Monday, June 25, 2007


Barton Gellman and Jo Becker are writing an amazing assessment of Dick Cheney in the Washington Post. Chapter one appeared on Sunday and chapter two today. This is a must-read effort, the sort of journalism this country has desperately needed for the last six years. Cheney is, if you can believe it, far more insidious than you ever dreamed. If this were a just world, he'd be on trial for war crimes, violation of the U. S. Constitution, advocating torture, to name only a few of the most obvious of his malefactions. The man is truly evil, and if Congress doesn't do something about him and his lackeys (among whom you can count the current President), there's little point in dithering about which candidate you support in 2008.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What Will It Take?

In his characteristically incisive, trenchant fashion, Frank Rich in today's New York Times (subscription required) warns us to be on the lookout for more Bush-Cheney lies about the "surge" in Iraq and any successes claimed for it. For weeks, we've been told that by September there will be signs of progress as the U.S. tries to stabilize the violent neighborhoods of Baghdad and in the provinces, prop up the teetering Maliki government, and train the Iraqi army. But General Petraeus and the other talking heads who defend the Bush-Cheney occupation of Iraq are already starting to play down the September deadline. They know what we know: that the occupation of Iraq is a disaster, a cauldron of civil war and mayhem, and that Bush and Cheney, unless forcefully opposed by Congress, will try to "stay the course" until they hand this mess over to whoever wins the 2008 presidential election. The "surge" cannot change the realities of chaos, sectarian violence, and utter horror brought on by the Bush-Cheney invasion and occupation of Iraq. How many more American troops will die for this insanity? How many Iraqis?

The only hope for minimizing further loss of life and further deterioration (if that's even possible) of the standing of the United States in the world community is for the Congress to say, Enough! The country now knows that it was misled and terrorized into this debacle. We know that the Bush-Cheney "war on terror" has practically nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. And we won't be fooled when the Bush-Cheney thugs claim that the future of civilization itself depends on extending this occupation into the endless future. The Congressional leadership needs to listen to the people who elected the 110th Congress. We want this occupation to end. Congressmen and -women (are you listening, Candice Miller?) who ignore their constituents will be looking for work come January 2009.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


At 2300 Krafft Road, in Fort Gratiot, you can see a huge construction project on the north side of the road, just east of where a service road heads to the Mercy Hospital clinic.

It's a common-sense truth of environmentalism that rehabbing old structures is better for the environment than putting up new buildings. There are perfectly useful empty buildings in downtown Port Huron and up and down Pine Grove, all with plenty of room for parking. Instead of retrofitting one of these, the local SSA opted to destroy open space and put a parking lot next to a wetland. A few months ago, a caller to TalkBack aptly recommended the old Sperry department store building for a new SSA office. Or how about the space vacated by Farmer Jack? Either of these would have been a great idea, but a government in hock to developers cannot see obvious good sense.

The new site will be harder to reach for many of the people who need to conduct business with the SSA. The old site was accessible from much of the area via one bus ride. Now people will need to catch a bus downtown and then transfer to another. In the January 17, 2007, Times-Herald, David Wilkinson, spokesman for the General Services Administration, the government's real-estate division, is quoted, "I don't expect it's going to be difficult for people to get out there." That's true only for people who drive their own car and don't worry about the price of gasoline. What about the elderly or disabled who can't drive? It's coldly indifferent to our elderly and disabled not to see that the new site is less convenient than the old one.

This new facility is being constructed by West Second Street Associates, a private company based in Flint. It will receive $411,658 a year, for the duration of a ten-year lease, which will undoubtedly be extended. This firm has similar arrangements with the federal government for facilities in Flint, Detroit, Lansing, and Ann Arbor, among others, as well as sites in Illinois and Florida. Quite a nice little operation!

After this firm completed federal offices in Detroit and Lansing, it took the government to court and demanded cash for construction overruns (over $450,000) and higher monthly lease payments (see here). Will that pattern be repeated in Fort Gratiot? Don't forget, these are our tax dollars. We can apparently put up new buildings we don't need, destroying open space and lining the pockets of developers, but we can't hire enough immigration and customs agents to keep the traffic moving on the Blue Water Bridge. What we need in St. Clair County is jobs, not pork-barrel boondoggles; we especially don't need projects built by a contractor from outside the county.

One wonders who decided that the local SSA office needed new quarters and that the option of refitting an old building (for less money) was not on the table. What was the bidding process, if any? Does West Second Street Associates have a terrific record? Or does it have chummy relations with well-connected government officials?