Archive for September 8th, 2009
Let me see if I have this correct…
The Committee of Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is currently chaired by Representative Charles Rangel of New York. So the man running the chief tax-writing committee is a tax cheat himself?
Let’s also not forget that Charlie has tried to reinstate the military draft, not once but twice. He also the same individual that has long argued the country’s minorities and lower class are doing a disproportionate share of the fighting in the all-volunteer U.S. military.
I contend that to call Charlie a Jackass would be to elevate him to a position far above where his current corrupt shenanigans place him. You’re welcome Charlie.
Straight from Fox News: “As lawmakers return to the Capitol for the fall’s epic battle over health care reform, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) appeared likely to retain his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, despite new allegations about his tangled finances and fresh calls for the Harlem Democrat to relinquish his leadership post.
Although Rangel has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing, he has been under investigation by a House ethics committee for nearly a year, following published reports alleging a broad array of financial improprieties.
These include allegations that the chairman of the House’s top tax-writing committee failed to report income derived from a beachfront villa he owns in the Dominican Republic; falsely listed a Washington, D.C. residence as his primary address when he was living in rent-stabilized apartments in New York City; used congressional letterhead for fundraising purposes; and helped a wealthy donor to a school bearing Rangel’s name establish a lucrative tax shelter in Bermuda.
Nearly a year after the New York Times called on Rangel to step aside as chairman of Ways and Means – and House Democrats successfully blocked a resolution introduced by Republicans to censure him – the capital is hearing fresh calls for Rangel to turn over his gavel while the various ethics investigations remain underway.
These came in the wake of Rangel’s acknowledgment, in updated financial disclosure forms filed late last month, that he failed to report more than $660,000 in assets during 2007. The assets included a credit-union checking account worth up to half-a-million dollars, stock in PepsiCo, some mutual fund investments and a handful of vacant lots in southern New Jersey.
In an editorial, The Washington Post echoed the Times, urging Rangel to step down from his chairmanship, and congressional Republicans swiftly followed suit.
“I have long considered you a friend, and I still do,” House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote to Rangel on Sept. 4. “But friends are not infallible… [and] as chairman of the powerful House committee, entrusted with the responsibility of writing the tax laws that affect every law-abiding American citizen, you, along with the Speaker and other leaders of the majority party have an obligation to help set the pace when it comes to standards of official conduct.”
But a spokesman for Rangel, who has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, rejected these calls for the chairman to relinquish his leadership post, saying any such move would “prejudge” the findings of the ethics committee and thereby “undermine” its work.
First elected to the House in 1970, the raspy-voiced Rangel drew early public notice as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during that panel’s Watergate impeachment hearings against President Nixon.
In addition to a long string of legislative accomplishments, mostly focused on domestic programs for the poor and disadvantaged, the Harlem Democrat has also earned a reputation as a shoot-from-the-lip public speaker, sometimes forced to retract or apologize for provocative comments.
As chair of Ways and Means, however, Rangel has wielded exceptional clout. His committee was one of three in the House to put forward a version of health care reform legislation before the summer recess. Rangel’s version was notable for its proposal to raise income taxes on Americans earning over $350,000 a year in order to pay for the expected trillion-dollar cost of health care reform. Because the question of how to finance the various reforms is central to the health care debate, Rangel is expected to figure prominently in that debate.
Still, the chairman is seen by some, both in and out of his party, as a liability.
“There seems be almost three-quarters of a million dollars failed to be reported,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX) of the latest financial problem to embarrass Rangel. “ That’s a lot of forgotten bank accounts and a lot of forgotten pieces of land and a lot of forgotten assets. And it’s a little too much to think that it’s just an ‘oops.’”
Former Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX), who served thirteen terms alongside Rangel, predicted he would remain in his leadership post at least until the ethics committee delivers its findings.
“This is not your run-of-the-mill congressman,” Frost told FOX News. “This is somebody’s who’s been a leader in civil rights and economic justice, served in Congress for thirty-eight years, [and who is] generally regarded as a very serious member and a good member….The people in the business community have a high regard for Charlie, even if they don’t agree with him on everything.”
At the same time, Frost said, the mounting allegations of financial impropriety will not immediately disappear. “The failure to report large assets is a problem; everybody understands that.”
Rangel has indicated he plans to run for re-election in 2010, and again in 2012, when he will turn eighty-two.
But Stu Rothenberg, the non-partisan analyst who authors “The Rothenberg Political Report,” pointed to the steady trickle of damaging stories and their timing – smack in the middle of the health care battle – as the key factors in the chairman’s future.
“It is developing in a very uncomfortable way for Democrats,” Rothenberg told FOX News. “Little by little, more information seems to come out and it’s possible that it could seriously, seriously hurt the congressman’s career.
“He’s at a tax-writing committee when the administration may have to talk about raising revenue to pay for health care,” Rothenberg continued. “So he is in an unusually important position and taking the criticism that he is now taking is a major problem for him, but also for his party.””
Straight from the Daily Mail: “The Libyan government paid British doctors for medical advice which could have helped bring about the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
Cancer specialist Karol Sikora and two others received £100 an hour to consider how long they believed Abdelbaset Al Megrahi had to live.
Professor Sikora admitted yesterday that although he initially thought Megrahi could live for as long as 18 months, he was ‘encouraged’ to conclude he would die from prostate cancer within three months.
This is important as it is the amount of time under which Scottish law allows someone to be freed on compassionate grounds.
The freeing of the convicted killer sparked outrage across the world, especially when he was pictured arriving back to a hero’s welcome in Tripoli.
Despite the three-month diagnosis, 57-year-old Megrahi was yesterday said to be an ‘improved’ condition and ‘doing well’ after being moved out of intensive care and into a VIP wing.
Professor Sikora said that before he agreed to meet Megrahi in prison, he thought it was likely he would live for up to 18 months, as it is ‘notoriously difficult’ to predict when a prostate cancer patient might die.
‘I got invited (by the Libyan government) because I had been to Tripoli a few times,’ he said. ‘Prostate cancer is a slow-growing disease. At first sight I thought it was more likely that his life expectancy was six to 18 months.
‘But we went up there and saw him, and looked at everything, talked with the prison doctor. After that, I thought it would be three months, and I stand by that.’
He said that when they examined Mr Megrahi it was clear ‘that he had a very unfortunate form of the cancer and we thought that the three-month prognosis was correct’.
But he admitted: ‘We were told that if we made it less than three months that would be helpful.’
Although he was paid by the Libyan government, he denied this affected his prognosis.
‘They just wanted an opinion,’ he said. ‘But we got the same rate – the normal clinical rate – regardless of what we came up with.’
The Scottish government claimed the advice arrived too late to be considered by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, but Professor Sikora said he doubted this.
‘We submitted our report three weeks before his return so I think there was plenty of time to consider it.’
A spokesman for the Scottish government said the prognosis of the three doctors – Britons Mr Sikora and Jonathan Waxman and Libyan Ibrahim Sherif – was not taken into account when Mr MacAskill decided to free Megrahi last month.
He said that instead of using the three doctors’ opinions they drew on expert advice from ‘a number’ of specialists for the clinical assessment of Megrahi’s life expectancy.
‘These included two consultant oncologists, two consultant urologists and a number of other specialists, including a palliative care team, who had reviewed and contributed to the clinical management of the patient.
‘They did not include Karol Sikora, Jonathan Waxman or Ibrahim Sherif, whose assessments played no part in considerations.’”
Straight from Yahoo News: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates is objecting “in the strongest terms” to an Associated Press decision to transmit a photograph showing a mortally wounded 21-year-old Marine in his final moments of life, calling the decision “appalling” and a breach of “common decency.”
The AP reported that the Marine’s father had asked – in an interview and in a follow-up phone call — that the image, taken by an embedded photographer, not be published.
The AP reported in a story that it decided to make the image public anyway because it “conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”
The photo shows Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard of New Portland, Maine, who was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, according to The AP.
Gates wrote to Thomas Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. “Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly. In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as was the case with Walter Reed.”
“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.”
The four-paragraph letter concluded, “Sincerely,” then had Gates’ signature.
The photo, first transmitted Thursday morning and repeated Friday morning, carries the warning, “EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT.”
The caption says: “In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard is tended to by fellow U.S. Marines after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the village of Dahaneh in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Bernard was transported by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck where he later died of his wounds.”
Gates’ letter was sent Thursday, after he talked to Curley by phone at about 3:30 p.m. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates told Curley: “I am asking you to reconsider your decision to publish this graphic photograph of Lance Corporal Bernard. I am begging you to defer to the wishes of the family. This will cause them great pain.”
Curley was “very polite and willing to listen,” and send he would reconvene his editorial team and reconsider, Morrell said. Within the hour, Curley called Morrell and said the editors had reconvened but had ultimately come to the same conclusion.
Gates “was greatly disappointed they had not done the right thing,” Morrell said.
The Buffalo News ran the photo on page 4, and the The (Wheeling, W.Va.) Intelligencer ran an editorial defending its decision to run the photo. Some newspapers – including the Arizona Republic, The Washington Times and the Orlando Sentinel – ran other photos from the series. Several newspaper websites – including the Akron Beacon-Journal and the St. Petersburg Times – used the photo online.
Morrell said Gates wanted the information about his conversations released “so everyone would know how strongly he felt about the issue.”
The Associated Press reported in a story about deliberations about that photo that “after a period of reflection,” the news service decided “to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.
“The image shows fellow Marines helping Bernard after he suffered severe leg injuries. He was evacuated to a field hospital where he died on the operating table,” AP said. “The picture was taken by Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson, who accompanied Marines on the patrol and was in the midst of the ambush during which Bernard was wounded. … ‘AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is,’ said Santiago Lyon, the director of photography for AP.
“He said Bernard’s death shows ‘his sacrifice for his country. Our story and photos report on him and his last hours respectfully and in accordance with military regulations surrounding journalists embedded with U.S. forces.’”
The AP reported that it “waited until after Bernard’s burial in Madison, Maine, on Aug. 24 to distribute its story and the pictures.”
“An AP reporter met with his parents, allowing them to see the images,” the article says. “Bernard’s father after seeing the image of his mortally wounded son said he opposed its publication, saying it was disrespectful to his son’s memory. John Bernard reiterated his viewpoint in a telephone call to the AP on Wednesday. ‘We understand Mr. Bernard’s anguish. We believe this image is part of the history of this war.
The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice,’ said AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski.
“Thursday afternoon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called AP President Tom Curley asking that the news organization respect the wishes of Bernard’s father and not publish the photo. Curley and AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said they understood this was a painful issue for Bernard’s family and that they were sure that factor was being considered by the editors deciding whether or not to publish the photo, just as it had been for the AP editors who decided to distribute it.”
The image was part of a package of stories and photos released for publication after midnight Friday. The project, called “AP Impact – Afghan – Death of a Marine,” carried a dateline of Dahaneh, Afghanistan, and was written by Alfred de Montesquiou and Julie Jacobson:
“The U.S. patrol had a tip that Taliban fighters were lying in ambush in a pomegranate grove, and a Marine trained his weapon on the trees. Seconds later, a salvo of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades poured out, and a grenade hit Lance Cpl. Joshua ‘Bernie’ Bernard. The Marine was about to become the next fatality in the deadliest month of the deadliest year of the Afghan war.”
The news service also moved extensive journal entries AP photographer Julie Jacobson wrote while in Afghanistan. AP said in an advisory: “From the reporting of Alfred de Montesquiou, the photos and written journal kept by Julie Jacobson, and the TV images of cameraman Ken Teh, the AP has compiled ‘Death of a Marine,’ a 1,700 word narrative of the clash, offering vivid insights into how the battle was fought, and into Bernard’s character and background. It also includes an interview with his father, an ex-Marine, who three weeks earlier had written letters complaining that the military’s rules of engagement are exposing the troops in Afghanistan to undue risk.””