Thursday, January 13, 2005

United We Stand

Joan Vennochi is an excellent columnist in the Boston Globe. Her comments on the Democrats fudging their message are right on:

Blurred messages from Democrats

HERE'S THE new Democratic Party slogan: We stand for nothing but victory.

Or, as Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The New York Times: "Some people argue about old Democrats and new Democrats. I'm a Vince Lombardi Democrat. Winning is everything."

Inspirational, isn't it? That should lure those Red State voters to the Democrats' side.


Pelosi is also encouraging former Representatative Tim Roemer of Indiana to seek to replace Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Roemer, who is Catholic and antiabortion, has a 94 percent rating from the national Right to Life Committee. Pelosi has a 100 percent prochoice voting record, as rated by NARAL, a national organization devoted to a woman's right to choose abortion.

Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, describes Pelosi's support for Roemer as a way to illustrate the party's new "big tent" commitment. Said Brazile, via e-mail: "As a party, we have a large tent, but our basic values will remain. The Democratic Party's problem is not what we stand for, as much as how we communicate our values. Roemer's personal views will not alter the Democratic platform on choice."

Put aside the practical matter of how the party plans to communicate values through a prochoice platform and a prolife party chairman. This is a way to win?

Roemer as head of the DNC sounds like a desperate effort to figure out which way the wind is blowing, long after the 2004 wind blew the Democrats away. Where does it leave Democrats when President Bush and his allies work to secure the appointment of Supreme Court justices who are anxious to repeal Roe v. Wade?

It also sounds like a way to institutionalize John Kerry's losing campaign strategy: When it comes to controversial issues, duck. Stand for everything and nothing. Whenever possible, avoid direct answers on issues like war and abortion.


Senator Edward M. Kennedy had it right yesterday. In remarks prepared for delivery to the National Press Club, Kennedy said, "We cannot move our party or our nation forward under pale colors and timid voices. We cannot become Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again and deserve to lose."

Currently, Democrats like Pelosi and Emanuel sound confused, not reasonable. Indeed, adrift is a word that comes to mind.

Confusion and drift are ways to kill, not grow, a political party. But it appears to be the path of spooked Democrats after the Nov. 2 election loss.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Crisis for Social Security is Bush

C+ Augustus* and his lies are skewered in the Washington Post today.

President of Fabricated Crises

So Iraq became a clear and present danger to American hearths and homes, bristling with weapons of mass destruction, a nuclear attack just waiting to happen. And now, this week, the president is embarking on his second great scare campaign, this one to convince the American people that Social Security will collapse and that the only remedy is to cut benefits and redirect resources into private accounts.

In fact, Social Security is on a sounder footing now than it has been for most of its 70-year history. Without altering any of its particulars, its trustees say, it can pay full benefits straight through 2042. Over the next 75 years its shortfall will amount to just 0.7 percent of national income, according to the trustees, or 0.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That still amounts to a real chunk of change, but it pales alongside the 75-year cost of Bush's Medicare drug benefit, which is more than twice its size, or Bush's tax cuts if permanently extended, which would be nearly four times its size.

In short, Social Security is not facing a financial crisis at all. It is facing a need for some distinctly sub-cataclysmic adjustments over the next few decades that would increase its revenue and diminish its benefits.

Politically, however, Social Security is facing the gravest crisis it has ever known. For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history, who would have voted against establishing the program had they been in Congress in 1935. But Bush doesn't need Karl Rove's counsel to know that repealing Social Security for reasons of ideology is a non-starter.

So it's time once more to fabricate a crisis. In Bushland, it's always time to fabricate a crisis. We have a crisis in medical malpractice costs, though the CBO says that malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of total health care costs. (In fact, what we have is a president who wants to diminish the financial, and thus political, clout of trial lawyers.) We have a crisis in judicial vacancies, though in fact Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block just 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial appointments.

*I must credit Charles Pierce, local scribe, for "C+ Augustus", the latest & greatest name for the lesser Bush.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

God Save Social Security from Bush

I haven't posted on this topic before, but C+ Augustus is trying to destroy the greatest & most successful social program in the history of the world: Social Security. A faux crisis has been announced (see WMD, 2002), and Social Security is under siege.

It's a disaster waiting to happen. As a matter of fact, a similar privatization plan was enacted by Great Britain in 1984. Read all about it:

A Bloody Mess

if you're to busy to read the article, here's the money quote:

....the plan set in train during Thatcher’s first term in 1979 and [] has since led Britain to the brink of a crisis. Since then, the nation’s basic pension, which is paid for out of tax receipts, has shrunk dramatically. The United Kingdom has the stingiest state pension program of any G8 nation, and there is growing consensus -- even among British conservatives -- that reform is needed. And ironically enough, considering that America is on the verge of copying Britain’s mistake, most experts seek reform in the direction of a more generous, and simpler, basic state pension -- one similar in design, in other words, to America’s Social Security program.

Richard Clarke's Doomsday Scenario

Clarke on Al Qaeda: They're Going to Disneyland!

Richard Clarke predicts the future & it ain't pretty.

Another Wingnut for Homeland Security

Bush just nominated Michael Chertoff to be head of the Homeland Security Department.

And who, might you ask, is Michael Chertoff?

In the second term, the answer is never good.

Alliance for Justice Report on the Nomination of Michael Chertoff to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Since September 11th Chertoff has played a key role in the war against terrorism, pursuing an aggressive agenda against suspected terrorists and Arab Americans from countries that the U.S. government claims have strong terrorism networks. Chertoff supervised the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui and has been described as “the driving force behind the Justice Department's most controversial initiatives in the war on terrorism.”3 Civil liberties advocates blame him for what they see as dangerous curtailments to free speech and the rights of criminal defendants. According to press reports, Chertoff has played a key role in several matters: first, the increase in FBI agents’ authority to conduct domestic surveillance; second, the use of “material witness” warrants to lock up people of Middle Eastern dissent; third, the interviewing of thousands of Middle Eastern men who entered the United States before and after the 9/11 attacks; fourth, the aggressive prosecution of Moussaoui, despite concern that the FBI had not found sufficient evidence to link him to the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Chertoff’s has not only played an active role in these cases, he has also been the first to defend controversial Justice Department policies. He spoke up for the government’s right to hold suspects indefinitely without counsel as “enemy combatants,” as well as the government’s decision to interview 5,000 Arab Americans after the 9/11 attacks.



As counsel to Senator Alphonse D’Amato (R-NY) in the Whitewater investigation, Chertoff proved his loyalty to the Republican Party and his willingness to turn a legal investigation into a political one. He ruthlessly pursued the Clintons, on behalf of the Republican controlled Senate. Shortly after the congressional Whitewater investigation had been finished, Chertoff utilized his role in the probe to promote Robert Dole’s presidential campaign. Chertoff stumped for Dole as a warm-up speaker at a fundraiser in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Referring to his work in Whitewater, Chertoff asked the crowd, “[Clinton] promised us the most ethical administration in American history. Well, howmany of that administration are in jail now? Why does the White House spend more time hiding its files from subpoenas than it does pursuing drug dealers?'' How many members of this administration have to resign in disgrace?”13 Chertoff also wrote an article for Newsweek in 1996 entitled Why Whitewater Mattersdescribing the Clintons wrongdoing and why it was important. It is clear that Chertoff had no problem taking his knowledge of the investigation and using it to turn Americans against the President during an election campaign. Senators might ask if this is an appropriate role for an investigator in what was supposed to be an apolitical investigation.14

Michael Chertoff: Ashcroft's Top Gremlin
Spreading Mischief from DoJ to the Federal Bench

But now I have a new gremlin to watch, someone who is as intent on undermining the law and Constitution as Ashcroft. I am referring to the man behind the criminal prosecution of terrorists, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff, former chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, and a scary looking guy if ever there was one, has been elevated to the level of Court of Appeals judge--the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. What's so scary about Michael? Well, besides having no judicial experience and being a right-ring radical who does not believe in the Constitution and wants to rewrite federal law and rules of procedure on an ad hoc, case by case basis, as it suits him, nothing I guess.

A good place to look for Chertoff's legal philosophy is in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui , now taking place in the Eastern District of Virginia. Chertoff is not the prosecutor of course, Paul McNulty of the Eastern District is. But Chertoff is McNulty's boss and he is calling the shots. So Chertoff argued the government's case in the super secret hearing before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The government is trying to block trial judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling that Moussaoui and his lawyers have access to the government's star witnesses against him. The government has refused and appealed. Judge Brinkema, who still believes in the Constitution, rightly ruled that to deny Moussaoui that access is a blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses.


Chertoff argued to the 4th Circuit that the Court could not order the government to produce its start witness against Moussaoui because (are you ready?) he, the witness, is out of the country at an undisclosed location. True, but the witness is in the custody of the federal government! The out-of-the country argument is a sham. This is similar to a ruling recently by the federal court that ruled that Guantanmo Bay prisoners had no access to federal courts for claims that they be charged or release because-they are out of the country!! Of course, in federal custody, but that does not matter.

The absurd arguments contrary to the letter and spirit of all that not only the Constitution, but current federal law provides, is appalling and shameful.....


Keep your eye on Michael Chertoff. As bad for the law and Constitution as many of Bush's judicial appointees are, Chertoff has been the architect of prosecutions in the "war on terror." And he may have big changes in mind for you, me, the courts, and the Constitution.

A friendlier bio piece:

Should we be worried about the new antiterrorism legislation?