Saturday, February 12, 2005

No, they don't hate us for our freedom...

...but because we do things like this:

Mamdouh Habib still has a bruise on his lower back. He says it is a sign of the beatings he endured in a prison in Egypt. Interrogators there put out cigarettes on his chest, he says, and he lifts his shirt to show the marks. He says he got the dark spot on his forehead when Americans hit his head against the floor at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

After being arrested in Pakistan in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, he was held as a terror suspect by the Americans for 40 months. Back home now, Mr. Habib alleges that at every step of his detention - from Pakistan, to Egypt, to Afghanistan, to Guantánamo - he endured physical and psychological abuse.

The physical abuse, he said, ranged from a kick "that nearly killed me" to electric shocks administered through a wired helmet that he said interrogators told him could detect whether he was lying.

Is it true? Is it verifiable? It no longer even matters. There are too many similar stories for every one of them to be false, too many people with accounts of torture and abuse and "rendition" for all of them to be invented.

The people who attack us now don't hate us for our freedom. We have given them countless reasons to hate us. And destroyed our own justice system in the process. One reason Mr. Habib wasn't charged with any crime is clear: nothing he said would be admissable in a court of law.

Which, of course, is another reason the Bush Administration continues to flout the ruling of the Supreme Court with regard to the prisoners at Guantanamo. And still we haven't captured Osama Bin Laden, or seriously impaired the insurgency in Iraq.

Will stories such as this, finally being reported in the U.S., open more eyes? Tonight, "The Big Story" on FoxNews was an allegation by a woman that 30 years ago Bill Cosby "groped" her.

They report. You decide. I'll retire to Bedlam....

Yes! No! by Mary Oliver

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

Evening Open Thread

Hope I don't step on anyone else's toes here. Enjoy.

Dean's In

If you're happy with that choice, reward good behavior.

For the record: I'm happy with the choice. We've set up a blogosphere-wide donation page, so show your support.

Remember: money talks. So, one way to get Candy Crowley to shut the fuck up is to play to Dean's strengths, which include gettting lots of turkee from the netroots.

Contribution amount:

Kos has the code you can use to add that to your blog.


Well, we're back to another round of being called terrorists by the Right. Just go read Ted, Digby, and the Editors.

It pains me to even address this seriously, but... At one time, yes, there were justifications for aligning the "political Left" with "communisim" and then you're a hop skip and a jump away from associating them with being "pro-USSR" and "pro-Stalin." Now, as history progressed those associations were less and less valid until they became totally invalid.

But, now our new scary enemy, "radical Islam," has the good fortune of having nothing to do with the political left as we pretty much love our promiscuity, gay sex, abortions, and banning aall religion whenever possible - especially those religious which get in the way of the aforementioned promiscuity, gay sex, and abortion.

So, just shut the fuck up.

Saturday Morning

Warm croissants. Raspberry jam. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.

Late Night

Have fun.

Late Night

Have fun.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sorry for Absence

Found myself in Los Angeles suddenly, only of course that journey isn't so sudden.

Light posting through the weekend. All those with keys to the treehouse feel free to chime in as desired...

That darn SCLM

A-man will return. While you're waiting, look at this interesting new poll:

WASHINGTON - Americans are feeling a bit more optimistic about the future of Iraq, a bright spot for the administration in an Associated Press poll that indicates many are souring on President Bush's job performance.

Half in the AP-Ipsos poll, 51 percent, said they think a stable, democratic Iraq is likely, up slightly from the 46 percent who felt that way before the Iraq elections.

"From what I hear in the news, it sounds like the Iraqis really want it," said Bill Harrer, a nurse's aide in Mason City, Iowa, who considers himself a political independent. "But it's going to take a long time."

Hmmmm. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

The uptick in sentiment about Iraq was not matched by increasing optimism about how things are going at home.

The Time has Come, the Walrus said... speak of many things.

Which, on a Friday night in Lent, is about as serious as I intend to get at this point. May your conversation be pleasurable and troll free.

new thread

I'm never sure if I should be doing this.

Waiting for Atrios

February Days”
~ by May Sarton
Who could tire of the long shadows,
The long shadows of the trees on snow?
Sometimes I stand at the kitchen window
For a timeless time in a long daze
Before these reflected perpendiculars,
Noting how the light has changed,
How tender it is now in February
When the shadows are blue not black.
The crimson cyclamen has opened wide,
A bower of petals drunk on the light,
And in the snow-bright ordered house
I am drowsy as a turtle in winter,
Living on light and shadow
And their changes.

Afternoon Delight

Just until the A-man gets back.

Red Alert


WASHINGTON - The public's confidence in President Bush (news - web sites)'s job performance and the nation's direction has slipped in the opening weeks of his second term, particularly among people 50 and older, according to an Associated Press poll.

Adults were evenly divided on Bush's job performance in January, but now 54 percent disapprove and 45 percent approve. The number who think the country is headed down the wrong track increased from 51 percent to 58 percent in the past month.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Well, odds are the bankruptcy bill which was miraculously killed a couple of times is coming back to life.

Republican leaders in Congress began clearing the way yesterday for swift passage of legislation backed by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups that would make it harder for consumers to wipe out debt through bankruptcy.

Congress has tried repeatedly in recent years to pass similar legislation in what would be the most significant change in bankruptcy law in more than a quarter of a century. Twice in the last seven years, bankruptcy bills have passed both the House and Senate, only to face ultimate defeat. In one case, President Clinton refused to sign the legislation, saying it was unfair to consumers. In 2002, House Republicans initially backed the bill but then voted it down after an amendment was attached that sought to prevent individuals from using bankruptcy to shield them from fines imposed for illegal antiabortion protests.

Now two nearly identical bills have been introduced in Congress in the last week that are essentially the same as what House and Senate negotiators worked out in the last Congress, but lacking the controversial abortion amendment. The absence of the amendment, plus the Republican leadership's decision to begin deliberation now, early in the legislative cycle, has industry officials and lawmakers hoping a bill can become law within weeks.

It's unfair, but there are moments when I just want to scream -- "THIS IS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR!!!!"

Kicked Ass

Just watched Americablog's John on Aaron Brown (was out when it was broadcast). Several thumbs up, great job. I'm usually groaning when one of ours takes the stage. Not this time.


For some reason with Rice we need to prove she lied like 5 gazillion times before we can call her a liar.

Well, she's a liar.

The Senate Had Better Stop This

Rep. Earl Blumenauer yesterday:

If this provision, the waiver of all laws necessary for quote improvements of barriers at the border was to become law, the Secretary of Homeland Security could give a contract to his political cronies that had no safety standards, using 12-year-old illegal immigrants to do the labor, run it through the site of a Native American burial ground, kill bald eagles in the process, and pollute the drinking water of neighboring communities. And under the provisions of this act, no member of Congress, no citizen could do anything about it because you waive all judicial review.

Open Thread

John from Americablog will be on Aaron Brown tonight.

Shotgun Martini

Oh jumping jeebus. Check out the White House presidential history page. They've taken to calling Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams "Republicans" because, you know, they were members of the Democratic-Republican party, so therefore they're Republicans.

I do need a drink.

Even the RNC is more honest than the White House:

The Republican Party was born in the early 1850's by anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. The first informal meeting of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, a small town northwest of Milwaukee. The first official Republican meeting took place on July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name "Republican" was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson convention, the new party adopted a platform and nominated candidates for office in Michigan.

In 1856, the Republicans became a national party when John C. Fremont was nominated for President under the slogan: "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont." Even though they were considered a "third party" because the Democrats and Whigs represented the two-party system at the time, Fremont received 33% of the vote. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House.

Is our children learning?

....Well, apparently I'm mostly wrong about this. It wasn't a Bush administration plot.

I still find the text inappropriate in this context, but nonetheless no conspiracy can be claimed...

Truly Devout

Today on Blitzer's pathetic interview, whiny JD Guckert claimed that people (bad evil liberals) had followed him to church.

Anything's possible, I suppose, but his real name was first revealed to the world Monday night at 11:54pm, after the week's prime churchgoing day was long over.

And, Guckert himself declared:

I'm a two-holiday Christian and I usually vote Republican because they most often support conservative positions.

Now, we could imagine that he's Catholic and one of those two holidays is Ash Wednesday, but Ash Wednesday happened after he announced that he quit, so, it's hard to imagine that people following him to church after he quit was the reason he quit...

And, to NPR he claimed:

FOLKENFLIK: It's hard to check what Gannon's real interests might be because he doesn't write under his real name. Monday, before his resignation, when Gannon spoke to NPR he said his family had been harassed ever since that press conference.

"That press conference" refers to the Bush conference from a couple weeks ago. Since, as he told Wolf, when he says "family" he means mother, brother, and sister-in-law, one wonders how all these evil people found them when, you know, NOBODY KNEW HIS REAL NAME.

Gosh journalisming is shur hard.

Show Your Papers

Well, it seems as if my days of mocking Yurpeans for their national ID cards and the like are just about over.

Hoping to keep drivers licenses out of the hands of terrorists, the House voted Thursday to make states verify that applicants are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

Republicans pushed the measure through on a 261-161 vote despite protests from governors and state motor vehicle departments that it would be too costly and would require them to take on the role of immigration officers.

"A Very Bad Deal for Workers"

I honestly can't figure out if the National Review editors have any idea what they're talking about. There's a distinction between "keeping your entire social security benefit and having your personal account reduced" and "keeping your entire personal account and having your benefits reduced" but it's a distinction almost without a difference. The only difference is the the amount of money over the mandatory annuity amount would be greater, possible leaving you with modest amount of money over which you actually have some discretion. But, I dare anyone to explain how the former is a "very bad deal for workers" and the latter is a great deal.

They Write Letters

Senator Lautenberg writes to Scotty:
Dear Mr. McClellan,

I am writing to request that you immediately release documents to my office relating to the White House press credentials of James D. Guckert, a.k.a. "Jeff Gannon." Specifically, I am seeking documentation related to the question of which name Mr. Guckert/Gannon used when applying for credentials, and which name was on the official White House press credentials he received. Additionally, I am seeking documents indicating whether Mr. Guckert/Gannon received a "hard pass" or daily passes from your office. Despite your assertions to the contrary, at least one White House reporter has revealed that Mr. Guckert/Gannon appeared to have "hard pass" credentials.

As you may know, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was denied a Congressional press pass because he could not show that he wrote for a valid news organization. Given the fact that he was denied Congressional credentials, I seek your explanation of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials.

I have led the effort in the Senate to investigate a number of instances of troubling propaganda efforts by the Administration. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to my requests to investigate various attempts at media manipulation: fake television news stories touting both the new Medicare law and the "No Child Left Behind" education program; a study rating individual journalists on their "favorability" to Republican education policies; and the payment to journalist Armstrong Williams.

Since the Armstrong Williams controversy became public, Administration payments to two other journalists, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus, have come to light. Given the backdrop of these scandals, coupled with Mr. Guckert/Gannon's role in recent White House press briefings and press conferences, it is understandable that the circumstances of Mr. Guckert/Gannon's credentialing have raised suspicion.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely, Frank R. Lautenberg

Wanker of the Day

Stanley Kurtz.

Risk-Adjusted Rate of Return

Stocks, on average, provide a higher rate of return. This is because they're riskier, and the return differential is called the risk premium. Investors demand to be paid higher returns, on average, because of that risk.

Given the way the Bush plan is structured, it's certainly important to calculate the "risk-adjusted returns" the way the CBO does when scoring the plan. The fact that "in the long run stocks do better" isn't much help, given that upon reaching retirement age a large chunk, if not all, of your private account will be mandatorially converted into an annuity. While long run investors can ride out the storm of a bad couple of years on the stock market, the Bush plan doesn't allow for that possibility. Long bear periods do happen. In 1987 the S&P crashed 20% in one day. If that happened on the day when you hit 67, you'd be pretty upset.

Heart of the Matter

Over at Romenesko, Bruce Bartlett gets to the important part:

Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.

Or, as a questioner to Froomkin put it:

San Jose, Calif.: I really appreciated your early coverage of the Gannon/Guckert affair, but am curious to learn how, as with Kerik, the White House vetting procedure got so lax. Is this part of a trend towards not vetting those put forward by Bush associates? Is there an official policy of calling so-called reporters by their aliases? Would Scott McClellan call a questioner by the name PrincessSparklePony if she put that forward as her alias?


Now, could the reporters who revealed that the Thune campaign made payments to bloggers check and see if it made any payments to James D. Guckert or any of his associated enterprises...

Two Stories

a) Partisan operative with no background in journalism, whose work frequently involves passing off RNC press releases as his own stories, is allowed to be a part of White House press briefings day after day, operating under a pseudonym, providing a regular lifeline for Scott McClellan and making it difficult for other reporters to get answers to serious questions.

b) Partisan operative with no background in journalism, whose work frequently involves passing off RNC press releases as his own stories, is allowed to be a part of White House press briefings day after day, operating under a pseudonym, providing a regular lifeline for Scott McClellan and making it difficult for other reporters to get answers to serious questions. Oh, and he put up a shirtless pic on AOL and registered domain names promoting gay military porn and prostitution.

If the media thinks "b)" is a big story and "a)" is not, that's hardly the fault of pesky bloggers.

World's Most Expensive Life Insurance Policy

Dean Baker talks about how the much praised inheritability aspect of private accounts would do very little for African-American males. Short version -- the median African-American male, born in 1984 and retiring at age 67 would have a potential bequest of abobut $65,000 in real terms. And, if they died the day before their 67th birthday, not having retired early, they'd have been able to leave about $112K to the heirs of their choice.

Now, that doesn't sound like a totally nontrivial amount. But, let's talk about pre-retirement. Sure, if you're childless and unmarrried, if you die before reaching retirement age you get "nothing" from Social Security, in much the same way that if your house doesn't burn down you get "nothing" from your fire insurance policy. And, "all" of your private account would in theory be part of your estate.

But, if the concern is leaving something for your heirs if you die early, the standard thing to do is buy a life insurance policy. A healthy person can buy a 30 year $100,000 term life insurance policy at age 37 for about $375 per year which, unlike your private account, would provide 100 grand for the entire 30 year period. So, Bush proposes substantially reducing your promised benefits (including survivor benefits where applicable) in exchange for letting you bequeath a modest amount of money if you die early. Some deal.

More Moonie Times Bigots

It never ends.

Feb. 9, 2005 -- Marian Kester Coombs is a woman who believes America has become a "den of iniquity" thanks to "its efforts to accommodate minorities."
White men should "run, not walk" to wed "racially conscious" white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites. Latinos are "rising to take this country away from those who made it," the "Euroamericans." Muslims are "human hyenas" who "smell blood" and are "closing in" on their "weakened prey," meaning "the white race." Blacks, Coombs sneers, are "saintly victims who can do no wrong." Black solidarity and non-white immigration are imposing "racial revolution and decomposition" in America.

Coombs describes herself as just "a freelance writer in Crofton, Maryland." But this is one writer who's a bit more well-positioned than she lets on.

Marian Kester Coombs is married to Francis Booth Coombs, managing editor of the hard-right newspaper The Washington Times. Fran Coombs has published at least 35 of his wife's news and opinion pieces for his paper, although his relationship to her is not acknowledged in her Times bylines.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Good News and Bad News For Immigrant Haters

The bad news is that the Bush budget cuts out almost 10,000 border guards.

The *good* news is that pending legislation empowers future DHS Chief Michael Chertoff to murder at will.

Oh Crap

While Salon generally failed to (frequent several notable exceptions) live up to its promise, replacing the ineffectual Talbot with the loathsome Joan Walsh is not a positive step....

Ho Ho Ho

David E. on Howie.

Open Thread

Have fun.

"Death Threats"

When people whine to reporters that they're receiving death threats in email, the reporter should ask them to produce those threats. I hear this stuff all the time from victim-status claiming conservatives, but oddly I never hear the follow-up story about all of those people who got arrested for making said threats.

Kos says he's gotten some death threats. I actually don't think I ever have. I've gotten emails filled with violent language, and emails expressing serious desires for tragic accidents to befall me, but those aren't threats -- and, absent any repeat behavior I don't consider such emails to be "threatening" in some broader sense, just nasty.

Google Maps

The new google maps system does appear to be great. But, as a reader informs me, it's eerily accurate....

New Kid in Class

Gannon leaves, and is magically replaced with GannonBot Mark II (or is it KinsolvingBot Mark III?). From the gaggle:

Q Does this administration believe the Democratic leaders are now engaged in a deliberate disinformation campaign as the best way to undermine the President's goals and objectives on a number of issues?

MR. McCLELLAN: A deliberate?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: We would certainly hope not. The President has made it very clear that he wants to reach out and work together on our shared priorities. That's what he's going to continue to do.

So far I've been unable to determine who Scotty's new suppository is. If anyone knows...

Acid Dropping Derbyshire

Oh man, this day just gets funnier and funnier...


Americablog is your place go to for all things Gannon.

The most interesting new bit are the minutes from a meeting of his old fraternity.

The Alumni Recruit VP stated that "JD Guckert: He is not in the CIA, NSA, or any other crazy super duper secret government agency. He is a reporter, not sure for whom, but he has definitely been in the White House briefing room on several occasions."

This is interesting for two reasons -- one is that it's another bit of proof that Guckert=Gannon. But, even more interestingly -- what would motivate the guy to say something like that? Obviously, what Guckert actually did must have been discussed at the fraternity, and it must have been some sort of running joke that he must be a spy or something. Curiouser and curiouser... The point isn't that this makes Guckert a CIA plant or something, but it does mean he was likely rather evasive about what he did, and had managed to create the impression that he was a Man of Mystery.

Brit Hume Should Resign

Indeed. From the Franken blog, based on this Media Matters item:

So, FDR was proposing three things: a temporary “old-age pension,” for seniors who wouldn’t have time to pay into the Social Security system; a compulsory-contribution annuity--meaning, Social Security as we know it today--which would become a “self-supporting system,” and, third, voluntary private accounts. Ultimately, the old-age pensions would be supplanted by the self-supporting annuities (meaning, Social Security.)

Hume turns this completely on its head. He pulls two unrelated bits out of the FDR quote, and adds the words “government funding” between them. Because it’s so carefully done, it’s clear that it’s deliberate. And it’s a nasty form of dishonesty. Hume is manipulating Americans’ trust of FDR in order to build support for dismantling FDR’s legacy.


Although it won’t be as explosive politically, this is worse than Dan Rather’s memo scandal. First of all, it's deliberate. Secondly, it's untrue. Dan Rather was guilty of being insufficiently skeptical of forged, true documents. But Brit Hume, Fox News Channel's #1 anchor--not commentator, not editorialist, anchor--is deliberately perverting the words of a hero to destroy the hero's legacy.

Does Fox have any standards? It's time we found out.

Contact Fox:

Show email:
Brit Hume’s email:

FOX News Channel
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Above the Law

So, Republicans want to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to exempt itself and its contractors from all laws.

Can we hear a big "Indeed! Heh!"


...The Raw Story has more.

Rep. Slaughter Calls for Explanation

Dear Mr. President:

In light of the mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies, I feel compelled to ask you to address a matter brought to my attention by the Niagara Falls Reporter (article attached), a local newspaper in my district, regarding James "JD" Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) of Talon News.

According to several credible reports, "Mr. Gannon" has been repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps by your office and has been regularly called upon in White House press briefings by your Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite the fact evidence shows that "Mr. Gannon" is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the "news" he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel.

Click the link above to read the rest.

Rarely Is the Question Asked

The press, so wrapped up in protecting their own, haven't been too interested in just how Mr. Gannon happened upon a CIA memo that no one else appeared to have.


Is O'Reilly ever not entirely full of shit?

Bye Jeff

We'll miss you.


Michael has many interesting things to say, but I admit I was most fascinated by his Rich "girly man" Lowry flashback:

We know the states that harbor our enemies. If only Osama bin Laden and his 50 closest advisers and followers die in the next couple of weeks, President Bush will have failed in a great military and moral challenge of his presidency.

The American response should be closer to something along these lines: identifying the one or two nations most closely associated with our enemies, giving them 24-hours notice to evacuate their capitals (in keeping with our desire to wage war as morally as possible), then systematically destroying every significant piece of military, financial, and political infrastructure in those cities.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


The Daou Report gets assimilated by Big Media. When Big Media comes for you, Surrender Yourself.

Take the Poll

Rep. Shays has a poll. Josh Marshall seems to think he doesn't much care about retaining his seat.

"Smoke and Mirrors"

I truly hope we've retired the phrase. I swear that I'm about one Cokie Roberts utterance away from kicking in my TV. It was always truly one of the laziest phrases of the beltway kool kids klub -- when lacking serious criticism just spout it and feel very proud of yourself.

But, nonetheless, the question should be asked. Why has the phrase -- and the entire concept -- been retired?



Evening Thread

Have fun.

Bedrock Corporation Domains

Here are some domain names registered to the Bedrock Corporation. As World O'Crap informed us:
But this would make perfect sense, because when the folks at Kos did some digging into the background of Jeff's various sites, they found that they were all registered to "Bedrock Corp" of Wilmington, DE, and the address provided was a Mailbox, Inc location. However, poster dqueue did some further Googling and found another address for Bedrock Corp.of Wilmington -- this address was a single-family home, and it was associated with a "Jim Guckert" who was listed on a business directory page for court reporting and secretarial services in Wilmington.
The domain list:

The Reporter Challenge

Bush today:

Thirteen years from now, in 2018, the Social Security system will be paying out more than it takes in. That's called being in the red. And every year afterwards the problem gets worse, the shortfall is bigger than the year before.

Now, who's the first media person who's going to point out that according to the Social Security actuary, his own plan moves that 2018 date back to 2012?

tick tick tick..

Primary Crap

It's bad enough when people posing as left-of-center types do nothing but bash their own side, but it's even worse when they just make stuff up to do it.

Still Sexy After All These Years

JD Guckert's AOL homepage...

(warning: man in underwear)

(thanks to Guy. And, someone sent me this a few days ago but I wasn't sure if it was him...)

More On Jim JD Guckert

From World O' Crap.

Pork - Now With Even More Pork!

Is there any semi-reasonable person out there who doesn't expect this budget to be loaded up with record levels of earmarked pork once it oozes the Congress?

The Bush Plan to Make Social Security Worse Off

WSJ (sub. req.):

The year's budget writing will be complicated by the parallel debate over Social Security. While Mr. Bush last week acknowledged that private accounts, by themselves, wouldn't help Social Security's long-term financial outlook, now the Social Security Administration's chief actuary has informed the White House that its plan would hasten to 2012 from 2018 the date when Social Security will begin taking in less in payroll-tax revenues than it is paying out in benefits.

The actuary, Stephen Goss , wrote White House adviser Charles Blahous that the costs to Social Security of workers diverting some payroll taxes to their personal accounts will exceed the amounts by which the government would reduce payments from the accounts to retired workers or their survivors to offset the initial payroll-tax diversion. "Annual cash-flow deficits (negative annual balances) appear in 2012, or six years earlier than under current law," Mr. Goss wrote.

Actually, the 2018 (or 2012) date is meaningless with respect to the Trust Fund, though it isn't meaningless with respect to the overall fiscal health of the government.

Meet the Natals

Consider Bobo's ideal couple, Roger and Mary Natal. Roger and Mary get married the day after high school graduation, on Roger's 18th birthday. Roger was born in 1974. Roger, due to his supreme intelligence and skills, skips college and begins working the day after their marriage at a generous $50,000 annual salary. He's on a good career track, and his salary increases by $2,000 every year. Mary does what Bobo says she should do, and starts cranking out babies, remaining a nonworking stay at home mother. She has 6 children over 10 years or so.

Sadly, on his 30th birthday, Roger dies in a tragic golfing accident. Most of their money went into their house and their SUVs, and Roger never bought any life insurance, but he did manage to save $1200 per year, putting it into a mutual fund which earned a fairly healthy 5% real annual rate of return. This money is still there for Mary and the brood, providing them with about $20,000 to live on until she gets off her slacker ass and finds a job.

Mary's rather distraught. She saw her husband's pay stubs every monthy, and saw how much money he paid into Social Security. But, she's heard all these news reports telling her how that money is just gone, that those benefits can't be passed onto Roger's heirs. Even the president has said such things, and we all know what a straight talker he is. In a moment of panic, due to her recent tragedy and sudden poverty, she calls the fine folks at the SSA. After being placed on hold for awhile, during which she was informed that Social Security would go bankrupt soon, she began hysterically sobbing to the person on the line, begging to have her husband's Social Security contributions back. He's paid about 45 grand into the system, and now it's all gone! It's not fair!!!!

After calming her down, the nice person at the SSA politely informs her that contrary to all of the bullshit she's been hearing, she is in fact entitled to receive Social Security benefits based on her husband's earnings and contributions. In fact, as long as she has dependent school-age children she's entitled to receive $1470 per month, adjusted for inflation. As her most recent child was born 2 years ago, that benefit should remain with her for 16 years.

And, not only that, each of her children is also entitled to receive benefits. Until age 18 or 19, depending on when they leave high school, each child also receives $1470 per month, up to a total family benefit of $3431.30. Sure, it's not quite as wonderful as the $20K or so in her husband's mutual fund account because, you know, they "owned" that and it made them feel good. But, still, $3400 per month lets her continue home schooling her kids.

And, Mary, being quite frugal, manages to save enough money that once her children are all grown, she only has to take a modest part time job. The job doesn't pay too much, and she never works enough to qualify for full social security retirement benefits. But, nonetheless, upon reaching retirement she discovers that she is, in fact, entitled to receive her husband's full retirement benefit of $1960 per month.

Thus ends the tale.

(all calculations approximate, except $1470 figure comes from plugging Roger's salary figures into their benefit calculator).

...let me just add that the point of this is not that the Bush administration has proposed getting rid of the Survivor Benefits. Though, contrary to the protestations of those on the Right the notional Bush plan would indeed presuambly cut guaranteed survivor benefits by quite a bit as the formulas are piggybacked onto the retirement benefit formulas.

The more important point is that any discussion of the Social Security system which ignores or downplays the insurance aspect of it is sorely lacking.

Wanker of the Day

Josh Bolten! From It Affects You:

Describing why costly items were left off the budget:

"The budget went to bed . . . before the president's proposals were announced."

Or sometimes:

"But, it wouldn't be responsible for us to take a guess at what those costs are."

In the same briefing, describing why proposals which add revenue or reduce costs were added to the budget (and the amounts guessed):

"Well, the budget is the right place to present the entirety of the president's policies, so all of his proposals are reflected in there."

Mehle Mehl

Americablog says:

Feel free to call the RNC and ask tell them that since they feel Senator Reid's relationships with the gay community are relevant, you want to know what Ken Mehlman's relationships are with the gay community as well: 202-863-8614

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Morning Thread

Have fun.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Sources allege that Jeff Gannon's real name is James D. "JD" Guckert, though I have not been able to confirm this.

Dark Lining of a Silver Cloud

The sad thing about Sully's departure from the blogosphere is that it leaves the excellent SullyWatch without much to do. Let's hope for a new mission...

Poor Jonah

Humiliated again.

Late Night

Have fun.

"Frivolous Asbestos Claims"


W.R. Grace and Co. and seven high-ranking employees knew a Montana mine was releasing cancer-causing asbestos into the air and tried to hide the danger to workers and townspeople, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday. More than 1,200 people became ill, and some of them died, prosecutors said.

The asbestos was naturally present in a vermiculite mine operated by Grace in the small town of Libby for nearly 30 years.

The federal grand jury said that top Grace executives and managers kept secret numerous studies spelling out the risk the cancer-causing asbestos posed to its customers, employees and Libby residents.


The company, knowing of the dangers from its product, provided vermiculite for a junior high school running track and as a base for an ice rink, the indictment said. It said Grace also sold or leased some of its contaminated properties to local residents for homes and businesses, for baseball fields and for city use.

When the EPA arrived in 1999, company officials lied about providing vermiculite insulation to local residents for their homes and businesses and failed to reveal the vermiculite was used on the school's running track, the Justice Department said.

As late as April 2002, in response to the EPA declaring a public health emergency in Libby, the company still insisted its vermiculite was not a risk to the environment and human health, the indictment said.

Evening Thread

Have fun.

Bush Explains His Plan

For Social Security:

Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it.

(via Digby)

Red Staters Heart Social Security

Josh Marshall writes roughly what I've been meaning to write for awhile:

It is not just that Social Security phase-out is proving unpopular in some states where President Bush is popular. It's turning out to be most unpopular in some of the reddest parts of the country. Alabama is a good example. Montana is another. Or Rep. Virgil Goode (R) in Southside Virginia. And they're not the only ones.

This isn't particularly surprising when you think about it. These are areas are often older, more rural and have more voters with lower incomes. These are states where President Bush has campaigned on a pseudo-populism which is belied by his own economic policies.

I'll take it a step even further and say that despite their Republican voting habits, people from big rural farm states are probably more directly in touch with their cradle-to-grave government largesse. This isn't my usual attack on red state welfare -- I would just imagine that people in farm communities are quite aware of their subsidy checks and their expected Social Security and Medicare retirement benefits. While people in the decadent coastal metropolitan enclaves have various types of corporate retirement benefits and 401K plans and whatnot, which reduce the degree to which people imagine they will depend on Social Security and Medicare, I imagine those on the "family farm," to the extent that such a thing still exists, are well aware of the importance of Social Security to them and their recent ancestors...

Mystery of the Ages

Why oh why does anyone continue to publish Gregg Easterbrook?

A Phrase Reporters Should Stop Using

Frequently in reporting on Social Security, reporters put in, without any basis or sourcing or justification, a phrase like "in theory the higher returns in private accounts would offset any benefit cuts."

NO. This is not even true in theory let alone in fact. Right now the closest thing to an actual Bush plan is "Model 2" from the "President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security" According to the scoring of the Graham version of the plan (which is essesntially Model 2 pushed forward in time a bit with an addon feature which doesn't affect the numbers here), a median income worker retiring in 2050, 2070 will have his/her total retirement income, including private account annuity, in half relative to promised benefits and by a third relative to benefits projected to be payable under pessimistic and internally contradictory trustee projections by the CBO.

It's absolutely stunning that the plan could be "this bad," but it really is. CBPP explains why:

It may seem surprising that the benefit reductions would be larger under the Graham plan than if no action were taken to shore up Social Security’s finances. This is the case for a basic reason. As explained below, the diversion of funds from Social Security to private accounts would enlarge Social Security’s deficit by about 50 percent over the next 75 years, necessitating much deeper benefit reductions to bring the system into balance. These deeper benefit reductions would not be fully offset by income from the private accounts.

Wanker of the Day

Fred Hiatt.

God, can't any of these people get their basic facts right?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Bush Hates Veterans

Budget drastically increases their cost of healthcare.


Until every journalist covering the Social Security beat fully digests and internalizes the content of this post by Josh Marshall, they should just stop writing about it.

It isn't a new point, entirely, but it's a point which has thus far been attributed to, say, "the president's critics" or "critics of the president's plan."

Now, the point is directly attributable to VPOTUS Bigtime Dick.

The point is this:

The president is proposing to spend about 4.5 trillion dollars over 20 years to:

Change Social Security in a way which pays the average beneficiary less than is both promised under current law and payable under current projections for the next 75 years.

The cost of this is greater than the cost of fully funding the current program, such that under current projections benefits would not have to be cut at all relative to current law but instead would be fully payable.

If our media (collectively, obviously there are individual exceptions) continues to pretend to not understand this, then they are incomptents or shills.

We Beat the Spread!

That's, uh, almost like winning, right?

Okay, not really.

But, suck it up and pony up the dough. To all those who pledged money, the baby jeebus will cry if you don't pay up.

So, please, donate your pledge to American Friends Service Committee..

Send me an email when you do, so we can tally it up.


Tied up...

Good Policy AND Good Politics

At least on the face of it, it appears that Bush's proposals to cut farm subsidies are ones I can wholeheartedly support (note that I'm not actually against supporting rural areas/farmers in some ways, but our farm support system is nuts). And, I also wholeheartedly support all good Democratic politicians opposing the measure and wondering out loud why Republicans hate farmers at every opportunity.

And, finally, I predict that the most likely result of this attempt to cut farm spending is precisely what happened in 2002 when Bush also proposed cutting farm subsidies. A bill will pass which significantly increases farm subsidies, at which point Bush will sign it and praise it.

Pumpkinhead -- Still a Moron

Goddamn Russert. Today:

We have a situation where the number on people in Social Security is going to double. People, rather than spending 15 months, are going to spend 15 years.

Timmah's referring to the notion that because life expectancy was much lower in 1945, people only lived long enough to get 15 months worth. As I explained previously:

Um, Timmy? No. There's a difference between life expectancy at birth, and life expectancy at 65. According to the folks at the SSA, for the cohort of people who turned 65 in 1945, 53.9% of men and 60.6% of females survived from age 21-65. And, for those made it that long - survived until 65 - on average males lived until they were 77.7 and females lived until they were 79.7.

One month later, and Timmy still can't get his facts straight.

Place Your Bets

Eagles vs. Patriots.

I suggest we choose a charity for each team. If the Pats win, all us betting on the Eagles have to donate to the American Friends Service Committee (Ntodd's choice).

I'm going local. If the Eagles win, all you New England losers have to donate your bet to Project Home.

Count me in for $50. Pledge your bets in comments here or at Ntodd's place or on your blog, if you have one. I'll throw up a link to everyone's blog who's in (subject to my ability to keep up).

Betting on the Eagles:
Coast Pulse
Funny Farm
Two Glasses
Throwing Things
Culture Ghost
Stinging Nettle

Betting on the Pats:

alt hippo
Carpe Datum
Fester's Place
Crooks and Liars
Something Requisitely Witt and Urbane


Dear Leader:

In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."

"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems "uniquely American" and "fantastic." He asks her if she gets any sleep.

(catch thanks to hadenough)

HR and FDR

An article of faith in wingnuttia this week, prompting lots of emails, was that both FDR and Harry Reid were proponents of private accounts, based on a misreading of their comments. I've already discussed the Reid comments, and Media Matters takes on the FDR issue (they also address the Reid issue here).

The Media Matters item even understates the objection to that interpretation of FDR's quote. FDR was pushing, in addition to Social Security, a voluntary annuity program. A voluntary annuity program is risk free (except, depending on the annuity, the risk of not living long enough to collect). This has nothing to do with investing your money in the market or even a market fund.

Looking forward to next week when a whole new round of misrepresented out of context quotes sent down from wingnut central magically come out of Brit Hume's mouth.

Let's talk about blogger ethics some more.

Move On to Fact Check

"bite me."

Morning Thread

Discuss the Sunday pundit atrocities.