Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Growing Up

I was about sixteen years old when I made a huge discovery. My father was someone, or something, other than I thought he was. While I will not detail the specifics of the incident that caused me to reach this conclusion, the realization that my until-then lifetime idol was not a man of the character and integrity I'd previously believed came as a great shock and forever altered the way I thought about the man. Thinking about it now I know that this discovery occurred belatedly because I had put it off for years. It was more comfortable to accept the notion that he was larger than life (he wasn't) and possessed of great virtue in his brooding silence (he didn't.) In my opinion this is what has happened to Obama. Without intending any disrespect for him, he did what we all do when we select a church or a friend or a school or a group to hang around with. We look for the good. From what I have read, there is much about Reverend Wright which can be said to be good. But, Wright obviously has a ominous side, less attractive than previously believed, which borders on the paranoid and absurd which has emerged to threaten Obama's run at the presidency. To say that Wright is a preening egotist would be to put it too mildly, but it needs to be considered that when one is close to such a person it does take awhile to draw the conclusion. At the personal level, my decision at the time resulted in my forever limiting the nature of my contacts with my father, but I was not running for president. Obama has, in effect, done the same thing this last few days. Any sensible person will recognize what has occurred to him for exactly what it was because it has happened to all of us on a greater or lesser scale during our life times. We lose a friend, or an acquaintance, or a parent, because that person has betrayed us. It's part of growing up. Dealing with such betrayal requires courage and Obama deserves credit for demonstrating that courage. He's growing up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Get Over It

Some of you who know me might think I would be disturbed by the Supreme Court opinion yesterday that approved the Indiana requirement of a valid ID card for voting. I'm not disturbed and I will tell you why. Voting in our society is not only a right but a privilege. The act of voting carries with it certain responsibilities. Voting requires taking the time to think about the attributes of various candidates or issues. It requires a commitment. To be sure, acquiring a valid picture ID card will take effort and some people will not make that effort. Don't look for any hidden meaning in the statement that follows. Do we want people who can't be bothered to ensure the validity of their vote electing our representatives? Almost all of us, at one time or another, spent time and effort acquiring a driver's license which signified an emancipation process in our lives which would be emulated by such an experience with voter ID. I think it's a good idea.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More on "He Who Would Be King."

Friend and fellow musician, Dennis D., challenged my depiction of Bush junior as "He Who Would Be King." This was several weeks ago and I have been systematically researching my hypothesis since that time wanting to be as complete as I can in responding. Before I start my response, however, to show what a reasonable person I am, I am willing to stop calling Bush the objected-to name and instead refer hereafter to him as the "tin pot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas." My preference is the former designation and I woujd submit that after reading the remainder of this entreaty, you will understand why.

The perfect entree presented today is an NY Times editorial about Laura Berg, a nurse, who wrote a letter to a newspaper in the southwest United States. The Times notes: "Ms. Berg identified herself as a V.A. nurse when, soon after Katrina’s horrors, she sent her impassioned letter to The Alibi, a paper in Albuquerque. “I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government,” she wrote. “We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.”
"Her superiors at the hospital soon alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and impounded her office computer, where she keeps the case files of war-scarred veterans she treats. Then she received an official warning in which a Veterans Affairs investigator intoned that her letter “potentially represents sedition." ”

Is it possible to imagine that in a land with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and speech that a person lawfully exercising such a right is potentially accused by her government of sedition? These kinds of things only occur in countries like Russia which only recently shut down a newspaper for reporting that Putin had a mistress,. or they occur in a monarchy when the King or Queen is offended. I submit that such an incident occurring here is only symptomatic of Bush's near total derogation of the constitutional underpinnings of this great country in his quest to be King.

The climate to allow such a potential has not happened by accident, nor do I over-react to my observations in support of my contention that my designation is apt. Underlying the problems of presidential power seems to be the White House's murky and largely undefined doctrine of the Unitary Executive which, in their view, allows the president to thumb his nose at both the legislatve and judicial branches of government.

Can anyone believe that the original intent of the framers and signers of our great Constitution intended to create a presidency with powers akin to those of King George III of England?

Shouldn't the media, the Democrats, and yes all Americans be asking the question: Do we now or ever want an "activist" president who legislates and adjudicates from the Oval Office? That is what kings do. Our founding fathers, exquisitely aware of the dangers of the monarchial form of government, specifically and uniquely designed our tripartite form of government based upon the principle of separation of powers. The first part of my response is to look as the issue of signing statements, a written indication of how the President is interpreting an act passed by Congress, and direct executive agencies to apply the law according to the president's interpretation of the Constitution. IN 2006, A bipartisan Taskforce on Presidential Signing Statements of the American Bar Assn. basically found that, although signing statements, in general, are legal, Bush, in many instances, misused this power in a manner that skirted the law and was unconstitutional. What follows is a brief time line of some of the most egregious abuses:


Presidential directive delays indefinitely the scheduled release of presidential documents (authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978) pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration. Bush and Cheney begin process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified.


The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up Project Groundbreaker, a domestic call monitoring program infrastructure. Link


Bush administration order authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic.

In immediate aftermath of 9-11 terror attacks, Department of Justice authorizes detention without charge for any terror suspects. Over one thousand suspects are brought into detention over the next several months.


Attorney General John Ashcroft announces change in Department of Justice (DOJ) policy. According to the new policy DOJ will impose far more stringent criteria for the granting of Freedom of Information Act requests.September-October

NSA launches massive new database of information on US phone calls.October

The USA Patriot Act becomes law. Among other things the law: makes it a crime for anyone to contribute money or material support for any group on the State Department’s Terror Watch List, allows the FBI to monitor and tape conversations between attorneys and clients, allows the FBI to order librarians to turn over information about patron’s reading habits, allows the government to conduct surveillance on internet and email use of US citizens without notice. The act also calls for expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records of US citizens without a court order, exempts the government from needing to reveal how evidence against suspected terrorists was obtained and authorizes indefinite detention of immigrants at the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities.


Executive order limits release of presidential documents. The order gives incumbent presidents the right to veto requests to open any past presidential records and supercedes the congressionally passed law of 1978 mandating release of all presidential records not explicitly deemed classified.



FBI and Department of Defense (DOD), forbidden by law from compiling databases on US citizens, begin contracting with private database firm ChoicePoint to collect, store, search and maintain data.


Secret executive order issued authorizing NSA to wiretap the phones and read emails of US citizens.

Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) acknowledges it has created both a “No Fly” and a separate “Watch” list of US travelers.


Department of Justice authorizes the FBI to monitor political and religious groups. The new rules permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed.


Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes separate Department of Homeland Security. Among other things the department will federally coordinate for the first time all local and state law enforcement nationwide and run a Directorate of Information and Analysis with authority to compile comprehensive data on US citizens using public and commercial records including credit card, phone, bank, and travel. The department also will be exempt form Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements. The Homeland Security department’s jurisdiction has been widely criticized for being nebulously defined and has extended beyond terrorism into areas including immigration, pornography and drug enforcement.



Draft of Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka Patriot Act 2), a secret document prepared by the Department of Justice is leaked by the Center for Public Integrity. Provisions of the February 7th draft version included:

Removal of court-ordered prohibitions against police agencies spying on domestic groups.

The FBI would be granted powers to conduct searches and surveillance based on intelligence gathered in foreign countries without first obtaining a court order.

Creation of a DNA database of suspected terrorists.

Prohibition of any public disclosure of the names of alleged terrorists including those who have been arrested.

Exemptions from civil liability for people and businesses who voluntarily turn private information over to the government.

Criminalization of the use of encryption to conceal incriminating communications.

Automatic denial of bail for persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, reversing the ordinary common law burden of proof principle. All alleged terrorists would be required to demonstrate why they should be released on bail rather than the government being required to demonstrate why they should be held.

Expansion of the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency would be prevented from releasing "worst case scenario" information to the public about chemical plants.

United States citizens whom the government finds to be either members of, or providing material support to, terrorist groups could have their US citizenship revoked and be deported to foreign countries.

Although the bill itself has never (yet) been advanced in congress due to public exposure, some of its provisions have become law as parts of other bills. For example The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause.


Executive order issued which radically tightens the declassification process of classified government documents, as well as making it far easier for government agencies to make and keep information classified. The order delayed by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It also allowed the government to treat all material sent to American officials from foreign governments -- no matter how routine -- as subject to classification, and expanded the ability of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to shield documents from declassification. Finally it gave the vice president the power to classify information.


In Demore v. Kim, the Supreme Court ruled that even permanent residents could be subject to mandatory detention when facing deportation based on a prior criminal conviction, without any right to an individualized hearing to determine whether they were dangerous or a flight risk.


The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.


As authorized by the Patriot Act, the FBI expands the practice of national security letters. NSLs, originally introduced in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, enabled the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. This was extended by the Patriot Act to include permitting clandestine scrutiny of all U.S. residents and visitors whether suspected of terrorism or not.



The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs.

John Ashcroft invokes State Secrets privilege to forbid former FBI translator Sibel Edmunds from testifying in a case brought by families of victims of the 9-11 attacks. Litigation by 9-11 families is subsequently halted.



Senate passes amended version of Patriot Act, reauthorization, with three basic changes from the original including: recipients of secret court orders to turn over sensitive information on individuals linked to terrorism investigations are not allowed to disclose those orders but can challenge the gag order after a year, libraries would not be required to turn over information without the approval of a judge, recipients of an FBI "national security letter" -- an investigator's demand for access to personal or business information -- would not have to tell the FBI if they consult a lawyer. New bill also said to extend Congressional oversight over executive department usage guidelines. Shortly after bill is signed George Bush declares oversight rules are not binding.



National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) establishes a new post-disaster plan (with disaster defined as any incident, natural or man-made, resulting in extraordinary mass casualties, damage or disruption) which places the president in charge of all three branches of government. The directive overrides the National Emergencies Act which gives Congress power to determine the duration of a national emergency.


Executive Order 13438: "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, issued. The order asserts the government’s power to confiscate the property “of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people."

In my desire to capture the flavor of the Bush administration I have undoubtedly missed many examples and I will point out that Bush has used signing statements far more than any other president in history to carry out his Unitary Executive theme. However, I can summarize the net result of the above-type activities by noting that the president, according to the Bush Administration, may now initiate preventive war and institute domestic surveillance of American's telephone calls and e-mail messages, all without specific congressional authorization, may designate, seize and detain any American citizen as an "enemy combatant," and imprison him in solitary confinement, indefinitely, without access to legal counsel and a judicial hearing, suspend the Geneva Convention and federal laws that prohibit torture. Further, keeping in mind that the U.S. Constitution specifically authorizes Congress the war power, among other powers asserted, the president, as Commander in Chief, may establish military tribunals, terminate treaties, order acts of extraordinary rendition, and take actions that he perceives necessary to the maintenance of national security and the common defense. Under this theory, any law that restricts the Commander in Chief's authority is presumptively unconstitutional. At all events, it is claimed, the president may exercise an "override" authority in the unlikely event that Congress would by statute seek to restrain the president. It is likely that no one in the free world has heard such raw assertions of executive power since Oliver Cromwell anointed himself "Lord Protector" of England.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Stupidity, Stupid

Straight talk= revival of Obama campaign. What this country needs for the rest of the presidential campaign, including the prolonged Democractic primary season, is straight talk from Obama who must prove to his core believers that he is not just another politician. Let's go back a few months to a time when Obama was genuinely inspiring people of all stripes with his words and his ideas. What he appeared to grasp at the time, but has since lost in the shuffle of Rovian/Clintonian style politics, is that under Bush this country has taken a giant step backwards in all of the areas of government that really and truly need change in order to restore American integrity. For the last two months, the political landscape has resembled the game "Trivial Pursuit" as politicians and media alike dwell on minutiae of such insignificant import that it makes one gag. For example, in the blogosphere yesterday I saw a photo of John McCain without a flag in his lapel. Oh my God did you hear what I said? He didn't have a flag in his lapel. How someone could want to be president of the United States and not wear a flag in his lapel is completely beyond me. Then there is the major issue of guilt by association. The New York Times carried a story the other day about the selection of the style of print that McCain has selected for his campaign posters, i.e. really important stuff. But they didn't go far enough. What I did was Google the designer of the print type and discovered the shocking fact that he had fought for Germany against us in World War II. McCain, the war hero, is actually using posters which carry stylized words of a man whose actions supported Nazis. I would bet good money that McCain doesn't wear a lapel flag on his pajamas at night time either.

What I am getting at is tough to say and probably explains why I have danced around it for a couple of paragraphs first. Politicians and the media dwell on this stuff because they think voters are stupid. They think voters are stupid because voters, in many cases, are stupid. Let's consider the Obama/Wright matter. I cannot tell you how many e-mails I have received vilifying Obama because of the things his minister has said. What is it about sitting in a church and listening to someone who makes people uncomfortable by saying things that make people think that disqualifies such a listener from being president of the United States? We live in the United Sates and the chief characteristic of this country is the openness of the citizen's rights of freedom of speech, expression and religion. These rights, by the way, include the right to be both stupid and wrong. It is the ability to engage in dialogue, rather than spout some party line required by mandate, that makes our country unique. To draw the conclusion that someone who listens to what another has to say and by doing so automatically believes and endorses everything that is being said is stupid.

I could go on and on about such stupidity. I think a president of the United States should be more than someone who sips on a shot of whiskey in a bar and washes it down with a glass of beer. If such a gesture causes someone to vote for Hillary, that person is stupid. The electorate placed a man in office nearly eight years ago because they decided he was the kind of guy they would most like to sit down and have a beer with. That was stupid as evidenced by the performance of that guy the last eight years who can't tell the truth, before or after the fact, about anything.

This country needs someone who can tell us the truth. It would be stupid to punish someone who needs to tell us that a tax increase will be necessary to offset the absolute craziness of there past eight years. We now have three viable candidates; two of whom have pledged not to raise taxes and the third will cut taxes for corporations. We are stupid if we don't demand straight talk and honesty about this vital issue.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Garage

As we all know, or at least have been told countless times, our world is facing a crisis. Global warming is, or should be, the "hottest" issue (sorry about that) of the presidential campaign. But there are other major concerns as well. Most of us do not like to think beyond tomorrow or the next day about depleting the world of its resources, but I should like to point out the obvious; there is not an endless supply of commodities such as oil, precious metals, arable land, etc. and we would do well to think about the fact that at some point in time in the future it will be gone. Oil will run out and the world MUST find an alternative. Other precious commodities, more scarce than oil, may not last as long as oil but still may compromise our good lives in unimaginable ways. Because I am the forward thinking type, I note with alacrity that the supply of titanium in the world is also dwindling. I have also viewed this as an investment opportunity. Let me explain. As my wife is quick to point out, the accumulation of golf clubs in my garage is excessive and she is forever imploring me to get rid of them. What she fails to realize is the unique investment I have made in dealing with the inevitable depletion of precious metals on our planet. I am talking about drivers; drivers with titanium club heads. I have invested in this commodity with the keen intuition of Warren Buffett such that I may have cornered the market place on this precious metal and that is why I cannot get rid of them. I have Ping drivers (three), Callaway (three including the original Big Bertha), Taylor Made and Cobra. I have drivers from companies whose names I cannot pronounce. I also have knock offs, although to be honest, I am unsure if the quality of titanium is as good as my name brand collection. Then, in addition to the forward thinking of investment in this rare precious metal, there has been the added advantage to me is that each of these drivers has served me well for at least a week or two until, for some inexplicable reason, they stop hitting the ball as far or as straight as one would hope. What keeps me going, as the end of the world approaches, is the advantage I will have by arranging to have the heads of all my drivers melted down and re-shaped into one giant 550cc pure titanium clubhead. Now, did I mention my investment in putters?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Next Step

I have entitled this writing "The Next Step" because it is my opinion that Hillary has succeeded in ensuring that the next president of these United States will not be a Democrat. Her "take no prisoners" gutter politics approach to the primary will result in a weakened Democratic presidential candidate virtually guaranteeing that McCain will win the White House. The signal for my conclusion is a impressive study which reveals that 30% of those who support either Obama or Clinton will not vote for the other candidate if their selection loses the nomination. The next step, thus, becomes the most crucial issue facing the nation at the moment. Who will McCain select as his vice-presidential running mate? The reason why this is such a crucial step is that person will undoubtedly become the successor President after McCain is through. McCain may have health issues. It is my understanding that so far he has failed to release his medical records, most particularly of his recent bout with the facial tumor which required disfiguring surgery. One would hope, for him and the nation, that microscopic cells lurking somewhere in his body do not determine the de facto presidential outcome. As I have mentioned often in the past, I like John McCain. I think he is a decent and honest human being. It is true that he does pander, on occasion, for votes. Find me a politician who doesn't, but I do believe his integrity is his strong suit. What worries me is not so much him, but the age/health factors which engulf him. If he selects Romney, or a Romney type, heaven help us all. We need to keep the last seven years of the current administration's near destruction of our national integrity, honor, prestige, principles and economy in mind when we evaluate his selection. As the veep will be on standby, more than usually, as the successor to McCain, we need better than someone who thinks keeping America strong by doubling the size of the Guantanamo prison is the direction this country ought to take. It would be an act of grace, courage and integrity if McCain were to select Joe Lieberman as his running mate.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Ignorant Bliss of Supreme Court Justices

As anyone who has ever taken a high school biology course knows, there are four major blood groups; O, A, B and AB. Millions of woman of all blood groups over the years have taken birth control pills. What most people don't know, including physicians throughout the country, is that women in blood group A are at increased risk of developing blood clots as opposed to their blood group O sisters. There was half a dozen published epidemiological studies performed by highly respected researchers documenting such an effect by the end of 1980. In the early 1980's there was litigation over this issue and the standard industry defense at the time was that the FDA prevented the companies from telling doctors and users about this known risk. In that time frame there were five major producers of the birth control pills. One of them included blood group information in its labeling for a two year time period and was then ordered by the F.D.A. to remove it because the company had failed to adequately document the justification for such a statement. Discovery efforts in civil litigation revealed that the attempt by the company to document the information was done poorly. One expert witness at the time characterized the attempt as failing or incomplete based on a desultory effort to present an adequate scientific picture of the potential for harm to the Agency. Juries hearing this evidence had little trouble in deciding that omitting this critical information was wrong and that such information was critical to the decision a woman needed to make when she decided whether or not to expose her healthy body to the potential risk of harm to avoid conception.

As reported in the New York Times this week, litigation is rampant against the maker of another form of estrogen-based birth control. Johnson & Johnson is being sued by over 3000 women and their families for hiding the fact that its Ortho Evra birth control patch delivered much more estrogen than standard birth control pills, thereby increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes. The company's defense is based on the same contention that the women can’t sue because the patch and its labeling were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Times reports " But the disturbing element is that the company seems to have done its best to mislead the F. D.A., as revealed in company documents made public as a result of the lawsuits. The company’s primary study on Ortho Evra, completed in 1999, found that the patch delivered a relatively high amount of estrogen into the bloodstream. A company official dealt with that uncomfortable and unexpected fact by applying a “correction factor” to lower the numbers by 40 percent. He rationalized that the correction was justified because the body metabolizes hormones from pills and patches in different ways. But the company was not eager to acknowledge what it had done. The correction factor was mentioned only once in a 435-page report to the F. D.A. and even then only in a complex mathematical formula. Nor was it mentioned when the study was published in 2002."

The most disheartening aspect of this continued industry subterfuge which has harmed or killed thousands of women is that the Supreme Court is likely to swallow the conclusion that the F.D.A. is the expert on safety evaluation and thus civil litigation for the damage and havoc caused in the damaged users' lives will be preempted as a matter of law. That's a fancy way of saying these cases will be tossed out of court and the drug industry will finally be allowed to count its excessive profits free of ever being held accountable for these practices which are, in fact, violations of the criminal provisions of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Thanks, Obama, for Recognizing My Bitterness

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” It's obvious to me what Obama meant with his "bitter" statement. He meant simply that when politicians of all stripes gain office by the subterfuge of claiming beliefs based on what polling shows and then deviate in one or more ways sharply from these claims, intelligent voters, bitter from the effects of such deceit, cling to single issues that mean the most to them as their forum of political expression. Consider Bush's 2000 claim that he would not engage in nation building as opposed to his effort to build the nation of Iraq. It's no wonder that voters have thrown up their hands in despair and resolve to gain some advancement in issues considered to be of importance. In other words, if change for the better cannot take place across the board, a promise implicit in the mouths of all politicians, voters tend to focus on issues of primary import to them as a method of salvage. At least get something out of it, the thinking goes. Obama's statement is not an arrogant statement, but one of fact and honors the intelligence of voters. My single issue is the impeachment of He Who would be King.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Denial is Not a River in Egypt

Of all the evils that man commits perhaps the greatest of all is the tendency to blame others for one's misfortunes. In psychiatric jargon the mechanism of such blaming results from denial. Denial, the most primitive of the maladies to inflict the human mind is a stubborn resistance to recognition of one's own contribution to a negative set of circumstances. Perhaps the most frequent and familiar example known to most of us is the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholics deny the existence of abuse of alcohol in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. Denial as the major factor in the disease process extends to other members of the alcoholic's family unit and friends. The wife says 'he is tired, depressed or just under pressure' when questioned about excessive use of alcohol in causing family chaos. Friends who drink with the alcoholic are quick to reject (deny) the notion that alcohol is a problem because they, too, suffer from the same malady. It is always some outside force that is blamed for the situation until the damage becomes so great and the circumstances so obvious that everyone surrounding the alcoholic, except the alcoholic, realizes what is going on. The successful treatment of alcoholism requires as a fundamental first step an acknowledgment by the alcoholic that he is powerless over the effects of alcohol in his life. In other words, the key to success is the removal of denial in the role of alcohol. This acknowledgment is at the heart of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program recognized universally as the most successful in allowing alcoholics to achieve recovery. While the first step is absolutely crucial it is by no means the cure to alcoholism. One can stop drinking, but it is not until the role of denial in one's life is thoroughly vetted and addressed can one be said to be in a good recovery state.

I have gone into detail on denial because it is my opinion that understanding its nature is essential to comprehend what is going on in the Bush administration. We know that Bush has demonstrated the past characteristics of alcoholism. He has generally admitted to a drunk driving conviction and the turn to religion to make the commitment to stop drinking as urged by his wife. While this is an excellent gesture and, on its face, needs to be commended, it is by no means complete in terms of what needed to be done for his recovery from the disease process itself. Remember that the key to understanding alcoholism is the role of denial. Most simply put, Bush is in an obvious state of denial about everything he has done which has caused havoc in our country. He is oblivious to the impact of his alcoholic thinking with regards to Iraq and this country's economic conditions. When cornered he is always quick to blame others, the media, Democrats, etc. for what has happened. Without a doubt he is the strangest president in the history of the United States. His strangeness comes from the fact that his denial is stubbornly in place. Only a man who is in denial could have done what he has done to our country. Remember back in his last campaign for the presidency when he was asked to name one thing he had thought he had done wrong. He was unable to do so. I rest my case. In the past I have argued for his impeachment, but given the lateness of the day in terms of the remaining length of his presidency it probably will not happen. It should happen. As his sense of urgency about leaving a legacy escalates, his conduct could drive our country into greater and greater chaos. It's a shame for the country and for him personally that our collective denial has lasted so long.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Main Question

The main question is what should the government do for people, isn't it? Republicans believe that the less government does for people, the better off society is. Democrats believe the more that is done, the more we move closer to the Great Society. If I haven't described the essence of the major issue and difference between the two major parties, I would like to hear about it. But I do believe that people who think government doesn't need to do anything for people beyond the basic necessities generally view themselves as Republican. The 'tax and spend' label attached by those who think like this to the Democrats effectively summarizes my point. But wait, there's more. There's a twist to the above generality that perplexes me. The best example I can think of is how those who consider themselves Republicans demand the taking of personal responsibility by members of groups, such as African Americans and illegal immigrants. The members of these groups who seek assistance in basic living needs from government are stealing dollars of hard working taxpayers. On the other hand, these Republicans do not hesitate to pay out more than seventy billion dollars each year to farmers to either not grow things, or to grow things without risk of loss. I guess that is why most voters in states in the farm belt are Republicans. Oh, and build fences to keep illegal immigrants out, but not my illegal immigrants. I need them to work in substandard workings conditions at less wages than I am willing to pay legal Americans so that I can generate additional profits on top of my federal largesse. Typical of Republican thinking on acceptance of personal responsibility is the example of the current mortgage crisis. After guaranteeing billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Bear Stearns, a major player in the real estate speculation market whose top five executives will participate in a $165 million dollar bonus pool for 2007, the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, stressed Republican values when he stated “it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.” The taking of personal responsibility has another twist as well. Republican efforts have resulted in mandatory and lengthy prison sentences for users of illicit drugs to such an extent that our jails and prisons are now busting at the seams while these same Republicans quietly negotiate the avoidance of prosecution with major corporations whose daily activities hurt and kill many more Americans annually than all the drugs, other than the carnage of legal alcohol, have caused in the history of man.

I guess it's not as simple as tax and spend. Someone ought to tell Republicans that President Reagan tripled the deficit while he was in office, a feat only duplicated and then doubled again by He Who Would Be King. What is this business of being a Republican? I am hopelessly confused. Does this mean I am a Democrat? No it does not, but it means I, like a lot of other Americans, am looking for some good in the people I am willing to vote for in an election where promises to change the way government thinks and acts are being made. I have tried hard to properly characterize the Republican approach this past seven years. After much thought and before I can state my conclusion, I need to say this to my grandchildren. Block your eyes, stop reading now. Your grandfather is about to use a bad word. The Republican approach is bull shit of the first order of magnitude.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Part of the Pseudo-Conservative Legacy

Misbranding is a crime under federal law, specifically the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. By definition under that law, a drug is misbranded if its labeling is "false or misleading in any particular." When a drug is prescribed by a physician, it is essential that the information to make an informed decision about the benefits and the risks of using that drug on a particular patient be accurate. The benefit risk analysis is the reason for the existence of the misbranding statute. The Food and Drug Administration has ignored this statute and pretended it doesn't exist for big pharmaceutical companies for years and years. When a small unconnected upstart company appears on the horizon, particularly when it threatens market share of one of the major players, the FDA will step in on occasion and enforce the various provisions of the misbranding statute mercilessly.

There are three confluent issues which trigger my need to discuss the misbranding statute. The first goes back to 1995 when the Republican dominated legislature of Michigan granted virtual absolute immunity to the drug industry. The essence of that law shielded the industry from liability so long as FDA approval was given for the marketing of the drug. That immunity from liability has been extended by the pseudo-conservative Supreme Court of Michigan to include off-label uses of drugs for which no testing had been approved. The second issue is that this same protection may be extended nationally by the federal courts as several cases seek such protection work their way through the judicial process. The so-called self-designated non-activist judges who claim not to make legislative decisions or new law stand ready to reward the drug industry for the generous support of the Republican party lo these many years. The final issue which triggers me is the recent revelation that the Bush administration has "negotiated" with major corporate players during the last three years to avoid criminal prosecution of these companies on charges ranging from bribery to fraud. Instead, it has been entering into so-called deferred prosecution and nonprosecution agreements, in which companies are allowed to pay fines and hire monitors to watch over them. Advocates of this approach say these deals save the government time and the expense of going to trial and avoid doing unnecessary harm to corporations and their employees.

The cost to the public and the rule of law is too high for this to continue. People get hurt and die from ill-considered use of prescription drugs. Drug sales for popular drugs reach billions of dollars annually. Based on my 35 years of experience in critically examining the conduct of drug companies, the major wrongdoing falls into the category of minimizing known harmful effects of any given drug. That experience has also taught me that the FDA is a bumbling industry-oriented, ass kissing organization where decisions are made by employees of the FDA who are waiting to turn their Agency experience into an advancement opportunity within the pharmaceutical industry. To eliminate jury consideration of the wrongdoing of drug companies does not serve the public's interest in having safe drugs with appropriate information available. The basic question must be asked; is it not part of conservative thought that one must be held responsible for the consequences of one's conduct? The real reason behind this multi-pronged effort to shield the drug industry from being held accountable for its behavior is the false premise that 'might makes right.'

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Don't Even Think About It

The media suggests that Condoleeza Rice is floating trial balloons about being offered the vice presidential candidacy with John McCain. My advice to McCain; forget about it. The very idea is the exact equivalent of He Who Would Be King's posturing about the real world today. In case you missed that, according to He Who . . . there is no financial crisis, our economy is booming, and the war in Iraq was won years ago. In short the idea is unreal and defies imagination. The knowledge that Rice herself apparently feels confident enough to posture in this fashion suggests that she too lives in the same bubble that Bush apparently resides. She cannot and should not be allowed to escape the stench of the Bush administration's ideological incompetence. She bears partial responsibility for failing to demonstrate the moral courage necessary to right the sinking of American diplomacy. She walks lockstep with Bush in everything and deserves the same fate. Fifty years from now,. her legacy will be the same as his. Historians will start by writing "Perhaps the worst Secretary of State in American history is . . ."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hating Differences

The conventional wisdom, if one pays attention to the media, is that Obama is slipping. His halo is tarnished. His 'I have a dream" moment has passed and he is looking just like any other political candidate, except that he can't bowl. Horrors. The underlying force that appears to be at work is what I would refer to as 'creeping racism.' There are some in our society, and I count any number of them among my acquaintances, who are waiting for the other shoe to drop against Obama so that they can exult in the 'I told you so' moment that will banish this wonderful young man to the back bench of government. Here is a glimpse of how this works. What follows are excerpts from an e-mail I received this morning;

















It is difficult to sort out the various and insidious notions of which this message is comprised. What is obvious, however, is a seething hatred that forms the basis for this entire message. I recognize this hatred. It is the same hatred that fueled my upbringing as a Protestant Irish kid living in a predominantly Italian and Polish Catholic ('dagos and polock mackerel snappers') community on the east side of Detroit in the 1950s. I don't want to mention the words that were then routinely used for black people, but every white person who reads this knows exactly what I am talking about. It is my opinion that all of this hatred is based on fear; fear of something different. It is no accident that Obama's campaign is led by the energy of young people who do not experience this fear, but who do recognize that something is badly out of place when the blueprint of our society is constantly violated in a thousand different ways by older white guys in blue suits. Recently I sat at a dinner party and the lady next to me confided that she was extremely conservative. Her reason, she said, that she was against Obama was that it was a fact that he was a Muslim. Simple as that. It is an old trial lawyer's maxim that if one throws enough mud, some of it will stick. Her 'belief' is an example. The bottom line is this and is directed at young people. Keep at it. Don't surrender your enthusiasm. Change is good. This country needs more than a five cent cigar. It needs the infusion of young blood, young multiracial blood, that can cut across barriers unconsciously erected in the minds of old white guys who spend their days, months, years, lives hating anything different. As the maxim goes, insanity is expecting different results from the same behavior.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Comment to "True or False"

What follows is a comment to my blog "True or False" from Dennis, a friend and fellow musician. I am writing this specific response because I ran across Dennis yesterday in a music store and he shared with me a little concern that our divergent views might somehow affect our friendship. While I reassured him that such would not be the case I thought it would be important to follow up on my assurances in writing so I could spell out why I think creating and sharing information and different viewpoints is such an important part of the human experience, all the more so when it is done is a convivial manner wwithout the need to personalize or denigrate those who do not share identical views. Dennis writes: "For the first time I find myself taking an opposing view to your blog-- I think you give Bush (he who would be King) too much credit for the events in the world. Regarding Reagan, and all the positive views the historians are now writing, it seems to me that the end of the cold war and Reagan's role in that was more of an empire that was sick economically under the command economy of state socialism, sick because it ruled only by raw military power that was now completely second rate--lack of maintenance of the military infrastructure and the emerging consciousness due to many factors, not the least the role of the Pope in Poland and other satellite countries. Reagan deserves credit for his single minded purpose to defeat communism, but he could not do it except for the fact that the Soviet Empire had rotted from within.--It remains to be seen if we are doing the very same thing as we try to support massive nation-building (which Bush decried when Clinton was involved in Bosnia)

So my point is that I think that the historical forces as work are so much larger than any given President's capacities. If it turns out well, --well, I think that President is just darn lucky. If it turns out badly--we crucify him. Much of Reagan's influence was more like the martial arts,--say judo--where you focus on your opponents momentum and use that to trip him up, letting him defeat himself, with minimal effort on your part.

I don't think that Bush had the best advice concerning Iraq, he would have done well to listen to the reason Cheney gave when Bush senior decided not to invade Baghdad and remove Saddam in the first Gulf War. At that time, he raised the question that if we toppled Saddam, how could you be sure you could control the situation with three strongly divided ethnic groups. Would the military remain intact? Colin Powell also warned "If you break it, you own it."

Bush inherited a seriously weakened intelligence service, weakened under the interpretations of the law by Clinton Justice Department prohibiting sharing information between the CIA, FBI and the military. He also retained ("It's a slam dunk, Mr. President") George Tenet. He faced an Iraq that wanted the world to believe it had biological weapons which it had already used to kill hundreds of thousands of Kurds and thousands of Shiites. He wanted the world to believe he had or was close to having nuclear weapons. He kicked out the nuclear, chemical and biological inspectors that he had agreed to under the settlement of the first Gulf War. And he refused to abide by nearly 20 UN resolutions.

All the evidence for the war had the review of both houses of Congress, and the record is clear--all leading politicians took the same stand, that Saddam had to be stopped.
After the invasion, we failed to find the weapons--and it is true there were some isolated voices even then that there was no nuclear program, the biological program could be restarted but there was no clear evidence of its existence at the time of the invasion.

Concerning that point, I heard an interview with a CEO of a medium sized company comment, that if he had 99 people in his company recommend a certain course of action, and had one objector, he would go with the 99. OK, so it turns out the 99 are wrong. On the next issue that comes up, will he go with the 99 again, or with the one objector. Again he said he would go with the 99. It would be a real matter of faith to think that guy would get it right both times when everyone else was wrong. Not that it could not happen. The Bible is full of cases just like that--but then the objector was in God's direct service and had a direct line of communication.

As I read Bush, I think he is a fine human being. A man who believes in God. He has described his walk of faith, and how a particular sermon by his pastor in Texas struck him--that he was being called to run for the Presidency. Also not to worry how it would turn out. If he lost, he would accept that just as if he would win--he was just trusting that God would have His will done.

I have rambled a lot here, but my point is simply, we give far too much credit (and blame) to the sitting president for the events that come to pass. Is Bush supposed to oversee the quality of the intelligence agencies the day he takes office? Is Bush to blame for the insanity and horrendous behavior of the troops at Abu Graib? Is Bush responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis? Was it not Greenspan who called for more innovative mortgage products in the early 1990s? Did bush create the Enron scandal? Were Ford and later Carter to blame for the high inflation and high interest rates that occurred in the aftermath of the Vietnam war? Why do we give such credit to Bill Clinton for a great economy? Did we totally forget that the great Reagan gave us tax cuts and increased military spending at the same time? Bush tries to give us tax cuts and run 5 year war, and we have massive deficits. We had massive deficits under Reagan--and a subsequent war, but not nation rebuilding. When the "Soviet empire collapsed, Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided testimony to Congress on the "Peace Dividend" The delayed effect of the Reagan tax cuts, and now the Peace Dividend provided the impetus for a revived economy and a bull market. All Clinton had to do was listen to Alan Greenspan. He also had a Republican Congress that slowed down many of his domestic spending program. So the economy expanded, also with the high-tech markets, and Internet. We even had budget surpluses and a start on reducing the national debt. The government started to call back the treasury notes with higher interest to reduce the debt service even faster. But we did not have a war going on. When we were attacked by terrorists some 10-15 times during Clinton's eight years--we just lobbed a few missiles--no serious response.

I don't have a clue how history will view Bush--I just identify with the extreme pressure he is under, and a common view that the sitting president has all the keys for a glorious future for the world or the keys to its collapse. I really think that all of these presidents are basically simple men. Just reading their biographies makes me much more sympathetic to how they responded to the issues of their day. I think a view that characterizes a simple man as "He who would be king" is grossly distorted."

Kids Say and Do the Darndest Things

Give yourself a treat and watch this little girl, about two plus years old, sing the Lord's prayer.