The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle confesses (1/7) what has long been obvious to require much proof — the media is uncontrollably in love with John McCain. And Zengerle’s reason why this is so is equally unsurprising: McCain gives them unfettered access, so they love him and celebrated his resurgence in New Hampshire. But Glenn Greenwald noted at Salon.com (1/7) that the media ignored a daily tracking poll from Rasmussen Reports that the candidate who had been genuinely surging in the last week or two among Democratic voters nationally was John Edwards. The week before the Iowa caucuses Edwards was 10 points behind Barack Obama nationally among Democrats, but on 1/6 Edwards was only two points behind Obama. In December, Edwards trailed Clinton by 29 points. On 1/6 the gap was 13 points. “He is, by far, at his high point of support nationwide. Apparently, the more exposure Democratic voters get to Edwards and his campaign positions — and that exposure has been at its high point during his surge — the more they like him. By contrast, Obama is more or less at the same level of support nationally, even having decreased some since his Iowa win (for most of mid-December, he was at 27-28 points). Yet to listen to media reports, Edwards doesn’t even exist. His campaign is dead. He has no chance. They hate Edwards, hate his message, and thus rendered him invisible long ago, only now to declare him dead — after he came in second place in the first caucus of the campaign.”

HIGH SCHOOL POLITICS. Time’s Michael Scherer at time-blog.com (1/5) likened the GOP presidential campaign to high school, where McCain is the cool jock and Mitt Romney is “the overachiever, the do-gooder, the kid in class who always does everything right.” Mike Huckabee is “the class clown with the weight problem everyone likes, who always seemed to have his heart in the right place. When he runs for class president, you are tempted to vote for him if only because you just know he would make the weekly assemblies more fun. He also wants a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion, and he thinks gay marriage will destroy civilization.”

‘FAIR TAX’ DOESN’T ADD UP. One of Mike Huckabee’s selling points is the “Fair Tax,” a plan to replace the income tax and Internal Revenue Service with a national sales tax. Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter and Alan Keyes are other GOP candidates who support “Fair Tax,” which we consider tax reform for people with poor math skills. Although advocates say the “Fair Tax” would replace all federal personal and corporate income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes and estate taxes with a 23% sales tax on practically all transactions, including health care, new houses, rent and groceries, they already are fudging the numbers. The plan, which was drafted into a bill by Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), levies a tax of 30 cents on each dollar spent. Most of us would call that a 30% tax. (It’s 23% of the $1.30 total.) But the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (itepnet.org) figured that the sales tax would have to be between 45% and 53% to replace income tax revenue. Congress’ bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, says the rate would be 57%. And while the bill would do away with the IRS, it would replace it with another agency with the authority to audit any personal or business transaction in the country as well as track personal income in order to issue half a trillion dollars in rebates on taxes paid up to the poverty level. The bottom 80% of taxpayers would face much higher taxes under a national sales tax, ITEP found. Nationwide, these tax increases would average about $3,200 a year. In contrast, the best-off 1% of all taxpayers nationwide would get average tax reductions of about $225,000 each per year.

SENATE GOP IS MOST OBSTRUCTIONIST EVER. The Republican Senate minority in the first year of the 110th Congress broke the record for the use of filibusters as they used the procedural hurdle 62 times to block contested bills — with a full year left to pad their record. Campaign for America’s Future noted (12/18): “Even pieces of legislation that have made it past the Senate filibuster blockade have been obstructed by President Bush. Last week the President vetoed for the second time a popular bill that would expand health coverage for 10 mln American children. According to the Campaign for America’s Future report [available at ourfuture.org], Bush has threatened to veto 84 bills and has vetoed six as of [12/17]. In contrast, during the period when the Republicans were in the congressional majority, Bush went the longest time without vetoing a bill since President [James] Garfield” who served less than four months before being fatally shot in 1881. Kevin Drum of WashingtonMonthly.com noted (12/19) that the Senate Republicans were so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

McGOVERN URGES IMPEACHMENT. In a Washington Post column (1/6), “Why I Believe Bush Must Go,” former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, saying they “are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ to use the constitutional standard. ... Impeachment is unlikely, of course, But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.
“As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, ‘it wasn’t until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country’s laws — that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. ... A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law — and repeatedly violates the law — thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors.’”

UK LIVING STANDARD SURPASSES US. For the first time in more than 100 years, British living standards have risen above those of Americans, the London Daily Mail reported (1/6): “Increasing incomes, longer holidays and ‘free’ healthcare have all contributed to making Britons better off than our friends across the Atlantic, according to the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.” Helped by the strength of the British pound against the falling dollar during the Bush administration, the British GDP hs made up a 34% gap since the recession of the early ’90s. Adrian Cooper, managing director of Oxford Economics, said: “The UK has been catching up steadily with living standards in the US since 2001, so it is a well-established trend rather than simply the result of currency fluctuations.”
Meanwhile, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (1/4) that private sector payrolls fell 13,000 in December and total payrolls, up only 18,000, had their worst month since the jobless recovery. The unemployment rate rose from 4.7% to 5%. Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) commented, “While this is still a low level, a jump of this magnitude has historically been either a symptom or a harbinger of recession. At this point, we can almost surely put aside the question as to when the overall economic headwinds will reach the labor market. They’re here.”

US LEADS IN HEALTH-CARE WASTE. According to the latest figures from the United Nations, from 2005, according to J. Barkley Rosser at econospeak.blogspot.com (1/7), the US is first in per-capita spending on health, at over $6,000 per person, and is tops in the world in percent of GDP spent on health care, at 15.4%. But US life expectancy, 77.9 years, is tied for 29th in the world, behind places like Costa Rica. The US is tied for for 30th on infant mortality at 6 per thousand and tied for 34th on maternal mortality at 11 per thousand.
Meanwhile, the US government reported that national health spending soared above $2 tln for the first time in 2006 and has nearly doubled in the last decade, amounting to an average of $7,000 per person, largely due to the addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, the New York Times reported (1/8). Health spending by businesses grew 5.7% in 2006, to $496.8 bln, the slowest rate of increase since 1997, as Medicare took over drug costs for many retirees. Overall, health spending increased 6.7% and accounts for 16% of total output of goods and services.

EVERY AMERICAN DESERVES CHENEYCARE. The California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee in December ran ads in Iowa newspapers advocating a single-payer health-care bill, highlighting the fact Vice President Dick Cheney has benefited from his government-provided coverage. “If he were anyone else, he’d probably be dead by now” due to his long history of health problems, claimed the ad. In a new round of ads in New Hampshire, they asked readers to go to CheneyCare.org and sign a petition in support of CheneyCare for all Americans. In December, when the original ads ran, Cheney spokesperson Megan Mitchell said that “something this outrageous does not warrant a response,” but ThinkProgress.org noted, “what is actually outrageous is the fact that there are roughly 47 mln people in America without health insurance, including 3.2 mln children, but President Bush twice vetoed legislation that would have expanded coverage to 4 million more children. While it is certainly good that Vice President Cheney was able get the medical attention he needed, the groups’ ad is right. Americans do deserve ‘CheneyCare for all.’” See CheneyCare.org or call CNA/NNOC at 510-273-2200.

WHISTLEBLOWER: US NUKE SECRETS FOR SALE. Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who listened to hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations, claims that corrupt US government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets. Edmonds told the London Sunday Times (1/6) foreign intelligence agents enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions. Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information to black-market buyers, including Pakistan. The official denies the claims. However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”
Edmonds also claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials who were aiding foreign agents. “If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials,” she said. Edmonds, a fluent speaker of Turkish and Farsi, was recruited by the FBI in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Her previous claims about incompetence inside the FBI have been well documented in America, the Times noted. She has given evidence to closed sessions of Congress and the 9/11 commission, but many key points of her testimony have remained secret. She decided to divulge some of that information after becoming disillusioned with the US authorities’ failure to act.
The Sunday Times talked to two FBI officers (one serving, one former) and two former CIA sources who worked on nuclear proliferation. “While none was aware of specific allegations against officials she names, they did provide overlapping corroboration of Edmonds’s story,” the paper reported. See letsibeledmondsspeak.blogspot.com.

McCAIN FORGETS HIS PORK CHOPS. In the 1/6 GOP debate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued that if elected president, he will eliminate “wasteful spending.” As evidence, he claimed that he has never asked for an earmark for his state of Arizona, saying, “in 24 years as a member of Congress, I have never asked for nor received a single earmark or pork barrel project for my state.” but ThinkProgress.org noted that in 2006, McCain teamed up with fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to funnel $10 mln toward the University of Arizona for an academic center named after the late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. The National Taxpayers Union, a traditional McCain ally, questioned why the senator was making federal taxpayers foot the bill for the center. In 2003, McCain also slipped $14.3 mln into a defense appropriations bill to create a buffer zone around Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. As Roll Call reported in 2003, this project violated McCain’s own anti-pork rhetoric because the project to acquire more land near the base was not requested by President Bush or fully authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee — two of McCain’s criteria for identifying so-called “pork.” Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), a notorious porker, was overjoyed that McCain had joined his side. “One man’s pork is another man’s alternate white meat,” said Stevens. “If he asked for it, we put it in.”

9/11 PROBE “OBSTRUCTED”. The bipartisan co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, jointly published a column in the New York Times (1/2) accused those in the CIA and the White House who knew about those videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives — and did not tell the commission about them — “obstructed our investigation.” Kean and Hamilton added, “There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the CIA. — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.” Keane and Hamilton concluded: “What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the (sic) greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.”

The latest estimate of the growing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worldwide battle against terrorism — nearly $15 bln a month — came in December from one of the Senate’s leading proponents of a continued US military presence in Iraq, the Washington Post reported (12/27). “This cost of this war is approaching $15 billion a month, with the Army spending $4.2 billion of that every month,” Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), ranking Republican on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said in a little-noticed floor speech 12/18. His remarks came in support of adding $70 billion to the omnibus fiscal 2008 spending legislation to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and counterterrorism activities from 10/1/07 through 3/3108.

In an interview with the Tampa Tribune editorial board in December, Time’s Karen Tumulty noted at time-blog.com (12/27) Rudy Giuliani, who recently turned around his chartered jet to seek emergency medical treatment, was asked why Republican candidates aren’t talking about health care, and he explained: “I suspect that our Democratic colleagues would get that question more often in a Democratic audience than we get in a Republican audience,” he said. “Maybe more Democrats are concerned about their health care than Republicans, maybe because Republicans have health care or maybe Republicans generally like the idea of private solutions.”

FOOD PANTRIES BARE. Food banks across the US are in desperate need of food the PBS News Hour reported (12/19). Chicago correspondent Elizabeth Brackett visited numerous food pantries throughout the city, all of which are struggling with lack of supplies. America’s Second Harvest estimates that more than 35 mln Americans lack access to enough food to stay healthy. And it’s not just homeless who are affected, but 25 mln Americans, including 9 mln children and 3 mln senior citizens are in need of food. Banks and pantries receive most of their food from government commodities and donations from the food industry, with the rest coming from local donations. Unfortunately, government commodities have decreased to less than half of what they were two years ago, due to higher food prices. Additionally, the $140 mln allocated for the government’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) doesn’t buy as much food as it did when the program began in 2002. The new Farm Bill, which is pending final passage, calls for $250 mln dollars for EFAP as well as more money for fruits and vegetables, but it faces a presidential veto threat. Also hurting the pantries is higher efficiency of food producers. For years, large food companies have donated dented and crunched cans to food banks. But, due to better operating systems, less flawed cans are produced, causing a decline in food industry donations. (Via Rawstory.com)

C-SPAN TILTS RIGHT. Even C-SPAN leans right in its coverage of think tanks, according to an evaluation by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The study at cepr.net (12/18) finds that right-wing think tanks got 51% of C-SPAN’s total coverage in 2006, while left-of-center think tanks only got 18% of their coverage (a mere 5% of which were “progressive” think tanks). The other 31% of coverage went to centrist groups. So what happened to C-SPAN’s stated mission to provide their audience political coverage “without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view”? Well, you don’t need editing or commentary to create an imbalanced presentation when you get to choose whose ideas get coverage, Kate Sheppard noted at blog.prospect.org (12/19).

PAUL IS (FAR) RIGHT. US Rep. Ron Paul’s views on the US occupation of Iraq and his support for constitutional rights may be appealing, particularly to libertarians, but some of his views on minorities are appalling. As he was expected to beat Fred Thompson and perhaps even Rudy Giuliani in the New Hampshire primary, The New Republic’s James Kirchick found copies of newsletters published by groups affiliated with Paul that documented “decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays,” Kirchick wrote at tnr.com (1/8). Paul’s newsletters have carried different titles over the years — Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report — but they generally seem to have been published on a monthly basis since at least 1978. While writings in the newsletters were contemptuous of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of the end of apartheid in South Africa, they were receptive to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Kirchick quotes from one newsletter, a special issue about the Los Angeles Riots: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.” In other issues, African Americans are called “animals” and there are warnings of coming race war. Paul’s campaign has denied that Paul was the author and said that he did not supervise or approve what was written. In the statement, Paul says, “The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.

Kirchick noted Paul’s connection with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Auburn, Ala., which espouses a revisionist, pro-Confederate view of the Civil War. Paul said on Meet the Press (12/23) that Abraham Lincoln was wrong to go to war in 1861 (after South Carolina seceded and Confederate forces fired on federal Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor), Ari Kelman noted at EdgeOfTheWest.wordpress.com. “Absolutely,” Paul told Tim Russert. “Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic.” Paul also defended his statement in 2004 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “did not improve race relations or enhance freedom.” Instead, he said, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of ’64 “increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.” He told Russert “it’s a property rights issue.”

Union nurses of Finley Hospital in Dubuque represented by Service Employees International Local 199 ratified a contract 12/10, ending a 21-month labor dispute after the former contract expired in June 2006. (See “Nurses Steadfast in Iowa Strike,” by Bill Cullen, 8/15/07 TPP.) The new 15-month contract provides for a 3% wage increase, changes in discipline, discharge and grievance language and reinstatement of a professional development program that rewards nurses for professional growth. Nurses’ solidarity survived opposition by the hospital administration which included complaints of delays and intimidation, firings of two veteran nurses, National Labor Relations Board hearings and an August 2007 attempt at decertification which the union won.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2008

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