Saturday, February 5, 2005

Weekend reading

Chapter 10 of Empires is up over at creativtiy . . . For those who are following, sorry for the delay.

Nostalgia

After listening to all of Chimpy's bullshit over the past few months since the election, I figured I'd take a nostagic look back to just before the 2000 election, when life was good. Did I find this all on my own? Sadly, No!

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton announced Wednesday that the federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 amounted to at least $230 billion, making it the largest in U.S. history and topping last year's record surplus of $122.7 billion.

"Eight years ago, our future was at risk," Clinton said Wednesday morning. "Economic growth was low, unemployment was high, interest rates were high, the federal debt had quadrupled in the previous 12 years. When Vice President Gore and I took office, the budget deficit was $290 billion, and it was projected this year the budget deficit would be $455 billion." [my emphasis]

[. . .]


Okay, break's over, back to the fight.

Options and Alternatives

From the Center for American Progress.

If we're gonna beat the Repubs, we can't just say everything they do sucks (which it does). We're gonna have to give alternate options. There are some good ideas over at CAP.

Real Progress on National Savings and Generational Responsibility: The one thing nearly everyone in Social Security circles used to agree on was that as we moved closer to the baby boom retirement it was increasingly important to display generational responsibility – to make the tradeoffs to increase national savings now to ensure that we were putting our economy in a better place to deal with known challenges down the road. Indeed, the improvement in the federal fiscal picture in the 1990s – which was substantially driven by a commitment to fiscal discipline and saving surpluses for Social Security – was solely responsible for a doubling of national savings from 3.1 percent of GDP in 1992 to 5.9 percent of GDP in 2000. On the verge of the baby boom retirement, the Bush administration has abandoned the principle of generational responsibility and passed successive rounds of long-term tax cuts that have taken us giant steps backwards – contributing to an erosion of national savings to only 1.4 percent of GDP over the last seven quarters, the lowest level since 1934. Even in the wake of this deterioration, there is too little focus in policy discussions about Social Security on increasing savings now. Distressingly, the new gold standard for Social Security plans seems to be that they at best do no harm to national savings. With our national savings at historic lows and the baby boom retirement at our doorstep, it is absolutely essential that any Social Security reform plan move us back in the right direction by ensuring that we increase national savings now.

Saturday Cattle Dog Blogging



Keeping an eye on her Kingdom.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Forget 2052

This article by Everell Cummins in the Ess Eff Chronicle discusses predicting the future of Social Security.
I've had to think hard about 2052 lately. The Congressional Budget Office has told us the Social Security Trust Fund will be used up by 2052 and, from then on, current income will provide only 81 percent of the money necessary to pay benefits. No ifs, ands or buts.

It must have been hard for them to think that far ahead. It certainly hurts my head, just trying to imagine 2052. Paris Hilton will be 70 then and she'll be furious. The Olson twins will be 65 and very much surprised to find the fund depleted. Brad Pitt will be 88 by then and will be shocked to go to his mailbox on check day and find only 81 percent of a check.

When we're in 2052 and look back, whom can we blame? Today the fund has $1.5 trillion and is still growing by $90 billion a year, so who blew it? It was the Baby Boomers. There were too many of them and they lived too long. They were born between 1946 and 1964, when the pill halted the boom. By 2052, the oldest of these folks, like Bill Clinton (born in 1946) will already be 106. The youngest, Brad Pitt and the others, will be 88. Paris and the twins will be very angry with Bill and Brad and all those in between.

So what went wrong? Back in 1981, Allan Greenspan headed a commission to look at Social Security long range. Recognizing they had to prepare for the Boomers when they began to retire in about 2011, they said, "Let's increase the payroll taxes now, well before the Boomers retire; maybe get the fund up to a trillion and a half or so with the interest the fund will earn. That ought to do it." They calculated the fund would last at least to 2056, 75 years in the future.

Well, they did get the fund up to a trillion and a half, so why does the Congressional Budget Office now think it's not enough? How did Greenspan figure it in 1981? How did the CBO figure it now? Did they use the same figures?

No, nobody uses the same figures. In fact, the Bush administration uses even more pessimistic estimates and tells us the fund will only last until 2042. Why don't they get together and decide how long Bill and Brad and the others are going to live? Four years longer than now? Six years longer than now? Ten years more than now?

Then there are a few other factors they have to figure. Will immigration continue to boost the workforce, or will we do better job of controlling the influx? The more workers we have paying Social Security taxes, the higher income to the fund. There are other variables, too: the birth rate; productivity; the marriage rate; the disability rate. They should be able to compute all that, shouldn't they?

Yes, the actuaries do figure out all of those variables -- and come out with different answers. A small variation in even one of the factors completely changes the outlook. Moreover, by changing several of the factors plausibly, you can predict almost anything you want as an outcome.

So you can see why I'm looking forward to 2052, at age 125, looking back to see how it all comes out.

Let's face it, nobody can confidently tell us now what the shape of Social Security financing will be in 2052, 2042 or any other date that far down the road. When human behavior and the march of history are involved, we can perhaps plan ahead plausibly 10 or 15 years in the future, but not 40 or 50.

Social Security long-range financing is working out pretty much as envisioned by the Greenspan commission in the early 1980s. So leave it alone. Concentrate on the 40 or 50 more urgent problems now facing our nation.

Everell Cummins is a retired executive of the Social Security Administration

Shit, if I knew what was going to happen tomorrow I'd have my life savings down at the Race & Sports Book.

Words of Wisdom on SSI

I know all I need to know about Bush's proposals to dismantle our social safety net and swindle folks out of their savings. In a nutshell, it's a pack of lies designed to enrich his Wall Street cronies in their retirement, and to Hell with American workers. More to the point, it's meant to impoverish the government so they won't be in any shape to help anyone other than the fat cats.

All the rest is commentary. Some of the best comes from Paul Krugman, economist and Professor of Economics at Princeton. He has been doing a series on Bush's Big Lie. He knows what he is talking about and doesn't pull his punches. In his Op-Ed in today's NYTimes:
A few weeks ago I tried to explain the logic of Bush-style Social Security privatization: it is, in effect, as if your financial adviser told you that you wouldn't have enough money when you retire - but you shouldn't save more. Instead, you should borrow a lot of money, buy stocks and hope for capital gains.

If you put part of your payroll taxes into a personal account, your future benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount you would have had to repay if you had borrowed the money at a real interest rate of 3 percent.

Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution got it exactly right: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."

Experts usually tell people to plan for their retirement by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds. They disapprove strongly of speculation on margin: borrowing to buy stocks. Yet Mr. Bush wants tens of millions of Americans to do exactly that.

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? Do you believe that we should do this even though it will do nothing to improve the program's finances? If so, George Bush has a deal for you.

Please go read him. Mr. Krugman is an expert on this shit.

You may read previous articles in his series for the NYTimes by going to their Op-Ed Archive, or read his other stuff at his Web Page.

In a comment elsewhere, Fixer brings up the point, and I concur, that all Bush's talk about Social Security may be just a smokescreen to focus attention away from other goals of his agenda.

Unfit for command

Via David:

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Haw haw haw haw haw! —cracker USMC Lt. Gen. James Mattis


Now, several times during my service in the military, I've had to dispatch another human being to the afterlife. I'm not proud of it, I don't talk about it because most folks don't understand, but it was them or me. When I'm faced with those options, well sorry, you lose. When I was in the combat arms, I had officers who'd talk about killing. At that time they were mostly Vietnam-era vets. Not a one of them ever said it was 'fun' to shoot someone. It's never fun to watch another human die in one of the most horrible ways possible. General Mattis should be relieved of duty. Killing is a necessity of conflict, but it should never be taken lightly or in 'fun'. This man is a sociopath and unfit to command Marines.

Update: 15:20:

And I can't believe I just heard Pat Buchanan (on MSNBC) standing up for this fucking guy. He's saying something like, the guy is a Marine, and to him fighting is fun, it's fun to shoot guys in war, especially those who slap their women around. I think, personally, that it would be fun to slap Pat Buchanan around.

Social Insecurity

Andrew Cassel of the Philadelphia Inquirer has deciphered the muck that is the Bush Social Insecurity plan and offers a good summary/commentary. Here's an excerpt:

There will be even more restrictions after you retire.

In contrast to all the rhetoric about owning "real wealth" that your kids can inherit, the plan
would convert those investment accounts into fixed, lifetime annuities. That means retirees in the future would receive their benefits in monthly installments, guaranteed to last as long as they live - and no longer.

Which is, of course, pretty much how Social Security works today.

At this juncture, you might be tempted to ask: So why all the hoo-hah?

If the government won't get out of the way; won't let you invest your retirement account as you choose; and won't even give you free access to it after you retire, what's the point?

Good question.

One thing we know is not the point: "saving" Social Security.

Even the Bush administration admits that personal accounts won't cure the retirement system's long-term funding shortfall. Although the President didn't mention this in his speech, an unnamed "White House official" acknowledged as much in a briefing for reporters.


Go New York

(New York City) A New York State court ruled Friday that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan said that the New York State Constitution guarantees basic freedoms to lesbian and gay people, and that those rights are violated when same-sex couples are not allowed to marry.

The ruling said the state Constitution requires same-sex couples to have equal access to marriage, and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal must be given marriage licenses.

"This is a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers," said Susan Sommer, Supervising Attorney at Lambda Legal and the lead attorney on the case.

[. . .]


Via Atrios.

I'm always proud to be a New Yorker, but today especially. Good for Justice Cohan, and good for New York.

And to quote Maru: Blogger sucks wet monkey ass.

Happy Friday!



Thanks, Skippy.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Shakespeare

Encino Man (Mrs. F's cousin) sent me this:

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind . . .

And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded with patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know?
For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. --- William Shakespeare

Advice For McCartney

Tim Carvell has some advice for Paul McCartney during his Super Bowl half-time show:
We like the simple shirt and slacks that you have chosen as your outfit. However, to prevent even the slightest possibility of a "wardrobe malfunction," we were wondering if you could maybe wear something extra over your outfit? Or maybe under it? Like an extra pair of underpants over your usual underpants? Or maybe a sweater, and a second pair of pants over your original pair of pants? Nothing too noticeable - just a little insurance. I'm sure you understand.

"Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da": Is there something you can say after "life goes on" that's not "bra"? The word still makes us a little nervous around here. Thanks.

"Blackbird": "Take these broken wings and learn to fly"? It's a lovely image, Paul, but: Children are going to be watching this. No parent wants to have to explain injured birds to their children, especially not on Super Sunday. Can you sing around it so the bird's wings aren't broken? Maybe the bird could take its "bucket o' wings" and learn to fly? KFC may pay for the product placement. Just a thought.

"I Saw Her Standing There": "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean"? I am fairly certain that I do not know what you mean, but I do know that she'd better be at least 18. Make that 21. Or 25. She was just 25. That works fine.

Just got back from a meeting with wardrobe, and they want me to ask: How would you feel about a suit of armor? As I understand it, you've been knighted, so you probably have one lying around, yes? If not, we can provide one for you. Just ask!

One little(?) nipple that no one even saw and it won't go away. Comedy writers will be cruisin' on that one for years. God should only forbid that sensitive football-fan ears should take offense from Beatles lyrics from forty years ago. Hey, Powell's out, let 'er buck I say! Go read.

They booed him

Good. From the Rude One:

[. . .]

And the Rude Pundit is sick of hearing how "bold" is every fucking thing Bush proposes. If George Bush took a shit in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Orrin Hatch would appear on Fox "News" to declare how bold a shit it was and how mighty a loaf was pinched out and how are the Democrats going to deal with a President who is unafraid to take a dump with a stone Lincoln staring at him. It is not "bold" to target gays for isolation and denigration in the Constitution; it is not "bold" to cut domestic programs that mainly help those in poverty so that massive tax cuts can be made "permanent;" it is not "bold" to say that you want to create a Social Security system that no longer guarantees a retirement benefit for seniors and that cuts benefits to others; it is not "bold" to hinder scientific developments under the veil of "protecting life;" it is not "bold" to declare that that we should make sure that people on death row are actually guilty; it is not "bold" to imply that you will use military force to impose your political will on other nations. If this is what passes for "bold" in this America, then, indeed, cowards should hold their heads high and declare that their pusillanimity is actually "bold" retreat. Or maybe such "bold" people will just ink their fingers purple in solidarity with Iraqi "voters." Or the truly "bold" will dress in purple (like Condi).

[. . .]

Inherit the Windbags

Maureen Dowd of the NYTimes sounds off about Evolution v. Creation, and Bush's other retrograde schemes. Go Read.
As with Iraq, President Bush has applied his doctrine of pre-emption on evolution, cutting it off before it can pose a threat to our well-being.

So much for the Tree of Knowledge. Mr. Bush gives us the Ficus of Faith.

I misunderestimated this ambitious president. His social engineering schemes in the Middle East and America are breathtakingly brazen.

He doesn't just want to dismantle the 60's. He wants to dismantle the whole century - from the Scopes trial to Social Security. He can shred one of the greatest achievements of the New Deal and then go after other big safety-net Democratic programs, reversing the prevailing philosophy of many decades that our tax and social welfare systems should equalize the distribution of wealth, just a little bit. Barry Goldwater wouldn't have had the brass to take a jackhammer to that edifice.

The White House seems to think Social Security was corrupt from the moment it was enacted in 1935. It wants to replace it with private accounts that will fatten the wallets of stockbrokers and put the savings of Americans who didn't inherit vast fortunes at risk.

Mr. Bush and his crew not only want to scrap the New Deal. By weakening environmental and safety protections and trying to flatten the progressive income tax, they're trying to eradicate not just one Roosevelt but two, going after the progressive legacy of Theodore.

With their brutal assault on history and their sanctimonious manner, they give a whole new meaning to Teddy's philosophy of the presidency. Bully pulpit, indeed.

A small-minded bully and his gang in a really big schoolyard.

Super Bowl Edsel Malfunction

In a highly unusual last-minute reversal, the Ford Motor Company withdrew a commercial from the game late yesterday in the face of complaints.

Ford canceled a spot for a new Lincoln truck, scheduled for the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX on Sunday, because of charges from an advocacy organization that it exploited the sex scandals embroiling the Catholic Church.

It hits a little too close to home for Protestants too, I think.

Go see a picture from the ad. What the fuck were they thinking? "Lincoln - No. 1 choice of child molesters"?
That is not to say the men who compose the majority of the Super Bowl audience will be ignored. There will be 10 or so spots from Anheuser-Busch aimed at men for beer brands like Budweiser and Bud Light.

And a prescription drug that treats erectile dysfunction, Cialis, will return to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive year, with a spot by Grey set to the 1963 rock tune "Be My Baby."

"Be My Baby". Oh, swell. Pedophilia gets its shot after all.

I think the clergyman in the Ford ad may have partaken of the above. Well, we can easily see what appeals to football fans: Weak beer and chemical hard-ons. Only in America. Yeesh.

Personally, I think the only attraction of football is you get to see millionaires knock each other around. Super Bowl's a good time to go to the supermarket, unless you get there at half-time when every pissed-off wife in town has been sent for munchies and beer by a bunch of drunks.

You know, I couldn't make up shit like this. Thank you, Lord.

Less Devil Pups

From today's NYTimes:
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Marine Corps in January missed its monthly recruiting goal, in what military officials said was the latest troubling indicator of the Iraq war's impact on the armed services.

Even as the Marine Corps strains to meet its recruiting targets, the Air Force and Navy are flush with recruits and are actually shrinking their overall ranks. Military personnel experts say there are indications that young people interested in joining the military may be turning to the Air Force and Navy, which have suffered relatively few casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. In contrast, the Marines make up about 21 percent of the fighting force in Iraq now but have suffered 31 percent of the military deaths there, according to Pentagon statistics.

"It's not surprising that the Navy and Air Force would be doing just fine," said Professor Kohn. "Kids getting a start in the military will migrate to the physically safer services, and it seems to them that they'll get more technical training there."

Whatever else they may be, these kids ain't stoopid, Perfesser. The Marine Corps has been described as the best invention ever for killing American youth.

If you didn't bother to read the article, the Corps shortfall was only 3% for January and they began the year with 52% of the recruiting goal for '05 already "in the bag" so to speak. I hope it's the start of a trend, though. Our youngsters should save themselves for a crisis that involves actually defending the United States. Bush's Imperial War ain't it.

Address commentary

I was asleep 2 minutes after writing the post below. This morning, I see a comment from the Sister:

F - You mentioned earlier you like a good rant? Well, I just went off on a doozy.

I seriously don't think I could be more annoyed without my head exploding.


Unlike our (p)resident Dicknose, she's telling the truth. Go read.

Note: I just heard the highlights of Harry and Nancy's Dem response. I didn't find Harry as boring as Sis said, but they were both a little stiff. I did like how Harry equated the 'personal' accounts as 'gambling' opposed to 'insurance'. We can only hope all of the Dems pick up this talking point and hammer the shit out of it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

No

I'm not watching Chimpy throw shit at the American people make his State of the Union Address. It's Law & Order reruns for me.

Wow, Deja Vu All Over again

If you are interested in Iraq/Vietnam comparisons, NightLight has a good one in rebuttal to Christopher Hitchens misbegotten attempt to dissociate the two.
In closing, Chris, even the "dead parrot" quotes don’t excuse this vituperative, illogical chicanery. A better Python analogue for this piece would be the “how to defend yourself against fresh fruit” routine. Remember? “But we’re not being attacked by fresh fruit,” the baffled students would reply when John Cleese brought out the banana, or apple, or orange. They would try to make him understand what the real dangers were, but he wouldn’t listen. Instead he’d attack them with increasing shrillness for their simple and reasonable act of objection. He kept getting more and more vicious, until in the end he was left alone in a room full of corpses.

But, Chris, that was just a comedy routine.

There's nothing funny about either Iraq or Vietnam. One possible future parallel I would draw is that Vietnam prospered as a nation, although not necessarily economically, after we quit trying to wreck the joint and left.

...But Nobody's Home

Stole this one from Travis:
Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

Screw you

I love a good rant. Via David via PO'd Patricia:

[. . .]

Okay, you want God? Let’s talk about God. Your religion is bogus. Fundamentalism, the facile belief in the unexplained and un-researched, is something you born-agains (couldn’t get it right the first time, huh?) share with Al Qaeda, whose ideologues doggedly adhere to religious misinterpretations every bit as silly and dangerous as yours. Just like you, Muslim fundamentalists long to impose an unrealistic and intolerant pseudo-Calvinist morality on the world. In fact, America’s religious right has so much in common with the Shiah, it’s a wonder you guys don’t invite them to join the Rotary. Born-againsters look for the face of Christ in the wallpaper; fundamentalist Muslims hallucinate the voice of the 12th Imam; but aside from that (and extremely divergent attitudes toward pork), you both hate the same stuff — homosexuality, pacifism, Jews, education, uppity women, enlightenment, short skirts, gangsta rap, tattoos, infidels ... (They also share your love of super-lethal weaponry.)

[. . .]

The Election Doesn't Change That

Arianna Huffington on the Iraqi election.
It's impossible not to be moved by the stories coming out of Iraq: voters braving mortar blasts to cast ballots; election workers counting votes by the glow of oil lamps; teary-eyed women in traditional garb proudly holding up their purple-ink-stained fingers.

It was a great moment. A Kodak moment. And unlike the other Kodak moments from this war — think Saddam Hussein's tumbling statue and Jessica Lynch's "rescue" — this one was not created by the image masters at Karl Rove Productions.

But this moment, however moving, should not be allowed to erase all that came before it, leaving us unprepared for all that may come after it. The triumphalist fog rolling across the land has all the makings of another "Mission Accomplished" moment

Let's not forget that for all President Bush's rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, a free election was the administration's fallback position — more Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmad Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? And the White House consented to an open election only after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand it — and chose an election date that came after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.

And the election doesn't change that.

And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998, when they urged President Clinton and Congress to take down Hussein "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" and a Hussein/Al Qaeda link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.

This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heartwarming as it was, doesn't change any of that.

She's absolutely right. We were still duped into a war for oil and empire by lies.

Elect an idiot, there goes the language

From Left I on the News:
So it seems that if you flunk English, but then get elected President, the language will come to you. Merriam-Webster now says in approving a new pronunciation for the word "nuclear":
"Though disapproved of by many, [the pronunciation "nuke-u-lar" has] been found in widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least one U.S. president and one vice president."

Giving entirely new meaning, and undoubtedly mangled pronunciation along with it, to "L'etat, c'est moi." Next up: Merriam-Webster redefines "truth" as "whatever George Bush says it is."

Oh fucking swell. So in order to be a good American, you not only have to think ignorant, now you have to talk ignorant as well? Phooey.

Speaking of Beer and Whores...

Go read Will Durst's State of the Union speech drinking game.

Whores

Gillard:

[. . .]

Owens should know better, because as long as the GOP campaigns on race, they will never gain more than that 15 percent of black voters, which means 85 percent still vote Democratic. Owens "proposing legislation" is pretty pointless. What they need to do is call these people out for what they are, bribe-seekers. They want that Bush money to run their churches.

[. . .]

The "Black Contract With America on Moral Values," to be unveiled today in Los Angeles, is designed to help African American churches gain influence in the Republican Party and promote socially conservative legislation. Highlights of the plan include:

Marriage: Focus on prohibiting same-sex marriage.

• Wealth creation: Private Social Security investment accounts and encouraging homeownership.

• Education: School vouchers, charter schools and boosting black enrollment in higher education.

• Prison reform: Including a "Second Chance Act," reentry programs and laws restoring the rights of felons.

• Africa: Intervention in Sudan and penalties against corporations that explore for oil in the region.

• Healthcare overhaul: Including programs to cover the poor.


[. . .]

Hell will become the new home of the NHL before the GOP does more than lip service on any of these issues. How dumb can you be? They just want some compliant negroes to push their agenda. Anyone with political savvy knows the GOP will never support most of this crap.


Yet there are some religious leaders in the black community on their knees, just waiting for their taste of Bush's choad.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

mmmmm . . . Beer

Via WTF:

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

[. . .]


Link.

What could I add?

Social Security reality

Krugman via David at 42:

[. . .]

Schemes for Social Security privatization, like the one described in the 2004 Economic Report of the President, invariably assume that investing in stocks will yield a high annual rate of return, 6.5 or 7 percent after inflation, for at least the next 75 years. Without that assumption, these schemes can't deliver on their promises. Yet a rate of return that high is mathematically impossible unless the economy grows much faster than anyone is now expecting. [my emphasis]

[. . .]


If my investments performed at a guaranteed 6.5 to 7%, my ass would be retired by now.

Update: 18:00:

Josh Marshall
:

Not a single Senate Democrat will support President Bush’s proposal to divert a portion of the Social Security payroll tax to personal investment accounts, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.

If he is right, Bush’s plan will be dead on arrival in the Senate, where a supermajority of 60 votes will be needed to overcome a filibuster by opponents. Republicans have 55 seats.


I'm doing the Dance of Joy. How's that for Democratic unity? I didn't think we had it in us.

The Homeland Security State (Part II)

Nick Turse in TomDispatch. Via Working For Change. Our post on Part I is here. The articles detail the whole range of surveillance, intelligence-gathering methods, and laws that threaten and invade our privacy in many matters, as far as Mr. Turse knows them. The "War on Terror" seems to spreading out to include all of us. It's long, but go read.
Today, freedom -- to be spread abroad by force of arms -- is increasingly a privilege that can be rescinded at home when anyone acts a little too free. Today, America is just another area of operations for the Pentagon; while those who say the wrong things; congregate in the wrong places; wear the wrong t-shirts; display the wrong stickers; or just look the wrong way find themselves recast as "enemies" and put under the eye of, if not the care of, the state. Today, a growing Homeland Security complex of federal, local, and private partners is hard at work establishing turf rights, garnering budgetary increases, and ramping up a new security culture nationwide. And, unfortunately, the programs and abuses highlighted in this series are but the publicly known tip of the iceberg.

Imagine if this last program were integrated with any of the aforementioned ventures -- in our increasingly brave new (blurred) world. Yet, for all their secret doings, vaunted programs, futuristic technologies and their powerful urge to turn all American citizens into various kinds of tractable database material, our new Homeland Security managers require one critical element: us. They require our "Eagle Eyes," our assent, and -- if not our outright support -- then our ambivalence and acquiescence. They need us to be their dime-store spies; they need us to drive their tracking device-equipped cars; they need us to accede to their revisions of the first amendment.

That simple fact makes us powerful. If you don't dig the Homeland Security State, do your best to thwart it. Of course, such talk, let alone action, probably won't be popular -- but since when has anything worthwhile, from working for peace to fighting for civil rights, been easy? If everyone was for freedom, there would be no need to fight for it. The choice is yours.

Why is our government afraid of ordinary citizens exercising their constitutional rights? Most people never see it that way. They're just living their lives.

Look, if I see anyone doing something that I think might be a precursor to any act of terror, damn right I'll snitch 'em off. It's my civic duty. Same with a major crime (unless I did it, of course!).

When they come to ask (or tell) me to simply spy on my neighbors, I'm gonna tell 'em to get fucked. Or perhaps I'll signify agreement by snapping to rigid attention, clicking my heels, extending my arm straight out, and saying "Heil Bush!" Yeah, maybe when pigs fly.

Links

In the ultimate of hypocrisy, I direct you to some good bloglinks. A qualification, eponymous has a list of Iraqi blogs in the sidebar and I direct you there. Stay and check out the posts too, of course.

Is this still America?

Found this via Pam:

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

[. . .]


Let that sink in a minute:

". . . newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing . . ."



Is Josef Goebbels writing the education syllabus in this country or maybe the old Soviet Politburo? Or is Jerry Falwell? WTF? When I went to school, my teachers impressed upon us, beat it into our heads, that once freedom of the press is curtailed, America goes down the tubes. That the only thing that separates us from tyranny is the transparency of government and the ability of the press to give us the Truth. If our kids think the press should be muzzled and censored, we've got BIG fucking problems in this country.

Update: 05:45:

The Ghost has this too. And I pilfered a comment from his post.

I blame the parents for that. So many kids are given everything they want, they do not value these freedoms. Of course, once they've been taken away and the kids have to fend for themselves, they will be kicking themselves. - old white lady


And just a thought before I head off to the shop. I never thought I'd see the day when Americans would be so nonchalant about giving up their rights.

Monday, January 31, 2005

He Should Only Hold His Breath 'Til He Turns Blue...

Shakespeare's Sister has a good post on Bush's arrested (we should be so lucky) development:
A stunted child in a colossal candy store, he is the ultimate spoiled child, with everyone around him catering to his every whim, indulging his fanciful desires, and never, ever, but never, telling him no. Those who may dare are quickly dismissed as disloyal, unpatriotic, or just plain wrong.

Attempts to find cohesion in his pet policies are futile, as whatever he fancies is what he pursues. There is, clearly, a theme that runs throughout many, though not all, of his proposals, which falls neatly under his label of “Ownership Society,” an ideology which itself exposes a puerile stinginess, with its emphasis on me over we. What is Bush’s proposed Social Security reform if not resistance against delayed gratification and a childish refusal to share?

Compromise, empathy, and sacrifice are concepts of a grown-up world. Consistency, compassion, and reason are not to be found in the purview of an arrested adolescent who mocks those at his mercy.

And the gloves come off! Boy, I don't want her mad at me. Not much chance of that, I guess, as long as Bush is around.

I wonder if Sis makes her living with a couch and sodium pentathol? More likely with whips and chains. Go read.

Branding

. . . So what the Republican Party has done is that it has co-branded with other powerful brands — like country music, and NASCAR, and church going, and this larger proud-to-be-a-redneck identity . . .


An excellent essay by Ezra Klein.

Squanderage

WASHINGTON - The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found.

[. . .]


AP

9 Bil would do a lot for the healthcare system here, maybe get ALL of our kids insured at the least. Instead it finds its way into the pockets of everybody on the Iraq Gravy Train.

Note: Remember, Bremer got the Medal of Freedom for this.

"And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?
We call it riding the gravy train." - Pink Floyd, Have a Cigar


Update: 15:05

Sister's got some good thoughts on this too.

The Bushies' War on FDR

Here's a good article on why the Bushies want to dismantle the New Deal. From Slate.
Dead going on 60 years, FDR still makes self-styled champions of American-style capitalism fulminate, much the same way their counterparts in the 1930s raged against "That Man." Why? The New Deal era reminds national greatness Republicans like Wehner of their party's futility in a time of true national greatness. I also suspect that many Republicans are simply unable to forgive Roosevelt for what may have been his greatest and longest-lasting achievement: saving American capitalism through regulation. And since they can't tear down the Triborough Bridge or the Hoover Dam, these guys act out by going after Social Security.

The theory that new taxes and regulation would inevitably hamper economic growth and destroy America exerted a powerful hold on the minds of the business establishment and the economic right in the 1930s—just as it does today. FDR's proposals seemed to fly in the face of everything these experts knew about how the economy works. In particular, FDR upended the hallowed equation: taxes and regulation equals tyranny and depression.

For 70 years, conservatives have been telling us that the American economy—whether it's in recession or whether it's booming—is laboring under the shackles of the burdensome taxation and misguided regulation placed upon it by FDR and his successors. Somehow, stocks would do better if the SEC were weaker and we'd all be wealthier if seniors weren't guaranteed a minimum income, funded through payroll taxes. But America's economic mastery since 1945 has served as an ongoing and constant refutation of their most dearly held beliefs. It still does today. As George Melloan concedes, "The New Deal basically expanded the reach of government, and things worked out OK." Actually, they worked out great. Some people still can't get over it.

So they're trying to undo the social progress of the last 70 years because it's working? And they're sore about it? What're they gonna say after they wreck the joint - "Oops!"? No, they'll just blame the citizens for being too lazy to work since they won't be able to blame Democrats, for once. Belay my last, they'll find a way. These guys won't even sponsor bread lines -a Communist program if there ever was one- but maybe they'll show compassion and offer folks with no money a discount on "day-old". I know, I'm a hopeless optimist.

What's next? Overturn the Magna Carta?

Get over it, indeed.

The elections Bush didn't want

From Needlenose:
As media coverage of today's elections in Iraq swims in phrases like "major test of President Bush's goal of promoting democracy," and as the Orwell Bush administration does everything it can to claim credit for their occurrence, it seems like a good moment to take a look back at how they really came about -- through a process in which Dubya and his crew were dragged against their will, kicking and screaming, every step of the way.

So, whatever his ultimate intentions for Iraq are, you can thank Grand Ayatollah Sistani for these elections -- his determination made them happen, and his fervent endorsement of voting gave them whatever level of success they achieve. George Bush? He's claiming credit on the surface, but away from the cameras he's grimacing and scheming to keep Sistani from forcing any more unwanted democracy down his throat.

Go read in between the quotes. Once again, it seems, something happened that Bush didn't really want, but since it happened he's claiming credit for it as if it was his idea all along.

Also, "Bush's Resounding Success" from Politics Of Dissent, whose masthead reads "The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself. Archibald MacLeish". The post questions the validity of the elections.

Resigned from the herd? Sounds better than being resigned to the herd, huh?

Good Presidents

Robbed this from Doug McDaniel's post on lying Secretaries of State.

The following day, Harrison delivered the longest innaugural address in American history. The President spoke for more than two hours in the rain, caught pneumonia, and died less than a month later. For this, some conservatives say he is the greatest President in American history. Vice President Tyler was inaugurated and Webster remained Secretary of State.


Oh, to dream for deja vu.

Note: Ya think Gordon and I are on to something?

Iraq vote 3

Well, it's over, and I guess it's a success, except for the Sunni areas. Now, stay tuned for Instashithead and all the rest of the freepers to go on and on about how this validates Bush's policies in Iraq.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

How's your ass?

100 Companies Receiving The Largest Dollar Volume Of Prime Contract Awards - Fiscal Year 2004. Feel used? Link via Kevin Hayden.

Iraq Elections and Feith-Based Broadcasting

I'm really glad I stumbled on Wolcott some time back. He's got two really good posts, one on the Iraqi election, and one on Feith's new job. You can figure out for yourself which is which. Here's some ticklers:
Yesterday on one of the Fox financial shows, James Rogers, author of Investment Biker, commodities guru, and neighbor-down-the-block (an utterly irrelevant detail I thought I'd toss in to make this blog sound more "personal"), was asked by host Neil Cavuto whether the elections in Iraq would be successful. Rogers said, "They'll be successful because the media will say they're successful," adding impishly, "Fox News probably already has the results."

They must have a bunch of Ohio election workers over there.
However, I can exclusively report that the Pentagon's gain is broadcasting's loss. According to my highly placed imaginary sources in a certain skyscraper on Sixth Avenue, Feith has just been signed by Fox News, which intends to build a weekend show around him called "Feith and Friends."

Breaking the news to the wage slaves and overpaid hosts at Fox, Roger Ailes said, "When I heard that General Tommy Franks had described Feith as 'the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the planet,' I knew he was the man for us." Ailes took a George Burns draw on his cigar. "But I was also taken aback, since I thought we already had the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the planet listed on our payroll," he said, stealing a sly glance at Sean Hannity, who jovially quipped, "I guess that makes me the second fucking stupidest guy on the planet!" "And me, third!" piped up Cal Thomas.

Asked whom the "friends" on Feith and Friends might be, Ailes said he was already in contact with Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher. "A black conservative on the take, a white woman on the take, and the fucking stupidest guy on the planet--sounds like the right mix to me. Certainly no one can say Fox News isn't doing its part for multiculturalism," Ailes chortled, leaving the cafeteria staff no choice but to join in.

Me, I think power and success have gone to Roger Ailes' cigar-smoke-filled head. Doug Feith has an annoying voice and in his Senate testimonies never displayed any talent for bantering with sidekicks or getting off a clever ad lib. Even on television, being stupid isn't enough; you've got to have other things going for you, too.

Being stupid isn't enough? Oh well, there went my broadcasting career. Well, maybe on Fox......

Remember Scott Ritter?

From our friends at PSoTD:

[. . .]

But, through the invasion of Iraq, a crime of gigantic proportions has been perpetrated. If history has taught us anything, it is that it will condemn both the individuals and respective societies who not only perpetrated the crime, but also remained blind and mute while it was being committed.

The Soviet

[. . .]

But now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling. The Bush team has expanded the use of "minders," employees or volunteers who escort journalists from interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.

[. . .]

As I was dictating from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged woman, her face afire with rage. "You ignored the rules, and I'm throwing you out!" she barked, snapping my phone shut. "You told that girl you didn't need an escort. That's a lie! You're out of here!"

[. . .]


WaPo via Skippy.

Those of you who are my age and older remember this happening when journalists reported from inside the old Soviet Union. For those of you younger, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian society. Draw your own consclusions.

Words I'd Like To Hear From Bush

"Oh my God! I've been shot!"

A New DUI

From the NYTimes:
To the list of the unforeseen hazards that seem to plague the information age, we can now add another: "drunk dialing."

This late-night cellular faux pas joins such exalted company as the "mistaken dial" (when your mobile phone, inadvertently prompted, dials a number in your address book by mistake) and the annoying ring tone that can interrupt big job interviews or Communion service.

But unlike its predecessors, drunk dialing usually limits itself to times long after the close of business and beyond the daily commute. It is in those dark hours of late night and wee hours of early morn, when most people have retired their cellphones for overnight charging, that intoxicated revelers flip open their cellphones and dial into regret.

Holy shit. Now I've heard everything and have no more reason to live. Will somebody please shoot me?

Note

To John Kerry: Don't run for President in 2008. I ain't voting for ya.

Blogrolling Day

I know our friends, and esteemed colleagues, over at PSoTD (and others) have instituted a tradition of pointing out new blogs every Friday. Well, I don't, because adding blogs that I like is a 'whenever I stumble across one' proposition. I wrote about my not making a big deal over adding to the list. Every blog listed in the sidebar is good, in my humble opinion, or they wouldn't be there. If you haven't yet, read them all regularly.

Iraq vote 2

Early indications show a 72% turnout. We should be ashamed of ourselves over here.

Update: 11:50:

Juan Cole:

Guerrillas launched mortar and suicide bomb attacks at polling stations throughout Iraq on Sunday as thousands of Iraqis headed to the polls. As many as 27 were dead by 1 pm Iraqi time, with several times that wounded.

[. . .]

You can wipe your ass with it

I've been bitching for a while about what Chimpy's economic policies have been doing to the dollar. (here and here).

. . . I still have some of the old 50,000 and 100,000 [Weimar]DM notes that were printed without backing, devalued almost to the point of used toilet paper.


Today, I stumble upon this, via Melanie:

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Bill Gates, the world's richest person with a net worth of $46.6 billion, is betting against the U.S. dollar.

"I'm short the dollar," Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., told Charlie Rose in an interview late yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down."

Gates's concern that widening U.S. budget and trade deficits are undermining the dollar was echoed in Davos by policymakers including European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

[. . .]

Gates's $27 billion foundation in September received approval from China's foreign-currency regulator to invest as much as $100 million in the nation's yuan shares and bonds.

[. . .]


Now, love or hate Bill Gates, you have to admit that he knows what he's doing with regards to money. If Gates is bailing on the buck, I'm calling my investment guy tomorrow and moving anything I have in currency hedges to Euros(I got a personal problem with investing in communist countries). I suggest all you folks who don't have hedge funds to start screaming at your elected representatives to curb the White House spending orgy before the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Europeans foreclose on us. And no, I don't consider myself unAmerican by investing in Euros. Chimpy & Co has made an art form out of wasting my money, I ain't wasting my retirement helping to prop up a currency that Bush is trying to destroy.

Reality bites

Via Oliver Willis:

(PUTNEY, Ky., January 20th, 2005, 5 p.m.) -- A man whose religious conversion prompted him to turn his adult novelty shop into a Christian bookstore is giving up because of poor sales.

[. . .]

Braithwaite had a conversion in 2002 after he was booked on charges of distributing obscene materials at his Love World store. He decided to burn all the leather gear, rubber playthings and other naughty merchandise and convert his business into a Bible bookstore named Mike's Place. The obscenity charges were dropped.

[. . .]


Unfortunately, even in Kentucky, porn sells better than Bibles. When he put the store up for sale, Ol' Mike said:

"When you've done all you can do, you turn it over into God's hands," . . .


Maybe God liked porn better too. Now, I'm sure the Jesus freaks would tell ya that the Libruls are at fault for dragging the country's morality into a steaming cesspool of wanton desire. But, what Ol' Mike and the local preacher don't get:

The Rev. John Ditty, pastor of Harlan Baptist Church, said Mike's Place may be the victim of department stores that can sell Bibles at lower prices.


Is that even good Christians look at porn. Probably more than they look at their Bibles. There's a reason porn is the biggest industry on the Internets and a multi-billion dollar a year business. Now we can debate all day about whether this propensity for porn is the Devil's work, but it ain't just the blue state, anal sex loving, sodomites who are buying it. Tell me though, one thing I don't get.

I understand the Christians' distaste for pornography, though I make light of it, but why not the same outrage against violence? Personally, I'd rather my kid see a loving couple express their passion than Rambo kill everybody just because he can.

More hope

An update to my post last week.

TEL AVIV, Jan. 29 -- A meeting between Israel's defense minister and a top Palestinian security official Saturday went well, Israeli officials said, as the two sides try to reconcile widely differing expectations for an upcoming summit between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

[. . .]

Israeli officials described a "good, positive atmosphere," and said the two men would meet again in the coming days. Dahlan left the hotel without speaking to reporters.

The talks were part of preparations for a summit between Abbas and Sharon expected in the second week of February. The summit would be a crucial step in the push to end four years of hostilities and revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

[. . .]


WaPo.

If nothing else goes right in the Middle East this year, I hope this does. Maybe . . . hopefully, the Israelis and Palestinians have had it with war. Peace in the Holy Land will go a lot father to bring 'freedom' and 'democracy' to the region than anything Bush can fuck up . . . er, do in Iraq.

Iraq vote

Good luck to all the Iraqi people who go out to vote today. You're in our prayers.