Monday, February 28, 2005

Tom Delay Rips Off Elderly To Fund Overseas Trip

By John Byrne and Larisa Alexandrovna | RAW STORY Staff

A think tank which raised money by targeting elderly Americans with Social Security scare letters paid for more than $130,000 in travel expenses for the House Republican leader, his wife and his staff, RAW STORY has learned.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a highly controversial and little-known conservative think tank which has been sending Social Security “fright mail” for years, paid for two posh trips for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) in 1996 and 2000, each at the cost of at least $64,000.

NCPPR also gave $1,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund in 2004.

While another conservative group stole the limelight for an ad linking the AARP to gay marriage, NCPPR has operated below the radar on controversial issues since its founding in the early 1980s.

The group’s letters target seniors of both parties, aiming to convince them their Social Security benefits are in jeopardy and thereby induce them to donate money. The mailings also encourage seniors to keep the mailing secret from others, perhaps even from family members.

“Inside your sealed envelope is information regarding the potential collapse of the Social Security system – and how it can endanger you and the entire United States senior citizen population,” NCPPR president Amy Ridenour writes in one such letter obtained by RAW STORY (Read the letter here). “It is also critical that you share this pertinent information ONLY [sic] with other trustworthy individuals.”

“Should we put most of our time and effort into fighting to prevent liberal big-spenders from draining an estimated $100 billion from the trust fund?” Ridenour asks. “Or should I go head to head against the left-wing’s reckless use of $70 billion tax surplus when they promised to put our Social Security first?”

“The liberal monster is primed to rip your Social Security to shreds,” reads another hyperbolic letter reported on by the San Francisco Examiner in 1998.

The group uses at least four different letterheads to solicit money; all of the money is funneled into the same organization.

In January, RAW STORY asked NCPPR Executive Director David Almasi why there was only one reference to one of the letterhead “task forces” on the NCPPR website, nor any description of how money is spent.

“We [don’t] currently have Internet access at our office,” Almasi said.

Almasi couldn’t say how much the mailings had collected or how many individuals had donated. Ridenour didn’t return calls seeking comment.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoyed the generosity of the group at least twice. The group paid for a $64,064 trip for himself and his staff to Moscow and St. Petersburg when he was Majority Whip in the summer of 1997.

NCPPR also picked up a hefty $70,000 tab for trip for DeLay and his aides made in mid-2000 to Europe. DeLay and his staff took a junket where he met with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and took a round of golf with conservative leaders in Scotland.

The ten-day “educational” trip was no small affair–NCPPR paid $28,106 for DeLay and his wife alone, splurging on transportation ($20,266.00), cushy lodging ($3,840.00) and meals ($4,000.00).

DeLay’s office did not return RAW STORY calls seeking comment today.

On Saturday, the National Journal reported that DeLay may have violated House ethics rules when a top lobbyist shelled out an additional $13,000 for DeLay’s stay at the London Four Seasons hotel during that same trip. House rules stipulate that members or members’ employees cannot accept payment from a registered lobbyist to cover travel costs.

The lobbyist in question? Jack Abramoff, an NCPPR director. Abramoff is also on the board of USA Next—a pro-privatization Social Security group that formed as an offshoot of the Swift Boat Vets and recently ran an ad claiming AARP supported gay marriage.

Since then, Abramoff’s fortunes have soured. Abramoff is under investigation for several lobbying scandals and is involved in ongoing litigation with federal authorities over casino deals. He has since resigned his post at NCPPR.

Abramoff and DeLay have a long relationship on Capitol Hill. DeLay’s former press secretary Michael Scalon joined Abramoff’s firm six years ago and allegedly traded on DeLay’s name to rake in $45 million between them from four American Indian tribes—in a year when General Motors spent just $30 million.

“To the casual observer, it was a pretty simple deal,” one former GOP House leadership aide told the National Journal Saturday. “Jack raised money for the pet projects of DeLay and took care of his top staff. In turn, they granted him tremendous access and allowed him to freely trade on DeLay’s name.”

The ex-NCPPR director is a major conservative donor: in the 2004 election cycle, Abramoff and his wife contributed $83,000 to Republicans. The power couple ranked as the 93rd largest donor to either party that year.

Abramoff was also a Bush “Pioneer;” he raised more than $100,000 for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

More salient, perhaps, are Abramoff’s contributions to DeLay. In the last eight years Abramoff and his wife have personally donated $40,000 to DeLay’s campaigns and political action committee. At least two of Abramoff’s American Indian tribe clients also donated $38,000 to DeLay’s PAC.

In 2000, Abramoff “dryly” told conservative columnist Don Feder, “Money available from government is blood in the water for sharks.”

DeLay has no formal role in the group, though he has showered it with praises. NCPPR’s “About Us” page bears a quote from DeLay at the top left of the page, “The National Center is THE CENTER [sic] for conservative communications.”

NCCPR is unapologetic about its mailings.

“We assume most people are capable of taking care of themselves, and if there is something they have a desire about, they will let us know,” NCPPR president Ridenour told the San Francisco Examiner.

In 1998, The Examiner profiled an 86-year-old Oakland resident Faye Shelby who had been deluged by direct mail scams seeking money on issues including Social Security. The letters so distressed the nursing home resident that she lay awake at night worrying about what crisis most deserved her help.

“I didn’t know that I could just turn them down,” Shelby told the Examiner. “I was thinking it was something I had to do. . . . I thought if I didn’t correspond about Social Security, I wouldn’t get my checks.”

NCPPR has also been hit for other questionable practices.

In the 1990s, the group began to focus on denying climate change after they began received tens of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil. They also launched a crusade on behalf of tobacco interests after taking money from Phillip Morris.

NCPPR also saw an awkward moment last year when one of the members

of the group’s conservative African American branch Project 21 failed to show up for a C-SPAN interview. Executive Director David Almasi, who is the only paid staff member for Project 21 and is white, filled in. From there, one editor went on to expose the group as a whole, finding that not a single director or board member of the group was black.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sick of Republican Insults!

Let's get this straight right now, I AM NOT A COMMUNIST.

Read a book, get a dictionary, find out what a communist really is.

I am not one. I am a business owner (meaning I own my business, not the govt). I have no plans for having my business nationalized.

I am a Democrat, a proud citizen of the USA, and I am tired of Republicans, who are short on facts and long on insults, calling me names.

Either get educated or shut the f*ck up.

And P.S. try thinking for yourselves. Repeating what right wing talk show hosts say is starting to get obvious and old.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bill O'Reilly lies like a 4 year old

Taken from mediamatters.org

On the February 16 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor, in a discussion with Kathleen Barr, policy advocate for the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, O'Reilly cited the bogus stats to defend Bush from the charge that he is not doing enough to address hunger and homelessness. Barr expressed doubt about O'Reilly's figures, but he insisted they were accurate:

O'REILLY: Do you know that housing assistance is up 1,400 percent from Clinton to Bush in 2006? 1,400 percent! I don't think that the folks in America, with all due respect, Ms. Barr, can give any more money. I think this is about it. This is tapped out.

BARR: That's an interesting point, Bill. I'm not quite sure where those numbers are from, but --

O'REILLY: Well, here's -- the numbers are from the government's proposed budget welfare -- this is from the government's own budget right here. These are hard numbers.

According to the White House's own Office of Management and Budget (OMB), federal outlays for housing assistance were $30.1 billion (Excel document) in fiscal year 2001, the last budget enacted under Clinton. Bush's proposed FY 2006 budget proposes to spend $38.4 billion, a 22 percent increase in nominal dollars.

Barr answered O'Reilly's "hard numbers" by citing a roughly accurate statistic on the 30-year decline in the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. O'Reilly insisted, "it's not true." He was wrong:

BARR: Well, I do know -- what I do know is that the budget authority for the Department of Housing and Urban Development is 60 percent less than it was 30 years ago, showing a clear disinvestment in affordable housing.

O'REILLY: No, it -- on raw dollars, that's not true. Maybe it's part of the gross national product you're quoting. It's not raw dollars. These are record raw dollars, Ms. Barr, in every category through the roof under President Bush. And that's just a fact.

In fact, HUD's budget in 1976 (Excel document), the earliest year available from OMB, was $29.2 billion. In current dollars, that equals $66.9 billion. But Bush's 2006 budget proposes to spend only $30.4 billion. That's a 55 percent decline in real value. O'Reilly's reference to "raw dollars" is meaningless, since inflation has eroded the purchasing power that HUD's budget wielded in 1976.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Save the Filibuster!, 200 years of tradition and Democracy

Write your Senators. Please:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_info...enators_cfm.cfm


Background:

From New York Times Editorial (http://www.theocracywatch.org/gov_fritz_consolidate_times_nov28_04.htm)

The filibuster is almost as old as America itself. In 1790, senators filibustered to prevent Philadelphia from becoming the nation's permanent capital.

When Republicans opposed President Lyndon Johnson's choice for chief justice, Abe Fortas, they led a successful filibuster to stop him from getting the job.

More recently, in the Clinton era, Republicans spoke out loudly in defense of their right to filibuster against the confirmation of cabinet members and judicial nominees.

Republican senators, including Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio, used a filibuster in 1995 to block President Bill Clinton's nominee for surgeon general.

Bill Frist, now the Senate majority leader, supported a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nomination.

Senator Christopher Bond, a Missouri Republican, was quoted in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1993 saying, "On important issues, I will not hesitate to join a filibuster."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sean Hannity is a lying sack!

Taken from mediamatters.org

FOX News and radio host Sean Hannity made the obviously false claim on his February 11 radio program that "there is an absence of evidence" that Senator John Kerry "was in combat in Vietnam."

In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, Kerry's Silver Star citation noted that he was awarded the medal for "extraordinary daring and personal courage ... in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire." And according to Kerry's Bronze Star citation: "Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Not even the discredited Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth), which made numerous baseless allegations in an effort to discredit Kerry's military record, went so far as to question whether Kerry "ever was in combat in Vietnam." Despite right-wing efforts -- promoted in part by Hannity -- to smear Kerry's record of service, the Navy investigator general confirmed that all of "Senator Kerry's awards were properly approved."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

5 Most Common Ways Conservatives Distort the Truth

1.) The straw man. First they make up a crazy argument and attribute it to Democrats. Then they argue against the fake argument to make their point look good.

2.) Personal attack. You've seen it a million times. Instead of presenting a real argument they just attack.

3.) Irrelevant Authority. They bring in an "expert" or mis-quote and actual expert and then claim that the argument is true because even the experts agree. (See my posts about Brit Hume).

4.) Poisoning the Well. Very visible during the last election. They tried to define Kerry as a flip flopper, as a fake war hero, as an ineffective Senator. People ignored what Kerry said because they attacked his credibility before he even said anything at all.

5.)Two Wrongs Make a Right. I mention this one because of the torture memos and the prison scandals. You can hear right wingers use this all the time. "All we did was sexually humiliate them, they are the ones cutting of heads. And so on.


These are just 5 common ways that conservatives distort the truth. There are many others,.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Hume Lies Again (what's new)

Taken from mediamatters.org

From "The Grapevine" segment of the February 10 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: The White House has asked The Washington Post to issue a correction of its story yesterday that said White House officials have raised the estimated 10-year cost of Medicare's prescription drug benefit to $1.2 trillion. Other newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, reported a much smaller estimate. The Post also reported that the new estimate contradicts an earlier 10-year forecast, but that earlier forecast covered a different 10-year period. The Post declined to publish a correction and repeated essentially the same assertions in a follow-up story today.

The truth is that the Post did not report that the estimate had been "raised," let alone that it "contradicted" an earlier estimate, and the Post noted that the new estimate covered different years than earlier estimates.

The Post explained:

The most significant change, he [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Mark B. McClellan] said, is that the new budget projections tally the cost of drug benefits for 10 years. Projections made in 2003 included the two transition years before the drug coverage is fully implemented in 2006.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Brit Hume is a lying sack!

Taken from mediamatters.org

Brit Hume, the Fox News Channel’s top news anchor, on February 3:

In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, “Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,” adding that government funding, quote, “ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

FDR statement that Hume is misquoting:

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Support the troops

Can you cut Veterans health care and still claim you support the troops? I guess you can claim anything you want.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

My Propagandist is Better Than Your Propagandist

Who is it going to be, Rush or Schulz, Moore or Hannity, Pick a liar any lair. My liar says your lair lies. My liar says the whole media lies. Are people this stupid? Are the liars that smart?