Saturday, January 6, 2007

George Will's Minimum Wage

"[T]he minimum wage should be the same everywhere: $0. Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities' prices. Washington, which has its hands full delivering the mail and defending the shores, should let the market do well what Washington does poorly."

This has got to be the most idiotic statement I've ever heard uttered in recent memory, including anything that the Chimp-man has said... well, maybe not everything.

George Will of the Washington Post actually wrote an article that appeared on January 4th opposing a minimum wage increase. Well, actually opposing a minimum wage at all. Then he goes through all this convoluted math and inane percentages regarding who makes what amount of money, trying to confuse the reader into thinking he might actually have a point. I had to read it twice through to try and figure out if I was missing something.

Here are a couple of gems:

"The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 1997, so 29 states with 70 percent of the nation's workforce have set minimum wages between $6.15 and $7.93 an hour."

Okay, where does that leave the other 21 states and 30% of the "workforce"?

"The problem is that demand for almost everything is elastic: When the price of something goes up, demand for it goes down."

Really, George? I suppose gasoline and home heating oil is not in demand then.

You'll have to read the article for yourself to get even a hint of the twisted logic this guy is trying to talk you into.

But let's just use simple math, shall we? I live in New York, where the minimum wage is still $5.15 per hour. It's been like that since 1997. So, a worker's yearly salary, working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks at minimum wage, is $10,712. That's before taxes. You try living on $206 a week before taxes , George.

Of course, Will is no slouch when it comes to figures and data, including a statement that "the average and median household incomes are $63,344 and $46,326, respectively."
I'm sorry to reveal this to you Mr. Will, but even $63K (about $1,200 per week before taxes) doesn't really go far for a family of four, where mom and dad have to work to make ends meet, adding day care costs to their bills. At least not in New York City.

But to say that the labor market should decide what to pay its employees is just a bizarre notion. How many jobs has the US already lost overseas to cheaper labor and unregulated working conditions?

I guess Will is longing for the good ol' days of child labor and sweatshops.

Open Letter to Bush from Pelosi & Reid

Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (God! I love saying that) have written an open letter to President Bush regarding his plan to send more troops to Iraq.

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.

From the Houston Chronicle: The prospect of increasing troop levels has been greeted with so much hostility that some lawmakers are questioning whether Bush is serious.

Virtually the only prominent voices advocating the surge option are Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and some neoconservative scholars.

What a surprise... Looks like that 51/49 fragile Democratic Senate majority really is a 50/50 split with Lieberman in the fold. Mark my words.

Keith Olbermann: Sacrifice

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on the possible "surge and accelerate" that Bush plans to unveil next week.

"Mr. Bush, you do not own this country."

Friday, January 5, 2007

Cafferty on Iraq "Surge"

"...there's never been much of a market for reality in the Bush White House. It's all about the spin you know."

Still Got Your Limbs? You're Going Back.

We speak of the over 3,000 dead American soldiers but don't often think about the wounded. At this point, there are over 150,000 Iraq Veterans receiving diability benefits, according to the Veterans Administration. This is due, in part, to the medical advances that have happened in the last 30 years. Injuries, that in the past would have been fatal, can now be better treated on site and thus save the soldier. But now it seems that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is minor and treatable, according to the US Military, and soldiers suffering from PTSD can be redeployed. This is outrageous!

On Christmas... Army Reservist James Dean barricaded himself in his father's home with several weapons and threatened to kill himself. After a 14-hour standoff with authorities, Dean was killed by a police officer after he aimed a gun at another officer, authorities told the Washington Post.

Veterans for America's [Steve] Robinson told Inter Press Service that Dean, who had already served 18 months in Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with PTSD. He had just been informed that his unit would be sent to Iraq on Jan. 14.

"We call that suicide by cop," Robinson said.

I don't know about you, and I can't imagine what these troops are going through, but I can only think that if I were in their situation, I'd want someone of sound mind next to me and not worrying if he'd taken his medication that day. Why would you want anyone who is medicated to have a firearm is his/her hand?

Read the story.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Bush is Certifiable About Mail

So now he wants to read our mail? Well, he can take all the junk mail out of my box. I'm sure he'll be keeping all the Victoria's Secrets catalogs... or would he be keeping the International Male catalogs?

Critics point out the administration could quickly get a warrant from a criminal court or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to search targeted mail, and the Postal Service could block delivery in the meantime.

But the Bush White House appears to be taking no chances on a judge saying no while a terror attack is looming, national security experts agreed.

There it is again... BOO!!! Terror! Terror! Run for you lives! We're trying to protect you!!!

[Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington] said that Bush is "using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail" as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Cocaine Question

Barack Obama's memoir written 11 years ago states that he used cocaine. It's the first time that a potential candidate has admitted to using drugs. Sure, Bill Clinton said he tried marijuana but didn't inhale. (I drink Coca-Cola...but I don't swallow.) And there were questions on whether Al Gore had used marijuana. But this is different.

Some would think that Obama's candor about the subject is a breath of fresh air. But leave it to the FOX pundits to try and make this an issue. Somewhere along the way however, it went wrong.

FOX reporter Kirian Chetry obviously didn't get the talking points memo for the "Obama Cocaine Confessions" segment and blurted out, "he [Obama] talks very candidly, as did our current president, who admitted to using cocaine, correct? Well, who wrote, somebody wrote in a book -- well, he admitted that he had an alcoholic, he had a drinking problem. Who was it who said they witnessed him using cocaine? It was somebody who wrote a book..."

Here's the video:

The denials from the other FOX heads are pretty funny. They don't remember anything like that.
Well, let me refresh some memories out there. A Google search of "Bush cocaine use" revealed 1,290,000 results. The first was a CNN article from August 20, 1999 entitled,
"Bush faces new round of drug questions". I didn't really need to go any further from there.

From the article: "Bush Thursday denied using illegal drugs over the past 25 years, but refused to discuss his younger years for fear of sending 'a signal to children that whatever I may have done is okay.' "

So at this point in time, you are led to believe that prior to those 25 years, Bush used illegal drugs.

"Bush [had] been peppered with questions about drug use after he was asked in an interview with the Dallas Morning News whether he could pass a background check for federal employees.

That check has a question asking prospective appointees if they have used illegal drugs within the past seven years. Bush said he could pass that exam. On Thursday, he said he could have passed a background check when his father began serving as president in 1989.

Later, an aide clarified the remarks, saying Bush has not used illegal drugs in at least the last 25 years."

Read the entire article and subsequent ones on a cursory search and you'll find that Bush has never answered the question. If he had never used cocaine, why didn't he just answer no?
Here's the best part of the CNN article:

"A TIME/CNN poll of 344 Republicans nationwide taken Thursday show 56 percent prefer Bush as the GOP nominee...
Perhaps even more importantly, only 11 percent of all voters polled -- and only 9 percent of Republicans -- feel that proof of cocaine use in his 20s should disqualify Bush from serving as president. A resounding 84 percent of voters and 87 percent of Republican voters felt just the opposite -- that they did not feel proof of cocaine use in his 20s should disqualify Bush."

Can we now get on to the business of the country? Can we talk about more pressing issues like the deficit, the illegal war in Iraq, Halliburton's war profiteering, the Mississippi Gulf Coast or getting our troops home? Probably not.

Take That, Virgil!

I like this guy already! Keith Ellison, who has been attacked for his choice (especially by Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode) to use the Koran for swearing in during his photo-op, will use an English translation published in the 1750's that was owned by...wait for it.... THOMAS JEFFERSON!

Virgil Goode, "who represents Jefferson's birthplace of Albemarle County, had no comment yesterday."

Ahhhh.... I have a fuzzy, warm feeling right now.

Bush and Balanced Budget in the Same Sentence?!

Picture: George Bush and his Hole in the Head Gang

Bush: “One area where we must work together is that we’ve got to make sure we spend the people’s money wisely."

That dirty son-of-a-bitch.

The Washington Post reports that the Chimp-man "today pledged to submit a five-year budget proposal next month that would balance the federal budget by 2012, and he called on the new Congress to adopt key reforms, including the curtailment of lawmakers' pork barrel projects in spending legislation and committee reports."

I am really disgusted by this guy. The GOP goes spending willy-nilly for the last SIX YEARS and now that they've lost their power, they are already attempting to make the Dems look like the bad guys... before they've unpacked their bags. Where was this sense of bipartisanship for the last six years? I remember the moron saying he had "political capital" after the 2004 election and intended to spend it. And now he has the audacity to say "Congress needs to adopt real reform that requires full disclosure of the sponsors, the costs, the recipients and the justifications for every earmark. Congress needs to stop the practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language. And Congress needs to cut the number and cost of earmarks next year by at least half."

Do you actually think these words would have come out of his mouth if the 2006 election had a different outcome? I tend to think no freakin' way!

Don't get me wrong, I think that balancing the budget, cutting pork, and heavy oversight on earmarks are a good thing. But why hasn't this been the case from Day One? And let's be honest (although I know that's impossible for these chumps). Bush "went on to tout his economic policies, which he said have 'allowed us to meet our goal of cutting the budget deficit in half three years ahead of schedule.'"

WHAT?! Well if you're going to use magical numbers from Fairyland, why not just say we're in a surplus? Because the real deal is that "after reaching a record $413 billion in 2004, the budget deficit dropped to $248 billion in the 2006 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, thanks largely to higher tax receipts from corporations and individuals.

The claim that the federal budget deficit has been cut in half stems from the administration's original projection of a $512 billion deficit for 2004, a number that critics have said was inflated, especially since the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was forecasting $477 billion at the time."

Don't forget that these bastards took control of a $237 billion surplus in 2000.

So Bushie wants to balance the budget while all the time making his tax cuts permanent, which by the way, will cost the Treasury approximately $3.3 TRILLION by 2016.

If you really want to be fiscally responsible, Georgie, then the tax cuts that you think are stimulating the economy, but in actuality are costing "the Treasury more in lost revenue than has been gained from their economic stimulus effect", should be first on the list to be rolled back.

UPDATE: Read That Wacky George W. Bush Cracks Me Up by Bob Geiger.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Out Of Touch

I was reading the NY Times article today entitled "Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in '06, Bush Team Says" in which they infer a change from Gen. George Casey's plans. Here is part of the article:

Over the past 12 months, as optimism collided with reality, Mr. Bush increasingly found himself uneasy with General Casey’s strategy.

General Casey and Gen. John P. Abizaid
, head of the United States Central Command, appeared to be like-minded. During the summer of 2005, General Casey had forecast “fairly significant reductions” in American troops by the summer of 2006, an assessment that the commander said reflected “feelers” from Sunni insurgents that they might be willing to negotiate and lay down their arms.
Some of General Casey’s aides have said that in developing troop withdrawal plans they were cognizant that the Bush administration had not taken any steps to expand the American military presence despite a persistent insurgency, and seemed to have little appetite for substantially expanding the war effort.

Visiting the Pentagon a few weeks ago for a classified briefing on Iraq with his generals, Mr. Bush made it clear that he was not interested in any ideas that would simply allow American forces to stabilize the violence. Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine commandant, later told marines about the president’s message.

“What I want to hear from you is how we’re going to win,” he quoted the president as warning his commanders, “not how we’re going to leave.”

Sounds like Georgie really never had plans on listening to the ISG, or anyone else for that matter, unless they were talking about staying, not leaving.

Then I came across Greg Sargent's post at TPM Cafe in which he astutely points out that the Administration has done nothing but praise Casey all year.

From Sargent's post:

On October 20, 2006, Cheney gave an interview to NPR's Juan Williams, in which he said:

QUESTION: Do you think you're getting good advice, good estimates from the generals who tell you that they have enough men on the ground and women on the ground to get the job done?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we get honest advice from them. I think George Casey gives it to us straight in terms of what he thinks he needs...we'll give him whatever resources he thinks he needs. And my experience with George Casey is he's a first class officer, and he tells us what he wants....

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I -- I spent some time as Secretary of Defense myself, Juan. The men that we've got serving at the upper levels of the U.S. military today I think are some absolutely outstanding individuals. George Casey, John Abizaid sort of have the lead responsibilities in Iraq and for that region -- are outstanding officers. They know the region very well. Abizaid even speaks the language. They are, I think, very good advisors to the President, and they're the guys on the ground who have to, in fact, execute on the policy.

On September 15, 2006, Bush
publicly said the following:
Can the President trust his commanders on the ground to tell him what is necessary? That's really one of the questions.

In other words, if you say, I'm going to rely upon their judgment, the next question is, how good is their judgment; or is my judgment good enough to figure out whether or not they know what they're doing? And I'm going to tell you I've got great confidence in General John Abizaid and General George Casey. These are extraordinary men who understand the difficulties of the task, and understand there is a delicate relationship between self-sufficiency on the Iraqis' part, and U.S. presence.

On June 26, 2006 -- after some of the horrific violence that according to the Times persuaded Bush that Casey was "more committed to withdrawal than victory" -- Bush
stated explicitly that Casey was committed to achieving "victory" and that Bush trusted him:

But in terms of our troop presence there, that decision will be made by General Casey, as well as the sovereign government of Iraq, based upon conditions on the ground. And one of the things that General Casey assured me of is that, whatever recommendation he makes, it will be aimed toward achieving victory. And that's what we want. And victory means a free government that is able to sustain itself, defend itself; it's a government that will be an ally in the war on terror. It's a government that will be able to fight off al Qaeda and its desires to have a safe haven.
And so I did visit with General Casey, and I came away once again with my trust in that man.

Another day, another bunch of lies.

Saddam By Numbers

I know I seem to be obsessing on the whole Saddam thing, but this is the last one... I hope. Found this in The Telegraph:

148 - People murdered on Saddam's orders in Dujail in 1982. He was hanged for this crime against humanity.

5,000 - Civilians killed when Iraqi aircraft dropped a mixture of mustard gas and nerve agents on the Kurdish town of Halabja in March of 1988.

48 - Palaces owned by Saddam furnished with marble, filled with his portraits, and gold toilets seats and taps.

24 - Years in power, from 1979 when he shouldered aside the aging Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, to 2003 when he fled the US-led invasion.

3 - Wives: married cousin Sajida Tulfah in 1963, then Samira Shahbandar and Nidal al-Hamdani after their husbands were made to divorce them.

2 - Sons-in-law murderd on Saddam's orders in 1996. They had defected to Jordan, but were persuaded to return after he gave them guarantees of safety.

1.7 million - Dead on both sides after Saddam started the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, one of the longest wars of attrition in the 20th century.

69 - Widely accepted age when he died, although his precise birth date is disputed. He said April 28, 1937, others claimed 1935.

3 - Professional Saddam "doubles" employed to minimize the risk of assassination, undergoing plastic surgery and being trained to mimic his gestures.

30 - Types of torture allegedly approved by Saddam, including gouging out eyes, cutting off sex organs, and roasting victims over a flame.

$2 Billion - Saddam's personal fortune as estimated by Forbes, the US business journal, in February 2003.

8 - Months on the run after the fall of Baghdad, from April 9th to December 13th, 2003, when US soldiers caught him hiding in a "spider hole" near Tikrit.

0 - Number of weapons of mass destruction found after Saddam's downfall. President Bush & British Prime Minister Tony Blair went to war claiming Saddam had WMD.

Saddam's Dead. Now What?

Death's Door Taunts at Saddam Probed (NY Daily News)

Saddam death 'ends dark chapter' (BBC)
Shias celebrated the pre-dawn hanging while some Sunni towns saw protests. About 70 people died in attacks in two mainly Shia areas after the execution.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, issued a statement that said: "Saddam Hussein's death does not vindicate in any way the ill-conceived and disastrous decision to invade Iraq. His execution does not make an illegal war legal, any more than it will put an end to the violence and destruction."

Anyone seen my briefcase?

Are you kidding me? I remember seeing this written into an episode of The West Wing - Congressman Santos' aides leaves his briefcase in a meeting room and the GOP gets hold of it.

Imagine this scenario:

WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: President Giuliani, I've looked everywhere, but I can't find your Missle Codes. Don't you remember where you had them last?

PRES. GIULIANI: Hmm, let's see... I remember looking at them in admiration on Tuesday... uh, then I put them in my jacket pocket... OH MY GOD! CHECK THE DRY CLEANERS!!!

(Click on cover for the story.)

Few Iraqis Are Gaining U.S. Sanctuary

Excerpts from the NY Times:

“We’re not even meeting our basic obligation to the Iraqis who’ve been imperiled because they worked for the U.S. government,” said Kirk W. Johnson, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development in Falluja in 2005. “We could not have functioned without their hard work, and it’s shameful that we’ve nothing to offer them in their bleakest hour.”

Some critics say the Bush administration has been reluctant to create a significant refugee program because to do so would be tantamount to conceding failure in Iraq. They say a major change in policy could happen only as part of a broader White House shift on Iraq.

State Department officials and some advocates for refugees agree that the United States is not likely to begin resettling large numbers of Iraqis anytime soon. New counterterrorism laws after Sept. 11 have slowed immigration, particularly from countries in the Middle East, and Iraqi applications would be bogged down by those security issues.

“I don’t know of anyone inside the administration who sees this as a priority area,” said Lavinia Limón, president of the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants...

A quicker way to help would be to increase financing to countries that are accepting Iraqis — Jordan, Syria and Lebanon — and press those governments to improve their treatment of Iraqis by allowing them to work and travel, officials and advocates said.

That would be a real service for Iraqis in Jordan, who speak of rude and sometimes abusive treatment. Jordanians often do not allow Iraqis to bring in suitcases, travelers said, and have been known to turn away young men, forcing families to continue on without them.

“Put yourself in my shoes,” said an Iraqi working in an American Army base who spent eight hours in the January cold last year with his wife and infant at the Jordanian border. “You take your family to another country and they interview you like you are a terrorist.”

A residency permit is required, and Iraqis must deposit 50,000 Jordanian dinars — about $70,000 — in a bank without drawing on it for a year to obtain one. The worker, who wanted to be identified only as Abu Hussein, eventually moved his family back to Iraq, to the south, because he could not afford to stay in Jordan.

“The Americans are in control of this country,” he said, talking about Jordan. “Why don’t they become angry at how they are treating us?”

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Troop Deaths Officially Hit 3,000

The death of a Texas soldier, announced Sunday by the Pentagon, raised the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to at least 3,000 since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.