Friday, April 29, 2005

Perfumed Lies

Last night, Bush tried his usual tactic of perfuming his lies. 'Oh what a wonderful Bush World we all live in' was his main theme. 'Believe in me and I will take you to Bush Utopia.'

If the words that came from his lips were symbols they would look like this... "$$$$$$$" That's why, only those who speak and think "$$$$$$$" know exactly what he is saying. For the rest of us who don't understand this language, Bush hopes to lull us into thinking he really cares about our Earth and Humankind.

THINK AGAIN! Beware of his words, they are not even within earshot of reliable TRUTH. On and on, he went about the Social Security crisis (same old rhetoric he has been touting trying to make us believe it's an emergency because he and his neocons are planning on dismantling it altogether). Also, how Extraordinary Rendition is protecting us, (Of course, sending fellow human beings, to other countries to be tortured is going to protect us??? Is this called leading by example, I hope not.) And how about his proposal to build more refineries and nuclear energy sites to lower gas prices (HUH? My God, this man thinks we are all dumbbells... what good will refineries be when the oil runs out; wouldn't it be wiser to promote using less energy? As far as nuclear energy goes... this is as old as his lying lies and a proven, potential disaster to our Earth!)

I have searched the web all morning trying to find the right articles to wash away the perfume on his perfumed lies and allow the stink to come through... and perhaps allow some good fresh smelling truth to enter our intellect.

We must all stand up against the DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICANS by getting informed; this is the best weapon against Bush's PERFUMED LIES! Thinking Blue

The Perils of Bush's Social Security Plan Contact:
Marilyn Watkins, Ph.D.
George W. Bush has proposed a drastic restructuring of Social Security in order to “save” it. But he’s proposing radical surgery on a patient that has at worst a sniffle. Social Security is the best source of economic security for all America’s working families. Some minor reforms could make this highly successful program even better, but carving it up into private accounts isn’t one of them. Bush’s proposal will only make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer.

Social Security isn't going bankrupt. In fact, with the baby boomers all retired and everybody living longer, both workers and retirees will have more in real income in 2030 and beyond than they do today. The so-called crisis is a phony one, produced by Wall Street interests hoping for huge profits from new private accounts, fed by politicians eager for a few more votes, and promulgated by a media obsessed with sound bites and scandal.

We're often told that Social Security will run short of money by 2037, as if that were a fact. But it's a forecast, based on the assumption that the American economy of the 21st century will grow more slowly than it did during the Great Depression of the 1930s! This worst-case scenario is highly unlikely. In every decade for the past 50 years, our economic growth averaged 3.5% annually. According to the Social Security trustees, if the long term historical average holds for the next century, then Social Security will be able to pay full benefits through 2075 and beyond with no reforms whatsoever. If economic growth and technological innovation do permanently slow down, there are simple and risk-free ways to keep Social Security fully financed indefinitely. One of the easiest would be to eliminate the cap on taxable earnings. Currently, Social Security taxes aren’t collected on earnings above about $76,000, meaning that the wealthiest Americans actually pay the least into the system.

Proposals to replace Social Security's retirement system with private investment accounts would replace guarantees to retired workers with guaranteed government handouts to Wall Street. Schemes to privatize Social Security share five major problems:

Stock market fantasies - Privatizers claim Social Security will run out of money based on gloomy economic forecasts, while trying to convince us we'll all become millionaires playing the stock market. If our economy goes into a permanent stall, returns on investments will plummet. If our economy does stay strong, some will be lucky enough to retire when the market is up, others will lose their shirts when the market takes a nosedive – but then there won’t have been any need to “fix” Social Security.

Cutting core benefits – The base Social Security retirement benefit, which is now guaranteed and increased annually for inflation, would have to be cut under Bush’s plan, by an amount ranging from 25% to 54%, according to most economists.

Ignoring transition costs – If 2% of workers' pay that now goes to Social Security went instead into private accounts, money for the benefits of today's retirees, widows, orphans, and disabled workers would have to come from somewhere else. Taxpayers would have to fork over an extra $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Ignoring higher administration costs – Keeping track of everyone's individual investments, and paying all the brokerage and investment fees would cost far more than administering Social Security. That's money for Wall Street, not workers' retirement.

The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer – Those who make the least during their working lives would lose the most with privatization. Social Security benefits replace a higher percentage of pre-retirement wages for low income workers than for high income workers. Private investments are the opposite – the more you invest, the greater the return. Under privatization, guaranteed benefits would be cut drastically for everyone, but moderate and low income workers would have built up much smaller personal accounts than the rich. Women, who generally make less and live longer, would be especially likely to face old age in poverty.
Social Security guarantees workers that they and their family members will have a basic income in old age, and in the event of early disability or death. We're all better off knowing that we, our family members, and all our neighbors who work and contribute to our national prosperity can be assured of living in dignity, even when faced with life's adversities. Let’s keep it that way.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Machinery of Mendacity Commentary: Given a public policy debate, conservatives have decided to forgo real debate entirely -- to adopt instead a radical course: denying reality itself.
By Russ Rymer
May/June 2005 Issue
As The World Burns A Mother Jones special project on global warming In his article "“Some Like It Hot,” Chris Mooney pinpoints a critical distinction in the battle over global warming. The think tanks, crank scientists, and pseudo-journalists who dispute climate change with the aid of millions of corporate dollars are not just arguing the economics of the problem, as they sometimes pretend. That activity, engaging in a thoughtful discussion of politics and priorities, the wisdom of one or another course of action, could be considered honorable regardless of which side one argued from. Rather, the mouthpieces are ignobly contesting the very science itself, using any tactic, any slipshod fiction, that might throw doubt into the public mind and so deflect the dictates of hard fact. In other words, given a public policy debate, conservatives have decided to forgo real debate entirely—to adopt instead a radical course: denying reality itself.
Mooney’s article and its companion pieces on the global warming wars, by Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan, appear under the banner “Climate of Denial.” That banner could be stretched over other stories in this issue as well. It would certainly describe the experience of Dr. David Graham of the Food and Drug Administration (“The Side Effects of Truth”). Hired to investigate the dangers of drugs on the market, Graham was punished for doing his job too well. When he spotted the deadly effects of Vioxx, his superiors chose to muzzle the messenger instead of affronting the pharmaceutical industry.

More generally, “Climate of Denial” could serve as a title for the political times we live in. On issue after issue, this administration and this Congress continue to pursue policies that cannot stand the test of honest debate, and require a rewriting of basic facts. The dangers to the country are evident in myriad policy debacles: the illegal, expensive, and unnecessary war we were led into under false pretenses; the “reform” of Social Security based on the unfounded assertion that the program is in “crisis” (and pursued by ideologues pretending their goal is not to end it entirely); the economy plundered by fiscal improvidence; the budget busted by grand theft billed as tax relief.

The danger is graver because the negation of truth is so systematic. Dishonest accounting, willful scientific illiteracy, bowdlerized federal fact sheets, payola paid to putative journalists, “news” networks run by right-wing apparatchiks, think tanks devoted to propaganda rather than thought, the purging of intelligence gatherers and experts throughout the bureaucracy whose findings might refute the party line—this is the machinery of mendacity. Its products are not the cherry-tree lies of embarrassed schoolboys covering up their misdemeanors, but the agitprop of a political ascendancy that considers the manipulation of truth an essential tool. There’s no embarrassment in it. The same partisans who clucked loudly during their impeachment of President Clinton about the need for a government so transparent that the most private details of a president’s personal life should be open to inspection have wrapped such a dense cloak of secrecy around the current president that even the roster of his administration’s meetings is withheld from the citizenry, under the expressed claim that the White House can’t do what needs doing if the American people are allowed to know what that is. The point here is not the hypocrisy involved, though that is egregious. The point is the downgrading of truth and honesty from principles with universal meaning to partisan weapons to be sheathed or drawn as necessary. No wonder the Bush administration feels no compunction to honor the truth or seek it; it conceives truth as a tactic, valuable only insofar as it is useful against one’s enemies.
What are the ramifications for the left and the right?

For its part, much of the left has spent the months since last November (really, it has been spending years) wallowing in insecure self-inspection; the Democratic Party has invited everyone from linguists to preachers to exorcise the internal flaw that could explain its ineffectuality. Party leaders might heed the formulation of W.B. Yeats in his poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing”: “For how can you compete / Being honour bred, with one / Who, were it proved he lies / Were neither shamed in his own / Nor in his neighbours’ eyes?” The Democrats need to recognize that their biggest internal problem may be their inability to size up their external one. Simply put, they have an unscrupulous antagonist.

The right faces a deeper threat. Its antagonist is fiercer than the one devouring the left, and it is indeed internal. Though it has always counted among its champions a truth-compromising cohort—read for evidence the Wall Street Journal editorial pages—the modern right was undeniably born of conviction. One of its motivating tenets, shared by both tightwad Midwestern Rotarians (feeling betrayed by FDR and LBJ) and former fellow travelers (feeling betrayed by Stalin and the ’60s), was the belief that the left had lost its senses in a festival of appeasement and softheaded idealism. The right prided itself on a mission: restoring the governance of the country to guidance by firm reality. Where does that leave them in their hour of victory? The movement born of principle has prevailed by renouncing it, and the former apostles of reality have prospered by purveying a potent mixture of wishful fantasy and outright lie. A few months ago a right-wing shill posing as a journalist, who for nearly two years had been allowed into White House press briefings, there to lob softball questions at President Bush, asked him, “How do you propose to deal with people,” referring to Democrats, “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?” Hearing the foundational question of the neocon movement spilling from the mouth of a movement-sponsored charlatan must have sent chills up the spine of any principled conservative; the imposter was a herald. He shouted the unpleasant alarum that the American right is at a moment of extreme and self-inflicted peril.

Lastly, and speaking from the self-centeredness of our offices, what does all this mean for Mother Jones? When the crisis at the core of our nation’s political decline is a direct attack on the truth, the institution that should take the lead in confronting and correcting that danger is the press. That means us. We have been, since our founding, a reported magazine, and would rather spend our resources ferreting out the facts of a matter than spend our breath expounding opinions. In the current climate, and facing the present danger, we do not find our political orientation to be inconsistent with our devotion to fact. We’re better positioned to honor objective fact because we aren’t insulted by the charge that we’re “liberal media.” We have offered space in these pages to the dialogue about constructive course corrections that might avail the left. But we won’t respond to the political winds by calibrating our message. We have looked at the problem, and decided that the answer is not to accommodate. In upcoming issues, you, our readers, will witness our rededication to this fight, and our confidence that reality is our ally. Considering the demonstrated belief of leaders on the right that furthering their agenda requires bludgeoning any inconvenient truth, we evidently are not alone in concluding that the facts are on our side.
Dems shut out of REAL ID negotiations Thursday, April 28, 2005
From Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid's office April 27, 2005:Reid: Democrats Have Been Shut Out of Backroom Negotiations About REAL ID

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid submitted the following statement as a conferee on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill:

"[...] I want to make clear my total opposition to including the REAL ID Act in this supplemental appropriations bill. I believe this legislation has no place on an emergency spending bill for our troops in Iraq and aid for tsunami victims.

This legislation would make sweeping, controversial changes to our laws with respect to the environment, refugees, judicial review, the states? power to make decisions about their own laws, and other issues. This legislation has never been considered by the Senate. It has not been subjected to any hearings, debate, amendments, or any votes at all by this body.

Democrats have been completely shut out of the backroom negotiations that I understand have taken place this week about the REAL ID Act. This is not the way the United States Senate should be doing business, and this is certainly not the way the American people expect that the laws that govern their daily lives will be produced. This is yet another example of the Republican leadership?s abuse of power.

I am disappointed that the White House has urged conferees to include the Real ID Act in the final version of the supplemental appropriations bill. In October, during the conference negotiations concerning the Intelligence Reform legislation, the White House endorsed the Senate?s drivers? license standards over the rigid and unworkable House provisions, and it opposed the House?s restrictive provisions concerning asylum. Now, the White House apparently supports the same provisions it had earlier opposed, and it advocates the repeal of the drivers? license provisions it had earlier endorsed. The White House may suddenly feel the need to appease the extreme right wing of its party[...]"

Here are the phone numbers for the Senate Republican conferees. Tell them you oppse the "Drivers' License Agreement" that sets up a tri-national ID card with Canada and Mexico.

Thad Cochran (R-MS) - Chair, 202-224-5054
Wayne Allard (R-CO), 202-224-5941
Robert Bennett (R-UT), 202-224-5444
Christopher Bond (R-MO), 202-224-5721
Sam Brownback (R-KS), 202-224-6521
Conrad Burns (R-MT), 202-224-2644
Larry Craig (R-ID), 202-224-2752
Mike DeWine (R-OH), 202-224-2315
Pete Domenici (R-NM), 202-224-6621
Judd Gregg (R-NH), 202-224-3324
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), 202-224-5922
Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 202-224-2541
Richard Shelby (R-AL), 202-224-5744
Arlen Specter (R-PA), 202-224-4254
Ted Stevens (R-AK), 202-224-3004

Extraordinary Rendition
Feb. 18, 2005
Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for and CBS News.

"Extraordinary rendition" sounds like a phrase from Gilbert and Sullivan or Charles Dickens. But it is a controversial legal concept that is moving quickly to the front-burner of the legal and political world. Never mind the ongoing fight over the rights of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the intensifying debate over the constitutional propriety of extraordinary rendition already looms as the most important battle of the year in the legal war on terrorism.

Thanks mainly to the fine work of journalist Jane Mayer in the last issue of The New Yorker magazine, more and more people, including important lawmakers, are paying closer attention to the government policy wherein terror suspects are transferred from U.S. control into the control of foreign governments, so that interrogation methods that are not permitted under U.S. law may be applied to the suspects. In other words, when our government decides that a particular suspect may have information that is of particular use, and that this information must be obtained quickly, it farms the suspect out to governments that permit, or at least do not explicitly outlaw, torture. And apparently it does this despite a 1998 law that seems to prohibit the practice.

For a long time, extraordinary rendition occurred covertly among the intelligence communities of the participating countries. The New York Times reported last week, citing unnamed former intelligence officials, that the practice has been "widely used" since the 1990s and that "perhaps more than 100 cases" have arisen since September 11, 2001. But it is covert no more. Some of the men who were the subject of extraordinary rendition have been released, presumably because they were not terrorists, and they are speaking out about what they endured in the name of the war on terror.

Thanks to Mayer, CBS News' "60 Minutes," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and other reporters and outlets focusing upon the issue, the whole world now knows about people like Mahar Arar, a Canadian citizen who claims he was tortured after being subjected to extraordinarily rendition by and between the U.S. and, of all countries, Syria. Likewise, the whole world now knows about Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who reportedly was taken out of FBI custody by the CIA and shipped to Egypt, where he promptly, according to Mayer, gave the U.S. bad information about the use of chemical weapons in Iraq. And now comes word that Congress and the CIA, increasingly aware of the legal, moral, ethical, political and practical pitfalls of such a policy, are contemplating changes to it.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the Senate intelligence committee now is considering a bipartisan investigation to determine "whether there was a sufficient legal foundation for the coercive interrogation methods, secret detention and extrajudicial handing over of detainees to other countries that the CIA has practiced." The effort, the Times reported, stems in part from the fallout of the now infamous government memorandum in August 2002 – a/k/a the "Gonzales Memo," named after the new attorney general – that narrowly "defined torture as acts that induced pain tantamount to organ failure." Now that the Bush administration has backed off that ill-advised memo and the odious practice it endorsed, the legislative branch of government wants to make sure that operatives in the field truly are backing off its directives.

Then, just a few days ago, the Times reported more movement on this story. Now, apparently, the CIA itself is "seeking to scale back its role as interrogator and custodian of terrorist leaders who are being held without charges in secret sites around the world." In part, the Times' article reports, the CIA's change of tack is motivated by increasingly shaky legal support for the detentions, especially in the wake of the two terror-case rulings last June by the United States Supreme Court which recognized certain due process rights for detainees. Those landmark rulings – in which the justices famously told the president that "a state of war is not a blank check" – have spawned several lower court rulings that slowly but surely are stemming executive branch control over terror suspects.

Moreover, the scandal last year at Abu Ghraib prison hardly helped the agency's political or legal position in favor of harsh and in many ways unprecedented treatment of certain prisoners. And the government's policy of detention and interrogation already has complicated, indeed stalled, the federal prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the Al Qaeda operative who was captured before the terror attacks on America. Moussaoui's trial has been on hold now for more than three years in part because prosecutors, defense attorneys, Moussaoui and the judge cannot agree on whether and how Moussaoui should be allowed to use at trial the "testimony" of two Al Qaeda leaders, detainees who perhaps were tortured after perhaps being subjected to extraordinary rendition.

But it isn't just the genuine (and warranted) fear of bad results in court that has intelligence officials and lawmakers looking to change its dynamic when it comes to detention, interrogation, and rendition. The CIA's newfound interest in washing its hands of these men also stems from practical considerations as well, the Times and others have reported. Many of the terror suspects they are holding now no longer have much intelligence value, yet they are still unlikely ever to be turned over to any prosecutor for trial. It's unclear whether they ever have committed any domestic crimes and, even if they did, the interrogation methods they purportedly endured surely would generate heartburn for federal judges. Now that they may have been tortured, in other words, they very likely cannot be successfully prosecuted.

So instead of releasing the men or holding them indefinitely, the CIA is looking for ways to ditch them, preferably, the Times reports, to the FBI or even to other countries (which, in turn, could heat up new extraordinary rendition problems for the government). It's the ultimate game of Hot Potato. Now that the government has these men, has used them up as best it can, and has argued that there is no law that can protect them, it doesn't know what to do with them. If it keeps them, it has to spend the time and money guarding them. And, of course, keeping prisoners like this in these circumstances always can lead to a repeat of the shameful Abu Ghraib episode.

On the other hand, if it sends the detainees elsewhere, it runs the risk that they will either be tortured or released – if the U.S. cannot afford to keep the men, why would anyone think that Syria or Egypt would? And if it sends them elsewhere and they are tortured, surely if they survive and ultimately are released they will come back, like Arar, and file a big lawsuit against the government. The government has always said that the war on terror would require a new way of thinking and acting toward this new breed of foes – part criminal defendant, part terror suspect, part political prisoner. Now that new thinking and acting requires a new solution to this growing problem.

The courts for years have been evaluating the constitutionality of the government's detention and interrogation methods. That's nothing new. Extraordinary rendition is another matter. There is precious little case law on the issue and none since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.The Arar lawsuit, first filed over a year ago, only now is nearly briefed. The government, predictably, has moved to dismiss the case on a number of grounds, including the fact that it would force the feds to reveal "secrets" that would impair their ability to win the war on terror. For his part, Arar claimed that his "rendition" violated his constitutional rights as well as his rights under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a federal law passed in 1991 that gave federal courts jurisdiction over lawsuit brought aliens (like Arar) alleging torture by a foreign nation.

Moreover, as Mayer points out, there is a federal law that states that it is "the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States." And then there is the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has a slightly different definition for when a "rendition" becomes illegal. Those precedents, too, may make it into this case before it is through.

In 2002, aside from the aborted trial of John Walker Lindh, the courts hadn't really even responded to the legal war on terror. In 2003, we saw the first major skirmishes in the battle over what rights Moussaoui would receive in his federal trial. In 2004, the Supreme Court final spoke, in the "enemy combatants" cases and the initial case about the detentions at Guantanamo Bay. You don't need to look any further for this year's big legal theme. It's here.


Tears fall when all the people are fooled by the lying liar's lies.

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