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Posts Tagged ‘HURRICANE SANDY’

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2018 at 12:01 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?…You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army—then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy—totally surprised at his sudden reversal of fortune—was finished.

Today, however, other Americans should be asking themselves the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997 – 2007) and Republican Presidential candidate in 2012.

Rick Santorum

Santorum has fervently sought to ban legalized abortion—even in rape cases.

He also wants to ban birth control: “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman—Karen Garver—who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Today, as Mrs. Santorum, she has totally reversed her view on abortion and wants to see it banned.

Then there’s President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

On July 15, 2018, Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” 

He was, of course, referring to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, charged by the Justice Department with investigating the subversion of the 2016 Presidential election by Russian Intelligence agents.

The next day, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

“Mr. President,” said Jeff Mason, a reporter from Reuters, “do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?”

Trump, refusing to condemn Russia, blasted the Mueller probe: “I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.

“People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually, none of it related to the campaign. They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign.”

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy:

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

“I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying. With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” meant nothing to McCarthy—just as it means nothing to Santorum and Trump.

But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do. The samurai code of Bushido told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor—seppuku.  With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for either man.

But of course it will be. It takes more than a trigger pull to “do the right thing.”

It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.” And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing. They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7:17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

EVERYTHING’S BIGGER IN TEXAS–INCLUDING HYPOCRISY

In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2017 at 1:54 am

On August 25, Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas with torrential rain and winds of 130 mph. 

Within three days, thousands of homes were flooded and hundreds had to be rescued from rising flood waters.

Related image

Rain-flooded streets in South Texas

And Texas United States Senator Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz quickly requested full-fledged Federal relief for his state.

But in 2012, Cruz voted three times against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Then he reversed himself in 2013, by seeking “all available resources” for victims of the April 17 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

In October, 2012, Hurricane Sandy had killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represented West,  McLennan County, also voted against the Sandy relief package. But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

Image result for Images of U.S. Senator Rafael Edward Cruz

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

According to PolitiFact, “A big portion of the $17 billion in ‘immediate’ assistance, more than $5 billion, went to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which may fund relief from future disasters.”

Furthermore, Rick Ungar, writing at Forbes, pointed out that the “pork” came from having to bribe red state Republicans-–including Texas—to get the package passed over their filibuster:

“However, as it turns out, the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress….

“The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.” All of these have solid Republican constituencies.

In fact, Texas had the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009, according to a September 29, 2011 article in iWatch News

“Eleven Republican U.S. senators who represent the states with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009 voted against a bill designed to keep the agency’s disaster relief fund from running out of cash.”

“The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009.”

Yet the hypocrisy didn’t end there.

“The nation’s number one resource is its workers,” said Keith Wrightson, safety expert at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “But the agency that’s charged with protecting them is not given the resources to do it. I think it’s worrisome for the nation.”

The West Fertilizer Company facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30. Why did the facility go for almost 30 years without further inspections from OSHA?

As a small employer, the fertilizer facility may have been exempt from some forms of OSHA scrutiny. Years ago, Congress attached a rider to agency funding that forbids OSHA to perform inspections of workplaces with 10 or fewer employees and whose industries have low injury rates.

Lawmakers reasoned that small businesses shouldn’t have to shoulder the same costs of compliance as larger ones.

But smaller worksites aren’t necessarily less dangerous.  According to safety advocates, small companies often  have fewer resources to invest in worker safety and, with less government oversight, even less incentive.

On April 20, 2013, the damning news broke in a Reuters story:

“The fertilizer plant that  exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town  and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Related image

Explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas

According to Reuters, West Fertilizer, the company that owned the plant, did not tell DHS about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it was required to do.

The DHS is a major regulator of ammonium nitrate-–which can also be used in bomb making. Thus, it was left totally unaware of the potential danger posed by the plant..

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the substance. Filings this  year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which  weren’t shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand in 2012. 

Recently called out for his efforts to deny aid to Hurricane Sandy victims, Cruz replied: “Well, you know, look. There’s time for political sniping later. I think our focus needs to be on this crisis.” 

In short, it’s a crisis when it happens in his state, not when it happens elsewhere.

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary on January 29, 2016 at 12:53 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?…You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army–then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy–totally surprised at his sudden reversal of fortune–was finished.

Today, however, other Americans should be asking themselves the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, Republican Presidential candidate in 2016.

Rick Santorum

As a United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997-2005) and a 2012 Presidential candidate, Santorum fervently sought to ban legalized abortion–even in rape cases. Also on his list of banned items: birth control.

Abortion and birth control, said Santorum, were an affront to “the way things ought to be.”  As decided, of course, by Santorum.

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman–Karen Garver–who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Today, as Mrs. Santorum, she has totally reversed her view on abortion and wants to see it banned.

Then there’s 2016 Presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 

As a Republican United States Senator from Texas, Cruz voted–three times–against providing federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The October, 2012, hurricane killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion worth of damages across the Northeast.

But when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, McLennan County, Texas, on April 17, 2013, Cruz vowed that he would seek “all available resources” to assist its victims.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damage to surrounding homes.

It didn’t matter to Cruz that:

  • The facility hadn’t been expected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was find $30; and
  • The plant had been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS.).

Then there’s Donald Trump, the egocentric businessman and “reality star of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” who, likewise, has thrown his hat into the 2016 Presidential race.

Donald Trump

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the 2012 Presidential race, Trump said this about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and front-runner GOP candidate:

“He’d buy companies, he’d close companies.  He’d get rid of jobs.  I’ve built a great company.  I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth.  I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund.  He was a funds guy.  He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create.  he worked there.  He didn’t create it.”

Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs. Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

So at least some observers must have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor and privilege, to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough.  He’s smart.  He’s sharp. He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love.  So, Governor Romney, go out and get ’em.  You can do it,” said Trump.

Mitt Romney

And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement.  There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” means nothing to Santorum, Cruz and Trump. But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do. The samurai code of Bushido told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor–seppuku.  With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

Seppuku 

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for any of these men.

But of course it will be.  It takes more than a trigger pull to “do the right thing.  It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.”  And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing.  They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7:17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

THE FAULT LIES IN US

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 25, 2015 at 12:01 am

During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.

And so he asked Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.

“How do you deal with something like that?”

“Absolutely,” Romney replied. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.

“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?

“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?

“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

FLIP!

Mitt Romney vs. FEMA

On October 30, 2012, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.

And, as he had on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again refused to answer questions.

“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.

Hurricane Sandy

Romney refused to answer.

The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”

No reply.

Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”

Again, no answer.

“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”

No answer.

“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”

Again, Romney refused to reply.

Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:

FLOP!

Mitt Romney pro-FEMA

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”

In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions.  And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.

Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:

  • Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions; and
  • Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a totally false charge

But this is the real world.

And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that:

  • People who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
  • People who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.

Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.

Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.

Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.

And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.

So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.

For millions of Americans who profess to be deeply religious, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should have been instructive:

Ask, and it shall be given you.  Seek, and ye shall find.  Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth.  And he that seeketh findeth. And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.

Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.

Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.

But Americans have no such excuse.

They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right.  At least 1,382 daily newspapers–both domestic and foreign– provide information on a wide range of national and international issues.

More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist.  Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about the issues that most affect their lives.

As a result, Cassius’ words to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar apply to them:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

CHRISTIE COULD HAVE BEEN A VICTIM…OF ROMNEY

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics on January 15, 2014 at 1:49 am

“Bully!” is the charge now being hurled at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The reason: On September 9, 2012, two months before Christie’s re-election, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed two of the three lanes that lead to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, across the Hudson from Manhattan.

The result?  Days of massive traffic jams in Fort Lee, where Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich had refused to endorse Christie.

Christie has fired his former aide, Bridget Kelly, “because she lied to me” about her role in causing the shutdown.

Chris Christie

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Trenton is investigating whether any federal laws were broken. Both the Port Authority’s inspector-general and state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s opponent in November, have asked federal authorities to step in.

And State lawmakers on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committeeare still holding hearings into the bridge scandal.

Many politicians–both Democratic and Republican–believe the scandal has endangered Christie’s hopes for winning the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016.

Democrats, of course, are thrilled by this possibility.  But even many Republicans–who feel Christie isn’t Right-wing enough–have refused to defend him.

So far, no evidence has surfaced to prove that Christie ordered or knew about the shutdown.  But if it does, Christie could face civil lawsuits and even criminal prosecution.

Ironically, Christie himself almost certainly would have become a target for political revenge in 2013.

His nemesis?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Presidential candidate.

True, Christie gave a major address on behalf of Romney at the August Republican Convention.

And, true, Christie said he planned to vote for Romney on November 6.

But that might not have been enough to save him if Romney made it to the White House.

The reason: Romney and his handlers were angry that Christie had dared to praise President Barack Obama for his help after Hurricane Sandy ravished much of New Jersey on October 30, 2012.

Mitt Romney

During a briefing with emergency personnel, residents and press, Christie thanked Obama for holding a conference call with him and governors of other states expected to be impacted by the storm.

“I appreciated the president’s outreach today in making sure that we know he’s watching this and is concerned about the health and welfare and safety of the people of the state of New Jersey,” said Christie.

And–to the rising anger of Romney and his campaign staff–there had been more such praise.

Christie said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey.

“I appreciate that type of leadership,” Christie said of Obama.

For Romney and Right-wing Republicans, any praise of Obama was tantamount to treason.

With news reports saying that Romney’s campaign “bounce” had ended and that Obama was actually leading in several swing states, Romney’s handlers decided it was time to strike.

At Christie.

A November 3 article in Politico outlined the following:

  • Romney insiders said that Christie had been Romney’s first choice for the vice president.
  • But then Romney decided that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be a safer choice due to some problems with Christie.
  • Some Romney friends and donors were irked by Christie’s embrace of Obama, which one referred to as “over the top.”
  • “If Romney wins, it won’t be forgotten,” a Romney adviser warned. “If Romney loses,  it doesn’t matter.”

Throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Romney displayed an arrogant sense of entitlement to the Oval Office.

Asked during an ABC News interview if he had anything to say to President Barack Obama, Romney said: “Start packing.”  As if the most powerful leader of the Western world should snap to attention at Mitt’s command.

And his wife, Anne, chinned in: “I believe it’s Mitt’s time. I believe the country needs the kind of leadership he’s going to offer… So I think it’s our turn now.”

John McCain, during the 2008 Presidential race, refused to stoop to race-baiting and slanderous attacks on Obama (such as claiming him to be from Kenya when Hawaii has a birth record with his name on it).

But Romney employed surrogates–like Donald Trump–to do his slander-mongering for him.

When Trump charged that Obama was not an American citizen or was “selling out” the United States to radical Islamics, Romney let the slanders stand.

So if Romney had been elected, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone if a fellow Republican–Chris Christie–became one of his primary targets for “revenge.”

The most likely form this could have taken would have been to deny Federal assistance or projects (such as highway construction) to New Jersey.

During his January 9 press conference where he announced the firing of his former aide, Christie repeatedly referred to himself as a “victm.”

Ironically, had Romney gained the White house, Christie might well have deserved that status.

HYPOCRITES UNITED

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2013 at 12:37 am

Ted Cruz voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy–three times.

But the United States Senator from Texas quickly announced he would seek “all available resources” to assist victims of the April 17 explosion at as fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

Last October, Hurricane Sandy killed around 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.

“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents West, also voted against the Sandy relief package.  But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

Such hypocrisy.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz and Flores are not alone in their fiscal hypocrisy.

Oklahoma’s two U.S. Senators– Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both right-wing Republicans–have also repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country.

Oklahoma U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn

They have also opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.

Both Inhofe and Coburn backed a plan to slash disaster aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

In a December, 2012 press release, Coburn said that the Sandy Relief bill contained “wasteful spending,” and identified a series of items he objected to, including “$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies.”

Inhofe, a Republican, argued that the Hurricane Sandy bill was loaded with  pork.

“They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they  were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and  exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma,” Inhofe  said on MSNBC.

The Sandy relief bill initially contained money for projects outside of areas damaged by Sandy–as bribes to Republicans to get it through Congress.

But Federal relief aid is a different matter entirely to Inhofe when the victims come from his own state.

A May 20, 2-mile-wide tornado ravaged the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing at least 51 people while destroying entire tracts of homes and trapping two dozen school children beneath rubble.

For Inofe, aiding his constituents would be “totally different” from providing aid to Sandy victims.

“Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

As for Coburn: In a statement, he said that “as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”

For Rep. Peter King (R-New York this hypocrisy is simply too much to swallow quietly.

“I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy involved here, Inhofe saying Sandy aid was corrupt but Oklahoma won’t be,” said King, whose state was devastated last October by Sandy.

For King, natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornado are not “local issues”: “It’s an American issue, we have an obligation to come forward.”

He said that he didn’t plan to exact revenge on those who had denied New Yorkers aid after Sandy.

“I won’t hold it against anyone,” King said. “I don’t want suffering people in Oklahoma to be held hostage while we engage in political fights, saying ‘I told you so.’ I want to deal with it on the merits.”

All of which highlights how the principle of YIMBY–Yes In My Back Yard–is very much alive, even for alleged fiscal hawk Republicans.  At least, when their own constituents are the victims in need.

Because needy constituents who go unaided quickly become angry constituents who remember that lack of aid at the next election.

It’s something to remember the next time right-wingers take a hard line on spending bills to help the poor or victims of natural disasters.

ENTITLEMENT, TEXAS STYLE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on April 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

Ted Cruz voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy–three times.

But the United States Senator from Texas quickly announced he would seek “all available resources” to assist victims of the April 17 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

Last October, Hurricane Sandy killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.

“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents West,  McLennan County, also voted against the Sandy relief package.  But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

But, according to PolitiFact, “A big portion of the $17 billion in ‘immediate’ assistance, more than $5 billion, went to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which may fund relief from future disasters.”

Furthermore, Rick Ungar, writing at Forbes, pointed out that the “pork” came from having to bribe red state Republicans–including Texas–to get the package passed over their filibuster:

“However, as it turns out, the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress….

“The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.”

In fact, according to a September 29, 2011 article in iWatch News: Texas had the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009:

“Eleven Republican U.S. senators who represent the states with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009 voted against a bill designed to keep the agency’s disaster relief fund from running out of cash.”

“The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009.”

Click here: As FEMA funds run out, senators from states with most disasters oppose funding bill  The Center for Public Integrity

Yet the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

“The nation’s number one resource is its workers,” said Keith Wrightson, safety expert at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “But the agency that’s charged with protecting them is not given the resources to do it. I think it’s worrisome for the nation.”

The West Fertilizer Company facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30. Why did the facility go for almost 30 years without further inspections from OSHA?

As a small employer, the fertilizer facility may have been exempt from some forms of OSHA scrutiny.  Years ago, Congress attached a rider to agency funding that forbids OSHA to perform inspections of workplaces with 10 or fewer employees and whose industries have low injury rates.

Lawmakers reason that small businesses shouldn’t have to shoulder the same costs of compliance as larger ones.

But smaller worksites aren’t necessarily less dangerous.  According to safety advocates, small companies often  have fewer resources to invest in worker safety and, with less government oversight, even less incentive.

On April 20, the damning news broke in a Reuters story:

“The fertilizer plant that  exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town  and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger  safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Explosion at as fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas

Yet a source told Reuters that West Fertilizer, the company that owns the plant, did not tell DHS about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do.

The DHS is a major regulator of ammonium nitrate–which can also be used in bomb making.  Thus, it was left totally unaware of the potential danger posed by the plant..

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the substance. Filings this  year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which  weren’t shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.

In short, this situation offers the ultimate combination of disaster-producing circumstances:

  • A state with lax regulation of corporate businesses.
  • A plant crammed full of highly explosive materials.
  • Hypocritical U.S. Senators callously ignoring the hardships nature inflicts on other states while greedily demanding the lion’s share of emergency resources for their own constituents.
  • A state–Texas–whose governor has openly threatened secession greedily sucking at the tit of the otherwise despised Federal Government.

WITH MALICE TOWARD SOME

In History, Politics on November 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may soon find himself in serious trouble.

Chris Christie

His nemesis?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Presidential candidate.

True, Christie gave a major address on behalf of Romney at the August Republican Convention.

True, Christie says he plans to vote for Romney on November 6.

But that may not be enough to save him if Romney makes it to the White House.

The reason: Romney and his handlers are angry that Christie has dared to praise President Barack Obama for his help after Hurricane Sandy ravished much of New Jersey on October 30.

Mitt Romney

During a briefing with emergency personnel, residents and press, Christie thanked Obama for holding a conference call with him and governors of other states expected to be impacted by the storm.

“I appreciated the president’s outreach today in making sure that we know he’s watching this and is concerned about the health and welfare and safety of the people of the state of New Jersey,” said Christie.

And–to the rising anger of Romney and his campaign staff–there has been more such praise.

Christie said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey.

“I appreciate that type of leadership,” Christie said of Obama.

With news reports saying that Romney’s campaign “bounce” has ended and that Obama is actually leading in several swing states, Romney’s handlers decided it was time to strike.

At Christie.

A November 3 article in Politico outlines the following:

Romney insiders said that Christie had been Romney’s first choice for the vice president.  But then Romney decided that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be a safer choice due to some problems with Christie.

Most ominously, the article noted that “some Romney friends and donors are irked by Christie’s embrace of Obama this week, which one referred to as ‘over the top.'”

“If Romney wins, it won’t be forgotten,” a Romney adviser warned. “If Romney loses,  it doesn’t matter.”

All of which brings to mind this excerpt from a September 15, 1972 exchange in the White House of Richard M. Nixon.

Richard M. Nixon

The participants: Nixon; his legal counsel, John Dean; and H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff.

Nixon was expecting to win handily against Democratic Senator George McGovern–as, in fact, he did.  But his plans for the future included more than his official agenda.

PRESIDENT: They should just, uh, just behave and, and, recognize this, this is, again, this is war.  We’re getting a few shots and it’ll be over, and we’ll give them a few shots and it’ll be over. Don’t worry. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side right now. Would you? I wouldn’t want to be in Edward Bennet Williams’, Williams’ position after this election.

DEAN: No. No.

PRESIDENT: None of these bastards —

DEAN: He, uh, he’s done some rather unethical things that have come to light already, which in — again, Richey has brought to our attention.

PRESIDENT: Yeah.

DEAN: He went down —

HALDEMAN: Keep a log on all that.

DEAN: Oh, we are, indeed. Yeah.

PRESIDENT: Yeah.

HALDEMAN: Because afterwards that’s the guy,

PRESIDENT: We’re going after him.

HALDEMAN: That’s the guy we’ve got to ruin.

DEAN: He had, he had an ex parte —

PRESIDENT: You want to remember, too, he’s an attorney for the Washington Post.

DEAN: I’m well aware of that.

PRESIDENT: I think we are going to fix the son-of-a-bitch.  Believe me. We are going to. We’ve got to, because he’s a bad man.

* * * * *

There were clear warning signs about the corruption of Nixon’s character long before he won the Presidency in 1968:

    • As a member of the House of Representatives, and then the Senate, he rose to fame by brutally slandering anyone who opposed him as a Communist traitor.
    • During his Vice Presidency (1952-1960) under Dwight D. Eisenhower, news reports revealed that he had benefitted from a secret slush fund set up by his wealthy backers.
    • After losing the Governorship of California in November, 1962, he gave his famous “last press conference” speech where he gave full vent to his hatred and self-pity.  He made clear that he had been the victim of a ruthless media conspiracy.

So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when, once elected, Nixon set out to destroy his imagined enemies.

Throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Romney has displayed an arrogant sense of entitlement to the Oval Office.  As his wife, Anne, put it: “It’s our turn now.”

John McCain, during the 2008 race, refused to stoop to race-baiting and slanderous attacks on Obama (such as claiming him to be from Kenya when Hawaii has a birth record with his name on it).

But Romney has employed surrogates (like Donald Trump) to do his slander-mongering for him.

So if Romney is elected, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a fellow Republican–Chris Christie–becomes one of his primary targets for “revenge.”

THE FAULT LIES IN US

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm

FLIP!

During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.

And he asked Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.

“How do you deal with something like that?”

And Romney replied:

“Absolutely.  Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. 

“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?

“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?

“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

On October 30, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.

And, as he has on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again repeatedly refused to answer questions.

This time, they centered on his promise to eliminate FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Hurricane Sandy

“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.

Romney refused to answer.

The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”

No reply.

Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”

Again, no answer.

“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”

No answer.

“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”

Again, Romney refused to reply.

Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:

FLOP!

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”

In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions.  And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.

Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:

Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions.

Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a patently false charge

But this is the real world.

And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that

  • people who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
  • people who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.

Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.

Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.

Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.

And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.

So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.

For Mitt Romney, who claims to be a deeply spiritual man, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should be instructive:

Ask, and it shall be given you.

Seek, and ye shall find.

Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth.

And he that seeketh findeth.

And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.

Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.

Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.

But Americans have no such excuse.

They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right.  At least 1,456 daily newspapers in the U.S. sell 55 million copies a day.

More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist.  Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.

If millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about Romney, then what Cassius says to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar applies to them:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

PRIVATE PROFITS AND PUBLIC NEED

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 30, 2012 at 12:24 am

At a GOP primary debate in June 2011, the subject of FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–came up.

Specifically, Mitt Romney was asked about FEMA’s budget woes–and how he would deal with them.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states,” said Romney, “that’s the right direction.  And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Mitt Romney

“Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

During that debate, the moderator, CNN’s John King, had gone on to ask if that included “disaster relief.” Romney suggested it did.

“We cannot–we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” Romney replied.

“It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

With Hurricane Sandy now wreacking havoc on the East Coast of the United States, it’s well to examine this “the private sector knows best” philosophy of government.

Hurricane Sandy, Ocean City, New Jersey

Let’s start with the first part of Romney’s argument: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.”

Imagine dismantling FEMA–as Romney has proposed–and replacing it with 50 smaller versions–one for each state.

Some states–such as California and New York in their more prosperous pasts–would be able to erect sophisticated disaster relief agencies.

But poorer states–such as Arkansas and Mississippi–could not afford effective self-protection.  And such agencies as did exist would doubtless be so poor in resources they would be unable to redress widespread suffering.

Thus, such states would be forced to “borrow” resources from other states, or beg the Federal Government–which they despise when they’re not begging favors from it–to save their bacon.

As for the second part of Romney’s statement: “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

The private sector is great at turning a profit–especially when there is high demand for scarce resources.  As will undoubtedly soon be the case for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

But high profits for entrepreneurs do not necessarily translate into affordable–and available–products or services for those most in need of them.

It’s well-known that whenever a major disaster strikes, there are always those who rush to take advantage of it–and its victims.  The price of such necessities as food and water goes as high as desperate residents are able to pay.

Or as high as outraged officials at the Federal Government will allow.

There are simply a great many things that people need–especially in times of disaster–that the private sector isn’t willing to provide.  At least, not at an affordable price.

Such as life-saving medications.

It’s the shame of the nation that the pharmaceutical industry is refusing to manufacture off-patent drugs sufficient to meet the needs of patients.

The reason?  Because they can make more money selling the more expensive drugs still under patent protection.

For example, the new breast cancer drug herceptin has a patent-protected sticker price of $55,000 per patient per year.  But an off-patent drug like doxorubicin may net only a few thousand dollars if made by a generic drug company.

So the drug companies figure:  Why bother?  If people die, so what?

And tens of thousands of Americans may die because of the pharmaceutical industry’s “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

If this happens, the Federal Government–acting on Mitt Romney’s “hands-off business” strategy–will be largely responsible.

It’s understandable that profit-motivated businessmen want to fatten their pockets at all costs.  And it’s equally understandable that right-wing politicians like Mitt Romney should cater to them.

After all, wealthy businessmen eagerly stuff the pockets of such politicians with millions of dollars to gain public office.

But there’s no reason for ordinary Americans to buy into this “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

And it’s during times of disaster–such as the one now breaking over the Eastern United States–that ordinary Americans are forced to learn that a strong and responsive Federal Government is necessary.

The November 6 election gives Americans a clear choice for their future.

They can choose a candidate who represents the richest 1%– and who has written off 47% of his fellow citizens as hopelessly  “irresponsible.”

Or they can choose a candidate who believes that government exists to serve the needs of those most in need.

In making that choice, Americans may be making the most fateful Presidential decision since 1864.  That was when their ancestors voted to return Abraham Lincoln to the White House to see through the Civil War.

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