How many of you heard Washiongton Post's EJ Dionne Jr. mention BuzzFlash on NPR's All Things Considered today?


Mike Finley writes about finding work after are 50. Go read it, and then come back and tell me what "exhortative" means.


I was going to write a piece about watching the news on Friday afternoons because that's when the Republicans announce things that they don't really want to be big in the news cycle. Then I heard that Kissinger resigned from the 9/11 commission. He was going to have to disclose his business relationships. I wonder what he's hiding. Like I said, Fridays.


Situation Room writes about a Moonie Times column calling Bush a coward for not attacking Iraq sooner and then the article gets weird.

Alas, Talk Radio

Alas, a Blog is talking about talk radio, with links to some other good comments on the subject.

News Flash

Instapundit has mentioned Commonweal Institute, and blogger Will Wilkinson has picked up on this with two pieces commenting from the right. (Wilkinson's site has a place to leave comments - feel free to participate.) Commonweal's guest book has received its very first "Jesus will return and then you will be very, very sorry for what you are doing" comment. More later.


A Blog to Visit

Musings & Meanderings of an unabashed Liberal

Media Bias

P.L.A. has discovered Eriposte, who is doing a public service documenting evidence of media bias.


Kerry came through!

How Far Left?

Kevin Phillips describes just how far left the Democrats would have to move to catch up traditional REPUBLICAN economics:
Consider just how far left serious reform would have to go to catch up with earlier Republican economics. For example, the federal inheritance tax that conservatives are trying to scuttle, principally on behalf of the 300,000 families with assets greater than $5 million, was imposed by wartime Republican presidents Lincoln and McKinley and urged for peacetime by Theodore Roosevelt. In 1953, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower declined to support GOP congressional legislation to reduce the top federal income tax rate of 91%, and on leaving office in 1961 he warned against the rise of the military-industrial complex. Contempt for the politics of money, in turn, has more recently been best expressed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).This is how far left the Democrats have to go.
Next time you hear someone complain about the Democrats moving left, think about this. FIRST they have to move as far left as Eisenhower. Maybe after that we can talk about where is too far to the left.

Today's Google Experiment

Today let's learn about what happened to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago. Click here to search for these names.

THEN think about whether it is a good idea for Republicans to have this kind of power to abuse civil rights.

Point by Point

Sometimes you just gotta do it, line by line.

Tax cuts benefit economy is a recent example right-wing propaganda piece put out by their think tanks, and published in USA Today. It says it's "by" Grover Norquist. You gotta know who this guy is - and USA Today doesn't provide the info.

“Because of bizarre budget rules, the 2001 tax cut is good for only 10 years.”
Actually, they did this because holding it to 10 years masked the real long-terms costs. It was a trick to win support.
“The reduction in the unfair marriage-penalty tax will evaporate unless Congress acts. Lower marginal tax rates will shoot back upward to Bill Clinton levels.”
Gotta get that Clinton lie in there. Clinton did raise taxes on the very rich, but lowered them at the bottom. The middle class got a tax cut toward the end of his term.
“And while Congress abolished the ''death tax,'' it comes back in 2011. Congress should follow the president's lead and put a stake through the heart of this destructive and unfair tax on money already taxed."
“Money already taxed.” What the hell does that even mean? ALL money is “already taxed.” When you pay your plumber you pay with money that you made and paid taxes on. But is SOUNDS GOOD, and their focus groups show that it helps trick people into supporting repealing this tax, even though it funds programs that benefit them.
“The death tax breaks up small businesses, family farms and benefits only a handful of expensive probate lawyers.”
This is an established lie. Do I have to go into this? It is NOT a death tax, it is a tax on income that is inherited. NO family farms have been broken up. NO small businesses. This is an INCOME tax on the recipients of income from the deaths of approx. 13,000 extremely, extremely rich people. Why should the kids of rich people be the only people who DON’T pay taxes on their incomes?
“There are several good ideas now before the president. One is legislation introduced by Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to strengthen IRAs and 401(k)s so that more Americans can save tax-free for their retirement and have greater freedom on how and when to withdraw funds from their portable pension accounts.”
This is just another benefit for the rich. In the last few days I’ve been writing (here, here and here) about the 401K scam and who benefits and who doesn’t.
”Someday, when we reform Social Security, every single American will have the opportunity to save in a portable personal pension account. Bush wants all Americans to have that choice.”
He's talking about privatization of Social Security. Is privatization back? Actually Republicans have been denying they ever even thought about this. Oh wait, the election is over, they can go back to this, after denying to the voters that they want to do this. This scam has all the disadvantages of the 401Ks - including the need to save much more because the money is not pooled - but it also is incredibly costly to the government, promises reduced benefits, and so many other problems... They tried to foist it on us, the public was upset so they lied and said they never wanted to change Social Security. Now it's back again.
”Another good idea is to end the double taxation of dividend income. Today, when you invest in a business -- as 70% of voters do -- the government takes a chunk out of your investment in corporate income taxes and then taxes dividends that are paid out to you as an investor. That dividend is taxed twice -- once at the corporate level and once at the individual level. The stock market would shoot upward if that unfairness ended.”
Here's that old "taxed twice" argument again. This would be another huge benefit to the top few rich people who own most of the stock, while draining the treasury of funds to pay for programs that benefit the rest of us. And the stock market shooting up, when the S&P Core Earnings PE ratio is around 50? Shooting up smack maybe.
”Congress should move quickly to reduce taxes and strengthen the economy.”
Tell me again how huge deficits, leading us to have to pay interest of more than $300 billion per year helps the economy? It sure helps the people who are receiving that $300 billion each year.

The Word is "Sanity"

I've been trying to write about my trip to England. Between work and jet lag and other things I've been writing about and everything else I've realized I'm going to write a very short piece about this.

The word is "sanity."

In Europe they take actual vacations from work; I think 4-6 weeks is considered a basic right. The work week in England is 35 hours. They get real pensions. Their CEOs do not steal all the money and then lay everyone off. British news covers actual news about what is going on in their country and the world. (Compare that to American television and newspapers.) If you are unemployed you don't lose your house or starve. Their TV shows aren't saturated with commercials and sex and violence. You don't have to worry about getting shot. And they have HEALTH CARE - don’t even get me started on that! THEIR COUNTRY IS FOR THEM! THEIR ECONOMY IS FOR THEM!

But the most obvious difference is on the roads. All the cars are so much smaller, and, of course, that's immediately obvious and overwhelming as soon as you leave the airport. I think I saw maybe four SUVs in a week. If a car is larger than an American Honda Civic it stands out. I really think that if a person said they wanted an SUV they would be referred to a mental health clinic -- by the dealer!

So thinking about that it came to me - the word is "sanity." Coming back from England and comparing the two countries, America really does seem to have gone insane.

No Trees

Bush is implementing the "stop fires by getting rid of the trees" scam to reward logging company campaign contributors, even though Congress rejected the plan. He's going ahead anyway, challenging opponents to take it to the courts, which he is packing with Federalist Society ideological zealots (like the one who this week dismissed the lawsuit asking Cheney to reveal exactly how many Enron lobbyists formulated the Bush energy policy.)

"The administration said the rules, rejected by Congress this fall, would reduce bureaucracy and speed projects to thin brush and trees over more than 190 million acres of national forests and rangelands -- an area twice the size of California."
The key words are "rejected by Congress this fall". Here's some more key words:
"On Nov. 22, the Environmental Protection Agency announced changes to the Clean Air Act that would allow older factories, oil refineries and power plants to refurbish without having to install modern air-pollution technology. Five days later, the Forest Service announced that it would no longer require environmental impact statements for the 15-year plans that govern logging, mining, ski resorts and grazing on the nation's 155 national forests."
"But critics said the timber industry and the Bush administration are forcing through rules with loopholes that will allow large trees -- more fire resistant and worth more money when logged -- to be removed instead of the more flammable and problematic brush and young, thin trees."
Never mind the law, never mind public opinion, we're going ahead. We'll have the old-growth trees cut before you can rally to stop us, and then they won't be a problem anymore.

No Jews

Bush is implementing the "Faith-Based" scam to fund the religious right, even though Congress won't pass it. He's going ahead anyway, challenging opponents to take it to the courts, which he is packing with Federalist Society ideological zealots (like the one who this week dismissed the lawsuit asking Cheney to reveal exactly how many Enron lobbyists formulated the Bush energy policy.)

Here's the latest part:
President Bush (news - web sites) is enacting by executive fiat key pieces of his divisive "faith-based initiative," including one that lets federal contractors display religious favoritism in their hiring.
What this comes down to is No Jews Required, coming from the guy who says that Jews can't get into Heaven.


Defense Spending

Please read William Burton's piece on defense spending.


Has Bush released the Harken files yet? Has the S.E.C. released their files? Will the new S.E.C. nominee be asked during his upcoming confirmation hearings to investigate all of this? Maybe if webloggers make enough noise before those hearings, some Democratic Senators will speak up.

Count Them

P.L.A. on the type of people running our government.

Do Blogs Matter?

Nathan Newman is asking if the blogoshphere matters.

Here's what I think: Please contact people you know and let them know that this alternative source of information exists.

Every blogger should be regularly reminding readers to contact others and let them know about blogs. That's how we can grow our readership - and widen the number of informed people. We need to expand the reach of this important alternative to the "librul media."

Lotta Opinions

Nathan Newman on Gore, Lott:
At this point Kerry or Dean or Edwards will have to do something pretty damn dramatic to pull my support. That they have sat on the sidelines as this controversy has unfolded says volumes about their potential leadership, or lack thereof. Any politician who can not deal with racism straight on won't get my vote. Period.
I'm actually going to see Kerry at a reception Saturday. Maybe I'll get a chance to ask him about this. But keep in mind that those of us reading these things are living in "internet time." Lott only said it a few days ago. I don't fault Kerry for being quiet so far. AND DailyKos has a different take on this:
So in retrospect, perhaps Daschle was on to something when he gave Lott a pass. I still think Daschle should've passed on the issue ("I certainly hope he didn't mean what he said! Segregation was horrible, yadda yadda..."), rather than make excuses, but it's clear Daschle's job as minority leader is easier vs. Lott than against any number of more competent (and diplomatic) GOP senators.
Meanwhile, Daschle isn't giving Lott a pass, after all. Which might be a strategy to rally Republicans around Lott, which keeps Lott in place. Is it intrigue, or is it just life in internet time?

More on Screwing Workers

I received the following from a reader this morning, making an excellent point:
I think that one of the biggest untold problems with 401k's is rarely ever discussed (in reference to your posting Screwing Workers). I read an article in the Stanford Alumni magazine a while ago (wish I had kept the copy!) that said that one of the worse problems with our current focus on individual 401K's was that this ties up so much more money in savings than what really would be needed for covering our retirements. The difference between a pension plan and a 401K savings plan is that one is a pooled plan and the other is an individual plan. If we go fully to an individual savings plan, then everyone must save every penny they would need for their maximal retirement lifetime (eg: I might live until I'm 100 years old, and therefore, I must save enough to cover 35 years of retirement -- based on retiring at the age of 65). However, there are very few people that will actually live that long -- and in fact, most people will not. In this scenario, if you bet you won't live that long, then don't save enough, and end up doing so -- you are really out of luck! The other alternative is to join into a pooled insurance plan (what used to happen in a company pension plan), where you pool your savings with lots of other people. This allows you all to set aside some money to cover your retirement, but not as much as you would need to cover a full 35 years of retirement. Because some people die earlier and some die later, this balances out nicely for everyone as long as everyone's combined share is enough to cover the whole pool's requirements.

The important thing about pooling vs individual savings is that the amount of money that needs to be set aside is significantly lower than if each individual saved the entire amount they would need "just in case". The article also pointed out that if this unnecessarily large amount of money was not set aside in personal accounts, then it could be used to cover other things we deem important -- schooling, roads, etc.

There is something very strange about our latest love affair for private accounts. What is it about a society that decides that everyone much supply their own needs and scorns anything where we work together to solve problems? (And where does it end? When each of us is responsible for providing our own security, school, health?)

Thanks for your blog -- it really has some very interesting and important topics.


Technical Difficulties

Go see Technical Difficulties.

Stimulate the Economy

Yeah - what he said.

(If the link doesn't take you directly there, scroll down to KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS....THE SEQUEL!...)


"How can anyone reasonably suggest to our fellow Americans that the way to get the economy moving today is to cut taxes 8 years from now?

And as for fairness, we’re not calling for redistribution - what we want is for average, middle class Americans who work hard to be able to get ahead just like their parents did. 20 years ago, the average CEO made 42 times what the average worker made. Now it’s 531 times more. It’s out of whack. Yet 40 percent of Bush’s tax giveaway oes to that very top 1 percent. I think that’s an attack on the fundamental fairness that holds this country together.

And perhaps most outrageous if the violation of generational responsibility -- The largest cost of the Bush tax giveaway will not be born by any of us here today - it will be paid for by our children. That’s right - we’re borrowing from Social Security and Medicare to put money in some peoples’ pockets today - and sticking our children with the bill."
Now, how about saying something about Trent Lott's racism?!

(Thanks to Free Pie for this.)

Take Back The Media!

Take Back The Media! is hereby added to Essential Links.

Saying It!

E. J. Dionne Jr. SAYS IT!
"The first lesson is that if you're a Democrat in the House or Senate, it doesn't matter how you vote or what you say or how patriotic you try to be. The Bush machine will try to smash you anyway. Consequently there is no percentage in making nice with this administration, especially after it showed its willingness this fall to politicize security issues."

Stocks are Up

Stocks are up today. Perhaps because of this story.
Sales at U.S. chain stores faltered last week as many consumers, worried by a weak economy and scarce jobs, stayed away from shopping malls, two separate reports said. Icy weather in parts of the country also kept shoppers away.

The drop in sales was viewed by some as a worrying omen for the remainder of the crucial holiday shopping season.

"Unless sales pick up in the next two weeks, we will fall short of the weak holiday results recorded in 2000 and 2001," said Dana Johnson, chief economist at Banc One Capital Markets in Chicago.

A separate government report showed stocks on wholesalers' shelves fell for the first time in half a year in October, down 0.3 percent after rising 0.4 percent in September and confounding expectations for a 0.1 percent rise.
Prosperity is just around the corner.

More on Pensions

I just found this NY Times article from April tracing the history in the change in American retirement pensions that I wrote about earlier today.
American workers now put more money into pension and retirement savings plans sponsored by their employers than the companies themselves do.

That remarkable milestone, determined by pension researchers reviewing the most recent data, shows just how far companies have moved away from the system of decades past, in which employers alone financed the retirement savings of their workers, and toward 401(k) and similar retirement plans financed mostly by workers.

The milestone is all the more remarkable because 401(k)'s and similar retirement accounts were never intended to be the main way for an employee to save for retirement. They were originally expected merely to supplement company-financed pension plans.

The new-style plans lack the protections of the old pension plans, like a guaranteed benefit and federal insurance to protect retirees if the company goes bankrupt.
The newer plans, known as defined contribution programs, shifted to employees the burden of investing the money to cover their living expenses at retirement, thereby saving companies the cost of managing that money over an employee's entire life, as well as the cost of premiums for federal pension insurance.

Companies also found that they could trim costs further by cutting the amount they contributed. Now, on average, companies put up less than 50 cents for every dollar set aside by employees, and many companies make their contributions in the form of their own shares, rather than cash.
It's fun looking at an article from back in April. Here's how it ends:
Though Congress is preparing to take up the subject in coming weeks, there is considerable doubt that substantive change will come out of the Enron collapse. "I don't think that we'll get more than a Band-Aid or two," said Pamela Perun, a pension lawyer who works as a consultant for the Urban Institute.
Yeah, right, substantive change resulting from the Enron collapse. Right. Duh.



Screwing Workers

I'm STILL planning on writing about the trip to England, as the jet lag recedes. But in the meantime I just saw this.
The Bush administration has proposed sweeping new pension rules that will encourage companies to adopt a type of retirement plan that has been under attack for three years for what critics call a tendency to strip benefits from older employees.
One thing (of many) that's great about England (and Europe) is generous pensions. But here we have the Bush Administration proposing changing pension rules to allow companies to further screw workers, especially those who are near retirement and have limited options for recovering from the blow.

Let's look back a little further in time. Corporate pensions used to be much more common for American workers. But in 1981 Congress passed the 401(k) retirement plan scam. (Let's see, what ELSE did Congress do in 1981, that led to trillion of dollars of debt?) The 401(k) is a "defined contribution" plan, instead of a "defined benefit" plan. The primary "advantage" to workers is they don't pay income taxes on money they set aside in a 401(k), plus employees can set aside a higher amount per year than an IRA - both of which of course primarily benefit higher-paid workers who have the money to set aside, and who pay higher tax rates. Another "advantage" is that workers decide for themselves where to invest the money - which is why everyone lost so much in the market crash. The benefit to employers is that workers think they have a retirement plan. Meanwhile, instead of setting aside money to provide pensions for workers the employer MAY contribute to the 401(k) (or contribute NOTHING, and can even contribute company stock instead of cash). So instead of the COMPANY setting aside money for the worker's retirement, the WORKER now shoulders the burden of setting aside the money. 401(k)'s aren't even insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

401(k) plans were sold to the Congress as a way to get people to save more for their retirement. What really happened was that many corporations now offer 401(k) plans INSTEAD of pensions! The money many corporations had been setting aside for workers' retirements instead became corporate profits, which increased the value of their stock, which benefited stockholders, which primarily means the top few percent of the economic ladder - the rich and the very rich.

This is of course the simplified version. But think about it - companies could stop setting aside money for their workers' retirement, with the workers instead being responsible for setting aside a portion of their income, all couched in language that made people think this would BENEFIT the workers! Meanwhile the money previously going to workers' pensions instead finds its way to the top of the economic ladder.

I found a good article on this subject here.


I'm Back

I'm back from England. Before I write anything about that, I just noticed that a Federalist Society judge has dismissed the lawsuit challenging the secrecy of who met with Cheney's energy task force. (Judge Bates was previously deputy independent counsel in the Washington Office of the Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.) More info on the judge is here and here.
As a deputy to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr in 1997, Bates was a key figure in a case called Office of the President v. Office of Independent Counsel. Bates tried fervently to get the release of White House documents, winning the case when the Supreme Court refused to reconsider an appellate court ruling in Starr's favor.
I see here that he was nominated by Bush in June, 2001 so I assume that this obvious right-wing operative was confirmed with at least some DEMOCRATIC Senators' votes. (Gore voted for HOW many of the Supreme Court judges who later appointed Bush? Is there a LESSON here, perhaps?)