Friday, December 23, 2005

Economy Watch: What's Beneath the Surface

During a time of Christmas layoffs and end-of-year attempts to cut real pay, pension contributuions and health care coverage, Lawrence Mishel and Economic Policy Institute Director Ross Eisenbrey outline what lies beneath:

--Profits are up, but the wages and the incomes of average Americans are down;

--More and more people are deeper and deeper in debt;

--Job creation has not kept up with population growth, and the employment rate has fallen sharply;

--Poverty is on the rise; and

--Rising health care costs are eroding families' already declining income.

Read about it here.

Chris Matthews Named "Misinformer of the Year"

As cable "news" sinks lower and lower into tabloidism, media watchdog, named Harball host Chris Matthews the "Misinformer of the Year" today. Given the blige flowing from his mouth the this past year, this isn't surprising. Read about it here. Matthews' show should be called, the "Leave No Bush Talking Point Behind" Show.

Connecting With His Inner Red-State: An Article by James H. Webb

A comment to this blog took issue with some of the views of James Webb. And her concern is well-taken. I thought I'd link them here and let readers decide. Despite his opposititon to the Iraq war, there are some concerns that Democrats need to discuss before we bandwagon one more time. Read the article here. Note: The link isn't working. I've tried to fix it (unsuccessfullly). Here's another route to the link.

Rummy's Trickery

So, now, Rummy claims he'll do the popular thing by withdrawing some troops? Just recently he pumped up the numbers of troops serving in Iraq, so he could then reduce them and receive faint praise for his holiday "generosity." As the NY Times article reports (Read it here.), he raised the troop levels to above 160,000 recently. In other words, he had to increase the numbers in order to reduce them.

Does a Pig Squeal?

Anne E. Kornblut reported in the yesterday's New York Times, that a deal may be in the works for Jack Abramoff, that he "may testify against "at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members." Kornblut said:

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said. Read more here.

Bush to Americans: You Have to Give Up Liberty To "Spread" It.

Four years ago, columnist Molly Ivins wrote a column entitled "Destroying Freedoms in Order to Save Them." That was before George Bush had completed his rough-shod run over every other branch of government. It was before he neglected warnings, left us vulnerable to terrorists, and then had the temerity to use his very neglect (ie, that the event happened on his watch, despite numerous warnings) as justification for unprecedented powers. And if he wasn't granted the powers he sought, he took them anyway. Big Brother rides again, and surprise, surprise, it's at the hands of a supposed small-government, right-wing executive.

What Americans have long suspected bubbled to the surface this week. In 2002 George W. Bush signed a secret law, to override US Law and the Constitution in order to spy on law-abiding American citizens. To lend cover to Bush, the Times sat on the information for over a year. Here's it's belated story.

Meanwhile, Bush keeps right on being Bush, and everything that connotes. He'll keep on keeping on, he says, spying on Americans, upending the Constitution, whipping up fear so we all feel the "terror." Then he'll use that fear to justify violating civil liberties. He'll continue to deceive Americans (as in the continued linkages laced through several speeches over the past two weeks. More on that in a future post). He'll continue to abuse power. He'll continue smashing the Constitutional separation of powers. Within just a few days, two judges, from two different federal courts, had to jerk him up short. It's long past time Congress stood up to him. The mild-mannered five-week extension doesn't cut it. What is Congress waiting for?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Republicans, Not Democrats Are the Grinch(es) Who Stole Christmas

As Christmas approaches, Republicans Bushwacked programs for the poor today. While providing deficit-building giveaways for the well-heeled and favored industries, the Republican-controlled Senate today passed legislation to cut federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and student loans. Merry Christmas--from the GOP.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Raising Kaine Raises the "I" Word.

Over at one of today's commentaries raises the impeachment question. Read it here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Senators Block Vote on Most Intrusive Aspects of Patriot Act: Cloture Attempt Fails

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Our So-Called Recount

The Roanoke Times published a good commentary about our pretend recount for the AG race. Read about it here. And for Raising Kaine's comment on the comment, check it out here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

One Caveat to Good Article at Raising Kaine

There's a recommended read over at Raising Kaine. At RK, guest blogger Greg's article explores the recent history of James H. Webb, Jr., who's considering a run against George Allen. Though he'd be a formidable candidate, I don't have a formed opinion on Webb's candidacy yet. But a comment toward the end of the article invents a premise. The author asks, "How do you argue that Iraq was a strategic blunder without being perceived as "anti-war" or weak in general?" Answer: Reject the premise and by having the evidence, courage of your convictions, and the strength to stand strong in the face of attack. It's also important to be able to reflect and reassess (something neocons are incapable of). They can label it a liability of our side, but it is not.

Recently, over at, William Rivers Pitt wrote a great column on the GOP's talent for changing the premise. As Pitt describes, someone throws a strawman into the argument. For example, Dick Cheney claimed that "we were not in Iraq (at 9-11) and the "terrorists hit us anyway." But Iraqi's did not cause 9-11 (see 9-11 Commisssion Report.) This was known shortly after 9-11 and long before the war began. So Cheney inserted a false premise, which serves as a confound and a distraction. GOPHERS try to send the argument splintering in numerous different directions. In other words, they'll lob lots of "incoming" our way and try to make us defend ourselves. It's a well-worn tactic, which we must reject. Radical conservatives know that the minute they push hard on Democrats, we'll try to clone them into our image. And that's why they do it. But bullying aside, de facto, those with the courage to speak the truth are far from weak. They show a toughness neocons only dream of. After all, how hard is, really, it to be a mantra parrot or a robo-cop?

We Dems get so defensive that we allow the other side to redefine the argument time and again. Why? One need only run through a litany of current events to show how Bush's inability to reassess has limited real progress in this country. The RK column is a compelling one. I am impressed that Webb stood strong. And it's a far cry from the Clinton, Biden, Lieberman me-toos--as well as Virginia's "favorite" son. I also believe if a reasonably diligent person (with no staff) could determine that the Bush case for war was fraudulent, then how hard could it have been for Senators with staffs? They didn't all see what Bush "saw," but they likely should have known enough. And if not, why not?

Though I'd want to know much more about his other positions, Webb may well be the candidate. Certainly he has the primary requirement for a Senator, that he'll examine the extant evidence and tell the truth. IMO, to shirk the truth just because one has (even) higher office in mind is pretty unforgivable. Still, we all got in line behind Sen. Kerry despite his aging (though once strong) "spine." But, just for once it would be more-than-refreshing to find candidates who's integrity didn't take a holiday over the launching of the Iraq war. They all bought into the changing of the premise when they shouldn't have. It's not a sign of weakness, but a strength to stand with integrity when few else would. Let's do a better job of rejecting false or strawman premises, no matter whom we chose to represent us. And let's do a better job celebrating our recent heroes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Finally, an Investigation...

William Rivers Pitt had posted on his website a compelling video (view it here) appearing to show contractors firing on civillians driving on a highway in Iraq. Finally, there's an investigation of the appalling footage, reports the Washington Post.

US. Rep. Murtha Outs Plans for Another $100 Billion for Iraq

As the profligate Halliburton (et al) Enrichment Program continues to unfold in Iraq, the administration wants to add to the already (estimated) $277 billion spent on Iraq thus far. There's $50 billion sitting in supplemental funding. And now this: the administration has plans for an additional $100 billion more for Iraq next year. That's right -- a stratospheric tab of at least $427 billion. The immorality and ineptness of the operation in Iraq hardly justifies throwing more money at the war campaign. It's the GOP, after all, which screams, "You can't throw money at a problem!"

The GOP tell us we can't afford universal health care. Most Americans can't have corporate pensions in the future. We can't have jobs protected from off-shoring. Privateers want to eliminate our public infrastructure and leave us to profiteers for everything from transportation, health insurance, social security, and education. They want armies for profit too. They've cut funding for the poor, the homeless, and more.

But there's more. Budgetary atacks on the middle class, in the guise of "Fiscal conservatism," is outed for the fraud that it is. The alleged fiscally conservative-leaning Congress passed a bill with tax cuts exceeding budget cuts by $44 billion. This in war time, as the GOP-HERS love to point out. GOPHERS in the House would also benefit the super rich at the expense of the middle class. As Robert Reich has commented:

"No legislative choice in recent years has so clearly pitted the super-rich against the suburban middle class. Most of benefits of the House's proposed extension of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts would go to the top one percent of taxpayers, with average annual incomes of more than $1 million. Most of the benefits of the Senate's cut in the AMT would go to households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, who would otherwise get slammed."
It is class warfare. But it's directed against most Americans and citizens of other countries who are pawns in the deadly games of the radical right arm of the superrich in the US.

Joementum and Joemotion Turn into Commotion

Barely had rumors surface that Joe Lieberman might be a candidate for DOD, that Joe Lieberman started a commotion that only someone like Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Delay, or Dick Cheney could foment.

It seems that Lieberman wants to gag Democrats who stand up to Republican revisionism and hegemony. I'm not interested in Lieberman bashing, but I do take issue with his jumping onto the gag-the-Democrats push, evidenced all over Washington, in the media, and on the blogs.

For a discussion of many perspectives, take a look at the discussion over here, here and herefor more on this.

It's a sad day for democracy and freedom that once again the "gagsters" want to scare everyone into silence once again. If we can't point out what's wrong, and discuss solutions to problems, how will we improve anything, muchless homeland security and our national and international reputation? Unfortunately, the GOP and GOP-lites think we have to destroy freedom in order to "create" it. In the 21st Century it's really disappointing that some Americans are such a throwback to (Joe) MCCarthyism, which was anything but exemplary, despite all the revionists' mighty efforts to glorify it.

Revisionists, Inc.

“It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began.”
(George W. Bush, Dec. 2, 2005)

Daily, George W. Bush or his administration mouthpieces dissemble about the causes for war, the evidence supporting (or rather failing to support it), the operation of it, and the unintended consequences. If the American people no longer buy the mother load of misleads, then Bush hires more consultants and pays more “journalists” to propagandize. If Americans have fuzzy memories, Bush and his supporters repeat the same lies. And if that doesn’t work, they declare war on the loyal opposition. It’s Billl Clinton’s fault, or the Democrats in Congress, they say. Yet most, who voted yes on the war authorization expected it would be a last resort and only if evidence from weapons inspections supported it. The Bush administration furthers the deception that the Congressional Democrats saw the same data Bush saw. Bush enablers attack dissenter’s patriotism and hope that will silence them. They introduce ends-justify-the-means distractions. But whatever the obfuscation, administration revisionism and deceit cannot be forgotten. Here’s a recap of the relevent deceits, lest we forget.

Following the 9-11 hijacking, we learned that the perpetrators were mostly from Saudi Arabia. None was from Iraq, but Bush wanted to conjure up evidence against Iraq anyway (Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, 2004). Eventually, the US launched the war in Afghanistan, ostensibly to route out the terrorist camps and terrorists responsible for 9-11. Bush also coincidently made that country safe for a major pipeline, but didn’t find OBL. But what happens next was utter distraction from the crucial mission of finding the terrorists responsible for 9-11. And finding them and dealing with them was something all Americans can agree on. But, then Bush ratcheted up the war-mongering by claiming that Iraq threatened America.

In Aug. 2002, Dick Cheney ramped up the case for war against Iraq when he claimed to a VFW Convention, "But now we know Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons" (The Guardian, 8/27/02). At this point the intelligence services had already disputed this claim, back-paged in various American media.

It’s worth noting as well that though Saddam had sought to acquire the now-illicit weapons, with US and European help in the late eighties, his weapons program was destroyed during the Desert Storm. Some politicians of both parties worried he might have reconstructed his weapons program, or never used them all up. However, the solution to this problem was weapons inspection. And once the UN was back in Iraq in late 2002, the US should have waited for the final outcome of the inspections. Instead, Bush rushed headlong into “his” war. The Project for a New American Century document of Sept, 2000, and the 2002 Downing Street Memos illustrate additional administration interest in such efforts. Bush ignored warnings from all who thought he was being precipitous, even some of his father’s advisors. Except for those who, even now, think weapons will still be found, we now know that there were no such weapons.

Also in 2002, George Tenet, convenient scapegoat and eventually ironic Medal of Freedom winner for serving as the fall guy for administration intelligence blunders, informed Bush that Iraq posed no imminent threat. So, it’s puzzling why he later made the “slam-dunk” statement.

In Oct. 2002, Tenet personally intervened to stop Bush from making the uranium claim at that time (AP, 7/13/03). But , Bush made the charge in his State of the Union speech in Jan. 2003. Condoleezza Rice made the uranium claim on Jan. 23, 2003, months after the CIA had told the administration otherwise. Meanwhile, the IAEA also found no evidence to substantiate the nuclear claim. To quote its report, "To date, we have found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since its elimination in the 1990s" (AP, 1/27/03). Regarding Bush's inclusion of the claim in the State of the Union address, Colin Powell said, "There was a sense that the statement wasn't totally outrageous" (CBS News, 7/12/03). Such recklessness from the Secretary of State says it all.

In 2002, and under the auspices of the CIA, Joseph Wilson visited Niger to investigate the claim that Saddam was seeking yellow-cake uranium from Niger. Before the war, in Mar. 2002, Wilson reported that no such transaction ever took place. In his book, Chain of Command, Seymour Hersh heard from CIA sources that the forgeries were so obvious they were “cooler talk.” Furthermore, CIA investigators have reported to various media that Dick Cheney made frequent trips to the CIA to shape the "intelligence." So blatant was the pretension that virtually anyone could have proven the documents to be forgeries.

No real evidence exists (or ever did exist) that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger. By early Mar. 2003, about two weeks before the war, the IAEA revealed Read it here.) conclusively that the Niger documents were forgeries and that there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq. But on Mar. 17th, Bush insisted that "Iraq continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." Also in March, Cheney persisted that Iraq had nuclear weapons, "We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons" (Mar. 16, Meet the Press). As recently as Sunday, July 13, 2003, Rice and Rumsfeld, appearing on television talk shows, still pitching the Niger uranium story. The very next day, after all these untrue assertions, Ari Fleischer then feigned that no one in the administration ever said Iraq actually had nuclear weapons.

The uranium document forgeries are the tip of the dissembling iceberg. It has asserted that some aluminum tubes were designed for nuclear centrifuges in Iraq when such was not the case, according to the IAEA. It has misled also about an alleged Iraqi terrorist training camp that wasn't even under Iraqi control, but was under the US and British controlled no-fly zone! So, had any real threats existed, they’d have occurred on our watch. But the Bush administration doesn’t “do” accountability.

It has misled further about a supposed weapons lab in northern Iraq that didn't exist. Approximately 20 newspaper reporters from all over the world checked Powell’s UN assertion on the ground. There was no weapons lab. The administration misled about trailers, which they claimed were for weapons production, even after they had been found by our own scientists to be unrelated to any weapons production. It used Tony Blair's "dossier," despite the fact that it was based on an old, plagiarized, poorly researched graduate student paper! The administration misled too about the well-publicized rockets (so-called "chemical warheads"), which were empty and had no traces of lethal chemicals (Blix, Report to the UN Security Council, 1/27/03). Subsequent analyses by UNSCOM uncovered no evidence of any chemical or biological agents. Instead these were traditional armaments, which were legal.

In the aftermath of the war, every time the administration pounced on something "suspicious," the material was later revealed to be something benign. But such findings were nearly always relegated to the back pages of the nation’s paper(s) “of record.” Almost daily we hear from more loyal Americans in the intelligence community protesting the outright manufacturing of intelligence. Greg Thielmann, former Director of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence, asserted recently that, "the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq." The fact is that Iraq never used weapons of mass destruction against American interests, even when attacked by the US. To date, no WMD have been found.

Another fabricated pretext for war was that Iraq has been involved in Al Qaeda activities, including 9/11. But the US intelligence community has repeatedly denied that there was significant, reliable evidence of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Indeed, despite a few contacts over many years, there has been no evidence of any significant cooperation (9-11 Commission Report). The two leaders were enemies, after all. And yet Bush and his spokespersons continue linking Iraq, Al Qaeda and, implicitly, 9/11. As Bush stated in Sept 2002, "The danger is, is that they work together"-an assertion that he exaggerated even further by saying that "in the war on terror, you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam" (Washington Post, 9/26/02). Also in Sept 2002, when asked if there was such a linkage, Rumsfeld asserted: "... the answer is yes" (Washington Post, 9/26/02). Then Ari Fleischer claimed, "Clearly, al Qaeda is operating inside Iraq" (Washington Post, 9/26/02). On Jan. 31, 2003, Bush stated, that Powell "will talk [to the UN Security Council] about al Qaeda links, links that really do portend a danger for America and for Great Britain" ( And in the same press conference, Bush claimed that "After Sept. 11th, the doctrine of containment [of Iraq] just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm concerned," again falsely suggesting that Saddam caused 9/11. Is it any wonder that nearly half of Americans erroneously believed that Iraq caused, or was involved in, 9/11?

The administration's dissembling is pervasive and ongoing. The White House has employed a fictitious case to expand its power, to declare war, and to reign in personal liberties at home. And now we hear the war was also about “freedom” and “democracy.” The ironically named “Pax Americana," hegemony to the nth, however it turns out, does not justify the means. The administration has sacrificed lives, damaged our nation's credibility, increased the risk of world instability and lawlessness, and drained the treasury. When will his apologists and enablers hold him accountable?

At the very least, it’s important to remember what really happened lest the real revisionists get a free pass to act this recklessly again. The Chairman of the 9-11 Commission, a Republican, has given the government an F for its performance on improving Homeland Security. And the Bush enablers and apologists just keep on letting “Bush be Bush, instead of facing the facts. They're "moral relativists" all, and the evidence for this is, as they say, a "slam dunk."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fun With Statistics

Among other logical "issues," distractions, extraneous issues, and name-calling, one poster to the comments here thinks Bush has reversed his trend in poor ratings. Now reverse would suggest more than a point (or two or three) fluctuation. Given the impressive nose-dive Bush has taken, reversal (of fortune, so to speak) suggests he's regained his former position. The commenter's spin either 1) demonstrates how to lie with statistics, 2) illustrates his optimism, or 3) depends on parsing what the meaning of the word "reverse" is. A point or two or three? Maybe he's thinking that the act of shifting gears is enough.

So, for fun the reader can look at a summary of polls here, the long term change of some of these polls (not selected or parsed by me) here, and the one the reader cites here. For those who'd rather cut and paste, the links are below.

For example, in the Rasmussen poll, on December 7th the favorability rating was indeed 45%. But look at Dec. 5th (48%). Take a look at Nov. 21 (45%). Yes, things appear up a bit from Nov. 17th (43%). But a majority still disapprove of the performance of George W. Bush in this poll. Reversal of fortune? On the right are daily trackings which, not surprisingly ('cause that's what tracking polls do) actually show fluctuation with Bush up or down the past few weeks. The Bushies are all so desperate that they think they can convince the majority of Americans who are not buying what Bush is selling that we are wrong (not) by using polls, intimidation, . But you've gotta admire their optimism.

One other note: The blog bullies try to make anyone who comments against government policy as not in the mainstream. Guess what, they'd be wrong. Using one poll on any particular day or even comparing one poll to two points in time doesn't give the complete picture. I haven't even discussed here what voters think of Bush's specific policies. And that's a sight to be hold (and fodder for another column). For example, even in New Hampshire, a poll showed that "Almost 60 percent of voters polled last week indicated they believed the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 53 percent said they felt misled about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." But I get ahead of myself. But I wouldn't claim that one data point means all that much. Trends suggest what they suggest. And we infer that the Man has a few problems with the electorate.

The reason the poster and others persist in their spin is they think they can convince folks there's a train taking off to happy Bushland and that we all should jump aboard. I think there's a better chance of me riding a motorcycle than that (and that's not saying much.) And I doubt the rest of the public will be buying the Bush-BS this time around. No matter how many (or few) approve of Bush's performance, that data doesn't erase the mismanagement and deception.
Summary of Polls

Over Time

Rasmussen Poll cited by the reader:

New Hampshire Poll

"Joemotion" Heading toward Defense Dept?

Rumors continue concerning a possible exit of Donald Rumsfeld. Here's the story...

Monday, December 05, 2005

"What He Said..."

From the right-wing spinmeisters to the ga-ga pseudo-journalists who've taken over cable news, we hear how grateful the Iraqi people should be to us for occupying them. Yet, as William Rivers Pitt argues, in his essay entitled, "Don't Let it Bring You Down," these 1/10th full folks are dreamers. 70% of Iraqis are unemployed. Most have electricity only intermittently. In that oil-rich country, long gas lines are common. There's little potable water. Bombs go off regularly. Much of the infrastructure remains destroyed or crumbling. As Pitt asks ironically, "where is the love?" Sen. John Kerry argued on Face the Nation that 80% of Iraqis want us to leave. I doubt the numbers are that low.

Every single day we remain imperils our own men and women in uniform, postpones peace, and protracts Iraqi dependence, makes us less safe, and wrecks our economy. I opposed the war before it began. Once it started, I thought we needed to see it through. I thought at that point we had a responsibility to make it right. I no longer think that's possible. The bullies can pull out their verbal brick-bats. They can say what they wish about those who take this perspective. But given the moral and operational failure of the Bush administration, the grave corruption in Iraq, and the inability of the administration to tell Americans the truth about any aspect of this operation, there is no way any good can come of prolonging the agony. Support the troops by never using them for another ill-fated misadventure or neo-con dream. Give them the care and support they need. Help them reenter family life when they arrive home. And never, ever again deploy them based on false evidence. Support our troops: Bring them home.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Support Barack Obama's Effort to End Voter Intimidation

Sen. Barack Obama has drafted legislation to stop intimidation of voters. Here's a link to the letter he's drafted.{FB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665}/OBAMA_DECEPTIVE_PRACTICES_PREVENTION11-29-05.PDF