Thursday, March 31, 2005

'Defeating the Argument From Economic Growth'

Atrios points to LG&Mwho makes an excellent point.
I think this is something that progressives need to pay more attention to. Mark Smith, a UW political scientist, has spent a lot of time looking at back copies of the National Review to study conservative rhetoric on tax policy. In the wake of Goldwater, conservative arguments in favor of tax cuts tended to be libertarian ones, linking tax cuts with increased freedom. Particularly starting with Reagan, the libertarian arguments became much less prevalent, and were largely replaced by arguments linking tax cuts to economic growth. The latter strategy had significantly more public appeal. It's important, therefore, for progressives not to concede the premise that tax cuts produce economic growth; the evidence for this is, to put it mildly, weak.

The empirical case against the link between economic growth and tax cuts does not, of course, end the policy debate. The fact that the American economy prospered when the top marginal rates were essentially confiscatory does not, in itself, justify confiscatory tax rates (which I generally oppose as well.) But if conservatives are forced to defend tax cuts in libertarian terms, they will lose most of the time. The fact that the Bush tax cuts didn't come anywhere close to producing the job growth their advocates claim, for example, is something that progressives can't emphasize enough
The Rs are great at avoiding policy debates, which they always lose, by mocking their opposition. We need to learn to mix policy debates with mocking the Rs. One way to do this is to beat them over the head of the prosperty of the 1990's which they have saved us from and the likes of which we haven't seen since. You'll get a better since of what I'm talking about if you read the whole LG&M post.

This is Getting Ugly

Josh has a great run-down through a number of posts from last night documenting the wheels falling off privatization.

And it's not going to be pretty.

Bush Warns Social Security Critics
President Bush suggested Wednesday that lawmakers who oppose his proposal for a Social Security overhaul could face political problems as a result.

"To answer the question of the skeptics, we do have a serious problem," Mr. Bush said in an interview aired on CBS radio affiliate WMT AM in Cedar Rapids on WHO NewsRadio in Des Moines. Mr. Bush conducted the interview at a local diner, the Spring House Family Restaurant. "Now is the time to fix it, and I think there is a political price for not getting involved in the process."

He added: "I think there is a political price for saying, 'It's not a problem, I'm going to stay away from the table.'"
And as a reader of TPM aptly noted, "The president says 'If you've got an idea, I expect you to be at the table. We want to listen to good ideas.' How does this square with the forcible removal from the presidential gatherings of anyone exhibiting the merest hint of an appearance of possibly harboring independent thoughts?"

Fraud

Josh Marshall has a good post up today about the fraud being perpetrated by the Bush privatizer crowd.

When the Bush admin makes an economic forecast to predict the future of the SS Trust Fund, they make extremely pessimistic predictions. Yet, when they forecast economic growth to predict how well private accounts will perform, they make extremely rosey predictions. Both can't be honest assumptions. It's just fraud.

As Josh correctly notes, whether the economic future is rosey or grime, you must use the same assumptions to forecast the Trust Fund future as you do the private accounts future. Bloggers have been making this point for some time and finally the MSM is picking up on it.

Bloomberg
Bush is using forecasts from the Social Security Administration that say the economy will expand less than 2 percent a year -- the slowest sustained rate since the 1930s -- after 2020 as population growth eases. At the same time, the agency projects that stocks will return an annual average of 6.5 percent after inflation.

....Over the last 50 years, as the U.S. economy grew 3.4 percent a year on average, almost twice as much as the agency is forecasting, the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index returned only 6.8 percent after dividends were reinvested.

"A 6.5 percent real equity return is not realistic'' at the growth rates being projected, says Thomas McManus, chief investment strategist in New York at Banc of America Securities LLC. ``If it were, we will not have a Social Security problem in 2050 because shareholders will be so wealthy they could easily fund the shortfall.''
NYTs (sorry, no open link)
In barnstorming the country over Social Security, administration officials predict that American economic growth will slow to an anemic rate of 1.9 percent as baby boomers reach retirement.

Yet as they extol the rewards of letting people invest some of their payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts, President Bush and his allies assume that stock returns will be almost as high as ever, about 6.5 percent a year after inflation.
....

Many [economist] believe that stock returns will be lower than they have been in the past, closer to 5 percent than 6.5 percent, and that returns on a balanced mix of stocks and bonds will be much lower than that.
....

The statistical battle is politically important. If investment returns are just one percentage point lower each year than predicted, a person would end up with 35 percent less money than she expected after 30 years of saving.

Under Mr. Bush's plan, moreover, people would need to earn at least 3 percent a year after inflation just to make up for automatic cuts in traditional Social Security benefits.
This last point is extremely important. Bush must predict a 6.5% return in the market because anything less and the private accounts will provide less than the Soc Security they gave up, and no one believe the market will perform this well into the future.

Both articles are worth your time to read.

Although the math may be somewhat complicated, it doesn't take an economist to know that when someone is using two dramatically opposed economic assumptions to sell a policy, they are lying, and it's really shameful that it has taken this long for this obvious criticism to get some traction.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bradley Looks At His Party Too

. Bill Bradley has an Op-Ed in today's NYTs as well (see below for the Danforth Op-Ed)

He says the Ds need to get their act together and takes some notes from the GOP, and he has a good point,
Before deciding what Democrats should do now, it's important to see what Republicans have done right over many years. When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses, in academic journals and in the news media.

To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.

You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.

At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.
Like Danforth's, you really should read the whole thing.

A special thanks to Tammy K who sent these to me.

GOP Civil War

There was a lot of talk last year that regardless of the election outcome, there would be a civil war in the GOP. (I alluded to this here)

Recent events have began to show these cracks, and our own Jack Danforth as something to say about it in today's NYTs,
BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.
....

High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.

In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement...
As you can see, I had a hard time excerpting this. The Op-Ed is must read.

Monday, March 28, 2005

More Trouble for DeLay

I haven't linked to The Moose in a while because he ticked me off, but I'll save that for another post,....if I ever write about it.

Go read this Bull Moose post on the most recent problems for DeLay. As you may have already read, the WSJ has now turned on him. The editorial in question is by subscription only, but the Moose quotes it extensively.

Can a tearful "I have sinned" press conference be far behind? Yes, very far, but read it anyway, because the Moose understands the significance of the WSJ.

'The Party of Business'

Matthew Yglesias makes a very good point in the TAPPED blog about the real GOP agenda. As Matthew correctly points out, the GOP agenda has little or nothing to do with a blief in the free market. Quit the contrary, their agenda seems to seek to remove market forces to the benefit of business.
Much of the Republican pro-business agenda -- the bankruptcy bill, various efforts to deny victims of defective products access to the courts, etc. -- don't have any particular relationship to the establishment of free markets, as such. Indeed, I would argue that relatively lax bankruptcy rules have long been one of the key props of America's entrepreneurial culture, and tort suits have traditionally been understood as a free-market substitute for the more highly-developed regulatory apparatus that you see in Europe. The prohibition on importing prescription drugs from Canada is clearly an anti-market rule, but it's very much one that's favorable to the business of manufacturing pharmaceuticals. The right way to understand contemporary Republican behavior is as putting policy up for sale to the highest bidder. At times that will comport with a free-market ideology, and at times it won't.

Lying Liars

Atrios points to this:

Privatizers Getting Desperate

The GOP does these things because we let them get away with it. They will stop when they start paying a price. We need to be much more aggressive at calling them on it, and one way to get press attention when doing so is to use blunt language. Imagine Howard Dean calling a press conference and calling the authors of this so-called research paper "deceitful" or "dishonest" or even "liars" and pointing out their dishonesty with a Powerpoint-- 'a copy of which will be made available to all at the conclusion of this press conference.' You get the point.

The more indignant the authors become the better play this will get in the press. There is no reason not to do this so long as one can back up ones accusations.

Being "clubby" and polite gets us nowhere. Just ask the GOP.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

When it's Delay's Loved One

DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads
"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew — his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."

Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay.

When his father's kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. "Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," said his medical report, citing "agreement with the family's wishes." His bedside chart carried the instruction: "Do not resuscitate."

On Dec. 14, 1988, the DeLay patriarch "expired with his family in attendance."

"The situation faced by the congressman's family was entirely different than Terri Schiavo's," said a spokesman for the majority leader, who declined requests for an interview.

"The only thing keeping her alive is the food and water we all need to survive. His father was on a ventilator and other machines to sustain him," said Dan Allen, DeLay's press aide.

There were also these similarities: Both stricken patients were severely brain-damaged. Both were incapable of surviving without medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared from being kept alive by artificial means. And neither of them had a living will.
These people are shameless hypocrites exploiting Terri for their own purposes.

And USA Today has an interesting article with a good deal of background in the Schiavo / Schindler dispute: Feud may be as much over money as principle

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Jeb's as Nuts as the Rest of Them

Josh Marshall points to this from the Miami Herald: Police 'showdown' averted
Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned.

Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding.

For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called "a showdown."

In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice.

''We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,'' said a source with the local police.
It is clear at this point that the Fla Dept of Law Enforcement is Jeb's personal goon squad. You may recall, they were the agents involved in all the minority voter intemidation prior to the last election questioning black voters regarding "possible voter fraud".

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bush Speaks Out and Stays Silent

Culture of life, my ass.

Bush Speaks Out and Stays Silent
WASHINGTON — Does the "culture of life" extend to the victims of gun violence?

That's the question critics are asking after President Bush's contrasting responses to the two events dominating national attention this week.

Although Bush made a special trip back to Washington from vacation to sign legislation offering a new federal right of appeal to Terri Schiavo's parents, the president and his aides have said almost nothing about the mass shooting in Red Lake, Minn. — the deadliest outbreak of school violence since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.
They won't even talk about this issue.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora

Lying liars.

AP
The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon (news - web sites) that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers.
....

The events at Tora Bora were a point of contention during last year's presidential race, and Bush as well as Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) asserted that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was there when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked the area in December 2001.

Cheney said last Oct. 26 that Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had "stated repeatedly it was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been there or in Pakistan or even Kashmir (news - web sites)," the Indian-controlled Himalayan region.

Franks, now retired, wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times last Oct. 19, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." He added that intelligence assessments of his location varied, but bin Laden was "never within our grasp."

On several occasions in the days following publication of that column, Bush cited it on the campaign trail as evidence that bin Laden could have been in any of several countries in December 2001. "That's what Tommy Franks, who knew what he's talking about, said," Bush said on Oct. 27.

Schindler Appeal Denied

The 11th Circuit has denied the Schindler's appeal of the District Court's denial of their petition for a TRO. They vow to go to the Supreme Court,....again.

Meanwhile, the NYTs has an interesting article on the split in the GOP over this issue.

Here is the crux,
"This is a clash between the social conservatives and the process conservatives, and I would count myself a process conservative," said David Davenport of the Hoover Institute, a conservative research organization. "When a case like this has been heard by 19 judges in six courts and it's been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the process has worked - even if it hasn't given the result that the social conservatives want. For Congress to step in really is a violation of federalism."

Stephen Moore, a conservative advocate who is president of the Free Enterprise Fund, said: "I don't normally like to see the federal government intervening in a situation like this, which I think should be resolved ultimately by the family: I think states' rights should take precedence over federal intervention. A lot of conservatives are really struggling with this case."
....

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."
For instance, when it comes to denying equal protection to black Americans, each state should have the right to do so, but Terri is white,....

How long before Chris Shays issues a retraction?

What a bunch of hypocrites.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

CNN is a POS

Media Matters busts CNN for an intentionally misleading graph on the Schiavo matter.

That's your liberal media.

And while your there, you have to check out this piece on the whore hired by loons fighting the Schiavo family. What a fraud.

A Bioethicist's View of the Schiavo Case

I made an editorial decision to stop linking to Salon because of their subscription requirements. I'm rethinking that decision because I do enjoy their content, and you can get a daily pass by sitting through an ad.

Anyway, The Rev. John Paris is a professor of bioethics at Boston College and has often testified as an expert in cases involving patients kept alive by artificial means. He did not act as an expert in the Schiavo case, but did sign an Amicus brief on behalf of John Schiavo in an earlier appeal. He thinks the Schiavo case is "bizarre".

According to Paris, "every relevant legal issue has already been decided; the only thing keeping the case alive is the fact that the Christian right has made Schiavo a cause célèbre."

Salon.com News | "This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life"

Why is the case bizarre?
In most cases, the court has a theory, you have an appellate review, and that's the end. But this case, the parents keep coming back with new issues -- every time that they lose, they come in with a new issue. We want to reexamine the case. We believe she's competent. We need new medical tests being done. We think she's been abused. We want child protective services to intervene. Finally, Judge George Greer denied them all. He said. "Look, we have had court-appointed neutral physicians examine this patient. You don't believe the findings of the doctors but the finding of the doctors have been accepted by the court as factual." There have been six reviews by the appellate court.

The Florida Court of Appeals found four very interesting things. And it found them by the highest legal standard you can have -- clear and convincing evidence. The appellate court said that Judge Greer found clear and convincing evidence that Schiavo is in a well-diagnosed, persistent vegetative state, that there is no hope of her ever recovering consciousness, and that she had stated she would not ever want to be maintained this way. The court said we have heard the parents saying she didn't [say that], and we heard the husband say she did, and we believe the husband's statement is a correct statement of her position. The court also found that the husband was a caring, loving spouse whose actions were in Terri's best interests. The court said, "Remove the feeding tube," and the family protested. Of course, the family has the radical, antiabortion, right-to-life Christian right, with its apparently unlimited resources and political muscle, behind them.
This is the best run-down I've seen on the issues involved in the Schiavo matter. There's much more. Check it out if your interested.

Here's on last quote,
The sanctity of life? This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. The Roman Catholic Church has a consistent 400-year-old tradition that I'm sure you are familiar with. It says nobody is obliged to undergo extraordinary means to preserve life.

This is Holy Week, this is when the Catholic community is saying, "We understand that life is not an absolute good and death is not an absolute defeat." The whole story of Easter is about the triumph of eternal life over death. Catholics have never believed that biological life is an end in and of itself. We've been created as a gift from God and are ultimately destined to go back to God. And we've been destined in this life to be involved in relationships. And when the capacity for that life is exhausted, there is no obligation to make officious efforts to sustain it.


Time for Negroponte to Come Clean

Since literally everyone else has acknowledged that the US backed Honduran army ran death squads while Negroponte was ambassador, including the CIA, why won't he come clean? (Click here for a timeline on what we knew and when we knew it)

More importantly, given the significance of his pending appointment as Intelligence czar, what does this say about his character?

Negroponte's Time In Honduras at Issue (washingtonpost.com)
...Over the years, Velasquez has gotten the CIA, an official Honduran ombudsman and an international human rights court to acknowledge that the Honduran army was responsible for her brother Manfredo's kidnapping and presumed killing. But Negroponte has repeatedly insisted that military-backed death squads did not operate in Honduras while he was ambassador.

The selection of Negroponte for the new post of national intelligence director has focused renewed attention on the question of how much he knew about the Honduran military's involvement in nearly 200 unsolved kidnappings during the 1980s, and what he did about it. The subject has dogged him in the past, and Democratic staff members said it is likely to be revisited when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds nomination hearings, tentatively scheduled for April 12.

A review of hundreds of declassified State Department and CIA documents suggests that Negroponte was preoccupied with "managing perceptions" about a country that had become a key U.S. ally in a decade-long campaign to stop the spread of communism in Central America. The documents show that he sought to depict Honduras in a generally positive light in annual human rights reports to Congress, and played down allegations of government abuse.
Absent conclusive evidence I would never suggest any official were a party to such things, but his refusal to even acknowledge, 20 years later what everyone else, including the Honduran Gov't has acknowledged, the military operated death squads, is more than just curious.

Why would anyone trust him with our national security?

Tuesdays With EJ

EJ thinks that Frist has decided to go nuclear. He has an interesting column on the subject.
Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, called an urgent meeting last week with leaders of civil rights, civil liberties, environmental and women's groups. His message: The Senate faces a nuclear winter that could engulf them.

What emerged at that meeting was an order of battle that could mark American politics for years. Reid told the participants that he had learned from friendly Republican senators that Bill Frist, the majority leader, intended to push forward with what has come to be known as the "nuclear option," a fiddling with Senate rules that would block filibusters of judicial nominees.
EJ explains,
Under the nuclear option, Republicans would use a simple majority to amend Senate Rule 22, the filibuster provision, even though the rule itself explicitly requires a two-thirds vote for any filibuster changes. They would do this by having Vice President Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, uphold a "point of order" that would have the effect of ending filibusters on judges. And it takes only a majority to uphold a point of order.

If this sounds convoluted, that's because it is a blatant effort to twist the rules and -- this ought to bother conservatives -- ignore the traditions of the Senate.
I'm still unconvinced that Frist has 51 votes to do this. Although he has no since of tradition, there are still plenty in his party who do. And they all know the consequences of this action would go far beyond 10 of 214 judges not confirmed.

But, of course, we must assume Lieberman will vote with Frist on this issue.

Just a Thought

It should come as no surprise to those of us blessed with an IQ over 100 that A federal judge refused to order the resumption of feeding for Terri Schiavo. As the judge correctly noted after a two hour hearing, the legal issues have all been fully adjudicated. Now, yet another appeal. The legal battles have gone on for 5 years and Terri's parents have always lost.

Terri has lived in a 'persistent vegetative state' since 1990. There is no medical dispute that Terri has no hope of recovery. The basis of Terri's parents claim is simply, hope's spring is eternal.

We've all been involved in conversions about the prolonging of ones life after suffering severe brain damage. Have you ever heard anyone say that they would want all necessary means used to prolong their life indefinitely in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery?

The behavior of the GOP as revealed by their Talking Points Memo on Terri, is despicable and unconscionable.

Richard Cohen sums it up in today's WaPo,
Terri Schiavo's husband said she would not want to live the way she does now -- and that she even said so. But she was only 26 when tragedy struck, probably too young to have given serious thought to these matters. Besides, what she once wanted is not the point. That person is gone -- or so say the experts and so say the courts that have heard from the experts. What remains is a legal case that no longer is about Schiavo. Instead it's about the politics of abortion -- right to life -- and political opportunism. Terri Schiavo lives so that others, notably Frist, can run for higher office. I know that by watching the tape.

The beginning of the End?

Although I never thought I would type these words, you have to read David Brooks today.

Masters of Sleaze

Here's a taste. After skewering Jack Abramoff, Brooks continues,
Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!

Before long, ringleader Grover Norquist and his buddies were signing lobbying deals with the Seychelles and the Northern Mariana Islands and talking up their interests at weekly conservative strategy sessions - what could be more vital to the future of freedom than the commercial interests of these two fine locales?

Before long, folks like Norquist and Abramoff were talking up the virtues of international sons of liberty like Angola's Jonas Savimbi and Congo's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - all while receiving compensation from these upstanding gentlemen, according to The Legal Times. Only a reactionary could have been so discomfited by Savimbi's little cannibalism problem as to think this was not a daring contribution to the cause of Reaganism.
And he doesn't stop here. Ralph Reed, DeLay and his camp, get it too. I think Brooks may have had enough. Go read it.

So who will be the first Republican to call for DeLay to step down? Joe Lieberman?

Monday, March 21, 2005

War Crimes

Whether we face up to it, or not, these are war crimes and the rest of the world knows it. If we are truly governed by the rule of law and expect to have any moral authority in world affairs, we must face up to this and punish those involved.

Link
(AP) At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel.

The figure, far higher than any previously disclosed, includes cases investigated by the Army, Navy, CIA and Justice Department. Some 65,000 prisoners have been taken during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although most have been freed.
And to provide some context, which should turn your stomach, during the entire Vietnam war,114 US Soldiers died, from any cause, while in North Vietnamese captivity.

If you love this country, you will demand accountablity.

Thanks to Roachblog for pointing to the Vietnam stats.

Where's Their Sacrifice?

The NYTs shines the light on cockroaches. This is a drum we must beat endlessly.
Before leaving town for a two-week spring break, Congress indulged in its own form of March Madness. The Republican majority in the House and the Senate passed budget blueprints for 2006 that slash domestic spending by upwards of $150 billion over the next five years. Yet they still managed to increase the projected deficit by more than $125 billion over the same period (and by more than $1 trillion through 2015). How is it possible to produce that much red ink while slashing spending? Easy. Just cut revenue by giving huge tax cuts to - surprise, surprise - high earners and wealthy investors. The lawmakers will not make any final decisions until they cobble their separate proposals into one official budget later in the year, but the early signs are all bad - pointing to the least sensible tax cuts for the least needy recipients with no thought to the exploding deficit.

Of all the favors they are determined to dispense, tax cutters in both the House and Senate are most intent on extending the special low tax rates for dividends and capital gains, through 2010. The preferential rates are not scheduled to expire until 2008, but lawmakers want to act now, apparently to spare their constituents worry about the future. And who are those fretful constituents? In 2005 alone, almost half of the tax savings from dividend and capital gains rate cuts will go to investors who make more than $1 million a year, the top 0.2 percent of the income ladder. Nearly three-quarters of the tax benefits will go to those making more than $200,000, about the top 3 percent. The cost to everyone else in the form of forgone revenue will be $23 billion.

Also remarkable for their largess are two high-end tax breaks that would increase the amount well-heeled taxpayers would be allowed to write off for dependents and other expenses. They were enacted in 2001, but have been delayed. Now the budget proposals let them take effect. Once again, almost all of the tax savings would go to that lucky 3 percent of filers with incomes above $200,000. The lost revenue would amount to $95 billion over 10 years. In this particular piece of fiscal insanity, even the usual Republican argument - that letting a temporary tax break expire is the same thing as a tax increase - does not apply. These two changes have not even taken effect yet, so who would miss them if they never materialized? If you're President Bush, however, getting these two provisions is the tax policy equivalent of going all the way to Baghdad. The president's father originally allowed the deduction limitations on wealthy filers as part of the 1991 budget, the one that violated Bush père's "no new taxes" pledge and, in so doing, helped to end his chances for re-election.
There's more.

We MUST beat them over the head with this, every single day.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Real Moral Crusaders

No More Mister Nice Blog points to this piece posted by ABC. Very revealing about the real motivation to intervene in the Terri Schiavo matter.
ABC News obtained talking points circulated among Senate Republicans explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them, that it is an important moral issue and the "pro-life base will be excited," and that it is a "great political issue -- this is a tough issue for Democrats."

When asked about these talking points on "Good Morning America," DeLay said, "I don't know where those talking points come from, and I think they're disgusting."
How's that for a non-denial? These people are as creepy as they come and we need to place this around their necks like an albatross.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Friedman Gets It: Homeland Insecurity

It would be very difficult to exaggerate the degree to which Bush's fiscal policies have seriously endangered our national security. If this were the Gore presidency the GOP would be plotting revolution.

It is a complicated topic and most Americans have no idea how compromised we are by the financing of our debt. But Friedman takes a break from his endless hand-wringing on Iraq to explain,
...when it comes to China, the Bush administration is engaged in one of the greatest acts of unilateral disarmament ever seen in U.S. foreign policy.

National security is about so much more than just military deployments. It is also about our tax, energy and competitiveness policies. And if you look at all these areas, the Bush team has not only been steadily eroding America's leverage and room for maneuver vis-à-vis its biggest long-term competitor - China - but it has actually been making us more dependent than ever on Beijing. Indeed, if the Bush policies were wrapped into a single legislative bill it could be called "The U.S.-China Dependency Act."

The excessive tax cuts for the rich, combined with a total lack of discipline on spending by the Bush team and its Republican-run Congress, have helped China become the second-largest holder of U.S. debt, with a little under $200 billion worth. No, I don't think China will start dumping its T-bills on a whim. But don't tell me that as China buys up more and more of our debt - and that is the only way we can finance the tax holiday the Bush team wants to make permanent - it won't limit our room to maneuver with Beijing, should it take aggressive steps toward Taiwan.

What China might do with all its U.S. T-bills in the event of a clash over Taiwan is a total wild card that we have put in Beijing's hands.
Do you now understand why Bush had little to say about recent Chinese assertions of war should Taiwan declare independance?

And ANWR? If drilling actually takes place, it will be due to at least $30 BILLION in tax-payer subsidies to oil companies,
On energy, the Bush team's obsession with drilling in the Alaskan wilderness to increase supply is mind-boggling. "I am sure China will be thrilled with the Bush decision to drill in Alaska," said the noted energy economist Philip Verleger Jr. "Oil in Alaska cannot easily or efficiently be shipped to our Gulf Coast refineries. The logical markets are on the West Coast of the United States and in Asia. Consumers in China and Japan, not the U.S., will be the real beneficiaries of any big Alaska find.

"With a big find, China and Japan will be able to increase imports from a dependable supplier - the U.S. - while consumers in the U.S. will still be at the mercy of unreliable suppliers, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. It is simple geography. [Also], a big find will lead to lower prices in the short term, promoting more emissions and more warming."

No Tax Cut Equals Tax Increase

Their logic is interesting. Yesterday there were two big showdowns in the Senate and ANWR was not the biggest.

The Ds again put forth a pay-as-you go rule for the budget process that would require all new spending or tax cuts be offset with budget cuts. This would of course make Bush's tax cuts that continue to take effect impossible. Last year, the rule passed by a narrow margin. This year, it failed on a 50-50 vote. Bush's proposed budget includes 100 Billion in new tax cuts over the next 5 years.

Last month I wrote about the effect Grover Norquist and his 'charity', Americans for Tax Reform will have on our lives for years to come. AfTR claim that G-dub, 217 House members, and 42 Senators have taken the pledge to never vote for a tax increase. And of course 'tax increase' is so broadly defined as to include always voting for tax cuts. From the NYTs
Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Republican of Iowa who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that without the tax-cut extensions "you are going to have the biggest tax increase in the history of the country."
But having said all this, there is reason to hope that some forms of fiscal sanity will be restored. Again from the Times piece,
The closeness of the vote on tax cuts showed how uneasy some Republicans were about extending the cuts as the federal deficit grows. In his proposed $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, Mr. Bush vowed to reduce federal spending enough to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. But advocates of the pay-as-you-go rules say Congress must do more. Joining with the Senate's 44 Democrats and 1 independent to support the rules were 5 Republicans.

"I just don't understand how we can continue to go this way," said Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, who was a chief sponsor of the defeated measure.

"We're living in a dream world," he added. "This deficit continues to grow."
I don't understand it either Senator, but it's your party.

No Plans to Stop Propaganda Campaign

Bush made it clear yesterday that he expects agencies under his control to continue to use tax funds to spread propaganda.
Link
Responding to a question during his news conference in the White House briefing room, Mr. Bush said he expected cabinet agencies to abide by a Justice Department memorandum circulated last week that concluded video news releases were legal as long as they were factual and not intended to advocate the administration's positions.
advocate the admin's positions? You be the judge,
"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

Harry Shearer

Harry Shearer is guest blogging at Talking Points Memo for a couple days while Josh is off getting married. You may want to check it out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

'Godly Dominion and Influence Over Our Neighbors'

The evangelicals are organized and serious, and taking away your religious liberty is their goal.

For evangelicals, a bid to 'reclaim America' | csmonitor.com

Here is the crux,
Their mission is not simply to save souls. The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call "the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers." Some speak of "restoring a Christian nation." Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.

In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
This article is a must read.

They may be nuts but they mean business and we take them lightly at our own peril.

The Remarkable Rise of Hillary

I've been meaning to comment from some time now on the remarkable rise of Senator Clinton, but haven't had the time to put something together. Now I don't have to because Nick Kristof did a nice job of it today.

I remain convinced that she could never be elected President for reasons that I've written about more than once here. But, she is an incredible asset to the party and as Kristof puts it, she gets it.
Senator Clinton, much more than most in her party, understands how the national Democratic Party needs to rebrand itself. She gets it - perhaps that's what 17 years in socially conservative Arkansas does to you.

The first lesson Mrs. Clinton is demonstrating is the need to talk much more openly about God and prayer. That resonates in a country where a Pew poll found that 60 percent of Americans pray at least once a day.

"I've always been a praying person," Mrs. Clinton declared recently. Of course, this approach works in her case only because her religious faith is longstanding. It didn't work for Howard Dean when he described the Book of Job as his favorite book in the New Testament. With a candidate like him, you'd worry that more talk about religion would lead to comments about how much he treasures the Twelfth Commandment.

Democrats are usually more comfortable talking about sex than God. But that doesn't work in a country where 70 percent say that "presidents should have strong religious beliefs."

Then there's abortion. Mrs. Clinton took a hugely important step in January when she sought common ground and described abortion as a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."
I know Kristof can be a real flake, but this column is good and worth the read.

In the interest of full disclosure, as long time readers know, I'm personal friends with Senator Clinton.

So God Can Make a Mistake

He's not only a hack, but a POS to boot.
WASHINGTON, March 15 - Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, defended himself on Tuesday against Democratic lawmakers who say he contributed to soaring budget deficits by endorsing President Bush's tax cuts in 2001.

Mr. Greenspan acknowledged that he and many others had been wrong to expect trillions of dollars in surpluses that never materialized.
We need to relentless attack Greenspan until Americans see him for the duplicitous POS any one who pays attention knows him to be.

They Really Don't Get It

The Rs I know love to make excuses for the Bushies, claiming that they don't believe their own hype, but use it to political effect.

Well, there is no question that they use the hype to maximum effect, but I think they believe it all too. And this week we have some proof.

First, Karen Hughes is brought in to sell the US abroad.

Second, Bush Recommends Wolfowitz for World Bank.

Is it even possible to have chosen two people less likily to succeed at these jobs?

Put aside for the moment that Karen Hughes is insane (just ask Tucker Carlson), there is no person on earth more closely associated with Bush personally and more famous for sycophantic devotion to him. Outside of the GOP, no one believes for a moment that Karen could be objective about anything, and this is magnified a thousand times for non-Americans, whom she is to woo.

Likewise, aside from Bush himself, there is no American more disliked abroad than Paul Wolfowitz who everyone knows is the mastermind of the Iraq war that the entire world hates. I am told that by tradition the US picks the head of the World Bank and the Europeans pick the head of the IMF. In 2000, Clinton blocked the German chosen by the EU to head the IMF. I can'’t imagine that the EU will not return that favor now and block Wolfie, but we shall see.

So either they are completely clueless and really do believe thier own hype or they just don't care about the job they gave Karen (the post has been vacant since last summer) and Wolfie is being sent in to destroy the World Bank.

What do you think?

Senate Vote

The blog world is abuzz with this Senate roll call vote.

The Question? Should Congress reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt?

Every D said yes, and every R said no, except Specter, Snowe, Collins, Graham and DeWine.

This is the kind of politics the Rs are famous for, and I can't believe we did it.

So, now that we have them on record, what are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Excellent Advice from Josh Marshall

One of the Democrats' greatest problems -- far more insidious than many realize -- is their desire to gain the approval and approbation of establishment Washington and its A-list pundits. The habit or inclination is rooted in a political world thatceased to exist 20 or 30 years ago, and even then was wrong-headed. Republicans, on the other hand, have long seen the relationship as fundamentally antagonistic (if not necessarily unfriendly) and have acted accordingly. On balance, that's led to better press treatment because, though they are loathe to admit it, the mix of editors and pundits and talk show hosts respect the treatment.

Democrats, from top to bottom, would do themselves no end of good if they simply acted on the assumption that the Washington establishment is not a constituency they are trying to appeal to or cultivate.

That doesn't mean they should ignore the Washington press. Far from it. They should state their views and demand they be fairly covered. But they should not act on the ingrained assumption that these people are basically like-minded people of shared assumptions and beliefs who can be appealed to on that basis.
The entire post is a must read.

And Josh is right. The Washington Ds are far to wed too the clubby past. This is the single biggest reason why I'm hopeful at the choice of Dean as DNC Chair.

Evolution Under Attack

The Right is getting very good at this and intellectual world better realize it before it's too late.
In Seattle, the nonprofit Discovery Institute spends more than $1 million a year for research, polls and media pieces supporting intelligent design. In Fort Lauderdale, Christian evangelist James Kennedy established a Creation Studies Institute. In Virginia, Liberty University is sponsoring the Creation Mega Conference with a Kentucky group called Answers in Genesis, which raised $9 million in 2003.

At the state and local level, from South Carolina to California, these advocates are using lawsuits and school board debates to counter evolutionary theory. Alabama and Georgia legislators recently introduced bills to allow teachers to challenge evolutionary theory in the classroom. Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Ohio have approved new rules allowing that. And a school board member in a Tennessee county wants stickers pasted on textbooks that say evolution remains unproven.

A prominent effort is underway in Kansas, where the state Board of Education intends to revise teaching standards. That would be progress, Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox said, because "most people in Kansas don't think we came from monkeys."

The movement is "steadily growing," said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution. "The energy level is new. The religious right has had an effect nationally. Now, by golly, they want to call in the chits."
Creationism has a hold on society because public education has failed to teach evolution.

Creationism can never be scientifically proven or logically argued. To believe in Creation requires faith. The teaching of faith has no place in public schools, period. Public education must be about what is scientifically known. Faith is a matter that must be left to the church of one's choice which is what religious freedom is all about.

And lets be clear about one more thing clear. The advocates for creationism aren't doing this for their children or for that matter, religious freedom. Their children get this education at home, in church and often, in private religious schools. Creationist are doing this for our children. They want to use the public schools to prosletize to everyone elses children. They want nothing to do with religious freedom. Their agenda is to impose their religious views on the children of everyone else.

And if we don't get our act together, they will be successful.

Krugman Smacks Lieberman

Well, kinda, but Smacking Joe is not the key point.

Krugman points out that although the GOP is so far losing the Soc Security fight, the Ds are not winning. He is frustrated with Ds because they often echo false GOP talking points and on real votes that matter, vote corporate and not for average families. That's where Whinnin' Joe comes in.

Point one,
In his Jan. 15 radio address, President Bush made a startling claim: "According to the Social Security trustees, waiting just one year adds $600 billion to the cost of fixing Social Security." The $600 billion cost of each year's delay has become a standard administration talking point, repeated by countless conservative pundits - who have apparently not looked at what the trustees actually said.

In fact, the trustees never said that waiting a year to "fix" Social Security costs $600 billion. Mr. Bush was grossly misrepresenting the meaning of a technical discussion of accounting issues (it's on Page 58 of the 2004 trustees' report), which has nothing to do with the cost of delaying changes in the retirement program.
....

So anyone who repeats the $600 billion line is helping to spread a lie....

But in his latest radio address, Mr. Bush - correctly, this time - attributed the $600 billion figure to a "Democrat leader." He was referring to Senator Joseph Lieberman, who, for some reason, repeated the party line - the Republican party line - the previous Sunday.
And then there is the Bankruptcy bill issue. Again enters Whinnin' Joe,
As it happens, Mr. Lieberman stated clearly what was wrong with the bankruptcy bill: "It failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment," making it unfair to "working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own." A stand against the bill would have merged populism with patriotism, highlighting Democrats' differences with Republicans' vision of America.

But many Democrats chose not to take that stand. And Mr. Lieberman was among them: his vote against the bill was an empty gesture. On the only vote that opponents of the bill had a chance of winning - a motion to cut off further discussion - he sided with the credit card companies. To be fair, so did 13 other Democrats. But none of the others tried to have it both ways.

It isn't always bad politics to say things that aren't true and claim to support things you actually oppose: just look at who's running the country. But Democrats who engage in these tactics right now create big problems for a party that has been given a special chance - maybe its last chance - to remind the country of what Democrats stand for, and why.
Krugman is exactly right.

CAP on Covert Propaganda

The Center for American Progress has now picked up the issue of Bush's propaganda machine.

Here are the CAP talking points:
  • The Bush administration has spent one quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer funds to produce phony government PR.
    Since President Bush took office in 2001, the White House has spent at least $254 million on fake "news" segments and other public relations schemes. In a now-infamous segment by the Department of Health and Human Services, a PR official named Karen Ryan posed as a reporter interviewing then-Secretary Tommy Thompson. The Government
    Accountability Office found the agency "designed and executed" her segments "to be indistinguishable from news stores produced by private sector television news organizations," according to the Times.

  • The administration willfully violates government restrictions on "covert propaganda."
    The non-partisan Government Accounting Office, the non-partisan investigative branch of Congress, has forbidden federal agencies from creating prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials." The administration's response? The NY Times reports that on Friday, "the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the GAO findings."

  • Congress or the courts should immediately intervene to stop the Bush administration’s corrupt use of taxpayer funds. The legislative or judicial branches of government should exercise its constitutional duties to immediately force the executive branch to stop deceiving the public. This abuse of executive power is an affront
    to all Americans and violates basic tenets of our democracy. If President Bush won't put his money where his mouth is on "spreading democracy" by adhering to it at home, the other branches of government should step in to give him a reminder.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Costs No One Wants to Talk About

I wrote this earlier today and Blogger ate it.

Tim A forwarded this article from today's WSJ.com. The start-up and operational cost to privatize Soc Security are enormous and no one wants to talk about it. This article does a great job of spelling out the logistics and on-going administration that would be required.
The administration hasn't made a detailed proposal yet and Congress may have other ideas, but the president envisions a system in which professional money managers would invest the money, while the government would oversee the accounts -- perhaps as many as 150 million of them eventually. Any system that includes private accounts would require a massive effort to educate the public, enroll workers and answer what experts say could be hundreds of millions of questions. Computer systems to track contributions would have to be designed and built. Money would have to be collected and allocated. And the system would have to be policed for errors to ensure that workers get every penny they are due.

"No matter how this is done, it will be a very substantial task," says Dallas Salisbury, president of the non-partisan Employee Benefit Research Institute. In 2001, the Social Security Administration said private-account proposals then being kicked around "raise critical issues" for an agency already anticipating increasing demands from retiring baby boomers.

Supporters of private accounts acknowledge the task is daunting, but say it can be accomplished. "It's never been done before, but it's certainly doable," says William Shipman, a longtime advocate of private accounts.

Francis Cavanaugh, former head of the federal employees' Thrift Savings Plan, which Bush administration officials point to as a model for private accounts, disagrees. He contends that the massive effort would result in costs that would swallow up a large portion of workers' annual contributions.
Go read the article. If nothing else, it's very interesting.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Covert Propaganda

There is a very important story on the front page of the Sunday Times.
"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.
As the GAO advised last month, such covert propaganda is illegal.

I've posted often on this topic. Bush has famously decreed that his admin must stop buying news coverage, but they have quietly exempted this pre-packaged news. And DOJ has advised Federal agencies to ignore the GAO and let the propaganda roll,
Yet in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."

It is not certain, though, whether the office's pronouncements will have much practical effect. Although a few federal agencies have stopped making television news segments, others continue. And on Friday, the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the G.A.O. findings. The memorandum said the G.A.O. failed to distinguish between covert propaganda and "purely informational" news segments made by the government. Such informational segments are legal, the memorandum said, whether or not an agency's role in producing them is disclosed to viewers.
In contrast to the GAO, Justice and OMB are under direct control of the WH, so it's clear where this is coming from.
So what are we going to do about this?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Net Tightens

Documents Suggest Bigger DeLay Role in Donations.
WASHINGTON, March 8 - Documents subpoenaed from an indicted fund-raiser for Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, suggest that Mr. DeLay was more actively involved than previously known in gathering corporate donations for a political committee that is the focus of a grand-jury investigation in Texas, his home state.

The documents, which were entered into evidence last week in a related civil trial in Austin, the state capital, suggest that Mr. DeLay personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies on the committee's behalf.

In an August 2002 document subpoenaed from the files of the indicted fund-raiser, Warren M. RoBold, Mr. RoBold asked for a list of 10 major donors to the committee, saying that "I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay" and others should call to help the committee in seeking a "large contribution."

Another document is a printout of a July 2002 e-mail message to Mr. RoBold from a political ally of Mr. Delay, requesting a list of corporate lobbyists who would attend a fund-raising event for the committee, adding that "DeLay will want to see a list of attendees" and that the list should be available "on the ground in Austin for T.D. upon his arrival."

Under Texas law, corporations are barred from donating money to state political candidates. The Texas committee acknowledged receiving large corporate donations during the 2002 campaign but always insisted that the money was used for administrative costs, which is legal.
These are hardly smoking guns as relates to DeLay, but their not good news for DeLay either.

It seems very clear that TRMPAC violated TX law and that they laundered corp money through the RNC, but that doesn't their is proof that DeLay was directly involved.

Ronnie Earle is nobody's fool. He won't indict DeLay unless he's confident that he has him. It will be fun to see how far this goes.

USANext Sued

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I'm in the middle of "celebrate the life of Don Week". My birthday was yesterday.

The blogsphere is abuzz with this story.
WASHINGTON - A gay couple featured without their permission in an Internet advertisement criticizing the AARP sued the ad's producer on Wednesday, alleging libel and invasion of privacy.

The ad was produced by USA Next, a conservative group that supports creating personal accounts within Social Security (news - web sites) and has aggressively criticized the AARP, which disagrees about the accounts.

The ad showed a photo of a soldier with a red X over him and, next to it, a photo of two men in tuxedos kissing each other, with a green check mark over them.

The text below read, "The REAL AARP Agenda." When viewers clicked on the ad, which ran on the American Spectator Web site, it took them to the USA Next home page.

The men in the tuxedos were Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Ore., who are furious that a photo of them was used to promote a conservative agenda.

"Richard Raymen and Steven Hansen did not consent to serve as models for a homophobic and mean-spirited campaign for a political group with whose views they strongly disagree," according to the complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The lawsuit seeks $25 million in damages.

Monday, March 07, 2005

More on the Nuclear Option

The NYTs updates us on the GOP plan to change Senate rules to prevent a filibuster of judicial nominees. For the most part the article doesn't break any new ground.

But a couple points are worth mentioning. For those Specter apologists who argued that he is not a gelding, we learn,
Mr. Specter also tracked down some new help and hired Dimple Gupta, a Justice Department lawyer, as a nominations counsel for the panel beginning March 14. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said Democrats saw that as "a potentially ominous sign," given that Ms. Gupta was a co-author of a recent article in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy titled "The Constitutional Option to Change Senate Rules and Procedures: A Majoritarian Means to Overcome the Filibuster."
Reid and the Ds claim to have some tricks of their own, although you won't learn what they are in this article. They plan to somehow shutdown the Senate in retaliation to any rule change.

They also claim to have some independent polling that shows that 49 percent of those questioned believed that senators should be able to filibuster Supreme Court nominees, as opposed to 40 percent who supported a rules change.

With McCain the only one mentioned by name, The Times says that a handful of Rs are not so certain about removing the filibuster. I wrote about this issue last November. As I said then, what makes everyone so sure that Senators Snowe, Collins, Hagel, McCain, Grassley, Chafee, Reed, and other (at least sometime) moderates whose names now escape me, would just rubber stamp the nuclear destruction of longstanding traditions? Especially during a controversial nominee.

And finally, The Times talks about the pressure on Frist,
At the moment, the decision to force the issue is in the hands of Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, who has made it plain on several occasions that he will no longer tolerate filibusters of nominations after Democrats blocked seven in Mr. Bush's first term and slowed five others. Mr. Bush nominated those candidates again last month, and the Judiciary Committee has begun hearings on them.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, said last week that Democrats intended to hold fast. "We're going to treat them just the same as we have in the past," Mr. Reid said.

That leaves Mr. Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, with a choice: act to thwart filibusters and potentially lose the ability to keep the chamber operating, or antagonize conservatives who are demanding a vote on the judges and who will be critical to his future political plans.

"His legacy rests on getting these nominees through the United States Senate, and if he is unable to do that, rightly or wrongly, it will reflect on him," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group.
We are already losing this issue because no one is reminding the public of the Clinton nominees blocked, and GOP hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy should be our constant drum beat until the press starts talking about it as well. This is an area where the Rs beat us every time and there is no reason for it. We should be winning this issue hands down, and were not, and that is a failure of leadership.

Lying Liars

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly as an excellent post up today about the lying liars of this administration and the cowardice of the WaPo to call them what they are.

An anonymous source in the admin told the WaPo that the science to support the efficacy of needle exchanges was shaky and cited them to a number of studies. The WaPo in an editorial last week pointed out that the studies cited in fact support the opposite conclusion.

Kevin,
Note the familiar MO of an administration official who demands anonymity on a subject that should be perfectly open. Why? Because he knows perfectly well he's lying and doesn't want his name associated with it in case he gets caught. He's not just bullshitting, either: he's flatly lying and hoping that it's not a big enough story for anyone to bother tracking down his sources.

There are two lessons here. First, the Post should feel no obligation to keep this person's name anonymous. He lied to them. Second, even in a blatant case like this the Post was still unwilling to flatly call these statements lies. What does it take, guys?

Oh, and a third lesson too: the press should never believe a word the Bush administration says unless they confirm it themselves. Maybe that's really lesson #1.
Read the whole post and see if you don't agree.

As Kevin points out, this really is the MO of the admin, and they do it endlessly. But then why not? It works and they never get called on it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Friday Krugman

You may have already seen this, but Krugman's Friday column is a must read.
Four years ago, Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, asserting that the federal government was in imminent danger of paying off too much debt.

On Wednesday the Fed chairman warned Congress of the opposite fiscal danger: he asserted that there would be large budget deficits for the foreseeable future, leading to an unsustainable rise in federal debt. But he counseled against reversing the tax cuts, calling instead for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?

When Mr. Greenspan made his contorted argument for tax cuts back in 2001, his reputation made it hard for many observers to admit the obvious: he was mainly looking for some way to do the Bush administration a political favor. But there's no reason to be taken in by his equally weak, contorted argument against reversing those cuts today.

To put Mr. Greenspan's game of fiscal three-card monte in perspective, remember that the push for Social Security privatization is only part of the right's strategy for dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society. The other big piece of that strategy is the use of tax cuts to "starve the beast."
thank God the GOP has saved us from the economic nightmare that was the 1990's.

He is a Hack!

You may have hard that Sen Harry Reid called Alan Greenspan a "political hack". He's more than that, the a duplicitous POS.

And Marshall Whittman,aka The Bull Moose approprately defends Sen Reid.

Go read the Moose, but here's the crux,
As the Moose noted yesterday, Senator Reid was spot on. The Fed Chairman lost his halo when he did not reject tax cuts during wartime. Indeed, it was his patriotic duty and obligation to speak out against the madness of reducing revenues when the nation was at war. It is now completely dishonest for him to decry the growing debt. With his silence, Mr. Greenspan is clearly culpable in its creation. For him to now bless private social security accounts only further undermines his credibility. The trillion dollar transition costs will further exacerbate the deficit problem. Greenspan is not just a partisan hack, but also an ideological one.

All Democrats should be proud of their Senate leader for his straight talk. Indeed, all Americans should be as well.
And here is the earlier post the Moose mentions.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Soc Security End Game

Noam Scheiber lays out what he thinks Bush's end game is on Soc Security Phase out. Back door privatization.

Here's a taste, but read the whole thing,
First, ...the reason the White House is digging in its heels despite really, really bad signals from the Hill is that it knows it instantly loses a ton of power if it loses this debate. Four years is a long time to be a lame duck.

The second point follows from the first. Since the White House knows it has to come away with something or else risk extended lame-duckness, I suspect we'll eventually see every effort to forge a compromise. And the compromise I expect to see is add-on accounts--i.e., private investment accounts that supplement your Social Security check, not partially replace it--which even the AARP is on-record supporting.
And as I, Krugman and Noam have argued before, these private accounts are a bad idea.

Go read the whole piece.

And Another Thing!

Again with the LA Times Story (see the post below),
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee that would write a Social Security bill, suggested Wednesday that it might be better to take private accounts — the centerpiece of Bush's plan — off the table for the time being to open the door to talks with Democrats about a possible compromise on shoring up the finances of the retirement system.

Saying that private accounts were not the cure-all for solving the long-term financial problems facing Social Security, Grassley said: "Maybe we ought to focus on solvency and bring people to the table just over what do you do for the solvency."

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow appeared to be open to alternatives to Bush's proposal for private accounts. Asked if the administration would consider a plan that did not include the accounts, he told reporters: "Everything is on the table."

The comments came as Republicans sought a way to build momentum for Bush's plan, which has failed to win an endorsement from any prominent Democratic lawmaker and is losing support in some public opinion surveys, despite weeks of public campaigning by the president.
There are a couple things here that I want to comment on, or comment again on.

First, Bush has no plan upon which to build momentum. Bush has not put forth a plan, because it doesn't want it criticized or for people to be able to consider it before agreeing to it. But, to the extent that Bush has an agenda on this topic, it is very cleary built around private accounts to replace Soc Security as we know it. If we take those accounts off the table, WTF are they building momentum on? Bush has made a solemn pledge to never consider an increase in payroll taxes.

Second, why would any sane person agree to give these guys more payroll tax surplus now? As they continue to eliminate taxes on the very wealthy (if you earn less than about 125 to 150k, you've seen all the tax cuts your going to get) why would we give them more payroll taxes to borrow from when they have now made it clear that they have no intention of paying back any of the money they've already taken?

And what exactly are we shoring up? The absolute worse case scenairo means that the Soc Security Trust Fund will run out of money in 40 years! And if the economy grows at it's historic average since the civil war (the last two years have exceeded this average which should give us all some perspective) the trust fund never runs out of money. And even if the Trust Fund is exhausted that only means that Soc Security will pay 75% of benefits without supplemental funding from the general treasury.

So without private accounts, what is there to talk about?

Bamboozlepalooza Tour 2005

Josh Marshall coined the phrase, 'Bamboozlepalooza' and it is the perfect description for Bush's 60 day, 60 city tour.

Of course, these are just the latest dates added. The tour has been under way for several weeks now and has had the effect of causing support for Bush's Soc Security phase out to plummet. The Pew poll finds Bush's approval rating on Soc Security at 29%.

I am very surprised at how poorly G-dub is doing on this issue. It has long been my impression that everyone was convinced Soc Security could go broke next week, and that this would be an easy sell for the POTUS to the public. And I do not believe our counter-punch has been so good as to turn this around. If you don't read blogs -- and most people don't -- were is the info coming from to swing opinion like this? Since Bush has been stumping, approval for private accounts has fallen 10 or more points.

Is it possible that Bush has lied so much about contrived crises that his insistence that this was a looming crisis has caused people to just assume that it must not be?

The LA Times has a good article on the latest tour dates, the status of the debates and the polls.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Look Who Might Be in Trouble

WaPo
DeLay garnered 55 percent of the vote in the November election against a relatively unknown Democrat, an unusually modest showing for a veteran House member who is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. Some Republican officials and DeLay supporters worry that with President Bush absent from the top of the ticket next year, liberal interest groups might target the conservative majority leader and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads to try to defeat him.
....

But DeLay now has to worry about "Texas 22," the congressional district he has represented for the past 21 years in the U.S. House. Ironically, the Texas redistricting plan he engineered over strong Democratic objections drained some vital Republican support and will make it tougher for him to win reelection next year. DeLay took 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2002.

In 2003, at DeLay's behest, the Texas legislature redrew the state's congressional lines without waiting for the next census (in 2010), the customary occasion for redistricting. With the new districts, which still face court challenges, Texas elected five additional Republicans to the U.S. House last November, accounting for all of the party's net gain.

DeLay's new district wound up several percentage points less Republican than his previous one, and it has a substantial and growing Asian American population.
I'll believe it when I see it, but sure is nice to think about, isn't it?

Why Does the GOP Hate America and Our Soldiers?

Link
The White House request for $81.9 billion in emergency money, mostly to finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is drawing increasing criticism from leading Republicans on Capitol Hill, who say it includes too much extraneous spending and should be pared back.

Ordinarily, a bill to pay for wartime operations would be sacrosanct among members of the president's party. But the so-called supplemental spending bill also includes other expenditures, like relief for tsunami-stricken nations and aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The bill was the main point of contention Tuesday at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, where several Republicans sharply questioned Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, about why the measure included money for items that, they said, are not directly related to military operations.

Mr. Wolfowitz urged Congress to approve the package, saying it was made up of "one-time expenditures."

But in interviews after the hearing, some of the Senate's most prominent Republicans said they had concerns about the measure.

"I think it's too much money, and too much of it is not urgent or supplemental," said Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican.
There's more. The GOP ain't happy.

Trent Lott: Traitor.

The Showdown Begins

The biggest political story of the year will be the showdown on judicial nominees.

The first hearing promised by Specter happened yesterday, and not surprisingly, no one has changed their minds. Specter counts 58 votes to end a filibuster which he thinks is close enough to the 60 needed to get it done. But here is a positive development,
Instead of gaining ground, however, Myers's backers appeared to be struggling not to lose it. Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.), one of the Democrats Specter is banking on, sent a letter to Bush urging him to withdraw Myers's nomination and those of other judicial appointees whom Democrats blocked last year.

In January 2004, when Salazar was Colorado's attorney general, he signed a letter "strongly" supporting Myers's confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco. A spokesman yesterday said Salazar "remains undecided" on Myers and other judicial nominations working their way toward the Senate floor.

Specter also told reporters he once had hoped Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) might back Myers. But after Schumer ripped into Myers's environmental record at yesterday's hearing, Specter dropped that hope, saying Schumer's speech was "as tough an indictment as I've heard in that room in 24 years."

By mid-afternoon, Senate leaders talked as though a partisan collision over the nomination of Myers and other contested conservatives is as likely as ever. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said nothing has changed regarding Myers and six other renominated appellate court appointees blocked by filibusters in Bush's first term. "We're going to treat them just the same as we have in the past," he told reporters.
We can't lose these fights, and these kinds of battles are all about grass-roots. Salazar's constituents should be flooding is office with calls and letters in opposition to Myers.

And for the bigger picture, we have to call the GOP hypocrites on this topic at ever opportunity. And I don't mean figuratively-- I mean "you are a hypocrite, and here's why". They blocked many more Clinton nominees including blacks and Hispanics and we cannot allow them the free ride on this topic that hacks like Tim Russert give them. They did filibuster one Clinton nominee and Frist supported it, despite their current denials. Also, for most of Clinton's term they didn't need to filibuster because they controlled the Senate and refused hearings and votes of nominees -- no filibuster required.

They cannot continue to have a pass on this and we have to fight hard. Frist is looking for an excuse to change the rules, and only if he is really stung by the politics of this, will he back down.

Of course, I have no hope that Reid and Pelosi are even remotely up for the fight. Howard?

Retreat?

With poll after poll showing public support for Bush's Soc Security phase-out running at best in the high 30s, and heading in the wrong the direction, Frist now appears in full retreat saying the vote may have to wait until 2006 and private accounts may be dropped too.

Who are they kidding? For Soc Security phase-out, it's now or never. 2006 is a Senate election year, and with each passing year, Bush is a bigger lame duck than the year before.
The comments of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), made as GOP lawmakers returned from a week of trying to sell the plan to voters, underscored the challenge facing the White House, especially in light of unbroken Democratic opposition.

"In terms of whether it will be a week, a month, six months or a year, as to when we bring something to the floor, it's just too early," Frist said.

Frist is reluctant to put off a vote until 2006, when lawmakers will be focused on midterm congressional elections and the atmosphere will be more politically charged, aides said. But with polls showing widespread skepticism of Bush's proposal and some Republicans opposed to the approach, GOP leaders signaled yesterday that they may have no choice but to put off action.

That a politician as closely allied to the White House as Frist would even raise the possibility of putting off the proposal until next year -- possibly dooming it -- was an unexpected blow to the administration.
A lot of bloggers are declaring victory, and it looks like phase-out is dead, but I just can't believe Bush will give up.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

News Flash

The Government still can't abduct an American citizen and hold him or her indefinitely without charge.

Judge Says Terror Suspect Can't Be Held as an Enemy Combatant

What I find amazing is that anyone would consider this judge's ruling the least bit controversial. If the US Constitution stands for anything, it stands for the concept that the Government can't abduct people off the street.

If Jose Padilla was everything John Ashcroft said he was (and I have no reason to believe he was / is not), why didn't they place him under surveillance?

If Ashcroft and those around him honestly believed Padilla had the ability to build and detonate a 'dirty bomb' their not putting him under surveillance to nail him and all those who would work with him was criminal. It really is that simple.

Tuesday Krugman

Krugman agrees with me.
....Creating private accounts in the current environment, no matter how they are financed, would be a mistake.

First, think about the fiscal implications. We have a huge budget deficit, largely caused by Mr. Bush's decision to cut taxes while waging war. Any realistic plan to bring the budget deficit under control will have to include tax increases, especially if we want to avoid the harsh cuts the administration is trying to impose on Medicaid and other essential programs.

There may be a place for a rise in the payroll tax maximum in such a plan: AARP, among other groups, has proposed such a rise as one way to improve the Social Security system's long-run finances. Devoting the extra revenue to the trust fund would also reduce the overall budget deficit.

But if the revenue from a rise in the payroll tax maximum was used to subsidize private accounts rather than to bolster the trust fund, it wouldn't address any urgent priorities: it wouldn't help the long-run finances of Social Security, it wouldn't reduce the budget deficit, and it wouldn't support crucial programs like Medicaid.

What it would do, instead, would be to get in the way of any return to fiscal sanity.
Actually, I'm presently opposed to any increase in the Soc Security surplus at the present time.

In addition to the reasons Krugman outlines re priorities, I have other objections. First, if the economy continues to grow at it's historic level since the civil war the Soc Security Trust Fund WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF MONEY! The economy the last two years, and most of the 90s exceeded this historic level. Thus, there is no problem to fix. I find it absurd to be talking about increasing taxes to fix a theoretical problem that may never happen and worst case scenario, won't happen for 40 years!!!!!!!!.

But secondly, and most importantly, I'm not willing to increase the Soc Security trust fund when it is clear the Rs have no intention of honoring the assets in the fund. Why on earth would we ever consider increasing the Trust Fund as they continue to cut taxes on millionaires using the money borrowed from the trust fund, while at the same time scheming to never pay it back!

WTF! When are we going to stop letting them screw us.