SSI Muddlers Inc.
Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo that at the bottom of the GOP Social Security playbook there's a sample speech for pitching phase-out to audiences 50 and over, starting on page 83 of the PDF document.
Then if you go down to the end of the speech there's a footer that says ...
This speech was developed by
Presentation Testing, Inc.
For more information about how this speech was developed, please contact Rich Thau at Presentation Testing, Inc. at 212-760-4358.
(Before that sample speech, there's another for young voters which includes the same authorship note.)
Well, TPM reader GD typed Mr. Thau's name into google and found this PDF document in which Thau describes one of the seminars he does. And right there at the top of the document, Thau quotes himself saying: "I've testified on Capitol Hill. I have worked with many members of Congress. They are not committed to passing laws to give your employees retirement security."
This is the guy who's teaching congressional Republicans how to pitch private accounts? The guy who says he knows from experience that members of Congress -- or at least the ones he deals with -- aren't serious about retirement security?
He's quite a character reference ...
Read it and weep
We're not sure who came up with it first, but Max Sawicky has a big PDF file of the Republican strategy to destroy Social Security in order to save it. He adds, "Bloggers will read it so you don't have to. Ahmed Chalabi sold it to me for $2.97."
Declare democracy and withdraw
Max Sawicky writes: "So with the benefit of the U.S. Armed Forces and an expenditure of $200 billion, an election has been conducted in Iraq. This is purported to be a major step towards freedom for the Iraqi people. This is perfect nonsense." See the rest.
'What I heard about Iraq'
Don't get too excited about media reports of the burgeoning Iraqi democracy. Eliot Weinberger recounts what we've already heard from the Bush administration that didn't turn out to be true.
Eric Alterman writes that reports out of Baghdad look a lot like San Salvador in 1984. "We heard the same stories; people waiting on long lines; telling off guerrillas, walking miles for the right to exercise their democratic rights. Most of this turned out to be an illusion, created by the U.S. military and intelligence forces there, and the voting percentages turned out to be a fraction of what a quiescent media reported at the time," Alterman wrote. "U.S. supported (and perhaps created) death squads continued to exercise their campaign of mass murder, unconcerned with the results of meaningless elections." The civil war raged another eight years.
DailyKos rememberes 'US encouraged by Vietnam vote,' from New York Times, 9/4/1967.
Bush backs down on media consolidation
The Bush administration has decided against appealing to the Supreme Court a ruling that prevents media conglomerates from expanding their reach in US media markets, US officials said.
Reuters reported Thursday that even though the Federal Communications Commission had sought to relax the limits, the administration feared an appeal could risk a decision that would wipe all its media ownership limits off the books, one FCC official said, declining identification.
The FCC in 2003 eased media ownership restrictions, lifting a ban on companies in medium and large markets allowing them to own a newspaper and some television stations and radio outlets in a single market. The agency also agreed to let broadcasters own two or three TV stations in the bigger media markets.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided last year that the agency's justification for the new limits was insufficient and put the rules on hold until the FCC addressed the court's concerns.
Claim vs. facts
From the Center for American Progress:
"Mr. Leavitt, in his first public event as secretary of health and human services, introduced Mr. Bush as someone who had 'improved quality health care for millions.'"
- NY Times, 1/28/05
"The number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.3 million last year, to 35.9 million, while those without health insurance climbed by 1.4 million, to 45 million, the Census Bureau reported. It was the third straight annual increase for both categories."
- NY Times, 8/26/04
Good luck, Iraq
Eric Alterman writes a good column his ownself, but among the highlights are the Friday letters from Charles Pierce, a sportswriter and part-time pundit from Newton, Mass. We thought Pierce put it well today on the elections in Iraq:
Hey Doc --
Did I just hear Richard Perle on Nightline say that the biggest mistake we made in Iraq was not handing the country over to Ahmad Chalabi three years ago? Yes, and the biggest flaw in our national economy is that we haven't turned the Federal Reserve over to Ken Lay. Yes, and the biggest mistake I am likely to make in trying to understand this Festival of Fruitcakes is failing to have laid in enough mushrooms to get me through the State of the Union. To be fair, Perle tap-danced all around the name until Koppel finally brought it up, and then he said "Ahmad Chalabi" the way most people say, "trichinosis." Still, sweet storebought Jeebus.
The elections over there can put you in a tough spot. Of course, they've been oversold. Of course, they will be used as cheap ammunition for the various brave souls manning the guns at Fort Honorarium. Of course, they won't matter a damn as far as the violence is concerned; imagine the insurgent who says, well, we're going to stop killing these people because they have a national assembly now. This is Cakewalk Theory 2.0. And, now, one of the war's principal architects tells us that everything could have been avoided if we'd just "handed the keys" over to a passel of crooks you wouldn't trust to park your car. To hell with being fired. When are some of these clucks going to simply get laughed out of town?
Some people are going to vote even though they've been told they will be killed if they do. Nobody in this 40-percent turnout, sucker-for-the-cheap-wedge-issue, talk-show-babbling country of ours has a right to do anything but admire that, and make sure that the undeniable courage on display doesn't get sold down the river for a three-point bump in some future Gallup Poll. This war isn't just a monumental blunder. It's also an ongoing act of betrayal by a bunch of second-rate thinkers who never in their lives have displayed an ounce of the courage that some anonymous woman in Baghdad will evince today.
Fight for our future
Christopher Hayes provides a useful guide in In These Times to the movement to revitalize the AFL-CIO and the US labor movement.
Claim vs. facts
From the Center for American Progress:
"Members of Congress could take some lessons from Chile, particularly when it comes to how to run our pension plans. Our Social Security system needs to be modernized, Mr. President, and I look forward to getting some suggestions as to how to do so, since you have done so, so well."
- President Bush speaking to the Chilean president, 4/16/01
"Chile's Retirees Find Shortfall in Private Plan...Many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system."
- New York Times, 1/27/05
Eric Alterman writes:
Who had the courage to vote against the first African-American female nominee for secretary of state merely because she has proven to be profoundly incompetent, incorrigibly dishonest, and absolutely unwilling to recognize, much less admit her many, many mistakes?
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
John Kerry, D-Mass.
Carl Levin, D-Mich.
James Jeffords, I-Vt.
Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Mark Dayton, D-Minn.
Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii
Evan Bayh, D-Ind.
Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Whatever happened to the Bill of Rights?
Juan Cole's pictorial commentary on the first line in George Bush's second inaugural speech. He concludes: "The Republic may not be able to withstand four more years of this." (1/21/05)
A little patience
Paul Glastris of Washington Monthly reminds us of the quote for the day:
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometime against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
Thomas Jefferson, 1798
He calls them his base
TomPaine.com notes: President Bush's second inauguration is the most expensive in history, with costs estimated to reach $40 million. Since the election, money has poured in from donors in all corners of the United States to pay for the red carpet to be rolled out in D.C. Want to see just who these supporters are? Hint: He calls them his base. SEE THE LIST
Chertoff a terrible pick for Homeland Security
Madison Capital Times editorializes:
Only in Washington, a city where politicians and journalists pretend to have no memories, could the selection of Michael Chertoff to serve as homeland security secretary be hailed as a positive development for the republic.
Chertoff, who provided the intellectual muscle to back up outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft's fundamentalist fantasies and totalitarian twists, is perhaps best remembered as the primary author of the Patriot Act. As such, he will go down in history as one of the worst enemies of the Constitution ever to serve in a high-level federal post. See the rest
Ohio's GOP AG attacks vote counters
Columbus Free Press reports: Ohio's Republican attorney general has moved for sanctions against the four attorneys who sued George W. Bush and Ohio's GOP leaders in an attempt to investigate the Buckeye State's bitterly contested Nov. 2 election.
Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Cliff Arnebeck and Peter Peckarsky were named by Attorney General James Petro in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court. Petro charges the November Moss v Bush and Moss v. Moyer filings by the Election Protection legal team were "frivolous." Petro is demanding court sanctions and fines.
"Instead of evidence, contesters offered only theory, conjecture, hypothesis and invective," the Attorney General's Jan. 18 memo about the suit said. "A contest proceeding is not a toy for idle hands. It is not to be used to make a political point, or to be used as a discovery tool, or be used to inconvenience or harass public officials, or to be used as a publicity gimmick."
But Cliff Arnebeck says it has been Petro and Ohio's partisan Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who have stonewalled the election challenge legal proceedings. Both have refused to submit any evidence to the court to refute the allegations in the election challenge case - claiming George W. Bush did not win a majority in Ohio - and Petro's office has also refused to allow any Ohio public election official to be deposed. See the rest.
Social Security Reporting Review
The Center for Economic and Policy Research puts together its first installment of the Social Security Reporting Review, which will chronicle stories concerning Social Security and appear every Monday. You can sign up to receive SSRR and other CEPR newsletters.
As Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly remarks, it's "an easy way to keep in touch with what's going on. Now if only they provided links to their featured stories...."
GOP double-talk on Social Security
Josh Marshall notes: The website for Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) says "Congressman Ferguson's principles on Social Security are clear: he opposes privatizing Social Security ..." Rep. Ferguson also notes the awards he won from the "60 Plus Association," to demonstrate his Social Security bona-fides.
Only problem is that 60 Plus is a pro-privatization astroturf group. Says who? Says they. On this February 15th, 2002 the group proudly noted that in 1995 they "became the first national senior citizens group to endorse publicly the privatization of Social Security ..."
And Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) claims to be a down-the-line anti-privatization man too. But the letter he's sending out to constituents contains information that Marshall suggests "just may turn Washington on its ear."
"I applaud President Bush's courage in addressing the long-term status of Social Security," Kennedy writes in a constituent letter sent out yesterday. "Don't be misled: neither President Bush nor any Republican in Congress has a plan to privatize Social Security. I will oppose any plan that privatizes Social Security, cuts benefits, cuts survivors or disability benefits, or raises payroll taxes."
I sure am glad that Rep, Kennedy is taking such a strong line against misleading people. But who knew that President Bush has come out against privatization? And every Republican in Congress? Was this all just a big misunderstanding?
Of course not. Marshall finds declarations of support for privatization on the Cato website for Ferguson and Kennedy.
Marshall notes that Republicans originally called their plan to replace part of Social Security with private investment accounts "privatization."
It was their word. They came up with it, embraced it, etc. That was until the 2002 election cycle came around and word went out from the NRCC to stop using the word 'privatization' and try as much as possible to get reporters to stop using it too.
Suddenly, 'privatization' was a slur, even though it was the Republicans' own word until word came down from party central to start zigging and by no means zag.
Orwellian word redefinition notwithstanding, however, for most folks the word 'privatization' still means 'private accounts'.
So Sen. Elizabeth Dole declares "no way am I for privatizing Social Security. I support the concept of allowing workers to contribute small portions of their own Social Security in the market because it would negate the need to nearly double payroll taxes on future workers to fund benefits ... This is not privatization – the government would always administer the program."
House tax chief warns SSI debate might get partisan
Josh Marshall notes
: Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, warns
that the Democrats "risked eliminating themselves from a role in the forthcoming [Social Security] debate if they played the issue strictly for short-term political gain."
"If you start with the statement that your goal is to sabotage whatever we try to do, to try to put you in the majority [in control of Congress] in the next election," warned Thomas, "then I am forced to try to solve the problem on a partisanship basis."
"When I read that my throat suddenly tightened," Marshall wrote. "And with that familiar, panicked mix of fear and regret curling into dread, I thought, could we have squandered our chance at more of that first term lovin' from the Republican majority and the White House?"
Meanwhile, Kos notes that, according to the Washington Post, the Republican plan might include deeper benefit cuts for women and office workers.
.Perhaps most provocatively, Thomas said lawmakers should debate whether Social Security benefits should differ for men and women, because women live longer. "We never have debated gender-adjusting Social Security," he said. A House leadership official said that not even Republicans on Thomas's committee would vote for that idea. Thomas also said the system might take into account the need of blue-collar workers to retire younger than office workers.
.Woah! Where did this come from? Obviously Thomas knows something about Bush's plan that we don't.
Thomas may have saved his party some major heartache in 2006. Because if Bush's plan had included different benefits calculations for men and women ...
If Bill Thomas wants to push a partisan Social Security dismantling bill down the throats of Democrats, well, go for it, big guy. But Max Sawicky reports, "A friend whose niece works as an intern in a Congressional office is told that her boss has received a ton of mail on Social Security. 'How much favors the Bush plan,' he asks. In return he receives the international sign of the goose egg."
Keep the heat on. The Social Security privatizers have only begun to lie.
Send a message to your Congress member via the AFL-CIO's e-Activist Network page on Social Security.
Social Security: There is no crisis
The Blog, a project of BlogPAC, that combats the Bush disinformation campaign.
The Democratic National Committee will choose its new chairman Feb. 12 to replace Terry McAuliffe. The race is shaping up with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as the reform candidate, former congressmen Tim Roemer of Indiana and Martin Frost of Dallas emerging as the establishment candidates, and Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, which is committed to modernizing progressive politics, is a potential compromise candidate.
Roemer, a centrist, has support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, but his support for abortion restrictions alienates many pro-choice Democrats. We are more concerned with his affiliation with right-wing groups, such as the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which promotes the "use of market-based tools and analysis to discover workable solutions to pressing economic and governmental problems."
Frost is a solid establishment Democrat who was one of those gerrymandered for defeat by Tom DeLay. Frost ran a valiant if unsuccessful race against Pete Sessions that was distinguished not only by the nastiness of attacks between Frost and Sessions but also unfortunately featured an ad campaign that stressed Frost's support for George W. Bush. That hardly generates a groundswell of support from reform-minded Democrats.
The main marks against Dean are that he is easily characterized as a liberal and the GOP media would replay his "scream" endlessly. Neither liberalism nor passion are sins, in our mind. The Democratic Party could use doses of both. And Dean got a boost Tuesday with the endorsement of the Florida delegation to the DNC.
We don’t care that much about the DNC chair. The role is largely symbolic but for that reason we’d rather see Dean filling it than Roemer, Frost or Rosenberg. However, in the real world, activists are better off finding and promoting progressive populist candidates for the 2006 elections than fighting over the DNC chair.
UPDATE from MyDD.com: Dean collects endorsements from several state Democratic Party chairs and vice chairs, including Florida Chairman Scott Maddox, Vice-Chairwoman Diane Glasser; Mississippi Chairman Wayne Dowdy; Oklahoma Chairman Jay Parmley, Vice-Chairwoman Debbe Leftwich; Utah Vice-Chairwoman Nancy Woodside; Washington Chairman Paul Berendt; Vermont: Chairman Peter Mallary
One last election
The New York Times editorializes that Carteret County, N.C., illustrates the dangers of running elections on electronic voting machines without paper trails. Statewide returns for the agriculture commissioner race showed the Republican, Steve Troxler, and the Democrat, Britt Cobb, were just 2,287 votes apart, and a voting machine in Carteret County had lost 4,438 votes. The machine had mistakenly been set to keep roughly 3,000 votes in its memory, which was not enough. And it let people keep "voting" even when their votes were not being saved.
The State Board of Elections first wanted to have a revote limited to Carteret County, but a court struck that down. Then it scheduled a new statewide election, but that, too, was stopped. Republicans gathered 1,352 affidavits from Carteret County voters saying that they voted for Troxler on the faulty machine, which they claim would make it mathematically impossible for Cobb to win. Democrats want the race decided by the state legislature, which happens to be in Democratic hands.
North Carolina's plight underscores a basic point about elections: because there are often problems, there must be a mechanism for a recount. If the Carteret County voting machine had produced a voter-verified paper record each time a vote was cast, these paper records could have been be counted and the matter would be resolved. But electronic voting machines that do not produce paper records make recounts impossible.
The one positive thing to come out of the agriculture commissioner race fiasco is that it has prompted North Carolina to reconsider its use of paperless electronic voting. As the state ponders the issue, it should look to Ohio. Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state who did so many things wrong as elections supervisor last year, recently did one very important thing right. He directed all of the state's counties to adopt paper-based optical-scan voting systems. If Carteret County had voted on machines that produced a paper record, North Carolina would not have the constitutional crisis it has now -- it would have an agriculture commissioner.
Mark Leon Goldberg writes for Tapped:
Incidents like the one in Carteret County and myriad other Election Day machine malfunctions have been recorded by the Verified Voting Foundation, a valuable resource for those who follow this issue -- but they do not suggest a pattern of widespread fraud. Rumors aside, there is no hard evidence of a nefarious election-day conspiracy plot involving the much-maligned Diebold, or any other machine vendor, to hand-deliver the election to George W. Bush. But with no auditable paper trail to provide empirical evidence either way, there’s really no way to know.
Despite these Election Day problems, and despite the wonderful advocacy of The New York Times editorial page on this issue, a national mandate that DRE machines produce a paper trail is not likely. In my reporting on this issue for our January special report on the elections, I found the voting machine manufacturers generally hostile to the idea of fitting their DRE machines with voter-verified paper receipts. The startling collusion between this industry and secretaries of state who oversee their operations does not help the cause either. But unless state legislatures and state election officials mandate that they will only allow state funds to purchase machines that offer a paper trail (as is the case in Nevada), DRE machines will continue to undermine our confidence in the voting process in 2006 and beyond.
Fun with numbers
Josh Marshall finds that Republicans represent seven of the 10 congressional districts with the highest proportion of Social Security recipients.
Not One Dime Day
A grassroots movement is forming to protest George Bush's policies in Iraq and the estimated $40 million cost of the inauguration by refusing to spend any money on Thursday, Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
As USA Today reported Jan. 12,
The message is simple: "Those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending."
But no one seems to know who fired off that initial e-mail. Not even retired PBS host Bill Moyers, whose name was attached to some of the missives.
Despite his well-known liberal leanings, "I wouldn't sign a petition if it was one asking Jesus to come back," Moyers says. "It's just not something journalists should do."
The creators of notonedamndime.com, Laura Carmen Arena and Jesse Gordon of Cambridge, Mass., don't have a clue who wrote the message either. They received it in their inbox like everyone else.
Notonedamndime.com asks: "During 'Not One Damn Dime Day' please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours."
Others say a more effective action would be to find out who Bush's top corporate contributors are and vow not to spend any money with those corporations and their subsidiaries as long as US troops remain in Iraq.
We think it's a good idea to keep your purse or wallet closed on Inauguration Day. Go to the grocery store and fill up your car or buy your bus token on Wednesday. Some right wingers have said this one-day boycott will hurt mom-and-pop businesses and waiters -- the very people who are likely to be hurt by Republican economic policies. Well, nobody will go out of business from one day's lost revenue, but Wal Mart, Visa and Master Card will notice, and dollars are the only directive they recognize.
After Inauguration Day, check which corporations supported Bush and steer clear of them.
Our Velvet Revolution
Doris "Granny D" Haddock, who is closing in on her 95th birthday (Jan. 24) with a speaking tour in Florida over the next few days and then speaking at the Jan. 20th Inauguration Day Protests in Washington, D.C., considers that growing number of Americans are beginning to identify with the pro-democracy activists whose courage opened much of the world to freedom in the final decades of the 20th century.
MLK's last speech
"I've been to the Mountaintop," in support of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated.
What would MLK do?
Bob Harris posts excerpts from "Beyond Vietnam," Dr. King's April 4, 1967, speech at New York's Riverside Church. "If you're still not sure about the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, or the overarching problems behind both conflicts, or what Dr. King would say if he was alive today, please read on. And then I urge you to click over and read the whole speech for yourself."
Campaign for America's Future has some ideas. Sign up to carry on Dr. King's legacy. (1/17/05)
Social Security update
Josh Marshall notes that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, lobbyists for Social Security privatization "point to a handful of potential Democratic compromisers who have not ruled out private accounts, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn."
Roger Lowenstein puts Social Security in context for the New York Times Magazine.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune editorializes:
Of all the lies -- let's call them by their right name -- that the Bush administration is spreading about Social Security, none is as vile as the canard Bush repeated last Tuesday, when he said, "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the [Social Security] system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed." That is an entirely phony assertion; it has been debunked by the Social Security Administration, by the Government Accountability Office and by other experts. Bush and those around him know that. For them to repeat what they know to be a blatant lie is despicable fear-mongering. (See more.)
New York Times reports that, over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.
Josh Marshal posts some of the documents from the SSA Communications office.
See Marshall's Fainthearted Faction for an updated list of Democrats who are open to privatization of Social Security and the Conscience Caucus for Republicans who are opposed to the president's private-accounts-based Social Security phase-out plan.