Thursday, February 03, 2005

Oh, really now?

According to this Reuters story, half of the bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical disasters. The vast majority are middle-class workers, and here's the real kicker: 75% of those people HAD medical insurance, which barely picked up any of the tab, despite these emergencies developing after coverage had been established.

And sadly, over at an NBC affliate in Ft. Myers, Florida, they bite right into President Bush's apple with this headline "Social Security heading for bankruptcy". Um, I'm sorry, but that just isn't possible. As has been pointed out here, and even tonight on Larry King by Republican senator John Warner, the full faith and credit of the United States backs the program, therefore, it cannot in any circumstances go bankrupt. The worst case scenario is reduced benefits, 70% to be exact, which would be funded by the continuing collection of payroll taxes.
How are we supposed to trust a president who lies about such an important issue? This isn't Iraq or the other issues where he's been accused of lying (I don't think he lied, per se, I think he stretched his info to where he wanted it to go), but in this case, he is telling a flat-out lie and is playing scare politics again, and that makes me sick to my stomach.
Listening to him talk about Social Security tonight, I almost wanted to believe him, but I knew better because I know the facts. But this is America, and sadly, too many people don't give a damn to educate themselves with facts...they'd rather listen to the noise machine that they elieve, Democrat or Republican. The fact is, though, he is knowingly lying and scaring when he warns of an event that is not possible without collapsing the federal government.

Finally, Brent Bozell is my asshole of the year. Crude as that may be, ad hominem attack that it may be, Bozell and his little PTC group are completely full of shit. The man attacks every show known to man as being crude, offensive, and whatnot. Apparently, anything not produced by the 700 Club is BAD for you in his mind. He now is accusing MTV of targeting kids with their steamy, salacious material. Um, that stuff airs later at night, Brent, when KIDS SHOULD BE IN BED! You get mad that a show like CBS's "Without a Trace" can't be complained about because its steamy material aired after 10 pm, the FCC's cutoff time. Again, isn't it the PARENT'S fault if their child is up that late watching an adult show?

Well, given Brent's childhood (which is well detailed by, of all people, WWE star Mick Foley in his book "Foley is Good,") I'm not surprised. His parents became raving lunatics. This apple sure didn't fall far from the tree now, did it? Brent makes lots of money and gets tons of publicity, simply for being an asshole. So does Ann Coulter. If the GOP wanted to do themselves a huge favor, they would disown these two fascists instead of letting their rantings be considered part of their message. Hateful people like them are bad for America's future. Same way that idiots like that Congresswoman from Georgia who accused Bush of knowing about 9/11 and doing nothing should be disowned by the Democrats. With that, I'm going to bed. It's been a interesting night, but GOODNIGHT.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

For God's sake, Bill

Bill Frist on Larry King gleeful as all hell that Bush endorsed the "culture of life." "He was right out there, amendment, saying I'm all for it."

Congratulations, jerk, you just once again endorsed prejudice, bigotry, and hate. NICE JOB. Frist says people believe two to one more in UFO's then Social Security's endurance. This coming from the same guy who said on national TV that sweat and tears spreads AIDS. How did this guy become a doctor?

You know, given that he isn't going to run in 2006 for reelection, no wonder he's parroting the president. He says he's sad that Democrats drew a line in the sand about judges, and Larry hit him with what happened to Clinton's judges, and Frist said it isn't the same. Uh...huh? Mentions all the other procedural moves that can be used to hold up judges, which coincidentally Frist wants to take away from Democrats. Oy vey!

post-SOTU reaction

Interesting. CNN's post-SOTU polling on the positivity of it. Andy Sullivan and Wonkette giving good (and in her case, snarky) commentary. The positivity ratings are up significantly from the two previous ones, but could that have to do with the fact that the president wasn't scaring the living hell out of everyone this time?

Democratic response

Um, yeah, somehow I just don't seem to care. Might it be the fact that no one gives a damn about the responses, unless the responder is running against the current president, which hasn't happened in nine years. So, again, don't care, might blog it later, but right now Reid and Pelosi are putting me to sleep. How about the Democrats stop using their leaders and let the charismatic ones give the response? Say, Barack Obama? John Edwards? Someone who has a drop of charisma? PLEASE.

The end....and more freedom

So, he ended with freedom, and not just that, he ended in a way that seemed almost abrupt....Was it just me, or was the ending kind of discordant?

Final tally

53 minutes
61 applause lines
No count on bipartisan applause
3 booing instances, all during Social Security talk

Well, he gave some more details on Social Security, but they seemed more historical and less current and future based. The figures he gave are also subject to change quite quickly. If we have another 1990s-style economic boom, Social Security would be solvent possibly through the century. This is going to be ugly. Clearly, like everything else he's done, the president is holding his cards close, thinking the less details he gives, the better. That didn't serve him well with Iraq, though, and I'm sure Republicans are thinking this over. I'd expect a lot of competing plans, not to mention severe pressure for the president to give a full vetting of his plan, which could either save it or kill it like the Clinton health care plan.
In terms of the rest of the laundry list, he moved so quickly between ideas that one gets the feeling they were filler. The only things that got significant time were Social Security, national security, and sadly, the FMA.

Military benefits

"Some of our servicemen and women have suffered terrible injuries, and this great nation will do everything it can to help them recover." So why are military benefits continuing to be so niggardly? Why are reservists and Guardsmens jobs not being protected by federal law? Why is spousal assistance almost nonexistent?
And, of course, the token parents who lost a son in the war. Is this honoring or exploitation? It's nice that they are invited, but man, it doesn't seem right in a way. They are suffering, and are an applause line for a political speech. Yes, the applause is likely heartfelt, but still, does it have a place here? This goes for any president, not just this one.

Hate to be like this, but..

Kerry looks Botoxed, Hillary looks pissed, Cheney is about to fall asleep and looks like he's constipated. Why do the networks always show shots of people who look awful? Even McCain earlier looked very unhappy...maybe he sees 2008 slipping away. Hell, I'd vote for him if he ran, though.

Small group?

I'm sorry, but the insurgents/terrorists/extremists are NOT a small group, not if they continue to inflict these sorts of casualties. And sorry, Mr. President, the coalition is gone. They're all packing their bags and leaving. It's us and the redcoats now.


Again, he says Iraq is a vital front in the war on terror, keeping us from having to fight it at home. Isn't that a paradox, given that terrorists didn't really exist there until AFTER we invaded? The terrorists aren't fighting there as a last stand, they're fighting there because we CREATED the front by not using more troops from the start, and continuing to fight it with less troops than necessary.
I've always said the war was a good idea, but we executed it poorly...Oh, geez, look at the purple nice.

Longest ovation of the night for honoring Iraqi expected.

Zarqawi and impositions

Good line about Zarqawi hating democracy.

I thought he said Iran, but he said our aim in a heavy Texan accent.

Mentions controlling, repressive leaders. Is Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc. included in that?
Providing aid to Palestine and saying peace is in reach between them and Israel....very good. We have to be part of that, though, and by God, I hope we are. Calls on Saudis and Egypt to show the way to democracy in the Middle East....SON OF A BITCH!! HE DID IT!!

Now he's attacking Syria and insisting they end all support for terror, but what's the Syrian Accountability Act?

Iran...again. Prime sponsor of terror, developing nuclear materials, insists both be stopped. Tells Iranian people we stand with them for their own he doing what his dad did, encouraging dissidents to fight against their leaders?

Homeland Security

Thanking first responders, talking about success in terrorist defense. That's great, but can we fix the f'd-up funding system for first responders?
We're now rehashing 2003 here, WMD's, terrorists, etc. Hasn't mentioned a specific country...yet.
Reaching out to UN and NATO involving Iraq, no surprise there.

An aside...Andy Sullivan is PISSED right now at Bush for attacking gays with the FMA. Never seen him this angry before, but I can't say I blame the man.

The lines of this speech don't have the resonance of Mike Gerson's speeches. The new crew needs some direction from Karen Hughes and Gerson on how to write presidential speeches. This one is too staid, too rigid.


Bush pushes expanding DNA evidence to prevent wrongful convictions. Also, sending bill to Congress to fund extra training for capital defense lawyers. Think this has to do with the chatter about Al Gonzales' ignorance in Texas? Not that I mind. It's a great idea, and I'm happy that he's presented it.

Family planning, Bush style

Here we go: the anti-gay marraige amendment is in the address, and the GOPers could NOT have been any louder in their cheers. Of course, he said protect the institution of marraige, but you get the picture.
Dana Reeve is in the box. I see she's been co-opted into the overly limited Bush stem cell research plan.
Railing against judicial legislating. Says he has nominated qualified judges, throws down the gauntlet on up-or-down vote on each judge. GOP cheers loud as hell. Funny, they didn't feel that way when Clinton said it ten years ago.


Says no to payroll tax increase, because God forbid the wealthy donors have to pay into the system. Insisting the system be fixed permanantly, and yes, "voluntary personal retirement accounts." Let's parse language, shall we?
Bush says "part" of that money be set aside. That investment will accumlate more money than Social Security can. This, of course, assumes no stock market crashes, no economy tanking, etc.
Says there will be all sorts of controls, such as no hidden fees, conservative mix of stocks and bonds, insurance for crashes as retirement nears.
Yes, there was ownership being touted right there....Wow, for an ownership society, sounds like a lot of government control.

No changes...if you're over 55

Bush promises for 55 and up, Social Security will not change at all. Says creation time of S.S. is different from current era....someone clapped at a non-applause line, how funny.
Yep, 2018 crisis date given. Here's a thought: Why is he so concerned about Social Security deficits when he isn't about budget ones?
Booing about Bush's listing of years that Social Security will face bigger problems. And the applause is wholly one-sided on this one. The Democrats are sitting on their hands.
Bush listing all sorts of options given by other people, says all are table.

Here he goes...

Social Security mentioned, about ten minutes in. Ripped off Bill Clinton's 1998 line as well.


Yes, Clean Skies, that's really gonna reduce pollution, considering you let polluters write the rules. And let's reduce our dependence on foreign oil, provided it's not Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace.
I gotta tell you, the man puts virtually no detail into anything. He's jumping from one subject to the next with no elaboration.

NCLB and Pell Grants and lawsuits, oh my

Says NCLB is helping our students, and oh, increasing the size of Pell Grants. Wish he'd done that sooner, maybe I wouldn't be drowning in debt. And then he jumped right to tort reform. And then to health care. This is great, all these punchy lines with no real detail behind them, not to mention explaining why he wants to do a lot of this. Health care costs would be fine if insurers didn't jump the rate from $7,000 to $60,000 in three years for doctors.
Health savings accounts...the old Newt Gingrich idea, which died on arrival.

Building a better world

The president talks about being good stewards of the economy. Ironic, don't you think, considering that he helped run the deficit to record heights. Says we added 2.3 million new jobs last year....didn't we lose that many, according to reports by October of last year? I'm a little confused....research needed.
Also, he's talking about bipartisan needs for controlling spending. Only points to discretionary spending being reduced, meaning he could run up the deficit even more on non-discretionary matters, like the Medicare entitlement or the war....oh wait, that never goes into a Bush budget.


Jesus, Dick Cheney can't even smile at a opening line of confidence. Sad.

State of the Union

I will be live blogging the SOTU. Enjoy.

Some thoughts on Social Security

Watching CNN right now, hearing the back-and-forth about the issues expected to be in tonight's State of the Union, it's quite interesting. They interviewed some former Enron employees, one of whom lost $340,000 from her Enron 401(k). Is this what could happen in privatization? Probably not, since no one really puts in that much from Social Security deductions.
However, the point of Social Security, as I mentioned in the previous post, is that it is meant to be security, and no private investment, save for U.S. Treasury bonds (which, by the way, is what Social Security's trust fund is compiled of). Treasury bonds are good unless the government were to default, in which case the entire economy would collapse. By using Social Security to make up deficit holes for years, the government (especially in the past four years) has helped create the situation that President Bush can now convieniently call a "crisis."
The government could never default on its bonds, so the worst thing that could happen is having to come up with year-by-year funding for benefits in the budget, cutting benefits, or deficit spending. None of these are good. Social Security is the touchiest button, and the only reason the President is trying to push it right now is because the Republican majority is likely to end this decade.
2006 could possibly be a turning point in Congress. The Senate has the best chance of changing hands, which would give the Democrats some veto power again over Bush policies. If the president were to blow his handling of the Social Security issue, or tried to ramrod through a partisan "reform", the whole Congress could shift hands. Therefore, he really has this year only to try and pass his plans, so if he doesn't compromise, it will stay dead in the water. Expect bloodshed. A lot of it.

Jesus, I didn't post yesterday...that sucks

I've been serious for quite a while doing the blogging thing, and I'm feeling some irreverence is in order, in fact, it's probably needed so I don't seem like a tight-assed wonk.

Tonight's the State of the Union address, always an important night....unless it's pre-empting The West Wing, which I would much rather prefer watching. Martin Sheen can be kinda dumb in real life, but he plays a pretty good president.

Oh, well, I'm sure I'm going to get plenty of ammunition out of the SOTU tonight to talk about for weeks. Wondering what will be said about Social Security. Worried and pissed that polls are already mixing "crisis" with "major problems" as a category, which gives the President more "backing" for his misguided, partisan agenda.

I try to be fair. I try not to think that he's the AntiChrist (he's not) or that he's evil (he's not) or that he's an idiot (intellectually, he's not, but politically, he can be). It's just that the things he does do not help the average person. The tax cuts didn't help the average person (it sure as hell didn't help me, my tax refunds went down), the Medicare bill was a boondoggle that will hamper the budget for years to come, and now the Social Security privatization (and dammit, it's just that, not 'personalization' or 'personal accounts') will not, guaran-damn-teed, not make things better for people like me when we retire. I like the current system, thank you very much, given that I've been paying into it for seven years already and will do so for another 40. It's, oh shit, here it comes, dictionary definition AND well-understood term, "security."

1. Freedom from risk or danger; safety.
2. Freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; confidence.
3. Something that gives or assures safety, as:
a. A group or department of private guards: Call building security if a visitor acts suspicious.
b. Measures adopted by a government to prevent espionage, sabotage, or attack.
c. Measures adopted, as by a business or homeowner, to prevent a crime such as burglary or d. assault: Security was lax at the firm's smaller plant.
4. Measures adopted to prevent escape: Security in the prison is very tight.
5. Something deposited or given as assurance of the fulfillment of an obligation; a pledge.
6. One who undertakes to fulfill the obligation of another; a surety.
7. A document indicating ownership or creditorship; a stock certificate or bond.

There you go. Now think about that when you watch el presidente arbusto (bush) tonight.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Better than hoped

I want to say thank you to our soldiers for doing a tremendous job of securing polling places in Iraq so that the people of that nation could finally vote for the first time in over 50 years (and when you consider Middle Eastern history, it was really almost a first vote ever for them). I suppose George Bush, to some degree, deserves credit for this day, despite the fact that security would have been made much easier had he secured the place right two years ago, but no matter. The elections came off, far better than anyone's optimistic (or pessimistic) observations.

So, now what? I think there is some merit to looking at a timetable for leaving. It doesn't hurt to put out some ideas, at least, on when we think we'll be able to leave. Soldiers were helping get people to the polls by telling them, among other things, that the U.S. will leave if you vote. That will raise expectations, and by the end of 2005, we will be expected to be gone.

Also, Bush campaigned on the war on terror, guaranteeing that we'd be hit again by the terrorists. So, what is he doing? Going after Social Security. Why ignore our biggest worry, George? Why aren't you tackling the issue you really ran on? The President needs to be tackling the terror issue. Iraq, I think, is turning the corner to settling down, and think what you want of John Kerry, he made some valid points about our security. If we do not tighten up our security, and get attacked via one of the weak spots he mentioned in the campaign, it will be in part because this adminstration has not focused fully enough on the problem at hand.

To them, terrorism has become a way of selling Iraq, or winning election, but by God, what is the shape of our security? Too many police and fire departments have had to lay off, with NYC's being in some godawful shape. Where I live, outside of Detroit, Detroit's fire department has been understaffed and underfunded for years. What if we are the next target? I doubt the brave men and women in Detroit will be ready enough because the city is drowning in red ink, like many cities across the nation.

So, while there has been some bright light for us on the horizon, and some newfound hope, we still have a lot of work to do. I'll be watching the State of the Union quite closely to see what the president suggests in terms of national security. I suppose you all do too. Moreover, if you don't like what you see, write, call, email, and generally bug the living hell out of Congress to do better. In the end, they have the budgetary authority, and can get things done.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Here we go...

I was wondering how long it would take for voting to begin in Iraq before we started hearing about attacks, and the answer was 75 minutes.

That having been said, we are looking at a historic moment. I'm having a problem being like my fellow bloggers and coming up with any sort of idea what constitutes success in this. I think that if 50-60% of voters make it out, that's outstanding. The big question is how bad do Iraqis want this. Afghans came out in huge numbers a couple months ago. Will Iraqis be defiant or cowed?

It may seem preposterous for me to say this, but I think if I were in that situation, I'd go out there and vote. A determination to overcome terrorism has to be demonstrated if they are going to win. We talk a lot about this being our war, but in a large sense, it is the Iraqis' war too. These terrorists have shifted from attacking U.S. soldiers to attacking Iraqi police, Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi civilians. They want to control the country. A large turnout in this election and in subsequent elections will do a lot to defeat the terrorists. Terrorists cannot win if they aren't achieving their goal of a cowed populace.

I pray that the next 12 hours goes well, and that the voting turns out great. I think it is possible to keep deaths under 100, but Andrew Sullivan's prediction of under 200 seems more realistic. What's most important is for a good voting day, and then take it from there. The post-election phase is going to be even more important, because maintaining security after this vote is going to show whether Iraq can go forward.