks.

"We're not having trouble," Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), insists. "This is your typical legislative meat grinder."

Privately, many are frustrated. Democrats have pounced on the lack of progress with a "we can do better" election theme.

"I wish the election were today," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said last week, summing up a list of "Republican failures."

An election-year session of Congress with little major legislation turned into laws is nothing new. Lawmakers traditionally are loath on contentious legislation so close to the start of campaigning, when they might be called to account for such votes.

One president, Harry Truman, ran against the "do-nothing Congress" during his 1948 re-election campaign.

For some, debating proposals that have little chance of passage is a legitimate use of the full House and Senate.

"Passing bills isn't the end-all and be-all of Congress," said Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "There's also some value in debating these issues and using Congress to air out issues that are important to the American people."

Democrats ridicule as political ploys Republican decisions to bring up legislation doomed to fail, such as the constitutional amendments to ban flag desecration and gay marriage.

Congress? Political?

"They're politicians," Darling said.

Republicans point out the Democrats are not above bringing up proposals just for political gain. They note that Democrats have insisted on bringing up a proposal to raise the minimum wage, which has failed for nine years.


PENSION REFORM, STEM CELLS ON THE AGENDA

With two-thirds of the 2006 legislative calendar over, Congress has passed and sent President Bush only two major pieces of legislation. One renewed the terrorist-fighting USA Patriot Act; the other extended $70B in tax cuts, roughly divided evenly between investors and middle-income families.

Lawmakers still have high hopes of sending Bush bills to bolster pension protections for 44 million workers and extending the historic Voting Rights Acts. Republicans would like to protect multimillionaires from getting sacked by high inheritance taxes after a one-year reprieve from those taxes in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), also has broken a deadlock over legislation to allow the government to pay for embryonic stem cell research. The measure has passed the House and the bill could get a vote this month in the Seante. Neither the House nor Senate, however, has displayed the two-thirds majorities required to override Bush's promised veto.

***That's because it's not going to happen! Frist and Hastert, both Republicans, know that Bush will veto it. They knew that going in. This is nothing but a Republican tactic! Both Hastert and Frist, are trying to make it look like they are working for something that the people want when they are just working for themselves in hopes of getting back their seats! Both of them are Bush's lap-dogs!

The bill intended to shield the Pledge of Allegiance from federal court challenges can still be revived on the House floor if GOP leaders so choose, Republicans say. Privately, no one pretends to be pleased about the lack of progress on legislation that should have sailed through the committee and a House floor vote.

The legislative year is littered with failed or stalled Republican priorities. Some, such as an immigration overhaul, repealing estate taxes and changing rules on lobbying in response to several ethics scandals, are disappointments for many in the GOP and for Bush.

***And some of you want to vote them back in for 6 more years?!!!!!!!


VOTING RIGHTS ACT RENEWAL STUMBLES

Particularly stinging was the forced postponement last month on renewing the Voting Rights Act on the very day it was to get a vote in the full House.

The measure, which oputlawed racist voting practices in the South, enjoyed support from leders in both houses and both parties. Republicans hoped that passing it before it expires would insulate them against charges of racism.

***And guess who stopped it? Another PLANNED REPUBLICAN STRATEGY!

But southern Republicans rebelled against a requirement that the Justice Department continue overseeing voting rules in the South. Other conservatives then balked at the law's requirement for bilingual ballots in areas with large immigrant populations. Nonetheless, House Republican leaders say they may try to bring it up this week.

More dramatic is how the fate of overhauling immigration laws has become an implacable dispute about whether to give most of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship.

RATHER THAN SPEND THE SUMMER RESOLVING DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HOUSE AND SENATE VERSIONS, THEIR CHIEF PATRONS SCHEDULED NEW HEARINGS TO SHORE UP THEIR ARGUMENTS,......................
............................................................WITH NO RESOLUTIONS IN SIGHT!


Source of Information: Tom Manatos
July 10, 2006



IRAQ---U.S. REAPS WHAT THE ARMY SOWS

Recent headlines from Iraq are ugly: Marines charged with murdering Haditha civilians. A crippled man killed by Americans, who then planted a rifle and shovel near the body as if he had been burying roadside bombs. And a particularly gruesome charge that U.S. soldiers raped and killed an Iraqi woman, killed her family, and burned the bodies to cover the crime.

***Let's keep in mind here that all of our troops aren't like this! They need our support!

If these atrocities are carefully investiagted, the likely deficiency may be sufficient command leadership and discipline. A recent book (May 2006) speaks to the issue of leader accountability with stunning eloquence. Tiger Force is a documented account of 120 U.S. soldiers who, between May and November of 1967, rotated through an Army special operations platoon. This platoon, Tiger Force, weakened its vengeance in the vicinity of Duc Pho and Chu Lai in South Vietnam.

Operating largely on their own and only passingly accountable to a chain of command that rarely ventured into the jungles and paddies, these soldiers ruthlessly murdered hundred of unarmed men, women and children. One soldier cut off a baby's head with a knife. Victims' ears were regularly sliced off, collected and fashioned into necklaces which some soldiers proudly wore. Other victims were scalped. Some were tortured. Teeth were kicked out to retrieve the gold from fillings. Virtually all of the civilian deaths were reported as "Viet Cong," even though, oddly, no weapons were ever found and none were ever reported. No officer in command ever questioned this glaring disparity.

That part of Tiger Force is grim enough. What the Army then did with the evidence is shocking, and what was covered up in 1974-75 may have sowed the headlines we are reaping in 2006. One of the most thorough Criminal Investigation Division (CID, the Army's Internal FBI) investigations ever conducted, meticulously gathered the facts surrounding the war crimes committed by Tiger Force. The evidence was voluminous, certain and had been obtained at the risk of a few investigators' lives.

In 1974, Richard Cheney was a special assistant to President Ford. Ford's chief of staff was Donald Rumsfeld. The secretary of defense from 1973-75 was James Schlesinger. The case was made to disappear by these men who served president Nixon and Ford---probably out of consideration of politics. There were never any charges filed against the soldiers or the officers who ordered and participated the routine killing of civilians.

***Something like this should never have been covered-up. But let's face it, consider the source of those that covered it up. The names alone tell you that this "is" happening in Iraq, because of two of these named people! Need I say anymore.

The only reason the case file ever became public was that the CID officer who directed the investigation, and who later commanded the Criminal Investigation Division, kept a copy of the investigation file, and prior to his death in 2002 made provision for the file to be delivered to a reporter with the Toledo Blade.

Thirty years later, Mr. Rumsfeld refuses to discuss the Tiger Force case. Mr. Cheney declines to discuss much of anything. Mr. Schlesinger conducted one of the see-no-evil investigations at Abu Ghraib. The senior leadership of the Army and the nation prefers to characterize war crimes as the work of a few "bad apples." My Lai was pinned to Lt. William Calley, who suited the bad apple role.

Tiger Force was far larger, killed three times as many people, but involved too many "bad apples" and too much gore to maintain the right story line.

The common thread which runs from Tiger Force through My Lai, Bagram and Abu Ghraib, to a hundred episodes of sadistic brutality inflicted by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, is the remarkable fact that the official responsibility for all these tragedies never runs higher than the lowest-level trigger-pullers or body-stackers.

But suppose in 1975 that Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney had made a different decision. Suppose the CID Tiger Force investigation had been permitted to charge the perpetrators and their superior officers with war crimes. Suppose a court-martial inquiry had asked why no battalion commanders bothered to check out the reports of Tiger Force ear collections? What if a colonel or two had been found guilty of failing to adequately control the troops under his command? For starters, those cases and leadership lessons would have been part of today's core curriculum in ROTC and at West Point.

This administration never holds anyone in senior positions accountable for derelict performance. However, unless there is full accountability for the war crimes of Iraq---wherever the evidence leads---there is high probability that the lessons today's lieutenants and captains need to learn about the law of war and command leadership will never be sufficiently absorbed to make the crucial difference when those men and women become colonels and generals.


Source of Information: Salt Lake Tribune
July 9, 2006

*David R. Irvine (who I am assuming wrote this article) is a lawyer in Salt Lake City and a retired Army Reserve brigadier general. He was commissioned as a strategic intelligence officer in 1967, and taught prisoner of war interrogation and military law for the Sixth Army Intelligence School for 18 years.