Monday, February 28, 2005

The Next Big Thing

Great post at Orcinus (as always) about exactly where the fascism lies in America today... The sequence of comments to that post came to a chilling point:

Riesz Fischer: I think our society would be in real danger of going over the edge of fascism if we have a combination of another spectacular terrorist attack and a true fascist leader in a position to take advantage of it.

JRoth: Even if we accept that Bush & his current cadre are not prepared to take that big leap into fascism, doesn't that still leave the pump primed for someone in '08 to use the machine that the current leadership has built?

Darryl Pearce: The Romans had a system by which a dictator was appointed for a set amount of time.

Irony detectors shorted out nationwide

One of the many wrong ways to reduce the size of government... There's a federal office specifically set up to protect and provide legal counsel to civil-service whistleblowers. The man put in charge of this office by Bush has a five-year term from which he cannot be fired except in cases of illegal misconduct. And he's in the process of (1) dumping all the cases currently in the system, (2) firing many current employees without due process, and (3) hiring, without bids or HR review, his religious-conservative friends.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Puritans spreading smut

The "Parents Television Council" is the group that generated more than 98% of the FCC's indecency complaints in recent years. They're a bunch of liberty-hating prudes. And they publish a list of the Worst TV Clips of the Week, including the actual video of each scene they're objecting to for such things as obscenity, sexuality, or necrophilia. How handy! As one correspondent put it, "One stop shopping for all of your profane or prurient needs."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What will we tell the children? The dead ones, I mean.

Molly Ivins points out that the American media no longer does its own work; it reacts instead to the squeakiest wheel. But Bush's budget is stabbing an "interest group" whose screams are only heard indoors, not in the public square: children.
What this budget means, quite literally, is that more kids will be hungry and malnourished. More kids who get sick will be unable to see a doctor, more kids with diseases will go undiagnosed until they get so sick they have to be carried to the emergency room. More kids who need glasses or hearing aids won't get them, causing them to fall behind in school. More kids will show up to start school without being in the least prepared, and they will remain behind for the rest of their days. Less money for childcare means more kids left alone or in unsafe places with irresponsible or incapable people while their parents work. More kids who are being severely abused will go unnoticed, and fewer of them will find safe foster homes.
Sure, lots of people don't like this budget: farmers, cops in small towns, disabled people trying to find a place to live, anyone who thinks young people should get accurate information about sex. Some of the folks who don't like it might actually be heard; veterans have fraternal organizations, and even food stamp recipients have social-work agencies. But there are no children's lobbies. They shouldn't need a lobby; we should all be their advocates. As one minister put it in a newspaper op-ed:
Budgets are moral documents that reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation. They tell us what is most important and valued to those making the budget. President Bush says that his 2006 budget "is a budget that sets priorities." [...] We must speak clearly now about a budget lacking moral vision. A budget that scapegoats the poor and fattens the rich, that asks for sacrifice from those who can least afford it, is a moral outrage.

Get up, stand up

Oliver Willis posted an excellent argument over the weekend about how and why Democrats ought to fight for what they believe in. Just one bite:
The conservative movement controls all three branches of government, it dominates the media, and daily increases its grip on our nation's cultural values. Yet, these people consistently see themselves under siege by a vast network of largely ineffectual liberals. This siege mentality has led them to one conclusion: liberalism must be destroyed. That has created an atmosphere in which the press is no longer simply held in scorn for being "liberal", but is now hounded if it isn't suitably deferential towards the President and his party.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Way laid

Will somebody please stop runaway Republican vices masquerading as values?!:

Abortions are up during Bush's term. Divorces are up during Bush's term. And, thanks to abstinence-only education, it looks like teen sex is also up during Bush's term.

Press room reality

Corey Anderson spots the next popular TV show even before FOX thinks of it!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

An actual media whore

World O'Crap has the ultimate summary on how a hooker got to ask questions at White House press briefings for almost a year... and manages to be both serious and funny about it.

Bush the Lesser

Thanks to the Democrats in the Senate, you can go see how much you stand to lose in Bush's plan to replace Social Security with forced stock funds.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The children's game that prevents road rage...

"I spy, with my third eye, ..."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Why is everybody so cross?

Everyone at my office has taken up crossword puzzles; there are actually three groups doing the NY Times one every day at lunch. Can I just say that this reminds me of 'The Game" from that Star Trek TNG episode?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Priceless, part II

Back last summer, I posted a version of the MasterCard commercial (that was the week of the dead hard drive, dead refrigerator, and surgery/hospital stay). Let's check in and see what this week has for us, shall we?

  • Reroute/replacement of every water pipe in the house: $2500
  • Genetic counselling: $236
  • Genetic testing: $3000
  • Children both quietly doing homework amidst the clutter of construction: priceless.

Monday, February 07, 2005

They'll lose, but it will take some time

How deep is the media in the right wing's pocket? This deep: an evangelical says that homosexuality should be a capital crime, and in return he lands multiple interviews on Fox News Channel. Full analysis at Orcinus.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Far-off sport scandal

Imagine an NFL referee taking bribes to fix the outcome of games—specifically, half a dozen games not involving playoff teams but also a first-round playoff game. When the crime is discovered, investigators come to believe that other referees have fixed games, and there's also word that as many as a dozen players may be on the take.

It happened in Germany last fall and came to light last month. There is, of course, a lot of reporting about this in the international press; it's the second time major corruption has turned up in German soccer (the previous was 1971). My own favorite team, VfB Stuttgart, apparently isn't involved.

New frame for FDR's masterpiece

Why don't the Democrats stop reacting with 2018 this and 2052 that and just say, "Social Security has enough money in the bank to pay benefits higher than current levels for as long as we want it to."?!

Let's pretend that the Social Security Administration's predictions are unbiased and honest. We all know that the SSA says Social Security is able to pay all planned benefits through 2042. And we've heard the bit about how, after that, S.S. will still be able to pay benefits that are higher in real dollars than it pays today. But that second piece is never quantified. One expert analysis actually says, "Even after 2042 the program would always be able to pay retirees a higher benefit (in today's dollars) than what current retirees receive." This sounds like an infinite-horizon statement; I thought, could it really be true that under current plans and projections, S.S. will be able to pay higher inflation-adjusted amounts for as long as we can foresee??

I wanted an official evaluation of some kind. The SSA apparently can't be bothered to predict what benefit amounts would be paid out after the trust fund is spent. But the Congressional Budget Office did. And they said the same thing: "Trust-fund-financed benefits are projected to fall by nearly 20 percent in the year the trust funds are exhausted but then resume their increase as earnings grow. Even with that drop, future retirees would earn higher real median benefits than today's retirees." Yowza!

Why don't the Dems use a rallying cry like this?

Cosa Nostradamus

This is one of those posts where I make predictions for the sole reason that I want to be able later to say, "I TOLD you so!"

  1. By January 1, 2007, Iran and Iraq will have a mutual defense pact, if they're not already completely politically unified. (We'll refer to this later as the "Anschluss of the Mullahs" prediction.)
  2. By January 1, 2007, the EU countries will either disinvite us from NATO or drop their own NATO membership because the OSCE has become sufficient to their needs and more influential elsewhere in the world with the decline of American diplomacy. (Let's label this one the "Ideological Idiots of Irrelevancy" prediction.)
  3. By July 1 of this year, having sold the country on the idea of tax-free stock funds,* George Bush will be softening the electorate up for what he really wants: a national sales tax and flat income tax. (The "Revenge of the Cato Nerds" prediction.)
Justifications will follow Real Soon Now, in the event I just happen to feel inspired to write them.

* What? You didn't know that was the purpose of this whole Social Security piratization proposal?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Misstating the Union

Right-wingers are complaining about Democrats yelling "No!" during the State of the Union speech. Of course, they should compare their own treatment of Clinton during SOTU speeches. The Rude Pundit (caution: contains language considered rude by many) dissects the President's attitudes: "yeah, I'm lying--I dare you to do something about it!", and "I'm brave because I say so!"

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).

As the Rude One says, the Repos are trying to co-opt FDR's words while killing off FDR's accomplishments. Roosevelt said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." Bush is crying "wolf!" about a system that's not broken, and his solution to the nonexistent wolf is to make things worse. This puts him in direct opposition to FDR: Bush wants to add to the abundance of the wealthy and the stockbrokers by taking away what little most of us have.

But you know what? We're all over this. "We won't get fooled again." As just a tiny sampler of the folks calling "bullshit!" on Bush, ThinkProgress fact-checks the SOTU budget claims:

[H]ow can the president credibly claim he will cut the deficit in half by 2009 when the figures he is using exclude: 1) funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; 2) the administration's $2.5 trillion proposal to extend tax cuts; and 3) the administration's $2 trillion Social Security package?

Fact-esque picks apart the SOTU and the Social Security piratization plan. Choice tidbit:

God, he has no shame.

Some of our servicemen and women have survived terrible injuries, and this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover.

Except pay for their meals. For their phone calls home. For underwear...

It can all be summed up thus: The Republicans' top priority is protecting their position, not promoting the general welfare.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Suborning our history

I continue to believe that David Neiwert is the best writer in America on the topic of right-left politics. You should be reading every word the man produces. In an extremely link-ful post today, he analyzes several examples of how the right is rewriting American history to hide its racism. Among the goodies is this truth, which couldn't be expressed more clearly and succinctly: "what passes as conservative dogma is actually anti-liberalism".

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Torture debated

Following up on the Gonzales nomination: The Senate began debating it today, and apparently Ted Kennedy shone pretty brightly. His office has his comments online. The guy who is running a web list of blogs opposing Gonzales set up an e-mail list for all of us who have those blogs (550+)... and then subscribed us all to the list! So for a few hours, we got inboxes clogged with strangers' politics. (A normal day's personal mail for me is 10-20 messages; today I got 76.) He's working hard to stop Gonzales and should be thanked for that, but apparently he was unfamiliar with Netiquette. [Update: whoops! Make that more than a hundred stop-Gonzales-list e-mails, as several dozen were in my spam filter, including several big-name lefties.]

Enough already

Sometimes it feels like every adult in the whole damned world has cancer except me. I'm tired of it! I'm sick of being compassionate! I want to be irreverent again. I want to share a laugh, I want to tell insulting stories about myself and my friends again, all without someone breaking down in tears.

Bush's SocSec newspeak

When the President starts mouthing off about Social Security (beginning with his State of the Union speech tomorrow and continuing through several costly campaign stops in the coming days), keep these in mind: