Why Not Snakes?

The CIA was authorized under the Bush Administration to use insects as interrogation enhancements. But no snakes. Not one thing about snakes. I’m smelling some kind of injustice here.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

We found out today that the Bush Administration wrote a memo that authorized the use of insects as an interrogation enhancement. Here’s the creepy crawly from Time:

The CIA desire to use insects during interrogations has not previously been disclosed, according to two civil liberties experts contacted by TIME. The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002, described the CIA’s plans for using insects this way:

“You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a catapiller in the box with him.”

An additional sentence at the end of this paragraph is redacted in the copy made public Thursday. Later in the same memo, Bybee concludes that “an individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe physical pain or suffering if a caterpiller was placed in the box.” Bybee adds, however, that the interrogators should not tell Zubaydah that the insect sting “would produce death or severe pain.”

This sounds like the rejected script of a James Bond film or something. The evil guy, who has a lair inside a mountain, tortures Bond with insects. No, no, the rewrite says they have to use snakes. Hey, even Indiana Jones hates snakes!

Man, this is lame. The Bushies simply had no imagination. They should have had Simon Cowell lecture the terrorist suspects, or just shown them pictures of Dick Cheney and his friend with the shot up face. These guys needed some serious advice. Insects, indeed. What about the SNAKES!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Hey, GOP, Try Exorcism Next

Surprise, surprise! GOP House members are having a problem with Dick Cheney speaking up and getting in the way of their supposed remaking of their party. They’re crying “get off my lawn!” in unison, but it doesn’t seem to help. Maybe they should try exorcism. . . or, did somebody say “The Spanish Inquisition?”


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

There’s evidently a sizable number of Members of Congress on the GOP side of the aisle who would like Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location. They are not a bit happy that Cheney decided to take on Barack Obama the other day. Evidently they have figured out that huge numbers of Americans think Dick Cheney took this country down the most disastrous path we’ve been down in a long time. From The Hill:

Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

Displeased with the former vice-president’s recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he’s hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.

The veep, who showed a penchant for secrecy during eight years in the White House,has popped up in media interviews to defend the Bush-Cheney record while suggesting that the country is not as safe under President Obama.

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public…But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”

Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.

The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.

Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway.”

As everyone knows, the problem here is that these same GOP Congressmen were all supportive of Mr. Cheney through some really ugly times, including torture, selling out our own CIA agents, renditions, etc. They can’t run and hide from what they actively enabled, except in their dreams.

Of course, they could try exorcism.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

$559 Million Worth of Bribery

Halliburton was caught bribing foreign officials for business, and now is trying to settle with the US government rather than see several of its executives go to jail.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The offer of a fine as a settlement of the bribery and corruption charges has not been accepted as yet. Of course, such massive bribery can only come from the company that gave us Dick Cheney. Halliburton. Better Living Through Corruption, Oil and War.

From Reuters:

Halliburton Co will pay a $559 million fine to end an investigation of its former KBR Inc unit if the U.S. government approves the settlement, the largest penalty against a U.S. company for charges of bribery under federal law.

Halliburton, once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, said it was awaiting final approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle claims that KBR violated anti-bribery laws by paying kickbacks to Nigerian officials.

Under the settlement, Halliburton would pay $382 million to the Department of Justice and $177 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission in “disgorgement.”

KBR did not comment on the proposed settlement. Halliburton said in regulatory filings last July that it was in settlement talks with the government.

Dan Newcomb, a partner at law firm Shearman and Sterling in New York who specializes in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) law, said it was likely more companies involved in anti-corruption cases would settle with the U.S. government.

Under the FCPA, it is illegal for U.S. companies or their agents to use bribes to win foreign business.

I suppose nobody expects this settlement will make Halliburton a fine corporate citizen.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

When Does Dick Cheney Become Merely an Historical Footnote?

Dick Cheney is whining about how Bush didn’t pardon Scooter Libby, calling the Libby conviction a “miscarriage of justice.” The real injustice here is that anyone other than historians are puclishing any of Cheney’s words. Would that Cheney went the way of the Evans-Novak Report, which ceases publication next week.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Dick Cheney is out of office, and already an ugly footnote in history, a man who learned dirty politics and a lust for power early, and then put those values into practice over the last eight years. American history will come to see Dick Cheney as arrogant and as an enemy of the constitution. But for now the media is covering everything Dick Cheney says, though he’s only talking to the few people who are friendly to him for the moment, like William Kristol at the Weekly Standard. So what’s Dick Cheney whining about now? He’s whining that George Bush didn’t give Scooter Libby a pardon. Here’s the scoop from CNNPolitics:

Former President George Bush should have pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney said after stepping down as vice president this week.

“He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush’s decision,” Cheney told Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard, a leading conservative Washington magazine.

Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into the revelation that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000. Bush commuted the sentence, which he called “excessive.” But he did not pardon Libby, much to the aggravation of many influential conservatives.

My view is that Cheney is simply a greedy mother who wants everything his way. Cheney orchestrated the exposure of a CIA agent as an instrument for him to gain politically. Everyone knows that is shameful. Libby got caught lying, and in this country lying to authorities has consequences. Well, Libby didn’t have to pay those consequences because Bush commuted his sentence. Sucks, but what are we going to do. Now Cheney whines because Bush didn’t give Scooter a full pardon?

I suggest Cheney go whine to historians or something. Better yet, go whine to Bob Novak, the big mouth who published the story exposing CIA agent Valerie Plame. Then Cheney will get what he deserves, absolutely zero press, because the Evans-Novak Report is shutting down. There’s something poetic about that timing, just three days into the transformative Presidency of Barack Obama.

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Improper Things: The Portraits of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

9,000 portraits of Dick Cheney and George Bush will be taken down from government buildings across the nation today. They will be destroyed rather than sold, as the government is fearful someone will do “improper things” to the portraits. After the excesses of the Bush/Cheney years, what in the world could such “improper things” be?


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Today in 9,000 government buildings, such as the Carl B. Stokes and Howard M. Metzenbaum Courthouses in Cleveland, workers will be taking down the portraits of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as near to noon as possible. Acording to Cleveland,com, those portraits will be destroyed. I’m not sure if there are rules set in stone here, such as those for a flag, but it seems to me there are opportunities for recycling and all. Wasn’t this last election a mandate, that we care for our earth? Hmm, I guess we’d have to think about how 9,000 sets of portraits could be recycled. I’m sure there’s someone clever here who can think of something.

But no! The reason they are destroying the portraits, frames and all, is that someone might use the portraits, abuse the portraits, misuse the portraits. All of you thinking about dart boards while reading the first paragraph here are probably why they’re sensitive to the danger of people treating the portraits badly. Here are the exact words from cleveland.com:

But don’t bother placing dibs on the Bush or Cheney pictures being removed from the federal buildings. That includes people looking for a keepsake to treasure and those who might want to accentuate the portraits with a moustache or goatee, or worse.

All pictures of the president and vice president are to be “respectfully disposed of,” Lease said. The government suggests shredding or recycling.

“They don’t want them laying around so people can use them for improper things,” Lease said.

Use them for “improper things?” I’m sure I have no idea what these people mean. Are they thinking that someone will use the portraits for toilet paper or something? Perhaps someone will try waterboarding the portraits? Ah, there’s the point of this little exercise, isn’t it? There have been so many improper things done in the name of Bush and Cheney that the standard of what is improper has changed. These two have raised the bar, as it were. What could possibly be “improper” use of the Bush and Cheney portraits by the standards of Bush and Cheney themselves?

I’m sure to get some creative answers, here on the day we bid them good riddance.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

#1 Qualification for RNC Chair? Gun Ownership

What qualifies a Republican to lead the GOP as RNC Chair? Why the amount and type of guns he owns qualifies a guy (always a guy), doesn’t it? In a debate the candidates for RNC Chair counted their guns, and the party is even morally weaker as a result. Micheal Steele, with no guns to his name, likely bows out of the race.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

It is not astuteness, wisdom or party loyalty the Republicans seek. It is not regional representation or an attempt to sway demographics. The Republicans are not looking for political power or someone with a history of success either, which would be difficult given the last two election cycles. It seems clear from a debate sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s group, that the GOP values gun ownership quite highly, and that it is at least one qualification for RNC Chairmanship, if not the #1 qualification. Here’s some reporting from that debate from the Gun Guys, who themselves quoted the National Journal’s Hotline blog:

When moderator Grover Norquist asked how many firearms the candidates own, the current RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, who despite presiding over his party’s 2008 electoral trouncing is reapplying for his job, noted proudly that he claims four handguns and two rifles.

Rival Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina GOP, said that he has “too many to count.”

Former OH Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was willing to count. Seven, he said, adding: “And I’m good.”

MI GOP chairman Saul Anuzis said he has two guns, but in case the RNC’s 168 committee members, who will vote this month for the next party chairman, wanted to verify his stash, Anuzis said, perhaps only half jokingly, that he is not allowed to carry them in Washington.

Chip Saltsman, who managed Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, offered up a list so long it was hard to track the pistol persuasion.

And GOPAC head Michael Steele, a one-term lieutenant governor of blue state MD, was the only man on the panel to say that he hasn’t a single firearm.

Hotline discusses why such gun talk is innappropriate, and I’d agree it is innappropriate, especially in a city like Washington DC where the citizens are trying mightily to control gun violence. But the real question here is why the question comes up at all, and what it has to do with a Republican’s qualifications for running his party.

As it stands, if gun ownership is a vitally important qualification for RNC Chair, then Michael Steele seems out of the running. Katon Dawson of SC and Chip Saltzman seem to be the front runners by this estimation. But the better questions might be about which of these candidates owns semi-automatic weapons. Or maybe someone should suggest they have a shootout. At a target range? Come on! A target range doesn’t show a true measure of a Republican’s devotion to guns. Maybe we could have a shootout among the candidates, or perhaps we could send them all on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney, and the survivor becomes RNC Chair. Hmm. I can just see Mike Duncan out there carrying a couple rifles and four handguns, a regular Pancho Villa or something.

This is as pitiful as. . . a Republican. –Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Laura Bush Dances a Little Sidestep

One expects Rove or Rice or Cheney to play fast and loose with the facts when it comes to defending the Bush Administration and its record. To see Laura Bush do so, well, is also not shocking. Not when she gets those softball questions from FauxNews. Big mentions of Afghanistan from Laura, none of why we went there, to get Osama.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Laura Bush was dancing a little Sidestep yesterday on FoxNews, defending her husband’s wreck of a Presidency. . .

Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly see.
I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?
And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.
I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,
I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer.
And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I’ll continue to stand tall.
You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya’ll…

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now, Miss Mona, I don’t know her, though I’ve heard the name, oh yes.
But, of course I’ve no close contact, so what she is doing I can only guess.
And now, Miss Mona, she’s a blemish on the face of that good town.
I am taking certain steps here, someone somewhere’s gonna have to close her down.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

I just couldn’t resist a little whorehouse reference when talking about the Bush White House. Pardon that moment of weakness.

We’ve got less than a month to go before President Bush, the worst President in US history, leaves office, and to that end the time for people defending him is dwindling. Oh sure, Rush Limbaugh will still try to defend Bush, blaming either Clinton or Obama for everything from the Hurricane Katrina response to the real estate mortgage crisis to the failure to apprehend Osama bin Laden. The media whack jobs like Rush will continue to distort the blame game in trying to burnish the image of George Bush. Still, time is running out for the ones who were on the Bush payroll. Who is going to listen to anyone connected to the Bush Administration after January 20th, after all? Well, Laura Bush got in her licks yesterday, and the result was quite ludicrous. She appeared on Fox News Sunday, and talks about George Bush’s noble work in Afghanistan:

WALLACE: I want to pick up on Afghanistan, because I know it’s one of your most heartfelt causes. It’s not just women – a lot of men feel very keenly about this as well.

There’s been substantial progress over the last seven years. Women can now participate in the parliament. Little girls can go to school. But with the Taliban on the march again, do you ever worry that we could go back to the days of the burqa and to that terrible oppression of women in that country?

L. BUSH: Sure, and the days of the burqa aren’t over. Many women in Afghanistan still cover because they want to, partly, because it’s part of their tradition and their culture, and also because they’d be afraid not to.

But that is a worry, and I met with a group of parliamentarians, women parliamentarians, from Afghanistan last January or so, and they said they were afraid, that their – that this is their only chance, and if they can’t make it now, then they just don’t know if they ever would be able to.

And I think that’s all the more reason the international community needs to stay involved in Afghanistan and do what we can.

Afghanistan and Iraq both have the opportunity, if they can seize the moment, to build real democracies where the rights of every person in those countries is respected, and a lot of that is because of the United States, because of our policies of liberating them from the Taliban in one instance and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein in the other.

And it’s very, very important for the people of these countries to stand up and to take this opportunity to build their countries.

But let me say about Afghanistan, they don’t have a lot of capacity. They’ve been in the conflict for 30 years, and most of their population is younger than 30. They don’t have the human capital.

It’s very important for the international community to stay involved, to try to make education as fast and as broad-reaching as possible so they can build the kind of human capital they need to build the infrastructure of laws and of civil society that they’ll need to build a democracy.

Laura’s sidestep, of course, is to burnish Bush’s record in Afghanistan without mentioning the distraction that is Iraq, a distraction that siphoned off hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops which could have been devoted to the cause in Afghanistan, whether that cause was the plight of women, of democracy, or of getting the guy who was actually responsible for 9/11, Osama bin Laden. I swear, in their youth Republicans must train or something to answer questions while simply bypassing the biggest issue in the room, like who was actually responsible for 9/11. There’s the big news of this interview, that Laura Bush spent oodles of time lamenting 9/11 and then the status of women in Afghanistan, the vital need for us to support their democracy, etc., etc. No, she never mentioned Osama bin Laden once.

But Laura Bush isn’t the only one guilty of this manuever. Check out Condi Rice in her defense of the Bush Administration, especially on the subject of the Middle East. And then there was Dick Cheney’s defending his decisions about torture. Yes, this is the season for defending George Bush, no matter the tenuous connection to reality those defenses take.

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

One Leg Raised on the Bush–Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

The Republican Party, in the person of its lame duck Chair, Mike Duncan, has already begun its campaign to vilify the supposed leftist Obama government, but the same extremist Republicans ignore their history of trampling on the constitution, of incompetence, of fearmongering, etc. The Party of Honest Abe has lost touch with honesty, opting for distortion as usual.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The chairman of the Republican National Committee may have begun an irreversible descent into a future as a fear-bound paranoid victim of functional amnesia, possibly caused by a hysterical post-traumatic event such as the overwhelming victory of Democrats in the 2008 election and the nation’s repudiation of Republican policies.

In a two-page vitriol-loaded letter dated “Friday morning”–he apparently was unable to remember the exact date–Robert M. (Mike) Duncan, RNC chairman, told Americans that the Democrats plan to “impose their radical leftist agenda on America,” and that Republicans “must work vigilantly to guard our country’s freedoms from the inevitable assault [by Democrats] they will face.” He didn’t mention that not one of Barack Obama’s proposed cabinet members nor any of the members of the current Congress is a “radical leftist.”

It’s really sad that Mike forgot that fear-mongering, obstruction of justice, reduction of public information, distrust and resentment of the worker, and curtailment of civil liberties–with the complicity of millions of Americans and much of the Democratic leadership who willingly crumpled under unremitting Neocon assaults–have been the base of the Bush–Cheney Administration and a Republican-dominated Congress for most of the past eight years. Perhaps I can shock what little memory Mike may have left in the hope that some of his brain cells may once again function.

It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who systematically violated the Constitution, while screaming “The terrorists are coming! The terrorists ar

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

Execs Get Golden Parachute; Taxpayers Get Golden Shower?

The Bush administration is carrying the water for Wall Street executives with regards to their greed for more unchecked compensation. Voters need to let their elected officials know that they are unwilling to take another golden shower in order to enable more golden parachutes.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The more I see and hear about the bail out of Wall Street, the more I oppose it. Here’s the issue. Taxpayers are being asked to ante up for the good of the nation…and to do so with minimal information and even fewer details. At the same time, the White House is suggesting that any limitation on executive compensation may lead companies to decline participation in the program. I’m calling B.S. on this one.

From The Washington Post:

After 7 1/2 years of drift, President Bush has finally returned to his compassionate conservative roots with a heartfelt plea to Congress to help a needy and deserving group: those Wall Street CEOs who, for all their hard work, have been unable to lift themselves up by their wingtips.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (R-Goldman Sachs) made the rounds of the talk shows on Sunday, pleading for financial executives to be allowed to keep their multimillion-dollar compensation packages even if their companies need to be rescued by the $700 billion federal bailout.

“If we design it so it’s punitive and so institutions aren’t going to participate, this won’t work the way we need it to work,” Paulson, whose net worth is said to be north of $600 million, told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

“To have this program work, we don’t want to make it punitive and make it difficult,” Paulson advised George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

It was a message of mercy and humanity – who, after all, would be so cruel to deny executives their eight-figure bonuses merely because they drove their companies into insolvency? – and administration officials and Republican lawmakers joined the cause of the unappreciated CEOs.

Give me a frickin’ break…just how stupid does the Bush administration think we are. Further, if this isn’t a ploy to manipulate voters, just how damn stupid is the Bush administration? Let’s look at the logic.

First, if we assume that Wall Street is perilously close to collapse, then they need our help, right? Second, if they aren’t willing to accept our demands for fair executive compensation, we have every right to deny them our help. Thirdly, if they have the ability to forego our help in favor of their huge compensation packages, then they aren’t in that bad of shape, right? Fourth, if these companies can put their self-serving interests first, why in the hell should voters forego theirs in order to bail them out. Fifth, if the Bush administration can’t reach these same logical conclusions, then they have no business managing a lemonade stand…let alone the largest bail out in U.S. history.

Honestly, it’s time for voters to call the bluff of the administration that drug us into this mess. If we’re going to get screwed, let’s get screwed on our own terms. There is no plausible rationale to grant unlimited authority to the very people who pushed us into the financial abyss. Beyond that, there is absolutely no justification to take an unwanted screwing, write a huge check for it, and thank the Bush administration for putting it to us.

Truth be told, we have no assurances that this bail out will work. For two years, the Bush administration has told us the economy is sound and that we aren’t in a recession. Two weeks ago they assured us that the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seizure was the answer to our problems. In short order, they bail out AIG after telling us the bail outs were over and these companies needed to seek their own solutions. Days later we’re told the sky is falling and we need to bend over.

No way…no how…I’m happy to let it burn to the ground before we give Wall Street a free pass. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. If they want more of our money, it’s on our terms or to hell with them. Let’s see who blinks first.

ONE ADDITIONAL POINT:

We’re hearing a number of insiders suggest that homeowners bear some responsibility for this predicament. The argument contends that too many of us bit off more than we could chew. OK, I’ll accept that there’s some truth to that contention…but it isn’t the whole story. The whole story needs to consider the fact that the average American has spent the last seven years working harder and producing more…for less money.

The fact of the matter is that millions of Americans gambled on the historical data that home prices will rise. When they did, many of them did so because they needed money and the only means available to obtain it was to borrow against the equity they thought they had in their homes.

Yes, that may have been shortsighted and imprudent…but so too is it detestable that our elected officials failed to be good stewards of the economy. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans didn’t trickle down…and the few jobs that were created weren’t enough and they weren’t higher paying jobs. Instead, far too much of the Bush tax package was invested in high risk financial gimmicks designed to create easy profits.

If we’re going to assess blame, then let’s not forget where the bulk of it belongs. It belongs squarely on the backs of those who have promoted a morally bankrupt economic philosophy that concentrates wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the hard work of the many.

There’s one additional saying that applies to the current situation of our greedy cash chasing countrymen…”bet –em high and sleep in the streets”. All that’s left to be said to our Wall Street friends is, “Welcome to Main Street…and don’t forget to bring some cardboard boxes and a warm blanket”.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |
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