Archive for the Politics Category

Tax the 107th Congress, Bush Supporters and Halliburton to pay for the War on Terror

Posted in Iraq, Politics on December 4, 2009 by lylede

In his Afghanistan war speech the other night President Obama said the 30,000 additional troops he was sending to that violence-plagued country would cost about $30 billion. He also pledged to work with Congress “openly and honestly” to figure out how to pay for this costly deployment.

That was an extremely lame comment. The President and Congress know they have two options when it comes to paying for the war on terror: borrow more money (and dramatically increase our already massive deficit) or raise taxes.

I favor the tax option, but a selective one. To pay for the war on terror we should raise taxes on three entities:

  1. Every idiotic member of the 107th Congress who voted for the Iraq war
  2. Every citizen who voted for and supported Bush in 2004, along with every corporate campaign contributor
  3. Every politically-connected company that received a fat, Iraq war-related contract from the Bush administration

1. We should first quadruple the taxes of every idiot of the 107th Congress who voted to invade Iraq. Keep in mind Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and Saddam Hussein was in power for 29 years and never attacked America once. Congress, Bush and Cheney knew all of this on September 12, 2001. 

Remember the infamous report titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” Condoleezza Rice had the nerve to call an “historical document?” Our government and then-President Bush had that report in the summer of 2001, before the 9-11 attacks. And the report doesn’t mention Iraq as being a threat to America.

To pay for the Iraq war our government bankrupted the country and borrowed trillions of dollars from China, which now firmly owns America. It would be a miracle if our debt to China is paid off in fifty years. And if you think Bush and Cheney kept America safe by invading Iraq and borrowing all that cash from China think again. China owns us and that does not bode well at all for our future.

2. I would then triple the taxes of every American citizen who voted for or gave campaign contributions to George W. Bush in 2004, along with all of Bush’s corporate contributors. No offense but if you couldn’t tell what a corrupt, inept and arrogant moron Bush is by the end of his first term then tough, you lose.

The scariest thing about Bush is how well he hides his past. Bush and his disgusting, heinous father conducted business with the Saudi Royal Family for decades. The Saudi Royal Family is Islamic radicals who have supported terrorism for decades, including the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. The Saudi Royal Family was also one of only three countries on the entire planet who officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan when those Islamic radicals took over that country in the late 1990s.

George H.W. Bush worked as a lobbyist for the Saudis, flew around the globe and told governments everywhere what wonderful people the Saudis were and they should do business with them. His equally corrupt, power-hungry son allowed three planeloads of Saudi citizens to flee the country two days after 9-11, when most flights were still grounded, so W. wouldn’t be embarrassed by his ties to these radical, bloodthirsty animals (15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.)

W. and his father have both constantly called the Saudi Royal Family our “friends and allies.” With friends like the Saudis we don’t need enemies. For an excellent account of the Bush-Saudi relationship see the book House of Bush House of Saud by Craig Unger. The photograph on the cover, of George W. Bush holding hands with a member of the Saudi Royal Family, should be enough to make you lose your lunch.

If you voted for or supported W. in 2004 you should be paying extra for the war on terror. W. invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons. W. and his friends made billions off the invasion of Iraq while the real enemies, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, escaped our military and set up shop in Pakistan. And again, and it’s so sad, W. knew along with our government that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11.

We lost eight long years in the war on terror because W. and Cheney were more interested in profiting off of Iraqi oil than going after the real bastards who attacked us. Bush also ignored Afghanistan so much that in January of 2008, when his last year in office began, there were only 27,000 American soldiers in the country that harbored bin Laden and launched the 9-11 attacks (see The Afghanistan Speech, NY Times editorial, 12-2-09.)

It is absolutely criminal and disgusting we haven’t captured or killed Osama bin Laden by now. And most Americans don’t even know who two of the other real bastards are (who were also ignored by W. and Cheney because they weren’t sitting on billions of barrels of oil), al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri and former Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who we also haven’t captured or killed yet.

3. Quadruple the taxes on every politically-connected company that received a fat, Iraq war contract. The Iraq war is the most outsourced war ever fought by America. It marks the epitome of how our government, intelligence agencies and military-industrial-complex manipulate people, events and information to profit from war. Watch the trailer for the great documentary Why We Fight and listen to what an ex-CIA agent says about war profiteering.

Prior to becoming vice president Dick Cheney ran the world’s biggest oil services company, Halliburton. As vice president he gave his friends at Halliburton a $10 billion no-bid contract to provide several services to both our military and the Iraqi oil fields. It was also a massive conflict of interest. To see just how heinous (and what a chicken-hawk) he is read Why Dick Cheney Should be put on a Spaceship and Launched Into Outer Space. Here’s a guy who is so pathetic that when he ran Halliburton he not only did business with the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, but actually lobbied Congress to lift sanctions on that country so his company could do more business with the corrupt, religious extremists who run Iran.

But raising taxes on Halliburton is going to be tough, given how good the company is at not paying them in the first place. See: Top Iraq Contractor Skirts US Taxes Offshore, The Boston Globe, 3-6-08 or Halliburton’s Tax Haven Explained, Halliburton Watch, or Washington Watch; Halliburton’s Libyan Taxes, NY Times, 5-5-86 or – I think you get the picture.

Halliburton could also contribute better financially to the war on terror if it stopped overcharging the government (really us taxpayers) on everything from importing gasoline into Iraq (see High Payments to Halliburton for fuel in Iraq, NY Times, 12-10-03) to meals for our troops (see Halliburton Will Repay U.S. Excess Charges for Troops’ Meals, NY Times, 2-3-04).

Unfortunately there are far too many other Iraq war contractors who also avoided paying taxes and overcharged for their “patriotic” services.

Let’s finally make them pay for the war on terror, too.

How Bush and the National Intelligence Estimate got so much wrong – while Iran builds the bomb

Posted in Politics on November 27, 2009 by lylede

It will truly be a miracle if America ever recovers from the heinous corruption and ineptitude of the Bush era. Forget the fact that the regulated businesses on Wall Street became their own regulators – if you could even call it that. And forget the fact that Bush and Cheney bankrupted America by borrowing trillions of dollars from China to pay for the unnecessary war in Iraq.

The scariest negligence by Bush though is by far the way he got off the hook when it came to dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It’s no great secret the religious fanatics who run Iran want the bomb. So I was shocked two years ago when the National Intelligence Estimate’s (NIE) report Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (November 2007) stated “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

The NIE was created in 1973. Its reports “are the Intelligence Community’s most authoritative written judgments on national security issues and designed to help US civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect US national security interests.”

The report is full of contradictions and pathetically states: “Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005 (that year the NIE assessed “with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure, but we do not assess that Iran is immovable.”)

But according to the 2007 report: “Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.” 

Incredulously the report also claims: “We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities—rather than its declared nuclear sites—for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.  A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.”

We are now frighteningly aware of the inaccuracy of this report. As reported by the Associated Press in Diplomats question purpose of Iran nuke plant, msnbc.com, 11-12-09, “Iran’s recently revealed uranium enrichment hall is a highly fortified underground space that appears too small to house a civilian nuclear program, but large enough to serve for military activities, diplomats told The Associated Press on Thursday.”

U.S., British and French leaders denounced Tehran for hiding this facility, located 20 miles outside of the holy city of Qom, the AP reported, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei is quoted as saying Tehran was “outside the law” and should have told the IAEA about it.

The article also says Iran began building the facility seven years ago and, according to a senior European diplomat “the enrichment hall is too small to house the tens of thousands of centrifuges needed for peaceful industrial nuclear enrichment, but is the right size to contain the few thousand advanced machines that could generate the amount of weapons-grade uranium needed to make nuclear warheads.”

More ominously ElBaradei recently said (see IAEA Chief: Iran Nuclear Inquiry at “dead end,” msnbc.com, 11-26-09) the IAEA’s probe of Tehran’s nuclear program is at “a dead end” and the article notes “ElBaradei cannot confirm that Tehran’s nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed “serious concern” that Iranian stonewalling of an IAEA probe means “the possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” cannot be excluded.”

Oh really Mr. ElBaradei? And whom did you previously work for, the NIE?

And getting back to that now-infamous NIE report Valerie Lincy, editor of Iranwatch.org and Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control rightfully trashed it shortly after it was released with a NY Times Op-Ed piece they wrote: In Iran We Trust? 12-6-07.

“We should be suspicious of any document that suddenly gives the Bush administration a pass on a big national security problem it won’t solve during its remaining year in office. Is the administration just washing its hands of the intractable Iranian nuclear issue by saying, “If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke”?

They point out the NIE report “contains the same sorts of flaws that we have learned to expect from our intelligence agency offerings. It, like the report in 2002 that set up the invasion of Iraq, is both misleading and dangerous.”

Lincy and Milhollin go on to detail Tehran’s nuclear activities, including the centrifuge work at Natanz and a heavy water reactor at Iran’s research center at Arak “ideal for producing plutonium for nuclear bombs, but is of little use in an energy program like Iran’s, which does not use plutonium for reactor fuel… And why, by the way, does Iran even want a nuclear energy program, when it is sitting on an enormous pool of oil that is now skyrocketing in value? And why is Iran developing long-range Shahab missiles, which make no military sense without nuclear warheads to put on them?”

They note for several years these costly projects were seen as proof of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and ask, “Why aren’t they still?”

As for international pressure on Iran, Lincy and Milhollin write: “The new report has also upended our sanctions policy, which was just beginning to produce results. Banks and energy companies were pulling back from Iran. The United Nations Security Council had frozen the assets of dozens of Iranian companies. That policy now seems dead. If Iran is not going for the bomb, why punish it?”

I urge you to read their article. It’s scary stuff – just like the eventual showdown with Iran will be.

Make the Thieves on Wall Street Pay for Healthcare Reform

Posted in Politics on November 5, 2009 by lylede

It churns my stomach when politicians claim to be fiscally responsible. In The Defining Moment, NY Times Op-ED, 10-30-09, good old I’m a Democrat, no wait I just lost the primary so now I’m an Independent, oh wait I’m such a schmuck I’m going to get into bed with the Republicans on Iraq, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was quoted as saying “I want to be able to vote for a health bill, but my top concern is the deficit.”

Oh really Mr. I’m flopping around more than a fish out of water? If you’re so concerned about the deficit and its related problems how come you never did anything about health insurance reform for the 21 years you’ve been pretending to serve the public as a Senator? And if you’re so fiscally responsible how come you and the rest of the idiots in the 107th Congress who voted for the Bush/Cheney Iraq war bankrupted America by borrowing trillions from China to pay for that completely unnecessary invasion? Great job, Joe.

Getting back to health insurance reform, the recent bill under House consideration would levy higher taxes on couples who make over $1 million and individuals who earn $500,000 per year to pay for the legislation. This I find unfair, and not because I fall into one of these categories (I don’t – by a long shot.) People who have worked hard and legally and amassed wealth shouldn’t be punished for something our government should have figured out decades ago.

Instead I have a better idea for coming up with revenue to pay for health insurance reform. Why don’t we make the thieves on Wall Street, who lavished themselves with pathetically huge bonuses, obscene salaries and financial shenanigans, pay to fix our healthcare mess. The government, which is in the pocket of these thieves (a $350 million lobbying/political contribution bribing campaign by Wall Street got the Glass-Steagall Act, a smart, six-decades old law, repealed), isn’t going after these bastards but instead is actually BAILING THEM OUT!

And our government is so connected to these investment banks the bankers, who are receiving billions in taxpayer funds, don’t even have to tell the feds how they’re spending our money. Are you still keeping your eye on that deficit, Joe?

I mean, if the government wants to punish rich people to pay for its shortcomings it should go after the crooks who aren’t being prosecuted for bringing down America’s and the world’s economy. It makes no sense to go after law-abiding people just because they have money.

But when you’ve “carted off up to $12.7 trillion – almost the size of the entire gross domestic product” like the thieves on Wall Street did (see No Justice. We’ve Bailed Out the Banks. When Do We Go After the Crooks Behind Our Financial Collapse? – The Village Voice, 10/28 – 11/3 2009) you bet your ass you should be punished!

Keep in mind politicians live and die by campaign contributions. They’re total whores for campaign money. The great conservative icon Ronald Reagan took a $10 million campaign contribution/bribe from one of the 20th centuries’ most despotic rulers, Ferdinand Marcos, to look the other way when it came to Marcos’ blatant graft and human rights abuses in the Philippines. If you don’t believe me see Reagan’s former campaign manager’s book, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics, by GOP heavy-hitter Ed Rollins. He openly discusses this bribe.

And when the politicians take campaign contributions they have to pay back their contributors once in office. So since the government isn’t going after its campaign contributors on the Street and Wall Street is back to its old tricks – “expanding its use of new and exceedingly complex derivatives” – according to The Village Voice article and executives are lavishing themselves once again with huge bonuses and exorbitant salaries lets at least make these bastards pay for healthcare reform!

ADDITIONAL READING:

Please read No Justice. We’ve Bailed Out the Banks. When Do We Go After the Crooks Behind Our Financial Collapse? – The Village Voice, 10/28 – 11/3 2009 to get a better understanding of why our government isn’t going after the criminals on Wall Street. The article points out how after Attorney General Eric Holder left the Clinton administration he “made a lucrative living by conducting internal probes for companies and negotiating outstanding results for white-collar clients.” He even wrote a 2002 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, “Don’t Indict WorldCom,” that “argued on behalf of the corporate perpetrator of one of the sleaziest frauds of the past decade.”

Attorney General Holder has also appointed his former law partner, Lanny Breuer, to head the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. And, surprise surprise, Breuer has also represented white-collar scum along with the likes of Halliburton, Freddie Mac, Exxon Mobil and big pharmaceutical companies.

Another great Village Voice article, What Cooked the World’s Economy? It Wasn’t Your Overdue Mortgage, 1-27-09, rightfully questions Attorney General Eric Holder’s “will to tackle the widest fraud in American history,” noting that as a private lawyer Holder represented Big Tobacco and in another case Chiquita Brands where the food company paid a massive $25 million fine for employing terrorists as security in Columbia. The Voice article states: “Holder fits well within the gaggle of elite D.C. lawyers who move back and forth between government and defending corporate criminals. He doesn’t exactly have the sort of résumé that startles robber barons.”

Why Dick Cheney Should be Put on a Spaceship and Launched into Outer Space (although that would be cruel to the cosmos – sorry!)

Posted in Politics on October 28, 2009 by lylede

Dick Cheney needs to shut his hypocritical mouth and disappear. Take a vacation, Dick. Like a permanent one to some far-away place. Tahiti though is still too close to America and the rest of the world. And too beautiful for him. Actually we should just put him on a spaceship and launch him into outer space.

He is by far the most heinous, disgusting thing to ever hold power. Oh wait, I forgot about W. Okay, we have a tie. Cheney weaseled out of the draft during the Vietnam War by getting five deferments. He then becomes vice president and proceeds to lie to America and the world to get his war in Iraq. A war he and his friends at Halliburton, big oil and the military industry complex (he is also a former Defense Secretary) profited off of immensely.

For seven long years vice president Dick Cheney ignored the real threats to America – Afghanistan and Pakistan – because neither one of those countries has any oil. Yet he’s so arrogant and ignorant he has the nerve to call President Obama “afraid” when it comes to policy on Afghanistan and recently said “The President must stop dithering while America’s troops on the ground are in danger.”

If you’re so worried about those troops, Dick, then how come when there was a draft in this country and we were at war in Vietnam you weren’t fighting side by side with them? Oh yeah, you were too busy getting all those deferments. Damn you’re tough. And macho.

As Dick Cheney got older he played the revolving door game of greed and power in Washington, DC and served as Poppy Bush’s Defense Secretary, where he made a lot of contacts in the military and military industrial complex.

He then landed a job at Halliburton, the world’s biggest oil services company. The great documentary Why We Fight (2005, and please click on the link, watch the trailer and listen to what a former CIA agent has to say about war profiteering and a former President AND Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower says about the dangers of the military industrial complex in his infamous 1961 presidential farewell speech) points out how once Cheney was at Halliburton he used his connections with the military to expand his company’s business and provide food, laundry and other services to our soldiers.

And while all that might seem like a savvy businessman increasing the bottom line for his company Cheney, the great patriot always looking out for America’s best interests, also did business with the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran.

According to Fox News’ (yup, look how fair and balanced I am!) Iran Oil Probe Focuses on Halliburton, 7-21-04: “A Halliburton controversy erupted Tuesday, fueled by a grand jury investigation into whether the oil services giant violated federal sanctions by operating in Iran while Vice President Dick Cheney was running the company.

The investigation centers on Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., a subsidiary registered in the Cayman Islands and headquartered in Dubai that provided oil field services in Iran. The unit’s operations in Iran included Cheney’s stint as chief executive from 1995 to 2000, when he frequently urged the lifting of such sanctions.” (emphasis added)

Not only did he do business with the radical, Islamic fascists who run Iran and support terrorism but even Fox News reported that he “frequently urged the lifting” of sanctions against Iran so he could do more business with the corrupt mullahs over there.

The Fox News piece continued with this: “Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose office has provided information on the case to the Treasury Department, said Tuesday that Halliburton Products and Services was a sham that existed only to circumvent the sanctions.

“It’s unconscionable that an American company would skirt the law to help Iran generate revenues,” Lautenberg told reporters…”

For those of you who think Bush and Cheney kept us safe in the post-9/11 world keep in mind they borrowed billions, if not trillions, from China to pay for their unnecessary war in Iraq. China now firmly owns America due to our massive debt to that country. And that does not bode well at all for America’s security and future.

If China wanted to invade the Korean peninsula, Taiwan, Japan or any other country we couldn’t lift a finger to stop them. Not because it’s such a massive country with a huge military, but simply because China owns us. Thanks Dick, great job.

The following headlines, all from reputable sources, continue the pathetic, disgusting tale of Dick Cheney:

Questions for Vice President Dick Cheney, CNN.money.com, 11-25-07 (here he admits opposing sanctions against Iran when he was at Halliburton)

Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies in Iran

Terror Watch: Halliburton’s Deal With Iran, msnbc.com/Newsweek, 2-16-05

Halliburton Operates in Iran Despite Sanctions, msnbc.com, 3-8-05

Halliburton Pulls Out of Iran: But…., huffingtonpost.com, 4-10-07

Somebody, please, put this scumbag on a spaceship, NOW!

The Public Option is Not Socialism (just the lesser of two evils)

Posted in Politics on October 17, 2009 by lylede

It’s pretty pathetic that the health insurance industry is spending a whopping $1.4 million PER DAY lobbying / bribing Congress not to pass any legislation that hurts the health insurance companies’ bottom line (See: Missing Richard Nixon, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-30-09.)

You’d think they might want to spend that money on something like, oh I don’t know, maybe providing health care for their customers. But unfortunately they’re not really in the health care business; they’re just flat out in business.

We need to take drastic action to begin any attempt at fixing the health insurance mess and while I’m not a total supporter of the public option several intelligent people do think it’s a good idea.

And I’m not against it because it’s socialism, which it isn’t. For more on the dreaded S word and other reform lies spread by the health insurance industry and its highly paid PR companies read Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter.

Mr. Potter spent 20 years working as a health insurance company public relations executive until he got fed up with lying to the American public about his industry and reform. He is now divulging some of the most pathetic, heinous information to ever be released by a corporate insider. And he’s one of the intelligent people I mentioned above who supports a public option.

My problem with the public option is I just don’t buy the government’s line that it will save us money in the long run given the fact that politicians always screw up large-scale projects like this one.

Take Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as examples. What started out as a good thing, providing home mortgages to middle- and lower-income families, turned into another moneymaking scheme for the fat cats in Congress. The government actually allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which are for the most part government-sponsored programs) to make campaign contributions to politicians. That’s incredibly pathetic and asinine. The politicians basically treated Fannie and Freddie like additional bank accounts.

But another one of those smart people I mentioned who does support the public option is New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (although what he did regarding term limits is absolutely abhorring.)

Keep in mind Mayor Bloomberg is a capitalist all the way (and not the dreaded S word!) This past summer he wrote an op-ed piece for the NY Daily News called A public insurance plan will help heal a broken health care system (7-1-09.) He notes that if done properly, the public option will provide “exactly the kind of competition our system needs.”

He then writes about his own highly successful company: “When I started a small business 28 years ago, there were other companies that offered financial information to banks and businesses. But we found a way to do it better. That gave our customers more options, and it strengthened the marketplace of financial information.”

Bloomberg also points out that public option plans could provide the same coverage as private plans for less money because the public option providers will have lower administrative costs than private companies. He also says the public option plans could use their market share to get lower prices for consumers.

Bloomberg adds that: “These two steps would also positively affect the rest of the health insurance market, making it more efficient, innovative and customer-oriented, which is exactly what we need.”

No wonder the private health insurance companies are spending the incredulous sum of $1.4 million PER DAY lobbying / bribing Congress to kill the public option.

Another very smart person, Cappy McGarr, has intimate knowledge of the health insurance problem and also supports a public option. McGarr currently runs a private equity firm (no socialist here!) but was also the chairman of the Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance from 1993 to 1995. This Alliance was one of those health insurance exchanges many politicians talk about who think exchanges are better than a public option.

These health insurance exchanges create a system where small businesses (over half of all the uninsured people here work for small businesses) form purchasing groups that are big enough to get lower wholesale health insurance rates that large companies receive.

Unfortunately though, if you read McGarr’s A Texas-Sized Health Care Failure, NY Times Op-Ed, 10-6-09, you’ll see how the private health insurance companies figured out how to kill the exchanges. And this is also probably why so many politicians support such exchanges – it pleases their private health insurance campaign contributors since they shut so many down!

In his Op-Ed McGarr writes that it would be better for Congress to create a public plan “that could provide an attractive choice for consumers and real competition for private insurers, to give them the incentive to offer good coverage at affordable prices.

But without a public plan, tough rules and restrictions on insurance companies will be essential. Otherwise, Americans will never be able to count on good, affordable health care.”

I guess I see the public option as the lesser of the two evils. Private health insurers have proven, for years unfortunately with ever-increasing rates, precondition denials and canceling policies when people get sick or injured, that they can’t do the job properly. They’re in it for the profit, plain, pure and simple. And if you don’t believe me I urge you to read what Wendell Potter has to say.

In theory, the public option should work. But it would be a miracle if the government pulls it off.

“Hijacked” by the “Oligarchy”

Posted in Politics on September 29, 2009 by lylede

In a previous post here, (“You say you want a revolution…”) I wrote that Wall Street and our government are one and the same and that legislation is passed or killed based on what the moneyed interests want and not the people.

Now it’s certainly easy to dismiss such comments as the pathetic, liberal ravings of a lefty. But when a legitimate, successful businessman, and a capitalist all the way, says the same thing and goes further, it is truly sad and frightening.

I don’t watch much television but after reading Even Glenn Beck Is Right Twice a Day, NY Times Op-Ed, 9-19-09, I was shocked to find myself agreeing with something Beck had to say (we’ll get to that businessman shortly):

“Wall Street owns our government,” Beck declared in one rant this July. “Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged.” He drew a chart to dramatize the revolving door between Washington and Goldman Sachs in both the Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner Treasury departments.”

My curiosity extremely piqued, I clicked on the drew a chart link, which led to a Huffington Post piece and video clip from one of Beck’s shows. In the clip Beck goes off on a confusing, but well-deserved rant about the ties between Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs and our federal government. One thing that set him off was when, this past summer and after taking $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money, Goldman Sachs posted a profit of $3.44 billion for the second quarter.

I urge you to watch the clip, which runs about ten minutes. Stay with it, especially for the last three minutes or so, when Beck interviews the businessman I mentioned above, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Here’s a guy who is a capitalist through and through. He runs a very legitimate, successful Internet company that has been around for several years. And what he has to say about America is truly frightening.

During the interview Beck says that the way Goldman Sachs is tied to the government, it’s “a criminal organization.”

“It’s as if we bailed out the Corleone family,” Byrne replied, “and then they turn around two quarters later and have a record quarter. This is rich bankers bailing out rich bankers on your credit card.”

“Will you agree with me that Wall Street owns our government?” Beck asked.

“Absolutely. Economists have a term for it, it’s called Regulatory Capture.” Byrne told him. “Society sets up regulators to protect us from certain industries like Wall Street but often these regulators come under the thumb of the industry and they’re called a captured regulator. Wall Street has captured the institutions that are supposed to have protected our country from Wall Street. They’ve just become wholly owned subsidiaries.”

Beck shoots back with: “Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged and if you’re not in one of those gigantic corporations forget about it, Jack.”

Byrne then gets truly scary. “It’s called an oligarchy (government by a few, well-connected people.) A group of powerful folks who have basically hijacked the government. We have an oligarchy who’s captured Washington, DC and they have just prevented, they’ve manufactured this… they’ve manufactured the loopholes that let this happen and they’re doing everything they can do to keep those loopholes from being closed.”

Not good. Not good at all. Sing it with me: “You say you want a revolution…”

ADDITIONAL READING:

For a great explanation on how Wall Street and the bankers took America and the world to the cleaners watch a guy named William K. (Bill) Black being interviewed on PBS by Bill Moyers. Bill Black was a government regulator during the S&L scandal of the late 1980s (brought to you by another Bush, George H.W.) and was formerly the Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention. He now teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and wrote the book The Best Way to Rob A Bank is to Own One.

Black further proves my point of Wall Street and our government being one and the same when during the interview he points out how, as the economy imploded in the fall of 2008, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who prior to getting that job was CEO of Goldman Sachs (which is a major problem to start with!), created a recommendation group to tell the Treasury Department what they should do about the AIG disaster. Guess whom he included on the panel of this recommendation group? That’s right, friends of his from Goldman Sachs, who also happened to have a huge stake in the outcome of how the government handled AIG. This was an immense conflict of interest, yet they got away with it.

I also urge you to read the great investigative reporting done by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone Magazine. Here’s a great piece called Inside The Great American Bubble Machine – Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression.

Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter

Posted in Politics on September 19, 2009 by lylede

Some of the most damning, heinous inside information to ever be released is being divulged by Wendell Potter. For 20 years Mr. Potter worked as a corporate public relations executive, mostly in health care. Last year he quit his job as head of communications for Cigna, one of America’s largest health insurers. Prior to that job he served in the same capacity for Humana, another big health insurance company.

In 2007 Mr. Potter had an epiphany of sorts. He went to see Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko,” a scathing film about our health care system. Mr. Potter wanted to develop a propaganda attack against the film but suddenly found himself agreeing with most of what he saw up on the screen.

In Health Care Fit for Animals, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-27-09, Mr. Potter says he “flew in corporate jets to industry meetings to plan how to block health reform” and concocted “messaging to scare the public about reform.”

Mr. Potter has been interviewed on MSNBC, PBS and testified before Congress. According to Whistleblower is Dems’ best ammo in health care fight, NY Daily News, 8-3-09, “As a homegrown Southerner from Tennessee, Wendell Potter would be hard to dismiss. Even the people who sometimes blindly support fear-based policy would listen long and hard. Those fear-based policies function against their own interests but are presented as a socialist plot bent on destroying our health care system and doing the public in. But Potter said this to Bill Moyers early last month:

“I am speaking out about how big for-profit insurers have hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street investors, and how the industry is using its massive wealth and influence to determine what is (and is not) included in the health care reform legislation members of Congress are now writing. I was in a unique position to see not only how Wall Street analysts and investors influence decisions insurance company executives make, but also how the industry has carried out behind-the-scenes PR and lobbying campaigns to kill or weaken any health care reform efforts that threatened insurers’ profitability.”

The health insurance problem gets more frightening as Potter gets specific about public relations campaigns he worked on in a piece he wrote for CNN.com called Commentary: How insurance firms drive debate, 8-17-09.

“…the (health insurance) industry funnels millions of its policyholders’ premiums to big public relations firms that provide talking points to conservative talk show hosts, business groups and politicians. I also described (during his Capitol Hill press conference) how the PR firms set up front groups, again using your premium dollars and mine, to scare people away from reform.

What I’m trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by “government bureaucrats,” someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.” (Emphasis added)

Not only is this a terrible indictment of the health insurance industry but it also speaks volumes about how pathetic public relations is in America. In one of the mother of all PR deceptions, just prior to Persian Gulf War I, in October of 1990 a tearful 15-year old Kuwaiti girl who called herself Nayirah told a Congressional caucus (lying to a Congressional committee is a crime, lying to a caucus is “public relations,” see Additional Reading below) that she watched in horror as invading Iraqi soldiers removed babies from incubators in a Kuwait City hospital, left the babies “on the cold floor to die” then shipped the much-needed incubators back to Iraq.

Unfortunately this was all a lie and the girl was the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US. The story was a total fabrication, made up by PR-powerhouse Hill & Knowlton, who was paid over $10 million by the Kuwaiti royal family to convince Americans to go to war against Iraq.

Getting back to Mr. Potter, he goes on to write that the health care industry goes to great lengths to hide its involvement in PR campaigns from the public. He closes the CNN.com piece with: “So the next time you hear someone warning against a “government takeover” of our health care system, or that the creation of a public health insurance option would send us down the “slippery slope toward socialism,” know that someone like I used to be the one who wrote those terms, knowing it might turn many of the very people who would benefit most from meaningful reform into unwitting spokespeople for the industry.”

Shortly after Mr. Potter saw “Sicko” he visited his parents in Tennessee. During that trip he went to a charity program set up at a county fairground that provided medical treatment for people who could not afford doctors.

The NY Times piece, Health Care Fit for Animals, notes that “Long lines of people were waiting in the rain, and patients were being examined and treated in public in stalls intended for livestock.” Another epiphany for Mr. Potter as he is quoted as saying, “It was a life-changing event to witness that.”

The article also says Mr. Potter argues that tough health insurance regulation is essential and “a robust public option is an essential part of any health reform, to compete with for-profit insurers and keep them honest.”

ADDITIONAL READING:

Please click on the links in the above post and read all three articles I cite, they’re great. One of them, Health Care Fit for Animals, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-27-09, details how health insurance companies deny claims and cancel policies after a paying customer gets sick and needs costly care so they can increase profits and keep their stock prices high.

Hill & Knowlton (see their profile at SourceWatch – A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy) is one of the oldest PR firms in America and represented the tobacco industry from 1953 to 1968. While whoring for big tobacco Hill & Knowlton created an advertising campaign to counter scientific evidence that linked smoking to lung cancer.

Read The Babies From Incubators Hoax (from SourceWatch – A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy) to see how Hill & Knowlton created a front group, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, held press conferences showing torture by Iraqi soldiers and distributed thousands of “Free Kuwait” T-shirts and bumper stickers to convince Americans to go to war. Dozens of other tactics, including setting up media interviews for visiting Kuwaitis, creating observances like National Free Kuwait Day and making video news releases shown by TV news directors who rarely, if ever, mentioned that the footage and stories were created by Hill & Knowlton, were employed by the PR powerhouse.

You can also read here about how Hill & Knowlton executives were extremely well connected to the Reagan and Bush I administrations. It also points out how the two politicians who held the House Human Rights Caucus hearing where the incubator story was told also used for one of their foundations, free of charge, office space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington, DC office.