Saturday, November 19, 2011

Clarence Thomas' ethical problems

U. S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is coming under increasing demands that he be investigated for failing to report his wife's income as required on the annual financial disclosure forms. In the past, Thomas has checked "none" in answer to sources of spousal income.

When questioned about it in light of his wife's well-publicized six-figure salary from the conservative foundation she started, as well as her tenure for several years at the Heritage Foundation, Thomas said that he had misunderstood the instructions for filling out the form.

U. S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has written to Chief Justice John Roberts with additional information that seems incriminating that this could not have been an oversight or a lack of understanding of instructions.

It turns out that Thomas did report the sources of his wife's income from 1987 to 1997, first as head of the EEOC and then from 1991 through 1997 as a Supreme Court Justice. But since 1997 he has checked "none."

So how did he understand the instructions from 1987 to 1997, and then lose that understanding for the next 13 years? Could it have something to do with her political activities becoming more blatant and the fact that questions began to be raised about her husband's potential conflict of interests based on her work and her financial interests?

There are very important practical implications. Now that the Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of Obama's health care reform, Thomas' vote on that case could be decisive. And one of the issues Virginia Thomas has been most involved in opposing is this very bill.

Not just opposing, as in expressing her opinion. She created a foundation dedicated to working against just such legislation, and was paid a six-figure salary by the foundation -- until the spotlight of publicity made that untenable and she stepped out of the nominal leadership position of the foundation. That does not remove the conflict of interest, in my opinion.

Clarence Thomas should voluntarily recuse himself on this case. If he does not, he should be investigated by the only group authorized to do so, the Judicial Conference of the U. S. The only other recourse would be impeachment.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Don't mess with Barney

Barney Frank has often been called the smartest man in Congress. I know at least that he has the fastest, most deliciously wicked wit. And Newt Gingrich has more than met his match.

A few weeks back, Newt bloviated about Barney 'helping to cause the mortgage crisis by failing to stop Freddie Mac from making all those bad loans.' He even went so far as to say that Barney Frank should be in jail for mishandling his responsibilities as a member of the House Finance Committee.

Now that we know that Newt Gingrich was actually paid $1.6 million as a consultant by this same Freddie Mac, he's got a few things to answer for. So far, he's having a hard time making people believe that he "merely gave Freddie Mac advice as a historian" and that he was not paid as a lobbyist.

Baryney let him have it today. In an interview with Chris Matthews, he said:
“Well, he’s just lying. It is, of course, lobbying. . . . He is clearly the highest paid historian in American history. People complain if you go into the humanities, you don’t make as much money, but this may do a lot for that career path."
Then, referring to Gingrich's defense that he didn't know the details of the amount he was paid, because it went to his consulting firm, The Gingrich Group, Barney added:
"Frankly, I thought the Gingrich Group were his wives."
OK, folks. I think that will satisfy my need to ridicule these clowns for a while. I'll try to think about some other things for my next few posts.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Newt, the new Un-Romney for this week

How many Un-Romneys of the Week have we been through before they flamed out?

Now they're scraping the bottom of the barrel and look who surfaced this week: NEWT ! ! !

Suddenly, his apparent sanity in the debates (if you don't think about what he's saying but only listen to his tone of self-confidence and omniscience) makes him a stand-out in this crowd. So up he goes in the polls. Actually in a tie with Romney for first place. He's picked up much of the Tea Party vote lost by Cain.

The next step, of course, is to sharpen the knives and bring him down. In Newt's case, it's easy. There's way more stuff than needed already out there to sink his little yellow duckie boat. People just temporarily forgot why they dislike him.

(1) Serial philanderer, thrice married, who wants to put his former mistress -- "the other woman" in his last divorce -- in the White House as First Lady. (2) He was forced to resign as Speaker of the House by his own party for ethical violations. (3) He pretends to be a Washington outsider but was in fact a Washington insider until they kicked him out, and since then he's become a multi-millionaire peddling his influence, his books and videos and getting big speaking engagements -- all trading on his time in Washington, which makes it a bit of a stretch for him to present himself as a D. C. outsider. (4) Arrogant and condescending, with cosmic narcissism; seems to believe his own ideas, which last only until the opposite is politically expedient. (5) In truth, he doesn't seem to believe anything except his own delusions of superiority. When wife #2 asked him how he could give speeches about family values while he was carrying on an affair, he said: 'It doesn't matter what I do. My message is so important, people need to hear it; what I live has nothing to do with it.'

And then there's the million dollar revolving charge accounts at Tiffany's, so he can keep buying Callista off with expensive baubles. Rumor has it that the cruise in the Greek Islands a week after announcing his presidential bid was pay-off to Callista for letting him run. Now, of course, being Newt, he's inventing the rationale that listening to the Greeks on that trip helped him understand their financial crisis. Nice try, Newt, but you are so obviously a big fake to any thinking person. You don't help yourself with such patent lies.

The bottom line on Newt has always been:
The more people get to know him, the less they like him.
What's flapping about today is his raking in $1.6 million from Freddie Mac. Newt says he was not a lobbyist but only gave "strategic advice as a historian." Come on, Newt. They don't pay that kind of money for history lessons. You want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn, cheap?

An official for Freddie Mac told Bloomberg News that they also asked him to "build bridges to Republicans in Congress." So it seems that Newt was in fact a lobbyist; he just wasn't honest enough to register as one.

But it gets worse. He was a high paid adviser to Freddie Mac for years. Then shortly after that ended, he was singing a different tune, denouncing the Democrats over their support of Freddie Mac and calling for a Congressional investigation of lawmakers who do just what he did. He also proclaimed that Obama should return campaign contributions from the Freddies. As far as I know, Newt didn't offer to return his salary from the same outfit. So now he's in a bit of awkwardness, being caught dissembling at best, lying at worst, about his relationship and work for Freddie Mac.

He claims he warned them that what they were doing with the risky mortgages was insane and that they were getting into a bubble. They say he said nothing of the sort. All this fits with Wife #2's telling Esquire Magazine a couple of years ago that Newt has no integrity.

Like they say: the more you know him, the less you like him.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looney Toons #4

Sorry, folks, but this Looney Toon is irresistible.

Michele Bachmann has had a style make-over (pearls, upsweep hairdo, professional makeup, a more elegant wardrobe) but she sounds just as nutty as ever. In fact, I'm tempted to quote erstwhile GOP candidate Sarah Palin -- about pigs and lipstick. But I won't.

Bachmann garnered a small headline the other day, saying that "President Obama lets the ACLU run the CIA." Excuse me? That was unhinged enough to qualify as a Looney Toon. **

But then she outdid herself with this, saying that we should be less socialistic and be more like China. I kid you not. Here's the quote:
“[LBJ's] ‘Great Society’ has not worked and it’s put us into the modern welfare state. If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situation. They save for their own retirement security…They don’t have the modern welfare state and China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society and they’d be gone.”
Let's see. China is officially The People's Republic of China, a Communist nation. Their top government leaders are always insider-members of the Communist Party, chosen by the Party. So Michele wants us to be more like the Communists?

But she also denounces Obama's "socialist" policies and programs. We should get rid of all social welfare programs that drag us down, so we can grow our economy like Communist China is doing.

But then again her campaign web site defends some of those "social welfare" programs. Here's a direct quote from the web site:
“Social Security and Medicare provide a safety net to millions of Americans. This is a system that many Americans have paid into their whole life. America needs to keep its promise to senior citizens.”
But the Chinese "save for their own retirement security;" we should be more like them. Does that mean do away with Social Security?

OK. Let's just all agree that Michele (Say Anything) Bachmann has no enduring sense of what she's saying. She just "says things."


** "Looney Toons" was MGM's first animated cartoon series dating back to the 1930's, with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. I really should apologize to MGM for associating these GOP clowns with their lovable cartoon characters. But honestly I think the two appeal to the same level of childish mentality.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"At Penn State, a Storm That Should Pass"

"At Penn State, a Storm That Should Pass" was the big, front page headline in the Monday Sports Section of the New York Times. The accompanying picture and article took up almost a full page.

And here was the subtitle:
"Education officials and crisis experts suggest that a sexual abuse scandal's effect on fund-raising, recruiting and admissions may not last a year."
And how long, do you suppose, will the effect on those abused boys last?

I am appalled and disgusted. This is what the sports writers and editors think is the most important thing to be discussing right now? Whether the scandal will hurt fund-raising and recruitment for the football team? Even in the New York Times?

But why should I be surprised, because this actually confirms the point I was trying to make in my post yesterday and the subsequent comments about the tunnel vision of everybody that is caught up in this college sports culture, this empire of athleticism that so absorbed people in its skewed priorities that the sexual abuse of children had to be hidden and ignored rather than risk bringing down that empire.

And now all they want to write about is how long it will take for this to be forgotten and things will get back to "normal."

What's even worse, the same mentality pervaded the Vatican and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church when forced, at last, to confront its complicity in shielding the priests who sexually abused children.

So far, it seems the college kids themselves have a better perspective on this than the alumni and the sportswriters.

If the "effect of the scandal" lasts less than a year, that itself will be another tragedy; because it will mean that nothing changed. And it, or something similar, will happen again.


Welfare for the wealthy

"From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. . . "Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working. This welfare for the well-off -- costing billions of dollars a year -- is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate. . . It is sheer Washington stupidity."
Want to guess which U. S. senator said that, in releasing a survey he had done of wealthy people?

If you haven't already seen the news item, you may be just as shocked as I was. This was from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). That's right. Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Is the worm about to turn?

Not exactly. It seems that Senator Coburn still wants to cut the tax rate for the wealthy. This survey is part of the Republican "compromise," which is shaping up to swap closing all these loopholes and exemptions AND also lowering the tax rates.

At least it's something. I just hope the Democrats hold firm and don't get snookered by this and wind up with all kinds of loopholes in the closing of the loopholes.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Joe Paterno and the Pope

An unlikely pair, but now linked by the fact that each has presided over a system gone awry. Each was apparently devoted to something he considered more important than the safety and welfare of victimized children.

I'm not suggesting that they actually would have consciously thought that. I don't doubt that their lack of action was rationalized somehow, maybe convincing themselves that the accusations might not be true, that it would ruin the careers of possibly innocent adults -- or perhaps they just didn't let themselves really, really comprehend the enormity of what they were told.

In Paterno's case, it was the out of bounds world of big-time college sports, where an iconic, beloved coach of 45 years presided over an empire that every year blotted out anything else of importance from September through the bowl games on New Year's Day.

For the pope and the Vatican, of course, it is the hierarchical world of the Roman Catholic Church -- not Christianity itself -- but the church organization, and particularly this one that gives such power to those cloistered men who live apart in a tiny principality of the Vatican.

Real life doesn't quite penetrate into either of these hermetic worlds. Something in these systems has allowed reports of sexual abuse of children to be ignored, covered up, not reported to the police -- in order to protect adults who are valuable to the system -- and, perhaps moreso, to protect the system itself.

I didn't know who Joe Paterno was until last week. By all I have read, he was respected, beloved, even revered. One writer said that anyone who has ever played for him loved him. There is a statue of him on the Penn State campus. He's won all the coaching honors.

Paterno is not accused of abusing children, but he was given an eye-witness report that one of his assistant coaches had been using gym facilities for trysts and even rape of young boys. And he did nothing about it.

On Wednesday, the University Board of Trustees quite properly fired both Paterno and the university president, who had supposedly also known and took no action.

This tragic scandal has shaken the university to its core. Initial student reaction was outrage that the coach was fired. Wednesday night when word spread, there was rioting on campus. By Friday night, some perspective had already returned. Students held a candlelight vigil for the child victims on the same spot as their rioting two nights earlier. I heard a recording of the Student Council President speaking. It was mature and calming.

At Saturday's game -- just days after this all broke and mindful of Paterno's forced absence from the game -- the Penn players, instead of their usual racing, roaring entrance from the tunnel, walked silently, slowly onto the field, arms locked with each other in a solemn, non-verbal display of sad solidarity. It set the tone of contrition and suggests that, with the student body anyway, maturity and balance have taken hold. It brought tears to my eyes, just reading about it.

If only the elders had been able to keep such a balance of values. Both in the athletic department at Penn and in the Vatican.