Saturday, July 29, 2006

House Conservatives: $2 For Workers, But Only If The Wealthy Get Millions

ThinkProgress reported this morning that congressional conservatives were planning to allow a vote on the minimum wage today or tomorrow, but only if it was coupled with a poison pill provision that enacted Bush’s Associated Health Plans.

New reports indicate that conservatives are ditching one poison pill in favor of another. The AP writes:

Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it’s coupled with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, congressional aides said Friday.

The estate tax — aka the Paris Hilton Tax — benefits only the ultra-wealthy. This year, the exemption level is $2 million ($4 million per couple), which means only 5 out of every 1,000 people who die will pay the tax.

Bill Samuel, a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, said adding the estate tax to the minimum wage “is the mother of all poison pills. It can’t possibly pass the Senate.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy added, “It’s political blackmail to say the only way that minimum wage workers can get a raise is to give a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans. Members of Congress raised their own pay — no strings attached. Surely, common decency suggests that minimum wage workers deserve the same respect.”

VIDEO: Protester Disrupts Bolton Hearing

Via Think Progress

Sixty percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The widespread discontent is popping up at high-profile political events. Yesterday, a protester interrupted the Iraqi Prime Minister’s speech to Congress. Today, a protester disrupted U.N. Ambassador John Bolton’s confirmation hearing. Watch it:

protester at Bolton hearing


I have no representation on this panel or in this senate. I’m strongly opposed to the nomination of this man John Bolton as U.N. ambassador. He is a discredit to the United States. He is not a legitimate public representative of the United States. He should not go to the U.N. He is not representing our best interests. The man will only…

Friday, July 28, 2006

'Peace mom' becomes Bush's neighbor

Cindy Sheehan is putting her money where her beliefs are. Maybe when Bush takes his month long vacation in August, he can help her clear brush. I find it interesting that in order to buy the land, a fellow war protester had to act as Cindy's agent, since they felt nobody would sell her any property in Crawford, Texas. - 'Peace mom' becomes Bush's neighbor - Jul 27, 2006: "CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- War protesters will have a new and bigger gathering place when they return in August to President Bush's adopted hometown: a 5-acre lot bought with insurance money Cindy Sheehan received after her son was killed in Iraq."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Truth In Advertising

I wonder if this company is going to get "Dixie Chicked?"

Friday, July 21, 2006

So, George, What Price Have YOU Paid?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

As Layoffs Sweep Movie Studios, Hollywood Fears for Its Future

By Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier, Times Staff Writers

Never mind that movie ticket sales are picking up and that "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" could become the biggest hit in motion picture history. As studios slash jobs and restructure to boost profits, Hollywood's creative and executive ranks are having a collective anxiety attack.

Walt Disney Co.'s move this week to lay off about 650 employees and revamp its Burbank studio to make fewer films only confirms what many in the entertainment industry have been stressing over for months: The movie business is shrinking.

Disney's firings, which started at the top with the studio's production chief, are the latest in an industrywide contraction that has cost more than 2,000 jobs worldwide. In Los Angeles, particularly, the economic effect is being widely felt.

Here, in an industry built on bravado, people are suddenly talking openly about being afraid....


Media analysts agree that in watching their bottom lines, entertainment companies are simply doing what is necessary to raise sagging stock prices and earnings. But they acknowledge that the conglomerates that own studios appear to be losing some confidence in the movie business....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Neocons Resurrect Plans For Regional War In The Middle East

Richard Perle, William Kristol, Dick Cheney. How many current administration and former administration officials, as well as other Republicans calling for war have served our nation? What military credentials do they have? Why do they hate our country and want to support the terrorists? Why do they insist on criticizing our commander in chief in a time of war? Do they want to support the terrorists and not our troops?

Via Think Progress

In 1996, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser (all later senior officials in the Bush administration) had a plan for how to destroy Hezbollah: Invade Iraq. They wrote a report to the newly elected Likud government in Israel calling for “a clean break” with the policies of negotiating with the Palestinians and trading land for peace.

The problem could be solved “if Israel seized the strategic initiative along it northern borders by engaging Hizballah (sic), Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.” The key, they said, was to “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” They called for “reestablishing the principle of preemption.” They promised that the successes of these wars could be used to launch campaigns against Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, reshaping “the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly.”

Now, with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, with Bush losing control of world events, and with the threats to national security growing worse, no one could possibly still believe this plan, could they? Think again.

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, is still pushing this radical vision. He now uses the excuse of Hezbollah terrorist attacks — what he calls “Iran’s Proxy War” — to push the United States deeper into a regional war against Iran and Syria:

We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions — and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.

Perle has already weighed in in a June 25 Washington Post editorial decrying Bush’s “ignominious retreat” on Iran. He, too, wants war. Newt Gingrich on Meet the Press this Sunday said we were already in World War III and that the US needed to take direct action against North Korea and Iran. Less well known pundits have flooded cable news and talk radio this weekend beating the war drums. Meanwhile, David Wurmser is ensconced in Vice-President Cheney’s office, and his neoconservative colleague Elliot Abrams (the convicted Iran-Contra felon who urged war with Iraq in a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton) directs Middle East policy on the National Security Council staff.

The neoconservatives are now hoping to use the Israeli-Lebanon conflict as the trigger to launch a U.S. war against Syria, Iran or both. These profoundly dangerous policies have to be exposed and stopped before they do even more harm to U.S. national security then they already have.

Joseph Cirincione

(For more, see “Origins of Regime Change in Iraq“)

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Putz In Chief (the decider)

Via Think Progress

Yesterday during the closing lunch at the G8 summit, a stray microphone picked up a private conversation between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush is seen munching on a buttered roll and using an expletive to express frustration with Hezbollah. Watch it:

SkyNews has a full transcript. Bush was caught on tape on several other occasions:

In another segment in which the president was apparently speaking to an aide who asked about his plan for upcoming remarks, Mr. Bush said, “I’m just going to make it up, right here — I’m not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them.” […]

At another moment, Mr. Bush was clearly itching to return to the White House, saying to someone, “Good job, gotta keep this thing moving — I gotta’ leave at 2:15 — you’ll want me out of town so to free up your security forces.’’ .

Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight,” Mr. Bush said, then, apparently turning to Mr. Hu, adding, “How about you? When are you going home?”

Either I'm crazy or half the country is nuts

The Bush administration's non existent "yer with us or with the terrorists" foreign policy has isolated us from our allies. North Korea is capable of firing a nuclear warhead at the west coast, people without medical insurance are dying in the street. People with medical insurance are going bankrupt. And what is this Republican Congress worried about? A ban on gay marriage and flag burning. Some think that these are nonsense issues that won't do any good for the Republicans at the polls, but don't be too sure. The Conservative Harper government in Canada used gay marriage issue to win a minority government defeat the Liberals after they were a majority for over a decade.

GOP looks for 2004 gay marriage replay
Effort is to force lawmakers to take a stand just months before election

WASHINGTON - Undeterred by a decisive defeat in the Senate, House Republicans are moving ahead with a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, forcing lawmakers to take a stand just months before the election.

The vote, scheduled for Tuesday, will occur in a week devoted to several priorities of social conservatives _ what House GOP leaders call their "American values agenda." Also on tap are a pledge protection bill and several Republican-backed stem cell bills.

President Bush, under some pressure from conservatives to take a more active role in promoting their issues, spoke out for the gay marriage amendment several times before it was rejected in the Senate last month.

Changing the Constitution is necessary, he said in one of his weekly radio addresses, because "activist judges and some local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage in recent years."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Social Security Phase-Out Planned for Next Year

From Talking Points Memo:

Don't believe Social Security phase-out is coming down the pike again next year? This from a press release just out from from Finance Committee ranking member, Sen. Max Baucus ... U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, today blasted the President’s renewal of a plan to privatize Social Security and slash benefits for millions of Americans. The Mid-Session Budget Review released by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today included a proposal that would spend $721 billion – nearly $10 billion more than originally planned in the President’s original Fiscal Year 2007 budget – to turn Social Security into a system of private accounts with lower guaranteed benefits to Americans. The President’s proposal to privatize Social Security includes significant cuts in guaranteed benefits for the vast majority of Social Security recipients through the indexing of initial benefits to prices, rather than wages. This is only one of several behind the scenes initiatives over the last few weeks aimed at laying the groundwork for phasing out Social Security next year. Is Social Security phase-out a good issue for Democrats in the mid-term elections? Yep, absolutely. But the president and his allies on the Hill really are getting ready to do phase out the program next year. Don't pretend you weren't told in advance. The press is ignoring it. And a lot of Dems across the country are too. And as long as they do, candidates around the country can refuse to say where they stand on the issue until after election day. Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey is just one example. But there's actually something you can do. Right now. Find out where the candidates in your state and district stand on the issue. Are they in favor of preserving Social Security or will they vote for phasing it out and replacing it with private accounts? Simple question. And you can get an answer. -- Josh Marshall

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bush Foreign Policy? What Policy?

Talking Points Memo

Let's nip this whole "Bush is shifting to a more enlightened foreign policy" theme in the bud, shall we?

Time calls it "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy" in this week's cover story. A David Sanger piece in tomorrow's New York Times is headlined, "Bush's Shift: Being Patient With Foes."

The sad truth is that the Administration's foreign policy has run aground on the shoals of its own incompetence. As Kevin Drum noted last week, "the Bush administration literally seems to have no foreign policy at all anymore."

Afghanistan is reverting to the Taliban. Iraq is beyond the point of no return. North Korea is acting with impunity. Iran controls its own destiny.

Worse, for an Administration that has instinctively favored military action over diplomacy, the nation's military resources are depleted, bogged down, and largely unavailable for any further foreign adventures.

Yet we have stories emerging that suggest the current foreign policy dilemma is a deliberate course of action chosen by Bush. Time, in a mishmash of its news and style sections, calls it a "strategic makeover" led by Condi Rice.

The fact is Bush has boxed himself in, frittering away lives and treasure, and leaving himself with few options. He deserves no more credit for a policy shift than the man serving a life sentence who declares that he will henceforth be law-abiding.

-- TPM Reader DK

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cheap Donuts and a Mess of a Job

David Corn:

George Bush went to a Dunkin' Donuts on Wednesday. No, this wasn't a Bill Clinton moment. The president was making a political point-about immigration. The two Iranian Americans who own this donut shop in Alexandria, Virginia, apparently cannot find the workers they need to keep churning out those circular sugar bombs. So, Bush said, Congress has to pass legislation that will allow illegal immigrants to become legal guest-workers.

Congress does need to deal with immigration. But there might be another solution to the Dunkin' Donuts problem--raising the minimum wage. If work at fast-food shops paid more, there would be more fast-food workers. Isn't that how the market works?

Bush's plan, though, is based on exploiting the low wages of Mexico. That is, let's bring in more low-wage workers who don't expect to make a living wage here and whom we don't have to treat as citizens. Use them and send them back.

We get the donuts. They get the hole. Now, it's not actually a hole. It's a better deal than they can get in Mexico--which is why they come here. So the long-term solution to the immigration mess is to close the wage gap between the United States and Mexico. And I don't mean bringing down wages in the United States. Yet the apparent election in Mexico of Felipe Calderon, a booster of NAFTA, is not likely to lead to policies in Mexico that produce higher wages. As long as Mexico has low wages, Americans will have to fend off waves of Mexicans trying to cross the border--but at least that keeps the price of donuts down.

Here Are the Keys to the Car I Drove off the Road. Hillary Clinton, John McCain--be careful what you wish for. There was an interesting quote in yesterday's Washington Post from Richard Haass, who once was a senior official in Bush's State Department and who now heads the Council on Foreign Relations. He told the paper, "I am hard-pressed to think of any other moment in modern ties where there have been so many challenges facing his country simultaneously. The danger is that Mr. Bush will have over a White House to a successor that will face a far messier world, with far fewer resources left to cope with it."

In CFR-speak, that's a damning indictment. A big part of that messier world, of course is Iraq and Afghanistan--and Bush bears responsibility for each of those messes. He may not be able to do much about missiles over North Korea, Iranian defiance regarding its nuclear program, mayhem in Somalia, the increasing tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the electoral logjam in Mexico--though his policies on most of these fronts have not improved matters. Yet he has botched the two big projects he took on--Iraq and Afghanistan. And, as Haass noted, he has squandered resources--particularly with his war in Iraq, which has claimed hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars, thousands of lives (Americans and Iraqis) and the global goodwill toward the United States that existed after 9/11. (On top of that, Bush has run up the national debt in a manner that would make a drunken sailor blush.)

So his successor--be he or she D or R--will confront problems exacerbated by Bush and will find it harder to marshal the resources needed to deal with these challenges. And this scenario doesn't even cover global warming. It makes you wonder why anyone would even want the job after Bush is done with it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Conservatives advocate "Office of Censorship" in wake of NY Times banking surveillance story

Media Matters:

Summary: On June 29, several Fox News media figures suggested that the U.S. government should "put up the Office of Censorship" to screen news reports to determine whether they "hurt the country" or are of "news value," in the wake of a New York Times article disclosing a Treasury Department program designed to monitor international financial transactions.

On the June 29 broadcast of Fox News Radio's Brian & The Judge, co-host Brian Kilmeade, who also co-hosts Fox News' Fox & Friends, suggested that the U.S. government should "put up the Office of Censorship," in the wake of reports in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal detailing a Treasury Department program designed to monitor international financial transactions for terrorist activity. Similarly, during the June 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host E.D. Hill wondered if it would be appropriate for the U.S. government to create an "Office of Censorship." During an interview with Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) about The New York Times report, Hill asserted that such an office, previously established during World War II by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, could screen news reports to determine whether they "hurt the country" or are of "news value." The New York Times has been singled out for criticism by numerous conservative media figures, including many on the Fox News Channel, as Media Matters for America has documented.

Hayworth and Brian & The Judge co-host Andrew P. Napolitano both challenged the need for an "Office of Censorship," although Hayworth went on to characterize "those in journalism who have taken it upon themselves to become the arbitrators of what should be national security" as displaying a "nationally suicidal" reasoning.

From the June 29 broadcast of Fox News Radio's Brian & The Judge:

NAPOLITANO: [T]he Japanese did learn that we broke their code, and so they started using a new code.

KILMEADE: And guess what? What would you rather have? The Japanese knowing that we broke their code or a decision saying that journalists are allowed to write anything they can or want to write because they think the public needs to know. See, I'm more into the ends justifying the means. And what they do is you can sunset this, Judge. The same way they have the Patriot Act sunsetted. You put up the Office of Censorship. You get a consensus to journalists to analyze and then you realize what FDR realized early. Winning is everything. Freedom is -- you don't have any freedom if the Nazis are the victors. You have no one to trade with if Western Europe falls. That's the reality. You're in love with the law, but I'm in love with survival.

NAPOLITANO: I'm in love with your freedom, and I want you and me all the people we work with --

KILMEADE: You can't have it both ways. You can't have it both ways.

NAPOLITANO: Of course, we can. We have it both ways now. We can say whatever we want and the government can't censor us and the government can still fight the war on terror. If we were to allow some office of the government to decide what journalists can say, that would be the same that the King of England imposed on newspapers in England and in the U.S. and that prompted the Revolution. It would be about the most un-American thing you can imagine. How can we fight a war to bring freedom to another country, to bring freedom of the press to another country when we're crushing freedom of the press here at home?

KILMEADE: Not crushing -- preserving our freedom by preserving our secrets because war is not a free thing. Intelligence is not something to be shared: It's to be coveted and used to our advantage. Here's what Roosevelt did. He appointed Byron Price, a respected journalist, to run the office. Price accepts the post on the condition that the media can voluntarily agree on a self-censorship. The Office employs 14,000, and they are civilians, to monitor cable, mail, and radio communications between the United States and other nations. The Office closes in 1945. Our nation still flies. The flag still soars.

NAPOLITANO: Scaring me to death, Brian, because I know they'd come after [Fox News host Bill] O'Reilly and me and you'd have to visit us in Gitmo.

KILMEADE: No, they wouldn't. You're not doing anything anti-American.

From the June 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: We've been talking over the last week about how The New York Times on Friday outed the super secret SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] program that tracked terrorists' financing. Well, our next guest wants to revoke The New York Times' Capitol Hill press credentials.

HILL: Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth joins us from Washington. Good to have you back with us.

HAYWORTH: Thanks, E.D., and good morning, Steve.

KILMEADE: Good morning.


HILL: What about -- in the past, we have had, at times, an Office of Censorship, where people review what is about -- is something that was -- it's going to be big, you've got to run it through and say, "OK. Does this hurt our country or is it of, you know, news value?

HAYWORTH: Well, E.D., I don't know that we need an office of Censorship. What we do need to rediscover, if you will, is a notion that I guess was borne out in World War II. Stephen Ambrose, the late biographer of Dwight Eisenhower, writes very eloquently of a situation prior to D-Day, when Ike called together the war correspondents in -- in England and said, "Fellas, just thought you ought to know, we're going to go in early June." And Ambrose, in that wonderful biography, says to a man, the war correspondents stopped writing, and one asked, "General, why did you tell us?" And Ike responded, "Because you're good Americans and I know you will not jeopardize the lives of fellow Americans."

We all need to rediscover that, especially those in journalism who have taken it upon themselves to become the arbiters of what should be national security and some who argue that no, they're really not so much citizens of the United States, now they are citizens of the world, neutral observers of the scene. That's a strange type of reasoning here and it's certainly -- I won't call it politically correct. I think it's nationally suicidal.

—R.M. & B.L.