Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Deficits Treasury Notes Don't Matter

Treasury Notes are just "pieces of paper"?

Now, you probably think -- some of you may think there's what they call a Social Security trust: the government collects the money for you, we hold it for you, and when you retire, we pay it to you. But that's not how it works. You pay your payroll tax; we pay for the people who have retired, and if there's any money left over, we spend it on government. That's how it works. And what's left is an empty IOU, a piece of paper. Because it's a pay-as-you-go system, when more retirees start retiring, who are living longer, getting paid more, more money starts going out than coming in.

So, I'm calling my bank today, and telling them that I have no more money. Sorry guys, I can't pay you any more, thanks for the loan anyway.

Think that will go over well? No?

Think our "C-" Yalie Preznit ever studied the constitution in school?

XIV. Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.............

Thursday, March 17, 2005

ICAATT (I Can't Add Anything To This)

In his own words:

"I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America."

Jeez, who voted for this Goober? Oh, yeah....sorry, didn't mean to offend you millions of suckers out there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Freedom On The March

Hey, but Saddam was much worse, right?

At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel.

The figure, far higher than any previously disclosed, includes cases investigated by the Army, Navy, CIA and Justice Department. Some 65,000 prisoners have been taken during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although most have been freed.

The Pentagon has never provided comprehensive information on how many prisoners taken during the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have died, and the 108 figure is based on information supplied by Army, Navy and other government officials. It includes deaths attributed to natural causes.

To human rights groups, the deaths form a clear pattern. "Despite the military's own reports of deaths and abuses of detainees in U.S. custody, it is astonishing that our government can still pretend that what is happening is the work of a few rogue soldiers," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "No one at the highest levels of our government has yet been held accountable for the torture and abuse, and that is unacceptable."

To the Pentagon, each death is a distinct case, meriting an investigation but not attributable to any single faulty military policy. Pentagon officials point to a number of military investigations which found that no policy condoned abuse. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. John Skinner said the military has taken steps to reduce the chance of violent uprisings at its prisons and the use of excessive force by soldiers, and also has improved the health care available to prisoners. "The military has dramatically improved detention operations, everything from increased oversight and improved facilities to expanded training and the availability of state-of-the-art medical care," he said in a statement.

Yeah, only 108 persons we imprisoned died. And they were all "bad guys", right? Hey, freedom is on the march, were a shining beacon of democracy.

What, you disagree?

Why, you liberal commie bastard! Off to Gitmo with you, and I hope they string you up by your thumbs, you unAmerican poopiehead!

God Bless the USofA!!!

Ask NOT What Halliburton Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Halliburton!

From ThinkProgress

In 2004, the UN's International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) - the international group that oversees the use of Iraqi money on Iraqi reconstruction - wanted to know more about Halliburton. Specifically, they wanted to conduct an audit of Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root's single-source, oh-so-lucrative Iraq contract, $1.6 billion of which came straight from Iraqi coffers. After much foot dragging, the White House finally complied, sending the IAMB heavily redacted versions of audits the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) had conducted into Halliburton's use of the money.
Blacked out of the redacted report was the fact that Halliburton may have bilked the U.S. military out of about
$100 million. Also blacked out were statements critical of KBR like "KBR was unable to reconcile the proposed costs to its accounting records" and "KBR did not always provide accurate information."

Here's where it gets really interesting. Wondering why the extensive redactions blocked all of the negative findings, the crack researchers in
Rep. Henry Waxman's office looked into the matter. It turns out the White House gave Halliburton a copy of the negative audit and let the company scrub out all of the negative stuff itself before it was sent to the UN group. A letter from KBR dated 9/28/04 to the Army Corps of Engineers states "we have redacted the statements of DCAA that we believe are factually incorrect or misleading and could be used by a competitor to damage KBR’s ability to win and negotiate new work."

This is the GOP's way of brining honesty and integrity back into the White House? What will we tell the children?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Heads, You Lose, Tails..........You Lose

Kos has a post talking about why there was Democratic support for the bankruptcy bill:

Why did we lose so many votes on cloture on such an awful, venal piece of legislation?
It's really a structural matter in terms of who Democrats end up soliciting for campaign donations.

This becomes amplified for vulnerable Democrats who often flock to groups like the New Democrats or Blue Dogs in order to establish their bona fides with the business community in order to secure their seats. Some of these so-called conservative, pro-business Dems are honestly out of step with the party but many are just struggling to field a credible re-elect effort in difficult districts.

Vote against a bankruptcy bill destined to pass anyway (remember, the GOP has its majorities) and you get very little political benefit while losing one of your main sources of election cash. The less cash-on-hand you have heading into the election season, the more likely you are to face a well-funded opponent. So why would a House Democrat vote against the bill? They won't. And while some of you may blame them anyway, that won't jibe with the reality on the ground.

So, it's all about financing your war chest. Fine. Corporate interest/dollars trumps voters again.

If these so-called Democrats want to help the Democratic Party, they will remember that the Party must stand together, or not at all.

And if these co-called "Congressmen of Concience" Democrats want to help America, then they should switch party affiliation. They would help everyone more as "moderate Republicans" than as "centrist Democrats". And if they want to improve their election hopes by not being hit with the "tax-and-spend liberal" brand, just change that "D" to an "R".

Go on, leave now. Your not helping us anyway.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

They Just Don't Get It

Democrats working hard to remain the minority party:

FOR SHAME: This e-mail came in over the transom today from the House New Democrat Coalition. If you consider yourself a moderate Democrat, it should turn your stomach:

Washington, D.C.--With consumer debt reaching record highs of more than $2 trillion, members of the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) sent a letter today to Speaker Dennis Hastert, urging him to schedule House action on the bankruptcy reform legislation as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The letter, signed by twenty NDC members, including the four NDC leaders, reiterates New Democrats' long-standing support for common-sense bankruptcy legislation and states an intention to work across the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law. "I'm pleased to see so many New Democrats band together in calling for a mainstream solution to bankruptcy reform. I hope Speaker Hastert will heed our calls and move promptly to bring this legislation to the floor soon," said Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher."This bankruptcy bill strikes an equitable balance between essential protections and responsible reform necessary to curb abuses of the current code by people with the financial means to pay their debt," stated Rep. Kind. "As champions of both personal and fiscal responsibility, New Democrats supported bankruptcy reform in the past, and we stand ready to adopt this common-sense measure when it comes to the floor of the House.""The bankruptcy legislation needs to be brought to the House floor," said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith. "Personal responsibility is an important value that must be part of our public policy. This legislation ensures that Americans must make good on their commitments while also protecting those who truly need help under Chapter 7 bankruptcy laws.""Bankruptcy is an option that ruins credit and homeownership opportunities for too many Americans," said Rep. Artur Davis. "This legislation will deter bankruptcies that are unnecessary and ill considered, while still permitting a fair second chance for low-to-moderate income consumers who face financial hardship. Individual consumers and businesses will benefit from a more streamlined bankruptcy system."

# # # The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
SpeakerU.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:
We write to encourage you to bring bankruptcy reform legislation to the House floor as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The New Democrat Coalition has backed common sense bankruptcy reform in the past and helped in passing the bankruptcy reform bill by overwhelming margins in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress.

Over the last several years, we have worked to advance reasonable and balanced legislation that would require individuals who have the ability to repay their debts to do so, while preserving the important safety net of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 for those who truly need it. We believe that responsible bankruptcy reform embodies the New Democrat principle of personal responsibility, while at the same time adding important new consumer protections such as requiring enhanced credit card disclosure information and encouraging participation in consumer credit counseling.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner. We stand ready to work with you and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law.
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher
Rep. Adam Smith
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Stephanie Herseth
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Jay Israel
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Diane Hooley
Rep. Melissa Bean
Rep. Jim Davis
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Rep. Ed Case
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Berkeley
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

Poor suckers. They're reaching across the aisle to Republicans who will applaud their efforts to sink their own party unity, and fight to kick them out of office in '06 for being "tax and spend" liberals.

For my part, this sucks all the more 'cause I voted for one of the ones in bold and gave money to 2 others. They taught me - I've got to start looking to other candidates worthy of my votes or money.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More From (Riverbend's) Quagmire

More on the spiraling out-of-control situation in Iraq, from Riverbend:

I don’t understand why Americans are so shocked with this incident. Where is the shock? That Sgrena’s car was under fire? That Americans killed an Italian security agent? After everything that occurred in Iraq- Abu Ghraib, beatings, torture, people detained for months and months, the stealing, the rape… is this latest so very shocking? Or is it shocking because the victims weren’t Iraqi?

I’m really glad she’s home safe but at the same time, the whole situation is somewhat painful. It hurts because thousands of Iraqis have died at American checkpoints or face to face with a tank or Apache and beyond the occasional subtitle on some obscure news channel, no one knows about it and no one cares. It just hurts a little bit.

The event of the week occurred last Wednesday and I was surprised it wasn’t covered by Western press. It’s not that big a deal, but it enraged people in Baghdad and it can also give a better picture of what has been going on with our *heroic* National Guard. There was an explosion on Wednesday in Baghdad and the wounded were all taken to Yarmuk Hospital, one of the larger hospitals in Baghdad. The number of wounded were around 30- most of them National Guard. In the hospital, it was chaos- patients wounded in this latest explosion, patients from other explosions and various patients from gunshot wounds, etc. The doctors were running around everywhere, trying to be in four different places at once.

Apparently, there weren’t enough beds. Many of the wounded were in the hallways and outside of the rooms. The stories vary. One doctor told me that some of the National Guard began screaming at the doctors, telling them to ignore the civilians and tend to the wounds of the Guard. A nurse said that the National Guard who weren’t wounded began pulling civilians out of the beds and replacing them with wounded National Guard. The gist of it is generally the same; the doctors refused the idea of not treating civilians and preferring the National Guard over them and suddenly a fight broke out. The doctors threatened a strike if the National Guard began pulling the civilians out of beds. The National Guard decided the solution to the crisis would be the following- they’d gather up some of the doctors and nurses and beat them in front of the patients. So several doctors were rounded up and attacked by several National Guard (someone said there was liberal use of electric batons and the butts of some Klashnikovs).

The doctors decided to go on strike.

It’s difficult to consider National Guardsmen as heroes with the image of them beating doctors in white gowns in ones head. It’s difficult to see them as anything other than expendable Iraqis with their main mission being securing areas and cities for Americans.

These are the supposedly "professionally trained" Iraqi National Guard troops, trained by us.

I read these passages and believe that, when we do finally leave, we will have left an Iraq that will look more like a Guatemala, or Honduras, or Rhwanda, or any other country where people live in fear of a corrupt, brutal, authoritarian government.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Iraq's Descent Into Quagmire

Shooting of Italian journalist just part of the day-to-day business of occupying Iraq:

The journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, 56, ran into fierce American gunfire that left her with a shrapnel wound to her shoulder and killed the Italian intelligence agent sitting beside her in the rear seat. She had been released only 35 minutes earlier by Iraqi kidnappers who had held her hostage for a month, and the car carrying them to the airport was driving in pitch dark.

But the conditions for the journey, up a road that is considered the most dangerous in Iraq, were broadly the same as those facing all civilian drivers approaching American checkpoints or convoys. American soldiers operate under rules of engagement that give them authority to open fire whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks. Next to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis, judging by their frequent outbursts on the subject.

Daily reports compiled by Western security companies chronicle many incidents in which Iraqis with no apparent connection to the insurgency are killed or wounded by American troops who have opened fire on suspicion that the Iraqis were engaged in a terrorist attack.

For all of the good works we may be trying to do in Iraq, the constant threat to our troops of IED's, mortars, suicide car bombers and snipers have put them in a position of shooting first and asking questions later. The only reason we are hearing about this particular case is that it was a non-Iraqi (in fact, citizens of a coalition ally) that was killed.

Michael Kerr authored a book about Vietnam, which contains the following passage:

A lot of people knew the country could never be won, only destroyed, and they locked into that with breathtaking concentration, no quarter, laying down the seeds of the disease, roundeye fever, until it reached plaque proportions, taking one from every family, a family from every hamlet, and hamlet from every province, until a million had died from it and millions more were left uncentered and lost in their flight from it.

Just like Fallujah. Just like the hundreds of places in Iraq where our troops are, expecting to be attacked from any quarter, ready to shoot at any move deemed suspicious. And where every incident like the one above that claims the life of an innocent Iraqi merely helps to fuel hatred of America and recruit new followers of anti-America terrorism.

Friday, March 04, 2005

More On Making The Message

This is still I think the problem Democrats have: we can't seem to figure out how to simplify our message. Look at last year's party platform: It's 43 pages of many fine words and phrases, but the "actions" are hard to find. We need to simplify the message. The reason we need to do this is not because we think America is too stupid to understand big words, it's just that America is used to associating politicians as being "all words - no actions". We need to create a document that immediately shows the actions we are proposing. We tend to dance away from the harder choices in our platform (abortion, taxes, U.N., etc.) by over-explaining and couching our positions in verbage. To most Americans, that response comes out as "waffling", and weak.

If we feel outlawing abortion is wrong, we need to say it, not run away from it. If we feel taxes need to be raised, say so - we can always point to how the so-called "fiscally conservative" republicans have managed to outspend democratic administrations and overburden America with debt. Our history of being "weak on defense"? Hey, Clinton's military has defeated military forces in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It's the Bush administration that has let our troops down by sending them to occupy a country without adequate battle armor. It's the Bush administration that screwed us into fighting a war based on lies (WMD's my ass!).

It is time for democrats to stop dancing away from our "liberal" image. The so-called "center" of the country's popular opinion has moved to the right - we can only pull it back to the "center" by remaining the "party of the left".

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Social Security, Soundbites, And Jumpin Joe

Having faced a disappointing campaign in 2004, many of us on the left are still wondering about what our party needs to do to win back the "hearts and minds" of the American voter. On one hand, we have talk of turning away from our anti-gun, pro-affirmative action, anti-"confederate navy jack" in order to gain the sothern vote. Mayhap there even be talk of DNC sponsorship of some NASCAR events, or even maybe putting the Donkey on some racecars.

On the other hand, there is the side that says we must hold fast to our values. We stand true to our core beliefs while telling the rest of red states: "Good, Go Ahead, America, Choke on Your Own Vomit, You Deserve to Die."

While my inner beliefs tend to lean toward the latter sentiment, I do believe that we can take America back from the ultra-right, near-comic screechings of the Conservative GOP. We simply need to restructure our message, take out all the lingo, the fine points, the techno jargon and.....simplify.

How do we do this? Well, look to how it was done 10 years ago.

Remember the Republicans' 1994 manifesto: The Contract With America?

Running together on the contract's commitment to eight major congressional reforms on the first day of a new majority and to bring 10 pieces of legislation to the floor for a vote by the end of the first 100 days, the GOP engineered the largest transfer of power in the history of the House of Representatives: The GOP picked up a net of 52 seats on Election Day and, through a series of party switches by congressional Democrats in the weeks after the results were in, added another half dozen to its first majority in 40 years.

Simple promises, basic positions. Agree with the positions or not, at least you knew where they stood on those issues.

The Democrats attempt, "NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE " is....well, it sucks:

PROSPERITY Providing all Americans with the opportunity to succeed and to live a secure and comfortable life, including good jobs here at home, affordable health care, a growing economy with stable prices, investment in new technologies, and fiscal responsibility in government.

NATIONAL SECURITY Guaranteeing military strength second to none, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, building strong diplomatic alliances to protect America's national interests, and collecting timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home by preventing terrorist attacks before they occur.

FAIRNESS Ensuring equal opportunity for all, including affordable health care for everyone, spending Social Security funds only on Social Security and eliminating tax loopholes so that all Americans pay their fair share.

OPPORTUNITY Providing Americans access to the tools to succeed as they choose: a vibrant public education system, accountable to the highest standards for every school and a chance for all children to reach their potential, including an affordable and accessible college education.

COMMUNITY Working together for safe communities free of crime and drugs, supporting local businesses and groups to keep our families safe and our neighborhoods strong, and enforcing our anti-pollution laws to keep our air and water clean and healthy, with polluters paying for the damage they cause.

ACCOUNTABILITY Holding those in power accountable for their actions, acting responsibly for our children by restoring fiscal discipline and eliminating deficit spending with pay-as-you-go-budgets, and requiring real consequences for CEOs and corporations who break the law at the expense of those who play by the rules.

The New Partnership for America's Future is our pledge to the American people to honor these core values. House Democrats are united, focused, and totally committed to taking the bold steps needed to strengthen the middle class that is the heart of our democracy. When House Democrats succeed in November, so will our country.

What's wrong with it? Simple. It doesn't really say anything. All those positions stances sound really great, but what they don't point to any real action. Take the fist position, PROSPERITY.
Providing all Americans with the opportunity to succeed and to live a secure and comfortable life, including good jobs here at home, affordable health care, a growing economy with stable prices, investment in new technologies, and fiscal responsibility in government. ...and improved golf scores, bigger smiles, and easier bowel movements.

Now, try it this way:

PROSPERITY: Democrats propose bringing legistation to the floor within 100 days after the election that will call for annual cost of living increases in the federal minimum wage, affirming our belief that all Americans deserve a fair and decent income.

There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Ok, fine, but let's let Dean take a shot at hit. I believe the good Doctor will probably come up with a better code for us before 2006 (here's hopin').

The whole "on-message thing" is one thing that Democrats can't seem to get their head around; party unity is another. Take Lieberman. Now the good Senator may have personal views favoring privatization, maybe he's against it but just isn't very vocal about it. But Social Security is one of the Democrat's Core Principles (we founded, created, and fought for Social Security). And one of the things a minority party must do is stay unified on their core principles. Any Democrat that does any "reaching across the aisle" at this point is merely destroying party unity and allowing the current GOP to keep steering our country toward their "All Red-America" vision.

Well, that's 2 simple goals for the Democratic Party: Keep It Simple, and Stay Unified. Let's see if they can learn it in 2 years.