Monday, January 31, 2005

Look at the Media

Last week we covered the Press Conference President Bush held, including this interesting question, "Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

Well Media Matters for America has some insight into the guy (Jeff Gannon) who asked the question. Turns out he's more or less who you would assume him to be based on that question. Apparently Gannon works for Talon News, which is a very tiny right wing website, and is a regular poster at Free Republic.

In other news, here's another argument suggesting that Maggie Gallagher and others shouldn't be held accountable for taking Government money to express their opinions. After all NPR takes all kinds of government money, and we don't find them objectionable. Yep. Of course National Public Radio sort of gives it away right there in their name, don't they? Unlike Maggie Gallagher and Armstrong Williams who didn't really tell anybody they were shilling for the Bush Administration.

Election Day

I'm filled with mixed feelings about the Elections in Iraq, but not mixed desires. I hope that the election is a success (certainly it looks good based on what has been reported so far). But, while part of me is heartened by what happened yesterday, another part of me is concerned that this may be just the an up day in a much larger catastrophe.

Still is there is to be any hope at all, it is in what happened yesterday.

The New York Times also reviewed the election, saying;
Yet today, along with other Americans, whether supporters or critics of the war, we rejoice in a heartening advance by the Iraqi people. For now at least, the multiple political failures that marked the run-up to the voting stand eclipsed by a remarkably successful election day.

But once the votes are fully counted and the new governing and constitution-writing bodies begin their work, those errors, particularly the needless estrangement of mainstream Sunni Arabs and their political leaders, must be urgently addressed. In the longer run, this election can only be counted as a success if it helps lead to a unified Iraq that avoids civil war and attracts a broad enough range of Iraqis to defend itself against its enemies without requiring long-term and substantial American military help.

That day has now become easier to envision. But it still appears very far off.
We'll just have to hope. Oh, and keep the fire on the Bush Administration so they don't get any bright ideas about going somewhere else in the region.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Higher Standard

As many of you know, Alberto Gonzales is being considered for the Attorney General of the United States. As you probably also know, Gonzales in his current role, has been an enabler of torture (although he has since recanted, as has President Bush). Nevertheless, Gonzales helped create a legal climate in which the United States of America has tortured individuals, both in Iraq and in Guantenemo.

I'm not going to waste your time with a long argument about why torture is indefensible, on both a moral and a practical level (One of the more frustrating things about this debate is how those who favor torture portray themselves as hardheaded grownups. In reality, they often seem to me as operating in a childish revenge driven mindset. But that is neither here nor there.).

Instead I just ask you to consider what America means and ask yourself if torture reflects well on what America means.

It reminds me of a line from the West Wing episode "Someone's Going to Emergency, Someone's Going to Jail," spoken by Sam Seaborne. He is responding to treason committed by an American in giving secrets to the Soviets during the Cold War. But I can see an application to this day as well.
This country is an idea. And one that's lit the whole world for two centuries. And treason against that idea is not just a crime against the living. This crime holds the graves of people who have died for it. Who gave what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion.
Consider once more if torture reflects well on the idea of America. And consider if the man who held the rhetorical cloaks of the torturers should be this nations attorney general.

New Quote

As previously mentioned we are now changing the format only every other week, and this is an off week. So another week with the monster. Also updated the Quotes Page.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Down in the Subway

Here's another edition of Down in the Subway, this week spotlighting the Washington Underground. There's an interesting post on how the invasion of Iraq may have negative consequences. Anyway go check it out and leave a comment saying hello!

Round the Horn and the Dangers of Leaves

I just want to report that this morning for a brief period of time I was afraid of a leaf. I had opened the door and was heading out when I realized I should probably put on a jacket, so I turned around and saw something big and dark scuttle across the floor near my feet. After a moment I realized it was a leaf, and calmed down--but it was a moment of confusion.

Moving on.

And then . . . considers the pampered life of those (like Jonah Goldberg) who are comfortable with Torture.

blogAmY has some comments on the Kids Come First program, designed to help children get the medical attention they deserve.

Chris "Lefty" Brown has some thoughts on a recent plot twist at Law and Order.

Collective Sigh puts a human face on the ups and downs of the stock market (where Bush wants to put Social Security, if you'll recall).

Rooks Rant has a piece on a prediction President Bush made in 1988 about Social Security.

Dohiyi Mir has a story on how some Democrats are challenging the one party rule in the House and Senate.

Gamer's Nook has an interesting factoid about the new Secretary of States confirmation.

MercuryX23's Fantabulous Blog has a letter from his Congressperson about the proposed Delay rule.

Steve Gilliard's News Blog has a story on the rough and tumble world of pre-teen soccer.

Trish Wilson's Blog has hypothetical legal situations for those who want to test their minds.

And that's it for another week. Remember keep watching the leaves.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Chile And Social Security

Good article at the Times on how Private Retirement Accounts worked in Chile. They have not performed as advertised, apparently.
For all the program's success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others - because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally - remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.

Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.
Worth reading for a hint at how the Bush plan might work.

The Beat Goes On!

The new Chemical Brothers album (Push the Button) just came out, and it is super good, particularly "Hold Tight London," "Close Your Eyes," and "The Boxer." I don't know if it will be a big hit (frankly I suspect it won't, unfortunately), but it certainly shows that the Chemical Brothers are on top of their game.

It's interesting because we have had strong releases by both The Prodigy (Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned) and Fatboy Slim (Palookaville), certainly releases that equal or surpass the albums they put out when the recording world was trying to push Electronica. Take Fatboy Slimps Palookaville (2004) and You've Come a Long Way, Baby (1998). While You've Come A Long Way Baby has some undeniable singles ("The Rockefeller Skank" and "Praise You") the rest of the album can't really compare to Palookaville either on tunesmanship or on breadth.

Not to say that it's not a great album, but it's an album from an earlier time, when Fatboy Slim (and most Electronic artists) seemed to have a narrower idea about what kind of music they could put out.

At any rate, all three albums are great, although Push the Button seems the best to me just now.

Examiner finds man breathing in morgue

The Associated Press is reporting that a man in Raleigh North Carolina was found breathing in the Morgue. Here with additional commentary is Irwin J. McIckleson, a fictional 1910s plutocrat.
Once again we see that this modern world has abandoned the traditions that made this country great. Remember it was tradition that caused the United States to break away from England. And it was tradition that led the North to victory over the South in the Civil War. And you have abandoned tradition.

In my day it was considered indecent for anybody to breath in the morgue. It was a terrible strain on our morgue workers, having to dash in holding their breath, working until they turned blue and then dashing back out. But it was worth it. Because it was tradition. And also because the souls of dead men would try to enter their bodies through the mouth and cause sickness and dementia. So you see this tradition was based on wise consideration. But you, foolish future men, you have opened yourself up to madness by allowing your morgue attendants to work in the morgues will breathing!
Upon reflection, Mr. McIckleson's words may not be entirely germane to the story, but he makes some . . . points and I need to fill up the page somehow.

Listening vs. Talking

Thomas L. Friedman rights a correct, if somewhat obtuse, column today on how President Bush might improve our relations with Europe. He suggests that the next time President Bush swings through Europe, he tries listening instead of speaking.
If Mr. Bush did that none of the European pundits would be able to pick apart his speeches here and mock the contradictions between his words and deeds. None of them would comment on his delivery and what he failed to mention. Instead, all the European commentators, politicians and demonstrators would start fighting with one another over what to say to the president. It might even force the Europeans to get out of their bad habit of just saying, "George Bush," and everybody laughing or sneering as if that ends the conversation, and Europe doesn't have to declare what it stands for.

Listening is also a sign of respect. It is a sign that you actually value what the other person might have to say. If you just listen to someone first, it is amazing how much they will listen to you back. Most Europeans, though, are convinced that George Bush is deaf - that he cannot listen or hear.
This isn't a bad idea. But Mr. Friedman doesn't consider how President Bush and his supporters look at Europe. It's been clear that a lot on the right don't think that Europe is worth the respect that listening would require. That was a clunky sentance so let me put it another way. Europe doesn't have anything to say that President Bush and his supporters think is worth listening to.

Maybe a scene from The Simpsons Episode 1F19, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" will make my point.

Blonde (Europe): Freddy honey? I think something just dropped into the back seat.
Freddy (President Bush's America): I'm not paying you to talk.
So while this is good advice, President Bush would risk offending a lot of his supporters to do it. He would also have to face criticism something neither he nor Karl Rove are much interested in. So, while it might be a good idea, it's not going to happen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Remember the Math

President Bush gave a press conference today, where he answered a lot of questions predominately on Iraq and on Social Security. On Iraq, President Bush still isn't able to come up with any mistakes he might have made but at least he avoided the question better this time.

On Social Security has one idea that he's kind of latched onto.
. . . And here's the problem: the -- as dictated by just math, there is -- the system will be in the red in 13 years, and in 2042 the system will be broke. That's because people are living longer, and the number of people paying into the Social Security trust is dwindling.

. . . The threshold question is, will Congress -- is Congress willing to say we have a problem. We do have a problem. The math shows we have a problem. And now is the time to act on the problem. And once people realize there's a problem, then I believe there's an obligation for all sides to bring forth ideas.

. . . I am going to continue to speak directly to the American people about this issue and remind them about the math; and remind them that if you're a senior, nothing changes; and speak to the younger folks coming up about the forecasts.
Here is some math President Bush would like you to remember.

h The Social Security System will be running a deficit in 2017-2018 and the trustfund will be empty in 2042.

h If this happens, the system will require benefit cuts and / or tax increases.

Here is some math that President Bush would like you to not remember.

y The United States government is running an enormous deficit due to poor fiscal policies forwarded by the Bush Administration.

y The Social Security projections (showing it falling apart in 2042) are based on pessimistic assumptions about the future of the American Economy. The promised benefits of personal accounts are based on optimistic assumptions about the future of the American Economy. It is unlikely that both scenarios will play out at the same time.

y Personal accounts will be much more expensive to maintain as compared to how social security costs (where less that 2% is siphoned off to pay for administrative costs).

On the plus side President Bush is promising not to cut benefits to current seniors. Although that begs the question of how he is going to pay for the transition costs.

Also for those of you who believe we have a liberal media, check out these questions.
Q. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

. . . Q. Mr. President, we saw the Democrats yesterday devote nine hours to Ms. Rice. We may see something similar with regard to Judge Gonzales. There's just simply a lot of anger on the Hill by Democrats at you, personally, and at your administration. And isn't this going to dog your efforts at whatever you do down the line, from the Supreme Court to immigration to whatever?
Yeah those were some real toughies from the "liberal" press corps.

A Quotation

From John Adams Inaugural Address.
In the midst of these pleasing ideas we should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the Government may be the choice of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good.
Of course, by Adams lights the existence of parties at all would be seen as a corrupting influence on the will of the people. Still something to think about.

The Battle over History

I am not a plumber and I have minimal training in plumbing, therefore I would be loath to give advice on how to lay pipes.

I am not a mechanic and I have minimal training in how to fix cars, therefore I would advise you to go to a mechanic rather than me to get your car fixed.

I am not a historian, and I have only a few high school classes in history under my belt, but I can tell you for a fact what really happened during the civil war and what snooty college professor types are trying to shove down our throats.

The New York Times has an editorial today on a recently published book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History."

Much of the time when you see someone banging on about being politically incorrect it means they have a racial slur or a misogynist observation to share with you. To be fair, sometimes it just means they are a person who wants to assert their own individuality by rejection an imposed morality (just like everybody else).

At any rate Thomas Woods Jr. (the author of the book) is probably not in the later category.
Most ominously, it ["The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History."] makes an elaborate argument that the 14th Amendment was "never constitutionally ratified" because of irregularities in how it was adopted. This, too, is a pet cause of the fringe right, one the Supreme Court has rejected. If it prevailed, it would undo Brown v. Board of Education and many other rulings barring discrimination based on race, religion and sex. But Mr. Woods does not carry his argument to its logical conclusion. If the 14th Amendment was not properly ratified, neither, it would seem, was the 13th, which was adopted under similar circumstances, and slavery should be legal.
It strikes me that the goal of this book has nothing to do with uncovering historical accuracy and everything to do with colonizing the past. Woods wants to discover an American history that confirms his prejudices.

Oh, and in real life I do have a MA in American History.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Carrot and the Stick

There are pretty much two ways to motivate people, the Carrot (or the hope for a positive result) and the Stick (or the hope to avoid a negative result). Rich Lowry today urges President Bush to stop using the stick so much in the Social Security debate.

Lowry notes that Social Security crisis is some 40 years out so it's hard to get people worked up about it now. To his credit, Lowry doesn't mention those worthless IOUs. Rather he'd like to see President Bush forsaking on the positive aspects of his Social Security phase out plan.
Bush must keep his priorities straight: Private accounts are what he campaigned for, they are relatively popular, and they will create more savers and investors in America, shifting the electorate in a more pro-free-market direction over time. By focusing on the private accounts, Bush will stay on the strongest possible rhetorical ground, offering a better, new deal for younger workers. Any eventual compromise with Congress will have to include some measures to improve Social Security's finances -- if nothing else than to reassure the financial markets -- but it won't have to solve everything in one fell swoop. Who cares if Congress in, say, 2020 has to come back to adjust the program's financing again?
A few points might help clear this up. Democrats are largely in favor of Personal Retirement plans; but feel that they should be implemented on top of Social Security, not instead of Social Security.

Secondly, a quick conundrum. The projections to show that Social Security will run out of money in 2042 are based on the assumption that economic growth will be slow--2-3%. If the economy grows faster than that, say at 6%, than the trust fund will last considerably longer. One interesting note. In projecting how much money the new social security private accounts will save, you have to make certain assumptions, such as how fast the economy will grow. Well in order to sell private accounts as bringing in a lot of money they have generally assumed that past economic growth rates (right around 6%) will hold.

Or to put it another way, if the economic projections that project a crisis in Social Security hold, it's unlikely that private accounts will make enough money to make a difference. On the other hand, if the economy grows at a rate where private accounts will bring in an adequate amount of money, than Social Security isn't really in a crisis at all.

Something to think about.

In other Social Security news, Jack Kemp writes an article today that starts with this crowdpleasing paragraph.
In the face of an audacious stonewall by Democrats against President Bush's ownership society vision, personal retirement accounts in particular, there is growing pessimism among some conservatives. A few Republicans fear that aggressively pursuing the vision could endanger their congressional majorities.
I'd just like to point out that President Bush has yet to propose a social security plan, and that no voting or parliamentary procedures have been taking place in regards to this issue. So I'm not sure how Democrats are stonewalling President Bush. Unless "stonewalling" is a new Republican word for disagreeing (Republicans love making honest disagreements sound like vicious stabs in the back).

The rest of Kemp's argument compares the debt question of the Revolutionary era with the Social Security Crisis of today, in order to suggest that phasing out Social Security is a step forward. Personally I see it the other way. Alexander Hamilton and George Washington worked to figure out a way to pay the debt owed America's Creditors. In the same vein President Bush needs to figure out a way to pay back the debt owed America by saving the Social Security Program, not thrusting the risk back onto the people he owes the money too.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sometimes I'm not Very Bright

I just saw this picture over at the New York Times attached to an article entitled "Northeast Digs Out of Deadly Blizzard."

My first thought? "Boy is that an elaborate Ice Sculpture."

Yeah, not my finest moment.

Edwin J. Feulner is a Filthy Prevaricator

Actually I don't know anything about Mr. Feulner's hygiene, so it's possible, even probable that he is actually a neat and tidy prevaricator. defines preverication as "To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate." Let's see if Mr. Feulner fits this description.

Here's a section from his latest article on the Social Security "crisis."
Over the next 75 years, Social Security is scheduled to pay out $27 trillion more in benefits than it will take in through payroll taxes. PRAs would close that gap.(1) Without them we'll have to raise taxes or slash benefits - or both - to keep the program going.

Of course, there are some who still deny the country faces a problem. "The system is not in crisis; it has money to last for about the next half century, and even then, if nothing is done the required benefit cuts would still leave retirees better off than those getting benefits today," the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote in a recent editorial.

Unfortunately, that assumes that Social Security can really rely on its trust fund to pay benefits. There are billions of dollars worth of IOUs in that fund, but no real money. (2) So, in 2018 when the program starts spending more in benefits than it takes in through taxes, the government will still need to increase taxes or cut spending in order to pay those IOUs out of general revenues.
Here are where Mr. Feulner misses the mark in an attempt to deceive the American people.

1. Mr. Feulner guarantees that Personal Retirement Accounts would close the gap. In theory he can believe what ever he likes; but the evidence doesn't exactly point towards his theory. For one thing setting up and maintaining the PRAs will drain a lot of money out of the system. For another it's impossible to know how much money these PRAs will actually produce.

2. The money in the Social Security Trust fund, as we have mentioned many times, is in United State Government Treasuries. I don't know what is wrong with conservatives who seem determined to tear down America. The America I know is an honest country who pays her debts. Conservatives see us as a deadbeat nation who won't (or can't) pay off her debts. You decide which you think describes us better.

3. This isn't a deception actually, although Mr. Feulner would probably prefer you not to think about why this situation arises. Feulner also suggests that, because we are a deadbeat nation, raising taxes won't work because we'd just spend the money anyway.

Edited because I consistently mispelled Mr. Feulner's name.

More on Social Security

There's an interview with the long-suffering economist Paul Krugman over at Rolling Stone. I say long-suffering because Krugman has been patiently explaining some of the economic issues for quite a long time, and it has to be hard to figure out new ways to explain them in his New York Times editorials. Anyway it's a good interview, and I particularly liked this exchange.
In selling the idea that there's a crisis, Bush has a lot of powerful words on his side: "choice," "freedom," "ownership society." What words do you have to counter his sales job?

Scam. Three-card monte. I've been thinking a lot about flying pigs. The privateers are claiming that you can have something for nothing. They're basically saying, "Let's assume that pigs can fly." And when you say, "You know, it's not good to assume that pigs can fly," they respond by saying, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand the enormous advantage of flying pigs?"
Personally I've never understood the advantage to flying pigs. I mean wouldn't that make it harder to get bacon or ham or pork chops?

Steel Cage Match

Some of you might think it's alarmist of Liberals to suggest that the Conservatives might prefer destroying Social Security to saving it. If you feel this way, I'd advise you to check out this article from the Claremont Institute. Mr. Masugi, writing on their behalf, sets up President Bush's second term inaugural as a chance for him to respond to and reject FDR's 1944 State of the Union speech.
FDR (aided by Woodrow Wilson) transformed the earlier understanding of equality by making the Declaration an instrument of class warfare and a means of overthrowing limited government.

Bush's challenge is to overthrow the FDR legacy. It appears he knows what he's doing. In his New Yorker profile of Bush advisor Karl Rove, Nicholas Lemann concludes that "Rove's Republican-majority America would be not just pre-Great Society, and not just pre-New Deal, but pre-Progressive era. Rove's intellectual hero is James Madison."
Nice. I guess we don't have to accuse the Bush administration of building a bridge to the 21th century (no disrespect to James Madison intended). I should also point out that Masugi makes it clear that he expects President Bush to reject FDR's entire legacy (including Social Security, one would assume), not just the 1944 inaugural speech.

Of course the Claremont institute isn't completely satisfied with President Bush's inaugural speech. For one thing he concedes too much to multiculturalism (I have more to say on this subject, but will leave it for another post). For another, he didn't vilify his political enemies as Terrorists, like FDR did.
Having set his goals so high, Bush should remember FDR's admonition in the State of the Union Address he is answering:

'One of the great American industrialists of our day - a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis - recently emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop - if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920's - then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.'

In the midst of WW II FDR was calling his conservative Republican opponents Nazis. If President Bush wants realignment he will have to pay his Democratic opponents back in kind, as he sets about creating freedom abroad and restoring it at home. Such are the means by which the truths of the Declaration of Independence will be revived. I eagerly await his State of the Union Address.
Of course it's kind of a stretch to suggest that President Roosevelt was condemning republicans as fascists. He was talking about some potential factory owners, while making it clear that other factory owners saw the same dangers he did. To put it in historical perspective, one of the reasons German and Italian companies went along with facism was that it solved all the messy problems of unions and workers rights. It's not hard to believe that some of America's capitalists might be attracted to the same sort of philosophy.

On the other hand, the only connections between Liberal Democrats and Islamic Terrorists is that neither of us thinks much of President Bush. The truth is in their program and in the type of society they want to create, Islamic Terrorists have more in common with Christian Fundamentalists than with Liberal Democrats. But my guess is that the Claremont Institute would rather not see them vilified as terrorist sympathizers.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

New Format, New Quote, comments on "unscripted" television!

Yep. And we have finally updated the Quotes Page. So hooray. Also this week's logo had an assist from frequent poster "Random Goblin."

Watched the first new episode of the Apprentice (season 3) last night, and I am having trouble with the term unscripted television, often used to describe reality shows. Because we have three seasons of apprentice and in all cases one particular drama seems to play out. The Sammy Scenario. In the first season, there was this guy called Sam who went in the board room three times and was finally eliminated because nobody on his time liked him and they all agreed that he had no future in the Trump Organization. In the second season, there was a character named Stacy J. who fulfilled the same role.

And now in the third season we have Danny (spoilers follow). It helps (in my book anyway) that he reminds me distinctly of Peter Buck (guitarist for R.E.M. with whom he shares a certain fashion sense) and Michael Moore (the facial features, and certain mannerisms). He takes a long time to come up with a pretty crummy promotional scheme, but Mr. Trump doesn't fire him because the real problem was that they couldn't sell the burgers even as fast as he brought people in because they didn't have enough people working the cash registers. So Danny lives another week, and if the pattern holds he will probably get another week after that.

Anyway it seems to be following a pretty solid script on that score--one Sammy per season of the Apprentice. But last season they couldn't really come up with another Omarosa (the break out character of the first season), nor could they come up with another Troy (the likeable character of the first season). We'll have to see how this season goes.

So you see we here at Make me a Commentator!!! are not just focused on Social Security.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Minor Links Changes

You might notice I made a few changes in the Links section, besides adding There Is no Crisis over there. A few links weren't really good anymore. But do go check out There is no Crisis.

I Think the Answers Yes

For those who do not know, there is a new movie about Ann Coulter, entitled "Is It True What They Say About Ann?” Check out the DVD case right here.

All the graphical splendor one might expect of bootleg video tapes at the local swapmeet.

The DVD "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" also discusses Anns love for the Grateful Dead and the Ramones. "Friend of the Devil" perhaps?

Anyway, I've said that Ann is nuttier than three squirrels, so I guess this video will tell you whether or not that is true. But for my guess on the answer to this particular question, check out the title of this post.

Oh and for those of you who are curious, my favorite Grateful Dead song is "Uncle John's Band," off of Workingman's Dead.

Down in the Subway

Here's another website you might find interesting. One set up by the University of Kansas Young Democrats. In particular this post contemplating what the future of the Democratic Party ought to be is particularly good.

Round the Horn

Here we are for anther session of Round the Horn

Kick the Leftist is back after a hiatus, and are rededicating themselves to finding the lighter side of politics.

If you can't get enough Liberal Coalition (and lord knows I can't), Bark Bark Woof Woof also does a Friday Blogaround of the entire Liberal Coalition. For which I salute him. Also he has some thoughts on listening to the elections and the cliche factor.

Iddybud also watched the inauguration and has some questions about President Bush's use of the word Freedom.

Sooner Thought has an article by Greg Palast on inauguration day.

Speedkill has some thoughts on the idea that Hip-Hop will unite the Masses.

Scrutiny Hooligans has the story that Jerry Corsi, who was involved with the Swift Boat Liars, is apparently considering running for Kerry's seat in the Senate.

The Fulcrum covers the outgoing Attorney General's contention that the Patriot Act got a bum rap. I had a bum rap once, but the doctor gave me some ointment and it cleared right up.

The Invisible Library has a post on writing and the changes an author must sometimes make to make his work work.

Trish Wilson's Blog has some commentary on the apparent practice of proselytizing in the digital world of Laederon. Otherwise known as World of Warcraft, one of my current addictions.

Well that's it for another edition of Round the Horn. We will have our spotlight of a new or small blog shortly.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Happiness is a Trap

At least that seems to be the opinion of Daniel Gilbert (Harvard professor of Psychology), as expressed in this editorial at the New York Times. Gilbert's article is on how we Democrats are reacting to President Bush's inauguration. Basically his thesis is that most people have developed coping mechanisms to deal with these kinds of disappointments. We will find the silver lining.

Of course he suggests we will find the silver lining in pettiness and low-grade hypocrisy.
So when President Bush puts his hand on the Bible today and begins his second term, Republicans will not be the only ones thinking about how lucky they are. Democrats will surely remind one another that the dollar is down, the deficit is up, foreign relations are in disarray and the party that presides over this looming miasma may well have elected its last president for decades to come.

At the same time, Democrats will tell themselves that they did everything they could - they wrote more checks and cast more ballots than ever before - so if the president and his party insist that Democrats now enjoy a fat tax break, then why feel guilty?
The funny thing is, this is something I've said (well not the part about the Tax Cuts) a few times. The country is kind of a mess, and President Bush and the conservative philosophy he espouses should be presented with the bill for that mess. But now that I see the idea in other words it does strike me as a little petty. President Bush isn't really going to have to pay much of a price, compared to the working class in this country or the soldiers in Iraq.

I also don't know what to make of the end of Gilbert's essay. ". . . tomorrow it will be a nation - and not a party - that faces the dire problems of war, terrorism, poverty and intolerance. Perhaps over the next four years we would all be wise to suppress our natural talent for happiness and strive instead to be truly, deeply distressed." Is Gilbert suggesting we need to get distressed at President Bush and hold his feet to the fire? Or is he suggesting we need to get distressed at the problems America is facing and stand with President Bush to solve them (which would kind of ignore the fact that some of these problems were, more or less, created by President Bush)?

At any rate, I think we should be distressed about where President Bush has taken and is taking our country. I think we should be upset. I think that even anger is a not inappropriate response to some of the actions President Bush has taken. But we can't let our anger consume us. We can't simply rail against the injustices of the Bush administration, against a foreign policy built around belligerence and a domestic policy built around helping those who need little help and hurting those who are already hurting. Instead we need to discover and present a different vision for America. We need to discover America again, not just in our capital, but in our states, in our cities, in our communities and in our homes. That's really the only long term way to counter this current political climate.

FDR and GWB and possibly other letters

I don't watch commercials all that much, so I've missed a few here and there. In particular I've missed this political nugget in which President Frankly D. Roosevelt's courage in setting up Social Security is compared to President George W. Bush's courage in dismantling Social Security. Joe Conason, however, has some accurate commentary on the weakness of the argument.
The ad's not-so-subliminal suggestions are that George W. Bush equals Franklin D. Roosevelt, and that Mr. Bush seeks to honor Roosevelt.

While that reassuring ad was still running on the cable networks, a confidential White House memo got leaked to the press. Written by Peter Wehner, an aide to political boss Karl Rove, the memo outlined the President's strategy for pursuing changes in Social Security. After explaining why the White House must create a sense of crisis about the system's future, and arguing that there should be sharp cuts in benefits, Mr. Wehner touted the true ideological aim of this campaign.

"For the first time in six decades," he wrote, "the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country." Of course, the last time Republicans "lost" the Social Security debate was in 1935, when they tried to block the program's creation. They lost again in 1964, when their Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, wanted to abolish the system and lost all but six states in an historic landslide. Mr. Wehner's remarks raise the suspicion that he means not to protect but to overturn Roosevelt's landmark achievement, which remains the most successful social program in American history.

There could hardly be any tactic more deceptive than appropriating Roosevelt to undo his legacy, but that ad man's lie represents the pervasive fraudulence of the White House sales effort.
The ad was created by a group called "Progress for America" who also reprints various articles calling for the Phase Out / Privitization schemes of the Bush White House. One of them, from the Wall Street Journal, contained this interesting passage. "Defenders of the 70-year-old status quo cry that the system isn't broke. It isn't, but only because of past increases in the payroll tax. The Bushies respond that another such fix will be necessary to keep it solvent in a few years, so why not go for a permanent solution?"

I suppose eliminating Social Security could be seen as a permanent solution to the Social Security Problem. Also I'm not sure who the author of the previous article is referring to when he mentions the Bushies, but obviously there are those on the right wing who would like to see him talking more openly about eliminating social security.

Happy Inauguration Day!

Today President Bush is being inaugurated for his second term. This feels me with a sense of foreboding and concern, perhaps even a little anger. President Bush and his supporters are entitled to their celebration. They won the election and all. So calls for them to not have an inauguration based on the Iraq War or the Tsunami don't seem very just to me. We would have had our party had Kerry won.

That said, Ann Coulter's latest screed on this very issue shows her continuing lack of clarity whatsoever. Basically, she brings up the terrible events that happened in the winter of 2003 (President Clinton's first inauguration), and makes the comparison. The difference is that Ann can't really make a death toll in 1993 even compare to the death toll in the recent Tsunami.

She shoots herself in the foot by noting the initial skimpy (even stingy) amount proposed by the Bush Administration (less than half of the cost of the Inauguration).

And then there's this paragraph, with characteristic and breathtaking meanspiritedness.
The spokesman for Clinton's 1993 Inaugural Committee said the inaugural events would cost about $25 million - largesse exceeded only by the $50 million Ken Starr was forced to spend when "Clintonland" turned out to be populated with felons. Think of all the starving children in Angola, Somalia, Bosnia and elsewhere that $25 million could have fed! And don't even get me started on Michael Moore's "on location" food budget!
OK. First of all, $25 Million is half of what President Bush is spending (according to the Conservative Washington Times, which pegs it at $50 Million, not counting security), so why would you noted that? Secondly why are you obsessed with Clinton Ann? He's been out of office four years, you still gotta bring up Ken Starr and his witch hunt? And of course mentioning Michael Moore's weight is irrelevant (although I'm sure it gets big laughs out there in her audience.

She then takes on Hollywood liberals, intimating that they should abandon the oscars, golden globes and so on and send the money to Tsunami victims. Of course she ignores the fact that many Hollywood liberals have donated large chunks of money to help Tsunami victims. But why strive for accuracy when you are on a roll?

The truth is that the initial offer by the Bush Administration was pathetically small, a fact that even the Bush Administration seems to have grasped. It was a figure that was not worthy of this great nation. It was a figure that was not worthy of the generous American people. And it was a figure wholly inadequate to the problems at hand. If comparing it to the planned inauguration festivities loosened the Bush administration's fingers, than I wholeheartedly support that comparison.

That said, and to return to the initial point of this post, they did have their fingers loosened, and have since pledged a far more appropriate amount (although there is some legitimate concern over whether the Bush Administration will actually send the money). So I wish the Bush administration and their supporters a happy inauguration.

Of course tomorrow and the rest of the term I'd expect a more belligerent stance from this website.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Social Security information

For those of you who are interested in the forthcoming Social Security Crisis, you might check out this website, entitled "There is no Crisis." I've also added this Blog to my links over there at the right.

The truth is that, in this debate, Republicans are trying to scare Americans into accepting their solution. This might work. So the response is to say that there isn't a Crisis. Unfortunately that leaves an easy attack line for simple minded Republicans. "So you are saying there are no problems with Social Security?"

No we aren't saying that--there are problems. It's almost like some Conservatives can't envision anything between perfectly calm waters and total devastating hurricanes.

Confounded Women!

Once again we are pleased to present commentary by Mr. Irwin J. McIckleson (fictional plutocrat from the 1910s) on the issues of the day.
I was reading in my newspaper the other day, and, as usual, this strange future world gets my dander up. Apparently, the President of Harvard was making a point on the sphere in which woman excel and those spheres in which biology has conspired to make a woman ineffective. Woman are not as able to rotate objects in their mind for example, and thus are clearly unable to become scienticians or mechanists. This is also why Woman should not be allowed behind the wheels of the nation's automacars.

Apparently the view that women belong in their proper place and in no others is frowned upon in this strange future world. Indeed, one female professor (the concept astounds) apparently got up and left the room. Presumably she (her name will be withheld out of deference to her family) was crying or some other such womanly response. After all a woman could hardly be expected to consider leaving as a mark of disapproval against the President of Harvard. Woman do not have the inherent dignity that men do, as all acknowledge.

Fortunately, there are some in your society that understand the proper place of woman. Jonah Goldberg, for example, points out the inherent weakness in this female professors actions, and how we all assume that they were the result of female hysteria. Mr. Goldberg points out a few other salient details. For one thing this President of Harvard is an Economist. That certainly qualifies him to talk about human biology. He also points out that woman have babies, which is something we believed in our day and we still believe in this strange future world! So it's not like we in the first decades of the 1900s were wrong about everything. And we were right about woman's inability to perform science as well. And about Joe Chinaman.
Once again we'd like to thank Mr. McIckleson for providing commentary. Those of you who would like a more modern approach to this subject please check out Echidne of the Snakes work on this subject (here, here, and here).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

This is Not a Post

As some of you know I read This Modern World (both the political comic strip and the the blog) pretty regularly. And I've noted before Mr. Tomorrow's awkward position on blogging. Well, today he responded to this article in the Philly on the power of Blogs, which references the role bloggers played in keeping the Trent Lott scandal (in which he praised Strom Thurmond and wished that he had won in his presidential bid) alive in a post named "Pissing in the Wind."

Tomorrow passes on the claims of the Philly, and then notes that this account;
leaves out one significant detail: this site's small but crucial role in the whole matter. As some of you may recall, the balance was apparently tipped when footage surfaced of Trent Lott making the same comments about Strom Thurmond a third time. And the reason that footage became public was that a reader of this site had caught it on C-Span several years prior, grasped the significance, and saved the tape. He emailed me and I put the information up on my site, where it was ignored by pretty much everyone. I then called up a producer I knew at MSNBC, which ran with the scoop, albeit without acknowledging the source. Soon it was all over the networks and Fox pundits were speculating that the DNC must have had an army of interns poring over old footage.

Short story: the Lott thing is not quite the Triumph of the Blogs tale that myth has made it. The story gained momentum because of the blogs. And if I hadn't been blogging, the reader who had the tape might never have contacted me. But what finally brought down Trent Lott was primarily a guy, I believe in the Midwest, with an old videotape and a long memory, and secondarily, the fact that I had a friend working at MSNBC. (Since I called him on the phone, you could just as easily credit the telecommunications network as the blogs...)

...just so we're clear, I'm not that worried about getting "credit" here--I was really little more than a conduit. I'm just tired of seeing this triumphalist myth repeated over and over, when I know for a fact that the blogs were only part of the story...
This is a bit strained, to say the least. Tomorrow was running a blog during this period, and that because of his blog he received information from somebody in the Midwest, which he posted the essentials of on his blog, and then passed on to a TV news station. And this somehow proves that blogs aren't really all they are cracked up to be. Seems like this story could easily be used to demonstrate the value that Blogs can provide to our media culture, but Mr. Tomorrow isn't interested in proving that Blogs have value. He's interested in denying that blogs have value. Or, at the very lest, in denying that blogs have excessive value.

It's kind of unclear what role Mr. Tomorrow thinks Blogs should play, exactly.

As I've said before I think the root of Mr. Tomorrow's (and others) problem's with the practice of blogging is this simple preposition. If everybody gives their opinion and each opinion is valued equally, than opinions becomes worthless. Mr. Tomorrow might see the value in an Atrios or a Joshua Michah Marshall having a blog. These people have proven their bona fides. But do most blogs have this caliber of individual behind them? Should you really compare what those two sites offer with the majority of Blogs?

More to the point can you really compare even what those blogs offer with say, the New Yorker Magazine. Or the New York Times?

My personal response to this might be that good writing and valuable and meaningful ideas will rise. While certainly magazines and newspapers have little to fear from the Blogs, if the Blogs provide valuable information or insights than why shouldn't they contribute to the national discourse?

Stop Me if You Think that You've Heard this One Before

I am listening to "Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis, which is about the Evolution of America right after the American Revolution. In it Ellis takes six key events in the early history of our nation and unpacks them, talking about the personalities and the philosophies involved (I'm pretty sure I wrote about this the first time I listened to the book, but I'm doing it again).

It's interesting to consider the very real differences that occurred in the Revolutionary era. It's also interesting to note that the great split in the revolutionary era (between Federalists and Democratic Republicans) is such that each modern party can claim a bit of each legacy. The Federalists for example believed in a strong federal government that would exert its influence to solve problems facing the American people. That sounds like something the Democratic Party would agree with. On the other hand, the Federalists were also closely aligned with financiers and manufacturing interests, and were seen as protecting their interests over the interests of the American Farmers (the working class of that era).

George Washington was federalist. The book makes the point that the experience of the Revolutionary War guided President Washington throughout his life. In order to win the war, Washington had to hold his army together. In fact, that's more or less the only thing he had to do. As long as the Continental Army existed, the British couldn't win the war. By the same token, the United States had to hold together. It's not hard to imagine separate colonies being subsumed back into European empires if they had not stayed together. So Washington, on the occasion of his departure from the public stage, wanted to ensure that the nation would continue to stay united.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
Something to consider, in these days when we are pitted against each other by powerful political forces who have a lot to gain from our mutual antagonism.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Back to Social Security

There are two arguments that seem to be being made about Social Security right now. Argument number one is that the Social Security program is heading for an iceburg and so needs to be fixed now. Well, that turns out not to be entirely the case. Certainly there are some course corrections that could be made, but they aren't grabbing the wheel and turning it 180 degrees so we are going back the way we came.

The second argument, the one that President Bush is hoping that we don't have, is the one about whether or not Social Security in it's current form should exist at all. President Bush and Karl Rove and others would prefer to duck that issue because it would rile up the seniors and create an uproar among many others as well. College students not so much (it's hard to care all that much about something you've been told your whole life you won't get anyway (even if it turns out that was, more or less, a lie)). But a lot of Americans know people who depend on that Social Security check, so President Bush is happy not to have that particular discussion.

Still for those of you who question the value of Social Security, I'd point you to this article at the American Prospect.
The elderly used to be an age group with an especially high rate of poverty. One of the signal achievements of Social Security, hardly noticed today, is that poverty has fallen dramatically among Americans over age 65 to just 10 percent, lower than the 12-percent rate for the population as a whole. For millions of the elderly who would otherwise be poor, Social Security is the single biggest source of income, the ?nancial bedrock of their lives. Indirectly, their working-age children are bene?ciaries of the program because the elderly no longer have to move in with them. People under age 65 also bene?t from two other elements of Social Security that often get forgotten: bene?ts during long-term disability and survivor bene?ts for dependents if a worker dies before retirement. These are also important anti-poverty programs that don’t carry the stigma of welfare.

Social Security was never expected to be the sole source of retirement income for the middle class, who ideally also have employment-based retirement plans and personal savings. But if one thinks of these various sources of income as making up a “portfolio” of retirement assets, Social Security’s distinct value is even clearer. While other assets typically erode or become exhausted with advanced age, Social Security pensions keep their value because they have an annual cost-of-living adjustment. Moreover, as many employers convert from pension plans with a de?ned bene?t to 401(k) and other plans with uncertain payouts, workers are already bearing more risk for retirement. In that context, Social Security provides a valuable hedge against the ?nancial markets.
I have to admit I hadn't thought of the potential finanical drain of the elderly on many families if Social Security didn't exist. Anyway something to consider.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

New Quote

It's a new quote but not a new format, because I'm moving to an every other week scenario on the new format.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Note from the Editor

Had kind of an off weekend as you might have surmised. Anyway I'm sure I'll be back to my evervescent self soon. You know, the happy cheerful guy who can't shut up about Social Security.

Literature Moment 4

Now and then it occurs to one to reflect upon what slender threads of accident depend the most important circumstances of his life; to look back and shudder, realizing how close to the edge of nothingness his being has come. A young man is walking down the street, quite casually, with an empty mind and no set purpose; he comes to a crossing, and for no reason that he could tell he takes the right hand turn instead of the left; and so it happens that he encounters a blue-eyed girl, who sets his heart to beating. He meets the girl, marries her--and she became your mother. But now, suppose the young man had taken the left hand turn instead of the right, and had never met the blue-eyed girl; where would you be now, and what would have become of those qualities of mind which you consider of importance to the world, and those grave affairs of business to which your time is devoted?
Upton Sinclair, 100%: The Story of a Patriot

Angel Food

How many people that you meet end up not liking you very much? Or to put a more exact word for it, end up disliking you. I mean not everybody likes you right? So out of 100 people how many end up disliking you do you think?

Well let's take a very charitable approach and suppose that 1 out of a 100 people won't like you much (in my case the figure is somewhere in the 60s at the least). Or in other words 1% of all the people you meet don't like you.

That means, taking 1% of the total population of the world, there are approximately 64,086,068 people who, upon meeting you, would not like you. 68 Million people. That's a lot of people.

In 1890 that would have been more than the population of the United States (although now we are at 294,489,979, or 4.6 times the number of potential people who don't like you (or wouldn't like you if they met you, assuming, charitably, that only 1 person out of a 100 doesn't like you)).

The United States Army Military during World War II (when the military reached it's peak size) was 16,353,700 or approximately one quarter the number of people who might not like you if they met you.

Of course, the odds are these people who wouldn't like you will never meet you. But wait a moment, aren't we going through some kind of communications revolution? You are going to have the potential to encounter more and more and more people than ever before. Isn't that great? So all these people who might never have had the opportunity to dislike you will now have that opportunity.

Something to think about as we walk boldly into a communications revolution.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Literature Moment 3

Jacob had a noble ambition to be put in a Sunday school book. He wanted to be put in, with pictures representing him gloriously declining to lie to his mother, and her weeping for joy about it; and pictures representing him standing on the doorstep giving a penny to a poor beggar-woman with six children, and telling her to spend it freely, but not to be extravagant, because extravagance is a sin; and pictures of him magnanimously refusing to tell on the bad boy who always lay in wait for him around the corner as he came from school, and welted him so over thehead with a lath, and then chased him home, saying, "Hi! hi!" as he proceeded. That was the ambition of young Jacob Blivens. He wished to be put in a Sunday-school book. It made him feel a lithe uncomfortable sometimes when he reflected that the good little boys always died. He loved to live, you know, and this was the most unpleasant feature about being a Sunday-school-book boy. He knew it was not healthy to be good. He knew it was more fatal than consumption to be so supernaturally good as the boys in the books were he knew that none of them had ever beenable to stand it long, and it pained him to think that if they put him in a book he wouldn't ever see it, or even if they did get the book out before he died it wouldn't be popular without any picture of his funeral in the back part of it. It couldn't be much of a Sunday-school book that couldn't tell about the advice he gave to the community when he was dying. So at last, of course, he had to make up his mind to do the best he could under the circumstances--to live right, and hang on as long as he could and have his dying speech all ready when his time came.

But somehow nothing ever went right with the good little boy; nothing ever turned out with him the way it turned out with the good little boys in the books. They always had a good time, and the bad boys had the broken legs; but in his case there was a screw loose somewhere, and it all happened just the other way.

Mark Twain, The Good Little Boy

Musical Moment 2

The last night on Maudlin Street
goodbye house
goodbye stairs
I was born here
I was raised here, and
...I took some stick here
love at first sight
may sound trite
but it's true, you know
I could list the details
of everything you ever wore
or said, or how you stood that day
and as we spend the last night
on Maudlin Street, I say
"goodbye house-forever!"
I never stole a happy hour
around here
Where the world's ugliest boy
became what you see
here I am - the ugliest man
Its the last night on Maudlin Street
and truly I do love you
oh, truly I do love you
When I sleep with that picture of
you framed beside my bed
oh, it's childish and it's silly
but I think it's you in my room
by the bed (...yes, I told you it was silly...)
and I know
I took strange pills
but I never meant to hurt you
oh truly I love you
I came home late one night
everyone had gone to bed
nobody stays up for you
when you have sixteen stitches
all around your head
the last bus I missed to Maudlin Street
so, he drove me home in the Van
complaining: "Women only like me for my mind..."
don't leave your torch behind
power-cuts ahead
as we crept through the park
but no I cannot steal a pair of jeans
off a clothesline for you
but you...without clothes
oh I could not keep a straight face
me - without clothes?
well a nation turns its back and gags...
I'm packed
I am moving house
a half-life disappears today
every slag waves me on
(secretly wishing me gone
well, I will be soon
oh - I will be soon)
There were bad times on Maudlin Street
when they took you away in a police car
dear Inspector - don't you know?
don't you care?
don't you know - about Love?
Your gran died
and your mother died
on Maudlin Street
in pain and ashamed
with never time to say
those special things
I took the keys from Maudlin Street
well, it's only bricks and mortar!
and...truly I do love you
wherever you are
wherever you are
Morrissey, Late Night, Maudlin Street

Literature Moment 2

"It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything. . . .

You imagine no doubt, gentlemen, that I want to amuse you. You are mistaken in that, too.
Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Musical Moment

Well, they'll stone ya when you're trying to be so good,
They'll stone ya just a-like they said they would.
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to go home.
Then they'll stone ya when you're there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they'll stone ya when you're walkin' 'long the street.
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to keep your seat.
They'll stone ya when you're walkin' on the floor.
They'll stone ya when you're walkin' to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

They'll stone ya when you're at the breakfast table.
They'll stone ya when you are young and able.
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to make a buck.
They'll stone ya and then they'll say, "good luck."
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they'll stone you and say that it's the end.
Then they'll stone you and then they'll come back again.
They'll stone you when you're riding in your car.
They'll stone you when you're playing your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Well, they'll stone you when you walk all alone.
They'll stone you when you are walking home.
They'll stone you and then say you are brave.
They'll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.
Bob Dylan, Rainy Day Women #12 and 35

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Literary Moment

From Moliere's "Misanthrope."
Alceste. I deny it. We ought to punish pitilessly that shameful pretence of friendly intercourse. I like a man to be a man, and to show on all occasions the bottom of his heart in his discourse. Let that be the thing to speak, and never let our feelings be hidden beneath vain compliments.

Philinte. There are many cases in which plain speaking would become ridiculous, and could hardly be tolerated. And, with all due allowance for your unbending honesty, it is as well to conceal your feelings sometimes. Would it be right or decent to tell thousands of people what we think of them? And when we meet with some one whom we hate or who displeases us, must we tell him so openly?

Alceste. Yes.

Philinte. What! Would you tell old Emilia, that it ill becomes her to set up for a beauty at her age, and that the paint she uses disgusts everyone?

Alceste. Undoubtedly.

Philinte. Or Dorilas, that he is a bore, and that there is no one at court who is not sick of hearing him boast of his courage, and the lustre of his house?

Alceste. Decidedly so.

Philinte. You are jesting.

Alceste. I am not jesting at all; and I would not spare any one in that respect. It offends my eyes too much; and whether at Court or in town, I behold nothing but what provokes my spleen. I become quite melancholy and deeply grieved to see men behave to each other as they do. Everywhere I find nothing but base flattery, injustice, self-interest, deceit, roguery. I cannot bear it any longer; I am furious; and my intention is to break with all mankind.

Philinte. This philosophical spleen is somewhat too savage.

Going to be Slow the Next Day or So

I'm on the road today and tomorrow--I might post tonight but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Shoplifting and Tapdancing

A Parable

One day little Armstrong was standing outside a grocery store, and he was a-hankering for a candy bar. So he snuck in quietly and grabbed one when the shop clerk wasn't looking. It was easy. So he did it a bunch more times until one day the shop clerk caught him in the act. Poor little Armstrong was so sad.

Luckily little Armstrong's friend Jonah was walking by. Jonah ran into the store and immediately chastised little Armstrong, but then he turned to the Shopkeeper. "Mr. Shopkeeper, I don't know why you are making a big deal about this. Poor little Armstrong walked out with a candy bar, but I've seen lots of boys do that. Why just the other day I saw little Jesse walking out with a candy bar. And Paul, I saw him enjoying a candybar on his way out of the store too."

The Shopkeeper shrugged and said, "Yes but Jonah, both Jesse and Paul bought their candy bars. Little Armstrong didn't."

Jonah shrugged back and said, "I still you should let Little Armstrong off."
The preceding parable was inspired by Jonah Goldberg's latest article, in which he defends Armstrong Williams by suggesting that the fact that Jesse Jackson and Paul Begala have appeared on the air somehow negates Williams' dishonesty. The difference, of course, is that Begala and Jackson haven't hid their "conflicts of interest." They are open for all to see. Armstrong didn't let people know he was being paid to express a certain point of view, because to do so would have eliminated his utility for the administration.

It's in his kiss . . . er, character!

Well the title goes before the story. Anyway reading William Saffires latest vaguely philosophical noodling, and I'm not too impressed. His point is that parties, nations and peoples need to have character to succeed. The Republicans have a character, as defined by their goals. "The Republican Party today is characterized by a mission to defeat terror while exporting freedom abroad, and a policy to restrain taxes while increasing social spending at home." It's hard to know what to make of that second sentence. I assume by "restrain," Saffire means "drastically reduce," but financially, how do you increase spending while cutting revenue? Doesn't that seem like a self defeating strategy in the long run?

At any rate, he does seem to believe that the current character / unity of the Republican party isn't likely to last too much longer. "The G.O.P. personality will split in a couple of years, as all huge majorities do in America. Idealistic neocons will be challenged by plodding, pragmatic paleocons, who, by fuzzing the party's present character, will someday lead it down the road to defeat." Good point, but it ignores the conflict between those who favor a theocratic party and those who do not. But at any rate a split is probably on it's way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Social Security Sanity

Yep, it's another column by Paul Krugman, in which he brings up that old buggy-boo--transition costs. You see setting up this system of President Bush's is going to cost some money.
The administration expects us not to notice, however, that the supposed solution would do nothing to reduce that cost. Even with the most favorable assumptions, the benefits of privatization wouldn't kick in until most of the baby boomers were long gone. For the next 45 years, privatization would cost much more money than it saved.

Advocates of privatization almost always pretend that all we have to do is borrow a bit of money up front, and then the system will become self-sustaining. The Wehner memo talks of borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion "to cover transition costs." Similar numbers have been widely reported in the news media.

But that's just the borrowing over the next decade. Privatization would cost an additional $3 trillion in its second decade, $5 trillion in the decade after that and another $5 trillion in the decade after that. By the time privatization started to save money, if it ever did, the federal government would have run up around $15 trillion in extra debt.

These numbers are based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Plan 2, which was devised by a special presidential commission in 2001 and is widely expected to be the basis for President Bush's plan.
We wait with baited breath to see how these facts are reprinted in the mainstream media.

You Go to War with the Army you Have

Frank J. Gaffney has an interesting piece at Townhall.Com on President Bush's unquestionable support for a stronger military. Turns out it is questionable after all.
Even before the Congress formally declared George W. Bush the winner of last November's presidential election, reports began circulating that he would propose a defense budget for next year that one might have expected instead from the loser, Senator John Kerry.

Actually, a President-elect Kerry probably would not have dared to suggest the far-reaching cuts Mr. Bush plans to make. In any event, he surely would have had a hard time getting them enacted, given pervasive concerns about his judgment on national security matters.

Yet, here we have the spectacle of $55 billion in far-reaching defense reductions being made by the man who beat Sen. Kerry - largely on the basis of precisely those concerns. It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Bush will be sworn in again on January 20th because he was widely perceived to be a more credible and robust leader than his challenger when it came to protecting this country.
That's not the most tightly written of passages incidentally. To boil it down, Gaffney would have expected Senator Kerry, who promised two new divisions in the Army, and increases in the funding of Special Forces, to gut the military. He expected President Bush, who made no such promise, to strengthen the military. Turns out he was wrong.

What he doesn't go into is why President Bush is doing this. Surely he would like to build the Army, but unfortunately for us all, he just doesn't have the money. The pressure on the budget exerted by his short-sighted tax cuts makes further military spending difficult. Mr. Gaffney hints at this in the final lines of his essay. "The public understands the need for, and is prepared to make, sacrifices in time of war. President Bush must ask them to do so - and avoid unduly increasing those already being asked of the U.S. military."

He's not wrong.

The Carrot and the Stick

This is how you motivate Donkeys and People. And these techniques are not foreign to those who are trying to convince America to accept President Bush's Social Security Phase Out Plan. We've talked a lot about the stick, i.e. that Social Security has no hope of surviving and will bankrupt the treasury. So let's talk about the carrot.

The carrot is that these private accounts will give Americans a lot more money. That's the promise. The promise does not take into account set up costs and administrative costs which will be paid for, one way or another, by the American people.

The other problem is summed up in this line from Ms. Star Parker's latest article on Social Security reform. ". . . the fact is that investing over 40 years in a highly diversified fund of stocks and bonds is not a risky endeavor." And there's the rub.

This is generally true, but it raises any number of questions. For one thing low risk does not mean no risk, and the truth is that some people will definitely get it in the shorts. What are we going to do about that? (That's the cue for the right wing to murmur about personal responsibility)

A second question concerns what options are going to be available under this privitization plan? And will American citizens be able to take advantage to them to the fullest extent? Will their be training to let first time investors figure out how best to use this set up? (That's the cue for the right wing to grumble about Democrats not trusting the people)

One further question. This is Star Parker talking. A few weeks ago she wrote about how she wanted to see Social Security shut down entirely. Has she had a change of heart? Or does she see President Bush's privitization plan as akin to her desire to shut it down entirely?

Monday, January 10, 2005

How We Look

Whenever I read an article by David Limbaugh (the brainy Limbaugh Brother), a certain word beginning with the letter "F" springs to mind. That word is, of course, foolish. Consider this passage from one of his recent articles.
Tell me if I'm mistaken, but wasn't one of their primary complaints that President Bush blew a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the world, and especially Muslims, how much we care about the victims and how much compassion we have?

The point was not actually to care or do something altruistic and constructive, but to show how much we care. (You can read the New York Times and other liberal editorialists and commentators to confirm this.)
You see the foolishness here. Of course what many editorialists said was that we need to send money because it was the right thing to do, because people were suffering and we needed to help them out. There is also a political reason to do this as well, which many pointed out.

Let's be clear about something. The United States government has very little mandate to give yours and my money away, even in the face of this unprecedented tragedy. It's nice, but they can only send the money by taking it away from the people, so there are considerations. On the other hand they do have a mandate to work towards our foreign policy goals, one of which has to be to improve our image in the Middle East and the Muslim nations of the world. Seen in that light, offering $15 million was a serious misstep.

But, according to Mr. Limbaugh, the real fault comes not in the Bush administration in making this mistake, but in the Democrats and Liberals of America for criticizing the President for making this mistake. See, if we really cared what the rest of the world thought of us, we would be telling the rest of the world how generous the United States is, instead of criticizing the President.

Similarly if we were really interested in presenting America in the best light, we wouldn't have opposed the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General. We wouldn't be looking into voter fraud in the 2004 election. Frankly it's hard to know what we would be doing if we were a moral party (in Limbaugh's Eyes). Probably very little.


This story I didn't touch on last week, but many of you have probably heard about it anyway. Representative Chris Smith (R, NJ) was removed from his position as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee. Apparently, Mr. Smith got it in his head that it was his job to fight for better benefits and support for America's Veterans, and, even worse, he was pretty good at that fight. This upset the House Leadership, who characterized him as a "liberal," despite having a 71 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. To be fair, I'm sure it is frustrating to have a guy like Rep. Smith around when you are trying to manage budget deals to ensure a maximum of pork goes to your districts. I mean some of your pork might end up on a veteran's plate.

Anyway Robert Novak writes on this depressing situation this week, and states, "Obsession with centralizing authority by the leadership does not precisely fit the pattern set by Democrats during 40 years of ruling the House. But the new majority party resembles the old one in this sense: having long been in power, they act as though they are sure they will keep it forever."

As people become entrenched in their positions of power, they start to forget how they got there in the first place. It's only natural, if unfortunate.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

New Quote New Format

New Quote and New Look, but haven't updated the quotes page yet, because I am doing on this on my laptop while I watch Once Upon a Time in China. The logo this week is from a special guest contributor!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Your Weekly Rush: Hitting it Out of the Park

Provided you are playing on one of those little table top parks.

Albert Gonzeles was asked a lot of tough questions about torture, about the torture that went on in Abu Ghraib and the torture that went on. But those pointy headed elitist liberals who were asking the questions got asked one of their own. The old Ticking Time Bomb scenario. Turns out the questioners had a hard time answering that question.
I heard more elitist professorial gibberish than I have heard in 30 minutes in my life at one time. In fact, there was one slip-up. Admiral Hutson said, "Well, if you have to, but it shouldn't become who you are and it shouldn't set a precedent," and I said, "Well, your whole argument is out the window, then, admiral, because if you're going to authorize torture in the ticking bomb scenario, you're authorizing torture."

You are saying that there is a circumstance in which it is justified. That is, to save hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Of course what Rush leaves out is that this question is pretty irrelevant. Torture wasn't be used for this reason. As you yourself pointed out, it was being used to blow off some steam.

Secondly, dimwit, saying that Torture is ok to save lives in this manufactured scenario is not the same as saying that Torture is ok in all cases. Because the next question is how far down that slippery slope you want to go. And America, apparently, doesn't want to go very far.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Something New

I forgot that in my weekly Around the Horn feature I am going to try to spotlight smaller or newer blogs (as defined by The Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem. This week I am spotlighting Living to the Left, who writes about the end of Crossfire and the firing of bow-tie wearing Tucker Carlson. So please go check this dude out!

Also for those who like new things, you might check out The Next Blog Blog. They click that next blog button up at the top and find stuff they like and post on it. Kind of a cool concept.