Skippy Pointing to Bush AWOL Questions

Skippy pointed me to a site titled A Military Career Distinguished Only by Favoritism looking into Bush's National Guard AWOL situation.

Where was Bush? Why is this not a major issue? Even if just to be cleared up! What do we have here, Stalin? No one can question the king?

More Pointing

Now I'm going to point to Paul Krugman's column today, which ends with the line,
Trust me: we're going to miss Rubinomics. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.
He's saying here that we'll eventually pay a great price for Bush's deficits.

I want to point out that the costs of tax cuts for the wealthy arrive sooner than that. We currently pay over $300 billion per year for interest costs because of Reagan's budget deficits. That amounts to a $300 billion tax increase, paying for Reagan's tax cuts for the wealthy. The kicker is, by and large, the wealthy receive that interest.

So what we saw in the early 80's wasn't just a tax cut for the wealthy, it was also the creation of a huge government spending program, almost the largest item in the U.S. budget, almost entirely to the wealthy. This is also what the Bush tax cuts mean for our future. A huge spending increase - increased future debt interest payments from us to the wealthy.

The current tax cuts are coming out of our Social Security money! We pay into Social Security, it runs a surplus, but that surplus is going out to the tax cuts for the rich. So not only will will have to pay interest to the wealthy, we will have to pay that interest instead of retirement payments to ourselves.

Pointing To

Someone pointed out that I have been doing more "pointing to" than "talking" here lately, and he's right and I want to apologize. I know how much many of you depend on me so much, and I have been letting you down. (Especially you, Mr. Green Ralph Nader voter, Bush elector. You know who I'm talking about.) There will be much talking soon and the masses shall rejoice. Then, of course, Mr. Green Ralph Nader voter, Bush elector, will tell me I'm talking too much. But that's why I have a blog and he doesn't. (Yet.)

In the spirit of pointing to instead of talking, I want to point you to The Sideshow today, writing about a poll showing most Americans believe that most or some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqis! Sideshow writes about the press allowing the Bush lies through, but also points out something important here:
Still, bottom line: Ordinary people should bother to notice. Yes, the press at this point should be spelling out that none of the hijackers were Iraqi, but a year ago their actual nationalities were all over the media and now only 17% remember that?
I've written that you can often tell the message that leaders are sending by checking out what the intended audience is hearing. But the intended audience has SOME responsibility, especially when they are allowing the country to go to war.


I see I'm a moderator over at SlashDot today. I'm taking bids here to "mod up" posts. Leave a comment including a dollar amount and your credit card number, and I'll go "mod up" your message or "mod down" a message you disagree with.

(If you don't know about SlashDot and their moderating system, read the next post instead.)

Trying Too Hard

The right is trying a little too hard to smear John Kerry. They're circulating a story that he said he "EXPRESSED 'HATRED' OVER TRIPS TO IOWA."

Actually he said - about the need for campaign finance reform - "I hate going to places like Austin and Dubuque to raise large sums of money. But I have to."

He hates having to raise the money. The right smears him, claiming he said he hates Iowa. Typical.

Remember when they dredged up a letter Clinton wrote as a student, saying that he could understand why some people loath the military, and turned it into a widely-repeated smear that Clinton had written that he "loathed the military"?


Terrify, then Harvest

Bush and the rest of the right-wingers have been working hard to scare the hell out of the public for some time now. And they have been harvesting the results politically. Now they're harvesting cash, too.

Here's the headline piece in today's right-wing Heritage Foundation TowhHall.com e-mail. (To help you get the flavor of TownHall, today's e-mailing links to articles by "Thomas, Novak, Mackenzie, Fields, McCaslin, Williams, Kudlow, Elder, Chavez, Bartlett, Tyrrell, Chapman, and Coulter".)
Are you ready to protect your family? Unfortunately, most Americans aren't prepared to survive terrorist attacks. Worse, the U.S. government has told us nothing about what we can do to protect ourselves. Don't be a sitting duck! Find out what you can do to protect yourself from coming attacks.
So let's click on the URL, and find out how to protect ourselves from IMMINENT chemical and biological attacks.
While you are vulnerable, you are far from helpless. In a moment I’ll share five simple but potentially life-saving steps to take immediately to protect yourself. But first, you must understand the threat:
Saddam Hussein Could Launch
Deadly Biochemical Attacks Against
America Within 60 Days
A few missiles fired against the U.S. could set off a nationwide plague, which would cripple, disfigure, and even kill millions of American citizens.
Terrorists Already Have Nuclear Weapons
And, eventually, it gets to the point,
I've been selling Surviving Terrorism in various newsletters and magazines for $199.00. Hundreds of people have bought it at this price. I’m convinced the potentially life-saving information it contains is worth every penny. In fact, this is still the price I am selling it for to the general public (check out my home page here).

However, for a limited time, you can have this life-saving special report for only $97.00. That’s less than half price!
I used to write direct mail, so I understand how this is being used. TownHall sent it out - so it's approved. Their approval demonstrates that they recognize how this "wartime Presidency" crap is about selling stuff to the rubes.

Bush formula: Terrify, then harvest.

P.S. One of the TownHall articles promotes Lieberman's candidacy!

Code Words for Southern Bigots

In case anyone missed the point, Bush chose Martin Luther King's birthday to announce he opposes Affirmative Action.

You can be sure the message was heard clearly by those for whom it was intended. "Lott's gone, but we're still with you."


Jobless claims down by 32,000. But they warn that it might be off because -
The level was much lower than Wall Street economists had been expecting but a Labor analyst warned that adjustments intended to deal with seasonal fluctuations in claims may have had a downward impact on the numbers.

"The seasonal factors expected a lot more (claims) than we experienced," the analyst said.
I'll bet this is the adjustment they made - this time of year there are a bunch of new unemployed because retailers lay off the Christmas help. They adjust for that so we don't get suddent huge jumps in the new unemployment claim figures. But this year retailers didn't HIRE as much extra Christmas help, so the adjustment wasn't needed. They made this mistake at the end of summer. They adjusted for all the kids who usually leave summer jobs, even though very few were hired this year.

This is why the monthly employment numbers look so much worse than the adjusted weekly numbers. The monthly numbers are calculated using a different method, including surveys - actually checking with homes and businesses to see what's going on out there.


Democrats Didn't Cave!

The Democrats didn't cave. That's news, and it merits a headline.

And guess what, when they didn't cave they got what they wanted.


I'm a vegetarian, and this LA Times op-ed piece today tells you why. (I eat some fish and once in a while I eat non-corporate-farmed turkey.)
Factory farmers may do as they please in the care of animals, with no standard to consult but industry norms dictated by a rigid economic calculus and a view of animals as unfeeling machines.
It's just one more aspect of the corporate ethic that is harming us all in so many ways. No regard for the environment. No regard for our kids. No regard for the poor. No regard for the elderly. No regard for our health. And this kind of stuff - horrible, cruel treatment of animals.
In the merciless calculations of industrial production, the animals are not allowed to move because they would burn off more calories and require more feed. In short, as former presidential speechwriter Matthew Scully wrote in his book "Dominion," "Instead of redesigning the factory farm to suit the animals, they are redesigning the animal to suit the factory farm."

In their overcrowded battery cages, the birds would peck each other to death. The producer responds to this descent into cannibalism by searing off the birds' beaks.

The tendency of stressed pigs to bite tails is addressed just as summarily by lopping off the tails.

What cannot be achieved through genetic manipulation is achieved by blunt force and sharp tools. For the misshapen and mutilated animals on factory farms, there is no breeze, no ray of sunshine, no rich soil under foot, no opportunity to root or graze in pasture.
What sort of harm does eating meat - participating in this corporate atrocity - do to our humanity? Is there karma? Do we have a spirit? I don't know. I just know when something is really, really bad I shouldn't participate.
An examination of the industrialization of animal agriculture raises important questions about public policy issues, including water and air pollution, public health threats from overuse of antibiotics and the loss of small farms as a result of corporate consolidation. But above all it raises questions of conscience and human responsibility in the care of animals.
I was volunteering at the Santa Cruz SPCA several years ago, and one day I took care of a little pot-bellied pig. It was just like a little dog. It wagged its tail and came running over to me. It liked it when I scratched it behind the ears. I haven't touched red meat since that day.
Some of us distance ourselves from the violence of meat, milk and egg production through vegetarianism. But we can all agree on this: If animals are reared for food, their lives should not be plagued by the occasional torture and the daily torments and deprivations of the factory farm.

To My Green Friends

My Green friends will like this over at Testify!

You already know what I think.

Update - Here's what Zizka thinks. Also here. He left a comment, but I'm pointing it out here.

Shit Approaches Fan

I have been writing about the problems with corporate pension funds. This Dow Jones Newswire story just appeared online, Most Pensions Funds Suffer Shortfalls

And it will be worse that you hear about. This appears in the story,
The median expected rate of return on pension assets for S&P companies in 2001 was 9.2 percent, according to Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. analyst David Zion, the author of a well-regarded study on pension underfunding.

Zion said numbers for 2002 aren't yet available, and predicted the median rate for 2003 will be 8.5 percent.
In other words, they're in as much trouble as they are in, and that is with them reporting expected earnings of 8.5 percent on their funds next year. Yes, that's right, they're saying their funds will increase 8.5% in 2003. Part of why they are in this trouble is they reported "expected" increases of 9.2% in 2001, which, of course, didn't happen. Imagine how bad the books would look if they were reporting realistic returns on their pension fund investments!


I noticed that skimble has some great stuff up today and the last few days. Take a look.


The Game

Go pretend you're Bush and play the Middle East War game!

Are You in a Union?

Are you in a union? Not in your line of work, you think? You're a programmer? Working in sales? A middle manager? Marketing? (Weblogger?) Two years ago programmers, system administrators, web designers, product managers, marketing managers, all thought they owned the world. Now many can't find a job and have been looking for 6 months or a year or more. Wages are dropping, working conditions are deteriorating, jobs are being exported and the people they are exported to aren't paid squat so they aren't going to be buying whatever we do still make here.

Click here for some things to think about. Wherever you work. Whatever you do. This is a good time to learn what would be involved in getting a union or a "professional association" going at your company. Assuming you're still employed, that is. Otherwise, maybe you should have gotten that union going while you still had time! (YES I'm talking to all of you HP workers, too, now that the second wave of layoffs is underway!)

From the AFL-CIO page, How & Why People Join Unions,
People who work for a living know about the inequality of power between employers and employees. Workers want to form unions so they can have a voice on the job to improve their lives, their families and their communities.
The AFL-CIO site is a good website. Take a look around. Take a look at Executive Paywatch in the Eye on Corporate America section!

Fury and Accusations

I'm reading this story, and I come across this line:
The GOP response to these demands Tuesday was fury and accusations.
So I'm thinking, "What else is new?" It doesn't matter what the article is about, does it? The Republican response to anything that doesn't go their way is always fury and accusations. Like a whining little kid. "It wasn't me! Billy did it!"

Why Was Bush on Cipro?

Testify! wants to know.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich Endorses Commonweal Institute

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has provided an endorsement for the Commonweal Insititute.


In the news: Bush Could Revive 'Bold Initiative' for N. Korea

Gotta give those right wingers credit for sticking to their talking points. A week or so back a focus group must have said that X% of target demographic Y responds favorably to the word "bold." So now everything is "bold."

Even this message is bold. (That's an HTML insider joke.) I'm on board with the great white father, please don't put me in an internment camp.

Was Bush a Bed-Wetter?

Democratic Veteran is looking for a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) expert to help him get Bush's DD-214 released. From DemVet:
The DD-214, for those of you not familiar with them, is a document given to everyone who separates from the service. The reason it's important is that it contains a "characterization" of the serviceman/woman's service. Pre-1974 or so, the program used what were called Separation Program Codes or Numbers (they are called both) which gave a very interesting set of characterizations to the separating member. Some of them were things like "bed-wetter", "homosexual"; you get the picture. Now for the punchline, a person could get an Honorable Discharge and have an SPC/SPN which was far from a characterization of Honorable. This system was amended in the '70's after it became common knowledge about the unfairness of the system and its often arbitrary application to people who were ummmm not mainstream or just not great performers or just did not show up, but you couldn't Courts-Martial sound like anyone we know?
I think this is a worthy cause. Let's find out what Bush is hiding.


New Weblog Links

You may have noticed that I have added quite a number of weblogs to my Essential Links list. I went crazy last week and added so many that I forgot everyone I had added so I didn't mention that I added any. Please let me know what's missing.

ALSO I have changed my method of keeping my links up-to-date. I am using Blogrolling.com instead of manually adding links myself with hand HTML. One advantage is that Blogrolling also keeps track of whether blogs are recently updated, so if you see |UP| before the name of a weblog, it means that it has been updated in the last 3 hours. (I can change that.) If YOU are a weblogger and you use Blogrolling, just click the "Blogroll Me" link on the left to add Seeing the Forest to your links. If you are a weblogger who has not added Seeing the Forest to your links ... well ...

ALSO go try out the "Roll your own me-zine" link over on the left there. I'd put a link here as well but then you wouldn't go try it over on the left there like I told you to.

And finally, you can syndicate Seeing the Forest using the XML link over there.

Pension Trouble

I've been writing about a coming crisis with pension plans. There's more news. In today's NY Times, Companies Fight Shortfalls in Pension Funds,
After a three-year bear market, many major American companies are spending large amounts to shore up pension plans that have deteriorated, sometimes drastically.

Many companies are also considering ways to reduce their pension obligations to workers, possibly undermining benefits for millions.
The story goes on, (and here it gets a bit technical),
The council, a business group that lobbies on employee benefits issues, is urging Congress to make permanent a temporary interest rate increase it granted companies for use in calculating total liabilities in 2002 and 2003. Without Congressional action, the temporary rate will expire at the end of this year, possibly doubling the amounts some companies will have to put into their pension plans, Mr. Gebhardtsbauer said.

In other words, they want to CLAIM that they are earning up to 10% on their accounts when calculating how much they will have in their pension accounts, which means that if they do NOT earn 10% (and they aren't), the funds won't be there for retirees and they will have to reduce promised payments. As the NYTimes story says, allowing companies to claim high returns also means that their shortfalls are actually as much as double what they are currently claiming! Maybe even more.

All of this also means that many companies are less healthy than their books currently show. So stocks that already have really high PE ratios, actually would have even higher PE ratios if you had a way of knowing how healthy the companies REALLY are. (Earning 10% - give me a break.)

A second story today, US Airlines Pension Gaps Seen Wider -Fitch,
"These growing obligations will inevitably lead to large increases in required cash contributions to pension plans, compounding the financial stress and cash flow concerns that already exist in the industry," he said.
I've also been writing about how 401K plans actually screwed workers and handed the money that would have been used to fund their pensions over to the rich. (Pension plans - the company puts the money in and promises you a monthly amount for life. 401Ks - you put the money in (or not) and you try to make it grow (or not) and maybe you have money when you retire - but you must save enough to last if you live to 100 just in case you do, where a company pension plan only has to put in enough for the average lifespan. The ENTIRE obligation for retirement is thrown onto your back. The money that used to go to employee pensions is handed to the stockholders instead, 90% of them being a few rich people.) If you read the NY Times article, it looks like the people who were able to stick with pension plans instead of being shuffled off to 401Ks are also about to get screwed.

How many of them do you think were convinced to vote Republican?


New Congressional Ethics Rules

The new Republican Congress has removed many of the tough ethics rules. One example, lobbyists can now deliver food to members of Congress and their staff, up to $50 per person per meal. So what do Republicans say about a $50-per-person meal?
"What we are talking about is Chinese food," said Jo Powers, the spokeswoman for David Dreier, the Republican representative from California who leads the rules committee. "It's not like steaks are being delivered."
That's how Republicans feel about meals that cost "only" $50 per person!
Another change allows charities to pick up the tab for travel and lodging for members to attend their events. Critics say this harks back to the days when House members cavorted with special interests on free trips to golf resorts. But, Ms. Powers said, "sometimes a member will be a big draw for charity." "If it will help the charity double their take, it's worth bringing them down," she added.
Just to be clear, the Heritage Foundation is a "charity." Scaife's foundations are "charities." The Federalist Society is a "charity."