On Holocaust Remembrance Day…

The Guardian has new details on President Bush’s grandfather’s financial entanglements with the Nazis:

George Bush’s grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

His business dealings, which continued until his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.

The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator’s action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

The debate over Prescott Bush’s behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the “Bush/Nazi” connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis’ plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler’s rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.

Remarkably, little of Bush’s dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny, partly because of the secret status of the documentation involving him. But now the multibillion dollar legal action for damages by two Holocaust survivors against the Bush family, and the imminent publication of three books on the subject are threatening to make Prescott Bush’s business history an uncomfortable issue for his grandson, George W, as he seeks re-election.

While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen’s US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

Rush to Judgment?

It�s good to see Florida Attorney General and 2006 Republican candidate for governor Charlie Crist defending our right to privacy. Charlie jumped to protect Rush Limbaugh, and all the rest of us, no doubt, from overzealous prosecutors.

According to stories in the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post, Crist’s brief before the Florida Supreme Court supports a lame compromise where they would have, “�a judge review all seized medical records in chambers to decide which ones are pertinent to a criminal investigation before releasing them to prosecutors.”

So have a judge read over all the records first, figure out which parts support or deflate a case, hand the evidence to the lawyers, and then sit back and hear it. Is it me, or is there a flaw here somewhere? Why not just have the judge plead the case too?

Gymnastic reasoning aside, one wonders about Crist’s objectivity. As the Post pointed out,

“Often, the attorney general fights for criminal investigators and on the side of the prosecution. But the office of Crist, a Republican, has refused to help Democratic State Attorney Barry Krischer in this case. “

Apparently Crist just doesn’t want anyone getting carried away. He stated in his brief, quoted in the Sentinel:

“Florida’s constitutional right of privacy guarantees citizens freedom from unwarranted observation of, and interference in, any aspect of their medical records. “

Doctor My Ears

I don’t know about you but I’m about up to here (gestures toward neck) with every single news story and pundit using “Doctor” on second reference to Condoleeza Rice. What is she, the first person ever in government to hold a frickin’ Ph.D.? O.K., I admit she does stand pretty much alone among Bush appointees as having completed some post-graduate work but come on, her official bio says she got her doctorate at the University of Denver! Which I’m sure is a fine state school BTW.

The point is, it’s not like she ever won a Nobel prize, and there are some actual medical doctors out there (paging Gov. Dr. Howard Dean) that are never referred to in the press as “Dr.” Seems like yet another example of the press doing as they’re told by the White House without question.

Mixed Week for Jeb

It must be hard when your unassailable arrogance is tested. Jeb was forced within days of appointing him to accept the resignation of his new speechwriter. Lloyd Brown, recently fired for plagiarism and previously counseled for workplace porn addiction, evidently couldn�t stand the heat. The South Florida Sun Sentinel published part of his letter of resignation but did not state if Brown took the paragraph off a web site or if he wrote it himself.

“�Sensationalized news stories using accusations made against me years ago as a device to attack Gov. Bush have convinced me that I can better serve my family and the governor by not being a distraction from the important work he is doing on behalf of the people of Florida,� Brown said in his resignation letter. His resignation is effective Jan. 31.”

Yes, Jeb is doing important work all right. The budget he introduced this week includes cutting taxes for rich folk while raising community college and state university tuitions AGAIN, privatizing Medicaid and eliminating coverage for catastrophic illness, and eliminating doctor visits and hospital stays for the poorest families and elderly people.

But as the Lakeland Ledger explained, people with at least a quarter-million to toss around for speculation can breathe easy.

“His largest tax-cut proposal this year would continue the phase-out of the intangibles tax on about 233,000 Floridians who hold stocks, bonds and other investments worth more than $250,000. Bush had promised to eliminate the tax, which he calls an ‘insidious’ levy on investments, when he ran for governor in 1998�The tax would be completely eliminated in 2006, Bush’s last year in office.”

Maybe Jeb doesn�t need a speechwriter right now after all. He could just take some of W�s speeches, tweak them a little here and there and, viola! Same stuff, different Bush.

The Party of Wacko Religious Nut Cases

Creepy story in Florida’s St. Petersburg Times.

“A mysterious committee backed by members of a secretive religious group whose members are forbidden to vote spent more than $500,000 on newspaper ads last year supporting President Bush and U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez.”

The group was one of many that tried to worked around campaign finance reforms by not identifying itself until the final days of the election, according to the paper.

“The group of men who formed the committee belong to the Exclusive Brethren, a reclusive religious group with roots in England and Australia. The group includes members from Knoxville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., and other U.S. cities. Members of the Exclusive Brethren do not vote, read newspapers, watch television or participate in the outside world, according to published reports. So why would they care who gets elected in the United States?

“That’s hard to say and members contacted by the St. Petersburg Times wouldn’t say anything except to praise President Bush and say they wanted to see him re-elected.

“Steve Truan, owner of a Knoxville map store, was listed as the contact person for the group, which formed just days before the November election. He said the group likes to �fly beneath the radar� and refused to talk about the ads, all of which were placed by a Knoxville advertising agency whose owners refused to answer questions.”

Of course Bush and Martinez, who seem to have benefited big time, claim the donation was unsolicited.

“The ads included a full page in the New York Times and a smaller one in the Tampa Tribune supporting the president, and a quarter-page ad in the St. Petersburg Times endorsing Republican Mel Martinez for U.S. Senate because of his support for traditional marriage.

“Both campaigns denied knowing anything about the committee or its members.”

How can these guys get away with claiming they represent mainstream Americans? And why do the Democrats let them?

Dressing Katherine Harris

I�ve been sick of the prospect of George W. Bush�s second inauguration since November, but it�s reaching critical mass. Another appalling story of Republicans spending like drunken sailors at the prospect of the mind-numbing celebration. And who but Florida�s own Katherine Harris to set the tone?

According to an article in the Tampa Tribune, Harris knows her priorities.

“�Faced with the choice of golfing in her campaign fundraiser or trying on ball gowns for Thursday’s inaugural gala for President Bush, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris took a few strokes and then left dozens of chilled bankers and the chairman of the House Banking Committee.”

Now here�s a great big WHY from the same article:

“Designers are trying to land their dresses on first lady Laura Bush and daughters Barbara and Jenna with an aggressiveness the industry generally saves for Hollywood celebrities.”

Better make them vodka-proof and use a fabric that won�t show cigarette burns.

But back to Katherine. Where does she get this kind of money?

“�Harris arranged to have seven ball gowns delivered from Saks Fifth Avenue to the Legacy Country Club in south Manatee County on Monday.

“�They came straight from the runway,� Harris said.

“That created another problem: fitting into dresses worn by rail-thin models. Immediately after choosing a gown, Harris hit the gym. Afterward, she went back to the fundraiser to greet her guests.”

Yeah, that one trip to the gym will take care of it. How does this towering intellect fit into such a petite body?

Black Box Voters 50% More Likely to Cast Bad Ballots

A South Florida newspaper’s independent study showed black box voting machines were highly unreliable in the presidential election.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis showed:

“Florida’s touch-screen voting machines performed better in the Nov. 2 presidential election than they did in the March primary, but were still outmatched by older voting devices that use pencil and paper ballots�

“Voters using the ATM-style voting machines in November were 50 percent more likely to cast a flawed ballot or have an unregistered vote in the presidential race, compared to voting machines employing simple paper ballots.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who lost a federal lawsuit last year that demanded touch-screen machines generate a paper receipt.”

The article said 15 of Florida’s 67 counties use the machines, including the bluest – Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade.

On a more encouraging note, a group of Democrats in Broward (Ft. Lauderdale) has launched a wiki-forum and web site called BlueBroward.org, aimed at figuring out how to win more races next time.

Keep Jeb at Home and Save

This tears it. This is the last time we let Jeb out loose in the world. What does the governor decide Florida urgently needs, after his recent trip to Indonesia? That’s right, a $37.5 million tsunami warning system.

According to an article in the Miami Herald, the same sceintists who deny the existence of global warming are worried.

“…The world’s attention has been focused on people who live near the edge of oceans, and we have a responsibility to respond to their needs,” John H. Marburger III, science advisor to President Bush, said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.”

Now hold on to your hats for the next part. There is evidently some question about how much at risk Jeb’s governed are.

“Scientists say tsunamis — particularly those caused by an earthquake as powerful as the one that triggered the one last month off Indonesia — do not pose a great risk to South Florida and the rest of the U.S. East Coast.”

This doesn’t mean Florida is in the clear, however. Especially in theory.

“…virtually all coastal residents are at least theoretically vulnerable to the series of giant waves that can mark a tsunami�

“South Florida experts are unaware of any tsunamis in the region in the recent past, though several longtime residents cite an unexplained event during the early 1960s that left several Miami Beach hotels swamped by unusual tidal waves.

“Some South Floridians have expressed concern over reports that a mega-tsunami, one that dwarfs the Southeast Asia disaster, could be triggered by the partial destruction of a volcano in the Canary Islands.

“Experts say the so-called Cumbre Vieja event could propel a 60-foot tsunami to South Florida and many other regions of North, Central and South America.

“But they cannot pinpoint the timing, saying that the disaster is likely to occur at some point during the next 5,000 years.”

Well, that’s good enough for me. 5,000 years can go by faster than you realize. We better start awarding some fat government contracts to relatives and cronies ASAP.

Blow Jobs and Justice in Florida

A weird story of sexual harassment, internet porn, plagiarism, and secret investigations has Florida abuzz.

Last week, while Jeb was off cheering tsunami victims, he fired Secretary of Elder Affairs Terry White via a short and terse letter printed on the Florida News blog.

The reason for the firing? Sexual harassment of coworkers. What coworkers? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret. What did they say he did? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret. Well, what proof do you have? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret.

The “investigation” began Friday, Dec. 30 and ended when White was escorted out of the building on Wednesday, Jan. 5. According to the Palm Beach Post:

Bush’s office refused to release the names of the alleged victims or the nature of the complaints, and his spokesman said Thursday that no written documents involving White’s dismissal exist.

Rodriguez conducted her investigation within hours of receiving the complaints from the elder affairs department. After interviewing White, senior staff at the agency and the workers who made the complaints, she found that White violated Bush’s code of ethics and recommended “immediate disciplinary action.”

“Did he (White) get due process? Who knows?” said Barbara Peterson, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “Anybody who would conduct an investigation without taking notes, that’s just impossible for me to believe.”

If nothing else, this clears up one question. Until now, White’s sexual orientation wasn’t publicly defined, with his job advocating for seniors serving as wife, mistress, and phone sex partner. It’s also funny that calculated leaks claim White asked female coworkers to perform oral sex on him. Nothing seems to get the Republican dander going like the thought of blow jobs at the office.

The fact that White had recently gotten sideways with HMOs had nothing to do with the lightening speed of the inquiry or the firing. After all, it’s not as if anything like that ever took place on Jeb’s watch. Although, as the Tallahassee Democrat recalled…

[White] succeeded Gema Hernandez, who was forced out by Bush in 2001 when some legislators complained about her management style – and Hernandez said she had run afoul of some powerful companies that do business with the elder-services agency.

So what about the internet porn and plagiarism? For that, you have to go to the man Jeb hired as his new staff writer the day after he fired White.

Lloyd Brown was asked to leave Jacksonville’s arch conservative Florida Times-Union, where he was editorial page editor, in November. The dismissal came after Jacksonville’s other local news source, the independent Folio Weekly, ran a story from a former T-U editorial writer whose life was made miserable by Brown. Although he viewed online porn pretty much all day everyday, regardless of who was in the office, Brown also visited the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing sites long enough to copy and paste editorials.

Because his firing focused on the plagiarism, which was so blatant as to defy defending, reports on the story outside of Folio did as well. Editor and Publisher also paid attention.

The Folio story actually focused more on accusing Brown of abusing his workplace computer to view Internet pornography and of creating a hostile work environment for Bussard. “I really can’t comment on that,” Brown said.

Cannon said the allegations of Internet pornography use and harassment were “a human-resources issue that had been settled to the satisfaction of both parties more than five years ago,” but would not elaborate further. He said those non-plagiarism complaints would not be reviewed by the committee.

After being fired, Brown was allowed to announce his “retirement” and fade away. Until this week, when Jeb evidently felt the need to add someone who really knows about sexual harassment to his staff. Jeb’s hiring of this sick puppy boggles the mind in a way only a Bush can. Can you say “hubris?”