Monday, January 31, 2005

Federal Judge Rules Against Guantanamo Confinements

From NBC News this afternoon....

"A federal judge ruled Monday that some foreign terror suspects held in Cuba can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts and she criticized the Bush administration for holding hundreds of people indefinitely as 'enemy combatants,' saying that doing so unconstitutionally violates their right to due process.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green, handling claims filed by more than 50 detainees, said the U.S. Supreme Court made clear last year that the prisoners have constitutional rights that lower courts should enforce.

'The petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process of law,' Green wrote in her 75-page opinion (requires Adobe Acrobat)."

At last, thank God. My only question is....what took our judicial system so long?

Slavery Is Alive & Well Under Bush Immigration Plan

From a New York Times editorial today, "An Update on Corporate Slavery"....

"Investors who visit the J. P. Morgan Chase Web site these days are finding more than the usual corporate news. The bank has posted a letter of apology and the results of an eye-opening research project, which found that two of its predecessor banks had participated in the slave trade, accepting about 13,000 enslaved people as collateral for loans issued in Louisiana in the mid-19th century. When the borrowers defaulted on their loans, the banks took ownership of some slaves and presumably sold them.

J. P. Morgan, which in addition to apologizing set up a scholarship fund for African-Americans in Louisiana, carried out this research to comply with a Chicago ordinance that requires companies doing business with the city government to divulge any links to slavery. A similar statute covers insurance companies operating in California, where several of the country's largest insurers have divulged links to slavery. These disclosures are exposing 18th- and 19th-century Northern businesses that sought to profit from the slave trade even after slavery had been outlawed in the North. "

Corporate Slavery has been abolished? Have you read the Bush administration's new immigration "reform" ideas? If enacted as he proposes, George Bush's immigration reforms amount to a new form of legalized Corporate Slavery.

Briefly, he proposes that undocumented immigrant workers (i.e. illegal aliens) be allowed to work in the US for up to six years, and then they must leave the US. They may only labor in jobs disdained by US workers, according to the employers. These undocumented workers receive "guaranteed wage and employment rights," not yet specified by the Bush administration, but presumably less than minimum wage levels and federal labor law requirements.

These immigrant workers don't actually earn the right to migrate here. They don't earn the right to establish a educate their children, to have access to health services, to establish permanent homes for their families, to be part of a community.

This is not an immigration proposal. This is merely a proposal to ensure businesses a steady and renewable source of very cheap labor to do their dirtiest jobs. Nothing more. Said US Senator Joe Lieberman to CNN this month, "George Bush's plan leaves foreign workers as fodder for our fields and factories, without giving them a path to legalization and a fair share of the American dream."

And, of course, the Bush proposal serves the larger, business-friendly purpose of depressing wages paid by the marketplace. American workers won't take the jobs because they're under minimum wage, and that's illegal. American workers won't take the jobs because the working conditions are often detestable and dangerous. American workers won't take the jobs because the employers ignore federal and state labor laws.

George Bush's immigration "reform" ideas benefit just one constituency: American businesses looking to circumvent labor law by exploiting poverty-level, powerless workers, then throwing them away and replacing them with newer, younger workers after six years. All and only for greater business profits.

Sounds to me like an updated version of Corporate Slavery. Cesar Chavez must be turning over in his grave.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Pentagon Says Veterans' Benefits Hurtful to National Security

You just have to read this shameful story to believe it.

Excerpts from a article by Joel Wendland. Read the entire piece at Democratic Underground.
During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal (1-25-05), Pentagon official David Chu, in a mockery of the contribution of veterans, defended a new round of cuts by ironically describing funding for programs like veterans' education and job training, health care, pensions, Veterans Administration (VA) housing and the like as "hurtful" to national security.

Despite Republican pretense that spending increases for the VA budget under the Bush administration have been large, new spending has neither matched inflation over the same period, nor does it keep pace with growing need.

For example, as private sector health care costs skyrocket, veterans are turning more and more to the military's health insurance program, Tricare. Retired service members account for half of the people covered by Tricare, whereas just five years ago they accounted for only 40 percent. The Bush administration wants to find ways to stem this tide - none of which have anything to do with keeping private sector insurance affordable.

The slow rate of VA spending growth enforced by Bush and the congressional Republicans over the last four years won't cover growing deferred benefits, such as education, housing, retirement, health care and so on, promised to current service members or that are supposed to be available for new enlistees.

Slow spending growth isn't even the biggest immediate problem for vets. In the last two years, Bush ordered the closing of several VA hospitals in different parts of the country, pushing waiting lists for medical services for veterans as high as six months for about 230,000 vets. These closings followed in the wake of the congressional Republican's concerted drive in 2003 to cut $15 billion from VA spending over the next ten years.

And, since his razor-thin victory over Senator Kerry and his claim of "political capital" to rule as he sees fit, President Bush, according to an Associated Press story about a leaked White House Budget Office memo, plans to slash veterans' health care benefits by over $900 million and veteran's housing programs by $50 million in 2005 alone....

In fact the Republicans are so desperate to cut veterans' benefits they have started attacking fellow Republicans who want to preserve current benefit levels. The Wall Street Journal reports that "the House Republican leadership took the unusual step of stripping New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith of his chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee" for pushing "so aggressively for veterans benefits that he at times threatened to oppose their spending plans - and President Bush's - unless more retiree benefits were included."....

These "compassionate conservatives" want to force American taxpayers to choose between the GOP's vision of "national security" and taking care of the people who have provided that national security. While the Republicans would like to see tax dollars handed over to the big defense that fund their election campaigns contractors - their version of an "entitlement program" - they will also have to deal with the 28 million people who sacrificed their time and lives in the US military....

The Republicans' effort to cut veterans' benefits is just another sign of their callous attitude to the vast majority of people in this country. They feel that the very rich are entitled to hundreds of billions in tax cuts, but do not feel the least twinge of guilt in forcing veterans to forego the benefits and services promised in return for their sacrifices.

Opponents of Bush's war know that it has undermined national security making Americans the target of terrorism more than ever before. But Bush wants you to believe that the real threats to national security are retired veterans who need food, shelter, and medical care.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Bush Plays the Social Security Race Card

A must-read New York Times op-ed today, "Little Black Lies" by PAUL KRUGMAN . Invest a few minutes to read its entirety here. The first few paragraphs sum it up well....

"Social Security privatization really is like tax cuts, or the Iraq war: the administration keeps on coming up with new rationales, but the plan remains the same. President Bush's claim that we must privatize Social Security to avert an imminent crisis has evidently fallen flat. So now he's playing the race card.

This week, in a closed meeting with African-Americans, Mr. Bush asserted that Social Security was a bad deal for their race, repeating his earlier claim that African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people.'

In other words, blacks don't live long enough to collect their fair share of benefits. This isn't a new argument; privatizers have been making it for years. But the claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Mr. Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve.

Let's start with the facts. Mr. Bush's argument goes back at least seven years, to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation - a report so badly misleading that the deputy chief actuary (now the chief actuary) of the Social Security Administration wrote a memo pointing out 'major errors in the methodology.' That's actuary-speak for "damned lies."

In fact, the actuary said, 'careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security' as whites. "

Announcement - I've Got a New, Additional Gig

All that special work I've been immersed in the last few weeks was not for naught......I got a new gig. After an extensive "try-out," I've accepted the position of Editor/Guide to US Liberal Politics at

My site will go live in about 2 weeks, after I get a boatload more work done on it. My site will explain liberal viewpoints on all major national issues, and will exclusively feature interesting profiles and interviews with longtime and emerging liberal leaders, activists, opinion-makers and more. (I'll be sending out a weekly newsletter on Tuesdays, so be sure to sign up for it.)

Heart, Soul & Humor will continue to publish my outspoken opinion pieces, as it always has. These two sites will be complementary and will be linked together. To read my body of work, you may want to visit both sites.

I'm now part of the press. I'll be accepting pay only from I'll also be maintaining a blog at, so I'll be considered a professional, as versus amateur, blogger....which means I can't compete in some of the cool awards contests in the blogosphere.

I'll make the announcement here when my new site goes live. I truly look forward to bringing you more clarity on US politics in a colorful, interesting, accessible manner.

Thank you for your loyal readership. I am grateful.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Surrealistic Dick Cheney

I can't resist posting excerpts from this richly ironic, unimaginably hypocritical article from AP today....."Cheney: Holocaust Is Reminder of Evil in World" (Mr. Cheney's words are highlighted.)

I saw a brief clip of Cheney saying these words. It was surrealistic, to say the least. Seriously surrealistic.
OSWIECIM, Poland — Vice President Dick Cheney remembered the Holocaust on today, saying that the mass murder that went unanswered until Nazi death camps were liberated exactly 60 years ago is a reminder that evil must be faced down in the world today.

"The story of the camps remind us that evil is real and must be called by its name and must be confronted," Cheney said at a forum in Krakow, where he spoke before attending an anniversary program at the concentration camps here. "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."....

Aging Holocaust survivors, some wearing tags displaying their prison number, huddled under blankets at the outdoor ceremony to ward off heavy, blowing snow and freezing temperatures. Cheney, wearing a heavy olive parka with a white fur-edged hood, sat between his wife, Lynne, and Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, who in his remarks, given in Hebrew, said, "It seems as if we can still hear the dead crying out."....

"On this day in 1945, inside a prison for the innocent, liberators arrived and looked into the faces of thousands near death — while miles beyond the camp, many thousands more were being led on a death march in the winter cold," Cheney said in his remarks earlier in the day.

"Inside barbed wire and behind high walls, soldiers found baths that were not baths, hospitals meant not to heal but to kill and the belongings of hundreds of thousands who had vanished." He reminded his listeners, many of them young people, that the cruelty of the death camps did not happen in a faraway corner of the world, but in the "very heart of the civilized world."

"The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves — some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners — but without conscience," he said. "And where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance toward others ... no defense against evil ... and no limit to the crimes that follow."

Uhhhh...Mr Cheney? What about Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo? All those other torture, humiliation and even murder charges?

Mr Cheney, you don't see a connection?


Barbara Boxer Letter - Making Our Voices Heard

It's a great feeling that some Democratic leaders now understand that millions of good Americans are angry and frustrated over the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice War in Iraq, and that those Americans feel voiceless and powerless. Finally...a few Democratic leaders are courageously representing the voiceless by voicing objections to this deadly debacle.
From Senator Barbara Boxer today....

Dear Deborah,
I can't thank you enough for all of your effective work during the recent debate over Condoleezza Rice's nomination as Secretary of State. Your support means so much to me. More than 94,000 Americans from across the country signed my petition and stood together to demand the truth from Condoleezza Rice. It was truly an overwhelming response -- much more than I could have anticipated.

And you made a difference. You gave me the voice I needed to ask the tough questions during the Foreign Relations Committee's confirmation hearings. And you gave the entire United States Senate the voice it needed to take its "advice and consent" responsibility seriously. In fact, Condoleezza Rice received 13 votes against her confirmation -- the most votes against any Secretary of State's nomination since 1825.

Two weeks ago, who would have thought that Condoleezza Rice's nomination would allow us to have a full debate about our policy in Iraq? Who would have thought that we'd have the chance to truly expose all of the misstatements and misjudgments that led us into that conflict and continue to plague this Administration to this very day?

The Republican Senate leadership intended to easily approve Dr. Rice's nomination in a routine voice vote last Thursday afternoon, after President Bush's Inauguration and before the Inaugural balls got into full swing.

But you didn't let them ram this nomination through the Senate. You forced the Republican leadership to give us the debate we wanted on the floor of the United States Senate, and you gave us the opportunity we desperately needed to hold Dr. Rice and the Bush Administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism.

The American people deserved no less.

As you and I both know, this is just one more of the many battles we'll be having as we fight for our nation's future. So I ask you to stick with me -- we're going to need to work together to make our voices heard and build a better America.

I look forward to standing with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In Friendship,
Barbara Boxer

U.S. Senator

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Send Bush Back to Energy 101 Class

From Common Dreams today.....48 Groups Refute President's Claim That Nuclear Energy Is " A Renewable Source of Energy"
"In a short letter sent today to the White House, nearly 50 environmental, business, anti-nuclear, sustainable energy, and energy policy organizations disputed a recent statement by President Bush that nuclear power is a 'renewable source of energy.'

The groups said simply that nuclear power, and 'for that matter, oil, coal, and natural gas,' are not renewable sources of energy but instead are 'environmentally polluting and non-renewable.' They added that the primary forms of renewable energy are "biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind."

The full text of the letter and list of signing organizations follows.
January 26, 2005

President George W. Bush
The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W.Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, you were quoted as saying that nuclear power "is a renewable source of energy."

Please be advised that nuclear power is not a renewable source of energy. For that matter, oil, coal, and natural gas are also not renewable sources of energy. Nuclear power and fossil fuels are environmentally polluting and non-renewable sources of energy.

The primary renewable sources of energy are biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind.

3EStrategies(Cylvia Hayes, Executive Director)
Alliance for Affordable Energy(Micah Walker Parkin)
Arizona Solar Center, Inc.(Daniel Peter Aiello, Chair)
Arizona Solar Energy Association(Chuck Skidmore)
Bob Lawrence & Associations(Bob Lawrence, President)
Burlington Electric Department(Mary Sullivan, Communications Coordinator)
Chesapeake Climate Action Network(Mike Tidwell, Director)
Citizen Power(David Hughes, Executive Director)
Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin(Charlie Higley, Executive Director)
Clean Air Council(Thurman Brendlinger)
Colorado Energy Group(George Burmeister)
Colorado Renewable Energy Society(Kimberly Peterson, Secretary)
Donald Aitken Associates(Donald W. Aitken, Ph.D.)
EORenew (Eastern Oregon Renewable Energies Non-profit) (Jennifer Barker)
Eco Living Fellowship, Inc.(Dr. Michael Skelly, Sr., President)
Energy Innovation(Steve Chadima)
Environmental Resources Trust(Alden Hathaway - Director, EcoPower Programs)
Friends of the Earth(Erich Pica)
Global Green U.S.A.(Matt Petersen)
Global Possibilities(Casey Coates Danson, President/Founder; Carolyn Ward, Managing Director)
Greenpeace(John Coequyt, Jim Riccio, Nuclear Policy Analyst),
Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA)(Rick Reed, President)
Local Government Commission(Judy Corbett)
Local 103 I.B.E.W.(Martin E. Aikens, Business Agent)
Maine Solar Energy Association(Richard Komp PhD. President)
Mainstay Energy(Hoyt Hudson, CEO)
MD-DC-VA Solar Energy Industries Association(Peter Lowenthal)
Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy(J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director)
North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association(Richard/Lonna Harkrader)
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships(Susan E. Coakley, Executive Director)
Northwest Energy Coalition(Nancy Hirsh)
Nuclear Information & Resource Service(Michael Mariotte)
Quality Solar(Claudia Wentworth)
Redwood Alliance(Michael Welch)
Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI)(Gordian Raacke)
RENEW Wisconsin(Michael Vickerman, Executive Director)
San Luis Sustainability Group Architects(Ken Haggard)
Solar Energy International (SEI)(Johnny Weiss, Executive Director)
The Stella Group, Ltd.(Scott Sklar, President),(Rona Fried)
Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition (Karen Hadden, Executive Director)
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation(Beth Sachs)
Voices Opposed To Environmental Racism(Donald Keesing)
The Vote Solar Initiative(David Hochschild)
Windustry(Lisa Daniels, Executive Director)
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation(Janet Brandt, Executive Director)
Wisconsin Green Building Alliance(Constance A. Lindholm, Executive Director)
Women in Sustainable Energy (WISE)(Kimberly Peterson)

The Simple Facts of Social Security

The war of words over President Bush’s ideas to “reform” Social Security has filled the airwaves, newspapers and cyberspace for months. Americans struggle to separate fact from fiction as politicians, economists, lobbyists and interest groups all weigh in with their version of Social Security “truth.”

I pulled on my boots, and waded through the Social Security swamp of rhetoric hype and political mud on a search for the hard facts. The following information is presented in simplified form, so that we can all finally understand the issues.

These are the simple, truthful facts of Social Security today:

Fact – Social Security is entirely solvent and will pay full benefits at least through 2042. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security can pay all benefits through 2052 with no changes whatsoever.

Fact – Today, the Social Security trust fund has accumulated a surplus of more than $1.5 trillion. That occurred because the fund collected more in payroll taxes from our paychecks than it paid out in benefit checks.

Fact – 48 million Americans now receive monthly Social Security checks. Of those, 38% are the disabled, and widows and their children. The remainder are retirees. More than 5 million children receive part of their family income from Social Security.

Fact – The current US Social Security program is a model of financial efficiency both for the government and for banks and businesses, in that 99% of all payroll taxes paid into the trust fund are paid out as benefits. Administrative overhead to run the program is only 1% of all monies paid in by us.

Fact – In 2018 at earliest, monthly benefit checks sent out will be higher than the monthly payroll taxes collected by the Social Security trust fund. However, the surplus will keep growing until 2028 because of the interest that the Social Security trust fund earns in US Treasury Bonds.

Fact – If nothing at all is done to “reform” social security, it will still be able to pay 70% of full benefits after 2042, at worst case.

Fact – In 75 years at the earliest, if nothing at all is done to “reform” Social Security, it could run a deficit of up to $3.7 trillion. Not $10 trillion.

Fact – Payroll taxes (called FICA) are now withheld from US workers’ paychecks on the first $87,900 of their annual incomes. That means that if a person earns $300,000 a year, he pays exactly the same FICA as the person who earns $87,900 a year. (This is called a payroll tax cap, because it’s capped at $87,900.)

Fact – If the payroll tax cap was raised to $150,000 per year, there would be no Social Security funding gap for more than 100 years.

Fact – When President Bush states that he will not raise taxes to “reform” Social Security, that means he will not ask the wealthy to pay more because he refuses to raise the payroll tax cap.

Fact – President Bush proposes that Americans be allowed to invest part of their payroll taxes into private saving accounts that would be invested in stocks. These accounts are like 401(K) accounts. This is called “privatization.”

Fact – By diverting payroll taxes away from being paid to the Social Security trust fund, Social Security would no longer be able to pay full benefits. Benefit cuts would range from about 15% to 46%. Many economists project that diverting payroll taxes way from the trust fund will result in the phasing out altogether of Social Security.

Fact – President Bush says the initial cost to American taxpayers for privatizing Social Security will be $2 trillion.

Fact – Privatized accounts will be reduced even more, as much as 20% to 30% by fees charged by investment bankers, trustees and account administrators. This occurred in Great Britain, Chile and other countries that adopted privatization. In both Great Britain and Chile, privatizing Social Security has been judged a failure because retirees’ benefits were greatly decreased.

Fact – The Security Industry Assn recently wrote in a research paper that its member firms will collect at least $39 billion in fees over 75 years from privatized accounts. This $39 billion will be taken directly out of retirees’ retirement funds.

Fact – The President’s privatization proposals are not intended to and are unable to “fix” any shortages in the Social Security trust fund.

The real truth is that conservatives have historically detested and attempted to undermine Social Security since Franklin Roosevelt established it in the dark days of the Depression. Conservatives derided it then, and they do now, as an entitlement, akin to welfare. They forget that Americans PAY for their benefits.

Final Fact – Liberals believe that Social Security should not be privatized. There are many excellent, modest proposals to shore up Social Security long-term, that involve raising payroll taxes and/or minor benefits cuts decades from now. (And those proposals don’t cost $2 trillion.)

Until then, liberals see no reason to “reform” or “fix” a reliable, trustworthy system that’s not broken. LIberals see no reason to jeopardize the security of our nation's retirees.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No on Alberto Gonzales

Petition at MyKos, that I have signed....

I urge each of you to contact your US Senators to vote NO on the nomination o Alberto Gonzales to be US Attorney General and head of the US Justice system. Torture is not, and is never, acceptable.

"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Convention, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint.'

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: 'After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.' We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching."

Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law? With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him. "

Emperor George and Sidekick Condi Wear No Clothes

Today, US Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Mark Layton of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois and more spoke out, loud and clear, as patriots who love...deeply love... their country.

In opposing the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary State, the senators bravely stood up against slanderous White House pressure to speak out for truth and humanity, against torture and unauthorized war, against the deadly American-generated War in Iraq, against tunnel-vision leaders who mislead and contradict and flatly lie.

At last....a few leaders are publicly proclaiming that Emperor George, and sidekick Condi, are wearing no foreign policy clothes.

Better late than never. We do have Democratic leaders.....

Thank God.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Ten Worst Corporations of 2004

From Common Dreams....."The 10 Worst Corporations of 2004" by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. To affect these companies, we should avoid supporting their businesses as much as possible.
"When the Multinational Monitor judges gather to pick the 10 worst corporations of the year, one of their instructions is: name no companies that appeared on the previous year's list (barring extraordinary circumstances).

For the 2004 list, that means no Bayer (even though in 2004 the company pushed for import of genetically modified rice into the European Union, polluted water in a South African town with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, and was hit with evidence that its pain medication Aleve (naproxen) increases the risk of heart attack, among other egregious acts), no Boeing (despite new evidence that the tanker plane scandal costing U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars is even worse than it appeared), no Clear Channel (even though the radio behemoth in 2004 stooped to new lows with a "Breast Christmas Ever" contest that promised to pay for breast implants for a dozen contest "winners"), and no Halliburton (embroiled in a whole new set of contracting fraud and bribery charges in 2004).

But at least the no-repeat rule helps limit the field a bit. And there remained plenty of worthy candidates.

Of the remaining pool of price gougers, polluters, union-busters, dictator-coddlers, fraudsters, poisoners, deceivers and general miscreants, we chose the following -- presented in alphabetical order -- as the 10 Worst Corporations of 2004 [full text available at]:

Abbott Laboratories: Abbott makes the list for raising the price of Norvir, an important AIDS drug, developed with a major infusion of U.S. government funds, by 400 percent. The price increase doesn't apply if Norvir is purchased in conjunction with another Abbott drug, giving Abbott an unfair advantage over competitors and tilting consumers to use the Abbott products on the basis of price.

AIG: The world's largest insurer, American International Group Inc. (AIG) was charged in October with aiding and abetting PNC Financial Services in a fraudulent transaction to transfer $750 million in mostly troubled loans and venture capital investments from subsidiaries off of its books. AIG agreed to pay $126 million to resolve the charges, but it got off light, entering into a "deferred prosecution agreement" -- meaning the charges against the company will be dropped in 12 months time if it abides by the terms of the agreement.

Coca-Cola: Workers at the Coke bottling plant in Colombia have been terrorized for years by right-wing paramilitary forces. A fact-finding mission headed by a New York City Council member found, among other abuses, "there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured." Coke says it opposes the anti-union violence and in any case that it hasn't had control of the bottling plant (though it does now, after purchasing the Colombian bottling company). Coke's former general counsel, and the former assistant U.S. attorney general, Deval Patrick, resigned in 2004, reportedly in part because Coke refused to support an independent investigation into the Colombia allegations.

Dow Chemical: The world's largest plastic maker, Dow purchased Union Carbide in 1999. At midnight on December 2, 1984, 27 tons of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, immediately killing an estimated 8,000 people and poisoning thousands of others. Today in Bhopal, at least 150,000 people, including children born to parents who survived the disaster, are suffering from exposure-related health effects such as cancer, neurological damage, chaotic menstrual cycles and mental illness. Dow refuses to take any responsibility. In a statement, the company says, "Although Dow never owned nor operated the plant, we -- along with the rest of industry -- have learned from this tragic event, and we have tried to do all we can to assure that similar incidents never happen again."

GlaxoSmithKline: Following revelations and regulatory action in the UK in 2003 and 2004, the story of the severe side effects from Glaxo's Paxil (as well as other drugs in the same family) -- notably that they are addictive and lead to increased suicidality in youth -- finally broke in the United States in 2004. In June, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against Glaxo, charging the giant drug maker with suppressing evidence of Paxil's harm to children, and misleading physicians. Glaxo denied the charges, but agreed to a new system whereby it would make public results all of its clinical trials. In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Glaxo and makers of drugs in Paxil's class to include a "black box" warning -- the agency's strongest -- with their pills.

Hardee's: The fast-food maker is bragging about how unhealthy is its latest culinary invention, the Monster Thickburger: "First there were burgers. Then there were Thickburgers. Now Hardee's is introducing the mother of all burgers -- the Monster Thickburger. Weighing in at two-thirds of a pound, this 100 percent Angus beef burger is a monument to decadence." The Monster Thickburger is a 1,420-calorie sandwich. Eating one Thickburger is like eating two Big Macs or five McDonald's hamburgers. Add 600 calories worth of Hardee's fries and you get more than the 2,000 calories that many people should eat in a whole day, according to Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which calls the Thickburger "food porn."

Merck: Dr. David Graham, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug safety official, calls it "maybe the single greatest drug-safety catastrophe in the history of this country." Testifying before a Senate committee in November, Dr. David Graham put the number in the United States who had suffered heart attacks or stroke as result of taking the arthritis drug Vioxx in the range of 88,000 to 139,000. As many as 40 percent of these people, or about 35,000-55,000, died as a result, Graham said. The unacceptable cardiovascular risks of Vioxx were evident as early as 2000 -- a full four years before the drug was finally withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer, Merck, according to a study released by The Lancet, the British medical journal. Merck says it disclosed all relevant evidence on Vioxx safety as soon as it acquired it, and pulled the drug as soon as it saw conclusive evidence of the drug's dangers.

McWane: McWane Inc. is a large, privately held Alabama-based sewer and water pipe manufacturer. In a devastating series, the New York Times revealed the company's egregious safety record, and the utter failure of regulatory agencies to control the company's workplace violence. Nine McWane employees have lost their lives in workplace accidents since 1995 -- and three of the deaths were the result of deliberate company violations of safety standards. More than 4,600 injuries were recorded among the company's 5,000 employees. According to the Times, McWane pulled the wool over the eyes of investigators by stalling them at the factory gates, and then hiding defective equipment. Accident sites were altered before investigators could inspect them, in violation of federal rules. When government enforcement officials did find serious violations, the Times reported, "the punishment meted out by the federal government was so minimal that McWane could treat it as simply a cost of doing business."

Riggs Bank: An explosive report from the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, issued in July, revealed that the Washington, D.C.-based Riggs Bank illegally operated bank accounts for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and routinely ignored evidence of corrupt practices in managing more than 60 accounts for the government of Equatorial Guinea. Although these and other activities seem to violate U.S. banking rules, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) did not take enforcement action against the bank after it learned of these matters in 2002. That presumably was not unrelated to the fact that the OCC examiner at Riggs soon thereafter went to work for Riggs. In May 2004, the bank paid $25 million in fines in connection with money-laundering violations related to the Equatorial Guinea and Saudi Arabian governments, and it is the subject of ongoing federal criminal investigations.

Wal-Mart: While Wal-Mart is presently on a bit of a public relations defensive, the company remains the colossus of U.S. -- and increasingly global -- retailing. It registers more than a quarter trillion dollars in sales. Its revenues account for 2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. For two years running, Fortune has named Wal-Mart the most admired company in America. It is arguably the defining company of the present era. A key component -- arguably the key component -- of the company's business model is undercompensating employees and externalizing costs on to society. A February 2004 report issued by Representative George Miller, D-California, tabulated some of those costs. The report estimated that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in a cost to federal taxpayers of $420,750 per year -- about $2,103 per employee. These public costs include free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families, Section 8 housing assistance, federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, and federal contributions to health insurance programs for low-income children.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, , and counsel for Essential Inventions, a nonprofit involved in the pricing dispute discussed in the Abbott profile. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

Abortion Is the New Prohibition: A Plea to Democrats

To mark the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme court, I republish a lightly edited version of my November 29, 2004 piece, "Abortion Is the New Prohibition: A Plea to Democrats."

My thanks to fellow blogger, John Ballard, for reminding me of it on this auspicious occasion.
Abortion is the new prohibition.

Anti-abortion zealots hold extremist positions on "immorality" that rival the fierce determination of US prohibitionists from 1900 to 1920. Ultra-conservative Protestants Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are the new Carry Nations. The Moral Majority Coalition and Focus on the Family are the new Woman's Christian Temperance Unions.

Moderates, Independents and Democrats, take note.....the abortion issue will not go away. The religious right has flatly declared abortion a "non-negotiable issue." Abortion will not be negotiated away, and it will not be given a lower priority than any other issue.

The line has been drawn in the proverbial sand. And the Republican majority has shown that it's perfectly content to throw the baby out with the bathwater over this issue.

The crippling federal trade deficit and runaway non-budget be damned. The disgraceful, deadly Iraq War be damned. The 45 million Americans without healthcare insurance be damned. The under funded, failing US educational system be damned. The shameless dishonesty and corruptness of this administration be damned. The willful desecration of the environment for more profits be damned.

It's no longer about the economy, stupid. It's about abortion.

However................Democrats need to get real about abortion. Abortion is all and only about terminating life, just like drinking is about...well, getting drunk. Carry Nation and her Woman's Christian Temperance Union were never wrong about alcohol. She was incredibly overzealous, but not wrong.

Democrats, brace yourself for my next statement. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson are also not wrong about abortion....and in our hearts, we all know it. They're not wrong....just ridiculously overzealous. (Sure, they're big-time hypocrites about being "pro-life", but that doesn't make them wrong about abortion.)

The difference between temperance and abortion prohibitionists is that drinking is not illegal. Drunk driving, of course, is illegal, as it could harm another person. Likewise, reckless sexual behavior is not illegal, but under current US laws, killing of human life is illegal.

That is, except for Roe v. Wade, which made all abortions legal, without question or exception. All pregnancies may legally be terminated at any time prior to birth for no valid reason whatsoever. Period.

Pastors and priests rightfully rage against the US "holocaust of babies" since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Experts estimate that an astounding 40 million abortions have been performed in the US since the Roe v. Wade became law. Most believers of all religions are appalled, and are determined to end the abuse of abortion.

The pendulum for abortion has rested at the extreme permissive end of the spectrum for 30 years. It's inevitable that the pendulum will, and should, swing back to a more balanced interpretation of a woman's private right to have an abortion, within the existing framework of our country's laws regarding termination of God-given life.

The danger is that right-wing radicals and the self-appointed morals police have 30 years of pent-up frustration over this volatile issue, and they can be a vindictive bunch.

In 1895, a group of conservative Protestant women founded the Woman's Christian Temperance Union to combat extreme excesses of alcohol consumption of their times. Alcohol-related deaths were at an all-time high, partly due to the introduction of automobiles. Beer, wine and hard liquor, not human behavior, was blamed by reformers for poverty, health problems, work productivity and even the neglect of family by husbands.

Their movement to control private, personal behavior in a free democracy caught the imagination of the American pulpit and public. The 18th amendment to the Constitution became law in 1920. It was repealed in 1933, the only amendment ever considered to be a grave error.

Democrats, the same will occur with abortion if compromises aren't soon made to limit abortions permitted under Roe v. Wade. Abortion under all circumstances will be completely banned if compromises are not now...right now... made to greatly modify Roe v. Wade.

Yes, there are rare, legitimate reasons for first trimester abortions. Rape, incest, the life of the mother is in peril, very extraordinary disabilities of the unborn baby. But abortion is commonly now used as after-the-fact birth control. Most US abortions are performed to mitigate irresponsible behavior and dispose of inconvenient children.

The Democratic Party presently celebrates abortion as if it's a life-affirming act. It's unimaginable political insanity to believe such a negative message will attract middle class, church-going voters.

Reality is that abortion is a grim medical procedure designed to efficiently end the life of a child. Most compassionate, common sense people believe that there are, indeed, limited occasions when abortion is the appropriate course of action....sad and necessary. But routine, freely available abortions are hardly a reason for celebration or form the basis of a successful national political platform.

The next Democratic candidate duly elected to the US Presidency will not embrace a wholehearted pro-choice stance. He/she will openly acknowledge that abortion should only be permitted in narrowly proscribed circumstances.

Until such time as the Democratic Party, and its national political candidates, publicly recognize abortion as a tragedy and not as a joyous personal right, Republicans will continue to occupy the White House and to control both Houses of Congress.

Mark my words. And Karl Rove's word.

NYTimes: Seniors Should Oppose Bush Social Security Proposal

New York Times editorial today, "A Bridge to Sell," about George Bush's "wily" plan to exclude senior citizens from his ongoing Social Security debate....

"One of the main talking points in the administration's drive to privatize Social Security is that retirees have nothing to fear. "If you're a senior receiving your Social Security check, nothing is going to change," President Bush said recently. Mr. Bush seems to presume that older Americans are indifferent to the future retirement security of their children and grandchildren. But even taken on its face, the argument does not hold up.

The president promises that under a private retirement scheme, anyone age 55 or older would continue to receive full Social Security benefits. What he repeatedly fails to mention is that privatization would require some $2 trillion in new borrowing over the next 10 years and an additional $4.5 trillion in the decade thereafter. That's on top of the trillions that need to be found to cover the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and - if the president gets his way - to make this decade's tax cuts permanent. It's foolhardy to assume that the government could continue to meet all of its obligations, including the payment of Social Security benefits, under such a mountain of debt.

All told, by 2030, when today's 55-year-olds turn 80, the national debt would be as big as the economy itself, according to a calculation by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that uses data from Social Security and the Congressional Budget Office. To compare, consider that in the last 50 years, national debt has equaled only 38 percent of the economy on average, and that percentage includes the tremendous overhang of debt from World War II.

Large and virtually permanent fiscal imbalances could create severe hardship. At the least, big and ongoing deficits erode living standards because they reduce the money available for investment in the economy. At worst, enormous and endless deficits could provoke a loss of investor confidence, leading to higher interest rates and inflation, lower stock and bond prices, less household wealth, less government spending and slower economic growth.

If Congress faced that kind of crisis, it's safe to assume that everything would be on the table, including Social Security retirement benefits. This would be especially true if the crisis was provoked by privatization. The reason: diverting a portion of payroll taxes into private accounts - the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's privatization scheme - would greatly accelerate the exhaustion of the Social Security trust fund, unless the government made huge transfusions of other tax revenue into the fund. It could be difficult to justify such transfers with an economy in dire straits. A dwindling trust fund, in turn, could create a political dynamic for benefit cuts that would be hard to resist.

Even if Congress managed to keep the commitment to continued funding of full Social Security benefits for today's retirement-age population, senior citizens could find that their other sources of retirement income, especially stocks and bonds, had taken a hit. Their adult children would probably not be able to provide a safety net. Indeed, a country in fiscal crisis is one in which adults are more likely to turn to their elderly parents for help.

Despite the risks to their own economic well-being in retirement, some older Americans might be willing to support Social Security privatization if it would ensure a stable retirement for their children and grandchildren. But it wouldn't.

Privatization would require potentially debilitating borrowing up front, in exchange for a drastically reduced benefit later on, no matter how well, or poorly, private accounts performed. So there's no reason for senior citizens to support it and plenty of reasons to oppose it.

Mr. Bush is wily, and wrong, when he tries to dismiss older Americans from the debate. "

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ownership Society Defined: Materialism for the Godly

I figured it out....the meaning of the term Ownership Society. I've been rolling it over and over in my mind, pondering a practical, everyday definition of this lofty-sounding phrase. Finally, I get it!

Ownership Society means Materialism. Having stuff. Lots of stuff. The more stuff the better.

God's blessings are stuff in the Ownership Society. If you are good and obedient, you will be blessed. You will OWN things. If you are disobedient...maybe even subversive, radical or will not have stuff. You will be materially poor because you deserve it. And the good people shouldn't give you stuff, because you're not good, and you're not entitled to it. You don't deserve it.

I totally get the logic of George Bush's Ownership Society idea. Ultra-conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks accidentally crystalized it for me today in his piece "Ideals and Reality:"

"If you want to understand America, I hope you were in Washington on Thursday. I hope you heard the high ideals of President Bush's inaugural address, and also saw the stretch Hummer limos heading to the balls in the evening.

I hope you heard the president talk about freedom as 'the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul,' and also saw the drunken, loud and privileged twentysomethings carrying each other piggyback down K Street after midnight.

What you saw in Washington that day is what you see in America so often - this weird intermingling of high ideals with gross materialism, the lofty and the vulgar cheek to cheek.

The people who detest America take a look at this odd conjunction and assume the materialistic America is the real America; the ideals are a sham. The real America, they insist, is the money-grubbing, resource-wasting, TV-drenched, unreflective bimbo of the earth. The high-toned language, the anti-Americans say, is just a cover for the quest for oil, or the desire for riches, dominion and war.

But of course they've got it exactly backward. It's the ideals that are real."

Mr. Brooks, you've got it backward. Actions matter, not cheap, soaring words from someone who has a dicey, often estranged, relationship with the truth. Actions, Mr. Brooks. Not words. (Faith without works is dead....James 2:26)

High ideals for conquering the world, and bringing Bush-style democracy into their homes and neighborhoods. Ownership Society democracy, in which people are valued by how much stuff and things they own.

Gross materialism at home. The Ownership Society in action. The Bush-style democratic ideal for the world. (Well, almost ideal. He still needs to nuke Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All those expensive entitlements for the undeserving poor, disabled and sick. )

Really? And this is....Godly? These are ...Christian values in action?

Hmmm...let me get my Bible out. That sounds odd to this Sunday School teacher.

But wait....

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give them to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." --- Matthew 19:21-24

Someone needs to bring Jesus up to speed on the Ownership Society.

Pronto, before he gets branded as subversive or radical. Upsetting to the good, obedient people of Godly society. I wouldn't want them to punish him.

Or kill him.

Friday, January 21, 2005

House Democrats Ask Social Security Admin to Cease Illegal Activities

Sent today by House Democratic leadership to the Social Security Administration....

January 21, 2005
The Honorable Jo Anne B. Barnhart Commissioner Social Security Administration 6401 Security Boulevard Baltimore, MD 21235-0001

Dear Ms. Barnhart:
It is critical that the public retain confidence in the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a source of unbiased and accurate information about the Social Security program. Congress made SSA an independent agency with an Administrator whose tenure differs from Presidential terms in part to help protect both the programs you administer and the information that you provide to the public from any appearance of undue political influence. We know that you share these concerns and we appreciate your commitment to Social Security and to the sound administration of the programs you oversee.

We are writing about recent developments that raise concerns about a possible threat to the independence and impartiality that is so important to maintaining public confidence in Social Security and in the information provided by SSA. These developments also suggest the possibility of inappropriate White House interference with the activities of your agency.
We recently obtained a copy of the Social Security Administration's "National Strategic Communications Plan for FY 2005," as well as its "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan" for the Kansas City region. These documents were the subject of major articles in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.

The documents raise serious concerns about whether federal employees are being inappropriately enlisted to promote the Bush Administration's political agenda. For example, the "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan" states that agency employees should disseminate the following message to "all audiences": "Social Security's long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon" or else Social Security may not "be there for future generations." (1)

The documents also raise concerns about the use of government- funded propaganda. According to the "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan," the Social Security Administration intends to "place articles on solvency in external publications." The same plan indicates that the Social Security Administration intends to use the "mediums" of "radio, TV, newspapers," as well as "employer and special interest publications," to spread the message that "the sooner changes are made, the more time people will have to adjust." The plan also directs the agency to "look for non-traditional locations to educate people about the Social Security system, such as outreach events at farmer's markets, big box retail stores, etc." (2)

Under federal law, it is illegal to spend appropriated funds on publicity or propaganda. (3) This ban has been interpreted to include covert propaganda that does not reveal its source as well as propaganda with a purely partisan purpose. (4) We have concerns about whether the efforts described in these documents comply with this prohibition. For this reason, we request copies of all written communications and documents that relate to the "National Strategic Communications Plan" and the "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan" for any region.

Our request includes, but is not limited to:
-- All articles placed or attempted to place in external publications;
-- All materials created for radio, TV, or newspapers;
-- All materials created for employer and special interest publications;
-- All materials prepared for any outreach to "non- traditional" locations, such as farmer's markets and big box retailers;
-- Additional internal documents describing the goals of, and the methods used in preparing, the "National Strategic Communications Plan" and the "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan;"
-- Copies of any contracts with advertising and public relations firms associated with the implementation of the plan, including any subcontracts and modifications to those contracts; and
-- Budget and staffing information for this effort.

In addition, we request that you provide all contracts executed by the Social Security Agency during the Bush Administration with public relations firms, advertising agencies, media organizations, individual members of the media, and polling firms, including all subcontracts and any modifications of such contracts.

The enclosed documents suggest activities that would be more appropriate for White House staff than for SSA staff. We would also like to know whether any White House staff members were involved in initiating or developing the plans or whether the project was conceived and developed independently and entirely within SSA.

We have enclosed copies of the "National Strategic Communications Plan" and the "Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan" for your review. We request that you provide the information we have requested by February 2, 2005.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter. We look forward to continuing to work with you in your efforts to ensure that Social Security programs are effectively managed and retain public confidence.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader
Steny H. Hoyer, Democratic Whip
Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Government Reform
David R. Obey, Ranking Minority Member, Committee of Appropriations
Charles B. Rangel, Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Ways and Means
George Miller, Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Education and the Workforce
Sander M. Levin, Member of Congress
Rosa L. DeLauro, Member of Congress

(1) Social Security Administration, Communications/Marketing Tactical Plan Kansas City Region (Feb. 14, 2004); see also Social Security Administration, Office of Communications' Fiscal Year 2005 National Strategic Communications Plan (Oct. 2004).
(2) Id.
(3) Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108- 199, Div. F, Tit. VI, Sec. 624, 118 Stat. 3, 356 (2004).
(4) E.g., U.S. Government Accountability Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - Video News Releases, 10 (May 19, 2004) (GAO/B-302710).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Inaugural Ball: Dancing With Wolves

Published on January 20, 2005 by Star Tribune / Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Inaugural Ball: Dancing with Wolves, by Susan Lenfestey

"It's time to party.

As the families of bomb-flattened Fallujah huddle in make-shift refugee camps, drinking from sewage-filled streams, Iraqi policy mastermind Paul Wolfowitz fastens the last stud into his starched collar.

As the Iraq Survey Group ends its search for WMD, concluding that there was no imminent mushroom cloud or even a smoking gun, Condi Rice draws herself a hot bath.

As Sgt. Kevin Benderman, an Army mechanic with nine years of service, refuses a second deployment to Iraq, saying "you just don't know how bad it is," Colin Powell pours himself a drink.

As Specialist Charles A. Graner, miscreant and major-domo of Abu Ghraib, shuffles off to prison, Donald Rumsfeld straightens the black tie of his tux.

As the 9/11 widow tucks her children into bed, wondering why the recommendations made in the 9/11 Commission Report weren't implemented, Tom Ridge tightens his cummerbund.

As prisoners charged with no crimes, and given no recourse, languish in the hellhole of Guantanamo Bay, torture apologist Alberto Gonzales clicks his cufflinks into place.

As Dan Rather retires in disgrace over forged documents, former CIA Director George Tenet, proponent of forged documents about Iraq's nonexistent nuclear program, adjusts the Medal of Freedom around his neck.

As the working mother in Chicago wonders how to keep her child from being left behind now that her special-ed program has been cut, Armstrong Williams polishes his shoes.

As Valerie Plame walks away from a distinguished career as a CIA "operative," destroyed when her identity was revealed by columnist Robert Novak, Mr. Novak walks to his limo.

As Osama bin Laden chuckles in his cave to see America's fortunes sink in the morass of Iraq and as fresh recruits to his cause multiply like flies, Dick Cheney pops the cork on a bottle of Dom Perignon.

As America's trade gap surges and the red ink in the national debt bleeds to a record level, Treasury Secretary John Snow finishes shaving and dabs at a spot of blood on his chin.

As the Republican Congress gets ready to underfund everything from Head Start to veterans' benefits, Speaker Dennis Hastert checks his profile in the mirror.

As Pfc. Francis Obaji, oldest son of an immigrant Nigerian family, is zipped into a body bag for the sad journey home, Laura Bush zips up her Oscar de la Renta gown.

And as his corporate pals, forgetting for a moment the bottom line that forces them to ship jobs overseas, slide their millions across the table to dance at his ball, George W. Bush pulls on his snakeskin boots.

President Boxer?

There's a new blog in town, inspired by the recent political courage of Senator Barbara Boxer in signing the Congressional Black Caucus' objection to ceritifcation of Ohio's electoral votes, and in Senator Boxer's grilling of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's Senate confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State.

Check it out....President Boxer.

Democrats are starving for party leaders with decisive courage and outspoken, moral outrage!

Guest List For the Ritzy Inaugural Parties

Inquiring minds want to know....who got to attend all those ritzy inaugural balls and dinners?

(Actually, not all the balls. One was held only for active service men and women. The soldiers were segregated, however, from the big-bucks donors. Separate parties. On Hardball a few moments ago, Chris Matthews just asked his party correspondent if disabled and wounded Iraq vets were invited to the ball. She said none were sighted. )

Here's who got the very best dinner seats...and why.

And yes...that name in red is, indeed, Pastor Rick Warren of multi-million dollar Purpose-Driven fame. Guess he was purpose-driven in giving $100,000 to George Bush's party coffers. I wonder what purpose....

Major Donor Information - Bush 2005 Inaugural Committee

ACS State & Local Solutions, Inc. Washington DC $250,000
A.G. Spanos Stockton CA $250,000
AFLAC, Incorporated Columbus GA $100,000
AFLAC, Incorporated Columbus GA $150,000
A. J. Scribante Omaha NE $100,000
Alan B. Fabian Cockeysville MD $100,000
Al Hoffman, Jr. Fort Myers FL $100,000
Alagem Capital Group, LLC Beverly Hills CA $250,000
Alexander F. Treadwell Westport NY $100,000
Altria Corporate Services, Inc. New York NY $250,000
American Financial Cincinnati OH $250,000
Ameriquest Capital Corporation Orange CA $250,000
Amgen, Inc. Thousand Oaks CA $100,000
Andrew C. Taylor St. Louis MO $100,000
Anheuser-Busch Cos., Inc. Washington DC $100,000
Argent Mortgage Company Orange CA $250,000
AT&T Washington DC $250,000
Bank of America Corporation Charlotte NC $250,000
Bensco, Inc. Metairie LA $100,000
Benson Football Metaire LA $100,000
Benson Mineral Group, Inc. Denver CO $100,000
Blank Rome, LLP Philadelphia PA $200,000
BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, Inc. Jacksonville FL $100,000
Boone Pickens Dallas TX $250,000
Bradford M. Freeman Los Angeles CA $100,000
Bristol-Myers Squibb Washington DC $250,000
Burlington Norhtern & Sanata Fe Corp. Topeka KS $250,000
California Farm Bureau Federation Sacramento CA $100,000
Carl H. Lindner Cincinnati OH $250,000
C. Edward McVaney Greenwood Village CO $100,000
Century Homebuilders, LLC Miami FL $100,000
Charles D. Miller Pasadena CA $100,000
Cherie and Robin Arkley Eureka CA $100,000
CheveronTexaco Concord CA $250,000
Cinergy Corporation Cincinnati OH $250,000
Cisco Systems, Inc. San Jose CA $100,000
Clearwire Corporation Kirkland WA $100,000
Computer Associates International, Inc. Islandia NY $100,000
Corporate Capital, LLC New Orleans LA $250,000
Cove Partners, LLC Santa Monica CA $100,000
Donald J. Carty Dallas TX $100,000
Dr. Miriam Ochshorn Adelson Las Vegas NV $250,000
Duane Acklie Lincoln NE $100,000
Dwight C. Schar McLean VA $100,000
EDS Plano TX $100,000
Elliott Broidy Los Angeles CA $250,000
Entrepreneurial Capital Corporation Newport Beach CA $100,000
Exxon Mobil Corporation Washington DC $250,000
Fairfax Reality, Inc. Salt Lake City UT $100,000
FedEx Corporation Memphis TN $250,000
First Data Corporation Greenwood Village CO $250,000
Ford Motor Company Dearborn MI $250,000
Frank Baxter Los Angeles CA $100,000
GMAC Horsham PA $100,000
Golden Eagle Industries, Inc. Charlotte NC $250,000
H. Edward Baher Bluffton SC $250,000
Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Dallas TX $250,000
Hunter Engineering Company Bridgeton MO $100,000
Ilene L. Flaum and David M. Flaum Rochester NY $100,000
Independent Community Bankers of America Washington DC $100,000
International Paper Memphis TN $100,000
Intervest Construction, Inc. Daytona Beach FL $100,000
J. Ronald Terwilliger Key Largo FL $100,000
Jack Overstreet Englewood CO $100,000
Jerome V. Ansel Boca Raton FL $100,000
John L. Kemmerer, III Morristown NJ $100,000
John W. Childs Boston MA $100,000
JPMorgan Chase Houston TX $100,000
KB Home Los Angeles CA $100,000
Kojaian Ventures, LLC Bloomfield Hill MI $250,000
Lawrence Auriana Greenwich CT $100,000
Leach Capital, LLC San Francisco CA $100,000
Linger Longer Development Co. Greensboro GA $100,000
Lockheed Martin Corporation Arlington VA $100,000
Long Beach Acceptance Corp. Paramus NJ $250,000
Marc S. Goldman Hoboken NJ $100,000
Marc S. Goldman Hoboken NJ $150,000
Marna D. Schnabel Los Angeles CA $100,000
Marriott International, Inc. Washington DC $250,000
Marriott Vacation Club International Washington DC $250,000
Matthew R. Simmons Houston TX $100,000
Max M. Fisher Detroit MI $100,000
Microsoft Corporation Redmond WA $100,000
Morgan Stanley Jersey City NJ $100,000
Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Dallas TX $100,000
Nancy and Rich Kinder Houston TX $250,000
National Association of Home Builders Washington DC $250,000
Ned L. Siegel Boca Raton FL $100,000
Nelson Peltz New York NY $250,000
New Century Mortgage Corporation Irvine CA $100,000
New Energy Corp. South Bend IN $250,000
Northrop Grumman Los Angeles CA $100,000
Nuclear Energy Institute Washington DC $100,000
Occidental Petroleum Corporation Los Angeles CA $250,000
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball New York NY $100,000
Oracle Corporation Rocklin CA $100,000
Peabody Holding Company, Inc. St. Louis MO $100,000
Pepsi-Cola Company Purchase NY $100,000
Pfizer, Inc. New York NY $250,000
Phil Wendel Charlottesville VA $100,000
Qualcomm Incorporated San Diego $100,000
Richard Warren Lake Forest CA $100,000
Rick J. Caruso Los Angeles CA $100,000
Robert Day Los Angeles CA $100,000
Robert C. Rhein Interests, Inc. Cincinnati OH $100,000
Robert Frank Pence McLean VA $100,000
Robert W. Johnson, IV New York NY $100,000
Rooney Holdings, Inc. Tulsa OK $250,000
R. T. Farmer Cincinnati OH $100,000
S. Davis Phillips High Point NC $250,000
Sallie Mae, Inc. Reston VA $250,000
Sam & Marilyn Fox St. Louis MO $100,000
SBC Communications, Inc. Washington DC $100,000
Sheldon G. Adelson Las Vegas NV $250,000
Southern Company Atlanta GA $250,000
Stephen A. Schwarzman New York NY $100,000
Stephens Group, Inc. Little Rock AR $250,000
Strongbow Technologies, Corp. Burtonsville MD $250,000
Susan and Michael Dell Austin TX $250,000

TC Management Partners IV, LLC Washington DC $100,000
Terry & Jane Semel Beverly Hills CA $125,000
The Boeing Company Arlington VA $100,000
The Coca Cola Company Washington DC $100,000
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. New York NY $100,000
The Home Depot Washington DC $250,000
The Limited Service Corporation Columbus OH $100,000
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC Chevy Chase MD $250,000
The Shaw Group, Inc. Baton Rouge LA $100,000
The Timken Company Canton OH $250,000
The Washington Post Washington DC $100,000
Thien H. Nguyen Redington Beach FL $100,000
Thomas F. Petway, III Jacksonville FL $100,000
Thomas F. Stephenson Atherton CA $225,000
Time Warner New York NY $250,000
Titus Electrical Contracting, Inc. Austin TX $100,000
Town and Country Credit Irvine CA $250,000
TRT Holdings Inc. Irving TX $100,000
Tyson Springdale AR $100,000
Union Pacific Corporation Washington DC $100,000
United Parcel Service Roswell GA $250,000
United Technologies Hartford CT $250,000
UST Inc. Greenwich CT $250,000
Valhi, Inc. Dallas TX $100,000
Vernon G. Buchanan Sarasota FL $100,000
Wachovia Corporation Jacksonville FL $250,000
Washington Television Center Washington DC $250,000
Waste Management Service Center Houston TX $100,000
Well Care Health Plans, Inc. Tampa FL $100,000
William Earl Riggs Pleasantton CA $100,000
William O. DeWitt, Jr. Cincinnati OH $100,000

Presidential Inaugural Committee Phone: (202) 863-2005 Fax: (202) 264-8919 Email: