Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood gets national mention

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood got some national mention on the Stakeholder, the official blog for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Online Editor Brandon English used a quote from our post about Mr. Rogers accepting money from a suspected and indicted terrorist financier. Rogers is one of 22 Republican lawmakers – and one of three Michigan lawmakers - who has taken money from suspected terrorist financer Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari.

Alishtari was indicted on terrorism charges last week, accused of transferring $152,000 to fund the purchase of equipment for use in a militant training camp in Afghanistan. He was charged with financing terrorism and with money laundering for accepting an unspecified payment to secretly transfer $152,000 for equipment including night-vision goggles in the second half of 2006.

According to the Boston Herald, from April 2002 until August 2004, Alishtari gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and Alishtari’s was named a National Republican Senatorial Committee ”Inner Circle Member for Life” in 2003.

Most people would expect the NRCC and the other Congressmen to give the money back or at least donated it to charity, but they refused and will not give back the blood money used to help kill U.S. Servicemen and Women. The silence from the Rogers camps has been deafening.

Rumor has it that Roger’s spokesperson is saying it’s really the Mike Rogers from Alabama that took the tainted money. We stand by our source, and if he can prove that’s the case we will do a retraction. At the very minimum Rogers should ask the NRCC to donate the money to charity.

The so-called “liberal media” strategy is alive and working just like it was designed some 40 years ago by Dick Nixon. This huge story has not had much coverage in the corporate media. The Republicans call anyone who disagrees with Bush’s failed Iraq policies a terrorist and appeaser, but they take money from an alleged terrorist financer and we barely hear a peep.

I guess if you just shut up and say nothing it will just be forgotten, and that strategy appears to be working very well for Rogers and the NRCC.

Why is that?

Could you imagine the hype from faux “news” and the corporate media if Alishtari had donated money to the Democrats? I can just see Sean Haity’s scrunched up face and little beady eyes calling Democrats traitors, terrorist sympathizers and murders.

Oh wait, he does that now.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

PAC Man: Mike Rogers & Koch Industries

Mike Rogers loves Political Action Committees. During the 2006 election cycle, PACs tossed a cool $826,376 into Mike Rogers' campaign coffers. That's pretty good scratch, especially considering that his opponent, Jim Marcinkowski, was only able to reel in $552,157 for his entire campaign (including individual donations).

So, who are the Political Action Committees that are bankrolling Mike Rogers? Well, since there are too many to count, consider this Part 1 of an ongoing series.

Today we'll start by looking at Koch Industries, which donated $10,000 to Mike Rogers during the 2006 campaign.

So, what is Koch Industries?

Koch Industries could be the biggest oil company you have never heard of—unless, that is, you hang around the halls of government in Washington.

Koch Industries (pronounced "coke") is a huge oil conglomerate controlled by brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the country's richest men and among the biggest backers of conservative and libertarian causes. With estimated revenue of about $40 billion last year, Koch is bigger than Microsoft, Merrill Lynch and AT&T.

Since 1998, Koch is the fourth biggest campaign oil and gas industry giver, behind ChevronTexaco, El Paso Corp. and Enron Corp.

Despite its size and political largesse, Koch is able to dodge the limelight because it is privately-held, meaning that nearly all of its business dealings are known primarily only by the company and the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, it is the second largest private company in the country, trailing only food processing giant Cargill.

Koch also prefers to operate in private when it comes to politics and government.

Although it is both a top campaign contributor and spends millions on direct lobbying, Koch's chief political influence tool is a web of interconnected, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups funded by foundations controlled and supported by the two Koch brothers.

Among those groups are some of the country's most prominent conservative and libertarian voices including the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society. All regularly beat the drum in official Washington for the causes the Koch's hold dear—minimal government, deregulation, and free market economics.

Let's see... two brothers own an oil company that gives heaps of money to republican candidates and conservative foundations – not exactly a first. But wait, it gets better:

In late 2000—as the Clinton Administration was preparing to leave office—Koch was hit with a 97-count indictment for covering up the discharge of more than 15 times the legal limit of benzene, a carcinogen, from a refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The company faced penalties of more than $350 million. Four Koch employees were also charged individually and faced up to 35 years in prison.

Three months after the Bush administration took office—and just before the lawsuit went to trial—the Justice Department abruptly settled the case. Koch agreed to pay $20 million and plead guilty to a single count of concealment of information. In return, the Justice Department dropped all criminal charges against Koch and the four employees.

Gee, I wonder if all those campaign contributions to republicans like George Bush helped out when Koch Industries tried to settle all those legal cases.

Even if they ultimately managed to dodge more serious penalties, it's pretty obvious that this isn't the "cleanest" company in America.

It's indisputable that Koch Industries has an incredible amount of political muscle and a knack for weaseling around the law. One might even go so far as to say that Koch Industries is run like an organized crime family.

Well, it's interesting to note that such accusations were made publicly on an episode of 60 Minutes II back in August of 2001... by Bill Koch, brother of Charles and David:

Koch says that Koch Industries engaged in "(o)rganized crime. And management driven from the top down."

"It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."

Bill Koch says that his brother Charles made a fortune stealing oil. Much of it from beneath Indian reservations and federal lands - places like national forests. Oil under federal lands belongs to the public. Koch Industries was the middleman – buying oil from the government at the well - then selling it to refineries. Bill Koch says that the company took more oil than it paid for by cheating on measurements.

That may not sound like much, but Bill Koch says that it added up. "Well, that was the beauty of the scheme. Because if they’re buying oil from 50,000 different people, and they’re stealing two barrels from each person. What does that add up to? One year, their data showed they stole a million and a half barrels of oil."

Bill Koch filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that much of the oil collected by Koch Industries was stolen from federal lands. At the trial, 50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company, some in video depositions. They said Koch employees had a name for cheating on the measurements.

"We in the company referred to it as the "Koch Method" because it was a system for cheating the producer out of oil," said one of these gaugers, Mark Wilson.

"I believe that what I was stealing oil and I don't feel good about it," said another, James Jurgens.

"You were expected to get out there and get this oil for them. And – and not be short. And the only way to not be short is to steal oil," says Phil DuBose. He should know. Before he was laid off, he had spent 27 years at Koch Industries. He rose to become the manager of all the Koch gaugers buying oil in four states.

The company used the Koch method with virtually all its customers. In the 1980's alone, Koch records show those so-called adjustments brought the company 300 million gallons of oil it never paid for. And it was pure profit.

Bill Koch says that profits from that oil were a minimum of $230 million.

You really should go read the whole 60 Minutes story. It's quite charming.

To recap, Koch Industries:
  • Was hit "with a 97-count indictment for covering up the discharge of more than 15 times the legal limit of benzene, a carcinogen."
  • Was hit "with the largest civil penalty in the history of the federal Clean Water Act: a $30 million fine."
  • "Spilled over 3 million gallons of crude oil in six states."
  • Was targeted in an EPA complaint for "more than 300 oil spills, some poisoning fisheries and drinking water."
  • Had a jury find in December 1999 "that Koch Industries did steal oil from the public and lied about its purchases – 24 thousand times."
  • Potentially stole oil worth a minimum of $230 million
  • Donated $10,000 to Mike Rogers during the 2006 campaign season, $1,000 during the 2004 cycle, and $1,000 during 2002.
Remember, folks – when Mike Rogers says he works "for you," and when he questions the science behind global warming, keep in mind that he also works for a few sleazy corporations, like Koch Industries.

Check back in the coming weeks for more updates in this continuing series.

Additional Resources: Have A Koch & A Smile, EPA complaint against Koch Industries, Major GOP Donor Receives Federal Oil Contract, Another Oily Tie That Binds

Spitting out the Kool-Aid

Well, well, well. It would appear that Mr. Rogers' in-house paper, the Press & Argus, is once again following his lead and backing away from its previous position that the Iraq War is both necessary and successful.

In his morning's editorial, "War critics may be ultimate patriots," Rich Perlberg presented the earth-shaking idea that it's OK to dissent. In fact,
Too often, those who support the president have found it too easy to disparage the loyalty, rather than the arguments, of those who question the war's premise or its success.
Rogers himself has suggested in the past that war critics in Congress are possibly aiding the enemy.
According to the editorial, Rogers didn't back away from this stance:
"Words matter," he said.
Yet the paper doesn't push Rogers on this contradiction. Clarify it for us, Mr. Perlberg: does Rogers think he's "possibly aiding the enemy" now? If not, what's changed?

It's not clear that the paper is accepting any responsibility for its earlier editorial stance in support of the war, either. Does Mr. Perlberg indeed think that the media has failed to ask tough questions?

If so, does he plan to start now?

Rogers decides pollution is bad but there is no such thing as global warming

Apparently Mike Rogers has added scientist to his long and growing list of expertise and subject matter expert.

In a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on the special slide show on Al Gore’s Academy Award nominated movie "Inconvenient Truth" making an appearance in Republican-Livingston County on March 10 in Brighton, Rogers said pollution is bad, but the 400 scientists from 113 nations who say humans are causing global warming do not know what they are talking about. If pollution is bad, then how is it bad, Professor Rogers?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released an authoritative and disturbingly scientific report in Paris a few weeks ago that said global warming is “very likely” caused by mankind and that climate change will continue for centuries even if heat-trapping gases are reduced. It was the strongest language ever used by the panel. The document was a collaboration of hundreds of scientists and government officials, and it was approved by 113 nations, including the United States.

Evidence is mounting every day, and more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that humans are causing climate change. The words “very likely" means they agree that there is a 90 percent chance that global warming is caused by humans. The report issued in 2001, said global warming was "likely" caused by human activity. What will it take to convince Mike Rogers; the disappearance the Alpine glaciers?

Just a few days after the IPCC report came out, 45 nations answered France's call for a new environmental body to slow inevitable global warming and protect the planet. However, the world's heavyweight polluter, the United States, and booming nations on the same path as the U.S. — China and India - declined. Even though the U.S. agrees humans are causing global warming, they do not want to do anything to address it.

To show you the level of misinformation, lies and the political pressure that is trying to force scientists to alter their findings that global warming is occurring the article offers up one fountain of right wing propaganda: Dan Wholihan, who runs the Republican Michigander blog. Anyone who has ever read this guy’s misinformation knows he would not believe man landed on the moon if a Republican told him it never happened. He says Gore “…has an agenda and he wants to implement his agenda.” Of course he does, and so do the millions of other concerned people all across the world that care about the planet and do not want to see it disappear or be fouled.

Gore personally trained some 1,000 presenters last year in Nashville who are traveling across the country with copies of his 330-slide climate slide show customized to the state the presentation is held in. The unpaid volunteers are setting up projectors in living rooms, church sanctuaries and VFW halls to show the presentation.

Dr. Kathryn Savoie, environmental program director with the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), will present the slide show at 2 p.m. March 10 at the Brighton Education Center, 125 S. Church St., located just a couple of blocks south of downtown Brighton and about a quarter mile from the I-96 Spencer Road Exit.

Friday, February 23, 2007

'Congress Decides' Event Goes Well, Despite the Ducking of Rogers' Staff

With a crowd of 20+ people, Thursday's sponsored event at Mr. Rogers' Lansing office went quite well. Despite a blustery wind, the event received quite a bit of public support from passing motorists in the forms of honks and thumbs up to our signs that read "Bring U.S. Troops Home from Iraq Now".

We peacefully gathered outside, and filed in as we presented our signed letters from many of Mr. Rogers' constituents to his front office personnel.

Missing in action? Mr. Rogers' Michigan Director of Outreach, Tony Baltimore, who was observed ducking out the back entrance as we began to gather. I'm sure he had much more important outreach duties to attend to then a group of constituents who were dropping by the office. *snark*

Further outreach events are in the planning stages directed towards Mr. Rogers, and we hope you'll stay tuned and pitch in!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rogers accepts money from suspected terrorist

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is one of 22 Republican lawmakers – and one of three Michigan lawmakers - who has taken money from suspected terrorist financer Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

When are you going give the tainted money back, Mr. Rogers?

According to Reuters, Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari - AKA Michael Mixon - a New York businessman, was indicted on terrorism charges on Friday, accused of transferring $152,000 to fund the purchase of equipment for use in a militant training camp in Afghanistan. He was arrested Thursday and charged with financing terrorism and with money laundering for accepting an unspecified payment to secretly transfer $152,000 for equipment including night-vision goggles in the second half of 2006, said an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Alishtari, 53, a U.S., citizen born in the United States.

Remember Afghanistan? That’s where the actual 9/11 terrorist plot that killed thousands of Americans was actually hatched, supported and nurtured

According to the Boston Herald, from April 2002 until August 2004, Alishtari gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and

Alishtari’s resume says that in 2003 he was named a National Republican Senatorial Committee ”Inner Circle Member for Life” and was appointed to the NRCC’s ”White House Business Advisory Committee.” The resume also says Alishtari was named the NRCC’s New York state businessman of the year in 2002 and 2003.

It seems ironic that Republicans call anyone who does not support Bush’s failed polices in the Iraq civil war occupation a terrorist and a traitor, yet the Republicans actually accept money from terrorists and refuse to give it back.

Rogers joins fellow Republicans Joe Knollenberg and Thaddeus McCotter in accepting the blood money.

Don't take our word for it

Though it's hard for us folks in the 'Hood to believe, Mike Rogers isn't the only eclair-spined member of Congress who opposed the escalation but voted against the resolution last week.

At All You Need to Know, a very snappy blog, there's a great post entitled Lemming Out of Here! Here's my favorite part:

This list of members of Congress is actually a list of cowards. Good, smart people who publicly criticized President Bush's escalation strategy prior to voting on it, but when the time came to make a decision decided to support it anyhow because that was the party line - essentially telling the American people that the solidarity of their political party is more important than a policy they don't agree with. They sure put the "I" in "Integrity," don't they?

A similar post was found on

Take Action Today in Lansing

There's lots of things in Michigan and Lansing that we all need to fight for, but as a country, we need to stand up to those who aren't looking out for our troops best interests.

I hope you'll consider taking a half-hour out of your lunch break today to do something to protect our troops from their own worst enemy, our President.

Consider joining me at noon at Mike Rogers' office to personally deliver letters from tens of thousands of Michigan's residents calling for a stop to the troop escalation in Iraq. From MoveOn -

On Thursday, MoveOn members are gathering outside hundreds of congressional offices to keep the pressure on Congress to block the escalation. We'll be holding signs and listening to compelling speakers, and we've invited the media.

We want to make sure we have a good-sized group from your district.

Can you join us at a "Congress Decides" letter delivery on Thursday around lunchtime in Lansing?

Where:Mike Rogers office on Michigan (between Holmes and Ferguson) Lansing
When: Thursday, Feb 22 2007, 12:00 PM
RSVP: MoveOn

A majority of those in Congress oppose the president's plan to escalate the war. Now we have to make sure they stop him. In a few weeks Congress will have to decide how far they're willing to go to block the escalation.

They're home for recess and this is our best opportunity to influence what they do when they return to Washington. They need to know that we're not going to rest until they start bringing our troops home.

The more of us who participate on Thursday, the louder our message will be. If we keep the pressure on now, we can make sure Congress does the right thing by blocking the escalation and taking steps to bring our troops home.

Can you join us on Thursday to tell Congress, You're the decider, you must stop the escalation?

Rep. Jack Murtha—who's been leading the fight to stop the escalation—recently told MoveOn members, "The time to act is now...We can get this done. We can bring our troops home."

Here in the 8th District we have an even bigger motivating factor, Mike Rogers' refusal to do what's right for the troops. As we've seen time and time again here at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Mike's not in the game of representing anyone else's interests besides his own extreme views.

We might not be able to bring them home tomorrow, but as our closest allies start to pull out there's no reason we should be putting any more troops at risk.

Our troops are the people that voluntarily risk everything to ensure our country stays great. Don't they deserve us fighting for them?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Deja Mike

Sad to say, Mr. Rogers' plan to micromanage U.S. troop deployments in Iraq hasn't received the plaudits he thought it deserved. Undaunted, he rolled out his next "new" idea in this morning's Press & Argus. The story, "Lawmaker rolls out boost for Big Three," describes his plan for $20 billion in loan guarantees for R&D in alternative-fuel vehicles.

This is a bit of deja vu, since Mr. Rogers gave this a shot last year, too. Actually, it's deja vu squared, since he came up with this plan about a month after Congressional challenger Jim Marcinkowski did.

[There was one original aspect to Rogers' 2006 plan: foreign automakers also would be eligible for the loan guarantees. He doesn't really like to talk about that part... ]

The last time Mr. Rogers touted his plan to save the auto industry, he also had this comment on the Big Three's difficulties in getting in to see President Bush:
"I have always been a little bit amazed at the lack of prowess of the Big Three in Congress."

Wonder what he'll be for -- or against -- next?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

He's dancing as fast as he can

Mr. Rogers' remarks during this week's debate on the Iraq resolution were a virtuoso performance of tap dancing.

Rogers is against the proposed troop surge --

In a rare break from President George W. Bush, Rogers' nonbinding resolution states that Congress disagrees with the administration's troop surge

... tappity-tap-tap...

but he's also against the resolution because "it doesn't bring one soldier home."

No, wait, he's against it because "Its clear purpose is to divide those of us in this chamber ... This resolution does nothing to bring members together."


But isn't this the same Mike Rogers who earlier this month only included his GOP Intel committee colleagues in discussions of his alternative resolution?

Bonus irony points go to the Free Press for its article on how the Michigan Congressional delegation would be voting on the resolution. The sidebar listed 7 reps as "Supporters of resolution," 7 reps as "Opponents" and one with his own special category: "With another solution."

Hey, Mike's a special guy. He deserves his own category. And boy, can he dance!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Enough Already

OK! Enough already!

We have had enough of the political rhetoric, half measures, hairsplitting and the duck and weave of our national elected leaders. Discussion about who has the right plan, or any plan for Iraq have become quite irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because there are only three possible positions and everyone has already chosen one of them.

Position A: “The Last Stand.” Increase U.S. troops levels in Iraq to 300,000 to 400,000 as the Pentagon brass originally said was required after the fall of Saddam Hussein. If Iraq is the critical fight against world-wide terrorism and must be won at all costs, then let’s be honest and consistent and demand that we send more troops, a lot more troops. If the U.S. does not have sufficient troops or equipment, then call for a draft. To describe the situation as some kind of a “last stand” and not call for a military draft is disingenuous. So do it! Take the “tough guy” position, lose the rhetoric and advocate for the reality of a major increase in troops and a possible draft. If you can’t do that then please, spare me the rhetoric. You’re not really a tough guy after all.

Position B: Withdrawal. Whether it’s gradual, subject to a timeline or with a date certain, it’s still a withdrawal. To use the “w” word will make you subject to attack as being weak and you then become responsible for the aftermath. With the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s over the course of the last few years, the difference between being responsible for a bloody aftermath and a bloody present may ultimately be relative, just a matter of time.

Position C: Status Quo. If you would like to advocate for a “win at all costs” but the honesty of a serious troop increase and a military draft makes you queasy, or your stomach cramps at the thought of looking weak by using the “w” word, then this is the option for you. It’s also the only remaining option. Whether troop levels increase by 20,000, remain the same, or decrease by 20,000, it is in fact the position of the status quo. 20,000 troops either way will have no long lasting effect. Current troop levels are apparently insufficient to win, but enough not to suffer an immediate loss. With just enough troops not to affect an outcome, they become simply “bait” to fight whoever decides to show up: al Qaida terrorists, Sunni insurgents, Shia militiamen, Kurdish separatists. If the “bait” theory sounds a bit cynical to you, it is consistent with the oft-repeated statements from administration officials that “it’s better to fight them over there than over here.” Not enough to win but enough not to lose - one helluva way to claim to be “supportjng the troops.” For politicians it’s the compromise position, which is to say it’s no position at all. For the taxpayer, it’s a financial black hole. Most importantly, for our troops it’s a slow unending meat-grinder.

So, what’s your position?

Jim Marcinkowksi February 16, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Rogers turns somersault in biggest flip-flop in recent memory

The latest position Mike Rogers is taking on the Iraq occupation illustrates one of two things: President Bush’s approval ratings are so low that Rogers will no longer be an apologist for the occupation, or he is the biggest flip-flopper ever.

In a floor speech on the debate over the non-binding resolution opposing the escalation of the Iraq occupation, Rogers said he will vote against the resolution and introduce one that suggests reassigning some troops within Iraq to the Anbar province to combat al-Qaida forces; giving Iraqi forces the primary responsibility for quelling sectarian violence in Baghdad; reopening state-run factories that were closed; and clarifying U.S. forces' rules of engagement.

In the understatement of the year, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus said this about the resolution, “In a rare break from President George W. Bush, Rogers' nonbonding resolution states that Congress disagrees with the administration's troop surge — just as the Democrats' resolution does.”

Is this the same guy who was the biggest Bush cheerleader who said just last summer that anyone who did not support Bush’s failed Iraq polices was a terrorist and an insurgent. Now he’s breaking ranks with Bush. I don’t know if that says more about Bush’s policies or Rogers flip-flopping.

It would be nice if he finally saw the light like more and more Americans are everyday, but obviously that’s not the case because he’s not joining members of the Republic Party and endorsing the Iraq resolution.

There were a few things interesting in the speech, but other than that it sounded like a typical Rogers’s stump speech.

He said there were admittedly mistakes, such as not enough troops when the invasion bean and disbanding Iraq forces right after the occupation began. How about we never should have invaded a sovereign country in the first place?

He used his standard of ploy of someone coming up to him and tearfully telling him his position is the best one. In this case it was an unnamed wounded solider who wanted his leg amputated so he could regain the full range of motion in order to pass the Army physical fitness test so he could go back to Iraq. He was willing to lose a leg to go back because he supported the mission so much. With that kind of dedication it makes you wonder why they have a backdoor draft and involuntary extend tours and use other stopgap measures to keep troops in country.

This is a typical Rogers emotional speech, but these people are never identified or ever named. I think if a man were that dedicated I would remember his name and tell as many people who would listen about his determination and courage.

This reminds me of a story he told in a speech last summer at a chamber of commerce luncheon in Howell about how an undercover CIA agent working in Afghanistan who supported the mission so much that he came up to Rogers and told him so, just like the unnamed solider. He so wanted to tell Rogers this he was willing to blow his cover, and he also asked him to telephone home for him. The only problem was his opponent in the Congressional race was a former CIA agent and knew that would never happen.

Calling Congressman Rogers

Phone call to the D.C. office of Congressman Mike Rogers this afternoon.

"Congressman Mike Rogers office," says a woman's voice.

"Hello," I say, "I'm calling because I want Congressman Rogers to support the Democrats' resolution condemning President Bush's escalation in Iraq. I don't understand why he's equivocating. He says he's against Bush's strategy but yet he won't vote for the resolution condemning the strategy. I don't understand his position."

"Can I have your name and address?"

I give her my name and address. When she's done she says, "I'll forward your concerns to the Congressman and he'll be in contact with you about his position." Click.

I am assuming future contact about his position on his opposition to the resolution that opposes the escalation/surge strategy he also opposes will take place through the mail. Now that I write it out, it sounds like he opposes himself. Not sure how that works. Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing him clarify his complicated position on a simple resolution.

For those of you that want to tell the Congressman how you think he ought to vote on this resolution, call 202-225-4872.

Meanwhile, I'll be checking my mailbox for that clarification, Congressman.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Adventures of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS Adventure No.1: The Expert Military Tactician

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS! Yes, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS! A mild-mannered, chisel-jawed congressman; raised by a secret Chamber on a nearby planet and returned to mid-Michigan as a young child; afforded earthly protection by Gannett and nurtured by the Press-Argus; self-styled super-hero to the working family! He’s faster than a sleight-of-hand magician with ADD, able to change colors so fast as to make a chameleon blush, more powerful than a corporate PAC, able to control the press with a single release! Yes, it’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, the unabashed symbol for spin, injustice and the multi-national corporate way!

And now on to our hero’s latest adventure….

It was a somber Tuesday morning deep below the White House in the Situation Room. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon military brass predicted that between 300,000 and 400,000 troops would be needed to control the aftermath of removing Saddam Hussein. The president and vice-president, with cheerleader Don Rumsfield completing the unparalleled circle of arrogance, ignored the professionals and decided to invade on the cheap. Now, some four years later, with the “not really a civil war” raging in Iraq and the recent Democratic takeover of Congress, the White House inner circle was in trouble.

They couldn’t announce any kind of withdrawal, since it would be perceived as an admission of error and everyone in the administration knew that they were never wrong. The war was increasingly unpopular; even the old GOP warhorses in Congress were turning against the President. The mood in the Situation Room was dark indeed. The Administration was nearing rock bottom. What to do? Sighing, the President knew he could no longer rely on Dick Cheney for guidance. The ongoing trial of Cheney’s friend and confidante Scooter Libby had brought the Veep close to the breaking point. Clearly off his medication, Cheney sat near the large television screens in the corner repeating, “I am the Vice-President of the United States and I don’t have to answer your question. Would you like to go hunting?”

“Dick,” the President said, “we have no choice. It’s time to make the call.” He reached for the hotline and heard a calm, confident voice with a gee-whiz accent saying, “You can always count on me, Mr. President. I’ll be right over.”

Hanging up the shiny red phone, The Captain felt a swell of pride at being called to serve again. He rushed out of his congressional office and arrived unnoticed at the loading docks. Slipping into a small janitorial closet, he emerged seconds later, red cape waving, red and white Joe Boxers adorning his ample midsection. He’d had to give up the tighty-whities a few years back, since he, like most middle-aged K Street beneficiaries, had to contend with the spreading waistline that resulted from the pounds of filet, lobster and other lobbyist-sponsored treats. Gosh, he thought sadly, why can’t all those free lunches be calorie-free, too?

The Captain had sensed the president’s fear, and knew just what to do. After all, The Captain was an Expert in All Things. It was his special gift, the result of his upbringing on the secret planet. The Chamber had spent years honing his ability to respond instantly, with a confident tone and a small-town grin, as an expert on any topic at all. Defense policy, football, currency manipulation, medicine, agriculture, chemistry – it didn’t matter what the subject was. The Captain knew that with his special skill, his fact-free statements would be reported without any pesky questions.

The uninitiated, especially the media, saw him only as being “a great politician,” but he and The Chamber knew better. How could it be explained otherwise? The press and all the media were not capable of understanding. Their attention span lasted only as long as the last edition or yesterday’s news. It was actually easier this way. Keep it simple. They could always be relied on to not ask the real questions. And they could certainly be relied upon not to ask how he came to be an expert in so many, even very complex areas.

Back in the Situation Room, the president’s tension began to ease. He knew that he could rely on The Captain. A few years ago, as the situation in Iraq was just beginning to deteriorate, The Captain helpfully declared that the streets of Bagdad were as safe as those in any major American city! And that Iraq was going to be a virtual “gold rush” for American business! Neither statement was true, but the press didn’t notice. And they certainly didn’t remember it when reality later contradicted The Captain. The president smiled, remembering The Captain’s quick responses during the recent mid-term elections, when the party was in trouble. The Captain had proclaimed for all to hear that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq was going very well, and the media nay-sayers could safely be ignored. After all, The Captain was a military expert.

The president’s smile grew into his trademark smirk as he recalled a report on The Captain’s daring triple-expert morph. At a local Chamber of Commerce meeting in mid-Michigan, The Captain first transformed himself from an aw-shucks local boy to an ambassador-at-large, bravely wading into the complex conflicts of the Afghan-Pakistan border to negotiate agreements with local tribes. Then he became a secret agent, carrying a secret message from a CIA officer secretly working in Afghanistan back to the officer’s family in the U.S. He rounded off this dazzling display by becoming a world historian with a map of Europe and Asia illustrating al-Qaeda’s dastardly plan to take over a third of the known world. The audience shivered with fear as he described how the world’s supply of Chianti would be drastically affected with al-Qaeda’s takeover of Italy. They nodded somberly as he told them how their Riviera vacations would be disrupted by radical mullahs swarming into France. Mesmerized, the audience ate it up. The Captain is an expert, they told themselves, so it must be true! Of course, the basic facts he’d presented wouldn’t have survived the scrutiny of an eighth-grade geography student, but once again The Captain’s expertise left no room for doubt. No one asked how a CIA officer could conceivably not be in direct communication with Washington. No one asked how al-Qaeda would unite Islam and take over the world, even though it was plain that Sunnis and Shias were increasingly killing one another. All were under the spell of The Captain and his expertise.

Nodding to himself, the president realized that he really didn’t know how The Captain could so convincingly transform himself into an ambassador, secret agent, or world historian. All he knew was that it worked. And more importantly, he needed The Captain once again.

Cape and boxers swirling in the breeze, The Captain arrived in the Situation Room. He found the leader of the free world seated at the head of a large table, wearing his usual smirk. The President could relax, knowing that all would soon be well.

“So Captain, you know where we’re at. What do we do?” “Gee, Mr. President, it’s pretty darn simple” replied The Captain, completing his instantaneous transformation into an expert military tactician. “We need to rearrange the troops. Just move 4,000 of our troops from Bagdad out to Anbar province and turn the security situation in Bagdad over to the Iraqi army. That will eliminate the need for any escalation, um, I mean ‘surge’.”

The president looked puzzled. “But didn’t you say the streets of Bagdad were as safe as any of our major cities? Won’t it look like we are merely ‘rearranging the deck chairs’ on the Titanic?” “Mr. President,” replied The Captain soothingly, “that’s not how it will go. Look. The public is increasingly opposed to escalation, sorry, I mean ‘surge.’ We can’t afford to be seen screwing this up and not supporting the troops, so we can’t withdraw. And we can’t answer any real questions, so we just attack the questioner. Call them unpatriotic. Talk about how we have to all work together. Drop the shrill politics. The election is over. Work together for a solution. I mean, come on, sir -- has it ever NOT worked before? I’ll have my ventriloquist, um, assistant issue a press release and they’ll eat it up. No questions asked. And most importantly, they’ll look the other way and we’re off the hook. ”

And so it was done. Captain Underpants issued his press release and thereby saved the President. He was immediately lauded by the media for his insightfulness and military expertise, and the people once again proudly proclaimed throughout the land what a fine representative they had in Washington, D.C.



It's official: Mike Rogers approves of Bush's Iraq escalation

According to the Detroit News, Mike Rogers plans to vote against H. Con. Res 63, "Disapproving of the Decision of the President Announced on January 10, 2007, to Deploy More Than 20,000 Additional United States Combat Troops to Iraq."

So, Mike Rogers officially supports George Bush's Iraq War escalation, which at least 60% of Americans oppose. I can't say I'm surprised, but (to borrow a phrase from Dick DeVos) this is still very... disappointing.

Michigan has already lost 130 members of the US Armed Forces in Iraq. How many more have to die for a mistake, Rep. Rogers?

UPDATE: Well, Mike Rogers is already making excuses for a vote he won't cast until Friday. This just in from the Lansing State Journal...

Rogers, R-Brighton, spoke on the second of a three-day House debate on a non-binding Democratic resolution that says Congress "disapproves" of President Bush's decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to the Iraq war. Rogers said he wouldn't vote for the resolution because it was too simplistic to deal with the complexities in Iraq and didn't solve any problems.

Too simplistic? Since when is anything in Congress too simple? Would he prefer the resolution to be more complicated in the way its language disapproves of Bush's escalation? I think the two-sentence resolution is pretty damn clear:

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 2 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

If Mike Rogers doesn't support the Iraq escalation (as he claims), then he should be man enough to vote for this resolution on Friday. This is a vote we won't soon forget.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Americans want Congress to stop the escalation

From Gallup, via TPM:

PRINCETON, NJ -- The American public is more in favor of Congress passing legislation that would set caps on the number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq and a timetable for withdrawal of all troops than they are in favor of Congress passing a non-binding resolution expressing disfavor with the recently announced troop "surge," while 6 out of 10 Americans oppose the surge. A majority of Americans continue to say that U.S. military involvement in Iraq was a mistake. Many Americans say that their congressional representative's position on the war will be an important factor in their congressional vote next year, but most do not know what their representative's position on the troop surge is.

Overall, the Gallup poll finds that "the increase in U.S. troops in Iraq is opposed by a 60% to 38% margin."

Similarly, a CBS News poll finds that 45% of Americans want Congress to block funding for more troops, and another 8% want to block all funding for the war.

A poll in USA Today shows that 63% of Americans want all troops home by the end of 2008.

While Mike Rogers hasn't explicity stated his opposition to Bush's escalation, he has offered his own alternative plan for success in Iraq. Of course, Congress will not be debating the merits of Rep. Rogers' plan for Iraq this week. Instead, they will be debating the democrats' straightforward resolution:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That—

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and
(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 2 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Each member of the House will be allotted five minutes to voice their opinons on this matter. We look forward to hearing what Mike Rogers has to say, and are anxious to see how he chooses to vote.

Just remember, as the Gallup poll pointed out:

Many Americans say that their congressional representative's position on the war will be an important factor in their congressional vote next year

We have long memories.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Rogers' "New Ideas" for Iraq

In this morning's Press & Argus, Mike Rogers gives the details on his two trips to the White House to pitch his "new idea" to Bush:

Send 4,000 American troops from other parts of Iraq to the Anbar province to fight al-Qaida forces, and at the same time, pull back operations in Baghdad to allow Iraqi forces to patrol the streets and try to shut down the sectarian violence there.

An interesting idea, but it's pretty clear that Iraqi forces can't handle the violence that seems to escalate daily. Last week, Iraqi forces in Najaf -- the first province to receive the symbolic handover of security responsibility from U.S. troops -- had to be rescued by U.S. air and ground support when they were overpowered by a shadowy group of extremists in the city of Najaf. A NYT editorial gave this summary: their first major battle, the Iraqis had to be bailed out by American air and ground forces. Hundreds of armed zealots had managed to set up a fortified encampment, complete with tunnels, trenches, blockades, 40 heavy machine guns and at least two antiaircraft weapons.


The Iraqis’ next mistake was sending only one army battalion and some police to raid this armed camp after its belated discovery. Government forces were quickly surrounded and called in American air support. Still pinned down, the Iraqis had to summon American ground support as well before they could advance on the camp.

This less-than-impressive performance by a supposedly top-of-the-line Iraqi Army division has grave implications for President Bush’s new Baghdad security drive, in which an additional 17,000 or so American troops are supposed to work in tandem with a much larger Iraqi force.

As a member of the House Intelligence committee, Rogers is well aware of what
happened in the "showcase" province of Najaf last week. It's pretty clear that
Iraqi troops are nowhere near ready "to patrol the streets and shut down the sectarian violence there," as Rogers would have them do.

Ignoring the reality on the ground is bad enough, but Rogers adds insult to ignorance by trotting off to the White House with his GOP Intel committee pals -- rather than working through the committee -- then turns around to wag his finger and say

Drop the shrill politics. The election is over. Work together for a solution.

Actually, that's good advice. Mr. Rogers should take it and stop playing politics with American lives.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Rogers pits auto industry against former partner

A recent decision by the International Trade Commission to remove tariffs on foreign galvanized steel is expected to help the U.S. Auto industry, but it will deal a devastating blow to its former partner, the U.S. Steel industry.

Northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are already suffering from the downturn in the steel industry, and the concession to its largest and most reliable customer is expected to devastate the region and lead to even more massive layoffs and job losses. So much for the Republican myth of the “one state recession.” Another GOP myth bites the dust.

An excellent report by the TV station WTOV in Steubenville, Ohio called “Steel vs. Wheels” really illustrated the problem of two former partners experiencing tough times. The report also features interviews with U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, who basically blames the steel industry for not being able to compete with slave wages in China, the Philippines and other Third Worlds Countries.

As expected, automotive workers and their federal representatives cheered the ITC decision.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a four-term Republican who represents Lansing, the capital of the Big 3 Automakers home state of Michigan, said, "If you're going to have a robust steel producing industry, you have to have a robust steel consuming industry."
Rep. Rogers said Michigan has hemorrhaged jobs – tens of thousands of jobs – in recent years because of slumps in the domestic auto industry. The Congressman said the ruling will allow more automakers to move, or move back, to the U.S.
"When the tariffs were in place, automakers moved to foreign countries to produce their parts. Why? Because the steel was cheaper there," Rep. Rogers said. "Now those companies can move back to Michigan and still get their steel."
Rep. Rogers and his Georgia colleague, Republican Congressman Tom Price, both said the steel industry is partly to blame for its own difficulties.

Automakers and other industries say they need help with providing health care, and the cost of providing health care that foreign manufacturers have government help with adds as much or more to the price of the car than buying steel with a protective tariff does.

Perhaps the federal government, the Bush Administration and Rogers should be doing something that helps all U.S. manufacturers instead of pitting one against the other and picking winners and losers.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Compare and Contrast

I'm typing this as I listen to Diane Rehm interview Republican pollster Frank Luntz about his new book. [It's taking a while, since I keep stopping to yell at the radio.] Quite frankly, I'm torn between being appalled at this gleefully manipulative individual, and a grudging admiration for his ability to make Niccolo Machiavelli look as selfless as Mother Teresa...

OK, on to the actual post:

A few weeks ago, Congress did the responsible thing (finally), and rolled back the $14.5 billion worth of tax-break goodies for the oil and gas corporations. No big surprise that Mike Rogers voted against it, giving full-throated warnings that taking away the subsidies will hurt U.S. national security:
"If you care about our children, stop sending the money to (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez," Rogers said.

Well, Mahmoud and Hugo must be sharing the wealth because today's NYT noted that Exxon Mobil made record profits in 2006:

Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported profit of $10.3 billion in the fourth quarter. That represented a decline of 4.3 percent from its record profit in the fourth quarter of 2005 and was Exxon’s first quarterly decline in almost three years.

But for the year, Exxon’s profit rose 9 percent from 2005 results to a record of $39.5 billion, the largest annual profit ever for an American company.

Oil prices for the quarter ranged between $55 and $63 a barrel, averaging just shy of $60. That represented a 15 percent decline from the third quarter and was less than 1 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2005. Shell reported a profit $5.28 billion, a 21 percent rise from the fourth quarter of 2005. Shell’s annual income of $25.4 billion was also a record.

Production rose 4.1 percent to 3.65 million barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter.

This gap between Rogers' grasp of global markets and economic reality was something my grandfather would have called "damnfoolery." A more elegant term might be cognitive dissonance. Wikipedia gives a pithy summary of this state, which on closer examination sounds an awful lot like the standard Republican response to policies they don't like:

This leads some people who feel dissonance to seek information that will reduce dissonance and avoid information that will increase dissonance. People who are involuntarily exposed to information that increases dissonance are likely to discount that information, either by ignoring it, misinterpreting it, or denying it.

Seems as though Mr. Rogers is in for some rather trying times.