The Jaker

Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.

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Monday, February 28, 2005
LA Times says Bono should lead the World Bank
Longtime readers (not sure if September counts as a long time ago) will remember that I'm equally enthusiastic about U2 as I am about progressive politics. Thanks to an editorial in today's LA Times, I'm able to write a post about both.

The Times is recommending that Bono be appointed the next president of the World Bank.

While that would likely mean no concerts for awhile after this summer, I'm still in favor. As the piece notes, Bono has perfected the art of framing this issue so that it's nearly impossible to ignore. His emphasis on the ability of America to improve its "brand" by committing itself to world poverty relief should strike any politician interested in leaving his mark on the world as compelling.

His efforts have been phenomenal for awhile, and I've often linked on this site to and Bono's nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but what he'd really like is a legitimate platform to encourage people to start listening. Perhaps the LA Times has got the right idea.
posted by CB @ 1:12 PM   25 comments
The President doesn't read newspapers...
... but likes to surround himself with good advisors. Here's some of the advice he's gotten recently. From Atrios

Rep Sam Johnson (R-Tex) said the following about Syria:
Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”
posted by CB @ 11:10 AM   0 comments
Sign the ONE Declaration
posted by CB @ 8:31 AM   1 comments
Friday, February 25, 2005
Krugman: Remember Frank
Paul Krugman's column today notes that Republicans are back at work with the tactics Thomas Frank described in What's the Matter with Kansas? - specifically trying to sell their small government, elitist economic policies by conflating them with conservative social stances like anti gay marriage and support of the troops.

The Republican party used to have actual devotion to a cause. Today's Republicans are just interested in perpetuating their own aristocracy.
posted by CB @ 3:23 PM   0 comments
Friday Prez Odds Update
A bunch of developments this week, the main one being a poll of conservative activists at CPAC (Conservative PAC), as Noted:

In case you missed it, here are the results from the 2005 CPAC poll of
conservative activists conducted by Fabrizio McLaughlin. N=641.
One question asked attendees who they thought would be the Democratic nominee in 2008:
68% Clinton
6% Edwards
5% Richardson
4% Warner
3% Bayh
2% Kerry
2% Clark
1% Vilsack
1% Feingold

Another question asked who participants thought would be the Republican nominee in 2008.
19% Giuliani
18% Rice
11% Allen, Frist, McCain
4% Owens, Romney, Santorum
5% Gingrich
2% Pataki
1% Hagel, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Santorum
0% Barbour
** = figures provided to ABC News by CPAC.

Some of these results are surprising to me: on the Dems side I can't believe they think Hillary is that likely (they're Republicans, so perhaps a lot of wishful thinking because they think they can beat her easily). Also surprising is Gore's absence - I can't be the only one who thinks this can happen, can I? On the GOP side, I'm shocked at how high Rice is and how low Hagel is.

Accordingly, though I don't put too much stock in this poll, I'm making a few adjustments:

Richardson: up from 6:1 to 11:2
Rice: up from 22:1 to 13:1
Giuliani: up from 11:2 to 5:1
Hagel: down slightly from 4:1 to 9:2
McCain: down from 5:2 to 4:1

Also, Joe Biden is running. At least that's my interpretation of what he said to the SF Chronicle. I think I have him correctly pegged right now, so no change.
posted by CB @ 10:16 AM   1 comments
The Death Penalty in action
Texas may be about to execute an innocent man, Pablo Melendez. Here's the quick summary. For the full details (including the fact that one of the survivors of the attack described the perpetrator as having a mustache, beard, and tattoo - while the convicted was too young to grow a mustache and beard and had no tattoo) go here and fill out the form to appeal to Gov. Perry for clemency.

The victim's mother even believes they have the wrong guy. And as with most capital convictions, the defendant's attorney was woefully unqualified and unfunded, compared to an experienced and well-financed state prosecutor.

Melendez is scheduled to be executed in 20 days.
posted by CB @ 9:10 AM   1 comments
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Currency crisis going to affect the stock market?
I think I should sell and go all cash.
posted by CB @ 5:16 PM   0 comments
The Plans
The Washington Post has a summary of 6 different plans aimed at fixing Social Security. The one that makes sense is the one on the far left, and even with that one I would advocate further raising the tax cap to 90-95% of all wages, or approx $175-200k (currently ~85% or $90k), rather than cutting benefits so much for young workers.
posted by CB @ 4:12 PM   0 comments
Social Security: The Simple Solution
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. The easiest way to eliminate the projected shortfall in Social Security is to eliminate (or at least raise) the cap on taxable income from its current level of $90,000. It's an immensely popular solution - 81% (the number of the day) support it, versus less than 50% who support benefit cuts, retirement age increases, etc.

American Prospect notes something I had not yet considered: this plan makes even more sense when you consider the fact that inequality between top and bottom wage earners has grown significantly over the last two decades.
The average earnings of those who earn more than the cap grew by 98 percent between 1980 and 2000. In contrast, the earnings for a typical worker have risen only modestly over the last two decades. For instance, the earnings of someone in his or her early 40s today are only 11 percent higher than someone comparably aged in 1980. Similarly, the earnings of the median worker -- the “middling worker” who earns, by definition, more than half of all workers and less than the other half -- rose 20 percent over that same time period, with the median male’s earnings up only 6 percent. Consequently, the distance between high earners (those earning more than the cap) and typical earners has increased markedly: In 1980, a high earner had ages 4.8 times more than the typical earner, a ratio that reached 7.9 in 2000.

Thus more wages (those of the highest earners), are out of reach of the social security payroll tax than ever before. This is sensible fix.
posted by CB @ 2:21 PM   1 comments
Donkey Rising cites a Siena College poll that found that 81% of respondents would vote for a woman president.

I'm not sure what to think of that number. My first thought is: that's good; it probably wouldn't have been that high 20 years ago. My second thought is: who are the 19% that just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a female no matter what? Perhaps they're just surveying the landscape of potential candidates and not finding any appealing, but I'd like to think that people have an open enough mind that they can foresee potentially voting for a woman at some point.
posted by CB @ 9:26 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Gotta Love Billionaires for Bush
Check out their press release on Bush's budget. You can even send a letter of thanks to the White House. They've helped write it for you:
What a budget!

There's so much I like about it, but I want to thank you specifically for your efforts to slash 150 programs that benefit middle-class and working-class Americans. Who needs the Centers for Disease Control? Who needs a world-class public education system? Who needs police officers on the streets? Not me. That's why you cut the successful COPS program by 96 percent. That's right, 96 percent!
In no time, the middle class will struggle further to make ends meet, working three jobs while we reap even greater profits off their backs. I can't wait!
posted by CB @ 12:39 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Piracy (the original kind)
Who knew (not me) that piracy was alive and well in the 21st century. The Times has an Op/Ed piece from John Burnett entitled "The Next 9/11 Could Happen at Sea", an eye-catcher to say the least. Here's the key paragraph:
Just as terrorists learned to be pilots for 9/11, terrorists may now be learning to be pirates. Purposely grounding a crude carrier hauling two million barrels of oil at a place like Batu Berhanti, where the strait is little more than a mile wide, would close the waterway indefinitely. The delay in oil supplies to China, Japan and South Korea could devastate their economies, setting off a global economic crisis.
posted by CB @ 7:14 PM   0 comments
Insurance premiums correlated to stock market, not malpractice suits
I have a friend who is a doctor who votes Republican solely based on this issue: that Democrats support (are supported by) lawyers whose "frivolous" malpractice suits drive up the cost of insurance for doctors.

Well, John Podesta's Think Progress refutes that argument today, citing the correlation between insurance rates and stock market performance (where insurance companies stash their cash). Says the NYTimes:
when the markets turned sour and the reserves of insurers shriveled, [insurance] companies began to double and triple the costs for doctors.
posted by CB @ 4:24 PM   1 comments
The state of Iraq's union
The folks from the Brookings Institute published in yesterday's Times an update on economic / quality of life indicators in Iraq. Click on the image below to enlarge:

A few that caught my eye:
- Lines for gas are 1 mile long!
- Iraqis increasingly think U.S. troops should withdraw.
- Estimate of number of insurgents has grown dramatically.
posted by CB @ 3:54 PM   0 comments
Wead's tapes and Bush loyalty
So it seems, from the tape recordings of then Gov. Bush, more clear than ever that Bush's youthful indiscretions included cocaine and LSD. While his Christian Conservative base will likely not be pleased with this, Bush gets away with it by "finding Christ" and reforming.

But it made me think of a somewhat larger issue regarding loyalty. Kerry was bombarded by former comrades who were intent on taking him down, but Bush seems to somehow have escaped that scrutiny. Isn't there one democratic former friend of Bush who saw him do LSD and cocaine and wants to come forward to gain some notoriety and take down the President? How did Bush manage to engender so much loyalty in his old friends?
posted by CB @ 9:59 AM   0 comments
Friday, February 18, 2005
A sad trend
From MyDD:

More soldiers have already died in February of 2005 than in February of 2004.
More soldiers died in January of 2005 than January of 2004.
More soldiers died in December of 2004 than December 2003.
More soldiers died in November of 2004 than November of 2003.
More soldiers died in October of 2004 than October of 2003.
More soldiers died in September of 2004 than September of 2003.
More soldiers died in August of 2004 than August of 2003.
More soldiers died in July of 2004 than July of 2003.
More soldiers died in June of 2004 than June of 2003.
More soldiers died in May of 2004 than May of 2003.
More soldiers died in April of 2004 than April of 2003.
March looms.

posted by CB @ 2:19 PM   0 comments
Iowa's got it right
The Quad City Times in Iowa was one of the regional newspapers invited to speak to President Bush about Social Security in the Oval Office earlier this week. Bush is trying to take his privatization ideology "straight to the people", because so far most of the politicians have figured out it's a pretty awful idea.

Well, George, I'm afraid this idea didn't work too well either:

The Times sent veteran political reporter Ed Tibbetts to Washington for a special White House briefing with President Bush specifically to share insight with readers about this important debate.

Among the most critical questions: What is the president willing to accept in terms of raising the retirement age, curtailing benefits, increasing payroll deductions or extending the taxation to higher incomes?

On almost all, our president declined to share his thoughts. “The more I preclude ideas, it’s less likely something might come forth. This is going to have to be written by the Congress along with our input,” the president said.


We know from experience our President’s administration has a tough time processing information. Recall that cost estimates of the Medicare drug benefit weren’t even in reality’s ballpark. The Bush administration’s newest estimates are more than double what they swore to 20 months ago when pitching the plan to Congress.

And the president and staff missed wildly on weapons of mass destruction. Regardless of the war’s present outcome, Congress authorized a search and destroy mission for weapons, not the liberation of a country. That misinterpretation cost 1,462 American lives so far and affected millions more whose families have been directly touched by war.

Social Security affects many, many more — less violently for sure. But for the millions who will be absolutely reliant on that retirement or disability income, Social Security can be a life or death matter.

If the system indeed is in crisis, we can’t afford to guesstimate our way out of it.

posted by CB @ 8:57 AM   0 comments
Friday Prez Odds Update
Added Mike Huckabee (Gov. - Ark). 20:1

that's it for today... thoughts?
posted by CB @ 8:55 AM   2 comments
Thursday, February 17, 2005
What can we learn from The West Wing
On last night's episode of the West Wing, Jimmy Smits (playing Congressman Matt Santos) is running to succeed Martin Sheen as President. Santos is an underdog with good, controversial ideas, trying to elevate the level of discussion in the campaign and not play by the typical kiss-ass rules of early primary states.

One thing that occurred to me while watching last night (and yes, I know it's a TV show) is that American people really value authenticity more than almost anything else in a candidate for President. They saw it in Bush, and not in Kerry. So when Santos went live on New Hampshire TV for 60 seconds a few days before the primary, and spoke frankly about his desire to always communicate directly and honestly to citizens, rather than through tricky opposition campaign ads, it struck me as a really good idea. Why don't more presidential candidates do this?

When do you learn most about the candidates? I'd argue it's during the debates, when they're on the spot and speaking in their own voice, not that of their campaign staff. Ross Perot got the idea - remember his 30 minute infomercials? He was a funny sounding, funny looking Texan who got 20% of the vote in 1992. Well, I think Democratic presidential candidates should borrow a page from Santos and Perot - once a week speak directly to the camera, live if possible, show people your real personality, and soak up the free air time in the echo chamber.
posted by CB @ 9:43 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Thank God for Larry David
This guy is hilarious.
So as a result of my background, I’ve never done anything outdoorsy. I don’t hike, I don’t ski, I don’t fish . . . I would if you could catch conservatives. I wouldn’t throw them back so fast, either. I’d let them flop around on the deck for a while. “It was wrong to lie about Saddam having nuclear weapons, wasn’t it?” “Yes, yes.” “In fact, the whole war was a big mistake!” “Yes, maybe.” “No, not maybe! It was a mistake!” “OK, it was a mistake. Throw me back. Please!”
posted by CB @ 11:32 AM   0 comments
A Reminder
Courtesy of the guys at Bush's tax cut eliminated revenues that are three times the amount that would be needed to secure social security for the forseeable future. Chew on that.
posted by CB @ 9:28 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Brooks strikes again
Hey David,
Europe didn't send those Marines to war. Your president did. European countries do not exist solely to follow George Bush's agenda. Global poverty IS a threat to long-term security, but I've never heard your president say so.
posted by CB @ 4:00 PM   0 comments
The Perfect Storm Geo-Political Strategy
The fact that the Bush Administration hasn't articulated a progressive renewable energy / energy conservation strategy, while at the same time cozying up to friends in the oil industry is, to me, deplorable. The presidency is the ultimate bully pulpit, and reducing our dependence on oil energy is sort of the perfect storm of a strategy that the president should be pushing down to corporations and individuals - it would reduce the wealth of terrorist funders like the Saudi royals and Iranian mullahs, it would compel modernization and democratization in many middle east countries by reducing the population's dependency on the oil-rich aristocracy, and it would preserve and protect the environment and slow global climate change.

I'm confident that the next Democrat president, especially if it's Al Gore, will make this a top-tier priority in their administration. But Bush simply continues with status quo, in fact worse by waging wars and deficit spending, which even further increases the price of oil.

Tom Friedman on Sunday pointed out the problem:
By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

My previous post on TF's "Geo-Green" movement
posted by CB @ 9:12 AM   0 comments
Monday, February 14, 2005
Brooks reveals himself
This op/ed from David Brooks really pissed me off. In it he basically complains about his Nationals season ticket location and the fact that some VIPs got better seats than him. He tries to pull his "I'm one of the little people" act, but I call bullshit on that one, David. Would Brooks have written this if the GM had given DB the VIP treatment because he liked Brooks's book? It's typical Republican neo-elitism - of which George Bush is the prototype... soak up all the benefits from your connections when it suits, make deals over cigars and handshakes... and when it doesn't go your way bitch and whine about the so-called 'liberal elite' and 'insiders'. Look in the mirror, David.
posted by CB @ 4:04 PM   1 comments
Off Topic: Trans fat
The purpose of this blog is to inform, and while mostly on politics, occasionally I feel the pull to post something off-topic that I feel y'all can benefit from.

Accordingly, this article on trans fat is a must read. If you don't want to, at least take away this summary: avoid foods that list "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredients.

Trans fat is artificial, and acts in the body like grains of sand do in the workings of a clock.
posted by CB @ 3:48 PM   0 comments
Lieberman for Rumsfeld?
Rumor has it that Lieberman might replace Rumsfeld as Sec. Def. at some point in the next year. Might happen I guess. Bush does love the hawkish Lieberman. And I do think we need a change at the Pentagon. Negative is that Conn. governor would get to appoint a Republican senator until 2006. But there's a movement within the Democratic party to run a primary opponent against the centrist Lieberman anyway, so this might be a win/win - he keeps his job without an embarrassing fight, and Dems get to elect a progressive to his seat.
posted by CB @ 2:51 PM   0 comments
Howard Dean is DNC Chair!
Let's show the Republicans that you can't beat the grassroots. Don't just talk the talk. Here's a link to donate (through Act Blue) to the DNC. So far ~1950 people have donated ~$95,000 ($48 avg).

Contribution amount:

Conservative columnist Thomas Lindaman wrote the following about Dean:

Conservatives and Republicans have been licking their chops at the prospect of a Dean chairmanship, but I would urge a bit of caution here. Howard Dean has the potential to be the Democrats' version of Newt Gingrich, and if we overlook the potential impact he will have on the Democrats as a whole, we could see a Democrat Revolution in the near future, possibly as soon as 2006.
Granted, I've taken more than a few shots at Dean in my columns, but behind the scenes I've grown to respect him. He is not a typical modern Democrat by any stretch of the imagination. Instead of focusing on short term personal political goals, he sees a bright future for his party if Democrats are willing to follow him.
And personally, I think he has the ability to do it.

posted by CB @ 9:11 AM   0 comments
Friday, February 11, 2005
Friday Prez Odds Update
Cheney's out. Lowering him a little.
Giuliani visited South Carolina. I thought there was a chance he wouldn't run, but this tells me I was wrong. Improved his odds.
I think I was lowballing Condi Rice. People are talking her up as the way to neutralize Hillary. She's my big mover of the week - going from 75:1 to 22:1.

Hardball says Gore is running. Move to 9:2.
Anyone see John Edwards's speech in New Hampshire last weekend? He's definitely running. We all knew that, but it's surprising that he's out stumping already, and his speech is pretty good. But he still seems a little plastic. Keeping him at 4:1.
Apparently Richardson is in. I still think 6:1 is about right.
I'm moving Joe Biden down to 8:1 - nothing about his intentions yet.

    posted by CB @ 11:15 AM   2 comments
    Thursday, February 10, 2005
    Meth problems in the Midwest
    A really sad story in the NYTimes about a 10 year old Indiana girl who last month stumbled upon some people with methamphetamine and was drowned by a local 20 year-old high school dropout addict.

    Meth use and production is a big problem in the Midwest. A TIME Magazine story discussed legislation passed or being considered in many states aimed at limiting the ease of producing meth, which apparently can be synthesized from Sudafed.
    posted by CB @ 3:48 PM   0 comments
    Update: Al Franken is NOT running for Senate
    With Mark Dayton not running for re-election, Franken is probably about to announce his candidacy for Senate in his native Minnesota. Will you support him? I think I will - I respect his willingness to challenge the right-wing media noise machine with a lefty version. And he's fairly smart, and of course his name recognition is pretty good. Listen to him on Air America - he says he's going to announce his decision by the end of the show (3pm).

    Update: He just announced that he is not running. He wants to honor his contractual commitment to Air America. Still has his eye on Norm Coleman's seat in 2008.
    posted by CB @ 3:00 PM   0 comments
    Not a great news day
    North Korea has nukes and the Israeli/Palestinian cease-fire appears to be over. Not good. Briefly on the NK thing: Can you blame them? If they weren't making nuclear noises, we'd probably have invaded already. Pretend you're not an American - wouldn't you be scared of Bush? They are forced to combat Bush's aggression with their own aggression.

    Sure, diplomacy is scary too... but it's the path to peace.
    posted by CB @ 9:16 AM   0 comments
    Wednesday, February 09, 2005
    Hey Pfizer: here's a few hundred billion
    As a Pfizer stockholder perhaps I should be happy that Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit will actually cost $720 billion to $1.2 trillion, versus the $400bn at the time it was passed. After all, rather than negotiating bulk purchasing discounts or allowing reimportation from Canada, Bush's bill amounts basically to a huge win for big pharmaceutical companies, while very little of that government cost will actually offset spending by seniors. Hence, I can be overjoyed that Pfizer will now benefit EVEN MORE from this plan. Hooray!
    posted by CB @ 5:29 PM   0 comments
    Election reflection
    To revisit Nov '04 for a minute, EDM has a factoid from the raw exit poll data. White working-class women shifted signficantly from Dem to Rep in 2004 - largely due to trusting Bush more with terrorism. That's something we have to overcome.
    posted by CB @ 8:20 AM   0 comments
    Tuesday, February 08, 2005
    Could this be the year of the New Democratic Majority?
    In reading Paul Krugman today, and Bakley's solid assessment - synopsis: the push to privatize Social Security is an ideologically-driven anti-government initiative, rather than an honest effort to solve any fiscal imbalance (which I agree with) - it strikes me that perhaps Republicans really have taken this too far, and Democrats have a rare opportunity to swing the long-term pendulum of partisan sentiment back in our direction, redefining conservatives the same way they redefined us a decade ago.

    Take this quote from Krugman:

    The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce [pre New Deal economic insecurity], and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

    Reading this immediately gave me a Thomas Frank 'tingle' (another Austin Sarat influence). In What's the Matter with Kansas, Frank argues that Republicans in the heartland have been voting solely based on social issues (eg. abortion) rather than in a way that would be consistent with their economic interests. So they vote for Republicans, who then give tax breaks to the wealthy and enact legislation overwhelmingly favorable to drug and oil companies.

    But what if they were only voting this way because they were fairly happy with the way the economy is currently balanced between 'welfare state' and free-market capitalism (or 'ownership')? What if they never wanted Republicans to change redistributive economic programs like Social Security and Medicaid? After all, polls show that even in the reddest states people do not support the president's privatization plan.

    So perhaps this is the year that lower and middle-class Republicans finally realize what their party stands for economically - increased wealth disparity, through the dismantling of redistributive programs and the return of that tax money to the wealthy. If we can get these people voting in their own economic best interests once again, Ruy Teixeira will be right after all, and we will see an Emerging Democratic Majority in America.
    posted by CB @ 1:56 PM   0 comments
    Great News

    This cease fire between Palestinians and Israelis was somewhat expected, and it still only comes from the heads of state, rather than the fighters themselves, but wouldn't it be great if it held, and a lasting solution was found?... if in three years we all need new maps that show Palestine and Israel next to each other?

    We need Love and peace
    Love and peace
    Lay down
    Lay down your guns
    All your daughters of Zion
    All your Abraham sons
    posted by CB @ 9:02 AM   0 comments
    Monday, February 07, 2005
    No Jeb
    From Washington Whispers:
    End of the line
    There apparently won't be a Bush on the 2008 presidential ballot after all. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush let it be known to administration folks during his recent tour with ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell of tsunami-ravaged countries that he doesn't want to run for president in the next election.

    I'd been taking him at face value so far, so this is sort of already built into my odds, but might get him pushed back even further in Friday's update.
    posted by CB @ 1:29 PM   0 comments
    This Week: The Budget and Bush's Incompetence
    One of the main topics of dicussion in political circles this week will be the President's budget. My main hope is that newspapers, TV news shows, and the rest of the media play this story in a way that will educate the American citizenry a little more about the economic issues. For example, talk about the deficit this budget creates, the size of the accumulating debt and what it means for future generations, how the budget deficit doesn't even include the $100bn/year wars we're fighting, and then remind us that Bush is proposing making tax cuts for rich people permanent and taking perhaps trillions of revenues out to privatize social security. He's all idealogy and no reality.
    posted by CB @ 8:52 AM   1 comments
    Friday, February 04, 2005
    Call the White House
    Was just watching CSPAN coverage (fun Friday night!) of Bush's social security roadtrip visit to Tampa, FL. The main thing that pisses me off is this: he keeps getting planted 20-somethings to step up to the mic and tell him how they don't believe they'll get any benefits from the current system when they retire in 30 or so years. Bush says that's the main difference - his generation trusted that it would be there but mine does not. BULLSHIT. I'm 26 and I DEMAND that the Social Security system be rectified so that I get adequate benefits. That's what government is for. It's THEIR responsbility to fix programs that need fixing. Not to effectively abolish their purpose.

    Call the White House and tell Bush you believe in FDR's system: 202-456-1111
    posted by CB @ 10:40 PM   0 comments
    Today's Prez Odds Changes
    Added Bill Nelson (Sen. FL) - 14:1
    Russ Feingold is interested. Lowering to 7:1. Also see this.
    Added Vic Synder (Rep. Ark) - 60:1
    Lowered Tom Daschle. People convinced me.

    Added Mitch Daniels (Gov. IN) - 25:1
    Added Bill O'Reilly (asshole) - 40:1
    Slightly lowered odds on Santorum and Pataki. Just don't think they've got it.

    Here's an interesting article. Bill Cosby for Pres?
    posted by CB @ 9:12 PM   0 comments
    New York same-sex marriage ruling?
    Preliminary indications are that the NY state supreme court has ruled, a la Massachusetts, that the state Constitution guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry. The only news source carrying this that I can find is here, from Atrios. Included on Atrios is this positive comment:

    You know what? If this holds up, I predict that just as in Mass., there will be a big political movement to amend the state constitution, and that it will blow over, and people will get used to the idea.

    That's what happened here. We have same sex marriage, and hardly anybody is upset by it any more. In fact, after the election, the legislature has more gay marriage supporters than it did before. It's not even an issue.

    To me that's exactly what we all should want. For it to be "not even an issue".

    Update: I just realized that, FYI, in NY the Supreme Court is the trial-level court. Up higher is the apellate division and then the Court of Appeals (the top state level court). Hopefully they all uphold the ruling.
    posted by CB @ 2:39 PM   0 comments
    The Propaganda President
    I was going to write a post with this exact title and topic (maybe without the Kim Jong Il references), but Slate beat me to it with The Propaganda President.

    If "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il of North Korea and George W. Bush ever meet, I suspect the two will bond like long-lost brothers. Both men are first-born sons of powerful fathers who partied like adolescents well into their adult lives, after which they submitted to their dynastic fates as heads of state.

    Both avoid critical thought, preferring to surround themselves with yes men and apply propagandistic slogans to the onrushing complexities of justice, culture, economics, and foreign policy.

    Bush's willingness to use propaganda and its corollaries regularly astounds me. Consider:
    • On his current social security roadtrip, he's still using the campaign trick of carefully screening the crowd so only rabid supporters and volunteers are in the room to cheer him on. He's afraid of dissent.
    • He fabricates a crisis in social security, saying it will go "broke" or "bust", when experts on both sides and non-partisans in the middle say nothing of the sort will happen.
    • His administration paid off at least 3 reporters, who are supposed to be neutral, to push his message on certain programs. There are probably lots more of these arrangements that haven't been found.

    We're supposed to admire our President. This guy's just an asshole.

    posted by CB @ 2:15 PM   5 comments
    Social Security Plan Explained
    Paul Krugman's is the best explanation I've read of Bush's emerging social security "plan". Basically, at best it does nothing at all to improve the program's long-term stability. And at worst people get totally screwed.
    posted by CB @ 1:33 PM   0 comments
    GWB, you should have taken it
    Apparently Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign twice last year during the Abu Ghraib scandal, and both times Bush asked him to stay on. If that doesn't demostrate the President's poor judgment, I don't know what does. Not only could you argue that replacing Rumsfled would enable someone to take charge who was actually a better manager of the Pentagon, but also there's an entirely separate argument that simply the act of replacing him would do so much to show that America doesn't tolerate torture and abuse, and that we do indeed care about the perception of the U.S. in the world. Strike that: we care, Bush doesn't.
    posted by CB @ 11:56 AM   0 comments
    The Birth Tax

    posted by CB @ 9:42 AM   0 comments
    Thursday, February 03, 2005
    How long?
    A question to ponder: how long can we sustain a dominant all-volunteer military while fighting wars like Iraq. The last war that attracted this kind of scrutiny of its purpose and implementation was Vietnam, but that Army was predominantly drafted. As recruiting continues to fall short of goals, (the latest service to miss is the Marines), it's no wonder that retired, and even some active, generals are being critical of Bush and Rumsfeld.
    posted by CB @ 2:12 PM   0 comments
    The Social Security plan emerging from the Bush White House is really strange - basically people who opt into the privatized system would only earn the return on their investments over and above the guaranteed payment had they stayed in the current plan. As the article points out, it amounts to a loan from the government which you can invest, but then you have to pay back the principal plus the inflation rate at retirement.

    It's a worse version of what Clinton and other Dems recommended, which I echoed here, which would involve the government investing in bulk to increase returns on the trust fund, rather than many individual accounts. The advantage of the direct investment plan is that it would reduce the downside - the government could smoothe results. Under Bush's proposal, the upside is limited to incremental return only, but the downside (if the market tanks) is still large.

    posted by CB @ 10:36 AM   4 comments
    Wednesday, February 02, 2005
    Conn considers Death Penalty
    Connecticut held a public judiciary hearing yesterday on abolishing the death penalty, or at least that's what it turned out to be when the majority of the speakers had spoken.

    For those interested, I'm strongly against the death penalty, which I studied somewhat extensively at Amherst under Austin Sarat. Sarat's academic focus, if I may be so bold as to boil down all the great work he's done into one theme, is the effect of living in a "killing state" on American culture.

    I recommend his books.
    posted by CB @ 1:40 PM   1 comments
    Don't let Bush take credit
    The raising of the death benefit to families of servicepeople killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good, overdue step. But as ThinkProgress, the new blog of John Podesta's Center for American Progress, notes, the White House has been rejecting such a proposal from a wide group for at least 2 years.

    Army Times, in 2003:
    the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty

    posted by CB @ 12:26 PM   2 comments
    We finally won one
    By "we" I mean progressive, reform-minded Democrats. And by "one", I mean the race for DNC chair to set the party's direction.

    The great news today is that Howard Dean is virtually certain to be the new DNC chair, after Martin Frost dropped out and endorsed Dean. Dean is a better politician than he's been made out to be, but most importantly, he is the message-bearer that is needed at the top of the party - not afraid to speak his mind, tell the truth, and make the hard decisions to modernize the party the same way Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove did for the GOP.

    For once, it feels right. The party will not be run by a figure installed by wealthy donors, but by the obscure governor selected by dedicated individuals and the grassroots because he understands how we feel. This, right here - the internet, the blogoshpere, the $25 donations - this is the future of democracy and now the future of the Democratic party as well.
    posted by CB @ 8:51 AM   0 comments
    Tuesday, February 01, 2005
    Is the American Dream over?
    Thanks to my friend Jessica for sending me this fascinating article from Newsweek. If you print-and-read one article this week, I'd recommend this one. It discusses how the American Dream is getting away from us, or at the very least, is misguided. [Continuing the discussion I referenced in a November post]. Our Constitution, written 200+ years ago, is no longer seen as the model for developing countries, who instead look to the "European Model" of democracy with an understanding of an obligation to provide "adequate social welfare as a basic right".

    The American Dream has always been chiefly economic...

    [Europeans] certainly they would never put up with the lack of social protections afforded in the American system. Europeans are aware that their systems provide better primary education, more job security and a more generous social net. They are willing to pay higher taxes and submit to regulation in order to bolster their quality of life. Americans work far longer hours than Europeans do, for instance. But they are not necessarily more productive—nor happier, buried as they are in household debt, without the time (or money) available to Europeans for vacation and international travel. George Monbiot, a British public intellectual, speaks for many when he says, "The American model has become an American nightmare rather than an American dream."

    Many people use the economic productivity argument, citing the tradeoff between economic growth and a government-provided social safety net. Clearly, the two are not mutually exclusive. Finland and Sweden, two of the most socially-conscious countries, are among the world's most robust economies. In fact Britain continues to move closer to the European Model than the American one, for good reason...
    The inspiration, says Giddens, comes not from America, but from social-democratic Sweden, where universal child care, education and health care have been proved to increase social mobility, opportunity and, ultimately, economic productivity.

    Social mobility is an American problem that even Republicans recognize has gotten out of hand. With the increasing inequality in American society it's gotten harder to break out of the economic class you were born into. And that's fundamentally contradictory to the economic American Dream. Perhaps we should coin the Swedish Dream?

    "In Sweden, you are three times more likely to rise out of the economic class into which you were born than you are in the U.S."

    One problem, I believe, is that many Americans are far too scared of change. Sensible progressive ideas are held back by conservatives who are too nostalgic about the way things were, including the likes of Antonin Scalia who believe the Constitution to be some kind of magical document. We are too beholden to our history. As a wise, Amherst-educated executive once said about business "You innovate or die". I think the same is true in society as a whole. We have to adapt. Which is why you see today's developing democracies surveying the landscape and finding better models than the U.S., which has clearly been left behind.

    the United States is the only developed democracy without a universal guarantee of health care

    We're also the only western democracy with the death penalty, but that's another post. People counter with talk of long waits in Britain. The U.S. system is clearly better for the non-poor who can afford it, right? Wrong
    the World Health Organization rates the U.S. healthcare system only 37th best in the world, behind Colombia (22nd) and Saudi Arabia (26th), and on a par with Cuba.

    You can even attribute some of the fiscal problems the country is having to this perception - the article even talks about people more interested in European culture and buying European products than in the past. That's definitely not going to help the trade deficit, and indeed if severe could push the U.S. economy into crisis. It also doesn't help that we're seen as war-mongers.

    The article saddens me. My family moved to the U.S. from Europe in 1987 precisely because of the opportunity America promised. And while I can't live a parallel life in Ireland and compare, I've clearly benefitted from American education and business opportunities. Perhaps it's left-over European idealism, but I can't help but feel like we're missing out on a progressive global change in this country, and soon we'll find ourselves way behind, with rich Republicans still talking about teaching creationism in grade school while millions suffer through a poverty they could do nothing to prevent.
    posted by CB @ 5:57 PM   1 comments
    George Allen

    Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) is introducing a bill essentially condemning the Senate for filibustering anti-lynching laws earlier in the 20th century. It's a laudable bill – but its author has anything but a laudable record on civil rights and racial issues. According to the Associated Press in 2000, Allen was discovered to have been displaying a hangman's noose and the confederate flag in his law office. As governor, Allen "signed a Confederate Heritage Month proclamation without denouncing slavery." Allen also "opposed a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King" and referred to the NAACP as an "extremist group."

    According to reporters, Allen did not apologize, but instead "defended the flag and noose as mere decorations." What sensitivity.

    Let's make sure we remember this when this guy begins his run for President in 2 years.
    posted by CB @ 4:18 PM   1 comments
    The Oprah Way
    I just had a long post about this Salon article deleted on me. Rather frustrating.

    Here's the short version. I agree entirely with the premise of the article: we need more personal stories, like the one Oprah told on her show about her designer who lost his partner in the tsunami, for conservatives to relate to in order to help them get over their fear of the unknown, specifically as it relates to homosexuality.
    posted by CB @ 10:41 AM   0 comments

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