Bush in Romania – Plans to visit Coliseum, Vatican

President Bush arrived in Romania today for the NATO summit, continuing the important business of conducting foreign policy.

“It’s good to be in Rome,” Bush said.

“I’ve been looking forward to this trip my whole presidency,” said the clearly excited president. “We’re planning to do the tourist thing, be turisticos. Want to see the Vatican and St. Peter’s. Hope the Pope — hey that rhymes — hope John-Paul can fit us into his schedule.”

“I also want to see a soccer match at the Coliseum, and then take Laura for a romantic cruise on the Grand Canal,” the president said.

But Bush noted that serious diplomacy was the primary reason for the trip. “We’ve got more countries wanting to join NATO, and I don’t like it one bit,” he said, singling out Georgia’s application for membership.

“We can’t let our Peach State join NATO. As much as I would like the Confederacy to be a part of NATO, it makes it look like America is not fully behind my foreign policy, and I can’t not have America at my behind, fully,” said Bush.

Bush had a message for Georgia. “I have a message for the politicians in Atlanta: NATO is for foreign countries. That means countries that are foreign, which means they are foreigners. Meaning not domestic. They speak foreign languages, French, German, Russian, British,” Bush said.

In other news, the White House denied Bush was booed when he threw out the opening day first pitch at yesterday’s Washington Nationals game. “They were yelling ‘Buuuuuuush, Buuuuuuush’,” press secretary Dana Perino said.

McCain Advises Americans ‘Vote Democrat’

McCain’s got his first television ad of the general election out in a number of swing states…

What must a president believe about us? About America? That she is worth protecting? That liberty is priceless? Our people, honorable? Our future, prosperous, remarkable and free? And, what must we believe about that president? What does he think? Where has he been? Has he walked the walk?

…and if there was ever a better statement of why you shouldn’t vote Republican, I haven’t seen it.

Tip ‘o the hat to Buck at Blue Herald.

A war with a price tag

Nobel prize winning, former chief economist with the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz has coauthored (with Linda Bilmes) a book on the Iraq conflict. There are lots of books on Iraq, but few so revealing. It is called ‘The Three Trillion Dollar War’ and based on that that price I will concede use of the word war.

Let’s start with the trivia, just to get the mind around some numbers.
Private security contractors earn up to $1222 a day; army sergeants between $150 and $190 a day.
• Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsay said the war would cost $200 billion
Donald Rumsfeld called that figure baloney and quoted $50 – $60 billion
Andrew Natsios, Agency for international development, quoted reconstruction at $1.7 billion
Paul Wolfowitz thought the whole shebang would ‘pay for itself’.

Some hard numbers
• Iraq is currently costing US taxpayers $12.5 billion a month
• Seven US soldiers are injured for every fatality
• In Vietnam there were only 2.6 injuries per fatality
• 45% of the 7000 US troops in the first Gulf War filed for disability which now costs $4.3 billion a year.

I haven’t done the math yet, but $3 trillion sounds impressive. We are assuming around 45% disability claims on much higher raw numbers and actual casualties.

The good news is, as the bills start to trickle then flood in, the US will not be in any economic shape to prosecute any more of these misadventures, at least for a generation or so. The Bush administration has just pissed your future up against the wall.

iNews Friday – 3/28/2008

From the iNews 9000 Turbo Wi-Fi Headline Translator–

Headline: President Bush hugs a person dressed as the Easter bunny at the start of the annual Easter Egg Roll, overlooking the South Lawn of the White House. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Translation: Invisible no more – Bush stands by Harvey, won’t dismiss transgender bunny from Cabinet
Headline: City told to close high-tech toilets – Andy Rogers / P-I
Translation: *The toilet encountered a problem and needed to close. Please tell Microsoft about this problem…*

Headline: US Mistakenly Ships Arms Parts to Taiwan
Translation: “Why didn’t I think of that excuse?” exclaims Ollie North

Headline: Mumia deserves new hearing
Translation: All together: “Free Mumia while supplies last”

Headline: Hillary takes her message to Fox News
Translation: “Look into my eyes, Fox Nation, and surrender to my will! Be my willing thralls!”

Headline: Woman claims airport security forced her to remove nipple ring with pliers
Translation: Gloria Allred mentally calculates her billable hours as woman demonstrates most popular feature of the TSA employee benefits package

Fix Social Security – Pay Off The Boomers

Back in 2005, when Bush couldn’t stop yammering about his damned Ownership Society, I published a plan for opting out of social security. Now, with Treasury Secretary Paulson once again warning us about the dire state of the trust fund, it seems like a good time to revive that screed.

You see, all conservatives want to do is privatize the system, thereby creating enormous profits for Wall Street in the form of commissioned ‘busy-work’. Liberals, in contrast, don’t have the balls to attempt any meaningful reform because 40 million baby-boomers (of which I happen to be the last) will go ballistic at the mere mention of benefit cuts. Indeed, we’re all about to have the biggest fraud in human history perpetrated against us, and there’s not a damn thing we can do…except: 1) Save for retirement like there will be no social security–because there won’t! And/Or… 2) Pay off the boomers now. Because if we don’t, that generation will suck the dollars from Gen-X, Gen-Y, Gen-Next, Tweeners, Millenials, and whomever comes after like vampires sucking blood from a maiden.

And how do we pay off the Boomers? Here’s how:

  1. Starting with our next paychecks, nobody pays another dime into social security. Moreover, the employer’s portion is given to each of us in the form of salary. In return–and this is the kicker–each one of us takes responsibility for making our own parent’s social security payments.
  2. Every dollar that we pay to our parents is used to reduce our pre-tax income, 1-for-1.
  3. In addition, over the next 15 years, the Federal government arranges to divert what we’ve already paid into the system into a retirement account that each of us controls (1/15 of the total amount each year).
  4. The Feds get no say—nada, didly, bupkis—about how we invest, or don’t invest, that money, as long as it’s held until retirement. And in return we let the Feds keep what our employers have already paid into the system to cover existing retirees.

Will this be a financial loss for post-Boomer Americans? Maybe. But it will pale in comparison to 20 more years (well…20 for me, at least) of contributing to a system that will never pay us a dime. Not to mention the value of never having to hear another administration hack whine about the social security trust fund when we know, WE KNOW, they don’t have the cojones to do anything about it.

Clinton, Scaife make nice – “Misspoke” about “vast right-wing conspiracy”

Senator Hillary Clinton yesterday cleared up one of the biggest misunderstandings of the last decade, when she took back her accusation that her husband’s administration was the target of a “vast right wing conspiracy.”

The subject of the infamous quote came up as the embattled Democratic presidential hopeful sat for an interview with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The newspaper’s kind-hearted owner, grandfatherly Richard Mellon Scaife, spoke up. Why, he asked, had she said there was a conspiracy against her husband’s presidency?

Mortified, Clinton apologized to Scaife. “That was a very busy, stressful time,” she explained. “I was exhausted and dehydrated from my efforts to screw up health care reform and export American jobs, and as a result I misspoke.”

“I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — and I don’t mean half of them,” said Clinton. “The other half I can’t remember.”

Told by Scaife that the liberal press claims he was behind the “conspiracy,” by funding the American Spectator magazine’s “Arkansas Project” — which harried the Clintons with accusations about Whitewater, the death of aide Vince Foster, and Troopergate — Clinton said that the idea sounded like a vast left wing conspiracy.

She assured Scaife she would ask the Justice Department for a full inquiry of the liberal media, and that she would request it be led by her good friend Kenneth Starr.

In related campaign news,  Clinton communications maven Howard Wolfson said the little girl who met Hillary Clinton on the tarmac in Bosnia was a security risk. “Her bouquet had pistils in it,” Wolfson said.

Fire ‘Em First, Ask Questions Later

The article’s title is:

New federal push to fire illegal immigrants

But the Feds know this isn’t how it’s going to play out. Unions know this isn’t how it’s going to play out, and US District Judge Charles Breyer knew when he placed an injunction on DHS’ new rules for the handling of social-security “no-match” letters.

And what are these letters? These are DHS notifications sent to businesses when an employee supplied social-security number doesn’t match Social Security Administration records. Prior to DHS’ changing the rules, it was sufficient for a business to investigate the issue without fear of federal reprisals.

No more. The new rules (currently under injunction), specify that the employer has 90 + 3 days to resolve the situation with a new, verifiable, SSN. And after that? The employee must be fired for the business to avoid prosecution and imposition of fines and other penalties.

“So what’s the problem?” you might ask.  “These tactics are needed to find and eradicate illegal workers.”  Well, for starters, DHS sends out “no-match” letters all the time and many are the result of clerical errors.  Judge Breyer knew this and cited it when he imposed his injunction.   Second, DHS is rewriting the rules to get around the injunction, and third…if DHS is successful, businesses will adopt a “Fire ’em first, and ask questions later” policy just to keep the Feds off their backs.

But then…maybe this is what DHS wants. Welcome to the brave new world of employment folks.

Clinton fires speechwriter – Hillary sorry if people saw Don Rickles as divisive

Hillary Clinton fired her chief speechwriter Don Rickles today, in an effort to blunt criticism over what is being perceived as her campaign’s harsh rhetoric directed at rival Sen. Barack Obama.

Rickles, 81, long ago secured his place as Hollywood royalty. He was a comic and acted in movies for decades, becoming a confidant of Frank Sinatra.

Then last year he decided to try his hand at political speechwriting and messaging. He joined the Clinton campaign, developing the “Dennis Kucinich looks like his face got stuck in an electric shoe polisher” talking point, which won Rickles the respect of Clinton insiders.

Other speeches by Rickles, including “Joe Biden says no war for oil, but he would nuke the country that tried to raise the price of Rogaine,” and “what’s with Biden’s hair? Hey Joe, the car wash called, they want their chamois back,” helped Clinton to a commanding lead in the polls prior to the Iowa caucuses.

However, Obama’s surprising success in the primaries, combined with Clinton’s inability to build momentum, put pressure on Rickles to devise more aggressive language, according to persons close to the Clinton campaign. Rickles responded with more hard-hitting issue messages, and Clinton read them.

Rickles wrote speeches that hit John Edwards over his position on employment (“John Edwards is too pretty to be president”) and Bill Richardson’s record as a governor, congressman, diplomat and Energy secretary (“why can’t Bill Richardson hold down a job?”).

Then on Monday remarks written by Rickles raised another storm, when Clinton advisor James Carville used them during a TV interview.

Commenting on Gov. Richardson’s endorsement of Obama, Carville told CNN, “Don’t get me started on that hockey puck. Don’t ever get between Bill Richardson and the Taco Bell express line.”

Richardson declined to respond other than to say he didn’t want to get down in the gutter with Carville and Rickles. But a number of Democratic officials and commentators said Rickles had gone too far, and called upon Clinton to denounce him.

This morning Clinton told reporters she is replacing Rickles, but refused to denounce him.

“Rickles’ comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity,” said Clinton. But, she said, “it would be wrong to condemn a man who has devoted his life to bringing joy to millions, because of a few words.”

“There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. To them I say: I’m sorry,” said Clinton. “If that’s how they feel.”

Asked if that was not much of an apology, she thought a moment before replying, “I apologize. If they misunderstood.”

For his part, Rickles professes bewilderment at the controversy. “I kid Bill Richardson,” said showbiz’s ‘Mr. Warmth.’

“I kid because I love.”

You Didn’t Happen to See Four Nose-cone Fuses for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Did You?

China wouldn’t be mad if we accidentally hooked Taiwan up with some ICBM technology by accident would they? I mean, it’s not like we’re arming space or anything… Uh…

From CNN.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Defense Department accidentally shipped non-nuclear ballistic missile components to Taiwan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Four nose-cone fuses for intercontinental ballistic missiles were shipped instead of helicopter batteries that Taiwan had requested, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said.

The fuses were shipped to Taiwan in 2006 and kept in a warehouse there. The Taiwanese military informed the United States last week about their presence on the island.


China has been notified. China, you might have noticed, is in a bad fucking mood due to the simmering unrest that threatens to make their precious Olympics into a legendary embarrassment.

By the way something, on her radio show last night, Rachel Maddow spoke to sports writer Dave Zirin about the likelihood of protests affecting the Olympics. Zirin, who is very good on radio, explained that countries are making it very clear to their athletes that they are not to make political statements of any kind. Zirin predicted that the most likely group of athletes to break that silence could be NBA players. Members of the Cleveland Cavs, shamefully not LeBron James, have already spoke up, calling on China to help end the genocide in Darfur. LeBron has other interests. Zirin pointed out that this is pretty weak sauce from a guy who claims to be following in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali.

Zirin wrote an article for The Nation looking at how the unrest in Tibet affects the Olympics.

Blogs Against Kleptocracy – Nonsense Taxes

The RIAA isn’t having much luck these days suing music owners in order to pad the music industry’s bottom line. In fact, they’re gonna get dragged into court in a counter-suit where their questionable tactics are going to be submitted to the discovery process. (Oh how delicious it would be to be in that conference room!)

But the ever inventive industry has now got another proposal for getting their hand in your pocket…even if you’re not part of the 1 in 10 who pirates music from online sources. Yes, the culture vultures are flogging the idea that a tax should be levied on all broadband connections—$5.00 per user, per month—to compensate…[ahem]…the artists for lost revenue due to pirating.

Got that? $60/year (perhaps multiplied by every member in your household) multiplied by all 45 million broadband connections in the US—a whopping $2.7 Billion! Now isn’t that a tidy sum to compensate an industry that 1) can’t figure out how to make money and 2) can’t even claim to loose more than $150M per year due to pirating?

But the real danger isn’t just in the RIAA’s ludicrous proposal. Imagine what will happen if other industries realize that they can just invent taxes that compensate them for lost business?

Big Auto will push for bikers, walkers—literally anybody who refuses to drive and especially those who refuse to own cars—to pay a ‘transport tax’ to compensate them for cars they can’t sell.

Big Coal will lobby for a ‘green tax’ that compensates them for revenue lost due to consumers switching to green power generation, buying energy efficient appliances, and turning off lights. Reduce your electricity consumption by 20%, and BANG! the tax kicks in.

The Incarceration Industrial Complex will get to ‘penalize’ states that back away from draconian sentencing laws in favor of rehabilitation and parole.

After all, nobody should have to adapt their business model to changing times, attitudes, or technologies. Should they?

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