Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Social Security Surplus????

Surplus? What Surplus?

By Charlie Cook
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

For those of you who might have been on vacation or otherwise distracted last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., and a number of other House Republicans proposed the creation of private investment accounts to be funded out of the Social Security surplus.

Hello, a Social Security surplus?

Last time I checked, President Bush had given an impassioned State of the Union speech trying to persuade Congress and the country that the Social Security system was headed toward insolvency.

Indeed, the debate wasn't about if Social Security was going to go belly-up, it was about when. Now Thomas and some of his fellow House Republicans want to fund a program out of the Social Security surplus?

Anyone who thinks that you can sell members of a typical Rotary or Kiwanis Club, or American Legion or VFW Post, or just about any other reasonably intelligent adult that there is enough of a Social Security surplus to buy a vente skim latte at Starbucks has been in Washington way too long. It boggles the mind to think that anyone believes that Republicans could sell this country the idea that there is a Social Security surplus.

Someone with massive long-term financial obligations but with a positive balance in checking and savings accounts does not necessarily have a surplus. A surplus is money over and above needs and obligations, and long-term Social Security obligations dwarf current and expected balances.

It goes without saying that there isn't an account in the U.S. Treasury where this money actually sits. And, it's true that the Social Security Trust Fund is used to make the deficit look smaller. But, what are they smoking at the Ways and Means Committee, and does the Drug Enforcement Administration know?

Like every other credible independent political analyst I know, I think it is very, very unlikely that Democrats can retake control of the House or Senate next year. Yes, I know it is a second-term, mid-term election, and that in five out of the six such "six-year-itch" elections, the party holding the White House incurred devastating losses. In fact, the average outcome in those six elections was a loss of 36 House and six Senate seats, enough to turn over control of both chambers if just an average outcome occurred.

But we keep reminding ourselves that the scarcity of vulnerable Republican seats in the House and Senate makes it almost impossible for the GOP to lose control.

Having said that, I don't think anyone has figured into the equation that Republicans would begin engaging in profoundly stupid and potentially suicidal actions that might prove us wrong and put them back into minority status.

There are two words that should give House Republicans pause before they take a leap aboard Thomas' proposal --- Rahm Emanuel. I am sure that Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is kind and loving to his wife and children and others in his immediate family.

But having known and watched the guy for almost 20 years, he does not strike me as an overly nice person. In fact, I'd lay odds that he would use a Louisville Slugger and treat like a piƱata any Republican foolish enough to sign onto this thing. The murder scene in "Fargo" will look like patty-cake compared to what Emanuel will do to those guys.

It does not take a particularly creative mind to conjure up the television ads Democrats would air to harpoon the suggestion of a surplus. Some of the better ones would probably include Bush's own words warning of an impending Social Security crisis. Even the least creative media consultant could successfully handle this job.

Just because there does not appear to be enough vulnerable Republican seats for the GOP to lose control of the House does not mean the party is free to do whatever it wants without regard to electoral consequences. If a party tries hard enough, it can succeed in blowing its majorities. History holds many examples of this.

The thinking that led to this proposal is a consequence of having members in safe seats who have not met a swing voter in years. Don't get me wrong; Democrats have an equal share of members whose actions make one wonder what planet they live on.

That said, it should not come as a big surprise that drawing such safe districts means that it takes mind-boggling misbehavior to even draw a credible opponent. Add a campaign finance system that is so imbalanced that incumbents typically face opponents spending less than $50,000 for the entire cycle, and members become insulated from having to wonder what an average Joe or Jane Citizen would think about a given solution.

While there are a number of factors that have led to the paucity of competitive districts, this episode makes California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's case for him -- recalibrating districts would help to recalibrate Congress. If there were fewer slam-dunk districts for each party, then each side would have to look over its shoulder a bit more.

As someone who loves to see competition and wants to see more hot congressional races, regardless of who ends up winning, I say bring it on!

Charlie Cook's "Off To The Races" is published each Tuesday by National Journal Group Inc. For more information about National Journal Group's publications, go to

Clash of the Titans

A post from the Democracy for America blog, link here
Holy moly — who put their Halliburton into my Gitmo?!

A Halliburton Co. unit will build a new $30 million detention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects, the Defense Department announced on Thursday.

The announcement comes the same week that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the jail after U.S. lawmakers said it had created an image problem for the United States.

Critics have decried the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees, whom the United States has denied rights accorded under the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war. The prison was called "the gulag of our times" in a recent Amnesty International report.

An air-conditioned two-story prison, known as Detention Camp #6, will be built at Guantanamo to house 220 men. It will include exercise areas, medical and dental spaces as well as a security control room, the contract announcement said.

The contract announcement did not specify whether the new prison would also hold foreign terror suspects.

Under the deal with the Norfolk, Virginia-based U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, the work is to be wrapped up by July 2006. It is part of a larger contract that could be worth up to $500 million if all options are exercised, the Defense Department said.

Ahhhhh, yes: yet another hard-fought competitive success for Vice President Dick Cheney's favorite company. Must have been a ree-e-e-e-e-e-ally tough bidding process.

Seriously, guys — we can't make this stuff up. It's like truth has so far outpaced fiction that it's lapped it and passed it in the outside lane.

Posted by Greg Greene at 08:32 AM

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Speeches on Downing Street memo

Several Democratic congressmembers, led by ranking House Judiciary member John Conyers (D-MI), have opted to move planned Downing Street memo-related speeches on the House floor Tuesday evening to Thursday, RAW STORY has learned.

The handful of members were forced to delay their plans after the Republican leadership scheduled several late-night votes, Conyers press secretary Dena Graziano told RAW STORY. They now plan speeches Thursday evening, though they could be thwarted again if votes are scheduled or Congress is adjourned.

Among those who have expressed interest in speaking are Democratic Reps. John Conyers, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Jay Inslee, Julia Carson, Louise Slaughter, Major Owens and Barney Frank, aides say.

Bush's speech tonight

While listening to the President's speech this evening there were many things that just ticked me off. I have learned, however, to listen to his speech with a piece of paper on which I develop a score card.
Here is the score from tonight's speech on the key words he used (without checking his transcript for accuracy)
Sept. 11 - 6
freedom/free - 25
terrorists/terror - 21
enemy - 8
security - 8
democracy - 7
difficult/hard 4
killers - 2
peace - 1
So, that means his speech was about what? Hmmmm...freedom, terrorists, enemy, security and democracy.But don't you forget about 9-11, as he again tried to tie Iraq to 9-11. They aren't related ! ! :thumbsdown:

Then, I began to notice the audience at Ft. Bragg. I served at Ft. Bragg in the U.S. Army. When looking at the audience I noted that I had never saw so many white people in the Army in one place in my life. So I wonder, how did they handpick this audience? It appeared to be officers only, first of all, and there were very few minorities. After all African Americans make up 1/4 of the US Army population, but the audience for Bush's speech certainly did not reflect that.
So Bush again hand picks his audience...and of course soldiers must attend, must be attentive and must applaud, under orders. So, of course he has a responsive audience.
This audience at Ft. Bragg was a bit different. They have been deployed, they know about Iraq, and there was no spontaneous applause nor roaring ovation at the end of the speech. Notice that? These people know, they know....
Bush spoke many lies tonight. How can he say he supports the troops while cutting their healthcare benefits and not equipping them appropriately? Who pays for their costs to stay at Fisher Houses across this nation while they go back day after day for physical therapy and occupational therapy and other treatments? Nobody. It's about $50 per day to stay at Fisher House. On a private's pay that is alot. Bush and Co. are totally off base, and out of touch.
The speech was total B.S.!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Congressman Putnam, wrong!

Meet Congressman Adam Putnam

Florida Congressman Adam Putnam's [R] misreprsentation of a voice vote during the hearings of
United Airline's default on their pensioners, thus leaving the American tax-payers to foot the bill. audio available here

Listen to the audio and you can hear Congressman Putnam over turn a yes vote. He said the no's had it. WRONG!

If this does not send chills down your spine, you must be numb, or stupid. Our country is really going to heck in a handbasket.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Outrageous fund cuts for Veterans

The administrations programmed budget cuts in 2006 will mean reduced health care services for veterans. The current VA budget only takes into account the cost of taking care of the current veterans, but did not take into account our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. As of July 2004, approximately 25,000 Iraq and Afghanistatn war veterans sought healthcare from the VA. Think of the thousands of veterans we have added since 2004, not to mention the current number of wounded (which we never see, and rarely hear about).
It is unconscionable to wage a war, and not take care of the veterans.

Bush won't spell out time table

To quote the Prez: "I'm not giving up on the mission. We're doing the right thing." Well, if he is so absolutely confident that we are doing the right thing, perhaps he should encourage his unemployed daughters to enlist in the Army. They can help do the thing that their daddy thinks is so right.

New bills looking much like old ones

Dysfunctional Texas politics at its best:
the link

"Texas lawmakers began to reassemble the broken pieces of school finance and tax reform Wednesday largely by crafting bills similar to ones that crumbled in disagreement last month.

"We could very well have a train wreck," said Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, House Ways and Means Committee member.

The committee is pushing the same tax bill that the Senate refused to swallow last month."

"I am optimistic, Pollyanna, I guess, because we have come a long way," Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said.

"Today our funding system ties all schools together," Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, said. "The problem I see with (the House plan) it is that we are creating two classes."

Or, as Van de Putte described it: "The big dogs are getting real fat under the House version."

Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, Ways and Means vice chairman, said he is concerned with the proposed tax reform measure. "I came here to fund excellence in schools, and this bill does not do that," he said.

Perry's plan helps rich at others' expense
A Chronicle analysis shows wealthy would save, but renters would pay more. Gov. Rick Perry's plan for property tax relief would provide a windfall for the wealthiest families in Texas, but for lower-income renters the governor's plan would be a financial drain on the family budget, a Houston Chronicle analysis showed. And after more than a year of legislative wrangling over property tax relief, the tax savings for the median family in Texas would amount to about $150 a year under Perry's plan — a savings of about $12.75 a month.

The real winner of the school property tax cuts would be business, which pays about 54 percent of all the school property taxes in Texas."

The reality of the situation, IMHO, teachers and poor school districts will lose. The poor will pay the brunt of the cost and no real improvement will be made in our schools. What we need is a state income tax to get our schools improved.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Get involved in local politics

Computer down until today, had to say this....

Ok, this is our 33rd wedding anniversary and here I am blogging. Why? Because Karl Rove and Co. totally pissed me off. Then there was the whining caller on the Randi Rhodes show, who whined about where our country was going, but did not understand the fact that the only way to make change is to work for it.
So my friends, work for change. To quote Howard Dean, "run for office, if you can't run for office, help someone else run for office." Get out there and get busy, 2006 mid term elections are not far off.
Help John Courage and David Van Os, or run yourself. Don't know how to set up a campaign? Ask me. I just attended root camp at Democracy Fest and will be glad to share what I learned.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Gays should wear warning labels, a Christian lobby leader notes

According to, the leader of a conservative Christian lobby group appears to suggest that gays should be required to wear warning labels, although he denies that was his intention.

However, here is the quote from Rev. Bill Banuchi:
"We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we 'celebrate' a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports," Rev. Bill Banuchi, executive director of the New York Christian Coalition told the Mid Hudson News.

Despite using the analogy of cigarette labels, Banuchi tells that he is not advocating gays specifically be labeled. Banuchi also alleges that he has received hate mail since his remarks were published. The issue of labels is particularly sensitive to gays. In Nazi Germany they were forced to wear the pink triangle to differentiate them from other internees at concentration camps."

Speaking of sexually transmitted diseases, why is it that the only place I have ever seen miles and miles of billboards advertising sex shops and nudie dancers was in the Bible belt, specifically Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia. You don't get STD's from those kind of places? Oh...wait, they only "look." Yeah that works about as well as teaching abstinence! Hypocrites all of them.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ok, not as important as real news, but

The Brawnyman paper towel ads drive me crazy. Who cares if the Brawny paper towel man is sexy and cleans the kitchen? I don't. It is not sexy if a man cleans up behind himself, it's just plain considerate. Remember manners? We all should clean up behind ourselves and not wait for the sexy Brawnyman. Gag. So, if the ad drives you as crazy as it does me,
tell the company

Friday, June 03, 2005

Rush Limbaugh is truly an idiot!

Rush stated:
From the June 2 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: The two to three big opportunities so far mentioned by Howard Dean -- pension portability and changes to election laws. ... So portability of pensions. What's the second one? Oh, yeah, Election Day a holiday. And well, you know -- I don't know why they need to do that. Most of their voters don't work anyway, so I don't know how that's going to help them that much. At least in a percentage basis.

Ok Rush, now I know that you are totally disconnected from reality. Have some more Vicodin, idiot.