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1/31/2005

Bush Tactics Unconstitutional

From Bloomberg.com:

"A U.S. judge ruled that a group of suspected terrorists held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can challenge their detention in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green rejected a request by the Bush administration to throw out lawsuits by 54 detainees protesting their imprisonment. Green said tribunals set up by the Pentagon to test whether the prisoners are 'enemy combatants' violate the U.S. Constitution and in some cases the Geneva Conventions, which govern treatment of prisoners of war."

The original ruling which threw out the lawsuits brought by detainees was made by a Bush appointee, Richard Leon saying he found "no viable legal theory exists by which'' a court could order the detainees' release.

Green's ruling stated in part, "It would be far easier for the government to prosecute the war on terrorism if it could imprison all suspected 'enemy combatants' at Guantanamo Bay without having to acknowledge and respect any constitutional rights of detainees,'' Green wrote. "That, however, is not the relevant legal test.''

Hard to understand why Democrats fight so hard in some cases to keep the wacko right wing judicial appointees from being confirmed isn't it?

1/26/2005

Republicans Hate the First Amendment

From the Rocky Mountain News. "A Denver police sergeant is under investigation for allegedly threatening to arrest a woman Monday for displaying on her truck a derogatory bumper sticker about President Bush."

Shasta Bates proudly displays a bumper sticker on her truck that simply says Fuck Bush. Some Conservative do-gooder called the cops on her and the cop told her she had to remove it or he would arrest her. "He told her that this was a warning and that the next time he saw her truck, she was going to be arrested if she didn't remove the sticker," said Alinna Figueroa, 25, assistant manager of The UPS Store where the confrontation took place. "I couldn't believe it."

"Karasek (the police officer) then walked into the store and confronted Bates.

"He said, 'You need to take off those stickers because it's profanity and it's against the law to have profanity on your truck,' " Bates said. "Then he said, 'If you ever show up here again, I'm going to make you take those stickers off and arrest you. Never come back into that area.' "

I guess it's only "illegal" to have profanity on a bumper sticker at that particular location? "Never come back into that area?"

Of course the ACLU points out that, "The Supreme Court considered a case about 30-some years ago where a person was prosecuted for wearing a jacket that said, 'F--- the draft,' on the back. The Supreme Court said states could not prohibit people from wearing such a jacket," he said. "They said, 'One man's profanity is another man's lyric.' "

Another man's lyric huh? That reminds...There once was a lady from Nantucket...oh wait, that's a limerick not a lyric.

Well, all I have to say (and I learned this from South Dakota Republicans when it comes to smoking in public), if you don't like bumper stickers that say "Fuck Bush" then shop someplace where people don't have bumper stickers that say "Fuck Bush."

Can You Imagine the Phone Call?

French President Jacques Chirac proposed an international tax today designed to generate money for the worldwide fight against AIDS. Among other things his plan would add a $1 tax to every airline ticket sold in the world and would tax international financial transactions. He claims this would raise as much as $10 billion a year.

"President Bush? This is Jacques Chirac. I have an idea. Lets add a $1 to the price of every airline ticket sold worldwide and use the money to fight AIDS. What do you say?"

raucous laughter on the other end. "I'm sorry Jock. It sounded like ya said ADD $1 to the price of airline tickets. Wouldn't that be a tax? See Jock we don't DO taxes here anymore, especially not to cure some homosexual disease like AIDS. Thanks for callin tho Jock." More raucous laughter.

(The preceding was a dramatization)

SD to Ban Gay Marriage?

According to A Progressive on the Prairie, "Today a bill was introduced in the South Dakota Legislature proposing an amendment to the South Dakota Constitution banning gay marriage. It would also such render invalid such things as civil unions and domestic partnerships." The post goes on to point out that there is tremendous support for the bill in the legislature, and I have no doubt it will pass when it comes to a popular vote, probably by a wide margin.

My question is this. Why are Republicans willing to fight to the death for your right to smoke anywhere you want, but equally willing to fight to the death to keep you from loving whomever you choose to love? Somehow one should be able to choose to smoke whenever and where ever one would like, but when it comes to expressing one's love, one can't be trusted, the state must define it for you. I guess it's "your money" so you know best when it comes to retirement, but the state owns your sexuality and the state knows best. It's a good thing we didn't put it to a popular vote when blacks and women where given the right to vote.

1/24/2005

Republican and Social Security

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif. and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, will no doubt be asked to leave the Republican party at some point in the near future. Both went on TV yesterday and said Bush is wrong about Social Security. Are they crazy? Don't they know that those who speak out in opposition to the President will not be tolerated. Don't they know Bush won the election so he is always right?

The story appeared in the
Moonie Times

"On NBC's "Meet the Press," Thomas said he wants to look at new ways of financing Social Security and said one possibility is a value-added tax -- a consumption tax added at each stage in the production of goods and services"

"Snowe said on CNN's "Inside Politics Sunday" she is not convinced a Social Security crisis has arrived, saying there are "various scenarios and interpretations about that urgency."


The Pledge

Imagine your child made to say the following in school each day.

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation under Allah indivisible
With liberty and justice for all

Does it make you uncomfortable to read that?
Does it offend you?
That's what passes for religious "freedom" in America today.

1/21/2005

Republican Lies

The Republicans want you to believe that Democrats think you are dumb. They also want you to think that they believe you are smart and capable to taking care of yourself in every situation.

This is, at best, a Republican myth, I call it a lie.

First, here is what Republicans want you think Democrats think of you, "Democratic politicians see voters as incompetent pawns that are only useful insofar as they can help the party win elections."

And then this one, "Do Democratic politicians only see voters as possessors of wisdom to the extent that they have the brains to put Democratic politicians in power? To Democrats, the wisdom of voters apparently does not extend beyond that act of voting."

These little gems are courtesy of John Tamny at the
NRO.

Then consider these two stories from North Dakota. Keep in mind, these two items came out of the North Dakota House of Representatives on the exact same day as reported by the
Grand Forks Herald.

"An 18-year-old man returning from military service in Iraq can buy cigarettes at a gas station but can't move in with his girlfriend, North Dakota's House of Representatives decided Wednesday."

Listen to the right-wing party line on smoking, "Several lawmakers argued it would be hypocritical to allow 18-year-olds to fight for their country but prohibit them from smoking.
'An individual who is 18 years old is a consenting adult in this state and should be fully capable of making a decision whether they want to smoke or not,' said Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan."

Now I will give you that it is hard to argue against that statement. Except when you consider the conclusion the same body of lawmakers came to on the same day about couples living together "in sin."

"The House also voted down a proposal that would remove a law against unmarried, unrelated people of the opposite sex living together."

Let the hypocrites explain, "Several lawmakers voiced opposition to the bill on the House floor. Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, called it a 'social standards' issue. 'I think it sends a message to not only the rest of the people in North Dakota, but especially our young,' Ruby said."

Oh there's more. This is from Rep. Pat Galvin, R-Hazen, "The concept of the traditional marriage and the traditional family right now is more under attack than it ever has been under in our lives, and I don't want to be one that contributes to this."

So I think I have this correct, and please, correct me if I'm wrong, but Republicans believe that people, even 18 year olds, even gays, even people who "live in sin" are capable of and in fact have the right to manage their own Social Security accounts. Keeping in mind that even the most seasoned investor hires professional help to navigate Wall Street, the GOP thinks it's fine to turn over the only guaranteed retirement funds people have to people who possibly have never invested in the past and have no idea what they are doing. The complexities of individual accounts include, but are not limited to, no disability insurance, no life insurance, no idea how much the administrative costs will be, and no plan for how to pay for the transitional costs. Somehow though, every Tom, Dick and Harry will always make the right decisions with their individual accounts. Nobody's ever gone broke in the stock market right?

Conversely, those same 18 year olds, gays and cohabitators simply don't have the mental makeup to decide who, or if they want to marry.

Now somebody please tell who thinks voters are, what was the phrase again? Oh yeah, "incompetent pawns"?


1/20/2005

Bush Rubs Off On CNN

It's finally happened. Bush has dumbed down the entire country. The following headline appears on CNN.com,

"Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider"

As far as I can tell Bush didn't actually write this headline, it only seems like he did. The story just keeps getting funnier, "Forty-nine percent of 1,007 adult Americans said in phone interviews they believe Bush is a "uniter," according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday. Another 49 percent called him a "divider," and 2 percent had no opinion."

Are You Kidding Me?

Dr. James Dobson now thinks Sponge Bob is trying to convert our youth to the gay lifestyle...no really he does...stop laughing he really does. "Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

Oh my! Our children should be "tolerant" of others? Why that wouldn't be very "Christian" of them would it? I suppose Dobson would prefer they beat the hell out of those different than them and in fact tell them they are going to hell. Yeah, that would be way more Christian.

Oh and in case you didn't know Dobson is out of his mind, "The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth.

Why let the truth get in the way of fanaticism?


Bush to Repay Religious Right for Election

At a pre-inaugural gala thrown by the religious right who now believe they own Bush, former campaign manager and current RNC chair Ken Mehlman delivered this message to the faithful, "Promises made will be promises kept, because this president will do what he said he'd do." Mehlman spoke of the president's "most sacred duty -- the appointment of judges. "We're going to have more Scalias and Thomases."

I took that as a threat. There was no mention of other specific promises, but one can assume that abortion and gay marriage are all these people care about.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, some of those in attendance where, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell, oh and John Thune.

1/18/2005

Real Social Security Reform

At last someone with a real plan to save Social Security and not end it under the guise of saving it. The following is from Jim Trippon, CPA, who suggests using TIPS as a solution to current debates over President Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security.

"Anyone who's trying to research what's going on in Social Security is not getting all the facts," says financial planning expert, Jim Trippon, CPA, "It's important to have unbiased and sound information, but unfortunately most of the stuff out there is slanted."

Trippon believes that the current system is fatally flawed, and is need of reform if it is to last. He puts forth three possibilities to save it, cut benefits, increase taxes or improve the rate of return.
"Our system needs to be changed in order to survive," says Trippon, "I don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes on younger Americans and removing benefits isn't the solution either. We're left with improving the rate of return." Trippon believes the answer is this: citizens should be allowed to privatize their retirement funds using only Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). With TIPS, citizens can invest their money in five, 10 or 20 year terms. Owners receive interest payments every six months and the bonds are protected from inflation, meaning the worth of their retirement investment ultimately cannot be depleted in value. "This is, in my opinion, the safest investment anyone can have in their future," says Trippon, "It has nothing to do with South American-style privatization and it will put an end to this media freak show Bush has caused."

As I've mentioned here before, this is essentially the system that Galveston County Texas has adopted. The Bush administration will keep pointing to Galveston has a successful experiment in privatization. Just keep in mind when you hear that, that Galveston County employees don't have any more control over their Social Security than you or I do. They are all automatically invested in guaranteed annuities from life insurance companies. They also had to come up with separate life insurance and disability components to replace those that are part of Social Security. The right wing just doesn't want to talk about this part of the plan at all. My only point is, change isn't necessarily bad here. I mean having your money in a private account that the government can't touch is probably a good thing, just make sure they are comparing apples to apples when they start selling privatization to you.

Reform Auto Insurance Now!

I've been thinking about it and this whole car insurance thing is a racket. It's the worst deal ever (even worse than Social Security). I mean I pay all this money to a big insurance company and unless I am unfortunate enough to get in a accident I will never see a penny back. Even if I have an accident it would actually have to be my fault in order to collect otherwise the other person's insurance would pick up the tab. If I am lucky enough to actually cause an accident at some point then sure I will get to collect, but maybe not as much as I already paid into the system, and then the bastards will raise my premiums.

What right does the government have to tell me that I have to carry car insurance in order to drive MY car. I mean it's MY money and MY car. I've been paying my own auto insurance for the last 15 years and not one claim so far. Just imagine if I had put that money in a private account. I would have enough money in there by now to buy a new car if something ever happened to mine. Sure, I know that if I had an accident after only one or two years of paying myself instead of an insurance company, that I would be out of luck, but still, it's MY money. If I want to take foolish risks with it, that's my business.

I am sick of those big insurance companies taking MY money and redistributing it to a bunch of losers who don't know how to drive. That's it, I'm writing my Senator.

1/17/2005

Inauguration To Protect Us From Terrorists?

"D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects."

"It's an unfunded mandate of the most odious kind. How can the District be asked to take funds from important homeland security projects to pay for this instead?" said Davis spokesman David Marin. Davis is Rep. Thomas M. Davis III chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, oh and he's a REPUBLICAN.

DC had earmarked federal homeland security money for silly things like increasing hospital capacity, equipping firefighters with protective gear and building transit system command centers. You know, actual homeland security type things.

Here is my favorite part though, the Bush justification, "OMB spokesman Chad Kolton said no additional appropriation is needed for the inauguration.

We think that an appropriate balance of money from [the annual reimbursement] fund and from homeland security grants is the most effective way to cover the additional cost the city incurs," Kolton said. "We recognize the city has a special burden to bear for many of these events. . . . That's expressly why in the post-9/11 era we are providing additional resources.'"

What? They gave DC extra money for homeland security so they could pay for a lavish inauguration? I don't know how they can keep a straight face.
ENTIRE STORY HERE

Jeremy Hinzman

A reader and fellow blogger at New Frames, tipped me off to this story. I had not heard anything about this man, maybe some of you had, but certainly not from any of the media outlets in South Dakota. Jeremy Hinzman is a 26-year-old native of Rapid City South Dakota, who after he joined the Army started to practice Quakerism and applied for Conscientious Objector status with the Army and was denied. As a result he, his wife and young son have fled for Canada.

Did you know that over
5,500 soldiers have joined him there? "An estimated 5,500 men and women have deserted from the U.S. Army since the invasion of Iraq, reflecting growing problems with troop morale in the United States. Many people are fleeing to Canada, according to the Sunday Telegraph, a trend that rekindles memories of the draft dodgers who flooded north to avoid service in Vietnam.

Jeremy Hinzman, a 26-year-old from South Dakota who deserted from the 82nd Airborne, is among those who have applied for refugee status in Canada. 'This is a criminal war and any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity,' Hinzman said. 'I signed a contract for four years, and I was totally willing to fulfill it. Just not in combat arms jobs.'"

According to
JeremyHinzman.net, Jeremy and his wife Nga "began attending meetings of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. As a result of this, they became acquainted with the Quaker Peace Testimony, which intensified their questioning of the meaning of military life.

This questioning culminated in Jeremy submitting an application to the Army requesting conscientious objector status in August of 2002. Apparently, the Army never received the application, so he resubmitted it on Halloween of 2002. Just over a month later his unit was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Eventually the application surfaced and a twenty five minute hearing was held. Jeremy stated that, should he be attacked, he could not always turn the other cheek. Thus, not meeting the Army's criteria for conscientious objector status, his application was denied"

In a radio interview last month Hinzman said something interesting, "So anyway, I felt that we had attacked Iraq without any defensive basis, and I think it's been well established at Nuremburg that in those instances, you cannot simply just say that you're following orders, but you have a duty and obligation to disobey."

I don't really have a political message here, although I do agree with most of what Hinzman says about the war. Still, I have to admit, something about the fact that there is actually a JeremyHinzman.net rubs me the wrong way. It's a complicated issue, involving among other things, religious freedom, and a soldiers duty to disobey unlawful orders (see Charles Graner who was following orders to "soften up" detaninees and now gets to spend 10 years in jail). My real question is, why is this such a non-story in South Dakota when there are over 16,000 hits when you type "Jeremy Hinzman" into Google. Now, I didn't look at all 16,000 hits, but I looked at a lot of them and not one was from a South Dakota News outlet or a South Dakota Blog. The whole world is talking about this guy except the people in his own state. I'm not sure what my point is except I just don't get it. If this has been in the local news or on a South Dakota blog I'm sure I will hear about it, I could be wrong, but I looked long and hard for any mention on South Dakota sites and found nothing. Are we ashamed? It would see that the Thune Blog Alliance would be all over this guy. It would also seem that the "liberal msm" would be all over it, and yet nothing. Presumably his family still lives in South Dakota, and not one Sunday feature in one South Dakota newspaper. Again, I don't really have a point, this just seems like a pretty big story for our little state, and nobody is talking about it.

Rathergate

The following is from a column by Pat Buchanan and posted on a SD Right-Wing blog:

"The real story is who was behind this criminal conspiracy to bring down a president of the United States, using fake and forged U.S. government documents, which is a felony. And who knew of the plot?
In this conspiracy, CBS and Rather were complicit. They fenced the counterfeit documents – innocently, they say. Yet, their behavior is more like that of guilty accomplices than beguiled victims.


The unanswered questions are these: Who created the fake documents? Was it Bill Burkett alone? Who placed Col. Killian's signature onto the counterfeits? How many people knew this hit on President Bush was going down? Did the Democratic National Committee or Kerry campaign know, in advance, CBS was going to dump on Bush?

Why haven't CBS or ex-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh called in the U.S. attorney's office and turned over all evidence they have of this felony, designed to assassinate the character of the president and timed to effect his defeat in the election of 2004? "

I have a question (by the way I fully expect people to call me crazy when I ask this question, but I'm asking anyway) why hasn't Karl Rove hauled those involved into court yet? Could it possibly be that, as Rather has said, the story itself is true even if the documents where forged (and I will admit they where forged)? I know nobody wants to consider that possibility, but what other reason could there be? One would think that Rove and Bush would jump at the chance to prosecute those would plot to bring him down.

1/14/2005

Well, I Have One Taker

In a previous post I said this, "Jeffrey Dubner, from the online site of the American Prospect, suggests commentators take an oath:'I swear that I have never taken money -- whether directly or indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).'"I am willing to take that oath. I challenge all other South Dakota bloggers to do the same, left and right both. I can't wait to see the right wing SD blogs saying I'm attacking them on this when I just said I'm challenging ALL bloggers to take the oath."

In response, HRYK at I Make Sense said this, "Sure I'll take the oath, I don't think it is necessary, but I'll take it. Blogs are journals of opinion, not news sources. Does Mr. Dubner or Mr. Dlugosh expect me to take the Hypocratic Oath that a doctor would if I intend to pull out a tooth, or apply a band-aid? I know what the SD left blogs are trying to do, and they're doing a decent job at making people believe that these blogs purported to be news sources so they should be judged the same way as news sources. The fact is they didn't and they shouldn't. Regardless of who was paying their bills."

I appreciate that HRYK. You totally miss the point, but thanks anyway. I don't think any of us evil-doers on SD left blogs thinks that the blogs in question where news sources. We are all capable of understanding that they where right-wing, Thune-loving, Daschle-hating blogs. What we did think (and believe had every right to expect) is that they where coming up with their views all on their own, and not having it fed to them directly by the Thune campaign. As I've said before, say what you want to say, get paid if you can, that's great, just tell us that these are not really your views, but instead what Thune told you say. Then we know exactly where you are coming from.


Saddam Tells The Truth?

Judging from peoples responses via letters to the Editor in the Argus Leader after an obviously sarcatic letter about God and Newton's Theory, I feel obligated to disclose right up front that I'm pretty sure this story is sarcastic humor.

From Any Borowitz:

"Just hours after confirming that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was over, President George W. Bush leveled his harshest charge ever at Saddam Hussein, accusing the former Iraqi dictator of "knowingly telling the truth" about not possessing WMD in the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"After years of lying about his weapons, Saddam Hussein willfully decided to tell the truth about them," Mr. Bush said. "His treachery knows no bounds."

After Mr. Bush excoriated Saddam for his "wanton truth-telling," he added that "thanks to the work of our coalition, Mr. Saddam Hussein will never be free to tell the truth again."

Mr. Bush argued that even though the stated reason for invading Iraq no longer applied, preventing the former Iraqi strongman from telling the truth in the future was "reason enough" to go to war."

In the wrong hands, the truth can destabilize regions and even destroy entire civilizations," Mr. Bush said. "In that respect, the truth itself is a weapon of mass destruction – one that Mr. Saddam Hussein will never be able to use again.

"The president concluded his remarks with tough words for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, whom Mr. Bush accused of telling the truth about his own weapons program.

Naming Mr. Kim a member of what he called "The Axis of Veracity," Mr. Bush urged the North Korean madman to cease and desist telling the truth and to "join the community of truth-fearing nations."

Elsewhere, organizers of this weekend's tsunami telethon confirmed that Fox's Bill O'Reilly would participate but would not be allowed anywhere near the telephones"

1/13/2005

Gathering Storm in the Senate

From something called LifeNews.com:

"Senate Republicans are getting closer to launching their plan of action to attempt to prevent filibusters by pro-abortion Senate Democrats on President Bush's pro-life judicial nominees.
Pro-life lawmakers have long been frustrated by the efforts of abortion advocates to stall nearly a dozen of Bush's picks to top federal courts. The issue came to a head during the elections and is credited with helping pro-life Senator John Thune defeat then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle."


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist makes this threat, "If my Democratic colleagues exercise self-restraint and do not filibuster judicial nominees, Senate traditions will be restored. But, if my Democratic colleagues continue to filibuster judicial nominees, the Senate will face this choice: Fail to do its constitutional duty or reform itself and restore its traditions, and do what the Framers intended."

Minority Leader Harry Reid then fired off this warning, "It will be very difficult to get even the most routine work done in the Senate," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in an interview late last month.

As I've mentioned before on this site and Thune v South Dakota, I think Bush needs to exercise self-restraint when it comes to nominating crazy right-wing fundamentalist judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. We all understand the nominees will be conservative, but he should be able to find mainstream conservative judges to appoint and not fringe wackos. Here is a rundown of some of those wackos that have been nominated.

1/12/2005

More on the Biased Right Wing Media

This comes from Dakota Today and Salon.com

"Sinclair Broadcasting made headlines last year by aligning itself with partisan, conservative forces and pushing a political agenda. In May, the media conglomerate refused to air "Nightline" when Ted Koppel read aloud the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. (Antiwar propaganda, Sinclair executives claimed.) Then, in late fall, Sinclair pushed forward a one-sided, anti-John Kerry documentary on the eve of the election. In both cases, while ignoring charges of bias, Sinclair bosses seemed to relish their time in the spotlight.

But now Sinclair is getting burned by one of its conservative stars and the media company is running for the shadows. In the wake of news that its on-air mainstay, conservative talk-show host and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams, pocketed $240,000 from the Department of Education in exchange for hyping a White House education initiative, Sinclair is going out of its way to distance itself from its prime-time pundit. The company has also asked Williams to clear up the misleading impression that it carries his syndicated TV show on dozens of its stations."

DNC Sets Sites on Virginia

"After losing every southern state in the November presidential election, Democrats are investing heavily in Virginia's upcoming gubernatorial race.This week, the Democratic National Committee said it would contribute $5-million to the race, with $1.5 million going directly to the campaign of Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, who hopes to replace term-limited Democrat Mark Warner in the 2005 election. Press reports say the DNC's $5-million contribution is the most it has ever pumped into a Virginia gubernatorial race." More

All I would say is we don't just need money to be poured into this or any other race, we need a clear coherent message that speaks to the single issue voters the GOP has been so good at targeting. All the money in the world is not going to make a person who votes only because they believe that Democrats think it is OK for their 17 year old daughter to use abortion as birth control or the person who believes that gay marriage will be the end of Western Civilization, vote for a Democrat. All that money is great, but we all need to look to Montana and their new Gov. Elect Brian Schweitzer for guidance. He just won a traditionally Republican state by crafting a message that soothed the bogus fears that have been instilled in single issue voters for generations by the GOP while continuing to campaign on traditional Democrat values like civil and human rights, fair taxation, health care etc, and it worked. I hope Virginia uses the money wisely.

The Real Media Crisis

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Nick Coleman:

"Alarm bells have been set off by the news that Armstrong Williams, a syndicated columnist and conservative commentator, failed to disclose that he was paid $241,000 by the U.S. Department of Education to promote the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. Instead, he took the money and ran, calling NCLB 'the best legislation that has been put forth in the last 20 years to raise the academic standards of inner-city and urban schools.'"

"During last fall's election campaign, South Dakota Democrat Tom Daschle was regularly thumped by two Web sites whose operators -- it was revealed after the election --were paid by the campaign of Daschle's Republican opponent, John Thune. Neither of their blogs disclosed that they were being paid by Thune, who is Senator Thune now. And the episode should raise a huge red flag."

"Jeffrey Dubner, from the online site of the American Prospect, suggests commentators take an oath:
'I swear that I have never taken money -- whether directly or indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).'"


I am willing to take that oath. I challenge all other South Dakota bloggers to do the same, left and right both. I can't wait to see the right wing SD blogs saying I'm attacking them on this when I just said I'm challenging ALL bloggers to take the oath.

1/11/2005

Finally...Reason On Talk Radio

Starting Monday January 17 Dirty Flower editor Ben Hanten will bring some good Liberalism to talk radio. "Friendly Fire" will air on WNAX (AM 570) daily from 4:00-5:30pm. Co-host Clarke Sanders will chime in from time to time with wrong...I mean other point of view. More

1/10/2005

More Right Wing Lies About Social Security

Amid all the talk about President Bush manufacturing crisis in order whip up support for various policies, comes word there is a real crisis, but it isn't Social Security.

"In other words, the administration is fabricating a crisis to divert attention from other issues that are potentially much more threatening, such as the cost of Bush’s tax cuts if they are made permanent. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out in recent reports, the cost of the Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years does not come close to the cost of either making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent or of the newly passed Medicare drug benefit. (See the chart below). Both these policies of President Bush would strain the budget to the breaking point long before Social Security would. As E.J. Dionne pointed out in a Jan. 7 editorial in the Washington Post, many opponents believe, “Bush is proposing a solution that won’t work on an issue that should not be dominating the debate in the first place.”

Further, it is striking that the Bush tax cuts were made possible in the first placed due to the planned build up of Social Security reserves. The federal government is currently borrowing those funds to finance the deficit. In 2018, when the payout of benefits will exceed the revenues in the Social Security program, the government will need to begin paying back what it borrowed from Social Security. Thus, by 2018, the only real crises will be an artificial one created by the Bush tax cuts and the additional borrowing necessitated by them." more

Bush Pays for Propaganda

"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration paid Armstrong Williams, a prominent Washington columnist, to promote its education policy, possibly violating U.S. law. Williams has admitted taking money in return for spotlighting the so-called No Child Left Behind education initiative. A number of federal laws prohibit taxpayer money being used to influence public opinion. The story broke in USA Today's weekend edition, which followed a Freedom of Information request. Williams received $240,000 U.S. for his help through a public-relations firm hired by the Education Department." more

Of course you will never hear any of this on Fox News while they scream about Dan Rather.

1/08/2005

President Gingrich?

Former Speaker of the House and current crazy man Newt Gingrich has written a book entitled "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America," in which he criticizes President Bush's Iraqi policy and will soon be campaigning...i mean signing books in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. I'm sure those locations are totally random.

"It never hurts to maximize opportunities. That's the American tradition," Gingrich said. "If I can influence the reporters and political activists in Iowa and New Hampshire, they will influence the candidates.

"For an Army brat from Pennsylvania who became the only Georgia Republican in the House and the first Republican Speaker of the House in 40 years, anything seems possible. I don't think it's very likely. On the other hand, if I have an impact on public policy and do it in a way that is exciting and positive, why wouldn't I want to do that?"

Gingrich lists the following as goals for America in the Post 9/11 era, "defeat terrorism, stop driving God from public life, develop 'patriotic' immigration and education policies, harness modern science and technology and establish personal Social Security accounts." I wonder what the hell patriotic immigration is.

1/05/2005

Religious Right v Islamic Fundamentalists

Think these two groups aren't exactly the same? Consider this analysis of the tsunami from a leading Muslim cleric in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, "God is angry with Aceh people, because most of them do not do what is written in the Koran and the Hadith," the collected sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad, explained Cut Bukhaini, 35, an imam. "I hope this will lead all Muslims in Aceh to do what is in the Koran and its teachings. If we do so, God will be merciful and compassionate." Forget the tsunami warning system, just follow the Koran and no more disasters. I wonder what the dinosaurs did to piss off Allah?

Now consider what our own beloved Jerry Falwell said after the 9/11 attacks, "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen." Forget fighting bin Laden, do away with abortion and gays and feminists and I guess terrorists won't hate us anymore.

Both groups appear to be saying that it isn't nature or people who hate us that we need to fear, but God. I guess God sent the tsunami and the terrorists. God must like a little variety in his destruction I guess.

I will leave you with this warning from Jerry Falwell, "I have a Divine Mandate to go into the halls of Congress and fight for laws that will save America."

1/04/2005

Right Wing Lies About Social Security

As this issue starts to really heat up, I keep hearing about how great the privatization of Social Security has worked in Galveston County Texas and in Chile. I also hear how privatization will be good for young workers and families. I keep hearing how I will be a millionaire if I'm allowed to invest 2% of my current Social Security contributions in the stock market. The right keeps telling us this will fix Social Security for future generations. I decided to do some reading on the subject. Here is what I found.

First the "Galveston Plan". This plan seems to be a success actually, the thing the right leaves out when it sites it as proof that privatization can work, is that it is nothing like the plan Bush is putting forth. In Galveston people don't have control over their investments anymore than they do under Social Security. They don't have the option to blow it all on Gateway stock if they want to, it is all invested in GUARANTEED LIFE INSURANCE ANNUITIES.

The Honorable Ray Holbrook Former Galveston County Judge explains the plan as follows, "The Commissioners Court wanted a plan that had the exact, or better, benefits as Social Security at the same cost to the county and the employees. The Alternate Plan developed comprised a life insurance element for employees which would protect families of deceased employees, a disability insurance element as good as Social Security, and a retirement element with annuities purchased from major life insurance companies. "

This explanation also points up a fact that Social Security is much more than just a retirement savings plan. Galveston County had to make alternate plans for life insurance and disability insurance for it's workers. Where will the money for those benefits come from with less money going into the current system? Holbrook further explains, "...Investments in life insurance annuities are the same for all employees and are handled by an outside company that was chosen through a bid process. There is no need for each employee to be an expert in investments and there is no chance one employee will lose everything and others will make a mint." Like I said, Galveston seems to be doing it right, but this in not the system we are being sold.

When the right brings up Chile as a shining example of privatized Social Security they somehow forget to mention that the system was forced on it's population by fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, draw your own conclusions. They also don't mention the fact that it has been a miserable failure. Even more amusing is the fact that Bush has leaned heavily on the advice of aman who once worked for said fascist dictator named José Pinera, former Minister of Labor. Pinera has stated that the average return on workers investments has doubled to over 11%, what he leaves out is that commissions and administrative costs have eaten more than half of those returns so the actual return on workers investment is just 5.1% meaning the average worker would have done better with certificates of deposit rather than private accounts.

The United Nations Program for Development 2000 report on Chile shows that at least half of the six million workers in Chile will get no benefits for retirement - except possibly $35 per month in welfare. Another 25 percent, low-earners who contribute regularly to their individual accounts, will have to rely on the minimum pension guaranteed by the government ($130 per month for anyone contributing to their individual accounts for 20 years). This minimum pension is but 75 percent of the poverty level minimum wage.

Bush keeps reminding that Social Security is running out of money and we have to fix it. He always says he has no intention of raising payroll taxes or cutting benefits. His only plan seems to be to allow "younger workers" to invest 2% of their current Social Security contributions in private accounts. Economists(pdf file) Henry Aaron, Alan Blinder, Alicia Munnell, and Peter Orszag found that "A recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that if two percentage point accounts were established, all eligible individuals opted to contribute to individual accounts, and nothing else were done, the Social Security trust fund would be exhausted in 2023 (rather than 2037 under current law." As a result payroll taxes will still have to be increased or benefits decreased and not later, but sooner. This "plan" is not about fixing Social Security, it is about doing away with it.

Assuming that Bush actually does want to keep Social Security and not do away with it, we can also assume from his track record that he will not raise payroll taxes but instead cut benefits. This is the part that should scare the very same young workers that Bush has targeted as reaping the most benefit from his proposal. As the above mentioned economists found, "Most individual account plans therefore phase in cuts in Social Security benefits to attenuate the adverse impact on older workers. But if benefits are cut less for older workers, they must be cut
more for younger workers to achieve equivalent savings." When these economists factored in the reduced Social Security benefit for younger workers along with increased administrative costs of private accounts and transition costs from the current system to the new they found that everyone loses but especially young workers. Those that where age 55 in 2002 would realize 25% less under partial privatization while workers age 25 in 2002 would realize 54% less at retirement than under the current system.

Furthermore, the party of "family values" also ignores the fact that a privatized system would also discriminate against families that choose to have one spouse (presumably) the wife stay home with children. As Greg Anrig Jr., Bernard Wasow of The Century Foundation point out, "Of all groups, none has more to lose from the privatization of Social Security than women. Compared to the average man, the average woman works fewer years outside the home,
earns less per year, and lives longer after retiring. Together, these differences mean that women depend more than men do on spousal and survivors' benefits, they collect benefits for more years than men do, and a greater proportion of their total retirement income comes from Social Security." In addition Social Security provides for a 50% spousal benefit that private accounts simply couldn't provide, meaning that families where the wife stays out of the workforce to raise a family will have no way to replace that portion of Social Security.

There is much more, but it's late and I'm going to bed.


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