Friday, February 24, 2006

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee has a good backgrounder on the UAE Port Deal

FEC to Meet Once More to Determine Blogosphere/Internet Regulation

FEC Sets March 16 Vote on Internet Regulations By Kate Ackley
Roll Call Staff
Thursday, Feb. 23

The Federal Election Commission announced today that it will hold a final vote March 16 to determine the rules governing political communications on the Internet.


TIA By Any Other Name...

We were told that BUCHCO's Total Information Awareness (TIA), the massive spying on every aspect of our personal lives, was halted. That's not true. Check this out at the National Journal.

Cronyism vs. Security: David Sirota on "Bush's Dirty Little Secret"

For insight about what's behind the ports deal, check here.

Molly Ivins Weighs in on the Dubai Ports Deal
Read her commentary here.

Average Americans Lose Ground

"The average American family income is declining. A 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances document provides a dismal outlook of average income growth for the American family. The report shows the average income for American families, adjusted for inflation, has declined by 2.3 percent in 2004. "The median, or midpoint for net worth rose by 1.5 percent to $93,100 from 2001 to 2004. That growth was far below the 10.3 percent gain in median net worth from 1998 to 2001."

Need I say more? Read more here:

News and Blogs Got You Down?

Here's a fun diary at The Daily Kos:

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sasha Cohen Gets Silver

She's poetry on ice, but Sasha Cohen (USA) fell twice and lost her chance for gold. Kimmie Meisner and Emily Hughes placed 6th and 7th respectively.

White House Investigates Itself, Concludes It Wasn’t At Fault For Katrina Response

Over at there's a short article with links concerning the "study" released today. Think Progress says:

The White House’s report released today, “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned,” blames the Katrina response exclusively on the federal government’s plans and structures, rather than on individual people. Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend:

The system wasn’t dependent on any one person. … It was a failure of various aspects of decision-making that needed to happen real time and quickly to get federal response efforts.

The report ignores the responsibility of top Bush administration officials. Luckily the recent bipartisan report from House of Representatives fills in the gaps. From The Washington Post: "[The report] lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council."

Regarding Bush, the report also found that “earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response” because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance.

Jump to the story here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The March of Big Brother: Excellent Post Over at

Last week a former NSA employee revealed another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions, not "just" thousands of Americans' Constitutional rights. Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that is far broader than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times. But Tice was unable to describe the plan more fully because he is forbidden by law to reveal such details. For more on this story, click here.

Now comes an excellent, but alarming, post over at Raising Kaine, which summarizes a number of Big Brother endeavors by the Bush administration and its expansive and unilateral redrawing of the Constitution. This includes information that Halliburton subsidiary KBR has been contracted (Jan 2006) to construct 5,000-prisoner detention camps for "illegal immigrants" or the "rapid development of new programs." (See the article at Raising Kaine for relevant links.) In addition a rewriting of a 1977 law forbidding such would permit prisoners of these camps, along with other corrrectional facilities in our nation to serve as civilian labor camps in the service of the US Military. Teddy at Raising Kaine has written what may be the most important blog peice of the week. Kudos.

Folklore and FISA

Here's the administration's folklore:

"T]he FISA law was written in 1978. We’re having this discussion in 2006. It’s a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It’s an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also — and we — look — I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn’t work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do."

But as the website "Think Progress" suggests:

"Bush gives the impression that he’d very much like to have the program work within the confines of the law but it’s just too old to accommodate it. That isn’t true."
Jump to the article here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Metaphor for His Whole Life: Dick Chicken Hawk Cheney Saves Us From.... Whom?

You know the drill. Dick Cheney "had to" destroy Iraq to save it, create an oiligarchy in the Middle East in lieu of "democracy" and supplant the Bill of Rights here at home "for freedom." He's the main colluder with George W. Bush in the unconstitutional power grab. He's the executive vice-president of Fear-Mongers, Inc. Now he's allegedly the source of Scooter Libby's classified information concerning the outing Joe Wilson's CIA operative wife, a get-even scheme unworthy even of Dick. But doggone if he hasn't gone plum loco and shot up a hunting companion. The man is clearly too off-target and scattershot to function. Additionally, this chickenhawk who shoots first and aims later needs America's full attention. We have a problem.

We now know that, besides having the Midas touch for himself and his friends, he's known for only one thing when it comes to the rest of the country: Screwing up bigtime. Where Cheney has tread, he leaves war; Halliburton overcharges, hegemony designed to leave the world war-torn for the next Century; rigged economies (instead of the "free markets" he claims to support), retribution against enemies; threats for people to "watch what they say;" conjured up intelligence; and other undemocratic legacies.

In speech after speech, he mislead about the case for war. And he's been the antithesis of the clean-mouth good example, even while his GOP counterparts in Virginia try to legislate (e.g, a new attempt in Virginia to legislate foul language). As usual, Dick Cheney's above the proposed law.

Unlike the phony and facile johnny-come-lately-to-the-hurricane (Bush), Cheney doesn't even pretend to care about citizens. It's not his MO. He'd rather go hunting with Justice Scalia (a conflict of interest) -- not long before the Supreme Court meddled in an election -- than behave like the leader we are paying him to be. But the worst thing about Dick Cheney isn't any of this. It's that there are millions willing to support and condone his every move. In addition to misserving our nation, he's a national embarrassment.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

NY Times Editorial: The Trust Gap

Says the Times:

Published: February 12, 2006

"We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Foreign Affairs: Intelligence Policy and the War in Iraq

An important article by Paul R. Pillar appears in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. Read it here.

Arianna Huffington Takes on Friday's Fear and Big Brother Extravaganza

She writes:
I spent much of yesterday having people try to scare the hell out of me. In the morning it was President Bush. At night it was Big Brother. At times, it wasn't easy telling them apart. Let me explain:
My very scary day was jump-started by the president's chilling tale of how my hometown had narrowly escaped a 9/11-like attack, with hijacked planes being flown into a downtown Los Angeles skyscraper.

Jump to her site and the article here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Raising Kaine Urges Primary

Please email your Democratic state central committe representatives without delay and express support for a primary for US Senate. Find details here. I believe James Webb has the best chance of unseating Allen. But whether you prefer James Webb or Harris Miller for Senate, please join with those of us who believe Virginians deserve a choice. Recently, we've seen a more open process for selecting candidates. Please help to assure the continuation of democratic candidate selection and turn Virginia Blue!

White House Knew About Levee failure Before Katrina Made Landfall

The earliest official report of a New Orleans levee breach came at 8:30 a.m., hours after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. Word of the possible breach surfaced at the White House less than three hours later, at 11:13 a.m. In all, 28 federal, state and local agencies reported levee failures on Aug. 29, according to a timeline of e-mails, situation updates and weather reports - a litany at odds with the Bush administration's contention that it didn't know the extent of the problem until much later. At the time, President Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

After the levees gave way, thousands of people were left stranded on rooftops and hundreds died of the flooding and its aftermath.

Democrats say the new documents raise questions about whether the government moved quickly enough to rescue storm victims from massive flooding.

From the Associated Press

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It Doesn't Pass the Shoe-on-the-Other-Foot Test
Every single reason Bush has suggested as an excuse for bypassing FISA didn't wash. FISA provides for situations when the president doesn't have time with the possibility for post-hoc filing and even extensions. Bush said the war resolution includes authorization to thwart FISA, but the wording says nothing of the kind. Indeed, had Bush really thought the authorization included the ability to end-run FISA, why did the Bush administration try to get the language changed in the law so domenstic spying was included. I have heard/read no one argue that suspected terrorists shouldn't be investigated. But the FISA bypass has used a much wider net. Surely congregations of Quakers, pacifists and hence those essentially the opposite of terrorists, should never have been spied upon. Nor should law-abiding citizens for political reasons. The Congress never intended to make Alberto Gonzalez the administration thought police. Several Republican senators (including Senators Sepctor, Graham, and Hagel and have led the defense of the Constitution from such attempts.

Law abiding citizens deserve better than to have their goverment used against them. Aside from all the other reasons why GOP leaders should oppose Bush's thwarting of FISA, legislators should consider this:

Any legislator thinking he or she wants unrestrained power on the part of the chief executive, should consider whether he or she would feel the same way if the opposite party were in charge.

As for the media drum beat for FISA bypass, this so-called MSM isn't even trying to cover this story accurately. Media Matters for America notes at least 75 instances of distortions or downright misleading statments concerning the illegal spying on innocent Americans. Read about them here.

What the Citizens Want is Irrelevant

The public said no. Congress said no. But George W. Bush considers the democratic process an inconvenience to be eliminated. So forget all the citizens who wrote to their Congresspersons or spoke with them in person. George W. Bush doesn't care.

The Washington Post reported that Bush used the budget process to sneak Social Security privatization through the back door as early as 2010, despite the fact that there is time to deal with projected shortfalls about 25-30 years out. This deception and abuse of the budget process deserves rebuke. No president since Richard Nixon has so flagrantly defied the will of the people.

Note that even 25-30 years out, the system could still pay about 2/3 of its obligations. So it's not true that it would be bankrupt. But should Bush divert to private accounts the tax dollars specifically earmarked as set asides for Social Security, he'll assure and accelerate a crisis, which at this time is not imminent. And those who'll be left holding the bag are older Americans with little or no time to make up the shortfall. About half of older Americans depend entirely on Social Security. But Bush plans to divert Social Security revenues anyway.

It appears Bush has applied his "unitary" theory of one-branch government to the domestic front. The Congress, the public, and the courts, don't matter. But his way will be ruinous for those depending on Social Security. As reporter Alan Sloan says:

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

That's a maneuver designed to force the collapse of the system.

Read the article here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Negative Frame Label Machine Strikes Again!

The 2008 presidential race is almost two years away and already, the negative frame folks at the RNC are at it with their frame and label makers. I am not going to support Hillary Clinton for President. Of course I'd vote for her over any Republican I can imagine in a match-up scenario. But I think Clinton has been short on spine and long on Bush-lite. Indeed, she's tried so hard to take the high road on numerous occasions, when the opposition would stop at nothing, that she's very nearly smiled herself right out of the tough stance Dems need right now.

But let any Democrat, and especially let any woman, express criticism or outrage over the inept, belligerent, and corrupt leadership in Washington, and you'd think she'd pulled a Rumplestilskin.

Along comes Ken Mehlman, head of the RNC to pull this statement designed to turn off woman, a natural constituency for Hillary: "When you think of the level of anger, I'm not sure it's what Americans want," Mehlman said. Democratic Sen.. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential presidential contender in 2008, "seems to have a lot of anger" and voters usually do not send angry candidates to the White House, the Republican Party chairman said Sunday.

Mehlman cited the New York senator's remarks on Martin Luther King Day in which she called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in history and compared the Republican-controlled House to a plantation where opposing voices are silenced. For telling the truth, Hillary is deemed "angry." Come to think of it, with the glowering, menacing manner of speech George W. Bush favors these days, you know, the his-way-or-the-highway routine, and the same for Dick Cheney, it's they who are angry. They are angry that all of America isn't duped by their incompetence. And so Mehlman's antics are just so much laughable spin. And you know BushCO are in trouble if they have to stoop to this kind of stuff, especially this early.

Worse Than Dickens: I'm Not a Actor in Dickens Stories, but I Play One in Real Life

Last week, columnist Maureen Dowd (Roanoke Times, January 29, 2006) drew an interesting allusion in her column titled "Delusion and illusion worthy of Dickens." Dowd's lament includes not only harsh criticism of Bush, but also the "cowed and colicky Democrats" who roll over and play dead for abusive administration and Republican congressional leaders.

Dowd writes of the Bush fantasy tour driving it's "truckload of lies around the country." And the lies continued Tuesday night. When Bush said he plans to cut dependence on Middle East oil, we are later told he didnd't mean it literally. When Bush signs a bill, he crosses his pinky or makes an I-don't-really-mean-it signing statement which, he thinks, exempts him from the law. This law-unto-himslef is so much more than the "unitary" executive he's claiming. One thing's for sure...

The Bully-in-Chief Doesn't Take No for an Answer. He's not too happy that Congress failed to pass his massive privatization of Social Security, erroneously called "reform" by Bush. You have to hand it to Bush. He's got nerve. If he doesn't win an election, he gets a buddy of his dad's on the Supreme Court to overturn it. And if he doesn't like that his grand scheme for privatizing of Social Security failed, then he keeps pushing. He thinks if he just explains it better to us, we'll see the "wisdom" of his idea. And since he thinks he knows better than we, he goes to town halls all over America to change our minds. He thinks that his road show (with its closed gatherings and planted questions) should change "misguided" Americans' minds. But he lost that fight too. We thought the issue was dead for now. Guess again. He just won't take no for an answer. In the SOTU, there he was dodging his menacing growl at Americans, trying to scare them, even order them into submission. The Bully-in-Chief thinks we'll change or minds, or just give up.

There's no imminent crisis with Social Security. And we know how to fix it in due time. In the 1980s a bipartisan commission studied and made adjustments that will see it through about 2040. The same type of approach is what's needed again when the time comes. But there's no crisis, except in the way Bush mismanages the nation's tax revenues. Neither Bush's bullying, nor his spendthrift ways, nor his cooked books should deceive Americans into buying into a ruinous privatization scheme. Such a plan will help only the buddies of Bush, who own the companies which will profit. The rest of us would be lucky to eat cake. To Bush, Americans are just so many urchins with hands out. That most Americans work harder than he ever has doesn't ever occur to him. He's running the country with long running sessions, abbreviated work days and a record number 9more than any president in history) of days goofing off. He funds his misguided adventures with our money and eats off our dime. He'll have a handy-dandy retirement. The rest of Americans need not apply, even for a paltry Social Security check. Let the real freeloader earn his keep, stop exploiting Americans, and stop biting the hand that feeds him.

Laying the Groundwork for Generational "Warfare"

CBS fired a salvo in the looming generational wars this morning. On CBS's Sunday Morning Show (Read it here.), "Baby Boomers, who hardly can be lumped into one category, found themselves given short and bigoted shrift again. Says reporter Jerry Bowen:

It's the never ending party for the generation that's never stopped celebrating itself. And this year the leading edge of those over-hyped baby boomers are turning 60 at the rate of nearly 8,000 a day.

This story unfolds as one of the more blatant uses of negative framing, I've seen. Boomers were described as all about themselves, lazy, fat, spendthrift, and prone toward "risky" behaviors, even though the Santa Cruz researcher cited actually said only 1/7 of the generation could be described that way. It's as if something like "That 70s Show" was overlaid onto viewers' perception of millions of people. So, 14% was alleged to be "wild" (the researcher's word!). And the other 86% get stiffed with the stereotype. We never did learn about the nature of the research sample, BTW, or how the research was conducted.

We only hear about the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco -- as if that's typical of Main Street USA. Ah, but then Bowen gets to the heart of the matter. He tells us that Boomers created the Red/Blue State divide that still exists (never mind research contradicting the existence of Red/Blue distinctions in the first place).

So, what this is really about is stigmatizing "Blue" boomers. If you believe in reproductive choice, work for peace, or care about other "divisive" issues, CBS projects you as bad, bad, bad. The problem with the reporter's logic is that it's stories like this which create the artificial Red/Blue dichotomy. Boomers grew up and pushed every hot button, we are told. It's not the other way around, that bigotry infested governments of the 60s needed to be shown a better way, or that waging unnecessary wars of aggression (based on lies) isn't the right thing to do. Instead of saying boomers fought for civil rights, for the poor, and helped in communities, we hear nothing but negative. I know that my town wouldn't survive without the hard work of boomers serving on boards and working hard on projects throughout the community. That's not the face America saw on CBS today.

My personal favorite was the claim that all boomers have squandered their "wealth" (the assumption that all boomers had it in the first place is laughable) on -- are you ready for this? -- themselves, in their search for the "fountain of youth." Yesirree, that tube of Renova some use is a capital crime against humanity. Bowen claims "they've spent far more than they've saved." Think about it? That's true for just about everyone. But with a negative frame, Bowen can paint a sinister picture of Boomers. Even disciplined savers don't normally save more than they spend. It costs to live. Those who save 10, 20, 30, or even 40% of their income STILL spend more than they save. It cost to live, so all but the super rich would spend more than they save. No crime there.

The real point of the long, empty diatribe against essentially "Blue" Boomers was to build the not-too-disguised case for pulling the plug on Social Security. (The SOTU speech advocating such was even referenced and linked in the story. ) Bowen makes his case that you should be so disgusted you should pull the plug in pseudo-righteousness. It's a battle between those supporting an "expanded lifestule," after all, versus those who support authority. You wouldn't want those Blue-state type Boomers turning your neighborhood upside down, now, would you (that would be sarcasm)?

It's time to cut the demeaning effort to put tidy, but eroneous, labels on millions of people. Just treat others as we'd want to be treated. Those who pretend this is zero sum game forget that one day it will be their turn to age. It's not us versus them. It never was. It's our job to assure that periodic adjustments and real reform are delivered to stabilize Social Security, so it's there for current recipients and those who come after. A society is only as good as it's treatment of the vulnerable. And it's time stand up to the blatant privateers and their pathetic, vicious stereotypes. It's also time to repudiate reports like that of Jerry Bowen.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Same Characters, Same Opportunistic and Intrusive Snooping Plans

It turns out that some of the same characters tried to snoop on Americans in the 1970s. This calls their current motives into question. Justified eavesdropping on suspected terrorists is one thing. But invading everyone's privacy is quite another. The broad-scale approach is so absurd that if, hypothetically, a person tells a family member that little Johnny or Susie XXXXXX a test or someone who uses the old expression "it's da' XXXX" would fall into the NSA net. We probably should have known this was going on when a woman from Northern Virginia once found herself explaining to the FBI, and reported in various media, when she recalled her child's poor test performance on the phone to someone. FISA was designed to prevent such nonsense. And it should be adhered to. We can keep America safe and protect the Constitution too. It is not an either or proposition, a zero sum game. Read about the historic attempt to invade Americans lives in the 1970s here.

New York Times' David Johnson Revealed New Details on CIA Leak Case

Here's a sample:
Washington - Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff told prosecutors that Mr. Cheney had informed him "in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion" in mid-June 2003 about the identity of the CIA officer at the heart of the leak case, according to a formerly secret legal opinion, parts of which were made public on Friday. Jump to Times story here.

Also see a Washing Post article on the subject here: