Bob Harris is befuddled by the security rules for next week's inauguration. (1/14/05)
Bush/CIA bank scandals
The Poor Man notes that, for some reason, the mainstream media has not been paying as much attention to the Riggs Bank scandal. He points to David Sirota's summary of the federal investigation of Riggs National Corporation, the parent company of Riggs Bank, which was fined $25 million in May 2004 for failing to report suspicious activity, the largest penalty ever assessed against a domestic bank in connection with money laundering. The fine stems from Riggs's failure over at least the last two years to actively monitor suspect financial transfers through Saudi Arabian accounts held by the bank.
According to the 4/18/04 Washington Post, Saudi Prince Bandar's wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, "may have used a Riggs account to donate money to a charity that then gave some of it to the Sept. 11 terrorists." According to the Post, federal regulators "called Riggs actions a "'willful, systemic' violation of anti-money-laundering law." Riggs officials have "acknowledged years of deficiencies in reporting to law enforcement hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious financial transactions by foreign customers, particularly those connected with the embassies of Saudi Arabia."
And according to the nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of Riggs Investment Management -- a major arm of Riggs Bank. He is also the uncle of President George W. Bush. The president "credits the investors sent his way by this banker uncle as a key to his 'success' in the Texas oil industry in the early '80s." According to Public Citizen, the uncle Jonathan was a Bush Pioneer, having raised more than $100,000 for his nephew in 2000.
On Dec. 31, 2004, Slate's Jack Shafer noted, Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn R. Simpson, who had connected Riggs to the dubious financial machinations of Saudi diplomats and despots from Africa and South America, including former Chilean dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, reported the common denominator as he connected Riggs Bank to the CIA.
Simpson reports how the Riggs-CIA "relationship," which goes back some time, may foil the prosecution of alleged money-launderers employed by the bank. (Riggs admitted no wrong-doing last year when regulators fined it $25 million for violating currency laws.) The connection, Simpson writes, puts the government in the unenviable position of convincing juries that the "bank's failure to disclose financial activity by the foreign officials wasn't implicitly authorized by parts of the U.S. government."
Shafer also wonders, "what should we make of the 1997 deal in which J. Bush & Co., a money management firm owned by Jonathan Bush, George H.W. Bush's brother and W's uncle, was purchased by a unit of Riggs Bank? Exactly how close is the Bush dynasty to Riggs and its scandal?"
Social Security: A Conversation
Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly puts together a pretty good dialog with an imaginary interlocutor on where Social Security stands. (1/13/05)
Grandson objects to con group's use of FDR to sell Social Security privatization
Kos reports: James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Franklin Roosevelt, objects to the right-wing group "Progress for America" use of FDR's image in its attempt to dismantle Social Security.
It has come to my attention that your organization has begun running an advertising campaign to promote President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and cut benefits. The advertisements that are currently being aired feature President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his signing of the original Social Security legislation. I find the use of my grandfather's image and legacy in your campaign to be highly inappropriate.
For seventy years, Social Security has been the bedrock of retirement security for millions of Americans thanks to the efforts of President Roosevelt. My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization. Not only that, but to compare the courage it took to provide a guaranteed insurance program for our seniors and the disabled to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable. We should be working to protect and promote Social Security, not cutting benefits for our seniors.
On behalf of my family, I would ask that you cease using my grandfather's image in your advertising campaign.
James Roosevelt Jr.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's "War Room" reportedly tracked down the grandson. (1/13/05)
Rathergate vs. WMDgate
The Poor Man compares and contrasts the investigation of CBS's use of questionable documents in its report on George W. Bush's disputed Texas Air National Guard record and the Bush administration's use of questionable documents and claims of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. (1/13/05)
No WMDs, But Everyone Gets a Mulligan. Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher notes:
At this moment, on Wednesday evening, it is too early to tell whether today's official announcement that really, for sure--no kidding--there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, will get as much play in the media as the report on the “60 Minutes” fiasco released on Monday. The two news stories share one element: neither was exactly a whopping surprise, after months of revelations.
Actually, there’s something else: neither scandal would have ever happened if journalists had done a better job.
Oops! US can't find banned arms in Iraq
Washington Post reports: The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has quietly come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley. Officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
Looks like the UN weapons inspectors were right and Bush and Powell -- who assured the UN that Iraq had WMDs -- were wrong. Atrios notes: "Team has been reassigned to find WMD hiding in the Social Security Trust Fund." (1/12/05)
Dem senators soft on Social Security?
Josh Marshall reports that Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas have said they are open to privatizing Social Security. And he notes that Congressional Quarterly reported, "Advocates for personal accounts see a small possibility of winning the support of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. ... Sen. Clinton has not publicly wedded herself to either side of the debate. Her office did not respond to requests for comment Friday."
Send them a message via the AFL-CIO's e-Activist Network page on Social Security.
At least Rep. Jim Moran, R-Va., has removed himself from the Fainthearted Faction, Marshall reports.
The New York Times sets the record straight on Social Security. (1/10/05)
US considers death squads in Iraq
Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. "Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the US government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers."
See also Kos. (1/9/05)
What others say about us
A reader tips us about Watching America, which links to articles in foreign press about the USA, with translations, where needed, of articles originally written for foreigners about the US. Updated daily. (1/8/05)
Feds paid TV host $240K to plug education reform
USA Today reports: The Bush administration paid prominent black pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
The campaign required commentator Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.
Williams told USA Today. Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." [Apparently he was talking about taking money.]
The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.
Atrios has contact info on Armstrong Williams.
Josh Marshall has more on op-ed payola, noting, "many more OpEds than you'd imagine are bought and paid for. At a few of the premium dailies it's hard to pull off. But beyond those it's pretty common, though often without the editors even being aware of it. There are even a few prominent papers known by those in the business to be an easy (and willing) mark."
[For the record, The Progressive Populist does not accept payments for placement of editorial columns or endorsements. When we sell ads -- and we obviously don't try very hard, but we do sell them -- we try to label them as such.] (1/7/05)
Bush tax cuts flunk
Economic Policy Institute reports:
The Bush administration called the tax cut package, which took effect in July 2003, its "Jobs and Growth Plan." The president's economics staff, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA, see background documents ), projected that the plan would result in the creation of 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004 -- in other words, 306,000 new jobs in each of the 18 months from June 2003 to December 2004. Even without the passage of Bush's tax cut plan, the CEA projected that the economy would generate 228,000 jobs a month.
With the newly released payroll employment data for December 2004 it is now possible to assess whether the administration's tax cut strategy produced the employment growth that was projected. The final verdict is grim. Job growth over the last 18 months has fallen short by 1,703,000—more than one-third less than the number of jobs the administration said would be created without the tax cuts. Given that the economy failed to produce the number of jobs expected with no policy change, it seems hard to argue that the tax cuts were a successful strategy in adding any jobs -- the promised 1.4 million additional jobs never materialized. The announced revisions (up 236,000 in March 2004) to the payroll employment series do not materially change this assessment. (See more.)
Dem leaders back right-winger for DNC
Kos reports: Tim Roemer, who is Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi's latest choice for DNC chair, looks worse and worse by the day. See The Forest found the latest dirt.
Tim Roemer is a distinguished scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and president of the Center for National Policy.
What is the Mercatus Center? Dave Johnson explains in great detail, but in short, it's part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, a Scaife-funded right-wing think tank. ... (1/7/05)
DeLay: Tsunami victims had it coming
Tom DeLay's words of wisdom Tuesday morning at the 109th Congressional Prayer Service, from a church on Capitol Hill (reported by American Coprophagia).
'A reading of the Gospel, in Matthew 7:21 through 27.
Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?
"Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you: depart from me, you evil doers.'"
Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."
"He finishes reading, says nothing more, and sits back down." (1/5/05)
The Factor Everyone Ignores
Sam Smith of PROGRESSIVE REVIEW writes:
While it is true that there will be an increase in older Americans in coming decades, there will also be a smaller percentage of younger Americans to educate and take care of. In considering public costs, it is the combination of these two -- the so-called dependent population -- that matters. Here is what you are not being told: The dependent population was larger during the Kennedy administration than it will be in 2020 during the Great Social Security Crisis. Here are the actual percentages of total population:
Total dependent population: 45%
Total dependent population: 40%
Incidentally, as of 2000, the total dependent population was 39% so we're talking about a one point increase.
Strengthening the union movement
Nathan's LaborBlog also notes: Responding to the National Unity Partnership challenge, the AFL-CIO has a new website, Strengthening Our Union Movement For The Future, to seek input about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing today's union movement.
Among the questions: How should we strengthen the union movement for the future? What will it take to give working families the power we need to balance corporate power? How do we make the most of the solidarity and energy of the 2004 presidential election campaign? And most important, what will it take for the union movement to grow?
The goal is for unions, central labor councils, state federations and other groups to prepare proposals in time for the the AFL-CIO executive council to consider them at its winter meeting, which begins March 1. The council will then formulate recommendations to be presented for action by the AFL-CIO convention, scheduled for July 25-29 in Chicago. (1/4/05)
False immigration assumptions for Social Security
Nathan Newman notes that Social Security crisis mongers forecast an aging nation unable to produce enough wealth to care for its retirees because there are not enough people of working age population.
This vision ignores a basic reality: "The minute our employment needs expand, there are millions of people in other countries pushing to immigrate here to fill any jobs needed." [See Newman's "Saving Social Security: Invest in Immigrant Children, Not the Stock Market," 10/1/01 Progressive Populist."
But not only do the doom mongers underestimate immigration in the future, Newman finds, they don't even count current immigration correctly.
The 2004 Social Security Trustees report states that "The total level of net immigration (legal and other, combined) under the intermediate projection is assumed to be 1,175,000 persons in 2004." But according to the Census Bureau, the net immigration for 2004 was 1,221,013 persons, over 100,000 more immigrants than was estimated for this year alone.
Even more dramatically, the report estimates that net immigration will drop to just "900,000 persons in 2024 and for each year afterward."
There is no reasonable explanation with a growing overall population of retirees, with expanding need for services on behalf of those non-working adults, to expect a drop in immigration. In fact, expanded immigration is a far more reasonable expectation. Yet maintaining immigration at present levels is actually treated in the report as an extreme alternative estimate.
But a gradual increase in immigration is a far more likely future -- a possibility NOT EVEN DISCUSSED in the Trustees Report. The report has false estimates of immigration this year and doesn't even include reasonable alternative estimates of immigration in the future.
How seriously can you take the doom-mongers when they ignore the simplest solution to any projected lack of workers in the future to support the Social Security system?
Suffer the children
The Washington Post reports that the Bushites propose to adjust future Social Security benefits according to growth in prices, rather than wages. The formula change would cut promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades.
Max notes that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points us to a study from the Congressional Budget Office on the now infamous "Model 2" from the Bush Social Security commission. Said model resembles the plan sketched out in the Post article, with a four percentage point carve-out of payroll taxes -- larger than often suggested -- and individual accounts.
Max notes that kids born after January 1, 2000, who earn in the middle of the middle, as far as income distribution goes ("median in middle household earnings quintile") in retirement would be due $26,400 a year in benefits annually under current law.
"This would require some kind of infusion into the Trust Fund after 2052 (when CBO says it runs a shortfall). With no such infusion, alas Little Nell can only be paid $19,900 (everything here is constant 2004 dollars). (The same type of person retiring today -- "the 1940 birth cohort" -- gets $14,900.)
Let's chew on that for a second. With no transfer of revenue into the Trust Fund after 2052 (as opposed to redemptions of its assets with general revenue), Little Nell still does quite a bit better than a retiree today.
This is a crisis? Surely we can do better. What about the excellent reform envisioned by G. Bush?
When you include the returns to the individual accounts and "price indexing" of benefits, Little Nell's benefit is . . . $14,600. SHE DOES WORSE THAN UNDER THE "BANKRUPT" TRUST FUND! Way worse! Can you hear me now? She even does worse than a current retiree.
In the CBO analysis, the same result holds for its higher earnings group, and for everyone born after 1970 in the lowest income group: lower benefits than under the naked trust fund, and of course much worse than under current law.
Max concludes: "What we have here, under the guise of an exercise in fiscal rationalization, is contraction of social insurance for the sake of public sector shrinkage, enabling a perverse, regressive redistribution of income.
"Welcome to the Ownership Society."
See also Paul Krugman's "Stopping the Bum's Rush" in the New York Times. (1/4/05)
Red State Fascism
Max points us to libertarian Lew Rockwell's essay on "The Reality of Red State Fascism," excerpted below:
If you follow hate-filled sites such as Free Republic, you know that the populist right in this country has been advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now. The militarism and nationalism dwarfs anything I saw at any point during the Cold War. It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state. The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth – not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself.
Along with this goes a kind of worship of the presidency, and a celebration of all things public sector, including egregious law like the Patriot Act, egregious bureaucracies like the Department of Homeland Security, and egregious centrally imposed regimentation like the No Child Left Behind Act. It longs for the state to throw its weight behind institutions like the two-parent heterosexual family, the Christian charity, the homogeneous community of native-born patriots.
In 1994, the central state was seen by the bourgeoisie as the main threat to the family; in 2004 it is seen as the main tool for keeping the family together and ensuring its ascendancy. In 1994, the state was seen as the enemy of education; today, the same people view the state as the means of raising standards and purging education of its left-wing influences. In 1994, Christians widely saw that Leviathan was the main enemy of the faith; today, they see Leviathan as the tool by which they will guarantee that their faith will have an impact on the country and the world.
Paul Craig Roberts is right: "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush." Again: "Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."
In short, what we have alive in the US is an updated and Americanized fascism. Why fascist? Because it is not leftist in the sense of egalitarian or redistributionist. It has no real beef with business. It doesn't sympathize with the downtrodden, labor, or the poor. It is for all the core institutions of bourgeois life in America: family, faith, and flag. But it sees the state as the central organizing principle of society, views public institutions as the most essential means by which all these institutions are protected and advanced, and adores the head of state as a godlike figure who knows better than anyone else what the country and world's needs, and has a special connection to the Creator that permits him to discern the best means to bring it about.
The American right today has managed to be solidly anti-leftist while adopting an ideology – even without knowing it or being entirely conscious of the change – that is also frighteningly anti-liberty. This reality turns out to be very difficult for libertarians to understand or accept. For a long time, we've tended to see the primary threat to liberty as coming from the left, from the socialists who sought to control the economy from the center. But we must also remember that the sweep of history shows that there are two main dangers to liberty, one that comes from the left and the other that comes from the right. Europe and Latin America have long faced the latter threat, but its reality is only now hitting us fully.
What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left. If anything, the left has been solid on civil liberties and has been crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration. No, today, the clear and present danger to freedom comes from the right side of the ideological spectrum, those people who are pleased to preserve most of free enterprise but favor top-down management of society, culture, family, and school, and seek to use a messianic and belligerent nationalism to impose their vision of politics on the world.
There is no need to advance the view that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. However, it is time to recognize that the left today does represent a counterweight to the right, just as it did in the 1950s when the right began to adopt anti-communist militarism as its credo. In a time when the term patriotism means supporting the nation's wars and statism, a libertarian patriotism has more in common with that advanced by The Nation magazine:
'The other company of patriots does not march to military time. It prefers the gentle strains of 'America the Beautiful' to the strident cadences of 'Hail to the Chief' and 'The Stars and Stripes Forever.' This patriotism is rooted in the love of one's own land and people, love too of the best ideals of one's own culture and tradition. This company of patriots finds no glory in puffing their country up by pulling others' down. This patriotism is profoundly municipal, even domestic. Its pleasures are quiet, its services steady and unpretentious. This patriotism too has deep roots and long continuity in our history.'
Ten years ago, these were "right wing" sentiments; today the right regards them as treasonous. What should this teach us? It shows that those who saw the interests of liberty as being well served by the politicized proxies of free enterprise alone, family alone, Christianity alone, law and order alone, were profoundly mistaken. There is no proxy for liberty, no cause that serves as a viable substitute, and no movement by any name whose success can yield freedom in our time other than the movement of freedom itself. We need to embrace liberty and liberty only, and not be fooled by groups or parties or movements that only desire a temporary liberty to advance their pet interests. . . "
See also Paul Craig Roberts' "What Became of Conservatives?"
10 reasons why Bush vote doesn't compute
Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman examine sworn testimonies from voters, polling officials and other election observers; statistical analysis of the certified vote by mathematicians, election experts and independent research teams who have studied results in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and elsewhere; experts who studied the voting machines, tabulators and other electronic equipment on which a fair vote count has depended; and a team of attorneys and others who have challenged the Ohio results. The freepress.org investigative team has compiled "a portrait of an election whose true outcome must be investigated further by the Congress, the media and all Americans -- because it was almost certainly not an honest victory for George W. Bush," and come up with at least 10 serious flaws in the Ohio vote and count, which could have turned the election to John Kerry.
"Crucial flaws in the national vote count, most importantly in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida, indicate John Kerry was most likely the actual winner on November 2, as reported in national exit polls. At very least, the widespread tampering with how the election was conducted, and how Ohio's votes were counted and re-counted, has compromised this nation's historic commitment to free and fair elections." Check out the list. (1/3/04)
Jesus & Alinsky
When confronted with evil, which normally evokes responses of fight or flight, Walter Wink writes that Jesus points not to passivity but to a third way, militant nonviolence. (1/3/05)
Dems to the barricades? Bulls**t.
Responding to Ron Brownstein's report on Democrats fighting among themselves in the Los Angeles Times, Kos writes:
The battle for the head of the [Democratic National Committee] has nothing to do with ideology, and everything to do with reform. "Liberals" like Dean, and "centrists" like Rosenberg are on the same side, while establishment status quo candidates like Tim Roemer on the other.
It's that simple. Now, the DLC is itching for that ideological battle (as much as Ed Kilgore would have us believe otherwise ). But fact is, we've generally moved beyond that as a party.
Is there a place for policy differences? Sure. But enough people have realized that the rigid ideology of the DLC doesn't pave the way to electoral victory. Remember, even while they flog that Clinton horse to death, the Big Dog never scored 50 percent of the popular vote. Heck, we have to go back a generation, to 1976, since a Democrat presidential candidate last hit 50 percent of the presidential vote.
Catch the rest. (1/3/05)
Media Follies '04
TPP contributor Geov Parrish rates media performance in 2004 with his selection of the most overhyped and underreported stories of the year, from Seattle Weekly. (1/3/05)
The SSI 'Day of Reckoning' Scam
Max Sawicky and Josh Marshall engage in what increasingly appears the Sisyphean daily tag-team task of correcting the official record as the GOP and Wall Street ramps up their scare campaign to privatize Social Security.
In this case, Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post wrote:
"In just 14 years, the nation's Social Security system is projected to reach a day of reckoning: Retiree benefits will exceed payroll tax receipts, and to pay its bills the system will have to begin redeeming billions of dollars in special Treasury bonds that have piled up in its trust fund. To redeem those bonds, which represent money taken in years when Social Security ran a surplus and used for other government operations, the federal government would likely have to cut other programs, raise taxes or borrow more money."
In other words, the federal govermment would have to cut other programs, raise taxes or borrow more money to redeem the T-bills that the Treasury Department has issued to replace the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that the government has lost from Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Social Security Trust Fund isn't the only entity holding T-bills. So do actual moms and dads, as well as banks and foreign countries such as Japan, Saudi Arabia and the People's Republic of China who have been financing those tax cuts.
But the privatizers want you to pay attention to what may or may not be a (relatively minor) shortfall in the Social Security in 2042 -- a shortfall that will not occur if the economy continues normal growth -- instead of focusing on the current federal budget deficit.
"Eliminating the SS gaps after 2042 has zero impact on this nearer-term general revenue obligation," Max writes. "... What we really need is a day of reckoning this week, where we reckon with the actual problems in front of us, as opposed to the more distant and dubious one posed by Social Security."
One obvious and immediate way to relieve long-term pressures on Social Security financing is to reduce the national debt ... by ending our habit of running huge annual deficits or even better by paying down some of our accumulated debt (there are complicated macro-economic questions related to this second point; but in general it's correct.)
But what has President Bush done? He's presided over the biggest fiscal turnaround in American history, taking the country from modest annual surpluses to the biggest deficits -- at least in non-adjusted dollar terms -- in American history. And that's only one reason why you can make a decent argument that President Bush has done more than any other president and perhaps any other single American ever to endanger Social Security's future.
Across the board, it's just one big scam.
The guy who's the biggest threat to Social Security says he wants to 'save' it by abolishing the program and replacing it with private accounts.
The New York Times has a good editorial on the "Social Security Fear Factor." (1/3/05)
Who owns the media
Big Media is getting bigger and an interactive chart at FreePress.net tells you who owns what. This chart is primarily based on information from Columbia Journalism Review's Who Owns What? site, one of many excellent resources on the web regarding media ownership. See other resources on media ownership. (1/3/05)
CBS grovels at White House
Broadcasting & Cable reported Sunday that CBS News president Andrew Heyward, along with Washington bureau chief Janet Leissner, recently met with White House communications director Dan Bartlett, in part to repair chilly relations with the Bush administration after Dan Rather’s discredited documentation of a 60 Minutes story on George Bush’s National Guard service.
Heyward was “working overtime to convince Bartlett that neither CBS News nor Rather had a vendetta against the White House,” B&C reported, “and from here on out would do everything it could to be fair and balanced.” CBS declined to comment. (1/3/05)
Barack Obama, person of the year
"Obama beat more prominent Democrats for his party's Senate nomination because he was more courageous politically -- opposing the war in Iraq, criticizing the Patriot Act and promising to battle corporate special interests. And he wowed the convention, and the nation, by eschewing standard rhetoric in favor of an uplifting and unifying message that was in stark contrast to the dispiriting politics of 2004. If he carries that courage and vision into the Senate, he may well succeed in setting a different, and better, tone," the Madison, Wis., Capital Times editorialized Dec. 31. The newspaper contrasted Obama's promise as Illinois' new senator with George W. Bush's record of deceit and his misadventure in Iraq that earned the president Time magazine's accolade as "Person of the Year."
"By any measure, Bush represents the worst of the past," the Capital Times stated.
"Obama represents the best of the future that his political rise suggests is possible." (1/2/05)
Count-the-Vote Rally Monday
A coalition of grassroots organizations from across the nation will hold a “Pro Democracy Count Every Vote Rally” Monday, Jan. 3, in Columbus, Ohio.
The rally at the Capitol Theater, 77 S. High St., across from Ohio State Capitol, begins at 2 PM. Coalition partners include Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, MoveOn.org, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice, Progressive Democrats of America, Ohio State Sen. Joyce Beatty, CASE Ohio and others.
Organizers say the rally is an effort to keep the spotlight on the deepening investigation of voter irregularities in Ohio during the Nov. 2 election. Another rally will be held in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the day Congress is scheduled to ratify the Electoral College vote, which hinged on the disputed Ohio election results.
“The vote recount in Ohio is underway," stated Rev. Jesse Jackson. "The election challenge lawsuit has been filed, subpoenas are being prepared, and depositions are being planned. Hearings spearheaded by Congressman John Conyers are bringing forth new evidence of voter machine manipulation, and now Senator John Kerry has joined in the recount fight. We must have a thorough investigation of voter irregularities and the voter machines before Congress certifies the Electoral College vote on January 6th … Forty years ago, the Voting Rights Act was passed as a result of an independent, mass civil rights movement. We will carry forward that tradition in 2005, and continue the fight to count every vote and make sure every vote counts.”
More than half of the votes cast in Ohio were recorded on electronic voting machines owned by private corporations and which offer absolutely no audit trail, critics say. Rally organizers say they want forensic computer analysts to investigate the machines.
"We cannot expect to promote democracy around the world when we cannot even guarantee the right to vote in the state of Ohio,” said Tim Carpenter, director of Progressive Democrats of America. “There are outstanding lawsuits and growing amounts of data proving votes were deliberately suppressed in Ohio. Until these issues can be fully aired by a Congressional investigation, we ask that senators of conscience stand with the many members of the House who will contest the vote." PDA also initiated an online petition effort urging senators to stand with the House Democrats, challenge the vote count and avoid a repeat of the 2000 silence from the Senate.
“This will be the first of two very public rallies,” Carpenter noted. “We also plan on being present and in solidarity with many of these same groups in Washington DC on January 6th, the day Congress is scheduled to certify the vote.” (1/2/05)
Fainthearted Faction update
Josh Marshall updates his "Fainthearted Faction" -- the list of Democrats who are considered soft on Republican plans to privatize Social Security.
The list currently includes Rep. Marion Berry, Ark; Rep. Allen Boyd, Fla.; Rep. Robert "Bud" Cramer, Ala.; Rep. Harold Ford, Tenn.; Rep. Ron Kind, Wis.; Rep. James Moran, Va.; Sen. Ben Nelson, Neb.; Rep. Collin Peterson, Minn.; Rep. Ike Skelton, Mo.,; Rep. Adam Smith, Wash.; Rep. John Tanner, Tenn.; Rep. Gene Taylor, Miss.; Gov. Ed Rendell, Pa.
According to Marshall, Rendell said on Hardball Dec. 29, "If you`re looking at Social Security, there, there's got to be room to compromise. The work that Senator Breaux did and Senator Kerrey did with some of the moderate Republicans really is a road map for us to solve Social Security. And maybe we do what the president wants to do, private savings accounts as a pilot program and see where it goes, something that is more fundable and doesn't run up the national debt."
We are willing to forgive a lot in "centrist" Democrats, but honestly, if they aren't even willing to fight to preserve Social Security they ought to shamble over to the other side of the aisle and join the GOP.
If you see your rep or senator on the list, send an email message to put some steel in his spine via the AFL-CIO's e-Activist Network page on Social Security.
If you live in Pennsylvania, ask Rendell what he's thinking. In the GOP lexicon, "compromise" means getting rolled. (1/1/05)
Washington Post helps GOP frame Social Security privatization debate
Republicans and business groups may spend upwards of $100 million to sell the dismantling of Social Security to a rightfully skeptical public, in the most expensive and extensive public policy fight since the health care industry defeated the Clinton administration's attempt to pass a national health care plan.
Postie Jim VandeHei has the story but Max Sawicky takes him to task for letting the privatizers frame the debate in passages such as these:
The only point they agree on [Republicans and Democrats -- mbs] is that Social Security faces a long-term financial problem because the U.S. population is growing older, living longer and, sometime next decade, will be taking more out of the system in benefits than it is paying in taxes that fund it. Democrats are divided over how to fix the problem. Some want to raise taxes; others want to cut benefits or delay the retirement age.
Bush and his GOP allies want to change the system by allowing some workers to put a percentage of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts.
The groups [privatization advocates -- mbs] also plan to argue that it is prudent to borrow money today to cover the transitional costs and avert what they call a $10.4 trillion unfunded liability in the future.
For the rest of the story, see Max. (1/1/05)
Rewriting history on the fly
Atrios notes that the New York Times reported today that "President Bush increased the initial American pledge of $35 million to $350 million after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials told him the need would increase sharply in the weeks ahead."
We heard similar statements this morning on National Public Radio -- that Bush had increased the initial American pledge from $35 million ...
The Times reported on Dec. 28 that Secretary of State Colin Powell said that $15 million donation announced on Dec. 27 was "an initial infusion of money to join the international relief effort."
The Bush administration increased the aid to $35 million after a UN official criticized the response of Western industrialized nations as "stingy." It was in all the papers.
Why are the national media now reporting that the initial American pledge was $35 million? Is it because that is the amount that the State Department now puts on its press releases?
The Washington Post sidestepped the controversy, reporting on Jan. 1 that "President Bush on Friday increased the U.S. financial contribution for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami to $350 million, 10 times the previous pledge toward the emergency effort to funnel food, water and medicine to about 5 million people in South Asia and parts of Africa." That story doesn't mention the initial $15 million offer, but does note, "The U.S. pledge of $350 million came after congressional and media criticism about the size and timing of the Bush administration's response."
However, on Dec. 28, the Post correctly reported that "The Bush administration pledged an initial $15 million in relief assistance and dispatched emergency relief teams and naval patrol aircraft to the region to conduct an assessment of the damage."
An old journalism adage goes, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." Considering the trail of lies, half-truths and disinformation trailed by the Bush administration in the past four years, through tax cuts, 9/11, the buildup to the invasion of Iraq and now the upcoming campaign to privatize Social Security, is it too much to ask reporters to remember what they or their colleagues wrote in the past week?
These days, it appears that an investigative journalist is one who knows how to use Lexis/Nexis -- or even just Google.
Here's a resolution for the national news media: If the Bush administration tells you anything, check it out. (1/1/05)
Happy New Year!
Remember the Project Censored 25
If, over this past year, you've been feeling rather oppressed by the pinko atheist left wing media elite, ponder this: It could have been worse! There are many stories that were successfully filtered, censored and/or withheld from the public by our protectors in the board rooms that control our media outlets. Let's look at some of the stories that received virtually no attention in 2004, while thanking the stars for sparing us.
Here are some headlines them America-hating liberals would just love to get out:
#1: Wealth Inequality in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy(...)
#2: Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable (...)
#3: Bush Administration Censors Science (...)
#4: High Levels of Uranium Found in Troops and Civilians (...)
#5: The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources
#6: The Sale of Electoral Politics
#7: Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments
#8: Cheney's Energy Task Force and The Energy Policy
#9: Widow Brings RICO Case Against U.S. government for 9/11
#10: New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits
#11: The Media Can Legally Lie
#12: The Destabilization of Haiti
#13: Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Years Before the California Recall
#14: New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom in Area Studies
#15: U.S. Develops Lethal New Viruses
#16: Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens
#17: U.S. Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business Privatization
#18: Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies
#19: Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket
#20: Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN
#21: Forcing a World Market for GMOs
#22: Censoring Iraq
#23: Brazil Holds Back in FTAA Talks, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America
#24: Reinstating the Draft
#25: Wal-Mart Brings Inequality and Low Prices to the World
I feel better knowing that Rupert, GE, Viacom, Time Warner, Sinclair, Clear Channel, and all the other friends of the common man are watching out, making sure we don't learn something that may makes us think that maybe some of them liberals might be right.