Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Political Anchors Dragging Down John McCain

By Ed Smallwood

Senator John McCain has problems. He has been trying to distance himself from an unpopular President in G.W. Bush. He has been trying to convince you that because he is a former POW from the Vietnam War that he is a military supporter. He also wants you to believe that the economy is going well. Each of these issues is weighing him down like anchors around his neck.

It came out recently that former Senator Phil Gramm, who was a lobbyist for UBS, and who lobbied hard for deregulation of the mortgage industry, is a leading economic advisor to Senator John McCain. That’s right; the architect of the current “Mortgage Meltdown” is a senior advisor for Mr. McCain’s economic policy. We’ve already seen what happens when the President’s closest advisors are former industry big-wigs—you get $4 per gallon oil, manipulation of the electricity market in California, implosion of Enron, and the destruction of the home owning dream in America. Do we want to continue down this road with John McCain.

Right now the Senate and the House of Representatives are in conference to put the finishing touches on a new G.I. Bill that the President has vowed to veto. It would allow veterans to go to college after their service is completed. Many of our Military Servicemen and Servicewomen went into their branches of the service with the understanding that they would get monetary assistance in college as a result of their service to our country. All of the major veteran’s groups have come out in favor of this bill.

John McCain has publicly come out against the new G.I. Bill, in opposition to many of his peers in the Republican Party. He says it will cost too much. I’m not joking. Mr. McCain has said in no uncertain terms that he is not willing to give an education to people who are willing to give their lives for him and us. The cost of the lives of those over 4,000 dead in all of the branches of the military including the National Guard is not enough to make sure the rest get an education. Over 30,000 have been wounded, and that is not payment enough, according to John McCain and G.W. Bush, to make sure they and their compatriots get an education. Mr. McCain says he is afraid that one of the main recruiting tools that the military has, the offer of a free education in exchange for military service, will encourage current military personnel to leave the military instead of spurring more enlistment, and that could make a difference in his 100-year-war. Is that supporting our military?

Relying on industry to give input on how it should be regulated. Giving military support lip service. Allowing the economy to fall into disrepair from neglect. Don’t these all sound like the methodology of G.W. Bush? Can McCain really distance himself from Bush while using these tactics?

More importantly, can we vote for McCain while knowing all of this? For myself, I know that the answer is an emphatic “No!”


Military Casualties:

McCain’s Veteran’s Problems:,8599,1808161,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Sen. Phil Gramm’s lobbying:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

By Edward Smallwood

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. As we madly go to our movies, barbeques, and sales, we should all take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is really all about.

Memorial Day was started in May of 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of those who died in the Civil War. At that time it was referred to as Decoration Day, a day meant to decorate the graves of those who died in service to the country in that rebellion. Observance of the day to celebrate those who died in all wars did not start until after World War I.

This Memorial Day I will be remembering my step-grandfather, who served in Italy in World War II. It traumatized him so much that he didn’t begin to talk about it until just a couple of years before he died. I do miss him, and I regret that I know so little of what he went through in that conflict.

I will also be remembering George Swenson, the father of my brother-in-law, Mike Swenson. About a week-and-a-half ago George, a former Marine, Contractor, and REALTOR, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep. The next day when he did not get up for his doctor’s appointment, his wife, Shirley, called the ambulance. He had three operations to stop the bleeding in the next 24 hours, but has not awakened. This morning they made the decision to remove his breathing tube, which will happen in about 30 minutes from the time I write this. He is not expected to survive much past that time.

Please, remember those who have left us, but also take the time this weekend to let those still with us know how much you appreciate them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jack Cafferty Understands

By Ed Smallwood

Jack Cafferty absolutely went off on the current President of the United States live on CNN today. This was surprisingly candid, and unexpected. I know many people will do everything they can to convince us that the media is liberal, but just how often in the past eight years has the media criticized the President? Instead, they put his people in positions as “unbiased” military analysts.

Why did Jack do this? Today is the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel. To mark the occasion, GW gave a speech in front of the Knesset, and called those who wanted to talk to Iran appeasers, and by extension, he was calling Barak Obama an appeaser. On the Wolf Blitzer program, The Situation Room, with several other commentators, Wolf Blitzer asked Jack Cafferty the following question:

Wolf Blitzer: “Is this going to scare Americans about Barak Obama, what the President said, Jack?”

Jack Cafferty: “No. This is like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ One—George Bush is an embarrassment. I mean, the other day he opens his mouth and says his act of solidarity with the families of the kids that he had killed in Iraq—his war—was to give up playing Golf. I mean, every time he opens his mouth you want to get under the desk. The good news is he’s irrelevant. In five months or six months we close the door on this national nightmare and he goes away. But his idea is to invade a sovereign country in the middle east—Iraq—which posed no threat to us, on phony intelligence, sell it to the American public as a lie in effect. 4,000 troops plus, hundreds of billions of dollars, and his buddy, John McCain goes around singing ‘bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.’ There has been no diplomacy, there is no foreign policy except to roll some tanks up to the border and fly some airplanes over. Is it going to scare anybody? No. 80% of this country is fed up with George Bush’s policies—read the polls. 70% have given him the highest disapproval rating of any President in modern American history. He is beyond irrelevant and he is not going to scare anybody. He just babbles away like Elliot Spitzer talking about matrimonial fidelity. It’s a joke.”

It’s nice to see at least one person in the media actually gets it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother’s Day Loss

By Edward Smallwood

I don’t think I have ever been motivated to write two blog entries in one day. This has been an unusual day. For many of you who may be reading this, Mother’s Day may indeed be over. Here on the “Left Coast” we still have about two-and-a-half hours to go. With a few minutes of spare time, and a ready laptop, I feel as ready to write this entry as I ever will.

This is a difficult entry to write. My closest friend at my work, specifically the movie theater mentioned in my bio, is my boss. About two weeks ago her mother had to go into the hospital to have a heart valve replaced. This put a lot of pressure on my boss, and it really showed. In-between shifts, at the theater, she’s been taking care of her mother, her two sons living at home (one is autistic), and her husband. Her oldest son just got back from a tour in Iraq a few months ago. She’s been sick from allergies but she still backs me up like nobody I’ve worked with.

Today, on mother’s day, her mother died from a stroke. This was a totally undeserved blow to my boss. I really do not know how to express my sorrow at her loss.

It’s been quite an eye-opening experience for myself and many of my younger co-workers. Several seemed to be dreading going out to dinner with their own mothers, but when the news broke here, that attitude evaporated. This is probably the best that can come from a tragedy of this nature.

It is my hope that all who read this and still have a mother they can communicate with now take the time to call her up and let her know just how they appreciate her.

Republican Babies need their mothers

By Ed Smallwood

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who may be reading this! Are you aware of how Republicans in Congress honored Mother’s Day this week? By acting like spoiled children and voting against Mother’s Day openly in Congress. Yep, 178 Republicans voted against something as American as…mom…and apple pie. You see, they’re unhappy that the vote for the Iraq War Funding Bill didn’t go exactly the way they wanted it to, so they’ve vowed to slow down everything in Congress by holding their breath until a revote is called on everything that comes before them. Yep, everything. That’s what they did with the vote on a resolution honoring mothers, and when the revote was called, 178 of them, including Minority Leader John Boehner voted against motherhood. Next thing you know, one of them will rip the blue field off of a flag because that color represents the Democratic Party.

Some people may be saying that this childish behavior is a result of the Republicans being in the minority. I would counter and say that they always act like spoiled brats, even when they have the majority. Remember when they threatened to change the rules of the Senate if the Democrats Filibustered a vote on a judge that didn’t appeal to them? Is that really adult behavior? Honestly?

I propose that these mean, hateful people need their mothers more than ever. Perhaps things would be going better if their mothers would walk out onto the House floor, grab them by the ears, and haul them home for a good “talking to” behind the woodshed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mass Commuter Migration

By Ed Smallwood

Right now we are all glued to our sets, wondering how the coming elections are going to go. Will Hillary somehow manage to get the Democratic nomination even though she’s behind? Will McCain manage to get more than 75% of his party to vote for him, even though his only competitor, Ron Paul, is getting less than 8% of the vote, and Huckabee is still pulling about 12% even though he’s no longer in the race?

I’m going to take a much longer term look at what is going to be happening. Much will happen regardless of who is President. The main difference the President and other politicians can make in the next few years will be in how traumatic these changes are.

I’m sure by now that you are aware that we have been in a significant Real Estate downturn for the last year or two. One analyst has said that he expects U.S. home values to decrease by as much as $7 Billion in the next 18 months. Some of the hardest hit areas in the country are in the state of California, specifically Stockton and Modesto. Home foreclosures could hit as much as two-thirds of the properties in Stockton. 90% of the homes for sale in Los Angeles are short-sales—being sold for less than is owned on the property.

Let me throw in another piece of information that may at first seem unrelated, or perhaps related in another way. Goldman Sachs released a study a few days ago that predicted that oil will be priced at $200 per barrel in the next two years. This sent prices for oil up to $123 dollars on Wednesday. We should expect to be paying $7, $8, or even $10 per gallon in 2010 according to this study.

I’m going to be mentioning Modesto a lot in this essay. I live in San Jose, which is the self-proclaimed Heart of Silicon Valley. Modesto, about 90 miles away, has been a bedroom community for Silicon Valley for a couple of decades now. I have known people who have commuted between Modesto and Scotts Valley, 110 miles apart, just because they could afford a home in Modesto. Keep in mind that in this part of California, a 110 mile commute takes about 3 hours each way, more in rush hour.

Since I was a child Modesto had filled two roles—It was the bedroom community for Silicon Valley, and it was an agricultural community. The population of Modesto has grown from 194,506 in 1970 to 446,997 in 2000. In short, it grew about 230% in that time. I’m sure if we had more recent information you would find that Modesto had grown even more between 2000 and 2005.

In the 20th Century, the single biggest change in our society was brought about by the introduction of the relatively inexpensive automobile. Fueled by cheap gas, it allowed its owner to go almost anywhere they wished to go (within reason), pretty much anytime they wished to go. People were no longer restricted by how far they could walk, or what time the train was leaving. In addition, a car could be much faster than virtually any previous form of travel.

This resulted in many changes to our society. The one I am most interested in as far as this essay is concerned is our living habits. Before the car, you lived close to where you worked. Either you worked on the farm where you lived, or you lived in the town or city where you worked. You either walked to your worksite, or you rode a horse or took a train of some kind the short distance to your workplace. The idea of living in one town and working in another was unheard of, even for the rich. It was simply too expensive and too time consuming to do this.

With the introduction of the Model T by Henry Ford’s car company, this all changed. It started to be possible to live further from your workplace and commute. Suburbs started to form. This trend accelerated in the post World War II era, and continued on until very recently.

Some of you may be asking why I would talk about this trend in the past tense. The reason is because I believe it is over. The new trend will be the reversal of the past 80 years of suburbanization.

The popping of the Real-Estate Bubble about 2 years ago is simply the first shot. People ran up the cost of homes they could not afford, and when they could no longer pay back the money, the banks started to foreclose on the assumption that they could sell these properties to someone else and make their money back. In some circumstances they are tragically wrong. The smart banks are going to negotiate with the borrowers and write-off their losses. The stupid banks are going to foreclose on the assumption they will find buyers, and then find themselves stuck with many homes that they will never be able to sell.

You may be thinking that I must be wrong. People have to live someplace, right? Those homes will be sold to someone at some price, even if it is a loss, and probably most will be sold eventually for more than they did originally, right?

Not when gasoline is $8 per gallon. We are running out of oil. No amount of hope or denial is going to change that. Gasoline prices are going to ratchet up from this point out. There will be times when it is a bit cheaper, but the trend is going to be. This is unavoidable. This will have a direct effect on where we choose to live.

We should not be asking ourselves what we can do to bring down the cost of gasoline. We need to be asking ourselves what we can do to bring down transportation costs. Hybrid and electric cars may not be a solution for many people. In the near future it may cost as much to fuel up a Prius as it currently costs to fuel up a large SUV. As demand for rechargeable batteries increases, the cost is likely to increase as well. This will increase the cost of hybrid and electric vehicles. The most obvious way of bringing down the costs of commuting is not to commute very far. Living close to where you work is an easy way spending less of your paycheck on transportation.

This is an ominous thing for cities like Modesto. Modesto has very little industry outside of building homes and shrinking agriculture. Most of the jobs there are services provided to people who live there. Over time, the combined cost of commuting plus the smaller mortgage payment in the bedroom city will begin to approach, and eventually surpass the cost of the larger mortgage payment closer to the workplace. For example, a person commuting in a Honda Accord, getting 31MPG Highway commuting between Modesto and San Jose is going to be paying $465 a month for gas at $4 a gallon. When the cost hits $8 a gallon, it will go up to $930. Commuting in a Jeep Grand Cherokee getting 20 MPG brings those costs to $720 and $1440 respectively. The amount that you are paying in gas at $8 per gallon can make up the difference in your monthly mortgage payment between a $300,000 loan and a $455,000 loan for the Honda driver, or a $540,000 loan for that Jeep driver. That makes up for the difference right now between living in Modesto and San Jose, easy.

Cities that are closer to Silicon Valley than Modesto will face this issue a little later, but not a lot. Tracy and Salinas at about 60 miles away from San Jose and Gilroy at about 30 miles away may have a little bit more time than Modesto, but they will have to face a declining population of commuters eventually.

The big question for leadership in these areas is how they will face this issue. You can ignore it and allow significant parts of a city to become a ghost town. You can look to create another industry. This could involve adding Indian Gaming Casinos, and living with a greater crime rate, or adding an amusement park, and living with more noise. It could involve something else entirely. It could involve the city declaring imminent domain on abandoned tracts, bulldozing the properties, and putting in parks to improve property values nearby. You could even allow people to buy vacant properties next to their own and combine the lots, and build a nicer home on the combined property. This might be a good idea in certain areas of a city. Some of these combined properties might even be returned to agriculture as large gardens or small farms.

Regardless, the trend is obvious: With expensive gas, people will choose to live close to their job. Doing otherwise will not be an option for most people. Political leaders will have to deal with this sooner or later. Smart ones will deal with it sooner. Lesser ones will deny the problem until the trend is obvious to everyone, and difficult to deal with because tax revenues will already be dropping. Stupid ones will say having abandoned properties in a city is not a problem, and hopefully, will be voted out.

Bringing these facts to the attention of local politicians will help. People living in these areas ignore the migration of commuters toward their job city at their own peril.


Modesto’s population:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My suspicious nature

By Ed Smallwood

There’s something wrong. Something doesn’t smell right. I’m not talking about all of the things that are wrong about the world right now. I’m not even talking about the obvious things that are wrong. I’m talking about the current food shortage.

I remember when California started having rolling-blackouts back in 2000. I had been thinking a couple of months prior that we had invented a whole lot of consumer electronic devices, and a whole lot of new computer systems for business, and hadn’t built many new power plants. It seemed logical that we would have to start to do something about the increased use of electricity or we would start having problems. Miraculously, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) starts telling us that we would have to start conserving power because we didn’t have enough. We would have to face the possibility of rolling-blackouts if we didn’t. Then they started happening. What a coincidence! We were using too much power! I remember lying next to my baby daughter while she napped in the middle of one of these rolling-blackouts, thinking about how this could be happening in one of the most advanced countries in the world.

The problem was, it wasn’t true. It was true that California hadn’t been building the power plants, but other states and other countries, such as Canada had. California had been hooking its power grid to the other sources, and in fact, had the power. The problem was that companies such as Enron were fraudulently shipping the power out of the state of California to pump up the costs and make a bundle, part of the scheme that forced them into bankruptcy when it collapsed.

Now flash forward 7 years. I’d been reading a book called Plan B 2.0 by Lester Brown. One of the points he makes is that the plans on using corn-based ethanol as fuel will be putting our food into our cars instead of our mouths. This may not be a good idea over the long term. A few months later, as oil goes over $100 per barrel, gasoline starts flirting with $4 per gallon, and ethanol starts making economic sense, the cost of rice starts increasing. Rice starts being rationed. Congress starts to debate the logic of creating distilleries to produce ethanol out of corn, and in fact, seriously considers a moratorium on the building of these distilleries.

Just a second here. Something seems wrong—really wrong. Could the production of corn-based ethanol really be causing these food shortages? Or is someone trying to take advantage of us again? My suspicious nature suspects the latter.

Here are my thoughts. The oil industry has been raking in record profits the last couple of years—profits never before seen in any industry. Single companies such as Exxon Mobil have been making money in amounts that have never been seen in all of recorded history except in government revenues. And they are desperate to make sure nothing changes. Nothing.

There are some problems with this. Change is inevitable. Hubbard predicts that we have reached peak oil production. Production costs will continue to increase from this point out, cutting into oil company profits. That’s a given. The oil companies want to minimize this by drilling in ANWAR and off the coast of California, and by forcing Saudi Arabia to produce more oil.

Are we sure Saudi Arabia has the oil to produce? Hubbard predicted that they would hit their oil peak about a year ago, and that they would reduce their output as a result. Saudi Arabia has refused to tell us what their reserves are for decades. We don’t know if they can increase production. ANWAR has enough oil in it to fuel the U.S. for a few days if there was no other source of oil in the world. Days, not years. Drilling there is not going to save us. But it is business as usual, which is what is most comfortable for people who drill for oil, which includes the President, by the way.

So how does this affect the food crisis? The main difficulty right now is that rice production in several countries, including Australia and Myanmar, has been hit hard by droughts and floods. The rice that is being rationed here in the U.S. is not domestically grown, it is imported. U.S. rice and corn production have hardly been affected. However, ethanol produced from corn does pose a threat to gasoline use, and by extension, the bottom line of oil companies.

However, we have only just begun to build most of these distilleries. Our domestic use of corn to produce ethanol is barely begun. How is this affecting corn use? A little bit, perhaps, but I doubt all that much.

Unless you are driving a flex-fuel car built here in the U.S., you aren’t using much ethanol in your tank anyway. Most cars can’t tolerate more than 20% ethanol, and more than about 5% cuts their fuel economy. Flex-fuel cars can handle up to 85% ethanol, but you know if you’re using this fuel. It’s clearly marked as E85 at the very few stations that sell it.

Most of the increase we have seen in food prices at the market is because it is more expensive to transport the food to the market—the result of higher fuel costs, not the diversion of food into fuel at this point.

There is absolutely no doubt that as time goes on we will want to stop using corn to make ethanol. We cannot replace oil with corn based ethanol—we don’t grow enough corn and we never will. However, I don’t think that this is what the oil companies fear. What they are afraid of is that these same distilleries will work just fine in the production of cellulosic ethanol. This is currently not economically viable—the enzymes needed to turn cellulose into sugar for the yeast to consume are too expensive right now, but this is likely to change. As gasoline prices increase, the cost of those enzymes becomes less of an issue.

The key is that these oil companies must stop you from doing anything different. They must make sure you have no options except to buy their expensive gasoline, and they must force others to sell them oil at a reasonable rate. Anything that disrupts this must be stopped at all costs, and cellulosic ethanol could be a disruptive technology.

I strongly believe that this food shortage is being hyped as a way to stop ethanol before it gets a chance to affect gas prices. I am skeptical of the media reports, and very skeptical of Congressional Representatives getting up and trying to put a moratorium on distillery building.

I fully agree that corn-based ethanol is not a long term solution to oil, and I will cover my thoughts on long term solutions in a future post. However, it makes sense as a short-term solution as better solutions are being worked on.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Praise of Comic Books

By Ed Smallwood

Free Comic Book Day came and went yesterday without much comment from me, excepting a brief mention in a recent blog entry. I actually do consider this an important day of the year. This day may not be as important as paying attention to our parents, or remembering our veterans, or remembering the achievements and suffering of Union members, but it is in fact the only day backed by industry that helps with literacy. Think about that for a minute. One day a year you can get a free book. It may not be the latest Stephen King book, but that may not be a bad thing.

Comic books have been maligned in our culture for a long time, often as the lowest form of entertainment--probably because they have historically been produced on the cheap. While this can still be true today, it is more often the case for the major publishers that comic books are very well produced and literate popular culture magazines.

Every week I have been trying to write at least one, and often two, complete essays. This takes me as little as 4 hours and as much as 40 hours per essay in research and editing, which is one of the reasons I like to republish my “Brown-bagging as gas saving measure” essay. I can put in an hour or less of research and bring it right back up-to-date. Now, considering the work I put into one essay, I’m trying to imagine putting in a similar amount of work to produce a work of fiction writing. Now throw in 32 pages of drawings, all of them inked and shaded. I know I would find that amount of work to be staggering.

It really is no surprise that so many of the better comic books are being produced as movies. One of the first things that most movie producers and directors do is commission a set of story boards to visualize the movie, and really story boards are so similar to a comic book it really doesn’t make sense to put them in different categories.

While it is difficult to disapprove of the artistic merits of a comic, many people are unimpressed with the basic literary narrative value of them. When I was very young, I loved comics, almost any kind I could get my hands on. As I got older I moved on to novels, magazines, and newspapers. I began to believe that comics were strictly for children and the immature. I was humbled several months back when a co-worker loaned me the trade-paperback copy of several volumes of Marvel’s Civil War series of comics. In this series, the U.S. Congress passes a law making it illegal for superheroes to keep their identity secret. One group, led by Tony Stark (Iron Man) follows the law and starts hunting down superheroes who refuse to follow the law. A second group, led by Captain America refuses to follow the law.

At one point early in the series, Spider Man asks Captain America why he is fighting the law when everyone is aware of his real identity, and Captain America quotes from an essay by Mark Twain that I was not even aware of. I was so impressed by the relevancy of the excerpt, placed in a comic book in an alternate universe where nobody would notice it, that I had to look into it further. It took hours of work, but I managed to find a longer excerpt at a website called "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nachos" (you can find it online at I am reprinting here the passage from that website until I can find a longer version.

Here it is:

Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object — robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way.

What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick — a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag.

And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor — none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the country?" Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country — hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.

This Republic's life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands.

It becomes difficult at best to impugn the literacy of comics when you have that kind of content.

It is for these and other reasons that I heartily recommend that next year you take time to celebrate Free Comic Book Day. I am nearly certain that you will not be able to visit a Hallmark Store and get a free card any day this year, and even if you can, it is unlikely to have the same literary impact, or be as relevant to our current political situation, as that one passage above. And who knows, you may even enjoy the free book.

But then, why wait a year?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Political Cover Ups Can Be Messy

By Ed Smallwood

Yesterday, the news broke that Washington D.C. former Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed “Suicide.” You see, I put that in quotes for a reason. Ms. Palfrey was the madam to many important people in Washington. We don’t currently know which ones, because the court did not allow her to make that information public, but she kept saying she wanted to release the names of her customers. So, now, at the height of the election season, she turns up dead, and the Police in Florida decide before they even release the name of the person whose body they found, before an autopsy can be done, that it is definitely a suicide.

To be completely honest, there wasn’t a single part of me that believed it at any moment. Suicide was much too convenient an end to this woman’s life. Convenient for her customers, but not for the truth.

Her death is just like the end to William J. Casey’s life. In case you don’t remember, Bill Casey was the head of the CIA under Ronald Reagan. He was one of the major players in the Iran-Contra affair. You know, the time we sold missiles and fighter plane parts to Iran, a terrorist country even then, in order to get back some 100 hostages they took, while simultaneously illegally funding the CONTRA rebels in Nicaragua. A few hours before he was to testify before Congress about his knowledge in the case he was struck with an inability to speak and hospitalized. Several days later he failed to survive surgery for brain cancer. My most vivid memory of this period was when I told one of my high-school teachers that he would not be allowed to survive the surgery, and the teacher agreed with me.

That is what struck me about the case of Ms. Palfrey’s “suicide”. I simply do not believe it. I do not consider myself to be a “Conspiracy Theorist,” but there are cases, like this one, where my suspicions are aroused immediately. Why would the Police call this a suicide before announcing who they found? In my opinion, in the death of someone this important, you shouldn’t call it anything until the coroner’s report is filed. You could end up looking like you helped in a cover-up. We need a thorough investigation done into this case. We need to know if she was killed to prevent her from releasing the names of clients. It is much more important to me to know if someone in power is killing people to protect their name than it is to know if they paid for sex with someone. Someone like that should not be allowed to wield power in this country.

*Note: I attempted to post this article with the title linking to an article at OpEdNews several times, but each time I got an error. The article is titled "The Convenient 'Suicide' of the D.C. Madam." It is what prompted this blog entry.

**Additional note: I had forgotten that her body was found in Florida, and not in Washington D.C. This entry has been edited to reflect this fact. I offer all due apologies to the Police Department and all Officers in Washington D.C. for this error.