Sunday, February 27, 2005

So Long Downtown Famous


With Federated Buying May Department Stores it's only a matter of time before they close downtown Famous Barr. And it's a shame.

May Departments Stores flagship (although not best known) is Famous Barr department stores in and around Saint Louis. Famous Barr is the last department store in downtown St Louis. It can't possibly be profitable, yet they have maintained the store through the years and even last year spent a few million renovating and installing new escalators. Famous and the May HQ share the same building.

But with this sale, I can't imagine Federated will keep the store open. When it closes, an era will end. In my early 40's, I can just barely remember the pre-mall era of shopping downtown. Going to see Santa, decorated windows and stores.

Capitulation and Appeasement

Neville Chamberlain George Bush capitulates on Iran and joins Europe in appeasement.

WaPo Link
The new willingness to engage, even if indirectly, marks a significant change from a position that Iran deserved no rewards for actions it is legally bound to take under terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty. But Bush's talks last week convinced him that a united front -- in offering carrots now and a stick later if Iran does not comply -- would be more effective, U.S. and European officials say.

"The reason we're comfortable considering this tactically is because strategically, when the president was in Europe, he found them solid on the big issue: that Iran can't have a nuclear weapon. Having found them firm on the strategic issue,....blah, blah, blah.
The only reason G-dub has capitulated is because he doesn't have a choice. We are bogged down in Iraq and will be for years to come. The carrot approach is our only option; something everyone but G-dub has known for some time.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's the right thing to do. Just spare me the BS from the WH on how a change in Europe now makes this possible. There was no change in European attitudes. The change was with G-dub: Reality sank in.

So how will the wingers spin this?

Lets Make a Deal?

Lets not.

The Rs are going down on the Soc Security fight and are now looking for a deal that can let them claim victory. We cannot allow this to happen.

From today's WaPo
....As described in interviews, most of these compromises would involve Bush significantly scaling back his proposals for restructuring the popular benefits program. In exchange, he could still claim an incremental victory on what he has described as his core principles: enhancing the long-term solvency of Social Security and giving younger Americans options to invest more of their retirement money.

In one example, Rep. E. Clay Shaw (news, bio, voting record) Jr. (R-Fla.) said, a compromise might involve merging Bush's proposal with plans -- some backed by Democrats -- that create government-subsidized savings plans outside Social Security. Under this scenario, Bush's proposal to divert 4 percent of an individual's Social Security payroll tax would become 2 percent or less.

"The president could claim a real victory just by getting personal accounts," said Shaw, who has shared his ideas with Vice President Cheney and White House senior adviser Karl Rove. "It may be that a hybrid" is the key to compromise.
There is no need for private accounts in any form. We already have 401(k)s, standard IRAs, Roth IRAs, deferred compensation plans, KEOGHs and no doubt a litany of plans I've never heard of. These plans allow hundreds of billions of dollars of income to be exempted from income taxes.

The Rs seek a compromise because they are defeated and any type of account will allow them 'a nose in the tent.' Set the accounts up now allowing just a small diversion from Soc Security this year, and in a few years,....Any money they can take out of social security will weaken the financial security of the system which will allow them future opportunities to claim crisis and system failure. They have to undermine the system to end it, and will do so any way possible.

Never mind that we can't pay our bills now, much less if we start funding with tax dollars private savings accounts.

Kevin Gets it Right

Kevin Drum gets it exactly right on why Conservatives want to end Soc Security.
Here's the crux,
....The truth is simpler, although it's not something that any savvy conservative will admit these days: they just don't like Social Security and they want to get rid of it. They didn't like it in the 30s when FDR first proposed it; they didn't like it in the 50s when Eisenhower made his peace with it; they didn't like it in the 60s when they nominated Barry Goldwater for president; and they didn't like it in the 80s when David Stockman briefly tried a frontal attack on benefits but then retreated to a strategic hope that rising payroll taxes would eventually inspire a workers revolt against the whole system. (It didn't work.)

So now they've learned their lesson: not only are frontal assaults fruitless — Americans like Social Security — but they're ephemeral anyway. Sure, price indexing might cut benefits and therefore the overall size of Social Security, but so what? Even if you passed it, some future Congress would just reverse it.

Private accounts are the only thing you can do to undermine the nature of Social Security that's likely to be permanent. There are no absolute guarantees, of course, but once you start up a program of private accounts, it's almost impossible to dismantle it. In the same way that there are enormous transition costs to ditch the current system in favor of private accounts, there would be enormous transition costs in the future associated with any attempt to ditch private accounts and bring back guaranteed benefits.
The widespread popularity of Soc Security is an insult to the conservative ideology and a constant reminder to conservatives that ultimately they have failed. They cannot claim victory so long as soc security exists.

Meanwhile Back in Iraq

Link
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A major oil fire raged Saturday after insurgents blew up a pipeline in the north of the country. The family of an anchorwoman for a U.S.-funded state television station — a mother of four who was repeatedly shot in the head — found her body dumped on a street in the northern city of Mosul.

Earlier, the military had announced the death of a soldier killed Friday in a massive security sweep in the Sunni Triangle.

As part of that offensive, residents in Ramadi, the Sunni-dominated city 70 miles west of Baghdad, reported clashes between insurgents and American forces, but the military provided no details. U.S. troops have been conducting an offensive in the region for nearly a week.

The U.S. military said an insurgent was killed and another was injured trying to build a bomb in an abandoned house in Tirkit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and the site of a Thursday suicide bombing that killed 15 Iraqi police.

The body of Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan, the 35-year-old news presenter for the U.S.-funded Nineveh TV, was found dumped along a Mosul street, six days after she was kidnapped by masked gunmen, according to her husband, who said she had been shot four times in the head.

Dope Dubbed Again?

From today's NYTs,
Russia agreed today to provide fuel for an Iranian nuclear reactor and sought to assure a wary world that tough safeguards would prevent any diversion of the fuel to build weapons.

But the accord, vigorously opposed by the United States, carried a potential to undercut European-led efforts to curb the Iranian nuclear program, and it brought calls from some in Washington for a tougher stance on Russia.

It came only three days after President Bush, who has sharply denounced the Iranian program, expressed his trust in President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and joined with him in saying that Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

The White House had no immediate comment on the agreement, but lawmakers responded sharply.
Kevin Drum notes that either the private meeting between Putin and Bush didn't go well, or Bush told Putin he really doesn't care about Iran's nuclear program.

The third option is that Putin just lied to Bush's face, and the Dope was too slow to realize it. Bush likes to tell us that when gazes lovingly into Putin's eyes he sees an honest man.

What a dope.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Kansas AG Subpoenas Medical Records in Search of Crime

The NYTs reports on the Kansas Attorney General obtaining subpoenas to review medical records from a couple abortion clinics to determine if any crimes have been committed.

However, the NYTs reporter seems to miss the real issue, and the reason that the subpoenas should be quashed by a higher court. Per the Times story the Kansas AG asserts he needs to review medical records from abortion clinics in search of possible crimes, like stautory rape.

That is an invalid and unconstitutional reason to issue a subpoena. Before subpoenas should be issued, one must reasonable believe a specific crime has actually been committed, aka 'probable cause'. For instance, John Doe has been murdered and we need these records or this testimony in the grand jury investigation to find the murderer, or John Smith has been charged with murder and records are then subpoenaed in the underlying criminal case.

Here, the AG has no reason to believe a crime has been committed, but wants to see the medical records of hundreds of people to find a crime. If we allow this, were does it end? Will he next subpoena the medical records of all hospitals? Doctors? Schools? How about credit card companies? After all suspicious charges could mean escort services were involved or pornography purchased. And what about search warrants? The Kansas AG really should search every home in KS to make sure no crimes have been committed.

This isn't an abortion story or statutory rape story. This is a story about....The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This is a story about GD tyranny.

Working-class Voters

Earlier today in comments re Krugman's Friday column I wrote about working-class whites voting against their economic interest.

Harold Meyerson hasan interesting article up at American Prospect Online.

He has some very interesting comments on some disturbing data indicating how poorly Kerry did among working-class whites. Here is the crux,
Today's working class isn't found largely in factories; it's in nursing homes, on construction sites, in Wal-Marts. Republicans talk to its members about guns, gays and God. Democrats often just stammer. And given the imbalance of power in today's de-unionized workplace, Democrats couldn't do much better than Bush when it comes to boosting wages in this raise-less recovery.

Democrats win when they deliver prosperity and security for working Americans, and in today's capitalism, those have become increasingly unattainable goals. Which is why, as they only now gear up their think tanks, Democrats need to promote alternatives to the kind of shareholder-driven capitalism into which our system has descended, to the detriment of millions of underpaid, insecure workers. They need to side with Main Street over Wall Street. Like the conservatives 40 years ago, the Democrats need to offend their own elites to build an America that reflects their best values, and in which working people can and do count on them for support.

The Once 'Indispensable Nation'

I've been fascinated by Bush's tour of Europe. Oh, how the arrogant have been humbled.

After the end of the cold war America literally reigned supreme. We were, as President Clinton famously observed, "The indispensable nation." It was truly Pax Americana. Our economy and military might drove the world. But Bush and his 'kiss my ass' foreign policy and reckless economic leadership ended that long national nightmare. Most telling of the new, humbled Bush, is his "evolution" on Iran.

And now Bush is flying home from a begging tour of Europe.

From today's WaPo
Two years ago, as the United States prepared to invade Iraq, much of the opposition in Europe focused on the need to restrain the American "hyperpower" from running roughshod over international norms.

But as President Bush nears the end of his goodwill tour of Europe this week, it is increasingly clear the attitude has shifted. With the United States pinned down in Iraq, where the continued deployment of nearly 150,000 troops has severely strained the U.S. military, European leaders no longer expect further military expeditions in Bush's second term. And so they have been gracious -- but assertive, thus reflecting how far the United States has fallen from "hyperpower" status -- a term coined about America by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.

Indeed, analysts said, European leaders are increasingly united against U.S. positions and feel emboldened to go their own way on such issues as Iran and China.

Francois Heisbourg, director of the International Foundation for Strategic Studies in Paris, said there is no longer an Atlantic partnership so much as what he called an "a la carte partnership" between Europe and the United States. On some issues, the two sides agree and try to work together, and on others there is disagreement and discord. There are also issues on which they disagree but are willing to find common ground, he said.

Tres Sec John Snow: Idiot

Josh Marshall quotes John Snow thusly,
Snow said there are also economic benefits to the proposed changes. Businesses would not have to compete with the government to borrow money that might be needed to cover a Social Security deficit, there will be an infusion of investments to fund business expansion and job creation and payroll taxes wouldn't be raised.
As Josh points out, the statement is absurd on it's face because of the TRILLIONS (4.5 Trillion in just the first 20 years!) that will have to be borrowed to fund the private accounts.

This is just further proof that they do not want to honor the bonds that funded their tax cuts. They don't want to pay the money back!

Friday Krugman

Krugman does a good job today of identifying just how the Rs exploit those who do not share actual interest with them. Unfortunately, he's short on how to respond.
And this week we saw Mr. Frank's thesis ["What's the Matter With Kansas?," Thomas Frank's meditation on how right-wingers, whose economic policies harm working Americans, nonetheless get so many of those working Americans to vote for them] acted out so crudely that it was as if someone had deliberately staged it. The right wants to dismantle Social Security, a successful program that is a pillar of stability for working Americans. AARP stands in the way. So without a moment's hesitation, the usual suspects declared that this organization of staid seniors is actually an anti-soldier, pro-gay-marriage leftist front.

It's tempting to dismiss this as an exceptional case in which right-wingers, unable to come up with a real cultural grievance to exploit, fabricated one out of thin air. But such fabrications are the rule, not the exception.

For example, for much of December viewers of Fox News were treated to a series of ominous warnings about "Christmas under siege" - the plot by secular humanists to take Christ out of America's favorite holiday. The evidence for such a plot consisted largely of occasions when someone in an official capacity said, "Happy holidays," instead of, "Merry Christmas."

So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation - and that it is especially crucial in poor but conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas, where it's the only thing keeping a majority of seniors above the poverty line. Right-wingers will still find ways to claim that anyone who opposes privatization supports terrorists and hates family values.

Their first attack may have missed the mark, but it's the shape of smears to come.
Rs are quick to attack us for any counter-attacks on them by accusing us of class warfare. Of course they do this because they couldn't possibly win that fight. We have to summon the courage to wage this war against them and call them out at every opportunity -- at every public appearance, every talkshow, etc. -- and show them for what they really are. We should be running TV in these poor but Red states relentlessly pointing out to those voters how their getting screwed.

We also need to understand what is the biggest reason so many whites vote R against their best interest: Racism and bigotry. As I read liberal commentary about these issues am always amazed at how many people tip-toe around this issue. I've seen it my entire life, and I know all of you have too. How come no one wants to actually say it?

The GOP exploits bigotry to win elections they could never win on the issues. Take away their ability to so and they are done as a national party.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bush Cancels German Town Hall Meeting

A reader sent me this from Der Spiegel.

With a Hush and a Whisper, Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans
The much-touted American-style "town hall" meeting the White House has been planning with "normal Germans" of everyday walks of life will be missing during his visit to the Rhine River hamlet of Mainz this afternoon. A few weeks ago, the Bush administration had declared that the chat -- which could have brought together tradesmen, butchers, bank employees, students and all other types to discuss trans-Atlantic relations -- would be the cornerstone of President George W. Bush's brief trip to Germany.

State Department diplomats said the meeting would help the president get in touch with the people who he most needs to convince of his policies. Bush's invasion of Iraq and his diplomatic handling of the nuclear dispute with Iran has drawn widespread concern and criticism among the German public. And during a press conference two weeks ago, Bush said Washington is still terribly misunderstood in Europe. All the more reason, it would seem, for him to be pleased about talking to people here.

But on Wednesday, that town hall meeting will be nowhere on the agenda -- it's been cancelled. Neither the White House nor the German Foreign Ministry has offered any official explanation, but Foreign Ministry sources say the town hall meeting has been nixed for scheduling reasons -- a typical development for a visit like this with many ideas but very little time. That, at least, is the diplomats' line. Behind the scenes, there appears to be another explanation: the White House got cold feet. Bush's strategists felt an uncontrolled encounter with the German public would be too unpredictable.

To avoid that messy scenario, the White House requested that rules similar to those applied during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit two weeks ago also be used in Mainz. Before meeting with students at Paris's Institute of Political Sciences, which preens the country's elite youth for future roles in government, Rice's staff insisted on screening and approving any questions to be asked by students. ...

The Germans, though, insisted that a free forum should be exactly that. Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's Ambassador to the United States, explained to the New York Times last week: "We told them, don't get upset with us if they ask angry questions."
What a hoot! Bush can't face an unscripted meeting.

In place of the town hall meeting,
Bush will now meet with a well-heeled group of so-called "young leaders." Close to 20 participants will participate in the exclusive round to be held in the opulent Mozart Hall of a former royal palace in Mainz, giving them the opportunity for a close encounter with the president. The chat is being held under the slogan: "A new chapter for trans-Atlantic relations." The aim of the meeting is to give these "young leaders" a totally different impression of George W. Bush. In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group.

The guest list for the Wednesday afternoon gathering has been handpicked by several US organizations with offices in Germany. In recent days, the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund have sent lists of possible guests to the German Foreign Ministry. The requirement was that all of the nominees had to be in their twenties or thirties and they must already have been in a leadership position at a young age. In other words: there won't be any butchers or handymen on the elite guest list, but rather young co-workers from blue chip companies like automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank or the consultancy McKinsey. The fact that two American organizations are the ones managing the guest list suggests that the chat won't be overly critical of Bush.

It is amazing that every "public appearance" Bush makes is scripted and the US media just lets it go.

USANext Linked to Rove?

Of course, we all know that USANext is tied to Rove, but Josh Marshall has found so interesting links.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a rating and reporting bureau for public charities and nonprofits, notes that one of United Seniors Association's (USA) "affiliates" is O'Neill Marketing Company(OMC).

Apparently, it's a very tight affiliation since both are located at 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450. (USA lists Suite 450; OMC lists 450A).
....

O'Neill's front page lists its first selling point as: "We are a 'marketing' department for our clients, as if we were right down the hall."

And I guess they're really not kidding about that one.

OMC's other clients include ...

National Republican Congressional Committee
Republican National Committee
Republican Governors Association
Empower America/Citizens for Sound Economy

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Yet Another Example

In follow-up to my post below on entrenchment, The WaPo today offers an editorial that is yet another example of impacting all of us for years to come.

Entrenched for Years to Come

The Right is far more organized and entrenched then most of us can imagine.

I don't believe for a moment that the GOP has triumphed in the hearts of the American people who are with them on all issues. That is their PR BS which is a part of a PR machine that kicks our ass on a daily basis. They are in power now, like always, on fear. They lose on all issues but fear and so in this post 9-11 world they are again in power. And although the rank and file idiots who worship them believe their BS, the real brains in their outfit know I'm right.

And it is because they know this, that they are so dangerous. They are focused like lasers on their overall agenda and are making the most of this opportunity to make systemic changes to our nation that could take a generation to undo.

Perhaps the biggest item on the agenda that they all agree upon is shifting all federal tax revenue away from non-wage income and placing all Federal government funding on wage earners. That is the biggest single goal of Bush's tax cuts and they are phasing these in over time so that their full effects and damage will not show up until after the idiot leaves office.

Enter Grover Norquist. Political junkies know who he is, but not many others. But Grover will affect all of our lives for years to come. Through his 'charity', Americans for Tax Reform (that's right. It's a 501(c)3 charity), he raises millions and gets pledges from politicians to never, ever vote for a tax increase. To date, President George W. Bush, 217 House members, and 42 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 8 governors and 1212 state legislators have taken the pledge. And 'tax increase' is so broadly defined as to make it impossible for any pol who has signed the pledge to vote to undue any of the recent tax cuts.

And this is just one issue. We may very well win the WH next round, and pick up seats in both houses (even control of both) and we will be saddled with this mess for years. At least, that's the plan.

Blueprint for a Response

Josh Marshall today points to Steve Soto's blog for an excellent blue print on responding to the GOP smear of the AARP.
....AARP Chief Executive Officer Bill Novelli needs to call Karl Rove and demand that the White House condemn the ad and the tactics of the USAN. Of course Rove will not do this, and Novelli should tell Rove that failure to do this will be interpreted by the AARP as a sign that the White House supports and was a partner in this smear and in future smears.

Second, the AARP should do a press conference after the call to Rove for two reasons: first, they should show the despicable ad to the media and point out to what lengths Bush’s supporters will go to smear the AARP; secondly Novelli should reveal at the press conference that he has demanded the White House repudiate the ad and the USAN smear campaign, and has received no such repudiation from the White House. As a result, Novelli should tell the media that the AARP will assume the White House supports this smear.

Third, after this press conference, Howard Dean should have a press conference whereby he calls on Ken Mehlman at the RNC to repudiate the ad and the smear of the USAN by the end of the day. Dean can then also say that the DNC will be watching to see if the RNC does in fact repudiate this ad and smear, and if the RNC does not do so, the DNC will assume that the RNC plans to engage in the worst kind of politics to support the privatization of Social Security. Dean can then remind the media that such a smear seems amazing given that it was revealed just last week that the White House and RNC worked to get a gay prostitute past the White House security system into the press pool to participate in a disinformation campaign against the American people.
There is more and it's worth a read. I agree with nearly all of it. I do think his desired final response from the AARP is asking a little much (essentially declaring war on all GOP members of Congress) but I know where he's coming from.

Of course, I have no real hope that anything like this will happen. We let them get away with these things and they will never stop. Why should they? They work.

Just A Slush Fund

Josh at TPM has figured out who is behind USA Next. Although they claim over a million members, they have no income from membership dues. They're just a slush fund for the GOP from pharmamaceuticals industry.

Here are the details.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Oil Industry Not Interested in ANWR!

This is really too funny. Here's the crux from today's NYTs
....Once allied, the administration and the oil industry are now far apart on the issue. The major oil companies are largely uninterested in drilling in the refuge, skeptical about the potential there. Even the plan's most optimistic backers agree that any oil from the refuge would meet only a tiny fraction of America's needs.

...Though the oil industry is on the sidelines, the president still has plenty of allies. The Alaska Congressional delegation is eager for the revenue and jobs drilling could provide. Other legislators favor exploring the refuge because more promising prospects, like drilling off the coasts of Florida or California, are not politically palatable. And many Republicans hope to claim opening the refuge to exploration as a victory in the long-running conflict between development interests and environmentalists.
....
Whether that battle will be worthwhile, though, is not clear. Neither advocates nor critics can answer a crucial question: how much oil lies beneath the wilderness where the administration wants to permit drilling?

Advocates cite a 1998 government study that estimated the part of the refuge proposed for drilling might hold 10 billion barrels of oil. But only one test well has been drilled, in the 1980's, and its results are one of the industry's most closely guarded secrets.

A Bush adviser says the major oil companies have a dimmer view of the refuge's prospects than the administration does. "If the government gave them the leases for free they wouldn't take them," said the adviser, who would speak only anonymously because of his position. "No oil company really cares about ANWR," the adviser said, using an acronym for the refuge, pronounced "an-war."
What this article doesn't mention is that the Bush had administration had previously proposed subsidizing ANWR drilling to the tune of $30 BILLION dollars! Forget the enviromental issues. Forget the issue as to how much oil is present. If ANWR drilling can only work if subsidized, the oil will never be able to compete with cheap foreign oil. Why would oil companies want to get involved with a project that will require refunding every year from Congress?

A New Target for Advisers to Swift Vets

Here's the NYTs Story,
Taking its cues from the success of last year's Swift boat veterans' campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush's toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."
See below for more.

Now AARP



Kevin at Washington Monthly picks up on a post by Josh Marshall on the Rs latest target: The AARP.

For opposing the Soc Sec phase-out, they will get the Swift Boat Treatment.
USA Next has now hired the same guys who created the SwiftVets commercials last year — apparently the military/gay marriage ad wasn't quite incendiary enough — and they ought to be a good fit. A marriage made in heaven, so to speak.

The lunatic right marches on. And on. And on.....

So, have they finally gone too far?

I'm Back

Sorry for the unscheduled departure. I caught some bug and have spent most of the last 3 days in bed. I'm feeling better now and back, and need to get caught up!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Trouble in Paradise

House Republican leaders said yesterday that they may cut some of the nonmilitary parts of President Bush's $82 billion budget request for Iraq and anti-terrorism efforts because they are not emergencies.

The sharp comments they made in challenging the budget request marked an abrupt departure from the deference the Republicans have shown Bush on earlier war funding. Party members said they are determined to reassert their authority over the budget at a time when the White House is accusing lawmakers of being big spenders.

The main target of the rebellious Republicans is a request for $658 million to build what would be the largest embassy in the world: a fortress in Baghdad's Green Zone that would replace the former palace complex that U.S. officials are using.

Daily Show on Prostie

Crooks and Liars has up a link to the Daily Show's very entertaining take on bloggers and gay male prostitute WH shill in the press corps.

They also have a link to all of the prostitute's softballs to Scott McClellan, and lastly G-dub, which you can go to here

The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'

Frank Rich has an excellent column in today's NYTs on the subject of the WH propaganda machine. You should read the whole column but I want to focus on a key point,
By my count, "Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's "marriage" initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV [re the medicare drug plan]....

The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages [on the medicare drug plan] and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

Even now, we know that the fake news generated by the six known shills is only a small piece of the administration's overall propaganda effort. ...

The pre-fab "Ask President Bush" town hall-style meetings held during last year's campaign (typical question: "Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?") were carefully designed for television so that, as Kenneth R. Bazinet wrote last summer in New York's Daily News, "unsuspecting viewers" tuning in their local news might get the false impression they were "watching a completely open forum." A Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, intended to provide propagandistic news items, some of them possibly false, to foreign news media was shut down in 2002 when it became an embarrassing political liability. But much more quietly, another Pentagon propaganda arm, the Pentagon Channel, has recently been added as a free channel for American viewers of the Dish Network. Can a Social Security Channel be far behind?
During the Clinton administration, Rep Dan Burton (R-IN), as chair of the House Gov't Reform Comm became famous investigating the Clintons at every turn. Although Burton is still a member, the current chair is Tom Davis (R-VA). Where the hell are they on this issue? Henry Waxman (D-CA) is the ranking member, and a real reform crusader. It's time we contacted the chairman's office with demands for an investigation. Given the power hold the Rs have, Henry can't do it on his own. The public has to let them know we want action.

Contact Rep Davis's office and let them know you want an investigation not just into the homosexual prostitute and his ties to the WH, but the whole use of taxpayer money to fund their propaganda machine.

Every left-leaning blogger should be making this appeal to their readers. We need to turn up the heat in a very big way.

Propaganda Machine

The Xtian Science Monitor has a good summary piece today on propaganda machine that is the Bush White House.
Here's a taste,
WASHINGTON - First came video "news releases" produced by the Bush administration using a TV news format. Then came three conservative columnists who got big paychecks from federal agencies. Now, there's Jeff Gannon (not his real name), a journalist (maybe) who gained surprisingly easy access to the president, only to lob a sympathetically slanted question.

No evidence has surfaced that Mr. Gannon was directed by the White House, but the circumstances ignited a debate over the inner workings of the White House press room.

Presidents from George Washington on down have struggled with a news corps viewed as hostile. And in the age of television, the art of message management has been increasingly vital to the modern presidency.

But taken together, these recent controversies suggest that the Bush administration may be pushing that craft into new territory - and testing the limits of presidential public relations.

"The public has a reason to be concerned about the ways in which political manipulation is influencing journalism," says Larry Gross at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.
As I've observed before, this really is an important story, and we need to keep it alive. We should all be sharing our concerns with our elected officials.

And remember, this Administration actually has been determined to have violated the Federal statute against propaganda,
A 2004 video produced by the Health and Human Services Department to promote the administration's new Medicare prescription drug law ended with the tagline in journalese: "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
....
Last May, the General Accounting Office ruled that the prepackaged news report segment violated a law prohibiting the use of federal funds for propaganda because it did not identify the government as the source of the news report.

War Recruits Terrorists

This is not a new story, but it can't be mentioned enough, and what is new is that this intel is coming from their shill.
The insurgency in Iraq continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials told Congress yesterday.

"Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," he said. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

On a day when the top half-dozen U.S. national security and intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill to talk about the continued determination of terrorists to strike the United States, their statements underscored the unintended consequences of the war in Iraq.
So turns out they were lying when they told us that Iraq was a hot bed of terrorist support and recruiting, but through there efforts, it is now true.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Wedge Issues

Kevin offers a some excellent examples of wedge issues we can exploit.

First and foremost, the opposition to birth control by many opponents to abortion rights. The majority of Americans very much dislike any abortion -- even when they support the right to choose -- and are very open minded on birth control -- especially when packaged as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Making an issue of this exposes many who oppose abortion for the loons they are. The sad truth is that many see an unwanted baby as God's punishment for a sinful life. These loons need to be exposed.

Go Read Kevin.

Liberal Media My....

Atrios points to this excellent piece by Joe Conason proving that the 'liberal media' is a R myth,
....Imagine the media explosion if a male escort had been discovered operating as a correspondent in the Clinton White House. Imagine that he was paid by an outfit owned by Arkansas Democrats and had been trained in journalism by James Carville. Imagine that this gentleman had been cultivated and called upon by Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart—or by President Clinton himself. Imagine that this "journalist" had smeared a Republican Presidential candidate and had previously claimed access to classified documents in a national-security scandal.

Then imagine the constant screaming on radio, on television, on Capitol Hill, in the Washington press corps—and listen to the placid mumbling of the "liberal" media now.
Conason has a very good point, but it's not just the media. The Clinton scandals were kept alive for so long in the press because the Rs kept them as a constant drum beat screaming scandal everywhere they went into every open microphone they could find and on every TV appearance. They were relentless and never let it go,...ever. And despite the popular view now, conventional wisdom at the time in the late 90's as they continued to lose seats in both houses, was that they went too far.

We on the other hand, are too timid and cowardly to go far enough. If we want this story to stay alive, we have to keep it alive. Unfortunately, our leadership in Congress are too big of wimps, and even if they beat the drums, the rank and file Ds won't. The Rs didn't have this problem.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Plame Reporters Must Testify

Link

A New York Times reporter and a Time magazine reporter can be jailed if they continue to refuse to answer questions before a grand jury about their confidential conversations with government sources, a federal appeals court decided this morning.

The decision upholds a trial court judge's ruling last year that Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine should be forced to answer these questions or be sent to jail. Both reporters fought to stop a subpoena from the Special Counsel to appear before a grand jury investigating whether senior Bush administration officials knowingly leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert operative, to the media in the summer of 2003.

Lawyers said both the New York Times and Time magazine will seek a stay of the decision, to avoid having their reporters go to jail, while they appeal to the full appeals court and likely to the Supreme Court. But that request for a stay would have to be granted by the appellate judges.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington rejected the contention that the First Amendment protects the information being concealed by the journalists, saying that a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision said just the opposite.

The judges also found there is no common law protection for journalists' confidential sources when a criminal investigation seeks to determine if a law has been broken and information about those sources is critical to that inquiry.

"We further conclude that if any such common law privilege exists, it is not absolute, and in this case has been overcome by the filings of the Special Counsel," the panel wrote.
Don't hold your breath on those appeals. I think the court will deny the request for en banc hearing and the Supreme Court will deny cert.

The Press gets whipped up by these kinds of cases and their First Amendment rights, but those rights are not absolute and never have been. These reporters are witnesses to a serious crime. Protecting a political hit squad is not the kind of facts that makes for compelling Constitutional arguments -- or historic Supreme Court decisions. This ain't the Pentagon Papers.

Krugman on Dean

Krugman's take on Howard appears to match my own,
"The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."

Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.

It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."
Go Howard, go!

Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Hypocrites

Go read Digby!

Digby has an excellent post up today pointing out one of our biggest failings as party,
....Paraphrasing a comment I read somewhere yesterday (apologies to the author) "pay no attention to the naked gay conservative male prostitute sitting in the middle of the family values white house living room." Goldberg affects a jocular dismissiveness for a reason. He knows what a real story is and he knows how they work. And he is trivializing this one because it is actually quite dangerous.

Meanwhile, on the left we have much handwringing by commenters over this not being a "gay" story and how we should concentrate on the national security angle and how it's really about access etc, etc. We too are ignoring the naked, gay conservative prostitute in the middle of the family values white house living room. And this is where they get us.

Perhaps it would be instructive to take another little trip down memory lane. Jonah knows very well what a real story is because he was up to his ears in one of the biggest political sex scandals in history. From Michael Isifkoff's award winning MSM articles on the Lewinsky affair:Read the rest
Digby has got it right. For the party who campaigns on so-called family values that they define as excluding gays, and who consider it a criticism of Reid that gay advocacy groups support him, that they have a shill in the WH press corps who is a gay male prostitute is a very big story.

So why would we lay down on this? Jonah Goldberg a GD hypocrite and our people should be not just calling him as much, but confronting him with his hypocrisy and every other R as well. Put them on the spot and make they squirm, damn it! Make them agree an investigation is in order and if they resist point out their hypocrisy!!!

Imagine the hue and cry if a naked gay white male Democratic shill were uncovered in the Clinton press corps. They'd want a special prosecutor!

News Flash: Missile Defense Shield Still Does Not Work

U.S. Missile Defense Again Fails Key Test (washingtonpost.com)

I've written about this several times. Although we've spent tens of billions of dollars and at G-dub's insistence, deployed the "shield," it has yet to have had a single successful test. All previous tests that claimed to be successful, were rigged. Also, it is designed to protect us against a non-existent threat.

It's all part of G-dub's "No Campaign Contributor Left Behind" policy.

Click to enlarge

Monday, February 14, 2005

Oops, The Wrong Guys Won

I can't help but laugh at this, because I do believe Wolfy and crew were actually surprised by this outcome,
When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.
Hard as it is to believe that people in high ranking position of power could really be such fools, it's true. They really believed this obvious outcome was very unlikely.

I recall shortly after the invasion, Rummy telling reporters that he thought this outcome -- Iraqis choosing an islamist government -- was not a possibility. I'll look for the quote.

Where Is This Trust Fund?

Dan Froomkin in today's WaPo does a nice job of explaining in a simple way the technical issue of the Soc Security Trust Fund. Is there a trust fund, or not?

Social Security is indeed fundamentally a pay-as-you-go program. But ever since 1983, workers have been paying more in Social Security payroll taxes than was strictly necessary to cover benefits. The idea was to build up a reserve for when the Baby Boom retired.

By law, the proceeds -- and they have grown, with interest, to $1.76 trillion last I heard -- are invested in Treasury bonds. Just like the proceeds of other Treasury bonds, that cash is then spent by the government for its programs -- so it's not just sitting there in a pile somewhere, just like Bush says. And, in fact, just like with other Treasury bonds, the government will have to raise the revenue down the road to pay them back eventually -- which may not be easy.

But does that mean the trust fund means nothing? That the 225 pieces of paper representing Special Issue U.S. Treasury Bonds in multibillion-dollar denominations that sit in a file cabinet in West Virginia are just so many czarist rubles?

(Read Larry Eichel's story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last month for more on that file cabinet.)

The whole article is worth a read.

'The Party of National Unity'

Go read the Moose today. He makes a very good point.
....These caucuses only serve to feed the stereotype of the Democrats as the party of the special interests. In fact, it is the Bushies who divide the nation by class on behalf of the comfortable. But the widespread impression of the Democrats is that it is a party of political correctness which seeks to balkanize the country by our various differences. The Democrats must once again the party of bread and butter economic progressivism rather than the party of identity politics.

The Moose would argue that the Democrats should become the party of national unity and purpose. Perhaps, the new DNC Chair can surprise us all and recommend the abolition of official party caucuses. They can certainly exist outside the structure of the party. But, the Chairman can send the message that the Democrats are one party for a united America.
I think the Ds are more united then the Moose would have us believe, but he makes a good point. It is the popular perception that we are the party of divided special interest.

I will write more about this later and the related issue no one wants to talk about, race.

Go read the Moose.

Bush's Budget Landmine

Not enough is written about the way Bush builds in the highest cost years down the road, on almost everything.

The WaPo has finally decided to write the story.
Bush's extensive tax cuts, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and, if it passes, his plan to redesign Social Security all balloon in cost several years from now. His plan to partially privatize Social Security, for instance, would cost a total of $79.5 billion in the last two budgets that Bush will propose as president and an additional $675 billion in the five years that follow. New Medicare figures likewise show the cost almost twice as high as originally estimated, largely because it mushrooms long after the Bush presidency.

"It's almost like you've got a budget, and you've got a shadow budget coming in behind that's a whole lot more expensive," said Philip G. Joyce, professor of public policy at George Washington University.

By the time the next president comes along, some analysts said, not only will there be little if any flexibility for any new initiatives, but the entire four-year term could be spent figuring out how to accommodate the long-range cost of Bush's policies.
It is going to be U-G-L-Y.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Today's Message from Homeland Security

The Propaganda Remix Project

Sucking Lemons

Wolcott has an excellent post up today.

I only saw a brief bit of Sen Grassley on Meet the Press, and Wolcott captures the moment perfectly. These guys (the Rs) do not look happy at all, and we're only weeks into the second term.

We need to poke the gassbag Rs at every opportunity.

Howard's The Man!

Regular readers will know that I am not a Deaniac. I'm also not a Dean hater, and know that his portrayal by the media during the campaign as a wildeyed leftist was not accurate.

I'm very excited about the prospect of Howard heading up the DNC. Frankly, I didn't know enough about the other candidates to have a well grounded opinion on who would be best.

But this I do know: We need to change the status quo, and no one can question that Howard is a step in that direction. Anything that is a departure from Reid and Polosi is a step in the right direction.

A while back Kevin Drum made a good case for Howard as DNC chair:
  • He's a well known figure, which means he'd automatically get more attention than any of the other candidates. There's no substitute for the kind of charisma he's got, and it's
    something Democrats desperately need. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid just aren't going to get the kind of face time that Dean can get.

  • He's not afraid to speak out. He'll beat up on the opposition, he'll stir the pot, and he'll say interesting things. He's also shown that he's willing to say things to Democrats that they need to hear too, whether they like it or not.

  • Despite his reputation, his policy preferences are pretty centrist. That means he can appeal to both the reformist wing of the party and the DLC wing.

  • I'll bet he's a pretty good fundraiser. Like it or not, the DNC chair needs to raise money from big donors, and I think Dean can do that. But he also has a proven ability to raise money fromnontraditional sources.


In this morning's WaPoDan Balz gives a nice run-down of what Howard faces.

'No Mullah Left Behind'

Friedman has some harsh words for G-dub.
The Wall Street Journal ran a very, very alarming article from Iran on its front page last Tuesday. The article explained how the mullahs in Tehran - who are now swimming in cash thanks to soaring oil prices - rather than begging foreign investors to come into Iran, are now shunning some of them. The article related how a Turkish mobile-phone operator, which had signed a deal with the Iranian government to launch Iran's first privately owned cellphone network, had the contract frozen by the mullahs in the Iranian Parliament because they were worried it might help the Turks and their foreign partners spy on Iran.

The Journal quoted Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as saying that for 10 years analysts had been writing about Iran's need for economic reform. "In actual fact, the scenario is worse now," said Mr. Ansari. "They have all this money with the high oil price, and they don't need to do anything about reforming the economy...."

This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: "No Mullah Left Behind."

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?
Be careful what you wish for, aye Tom?

Read the column. With the mullahs rolling in cash there is much less reason to negotiate on the nuke issue or any other issue. And the easier to meddle in Iraq. And this is a topic the media really isn't covering.

The Votes Are In!

The Iraqi vote totals are in.

As expected the Shiia dominated the voting, but did not get enough votes to form a government without at least the Kurds. Turnout was 58% which was expected prior to the election. Wild figures released the day of the election of much higher turnout were at best baseless speculation and at worst propaganda.
The Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance ticket received 4,075,295 votes, or about 48 percent of the total cast, Iraqi election officials said. The Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of two main Kurdish factions, was second with 2,175,551 votes, or 26 percent, and the Iraqi List headed by the U.S.-backed Allawi finished third with 1,168,943 votes, or about 14 percent.

Those three top finishers represent about 88 percent of the total, making them the main power brokers as the assembly chooses national leaders and writes a constitution.
The best news is that the Shiia cannot form a government without the participation of others.

The bad news is that the religious Shiia with the closest ties to Iran received the lionshare of the votes. PM Allawi's secular list came in sixth with about 4 percent - finishing not only behind the Kurds but also behind two tiny Assyrian Christian parties and a communist-led party. That's how popular our puppet is.

Click to enlarge

TiVo is Dead

Sorry everyone for the limited posting the last several days. However, I've been pre-occupied with work and a new large screen TV and the addition of HD TV. I've long had home theater sound, and now I have the rest of the set-up.

Getting the new TV and adding HD has been very complicated and the instruction books really suck if you don't already know what you're doing. Now, I think I finally have it figured out and have been watching movies. It's awesome.

If you have any stock in TiVo, sell it. As a part of my HD receiver from my Cable provider I get DVR recording IN HD! with the user friendly menus TiVo made famous. I get all this for about $10 a month, which is less than the TiVo subscription for non-HD and I have no equipment costs. Why would anyone subscribe to TiVo? Does TiVo even offer HD recording?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Condi: F*cking Liar!

Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation. This should be hitting the US media fan very soon. It's all laid out at Daily Kos.

Friday Krugman

In all the articles I've seen this week on Bush's budget, they eluded to additional tax cuts but none spelled it out. What we forget is that in the tax cuts G-dub rammed through Congress, some didn't take effect immediately, but are to be phased in over time--to keep the price down.

Krugman say's it's G-dub launching the class warfare and gives some good examples. Here's a taste,
First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.

And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions - originally put in place under the first President George Bush - that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.

More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.

It so happens that the number of taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income is about the same as the number of people who would have their food stamps cut off under the Bush proposal. But it costs a lot more to give a millionaire a break than to put food on a low-income family's table: eliminating limits on deductions and exemptions would give taxpayers with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of more than $19,000.

It's like that all the way through. On one side, the budget calls for program cuts that are small change compared with the budget deficit, yet will harm hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans. On the other side, it calls for making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and for new tax breaks for the affluent in the form of tax-sheltered accounts and more liberal rules for deductions.

The question is whether the relentless mean-spiritedness of this budget finally awakens the public to the true cost of Mr. Bush's tax policy.

In Case You Were Running Out of Things to Worry About

Time's Cover Story this week is about Abdul Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. (This site I've linked to has posted the entire article. Time requires a subscription)

Here is the heart of the story,
...For more than a decade, Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, masterminded a vast, clandestine and hugely profitable enterprise whose mission boiled down to this: selling to a rogues’ gallery of nations the technology and equipment to make nuclear weapons. Among Khan’s customers were Iran and North Korea--two countries identified by Bush as members of the "axis of evil," whose nuclear ambitions present the U.S. with two of its biggest foreign policy quandaries. At a moment when the international community is focused on a potential showdown with Iran, a TIME investigation has revealed that Khan’s network played a bigger role in helping Tehran and Pyongyang than had been previously disclosed. U.S. intelligence officials believe Khan sold North Korea much of the material needed to build a bomb, including high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium and the equipment required to manufacture more of them. Officials are worried--but have not yet seen proof--that Khan gave those countries rudimentary but effective designs for nuclear warheads. Officials in Washington and at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna say they suspect that Iran may have bought the same set of goods--centrifuges and possibly weapons designs--from Khan in the mid-1990s. Although the IAEA says so far it has not found definitive proof that Iran has a weapons program, its investigators told TIME that Tehran has privately confirmed at least 13 meetings from 1994 to 1999 with representatives of Khan’s network.

Who else did business with this merchant of menace? The list of suspected nuclear clients is dizzying. Investigators believe that as head of Pakistan’s main nuclear-research laboratory, Khan traveled the world for more than a decade, visiting countries in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. According to a source in Pakistan’s Defense Ministry, U.S. officials are investigating whether Khan’s network might have sold nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
Read the entire story

More Gannon

Since the NYTs has not made this available as an open link, I'm pasting the whole article here. it's short.

Link,
Two Democrats in Congress are pressing for investigations into how a Washington reporter who used a pseudonym managed to gain access to the White House and had access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative.

The Democrats, Representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Louise M. Slaughter from Rochester, wrote yesterday to Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent prosecutor appointed in the Plame case, seeking an investigation into how the reporter, James D. Guckert, who used the name Jeff Gannon, had access to classified documents that revealed the identity of Ms. Plame.

Until Wednesday when he resigned, Mr. Guckert worked for TalonNews.com, a Web site operated by Robert Eberle, a Texas Republican. Mr. Guckert said in a March 2004 interview with his own news service, in which he was referred to as Mr. Gannon, that the classified document had been "easily accessible." The two Democrats questioned how a person with "dubious qualifications" had access to such a document. The Democrats also wrote to the Secret Service seeking an explanation of how someone using a pseudonym was cleared to enter the White House daily press briefings as well as a presidential news conference last month. They said in their letter that allowing such a person in "appears to deviate significantly from heightened security measures you have employed recently."

Mr. Guckert resigned from Talon saying he had been harassed by liberals on the Internet. Bloggers grew suspicious of him after President Bush called on him at the news conference and the reporter suggested that Democrats had "divorced themselves from reality." Spearheaded by a Web site called Media Matters For America, the bloggers discredited him.

Mr. Guckert told CNN yesterday that he had been receiving threats and hate mail. He said he used the pseudonym Gannon because it was "easier to pronounce and remember."

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters yesterday that Mr. Bush did not know who Mr. Guckert was. Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Guckert entered the White House under his real name and "like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly, and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes, just like many others are."

Mr. Guckert was denied credentials to cover Capitol Hill, where press gallery workers said that his application indicated Talon was not his main source of income and that they could not verify its legitimacy.

Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Ms. Slaughter, said: "This is a guy who could not get credentialed by the House or the Senate press galleries, and yet managed to get into the White House and question the president" and have access to a top-secret document.

He added: "To imply he has no connection to the White House is just not credible."
Frisch got that right, and we need to hound them on this.

WH Linked to Gay Porn and Prostitution Ring

How's that for a headline.

If you read blogs, then you've no doubt heard the story of the GOP shill in the WH press corps.

E & P has a nice run-down on the story. We really need to hold thier feet to the fire on this one,
...Gannon's real name, Guckert, had been outed earlier Wedneday by investigators at DailyKos, Eschaton, Media Matters and other sites. They also showed that Talon News is run by a Texas GOP activist.

Also Wednesday, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to President Bush asking him to "address the matter" in light of "mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies."

Gannon first gained attention several weeks ago when he asked a question at a presidential press conference that some in the press corps considered so friendly it might have been planted. Later E&P revealed that Gannon had been turned down last year for a congressional press pass because he could not prove his employer was a valid news organization. That denial barred him from receiving a White House "hard pass," allowing regular access to White House press events.

But Gannon had been obtaining daily White House press passes, a situation that had irked some veteran White House reporters who also questioned his credentials or considered him to be too partisan in his questioning.
But this is not the best part of the story. The best part is that this WH ringer is gay as a french horn and the owner of several gay prostitution web sites,
Adding another twist, NPR's David Folkenflik, in his report Wednesday night, referred to revelations arising from liberal blogs earlier in the day, connecting Gannon to sexual Web sites such as HotMilitaryStud.com, among others.

"These sites are registered to an address in Delaware that's the same as one held by a James Guckert," Folkenflik said. "And that's the name that Gannon used to apply for press credentials on Capitol Hill. ... As for those Web sites, Gannon said he created them for clients of a software company he used to work for. And Gannon said his Christian faith has enabled him to receive forgiveness for the sins of his past."

The New York Daily News' story on Thursday carried the headline, "Bush press pal quits over gay prostie link." Washington reporter Helen Kennedy wrote: "A conservative ringer who was given a press pass to the White House and lobbed softball questions at President Bush quit yesterday after left-leaning Internet bloggers discovered possible ties to gay prostitution."The sites Guckert owns also include HotMilitaryStud.com, MilitaryEscorts.com and MilitaryEscortsM4M.com.

And don't believe any attempts by the WH to distance themselves from this guy. Gannon was also given a classified CIA memo from yet undisclosed WH operatives that named agent Valerie Plame, leading to his grilling by the grand jury investigating her outing.

UPDATE: Here is the NYTs run-down on the story. Unfortunately, the Times does not provide an open link for this story so you'll have to be registered to read it.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Finally!

From Wednesday's WaPo,
To conclude that Social Security is careening toward a crisis in 2042, President Bush is relying on projections that an aging society will drag down economic growth. Yet his proposal to establish personal accounts is counting on strong investment gains in financial markets that would be coping with the same demographic head wind.

That seeming contradiction has become fodder for a heated debate among economists, who divide sharply between those who believe the stock market cannot meet the president's expectations and those who say investor demand from a faster-growing developing world will keep stock prices rising.

"If economic growth is slow enough that we've got a problem with Social Security, then we are also going to have problems with the stock market. It's as simple as that," said Douglas Fore, director of investment analytics for TIAA-CREF Investment Management Group. A spokeswoman said the company has not taken a position on the Social Security debate.

In the next two decades, as elderly populations swell throughout the developed world, retirees will begin withdrawing their savings, selling their financial holdings to raise cash and potentially glutting the world with stocks and bonds. Richard Jackson, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' global aging initiative, called it "the great depreciation scenario." Germany's Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging dubs it the "asset meltdown hypothesis."

That would not be an auspicious environment for young investors opening personal accounts to replace a portion of their traditional Social Security benefits.
What took you so long, "liberal media", so summon the courage to report the obvious!.

Read the rest here.

Liar, liar, liar

I've been talking about this for the last two months and now some of the 'A' list blogs are also talking about it.

The bottom line is that the Rs don't way to honor the bonds in the Soc Security Trust Fund. They took all that money for their tax cuts and they don't want to pay it back! And it is F*CKING OUTRAGEOUS! (FYI: I only use the '*' so that this page remains "work friendly" and won't be blocked by servers that filter employee content)

Yesterday, G-dub spoke at the Commerce Dept and blatantly lied as follows,
Some in our country think that Social Security is a trust fund -- in other words, there's a pile of money being accumulated. That's just simply not true. The money -- payroll taxes going into the Social Security are spent. They're spent on benefits and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust. We're on the ultimate pay-as-you-go system -- what goes in comes out. And so, starting in 2018, what's going in -- what's coming out is greater than what's going in. It says we've got a problem. And we'd better start dealing with it now. The longer we wait, the harder it is to fix the problem.
What Bush in fact proposes is the largest transfer of wealth from working people to the wealthy that the world has ever seen.

Josh Marshall has been all over this story, and if you care about this issue, his TPM is a must read. Anyway, Josh gives us a history lesson,
Alan Greenspan headed up the 'Greenspan Commission' (aka the National Commission on Social Security Reform). The Greenspan Commission didn't create the Trust Fund -- it dates back to 1939. But it was the reform package devised by the Greenspan Commission and issued in their January 1983 report that led to the intentional building up of a large surplus in the Trust Fund which would provide excess revenue to help pay for the retirement of the babyboomers in the early decades of the 21st century.

Setting aside all the actuarial and financial gobbledegook, the basic idea was that the boomers and others would start paying not only their own taxes but also advance paying to cover the costs of their own retirement. The Social Security Adminsitration used the monies in the Trust Fund to purchase bonds -- debt that otherwise would have had to have been purchased by private individuals, pensions, foreigners, all the parties that buy US Treasury bonds. (The majority of the US government's debt is in the hands of those folks; and you can be sure they're going to get paid back.)

Strictly speaking the Soc Security 'Trust Fund' is not like a private trust fund, but it is a statutory creation and it has assets, namely government bonds, just like those sold to foreigners and Americans alike, and those bonds must be repaid. Bush personally holds at least $5 million worth of these bonds and you can believe he has no plans for the Govt to default on those!

We must club them over the head with the rip-off they propose! In the 80's and now, the very wealthy have taken the Soc Security excess in the form of tax cuts -- they're still doing it to the tune of about $180 BILLION this fiscal year -- and replaced it with what they now call worthless IOUs.

You bet this is class warfare and we need to beat their brains out with it!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Post Election Reassessment

The post-election propaganda campaign appears over as Iraq is rocked with more violence. 50 dead from bombings in 48 hours.

I thought we captured the man responsible for 75% of all bombing on Jan 24? Evidently, he's been replaced.

The KR Washington Bureau has an excellent report up today summarizing post election Iraq.
....The explosion brought Iraqi deaths from insurgent attacks in a 48-hour period to about 50, and rattled the sense of well-being that came after national elections Jan. 30. Many Iraqis had hoped that the enthusiastic election turnout would blunt the insurgency.

But with violence having picked up again, U.S. and Iraqi officials are trying to puzzle out whether the voting had any significant effect.

Insurgent attacks on the American military hit a one-day record of 260 on election day. A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this week that attacks had fallen in the days after the election, although specific figures haven't been released.

The number of American service members killed in the week after the election - nine - was lower than that of the week prior - 13 - according to the U.S. Central Command, the division of the military that's responsible for the Middle East. If sustained at nine a week, the death toll would mark a significant reduction from the level of American casualties in recent months. U.S. Officials were uncertain whether the lower death count was the start of a new trend or merely a lull of the sort seen frequently in the past....
And has anyone seen it reported before now that there were 260 attacks on US military on election day! Boy, they kept that story under wraps.

It is my sincere hope that with the past election, the insurgents (who are not all Al Qaeda or inter-related) have a harder time recruiting. And it is not reasonable to expect that immediately following the elections violence would dramatically subside, but I really do think the effect of the election was over-sold and I think that's a bad idea long term because it only make the outside world that much more cynical.

Tuesdays With EJ

EJ has a good column today on the Race politics played by Republicans. We need to be better about calling them on it.

Race Bait And Switch
"Every Hispanic in America is watching," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch declared ominously as most Senate Democrats voted last week to oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

What was the senator from Utah implying? Hatch and everyone else knew perfectly well that Democrats voted against the new attorney general not because of his ethnicity but because they wanted to hold Gonzales and the White House he served accountable for appalling policies that led to the mistreatment of prisoners. But playing ethnic politics is more profitable for Republicans than arguing about torture, so Hatch let it rip.

5 Months Isn't Enough

for conspiring against Democracy.

Josh Marshall has followed this story from the begging.

Link
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The former head of a Republican consulting group was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail for jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 election.

Allen Raymond, who was president of the Alexandria, Va.-based GOP Marketplace LLC at the time, did not comment as he left the U.S. District Court sentencing. He also was fined $15,600.

He had pleaded guilty in July.

Court papers say Raymond and co-conspirators plotted to jam Democratic lines that voters could call for rides to the polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont. A line run by the nonpartisan Manchester firefighters' union also was jammed.

The blizzard of more than 800 computer-generated calls lasted about 90 minutes on Nov. 5, 2002, as voters decided races for governor, U.S. senator and hundreds of other offices.

State Republicans acknowledged two years ago they hired GOP Marketplace. But then-Republican Chairwoman Jayne Millerick said the company was paid $15,600 for telemarketing services to encourage people to vote Republican, not to jam lines.

Chuck McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, also pleaded guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

James Tobin, 44, regional chairman of Bush's campaign last year, was indicted in December and pleaded innocent. Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, had stepped down from Bush's New England campaign in October after the allegations against him became public. In 2002, he was northeast political director of the party committee working to elect Republican senators.

Not Bloody Likely

Bush's 06 budget was all the talk yesterday. This morning, the WaPo reports that many of Bush's cuts are not new and not likely to pass Congress, which, the WaPo reminds us, is controlled by Republican.

Here's the lede,
President Bush's budget plan calls for cuts in Amtrak, beach restoration, education, local police grants and dozens of other programs. Bush has tried to slash such programs before, only to have Congress -- which is controlled by his party -- refuse.

Lawmakers and activist groups yesterday predicted similar results this year, because even the most obscure or controversial federal programs have their constituencies and their defenders in both parties.

"Programs like Amtrak, beach replenishment and education funding have so much support in Congress that I believe the funding will be restored," Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.) said, even as he praised Bush's "efforts to scrub every federal program for waste and abuse."
The article goes on to note that Bush has 150 projects on the chopping block and highlights many of the cuts that include:
  • Beach front replenishment that Clinton also tried to cut and which the Eastern Seaboard will never tolerate.

  • 170 M for water quality protections. Clean water? Who needs it. We've got tax cuts to save.

  • Many cuts in farm subsidies including a cap of $250,000 in yearly payments per farmer. Think about that, some farmers get more than $250k in yearly subsidies. Of course, it was Bush and the Rs who pushed, only two years ago, the $100 BILLION dollar farm subsidy bill they now seek to trim (sure, they had plenty of D help). I think cutting farm subsidies is long over due, but that's a topic for another post.

  • Cut nearly all Amtrak federal funding as well as the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program--a next-generation high-speed rail research program. Think of this in terms of red state, blue state and it makes sense. Americans outside the NE can't imagine riding a train anywhere don't understand the need for Amtrak funding.
Of course, there are many more programs on the chopping block that this article doesn't even touch on. But the point of the article is a good one,
According to the White House, Bush proposed curtailing or eliminating 128 programs last year, including 15 that were to be "zeroed out" because the administration concluded they were not effective. The GOP-controlled Congress restored all but two, for a savings of $25 million.
The deficit is out of control and foreign investors are making it clear that they don't like it -- and they now have an alternative -- the Euro. We need foreign investors to buy our debt.

The deficit is out of control for two simple reasons, major spending increases and major tax cuts. The Republican play book has always been to demonize spending and the poor as the problem with deficits. Bush and the Rs in Congress will fight to the death to protect those tax cuts (Grover Nourquist has had many of them sign pledges to never increase taxes and they know he will screw them if they do), but they are now being hit over the head with reality. We could cut all domestic discretionary spending and we would run a deficit, which is a reality that no one seems to want to talk about.

This is the weak underbelly of the Republicans and we need to capitalize on it in a big way. We need to be beating the drum every day that cops on the streets and clean water for our children have to be cut so the wealthy can keep their tax cuts.

The Rs want to make previous tax cuts permanent including the estate tax, and cut more taxes including the alternative minimum tax that makes sure the mega rich actually pay some income taxes each year. How can we loose this fight! And yet we do, and it has to stop. We should be beating them over the head with these issues.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Let The Vilification Begin

Sam Rosenfeld at TAPPED points to the RNC plan to destroy Harry Reid. Sam links to an article in Roll Call (subscription required) wherein Ken Mehlman, closeted homosexual and RNC Chair, is boasting about it.
Given that Reid just got reelected to another six-year term and that Nevada is hardly the blood-red redoubt that South Dakota is, it should be clear that crippling Reid's electoral prospects in his home state is hardly the top priority here. The vilification effort is really aimed at the media and the broader public, and the intention is to shape mainstream perceptions of Reid as a vicious lefty partisan. Reid's moderate record and likeable, soft-spoken demeanor will likely do no more good in mitigating such ridiculous charges than those very same characteristics did for Daschle.
Go read the post. The RNC quotes are pretty blunt as to their intentions.

So what are we going to do about it? We should launch a media campaign to expose them. Especially in NV, pointing out how the RNC is attempting to destroy their native son simply because he disagrees with them.

Creeping Fascism

Josh Marshall has an important post up today revealing that the RNC is threatening TV stations who run ads they disagree with.

Contact you House member and senators and ask them if they support using the FCC as a threat to political speech.

Then give a little money to Moveon.org as a show of solidarity.

G-dubs Honeymoon is Definitely Over

Rs are finally becoming concerned about the .mountain of debt G-dub has racked up.
Concern by fellow Republicans about borrowing as much as $2 trillion in transition costs, for instance, is one of the big problems facing his plan to restructure Social Security to allow individual investment accounts.

And as Bush prepares to release his proposed fiscal 2006 budget today, some Republican lawmakers and fiscal experts are warning that the arguments he invoked in his first term for tolerating big deficits -- mainly the twin demands of war and recession -- are no longer sufficient to justify mounting debt. In last week's State of the Union address, the president himself promised a new austerity in domestic programs.

"Personally, I think we are setting ourselves up for problems" unless Republicans begin living up to their reputation as a tough-on-spending party, said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), a former governor who since coming to Congress in 1993 has been known as one of the party's "deficit hawks."
This presents a perfect opportunity to ram those tax cuts down their throats.

The Rs want further cuts and to make the last cuts permanent. DeLay, in fact, thinks the Soc Sec phase out just gets in the way of eliminating all taxes on non-wage income. This budget gives us the perfect opportunity to start the PR blitz linking these cuts to the budget woes and making any further cuts politically impossible. And rebuilding our party for the future.

Capitalizing on thes issues is 'do or die' for the Democratic party.

The Right's Attack on Public Pensions

Arnold wants to dumb California's public pension fund for govt workers. He says its about saving the state money. Balance the budget on the backs of working families.

Anyway, the State treasurer, Phil Angelides, has an op/ed in today's LATs and he thinks there are other motivations,
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says getting rid of public pension plans for California's state and local government workers is about helping to balance the budget. Peel back the budget wrapping on his plan, though, and you will find the governor's real agenda: the California prong of a national attack on the pension funds that have stood up for corporate reform and the interests of ordinary families and investors hurt by the recent wave of corporate scandal.

The governor has proposed privatizing government pension plans and replacing them with individual 401(k)-style private accounts. His proposal strikes at the power of public pension funds, which have used their financial clout to protect the retirement savings of 2 million Californians — teachers, police officers and other public servants.

The governor says his proposal is necessary because pension costs are out of control. Pension costs are certainly worthy of public debate, but his plan requires running two pension systems: one for current workers, a second for new workers. That would cost California taxpayers billions more in years to come — $5.9 billion in the first 10 years in the California State Teachers' Retirement System alone. Tellingly, even four of the governor's own six appointees to the teachers retirement fund oppose his proposal.

Why this proposal then? Because for the right-wing ideologues behind his plan, the issue is not saving money. It is about draining public pension funds of their clout.
Read the rest

To maintain power and win elections, the Republican party needs most of it's supporters to vote against their financial interest (when you policies only benefit 1 to 2% of the population you obviously have a problem). They do this through wedge issues / religious issues, etc and by just lying to people. They have been very good about marketing themselves and developing a political version of brand loyalty. How many of us white guys have friends who are loud and proud Rs who haven't the faintist idea what they are supporting 90% of the time and can't hold an inteligent coversation on a political topic to save their life? One way they do this, by the way, is by making the Ds look like weak fools, but I digress,..

Well, now these working class and middle class people are getting club over the head with the Rs fiscal policies that are not in their best interest.

Josh Marshall has a good, short post up on this.

And again I ask, so what are we going to do about it?