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Social Security partisans winning

Social Security partisans winning the battle of Staten Island?

The Staten Island Advance is reporting that Congressman Vito Fossella (R) of Staten Island is distancing himself from President Bush on phasing out Social Security.

Former phase-out man Fosella is saying no way to 'progressive indexing' (aka 'huge cuts for everyone but the working poor'). And while he says he's not against all private accounts, he's not ready to support President Bush's private accounts.

Perhaps this has something to do with the Empty Chair townhall meeting the In This Together campaign held a while back in Fossella's district or the 'Where's Vito' lawn signs they've been putting up around the area to get him to come clean on where he stands on phasing out Social Security.

Law Order Pitiful IntentHas

Law & Order: Pitiful Intent?

Has The Hammer become a Man of Tender Sensibilities?

You've probably heard this already. But Tom DeLay fired off a letter to NBC this week complaining about an episode of Law & Order CI in which passing reference is made to his threats against members of the judiciary.

Specifically, in an episode about a white supremacist who kills a judge's family, as the detectives hunt for the killer, one of them quips, "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-Shirt."

DeLay's letter claimed that this "slur" was aimed at his statements about "the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary."

DeLay's interpretation notwithstanding, we thought it might have had more to do with the time he told supporters right after Terry Schiavo's death that: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

DeLay even claims his First Amendment rights are being traduced: "To equate legitimate constitutional inquiry into the role of our courts with a threat of violence against our judges is to equate the First Amendment with terrorism."

Actually, DeLay's analysis gets even better when he lassos in Brit Hume as the impartial witness to establish his non-judge-whacking bona fides.

"When a responsible journalist like Brit Hume made an inquiry into such comments," DeLay continued, "he quickly understood them to be limited to Congress's oversight responsibilities and nothing more."

Tom DeLay, tender flower.

Late Update: TPM Reader EB tells me that the perp in the episode wasn't a white supremacist but rather someone disgruntled at their treatment by a judge. I was going from press descriptions of the episode. But perhaps they got it wrong. And as long as we're on the subject, aren't there some right-wing press hooligans we have on hand who go nuts when the MSM makes such an outlandish mistake?

It seems the half-life

It seems the half-life of the McClellan/DiRita slap-around of Newsweek may be rather short.

According to just-released FBI documents revealed by a FOIA request, there have been repeated claims of desecration or mishandling of the Koran in US detention facilities, some of them including precisely the sort of thing alleged in the Newsweek article. It is also clear that at least some of the accusations were ones the military found credible enough to discipline soldiers over.

What's worth noting is the motivation for all these antics over the last week.

We already know there have been serious problems, to put it charitably, with the treatment of US prisoners in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is hard to say that the claims of mishandling Korans were particularly egregious in comparison to things we know for a fact did happen.

Remember, the McClellan/DiRita attacks on Newsweek weren't simply about getting a few facts wrong or weakly sourcing a story. Their claim was that the charges were outrageous, damaging and false, when in fact it turns out they were outrageous, damaging and quite likely true. And even more damaging for the US after McClellan and DiRita spent a couple weeks heaping attention on them.

The result of the White House and DiRita's jihad against Newsweek has only been to encourage a whole new round of international outrage and embarrassment about abuses we have to hope are now being addressed. And all, obviously, to score points in the media wars at home -- which the Bush administration so often seems to consider the true central front in the war on terror.

Distant rumblings ... The

Distant rumblings ...

The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority violated state election laws when he did not disclose more than $600,000 in corporate money the committee spent during the 2002 legislative campaigns, state District Judge Joe Hart ruled this morning.


Hart's ruling is the first by a judge in the far-flung controversy that has snared the political action committee; DeLay; Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland; and the Texas Association of Business, among others. A Travis County grand jury last fall indicted three of DeLay's associates who worked for the committee and eight corporate donors. Charges were dismissed against four donors in return for their cooperation with investigators. Ceverha was not among those indicted.

Criminal trials are pending against DeLay fund-raisers Jim Ellis and Warren Robold, both of the Washington, D.C., area, and John Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, who lobbies in Austin.

The rest is <$NoAd$> out here from the Austin American-Statesman.

Okay a bit more

Okay, a bit more TPMCafe news, if you'll indulge me.

As I mentioned a few times before, there will be several blogs hosted at TPMCafe. The main group blog is one I've mentioned several times before. So let me share with you who the contributors to the main group blog are going to be. They are: Steve Clemons, David Gelber, Todd Gitlin, Reed Hundt, Ed Kilgore, Karen Kornbluh, Annie Lamott, Michael Lind, Josh Marshall, Judith Shulevitz, Mark Schmitt and Marshall Wittman.

A few others will be joining the group shortly. But that's our roster for our kick-off next Tuesday.

You can see the names of the contributors to our foreign policy blog, America Abroad, here.

WarrenReports will be the successor to the TPM Bankruptcy blog that Professor Elizabeth Warren and her students have been running here at TPM since early March.

More later on the discussion areas at TPMCafe.

Theres an article in

There's an article in The Hill today that you should read. It's about a talk Bob Rubin, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, gave to the House Democratic caucus yesterday. The headline topic was Social Security. And his message was unequivocal: Democrats would be fools to fall into the trap of putting forward their own concrete plan on Social Security under current circumstances.

In discussing this question, one must always come back to the simple fact that the Democrats especially shouldn't come up with a concrete plan when the president himself still hasn't put one forward.

But setting that significant matter aside, Rubin is unquestionably right. And it's important for Democrats to hear this from someone like Rubin whose stature within Democratic ranks is unique.

I must admit that I've had moments of wavering on this basic issue. But Rubin strikes on exactly the point that has always brought me back to the same conclusion that Dems shouldn't get sucked in on this one.

Of course, there's a narrowly political argument. And that's important. But it's not the most important reason. The real key is that the playing field in Washington today is terribly skewed. The Republicans have the White House and both chambers of Congress. And they've demonstrated an ability to coordinate those three institutions to what is an almost unprecedented degree (this is the issue of parliamentarization I've referred to before.) In such a setting, any process of negotiation would inevitably lead to a bad result (both politically and substantively) because Republicans exert so much control over the process of negotiation itself. And that would be so because the current Republican party is against Social Security itself. And no negotiation or process of compromise controlled by such a party could, by definition I think, yield a result which was favorable to Social Security.

That has to be the case as long as Republicans are still sticking to their principles of private accounts and sharp benefit cuts for the middle class. And those are their principles -- quite explicitly, in fact

Add to this the fact that the president is clocking in at under 30% support on Social Security and most Americans now understand that he wants to dismantle the program and the whole thing really becomes a no-brainer.

In fact, Dems should really start making the point now that they are the ones who stopped President Bush from phasing out Social Security this year.

Be loud, be proud.

Ahhh a Fox Newscaster

Ahhh, a Fox Newscaster Freudian slip really does end the day on a good note.

MediaMatters catches Fox News David Asman in this exchange with our man Trent Lott ...

So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate -- if you guys in the Republican Party did -- then why did you need a compromise?

We, indeed ...

As you can see

As you can see from the image right up there at the top right side of the site, we're about ready to go with TPMCafe. We'll be launching the site on Tuesday, May 31st. And we'll be bringing you various updates throughout the day.

But I wanted to share with you one special addition we'll have in store when we launch.

One of the occasional features of the new site will be a special one week guest blogging stint by some well-known individual who we think our readers would be interested in hearing more from. This won't be part of one of our group blogs. They'll have their own blog for that week, much like any other solo blog like TPM, or the Washington Note, or Eschaton (when Atrios doesn't have others filling in for him) operates.

In most cases, the guest will have some connection to politics or the driving political issues of the day. But not always. We'll try to include a mix of different people -- in each sense of the word.

For now, we're quite pleased to announce that joining us for our debut week will be former Senator John Edwards (D) of North Carolina who was, needless to add, John Kerry's vice-presidential running mate in last year's election.

Edwards will have the guest blogging seat from Tuesday 31st through Friday 3rd.

More news to follow.

A TPM Reader chimes

A TPM Reader chimes in ...


Why is it Social Security that needs fixing when it is the Republicans’ runaway’ spending that is the problem?!

By their own admission, the problem will occur when the excessive SS contributions begin to slow down causing the government to look elsewhere for the money they need to cover all those tax cuts they gave their rich friends (and, I suspect, themselves).

So why is it Social Security that needs fixing?

Please explain.



That <$NoAd$> pretty much covers it. The real danger to Social Security is to be found in the president's first-term tax cuts.