liberal ["liberalis" L - suitable for a freeman, generous; "eleutheros" Gk - free] (adj) generous, open-minded, not subjugated to authoritarian domination; (n) one who believes in liberty, universal suffrage and the free exchange of ideas. elite ["eslire" Fr -- to choose fr.L "eligere" -- choose] (n) the choice part; best of a class; the socially superior part of society.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Culture of [Petroleum-based] Life"

Culture of Life

Today, the Royal Society in London is launching a report backed by 1360 scientists from 95 countries. According to the Guardian,
The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. It warns that:

  • Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

  • An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.

  • Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.

  • At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.

  • Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.

  • Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

New York City

Last Friday night, March 25, 2005, the New York City Police Department arrested 37 bicyclists. The bikers were exiting the Union Square area at the beginning of the monthly "Critical Mass" bicycle ride.

On March 22 the City had filed a Complaint seeking to enjoin 1) the Critical Mass from riding without a permit, 2) more than 20 people congregating before the rides in Union Square, and 3) Times-Up! from advertising or promoting the event.

The City claims that riding in a bicycle procession without a permit from the police is dangerous and unlawful.

According to NY1:
About 200 people turned out for the ride, which was set to kick off from Manhattan's Union Square.

Those arrested were charged with parading without a permit and then released.
According to New York Newsday, the police have arrested approximately 250 riders in connection with Critical Mass in the last 7 months.

The City had filed suit in Federal court to enjoin the rides last summer, but Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that the cyclists were not in violation of any Federal law and the City would have to seek its injunction in State court.

That is what the City is now doing with its current Complaint, dated March 14, 2005. The Complaint names Times-Up and four of its members. A Summons has been issued to the Defendants, who have to reply to Plaintiffs' attorneys by April 4th or April 14th, depending on whether the Summons was personally served. Failure to reply within the time period will result in a default judgment, according to the Summons.

The Complaint, is filed on behalf of Plaintiffs Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of Police, and Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.

According to Matt Roth, quoted on Democracy Now, last Friday the police used similar tactics to what they used before the RNC.
This was the first time since the Republican National Convention, they brought out orange plastic netting to Union Square North, the meeting spot for Critical Mass and they surrounded the entire area with this orange plastic netting. As people tried to leave the starting area on their bikes or walking their bikes, some were ushered along 17th street and then basically closed in at the opposite end of the street on Sixth Avenue. They had blocked it off, and then they allowed people in, blocked it off much like I suppose cattle would be herded through blocks, and then they arrested 37 people. Some of the ride participants locked their bikes up to the scaffolding, to public street posts, and then the police went through and summarily cut every single lock of every bike that was on the street with power saws.

Norman Siegel, a prominent civil rights attorney, called the City’s lawsuit and the police’s actions, “very troubling.”

Siegel was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now in the same program with Matt Roth. Siegel says it is the first time he is aware of the City trying to enjoin protest activity. According to Siegel, the state courts should not enjoin people from publicizing a protest, even if the City views the protest as illegal.

He insists, too, that no body of competent jurisdiction has ruled that citizens need a permit to ride in the streets of New York or that citizens need a permit for twenty or more to gather in a park.

Mayor Bloomberg’s administration wants to enforce permit regulations on rides and park meet-ups. But the implications of this lawsuit go deeper than that. This echos the Bush administration’s missive to keep America’s public streets safe, as a “culture of [petroleum-based] life.”

Time’s-Up!, a non-profit, has a website and a legal defense fund.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mugging Us Some More

A lot of the problem I have with accepting proposals from President George W. Bush has always had to do with his character. He's never been a man of the people or a hardworking success of any kind, especially in financial matters. Then, there are his family, friends and associates, namely, his brother Neal, the Saudi royal family, and Ken Lay, to name the most conspicuous birds in the flock.

Would you trust them with your money? So what makes Bush the credible spokesperson for the largest legislative reform proposal of the most successful social program in American history?

Nothing. He's got nothing behind him. That is precisely why the "Presidential Roadshow" has become nothing but a sales pitch.

As Jim VandeHel and Peter Baker wrote,
These meticulously staged "conversations on Social Security," as they are called, replicate a strategy that Bush used to great effect on the campaign trail.
There's a strategy to this sale, and the closing is still a long way off. This is the "set up." Meanwhile the "President" is all about making "the pitch."
The White House follows a practiced formula for each of the meetings. First it picks a state in which generally it can pressure a lawmaker or two, and then it lines up panelists who will sing the praises of the president's plan. Finally, it loads the audience with Republicans and other supporters.
So, there is never a dissenting voice in the crowd, only a group think monologue that does not approach a public discussion. The "finalists" on the town hall meeting panels insist they are not told what they have to say:
"It was just a matter of learning," [one citizen-speaker] said. "We just really talked about what was going on, what the president was proposing and what did we think about it. . . . They didn't prompt me what to say or how to say it."
But they don't have to.
The few dissenting voices ... [are] quickly silenced or escorted out by security.

The carefully screened panelists spoke admiringly about Bush, his ideas, his "bold" leadership on Social Security.

If the presentations sound well rehearsed, it's because they often are. The guests at these "Oprah"-style conversations trumpet the very points Bush wants to make.
Anybody who the White House screening team is unsure of gets dropped. Each "candidate" is examined and re-examined numerous times before they are allowed to speak with the President, to ensure that their words and ideas support his position.

If we are insulted by the unanswered questions of the 9/11 attacks that implicate -- passively or otherwise -- Bush administration complicity, if we are bruised by the recurring newsleaks about the human rights violations in GTMO and through the rendition programs, if we're horrified by the devastation of Iraqi cities like Ramadi and Fallujah and the scores of thousands of women and children who have been killed and maimed for "freedom," hold on to your seats, folks!

The Presidential roadshow is coming to a town near you. In it you will see and hear President Bush and his sidekicks regurgitate the most prepackaged, freeze dried serving of bullshit that ever flew in the face of democratic dialogue in the public interest.

As horror movies go, though, this has been pretty boring for us so far. But as the mugging of the American mind goes on, Bush and his advisors tell us to wait, there's much much more to come. And if you know anything about George Bush and his crowd, you know the ending is going to be very very bad -- worse than you could have imagined.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Corporate Media Lie Again

Re: Bush Presses Quest for Social Security Overhaul (see full text at bottom)

Today, Reuters says,
Opponents [emphasis added] say Bush's plan would increase the federal debt as money was shifted toward private accounts while benefits were paid to retirees and those accounts would do nothing to help the retirement fund's long-term prospects.
This is FALSE.

Dick Cheney has said the plan would require the government to borrow trillions. Is he an "opponent?"

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has said the private accounts do nothing to fix the long term insolvency of Social Security. Is he an opponent?

Secondly, Bush has not submitted any plan to Congress or the American people. Which PLAN, per se, is Reuters referring to in their article? NONE. Because there isn't one. Bush has never submitted a plan through OMB or any other White House branch, and Congress is having to make this up as it goes along, just like Bush.

Even Tom DeLay said two weeks ago that Democrats are united in their opposition to a plan that doesn't even exist yet [emphasis added].

This reporting is wrong, inaccurate, misleading and READS LIKE AN OUT AND OUT LIE. Is Reuters lying? Is Reuters lying to the American people about Social Security?

If they do not issue a prompt and publicized correction, then they will be deliberately misleading the public.

Full Text Of Article follows

TUCSON, Ariz. (Reuters) - President Bush got support on Monday from his sometimes Republican rival Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) in his efforts to sell an overhaul of the Social Security retirement system to a skeptical public.
McCain, who has had an uneven relationship with Bush but generally has been in his corner when the president needed him, stressed the need for everyone to work together to come up with a plan to save Social Security.
"I say to our Democratic friends, come and sit down at the table. Let us work together to save the safety net," McCain said as he joined Bush at a rally in his home state of Arizona. "The door is open to the White House and on the Republican side of the aisle. We must do this together."
Polls show that Bush still has a ways to go to convince the American public that his plan to allow younger workers to contribute part of their Social Security money to private accounts is a good one.
He pressed ahead with his two-day trip to sell his plan in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico after a sudden unscheduled weekend return to Washington.
Shortly after 1 a.m. the president signed legislation aimed at prolonging the life of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was removed under Florida court order last week. Bush briefly mentioned the Schiavo case at the start of the Social Security forum in Tucson.
"Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together last night to give Terri Schiavo's parents another opportunity to save her life," Bush said. "This is a complex case with serious issues. But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life."
He then continued with his Social Security speech and proposal for the private accounts.
"Let me tell you why I like this idea. First of all it's voluntary. Nobody's saying to a younger worker you must set aside a personal savings account, we're saying you can if you want to," Bush said with McCain, his chief rival for the 2000 Republican nomination, nearby on the stage.
He reiterated that his proposal to allow younger workers to divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes into stock and bond accounts would not change the benefits for Americans older than 55.
"If you're getting a check, nobody is going to change the system for you," he told the crowd in Arizona, which is home to a large number of retirees.
"The safety net is in good shape for people born prior to 1950. There are holes in the safety net, however, for a generation of Americans coming up."
On this top domestic priority in his second term, Bush is facing widespread Democratic opposition and skepticism from some fellow Republicans.
Opponents say Bush's plan would increase the federal debt as money was shifted toward private accounts while benefits were paid to retirees and those accounts would do nothing to help the retirement fund's long-term prospects.
The AARP group that represents older Americans opposes the Bush proposal as risky and has started an ad campaign that paints it as the destruction of a house in response to a plumbing leak

Friday, March 18, 2005

Stand Together In Grief and Hope

WHAT: The New York Vigil For Peace

WHERE: Inside Central Park (southwest corner) Enter at Merchants Gate

WHEN: Saturday, March 19, 7 AM to Midnight. (See schedule below for details)

WHO: All concerned or willing participants from the Greater NY community

HOW: Bring something to share with the group, and/or the public.
Scroll down for the Schedule of Events

8:30Opening prayers, meditation
9:30 Prepared liturgy
Reading of names
Open mike
12:00 Lunch
open mike
public witness
informal sharing
2:00 Open mike
4:00 Prepared Liturgy
Group prayer and meditation
Open mike
6:30 Supper break
open mike
public witness
informal sharing
8:00 Reading of Names
Prepared Liturgy
Open Mike
10:30 Candlelighting
Group Meditation and Prayer

The New York Vigil For Peace will be held in Central Park on Saturday, March 19th. The different segments of the event will continue throughout the day. Much of the time will also be allotted for informal speeches, readings, music or art presentations, performance, spontaneous action, and informing the general public.
Participants will be able to come and go as their schedules permit without fear of missing the event.

Participants are encouraged to bring readings, prepared remarks, songs to share, liturgical passages, and any other appropriate performance or artistic expression -- such as dramatizations -- that will lend meaning to the event and support to the group.

The organizer hopes that we can provide ourselves and each other with a spiritually significant moment of joining in grief and hope. It is my prayer that this moment will empower us to go forward afterward, in faith and good conscience, to work for peace. We encourage participants to exchange contact information and interests in contributing to future efforts to build a community of good will among non-aligned, nonpartisan, nondenominational and unaffiliated participants.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sign up for a vigil on the 19th

Sojourners is organizing Iraq War 2-year anniversary vigils. You can find out more here.

The schedule for the NY Vigil for Peace Events will be posted here tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Senate Democrats Erect Shield to Obstruct "Nuclear Option"

"I think this is very serious," said Thomas E. Mann, a congressional analyst at the Brookings Institution.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Democrats Warn on GOP Judge Rule Change

Caesar, beware the ides of March!

Election Fraud Bounty

My interest in this topic has been reignited by Cannonfire. Then I found this:


Monday, March 14, 2005

Where is Venezuela?

I wonder what most Americans would give as the answer to this question.

Could it be that Gail Norton sees the need to soften the loss of Venezuelan oil from our energy supply for a while? She makes a big case for drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge.

Then there's HR 807, introduced last month and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. This bill provided for a
`(F) BICYCLE COMMUTING ALLOWANCE- The term `bicycle commuting allowance' means an amount provided to an employee for transportation on a bicycle if such transportation is in connection with travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.'
Who knows what kind of a well-funded, energetically promoted and community-organized bill like that could do to our oil consumption?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Hoping, Watching, Praying for Peace

New York Vigil For Peace
Saturday, March 19, 2005, 7:00 AM- Midnight
59th Street & Central Park West

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Today, Kathleen Day of the Washington Post tells us, Bankruptcy Bill Nears Final Senate Vote. They got the votes for cloture, so it's just a brief matter of formally running out the clock and having the final vote.

A lot of rank and file Dems are pissed off that

Biden (DE)
Byrd (WV)
Carper (DE)
Conrad (ND)
Johnson (SD)
Kohl (WI)
Landrieu (LA)
Lieberman (CT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (FL)
Nelson (NE)
Pryor (AR)
Salazar (CO)
Stabenow (MI)

these Dems voted for cloture on this bill. Carper, Biden and Conrad, I can see, but Byrd? Stabenow?

Faked out by Bushco over the nonexistent Social Security legislation. Oh well, "Pick your battles!"

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A picture is worth . . .

Another stunning photo op by our fearless leader. He certainly looks like he belongs right in there, rearranging the world stage, pushing other strongmen and bullies around in the name of "freedom!" and "democracy!" Just think how happy the Iraqis are that Bush is our President and he won't abandon them until all their oil is gone.
And after all, we've spent only $200+ billion and killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people so that Syria could pretend to pull their army back to Becca Valley. Egypt is even talking about Democracy! The Palestinians and the Saudis had elections! So did Iraq!

Even if it bankrupts this GREAT NATION of ours, the cradle of liberty in the new American century, even if we all get killed or starved or just go "flat bust," it will be worth it if George Bush can replace Reagan on the dime.

The New World Order comes to A Theater Near You

Today, in a Reuters article written by Steve Holland, Bush talked tough again to the bad guys -- you know who: Syria! Bush made a comment that releived the anxieties of readers here in the U.S. as much as was intended to unsettle the Syrian "old guard." Bush said,
By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future. It is the last gasp of a discredited past".
The reason that statement is such a relief to Americans is that, just today, in fact, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), appeared with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before the press to discuss Democracy in the United States. They were announcing the release of a new report, authored by Slaughter, on the Republican rules abuses in the House of Representatives.

Announcing the report, Pelosi said,
This report provides devastating details of the profound abuse of power that characterizes House Republicans after 10 years in the majority. It demonstrates how House Republicans have completely abandoned not only the standards they set for themselves 10 years ago, but how they have also abandoned any other principle of fairness and accountability. In fact, many non-partisan analysts said that the 108th Congress not only matched the worst abuses of earlier Congresses, it has set a new standard.

And the report could not have been more timely. While this Republican Administration has spoken strongly about promoting democracy around the world, the House Republican Leadership is working feverishly to undermine democracy here at home.
Ironic, isn't it?

Monday, March 07, 2005

George W. (C.D.) Bush

I love this picture:

This picture appeared sometime late last week in connection with the "Tag Team Mugging." It is published here as a button for the link to an article from Reuters regarding a CBO Report. The report came out on Friday, just like everything they don't want anybody to notice.

More on this report later.

So There!

How embarrassing! China has released a report on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2003. WorldNetDaily posted the article calling attention to the report on March 2, 2005. I just heard about it on Mike Malloy sitting in for Randi Rhodes.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Dumb Dems Getting Mugged For Social Security by Bush-Snow Tag Team

This is such a clarion piece of news from Bob Somerby that I feel compelled to pass it along to the progressive anti-privatization people who may have missed it.

The Bush-Snow tag team is off on their 60 Stops in 60 Days Public (Re)education Spectacular.  It's a 60 round mugging of the American mind.

Just like all good muggers, the Bamboozlepalooza Brothers will cow their victims into handing over the goods without a fair fight.  But it's more of a reenactment of a WWF drubbing -- you know, the ones in which the good guys always lose -- because the bad guys get to mug their victims using all sorts of DIRTY TRICKS.

Transition Costs

We need to read and discuss Bob Somerby and his complaint regarding the Education Spectacular.  Otherwise, the bad boys are gonna really "teach us a lesson."  On Thursday, Somerby wrote:  

[H]ave you ever seen a single big paper devote a story to an obvious question--how much the transition to private accounts is actually going to cost? What's the answer? Was the CBO right when it said the transition would cost $15 trillion over five decades? How accurate was the CBPP when it said that the first two decades alone would cost some $4.9 trillion? Readers, doesn't this seem like an obvious topic--a question any big paper would tackle? But we haven't seen a single paper devote a stand-alone story to this. It's just as we've told you for year after year: The culture of our modern "press corps" is almost totally fact-averse. They flee from facts as saints avoid sin.
 Just like that lousy referee on Saturday morning wrestling, the bad guys come in swinging chairs, tieing their opponents shoelaces together, poking the good guys in the eye, and every other dastardly deed, but the ref just stands there like he doesn't see anything wrong.  That's how the American media are letting the Bamboozle Boys mug America.

Scott McClellan pointed out on Thursday,

And we're going to be blanketing the country with administration officials, White House officials, and the President himself, talking to the American people in the coming weeks, and identifying the problems facing Social Security.
And this is how the mismatch unfolds.  The media don't let the muggers get away with just a couple of cruel misdeeds.  But day after day, week after week, and -- sigh -- MONTH after MONTH -- the Bu$hco Boys are pummeling away at the consciousness of America:  saturation:  carpet bombing.

And already, some of our heroes are wobbling.  They aren't scared, yet.  No, they're still saying, "There is no crisis!"

But the muggers have a new dirty trick in their arsenal.  (It's like the scene in Wrestling where the ref pretends to look away and the bad guy reaches into his trunks and pulls out a pair of brass knuckles to use on his unwitting victim.  The crowd screams desperately for the stupid referee to see and interdict the evildoer, but he's so seemingly out to lunch it doesn't work.  Our hero gets hammered.)

Somerby warns us:  It's a mugging!  It's a fix!  It's the same old dirty game, and the good guys are going to lose!

Add-on Accounts

Somerby lays out the ugly state of affairs for the helpless fans:  

What does this mean? Simple. Unprepared Democrats like Joe Biden have to stop praising the notion of "add-ons." Instead, they need to start speaking up in praise of those future promised benefits. They have to look for ways to ensure that those benefits will still be there for future retirees. Once they've done that, there surely won't be money for any "additional" accounts.

What will Bush do, if he's eventually forced to propose these "add-on" accounts? Simple: He'll leave the current funding shortfall in place, then set up those "additional" accounts. But that will leave that $3.7 trillion shortfall in the traditional program. Next step? In a future Congress, benefits will have to be cut to make the traditional system fully solvent. This brings us back to what Bush is now seeking: A major drop in guaranteed benefits, paired with private accounts.

Biden, Obama, and Amy Goodman may be on our side, but Bu$hco has coreographed this whole 60-round death match.  Our side is playing right into their hands.  Somerby is right.

What's an ordinary Democrat to do?  You shout at the referee to wake up and make those bad guys play fair, but he doesn't.  Neither do the media report the facts, or even ask questions pertaining to the facts.

So, after about 60 rounds of double teaming, gross distortions of the truth, and saturation bombing, the Dems will be ready to capitulate.  Why?  Because the Bamboozle Boys have their game plan down, and it's a perfect mugging, complete with ambush, setup and take.

Please read the Somerby Daily Howler and let's try to help our heros defend themselves by passing on some insight on Self Defense 101.

Meanwhile, call the media and tell them:  We're being mugged!  Don't you see how we have to stick to the rules?

No private accounts.  Fully fund Social Security.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Dumb Dems

The Daily Howler has among the most important and interesting coverage of the Social Security mugging scuffle.

His point today was that Democrats are going for add-on accounts instead of carve out accounts. This will let the barbarians into the keep and they will sack the citadel.
What will Bush do, if he’s eventually forced to propose these “add-on” accounts? Simple: He’ll leave the current funding shortfall in place, then set up those “additional” accounts. But that will leave that $3.7 trillion shortfall in the traditional program. Next step? In a future Congress, benefits will have to be cut to make the traditional system fully solvent. This brings us back to what Bush is now seeking: A major drop in guaranteed benefits, paired with private accounts.

Furthermore, the Democrats are going around saying that the transition costs are a lot less than the actual costs -- making the President's plan sound better than it really is -- sound better even than Bush and Cheney themselves have said.
On February 6, Cheney said the transition to private accounts would cost $800 billion in the first decade, and “trillions more after that.” But no—the Chicago Tribune has never reported this to its readers. Nor has the paper ever reported the estimate by the CBPP—$4.9 trillion in just the first twenty years. Nor has the Tribune mentioned that reported CBO estimate—$15 trillion in all.

Bob Somerby finishes his piece with a coda about the missteps of freshman Senator Obama, speaking to the Chicago Tribune.
Eight days after Cheney’s statement, the hapless Obama—everyone’s favorite—was pleasantly telling Chicago reporters that the transition would cost just one trillion dollars! And let’s remember the crucial context. The Washington Post’s survey made it clear—support for Bush’s plan disappears when voters are told about its high costs. But so what? Hapless Democrats—dumb-bells like Obama—just keep misstating, way low!

Spring Counteroffensive

Representative J. McDermott (D-WA) has an eloquent post on dKos today.

It's the most concise and convincing critique I have heard yet of Bush's nonexistent plan.
Privatization is a phase-out scheme for Social Security and nothing more. It moves dollars out of Social Security, divides voters by age, and shaves benefits to the vanishing point.

Alan Greenspan

Paul Krugman also weighs in with a solo-shot off of Greenspan's cameo pitch at the Budget Committee on Wednesday.
In 2001, President Bush and Mr. Greenspan justified tax cuts with sunny predictions that the budget would remain comfortably in surplus. But Mr. Bush's advisers knew that the tax cuts would probably cause budget problems, and welcomed the prospect.

In fact, Mr. Bush celebrated the budget's initial slide into deficit. In the summer of 2001 he called plunging federal revenue "incredibly positive news" because it would "put a straitjacket" on federal spending.

To keep that straitjacket on, however, those who sold tax cuts with the assurance that they were easily affordable must convince the public that the cuts can't be reversed now that those assurances have proved false. And Mr. Greenspan has once again tried to come to the president's aid, insisting this week that we should deal with deficits "primarily, if not wholly," by slashing Social Security and Medicare because tax increases would "pose significant risks to economic growth."

The crowd at the Budget Committee Hearing on Wednesday thought the show was over. They went to lunch and made phone calls, went home and got back to work. Now some of them will miss this Friday editorial because of their weekend plans, but consider this blog as just one of the many hightlights shows. People who were away from their seats when Krugman swung can come back and catch it later. It's a beauty. Upper deck.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Spring Offensive

Judy Keen wrote an unpleasant article that appears in USA Today on Thursday regarding the increase in Social Security politicization rhetoric: Social Security Sales Job Gears Up.

With painful grammatical bumps along the way, the story announces the next phase in a dogged campaign by the Bush Administration to verbally mug the American working public into surrendering Social Security to Wall Street.

The verbal assault began before Inauguration Day, but took on a new shape yesterday with Federal Reserve Chairperson Alan Greenspan (testifying in an UNofficial capacity) before the House Budget Committee. Rolling out a lengthy portfolio of gestures and facial expressions, including grimaces, squints, winces, and fluttering of the eyelids, Mr. Greenspan spent hours fielding questions about Social Security from attentive, "honored," and "grateful" U.S. Representatives in front of CSPAN cameras.

In spite of the audience's comparative youth and energy, not to mention their desperate need for reliable ideas -- the tireless Mr. Greenspan, seated alone before a large microphone, succeeded -- over a period of about two and one half hours -- in wearing down his 150 or so quizzical listeners with an irresistable tide of neo-Objectivist millenial philosphy of economics.

Few of the news stories covering the testimony emphasized that Greenspan was testifying strictly on his own behalf, and not in his official capacity as Fed Chair: a fireside chat.

Although Keen states in her hook that the tour began Wednesday (presumably with Greenspan making the pilgrimmage to the Capital), she contradicts herself a few paragraphs later by saying
The tour, dubbed "60 stops in 60 days," begins with a speech by Snow today [emphasis added] in Arkansas. On Friday, Bush will travel to New Jersey and Indiana.

Maybe Judy wasn't supposed to tell us that Mr. Greenspan's Finance Seminar was really Day 1 of the propaganda blitzkreig, but somehow we knew, with Greenspan opening as the prologue of a new and, most likely, seemingly endless, invasion of the American consciousness by ranks of Republicans emitting floods of slogans and soundbytes in unapologetic repetitive waves.

"The president is really just now stepping up our efforts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "We are going to be blanketing the country ... talking with the American people and educating them."
Maybe carpet bombing would have captured the nature of the Spring offensive a little more accurately.

But just in case you are worried that there won't be enough coverage of this issue, Ms. Keen allays our anxieties in closing:
Both sides are gearing up.

Last week, the Republican National Committee made more than 250,000 phone calls supporting Bush's plan and sent more than 100,000 e-mails to Republican activists. Democratic senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, are holding forums in four states this week to oppose Bush's proposal.

What Hillary Rodham Clinton's position is doesn't rate as news in this article. Get it?

This is mobilization. It's not going to be a campaign of, "May the best policy win," but one of "May our message machine devour the public mind first."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bush pivoting on Social Security Reform

In an effort to undercut his opposition ot phasing out Social Security, President Bush has once again focussed on strengthening faith based organizations.

In a Reuters article strangely devoid of details, Tabassum Zakaria quoted Bush as saying
Government has got to find ways to empower those whose mission is based upon love, in order to help those who need love find love in society.
No details were given as to where Bush made the statement, other than "at a conference."

Zakaria did include some more information in the article, but his use of "Some critics" in the following quotation seems misleading at best.
Some critics say providing government funding to religious organizations crosses the boundary of separation between church and state and is a bid to court conservatives.

"Unfortunately, there are some roadblocks -- such as the culture inside government at the federal, state and local level that is unfriendly to faith-based organizations," Bush said.

A more objective description of "some critics" might have been, "the framers of the Constitution," or "traditionally, most Americans."

This has Council for National Policy written all over it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

ownership society

It always strikes me that ownership society is an oximoron. Society denotes shared rights and obligations, ownership denotes exclusive rights and privileges.

No wonder "ownership society" has become President Bush's logo for the second term: it has no anchor in reality.

The American colonies were an ownership society. Prior to the American Revolution, European sovereigns owned all the lands and granted them to colonists in exchange for allegiance and financial remuneration. Although this "society" included free people with money and property, bondsmen and ex-convicts with varying liberation timetables and rights, and women who were perpetually consigned to an inferior role, it totally excluded the prior inhabitants of the colonies. In fact, the ownership society prospered by killing off and expelling the indigenous peoples from their lands.

Those people just didn't have the same system of ideas about ownership, so they were excluded from the society.

The Cato Institute

The Cato Institute gives David Boaz a soapbox for promulgating their concept of the "ownership society." In his article, Defining an Ownership Society, Boaz begins
People have known for a long time that individuals take better care of things they own. Aristotle wrote, "What belongs in common to the most people is accorded the least care: they take thought for their own things above all, and less about things common, or only so much as falls to each individually." And we all observe that homeowners take better care of their houses than renters do. That’s not because renters are bad people; it’s just that you’re more attentive to details when you stand to profit from your house’s rising value or to suffer if it deteriorates.

Just as homeownership creates responsible homeowners, widespread ownership of other assets creates responsible citizens. People who are owners feel more dignity, more pride, and more confidence. They have a stronger stake, not just in their own property, but in their community and their society.

Boaz engages in a bit of teleology here. He presupposes that "society" and "homeownership" are overlapping sets.

He also presupposes that feelings of "dignity," "pride," and "confidence" are limited to those who are material owners of things.

This is a very similar attitude to the colonists who could not value the native Americans' sense of society, with its sense of dignity, pride and confidence in an oriental/natural character. The person belonged to the community and the community had sovereignty over the individual, just as nature had sovereignty over the community and God over nature.

To limit feelings of self-worth to the ownership of objects -- manmade objects at that -- is to belittle the human character. Furthermore, self-improvement or improvement of some or all of an individual's conditions in life, is good insofar as it is profitable. According to Boaz
There's not much point in improving your skills, for instance, if regulations will keep you frm entering your chosen occupation or high taxes wiol take most of your higher income.
Yes, it's wonderful for everyone to work hard, improve and earn more. What Boaz is missing is the distinction between HOW we live and WHAT we live FOR. The quality of human life is not measured in dollars and cents, as Ayn Rand wants all of to believe.

The Boaz/Bush obsession with individual behavior is stuck in adolescence and the conflict of the dysfunctional family.

If only everybody else would do what I want them to, then my life would be ok.
Implicit is the idea that -- like the Powhatan Indians confronted by the first British settlers in Jamestown, people need to improve: gain dignity, pride and confidence as individuals for society to be healthy. A society of people who emphasize personal relationships, communion with nature through science, arts, or religion are not worthy to participate in society. They are to be excluded while the owners amass possessions of the commons and force the non-owners to join or rebel.

That's similar to what happened in Virginia in March, 1622:

The Wall Street Journal

Yesterday, the Journal did a front page feature on Bush and the Ownership Society entitled, "In Bush's Ownership Society, Citizens Would Take More Risk."
The President's policies, his advisers say, reflfect his deeply held belief that "ownership" has the power to transform people, just as he feels transformed by a midlife decision to quit drinking and embrace religion.
I guess nobody told the President that there's a difference between "owning one's own problems," such as alcoholism and self-destructive hedonism, and owning shares in Exxon-Mobil.

As far as Social Security is concerned, the Journal goes on to explain Bush's "belief" that
with fewer workers supporting swelling ranks of retirees, the program by mid-century [2050 (or so?) Are we even going to be alive then?] won't be able to pay full promised benefits. That is the problem.
I hate to be the person to break the President the bad news, but, we have worse problems than that that are going to hit us REALLY HARD before "mid-century."

Global warming is such a problem, and so is peak oil. Unsustainable agriculture and water shortages are probably much worse than any of those, because no politician, especially not any Republican, has even thought about addressing them.