Saturday, April 30, 2005

George Bush, Proud Philistine

The North Korean government today called George Bush a Philistine.

Per Wikipedia, the definition of Philistine, as contemporary derogatory descriptor is....

For the word philistine in non-historical usage, referring to a person deficient in the culture of the Liberal Arts, a smug and intolerant opponent of the bohemian, who exhibits a restrictive moral code, unappreciative of artistic ideas, see Philistinism. this a description Bush would disagree with? I think not. In fact, he likely would be proud of fitting this definition.

Manipulating Public Responses on Social Security

The Bush administration changed a taxpayer-funded Social Security poll, removing "two statements that at least three-quarters of those polled had agreed with: 'Social Security benefits play a major role in keeping many senior citizens out of poverty' and 'Social Security is the largest single source of income for most elderly Americans.'"

On Reconciling: Like Peas & Carrots with God

For my Christian readers....take a few minutes to read Like Peas and Carrots with God by Mark Daniels. It's based on Second Corinthians 5:17 - 19, and is about reconciling with others and with God.

Pastor Mark is a wonderful writer with humility and a warm sense of humor. His blog is one of my favorite daily reads.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bush Views on Taxes & the Rich

"I was amazed by the report the other day that there is some $330 billion a year that goes unpaid by American taxpayers. It's a phenomenal amount of money." – President Bush, 4/28/05


"First of all, real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes." – President Bush, 8/9/04

President Proposes Huge Cuts in Social Security Checks

From the Center for American Progress....

President Bush's press conference last night offered few new details about his push to privatize Social Security, with the exception of this whopper: the single largest benefit cuts in the program's history .

Don't be fooled by "progressive indexing." There's nothing progressive about scamming people out of their hard earned retirement dollars by cutting benefits and replacing the most successful public program ever created with a system of private accounts.

Progressive indexing would significantly cut Social Security benefits for millions of Americans. The president's proposed progressive indexation would tie Social Security benefits to inflation rather than wage growth - a move that would force significant benefit cuts for millions of Americans. Under the president's plan, any worker making $58,000 a year or more will see their benefits cut by 31 percent.

On top of the benefit cuts, the president still insists on replacing Social Security with private accounts - a trillion dollar boondoggle that does nothing to ensure a secure retirement. President Bush insisted last night that private accounts must be a part of any legislative package, again confirming his commitment to right-wing ideology over policies that help Americans.

Protect Social Security and help people save on top of their guaranteed benefits. If the president wants to do something progressive, he should raise the earnings cap on Social Security taxes or dedicate his massive tax cuts for the wealthy to help Social Security's solvency. He should help people increase savings options outside of Social Security without replacing the one guaranteed part of a secure retirement.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bush Repudiates Dobson Stance On Judicial Nominees

“I think people are opposing my nominees because they don’t like the judicial philosophy of the people I’ve nominated,” President Bush said tonight at a White House news conference. “... I don’t ascribe a person’s opposing my nominations to an issue of faith.”

Like I said earlier (below), Jame Dobson is deliberately duping Christians on this subject. Opposition to these judicial nominees has NOTHING to do with religion or faith. Nothing.

President Bush appropriately distanced himself from Dr. Dobson this evening, and he repudiated Dobson's misleading statements.

If conservative Christians would take the time to educate themselves on the specifics of the issues at hand, I know that they would also oppose these cold-hearted, pro-business, anti-environment, anti-fairness judicial nominees.

39 Senators Vote NO on Funds for Humvees for Troops

To help you make voting choices in 2006, here's the list of 39 US Senators who voted NO last week to provide $213 million more for armored Humvees our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan:

NAYs ---39 Allard (R-CO) Bennett (R-UT) Bond (R-MO) Brownback (R-KS) Bunning (R-KY) Burr (R-NC) Chambliss (R-GA) Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Cornyn (R-TX) Craig (R-ID) Crapo (R-ID) DeMint (R-SC) Dole (R-NC) Domenici (R-NM) Ensign (R-NV) Enzi (R-WY) Frist (R-TN) Graham (R-SC) Grassley (R-IA) Gregg (R-NH)Hagel (R-NE) Hatch (R-UT) Inhofe (R-OK) Inouye (D-HI) Isakson (R-GA) Kyl (R-AZ) McConnell (R-KY) Murkowski (R-AK) Roberts (R-KS) Sessions (R-AL) Shelby (R-AL) Smith (R-OR) Stevens (R-AK) Sununu (R-NH) Thomas (R-WY) Vitter (R-LA)Voinovich (R-OH) Warner (R-VA)

Yes, 38 Republicans and 1 Democrat want to leave our troops unprotected.

Yes, that's right. The war party, the party of "faith and values," the patriotic party, the party of Bush and Cheney.

38 of 56 Republican senators voted no to give troops the armored Humvees they need to be adequately protected.

Please remember this outrage at election time.

Conservatives Duped by Dobson Over Two Judge Nominees

Amid the chaos and cacophony of threatened filibusters and church-located political rallies organized by ultra-conservative lobbyist/operative James Dobson, why is no one talking about the substance of the hubbub?

The problems with the unconfirmed 5% of Bush judicial nominees is their unfitness for office....unfitness entirely unrelated to faith, abortion, gay marriage and the like. Entirely!

I truly trust that if my super-conservative friends took the time to stop and carefully consider the facts about the two judges in question, they would wholeheartedly agree that these two are unsuited for lifetime judicial appointment.

My conservative friends are being crassly manipulated by emotionalism and broad-brush stereotypes. No person should be unquestioningly worshiped, and that includes Dr. Dobson. He is not an idol...merely another imperfect person, like us, with feet of clay.
From the Center for American Progress....

In all the hoopla and procedural wrangling over the filibuster, the mainstream media and the political elite continue to ignore the real reason for the showdown over seven of President Bush's nominees: they are some of the most extreme jurists in the land with highly questionable records of judicial activism.

Justice Priscilla Owen is a judicial pawn of corporate titans like Enron and Halliburton. Owen has consistently ruled in favor of big corporate interests over individuals and groups. More troubling, she frequently took campaign money from the likes of Enron and Halliburton and then ruled in favor of these very same corporations. In the months prior to a Texas Supreme Court case involving Halliburton, the company donated thousands of dollars to Owen and two other justices. Following these donations, the court declined to review Halliburton's case, saving the company millions of dollars in a workplace dispute. Owen personally authored a ruling that saved Enron-another campaign contributor- hundreds of thousands of dollars and stiffed a local school district.

Justice Janice Rogers Brown wants to repeal the entire New Deal and return the nation to the days when discrimination and unsafe working conditions were left unchecked. Justice Brown is a leading voice of an extreme right-wing legal movement to return constitutional law to its status in 1937, when the federal government had little or no power to enforce child labor laws or other workplace regulations. Brown has called Social Security the "triumph of our socialist revolution." She has consistently ruled against minorities and the elderly, downplaying racial issues and saying age discrimination legislation is harmful to the business community and an "unavoidable consequence of that universal leveler: time."

More than 200 of President Bush's judicial nominees have been confirmed with bipartisan support. Many of these judges were conservative, but not reactionary or hostile to the rule of law and basic legal doctrine. In contrast, Owen and Brown have consistently shown that they are unfit for lifetime appointments and unable to rule in a fair and impartial manner.

The Senate has the right and a duty to oppose these nominees.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Global Warming Threatens Food Supply

From Common Dreams....

Climate Change Poses Threat to Food Supply, Scientists Say
by Michael McCarthy

Worldwide production of essential crops such as wheat, rice, maize and soya beans is likely to be hit much harder by global warming than previously predicted, an international conference in London has heard.

The benefits of higher levels of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, will in fact be outweighed by the downsides of climate change, a Royal Society discussion meeting was told yesterday. It had been thought that the gas might act as a fertilizer to increase plant growth. Rising atmospheric temperatures, longer droughts and side-effects of both, such as higher levels of ground-level ozone gas, are likely to bring about a substantial reduction in crop yields in the coming decades, large-scale experiments have shown.

The two-day meeting, entitled Food Crops in a Changing Climate, is focusing largely on tropical countries where most of the world's food is grown, and where people are most vulnerable to climate change.

It is bringing together leading scientists in the fields of meteorology, climate science and agriculture to report on the latest research, including growing crops in experimental conditions in the open air that simulate advanced global warming. Previously, such experiments had taken place in closed chambers, and these had suggested that the "fertilization" effect of rising CO2 would offset the detrimental effects of rising temperatures and drought incidence on crop production.

But, a new technology known as Face (Free-Air Concentration Enrichment) is allowing treatment of large areas of crop with elevated levels of CO2 and ozone, and these experiments have painted a very different picture.

"Growing crops much closer to real conditions has shown that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have roughly half the beneficial effects previously hoped for in the event of climate change," said Steve Long, from Illinois University.

"In addition, ground-level ozone, which is also predicted to rise but has not been extensively studied before, has been shown to result in a loss of photosynthesis and 20 per cent yield loss. Both these results show that we need to seriously re-examine our predictions for future global food production, as they are likely to be far lower than previously estimated," Professor Long said.

Additionally, studies in the UK and Denmark show that just a few days of hot temperatures can severely reduce the yield of major food crops such as wheat, soya beans, rice and groundnuts, if they coincide with the flowering of these crops.

These results suggest that there are particular thresholds above which crops become very vulnerable to climate change.

On a more positive note, the meeting also highlighted new developments in forecasting techniques, the basis of which can act as early warning systems of famine. The techniques incorporate a climate prediction model with a model that simulates crop growth under varying environmental conditions.

Bush Social Security Road Show a Failure

Remember...there is no crisis in Social Security.
From the Center for American Progress....

President Bush's two-month road trip to sell his Social Security privatization plan has been a dramatic failure. Rather than unifying the public around his ideas, Americans are far more skeptical of his privatization plans than before and senior members of his own party are raising significant doubts about the proposal.

Speaking at the Senate Finance Committee's first day of hearings on Social Security privatization, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) stated that she didn't want to change "the foundation for our seniors," and Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) expressed concern about the record debt required to finance the president's proposal.

Senators are right to challenge Bush's assumptions: his proposal for private accounts would worsen Social Security's solvency; it requires massive new government debt; and it would force deep cuts in guaranteed benefits.

Privatization requires trillions of dollars in new debt, worsening Social Security's solvency and placing huge burdens on future generations. The hearings on different options to privatize Social Security showcase the underlying irresponsibility of these proposals. Each plan would require trillions of dollars in transfer from general revenue to Social Security without ever specifying where the money would come from. In the extreme, Social Security's currently shortfall would be doubled.

Privatization means cuts in guaranteed benefits and less wealth for retirees. Any attempt to reign in runaway deficits required to create private accounts under Social Security results in massive benefit cuts. Each successive generation of retirees would see larger cuts. Even the Congressional Budget Office estimates that workers would be better off under an unchanged Social Security system than under a privatized one.

There are better ways to help Americans achieve a secure retirement. Progressive solutions to retirement security offer much better options for America's seniors. To improve Social Security's solvency, the earnings cap (above which wages are not subject to the Social Security tax) could be raised. Social Security could receive fully funded general revenue transfers.

Massive tax cuts for the wealthy could be repealed and committed to Social Security. To create real wealth, savings options outside of Social Security could be made simpler, with more tax incentives for middle class families, at lower costs, and at reduced risks than is currently the case.

Desperately Seeking Kindness

Must-read New York Times editorial today....In Search of Budget Moderates

And be sure to read my various (unboring) budget articles on education for our children, closing public libraries, shutting Amtrak, life-saving programs for the disabled, brain-injured, kids & families, healthcare for the 50 million needy and disabled Americans, misplaced priorities of a compassionate conservative, , and Senate strikes bipartisan blow to Bush budget.
Unless a handful of moderate Republicans can inject some common sense and human kindness into the process, Congress is likely to approve a budget blueprint this week that manages to be profligate and mean-spirited at the same time. Nominally the product of a conference between both parties in both chambers, the budget nearing final consideration is in fact a Republican document that is expected to add at least $125 billion to the federal budget deficit in the next five years. It calls for generous tax cuts for investors, who hardly need more help, and for harsh spending cuts for the needy, who certainly do.

The agreement sets overall totals for tax cuts and spending cuts; the specific measures will come later. But the aim is to ensure that spending on Medicaid and other programs for the poor will be cut by $17 billion over five years, which is more than the Bush administration requested. It is also more than the Senate sought in its version of the budget resolution. In the conference, however, the House bid up the Senate's cuts for the poor, while the Senate increased the House's gifts to the rich.

The result is expected to guarantee the passage of tax cuts that would cost $70 billion over the next five years, $25 billion more than the House approved for its highest-priority tax cuts. Those cuts are all but certain to include the extension of low tax rates for dividends and capital gains, which almost entirely benefit people who make more than $200,000 a year.

The budget agreement is also expected to lop $23 billion from mandatory spending programs that are not aimed at the poor. These cuts include spending instructions to Congress's natural resources committees that amount to a backdoor invitation to authorize oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In the past, that terrible idea has failed to pass on its own merits.
There is still time in the next day or so to fix this dreadful bill.

Earlier this year, seven Republican senators joined forces to eliminate the Medicaid cuts that are about to be reinstated by the conference. Four of the seven - Gordon Smith, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter and Norm Coleman - are in the strongest position politically to stand firm against further cuts. The pressure is great.

Fairness and fiscal sanity hang in the balance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Abuse of Power Not the Imagined Easy-Street

Congressional Republicans again find that abuse of power isn't the easy-street they imagined....from MSNBC a few minutes ago:

GOP ethics chief: Party must undo rule changes House panel chairman calls for change to break deadlock (The Associated Press)

The chairman of the House ethics committee has conceded that his Republican colleagues must reverse partisan changes to investigative rules if they hope to break a deadlock that has virtually shut the panel down, a senior GOP aide said Tuesday.

The conclusion reached by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., may be unpopular with Republicans who muscled the changes through the House in January. Since then, GOP lawmakers have had to defend their votes against accusations by Democrats — and media editorials — that the changes were designed to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay from further investigation.

The senior Republican aide, who has been involved in discussions on the rules, said he was not authorized to be quoted by name in describing the private discussions.

The ethics committee is one of the few places minority Democrats can assert power in the House because it is equally divided between five Republicans and five Democrats. The Democrats have refused to provide a sixth vote to allow the committee to commence operations, including conducting investigations.

Focus on the Family Quote on the Filibuster

Courtesy of DailyKos....

Spoken by Steven Schwartz, senior writer for the Family Research Council, a spin-off from James Dobson's Focus on the Family, on National Public Radio about 7 years ago in response to a Clinton nomination....

"The Senate is not a majoritarian institution, like the House of Representatives is a deliberative body, and it's got a number of checks and balances built into our government. The filibuster is one of those checks in which a majority cannot just sheerly force its will, even if they have a majority of votes in some cases. That's why there are things like filibusters, and other things that give minorities in the Senate some power to slow things up, to hold things up, and let things be aired properly."

Closing Amtrak - A Mistake of Historical Proportions

The New York Times and I again agree...this time on Amtrak funding. (Full disclosure...I work for the New York Times in my position as Editor of US Liberal Politics for They've given me full license to disagree with them, however. I know because I asked....)
Here is my story, "
Bush Budget Aims to Close Amtrak Rail Services - Would Force More Into Gas-Guzzling Cars & Planes."

New York Times editorial today.... Keeping Amtrak Going

For Amtrak's 25 million riders each year, the most distressing news in recent days has been about the faltering Acela - the high-speed train that was supposed to be Amtrak's salvation. The Acelas are now off the rails because of problems with the brakes. As The Times outlined on Sunday, the trains have been a classic Amtrak problem from the beginning, a mishmash of a design that never quite fit America's needs.

But an even larger emergency is threatening Amtrak, America's coast-to-coast passenger railroad. The Bush administration is proposing to spend as little as nothing - a big ominous zero - to support the future of Amtrak. If Washington comes close to carrying out its threat or even stalls next year's contribution to the railroad, Amtrak could be forced into bankruptcy - a mistake of historic proportions.

For some time, the Bush administration has pushed for Amtrak reforms, which almost everybody supports in principle. But the administration's most recent proposal is more like a death sentence - a slow dismantling of Amtrak into regional services while costs currently paid by the federal government would be forced onto cash-starved states.

The fatal flaw in the administration's thinking is the idea that the railroad should be self-sufficient. That's impractical and unnecessary, given the benefits it provides in taking cars off congested highways and offering an alternative to air service in the post-9/11 era. The administration's other big concept, breaking up Amtrak into smaller units, might end up like the mess in Britain, where officials are trying to put their Humpty Dumpty system back together again.

Amtrak's board, whose members were all appointed by President Bush, has suggested a plan that looks like a much better place to at least begin serious negotiations. It would still shift more of the costs of the rail service to the states. But the Amtrak board does at least propose appropriating $1.8 billion for the next fiscal year to keep the company afloat and continue desperately needed improvements, particularly in the Northeast Corridor.

That money should be seen as a subsidy, not a loan or a bailout. The passenger rail service in this country is a national resource, a jewel of interstate commerce. Reform is worth talking about, but only in the context of the nation's sustained and annual support.

Monday, April 25, 2005

UN Human Rights Activist Forced Out By US

When will this grotesque insanity stop? It's immoral and wrong.

From Common Dreams....UN Investigator Who Exposed US Army Abuse Forced Out of His Job by Nick Meo in Kabul (published on Monday, April 25, 2005 by the Independent/UK )
The UN's top human rights investigator in Afghanistan has been forced out under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticising the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons.

Cherif Bassiouni had needled the US military since his appointment a year ago, repeatedly trying, without success, to interview alleged Taliban and al-Qa'ida prisoners at the two biggest US bases in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Bagram.

Mr Bassiouni's report had highlighted America's policy of detaining prisoners without trial and lambasted coalition officials for barring independent human rights monitors from its bases.

Prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region are held at US bases, often before being shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

Human Rights Watch called on Saturday for a US special prosecutor to investigate the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and Charles Tenet, the former-CIA director, for torture and abuse of detainees in jails around the world, including Abu Ghraib in Iraq. They should be held responsible under the doctrine of "command responsibility," it said.

On Friday, the US army investigation into the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib cleared four out of five top officers of responsibility for the scandal which shocked the world when it broke a year ago. The only officer recommended for punishment is Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Iraqi prisons at the time.

The UN eliminated Mr Bassiouni's job last week after Washington had pressed for his mandate to be changed so that it would no longer cover the US military.

Just days earlier, the Egyptian-born law professor, now based in Chicago, had presented his criticisms in a 24-page report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

The report, based on a year spent travelling around Afghanistan interviewing Afghans, international agency staff and the Afghan Human Rights Commission, estimated that around 1,000 Afghans had been detained and accused US troops of breaking into homes, arresting residents and abusing them.

430 Pastors & Rabbis Protest Frist Exploitation of Religion

A letter (see link below) signed by 430 pastors and rabbis was sent to Senate majority Leader Bill Frist late last week, strongly denouncing his attempt to classify all who oppose his intentionally divisive political desires as "against people of faith."

The pastors and rabbis were mainly from congregations (Jewish, of course, and Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist and more) although a handful were from seminaries and church bodies (World Council of Churches, Chicago, Harvard).
From the Center for American Progress....

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and right-wing activist James Dobson have determined that God wants to install seven of President Bush's most extreme judicial nominees and that anyone who stands in the way is a religious bigot. Speaking before a conference organized to denounce opponents as "against People of Faith," Frist and Dobson called for Christian conservatives to back the GOP's efforts to kill the filibuster and confirm-for lifetime appointments-jurists who oppose basic civil rights protections and public interest regulations.

Right-wing political leaders debase all people of faith by claiming to have the ultimate truth about God's intentions on policy matters. A letter to Sen. Frist from 430 religious leaders across the country states, "We are gravely disappointed that you have lent support to those who are trying to create confusion and sow division with false charges of religious discrimination and persecution. Good people can and do differ on policy questions like the filibuster…[A]s one of our nation's highest elected officials, you have a responsibility to repudiate those who misuse religion for political purposes and who impugn the faith of any who disagrees with them."

Ninety-five percent of the president's judicial nominees have already been approved with bipartisan support-almost all of whom are people of faith. Contrary to the highly disingenuous and manipulative claims out there from right-wing leaders, nearly all of President Bush's nominees have been confirmed-most or all of whom are people of faith-and only a small sliver have been opposed based on their judicial record and temperament.

Senators have a duty to prevent the most extreme judicial activists from obtaining lifetime court appointments, regardless of religious manipulation by right-wing leaders. As Frist and his cohorts prepare a showdown on judicial appointments, they frequently point to Judge Priscilla Owen (singled out in yesterday's event) as someone being improperly opposed. However, Owen's record of extremist decisions is so well known that Alberto Gonzales, one of her former colleagues and now the nation's Attorney General, went so far as to describe one of her decisions as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

Click here to read the full letter to Sen. Frist from religious leaders across the country.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Walter Cronkite to Speak for Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is pleased to announce it will host a panel discussion entitled “Reviving Disarmament in the Nonproliferation Regime” on Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at the United Nations in New York. This important panel discussion will identify current nuclear proliferation threats and offer recommendations to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), during the treaty’s Seventh Review Conference, which is taking place at the UN from May 2-27, 2005.

Eminent journalist Walter Cronkite will deliver the opening remarks. Panelists include: Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, Independent International Security Analyst; Hon. Marian Hobbs, New Zealand Minister for Disarmament; Dr. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; and Hon. Douglas Roche, former Canadian Minister for Disarmament and Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative.

Foundation President Dr. David Krieger states, “The Non-Proliferation Treaty is at a crossroads. The 2005 NPT Review Conference provides a decisive opportunity to respond to the growing dangers of nuclear proliferation and to consider proposals within the context of the NPT goals that promote both short-term and long-term security for the world. Without progress toward the treaty’s nuclear disarmament goals, the non-proliferation regime could collapse.”

The 2005 Review Conference is critical in re-affirming existing NPT obligations and engaging all members of the international community in multilateral and universal non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. During the panel discussion, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will offer eight specific proposals for addressing current proliferation trends and reviving nuclear disarmament.

The Foundation will also make available copies of “Back to Basics: Reviving Disarmament in the Non-Proliferation Regime,” the Foundation’s briefing booklet for the 2005 NPT Review Conference.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan international organization with consultative status to the United Nations. For more than 20 years, the Foundation has been committed to advancing initiatives to eliminate the nuclear weapons threat to all life, to fostering the global rule of law, and to building an enduring legacy of peace through education and advocacy.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Barry Goldwater on Conservative Religious Extremists

A quote from Barry Goldwater (1909-1998), patron saint of US political conservatives....

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly.

The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'

Whose Character Judgment Do You Trust?

From Reuters this morning....

Be honest. Whose judgement of character do you trust, Colin Powell or George Bush, avid supporter and close friend of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and execs from Enron and Halliburton?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the troubled nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador with senators who sought his opinion, a spokeswoman for the retired general said on Friday.

Another associate said Powell had little trust or affection for the hard-line conservative and The New York Times reported the he expressed reservations about Bolton to Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

The Bush administration was scrambling to put Bolton's nomination on track after Republicans on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee were forced to postpone his confirmation vote this week when some of them expressed concerns about Bolton's fitness for the job.

Viagra But No Birth Control?

From the "It's a Man's World" file, Reuters reports....

Addressing the growing controversy over U.S. pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control or emergency contraceptives, several lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a bill that would require pharmacies to fill all prescriptions.

Led by New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, the bill would require all pharmacies to fill prescriptions including birth control pills and the so-called morning after pill. The bill applies to pharmacies, not to an individual pharmacist.

"We are here to tell the right-wing that enough is absolutely enough," Maloney told supporters near the Capitol.

Lautenberg said that if pharmacies fill prescriptions for Viagra, a drug that treats erectile dysfunction, they should sell prescription contraceptives as well

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jewish Leaders Appalled by Frist Extremist Political Exploitation of Faith

From the National Jewish Democratic Council....

The radical right is doing everything in its power to threaten judicial independence -- at the risk of turning legitimate debate over judicial appointees into a religious war.

How does Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist respond? This Sunday, despite an outcry from Jewish and other religious leaders, he'll be raising the stakes and egging-on the far-right. But you can add your voice today -- and tell him that enough is enough (see below).

As you may have heard, the ultra-conservative Family Research Council will be airing a "Justice Sunday" telecast on April 24th linking churches across the nation, and Frist will be speaking. The topic? In the words of FRC's president: how to "stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith."

In trumpeting the telecast, FRC proclaims that the courts have been acting "like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." These "anti-Christian" judges -- and the Democrats who support them -- are responsible for such evils as "the legalization of abortion" and "the banning of school prayer." And Frist apparently thinks such rhetoric is just fine. In fact, Frist will be leading the charge, using this telecast to help divide Americans while exploiting faith and feeding religious discord.

Jewish leaders have been appalled. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that "playing the 'religious' card is as unacceptable as playing the race card." The president of B'nai B'rith International, Joel Kaplan, said, "Without doubt, the whole idea of judicial independence is under attack. ... I just don't know how far this will encroach on the separation of church and state before the electorate calls a halt to it."

And Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said, "When leaders of the Republican Party lend their imprimatur to such outrageous claims... it should be of deep concern to all who care about religion. ...[Frist's] association with the scheduled telecast is, in a word, shameful."

What Senator Frist refuses to acknowledge -- what we all know to be true -- is that the separation between church and state in America grants every American a level of religious liberty that is envied around the world. It is because of this separation of church and state that faith in America has flourished; this separation helps faith, while protecting Americans of all faiths from religious or governmental coercion.

But Frist chooses to stoke the fires of religious hostility by joining this telecast -- a telecast that will brand Democrats as "anti-Christian" for opposing dangerous judicial appointments.

Tell Senator Frist: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. No more religion-baiting, no more dividing. It is time for him to stand up and act like the leader he claims to be.

To send a message via e-mail,
please click here
To send a letter via fax, send it to 202-228-1264
To send a letter via postal mail, write to Senator Bill Frist, 509 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Does God Debate Filibusters in Heaven?

In regard to Senator Bill Frist's scheduled televised psuedo-Christian political appearance this weekend to complain about the lack of Congressional approval for less than 5% (one of the best approval rates of almost any US president) of the President's judgeship nominees and a threatened Democratic filibuster of the 10 unapproved judges, this quote from another senator....

"I cannot imagine that God - with everything he has or she has to worry about - is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven," Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois said.


Condi Muzzles Staff Free Speech on Bolton Nomination

The Washington Post reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to muzzle dissent, telling "her senior staff ... she [does] not want any information coming out of the department that could adversely affect" John Bolton's nomination.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Does Bush Really Want a Democratic Iraq?

Iraq is a violent mess, with no "democracy" in sight.

Did you know that buried in the Bush Administration request for another $82 billion for a third US year in Iraq is $658 billion for a brand new US embassy in Baghdad, which would be the world's largest embassy...a fortress-like super-bunker that would be bomb-proof and wired for state-of-the-art surveillance and communications?

Also included in the $82 billion of taxpayers' money are 14 US "enduring bases" designed for long-term encampment of thousands of American soldiers.

So I ask you....does George Bush really want an independent and democratic Iraq?
From Reuters this afternoon....

Iraqi lawmakers adjourned in protest Tuesday and demanded an apology after a Shiite legislator linked to a radical anti-American cleric tearfully said he was handcuffed and humiliated at a U.S. checkpoint.

It was the third consecutive day that
Iraq's interim parliament was sidetracked from its job of setting up a government and writing a constitution.

Beyond the sandbags and blast walls of the U.S.-protected Green Zone, where the National Assembly meets, at least a dozen Iraqis were killed and more than 60 wounded in a series of attacks, including two that targeted the army and its recruits.

Al-Qaida in Iraq, the nation's most feared terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the worst attack, a suicide bombing near an army recruitment center in Baghdad that police said killed at least six Iraqis and wounded 44.

A car bomb in western Baghdad targeting a U.S. patrol wounded seven Iraqis, police and hospital officials said.

Laith Abdullah, the husband of a woman injured in the attack, angrily criticized the legislature for worrying more about its rights than the violence. "The government should be concerned about all the people getting hurt," Abdullah said.

But in the National Assembly, lawmaker Fattah al-Sheik stood and cried as he described being stopped at a checkpoint on the way to work Tuesday. He claimed an American soldier kicked his car, mocked the legislature, handcuffed him and held him by the neck.

"What happened to me represents an insult to the whole National Assembly that was elected by the Iraqi people. This shows that the democracy we are enjoying is fake," al-Sheik said. "Through such incidents, the U.S. Army tries to show that it is the real controlling power in the country, not the new Iraqi government."

US Trade Deficit Should Rock Americans to Their Cores

This information should rock every American to their core. It has the potential of changing every American life. It's technical and more than a quick sound-byte, but please invest a minute or two to read it.

From Center for American Progress by Christian E. Weller

The U.S. trade deficit rose to an unprecedented $61.0 billion in February 2005, the Department of Commerce reported today. This reflects an increase of $2.5 billion from January. While much of the increase was related to higher oil prices, there were also signs of continued weaknesses in other areas.

The widening deficit largely mirrored a greater petroleum product deficit, which grew by $1.2 billion from January, i.e. 48 percent of the rise in deficit resulted from oil-related products. Consequently, February's deficit totaled $16.4 billion, the second highest deficit in the past 14 months.

However, even if the oil-related deficit had remained unchanged from January, February's trade deficit would still have reached a record of $59.8 billion given that 52 percent of the deterioration in the trade deficit was not oil related.

For one, the widening of the trade deficit reflects slow growth in U.S. export markets. Underlying the widening of the trade deficit were larger deficits with Mexico, Japan, and the European Union, despite the fact that a weaker dollar over the past few years should have led to lower deficits. The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico alone rose by $0.8 billion from January to February.

At the same time, import growth surged again. Imports of industrial supplies and materials alone rose by $2.3 billion from January to February 2005, which was offset merely by a rise in exports of industrial supplies and materials of $0.5 billion. Also, the surplus in service trade shrank again by $0.3 million. The result was the smallest monthly surplus in services since August 2004.

Given that the rise in the U.S. trade deficit was driven by structural weaknesses as much as higher oil prices, foreign investors, who have helped finance the U.S. appetite for overseas products and kept interest rates low in the process, may look elsewhere to invest their money.

This upcoming Friday, the Treasury will release its latest figures on international capital flows, which may show a growing reluctance to lend money to the U.S., especially to the federal government, which has financed a disproportionate share of its deficit by foreign borrowing.

Should foreign investors lend less to the U.S., higher interest rates and slower growth could soon follow.

Condi Worries That President Is Growing Too Powerful

The Russian president, that is.

Condi, do you feel the same way about the US and President Bush? Do you even see the parallels?

Because we do.
From Reuters this morning....

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, starting a two-day trip to Moscow, said on Tuesday the Kremlin's tightening grip on power and Russia's pliant media were "very worrying."

"Trends have not been positive on the democratic side," Rice told reporters on board her plane en route to Moscow, where she was due to meet President
Vladimir Putin and other top officials.

"The centralization of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like the Duma (parliament lower house) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying. The absence of an independent media on the electronic side is clearly very worrying," she added.

Rice also said it "would not be a positive development" if Putin changed the constitution to be able to run for a third successive term.

Monday, April 18, 2005

How did We Allow Ourselves to Get Here from There?

Remembering a time when decency and respect for people reigned in the White House...... a New York Times op-ed today.
A Radical in the White HouseBy BOB HERBERT

Last week - April 12, to be exact - was the 60th anniversary of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "I have a terrific headache," he said, before collapsing at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga. He died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on the 83rd day of his fourth term as president. His hold on the nation was such that most Americans, stunned by the announcement of his death that spring afternoon, reacted as though they had lost a close relative.

That more wasn't made of this anniversary is not just a matter of time; it's a measure of the distance the U.S. has traveled from the egalitarian ideals championed by F.D.R. His goal was "to make a country in which no one is left out." That kind of thinking has long since been consigned to the political dumpster. We're now in the age of Bush, Cheney and DeLay, small men committed to the concentration of big bucks in the hands of the fortunate few.

To get a sense of just how radical Roosevelt was (compared with the politics of today), consider the State of the Union address he delivered from the White House on Jan. 11, 1944. He was already in declining health and, suffering from a cold, he gave the speech over the radio in the form of a fireside chat.

After talking about the war, which was still being fought on two fronts, the president offered what should have been recognized immediately for what it was, nothing less than a blueprint for the future of the United States. It was the clearest statement I've ever seen of the kind of nation the U.S. could have become in the years between the end of World War II and now. Roosevelt referred to his proposals in that speech as "a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed."

Among these rights, he said, are:

"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

- The right of every family to a decent home.

- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

- The right to a good education."

I mentioned this a few days ago to an acquaintance who is 30 years old. She said, "Wow, I can't believe a president would say that."

Roosevelt's vision gave conservatives in both parties apoplexy in 1944 and it would still drive them crazy today. But the truth is that during the 1950's and 60's the nation made substantial progress toward his wonderfully admirable goals, before the momentum of liberal politics slowed with the war in Vietnam and the election in 1968 of Richard Nixon.

It wouldn't be long before Ronald Reagan was, as the historian Robert Dallek put it, attacking Medicare as "the advance wave of socialism" and Dick Cheney, from a seat in Congress, was giving the thumbs down to Head Start. Mr. Cheney says he has since seen the light on Head Start. But his real idea of a head start is to throw government money at people who already have more cash than they know what to do with. He's one of the leaders of the G.O.P. gang (the members should all wear masks) that has executed a wholesale transfer of wealth via tax cuts from working people to the very rich.

Roosevelt was far from a perfect president, but he gave hope and a sense of the possible to a nation in dire need. And he famously warned against giving in to fear.

The nation is now in the hands of leaders who are experts at exploiting fear, and indifferent to the needs and hopes, even the suffering, of ordinary people.

"The test of our progress," said Roosevelt, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Sixty years after his death we should be raising a toast to F.D.R. and his progressive ideas. And we should take that opportunity to ask: How in the world did we allow ourselves to get from there to here?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Let DeLay Continue Disgracing Republicans

USA Today:
Democrats think they can make DeLay an issue that costs Republicans seats in next year's elections. "Democrats have gone from being frustrated that people weren't paying enough attention to DeLay to being afraid he's going to be thrown out too soon," says Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

I've been saying the same thing. Let Tom DeLay stay and continue disgracing and embarrassing the Republican Party and George Bush. This is huge advantage for the Democrats in 2006.

When the Message Is Bad, Erase It

When the message is bad, don't fix it. Just erase it.

From Sirotablog, via Daily Kos......Bush: Bad Data Means Stop Publishing

President Bush has said that "in a society that is a free society, there will be transparency." That means that in America, we have a government where the public gets to see as much information as possible about its government.

But as the record shows, Bush is anything but pro-transparency. A careful look shows the Bush White House has systematically tried to stop publishing government information that it finds embarrassing or disagrees with - the opposite of "transparent." See the record for yourself:

- Knight-Ridder reports today that the Bush administration announced yesterday that it has "decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."

- When unemployment was peaking in Bush's first term, the White House tried to stop publishing the Labor Department's regular report on mass layoffs.

- In 2003, when the nation's governors came to Washington to complain about inadequate federal funding for the states, the Bush administration decided to stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren't, getting.

- In 2003, the National Council for Research on Women found that information about discrimination against women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

- In 2002, Democrats uncovered evidence that the Bush administration was removing health information from government websites. Specifically, the administration deleted data showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer. That scientific data was seen by the White House as a direct affront to the pro-life movement.

How Many Bushies Does It Take to Replace a Lightbulb?

From Dialogic....a pained laugh.

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a lightbulb?

The Answer is SEVEN:

1. One to deny that a lightbulb needs to be replaced

2. One to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the lightbulb,

3. One to blame the previous administration for the need of a new lightbulb,

4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of lightbulbs,

5. One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a lightbulb,

6. One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the lightbulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag,and finally,

7. One to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Christianity as Weapon to Divide and Hate

It's never been more obvious that Bush-style Republicans viciously wield their brand of "Christianity" as a weapon to divide people, and to advance the cause of hatred and suspicion of others not adhering to their political faith.

It clearly smacks of the Pharisees, and not Jesus Christ, who fought the Pharisees. To quote John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees, "You brood of vipers!" -- Luke 3:7.

The Congress has approved 205 of 215 judgeship nominations put forth by the Bush Administration. That'a a 95% approval rating, higher than almost any other administration. But that's not enough for Bush the Self-Absorbed.

Furthermore, and more important to Bush, he needs to rally the base. Since the election just five months ago, the President's ratings have plummeted as his decidedly greedy, unChristian agenda has become painfully clear. He desperately desires to pass his corrupt Social Security plan, and needs new cohesion of his shattered "faith and values" coalition.

So Bush foot solider Senate Majority Leader and presidential hopeful Bill Frist will soon take part in a pseudo-Christian pep rally proclaiming that Americans who don't support the President's 10 failed judge nominations are not people of faith. Period. Frist and cronies believe that it is their job to judge us and our faiths.

This is naked exploitation of religion as political tactic and public display. Nothing more, nothing less. Christianity is not a political card to play, it is deep personal faith and ethic to be respected.

To quote another Christian, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." -- Luke 23:34
The lead New York Times editoral today....Bill Frist's Religious War

Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans. But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.

Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern. The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.

It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance. It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans. Unfortunately, Senator Frist and his allies are willing to break down the rules to push through their agenda - in this case, by creating what the senator knows is a false connection between religion and the debate about judges.

Senator Frist and his backers want to take away the sole tool Democrats have for resisting the appointment of unqualified judges: the filibuster. This is not about a majority or even a significant number of Bush nominees; it's about a handful with fringe views or shaky qualifications. But Senator Frist is determined to get judges on the federal bench who are loyal to the Republican fringe and, he hopes, would accept a theocratic test on decisions.

Senator Frist has an even bigger game in mind than the current nominees: the next appointments to the Supreme Court, which the Republican conservatives view as their best chance to outlaw abortion and impose their moral code on the country.

We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values." Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country. President Bush owes it to Americans to stand up and say so.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Election Surprise: Jewish Vote Went 77% for Kerry

When Senate Majority Leader talks about "people of faith," aren't followers of Judaism also people of faith?
Interesting news today from the National Jewish Democratic Council....

This week, news sources including the Los Angeles Times and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that a new analysis of 2004 poll data shows that even more American Jews voted Democratic than previously thought.

A whopping 77 percent of American Jews voted for Senator John Kerry in 2004, according to the new survey by The Solomon Project; when weighing only votes cast for the two major parties, 78 percent of American Jews voted for Kerry.

This strong Jewish vote occurred despite an unprecedented smear campaign waged against Senator Kerry in the Jewish community. NJDC worked to expose the lies and educate American Jews about the facts -- acting as a truth-squad where necessary, and exposing right-wing hypocrisy (click here for examples). And Jews rejected this smear campaign. As the Los Angeles Times noted, the study "found little movement toward Bush among American Jews." (Click here for more on the survey itself.)

Why did so many Jews vote for Senator Kerry, and why -- as the analysis indicates -- have American Jews so reliably voted Democratic?

In addition to having a perfect record on Israel, the priorities and values of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate -- like his predecessors -- agree with the values of the vast majority of American Jews. And Democrats went after every vote in the Jewish community in 2004, taking no vote for granted -- even the votes of strong supporters and friends in the Jewish community.

Or as Democratic National Committee Chairman Gov. Howard Dean said yesterday in response to the survey, "Even with the overwhelming support of Jewish Americans, Democrats will continue to fight for every vote in the Jewish community."

John Edwards - Facing a Moral Choice

Former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, now head of the University of North Carolina law school's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, delivered a well-received speech yesterday at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

As a Christian who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus, I like what he has to say.....
Edwards says ending poverty biggest issue facing country by Mark Pratt, Associated Press Writer

Ending poverty is perhaps the single largest issue facing the nation, former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said Wednesday.

"We must end poverty in America because the content of our country's character is at stake," Edwards said at a forum sponsored by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Thirty-six million Americans live in poverty, Edwards said, and the private sector as well as the government has a responsibility to address it.

"Every day each one of us faces a moral choice. We can either look the other way or we can face up to those who live in poverty and pledge to end it," said Edwards, whose speech was called "Restoring the American Dream."

Edwards talked about a couple from North Carolina who started an institution that loans money to the poor to start their own businesses, which he called "the perfect example of what you can do if you have the heart and the backbone to do it."

They started in 1985 with $77 they raised in a bake sale, he said, and have provided $3.9 billion in financing to people living on the margins of society while also destroying the stereotype that lending to the poor is risky.

Edwards, the son of working-class parents and a former medical malpractice lawyer who was Sen. John Kerry's vice presidential running-mate in 2004, represented North Carolina for one term in the Senate. Last month he became head of the University of North Carolina law school's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

In that capacity, he said, he has traveled all over the country meeting with the poor, and listening to their concerns.

He said the nation has made successful steps to eradicate poverty in the past, mentioning Social Security, Medicaid, Head Start, and the earned income tax credit, but that more must be done.

The nation can pull many people out of poverty by raising the national minimum wage, which he called "a disgrace," by overhauling the health care system, by protecting the rights of workers to organize and unionize, and by helping families build assets so they have something to fall back on during financial emergencies, Edwards said.

He said it was wrong that large corporations paid their CEOs millions of dollars while paying thousands of workers $7 per hour.

Edwards said the Bush administration's tax cuts for people earning more than $400,000 a year cost the country revenue that could be used to help the poor.

Superior Moral Justification for Selfishness

In honor of April 15 tax day, a truly interesting article on income taxes (no easy feat) by Molly Ivens....Please take the time to read it!

April 15th: You're Getting Screwed by Molly Ivins, AlterNet, April 14, 2005

Happy tax day, fellow citizens!

My favorite authority on taxes is David Cay Johnston of The New York Times, who won a Pulitzer for reporting on the terminally unsexy topic of taxes. His book Perfectly Legal -- The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich -- and Cheat Everyone Else is the single best work on public policy of recent years, I think.

Johnston reports: "Through explicit policies, as well as tax laws never reported in the news, Congress now literally takes money from those making $30,000 to $500,000 per year and funnels it in subtle ways to the super-rich -- the top one-one hundredth of one percent of Americans.

"People making $60,000 paid a larger share of their 2001 income in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes than a family making $25 million, the latest Internal Revenue Service data show. And in income taxes alone, people making $400,000 paid a larger share of their incomes than the 7,000 households who made $10 million or more."

The rest of us are subsidizing not only the super-rich, but also corporations. Fifty years ago, corporations paid 60 percent of all federal taxes. But by 2003, that was down to 16 percent. So individual taxpayers have to make up the difference, as corporate profits soar and wages fall.
As more and more rich people cheat on their taxes, the IRS is increasingly unable to go after them because it is so poorly funded.

For all this, we can thank the Republican Party.

Every year at this time, conservatives moan and groan and tell us how terribly, terribly overburdened we are by taxes. We wouldn't be overburdened if the tax code hadn't been rewritten by Republicans, and if Republicans hadn't weakened the IRS so much it can barely function. Damn right, this is a partisan effort. And damn right, I'm bitter about it. We don't need to raise taxes in this country, we need to collect them. We need tax cuts that don't favor the obscenely rich. You are getting screwed.

OK, now that I've gotten that rant off my chest, back to how it's done. Johnston: "One 1985 law, promoted in the Senate as relieving middle class Americans, gave a huge tax break to corporate executives who make personal use of company jets. CEOs may now fly to vacations or Saturday golf outings in luxury for a penny a mile. Congress shifted the real cost of about $6 per mile to shareholders, who pay two-thirds, and to taxpayers, who suffer the cost lost as a result of reduced corporate income taxes.

"Since 1988, Congress has also cut in half the Internal Revenue Service's capacity to enforce tax laws, replacing it with extra effort to reduce audits of corporations and the rich.

"On March 30, Congress was told that 78 percent of known tax cheats in investment partnerships are not even asked to pay because there are not enough tax collectors to go after them."

The IRS oversight board asked for money to go after these cheaters, but both Congress and President Bush refused. The IRS's computer system was installed when John Kennedy was president.

The Senate budget currently under consideration includes $129 billion in new tax breaks for millionaires and a $2.8 billion cut in farm and nutrition programs (i.e., food stamps). Which do you think is more important? The House has already passed a budget that cuts at least $15 billion for Medicaid and $5.3 billion from food stamps.

I have long held that W. Bush does not believe changing government policies can actually wreck people's lives -- he thinks it's a game, and the Democrats are just the other team. But if you believe the shift in the tax burden in this country -- and the consequent separation of a tiny, ever-richer minority from the rest of us -- doesn't have real effects, you're blind.

When you cut housing subsidies, you get more homeless people. When you cut food stamps, you get more hungry people. In 2002, at least 25.5 million people went to soup kitchens and food pantries. In 2003, 1.1 million more joined the lines. As unemployment and other government programs run out, even more will be standing on line. Last year, America got a pay cut. Wages for the average worker fell, after adjusting for inflation -- the first such drop in 10 years. That means the standard of living for most Americans is in decline.

The country becomes less and less fair, and equality of opportunity grows farther away ever day. Again, I don't think Republicans are doing this because they are mean, but because they have convinced themselves that people shouldn't be "dependent" on government, that it's bad for their moral fiber. Only corporations and the super-rich should get welfare and subsidies.

As economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Average Tax Cuts for Wealthy Could Pay Salaries for Three Teachers

From Common Dreams....Tax Me More by Heleny Cook

Heleny Cook is a member of Responsible Wealth and a high school English teacher in Washington, DC. She can be reached at

Also, be sure to read my article, Pros & Mainly Cons of Repealing the Estate Tax.
This Tax Day, I'm telling Congress to stop giving me tax breaks. I'm wealthy. I don't need them, and they're bad for our country.

As a teacher, I can't look my students in the eye and tell them millionaires should get tax cuts while schools and libraries are hit with budget cuts.

As a citizen, I can't face a military family and tell them they should sacrifice while millionaires get tax breaks.

The budgets passed by the House and Senate deserve an F for economics and ethics. It's irresponsible to dig our nation deeper into debt to give tax breaks to millionaires. It's immoral to cut health care and child care to give tax cuts to millionaires. Our government is not fulfilling the promise of equal opportunity for children, it is undoing it.

Households with incomes above $1 million got tax cuts averaging $123,600 last year. That tax break could cover the pay of three teachers.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent will cost more than $1 trillion over the next ten years if they are made permanent.

That translates into $300 million a day less for education and public health and safety. It means $300 million a day less for clean water, clean air and renewable energy, $300 million a day less to invest in research, job training and small business development.

Federal tax revenues have fallen to their lowest level as a share of the economy since the 1950s. Medicare and Medicaid didn't even exist in the 1950s. We can't build 21st century education and healthcare on a 1950s tax base.

We're becoming a society increasingly divided between haves and have-nots. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is one layoff or illness away from bankruptcy.

The tax system is being reshaped so that a growing share of tax revenue comes from workers' paychecks and a shrinking share comes from wealthy investors. Already I pay a larger share of my teaching income in taxes than I pay from the income I earn on my inherited investments.

That's wrong.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in the education and research that are essential to our nation's progress.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should fully fund Head Start and assure that no one is closed out of college because they can't afford to go.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in affordable housing and health care.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should strengthen Social Security.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in renewable energy sources so we can reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels that damage the environment and spark international conflicts.

Public opinion polls show that most Americans believe it is more important to have a strong safety net and fund education, environmental protection, health care, Social Security and other vital services than cut taxes. A majority says it's more important to reduce the deficit than to reduce taxes. Most Americans believe that upper-income people pay too little in federal taxes, not too much.

It's time for Congress to act on these priorities. It's time for Congress to stop robbing the poor and middle class to give to the rich. It's time for Congress to support the goal of equal opportunity instead of undermining it.

When I paid my taxes this year, I also took action to change irresponsible tax policies. I'm supporting the Responsible Tax Pledge sponsored by Responsible Wealth, a national network of businesspeople, investors and other affluent Americans concerned about growing inequality and working for more widely shared prosperity.

I'm donating my 2004 tax cut to organizations fighting for fair, adequate and responsible taxes. My students deserve no less.

Condi Rice Arrogance Riles North Korea

So I guess Condoleezza Rice's nonchalant arrogance isn't playing well in North Korea. From AP this morning, some scary words....

North Korea's No. 2 leader said Thursday the communist nation will increase its nuclear deterrent to defend against the alleged threat of a U.S. invasion, and ordered citizens to defend the regime "at the cost of their lives."

The United States has repeatedly said it has no intention to invade despite an ongoing standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The secretive nation claimed in February to possess atomic weapons and said it would boycott international disarmament talks. Last month, it said it had bolstered its nuclear arsenal.

"We will continue increasing our self-defensive nuclear deterrent against the enemies' policy to isolate and stifle the republic," Kim Yong Nam, head of the North's legislature, said at a meeting honoring the birthday of founding President Kim Il Sung.

"If the U.S. imperialists recklessly set the fire of war on the Korean Peninsula despite our repeated warnings ... we will mercilessly and completely destroy the invaders so they won't live again," Kim was quoted as saying by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
Pyongyang has demanded that Washington apologize for remarks by Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice describing North Korea as one of the world's "outposts of tyranny."

In an interview published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, Rice said North Korea's recent declaration that it had nuclear weapons was a bid for attention.