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March 6, 2006

First, of course, it was the Social Security trust fund. Apparently, that's not enough.

lapin noted last month that the U.S. Treasury suspended investing in the Federal Employees Retirement System to avoid hitting the legal debt limit.

Today, Treasury Secretary John Snow announced that not only have investments in the system been suspended, the fund is currently being tapped to keep the government going:

AP -- Treasury Secretary John Snow notified Congress on Monday that the administration has now taken "all prudent and legal actions," including tapping certain government retirement funds, to keep from hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit.

In a letter to Congress, Snow urged lawmakers to pass a new debt ceiling immediately to avoid the first-ever U.S. default on its obligations.

In his letter, Snow notified lawmakers that Treasury would begin tapping the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, which Treasury officials said would provide a "few billion" dollars in extra borrowing ability.
Treasury has also been taking investments out of a $65.3 billion government pension fund known as the G-fund [part of the Federal Employees Retirement System].

The story notes that Congress is expected to cave to Snow's letter and raise the debt limit.

Lest we forget, Vice President Cheney told Americans last week they need to buckle down and save:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney urged Americans Thursday to do a better job of saving and challenged policymakers to strengthen pensions and fix Social Security to help people in their golden years.

Terrific advice, Mr. Cheney. We advise your administration to take it.

Categories: Blogs
  • Jack Abramoff's request to delay his sentencing was rejected; he will be sentenced on March 29th.  His lawyer argued that the sentencing process would prompt the disclosure of just how pervasive Abramoff's crimes were in the Republican party:

    "We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there," Lowell said.

    March 29th. Mark your calendars, and stock up on your popcorn.

  • Things continue to go "very, very well" in Iraq as 6 bombs explode in and around Baghdad, an American soldier is killed, a top Iraqi army official is assasinated, and a college dean is abducted.

  • Zogby has Bush at 38%, and a 6-pt Democratic lead in a generic congressional ballot.

  • Head on over to VH1's Web Junk 20 to beat the Monday blues. So. So. Funny.

  • Check out "We Will Not Be Silenced," an awesome political flash film for the HuffPo Contagious Festival.

  • Sometimes you forget that life goes on in wartime. People fall in love, get married, and have babies, even in the middle of all the chaos. Here's a great blog, Wandering Midwife, that reflects a little bit of that. It's written by an American midwife who is in Afghanistan training Afghani women in her trade. (mcjoan)

Categories: Blogs
John McCain, that self-styled "maverick" of Republican politics, continues to try to have it both ways, this time on the politics of abortion and specifically, the South Dakota ban.

A spokesperson said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would have signed the South Dakota legislation, "but [he] would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included."

Well, Senator, the problem is that the South Dakota bill specifically ruled out exceptions for rape or incest, allowing only an exception for the health life of the mother, and by golly, the women of South Dakota were damned lucky to get that. I guess it's small comfort to know that their own lives rate just a little bit higher than a fertilized egg.

McCain has tried in the past to distance himself from the Party of Dobson, but the allure of those hard-core, dedicated votes just keeps bringing him back. And McCain isn't the only one.

Virginia Sen. George Allen's (R) chief of staff, Dick Wadhams, a national GOP strategist, said Allen "has consistently supported the rights of the people in their states to pass laws which reflect their views and values." A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said that if Romney were the governor of South Dakota, "he would sign it. [Romney] believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people."

Just to be clear, here is what McCain, Romney, and Allen are associating themselves with.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Ah, the Sodomized Virgin Exception, a la Digby (if you haven't read the post, you really must). If you're not a sodomized (and religious, as many commenters have pointed out) virgin, well then you're deserving of a forced pregnancy. For anyone else, well an abortion would be a convenience.

Napoli might be the most vocal and, at the moment, egregious proponent of the hard right in this country. The hard right that just installed two justices on the Supreme Court. The hard right that has taken control of the Republican Party. The hard right that has created the Party of Dobson, and apparently also the Party of McCain.

Update [2006-3-6 13:41:12 by mcjoan]: annefrank notes in the comments that Governor Rounds just signed the legislation, slated to go into effect July 1. Expect at least one law suit to be filed today to prevent that.

Update [2006-3-6 14:24:36 by mcjoan]:: Crooks and Liars has the tape of Napoli and his sick little rant, in which "he sounds like a man from one of those Satanic cult movies."

Categories: Blogs
Here is the Cook Political Report's recap of the race from its subscription-only March 3rd update. There's nothing here that most of us don't already know, but it's a nice summary of the past month and a great cliff notes for those of us who haven't obsessively tracked every recent twist and turn of the race.

Cuellar has long been a thorn in the side of many Democrats who are furious about his conservative voting record and cozy relationships with Republicans (Cuellar campaigned for then-Governor Bush in 2000).

Earlier this year, even Cuellar detractors conceded that Rodriguez did not look like a candidate who learned the lessons of his 2004 loss. An inexperienced campaigner, the former Rep. had raised just $170,000 and had $43,000 in the bank as of the end of December. Cuellar, meanwhile, showed more than $655,000 raised and almost $300,000 on hand in the fourth quarter. He has run ads that highlight the pork he has brought home to the district in the form of transportation dollars. And, in a nod to the importance of appealing to a Democratic electorate, he highlights his opposition to President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

But, liberal Democratic groups, especially those in cyber-space, have helped to fill Rodriguez's coffers since January. A picture of President Bush squeezing Cuellar's cheeks at the State of the Union address along with Cuellar's endorsement by the conservative Club for Growth helped to rile up the liberal bloggers. A Rodriguez source says that the campaign has raised more than $520,000 since January 1. Recently, the liberal website ActBlue noted on its website that it had raised over $130,000 for Rodriguez.   Labor unions - upset at Cuellar's support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement - and environmental groups have also gotten into the mix. The Change To Win Coalition is running radio ads in the district that attack Cuellar for campaigning with Bush, voting for a trade deal that "puts thousands of our jobs at risk" and voting to give tax breaks to millionaires. The League of Conservation Voters is running a similar line of attack against Cuellar in TV and radio ads in Laredo. The tag line of the LCV spot is "Henry Cuellar sold you out ...vote to stop him."

The question now is whether this last-minute surge will be enough to overcome Cuellar's significant level of support in Laredo (Webb County). In the past, Cuellar has been able to run strong in his home county, even as local Laredo politicians publicly criticized him. For example, in 2004, the Mayor of Laredo and the city's Democratic state senator both endorsed Rodriguez, yet Cuellar carried Webb County with a whopping 84 percent of the vote. Plus, as an incumbent, Cuellar has also been able to make some inroads into Bexar County - Rodriguez's base. Cuellar also started the race with a reservoir of good will. In the October poll taken for Cuellar, the incumbent had a 72 percent job approval rating with 19 percent saying he was doing an excellent job and 53 percent giving him a rating of good.  

Rodriguez supporters argue that this is the first time in his political career that Cuellar has had to withstand an incessant and punishing attack on his record in Laredo. Still, Cuellar is also hitting back with ads that attack Rodriguez as a "paid Washington lobbyist" and for taking junkets to places like Las Vegas and Puerto Rico while he was in Congress.

Given the amount of money being poured into this race by anti-Cuellar forces, it's not hard to see this go to a run-off in April. Still, Rodriguez will also need some help from Morales who must be able to get into the high single or low-double digits.

Tomorrow is election day.

Categories: Blogs
(From the diaries -- kos)

"Center-right" Bush apologist Glenn Reynolds - known by me as the Instahack, gives due warning:

The press had better hope we win this war, because if we don't, a lot of people will blame the media.

Heh, I am sure they will, when they are not blaming liberals, Dems, Michael Moore, daily kos, and the Iraqis. This is funny as shit. And really tells you all you need to know about Glenn Reynolds. But, he tells us more. When folks complained about his post, he said that they obviously did not understand what he was saying:

Yes, I've gotten some email of the "you only want happy news" variety, which proves that those people didn't read the posts I indicated above. I just want the press to avoid false information that damages the war effort. Is that asking too much?

Instahack's objection is not to false information. False information is fine, as long as it HELPS (whatever that means) the "war effort." What a piece of work.

But it gets better:

Others write that if we lose the war it won't be the press's fault, but the fault of Chimpy McHitlerburton. Well, maybe. But even so, that won't change the fact that a press that looks in many ways as if it's rooting for defeat won't make an appealing scapegoat for a lot of people.

Yep. Yahoos like Glenn Reynolds won't own up to their failures and certainly won't ask Bush to own up to his.

But the scariest part of Instahack is his warning that a free press is at risk if (really there is no if) we "lose" in Iraq:

[W]hat happens if the public comes to regard the press as untrustworthy and un-American? Will the First Amendment continue to be regarded expansively? Maybe. Maybe not. And if you look at the various journalistic scandals, from Jayson Blair to fake Iraq photos, and at polls like these, coupled with others showing decreased respect for journalists, and reduced viewership and readership for major media outlets, the risk seems genuine.

Press freedom is in the Constitution, but so are a lot of rights that don't get nearly as much actual protection out in the world. Members of the press have often warned business people that malfeasance and self-serving behavior puts capitalism at risk. Malfeasance and self-serving behavior by the press puts free expression at risk, too.

Joe McCarthy could not have done better. What a sick individual this Instahack is.

Categories: Blogs
Cancer kills over half a million people every year in the US. It is also the leading cause of death by disease for children aged 1 to 14. How does the White House rate this danger? DR Orac of Respectful Insolence puts it in perspective:

[Link] Making the rounds at our cancer institute is an e-mail from one of the higher-ups, which points out the following sobering facts about the budget for the National Cancer Institute [...] [T]he NCI budget for 2007 will represent not just a failure to keep up with inflation but a real cut in actual dollars for the second year in a row.

The total proposed budget for the NCI is 4.75 billion. Or about what the war in Iraq costs every few weeks, based on known Congressional Appropriations and DoD data. Orac brings us some good news though: The President's budget doesn't cut any of the 120 million marked for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. That would include treatment based on acupuncture, prayer, meditation, and 'energy therapies'.

In fairness, it's not just cancer patients the White House feels are a lower priority on the budget ladder than Iraq. They feel the same about Kids' Health, Public Housing, and the victims of Katrina: Combined.

Categories: Blogs
Ah, fresh thread.

Categories: Blogs

March 5, 2006


Indiana voted twice to elect George W. Bush to the White House, but an Indianapolis Star poll indicates more than half of Hoosiers now disapprove of the job he's doing as president.

Only 37 percent of those surveyed last week think Bush is doing a good job as president, while 56 percent disapprove.

The poll, conducted from Feb. 28 to March 2, is based on the responses of 501 Hoosiers statewide.

How bad are the results for Bush? For a Republican in a red state like Indiana, very bad. The president's approval rating has dropped 18 points in Indiana since March 2005.

The president's approval rating equals the 37 percent approval rating Hoosiers gave President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, back in August 1994. And the rating mirrors the national view of the president. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed the president's approval rating nationwide at 38 percent.

This is Indiana, folks. Not Rhode Island. Not Massachusetts. Not California. Not Illinois. Not Vermont. Not Maine. Not Maryland. Not Michigan.


Categories: Blogs
Who is Tom D'Amore? It was D'Amore who helped Lowell P. Weicker try to open up state party primaries in the 1980s. He was alongside Weicker when Lieberman swiped Weicker's U.S. Senate seat with a bare-knuckled sneak attack from the right. Then he helped steer Weicker to a historic third-party grab of the governor's mansion in 1990, and served as Gov. Weicker's chief of staff. Why do we care? Because D'Amore is considering joining Team Lamont. D'Amore and Lamont sat for about an hour. D'Amore spoke of how Weicker lost his Senate seat in 1988 because he let Lieberman out street-fight him with those notorious sleeping-bear commercials. "Why are you taking on this guy?" D'Amore asked Lamont. "He's wrong on the war," Lamont responded. "He's wrong on Terry Schiavo. [Lieberman took a Tom DeLay-type stance in favor of "life."] He's wrong on civil liberties.""That's not why you're running, Ned. You're running because he's a Republican." So will D'Amore help Lamont? Lamont knows D'Amore is looking for a scrapper. "I don't know if I'm feisty enough for this guy," Lamont said after their meeting. "I feel very strongly that Joe is very wrong on a lot of big issues. Whether I'm hard enough or passionate enough for all the politicians out there, time will tell." D'Amore was more circumspect. "I wouldn't be meeting with him if I weren't considering helping. Joe Lieberman needs to be replaced," he said. Does Lamont have the fire to do it? D'Amore smiles. "I'm still learning," he says. Their talks have continued.  

Categories: Blogs
What will O'Reilly, Coulter, and Hannity whine about tomorrow?

Categories: Blogs
Here's a link to the official Oscars page, to keep you up-to-date on nominees and winners. Winners are starred and they are updating with each announcement.

Stewart's loosening up after the 3-6 Mafia win, eh? He seems much better when he's ad-libbing.

Chew it up glamourously, folks. Just don't spit it out. Not on Oscar night.

Philip Seymour Hoffman wins Best Actor.

Reese Witherspoon wins Best Actress.

Ang Lee wins Best Director for Brokeback Mountain.

Crash wins Best Picture.

Categories: Blogs

George Clooney, Supporting Actor, Syriana

Rache Weisz, Supporting Actress, The Constant Gardener

KING KONG, Visual Effects

WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

SIX SHOOTER, Best Live Action Short Film



Reuters: Clooney, noted for his liberal politics, said he welcomed criticism that Hollywood is often out of touch with the mainstream.

"We are the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just a gay disease," he said. "This group of people -- I'm proud to be part of this academy, proud to be part of this community, proud to be out of touch."

The night continues ....

Categories: Blogs

February 21, 2006

Early voting begins for the Texas primaries, including that one-day story down in TX-28.

The unions are already hard at work reaching their members in the district. The executive vice-president of the AFL-CIO, Linda Chavez Thompson, has already spent time in the district and will be back this weekend. Their national field guy is on the ground directing their GOTV operation.

There are 11 vans already taking people to the polls. There are 18,000 AFL-CIO-affiliated union members and family in the district, most of who were not aggressively recruited or targetted in 2004. As a baseline, the results of the 2004 primary were as follows:

Rodriguez: 24,448
Cuellar: 24,651

In a low turnout primary, it doesn't take many votes to win the election. The union effort will be HUGE in getting Ciro many of the votes he needs for victory. Especially against a corrupt Henry Cuellar who likely stole the 2004 election.

The unions will also deliver direct and personal mail to all union households in the district, leaflet work sites, phone bank, and canvass door to door.


Update: DavidNYC points to Cuellar's abysmal environmental record.

Categories: Blogs
Bush has never used a veto. Never.

But he finally found something worth expending some of that almost-expended "political capital" on -- protecting the right of the UAE to take over port security.

President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that a deal for a state-owned Dubai company to manage major U.S. ports should go forward and will not jeopardize U.S. security.

Bush told reporters traveling back to Washington with him from Colorado that he would veto legislation to stop the deal from going through.

"After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward," Bush said. He added that if the U.S. Congress passed a law to stop the deal, "I'll deal with it with a veto."

"Careful review". The White House has also claimed that there was a rigorous national security review of the deal.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding, Les, is that this went through the national security review process under CFIUS, at the Department of Treasury. That is the agency that is responsible for overseeing such matters. And this includes a number of national security agencies -- the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Justice, among others, and there is a rigorous review that goes on for proposed foreign investments for national security concerns. And in terms of specifics relating to this, Treasury is the chair of this and you should direct those questions to Treasury.

Yet Rumsfeld has just admitted that he had no clue what this deal was about and that he wasn't consulted.

QUESTION: Are you confident that any problems with security -- from what you know, are you confident that any problems with security would not be greater with a UAE company running this than an American company?

RUMSFELD: I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.

This weekend? The deal was approved Feb. 13.

So who exactly approved this deal? It wasn't the people McClellan claimed it was. And why is Bush so hell-bent on seeing it happen, to the point of threatening his first-ever veto?

Categories: Blogs
So far, so good.

Pending any challenges, we have candidates running in 18 of 18 Ohio congressional districts. CQ did the hard work of going around to every relevant county office to collect these filings. What a cockamamie system Ohio has! The only person without a challenger is Democrat Tim Ryan in OH-17.

North Carolina is next (filing deadline 2/28). Barry Welsh says we have three seats unfilled (5,6 & 10), but the DCCC site says that we do indeed have a candidate in NC-10.

The following day, both Mississippi and Nebraska have their deadlines. In MS, we don't have challengers to either of the two GOP-held seats. However, in NE, we have challengers in all three seats.

After that, we've got a few empty spots in PA and quite a bunch in CA. You can see the complete list of filing deadlines here.

Categories: Blogs
From DavidNYC:

One man is a governor whose entire career revolves around his ties to lobbyists - in fact, he was one himself. The other man is a gubernatorial aspirant, with as clean a record as they come, and a history of fighting corruption.

One man gets praise from the New York Times. The other is knocked. Care to guess which is which?

But wait, it gets even better: The ex-lobbyist governor is roundly praised for his lobbying connections. The aspiring governor, meanwhile, is attacked for accepting a whopping three donations from lobbyists.

Would it help if I told you that the first guy is a Republican, while the second guy is a Democrat? I thought it might.

Categories: Blogs
Imagine being married to this lunatic.

Categories: Blogs
  • YearlyKos update.

  • The UAE ports deal is about cronyism, incomptence, lying to the public and Congress and really shitty decision making.

  • If you live in TX-01 in East Texas, please vote against this guy in the Democratic primary.

  • Republican Michale Steele in Maryland lost his campaign manager earlier this month. Last week, he lost his communications director. No word on whether his intern will also abandon his sinking ship of a senate race.

  • The Montana Legacy Fund, a 527, is beating up on Conrad Burns in a web ad. Burns is the most unpopular senator in the country. It's nice to see Montana Democrats and their allies working to keep it that way. Expect this to be the year of the web-only political ad.

  • Ha ha, Nebraska Republicans struggle to draw crowd in candidate forum.

    The political candidates and their staffs nearly outnumbered potential voters Monday at a Republican forum that attracted hopefuls for governor and the Senate.

    About 25 voters were wooed by about 13 candidates, most of whom arrived with a staff member or a spouse and came early to work the crowd at the Seward Civic Center.

  • It's not getting a lot of buzz, but I'm excited about the World Baseball Classic March 3 through March 20. I haven't decided who to root for yet which I think makes it fun. Probably the Dominicans or Puerto Ricans. The Dominican roster includes David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Pedro Martinez, Alfonso Soriano, Bartolo Colon, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre, and Vladimir Guerrero. That's some serious firepower.

  • My new MacBook shipped today from China. I'm supposed to have it Friday. Damn, I can't wait!

  • The DSCC has a news roundup of several of the hottest Senate races.

  • Karl Rove really is shameless.

Categories: Blogs
PLAN, or the Progressive Legislative Action Network, has launched. This outfit is being driven in large part by David Sirota and Nathan Newman and is meant to be a legislation incumbator for the states. PLAN's mission:

Fighting the Conservative Machine. For thirty years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - a right-wing think tank and legislative network backed by America's most powerful special interests -has spoon-fed corporate-written, fill-in-the-blanks legislation to conservative legislators interested in carrying water for America's most notorious companies, like Exxon and Philip Morris. ALEC has been largely unimpeded in its efforts and needs to be stopped.

Building a Farm Team. Many of this nation's Governors, Senators, and U.S. Representatives rose out of the ranks of state legislatures. Successful legislators will be successful national leaders.

Policy that Matters for Real Americans. Rather than adopting more policy written for America's biggest corporations while dividing Americans with strategic initiatives, state legislatures should be focusing on passing bills to help America's working families.

This is a critical component of our budding Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. A hallmark of the VRWC has been the emphasis on building locally and allowing their "best" ideas bubble up. That's how school vouchers became a big GOP hit. The idea was incubated in Wisconsin, ALEC helped push similar legislation in several other states, and eventually the idea was adopted by the national GOP.

Democrats in DC right now are huddling and working with framers and pollsters and god knows who else to come up with the "Democratic agenda" for these upcoming elections. That's fine in a pinch, but a long-term movement won't have its ideas generated in DC but out in the real world. That's the way the conservative movement does things, and thanks to organizations like PLAN, that's how we'll do it in the future.

So policy wonks in the house, sign up for targetted legislative updates in your state.

Categories: Blogs
We see Orrin Hatch and countless of Republican apologists continue to pretend that Iraq had something to do with Al Qaida in order to justify the clusterfrack in Iraq.

Then there's the United Arab Emirates. And what's the UAE record on terrorism?

  • The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

  • The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia.

  • According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.

  • After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden's bank accounts.

    We bomb Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11, yet we hand UAE the keys to our ports.

    That's the Bush Administration in action.

    Update: More here and here.

Categories: Blogs