Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Via our distinguished colleague Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla: Always busy! While most of the nation is distracted by the plight of the hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, the GOP is hard at work plotting a back-door maneuver to gut Social Security:
Congressional Republicans, persisting in hopes of enacting some form of private Social Security option despite opposition from the public and the Democrats, are considering the same kind of maneuver that enabled them to pass a controversial Medicare drug bill two years ago.

That's the clear signal from key GOP congressional leaders and chief White House strategist Karl Rove, one of the main architects of the Social Security proposal that President Bush made his top 2005 priority.

And Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of his party's canniest operatives, said without giving details that his panel would introduce a retirement security bill in September . . . .

[I]nsufficient GOP support in the Senate Finance Committee and a solid wall of Democratic opposition that ensures enough votes to sustain a filibuster have forced them to look first to the House.

Solid Republican discipline there has enabled the party's narrow majority to prevail on vote after vote in recent years, most recently on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

None had as torturous a path to enactment as the bill to create a prescription drug program. It only passed in 2003 after three hours of early morning arm twisting and the help of misleading cost estimates that soon proved to have been understated.

Because the Senate had passed a similar bill, Republicans could take the measure to a Senate-House conference. By excluding most Democrats from any role, they crafted the kind of bill they wanted in the first place.

That would appear to be their hope for private Social Security accounts – pass a bill in the House authorizing private accounts, accept any Social Security vehicle in the Senate that gets the issue to conference and write a final version letting the White House proclaim success . . . .

In the end, any GOP success may depend, as it has before, on uniting virtually all House Republicans behind a compromise bill and picking up a small number of Senate Democrats. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Finance Committee, remains optimistic despite his inability to woo any Democrats so far.

"I'm not going to give up on personal accounts until the last minute," he told Bloomberg News.
And -- just so you won't get too distracted by the death and devastation that might have been prevented by Dutch ingenuity -- the administration is rushing to impose a Fallujah-style blackout on news from the Crescent City as well. Josh Marshall reports that FEMA has barred members of the press from photographing corpses, as if New Orleans, LA, were Dover AFB. "The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene last week is coming in in force now and taking as one of its key missions cutting public information about what's happening in the city," he writes, linking to this report from Brian Williams's website at NBC:
In the areas we visited, the red berets of the 82nd Airborne are visible on just about every block. National Guard soldiers are ubiquitous. At one fire scene, I counted law enforcement personnel (who I presume were on hand to guarantee the safety of the firefighters) from four separate jurisdictions, as far away as Connecticut and Illinois. And tempers are getting hot. While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.

At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.
UPDATE (via our stalwart colleague Michael Hawkins of Spontaneous Arising): Bob Brigham of Operation Flashlight is reporting that the National Guard is under orders to turn all media away from the scene of the crime.

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