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January 9, 2005 - AG for AG and What to do About SS

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Should this fellow – Alberto Gonzales - become Attorney General to replace Ashcroft?  The confirmation hearings were this week.


An interesting comment here from Andrew Sullivan – 


In my opinion, no one who has enabled and sanctioned the potential and actual use of torture should become attorney general of the United States. But I'm not the president; and he doesn't see it that way. And the people who re-elected him had plenty of opportunity to avail themselves of the fact that this administration has quietly sanctioned torture of inmates in American custody, and that Gonzales played a critical role in making the legal case for such previously outlawed practices.


The Bush administration's use of torture - to the point of death in at least five cases and possibly 23 more - was one reason I found it impossible to support the president's re-election. But this is a democracy. And my candidate lost. Gonzales isn't being nominated to the Supreme Court; he's being nominated to become the president's chief law enforcer; and, in general, the president deserves the benefit of the doubt on his own picks. Should the Democrats make a stink? Of course they should. The hearings are an opportunity to raise awareness of what this administration has done in dozens of hell-hole prisons around the globe - some of which we will never even know about. The Gonzales argument that the president has the right to circumvent all anti-torture laws because, as commander-in-chief, there should be no limits on his conduct of the war is an argument worth airing. So let's air it. Let the president and his attorney general defend it. In public.


Note this... 


The last few days have seen a flood of off the record statements to the NY Times indicting Gonzales. Evidently, there are quite a few people even within the administration who want to see this guy bloodied up if not derailed. This is highly unusual in the Bush administration, to say the least.


Gonzales is one of Bush's closest cronies and like Kerik, there's probably no telling the King that his boy is a problem. It looks to me as if plenty of people know that Gonzales is pathologically loyal to Junior and enables his worst impulses. And they also know that he's likely to do even more harm to this country than even they are willing to do. That really says something.


But he will win confirmation.  The Democrats will roll over.


And Sullivan goes on, and seems to hate America – or Sullivan obviously doesn’t understand the new Christianity. 


And what would Rush Limbaugh say?  


Tuesday -


Today will be an important opportunity to see what this administration has wrought with respect to the humane treatment of prisoners in U.S. military custody. Let's retire at the start the notion that the only torture that has been used by the U.S. has been against known members of al Qaeda. This is not true. Many innocent men and boys were raped, brutally beaten, crucified for hours (a more accurate term than put in "stress positions"), left in their own excrement, sodomized with broom sticks, electrocuted, had chemicals from fluorescent lights poured on them, forced to lie down on burning metal till they were unrecognizable from burns - all this in Iraq alone, at several prisons as well as Abu Ghraib. I spent a week reading all the official reports over Christmas for a forthcoming review essay. Believe me: Abu Ghraib is but one aspect of a horrifyingly pervasive pattern of torture and abuse that, in my view, is only beginning to sink in. It took a while for it to sink in to my resistant psyche. But I'm not in denial any more.

This brutal treatment occurred, according to various government reports, only at internment facilities which were also designed to get intelligence. Up to 80 percent of the inmates at Abu Ghraib - which was used to get better intelligence - were utterly innocent. The torture was done by hundreds of different U.S. military officers and soldiers from almost every branch of the military. There is no assurance that it has stopped. And there's plenty of evidence that many senior officials knew exactly what was going on. When Alberto Gonzales says he now backs a recently instituted anti-torture policy, it necessarily implies that he once supported a pro-torture policy. (If he didn't, why the reversal?) Orwell urged us against the kind of terms favored by torture-justifiers as "coercive interrogation." That's why I've cited just a few of the methods. These methods are evil, counter-productive to the war effort and deeply wounding to the integrity and reputation of the United States and the entire free world. After Abu Ghraib, you might expect some kind of reckoning. But what's stunning about this president is his complete indifference to these facts. His nomination of Gonzales to attorney general is a de facto statement that he believes that someone who enabled these things needs rewarding, not censuring. This from a president elected in part on something called "moral values." If "moral values" means indifference to torture, they are literally meaningless. Where, one wonders, are the Christians in this administration and among its supporters? Where are the theo-conservatives and the pro-life conservatives and Catholic conservatives in protesting the government's sanctioning of murder by torture? And yes: we have tortured at least five people to death, and possibly two score more. Where are the neoconservatives dedicated to the proposition that there is a central moral difference between us and the enemy? They are busy finding ways to stay silent or support the insupportable.


Fat chance.


And a good number of Democrats will cave on Social Security reform – and that is just stupid.


To win the next election we should become more mainstream?  I guess.  But then I read this.  We should fight both.  But our party will not.  They just will not.  They don’t won’t to offend.  That’s “positioning” and wise, they say.


What a world.


The 'Other America' May Be Coming Back

Harold Meyerson, The Washington Post, Wednesday, January 5, 2005; Page A17


There’s a lot here, but here is how Meyerson warps up


… In 1960, when the Senate Subcommittee on the Problems of the Aged and Aging issued its report -- which is the source of the quotation in the first paragraph -- poverty among the elderly was pervasive. Two years earlier the Census Bureau had concluded that almost 60 percent of seniors had annual incomes under $1,000 a year, at a time when the government estimated an adequate yearly budget for a retired couple to be roughly $3,000. Family members and friends helped support seniors, of course, but the 1961 White House Conference on Aging concluded that that assistance amounted to just 10 percent of seniors' incomes -- and less than that, of course, among poorer families. The elderly received their Social Security checks, too, but they still amounted to chump change. In 1959 the average monthly check came to just $70.


I've culled these mournful numbers from Michael Harrington's 1962 classic exposť of destitution amid affluence, "The Other America," a book that dared to propose that the nation could eliminate the poverty in its midst. "The Other America" was one factor that led Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to initiate a war on poverty -- a major component of which was a war on senior poverty that included the establishment of Medicare and a vast expansion of Social Security. Forty years later the war on senior poverty stands as a stunning success.


Today, however, the United States is governed by a president who is affronted by the very idea of a successful government program. According to a story in yesterday's Post, President Bush wants to change the Social Security indexing formula in a way that will reduce monthly payments by 32.5 percent by 2052 and 45.9 percent by 2075. Today a retiree receives a Social Security check that equals 42 percent of the average worker's wage; if Bush's plan is enacted, that check will shrink to just 20 percent of that wage.


Having tossed America's future seniors 100 feet overboard, the administration then proposes to toss them a 50-foot rope: They can invest a portion of their incomes in the stock market. Problem is, as a retirement system, the stock market offers nothing close to the security that Social Security offers. The lower a worker's income, moreover, the less he has to invest and the smaller his return will be. Social Security, by contrast, deliberately distributes its benefits to provide extra income to those recipients whose earnings were low.


Worse yet, the shift from Social Security to the stock market parallels a shift in employer-provided retirement plans. In 1980, 39 percent of American workers had defined-benefit pension plans; today just 21 percent do, as employers have shunted their employees into 401(k) investment plans. If Bush gets his way, both the government's retirement plan and employers' will be supplanted by plans based on stock performance. If Bush gets his way, his chief domestic achievement will be to have turned "secure retirement" into an oxymoron. And to have taken some sizable number of our seniors and plunged them back into an almost forgotten Other America.


"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." 
     - H. L. Mencken


What’s the difference now?


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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