Friday, March 04, 2005

Bait and Switch 

Today’s Krugman column includes a good, sound bite-size recap of the intellectually dishonest basis for right-wingers running up the deficit and using it as a reason to cut social programs:

“Until the 1970's conservatives tended to be open about their disdain for Social Security and Medicare. But honesty was bad politics, because voters value those programs.

So conservative intellectuals proposed a bait-and-switch strategy: First, advocate tax cuts, using whatever tactics you think may work - supply-side economics, inflated budget projections, whatever. Then use the resulting deficits to argue for slashing government spending.”

Social Security Privatization: Not Dead Yet 

There's a temptation to just stand back and watch our Dear Leader implode on Social Security, his biggest priority in dispatching American democratic ideals to the junkyard. It's not working. In fact, it's a political disaster at this moment.

But just when that tempation, along with the allure of spending free time away from the computer seems too hard to resist, two points are driven home again. The first, care of Pudentilla, is that it's folly to take your eyes off a cornered beast.

Many have underestimated Dear Leader's political savvy; most of them have paid dearly for it. If privatization is really to be defeated, it's got to be buried, and buried deep. No doubt Rove and Dear Leader had midnight discussions over Pepsi and pretzels about what they'd do if plan A didn't work. They'll likely go the very low road against opponents once again, attempting to shift the focus of the discussion.

The other point to remember is of a more joyous and yet somewhat unfamiliar nature to most progressives. This issue is a chance to pound the Administration hard where they've been so successful until now: in projecting strength and ruling by bullying. Dear Leader has wriggled away so far from his many problems with the truth and his myriad scandals by sheer intimidation ("if you ask these questions, the terrorists will have won"). Losing, and losing big on Social Security serves to embolden every opponent of this Administration on every front. What the health care debacle did to the first Clinton term, Social Security can do to the second W term. There's midterms out there, and every Member of Congress who stands with Dear Leader on privatizing all Americans' vital safety net should be held to account.

This is a moment to pour it on, not to walk away from the scene of the accident because it may look ugly.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Coronation. See it. Via Susan at Suburban Guerrilla

More on 'Potemkin World' in Mainz 

Reading Don Murray's CBC description of the imperial travels of George piqued my curiousity about the reaction of Europeans to the Bush Administration’s Part Deux journey to the Old World.

Bush’s trip, touted back home as a hopeful icebreaker to better relations with European leaders, was received more coolly by the public in Germany. Without much notice here in the U.S., the city of Mainz, Germany was turned into a set piece, much in the same way a neutron bomb might have left all the buildings intact there, while removing any evidence of humanity. A ‘red zone’ kept the city off limits to any “unauthorized” people, schools were closed, even the Main River was cleared of traffic.

In the United States, pictures of and stories about President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder’s joint press conference highlighted their common ground on international issues. Meanwhile, over a thousand local demonstrators not boxed out of the city by the high security were nonetheless protesting the President’s arrival in the city center.

Most people seemed to be of the opinion shared by Henrik and Stefanie Trabane, local Mainz businesspeople. "We did not support his war with Iraq and we do not support many of his foreign policies. We do not want him treated here like a great world statesman," Mrs Trabane said to the BBC.

Murray and Tom Engelhardt's blog do us a favor to point out that the U.S. press corps travels in the bubble, giving it mostly the view of the President's agenda constructed for their benefit. We need a little more exposure to the less rarified air on the outside.

Potemkin World 

I feel for my German friends, who probably would have tried to swim past the frogman described in Tom Dispatch's post from Old Europe entitled "Potemkin World," just for the opportunity to give our Dear Leader a finger of salute. If you want to get an idea of the world President Bush travels in when he encounters foreign lands, read this

Monday, February 28, 2005

Chiat, Day and Pudentilla 

Pudentilla tries hand at ad copy. The Social Security issue needs good ads, targeting working people, making the safety net clearly the issue.

Kudos...all this activity probably helps get through cold Maine winters, too!

Even Wall St. Doubts Administration Privatization Numbers 

While not wanting to link to paid subscription material, I’d encourage anyone who wants to dig to check out the numbers Mark Whitehouse at the WSJournal comes up with when asking Wall Street prognosticators, compared to reading the work of privatization shills.

Apparently, the numbers being used by the Administration to project stock price growth are based on 1802-2004 growth… yeah, the entire industrial revolution. Kinda’ gives new meaning to the term ‘optimism,’ eh?

No More No More Mister Nice Blog! Ouch. 

I’m going to miss No More Mister Nice Blog. Steve M. has been a fresh and often angry voice in the blogosphere and brought perspective as well as information to the political left.

I’ll particularly feel the loss of a fellow Tri-Stater who follows New York City and the likes of Rudy, Bernie and the bully boys of our fair city. But I understand the need to move on, to read an entire novel, and step back.

Thanks Steve. Keep us, er, posted.

The Gates 

Well, I finally saw The Gates in Central Park on Saturday. I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling disposed to give them a break. Most things I’d heard about them and seen over the course of the past few weeks gave me pause. The commercialism of Gates-o-belia on ebay being sold, the dressing up of a great public space in Hare Krishna robes hung from industrial pipes, the cross-selling of Lincoln Mercury cars at AOL Center under saffron drapes, it all made me feel less disposed to like them.

Then there were moments when you’d hear people describe seeing them and crying at the beauty of it all. Cool. Maybe there WAS something to it. OK, wrap my Reichstag, I’ll go see them.

For a nanosecond.

First, midtown has become a theme park. You come up at 59th St at Columbus Circle and the feeling is akin to an urban Disneyworld. Lots of tourists vectoring in to the ‘big event.’ Already I’m wanting to walk away, but Linda has promised her family she’ll report back and send pictures, so we’re heading in. Dogs are wearing saffron vests and eating crackers on the other side of Broadway. Leafleteers are giving out saffron notices about Gates-related poetry readings.

The crowds are pressing into the park, cameras at the ready, eyes at the watch for vistas that’ll be classic backgrounds for their trip to Christoville. In short, it’s everything the Park isn’t in February. It’s not quiet, not a respite from the pavement, not so much. More of a continuation of the mall that has become midtown. We pass a provocatively clad young woman sporting sheer saffron and a tiara. Her companion is holding her parka. Her pudgy, middle-aged photographer is telling her to “look bold, look leggy,” instead of urging her not to catch her death on a sub-freezing afternoon. I wish her the best, but suspect the day is going downhill for her.

The Gates stretch out in pretty much every direction, making more the impression of excess than accent. Saffron really isn’t a color that inspires awe against the brown trees' skeletons and thin layers of snow in the Park. Maybe I’d have felt better about red. There’s so much of it, so many flashes going off. Maybe I’m just freezing. The millions of dollars spent feel too close, too much associated with the little Switzerland that has become most of midtown, while people are literally begging to finance a play or shoot an independent film, find a warm place to rest, or feed their kids.

We take our own Gates-o-belia photos, walk into the AOL Center, get asked to leave the lobby of the Mandarin Hotel, and find our way to the public library at Lincoln Center. There’s a find. Great films, free to borrow. It’s warm, too.

All in all, I preferred The Somerville Gates.


Two reading notes this morning:

Bob Herbert would like us to think about the consequences of ‘extraordinary rendition.’ Torture by proxy remains U.S. policy.

The Nation has reprinted the article they assigned a broke Hunter Thompson for $100 in 1965. It formed the genesis of his landmark book, Hell’s Angels.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

...No Tank Tops 

Chris Rock went right at Bush’s rush to war in Iraq at ‘the last Oscar broadcast.’

"I watched Farenheit, I learned something man," said Rock, comparing Bush's victory in 2004 to working at the Gap, losing trillions in cash while on the clock and still keeping your job.

"Imagine you're working at Gap, you're $79 trillion behind at the register, and you start a war with Banana Republic, saying they got toxic tank tops over there!"

“Thousands of Gap employees die, there’s blood all over the khakis, everywhere…and you find out Banana Republic doesn’t even carry tank tops.”

Lessons From a Liberal Mole 

By way of Name This Thing, I came across a liberal mole’s recap of lessons learned at CPAC by Michelle Paladino, an NYU student journalist.

Remembering similarly chastening experiences as a student myself in the 70’s, I recommend taking her seriously.

I only wish we all understood the grim seriousness of the Right’s commitment to dismantling government-as-we-know-it much sooner.

...and the Winner IS... 

Oscar anticipation amped up as the Golden Raspberry awards were announced last night in Los Angeles. Big winners Halle Berry and George W. Bush had divergent approaches to their victories in major categories. Ms. Berry accepted her award in mock tears, citing her stupefying performance in Catwoman as being, “just what my career needed - I was at the top and now I'm at the bottom."

President Bush, whose dual Fahrenheit 911 victories in the worst actor and worst screen couple categories (shared with “either Condoleeza Rice or My Pet Goat”) outstripped even Berry’s worst actress honors, did not appear. For that matter, neither did fellow Fahrenheit 911 victors Donald Rumsfeld or Britney Spears, both winners in the worst supporting categories.

Big shout out to the winners! Bring on the popcorn and let’s hope for write-ins tonight at Oscar’s party.

Out of Town Tryouts Panned, Opening Night Looking Bleak 

The reviews are in from a week-long forced march of Republican Congress members on the privatization sideshow and they’re not pretty for the President. As Congress reconvenes on Monday, there will be some serious gut checks for GOP supporters of the Administration Social Security plan.

According to Cheryl Gay Stolberg and Robin Toner in today’s NY Times, “One leading Republican, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, acknowledged that the opposition was better organized while another, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said bipartisan compromise was unlikely unless the president can change the public mood…

"It's a heavy lift," Mr. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Friday, after a week spent crisscrossing his home state to play host to 17 town-hall-style meetings.”

The wheels are coming off the wagon for the Administration on this issue and there’s little chance right now that there will be any movement among Democrats to compromise over a plan that’s getting zero traction among the public, despite a barrage of well-financed presentations and economic sleight of hand to equate privatization with solvency.

One of the most telling comments after a week of negative road testing comes from AARP’s policy director, John Rother, who recaps the GOP town halls this way, "We've yet to find one where there was an enthusiastic reception. The most positive reception people are getting is lots of questions, and there's significant skepticism. This is proving to be a tough sell, and our polling suggests that the more people know, the harder the sell."

Congressional leadership has a decision to make and the basic outline is defined by which constituency they look to protect—their members or their President.

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