Thursday, October 27, 2005

Exxon Profits At Unprecedented High

Still more evidence that it pays to have friends in high places . . . the Associated Press reported today that oil giant Exxon's third-quarter profits were a new record for any company ever. Third quarter profits were almost 75% higher than a year ago - up to $9.92 billion - and their $100 billion in total quarterly sales was also an all-time record for any company in history.

I really don't have much more to say about this . . . it's distressing but not surprising. I guess my conservative friends out there would argue that the free market is working its magic on the American public once again. So, the American public should just smile and get out the KY-Jelly, which is another fine petroleum derivative - while oil execs shop for more multi-million dollar homes and corporate tax shelters.

I'm wondering why such a huge, profitable industry couldn't invest some of their vast profits into some research and development toward creating more efficient ways to fuel our mobile society - or at the very least build a new refinery now and then so that gas prices wouldn't fluctuate wildly everytime a hurricane blows in or a middle eastern potentate gets pissed at us. There hasn't been a new refinery built in the U.S. since the early 1970's.

Seems to me that cutting corporate profits to give the American consumer a little break would almost be a patriotic act at this point. Wonder what's the likelihood of that happening? It's enough to make a person entertain thoughts of socialism - a government takeover of the energy industry. Things have a way of going full circle, you know.

Friday, October 21, 2005

County Commissioners and Nov. 8 Election

I attended a teacher meeting this week in which two of the three County Commissioners and the Springfield police chief spoke about an upcoming November 8 ballot issue called the Community Safety Initiative (CSI). County Commissioners Dave Coonrod and Harold Bengsch and SPD chief Lynn Rowe took turns talking about why they support the proposed 1/4 cent sales tax.

The proposed tax would ante up about a nickel on a $20 purchase and would raise about $10 million in year one for various crime prevention and law enforcement programs.

Did I hear a yawn? I know. This is usually the kind of thing that I have trouble supporting - yes, they want to build a new crime lab and provide funding for more police officers, blah, blah. But the part that caught my attention, and the primary reason they were pitching this to a group of school teachers, was the $3 million that was to be spent on a proactive early childhood program that was linked to 50 elementary schools in Springfield. It would also create a one-stop center for early childhood services such as WIC, Parents As Teachers and medical and behavioral health care.

Unlike the unfunded federal feel-good mandate known as No Child Left Behind, this program supports and funds an early childhood program that is aimed at breaking the cycle of illiteracy and under-education that breeds all kinds of social problems in the community. Yes, it's on a small scale, but it's a move in the right direction - and I don't think we'll be getting much help from the state or federal government anytime soon - not with the current leadership we have in Jeff City and D.C.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Coonrod and Bengsch speak to this issue with no small amount of conviction. Hit the link above to read more about it.

***Also, thanks to those readers who inquired about the most recent dispatch from the fields of education. It was deleted because I was worried that the teacher featured in that story would suffer some kind of retribution from a vengeful administrator or demented parent. Given the fact that she still works with those people on a daily basis, I felt it was wise to avoid any risk of making things worse. I did save the story and will re-post it after things cool down a bit.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Still More Evidence of Cronyism in Bushland

I was trying to find a link to one of my favorite news shows when I ran across this article posted on Media Matters for America. The New York Times article explores how Harriet Miers worked a dual role after being appointed by Bush to head the Texas Lottery Commission, which was supposedly suspected of shady dealings. It looks as though some of the questionable activity centered around an employee who had information about Bush's own shady National Guard experience. Here's a clip:

"Allegations about political favors playing a role in Bush's National Guard career first arose in the midst of a lawsuit filed by Lawrence Littwin, the former executive director of the lottery commission who was both hired and fired during Miers's tenure. Littwin had reportedly been investigating what he considered improper political contributions made by Gtech, a company which had a contract to run the Texas lottery. In his lawsuit, Littwin claimed that Gtech pressured the commission to fire him by threatening to reveal that the company had paid lobbyist Ben Barnes $23 million to keep Barnes from publicly claiming that he pulled strings in order to get Bush into the Guard.

In her capacity at the commission, Miers was directly involved with Littwin's dismissal in October 1997. Littwin's lawsuit claimed that after he began looking into financial ties between the company and Texas lawmakers, Gtech pushed Miers to fire him [Houston Chronicle, January 6, 2001]. After a federal judge in Texas ruled that Miers did not have to testify in Littwin's lawsuit to provide an explanation for why Littwin was fired, Gtech settled Littwin's lawsuit for $300,000.

Subsequently -- and while still serving on the commission -- Miers was paid $19,000 by Bush's re-election campaign to investigate his National Guard record in order to "identify potential vulnerabilities early on and deflect any charges that Bush got favorable treatment," according to a July 17, 2000, Newsweek article. Newsweek reported that Barnes's allegations were a key part of Miers's investigation. That would mean that the Miers investigation -- and therefore Bush himself -- potentially benefited from Miers's knowledge of and involvement in the lottery commission."

Everybody knows Bush had preferential treatment with his National Guard stint. First, to get in at all - and later to cover the fact that he was AWOL while out campaigning for his dad. Harriet Miers appears to be a Bush loyalist first and foremost. No wonder he trusts her so much.

Conservative pundits like Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative rag The Weekly Standard characterized Miers' nomination to the high court 'at best an error, at worst a disaster' which should be reconsidered. 'He (Bush) has put up an unknown and undistinguished figure for an opening that conservatives worked for a generation to see filled with a jurist of high distinction.'

George Will, with whom I hardly ever agree (except for our shared love of baseball and the Cubs) called for the Miers nomination to be turned down by the Senate. Here's a clip from his Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post:

It is important that Miers not be confirmed unless, in her 61st year, she suddenly and unexpectedly is found to have hitherto undisclosed interests and talents pertinent to the court's role. Otherwise the sound principle of substantial deference to a president's choice of judicial nominees will dissolve into a rationalization for senatorial abdication of the duty to hold presidents to some standards of seriousness that will prevent them from reducing the Supreme Court to a private plaything useful for fulfilling whims on behalf of friends.

Thank you, George, for your eloquence. But will GW listen? I doubt it - so we'll be subjected to an awful dissection of this poor woman at the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Of course, the evangelicals will say she will have been persecuted for her beliefs. But, to be sure, this nomination should go down in flames due solely to the fact that she is nothing more than a political crony who is clearly not qualified to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Our Girl Harriet

President Bush managed to piss everybody off with this one. The Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination has been roundly panned by pundits from virtually the entire political spectrum. I can almost see GW smirking after he and his trusty advisors came up with this one. This ought to throw everybody for a loop, yuk, yuk. One thing I've got to hand GW, he has shown an uncanny ability to top his daddy when it comes to boneheaded presidential moves. The elder Bush at least had the good sense to avoid a protracted war in Iraq after Desert Storm, while Boy George boldly ventures forth on a misguided crusade to build a democratic state in the heart of the Middle East. Is that conservative? Seems like I remember W criticizing the Clinton/Gore administration for their "nation building" in Bosnia. You don't hear much about Bosnia these days. I guess it depends on your point of view about this nation building concept - if a Democrat is doing it, it's nation building, if a Republican does it, it's fighting tyranny and spreading democracy. Of course, it also helps if the proposed construction site has a fair amount of oil under the surface and your administration is tight with big oil.

Daddy Bush appointed legal lightweight Clarence Thomas to the bench in what many regarded as a cold, cynical move that would force Democrats to oppose a black nominee. I wonder, has Thomas ever voted independently of ideologue Scalia? Ever written an intelligent opinion? He did serve a huge role in casting one of the votes that put Bush's son in the White House. So, the appointment did pay a quick dividend politically. Do you recall how Thomas characterized his contentious nomination process as a high-tech lynching? After viewing his service on the court so far, I guess it could be fair to similarly characterize his ideological obedience as good old-fashioned Uncle Tomism.

In George Bush we have the same man who asked us to trust him as he spread fear and loathing about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq as a rationale for an unprovoked invasion. Turns out the intelligence was bad - wasn't his fault (never is). This is also the man who appointed a totally unqualified Michael "yer doin' a heckuva job" Brown to lead FEMA. (Brown had been commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association, which at least symbolically represents the abundance of horseshit GW has cast upon the American public.) And now . . . he gives us his girl Harriet, former White House secretary and personal legal council. She has virtually no record, no court experience, didn't appear on anybody's list of the top 100 (1,000?) candidates - but not to worry. Our fearless leader knows her heart. Trust him on this one. She'll never change, he assures us. Shew, what a relief. One thing we do know - she is a born again Christian, which, in political terms, is nothing more than a blatant signal to the GOP's conservative base that Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade when the opportunity presents itsself. She will, of course, refuse to talk about that during the hearings.

In the five years that have passed since the Supreme Court awarded Bush the presidency, could anybody, even his harshest political enemies, have calculated how poorly he would have performed? I wonder how many years it will take to undo the damage this administration has done to the country and our standing in the world. But back to our girl Harriet. I doubt seriously that Bush will withdraw this ridiculous nomination. I just hope the Senate has the guts to vote it down. It'll be interesting to see who stands tall and who bends over.

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. S...