News Updates


Social Security Privatization: 'Come big or stay at home'

George W. Bush has made it as clear as he can: He wants the Republican Congress to pass a bill that dismantles the equalitarian guaranteed benefits of Social Security -- the most successful government retirement system in the world -- and replace it with a complicated multi-tiered, needs-based program that ultimately reduces the incentives for middle-class taxpayers to support the program. And Bush insists on adding private accounts that will divert Social Security payroll taxes into stock market investments, which will reduce the revenue available to pay regular Social Security benefits. Then, when the Social Security Trust Fund comes up short, the middle class won't be there to support the bailout that wouldn't have been necessary if Bush had kept his mitts off the Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for millionaires.

Max Sawicky explains it all.

Democrats and honest Republicans should not feel any obligation to participate in this charade -- in fact they would be foolish to cooperate with these charlatans. Let the GOP come up with their bill to dismantle Social Security and get some record votes on Social Security privatization in the House and the Senate and then we'll see in 2006 what the voters really think about letting George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist run the country.

By the way, we hope you all noticed that Bush, in his press conference, said that people who wanted to make more conservative investments as they neared retirement could move their assets into Treasury bills. You know, the same "IOUs" whose value he had belittled in the Social Security Trust Fund ...


Bush's Top Cop to Defend Corporate Criminals

David Sirota notes that the former chief of the Justice Department's criminal division and a central figure in the government's crackdown on corporate crime, will step down to lead a corporate white-collar crime defense unit at an Atlanta law firm, whose press release brags, corporate clients "will benefit greatly from the experience [Christopher Wray] has gathered while at the Justice Department."


Who is Bernie Sanders?

David Sirota, who used to work for Sanders, gives you the 411 about the independent progressive Vermont congressman who looks like the best bet to succeed moderate Sen. Jim Jeffords, who is retiring. To learn more about Sanders, and to show your support, see Sanders' campaign website at


Jeffords Won't Run Again in 2006;
Dean Defers;
Opportunity for Sanders

US Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) announced today he that won't seek re-election. Former Gov. Howard Dean, now Democratic national chairman, has indicated that he will not run for the Senate. US Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has said in the past that he would run for the Senate if Jeffords stepped down, said in a press release today, "I have been clear about my intentions, which have not changed, but today is not the time to talk about politics or elections."

David Sirota writes that Sanders "is clearly the best positioned to keep this seat in the hands of the Democrats -- and that means people should go to and urge him to run." Sirota used to work for Sanders, but he cites a May 5, 2004, poll for a Vermont TV station that showed Sanders was the most popular politician in the state.

In the 2004 election, Sanders trounced his Republican opponent with 68% of the vote and in the 2004 exit polls, Sanders posted strong numbers among key swing voters in Vermont, winning 51% of those who identify themselves as political independents, and 62% of rural voters outside of Burlington, where Sanders lives.

Strictly speaking, Sanders is would not actually put the seat in Democratic hands, since he is an independent socialist, but he caucuses with the Dems and he is a leader of the House Progressive Caucus.

Habemus Papam ...

Pope Benedict XVI, nee Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is a conservative in church doctrinal matters but possibly less so on social and economic issues. At 78 years of age, expect him to continue and consolidate John Paul II's policies, which he played a large role in formulating.

We note that if Cardinal Ratzinger upheld the right of bishops to withhold communion from politicians who support abortion rights, as is widely reported, he also wrote the US Catholic bishops last year that American Catholics could vote for pro-abortion candidates as long as they supported the politician for other reasons.

Ratzinger did not order Catholic bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.

Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in June 2004, in his reflections on the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, wrote:


It is important to note that Cardinal Ratzinger makes a clear distinction between public officials and voters, explaining that a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil only if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion. However, when a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted if there are proportionate reasons.

Therefore, based on the traditional practice of the Church and our consultation with members of our conference, other episcopal conferences, distinguished canonists and theologians, our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians or Catholic voters in these circumstances.

And, extending Ratzinger's reasoning, a bishop might deny communion to a politican who opposed other Church teachings, such as abolition of capital punishment or "the use of weapons of mass destruction or other weapons that cause disproportionate harm or that cannot be deployed in ways that distinguish between civilians and soldiers," not to mention the Church's support for "policies that create jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and adequate pay that reflects a living wage ... efforts to overcome barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination ... the right of workers to choose to organize, join a union, bargain collectively, and exercise these rights without reprisal" and the Church's concern over the concentration of media control by "irresponsible owners primarily seeking a profit"; (See the Bishops' Statement on Faithful Citizenshop: Moral Priorities for Public Life.)

Our correspondent Nathan Newman sees the potential upside of Benedict's papacy. Max Sawicky puts the new Pope in perspective.

And Father Andrew Greeley hopes that the new Pope emulates his namesake, Benedict XV, Pope from 1914 to 1922, who tried to prevent and then stop World War I. He put an end to the punitive campaign the Vatican had waged against "modernism" under his predecessor, Pius X.

Greeley acknowledges he might be reading too much into the new Pope's name choice, but concludes: "Those who have disagreed with him in the past owe him the chance to develop what hopefully will be a serious ministry of healing."

See more reports on Ratzinger/Benedict from a liberal Catholic perspective in Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter. (America also is a liberal Catholic weekly, though it does not currently have anything on the new Pope.)


The late, great income tax

Max Sawicky gives a shout out for the income tax and warns us about those who would "fix" the system.

Credit Card Companies vs. Small Business

From David Sirota:


As President Bush prepares to sign the lobbyist-written bankruptcy bill, it should be noted that consumers aren't the only ones who are getting abused by credit card companies and banks. The Wall Street Journal story reports small businesses are also getting the shaft, as the finance industry charges them higher and higher transaction fees when consumers use credit cards to make purchases. As the Journal notes, "merchants swallow the per-transaction interchange fees they fork over when customers pay by plastic because they chalk it up to the price of doing business in a credit-card world" but "now they are incurring increasingly higher fees" as card companies try to maximize profits.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the latest round of interchange fees will raise rates anywhere from 2.7% for a basic Visa card transaction to 9% or more for a transaction made with a corporate card from MasterCard. While "bigger businesses can absorb the fees more easily or pass them along unnoticed by raising prices a few pennies" small businesses can't, and are either forced to raise prices, or swallow more of the cost.

In my earlier "Da Vinci Code" piece for the American Prospect, I touched on how the interests of Big Business is often diametrically opposed to the interests of small mom and pop businesses. This is a perfect example: huge credit card companies and banks are using the government's lax oversight to bleed small mom and pop businesses dry. Will lawmakers sit by and merely pay lipservice to small businesses as they always do? Or will they actually act to stop this abuse? Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) already has a Loan Shark Prevention Act that deals with credit card companies ripping off consumers. A nice piece of companion legislation would be a bill regulating the fees that credit card companies are allowed to charge small businesses.


Bankrupt Democrats

The House voted 272-162 on Wednesday to permanently repeal the estate tax -- at a cost of nearly $300 billion over the next decade.

Amy Sullivan writes at


So, to sum up: Actual prescription drug relief? There's no money. Armor to protect our troops? There's no money. The funds to back up the mandated reforms of No Child Left Behind? There's no money. Doing away with a tax on super rich kids? Plenty o' cash to spare.

But, silly me--I'm forgetting what's at stake here. Remind us, Congressman Cox: "[Supporters of the estate tax] want to pry lots of cash out of the cold, dead fingers of America's deceased entrepreneurs.'' That's your Congress. The demagoguery they just throw in for free.

Then the House on Thursday passed the bankruptcy peonage bill 302 to 126, with 73 Democrats voting for it. See an interactive listing of the Bankruptcy Bill vote roll call, sortable by caucus, vote, party and Representative, as well as by the median household income of their districts. (Via

It's bad enough that the Republican House was determined to pass these bad bills, but Steve Soto of The Left Coaster noted that 31 so-called Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for both the bankruptcy peonage act and permanent abolition of the estate tax.


... I don’t care if you call yourself a member of the "New Democrat Coalition" or whatever other CYA label you want to give yourself. If you vote for the extremely wealthy yesterday and for the banks today, where I come from they call you a Republican.

Here are the 31 who did the dirty deed the last two days:

Bishop (GA)
Davis (TN)
Larsen (WA)
Peterson (MN)
Scott (GA)

Again, I hope that Rahm Emmanuel spends his DCCC money next year on those more deserving than this crew. I’m sure the ABA and MBNA will gladly finance the campaigns of these 31 next year, and the NRCC won’t run serious opponents against them next year, as a “thank you” for their votes with Bush the last two days.


We agree. Think long and hard before you contribute any money to these guys. They sold you out twice this week to Big Money. When push comes to shove, they must be considered unreliable in the battle to protect Social Security. If they are your reps, call them out at the next public opportunity.

4/15/05 UPDATE: In case anyone might misunderstand our criticism, passage of the bankruptcy peonage bill and the abolition of the estate tax are directly attributable to the election of a Republican Congress and president. Populist Democrats managed to stop the bankruptcy bill for 10 years -- Bill Clinton vetoed a similar bill in 2000 because it was too anti-consutmer. But last year's election tipped the Senate more securely in GOP control and, with the help of a few faithless Democrats, the credit card lobby cleared the last significant hurdle in the Senate in March. House Republicans took no chances that the bill would be amended as they rushed it through the House.

The estate tax abolition will go to the Senate. Ask your senators where they will come up with the $300 billion that tax break will cost the US Treasury over the next decade. Chances are, it will come from you, either in higher taxes disguised as fees, or reduced government services.

By the way, the bankruptcy peonage bill will take effect 180 days after George W. Bush signs it into law. If you are considering declaring bankrupcy, do it within the next six months.


'New Dems' are delusional

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, R-Calif., chair of the New Democrat Coalition, explains why she will vote for the "bipartisan" bankruptcy peonage bill.

Plus an email from fellow "New Democratic Coalition" members Reps. Tauscher, Ron Kind, Artur Davis and Adam Smith urging their fellow Dems to vote for this sell-out to the credit card industry.


Tomorrow, the House will consider S. 256, The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act. We write to let you know that final passage of the Bill will be a key vote for the NDC and to encourage you to support this common-sense, bipartisan legislation.

Encourages Personal Responsibility

This bill reflects the New Democrat principle of greater personal responsibility by ensuring that those who have the ability to pay off some of their debt do so, and reaffirming that bankruptcy should be a last resort instead of a first option. Requiring people to file under Chapter 7, rather than Chapter 13, and set up a payment plan to repay some or all of their debt is reasonable and fair.

This vote will also be a "key vote" for progressive populists who believe that people are more important than corporations. The bill imposes draconian responsibilities on debtors but does little to rein in credit sharks.


Mandate Madness

The Poor Man offers a few well-written notes on the latest round of Republican judge-bashing, in which one noted right-wing lawyer-author in a speech to fellow 'wingers quotes mentor Joseph Stalin, who once said, "Death solves all problems."

Revising the Patriot Act

New York Times editorial:


When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is not exactly a renowned civil libertarian, says the Patriot Act may need some adjustments, it clearly has serious problems. The act, which was rushed through Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, gives government too much power to invade the privacy of ordinary Americans and otherwise trample on their rights. Congress, which is now reviewing the act, should rewrite the parts that violate civil liberties. But it is important to realize that most of the worst post-Sept. 11 abuses did not stem from the Patriot Act. If Congress wants to restore the civil liberties Americans have lost in the last three and a half years, it must also look more broadly at the problems that have emerged from the war on terror. ...

See the rest of the editorial. Also, see TalkLeft for a progressive libertarian take on the PATRIOT Act.


Preventive Coup in Mexico

It's little noted in the US media, but Mexican officials are preparing to deny the most popular candidate for president the opportunity to run in next year's election. The administration of Mexico President Vicente Fox is trumping up charges that Mexico City Governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from the progressive Party of Revolutionary Democracy (PRD), ignored a court order in a minor case involving a hospital access road. Fox's attorney general plans to put the populist López Obrador in jail so that he cannot run for president next year -- a race it appears he would win.

Al Giordano of Narco News reports:


Unable to play and win by the rules of democracy – a word that supposedly means that the people decide their destiny – Fox and the PRI (urged on from Washington from the very day that Condoleeza Rice, in January, took the helm of the State Department) are likely to win a battle today – a vote in Congress – to declare López Obrador guilty until proven innocent and rob from the Mexican people the right to vote for him – he now towers 20 points, at 44-percent in the polls, over his nearest rivals – to be their president next year.

And that – as a 12-percent crash in recent days of the Mexican stock market presages – will set in motion a political war dance with steps already planned by Mexico City’s activist (and strategist) governor. López Obrador is ready to go to jail and lead the fight from there. And much of Mexico is declaring its will to, if need be, join him behind bars by launching what would be the country’s first-ever campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.

López Obrador was defiant Thursday morning in a speech in which he declared his candidacy for president before hundreds of thousands of supporters who packed the massive Zocalo in downtown Mexico City.

Giordano reported that Mexico's two national TV networks virtually ignored the massive demonstration and speech. Felix Fuentes of the daily newspaper El Universal explained that on Monday the owners of Televisa and TV Azteca, Emilio Azcárraga Jean and Ricardo Salinas Pliego, respectively, were called to the Mexican presidential palace. "One doesn't need to guess the motive for the discussion."


Next it was the radio broadcasters' turn, and one of them commented: "The President told us: Andrés Manuel must be disappeared!"

The networks also ignored the debate in the National Congress, where Fox's Party of National Action (PAN) and the notoriously corrupt Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI) joined forces to strip López Obrador of immunity from prosecution Thursday evening.

Fox was in Rome for the Pope's funeral.

(Tip from James Wolcott)


How Much is Bush's Bamboozlepalooza Tour Costing You?

David Sirota writes: President Bush has been barnstorming the country trying to sell the public on his plan to privatize Social Security. Some have wondered how much all his events cost - with the government in serious deficit, and the president claiming Social Security faces a funding crisis, you might think he'd be frugal with the taxpayer money he is spending on these Hollywood-style event. To get an idea of just how much taxpayer money he is spending to promote his plan, check out these stats.

Just one stat: It costs five times more to run Air Force 1 for an hour ($55,000) than Social Security pays the typical recipient in an entire year ($11,000).

Press Congress to Reject Bankruptcy Bill

Rallies Planned Wednesday, April 6

House Judiciary Dems Dissent

A coalition has been assembled to work, against all odds, for the defeat in the Congress of a bankruptcy bill passed last month in the Senate. The House has postponed any vote on the bankruptcy peonage bill (S. 256) until after this week.

Groups lobbying against bankruptcy peonage at include, Progressive Democrats of America (, AFL-CIO (, People's Email Network (, National Community Reinvestment Coalition (, Democracy Week (, Politology (, National Organization for Women (, The Nation (, Black Commentator (, Public Citizen (, Center for American Progress (, Billionaires for Bush (, and more. See list at

These organizations have been encouraging their members to email, phone and fax Congress. Already, over 10,000 emails have been sent through the and People's Email Network alone, plus thousands more from PDA. With lots more coming from coalition partners, at least 100,000 emails are expected to be sent this week. is encouraging activists to phone Republican members of the Rules Committee, who are expected to send the bill to the full House without allowing amendments, and to phone Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who has thus far failed to commit to organizing Democrats against this bill.

"The 'Debt Slavery' Bankruptcy Bill is the most oppressive economic legislation since the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850," said President Bob Fertik. "It would make it impossible for hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans to cope with an economic crisis caused by soaring catastrophic health care costs or extended unemployment. It would turn Americans into debt slaves to the credit card loansharks. What is next on the Republican agenda for shredding the social safety net: debtors' prisons and workhouses for the poor?"

"Any Democrat who votes for this bill, the most revoltingly Republican bill to come along this year, should be aware that we will remember it come next year's elections," said Kevin Spidel, Progressive Democrats of America Political Director.

See the Action Kit. Among the suggestions:

• Call Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (202) 225-4131 and tell him to organize Democrats against this bill or expect us to organize voters against them.

• Call any Congress member (you can even find out who your Congress member is) at 1-877-SOB-USOB. 

• See where each member stands.

• Write letters to the editor of every newspaper you can, and phone every talk show.  Also phone news shows and ask them to cover this!


Sen. Cornyn justifies violence against 'unaccountable' judges

Americablog reports that Monday afternoon on the Senate floor, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) rationalized the recent spate of violence against judges, suggesting that the crimes could be attributed to the fact that judges are "unaccountable" to the public.


"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence."

"We now have Republican senators making excuses for terrorists," Americablog's John Aravosis writes. "Explaining why terrorism is understandable. Why terrorists have legitimate concerns. Justifying why the victims of terrorism are really to blame for these heinous crimes. Wonder what Senator Cornyn thinks of rape victims?"

See the link for context. Cornyn clearly is blaming the judges, in line with the right-wing Republican assault on an independent judiciary led by President Bush's nomination of ideologically biased, right-wing judicial candidates; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat to outlaw the filibuster, if necessary, to get those partisan judges confirmed by a divided Senate; and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's threat to impeach sitting judges that don't toe the right-wing line.

Tell Cornyn what you think. If you don't live in Texas, ask your senators what they think of Republican apologists for terrorists.

Gospel of John Paul II

Max Sawicky writes: "Whatever you think of his views, Karol Wojtyla was a remarkable person. The best show of respect for the Pope is to consider his intellectual output , which means taking it seriously, without patronization, criticizing vigorously where appropriate. I hope to do a bit of that this week." See the rest.

Pope John Paul II's Progressive Legacy

John Paul II is difficult to understand for many Americans. He, like the church he led, was neither Democrat nor Republican. This Pope was more pro-human rights than Jimmy Carter and more anti-communist than Ronald Reagan. But it was in economics that the Pope was even more challenging to the American mind. Polish scholar Marcin Król explains John Paul II's "Third Way" between capitalism and communism. It's worth a read. (From

Bill O'Reilly's Papal Hypocrisy

ThinkProgress noted: Recently, Bill O’Reilly has heaped praise on Pope John Paul II. Here is O’Reilly on the Factor last Thursday:


But I do know that I’ve studied this pope as well as I’ve studied anybody . And I can’t find anything, anything that this guy didn’t walk the walk. You know, right down the line. Nobody’s perfect, but this guy was close in his personal behavior and the way he conducted himself.

O’Reilly was not so kind, however, when the Pope expressed his opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. He launched into this diatribe on the March 12, 2003 edition of the O’Reilly Factor:


But as I’ve said before, I believe also that John Paul is naive and detached from reality . If America does not lead an attack on Iraq, once again, Saddam remains in power and is free to use his anthrax and other terrible weapons as he chooses.

So the pope does not seem to be concerned about that or about Saddam’s behavior in general. Once again, he must know Saddam is a killer. He must know he’s oppressed his own people using murder and torture. He must know that.


Summing up, Jacques Chirac is our enemy, and the pope, well, I don’t know what to think.

We know what to think about O'Reilly.

Bush steps up war on workers

David Sirota notes:


As if the recent string of one-sided congressional victories for Corporate America in Congress wasn't enough, the Financial Times today reports that the Bush administration "aims to toughen its regulation of organized labor, in what critics see as the latest in a series of pro-business policies sweeping Washington." Specifically, political hacks at the Department of Labor "plans greater scrutiny of spending and hiring practices, and continue to increase sharply the number of financial audits of individual unions."

Despite his high-profile photo-ops and rhetoric, its pretty clear George W. Bush hates unions, and hates working people. That's not surprising, considering he never did a real day's work in his life. For Bush, growing up a wealthy blueblood elitist surely meant looking down on average blue collar workers with disdain.

But even so, today's story highlights the wild-eyed ferocity with which he has persecuted the labor movement. For instance, right-wing appointees to the National Labor Relations Board announced that they're taking aim at card-check recognition: the fairest and fastest process for workers to demonstrate they want a union. He dissolved the labor-management partnership councils – a key measure to give workers more input in federal contracting. He repealed workplace ergonomic standards that were designed to prevent worker on-the-job injuries. And the administration actually intervened to block a California law that said employers couldn't use taxpayer money to run anti-union campaigns in the workplace.

This, of course, says nothing about Bush's refusal to support a serious increase in the minimum wage, his unending support for corporate-written free trade deals that sell out American jobs, his hearty endorsement of outsourcing, and his desire to allow companies to unilaterally change their pension system to screw workers. Nor does it say anything about how his administration has given secret sweetheart deals to Wal-Mart, essentially giving the most anti-union company on the globe a free hand to continue its abusive union busting practices.

Workers in this country are clearly under assault, as conservatives really believe they can put the labor movement to death. This war will take everything the labor movement can muster in order to survive – and it is essential for progressives to see this as a seminal battle in modern politics. The labor movement is the backbone of economic progressivism, and has been at the heart of critical social change in this country. American history without a vibrant labor movement would have left us with a country that allows slave wages, sweatshops, and disallows things like the weekend (after all, it was unions who helped pass laws mandating a 40 hour work week). That history must continue.

Vigilantes patrol border

The Christian Science Monitor looks at the 1,500 self-selected volunteers who began fanning out to designated outposts along the Arizona border Monday in a highly visible - and controversial - bid to help reclaim part of the US-Mexican border. The ACLU says "there is a strong possibility of conflict and misunderstanding," as unpaid, untrained, "minutemen" patrol the US/Mexico border. Even the (real) border patrol has "stated loudly that the minutemen will not help agents do their jobs."


Pope John Paul II, R.I.P.

Love him or hate him, John Paul II was one of the most influential figures of the late 20th century. Stalin derisively asked how many divisions the Pope had. Brezhnev found out, as John Paul's support of the independent Solidarity labor movement in the 1980s undermined Soviet control of Poland and put the first cracks in the Iron Curtain.

But the same pontiff repudiated liberation theology that proposed to use the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church to resist dictatorships in the Third World -- particularly in Central and South America. He also lectured the West on the dangers of unbridled capitalism.

He promoted a "culture of life" that started with opposition to contraception and abortion. But his "culture of life" continued with society's obligations to care for babies after they are born. And he rebuffed George W. Bush's personal appeal to put the Church at his service during the 2004 campaign.


He was a magnificent pope who presided over a controversial pontificate, at turns daring and defensive, inspiring and insular. John Paul II, 263nd successor of St. Peter, leaves behind the irony of a world more united because of his life and legacy, and a church more divided.

This is perhaps the best one can offer in a first draft of history about a man who towered over his times in a way unique among other leaders of his era.

See the rest of John Allen's comprehensive obit in the National Catholic Reporter and its special coverage.

Don't let Republicans appropriate John Paul's legacy. JPII was conservative in theology, which frustrated and sometimes infuriated liberals, but he was not a partisan. If he was an implacable foe of Communism in Eastern Europe and abortion in the West, he had little more use for dog-eat-dog "laissez-faire" economics and the totalitarianism of multinational corporations that is the underpinning of today's GOP.

See also Allen's analysis of who might be the next pope, written in 2002 for Washington Monthly, his update on the cast of the College of Cardinals for NCR and Steven Waldman's analysis of the Papal Chase, originally written in 2003 for Slate and updated.

The short course: Now that the Italian lock is broken, look for papal candidates from South America, Africa or Asia -- where the greatest opportunities for Catholic growth are. Dismiss the chances of any candidates from USA. Look for an older candidate, since the College of Cardinals may be looking or a transitional pontiff to reassess the Church's position after John Paul's 26-year reign -- the fourth-longest in the Church's history. John Paul named all but three of the 117 cardinals who will select the next pontiff, yet, as Allen notes:


it does not mean that John Paul has “stacked the deck” and pre-determined that his successor will be a man very much like him. Historically speaking,  Colleges of Cardinals appointed by one pope do not simply duplicate that man in the election of his successor. Instead, they are trying in part to remedy what they perceive to the weaknesses and limitations of the former regime, as well as build on its strengths. That sort of electoral psychology is always a prescription for change.

Historians call this the “pendulum dynamic,” that papal approaches tend to oscillate from one perspective to the other rather than staying put. The Italians, as they always do, have a better phrase for it. They say, “You always follow a fat pope with a thin one.”


When Politicians Get Desperate...

...they start threatening people, David Sirota notes.


Case in point - scandal-plagued House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R), who shows more and more of his thuggish colors everyday. In recent days, he really seems to have completely lost control of himself. Yesterday, he issued a menacing threat against his opponents in the tragic Terri Schiavo case, saying "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." This, as Thinkprogress notes, at a time when death and bomb threats have been reported against the judge and hospital involved in the case. As Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) notes, DeLay's comments might have violated the law, especially considering the recent killing of a federal judge's family in Chicago.

Now, today, he has deployed fellow conservative leaders to say defending DeLay is a litmus test for any Republican lawmaker seeking their support. Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committee member from Virginia and a member of American Conservative Union's board, told the Washington Times that Republicans are being told support for Mr. DeLay is mandatory if they want future support from conservatives. "Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay."

Remember, this is just days removed from the White House using its cronies to forcibly remove people from public events where the president speaks. And what these examples show is the frightening contradictions within today's GOP. The same Republican Party that wraps itself in the flag is also embracing public threats of vengence and suppression of dissent - both truly un-American and unpatriotic abuses.

Servicing the Rich

David Sirota notes at


In Wednesday’s New York Times story about how America loses more than a quarter trillion dollars in tax revenue each year to cheating, the paper claimed, “The I.R.S. said that 80 percent of taxes owed but not paid by individuals were a result of underreporting of income, often by people working in the service sector.”

It was hard for me to believe that 80 percent of about $200 billion was being stolen mostly “by people working in the service sector” (waiters underreporting tips, fast food workers underreporting income, etc.), as the Times suggests. If that were the case, I would think service sector workers in America would be far more well-off than they are today.

So I went to the primary source, the IRS’s new report, and found that yes, it is true that “noncompliance from underreporting account for more than 80%” of the missing tax revenue. However, page 10 of the report breaks down that statistic a bit more. It shows specifically that the underreporting of “business income” accounts for about $100 billion of the tax gap, and underreporting of “wages, salaries, tips, etc.” account for just $18 billion. “Business income,” remember, is defined as money made by sole proprietorships, S corporations, etc. The category includes wealthy lobbyists, sports agents and high-paid political consultants - not exactly what you think of when you hear the phrase “working in the service sector.” In fact, I can find absolutely no data in the IRS report which justifies the New York Times suggesting that the problem “often” emanates from those “working in the service sector.”

What’s my point? Simple: the media often reinforces dishonest stereotypes designed by conservatives to help the right-wing pursue its ideological agenda. The New York Times’s error plays into the right-wing’s “persecuted rich” myth, reinforcing the idea that the rich are overtaxed, and it is working class people who are ripping off the system.

Fight debt slavery has launched a grassroots campaign to defeat what it calls the "Debt Slavery" Bankruptcy Bill in the House of Representatives.

The House is expected to vote on the Bankruptcy Bill next week when it returns from its two-week Easter recess.

"Because House Majority Leader Tom DeLay runs the House so ruthlessly, most observers expect the Bankruptcy Bill to sail through without opposition," said Bob Fertik, president of

"For those who believe Tom DeLay is unstoppable, I have two words: Terri Schiavo," Fertik said.

Two weeks ago, Tom DeLay pushed seemingly unconstitutional legislation through Congress to force federal courts to consider Schiavo's case, even though guardianship disputes are purely state law matters.

"Right now, murder is being committed against a defenseless American citizen," DeLay said at the time. "Mrs Schiavo's life is being violently wrenched from her body in an act of medical terrorism. What is happening to her is not compassion, it is homicide."

Afterwards, public opinion turned solidly against DeLay's actions, with 75% saying it was "not right" for Congress to intervene. Approval ratings for the Republican Congress have hit record lows as a result.

"Tom DeLay's political career is on a respirator," according to Fertik. "DeLay is being investigated for crimes in Texas and Washington DC." Even the far-right Wall Street Journal editorial page condemned DeLay for his corruption. "If the Journal opposes DeLay, his days are definitely numbered," Fertik said.

To fight the Bankruptcy Bill, unveiled a new Web site at

See our weblog archives:
March 2005
February 2005
January 16-31, 2005
January 1-15, 2005
December 2004
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