30 May 2012
No Penalties for False Testimony to Congress? Corruption in America
9. . . .It is proper, however, here to transcribe a part of the 13th section of the act of congress of March 3, 1825, . . .
A more contemporary law dictionary states:[Internet: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/False+testimony. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. 1856]
perjury n. the crime of intentionally lying after being duly sworn (to tell the truth) by a notary public, court clerk or other official. This false statement may be made in testimony in court, administrative hearings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, as well as by signing or acknowledging a written legal document (such as affidavit, declaration under penalty of perjury, deed, license application, tax return) known to contain false information. Although a crime, prosecutions for perjury are rare, because a defendant will argue he/she merely made a mistake or misunderstood.
[Internet: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/False+testimony. Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. Copyright © 1981-2005 All Right reserved.
Propositions 28 and 29 on June 5th CA Ballot
14 May 2012
Another Trade Agreement for the Pacific Rim
The web site http://whitehouse.gov reveals a lot. For instance, under the Executive Office of the President (EOTP) there are 27 direct reports; i.e., although functionally overseen by the President's Chief of Staff, such an array of highly visible, virtually autonomous councils (Council of Economic Advisors, Domestic Policy Council, Office of the Vice President, Office of Communications, Office of the Residence, Office of the First Lady, the National Security Staff, etc.) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
[Comment: Interestingly, the National Security Advisor's office is in the White House, not in the EOTP. Seems like President Obama needs to hire an organizational consultant (me, for instance) to simplify the bureaucracy surrounding the President and Vice President.]
I find this reporting of the USTR directly to the Chief of Staff and the President worrisome and its location within the EOTP seems to reinforce the centralization of Executive power of an Imperial Presidency begun by Richard Nixon. [cf. blog entry of 9/5/2011 "Trying to Keep Washington Politics in Historical Perspective"]
When I look at the range of the USTR's portfolio, I truly question why this function is not part of the Commerce Department or the State Department. Some might argue that the USTR should report to the Treasury Secretary because of the role international finance plays in the multi-nation trade agreements. Reading the history of the USTR, however, I found that this role was created at the urging of Congress in 1963 and its last major reorganizations occurred in 1988 and 2000, both Republican administrations and Republican majorities in Congress.
I hope this background information helps the reader understand how NAFTA and other free trade agreements came into fruition, despite their effects on the economies of signatory nations. Using NAFTA as an example, the American consumer can buy fresh blueberries and other seasonal fruits all year round.
For me, this is particularly wonderful because, growing up in Michigan, out-of-season fruits and vegetables came out of cans or canning jars. The effort my grandmother, my mother and my aunt expended to can fresh elderberries was enormous, hot steamy water, long nylon strains and it lasted all day. All done in our kitchen. No air conditioning in the house, either. We did not have fresh strawberries on our winter shortcakes. Instead, the strawberries came from canning jars filled in season. Until I moved to California, I thought that there was only one lettuce: iceberg.
Most vegetables came from a can, unless there were fresh ones in our "Victory Garden." I like having the broad range of vegetables and fruit that currently exists; therefore, I am conflicted in my views about these major, market rearranging trade agreements.
US corporations have developed efficient supply chains from local growers in Chile to distributors for the major US grocery chains, such as Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons. If NAFTA were to expire, the same supply chains would be there, yet local farmers could decide to grow other crops for local markets. There would be no guarantee that US distributors would continue to purchase Chilean crops.
Unfortunately, so many local farmers in Latin and South America have decided to plant only one crop because it can be sold in the US. As a result, local farm markets have decreased the number of farmers planting a sufficient variety of farm produce and animal stocks for local restaurants, grocery stores and local consumers. Many of the regional agricultural systems used to be self-sustaining; however, the trade demands of NAFTA have destroyed multi-crop farming in many areas. In the US, manufacturers have been able to export their assembly operations and other, labor-intensive operations to labor forces South of our border with Mexico. Wages in other parts of the Americas are lower, due to different labor laws, high demand for jobs keeping hiring costs low, and ineffective labor unions.
On May 8, Dave Johnson's blog at http://ourfuture.org alerts us to a new trade proposal that is not receiving public scrutiny as to purpose or content. His viewpoint is evident from the start:
The trade agreements we have entered into over the last few decades have greatly enriched the already-wealthy 1% but not worked for the benefit of most of us. They have created massive trade deficits that drain our economy. They have cost millions of manufacturing, textile and other jobs. They have empowered huge, multi-national corporations to break unions and force pay and benefit cuts.The irony that turns off young voters, those voters who appreciate consistency of federal trade policies with our domestic jobs initiatives for sustained economic recovery, and those who prefer to "Buy American," have to wonder whom our trade representative truly represents. Johnson continues:
It has been leaked that the TPP agreement grants the TPP countries the same privilege. In other words, Buy American in federal procurement will give these countries -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- the same preferences as American-made goods. [emphasis added]. The idea is that these countries will then have to give American producers equal access to their own government contracts. Of particular concern is that Chinese-based firms in these countries will be able to bid against American companies for these government contracts.
07 May 2012
Save the USPS
The post office where I receive my mail functions as a town center for many of us. What links all Americans together better than the Post Office? Benjamin Franklin saw the need for a federal postal service as a means for uniting the colonies into a nation, not as separate states united only for defense. I think Franklin's logic remains rigorous today.
Certainly there could be reforms in the USPS and I have these suggestions:
- Remove the financial requirement for 100 percent funding of its pension benefits and health care retirement costs. Unless, this funding requirement becomes mandatory for all federal departments and agencies.
- Note to all government budget officers: by making all departments and agencies fully fund their employees' benefits, the cost of adding a new employee or replacing a departed one will have a dampening effect on government department heads when the full cost of a new-hire/ transferring an existing government employee entails an additional 34 percent to the wage or salary for that department's budget. Note to politicians: by fully costing out salaries plus benefits in department and agency budgets, there will be an automatic constraint on the size of the employee cost as it affects departmental budget requests.
- Give constituents franking privileges for letters mailed to their Congressional Representatives using the USPS.
- Offer discounted stamps (customer discounts) for using Post Office boxes for receiving mail, and eliminate home delivery for those customers who switch to P. O. box addresses.
- This consolidation of delivery points could enable more automation for sorting and delivery.
- Only USPS mail from senders required to be delivered to the residential address (voting materials, for example) would require a special or one-time effort by the local USPS offices. Such unique delivery items could be contracted out to bonded private entities.
- Outgoing mail could be left in conveniently located mailboxes for USPS pickup at posted, specific times per day. Already there is software for creating stamps. Improvements to this kind of software could include items and documentation for Certified, Registered, Return Receipt, and insurance. Senders should have the option to take their items to a post office for special delivery and insurance services. These services need not be at discounted rates.
- For Next-Day items, the USPS already has envelopes and packages at different rates; for an additional tbd fee, a pickup service-again could be contracted out-from a residence or place of business.
- USPS need not compete with private messaging and parcel companies in all products, such as are available through e-mail, tweets, Facebook posts, UPS and Federal Express. If USPS were to focus on products and processes where it has a competitive advantage and improves on them, USPS should be a viable, public service agency of the federal government.
- USPS should examine its human resources policies and procedures to determine which, if any, cause the USPS to operate at a competitive disadvantage over time. A structural disadvantage, as it were. If job security is more productive for attracting and retaining the best employees, using a merit-based salary and wage system, then USPS should not have to match private companies' wage levels. Security of work with benefits can be a viable program versus having to match private sector competitive wage earning and benefits without work security and without fully funded retirement benefits. This seems like a viable paradigm for this market. Union representation should be allowed and included in restructuring the USPS HR paradigm to a merit-based salary and wage program with task and skill-based job descriptions that would underlie hiring decisions, would determine measurable performance criteria and would support promotion, skills training, disciplinary status and termination criteria. Seniority should not be a factor for transferring or retention of any job position, because in a merit-based employment program, there are no criteria to support 'seniority' as a useful factor.
01 May 2012
Status of Forces Agreement-Afghanistan 2012
I suggest that the money to pay for our continuing military and nation-building support come from funds saved by closing some of the estimated 195 foreign deployment locations around the world.
I am also concerned about the State Department contracting out, viz., privatizing, its overseas security personnel needs, rather than use the Marines. I did not like it when the Department of Defense hired its mercenaries to supplement US military personnel during the Iraq War, and the DoD lacked the internal controls regarding costs and tactical controls over contractor personnel supporting military operations. Pin that on Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
The American people, most likely, will never know the extent of wasted, overcharged, or diverted war funding during the Bush Administration's two wars. If a ballpark number were ever published, I suspect that voters might pressure Congress to demand the DoJ establish several Special Prosecutors for criminal investigations and disciplinary actions. Because such actions seem doubtful, barring extensive whistle-blowing, I want the Department of Defense to fund its continuing military and contractor activity throughout the length of this US-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement.
President Obama, employing the considerable talents of Secretary of State Clinton and Vice President Biden, established two agendas for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one remembers the janitor's name who cleaned up the gymnasium following the Senior Prom. Publishers market the author's name for a book, even though an editor has devoted months if not years to provide a publishable manuscript. Then, again, these metaphors only suggest the role that this President has had to play following the chaotic agendas of fear and calamity created by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice Junta following the attacks of 9/11. Unlike editors who often receive public attribution from authors, we need not hold out for the Bush/Cheney Administration or for Republicans in Congress to congratulate President Obama on his efforts and results therefrom.