Get Your Blog Up

“This administration is populated by people who’ve spent their careers bashing government. They’re not just small-government conservatives—they’re Grover Norquist, strangle-it-in-the-bathtub conservatives. It’s a cognitive disconnect for them to be able to do something well in an arena that they have so derided and reviled all these years.”

Senator Hillary Clinton

Monday, February 28, 2005


Not, Tom DeLay (not yet). Instead, it's the investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
An interagency criminal task force investigating former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has subpoenaed a Republican group founded by Interior Secretary Gale Norton and now run by her former aides, sources with knowledge of the investigation say.

The subpoena was issued to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), a nonprofit group created in 1997 by Norton and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and long denounced by environmental organizations as a front group for industry interests.

The government’s scrutiny of CREA is the latest example of the widening investigations into Abramoff, his associate Michael Scanlon and their dealings with Indian tribes.

Background here.

Who likes NASCAR?

Apparently Tenessee's Senate Speaker does. So says his ex-girlfriend, anyway:
A former girlfriend of [Tennessee] Senate's Number Two official is accusing him of using campaign funds to buy NASCAR-related gear.

In a signed statement, Denise Davenport of Dandridge accuses Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Micheal Williams of Maryville of using campaign funds for his personal collection, which Williams denies.

That which governs less

The bad news, delivered in the first report, is that the camouflaged domestic spending cuts contained in the Bush budget will -- if accepted by Congress -- do serious damage to education initiatives, low-income assistance and environmental programs over the next five years.


The results are startling. Elementary and secondary education programs, including the president's No Child Left Behind initiative, would be cut by $11.5 billion over the next five years, with a 12 percent reduction from inflation-adjusted 2005 levels in fiscal 2010 alone.

The WIC program, which subsidizes the diets of low-income pregnant women and nursing mothers -- a major preventative against low-weight babies -- would be cut by $658 million, enough to reduce coverage in 2010 by 660,000 women. Head Start funds would be reduced $3.3 billion over five years, with 118,000 fewer youngsters enrolled in 2010.

Clean water and clean air funding would decline by $6.4 billion over five years, a 20 percent cut in 2010. Community development programs used by cities to build up impoverished neighborhoods would lose $9.2 billion in five years, a 36 percent cut in 2010.

Most of these cuts would come out of state and local budgets, adding to the burdens their taxpayers would have to take up if services are to be maintained.

Introducing Steelers WR, Michael Morrill

Those familiar with Pennsylvania politics might recognize his name as a Green Party candidate for Governor. Read more about his struggle to become the NFL's first 50 year old wide reciever here.

The Syrian solution

There's no problem in the world that two nukes dropped by a standing Republican representative couldn't cure. Lost car keys, cheating on one's diet, misplaced aggression...

And best of all, there would be absolutely no backlash to this sort of thing either.

And I would go with choice A, by the way.

*UPDATE* I forget to mention all the coverage this is getting in the news media.


What more can you say?
A suicide bomber steered a sedan full of explosives into a thick crowd of Iraqi police and army recruits here this morning, killing at least 122, in the deadliest single bombing since the American invasion nearly two years ago.

The bombing in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, tore into a crowd of several hundred recruits who were waiting for mandatory checkups at a medical clinic in the city center, across from the mayor's office and a large outdoor market.

The bomb went off at 8:35 a.m., just as the street was also filling with residents shopping for food and making their way to work. The blast, which left at least 170 people wounded, was so powerful it set fire to shops across the street.

Witnesses described a scene of horrific carnage, with huge pools of blood visible on the pavement and corpses being loaded onto wooden handcarts shortly after the bombing. Outside the clinic, blood could be seen splashed on a wall above a first-floor window. Nearby, a large pile of bloody shoes and clothes lay in a heap.

"I was standing inside the door when I saw a car coming fast down the road opposite the clinic," said Alaa Sami, a guard who was inside the medical center and escaped unhurt. "All of a sudden the glass and shrapnel started coming down all around my head. When I got outside I couldn't believe it: there were dead bodies everywhere, and blood on the walls and the street."

The attack, the latest of dozens aimed at Iraq's fledgling security forces, demonstrated once again that the insurgency has not lost its power to launch deadly strikes at will, despite last month's relatively peaceful election and the recent capture of several important figures in the resistance.

We'll return after this fake news message

Apparently it's not just the President who wants to use the government as a branch for propaganda, but in runs in the blood of those who call themselves Republicans. Witness the Schwarzenegger administration:
Using taxpayer money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has sent television stations statewide a mock news story extolling a proposal that would benefit political boosters in the business community by ending mandatory lunch breaks for many hourly workers.

The tape looks like a news report and is narrated by a former television reporter who now works for the state. But unlike an actual news report, it does not provide views critical of the proposed changes. Democrats have denounced it as propaganda. Snippets aired on as many as 18 stations earlier this month, the administration said.

The tape opens with text suggesting introductory comments to be read by a news anchor: "If approved, the changes would clear up uncertainty in the business community and create a better working environment throughout the state."

The video shows construction workers, waitresses, nurses, farmworkers and a forklift operator at their jobs, and includes interviews with a farmer and a restaurant manager. The narrator says the proposal would permit workers to "eat when they are hungry, and not when the government tells them."

The tape makes no mention that organized labor opposes the changes, or that workers would have a harder time suing employers over missed meal breaks.

One of the restaurant managers interviewed? He works for Mimi's Cafe, one of the places being sued for not providing proper meal breaks and a donor to the Schwarzenegger campaign.

Couldn't call it unexpected

Jesse Lee has the details on the politicization of the Social Security Administration.

How cynical have I become when blatant propaganda by a supposed non-partisan government agency is completely unsurprising?

The moral question of private accounts

Captured here, in the Roanoke Times:
So the question is - whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal - is it a moral trade? Some Americans will thrive on individualized accounts, and some will suffer. Those who thrive will have more luxurious retirements, longer trips, better cars, more inheritance for their kids. Those who suffer will be scraping for groceries, medicine and rent. Maybe the Bible can guide us on this issue after all.

I think it goes without saying that private accounts would benefit some. More that likely, that group would be those who are already prepared for retirement anyway, as evidenced by the latest AP-Ipsos poll that shows the more money you make, the more likely you are to favor private accounts.

The real question that Bush should have to address, and I have yet to see him or any on the GOP side do it, is what do you do with those who fail at investing, those whose accounts lose money or even just retire during a downturn in the stock market. What do you do to help the people who cannot afford to retire anymore? The answer was Social Security. What will the answer be if Bush takes that away?

Bush should debate Bush?

During a Feb. 4 speech in Tampa, Florida, President George W. Bush pointed to a chart showing the Social Security system running out of money by 2042.

"What are you going to do about that chart?" he urged the crowd to ask their senators and representatives.

What Bush didn't tell his audience was that if the forecast is correct, the U.S. will have its worst economic performance since the Great Depression. He also didn't say that his own White House economists disagree with some of the basic assumptions of the chart, which was drawn up by the Social Security Administration.

The experts who advise the agency, which reports to the president, have underestimated U.S. economic growth for seven of the last eight years; they have also underestimated worker productivity. Using projections from Bush's Office of Management and Budget, Social Security's trust fund would have cash for years beyond 2042.

Nice to see some honesty in the debate on Social Security for a change.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Honesty, thy name is Morioka

"I think Social Security as it is has served its purpose." - Brennon Morioka, Hawaii GOP chairman.

Article here.

*UPDATE* By reading elsewhere, you would see the purpose of this post is to expose the true feelings of Republicans on Social Security and not my own. Sorry if there was any confusion.

Perhaps you can guess what a site called "Remove Republicans" is about without much help?

Arnold's deadline soon shall pass

As the CSM article reminds, Arnold's deadline to reenact his four key reforms will no doubt come and go this week without much action from the state Legislature:
Tuesday, that deadline will pass with little progress, and Mr. Schwarzenegger will have to decide whether to ramp up an initiative campaign unlike any seen in American history - both for its intensity and scope.

Even for someone with Schwarzenegger's considerable skills of communication, the ballot presents enormous challenges. Not only would the governor be picking a fight with some of the most powerful groups in the state - from teachers to legislators - but he would also be pressed for time. If he wants to hold a November special election, he has only seven weeks to gather 1.2 million signatures for each item.

I doubt that Arnold will have much difficulty garnering those signatures, but the votes come fall should be another matter. The public is fairly evenly split on his proposals, giving them only modest support for now. However, this is without any major advertising from what should be very strong and well financed opposition.

If Arnold goes through with his expensive special election, Democrats should view it as his own electoral "primary." It will be an uphill battle for Arnold to overcome a defeat so close to the actual election. Democrats should be unafraid to take him on come 2006.

I'm not advising defeat of these proposals simply on the grounds that it would be beneficial for Democrats next year. It goes without saying that most of his proposals are bad for the people of California and more beneficial to Arnold's special interest friends then anyone else. That alone should be the reason they fail.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Muffling the scream

I knew the Dean Scream wasn't all it was reported to be. If you still think it's an "unhinged" moment, you should go read this and consider yourself enlightened.

AFGE speaks out against Lockhart appearances

Press Release:
The National Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today questioned the appearance of Social Security Administration (SSA) Deputy Commissioner James B. Lockhart III at events held by congressional Republicans that promoted privatizing Social Security.

"It is inexcusable to take money out of the Social Security Trust Fund, which is paid for by Americans' FICA contributions and pays for benefits, so Deputy Commissioner Lockhart can go on a tour around the country advocating a plan that may end Social Security as we know it," said Debbie Fredericksen, executive vice president of the National Social Security Council.

Fredericksen continued, "First SSA attempted to force career employees into promoting privatizing Social Security. Now Lockhart is using his position with the Social Security Administration, traveling around the country, to promote privatizing Social Security. Normally SSA salaries, per diem, airfare, hotel accommodations, and miscellaneous travel expenses ultimately are paid out of the Social Security Trust Fund, as normal administrative costs. If Mr. Lockhart's salary and travel expenses are being paid by SSA to promote privatizing Social Security, this is scandalous."


What they're messing with

Without Social Security, about 54% of Tennesseans older than age 65 would have incomes below the federal poverty level, a study by a liberal policy group indicates.

The study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Social Security is keeping 265,000 Tennessee seniors out of poverty. About 12.6% of some 634,000 seniors in the state now fall below the poverty line.

The poverty line is $9,060 for a single senior and $11,418 for a couple.

The study showed Social Security lifted 13 million American seniors above the poverty line, based on a three-year average from 2000 to 2002, the latest year for which data was available.

Still sound like a good idea to cut benefits? Because with tax raises completely off the table, according to the House GOP, benefit cuts are all that's left.

And as for this:
[Senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation Dan]Mitchell said there would continue to be a "guaranteed level" of benefits.

May I borrow a sentiment from the movie "Tommy Boy?"
Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for right now, for your sake, for your daughter's sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality item from me.

The point is, that "guaranteed level" the Heritage Foundation referred to is a lot lower than it is now. And for those that opt for private accounts and fail, that level is lower still. Imagine the impact of that on those looking to stay above poverty when they retire.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A flawed election?

No, not that. It's so 2004.

I'm talking about this:
In an election closely watched nationwide, workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express here voted 17-1 today against union representation.

A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers who announced the outcome said the group will ask the National Labor Relations Board to throw the results out, saying no union member was allowed to observe the election and Wal-Mart added employees to the unit to dilute the strength of the union supporters.

Wal-Mart declined to comment.

For more on Wal-Mart, read this timely article.

Ah, those pesky annuities

One of the things lost in the recent privatization discussions is the annuity the President would like you to buy with "your" money once you retire. Once you purchase, it, however, that is money you no are able to pass down. And if you don't make enough in your private account to meet the cost of living, that means the inheritability factor is gone. That money stays with the insurance company and is called "profit." So it doesn't really sound like "your" money anymore, does it?

Meanwhile, the Timberjay News presents another problem:
...[T]he promise of an annuity is only as good as the insurance company making it. Most insurance companies do fine, but as we've all seen in recent years, even big, well-established companies can have problems. If the insurance company that issues your annuity were to be hit with large losses due to disasters or investments that went sour, they may not be able to make good on the promises they made to annuity purchasers.

The government could guarantee these annuities, but that puts the issue right back onto the laps of taxpayers, which sort of defeats the purpose of privatizing Social Security. The bottom line is that while most insurance companies are safe, none is ever going to be as safe as the U. S. Treasury, because the government has the power to tax.

FL-Nelson's seat a toss up

I think this is mixed news:
While voters approve of the job Nelson is doing by a 50-17 margin, respondents split 37-37 when asked if he should be re-elected, the poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed.

"There's good news and bad news for Sen. Bill Nelson, whose biggest problem continues to be that one-third of Florida voters don't know much about him after four years in office," said Clay Richards, assistant director of the school's polling institute.

Nelson's support, though, crossed party lines, with 52 percent of Republicans approving his work compared to 49 percent of Democrats, the poll showed.

But voters now have that chance as Nelson is hard on the stump against the President's Social Security plan:
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida denounced President George W. Bush's proposal to overhaul the Social Security system by allowing Americans to direct some of their earnings into private investment accounts.

During a town hall meeting in Brooksville Thursday, Nelson said Social Security worked well for the past 75 years and that the fundamentals should not be changed.

"I have an obligation to protect that system," Nelson said, adding that Social Security has lifted millions of senior citizens out of poverty during the past 50 years.

"I am not risking this program that has meant so much to so many people," he told the 50 residents who came to hear him speak on the topic.

And for those who doubt his opposition:
"This senator is going to fight not to cut Social Security benefits until the last dog dies," Nelson responded.

Arnold leads the field

Despite sinking popularity, Arnold Schwarzenegger still leads the field in the 2006 gubernatorial election:
But more than 20 months before California's next gubernatorial election, 56 percent of the 800 registered voters questioned said they were very inclined or somewhat inclined to support Schwarzenegger. Forty-two percent said they were not too inclined or not at all inclined to vote for him.

When matched against the Democrats, the Republican governor got 52 percent of the vote compared to 37 percent for Reiner, 35 percent for Angelides, 34 percent for Lockyer and 33 percent for Westly.

Reiner got support from 20 percent of the 376 Democrats and independents who said they planned to vote in next year's Democratic primary. Lockyer got 17 percent, Angelides 12 percent and Westly 8 percent. Forty-three percent said they were undecided.

Schwarzenegger hasn't said if he plans to run for re-election.

The good news for Democrats would have to be the aforementioned falling numbers, the fact that the election is still 20 months away, and the large number of people that Arnold's latest proposal have upset.

Things like this aren't going to help, either:
California should scrap Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2002 initiative designed to fund after-school programs, the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst said Thursday.

Elizabeth Hill criticized Proposition 49 for being an automatic spending plan that will take money away from more important programs and noted that some existing funds for after-school classes go unspent.

Hill, whose recommendations are widely respected and often considered by the Legislature, said the proposition would require the state to spend $424 million in general fund money even though it continues to face large deficits.

The question in 20 months will be if Arnold's name alone still has the power to pull him through.

Rep. Barbara Lee on Social Secuirt reform

California's Ninth Congressional District Rep. Barbara Lee will be holding a town hall meeting on Social Security tomorrow. Today, she has an op-ed piece in the Oakland Tribune:
People should understand that the centerpiece of what the president has proposed, diverting funds from payroll taxes to create private accounts, does nothing to address his so-called "crisis." In fact, by diverting $2 trillion from the Trust Fund over the first decade to pay for these accounts, it actually makes matters much worse.

The president's proposal would undermine retirement security for all Americans by cutting Social Security's guaranteed benefit by almost 50 percent.

The president's commission on Social Security has recommended cutting benefits to disabled workers to pay for private accounts. Disabled workers would have no access to their private accounts prior to retirement, and because their careers were cut short, would reach retirement with virtually nothing in those accounts.

The proposed benefit cuts are especially hard on minorities and women.

Because minorities are more likely to become disabled or die young, cuts in disability and survivor benefits would have a devastating impact on minority communities, particularly on children.

Without Social Security, 53 percent of all senior women would live in poverty. Because women, on average, have lower salaries and longer life spans than men, under the president's proposal they would have to make smaller private accounts last longer.

It is hard to justify these kinds of cuts knowing that the creation of private accounts would divert almost $1 trillion in transaction fees into the pockets of big corporate interests on Wall Street.

Defending Social Security

At the urging of Democratic leaders in Congress, a few political campaign veterans have formed Americans United to Protect Social Security. The nonprofit organization with close ties to organized labor plans to raise $25 million to $50 million to pressure lawmakers to vote against Bush's proposal.

"At Americans United to Protect Social Security, we are going to run a national campaign to defeat the president's privatization plan," said Brad Woodhouse, the group's spokesman and the former communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "The president and his supporters in Congress are messing with the third rail [of politics]; we're going to make sure they get zapped."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees provided seed money of nearly $1 million. Other major players in the coalition include the AFL-CIO; USAction, a grass-roots issues network; and the Campaign for America's Future, an activist group that pushes issues from the perspective of the political left.

Americans United to Protect Social Security will be run by two longtime advisers to Senate Democrats. Its campaign manager is Paul Tewes, the former political director of the DSCC. Its general consultant is Steve Hildebrand, who ran the unsuccessful reelection campaign last year of Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), the former Senate minority leader.

The group plans to work closely with the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to fight Bush's Social Security drive. Democratic lawmakers intend to help raise funds for it, according to a person close to the new group.

About 200 organizations will coordinate their efforts through the new group. The Media Fund, which raised and spent millions of dollars on anti-Bush advertisements last year, is considering joining, according to one of its principals, Harold Ickes, a former deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

The largest single opponent of the president's plan, the seniors lobby AARP, will operate separately.

I remember reading that anti-Social Security groups were planning on spending close to $100 million, so this is a good start.

Specter warns fellow Republicans on "nuclear option"

Arlen Specter appreciates the Constitution:
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter warned on Thursday that an impending showdown over President Bush's judicial nominees could lead to turmoil in the Republican-led Senate.

Specter said if fellow Republicans invoke the "nuclear option" by changing the Senate's rules to ban procedural hurdles against the nominees, Democrats could as promised retaliate with other moves of their own to "screw things up."

"If we have a 'nuclear option,' the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell," Specter said. "We can take an extended foreign trip, all of us."

But this is over the top:
Yet some Republicans privately voiced concerns, with one Senate aide saying Specter "provided the enemy aid and comfort."

This kind of thing should be fined and/or punished instantly. It does nothing to improve the discourse level and encourages animosity that is unnecessary. Neither side is the "enemy" when it comes to the Senate.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

What the-?

Following the trail of crumbs from Powerline to Carol Platt Liebau to Hugh Hewitt, it's hard to see what the hubub is here.

Hugh Hewitt puts forth his opinion of who the best Supreme Court nominees are for Bush to pick, and settles on Michael Luttig, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Hugh writes:
Judge Luttig has been on the bench the longest, and represents the biggest target as a result, as well as the almost certain objection that the unscrupulous left will at first whisper and then shout and which should be put out by the White House early and knocked down hard: Since Judge Luttig's father was a murder victim, he ought not to serve on the highest court in the land that deals with death penalty issues all the time.

The article hails from 1996 and seems more about lawyers representing death penalty convicts asking whether Luttig should rule on their cases. It has nothing to do with Democrats attempting to keep him off the court.

Now I don't fault Hugh, even though I frequently disagree with him, because he presents the article on Lutting as a warning to the White House. I do object to the "unscrupulous left" comment, because it is, in my opinion, a legitimate question to ask of a Supreme Court judge. Anything in their past they may affect future rulings should be examined. No bias, no problem.

However once it gets to Carol Platt Liebau, she is already referring to it as one of "the most disgraceful arguments to be hurled at any potential Supreme Court Justice." Except no one is hurling anything at him at this point. It's Hugh's wild speculation. Nine years ago lawyers with clients appearing before him suggested potential conflict. But no one today has argued anything at this point.

Then the boys at Powerline jump in:
Judge Luttig's father was murdered, and liberals may be poised to argue that this fact would render him impermissibly biased in death penalty cases (but doesn't he hear such cases now as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge?)

Check out that parsing - "liberals may be poised". No one's poised for anything at this point. The whole outcry is based on that nine year old article that Hugh Hewitt brought out.

And that question they ask, the one about him hearing such cases now? It's covered in the original article linked by Hugh and Carol:
Since the murder of his father, Luttig, by his own account, has been asked to step down from "a number" of cases "involving petitions of defendants sentenced to death."

John Blume, a lawyer from South Carolina, prepared a motion asking Luttig to disqualify himself only to find on the morning of arguments that Luttig would not be on his client's panel. Other lawyers have considered making such a motion, but decided against it.

"My conclusion was that there was no chance he would recuse himself for the very reason he stated," said Washington lawyer Benjamin Boyd, who represented Virginia death row inmate Herman Barnes.

"I guess it's a slippery slope," Boyd said. "Anytime anyone is hurt by anyone, you could make the same argument. . . . Ultimately, Judge Luttig is the only person who can decide whether the tragedy that befell his family affects his work, and he's decided that it hasn't and that's good enough for me."

A three-judge panel, including Luttig, affirmed Barnes' conviction for the murder of a Hampton grocer. Barnes was executed Nov. 13, 1995.

Also noted in the article:
Clarence Thomas, Marshall's successor on the Supreme Court, has stepped away from several cases involving sexual harassment because of his former position as the head of an agency that litigated such cases and his experience of being publicly accused of sexual harassment.

So Luttig does in fact, hear those kind of cases, Powerline. And he's been asked to recuse himself numerous times, and he says the ruling doesn't affect his ability to judge. And judging from the article presented, there is no proof to present that it does. Luttig never overturned a capital case, before or after the murder of his father.

If this is all a bit of pre-emption on the part of the right to get guys like me to pre-approve guys like Lutting, well, you got me. Based on this one article, I don't think the left has much to stand on.

Of course, this article is all that I've read. But it's entirely possible I'll revisit this view in the future. Someone could produce a tape of Luttig claiming he'll fry every guy that comes before him or have a video of him telling a group that he would never send anyone to die again. Certainly we would all agree that this would reveal him to be "less than unbiased" in future rulings.

But hey, guys, way to start an argument that, until now, no one else was really making.

*UPDATE* I'm not the only one who noticed.

Bush plan pushes government costs

Way to go, George:
Largely because of the new prescription drug benefit under Medicare, which takes full effect next year, the federal government will be paying half of the nation's health care bills within the next decade, according to a new report by the Bush administration.

The cost of health care, which continues to rise faster than overall inflation, is expected to double by 2014 as well, according to estimates prepared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

That will make private and public spending on health care account for 18.7 percent, or nearly one-fifth, of the nation's gross domestic product, a record high. That growth rate is much higher than the overall growth of the U.S. economy is expected to be.

Arnold's costly ballot measures

Schwarzenegger has threatened to put his priorities out to voters as ballot measures if lawmakers do not seriously consider them -- a move registered voters narrowly support until told of the estimated $50 million to $70 million cost for a special election, according to the Field Poll.

Support for the special election falls to 30 percent from 51 percent when the estimated cost is mentioned.

While the public gives modest support for most of Arnold's proposals, they clearly do not want him to send the state deeper into debt if the legislatures reject them.

On a side note, involving the teacher/firefighter/other public pensions, I'm not sure why it's up to me to decide whether the state's agreement with these groups should be changed. I understand that it's my tax money and all, but I certainly wouldn't want a majority to take away a guaranteed retirement from me into return for a more risky 401k program. Why should others get to decided my future like that?

Dems call for Iraqi spending to be part of actual budget

Congressional Democrats are lobbying to add more than $36 billion to Pentagon spending for next year, an effort designed to include at least part of the anticipated cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the regular federal budget.

For three years, the Bush administration has been using supplemental spending bills to fund the wars, a procedure that excludes the burgeoning costs from deficit projections and makes the government's financial outlook appear rosier than it is, say congressional officials and budget analysts.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, raised the proposal for making war funding part of the annual budget in an internal memorandum last week. The Feb. 18 memo, sent to Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Budget Committee and Democrats on the Armed Services panel, outlined what Levin called "deficiencies" in President Bush's $441.8 billion budget request for defense for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

"This budget understates known defense costs for 2006, and the true size of future deficits, by billions of dollars," Levin wrote. "Although the exact costs of ongoing operations in fiscal year 2006 are not presently known, we have been spending significant sums -- about $5 billion per month -- in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time now, and we know these costs are going to continue past September 30th into fiscal year 2006. These costs should be planned on now."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It's coming...

Snuck in the middle of an article about Rep Clay Shaw's (R-FL) Social Security reform bill we see (my emphesis):
Since President George W. Bush is about to put his plan on the table, he said, Republicans are reluctant to sign on to anything that may smack – at least to voters – of something they may not agree with.

I'm not sure what the political definition of "about" is, but Shaw hints it's closer than we think.

By the way, Shaw's proposal was rejected by Democrats (although he did talk to Joe Liberman) and met with general Republican indifference.

And since I'm curious, Shaw won the 2004 election by a 63-35 margin. Seems pretty safe to me.


Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, talking to the AP:
"We are going to pick up Senate seats in 2006, it's only a question of how many," Reid said at a Reno news conference before his scheduled address to the Nevada Legislature in Carson City.

"First of all, history is on our side. Secondly, George Bush is on our side," he said.

"I don't like to give grades to the president. It's kind of early in the term, but it certainly wouldn't be a good grade at this stage," Reid said.

Go get 'em, Harry.

Finally an honest follow-up

Too bad it's not from our press corps:
"How is the privatization of Social Security going to cure the problem?" Donna McCoy of Newton asked Grassley, the Republican who leads the Senate Finance Committee and will be among those crafting legislation.

"It isn't going to, is the short answer, but since you raise this and it's such a significant issue, bear with me," Grassley said. He launched into a three-minute tour of Bush's proposal, the centerpiece of which is to let younger workers divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes to private investment accounts.

But, responded McCoy, "If it's not going to save Social Security, why are we doing it?"

It is the most logical follow-up question, isn't it?

Grassley responds:
To McCoy, the 71-year-old four-term Iowa senator said: "It's kind of a moral issue of whether Grandpa Grassley ... today drawing Social Security as I do, should I just be worried about Grandpa Grassley or should I be worried about (granddaughter) Dana Grassley ... When she retires, will she have Social Security?"

I thought for a brief moment his next sentence was going to be, "Not if Grandpa Grassley and Uncle George get their way." At least I could have admired him for his honesty.

And the point would be, and one that I haven't made in a while, is that Social Security is not secure with private accounts involved, especially when they are coupled with the cuts from Plan II.

Also I noticed Grassley won re-election in 2004 fairly easily. Which made me wonder about other Republican's out shilling the private plans. Those pushing hard, are they up for re-election soon? And did they have a wide margin of victory?

Santorum's the only other guy I know pushing hard for Bush and facing re-election. I'm not saying anyone's hiding or anything, I'm just wondering because I haven't looked into it myself.

Think Progress debunks Jon Kyl, indirectly

I was going to respond to the latest by Senator Jon Kyl at Real Clear Politics, but it seems the folks at Think Progress, in ripping into a Frank Luntz memo on framing, have done alot of the work for me. For instance, Kyl makes a claim that the estate tax expiring would be one of the most "egregious" parts of the President's expiring tax cuts.

Hmmm... wonder why?
In actuality, repealing the estate tax would reduce revenues for federal government and state governments - a permanent repeal “would cost $162 billion through 2013” - while providing a “massive windfall for some of the country’s wealthiest families,” as the estate tax affects only about 2 percent of America’s estates. Furthermore, even if the tax is repealed, the estates stand to “still be taxed at the state level.”

Forbid we let that one go to, say, shore up Social Security or pay down the debt.

Kyl has more:
President Bush's tax cuts have benefited all Americans: because the economy has improved, companies are hiring more workers, and businesses are making smarter investment decisions less distorted by arbitrary tax considerations. Moreover, those who own stocks, including tens of millions in 401(k) and other retirement plans, have seen their nest eggs grow.

Think Progress, on Luntz:
As a matter of fact, the 8/12/04 New York Times pointed out, for every dollar spent on Bush’s tax cuts, the economy only received about 59 cents of economic stimulus. That means higher deficits without much bang for the buck. In contrast, “the economic bang for a dollar of aid to state governments is $1.24. Yet such assistance accounted for only 3 percent of the total cost of Mr. Bush’s fiscal policies.”

Thanks for making my job easy, Think Progress.

*UPDATE* I'm not sure why, but I'm getting a lot of hits on this one from Technorati. I imagine you are looking for the series over here. Just start scrolling, and you'll find them soon enough.

Otherwise, thanks for coming by.


For those curious about what to get me for my upcoming birthday:
Apple Computer Inc. released new versions of its popular iPod digital music player Wednesday, cutting prices and expanding memory capacities.

The price of the 4-gigabyte iPod mini was cut $50 to $199. A new 6-gigabyte version will sell for $249.

Measure "B" in Palm Springs

I went to bed last night thinking that I need to learn more about a couple local measures on the ballot next month. So it's fitting that today I'd see a couple things about Measure B without even looking for it.

Here's what I know so far. Construction in the hills surrounding Palm Springs is severely limited to anything on a slope of 30 degrees or less. From what I understand, that's pretty much everything. Measure B would overturn that portion of the law and allow construction anywhere, but limit it to one home every 40 acres.

The mayor of Palm Springs, Ron Oden, gave a State of the City speech already, and supporters of Measure B apparently threaten the city if it ran the speech on the local cable access channel. The city gave in. Now another group has paid for the air time itself and is freely distributing the speech to anyone who asks. They took out an ad in the local paper.

Now supporters of Measure B are threatening the city once again:
Measure B supporters demanded Tuesday that Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden and three city councilmen publicly retract "false and misleading statements in the official voter guide."

"Those statements said that Measure B is bad for open space," supporter Kurt Barrie said before a crowd of 45 in front of Palm Springs City Hall. "We find that incorrect, and we want them to correct that."

I'll be looking for more information in the days to come on Measure B (and it's companion Measure C), but I must say so far that the strong armed tactics of supporters on Measure B are not endearing me to their cause.

Arnold dips in latest poll

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's job approval rating remains high, but his support has slipped from the lofty levels during his first year in office, according to a poll released today.

A majority of California voters also believe the state is moving in the wrong direction, according to The Field Poll.

The poll found 55 per cent of registered California voters approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance and 35 per cent disapprove.

In September, 65 per cent of voters said they approved on how Schwarzenegger oversaw the state government, versus 22 per cent who said they disapproved.

The sliding job performance rating reflects an increasingly negative view among Democrats and independents of the Republican governor. By contrast, he retains overwhelming support from Republicans, according to the poll.

The survey found Californians' view of the direction their state is heading has taken a negative turn over the past five months, with 53 per cent of voters saying it is on the wrong track, compared with 35 per cent who think it is moving in the right direction.

*UPDATE* It seems ads attempting to tie Arnold to special interests are having an effect:
The poll this week shows that while nearly half of the state's registered voters still believe that Schwarzenegger considers broad public interest in his office, some 40 percent now say he caters to a few special interests. But the partisan split is dramatic: 59 percent of Democratic respondents said the governor focuses on special interests, compared to just 14 percent of Republicans. Among independents, 43 percent say he caters to special interests and 48 percent say he considers the broad public interest. The numbers represent a marked change from August, when Schwarzenegger had more bipartisan support; back then, 56 percent of registered voters said they believed Schwarzenegger's priority was the public interest and just 27 percent said it was the special interests.

This will make it tougher to sell the public on the special interest election he's proposing this fall.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Arnold fired those who opposed him

You know, I live in California, a liberal state to be sure. One would expect if any media had a liberal bias, it'd be here. So why is it that today is the first time I heard this?
At CalSTRS, four of the governor's own appointees voted against his plan, which led Schwarzenegger to retaliate by firing them, a move his critics dubbed the "Thursday afternoon massacre."

CalSTRS in the state's teacher retirement board, the third largest public pension fund in America.

Sure enough, here's the story:
A week after they voted to against his plan to privatize the state's public pension system, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday ousted four of his appointees to the board of the California State Teachers Retirement System.

The sudden firings of Mark Battey, James Gray, Miguel Pulido and Gloria Hom, who were appointed by Schwarzenegger to the board last year, leave one-third of the 12-member board vacant.


Gray, a longtime banker, said he was surprised by the action, but added, "You don't appoint somebody to act like a fiduciary who's been a fiduciary most of his adult life unless you want them to act like a fiduciary."

"I never had a governor say, 'You walk lockstep with me or you're out,"' said Gray, who had been appointed to state service by Republican Govs. Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson and served nine years as a California State University trustee.


Treasurer Phil Angelides, a CalSTRS board member, called the firings "outrageous" because the appointees "stood up for taxpayers, for teachers and school children."

The firings were "particularly troubling because trustees of pension funds sit there as fiduciaries with a legal obligation to do what's right from the financial perspective and they rejected the governor's proposal on its merits," said Angelides, a Democrat who's considered likely to run for governor next year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said he was "extremely disappointed" by the firings. "The STRS board has a record of acting in the best interest of teachers, rather than blindly following political agendas," he said in statement.

And not a peep of outrage since. Amazing. Arnold, it seems, can get away with almost anything out here.

California poll on Social Security privatization

The Field Poll was released over the weekend, and as expected Bush gets a poor approval rating in the Golden State.

Overall, Californians give Bush a 54% disapproval rating. A whopping 60% disapprove of his handling of Social Security, with each age groups showing almost equal displeasure.

Full results are here, in a nine page pdf.

Waivering in West Virginia

You can smell the trepidation:
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito lays out the problems confronting Social Security “for our children and grandchildren,” then says she hasn’t endorsed President Bush’s call for personal accounts as part of a solution.

“I’m looking at it, but I’m not sold on it,” she tells an audience at the Randolph County Senior Center. “I’m listening but I’m not pushing.”


Capito, 51, is in a more delicate political position than many. A Republican in a sprawling Democratic district, she readily acknowledges her seat is anything but safe.

Already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has accused her of “flip-flops on Social Security privatization” — a signal she can expect to be criticized on the issue in the 2006 elections if she sides with the president.

Hawaii Senate seat safe for Democrats

Speculation was that the 80 year old Democratic Senator from Hawaii would step down, leaving an open seat for Democrats to defend.

Today, however, Sen. Daniel Akaka announced he still has more to do for the people of Hawaii and will run in 2006.

Not only is this good news for the people of Hawaii, but for Democrats as well. Akaka should be re-elected fairly easily, which will help divert money from defending a seat to taking one over.

Pina coladas on me.

Partisan redistricting for no one!

Kos links, and Jerome cheers on the idea that Democrats should start redistricting states where they have an advantage to gain more seats in the House:
This one comes in under "if it's not against the law then use it" as a means to an end, and that's exactly the rules by which Republicans are playing. That's what DeLay figured out and has practiced, while Democrats in the House have seemingly wished it would go away.

If the system is broken, then fine, overhaul it with a national plan. Otherwise, play by the rules and go for the win.

So I have to ask, what was it about Tom DeLay doing it that we hated so much that we can overcome our disgust for to do it ourselves? Was it strictly that he did it to help the GOP? And we then justify it under the "well, he was doing it" defense? Seems like a ad idea to me.

It's clear by now that the system is broken. DeLay's redistricting, and the same calls from other Republicans in California and Florida are bad for democracy. And if the Democrats fall into this, then they are guilty of being bad for democracy as well. Democrats moving in other states in a tit-for-tat attempt to reclaim lost seats removes the high ground. And that is not something we should do lightly.

Instead, we should speak out against it and find a better way.

Let Democrats figure out a real solution to this redistricting problem, one that benefits the people first. That, in turn will lead to benefits for the party.

Rather then look for short term answers, let's work to find a long term solution.

Here's a quick and simple suggestion. Why not propose non partisan redistricting in every state, every ten years, and not allow the state legislatures to alter these barring natural disaster. However, tie the states together. Until all fifty agree to this solution, none of these changes take place. Maybe even make them state ballot issues where the voters are ultimately responsible for these changes.

Then it's the Democrats that propose the common sense solution to the problem, and the Republican's that appear as obstructionists to the people.

This solution is a quick toss off, and I'm sure there are other logistics to take into account. But there has to be a common sense way to get this sort of thing done. Democrats should figure that way out, and quick.

A lead balloon

People loved Rick Santorum's presentations on Social Security so much, they often booed and jeered him.

Meanwhile, I say bits of Dem. Steny Hoyer's presentation on Social Security in Maryland today. He did very well for himself, pointing out that payments for the working class will be cut in the future so Bush's rich friends, the top 1%, could have a tax cut now. He called this passing of the buck immoral.

I also got him telling the audience that Bush was wrong when he described private accounts as "like the Thrift Savings account" because those investments were in addition to Social Security not in place of it.

He seemed well received.

And over at MyDD, they note Republican's chanted "Hey Hey, Ho, Ho, Social Security has got to go." Make a nice commercial clip, wouldn't it?

Virginia rejects prayer in public places

An update on this reported last week, Virginia lawmakers decided that an amendment to the state constituion allowing prayer in public places was unnecessary. Lawmakers felt that current state law provided enough protection as is currently written. The measure failed 10-5.

Iranian invasion

This article in the Seattle Times reports on potential problems if we were to invade Iran, including increased threats to oil lines in the Persian Gulf, Iran's ability to incite attacks in Israel, and futher escalation of the insurgent conflict in Southern Iraq. Included in this assessment, Iran is training their soldiers to fight an guerrilla style war.

First let me say I'm not sure how we could manage to fight a war in Iran with our current deployment. I'm reasonably sure that the public would be a tougher sell then they were on Iraq, and Congressmen would feel a bigger risk in authorizing an invasion. That said, it seems the Bush administration is not one to bog itself down in reality. So who knows.

But until our armed forces learn how to deal with an insurgent uprising (perhaps early prevention would be a start), I would imagine any country we invade on whatever pretense would fall back on that strategy to try and overcome our superior firepower and technology. While I don't doubt we eventually will win out in these conflicts, the best strategy would be to avoid them all together. None only would this be easier on our troops, but on those of us at home who would wish them a safe return.

Cox v. Hinchey

Just wanted to note (in reference to this) that I have yet to see a news story on Republican Congressman Chris Cox and his claim that we continue to find WMDs in Iraq.

Meanwhile CNN Inside Politics just interviewed Democratic Congressman Hinchey on his claims that his opinion is Karl Rove may be behind the CBS memos.

How liberal, no?

NYT editor speaks on blogs

Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, speaks on the current state of media as he sees it:
[Keller] noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public's trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

"At the moment," he said, "the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left."

Keller also sees "blogging," or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger's ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog's inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. "A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole," he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a "one man circle jerk."

I would add that blogs are detrimental to the degree that many seek out blogs only to reinforce their predisposed beliefs rather than looking for thoughtful discourse to help them form a better understanding of the world around them. People use the blogs to find not facts, but facts that reinforce their predetermined outcome. They encourage rather than discourage the "pinhole" view of the world.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A random Social Security thought

I've had plenty of them. But I actually had this one while sitting in front of a computer. So here goes.

The Republican plan now involves splitting the eldery from the young and working each group on different ideas. Those near retirement are told not to worry because their benefits won't be touched. It's their kids that face the risk.

My question is this: How selfish does the GOP think people nearing retirement are? And if they are that selfish, what does that say about the state of America today?

Why selfish? Well, seniors are expected to sign off on the plan because they got theirs, and they should let the young deal with their own devil. Does that seem like a healthy attitude to perpetuate in society? I guess if your a Republican, it is.

I'd like to think that this ploy won't work, that seniors, and for what matters all Americans would want what is best for everyone involved, not just a push for a selfish society where I am the only one that matters.

And that applies to the youth portion of the debate as well. The plan is to focus on all the potential growth I could receive, but it does nothing to assuage my fears that, even if I succeed, there will be those who fail, and there is nothing to be done for them. Again, look out for number one, and let the rest of the world deal with itself. Survival of the fittest, if you will, from those who would also sell us intelligent design.

Republicans may claim they are doing what's best for America, especially on this issue, but look at the details and how it sells. At it's base, it's asks the question that FDR answered so well in his day: Is America a country that takes care of those in need or a country that ignores them?

The choice is yours.

The Social Security role model

I'd read about the so-called "Galveston option" before, used by some to cheer on President Bush's privatization plan. Turns out the options not that great:
"I didn't come out ahead," said Evelyn Robison, who was the Galveston District Court clerk for 13 years before her retirement in 2004. "My chief deputy did not come out ahead. My bookkeeper did not come out ahead. I personally don't know anyone who has retired who came out ahead."


Two separate studies of the Galveston plan conducted in 1999, by the Social Security Administration and the federal General Accounting Office, each concluded that many low- and medium-income workers actually fare worse under the Galveston plan than they would have under Social Security, while the highest-paid employees do better.

"Our simulations found that low wage earners retiring today generally would have qualified for higher retirement incomes had they been under Social Security," the GAO report stated. "Many median wage earners, while initially receiving higher benefits under the (Galveston plan), would have eventually received larger benefits under Social Security because Social Security's benefits are indexed for inflation."

The Social Security Administration study found that a low-income married worker who retires in 2045 would receive just $670 per month under the Galveston plan, as opposed to $1,139 under Social Security. The highest-paid single workers, however, would earn $1,515 per month more under the Galveston model than under Social Security, according to the Social Security Administration calculations.

The guy who designed and still runs the plan says otherwise:
"In every case we ever looked at, people end up better off in our plan," said Gornto, president of First Financial Benefits.


"I think what we have here is a model for the rest of the country," said Ray Holbrook, a retired Galveston County judge and one of the original proponents of the plan. "The philosophy behind it is that we're better off if we fund our own retirements."

So you can judge the plan based on actual people who have seen the failure of the plan, or you can trust the guy who created the plan and talks about the "philosophy" of it all.

Which seems more reliable to you?

GOP hypocrites caught on tape

The DCCC has brave GOPers who aren't afraid to take a stand on both sides of the Social Security debate. And they have them caught on tape, too.

Art Linkletter says the darndest things

So the plan to draw folks away from the AARP (at least the first step) has been revealed. And it ain't pretty. Not that in the sense that it's an effective attack on the AARP, but rather not pretty in that it's a disgusting display.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising, seeing that gay marriage was supposed to be the polarizing issue in America last election and the war on terror actually was the pivotal issue in it. And USA Next is trying to exploit them both in an attempt to drive away members of the AARP.

Now I'm not sure why people who sign up for the AARP, who use the power of the AARP for drug benefits and discounts, and those who feel the Bush Social Security plan is risky and could cause great damage to future generations, I'm not sure if they'll end up caring.

Some may, I guess. But a majority of seniors get a lot from the AARP - dare I say they love the AARP for what it provides them. And they may end up taking this attack on the AARP personally. Another misstep in the battle over private accounts.

It's a clear sign of desperation. Talk of private accounts simply isn't working for Republicans. They are unable to sell the country on the merits of the privatization plan simply because that plan is a bad one. So now they have to scare society that the failure of private accounts will destroy the military and cause men everywhere to spontaneously make out.

What kind of twisted logic is that, anyway?

On a side note, when you go to the conservative group's homepage, should we be surprised that all their talking head appearances have been on FOX News?

Schumer: "Unanimous agreement" on privatization filibuster

Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday he and other Senate Democrats were prepared to filibuster the Bush administration's "goofy" plan for private Social Security accounts and called on the president to drop the idea and work toward a bipartisan fix for the system.

Speaking at senior citizen forums in Manhattan and Franklin Square, the New York Democrat asserted that everyone, regardless of age, would face lower benefits if the administration plan were implemented.

But Schumer said that was not likely to happen, given the mixed reception to the plan from congressional Republicans and the virtually total opposition by Democrats.

"We would block it with every means at our disposal," Schumer said at a senior citizens' center on Manhattan's Upper West Side in response to a question about whether he would lead a filibuster against the Bush plan. "I have already recommended that [a filibuster] and I've gotten unanimous agreement."

That would put an end to that, one would think.

Jeb Bradley and Social Security

Rep Jeb Bradley (R-NH), professional Social Security flip-flopper:
On Wednesday, [Bradley] told the Monitor he opposed "privatization" of Social Security, which is the way Democrats have been describing Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert part of their paychecks into savings accounts.

A day later, he was telling the Union Leader he would consider some kind of personal accounts, as long as it didn't mean the entire Social Security system was turned over to a private administrator. Huh . . . we didn't know anyone was seriously suggesting that option.

Meanwhile, on its editorial page, the Union Leader urged Bradley to stick to a single position.

In his 2002 campaign, Bradley pledged to vote against bills that would allow people to invest part of their payroll taxes in personal accounts. That stance would seem to put him squarely against what Bush has put forth. Democrats seized on Bradley's apparent indecisiveness.

"Jeb Bradley showed today that he has lost his spine," said state party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan. "He had the chance to stand and fight for the promise he made to New Hampshire voters. Instead, at the first sign of pressure, he turned tail and fled from the ring."

Another seat ripe for the picking in 2006 thanks to privatization. Thanks, W!

Arnold's special interests

I know I've mentioned it a few times here before, but the LA Times has an article on Arnold's quest for big special interest money even as he speaks out against it.

I think this issue would do some damage to Arnold if he runs again, as it would help turn him from a likeable actor who is going to reform the government into a misleading politician who is out for his own wealthy benefactors.

Also a potential issue:
A study last year found that Californians are shouldering an increasing share of the state's general fund. The report by the nonprofit California Budget Project determined that the burden of paying for public services has shifted from businesses to individuals. Income taxes paid by individuals now make up half of the state's revenues, while corporate taxes have fallen to about 10 percent.

But at least Californians got their car tax back, huh, Arnold?

Teaching tolerance violates civil rights

I'm not sure what ground this will end up being tossed, but I cannot see how these parents can win a case that claims that anti-harassment training violates their offspring's rights to verbally berate homosexuals while in school. If they do win, it will only be a matter or time before, for example, the KKK could claim their sons and daughters should not have to tolerate the black students, or neo-Nazis should not have to tolerate the Jewish kids. Black gay Jews would be really out of luck.

Personally, when I went to school, I went to learn. Sometimes that involved subjects I did not agree on, but that was okay with me. I agreed with some lessons and disagreed with others. That made me a better person and simply strengthened my beliefs.

No one is telling the kids that homosexuality is right or wrong, they are merely being told you cannot discriminate against anyone or assault them because of race, creed, or sexual orientation. Seems like a worthwhile lesson to me.

These students (or at least their parents) seem so afraid of learning anything that may contradict their safe and happy world they may as well not be going to school to begin with. Sit and home and have mom or dad feed you everything they want to tell you. Develop a job where you work out of the home and never have to face the real world.

I'm moving to Eastern Washington, the greatest state this side of the Cascades

It's funny that the right is so quick to harp on what they call "moonbat" ideas from the left while they are chock full of "moonbat" ideas of their own:
If Sen. Bob Morton has his way, he'll soon be a resident and lawmaker in the 51st state of the United States.

To Morton, the Cascade Mountains are more than just the dividing line between wet and dry Washington. They are the indisputable wall between political ideologies that only became more apparent during the recent contested governor's race.

The Republican from Orient is the prime sponsor on a joint memorial in the Senate that asks President Bush to create a new state east of the Cascades that would comprise 20 of the current state's 39 counties. Nine other Republican senators have signed on in support. Similar measures have been introduced in past years without success.

"It's not sour grapes," Morton said. "It's common sense. People who think alike should be united."

Crazy secessionist Republicans.

Insert DeLayed ethics joke here

While Republican Rep. Mary Denny is at it, why not propose a bill that establishes a national Tom DeLay day, and forces all Americans to march in parades for Tom and celebrate his life through interpretive dance?

Okay, it's not that extreme yet, and to be fair Denny admits her bill does not do what she wanted it to do. But why do Republicans keep thinking they can propose changes that make it easier for ethics violations and no one will notice?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Army short of recruiting goals

The active-duty Army is in danger of failing to meet its recruiting goals, and is beginning to suffer from manpower strains like those that have dropped the National Guard and Reserves below full strength, according to Army figures and interviews with senior officers .

For the first time since 2001, the Army began the fiscal year in October with only 18.4 percent of the year's target of 80,000 active-duty recruits already in the pipeline. That amounts to less than half of last year's figure and falls well below the Army's goal of 25 percent.

Meanwhile, the Army is rushing incoming recruits into training as quickly as it can. Compared with last year, it has cut by 50 percent the average number of days between the time a recruit signs up and enters boot camp. It is adding more than 800 active-duty recruiters to the 5,201 who were on the job last year, as attracting each enlistee requires more effort and monetary incentives.

Driving the manpower crunch is the Army's goal of boosting the number of combat brigades needed to rotate into Iraq and handle other global contingencies. Yet Army officials see worrisome signs that young American men and women -- and their parents -- are growing wary of military service, largely because of the Iraq conflict.

"Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief. "We're hearing things like, 'Well, let's wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,' " he said in an interview. "For the active duty for '05 it's going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be '06."

Other senior military officers have voiced similar concerns in recent days. "I anticipate that fiscal year '05 will be very challenging for both active and reserve component recruiting," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House Appropriations subcommittee Feb. 17. The Marine Corps fell short of its monthly recruiting quota in January for the first time in nearly a decade.

Will the decline of the all volunteer army be another part of W's legacy? That remains to be seen. But we certainly seem to be moving that way.

"Swift-boating" the AARP

What do you do when you cannot win the Social Security debate on the virtue of your own arguements? You call in the slime machine to try and take down the other side:
The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

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

Though it is not clear how much money USA Next has in hand for the campaign - Mr. Jarvis will not say, and the group, which claims 1.5 million members, does not have to disclose its donors - officials say that the group's annual budget was more than $28 million last year. The group, a membership organization with no age requirements for joining, has also spent millions in recent years vigorously supporting Bush proposals on tax cuts, energy and the Medicare prescription drug plan.

So far, the groups dueling over Social Security have been relatively tame, but the plans by USA Next foreshadow what could be a steep escalation in the war to sway public opinion and members of Congress in the days ahead.

Note they are not attacking the arguements of the AARP, or the ideas the AARP puts forth in defense of the current Social Security system, but rather the AARP itself.

Disgusting, no?

Away we go

The other day I suggested that conservative bloggers, given a Chris Cox situation, would pick up the ball and call for his head.

If you have any doubt, see this. A Democratic congressman has said that he believes (not the lack of surety here that was missing from Cox's statement) Karl Rove was behind the CBS memos.

The comments are already barking about alerting the media, getting Drudge involved, and that this story is being "ignored."

I can't imagine this one has any legs. It would be nice if it didn't to remind the blogs that the power they think they have is limited. However, they'll just excuse it to liberal media and move on.

Meanwhile, left sided bloggers have moved on from Cox's claim that we are still finding WMDs in Iraq, which the media also has largely ignored.

Darn right-wing media.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Social Security fallback

How confident are Republicans in the Bush privatization plan? So confident, they are afraid to bring it up when they meet with their constituents:
GOP leaders are encouraging rank-and-file members to hold town hall meetings in their home states and districts during next week's congressional recess, arming them with briefing books, PowerPoint presentations and a video of Bush making the case for major changes in Social Security.

But many Republicans will not be joining their leaders in promoting Bush's proposal. Some lawmakers will be trying to have more low-key "listening sessions" with their constituents to test the political waters. Others plan to focus on other issues and address Social Security only if constituents raise it.

"The situation is fluid, but it has the potential to blow up," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-Va.). "I'm going to keep my mouth shut."

I'll bet Bush is wishing he had done the same thing at this point.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Chafee at the bit

Republicans are afraid for Lincoln Chafee:
The Republican Party's Washington and Rhode Island leadership turned out in force last night to raise campaign money for and pay homage to Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the maverick U.S. senator whom public opinion surveys show may face a tough 2006 reelection campaign.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the number two in the leadership of the majority Republicans, told a crowd of more than 125 at the Hotel Providence that Chafee's reelection is crucial to keeping Republicans in power in Washington, and in giving Rhode Island some clout in a GOP-controlled capital.

Of course, were Democrats to pick up six seats the capital would no longer be GOP controlled, and Chafee is a good place to start. James Langevin, a Democrat who has yet to announce his candidacy, will hold a fundraiser on the 28th. He polled ahaed of Chafee recentlyy a 41-27 margin.

The next big sting?

I actually know someone who went to some conference (it's intentionally vague, sorry) where they were told that the WMDs had been found in Iraq, but that the public wasn't ready to know yet. I asked him at the time what kind of sense that made, and I can't remember what he claimed at the time. I do remember that this person wholeheartedly believed what he had been told at the conference.

Either way, I'm not surprised to read things like this still happen, but I will say I am surprised that it happens at a place like CPAC, and futher surprised that a republican representative would push it forth. It would seem that either this knowledge is secret and California Rep. Chris Cox is passing along important state secrets, or California Rep. Chris Cox is freely lying to the American public.

Reading this, I get the sense that conservative bloggers, would push this forward, turn it into a scandal and either force Cox to resign, or force him to apologize and then resign. Either way it would not be pretty.

Maybe I'm wrong and just too cynical about the whole thing. I guess we'll see in the coming weeks if anyone takes up the cause.

Norquist and I agree!

I was thinking about writing more on the Bush tax hike proposal for Social Security, but it seems Grover Norquist of all people beat me to the punch:
The chief economist at the Chicago investment bank Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson, Brian Wesbury, who has advocated in favor of the planned accounts, said he was "shocked" and "disappointed" by the president's comments.

The idea would be so disastrous economically and politically that it would be better that the president not do personal accounts at all, Mr. Wesbury said.

"This would be the equivalent of his father breaking the 'Read my lips' tax pledge," he said. Mr. Norquist went farther, saying the tax increase would be "even worse, because it would show we didn't learn last time."

Removing the cap completely would push marginal tax rates to their highest levels since the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s, calculated Mr. Wesbury, a former chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. The top marginal tax rate would reach 53%,he said.


"Getting accounts in exchange for raising taxes is an exchange that will be a net loss to society and to the Republican Party," he said.

Congressional Republicans privately doubted that the idea would get anywhere on Capitol Hill.

Disaster in the wings, it seems.


Sharp gains in the cost of cigarettes and autos helped push core U.S. producer prices up at their fastest rate in six years in January, the government said Friday in a report that fanned inflation fears.

Overall, the producer price index, which measures prices received by farms, factories and refineries, rose just 0.3 percent in the month, the Labor Department said. But the core index, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, shot up 0.8 percent, the biggest gain since December 1998.

Wall Street economists had forecast a 0.2 percent gain in both overall and core producer prices and the higher-than-expected figures hit markets hard.

Count Every Vote Act introduced

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Democrat of Cleveland, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Hillary Clinton of New York and John Kerry of Massachusetts announced they were introducing the Count Every Vote Act of 2005. Among its provisions is a verifiable paper ballots for every e-vote cast, equal access to voting machines, and a nation standard for the handling of provisional ballots.

You would think this would be a unifying issue - after all, we all love Democracy and would like to see fairness and accuracy in each and every election.

Republicans, however, don't seem to care:
"People introduce bills every day," a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said dismissively when asked about the Tubbs Jones-Boxer bill.

Ah, indifference. The stuff of the American dream.

With high profile cases such as the one in Washington, it would seem like a nationwide winner for the Democrats.

More Repulicans decry GOP attack on Reid

Las Vegas Sun:
This capital city's Republican mayor joined with key Democratic state legislators and representatives of union workers and teachers Thursday to criticize the Republican National Committee's labeling of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as an obstructionist.

Mayor Marv Teixeira praised Reid for the work he has done for Nevada over the years and said the lengthy RNC mailer criticizing the senator should be sent "back to where it came from - return to sender."

Impact? Probably not that great. Still, it's nice to see a reasonable Republican every now and then. If the ripples turn to waves, however, who knows what could come of it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

When the President talks to G-d

It's free at iTunes. It's pretty good, too.

Go check it out before it's too late.

What Ezra said

You know, I saw this too, and thought the same thing. Even better for me, a coworker asked me what black people had to do with Social Security. When I explained the whole "they have a shorter life expectancy so Social Security is discriminatory" meme to her, she asked incredulously "Who came up with that?" When I mentioned the President said as much, she laughed, shook her head, turned away in disbelief and said 'How stupid.'"

Later she said it seemed "very ignorant."

And she voted for the guy, too.

When I reminded her of this, she was forced to laugh again.

This Bush privatization plan could be the best thing for Democrats since the Bush tax hike. And if W. turns this privatization plan into a tax hike as well, even better.

Gonzalez can prove he's against torture

Baltimore Sun:
American soldiers accused of detainee abuses tried to cover up their actions in at least two cases, allegedly threatening an Iraqi man with indefinite detention unless he recanted his claims of severe beatings and destroying photographs showing mock executions of Afghan detainees to prevent "another public outrage" after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, military records released Thursday show.

The documents, internal files from eight newly disclosed Army criminal investigations, add to what human rights advocates say is a pattern of abuse at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The case from Afghanistan also suggests for the first time that military officials were aware of pictures separate from Abu Ghraib that showed soldiers humiliating detainees for amusement.

The ACLU is asking our new Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate further. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

Religion to the extreme!

Roy S. Moore's ten commandments have hit the tour scene, evoke tears of joy from all who see it and adding to their anger against what they see as a secular America.

The "curator" for the tour, Jim Cabaniss, was asked about another pending court ruling, this time in Texas:
The Texas case involves a 6-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument that has been on the state Capitol grounds since 1961. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the monument was appropriate because the intent of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which placed the monument, was to offer a personal code of behavior for juveniles and did not have a religious intent.

His response?
For Cabaniss, the loss of the Texas monument would be a personal affront and a further call to action. He hints that Texas may have to go back to the days when it fought to free itself from Mexico.

"It would be just wrong," he said. "We may call in another Sam Houston."

Yup, you read that right. He favors open revolt and rebellion against the United States of America in the name of religion. Maybe the left should start pushing people like this as the face of the radical right.

Calculating your Social Security reduction is easy!

I've been waiting for one of these to pop up.

I stand to lose 27% of my annual Social Security benefit under the Bush plan.

Figure out how much you'll lose here. It's fun! Show your kids how much poorer you will be, and how much more you will rely on them in the future if privatization goes through! Show junior how little he can expect if he starts working! Great for the whole family!

Thanks Sen. Schumer!

Santorum says what?

Sen Rick Santorum speaking at CPAC on the gay marriage amendment:
"You will find mothers struggling economically, socially culturally," Santorum said. "When people stop getting married, then fathers stop participating in the lives of their children. ... If mom and dad aren't there to raise a child, then some else has to bridge the gap and that someone else is the government."

Santorum said social pathologies like drug abuse, suicide and promiscuity are at least twice as likely to be present homes with no father.

Wow. Is Rick really suggesting that gay marriage would cause men and women to stop marrying altogether? Would they be so disgusted at the idea of something "the gays" do that they wouldn't want to do it anymore? Or is a concern that gays that want to "appear normal" will no longer have to marry a woman not for love but career convienence and raise a family that way? Someone should explain to me how limiting a group from getting married actually promotes it.

And if social problems are "at least twice as likely" in houses without a father (a number I'm sure is a little high), imagine how much lower that number must be in a household with two fathers.

*UPDATE* I've been searching for a Santorum transcript, but so far no luck. I did find this, however, from a study on single parent black households:
The adolescents living in single-mother households actually received more parental support than those in two parent homes or those living with only extended family. "And contrary to the stereotype, the adolescents living with single mothers were no more likely to use alcohol and drugs, engage in delinquency, or drop out of school than those in other household constellations.

Still looking for Santorum's "more than twice as likely" figure.

*UPDATE AGAIN* Here's one that says children in no mother homes are almost twice as likely to use drugs, but the no father numbers are no where near twice as high.

But while I was reading this I wondered if the stigma attached to having "gay parents" caused more stress in the child's life. One could argue that it is the social stigma that would lead to some drug related problems (although I'm still in search of the studies), which would mean that legalization and social acceptance of gay marriage would actually be a good thing, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I support your idea except for everything that comes with it

So Greenspan comes out sand says private accounts will solve nothing and he's worried about the long term debt that private accounts would cause America and said debts effect on the America's place in the world markets, but otherwise he loves private accounts.

On a personal note, I don't enjoy Vin Diesel or movies that feature animals as comedic foils. Otherwise I support the newest movie starring Vin Diesel that uses a duck as a comedic foil.

Schumer says Dems to stand tough on SS

New York Times:
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York said his fellow Democrats viewed it as "a bit of a ruse" that would probably end with the White House's disavowing any willingness to consider tax increases.

"Democrats are not going to be taken in by smoke signals," Mr. Schumer said. "The president says this is a crisis, so it's up to him to put a concrete, complete, comprehensive plan on the table."

Sabotaging art

Finally, the Department of Homeland Security saves America from the growing threat of sabotage. No, not the Beastie Boys song, but close...

Wait, what?

I was reading an article that the Virginia Senate committee had killed a bill that would take into account whether they were gay or not and was pleased with their decision until I read part of the Senate's reasoning:
Senators said the bill, which had easily passed in the House of Delegates, was unnecessary because Virginia law already calls for presumptive adoptive parents to be investigated on moral grounds.

Right, because in Virginia, all homosexuals are immoral. My bad.

I think we saw this coming

Bush for weeks, hesitant to come down on the issue of whether raising the cap on the Social Security tax was akin to "raising taxes" and now backed into a corner and looking for support has now said he's all for it:
President Bush says he has not ruled out raising taxes on those who earn more than $90,000 a year to help bolster Social Security's finances.

Under the current system, payroll taxes are paid only on the first $90,000 in wages. Bush has repeatedly said that he opposes raising taxes, but his advisers have been intentionally vague about whether he would also rule out subjecting a greater share of pay to the existing tax.

Asked directly, Bush said that he would not rule out raising that cap, though he does not want to see the payroll tax rate go up.

Now how causing someone to pay more in taxes than they would have previously isn't "raising taxes," I'm not sure. So I think this counts as a flip-flop.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid responds:
"While I welcome President Bush's candor to the Social Security debate, too many unanswered questions remain about his privatization plan. As he continues to push for private accounts, I hope the President will come clean about how much benefits will be cut and how much debt will be accumulated under his plan."

Bush's sales pitch fails again

CBS News:
"I believe candidates are rewarded, not punished, for taking on tough issues," Mr. Bush said, during an appearance Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. "I say that to give assurance to the members of Congress who may feel somewhat fearful of taking on the issue."

The president has yet to win a single Democratic convert and clearly has more work to do among lawmakers of his own party.

Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., said that despite a presidential sales pitch delivered in person on Wednesday, "I will have problems" if the eventual legislation relies on payroll taxes to finance personal accounts.

Asked whether the issue could cost him his seat in 2006, Simmons, who represents a competitive district, said, "I could lose my seat over almost everything."

Doesn't sound like Bush made a very persuasive case, does it?

The trouble with public places

The Washington Times:
Lawmakers want to amend the state constitution to open schools and other public places to prayer and other religious activities.

Delegate Charles W. Carrico Sr. said the amendment is needed because there is a growing effort to silence Christians.

"I'm tired of hearing when you walk into a school you cannot profess your beliefs because you may offend someone else," the Grayson Republican said.

Mr. Carrico, a retired state trooper, said he tried to use the Old Testament story of David and Goliath to inspire a group of students bound for the high school prom to avoid sex, drugs and alcohol. A parent filed a complaint against him, he said.

Now I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure you can express your beliefs in school as long as you don't do it as some part of school sanctioned or organized event. So, for example, I could talk to my friend Joe at his locker about how great Jesus is, but I would have to refrain from holding a rally in the gym to do so.

I would also not be able to organize a group prayer under the flagpole at school during lunch period. This law, on it's face, would allow me to do just that. And it would allow those of the Jewish faith to perform a bris there when you are done.

This would be, of course, not part of the "growing effort to silence Christians" but rather a part of the necessary effort to uphold our Constitution. And as far as offending someone, well you can do that just aout anywhere. In fact, I'm offended that Mr. Carrico would imply that the separation of church and state is some sort of Christian witchhunt. I'd bet the Jews and the Muslims aren't allowed to hold big rallys in the the gym, either.

That said, it's doubtful this sort of thing would pass Constitutional muster were it to make it out of committee. Of course, that wouldn't stop the Christians from crying persecution even though if it passed other religions would no dout feel the same effect.

Let's talk about threats, baby

With Bush's approval ratings down below fifty, you knew that it was only a matter of time:
The heads of the Pentagon, CIA and FBI on Wednesday warned lawmakers that they fear terrorists groups, particularly al-Qaida, are still actively looking for ways to carry out a strike in the United States.

“The extremists continue to plot to attack again. They are at this moment recalibrating and reorganizing. And so are we,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee.

More good Senate news - RI
U.S. Rep. James Langevin would hold a strong lead over incumbent U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee if he ran today against Chafee for Senate, according to a new statewide survey by Brown University.

Forty-one percent of the voters polled by Brown indicated they would vote for Langevin, while 27 percent said they would vote for Chafee, according to the random sample of 384 Rhode Island voters Saturday and Sunday.

Langevin has told Democrats he will announce his intentions April 1st. The other name touted by Dems, current Secretary of State Matt Brown, does not fair as well, running behind Chafee 39-25. Brown's main problem is one of visibility, but this is another race that with the right amount of money could shift to Democrats in 2006.