When President Bush announced his $700 bln plan to buy out troubled financial institutions, he demanded no restrictions on the administration or oversight other than semiannual reports to Congress. ThinkProgress.org noted (9/21) that Bush’s history of mismanaging taxpayer dollars should make Americans skeptical of his buyout plan. Such as in Iraq:

• $142 mln wasted on reconstruction projects that were either terminated or canceled. [Special Inspector General for Iraq, 7/28/08]

• “Significant” amount of US funds for Iraq funneled to Sunni and Shi’ite militias. [GAO Comptroller, 3/11/08]

• $180 mln paid to construction company Bechtel for projects it never finished. [Federal audit, 7/25/07]

• $5.1 bln in expenses for Iraq reconstruction charged without documentation. [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction report, 3/19/07]

• $10 bln in spending on Iraq reconstruction was wasteful or poorly tracked. [GAO, 2/15/07]

• Halliburton overcharged the government $100 mln for one day’s work in 2004. [Project on Government Oversight, 10/8/04]


• Millions wasted on four no-bid contracts, including paying $20 mln for an unusable camp for evacuees. [Homeland Security Department Inspector General, 9/10/08]

• $2.4 bln in contracts doled out by FEMA that guaranteed profits for big companies. [Center for Public Integrity investigation, 6/25/07]

• An estimated $2 bln in fraud and waste—nearly 11% of the $19 bln spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June. [New York Times tally, 6/27/06]

• “Widespread” waste and mismanagement on millions for Katrina recovery, including at least $3 mln for 4,000 beds that were never used. [GAO, 3/16/06]

Defense Contracts:

• A $50 mln Air Force contract awarded to a company with close ties to senior Air Force officers, in a process “fraught with improper influence, irregular procedures, glaring conflicts of interest.” [Project on Government Oversight, 4/18/08]

• $1.7 bln in excessive fees and waste paid by the Pentagon to the Interior Department to manage federal lands. [Defense Department and Interior Department Inspectors General audit, 12/25/06]

• $1 tln unaccounted for by the Pentagon, including 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. [GAO, 5/18/03]

Of course, this is by no means a complete list.

“Given Bush’s history of gross fiscal mismanagement—including an unprecedented number of no-bid contracts and Bush’s resistance to closing fraud loopholes or increasing oversight of contracts—why should Americans trust another $700 billion to his care?” ThinkProgress notes. Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times blog (9/21), “Let’s not be railroaded into accepting an enormously expensive plan that doesn’t seem to address the real problem.”

FREE-MARKET HEALTH PLAN. John McCain wants to do for health care what the free-marketeers have done to our financial markets. Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries, published an article by McCain in its September/October issue titled, “Better Health Care at Lower Cost for Every American,” touting market-based health reform: “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

“So let me get this straight,” Obama commented (9/20), “he wants to run health care like they’ve been running Wall Street. Well, senator, I know some folks on Main Street who aren’t going to think that’s a good idea.”

McCain proposes to tax employer-provided health benefits, which are currently tax-free. McCain’s insurance tax would raise $3.6 tln to pay for $5,000 tax credits to help families buy private health insurance coverage. Obama would not tax health benefits but would expand eligibility in government insurance programs for children and the poor and provide income-based subsidies to help families buy coverage through private insurance or government employee plans. Obama also would bar insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, while McCain would not.

A report published by Health Affairs (9/16) concludes that McCain’s taxing of health benefits wold cause 20 mln Americas or more to lose their insurance.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, noted at HuffingtonPost.com (9/15) that the typical health plan now provided by an employer to a family costs $12,106, of which the employer pays $8,824 and the worker pays the remaining $3,282, according to the Kaiser Foundation, which studied the McCain and Obama health plans. In the 15% tax bracket, a worker would pay $1,323 in health-care taxes under McCain’s plan. Gerard concludes: “McCain is traveling to states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, hard hit by the economic devastation caused by eight years of Bush administration fiscal policy failures. At each stop, McCain is sucking up the middle class—as if his administration wouldn’t cost workers dearly. He needs to stop lying to America’s workers.”

PALINS SNUB AK SUBPOENAS. Gov. Sarah Palin, her aides and her husband, Todd, with the support of the McCain campaign, are refusing to comply with subpoenas from the Alaska State Senate committee investigating Gov. Palin’s alleged abuse of power. Todd Palin, who has participated in state business in person and by email, is among 13 people subpoenaed by the legislature who refused to testify in the bipartisan probe. McCain campaign spokesman Ed O’Callaghan announced (9/18) that Todd Palin no longer believes the Legislature’s investigation is legitimate. Ignoring a legislative subpoena is punishable by a fine up to $500 and up to six months in jail, but the Legislature must be in session to bring contempt charges and it is not scheduled to convene until January.

The Anchorage Daily News accused Palin and McCain of “trying to ignore a partisan firestorm that wipes out the Troopergate investigation until after the election.”

Dan Fagan, a conservative columnist for the Daily News, wrote (9/20) that perhaps the most damaging allegation from Troopergate is that the governor’s office tried to block workers’ compensation injury benefits claimed by the governor’s former brother-in-law, state Trooper Mike Wooten, who had been involved in an ugly divorce from Palin’s sister. Independent investigator Steve Branchflower says an employee with Harbor Adjustment Services, which evaluates workers’ claims for the state, has testified the governor’s office applied pressure to deny Wooten benefits. Fagan added, “We know the governor’s office was very interested in Wooten. Dianne Kiesel, a state employee with the Department of Administration, tells me former Palin chief of staff Mike Tibbles instructed her to walk Wooten’s personnel file over to the governor’s office.

“And there is the governor’s aide, Frank Bailey, caught on tape admitting he has information that came from Wooten’s workers’ comp file. The very file that includes pictures, taken by none other than Todd Palin, of Wooten riding a snowmachine trying to prove the trooper was not injured.

“Here’s why this is all so damaging to the governor. It’s one thing to try to get a trooper fired because you believe he is a danger to the public. But using your considerable power as governor to block the benefits of a former family member you have a long-running dispute with moves this scandal into a new realm. It becomes about one thing and one thing only, revenge. Not public good, but settling a score.”

TAX REBATES UNCLAIMED. Over 5 mln Americans had not filed a 2007 tax return to receive their Economic Stimulus Payment as of June 20, the IRS reported. Low-income Social Security and VA beneficiaries who don’t normally file tax returns should file a return by 10/15 to make sure they receive a payment of $300 for individuals $600 for married couples) before the end of the year. If you have filed your 2007 tax return but still have not received your economic stimulus payment call the toll-free Rebate Hotline at 1-866-234-2942.

STONES THROWN FROM GLASS HOUSES ON FANNIE MAE BAILOUT. McCain tried to link Obama to Fannie Mae’s problems by claiming that he’s been associated with Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of whom are former Fannie Mae executives. But it turns out that Raines never was an adviser to Obama and Johnson quit Obama’s vice presidential search team when questions were raised about his relationship with Countrywide Financial Corp.

Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly.com noted (9/19), “if getting advice from officials at troubled financial institutions is a sign of bad judgment, McCain may want to explain why two of his top advisors include John Thain, from Merrill Lynch, and Martin Feldstein, who serves on AIG’s board of directors.” And McCain’s circle of advisers and contributors includes at least 19 current and former lobbyists or directors for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Among them are McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, a longtime lobbyist who got nearly $2 mln as president of a group set up the mortgage giants to lobby against stricter regulations, the New York Times reported (9/22); McCain’s confidant Charlie Black, whose firm worked for Freddie Mac for several years ending in 2005, and deputy campaign finance chair, Wayne L. Berman, a vice president for Ogilvy Worldwide, a former Fannie Mae lobbyist.

Benen noted that Tom Loeffler, who served as McCain’s campaign co-chairman, also lobbied for Fannie Mae. Aquiles Suarez, a McCain economic advisor, was a Fannie Mae executive. Dan Crippen, a McCain advisor who helped craft the campaign’s health-care policy, lobbied for Fannie Mae (and Merrill Lynch). Arthur B. Culvahouse, who helped lead McCain’s VP search committee, also lobbied for Fannie Mae.

“And voters are supposed to be outraged because of Obama’s connections to Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson? Why would McCain even start on this subject at all, making the argument that ties to Fannie/Freddie are scandalous, given his own associations?” Benen wondered.

SHALLOW REPORTING ON DEEP DRILLING. Republicans have been pressing to relax the offshore drilling ban, arguing that it would help keep gasoline prices down. But the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency projects that drilling would only yield 200,000 barrels of oil a day over a period of 20 years. This comes to roughly 0.2% of world oil production, which the EIA says is too small to have any significant effect on prices. These figures contradict the entire “drill here, drill now, pay less” mantra, Eric Alterman and George Zornick noted at MediaMatters.org (9/11). But the Center for Economic and Policy Research (cepr.net) found that in 267 TV news broadcasts on the offshore drilling campaign, the EIA data was cited only once (on CNN, out of 139 CNN reports). In 91% of the news reports there was not even an opposing opinion presented. And the survey did not cover talk radio, which is overwhelmingly right-wing and repeatedly reinforced the view that drilling was necessary to lower gasoline prices. Newspapers aren’t much better, Alterman and Zornick wrote. It’s no surprise, then, that recent public opinion polls show more than 70% of respondents favored expanded drilling and 51% said they believed that “federal laws that prohibit increased drilling for oil offshore or in wilderness areas” were a “major cause of the recent increase in gasoline prices.”

LOOK WHO’S TALKING. Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a former financial backer of Hillary Clinton, endorsed John McCain (9/17), saying that Obama was an “elitist.” As Matt Yglesias of ThinkProgress.org noted, “Irony truly is dead.” Rothschild, who is a baroness through marriage to one of those Rothschilds and divides her time between New York and London, told CNN’s Campbell Brown, “The people out—who are the rednecks or whatever are bitter.” Seth Colter Walls of HuffingtonPost.com noted that Obama never used the term “redneck.”

The next day, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), who lost a primary campaign and is retiring from Congress, said in an interview with a Baltimore radio station (9/18) Obama and Biden “have the breadth of experience, I think they are prudent, they are knowledgeable. We just can’t use four more years of the same kind of policy that’s somewhat hazardous which leads to recklessness.” (Gilchrest later clarified that he was not endorsing Obama.)

Another Republican who has endorsed Obama is Wick Allison, former publisher of National Review and now editor-in-chief of D Magazine, who says Obama actually is the more conservative candidate: “Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.”

JEB DISSES DUBYA. Even the president’s brother is distancing himself from George W. Bush. During an Orlando, Fla., town hall event with John McCain, Katharine Zaleski noted at the HuffingtonPost.com (9/17), former Gov. Jeb Bush gave a rousing talk about throwing the bums out of Washington. “Reform becomes contagious,” he said. “If you start to dream bigger dreams and you start challenging the basic assumptions, you can change how things work, and we’ve done it in Florida, and the Good Lord knows we need to do it in Washington, D.C., and John McCain is the right guy at the right time to make that happen.”

DEMS MULL LAME-DUCK TRADE DEAL. Congressional Democrats may consider passing trade agreements in a post-election “lame duck” session of Congress, Reuters reported (9/18). Lawmakers are loathe to vote on trade deals just before facing voters at the polls, but Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee that is responsible for trade, said Congress could vote on the pacts afterward if Bush calls them back for a “lame duck” session after the election. David Sirota notes at OurFuture.org (9/18) that, according to Inside US Trade, original NAFTA architect Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) “is actively advocating that Democrats would be better off having the votes on pending [trade deals] this year” because “there are likely more Republican members in this Congress than there will be in the next, which would mean that fewer Democrats would have to take a potentially divisive trade vote now.” Emanuel, a former investment banker, is the House Democratic Caucus chair, yet is allegedly seeking a vote now because he knows his own party would be even more apt to reject it in 2009. An Emanuel spokesman insisted Inside US Trade “doesn’t have their facts straight,” Sirota wrote.

SENATORS DISPUTE FBI ANTHRAX CASE. Two ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee told FBI Director Robert Mueller that, in essence, they do not accept or believe the FBI’s accusations against Bruce Ivins. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com noted (9/17) that Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary chairman who was a target of the anthrax attacks, told Mueller he simply does not believe that Ivins was the prime culprit if he was a participant at all, and said he is convinced that there were others involved in the preparation and mailing of the anthrax. Leahy identified the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground and the private CIA contractor Battelle Corporation—but not Fort Detrick—as the only two institutions in the US capable of producing anthrax of the strain that was sent to him and then-Majority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). When Leahy asked Mueller whether he was aware of any other institutions capable of producing the anthrax, Mueller couldn’t answer.

Sen Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a former prosecutor, told Mueller that the FBI’s case plainly fell short of what could have been used to convict Ivins in a criminal trial. He said he had grave doubts about the FBI’s case, and demanded Mueller’s consent to allow an independent body to review the FBI’s evidence (Mueller has committed to having outside scientists review the FBI’s scientific methods but not the entire case against Ivins). Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also expressed skepticism.

“The bottom line is that it is quite extraordinary that the FBI has claimed it has identified with certainty the sole culprit in the anthrax attacks, but so many key senators, from both parties, simply don’t believe it, and are saying so explicitly.” Greenwald noted. “Leahy’s rather dark suggestion that there were others involved in these attacks—likely at a US Army facility or key private CIA contractor—is particularly notable. It has been crystal clear from the beginning that the FBI’s case is filled with glaring holes, that their thuggish behavior towards their only suspect drove him to commit suicide and thus is unable to defend himself, and yet, to this day, the FBI continues to conceal the evidence in its possession and is stonewalling any and all efforts to scrutinize its claims.”

ALL THE CANDIDATES’ CARS. After the fuss over the number of residences owned by the two presidential nominees, Newsweek looked into the candidates’ cars and found that John and Cindy McCain have 13, while Barack and Michelle Obama have one. One vehicle in the McCain fleet has caused a small flap. United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger, an Obama backer, accused McCain this month of “flip-flopping” on who bought daughter Meghan’s foreign-made Toyota Prius. McCain said last year that he bought it, but then told a Detroit TV station on 9/7 that Meghan “bought it, I believe, herself.” Obama’s lone vehicle is a 2008 Ford Escape hybrid.

TRADE BILL WOULD DEREG INSURANCE. Public Citizen and other consumer groups are sounding the alarm on a stealth measure being pushed in Congress to further deregulate the insurance industry. HR 5840 would allow the Department of the Treasury to interpret or enter into international agreements regarding insurance policy and regulation, and then preempt state insurance laws and regulations, Public Citizen said in a letter to Congress members. “Many members of Congress remain unaware of the bill’s negative implications for state consumer protections—much less that the bill would set a bad precedent by delegating new authority to an executive agency to become international trade and commercial agreement ‘enforcer’ against US state consumer regulatory policy.”

David Sirota noted, “At a time when almost everyone agrees that the federal government totally failed to responsibly regulate the financial and insurance markets, the Democratic Congress has some nerve even considering using a suspension vote ... (ie. a parliamentary method of passing something quietly) to pass legislation that would actually allow the same federal government to crush state consumer protections.”

M’CAIN, PALIN PROTECT SEX OFFENDERS. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem to have a soft spot for child molesters and other sex offenders. First McCain misstated Barack Obama’s record when he ran ads criticizing Obama for supporting a bill as state senator in Illinois that would alert children to beware of sexual predators, McClatchy Newspapers reported (9/9). (McCain claimed the bill ordered “comprehensive sex education” for kindergartners.) Then Palin’s lawyer, Thomas Van Vlien, asserted that Palin fired Walt Monegan as state public safety commissioner because he had gone over her head in seeking federal money for an initiative to combat sexual assault crimes, before Palin had approved the program. According to Peggy Brown, who heads the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Monegan wanted to use the federal money to hire retired troopers and law enforcement officials to investigate the most serious cases of sexual assault—including those against children. “In other words,” Zachary Roth of TalkingPointsMemo.com wrote (9/16), “if Palin’s new story is true, she fired Monegan for being *too aggressive* in going after child molesters.”

McCain also voted against legislation pushed through Congress by Sen. Joe Biden in 1994 that helped put an end to to practice of charging rape victims for sexual assault exams, JedReport.com noted (9/11). When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the town charged rape victims for the exams, which cost from $300 to $1,200. The Alaska Legislature finally passed a state law in 2000 to stop towns from charging victims for the exams.

HACKING PALIN’S EMAIL. Markos Moulitsas wrote (9/18): “It’s not cute, funny, righteous, or justifiable in any way. This is just as odious as the gross violations that spurred the FISA battle. I hope whoever hacked into her email gets caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“At least one Republican personally knows how it feels to have someone look into her private communications without proper cause or approval. It would be nice if that spurred a renewed conservative embrace of privacy issues and support for those key Constitutional principles designed to protect us from the tyranny of government.

“But I won’t hold my breath.”

MADDOW’S A HIT FOR MSNBC. With two weeks under her TV belt, progressive talker Rachel Maddow has become a bona-fide hit for MSNBC, TVNewser at MediaBistro.com reported (9/22). The second week, Maddow, who still has her Air America radio show, was #2 in cable news in both the 25-54 “demo” (the most desirable audience for advertisers) and in total viewers at 9 pm ET, beating CNN’s *Larry King Live*. Fox News’ *Hannity & Colmes* was the top-rated broadcast at 9 pm ET, except for Friday, when Maddow topped a Hannity-less *H&C*. On two nights, Maddow’s program was the top show on MSNBC, beating Keith Olbermann’s *Countdown*, who has been the channel’s ratings leader. In the first two weeks, Maddow’s nine shows averaged 556,000 “demo” viewers and 1.6 mln total viewers, more than double the final two weeks (eight shows) of *Verdict with Dan Abrams* (225,000 demo / 601,000 total viewers).

ROCKET FUEL IN WATER OK. George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency has decided there’s no need to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the country. EPA reached the conclusion in a draft regulatory document not yet made public but reviewed 9/22 by The Associated Press. The ingredient, perchlorate, has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses, according to some scientists. But the EPA document says that mandating a clean-up level for perchlorate would not result in a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems.”

“You’d think the ‘fetus’ part would get them,” Markos Moulitsas noted at DailyKos.com (9/23) “but nah. The jet fuel lobby (i.e. the Pentagon) trumps ‘life’ in Republican circles.”

NOW ENDORSES OBAMA. Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women announced (9/16) that NOW’s political action committee was endorsing Barack Obama for president. The 500,000-strong women’s movement normally does not endorse in a general election, but broke with its tradition after “the addition of Sarah Palin gave us a new sense of urgency,” Gandy told NPR. “She is being portrayed as a supporter of women’s rights ... as a feminist when in fact her positions on so many of the issues are really anathema to ours,” Gandy said. “... The idea that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest—those kinds of positions are completely out of step with American women and once they find out about those positions, they get a little less excited about a woman running for vice president.”

Obama has supported women on pay equity, reproductive rights, efforts to stop violence against women and Supreme Court nominees. NOW said in a prepared statement at now.org, “while John McCain has consistently said ‘no’—NO to pay equity, NO to contraceptive access and reproductive rights, NO to appointing Supreme Court judges who will uphold women’s rights and civil rights, NO to funding shelters and other anti-violence programs, and NO to supporting working moms and dads with policies that support work/life balance.”

MICH. GOP CHALLENGES FORECLOSED VOTERS. The Republican chairman in Macomb County Mich., a swing county in a swing state, plans to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election. “We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” GOP Chairman James Carabelli told *Michigan Messenger*. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed. Volunteer election challengers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.” The Michigan Republicans’ planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being “true residents,” Eartha Jane Melzer wrote at MichiganMessenger.com (9/10).

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2008

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