Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know you're hearing a lot of advice on how to talk to your conservative family members today. My advice? Just don't talk politics.

That the election just happened and everyone is still charged up is obvious, but still, there's a lot more to talk about than politics. Completely non-political topics like the recent Pistons/Pacers brawl can turn political, but just try to steer the subject away from controversy.

Seriously, people, what's wrong with just eating turkey and not talking politics? And if your Republican family members can't respect your wish to take a day off from talking politics, then kindly -- repeatedly, if necessary -- remind them that you don't want to get into it.

Your quietly moderate family members -- the ones you really want to win over -- will appreciate it.

posted by Scott | 11/25/2004 | |

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Moderate Mandate

Incredible how reality has a way of raining on the right wing parade, isn't it?

Since the election, Bush has emphasized a policy agenda that includes making his first-term income tax cuts permanent and changing Social Security to give workers the right to invest some of their withholding, both priorities for conservatives. The poll found, however, that a 2-to-1 majority wants Bush to pursue "programs that both parties support" rather than a Republican agenda.

Even Republicans were evenly split on that question: 46% favored bipartisanship, 46% the GOP policy list. "That suggests a lot of Republicans want to see the country be more united," Jones says.
But rather than bringing people together to work toward common goals, the ruling GOP is more interested in ramming their hard right agenda into law, steamrolling both Democrats and moderate Republicans in the process.

As I've said, I expect two things to come of the GOP power grab we're seeing underway right now. One is a backlash among voters. The other is a revolt among moderate GOP lawmakers. The latter is already underway, from Jim Jeffords switching parties to Michael Bloomberg demanding non-partisan elections in NYC, and now talk of Arnold Schwarzenegger starting a third party.

This poll would indicate that the former is right around the corner.

posted by Scott | 11/23/2004 | |

Republicans Taking Accounting Cues From Enron

The two most recent pieces posted by Atrios (here and here) make you wonder whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility.

First off, the Congressional GOP wants to keep Social Security from adding to the deficit by... not... including it... in the math. In other words, they want to cook the books.

Republican budget writers say they may have found a way to cut the federal deficit even if they borrow hundreds of billions more to overhaul the Social Security system: Don't count all that new borrowing.

As they lay the groundwork for what will probably be a controversial fight over Social Security, Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration are examining a number of accounting strategies that would allow the expensive transition to a partially privatized Social Security system without -- at least on paper -- expanding the country's record annual budget deficits. The strategies include, for example, moving the costs of Social Security reform "off-budget" so they are not counted against the government's yearly shortfall.
And this second part doesn't necessarily blame the Republicans, but seeing as how they now control the entire federal government, I'd say they're certainly culpable.

Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.

But you should hear what he's saying in private.

Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.

His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon."
With the GOP advocating borderline criminal accounting practices, it's no wonder. No press were allowed into Roach's meeting, but parts of his speech have made their way to the public. Such as the fact that the rising deficit means a falling dollar, which means foreign creditors will stop buying Treasury notes unless interest rates are hiked drastically, which means that Americans in debt (read: the middle class, the working class) will go even deeper in debt.

This is personal debt we're talking about here. So cutting taxes in wartime, something no President until Bush had ever done, is going to start seeming incredibly stupid to everyone very soon -- not just Democrats.

A small part of me is glad that Bush and the GOP are finally going to have to face the monster they've created. A much larger part, though, is absolutely horrified that the American people (myself included) are going to have to face it with them.

posted by Scott | 11/23/2004 | |

Darwin Was Right, No Matter What 97,675,857 Americans Say

The new Gallup poll finds that there's some questionable thinking among one out of every three Americans...

Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
I'm not even sure what to make of this. At least National Geographic is out there trying to further the truth.

For the record, when liberals say that conservatives are stupid, this is the kind of evidence that they use to back it up. I'm not saying that's right. I'm not even saying that I think most conservatives believe in creationism. But I am saying that there is evidence to support the claim that a full one-third of the American people -- who are likely GOP voters -- don't believe in cold, hard facts.

That's not 'elitism' talking. It's sheer, desperate frustration.

posted by Scott | 11/23/2004 | |

Monday, November 22, 2004

Rosenberg The New Favorite For DNC Chair?

According to Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, The Hill is reporting that the DNC is eyeing up my pick for chairman, Simon Rosenberg.

Simon Rosenberg, who currently heads the New Democrat Network, is becoming the favorite to become the next chairman of the DNC. But the former Clintonite also has a strong following among "outside" Democrats--activists who came to the party via former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and other Internet voters who read the blogs. Rosenberg's straight talk about what the party needs to do has been remarkably consistent and his 527's effort to win Hispanic voters was more successful than expected. Also in his favor: He's a tireless fundraiser.
The most public back-and-forth in the race for DNC is between the Deaniacs who want Howard Dean and the Stop-Deaniacs who want Tom Vilsack. But if this article is to be believed, Rosenberg is going to quietly emerge as a compromise and should become DNC chair with little controversy.

Let's hope we can believe it.

UPDATE: Vilsack has taken himself out of the running. His support will likely fall to other establishment moderates like Harold Ickes and Jeanne Shaheen, but one would hope that Rosenberg will also pick up some support as well. At least among the blogger vanguard (half kidding, there), Rosenberg seems to have become the consensus candidate.

posted by Scott | 11/22/2004 | |

Lieberman To Leave Senate For Bush Cabinet?

Joe Lieberman spearheaded the push in the Senate to establish the Department of Homeland Security. Rumor in Connecticut political circles is that he may abandon his Senate seat if Tom Ridge steps down and Bush offers him the position.

I'm really not sure what to make of this speculation, but I do have some preliminary thoughts.

1. Lieberman leaving the Senate might as well mean Lieberman's leaving the Democratic Party. As the 2000 Vice-Presidential nominee, Lieberman seemed to think he was entitled to the 2004 nomination. As a conservative Democrat, he never really had a shot at it and was quickly shoved aside by Howard Dean and John Kerry (and John Edwards and Wes Clark...). Now with the Democrats down a few seats in the Senate, it would be a horrible time to lose one more -- Lieberman's replacement would be named by Connecticut's GOP Governor Jodi Rell. Abandoning a safe Democratic seat would essentially be a kiss off to the Democratic Party by Lieberman.

2. The Bush administration tried very hard to derail Lieberman's early efforts to establish a Department of Homeland Security. I can't imagine Lieberman would forget that. So then there's a question of who would Joe want to offend more -- the party that abandoned him or the President who railroaded him? It's a tough call, but I've got to think that his allegiance is still with the party.

3. Just this weekend, the GOP-controlled Congress managed to halt the 9/11 Commission's suggested intelligence reforms from becoming law. Lieberman's comments make it clear that he does not hold the President to account for this, even though, by all measures, Bush and his administration were not eager to accept these reforms. "The commander in chief in the middle of a war says he needs this bill to protect the American people," he chided GOP Congressmen, calling the failure to implement the reforms "particularly shocking after the president, the commander in chief, has been re-elected."

So what's the deal? Is Joementum going to leave the Senate Dems high and dry? Is he going to allow the Connecticut GOP to appoint a red Senator even though the state is clearly blue?

I have no clue, but this is certainly something to watch.

posted by Scott | 11/22/2004 | |

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Forget DeLay, Ernie Istook Is The Poster Boy For GOP Overreach

Spurned on by a dKos diary, I decided to take a look at the record of the Congressman who inserted the tax return proposal into the omnibus spending bill.

In 2002, the League of Women Voters published a scathing criticism of a 1996 attempt by Rep. Istook to "gag nonprofit organizations" and in doing so, limit citizens' rights to government participation by

The League [of Women Voters] responded to a major congressional attack in the 104th Congress, when an amendment to severely limit the ability of nonprofits to speak out on public policy matters was added to several 1996 appropriations bills. Known as the Istook amendment after its primary sponsor, Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, the amendment was designed to limit citizen participation by forcing nonprofits to choose between community service and public policy.

The League, with hundreds of other nonprofits, organized a massive campaign to educate the public and members of Congress about the serious implications of this legislation. The Istook amendment eventually was dropped from the appropriations bills, but similar efforts continued in the 104th and 105th Congresses. The League continues to monitor attempts to gag nonprofit organizations.
In February of 2004, the libertarian magazine Reason published a Jacob Sullum article on an "Istook's casual disregard for the rights of people with whom he disagrees..."

Istook, an Oklahoma Republican who has built a reputation as an enthusiastic drug warrior during a dozen years in the House of Representatives, has not changed his mind and joined the antiprohibitionists. But he has done them a favor through his ham-handed effort to suppress their point of view.

Last fall Istook was offended by ads in Washington's Metro system in which Change the Climate said the government should "Legalize and Tax Marijuana." So he did what any intolerant, power-mad politician would do: He wrote legislation to ban the speech he did not like, not only from Metro buses, trains, and stations but from every mass transit system in the country that receives federal funds.

Istook's amendment, Section 177 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, took effect at the beginning of the month. Four days later, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) turned down an from the Drug Policy Alliance, Change the Climate, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union stating that "Marijuana Laws Waste Billions of Taxpayer Dollars to Lock Up Non-Violent Americans."

Now the ad's sponsors have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Section 177 as an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech—a result that should have been entirely predictable to anyone who has bothered to read the First Amendment. Judging from Istook's casual disregard for the rights of people with whom he disagrees, that group does not include him.
So let's recap. In 1996, Ernie Istook tried to take away the right of non-profit organizations to express their opinions on public policy. (As the publication of Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris has shown, even the CIA does not take away the right of their agents to express their opinions on public policy.) In early 2004, Istook tried to take away funding for transit agencies who might accept public advertising from organizations he does not agree with. Now, just this week, Istook tried to give himself -- and anyone else he wants to grant the privilege to -- the right to look at any American's tax return.

So there you have it. Rep. Ernie Istook (C - Stalingrad).

posted by Scott | 11/21/2004 | |

More GOP Power-Grab Antics

They want to buy Dear Leader a $2 million yacht. I'm feeling kind of dizzy...

From the AP:

A potential boon for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to try buying back the former presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, and its current owners say the yacht is assessed at $9.8 million and are distressed by the provision.
Am I supposed to be impressed by the 'fiscal conservatism' shown by the GOP in budgeting about one-fifth of the yacht's cost? I'm sure they'll just turn around in a few months and ask for the other $8 million as part of an emergency spending package. That is, after all, what they do these days.

My father used to hector me in the nineties, saying that Bill Clinton would never have been able to get away with the things he did in the White House if he were in the private sector. That is, of course, a stupid canard, but either way... I wonder what the shareholders would say if a corporate board, who had already driven their stock price into the ground and committed themselves to a losing long-term investment, voted to buy the CEO a yacht.

All hail President Kozlowski!

posted by Scott | 11/21/2004 | |

The GOP Wants Unfettered Access To Your Tax Returns

Again... wish I was overstating, unfortunately I'm not.

Congress debated legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said it was all a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.
If you're curious, yes; we are talking about the same omnibus spending bill that the anti-choice provision was crammed in to. What do giving the chairs of both the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations the right to look at (or the right to give anyone else the right to look at) your tax returns and making it legal for doctors to refuse to give women abortion counseling have to do with the bill that allows the government to keep running? Nothing. Which is why this is such a disgusting situation.

Josh Marshall has the exact language from the bill.

Hereinafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.
So with nothing more than a "written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations," the IRS would be obliged to provide agents "designated by such Chairman" (English: anyone the Chairmen wanted to) either the tax returns or information from tax returns from anyone.

There is no reason in the world the Chairmen of either the House or Senate Appropriations Committees would need this information. Likewise, there is no reason in the world they should be given the power to grant anyone they want access to this information.

This provision was snuck into the bill with the hopes that no one would notice. Seeing as how the full text of the bill, when printed, stands 14 inches tall, that was a pretty safe bet. Fortunately, there are some savvy Democrats in Congress who caught the language before it was too late and raised holy hell on behalf of the American people. The GOP leadership backtracked, too, but that was undoubtedly just a face-saving measure. Apparently, John McCain and Chuck Grassley both unleashed a massive attack on this provision on the floor of the Senate.

Quite a few people branded me a fool when I said after the election that the GOP would implode, over-reaching massively, and revealing just how corrupt they have the propensity to be. I was wrong only in the sense that I didn't think it would happen before 2004 was out.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's true. This crowd is absolutely corrupt.

posted by Scott | 11/21/2004 | |
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