Friday, April 29, 2005

Bamboozle, Part II

Josh Marshall on the latest Bush bamboozle:

All that has happened here is that the president has temporarily bamboozled a few folks in the media by trying to spin phase out. He is calling for steep and growing benefit cuts for everyone in the middle class and he still demands a partial phase-out of Social Security to be replaced by private accounts.

Social Security's support of the poorest Americans is a critical part of what it accomplishes. But Social Security is not poor relief. That is only what the president wants to make it -- in part because, once it is, it is far easier to cut further, since it has no organized political constituency.

Social Security is the sheet anchor of the modern American middle class. It's why working Americans can approach retirement with an assurance of security and a modicum of leisure. It stimulates economic vitality by creating a floor of security that facilitates economic risk-taking in investment and business. It's why parents don't have to shortchange investment in children's education by supporting parents in their old age. It provides economic security to families hit by catastrophe and misfortune in mid-life.

PS give him some money for his fundraiser; I already did.

Stomach Turning

Literally. I did not see the Bush press conference last night, but as I read some bloggers' take on his Social Security proposals, my stomach is literally turning. You see, I am one of those unlucky ones who will have pretty much nothing but SS to rely on in my old age. And what Bush is proposing is cutting my benefits by somewhere around 20-25%.

Atrios explains:

President Bush called on Congress last night to curtail future Social Security benefits for all but low-income retirees in an urgent new effort to address the popular program's shaky finances. (Editor's Note: shaky finances is UNTRUE!)

Let's be clear, by "low income" we're really talking about "low income." Everyone else gets big benefit cuts. Here's the CBPP analysis of the Pozen plan, which is basically what Bush is embracing.

A "medium" earner, one earning $36,507 in 2005, would see benefits cut by 16% in 2045 and 28% in 2075.

A "high" earner, one earning $58,411 in 2005, would see benefits cut by 25% in 2045, and 42% in 2075.

OK so maybe this won't affect me much. I will likely retire in 2024 (age 70) but maybe as soon as 2019. But I may live for another 20 years or more after that. So let's say that I'm still alive and age 91 in 2045. And my benefits will suddenly be cut by 16%?!

And keep in mind this about how SS benefits are calculated and paid out:

A worker with an average income of $45,000 would get an initial Social Security benefit of $18,750 (which is 42% of his total income).

Geez Louise, is that the right way to treat an old lady?!

I mean, that's the fundamental deal here. This is really about the kind of society we want to have in America. Do we want to have a country in which we all chip in to take care of each other, or do we want to have a country in which its every man for himself with no sense of community? Guess which one Bush and his cronies want?

The truly amazing thing to me is that Christians support this! Isn't one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity to care for one another? So how any true believing Christian can support a guy who basically says of those people who have worked all their lives but never made a whole lot of money and had none left over to save for old age TOUGH! I don't get it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Goodbye to Another Great

Philip Morrison has died. In addition to all of his science accomplisments and his efforts on behalf of peace, he was the narrator of this film I'm sure you've seen at a museum or somewhere.

You Are Getting Screwed

The incomes of the super rich in America have tripled in the past couple of decades and at the same time their tax rates have decreased by 9 percentage points.

Meantime, the middle class, whose income has not risen substantially in three decades, saw their taxes go up 1 percentage point.

Kevin Drum has the details.

I read somewhere recently that 60% of Americans believe that they will one day be upper middle class. So completely absurd and delusional. The top 20% of taxpayers hold 60% of all income. Its totally stupid to think that you will ever get a piece of that pie. Just ain't gonna happen. But the delusion that you will someday be rich is why the Republicans can continue to pass legislation like the Paris Hilton tax cut (estate tax elimination) and the horrid bankruptcy bill.

Just Fun to Read

Wolcott on the LA Book Festival.

Wolcott on the Madness of Alan Greenspan.

I Only Wish...

I've often said that Bill Clinton could get elected president tomorrow. The Washington Post did poll that seems to endorse my opinion:

[I]n an amusing but revealing question, the pollsters asked how Americans would vote in a contest between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush if the Constitution were changed to allow them to run in 2008. Clinton beat Bush, 53 percent to 43 percent — a rather decisive judgment on our two most recent political legacies.

Thanks to Michael Froomkin for the tip.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Excellent post by Digby -- read it all, but here's the kicker:

It has become clear to me that we are frogs being slowly boiled to death. And the media are enjoying the hot tub party so much that they are helping to turn up the heat.

The fact that Time could put Ann Coulter, a person who has advocated murdering journalists, on the cover of its magazine at the time of the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing is incredibly scary.

Also read this excellent post by David Neiwart about domestic terrorism.

We shrug off terrorism when it's committed by white Americans, but we fire up the bombers and declare a "war on terror" when it's committed by brown-skinned foreigners. Pointing this out, of course, is deeply unAmerican.

Big Oy

From the NY Times:

Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More on Pope Inquisitor

Ruby is shocked.

Andrew Sullivan is unhappy.

He writes:

There is simply no other figure more extreme than the new Pope on the issues that divide the Church. No one. He raised the stakes even further by his extraordinarily bold homily at the beginning of the conclave, where he all but declared a war on modernity, liberalism (meaning modern liberal democracy of all stripes) and freedom of thought and conscience. And the speed of the decision must be interpreted as an enthusiastic endoprsement of his views. What this says to American Catholics is quite striking: it's not just a disagreement, it's a full-scale assault.

Read EJ Dionne in the WaPo today, too. Remember that Ratzinger/Pope Inquisitor wrote a memo that was seen as support for the withholding of communinion from American Catholic politicians like John Kerry who differ from the church on certain social issues.



The xenophobia of some lawmakers in my state never ceases to amaze me. The former governnor (good guy for the most part) proposes a bill to allow the children of illegal immigrants to attend college as in-state students if they've gone to high school in the state for four years. Initially, strong support. Then the anti immigration forces come out and surprise, surprise -- lawmakers who formerly signed on are dropping their names off the bill. Idiots -- doesn't it make sense to educate these kids so that they can hold good jobs and contribute to society, etc.? And, after all, most of us are descended from immigrants who were all ILLEGAL! Oy.


I stopped reading Time and Newsweek many years ago, but I can't help but comment on Time putting the despicable Ann Coulter on its cover this week. Since today is the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, its appropriate to note that Coulter once said it was too bad Tim McVeigh didn't bomb the New York Times building instead. I could say much more, but anyone who defends Joe McCarthy and calls liberals treasonous is so seriously deranged as to not warrant any more of my time. But others have written some great stuff, so click:

Billmon at the Whiskey Bar
James Wolcott
Eric Alterman

A German Pope

Martin Luther must be rolling in his grave. When I lived in Buffalo, there were lots of German Catholics (and lots and lots of Catholics in general). One of my favorite Buffalo stories was when I heard the name Father Goldberg -- a good German name which we think of as Jewish.

The first German pope was Pope Gregory V in 996. Here are all the German Popes.

Ratzinger is notoriously conservative. This doesn't bode well, but hey, its only the pope.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Al Franken Show Live

Just got back from watching the Al Franken Show broadcast live from Chapel Hill. It was a great experience. I didn't stay for the book signing -- the line was a mile long. Sally Greene, Chapel Hill councilperson, was blogging live. My favorite moment was when Al was talking about Michael Jordan and slipped into his Stuart Smiley voice -- you may remember that Stuart once did some affirmations with MJ. Oh and the Oy Yoy Yoy Show which is one of my favorite bits on the show. As Old Jewish Al might say "Thanks God for Air America."

On the Liberal Radio

Going to see the Al Franken Show live from Chapel Hill today. Reports later.

Hell in a Handbasket

Read this and tell me you aren't scared about our economic future.

Straw Man

Can I just tell you how fucking stupid Amy Sullivan is? I can't stand her. She is so blinded by her religiousity, her fucking moral values, that she can't see the forest for the trees. She started an argument yesterday (again) claiming that Democrats must appeal to those voters who are upset with popular culture. Huh? Those voters are a tiny minority and are not ever going to be ours to pick off. So who the fuck cares?

The whole moral values thing is a straw man anyway. What we really ought to be doing if we care about families is addressing the following REAL problems: the decline of real income for middle class families, rising prices, the way the rich are getting away with not paying their fair share (which is causing state and local governments and therefore schools, not to mention other services, to decline dramatically), the usury that is turning the middle class into a permanent debtor class, the lack of adequate and affordable health care, the problems with child care, etc. etc. etc.

Instead, Miss Moral Values is throwing up this straw man. Ridiculous. She's co-habitating with a guy named Noam so to make her happy I think we should start calling her Ofnoam. Because that seems to be the kind of America that would satisfy her.

Here are some people who kicked her butt:

Matt Yglesias
Steve Gilliard
and about a bazillion commenters on Washington Monthly's Political Animal, including me.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Here's more than you ever wanted to know about Karen Brauer, the leader of Pharmacists for Life, theones who won't fill birth control prescriptions. Its pretty ugly stuff so don't buy her media martyr act.

...she describes herself as "Born conservative. Kinda' lean towards the Republican party, but lately they are getting awfully liberal." She was a supporter of Alan Keyes for President in 2000.

Assault on Democracy in Mexico

Most likely, you haven't heard about what's going on in Mexico. After all, some voodoo king died so the media has gone ape-shit (even though their own polls show no ones cares -- CNN had a poll this morning that indicated that something like 75% of survey takers did not watch the pope's funeral).

Anyway, what's going on in Mexico right now is an assault on democracy. Details here.

Basically, Bush's buddy, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and his cronies are going after Mexico City Governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is -- what a coincidence! -- Mexico’s leading presidential candidate for the 2006 contest.

Lopez Obrador is being charged with a technicality -- defying a court order about paving a road -- as a pre-emptive strike, a way to keep him out of the presidential race.

And don't think the Bushies aren't involved in this.

Unable to play and win by the rules of democracy – a word that supposedly means that the people decide their destiny – Fox and the PRI (urged on from Washington from the very day that Condoleeza Rice, in January, took the helm of the State Department) are likely to win a battle today – a vote in Congress – to declare López Obrador guilty until proven innocent and rob from the Mexican people the right to nvote for him – he now towers 20 points, at 44-percent in the polls, over his nearest rivals – to be their president next year.

There is little question in this correspondent’s analysis that the pressure on Fox and the PRI to cement their little coup d’etat today comes from above, from the Bush administration in Washington, which has decided it cannot abide another democratic decision by another large Latin American country that would place Mexico with Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela (among others such as Uruguay) in a Bolivarian bloc of resistance to the imposed policies from the North.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Loan Shark Prevention Act

David Sirota has the details.

The bill has three very simple provisions:

1. Cap interest rates at 8% above what the IRS charges income tax deadbeats.
2. Cap bank and credit card fees at $15
3. Ban the credit card interest rate bait and switch.


Earlier this week, Bush said that the Treasury notes held by Social Security are just worthless IOUs. Incredible. Outrageous, actually. And likely, impeachable.

The Fourteenth Amendment: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

So because Bush has said that the public debt incurred for payment of pensions is worthless, he is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and should be impeached.

Oh I'm sorry, I forgot -- we only impeach presidents for having consensual sex. My bad.

Republicans Begin Balking

Oliver Wills writes: Begin Now This Backlash Has.

And this from Josh Marshall.

What Everyone Should Know About Science

The British newspaper The Guardian asked 250 scientists "what's the one thing everyone should learn about science?".

Of course I am partial to Richard Feynman's take on this:

"The most important information … is the atomic hypothesis … that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another."

Speaking of Feynman, I bought this book: Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman -- the other day but haven't started reading it yet.

Mo' Dissin' of da Pope

Love this (and so glad Billmon is back tending bar).

But reading more about John Paul II's papacy -- as well as the responses of other bloggers to my first post -- it's clear I missed some things, underplayed some other things, and got some things just plain wrong.

In no particular order, I failed to:
Sufficiently stress the horrific human cost of the pope's determination to uphold every single letter of Human Vitae. This monstrosity (I really don't know what else to call it) has been directly responsible for -- or at least a contributing factor in -- the deaths of millions of AIDS victims throughout the world.

Give enough weight to John Paul's authoritarian, even totalitarian, treatment of internal dissent, as symbolized by the Vatican's 1979 theological courtmartial of Hans Kung, a man who, by any definition, ranks as one of the church's leading thinkers in the modern era.

Condemn strongly enough John Paul II's deliberate campaign -- carried out in large measure by his capo, Cardinal Ratzinger -- to destroy the Liberation Theology movement and suppress its ablest practioners.

Even mention the pope's role in promoting Opus Dei -- a truly sinister organization
(cult might be a better word) that incorporates most of the church's most reactionary traits: authoritarianism, obscurantism and, not least, the spiritual glorification of pain and suffering. By placing Opus Dei under direct papal control, John Paul II turned the order into his own personal "White Guard," dedicated to rolling back the Vatican II reforms throughout the church.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Speaking of Intimidation...

I'm sure you've heard about this nut of a Republican Senator -- oh, sorry, redundant -- who "suggested that a slow build-up of outrage against activist judges may be the root cause of the recent rash of murders and assaults against members of the judiciary around the country." Yes, that's right, Senator Cornyn seems to be condoning violence against members of the judiciary. As the New York Times says today: "It was appalling when the House majority leader threatened political retribution against judges who did not toe his extremist political line. But when a second important Republican stands up and excuses murderous violence against judges as an understandable reaction to their decisions, then it is time to get really scared."

More here and here.

Scare Tactics

This local story highlights how its done: if you protest too loudly, you get arrested on trumped up charges.

Vel Dowdy, an employee at Lenoir Dining Hall on campus...was arrested by campus police on March 25 and charged with felony embezzlement. Police reports said she was charged for "allowing students that she befriended to eat for free."

The [protesting] students who gathered Monday weren't buying that. They said Dowdy's arrest was an attempt by ARAMARK Educational Services, the company that runs the university's dining services, to punish Dowdy for her support of unionization.

Yes, I Am Nuts

Certifiably. I just bought tickets to the sumo tournament in Las Vegas in October. More info here. This is the first time since 1985 that the Japanese sumo association has brought its wrestlers to the USA, so I feel like its a once in a lifetime event. They're bringing the top names, including Asashoryu, the Mongolian who is the grand champion, having just won the Osaka basho for his 11th Emperor's Cup win. I am very excited about this, even though I suspect the tickets are in the nosebleed section (but then its only a 12,000 seat venue). I'm not enamoured of Las Vegas, even though I've been there at least 3 times. Funny thing is, I'll probably be back in Vegas in January for the 2006 version of The Amazing Meeting.

You're Being Played for a Fool by Bush

Read this and this. Bush is playing the American public for fools on this Social Security thing.

For two decades your Social Security payroll taxes have been used to offset the cost of upper-income tax cuts. If I'm not mistaken that money has been used at the highest rate (i.e., in absolute dollars terms per year) under this President Bush. The money is supposed to be paid back, with interest.

That's the deal. That's what bonds are.

But now the president stands there holding on to one of these notes and jokes that they're not worth anything.

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US debt. What are theirs worth? Are they going to get their money paid back?

Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of President Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. Is he going to get his money paid back?

He wants to borrow $5 trillion more. Are those folks going to get paid back?

That's what this is all about. Defaulting on that portion of the federal debt. Those folks will all get their money back. But the president figures you can be stiffed.

If you pay most of your taxes in payroll taxes (like the overwhelming majority of
Americans) he's trying to play you for a fool.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Please Call Your Senator

Within a few days, Senator Frist, the Republican majority leader, will initiate the “nuclear option”: making President Bush’s judicial nominees immune to a Senate filibuster.

This would make the nomination and confirmation of judges a controlled, one-party affair.

This is very dangerous and has consequences that will reverberate across America for decades to come.

Please contact your senators TODAY. In polite and respectful language, make it clear that as one of their constituents you are counting on them to oppose Senator Frist’s dangerous plan to deny millions of Americans any meaningful voice in decisions vital to America’s future.

In North Carolina:

Senator Burr’s office can be reached at:

Senator Dole’s office can be reached at:

This is very, very important. There is a lot on the line here. We must prevent the Republicans from taking a very dangerous course. Remember, we are fighting for the strength and vibrancy of democracy itself.

Imagine a world in which every appointment to the judiciary is a one-party exercise.

Imagine the kinds of judges that will sit on the federal bench and the Supreme Court if George W. Bush doesn’t need a single Democratic vote.

Imagine the kinds of decisions those judges will make that will directly affect your life and your constitutional rights.

Call TODAY!!!

Social Security

I wrote this letter to my local paper after a letter appeared criticizing our local Congressman for sending out a postcard outlining his position on Social Security:

So John Ryan (“Price is misleading on Social Security,” March 30, 2005) is concerned that David Price used his perfectly legal franking privileges to send a message to his constituents outlining his position on Social Security, eh? I wonder how he feels about President Bush using who knows how many taxpayer dollars to mount a series of invitation-only events all across the country (otherwise known as Bamboozlepalooza) to sell his position on the same topic.

To make matters worse, there are numerous documented cases of tax-paying citizens being denied entrance or of being kicked out of these events because they had opinions that differ from the president’s position on Social Security. That is outrageous (and terrifying), but typical for this administration.

As to Social Security itself, Mr. Ryan hits all the Bush talking points, but unfortunately most of them are far from the truth. The problems faced by Social Security are fixable, especially if the government would honor the plan laid out by the Greenspan commission in 1983. Under that plan, working class folks have been paying higher payroll taxes for more than 20 years. The next step is for taxes to be raised on higher income earners to pay for the bonds Social Security will begin selling back to the government starting in 2018. It’s pretty obvious Bush wants to avoid raising taxes on high income earners. That’s a breach of faith, and negates an implicit promise that high earners will keep their part of the bargain to support Social Security.

But, let’s face it: The argument about Social Security isn't about rival views on how to secure the program's future. What is really going on here is a debate about the kind of country America wants to be. Fortunately, most of the public doesn’t agree with the president that it’s a good idea to put middle class families in a position to experience even more financial risk than they already do. Or as economist Paul Krugman put it: “Do you believe that we should replace America's most successful government program with a system in which workers engage in speculation that no financial adviser would recommend?”

The president’s plan does nothing to help Social Security’s finances (even the administration admits this). And his incredible abuse of taxpayers’ dollars to stage Bamboozlepalooza to spread false and misleading information is an outrage with which every citizen should be deeply concerned.

Voodoo Practitioner Dies

This is the headline I want to read about the pope's death. A guy who leads an organization that engages in promoting and encouraging superstition and belief in the supernatural, who opposes scientifically accepted theories and practices, and who participates in the oppression of women dies and "the world mourns." Puh-leeze.

Now, I do commend the pope for his commitment to economic justice. And I find it typical of the chutzpah of the conservatives that they are attempting to attach themselves to the pope's conservative coattails on issues such as abortion and stem cell research -- while diligently ignoring the pope's opposition to the Iraq war and to the economic policies the conservatives are so fond of.

Anyway, its ridiculous the hoopla surrounding this guy's death. If Catholics care, fine, but for the rest of us, we should note it with about the same attention we will give the death of any head of state -- which is not much.

Least Popular President Ever

Guess who?

Here are the ratings for presidents as recorded by Gallup in the March following their re-election:

Truman, 1949: 57%

Eisenhower, 1957: 65%

Johnson, 1965: 69%

Nixon, 1973: 57%

Reagan, 1985: 56%

Clinton, 1997: 59%

Bush, 2005: 45%

National Champs!

Yay! The Tar Heels are the National Champions in college basketball!

It was wild watching (via TV) 45,000 people converge on downtown Chapel Hill last night. Crazy.

This morning I went to my local sporting goods store and waited for over an hour for the T-shirts to arrive. Finally gave up.

Of course, there's a political bent to all of this. Another person waiting bent my ear for at least 20 minutes with his conservative diatribes. The funny thing was, he expected me to agree and obviously didn't even consider that I might not. The worst of his vitriol was that Muslims are moving out of New York City and into upstate cities -- where they immediately go on welfare. Oy.

Yay May and the rest of the Heels! Woo hoo Roy!