May 20, 2006

One Step Closer to a Police State
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet.
Placing National Guard troops on the border could be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. And that's just fine with the Bush administration.

President Bush's plan to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, widely seen as a political gambit, is coming under fire from both left and right.

It's likely that the move is a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law established after the Civil War that prohibits the use of U.S. troops for domestic law enforcement. Passed in 1878 to prohibit federal troops from running elections in the former confederate states, it is considered a bulwark against the development of a police state.

A central issue of Bush's plan is that the troops would be under federal authority. One of the exceptions built into the Posse Comitatus Act is that troops may be deployed to support law enforcement agencies, but with the exception of insurrections and riots, nuclear attack or interdiction of drug smuggling (when working directly with law enforcement agencies), they must be under the authority of a state governor.

The ACLU sent a letter to the administration warning that turning immigration "into another military operation is not the answer," adding that it "violates the spirit of the Posse Comitatus Act." The libertarian Cato Institute agreed, writing that "the same training that makes U.S. soldiers outstanding warriors makes them extremely dangerous as cops." Larry Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, said that the military "is trained to vaporize, not Mirandize." more...

May 19, 2006

Putting Discrimination into the Constitution

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and would also likely prohibit civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. S.J. Res 1 ų the so called "Marriage Protection Amendment" ų passed the committee on a 10-8 party-line vote after Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), who said he was "totally opposed" to the bill, voted to let it come out of committee. Instead of focusing on the issues most pressing to the American people ų like Iraq, gas prices and stem cell research ų the Senate instead is focusing on writing discrimination into the Constitution by pushing a divisive bill that growing numbers of Americans oppose. more...

May 18, 2006

Is Bush a Lunatic?
By Molly Ivins

Insane immigration policies, a new $70 billion tax cut for the rich, and increasing ineptitude in Iraq all indicate that this administration has lost its marbles.

I hate to raise such an ugly possibility, but have you considered lunacy as an explanation? Craziness would make a certain amount of sense.

I mean, you announce you are going to militarize the Mexican border, but you assure the president of Mexico you are not militarizing the border. You announce you are sending the National Guard, but then you assure everyone it's not very many soldiers and just for a little while. more...

May 17, 2006

America the Fearful
by Bob Herbert

In the dark days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt counseled Americans to avoid fear. George W. Bush is his polar opposite. The public's fear is this president's most potent political asset. Perhaps his only asset.

Mr. Bush wants ordinary Americans to remain in a perpetual state of fear - so terrified, in fact, that they will not object to the steady erosion of their rights and liberties, and will not notice the many ways in which their fear is being manipulated to feed an unconscionable expansion of presidential power.

If voters can be kept frightened enough of terrorism, they might even overlook the monumental incompetence of one of the worst administrations the nation has ever known. more...

**********

She's Baaack!
by Laura Flanders  

What day is it when Laura Bush makes an appearance on the Sunday schmooze shows? It‚s a very, very bad day for the president and his administration. It‚s an old routine by now. When the going gets rough, the White House calls in the Bushwomen and so it was again this past Sunday.

It‚s hard these days to look at George W‚s poll numbers without getting vertigo, but on Fox News, Laura Bush dismissed the polls and polling generally. At the very same time, the administration‚s supporters were elsewhere on the shows, extravagantly flaunting the ABC/Washington Post poll from earlier last week which conveniently suggested some Americans are fine with the seizure of their cell phone records. Fox can be expected to pander, but so it turns out can every network.

On ABC‚s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, the First Lady did what she‚s always called upon to do: she attempted to lull the nation into the false illusion that anyone in the Bush family cares about non-millionaire Americans. more...

May 16, 2006

The $70 Billion Tax Cut: Irresponsible and Obscene
by Robert B. Reich  

Here we are six months before a mid-term election, with polls showing only about 20 percent of the American public approving the job Congress is doing. Small wonder. The federal budget deficit is still out of control. We‚ve got a war going on that‚s not going well, and the military is spending over a half a trillion dollars a year. Meanwhile, public services are being slashed. So what‚s Congress about to give us? A $70 billion tax cut.

The tax cut would be politically irresponsible, but not obscene, if it were going to middle-income workers now facing sky-high fuel prices and soaring health-insurance costs, and variable-rate mortgage payments heading through the roof.

But this tax cut is not going to the middle class. Like the Bush Administration‚s previous tax cuts, most of this one is going to people who are already very comfortable. Hence, it‚s both irresponsible and obscene.

The non-partisan Urban Institute - Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center examined its provisions, including a two-year extension of capital gains and dividend tax cuts, and a one-year extension of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax. It turns out a whopping 87 percent of the benefits of this tax cut will go to the 14 percent of American households earning above $100,000 a year. Twenty-two percent of the benefits will go to the richest two-tenths of one percent of American households earning more than a million dollars a year.more...

May 15, 2006

 D for Debacle
By Paul Krugman

    Today is the last day to sign up for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. It appears that millions of Americans, confused by the array of competing plans or simply unaware of the cutoff date, will miss the deadline. This will leave them without drug coverage for the rest of the year, and subject to financial penalties for the rest of their lives.

    President Bush refuses to extend the sign-up period. "Deadlines," he said last week, "help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?" His real objection to extending the deadline is probably that this would be an implicit admission that his administration botched the program's start-up. And Mr. Bush never, ever admits mistakes.

    But Part D's bad start isn't just another illustration of the administration's trademark incompetence. It's also an object lesson in what happens when the government is run by people who aren't interested in the business of governing.  more...

May 14, 2006

Chávez is a Threat Because He Offers the Alternative of a Decent Society
Venezuela's president is using oil revenues to liberate the poor - no wonder his enemies want to overthrow him
by John Pilger  

I have spent the past three weeks filming in the hillside barrios of Caracas, in streets and breeze-block houses that defy gravity and torrential rain and emerge at night like fireflies in the fog. Caracas is said to be one of the world's toughest cities, yet I have known no fear; the poorest have welcomed my colleagues and me with a warmth characteristic of ordinary Venezuelans but also with the unmistakable confidence of a people who know that change is possible and who, in their everyday lives, are reclaiming noble concepts long emptied of their meaning in the west: "reform", "popular democracy", "equity", "social justice" and, yes, "freedom".

The other night, in a room bare except for a single fluorescent tube, I heard these words spoken by the likes of Ana Lucia Fernandez, aged 86, Celedonia Oviedo, aged 74, and Mavis Mendez, aged 95. A mere 33-year-old, Sonia Alvarez, had come with her two young children. Until about a year ago, none of them could read and write; now they are studying mathematics. For the first time in its modern era, Venezuela has almost 100% literacy. more...
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