Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Adam Liptak reports in the N.Y. Times (7/16/07) that welfare recipients and applicants in San Diego are subject to unannounced visits and searches to assure that they are not defrauding the government. In other words, those "who want public benefits must give up their privacy", and apparently that means their rights under the Fourth Amendment regarding searches and seizures. Wow, what a great idea!

If that is the law and I were a law enforcement officer, I would be so ecstatic I wouldn't know where to begin. First, I think I would be tempted to bust into the offices of the defense contractors to see what evidence I could find of over-billing. But wait, maybe barge into those oil companies with their large subsidies to see whether or not there is any evidence of price fixing. But hold on, what about the cigarette companies and their tobacco subsidies and the possibility of gazing at those scientific reports they have and comparing them with what they have been saying for years to the public about their products.

The welfare investigators who happen to come across evidence of other crimes pass that information on to the appropriate law enforcement agency. So if any of the above corporate searches don't hit their original targets, maybe we can still find some tax evasion or bribes just by rummaging through their books in the same way the welfare investigators rummage through drawers looking for men's underwear.

However, the corporations receiving tax benefits or subsidies from the government should have the same opt-out options as the welfare recipients. Mr. Liptak points out that "the majority in a divided three-judge panel indicated "that people are free to opt out - by giving up their welfare benefits." In other words, welfare recipients (as in one of those game shows) can keep the money and give up their Fourth Amendment rights, or keep the rights and starve --both themselves and their families. Sounds fair to me.

So, corporations should have the same privilege. They can keep their subsidies, their tax breaks, their government contracts as long as they give up their Fourth Amendment rights, or they can retain those rights and give up the benefits. Right!

The purpose of these unannounced searches is laudable---to root out welfare fraud. But welfare fraud is a crime, and merely because it is "welfare" should not make the Bill of Rights inapplicable. When the poverty line was established it was not meant to provide that those who fall below it surrender their constitutional rights.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


In view of the current revelations regarding the administration's suppression and control of the Surgeon General, it is apparent that no branch of the government has escaped politicization. I envision the government's restroom attendants lined up every morning at attention, mops on their shoulders, pails at their sides and hands on their hearts reciting the "Bushie" loyalty pledge.

In respect to both the U.S. Attorneys and the Surgeon General, the President's press secretary has said that the President should be able to carry out his own policies. No one can quarrel with that statement, except when those policies further partisan interests rather than the public interest. The administration can properly establish priorities for United States Attorneys in focusing on particular types of criminal activities, but it cannot and should not seek to use the criminal justice system to accomplish political gains or to protect political allies.

It can encourage and even direct the Surgeon General to focus on particular scientific and medical areas, but it cannot and should not attempt to conceal reports and information which would serve the public interest. The White House has chosen to deny the accusations of Dr. Carmona that he was directed not to speak about stem cell research, sex education and prison health care and that a report on the dangers of second hand smoke was "watered down" and delayed. (NYTimes 7/11/07) But denials by this administration of any wrongdoing or falsity are so automatic that it is fair to treat them simply as admissions. One only need ask what possible motive could Dr. Carmona have for fabricating all of these stories?

But nothing better symbolizes the priorities of the current administration than its efforts to discourage support for the Special Olympics solely because of its historic ties to the dreaded Kennedy clan. Dr. Carmona was asked by a senior official: "Why would you want to help those people?" By those people, he, of course, meant the Kennedys, but in turn, the administration was willing to forgo support of an event and organization that gives encouragement and aid to thousands of special children. But for an administration that would rather see people die than allow stem cell research, it should come as no surprise in a choice between hurting a cause sponsored by the Kennedys or helping that worthy cause because of the good that it does, that they would pick the former over the latter. Politics has infected every corner of this administration, and apparently even the Surgeon General, the country's chief doctor, has suffered from its effects.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Everything that could possibly be said about the commutation of "Scooter" Libby's sentence has been said. Whether or not one accepts the reasons for the President's actions, it is the hypocrisy of those who support it and also sought the impeachment of President Clinton that I find so irksome. President Clinton lied in a civil proceeding in an effort to conceal a sexual relationship. True, his conduct and its concealment demeaned the presidency, but it had no relationship whatsoever to the conduct of his office or his administration. Nonetheless, those seeking impeachment were intent upon causing the President of the United States to be removed from office, humiliated and embarrassed, and the nation disgraced in the process.

Compare that with the subject matter of Mr. Libby's conduct in a criminal investigation and what it was he was trying to conceal. The administration sought to discredit a critic of its justification for the war against Iraq; was willing to use secret information to do so, and as a result outed a CIA agent and endangered other operatives as well as our national security. The cover-up involved an outrageous abuse of power to silence opposition to the war and exposed a willingness to take any action to accomplish it, even if illegal.

The crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice are serious and in these two cases may be the same on their face, but Mr. Clinton's lie was to avoid causing him and his family embarrassment. The lies of the Bush administration brought us to war, killing and wounding thousands of our own soldiers and innocent citizens of Iraq, brought about world hatred against us, the loss of the respect of our allies and a government, apparently so intent in spreading democracy abroad, that it has forgotten to practice it here at home.

The irony is summed up by the fact that no one has been indicted or punished for the outing of Valerie Plame, despite President Bush's assurances that he would do so. The sentence of the one person charged and convicted of covering up the underlying crime has been commuted, and the only person imprisoned as a result, was a newspaper reporter for her stand in protecting the First Amendment.