theicefish

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Should “Gift-O-Mania” be Grounds for Impeachment?

By: theicefish Wednesday June 22, 2011 12:20 am

The strange case of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, possibly suffering from an undiagnosed but clinically advanced case of Giftomania, was reported on by the New York Times this Saturday in a lengthy article.

“…The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group.”

The list of symptoms of Thomas’ Giftomania are clear. Gifts from the powerful that have every interest in being even more powerful are especially common. Some are directly to him, such as the American Enterprise Institute’s gift of a bust of Lincoln, valued at $15,000, or by Mr. Crow, of a $19,000 Bible once owned by Fredrick Douglass. Others are given on his behalf to third parties.

The LA Times in 2004 reported that,

“Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts.  —-  In the last six years he has accepted free items valued at $42,200, the most on the high court.”

The list even included $1,200 worth of tires. Talk about being a low class act. A true symptom of clinically advanced Giftomania. This is clearly a hopeless case, and no doubt what we see in this brief examination is just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, his miserable personal standards are nothing new, it is just that now they are getting onto the front page of the NYT.

The Constitution says,

“The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior…”

What we are seeing this Justice do is not good behavior, and while the legal standards for impeachment are always unclear, there is also a deliberately broad power given to Congress to also impeach for “…other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  If Thomas failed to document and report just one gift as required by law, then it is simply a question of having the votes to impeach him.

If calls for impeachment start, more reporters will start digging and more stuff will be found to further document Thomas’ Giftomania, and it will get harder for the extremists to blame this on “vindictive liberals”. Let’s watch the Tea Party candidates running for re-election explain why they support government by Giftomania. Let’s give them a gift that keeps on giving.

Congressional Extremists Fiddling as Rome Burns and Threatening to Force US into Budget Default; Import Subsidies for Guinness Next on Agenda

By: theicefish Wednesday May 18, 2011 12:29 am

The Wall Street Journal has quoted Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as saying that if Congress doesn’t raise the $14 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2, the federal government won’t be able to pay all its bills, which would have a “catastrophic economic impact.” For some reason the Extremist Right is trying to test this and see what will actually happen if we default, ignoring the fact that most mainstream economists think this is insanity.

When Bush came into office the debt ceiling had not been changed for 5 years and we were running surpluses. Then suddenly, due to Bush’s gross mismanagement of government, there was a need to raise the debt limit in 2002 to allow Bush’s mismanagement of the government to continue without triggering a meltdown of the economy. Then again the debt ceiling was raised for Bush in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, twice in 2008, twice in 2009 (While Obama was President in 2009, that budget had been passed into law during Bush’s Presidency.)

The press needs to be asking pointedly why suddenly now there is all the concern about Obama raising the debt ceiling when no one cared when Bush borrowed like a drunken sailor for 8 years. Now the right wing extremists are getting crazy about raising the debt ceiling, but don’t forget that they were staying silent while the problem was being created by Bush and his company of right wing extremists. Why?

Senator Ryan calls the current deficit an “Existential Threat” to the United States. If this is true, then why not balance the budget by raising the taxes on the rich now? The money is in the system, but the idea of taxing the rich has become a forbidden topic in Washington, while gutting benefits that the middle class has already paid for is an acceptable topic. To these right wing extremists this so-called “existential threat” is just an excuse to undermine the New Deal principal of “Freedom From Fear”. The right wants us to be afraid. Afraid of losing our jobs, our health insurance, our dignity in old age. One of these extremists that seems to want to play brinkmanship with the debt ceiling, Rep. Tom Rooney (R., Fla.), was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “When you say the drop-dead day is going to be August, I question that,” “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

What’s next? We would never tolerate that caviler lack of caution with regards to our security and defense. Unfortunately for us, Congressman Rooney sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Congressman Rooney is a typical tea party extremist, using cheap rhetoric to advance the interests of the wealthy. His web site calls for us to “Reduce the corporate income tax rate to 12.5 percent (the same rate as Ireland’s).” The same as Ireland, I can actually get on board with that, I think Guinness is great. His web site fails to mention that Ireland also has a personal income tax of 41% after the first EU 37,000, and a 21% National VAT (a sales tax on most goods, imports and services). . Somehow the Irish also have dirt cheap quality health care and higher education.

If we think the deficit is a serious issue, then it is time to start talking about raising taxes on the super rich and excess consumption, not gutting our already thread bare social safety net.

Obama Still Dithering on Release of Bin Laden’s Long Form Death Certificate

By: theicefish Monday May 9, 2011 12:27 am

It has been great to see the extremist press going into damage control this past week. They are livid because George “Asleep at the Switch on 9-11” Bush had 7 years to get Osama Bin Laden and failed. Not only had he and his extremist friends failed to protect America on the eve of 9-11, they failed to decapitate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the opening days of the Afghanistan war. They failed after Katrina hit New Orleans. They made a mess of invading Iraq, and fiddled as our economy hit an iceberg. This extremist right wing, which now dominates the Republican party, does not believe that government can be nor should be competent, and they are trying to undermine the government by any means to prove that their weirdo ideas are correct. The end game for them is privatizing and killing Social Security and Medicare, so that we will all have to live in fear and kowtow to the wealthy and the corporations.

That these extremists would attack the legitimacy of a sitting President during war time, based on wacko rumors of foreign birth, is bad enough. Now, in a moment of unqualified victory for our President, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, they are on the ropes. They understand but can not admit that this is a result of simple Obama competency and diligence. Obama did not succeed now because of Bush’s opening moves in Afghanistan, or his torture policy at Guantanamo or Abu Graibe, Obama succeeded in spite of these Bush failures of tactics, policy and morality.

Just as Obama has increased dramatically the number of troops in Afghanistan, he increased the number of drone strikes and the number of special operations attacks against the enemy; in just the past year there have been 11,500 Special Operations in Afghanistan that have killed or captured over 12,000 of the enemy in 12 months. This has been done without drama and without fanfare. Demonstrating quiet competency, he buckled down and led his team to do the job right. Nothing could be further from Bush’s “bring ‘em on” swagger and tax payer funded escapades of being flown to an aircraft carrier in a fighter plane to announce “Mission Accomplished”. Obama understood that the quarterback is not supposed to make it into the end zone.

The extremist media, led by Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, is far too sophisticated to attack our President directly right now. So while paying lip service to the President’s success, they are shifting the news coverage to the Bush administration by interviewing Rumsfeld, Cheney, John “Torture Memo” Yoo, Wolfowitz and countless other extremists about how torture was an essential part of this success, or why we need to release the photos of Bin Laden’s corpse, or how this Spring’s Arab uprisings are somehow connected to Bush’s policies. Their political coverage is overwhelmingly about Bush era policies. After the Super Bowl, you are not supposed to interview the losers, you are supposed to interview the winners.

How deep their hatred must run.

Prez’s Citizenship Settled; Rumors of Possible Black Baby Continue

By: theicefish Monday May 2, 2011 2:07 am

The extremists have finally gotten what they didn’t want, Obama caved in to the “Undermine America” movement, that some call the “Birthers” and treated the Underminers as worthy of a rational response. While rightfully dismissed as wackos, few in the media dare linger on the implications of rich extremists organizing a movement in America to undermine the authority of the President during a time of war.

Just this week the Washington Times, established by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon in 1982, ran an editorial entitled, “Birth certificate isn’t Obama’s only secret”. Fox News also has been hammering the President since the release of his long form. (Media Matters has a lot of good stuff on this, but please friends, stop using the term “Conservative Media”. That is an insult to a proud American tradition of rational political thought. We are dealing here with radical extremists that are trying to undermine America, not conservatives.)

Clearly such extremist Underminers will not stop their efforts simply because reality is not on their side. There are two groups operating here. One is the super wealthy that will not be happy until we return to a semi-feudal society with no social security or unions. In fact they dream of the day when we have no rights at all other than to beg on the church steps for alms. The second more visible group is populated by those traumatized racists whose primary outlet of anger has been blocked off by what they snidely call “political correctness”. While it was acceptable for Bush I to make a poster child out of Willie Horton, and for Bush II to use the infamous “Black Baby” attack against McCain, today’s racists have learned that attacking Obama on race is like swinging a baseball bat at a judo star. He laughs as he slams your face into the ground. So the racists are resorting to tangential attacks even if that means undermining the legitimacy of a fairly elected president during war time. This undermining is what the media needs to be digging into, rather than publishing images of an archived document that is nothing more than what the Hawaiian authorities have said it was for years.

Now there are calls for Obama’s academic transcripts to be made public to see if he benefited from affirmative action. Why? If he did get into Columbia University through an affirmative action program then obviously affirmative action is a brilliant success and should be massively expanded. Like him or not, Obama is clearly far more competent than that 9-11 asleep-at-the-switch Bush II.

So just how did Bush II get into Yale and later Harvard? (We will skip the subject of the Texas Air National Guard.) Affirmative Action has always been around for spoiled rich kids. Daddy just buys them a ticket and they get in. Affirmative Action for the rich is called “legacy” in the press. It is actually just about money. All you have to do is give the school money and they let your kid in.

In a Yale Alumni Magazine interview with Yale University President Rick Levin, Levin is quoted as saying,

“The admissions applications are kept separate from the financial statements. But we do advise the admissions office about applications coming from the children or grandchildren of significant donors and of alumni who have given significant volunteer service. People in the admissions world call these “institutional cases.” Which doesn’t mean they’re automatically admitted!” (emphasis added)

Of course they are not “automatically admitted” they are getting very special handling. An automated system, using stuff like SAT scores would have rejected these kids. The Daily beast has a nice, but mostly antidotal, article entitled “The Year to Bribe Your Way In” by Kathleen Kingsbury.

Claims about the rights of “a private institution” ring hollow, given the massive tax breaks that both the donors and the university endowments get, and the billions of tax payer dollars that flow into university coffers to support faculty research and to help students pay the bills. Without Federal and State money these so called private schools would shut down over night, and then the rich kids would have to find a way to bribe their way into public universities. Worst of all, these rich kids believe that they are entitled, and they can wind up managing important institutions without the faculty or competency to do so. It is time the our quasi-public Ivy League schools start being held accountable for the corruption in their admissions processes when it comes to accepting bribes from the ultra-rich.

Only Consumer Driven Health Care Can Stop the FDA Baby Killers

By: theicefish Monday April 25, 2011 2:10 am

Professor Krugman recently wrote a reasonable commentary “Patients Are Not Consumers” in the New York Times. The main problem with his argument is that this is America, and we are first of all consumers, and a non-consumer based system for anything makes as much sense as requiring all doctors and nurses in the US to speak only Swedish or German because those countries can deliver cheaper and better healthcare than we do here at home. Today health care is about the government helping the healthcare industry consume our dollars at maximum profit while we, the citizens, get screwed. That industry spends enough money on high end Washington DC advertising agencies (some call them “think tanks”) and lobbying to get what they want.

Even if it means killing babies; lot’s of them. The Washington Post reported last month on how the FDA, in a fairly routine way under the “Orphan Drug Act”, gave exclusive marketing rights to a company, KV Pharmaceutical (“KV”), for a drug “17P” (hydroxyprogesterone caproate) that greatly reduces the chance of premature births in many women. Thousands of premature babies die every year, and this drug helps prevent that. This drug has been known to doctors since the 1950’s, and it used to cost $10-20 a dose, when hand prepared at a pharmacy. That was until the FDA back in March gave an exclusive right to KV to sell it after they bought the exclusive rights to it from another company, and that makes it illegal to buy it the old way. KV immediately raised the price by a factor of 100, to $1500 per dose. The PR blow back on this one was bad enough so that KV dropped the price to $695/dose and offered to create a charity based system for those who can’t afford it, so that fewer babies would die. In a nearly surreal act the FDA said that it would not enforce the law against pharmacists who continue to provide it cheaply.

The FDA certainly knew KV, after all, according to a post on the FDA web site KV was banned in 2009 from manufacturing drugs by the FDA because the FDA determined that KV was “…making and distributing adulterated and unapproved drugs…”. To make this story truly absurd, according to Bloomberg, (3/10/11) KV’s former CEO was sentenced to jail and fined nearly a million dollars for drug labeling law violations.

Let’s go over some basics from business school. If it cost $10-20 for a hand made dose of P17, then if you start making it in a great big factory it should become much cheaper, not 1000 times more expensive. Think about beer from micro-breweries versus Budweiser. This was a risk free deal for KV, undercutting any of the “risk deserves reward” logic. All KV did was buy the rights to a drug that another company had already demonstrated to the FDA as safe and effective, even though doctors already knew that for the past 50 years. The data had some value, but it was no big deal, and no reason to give anyone exclusive marketing rights. KV is also whining that it was expensive for them to set up the 17P manufacturing. If they don’t know how to do it cheaper in a factory than by hand crafting it, that means they have other problems and are are most likely in the wrong business. By the way, did they open their books, or just make that claim?

Politicians are screaming now in righteous indignation as if this was only time this ever happens, but it is not the only case. It is just another example of drugs being “value priced” in an ineffectively regulated market. You can not have a effective free market in drugs, but the regulations should be designed to benefit the citizen-consumers rather than the Soylent Green wannabee corporations. The politicians are making noise about KV and 17P simply because they afraid of being branded as “baby killers” in the next election. When this blows over it will be back to business as usual for all. Smart consumers would never stand for this; but while we may be the best consumers on the planet, we are obviously not as smart as we should be when it comes to healthcare.

Tax the Rich

By: theicefish Monday April 18, 2011 12:11 am

How did America get into this mess? Today, being just an right wing extremist isn’t good enough anymore, now that the truly wacko fanatical wing of the Republican party is leading the charge, confident that not only will there be no new taxes but that the existing anemic tax rates for the rich will be rolled back again, deficit be damned. Why is everyone afraid to confront them? Just who said that “America” doesn’t want more taxes? Would someone please be kind enough to send me America’s phone number? And I want America’s phone number, not the phone number of those shill extremist advertising agencies that are part of the Republican political machine. That list is long, they are well funded, and the names of the trustees at the likes of the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute reads like a “Who’s Who” for the guardians of the super rich in this country. Where was the tea party and other like minded fanatics when Bush II took Clinton’s balanced budget and turned it into a trillion dollar deficit?

The 2012 deficit is projected to be about $1.4 trillion. The lackeys from the extremist think tanks whine that “there is not enough money in the system to pay that bill”. That is simply not true..

Go to the IRS web site at http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,,id=133521,00.html and click on “Tax Generated” (Publication 1304,, Table 3.5 ) for 2008, the most recent posted. In America in 2008 there was a total taxable income of $5.7 trillion. The tax collected on that was $1.0 trillion, for an effective overall tax rat of about 19%.

America has a budget gap of $1.4 trillion now, so if we increase the effective average income tax rate from 19% to 42% you will have closed the gap. So when the extremists say that it can not be done, it is because they are either liars or idiots, or possibly both. That does not mean that we should do this, but the numbers work and it is intellectually dishonest to say that it can’t be done.

Let’s try a new tax, just to raise an extra trillion dollars from the ultra rich (more than $2 million a year in income). Let’s tax them at 75%, and the simple rich ($200k to $2 million/year) at only 45%. Of course we need to work out detailed tables and use marginal rates and all that stuff, but the basic idea can be made to work. Rather than going for the whole $1.4 trillion dollars at once, let’s set the tax rate of the poor (those earning less than 40k/year ) to zero and leave the middle class as it is. We would still raise that extra trillion dollars. The extremists will say this is that it is “unfair”, as if fairness was ever in their vocabulary. If they complain just put them on the next plane to China or Russia and let them learn a few things about fairness. Another great extremist whine is that tax compliance will go down. That’s a  right wing euphemism for tax cheating will go up. That might be true, but that is why we have jails.

Until we put taxing the rich back on the table we will just be letting the right wing extremists run riot with their agenda of class warfare.

-theicefish

Only an Epidemic of Mental Illness Can Explain the Rise of the Post Modern Republicans

By: theicefish Sunday September 19, 2010 3:51 pm

The Fox/Palin/Beck/Tea Party epidemic of mental illness has gotten out of hand. Today Goldwater or Eisenhower would be unelectable for being too liberal. The responsible, traditional Republican Party has been killed by an extremist parasite that has stolen the Brand name of the Republican Party while destroying its traditional core values.

Post Modern Republicans believe that bad management will undermine our faith in governance even at the expense of undermining our economy and national security. While most politicians of either party are liars and thieves who will betray the public good in order to feather their nests, the Post Modern Republicans have something else in addition to the standard corruption. They no longer have the reference points of right and wrong, they use a Post Modern world view where right and wrong are irrelevant. They talk about a reality that simply does not exist. They claim to be better for national security and the economy. If they were simply lying they would just be politicians, but many of them actually believe this.

No Post Modern Republican should ever be able to get through a press conference or meeting without a sincere questioning of his or her sanity along the lines of, “Given the proven track record of Republicans in undermining the American system of governance, failing at national defense and managing the economy, why should we take you seriously?”. Speak truth to power, over and over again. Keep it simple; Governance, Security, Defense- The Three Post Modern Republican Pillars of Failure.

Governance

After 911 nearly the entire world sympathized with American, Post Modern Republicans destroyed that good will while failing at national security.

Post Modern Republicans went hunting for oil in Iraq instead of destroying Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Post Modern Republicans knowingly appointed an incompetent horse dealer to head up FEMA and they were all asleep at the switch as Katrina hit land.

Bush 2 and Regan were the two most vacationed presidents in modern history.

Post Modern Republican’s encourage racism. (“Otherness”, “Birthers”, Willi Hortin, McCain’s “Black Baby” slander)

Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, resigned after the political firing of several Assistant Attorney Generals.

Post Modern Republicans reveled the identity of an undercover CIA agent as an act of political revenge (Valerie Plame).

Bush spent tax payer money to fly to an aircraft carrier that was only 30 miles off shore as part of his “Mission Accomplished” publicity stunt.

Defense and National Security

Post Modern Republicans were asleep at the switch on the eve of 911. They ignored repeated warnings, including that delivered in the 8/6/01 presidential briefing, that Bin Laden wanted to strike.

Bush invaded Afghanistan and failed, leaving a mess behind for others to deal with.

Bush invaded Iraq and failed, leaving a mess behind for others to deal with.

Under Regan, the first Post Modern Republican president, 241 US Servicemen were slaughtered in Beirut. Regan chose to cut and run rather than defend the interests and honor of America. Shortly thereafter he invaded Grenada.

Economy

Bush and the Post Modern Republicans inherited a large surplus and turned it into a deficit over night. He cut taxes and increased government spending.

Regan was the first President since WWII to oversee a real increase (%GDP) in the deficit. He cut taxes and increased government spending.

Post Modern Republicans delivered massive corporate welfare to their buddies on Wall Street through the 1998 TARP program, who continued to collect massive bonuses.

Post Modern Republicans in the 1980’s deregulated the Savings and Loan industry, triggering a collapse and subsequent government bailout

When the Post Modern Republicans are in power typical Americans see their standard of living drop.

Bush tried to Privatize Social Security

Given the proven track record of Republicans in undermining the American system of governance, failing at nation defense and managing the economy, why would anyone take them seriously? Only an epidemic of metal illness can explain this.

A longer version including brief bios of some “traditional” republicans is at icefishroad.com