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1/29/2005

Instrumental Truth

The GOP clearly doesn't really believe that the Social Security system will be in crisis by 2008 - those who think that matters, though, are mere members of the reality based community. That which serves the Party is true.

The New York Times: Party leaders and White House officials who gathered at the Greenbrier resort also discussed a new rhetorical twist in their campaign to remake Social Security. In meetings on Friday, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, discussed redirecting public attention on 2008 as an imminent danger point for the Social Security trust fund because baby boomers will begin retiring, people present said. Even the most dire analyses say the fund will remain solvent for a decade or longer after that.

Democratic Policy Committee on Social Security

This was live on C-Span yesterday. It was quite impressive.

Newsday: In addition to presidential speeches, the [Bush's] campaign [for privatization] includes television ads by groups supporting private accounts, appearances on Sunday TV news shows by administration officials, and, according to two Social Security Administration employees, a wide-ranging marketing strategy devised by political appointees at their agency that involuntarily enlists career employees and uses government resources.

The employees, Deborah Fredericksen and Steve Kofahl, testified Friday at a hearing by Senate Democrats who oppose Bush's plan. They said the strategy was devised by Social Security's Office of Communications. It was then disseminated to all of the agency's regional offices, which fell in line behind it.

Fredericksen and Kofahl said the strategy improperly uses public resources to sell two notions central to Bush's plan: that Social Security faces an imminent funding crisis and that any solution must include private accounts. Critics of privatization strongly dispute both points.

In her testimony to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Fredericksen presented several documents she said were from an internal Social Security Administration Web site that appeared to support her contention that the agency was promoting the underlying message of Bush's plan.

"That is a political message," said Fredericksen, who works in a Minneapolis field office and is a union official. "It's not my job as an agency employee to project a political message. ... It compromises the integrity and credibility of the Social Security Administration."

In a statement, Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart denied that she had told agency employees to promote "any specific proposal for Social Security reform." She said the agency has sought to "educate the American public about the programs and finances of Social Security."
Jo Anne has steadfastly denied the politicization of the SSA, but the evidence is mounting. Bush is using our taxes to lie to us.

More from the Washington Post.

1/28/2005

J.D. Crouch II

Laura Rozen reports the rumor that J.D. Crouch II is "set to become deputy national security advisor, working under Stephen Hadley." Crouch was recently ambassador to Romania [Romanian Embassy site]. He was a fellow at the Claremont Institute, where he wrote against gun regulation, and a member of the Board of Directors at Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy.

Laura understates his lunacy.

Jim Lobe:

A champion of U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Crouch has supported military action against Cuba; defended the development of offensive chemical weapons; opposed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and advocated the development of new nuclear weapons for such purposes as destroying underground facilities (bunker-busters).

Before his appointment in 2001, he also strongly criticised the previous Bush administration decision to withdraw nuclear weapons from South Korea, and called for Washington to unilaterally destroy suspected nuclear and missile installations in North Korea unless Pyongyang complied with an ultimatum to dismantle them.
The details are in this Council for a Livable World report. Here's [PDF] his case for missile defense, presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2003. He was instrumental in the development and promotion of the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.

Update, Tuesday 2/1/05, 12:29 AM EST: Laura reports that the rumor is confirmed, that Crouch is in as Deputy National Security Advisor. Coincidentally, Rumsfeld has just come out for resources for the bunker buster nuke, a controversial aspect of the 2002 NPR which was closely associated with Crouch. On January 10th, Rumsfeld sent a memo to then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham:
"I think we should request funds in FY06 and FY07 to complete the study," Rumsfeld wrote. "Our staffs have spoken about funding the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) study to support its completion by April 2007." He added, "You can count on my support for your efforts to revitalize the nuclear weapons infrastructure and to complete the RNEP study."

1/27/2005

Progress for America Misinformation on Social Security

An email sent out by Progress for America:

Dear PFA Supporter,

We need your help to save Social Security!

Although Social Security is sound for today's seniors, it lacks the resources to pay promised benefits to younger workers. While there were 16 workers per retiree in 1950, there are only three workers per retiree today and the government will begin to pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes by 2018. Further, unless we act now, the Social Security Trust Fund will be totally bankrupt by 2042 when today's younger workers begin to retire.

The longer we wait to fix Social Security for our children and grandchildren, the more difficult and costly it will be to solve the problem! In fact, the cost to reform Social Security increases $600 billion every year we delay reform.

Thankfully, President Bush and congressional leaders have the courage to make reforming Social Security - through the creation of voluntary personal retirement accounts - their top priority for 2005.

Here are some indisputable facts about Social Security:

• The Time is Now! The cost to reform Social Security increases $600 billion every year we fail to act;

• The Baby Boomers are Coming! Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system and 76 million baby boomers will begin to retire in less than 5 years. While there were 16 workers per retiree in 1950, there are just 3 workers per retiree today and soon there will only be two workers per retiree;

• "Doing Nothing" is Not An Option! The Social Security Trust Fund will begin to pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes by 2018 and it is projected to run out of money by 2042 if we do not act now;

• Massive Shortfalls. The Social Security Trustees estimate a shortfall of more than $10.4 trillion in order to meet Social Security's obligations and make it permanently solvent;

• Personal Nest Egg. Voluntary personal retirement accounts would provide younger workers - especially workers who could not otherwise afford to save - with a nest egg they can call their own, government cannot take away and they can pass on to their children;

• Optional. Voluntary personal retirement accounts would be 100% voluntary and future retirees have the option of staying in the current system;

• Good Investment. While retirees received a 114% return on their investment in Social Security in 1940, they only receive 1.7% today. Voluntary personal retirement accounts provide younger workers with a better vehicle to save and invest for their retirement; and,

• Protecting Today's Seniors. Reform will not change Social Security for those at or near retirement.

Progress for America (PFA) is working to support efforts to reform and modernize Social Security. PFA launched a new television ad - called "Courage" - which outlines the fundamental problems facing Social Security and applauds our leaders for having the courage to finally address them. We also began a telephone and email program to let Congress know that the American people support their efforts.

This week, PFA is gathering petition signatures to let Congress know that the American people support reforming Social Security now. Please take a minute to sign our Social Security petition today and urge your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same.

Unfortunately, some Washington special interest groups are more concerned with scaring seniors and demonizing Social Security reform than actually solving the problem. Indeed, some people in Washington continue to deny that there is even a problem. AARP has already spent $5 million attacking reform and other liberal interest groups have announced their intentions to join the fray. Incredibly, these groups will spend more than $100 million trying to convince Congress to "do nothing."

We need your help to counter their efforts and save Social Security! There are countless ways you can help and your support will send our leaders a message before it is too late. Please consider doing one or more of the following:

• Contact your Senators and Congressman to demand action now;

• Visit PFA's website to sign our petition;

• Visit PFA's website to make a financial contribution which will pay for future TV ads, mail and phone programs;

• Forward this email to five friends and urge them to join our efforts.

At the very least, let President Bush and Congress know that you want them to reform and protect Social Security by signing our petition.

We must deliver 100,000 petition signatures to Congress this week to send a message that reforming Social Security is too important to wait. Otherwise, our leaders will only hear from those want to pass Social Security's problems on to future generations.

So far, President Bush and congressional leaders are showing great courage in promoting reform and supporting voluntary personal retirement accounts. Please sign our petition today and help make sure that our leaders do not back down.

And after signing the petition, please help us counter the liberal misinformation machine by forwarding this email on to your friends and family.

Thank you for helping to save social security for future generations.

Brian McCabe
President
Progress for America
Progress for America has close ties to the administration - this email is a dry run of the arguments we'll be hearing over the next months. I am not familiar with the "$600 billion" claim, which is absurd on its face - the program's deficits aren't projected to reach $600 billion/year - paying any deficits with general fund revenue would cost less.

1/26/2005

Annuity Dealers Abuse Seniors

The LA Times reports on predatory annuity sales practices. The central example involves an elderly man purchasing an annuity to support his wife after he died, only for his wife to discover after his death that the annuity doesn't pay off until 2045 - when the man would have been 115 years old. A class action is in the works, as there are 10,000 similarly situated seniors.

California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's staff is investigating a "living trust mill" that "used 60 telemarketers and 200 sales agents to offer seniors free or low-cost estate planning services as a pretext to pitch unsuitable annuities."

Of course, George W. Bush both wants to reduce people's ability to file class action lawsuits and force people to buy annuities to replace their social security benefits.

1/25/2005

Disdain for the Law

The Chirstian Science Monitor draws a connection between the Post's reporting on the DoD's increasing usurpation of overseas covert ops and the Times' reporting on the use of special forces to provide security at the inauguration. Neither use of special forces is authorized by law - both are based on "'special authority' from either the president or the secretary of defense."

Anti-Nuclear Petition

People for the American Way is circulating a petition, targetting 18 "key" Republican Senators, in defense of the filibuster. Frist is sending increasingly clear signals that he will try to eliminate the filibuster as relates to judicial nominations. Reid has vowed to shut down the Senate in response, using procedural maneuvers to make any action extraordinarily difficult. PFAW's strategy is good, and it would be helpful to get some of these characters on the record.

PFAW's targets:

Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Sen. John McCain (Arizona)
Sen. Richard Lugar (Indiana)
Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa)
Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)
Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (Nebraska)
Sen. John Sununu (NH)
Sen. Pete Domenici (NM)
Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio)
Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio)
Sen. Gordon Smith (Oregon)
Sen. Arlen Specter (Penn)
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Sen. John Warner (Virginia)

PFAW's filibuster fact sheet.

An opinionjournal.com editorial from yesterday:

It's been a long time coming, but we now have an approximate date for a confrontation in the Senate on judicial nominations. Majority Leader Bill Frist has announced that if Democrats filibuster the nominations he expects to bring to the floor next month, he'll take action.

Finally. Perhaps the biggest failure of Mr. Frist's leadership in the last Congress was his inability to corral Republicans and stop the Democrats' unprecedented filibuster of 10 of President Bush's appeals-court nominees. It was the first time in U.S. history that the filibuster had been used against nominees to the appellate bench, as a Congressional Research Service paper has amply shown.

1/23/2005

AP: Anti-Choice Graverobbers

ABC News: Colo. Church Buries Aborted Fetuses' Ashes: "BOULDER, Colo. Jan 23, 2005. A Roman Catholic church buried the ashes of hundreds of aborted fetuses Sunday, a day after the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, drawing criticism that the church was exploiting women's grief to make a political statement.

A crowd of 250 parishioners prayed as the ashes were buried in the Sacred Heart of Mary Church cemetery, while a handful of protesters gathered nearby holding signs that read, 'This church is a grave robber.'

A mortuary hired by the abortion clinic to dispose of the fetuses had been giving the ashes to the church for years to be buried at a memorial. Dr. Warren Hern, clinic director, said he had no idea such an arrangement had been made and said his contract required the mortuary to bury the ashes in its own plot."

More Pletka

Alec Russell, Telegraph, 1/21/05:: But the Republican-dominated Congress is arguing for regime change to be an explicit goal of America's foreign policy. For the moment, the US does not have an Iranian policy. But barring an utter disaster in Iraq, if Teheran spurns attempts to curb its nuclear ambitions, the administration will not turn its back.

"The idea that we will sit idly by is not right," said Danielle Pletka, a prominent neo-conservative at the American Enterprise Institute. "And Europeans are very mistaken to think that George Bush is an empty vessel. He is the hawk in the administration."
Craig Gordon, Newsday, 1/23/05: "I think people who write Iraq off as a failure don't understand the first thing about what failure really would be in a place like Iraq," said Danielle Pletka, an analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute who supported the war. "Failure would be that the elections didn't take place, that we would have installed a pseudo-Saddam when he fell, that there wouldn't be hundreds of political parties.

"It's not perfect. It's far from perfect," Pletka said, "but there's a tendency to forget just how bad it was under Saddam Hussein."

Armitage Farewell

In bidding adieu to a "thoughtful advocate of the traditional Republican internationalist foreign policy," the Minneapolis Star Tribute indulges in a bit of fantasy:

Richard Armitage/Farewell to a truth-teller: "John Bolton, who was in charge of nonproliferation during the first Bush term, also is leaving the State Department, and good riddance. Bolton is the antithesis of a diplomat, a neo-con installed at state to keep an eye on Powell and Armitage. It seems Bolton's main goal is to be as irritating as possible to both friends and foes. Over the past several years, a delightful image has occurred to us numerous times in which Armitage picks Bolton up and pitches him head first into the Potomac, dusts off his hands, gives his gravelly chuckle and trots briskly back to Foggy Bottom, job well done."

 

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