Monthly Archives: January 2005

Get It

Let me tell you a story about my grandmother. This is a woman who left home at 19, first member of her family ever to cross the state line. She moved to the city, got an apartment with five other girls, and trained to become a nurse. She worked in what would now be called the neonatal ward of a small Catholic hospital, taking care of babies nobody else wanted. Sick kids, abandoned kids, kids who were dying of illness of varying levels of horror. She did this for years, until she married, at the age of 31.

She moved back to her small home town and kept a house and raised three kids, who came in different flavors of wild and crazy. Her door was always open to her neighbors, her porch had a flagpole and every Fourth of July and Flag Day there was a flag on it. The house was safe haven for anyone and everyone; come on inside and tell Grandma all about it. Her husband worked day in and day out at the factory and was mostly deaf before he died, came home covered in grease and carrying a black lunch box, in dark blue coveralls that smelled like oil. She teased him about the time he spent downstairs in his workshop making toys for his grandkids, about the sawdust smell and the mess, but she loved him and he loved her and they lived like the American dream of living.

And it was hard. The kids got into trouble; the son grew his hair long and went to rock concerts, the youngest daughter ran with a smoking, drinking crowd. Her brother died young, too young, and another sister succumed to demons raging inside her head. But she held her head up and she held her husband’s hand at the hour of his death, and she gave everyone around her the strength to carry on.

You do not want to mess with Grandma. She’s cooked and served bigger meals than you before the sun is fully up in the morning.

MoveOn understands that. Go watch their new ad and give what you can.

We like to shout and call for action here, light the beacons, wait for the answer. We like the battle. But we can’t forget that behind the strategy, behind the posturing and the slogans and the signs, there are reasons why we do this. Reasons we vote and donate and work and write. Social Security isn’t about “winning” or “sticking it to Bush.” It’s about making sure Grandma never has to go hungry, because in her lifetime, she made sure nobody else ever had to, either.

A.

CBO Sends Social Security Into Overtime

From Holden:

Sorry about the sports metaphor, I’m watching basketball at the moment.

The Congressional Budget Office has a new report pushing the break-even date for Social Security back a couple of years.

The Social Security system will take in more money annually than it pays out in benefits until 2020, two years later than earlier estimated, the Congressional Budget Office reported Monday in a modest change unlikely to alter the growing political debate over the program.

Congress’ budget analysts also estimated the program’s trust funds will be depleted in 2052, “meaning that beneficiaries will be able to count on receiving only 78 percent of their scheduled benefits beginning then.

“After the trust funds are exhausted, Social Security spending cannot exceed annual revenues,” the analysts said. “As a consequence … benefits paid will be 22 percent lower than the scheduled benefits.”

It gets better. Guess who will suffer the most under Bush’s plan?

Red-state widows.

[T]he National Women’s Law Center, issued a state-by-state report estimating that benefit cuts for future retirees would fall particularly hard on widows under an option that administration officials are studying.

“Nationally the typical widow receives a benefit of $865 per month, but under the leading privatization plan, the benefit, including the proceeds of the private account, would be only $476 per month,” the group said in an accompanying statement. “This amount is equal to only 65 percent of the poverty line.”

The organization said the average benefit for widows would be lower in Arkansas and North Dakota, two of the states Bush is scheduled to visit in the days after Wednesday’s State of the Union address.

Kraphammer

From Holden:

Atrios’ alter ego has a nice round-up of Charles Krauthammer’s ethical problems at the Post over at Media Matters.

Someone needs to ask Krauthammer if he is on contract to the administration.

The Other American Body Count

From Holden:

Lunaville reports 1,435 U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq since Bush decided he had to invade a country that did not threaten us in order to appear to be a “wartime president” and win re-election. However, many other Americans have been killed and wounded in Iraq without being included in that total.

At least 232 employees of private contractors have been killed in Iraq while working on U.S. military and reconstruction contracts, according to a quarterly report to Congress.

[snip]

It cited Labor Department figures in reporting that U.S contractor deaths rose 93 percent during the fourth quarter of 2004 and said attacks on sites, employees and construction projects averaged 22 per week during the quarterly reporting period ended Jan. 5.

The claims were reported to the Labor Department under the Defense Base Act that requires all U .S. government contractors to acquire workers’ compensation insurance for employees working in Iraq.

The IG report said the number of claims for workers missing more than four days of work because of injuries rose 61.8 percent in the fourth quarter, to a total of 728 claims.

Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

The “Do as I say, not as I do” president.

Q Scott, there’s been talk about the elections in Iraq. Let’s talk about elections here. The Congressional Black Caucus met with the President last week and they said that they asked the President — one congressman, in the last question to the President, asked him about the renewal of the portion of the Voting Rights Act that’s up in 2007. The President said, I don’t want to speak on that, because I don’t know that much about it at this time. The President was asked that in 2000 and he was asked that in this last meeting. And many of these people on the Congressional Black Caucus want to know where he stands as far as minorities and voting in this country, and is he for renewing that portion of the Voting Rights Act that’s up in 2007.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is firmly committed to protecting the voting rights of all Americans. And it’s my understanding that what you’re referring to, when it comes to protecting minority voting rights, that section of the law — and that’s not up for re-authorization — those rights are going to be protected and continue. There is another section of the Voting Rights Act that is up for re-authorization, and that’s in 2006. I think it was a question asked at the very end of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting that the President held here in the Cabinet Room. He was pleased to have them come here and talk about ways we can work together, as well as to listen to some of the agenda items that are at the top of their list. They had a very good discussion. The President wants to continue to look for ways we can work together. And in terms of the re-authorization of that section of the Voting Rights Act, the President said that he would take a look at it and take into consideration the concerns tha

Q This is a two-fold question. One, the President brought together a group of people to study, to reform the elections process in this country. And some people are also saying it’s somewhat hypocritical — you’re talking about democracy in another country, and the success of elections there, but yet you have a faltered system here.

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a what system here?

Q Faltered system here, where minorities go to the polls, they’re intimidated, or votes have to be recounted and recounted, like in Ohio —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think our system is a model for democracy around the world. There are still ways we can — there are still steps we can take to improve our system, and the President has done that in certain ways, too.

[snip]

Q Why has the President had so much to say about democracy and voting rights in Iraq and absolutely nothing to say about voting rights and democracy in the District of Columbia, the capital of the nation in which he serves as President? And isn’t it at least a contradiction, and at most, unbelievably hypocritical, that he’s for democracy in Iraq but he is not for democracy right here in the nation’s capital?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think his views have been well known on the District of Columbia. And I think he’s stated the reasons why the District was created, and his views are well known. There’s nothing to really add to it.

Q If I could follow up. So the President is for the residents of Baghdad to have representation in their national assembly, but the residents of the nation’s capital not to have representation in our national —

MR. McCLELLAN: His views are well known and, no, I don’t draw the same contrast that you are trying to draw.

Q Why don’t you draw — what’s the difference?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve stated our reasons on Iraq, and I’ve stated — and the President has stated his reasons on the District of Columbia. And there’s nothing to add to it.

Federal Judge Slaps Down GITMO Detention Hearings

From Holden:

Another loss for Chimpy’s War on Terra in federal court.

A federal judge here [in Washington, DC] ruled today that the Bush administration has been wrongly blocking terrorism suspects held in Cuba from fighting their detention, and that the review procedure set up to determine whether they are “enemy combatants” is inherently unfair and unconstitutional.

Judge Joyce Hens Green, who has been reviewing claims filed by several dozen detainees at the United States naval base at Guantnamo Bay, said the detainees were clearly entitled under a Supreme Court ruling last June to challenge the basis for their detention, despite administration arguments to the contrary.

“Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years,” Judge Green wrote.

[snip]

Judge Green found that the methods of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, created under orders by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz nine days after the June Supreme Court ruling to decide which prisoners deserved the “enemy combatant” label, were grossly unfair.

Notwithstanding the presence of “personal representatives” to assist the detainees in preparing their claims, “the procedures provided in the C.S.R.T. regulations fail to satisfy constitutional due process requirements in several respects,” Judge Green determined.

Perhaps most fundamentally, Judge Green noted that because the government withholds some evidence as classified, detainees are not entitled to all the material that might bolster their cases.

The frustrations created by these situations illustrate an “inherent lack of fairness” and would be almost comical if they did not deal with such serious matters, she said.

Judge Green noted that the Bush administration had asserted that it has a right to detain prisoners captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere practically indefinitely – that is, until it is determined that they are no longer a threat to the United States, or that the “war on terrorism” is over.

“Indeed, the government cannot even articulate at this moment how it will determine when the war on terrorism has ended,” she wrote. “The government has conceded that the war could last several generations, thereby making it possible, if not likely, that ‘enemy combatants’ will be subject to terms of life imprisonment at Guantnamo Bay.”

Another judge in the same district (a Bush appointee) ruled more narrowly in seven other detainees’ cases, so this one is headed back to the Supremes.

HARRY!

And all I have to say to this is hell yeah, baby, and more where that came from:

I hope President Bush learns a lesson from this. Because while December’s tragedy caught our attention, there are everyday, slow-motion tsunamis of poverty and disease and mass killings engulfing villages and nations all around our world. These places may seem far away from us, but we learned on September 11th that even Manhattan is not an island, that we live on a tiny globe and that the world’s problems have a way of reaching us here at home.

We need to dry up the breeding grounds that produce terrorism before the next generation of bin Ladens arise. Working to bring economic possibility and educational opportunity and basic medicine to places from South America to Western Africa to East Asia isn’t something we do just because we’re selfless. It is very much in America’s long-term self-interest and vital to our national security.

In 1945, at the beginning of another presidential term in another time of war, Franklin Roosevelt ­ as tough a leader in war as America has ever had ­ spoke of the lessons we had learned as a nation. He said, “We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away.” And he said “the only way to have a friend is to be one.”

President Bush…America needs to start making more friends in this world. We certainly have enough enemies.

A.

The Great Iraqi Electoral Joke

From Holden:

Juan Cole calls it like he sees it.

[I]f it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.

With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed “election.” Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.

The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a “joke,” and I stand by that.)

The Time for Diplomacy Is… When?

From Holden:

Despite Condi’s concilliatory opening statement during her confirmation hearing earlier this month, the Bush administration is dead set against using diplomatic means to solve any percieved problems with Iran.

The United States has rebuffed pleas to join a European diplomatic drive to persuade Iran to give up any ambitions to add nuclear bombs to its arsenal, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats say.

For months, Britain, France and Germany have hoped to improve their bargaining power with the Islamic republic by involving Washington in a proposed accord over an end to its uranium enrichment activities.

That effort has intensified since President Bush (news – web sites)’s re-election in November, culminating last week with ministerial visits to Condoleezza Rice (news – web sites) days before she took up her new post as secretary of state, they said.

So far, the Americans show no sign of giving ground.

“It’s what they (the Europeans) have always wanted to do,” a senior Bush administration official said. “(British Foreign Secretary) Jack (Straw) came over hoping Condi would change our policy and she didn’t.”

A senior State Department official said Straw, who visited on Monday, one day before Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer came on a similar mission, outlined European hopes for the negotiations.

[snip]

“The administration is pleased with its policy and sees no reason to change,” said Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has close ties to Iran’s arch-foe Israel.

The stance was a “gamble” that Iran’s hard-line rulers would be overthrown before they acquired a bomb, he said.

On Sunday, Rice told CBS’ Face the Nation: “We really do believe … that this is something that can be dealt with diplomatically. What is needed is unity of purpose, unity of message to the Iranians, that we will not allow them to skirt their international obligations and develop nuclear weapons under cover of civilian nuclear power.”

Her remarks came after the president refused to rule out a military strike and his hard-line vice president said Iran was top of the world’s trouble spots and warned the region’s biggest U.S. ally, Israel, could hit its facilities.

The Last ”Election” Held in Iraq

From Holden:

The last time an “election” was held in Iraq was October 16, 2002. 11,445,638 eligible voters cast ballots that day, 100% of which were tallied in favor of keeping Saddam Hussein in power. As with the election held yesterday, celebrations erupted throughout the streets of Iraq after the 2002 election.

Although the reported 100% support for Hussein is laughably ficticious, the words of one of Saddam’s officials at the time ring true today.

“If the U.S. administration makes a mistake and attacks Iraq, we will fight them,” [Izzat] Ibrahim [vice chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council] said. “If they come, we will fight them in every village, and every house. Every house will be a front, and every Iraqi will have a role in the war.”

The Last “Election” Held in Iraq

From Holden:

The last time an “election” was held in Iraq was October 16, 2002. 11,445,638 eligible voters cast ballots that day, 100% of which were tallied in favor of keeping Saddam Hussein in power. As with the election held yesterday, celebrations erupted throughout the streets of Iraq after the 2002 election.

Although the reported 100% support for Hussein is laughably ficticious, the words of one of Saddam’s officials at the time ring true today.

“If the U.S. administration makes a mistake and attacks Iraq, we will fight them,” [Izzat] Ibrahim [vice chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council] said. “If they come, we will fight them in every village, and every house. Every house will be a front, and every Iraqi will have a role in the war.”

Fatherland Security Search, Part II

From Holden:

Michael Chertoff, Georgie’s lastest bestest nominee as head of Fatherland Security, lied to congress on November 28, 2001. Shouldn’t he be charged with that crime instead of sitting before the same committee as a cabinet nominee?

On Nov. 28, 2001, then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff took a seat before a Senate committee and offered reassurance on two fronts: The Justice Department was unrelenting in pursuit of terrorists. And none of its tactics had trampled the Constitution or federal law.

Every detainee has been charged, Chertoff told the senators. Every detainee has a lawyer. No one is held incommunicado.

“Are we being aggressive and hard-nosed? You bet.” Chertoff leaned into the microphone. “But let me emphasize that every step that we have taken satisfies the Constitution and federal law as it existed both before and after September 11th.”

[snip]

Few questioned Chertoff’s urgency, but his critics contend that he was not candid with the senators, and was perhaps misleading about the nature of the tactics he pursued. The Justice Department ordered the detention of more than 700 Arab and South Asian men for immigration violations, holding them without charges or access to lawyers for an average of three months. Many remained in prison much longer, according to a 2003 report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

Some officials questioned the legality of the detentions, noting that immigration rules entitle detainees to call a lawyer. But the Justice Department ignored such warnings, according to the inspector general.

“Muslim men were rounded up and blocked from getting lawyers, and essentially Chertoff’s testimony to the Senate was a coverup,” said Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has challenged the government’s detention policies.

Department of Damned If He Didn’t Put It Right On The Button

Keith Olbermann. Bow down before him, mortals.

It goes back to the core of the Dobsonian point of view here: the fear of the “pro-Homosexual” agenda. That may be the way he delicately phrases it, but it is not shared by most of his followers who emailed me. They were clearly angry that there was no anti-homosexual agenda.

A.

Department of The Irony Impaired Part 357

In a story about Barbara Boxer:

Republicans say they can work with Feinstein. Her advice and endorsement are courted by Schwarzenegger and others on issues while Boxer, whom they generally despise, is left on the sidelines.

“I don’t think attack dogs are ever useful,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who lost a 1998 GOP primary election for the chance to run against Boxer.

Now, imagine you’re the reporter writing that piece. How in God’s name do you keep a straight face?

A.

How Many More Will Die for Bush’s Sham Election

From Holden:

Rocket hits US embassy in Baghdad, killing two.

Let’s get something straight here. Predicting a disaster and praying for a disaster are two separate things. I anticipate the slaughter to continue in Iraq. As an atheist I do not pray, but I fervently hope for a peaceful election in Iraq. I just don’t think that will happen.

If you were to see a school bus, loaded with children, stuck at a rail crossing with a freight train bearing down on it at 60 miles an hour, would you yell, “Look out! That train is going to hit the bus!”? You might pray that the train would somehow stop in time, but you would still scream your warning.

Here comes the train.

PBS Wusses Out

What a gutless bunch of bastards PBS is these days:

This week, the new US secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, denounced PBS for spending public funds to tape an episode of a children’s program that features Pike, a lesbian, her partner, Gillian Pieper, and their 11-year-old daughter, Emma. The installment of “Postcards From Buster,” which is produced locally at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) and which had been scheduled to air March 23, was promptly dropped by PBS, which is refusing to distribute the footage to its 349 member stations.

“It makes me sick,” said Pike, a 42-year-old photographer in Hinesburg, Vt., who united with Pieper in a civil union in 2001. “I’m actually aghast at the hatred stemming from such an important person in our government. . . . Her first official act was to denounce my family, and to denounce PBS for putting on a program that shows my family as loving, moral, and committed.”

I’ve ranted before about the conservative aversion to seeing anything they don’t like, much less (gasp!) paying for anything they don’t like, but really I think out of all the annoying traits of the modern conservative, it’s the one that makes me the craziest.

These are real people, with real families and issues and ways of living, and they deserve to see their way of life depicted on our public broadcasting system just as much as the average nukular family does.

I want to work up a lot of righteous anger right now, and maybe it’s the hangover, but honestly, it’s just sad. Sad that some people are so insecure in their own ways of living and loving that they can’t spend an hour in the company of an imaginary rabbit telling them about some people somewhere to who do things another way.

A.

I Outed Jeff Gannon Before Outing Him Was Cool

From Holden:

Attacking Talon News/GOP-USA assclown Jeff Gannon is suddenly a cottage industry (here, here, and of course here and here). But Gannon’s whorage is nothing new to the gaggle obsessed. Hell, I even had a nickname for him months ago (“Scottie’s Suppository”).

So let’s take an obsessive stroll down gaggle lane, being careful to step over the little piles Gannon deposited along the way.

Here’s an oldie-but-goodie from July 19, 2004. I was subbing for Atrios at the time when I happened to obsess on this gaggle exchange. Here Gannon gives Little Scottie McClellan the opportunity to revise the official White House position on the 16 State of the Union words, but Scottie did not bite. Watch for Gannon’s minor slap fight with Helen Thomas, too.

Q Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that shows that Ambassador Joe Wilson lied when he said his wife didn’t put him up for the mission to Niger. The British inquiry into their own prewar intelligence yesterday concluded that the President’s 16 words were “well-founded.” Doesn’t Joe Wilson owe the President and America an apology for his deception and his own intelligence failure?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, let me point out that I think those reports speak for themselves on that issue. And I think if you have questions about that, you can direct that to Mr. Wilson.

Q Well, we spent so many weeks here dissecting the 16 words that are now absolutely true. Don’t you think —

Q How do you know that? [that’s Helen Thomas’ question to Buttload Gannon]

Q Excuse me, Helen. Don’t you think that America deserves the opportunity to have this information brought forward, as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I noticed the media reports on this very issue over the weekend.

Q There were very few of them.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I certainly recognize that it was getting a lot of attention previously. But I think the reports speak for themselves on it. Go ahead.

Now turn the calendar forward to August 9th, when I obsessed over this gagglie goodie in which Jeffy tries to provide McClellan with a link between al Qaeda and Saddam. And, again, Scottie was not interested.

Q Thank you. The imam that was arrested in New York last week was discovered because his name appeared in a Rolodex in a terrorist training camp in Iraq before the war. The book was found after, by U.S. troops, but he was in Iraq before the war. Is this another piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and al Qaeda?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, that’s an ongoing investigation. I think the questions related to those particular individuals are best directed to the Department of Justice. And so that’s — I would refer any questions about that investigation to the Department of Justice.

Finally we reach November 9, when I commented on the first full-blown press briefing since August 2.

This one is THE SHIT, as Gannon had the audacity to accuse his fellow press corps members of being…

wait for it…

Partisan!!!

Q Thank you. With all the reaching out that’s going on around here, the President said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the press corps. What did he mean by that, and why would he feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly non-partisan people?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that was a tongue-in-cheek comment that the President made at the beginning of the press conference, and he was showing his outreach efforts by holding that press conference the day after the election was decided.

Q Has he decided to let bygones be bygones —

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, you heard from the President — you heard from the President in the news conference. The media certainly has an important role to play in keeping the American people informed about the decisions that we make here in Washington, D.C.

Q And despite the role that they tried to play, the President won anyhow. Is there some kind of rapprochement that’s going on here?

MR. McCLELLAN: There will be plenty of analysis of the media and critiquing of the media, I’m sure, going forward. And I’ll leave that to others to get into. The President has great respect for the job that the press does.

God DAMN, Denny Hastert Is One Fat Bastard

From Holden:

Bugman, Chimpy and Denny the Meatpuppet.

Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Little Scottie regales us with touching stories about Iraqi’s experiencing democracy – outside of Iraq. Holden illustrates Scotties’ stories with images of Iraqis experiencing democracy within Iraq.

One woman who cast her vote in Jordan said, “I’ve been waiting for this day, I’ve been dreaming of this day to tell my grandchildren that in the first election in the history of Iraq, I was the first woman to vote.”

You had another individual who was in Australia said, “When I look at the ink on my finger, this is a mark of freedom.”

And just one more quote. Another one who held up his ink-stained finger said, “This is a symbol of democracy.”

And one other who said, “This is the first time we can vote with any freedom. I could almost cry.”