Prosperity Through Ownership

In an effort to simplify the sometimes confusing and always rancorous debate over Social Security reform, the ever-helpful wingnuts at The Heritage Foundation have come up wth a little SocSecCalculator for your convenience. Just plug in your age range and salary range, and voilá! All your retirement problems solved in two different scenarios, both of which put the moolah where it belongs — in YOUR pocket. Thanks Heritage Foundation!

Cheney Rattles North Korea’s Cage, Undiplomatic Name Calling Ensues

Vice President Dick Cheney criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” show last week. Because of the holiday, his bellicose comments have gone largely unreported in the American mainstream media. However, they were heard loudly and clearly in Pyongyang, where North Korean leaders responded with a personal slur against U.S. Secretary of State Condileeza Rice.

International Herald Tribune:

Tensions between the United States and North Korea increased Monday as both sides turned up the rhetoric after a decision in Washington to dispatch 15 Nighthawk stealth fighters to the Korean Peninsula.

Vice President Dick Cheney of the United States described Kim Jong Il, the North Korean head of state, as an “irresponsible leader.”

North Korea, in turn, called the deployment of U.S. aircraft a prelude to war. On Monday, the state-run Pyongyang Radio, using a vulgar epithet, compared Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States to a dog “that has no fear of a tiger and barks at it.”

The comments the Vice President made on CNN were in his classic understated but hyper-agressive style and obviously intended to provoke the North Koreans:

“I am concerned about it,” Mr Cheney said of the stalled negotiations, “Partly because … Kim Jong Il, who’s the leader of North Korea, is – I would describe as one of the world’s more irresponsible leaders.”

The Vice President accused Kim of running “a police state” and one of the most heavily militarised societies in the world while the bulk of the North Korean population lived “in abject poverty and stages of malnutrition.”

“He doesn’t take care of his people at all,” Mr Cheney continued. “And he obviously wants to throw his weight around and become a nuclear power.”

Mr Cheney called the stalemate with North Korea “a major problem” and assured that the Bush administration was “continuing to work it very hard” to re-launch the talks.

He said officials in Pyongyang must “understand that they’re not going to have normal relationships with the outside world, in terms of commerce, industry and trade, if they become a nuclear power.”

The Vice President also urged China to more aggressively use its clout with Pyongyang in trying to persuade it to return to the negotiating table.

“The Chinese need to understand that it’s incumbent upon them to be major players here,” Mr Cheney said.

This is the sort of “diplomacy” we can expect from Cheney’s man John Bolton when he’s confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The dirty little secret here (that isn’t a secret at all) is that our military is stretched thin. If we are to make good on Cheney’s threats, the U.S. will have to go back to war with North Korea, meaning either a bombing campaign – which could provoke a nuclear response from Pyongyang – an invasion by newly drafted American forces, or both.

Considering how poorly the invastion of Iraq was planned and implemented, we could be standing on the edge of a very dangerous precipice. This is the price we pay when we turn our government over to corrupt, lying and incompetent folks like the crowd in Washington now.

Scientologists Take One on the Chin from Jeb

Tom Cruise is jumping on the anti-psychiatry Scientology bandwagon. Despite Florida Gov. Jeb Bush vetoing a bill last week after the cult sent heavyweight (and I told myself I wouldn’t make Kirstie Alley jokes) lobbyists to champion the cause, they aren’t giving up. And Cruise is mouthing his lines well.

Palm Beach Post:

Ignoring the pleas of Scientologist celebrities, Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday vetoed a measure that would have prohibited school administrators and teachers from keeping children who chronically misbehave out of school unless they take medication.

It will be awhile before Florida legislators get the image of a sobbing Kirstie, who testified in April, out of their minds. St. Petersburg Times:

Kirstie Alley was weeping so hard she could barely get the words out…

As she spoke, Alley held up pictures of adolescents who committed suicide after taking psychotropic drugs.

“None of these children were psychotic before they took these drugs. None of these children were suicidal before they took these drugs,” Alley said.

But the Scientology celebrity firepower, which included actor Kelly Preston, wife of actor John Travolta, wasn’t enough to convince the council.

Before they even heard from Alley and Preston, council members stripped the most controversial language out of the bill (HB 209).

The original bill said that before a school could refer a child for mental health treatment, it would have to tell parents there are no medical tests to diagnose mental illness. It also would have required schools to tell parents a mental disorder diagnosis will go on a student’s permanent record…

The council approved a watered-down version that simply prohibits schools from denying services to children who refuse psychotropic drugs. A similar federal law passed last year.

Why are Scientologists appearing before the Florida legislature? Scientology took over the west-central Florida town of Clearwater, starting in the 1970s. Today it’s their Salt Lake City, according to their web site.

Clearwater is the spiritual headquarters of the Scientology religion… [It] is the hub of the Scientology worldwide community, a dynamic, multilingual organization and is the largest single church of Scientology in the world.

Historically, when a small group of Church of Scientology staff first came to Clearwater in December 1975, acquiring the Fort Harrison and Clearwater Bank building, no Scientologist lived in the area.

Today, with more than a dozen buildings, the Church of Scientology’s 1,200 staff and more than 2,000 out-of-town visitors in any given week are only a small part of the Scientology community in the City, which is estimated to be in excess of 12,000.

Now, why would longtime residents feel they’d been taken over? The Travoltas live in nearby Ocala, by the way, which is why every John Travolta movie lately is filmed in or around Jacksonville.

Anyway, Cruise is mad as hell and he’s pledged to kick some psychiatric butt. After all, psychiatry isn’t a true science like, you know, Scientology. Tom, as quoted on Internet Movie Database:

“I’m going right after psychiatry and these false labels and this pseudo-science. I was diagnosed as dyslexic; I had a lot of energy as a child. They wanted to put me on drugs… Had I been put on those drugs, I never would be here today… I never would have had the career that I’m having. Am I making people aware of it by discussing it openly and saying what a fraud psychiatry is? You bet I am…”

Geez Tom, take a chill pill, why don’t cha?

The Republican Party: It’s Not Just for White Guys Anymore

The Los Angeles Times reports that conservative black pastors are not only enjoying total access to the State Department, but might get their own office soon.

Black pastors meet Rice, claim Africa ‘mandate’

Escalating its courtship of a politically powerful constituency, the Bush administration is teaming up with some of the nation’s best-known and most influential black clergy to craft a new role for U.S. churches in Africa…

The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach and a Republican [for more on Wingnut Dozier, read on], said Rice’s decision to huddle with the pastors gave them a “mandate” to craft Africa policy…

If it goes forward, the collaboration could substantially expand black-church participation in the faith-based initiative, from a largely domestic focus to an overseas portfolio that pastors think could make hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars available for black-church work combating AIDS and related social ills internationally. Rice and the pastors discussed establishing an office of faith-based initiatives within the State Department that would direct federal funds for overseas aid to church and community groups.

Blacks have traditionally been not only counted on to vote Democratic, but according to many, taken for granted by the Democratic party. Those days best come to a screeching halt.

The Democratic party isn’t just losing blacks to extreme religious causes. Many black business owners, just as white ones, see more value in aligning themselves with the GOP.

The Lakeland (Florida) Ledger:

The Frederick Douglass Republican Club of Central Florida will hold its chartering ceremony June 7.

The guest speaker will be Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

In 2003, Steele became the first black in Maryland to be elected to a statewide office…

[Insurance agent Phillip] Walker changed his registration from Democrat to Republican three years ago. He said the party — with its low tax, low regulation message — better aligns with his political beliefs and religious convictions…

Anthony Broadnax, an engineer technician with Lakeland Electric, said he hopes the club will groom potential candidates for public office. He’s hoping the club will bring awareness to the black community.

“We need to educate our people regarding the party,” he said.

I hope the Florida, and national, Democratic parties will take note. The civil rights era is over, and blacks need new reasons to be Democrats.

I’m not sure Howard Dean, who wanted to be the candidate for guys with rebel flags on their trucks, fully appreciates the nuance of race in this country. And I don’t think New England/Massachusettes whiter-than-white guys like John Kerry or Michael Dukakis will ever carry the day.

Attention, Democrats: our ship could well be sailing.

Monitoring God’s Vomit: Rev. O’Neal Dozier

Wingnut Bush point-men like the Rev. O’Neal Dozier pose the next problem for those of us who prefer religion stay in our hearts and not in our courthouses. They also represent a new political animal: black Republicans.

From a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, is one of the Bush Administration’s “go-to” African-Americans.

Dozier belongs to a growing trend of black ministers who promote conservative values on such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion. President Bush and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, made an effort to reach out to ministers like Dozier during the last presidential campaign.

Jeb Bush appointed Dozier to the 17th Judicial Nominating Commission in 2001. Gov. Bush reappointed him in 2003 and spoke at Dozier’s church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that same year.

When President Bush campaigned at the Office Depot Center last fall, Dozier gave the invocation.

The president invited him to the White House in February as part of a delegation of 24 black preachers and business-owners to discuss Social Security.

Well, isn’t that nice? The Bushes are finally broadening their circle of friends. And what a prince they’ve found this time.

From the blog,

In November of 2003 Dozier referred to homosexuality as “something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit,” and was quoted as saying: “Why is it one of the paramount of sins? Well, it is a very bad kind of sin because it really hurts society in so many ways. God, however, found a way to punish the homosexuals through HIV-AIDS. It is a type of judgment for such a sin as this one, homosexuality.” [11/27/03]

Horror over Dozier isn’t confined to the blogosphere. Back in January, 2004, he grilled judicial nominees in South Florida as to their religious beliefs, church activity, how they would rule on sodomy issues, whether they would post the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, and for females, a bonus question: how would they raise their children while on the bench?

Even the Orlando Business Journal was appalled.

Far be it from us to suggest that the process of choosing state judges is politicized’

Nor will we remind you that, only last year in Orlando, Gov. Bush told those folks he appointed to choose state judges that, “I’m looking for people who share my philosophy.”

Which brings us to the Right Rev. O’Neal Dozier.

The reverend is among nine folks who select judicial candidates to serve on the South Florida bench. We don’t know if he shares Gov. Bush’s philosophy on law, but we do know that he does not share that of the U.S. Constitution. This is how we know: “There is no such animal as separation of church and state in the Constitution,” he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

in a statement designed to set George Washington’s wooden teeth a-chattering, the good reverend tells us “I don’t believe the developers of the Constitution would want us to compromise our Christian values.”

Gov. Bush has no more right to insist judges share his ideology than Rev. Dozier has the right to insist that they share his religious practices.

You said it, but they sure aren’t listening.

Cracks in the MSM: Star-Tribune on Memorial Day Says ‘Bush Lied’ about Iraq

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

In exchange for our uniformed young people’s willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don’t expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.

The “smoking gun,” as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times. It is a highly classified document containing the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at 10 Downing Street in which Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair on talks he’d just held in Washington. His mission was to determine the Bush administration’s intentions toward Iraq.

At a time when the White House was saying it had “no plans” for an invasion, the British document says Dearlove reported that there had been “a perceptible shift in attitude” in Washington. “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

It turns out that former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill were right. Both have been pilloried for writing that by summer 2002 Bush had already decided to invade…

As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths — the most since January — comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.

Dems Demand Bush-Cheney ’04 Return Tainted ‘Coingate’ Money

The Democratic National Committee has demanded that President Bush’s re-election campaign return over $100,000 that Bush-Cheney ’04 may have received in money stolen in the GOP “Coingate” scandal, reports the Toledo Blade.

Coin dealer Tom Noe, a Republican fat cat and donor, apparently talked GOP state officials into investing public money in rare coins, and now $10 million to $12 million from that $50 million fund is missing.

After the money went missing, Noe made donations to GOP elected officials in Ohio, including Gov. Bob Taft. It appears Noe made a donation to Bush-Cheney ’04, as well:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are investigating whether Mr. Noe violated campaign-finance laws. That probe has focused on an October, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus that generated $1.4 million for the Bush campaign.

The Bush-Cheney campaign lists Mr. Noe as a “pioneer” for raising from $100,000 to $250,000 for the President’s re-election campaign.

Bush stole the election in 2000. Now it appears he won Ohio in 2004 with stolen money.

(Thanks to Friend of PR Kim for the update!)

Leaked UK Report Supplies More Proof That Bush, Blair Lied in Run-up to War

DailyKos has a diary entry from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who says a report leaked to the London Times provides proof positive that the Bush and Blair administrations were on the course to war in Iraq long before they started “marketing” the overthrow of Saddam Hussein to their hapless citizens in September 2002.

The [Royal Airforce Force] and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make “regime change” in Iraq legal.

Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that “the US had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime”.

The new information, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001, and that the RAF increased their attacks even more quickly than the Americans did.

Rep. Conyers has written a letter to President Bush demanding an explanation for the inconsistencies between his Administration’s statements both before and after the fall of Saddam and the emerging record of the facts.

The conservatives who control our Congress are far too corrupt to investigate the Bush Administration, especially if there is a better than even chance the Bushites did something that might lead to impeachment, which this matter certainly could. Don’t roll your eyes. As I’ve noted before, Andrew Johnson was impeached for firing a cabinet member and Bill Clinton was impeached over sex lie told under oath. The lies told by Bush and company have led to the deaths of tens of thousands.

Even if the chance are slim that a serious investigation will take place, you can take action. It only takes a minute to sign the letter.

Father of Lesbian Raised $200,000 for Sponsor of Anti-Gay Amendment

How did I miss this story two weeks ago? Vice President Dick Cheney, the father of a devoted lesbian daughter, flew to Colorado to be the big ticket draw at a fundraiser for an ultra-rightwing member of Congress who happens to be a sponsor of the proposed constituitional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Though he has a lesbian daughter, Vice President Dick Cheney gave an estimated $200,000 boost Monday to the campaign coffers of Republican congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, who is one of the original sponsors of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents.

Musgrave has proved “to be exactly the right person for the job,” Cheney told a crowd of about 200 people who paid $500 to $4,000 to attend a downtown Denver luncheon.

Musgrave’s campaign fund had about $422,000 in cash as of March 31, the end of the first quarter, said Guy Short, her chief of staff…

“By funneling cash into the coffers of Marilyn Musgrave, Vice President Cheney is merely money-laundering for the antimarriage amendment,” said Eric Stern, executive director for the National Stonewall Democrats.

This is pathological.

Clinton Aide Cleared But LA Times Buries Story on Front of ‘California’ Section

Good news for Hillary Clinton. Former campaign worker David Rosen was cleared by a jury yesterday of charges he stole money collected at a Los Angeles fundraiser during her run for the U.S. Senate in 2000. You won’t find this story on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times however – or even on the top the screen of the paper’s homepage, above.

Think about it. If Rosen been found guilty, is there any doubt that the allegedly liberal Los Angeles Times would have trumpeted the news on the front page? I’m not saying it would have been the the lead story above the fold, but the paper definitely would’ve run it in the third or fourth position. Instead, the story can be found on the front of the “California” section of the paper, which is like the “Local” section in other dailies.

A former top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was acquitted Friday of charges that he deliberately concealed more than $700,000 in contributions to finance a fundraising gala for her 2000 Senate campaign.

David Rosen, who served as Clinton’s national finance director, embraced his lawyer and smiled broadly as U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz announced the jury’s verdict after a three-week trial.

“I’m relieved this ordeal is over,” Rosen said afterward. “This has been going on for five years. I now have closure in my life.”

Although Clinton was not charged in the case, her political foes had seized on it, anticipating incriminating disclosures that might affect her possible 2008 presidential run. But their expectations were dashed on opening day when a Justice Department prosecutor told jurors that Clinton was not involved in any wrongdoing.

The fact that Clinton was not implicated or under suspicion will not matter to her enemies. The “facts” have never gotten in the way of smears created by folks like Richard Mellon Scaife, Ted Olson, Ken Starr and their minions who ran the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy against the Clintons in the 1990’s. Facts won’t matter to the folks who pick up the mantel of character assassination if Hillary decides to run for president in 2008.

In the early years of the Clinton Administration, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post all printed stories about the Clintons that later proved to be false without ever printing a retraction. (See “The Hunting of the President,” by Joe Conanson and Gene Lyons and “Blinded by the Right,” by David Brock, among other books, for details.) Many of these stories were used by the rightwing to establish credibility for the outright lies they propagated about the First Family and their friends. Sad to see that this bias continues even today.