As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bait And Switch

I remember a lot of talk about the Social Security lockbox and the competing views on privatization during the election... during the 2000 election, that is. You know, the one Bush lost. During this election cycle, there was almost no discussion of Social Security. I'll bet those security moms and fundamentalist gay-marriage haters will be surprised to know what's number one on the President's agenda, then:

In the next few weeks, White House officials, including Rove, are planning to meet with Republican activists outside of the White House to launch a national campaign to create private Social Security accounts for younger Americans. GOP sources say several groups are raising money for an ad campaign that will likely be carried out by some of the same "527" groups active in the presidential campaign.

Surprise! We're going to privatize (that should read drown in a bathtub) Social Security! And how will we pay for moving all this money from younger workers' payroll taxes into private accounts while maintaining the payouts to the retired? Faith, my dear boy, faith!

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Thursday flatly rejected a payroll tax increase to shore up Social Security, narrowing the range of options available to lawmakers to address the retirement system's long-term financial needs.

"We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem," Bush told reporters following a meeting at the White House with Social Security trustees.

It also made it more likely that any measure Bush signed into law would rely on borrowed money and reductions in promised benefits for future retirees to finance the creation of private investment accounts and make the system financially sound.

So Social Security is going bankrupt (actually, it isn't, but I'll go by the prevailing logic), so in order to save it, we'll... borrow money! That's what every idiot with a credit card would do, after all! That's why every idiot isn't in charge of the federal budget. If you want a sure way to destroy the economy, try to squeeze more blood from the stone that is China and Japan. How long can it be until they realize that they don't HAVE to buy US Treasury bonds, that they don't have to prop up this faith-based economy. And what about when we have to pay them back? I'm sorry, I'm thinking more than one step ahead. That's not how this government works.

The sad thing is that raising the ceiling on payroll taxes (currently at $87,900) would have bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) proposed raising the limit to $200,000, and a couple Representatives in the House set it at $132,000. Sure, there's a gap there, but it'd be the beginning of a dialogue, and a way to make Social Security more solvent through the Baby Boom maturation. But the anathema of raising taxes in any form is just impossible for Republican ideologues to swallow. Taxes pay for things. They're not inherently bad. I'd rather pay for someone to build roads than go out in the street and build it myself. I like libraries and post offices and public parks and clean conservation areas. Taxes are services, OK? Social Security may have started for different reasons, it may be a giant Ponzi scheme. But at least it retains a smidgen of the social contract that all citizens are worthy of being cared for in their old age. By saving it through borrowing, it continues the "pass the buck," be-all-things-to-all-people nonsense that may win elections in the short term, but destroys the very fabric of the nation eventually.


Thursday, December 09, 2004


So here's the deal: if you're in the CIA, and you (or your family) don't toe the Bush party line about WMD in Iraq, you have one of two options: have your name outed in the media, or turn in your bathroom key:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A sacked CIA official has sued, alleging he was fired for refusing to fake reports supporting the White House position that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, local media said.

The suit claims the unidentified ex agent was urged to produce reports in line with President George W Bush's contention that Iraq had illegal chemical or biological weapons, which threatened US and international security.

"Their official dogma was contradicted by his reporting and they did not want to hear it," attorney Roy Krieger told The Washington Post of his client.

This dovetails nicely with my viewing the fine Harry Thomason film "The Hunting of the President" last night (based on the Gene Lyons/Joe Conason book), which alleges that Ken Starr's Office of Independent Counsel did the exact same thing. Innocents like Susan McDougal, who was guilty of nothing but being married to someone who bought real estate with Bill Clinton, were told that they must come up with some damaging information on the President, or they'd go to jail. In McDougal's case, she did, and her heroic truth-telling was totally admirable. We may have a contender in this ex-CIA agent.

This is a tactic on the right. Do what we say, or you'll pay for it. The naked use of power hasn't changed since the Starr years; in fact, if anything the right has improved upon it, mainly by virtue of the increased leverage that added power brings. And apparently, it's still rooted in sex:

It (the lawsuit) alleges that the CIA investigated alleged sexual and financial improprieties by the agent "for the sole purpose of discrediting him and retaliating against him for questioning the integrity of the WMD reporting ... and for refusing to falsify his intelligence reporting to support the politically mandated conclusion" of matters that were blacked out, according to the Washington daily.

It's amazing that you can so easily categorize the entire right-wing power grab by such a simple sentence as "They love power, and they're ashamed of sex." But you can.

Please, go to the Yahoo link (which was an Agence France Presse story, of course) and rate it up. The media in this country has to start taking notice of this kind of corruption.


Christmas Is So Commercial

Look closely at the above nativity scene. Yes, that's Samuel L. Jackson. And Hugh Grant. And David Beckham. And Posh Spice. And George Bush and Tony Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh as the 3 Wise Men. And Kylie Minogue as an angel.

And the British are supposed to be the smart ones, right? The Vatican would beg to differ:

"This is worse than bad taste. It is cheap," an official Vatican source told Reuters in Rome.

"You cannot use contemporary personalities as the central figures of the Nativity ... And it becomes worse, if that were possible, if the people may be of questionable moral standing," he added.

I know, the guy started a war based on nothing, and has led to the deaths of tens of thousands. I'm with ya, Vatican.

However, this is kind of a time-honored technique. Every saint or divine figure you see in a devotional painting from the Middle Ages was likely a patron. The only difference here is that rather than a bunch of rich people being self-aggrandizing, celebrity has become a new religion. The only people outraged by this are those that don't want to admit it.



The more I see of Don Rumsfeld, the more the similarities to Robert McNamara become clear. Here is a man who is completely out of touch with the tragic consequences of his policies, unable to feel the slightest compassion for anyone (a recent PBS special had Rummy unclear why forcing prisoners to stand for hours at a time would be considered torture, since he doesn't use a chair in his office. "What's the problem? I stand all day," he cried to a commander), and particularly unconcerned about the difficulties of the men under his command. It is inconceivable that the Secretary of Defense would engage in a discussion with troops on the ground in Iraq, and be this unprepared for the inevitable questions that came his way:

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" asked Spc. Thomas Wilson of Ringgold, Ga. His question was met with shouts of approval and applause from the estimated 2,300 soldiers who had gathered to see Rumsfeld.

This is not a question that comes out of left field. The use of "hillbilly armor" in Iraq, and the related lack of proper body armor and supplies, was well-documented by most major media, and was even a part of the Presidential campaign. Just like Bush never answered the question in the debates, Rumsfeld decided to ignore the substance of the question, and give the same callous "Nothing's perfect" answer we've come to expect from him:

"It isn't a matter of money, it isn't a matter on part of the Army of desire," Rumsfeld responded. "It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have."

Once again, we have a top government official that seemingly is powerless to do anything about government. But the insensitivity of this remark in front of 2,300 soldiers, all of whom are risking their lives (regardless of what you think about the policy), is shocking, even to the great masses of Kool-Aid drinkers. That's why the White House is in full spin mode:

The president says the complaints from a soldier who confronted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday "are being addressed."

During a White House photo-op, he told reporters that if he were a soldier overseas, wanting to defend his country, he'd want to ask "the same question." Bush says U-S troops deserve the best possible equipment.

As we all know, Bush is not, nor has he ever been, a soldier defending his country, so he's never felt any need to ask the question. US troops may deserve the best equipment, but they're not getting it, and as long as elections can be held and the press doesn't cover all the deaths, the soldiers don't HAVE to get the best equipment.

This wasn't the only tough question Rumsfeld faced in the meeting, by the way, but of course the media can't be expected to focus on more than one thing at a time. Another lady asked about the disastrous stop-loss program, which basically has forced thousands of troops to stay in Iraq beyond their agreed stay. Rummy answered, "You don't look like you're at retirement age." Isn't that hilarious? Who's Rumsefeld's joke writer, the Marquis de Sade?

The Daily Show summed it up the other night. When discussing the fact that Rumsfeld will remain in the Cabinet while 9 others left, Stephen Colbert noted, "See, if you just screw up a little bit, you have to go. If you screw up colosally, you get to keep your job." And it's true. Firing Rumsfeld would be akin to admitting a mistake, which in this Administration is verboten.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Open Thread (ha!)

I've been just a little too busy to post anything, though I have a backlog of things to say. So amuse yourself with other Web hot spots, and come on back later on. Or, use the comments as an open thread! Right because I can't count the comments on one hand...


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Race Card

You have to be kidding me with this latest conservative trick, coming from a "group of folks" that lost the black vote by a 10:1 margin, a group that clearly votes against the interests of African-Americans at every opportunity. For them to have the gall to cry racism is frankly pathetic. But that's wht makes them conservatives.

I'm talking about the flap on the right from the new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's comments on Meet the Press this Sunday, calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an embarrassment because "I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice." Apparently you're not allowed to think that without having some kind of ulterior motive. Sam Rosenfeld at TAPPED reports how civil rights leader Sean Hannity responded to this:

HANNITY: I'm just beginning to see a pattern here. I see a lot of the left attacking Condoleezza Rice. I see when -- when Justice Janice Brown, an African-American woman, when the president wants to appoint her, Democrats oppose her. Democrats opposing Miguel Estrada. Democrats attacking Condi Rice, Democrats attacking Clarence Thomas.

And I'm just wondering, it seems, you know, for the party that always claims they're for minorities and for advancement of minorities, they don't put them in positions of power when they have the opportunity, and then when other people try...

If I can follow that argument, it basically amounts to "Hey, we put black people in power, so shut up about them!" As if pigment is somehow a spray innoculating the wearer from criticism. Never mind that those people did absolutely nothing while bin Laden plotted, or spoke out against the very program that enabled them and millions of African-Americans to overcome racist policies and achieve success:

"In Adarand Constructors v. Peña (1995), Thomas spoke out against affirmative action. "There can be no doubt that racial paternalism and its unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination." he wrote.

But Hannity isn't the only one mouthing this tripe. Robert Novak did the same thing today on Crossfire:

NOVAK: [Reid] said he could not support Justice Clarence Thomas' confirmation if nominated for chief justice, calling Justice Thomas an embarrassment who writes poorly. But Reid said he could back Justice Antonin Scalia for chief justice. Now, since Thomas and Scalia are both conservatives and agree on most everything, why the difference? The implication is that Thomas is a black man who is not smart enough, while Scalia is a white man who is.

BEGALA: So, Harry Reid is a racist? Is that it, Mr. Novak? Is that what you're saying?

NOVAK: Well, that is what some black Republicans feel.

Here's what Reid actually said about Scalia.

Could you support Antonin Scalia to be chief justice of the Supreme Court?

SEN. REID:  If he can overcome the ethics problems that have arisen since he was selected as a justice of the Supreme Court.  And those ethics problems--you've talked about them; every people talk--every reporter's talked about them in town--where he took trips that were probably not in keeping with the code of judicial ethics.  So we have to get over this.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And if Scalia and Thomas are "exactly the same," how come Thomas has written virtually no opinions of consequence (other than a few dissenting ones), while Scalia is at least up front about his ideas? At least Scalia has a backbone. I don't agree with him for the most part, but at least he'll speak up.

So this race card is clearly coming from on high as a wedge strategy. Hilarious. Or maybe not so hilarious. It was successful in branding John Kerry a homophobe. He who yells loudest wins in an age where politics is increasingly more and more like professional wrestling. TIme for Democrats to yell this cheap trick back to the Stone Age.


Draft Spitzer

I love this guy:

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose investigations of white-collar crime have shaken the nation's financial institutions, said Tuesday he will run for governor in 2006.

"The state is at a point of crisis," the Democrat told The Associated Press. "We are bleeding jobs. We need reform in the process of government."

Reform. That's the road to victory, friends.

It's not unprecedented to have a governor with limited experience sweep right into the White House. Wilson went from 2 years as New Jersey governor to President. Cleveland did the same in New York. That was a different time, but even GW had only a 6-year stay in the Texas State House.

Of course, you know that the Republican counter-argument against him would be on foreign policy experience. In peacetime I think Spitzer could win in a landslide. Of course, the Republicans would never admit there was a peacetime even if there was one. But anyone that could come up with this line has a shot:

He said his goal is "to make the Empire State once again the center of job creation, intellectual growth, creativity, dynamism and great ideas in government. We have been all of those things in the past 200 years and we have lost it."

Ideas. In government. My hero.


Monday, December 06, 2004

I don't know why they're not just killing us in our sleep, it'd be the perfect time...

Atrios had this over the weekend, but I have to second him and agree that no public official should ever say anything even close to this:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson resigned Friday, warning of a potential global outbreak of the flu and health-related terror attacks. "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," he said.

Thanks for leaving without fixing that at all, by the way. Appreciate that.

It's fucking amazing. The Bush Administration presents these problems as if they're immutable laws of the universe, rather than bad policies which they have the power to change by virtue of, you know, being in power. It was the same thing with Bush on the stump saying "The rich get out of paying taxes, so you can't tax the rich," as if we can't enact tougher IRS laws to ensure the payment is made. Why would you say that poisoning the food supply is easy to do, when you've been in charge of the department whose job it is (in part) to disallow that? And, why would you give Al Qaeda any ideas? Any other surefire killing methods you want to hand over to them?


Let's Make a Beet Secretary of Agriculture!

President Bush has chosen Bernard B. Kerik, the New York police commissioner during the attacks on the World Trade Center, to take over the Department of Homeland Security from its first leader, Tom Ridge, administration officials said yesterday.

White House officials described Kerik, who campaigned aggressively for Bush's reelection, as a proven crisis manager who can straighten out the lines of authority in the infant department and work to prevent a catastrophic attack or cope with its aftermath. Other Republicans said Kerik would provide a telegenic presence, and one presidential adviser pointed out that Kerik "brings 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet."

Wouldn't a poster of the Twin Towers bring 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet? Why not then nominate it?

At least the White House is being truthful that their Cabinet appointments are not about accomplishments, and all about symbolism, perception, and politics.

Incidentally, Kerik also brings "Saudi Arabia symbolism" into the Cabinet (he was a private security guard to the royal family in the Kingdom), as well as family values symbolism:

Family: Two young daughters with wife, Halah. One son by his first wife, Jackie. Also fathered a daughter while stationed in Korea.

It's killing me that I can't find the story I read that claimed Kerik ABANDONED the girlfriend and infant kid in Korea.