Monday, February 28, 2005

While these groups might try and distance themselves from the White House and collusion with the GOP, it's fairly clear that there is at least an understood coordination on these issues. From Hardball's blog Hardblogger:
CHARLIE JARVIS, CHAIRMAN & CEO, USA NEXT:  Well, Chris, the AARP is the planet‘s largest left liberal lobbying organization. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you say that when they were backing the president on prescription drugs? 

JARVIS:  We dragged them kicking and screaming into that decision. [Emphasis added]
While I don't doubt the $14 million they spent on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies had an effect on the issue, the prescription drug bill was passed mostly thanks to Republican strong-arm tactics. It even included alleged bribery. Despite Jarvis' assertion that they dragged AARP on board, the bill most likely would have tanked if it weren't for their endorsement. Most congressmen rightly balked at the $400 billion price tag, a price tag that would turn out to be deceptively low.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson announced on Tuesday that his agency would investigate charges that Bush administration officials threatened to fire David Foster, the chief actuary of Medicare, if he disseminated higher cost estimates to Congress during the debate last fall.

Last week, the General Accounting Office chided the administration for conducting a legal but misleading advertising campaign to explain changes in the law.

In February, the Office of Management and Budget forecast that the bill would cost $534 billion over the next decade, 35 percent more than the $395 billion calculated by the Congressional Budget Office.
Even the Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert felt bamboozled by the White House. If this is how they treat their own party, the Democrats had better get over any thoughts of leniency.

Have no doubt, the White House machine moves at a vicious clip.

- Murphy

The L.A. TImes has an excellent series on the fragile economic stability of today's families. The unsure nature of families' stability is a subject that needs more attention in Missouri given the efforts of Governor Blunt and his Republican allies in the legislature.

While the Republicans loved to focus on the idea of personal responsibility and the notion that those who are good will be blessed with success, the reality lies in a more concrete subject, probability. The fact is, even folks who feel secure can quickly find themselves in a tough position. The lack of savings and the high level of debt that most families carry mean that most families can be one major problem away from disaster. The majority of bankruptcies today are due to medical bills.

Financial disaster happens to the responsible and irresponsible alike. The question is, as a society shouldn't we try and help get people back on their feet rather than stepping on their hands as they try to get up?

- Murphy

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Governor Schwarzenegger just said in his interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week that he is uninterested in the Supreme Court because it doesn't affect the state of California.

He spent most of the interview dodging Stephanopoulos's questions on other national issues by saying the subject didn't effect him or effect the State of California.

Other issues he avoided stating an opinion on included illegal immigration (California has an very large illegal population and they have a large effect on the state of the state), and social security (3 million Californians receive SS).

Californians may want to start worrying that their Governor is unconcerned by these issues that will, despite the Governor's opinion to the contrary, have enormous effects on California.

- Murphy

Many Republicans have been saying things similar to Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida.
Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida phones in to the Associate Editor of The St. Augustine Record ... tells Margo Pope that "the details are sketchy," and he'll wait for more before taking a position. As for private accounts, said Mica from his undisclosed location, "I am concerned about making any investments (of Social Security) funds in speculative funds.
Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has been keeping track of the different Republicans and their, often, non-stances on the President's social security ideas.

The Republican congressmen have been reticent to make any firm statements about Social Security privatization, mostly that they are waiting to see the details of the President's plan

The President says he hasn't laid out a specific plan and he's waiting to hear from Congress.

Who's going to step up and risk the ax? The President or the Congress?

- Murphy

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On the nuclear terrorism question, President Bush campaigned on the policy that invading Iraq prevented the possibility of Saddam passing along nuclear material (which he didn't have) to potential terrorists, while Sen. Kerry emphasized the danger of insufficient security protecting existing stockpiles of nuclear materials.

Arms Control Wonk has a post on the recently issued update (November 2004) to the Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces. The report is from the National Intelligence Council and it states that:
The 2004 edition repeats the judgment made in 2002 “undetected smuggling [weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials] has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude of such thefts” and again expressed concern about the total amount of material that could have been diverted.
The report goes on to state that they know enough material is missing to create a nuclear device. The post should be read in full.

A terrorist cell will not wait for a sympathetic state to develop and provide nuclear material when such material may be available through the black market. Non-proliferation and the protection of existing sources should be at the top of the security list for this administration, yet there is little debate over practical non-proliferation policy besides threatening military action. This might prevent states from attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but it is of no use in dealing with independent groups who could obtain smuggled material.

- Murphy

Should someone warn them about tipping their hand?

A group of college republicans chant, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security has got to go," as pro-privatization Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn) walks into his town hall style re-election kickoff.

Democrat Chuck Pennacchio is running for Senator in Pennsylvania and has the video here.

- Murphy

Missouri pro-life groups have thrown down the gauntlet over therapeutic cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). From Jo Mannies' column today:
Sam Lee, head of Campaign Life Missouri, an anti-abortion lobbying group that backs the ban, says, "The cloning issue is separating the true pro-life Republicans from the politically pro-life Republicans. It is coming down to a battle within the party over which will take precedence, money or moral values."
Governor Matt Blunt said, "no outside group decides who runs state agencies. I make those decisions." In this particular case, Mannies had asked Blunt if the pro-life lobby in Missouri had pressured Blunt not to appoint Sen. Betty Sims, R-Ladue, as state health director. Sims has a great deal of experience with the department and state health issues. However, Sims drew the ire of the pro-life community for helping to uphold then-Governor Mel Carnahan's 1997 veto of a bill banning partial-birth abortion which Sims said was unconstitutionally worded. Sims later supported a different version of the bill.

Despite Blunt's correct assertion that the governor is the only person who appoints the director of state agencies, he has in the past allowed affected industry heads to vet the person who will run the supervisory agencies.
Dale Finke, Blunt's nominee to run the Department of Insurance, was one of three names submitted to Blunt by a five-member committee of insurance company executives, lobbyists and representatives of the medical profession.

Blunt declined Monday to name the industry insiders who are helping him pick his Cabinet. Blunt said those decisions were personnel matters that are confidential under the state's Sunshine law.

- Murphy

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

There is an excellent piece on "intelligent design" in the New York Times magazine this past week. In it the author, Jim Holt, lays out the implications of intelligent design when it is looked at critically.
From a scientific perspective, one of the most frustrating things about intelligent design is that (unlike Darwinism) it is virtually impossible to test. Old-fashioned biblical creationism at least risked making some hard factual claims -- that the earth was created before the sun, for example. Intelligent design, by contrast, leaves the purposes of the designer wholly mysterious. Presumably any pattern of data in the natural world is consistent with his/her/its existence.

But if we can't infer anything about the design from the designer, maybe we can go the other way. What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.
Holt goes on to list some of the other rather questionable design decisions as well as some troubling moral implications for intelligence design advocates.

It is hard to swallow the argument that intelligent design is intended to do anything other than implicitly provide some cover for creationist-style teachings.

Evolution theory and its study is not a theological pursuit. It and every other theory are tools to help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. Theories are inherently replaceable, they are supposed to be. If information disproves a current theory, the theory is disposed of and the information is integrated into a new theory that provides a more accurate explanation.

The purpose of scientific study and its use of the theory of evolution is not to reveal god, but to understand creation.

Perhaps if more conservative christian groups understood this there would be less insistence on its imposition in the classroom. In a country that is routinely out-scored in testing in areas of science and math, that is seeing a decrease in students willing to study the hard sciences and is seeing a growing number of technology-based industries moving abroad, I don't think bad science is something we can afford wasting our children's time with.

- Murphy

You can view the online petition to save First Steps here. There are 42,590 signatures so far. While it doesn't look like it, there are email addresses attached to the signatures. The system hides the addresses so that they can not be abused.

- Murphy

Since Madison County right across the river has been used as a glaring example of why medical lawsuit restrictions are necessary I thought it would be appropriate to grab part of an old post by The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum. He posted on reports coming out of legislative hearings the state of Florida held back in 2003 regarding malpractice costs. A major statement came from someone who would know the situation best:
The president of the state's largest malpractice-insurance company said no, insurers didn't need a cap on jury awards to be profitable. A state regulator said no, there hasn't been an explosion of frivolous lawsuits.
The post goes on to counter several other major claims for award caps. While states may vary in the specifics, these statements back up assertions made by groups opposing awards caps now.

More states need to hold hearings like this. Insurance companies will not answer serious questions without the added pressure of being under oath.

- Murphy

Josh Marshall has the rundown on the real story behind the astroturf organization USA Next. Marshall describes the organization as a lobbying group for whichever group is willing to pony up the funds. The group claims to represent the interests of seniors, but much of their funding has come from pharmaceutical groups and others. A recent example was their lobbying to open ANWAR to drilling after receiving a significant donation from and Alaskan group, Arctic Power.

The current President of USA Next, Charlie Jarvis, is a former executive vice president of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family recently gained some notoriety for its criticism of Spongebob Squarepants, The cartoon sponge came under fire for allegedly helping to encouraging a gay agenda Said Dobson in his newsletter, "The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family." But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister."

Jarvis's move to USA Next may explain their most recent attack on the AARP. Run on the American Spectator's website, the ad accused the AARP's real agenda was not supporting the troops, but encouraging gay marriage. The ad has since been removed since it went up Sunday or Monday, but many copies of it have made it around the web and MSNBC ran it in a newscast Monday night.

- Murphy

Monday, February 21, 2005

From the President of USA Next, Charlie Jarvis, the group that is about to launch a scorched-earth campaign against the AARP for it opposition to the President's Social Security privatization policy.
"It's an honor to be equated with the Swift boat guys," Mr. Jarvis said.
The AARP recent supported the President's Medicare plan that passed despite strong opposition, numerous questions over the value of the plan, and revelations that Congress was provided numbers that purposely underestimated the actual cost of the bill.

The true nature of this administration is patently clear. Help us today, but forget any leniency if you oppose us tomorrow.

- Murphy

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rather than continuing to post links to stories, I will just direct you to the Argus' excellent political news page.

- Murphy

The Saint Louis Public Schools could lose $70 million in funding. The freeze on school construction threatens the funding. Interim Superintendent William Roberti enacted the freeze saying there was no need for new schools.

- Murphy

Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay sent a letter to School Board President Darnetta Clinkscale regarding the widely-praised coach of Vashon's basketball team, Floyd Irons. Sen. Clay had it on good authority that Irons is being kept away from Vashon High School except to handle his coaching duties. St. Louis Argus New Editor, Antonio D. French, posted Clay's letter on the Argus' blog in which Clay says:
Coach Floyd Irons is a positive symbol of excellence and honor who is revered by thousands of our young people.  His personal leadership and strong credibility with students is vital to reestablishing a safe, calm and disciplined learning environment at Vashon.

I urge you to return Coach Irons to Vashon, with complete access, without delay.   Further, the district should publicly reaffirm its commitment to Coach Irons' continued future service as head basketball coach.  And lastly, I strongly recommend that Coach Irons be considered for the position of principal at Vashon.  He is clearly the most qualified, most honored and most respected candidate to fill that position.
Vashon's basketball team has been rated the No. 1 high school team several times under coach Irons.

- Murphy

Friday, February 18, 2005

Missouri Republicans go after the courts. From the Post Dispatch:
JEFFERSON CITY - Three state senators want to amend the Missouri Constitution to prevent state courts from playing any role in how the state pays for public education.

The measure - which would require voter approval - could derail a lawsuit filed by more than 250 school districts that claim the funding system is unconstitutional.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, who is sponsoring the proposed amendment, say he wants to put an end to expensive lawsuits in which tax money is used to fund both sides of a battle between the state and school districts.

But the senator said his broader aim is to make sure that legislators, not the courts, are in control of school funding. Bartle was joined by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, in filing the proposal.
What seems to be forgotten when arguments like this are put forward is that checks and balances exist for a reason. While most people's general understanding of checks and balances stems from the federal government, most state governments have systems based upon similar philosophies.

Checks and balances exist to enforce a separation of powers. The legislators create the law, the courts okay the law and the executive effects the law.

The recent surge in Republican control has led the party to attempt to secure their power and, if they can, take care of some long-standing grudges. One of the most consistent conservative pinatas is the idea that the courts are controlled by liberal judges who override the power of the people represented by the legislature. Yet at the same time, the Republicans are more than willing to override public will to pass their agenda. The concealed weapons permit law was voted down by the people of Missouri. The Republicans then turned around and pushed a bill through the missouri legislature, a venue they certainly controlled.

This is not a philosophical argument about who is allowed to do what, or who is attempting to subvert the will of the people. The actions of the Republicans reflect a desire to get their agenda in place despite opposition in the public or the constitutionality of their policies.

A reflection of that reality is the Republican tendency to push for constitutional amendments. The amendments, by their very nature, can not be reviewed by the courts and dictate what is now allowed. The

What they may not realize, however, is that these actions are an acknowledgment that their arguments will fail in the courts of law, the court of public opinion, or both.

The danger arises when power is taken from the courts. In some ways, the court works to protect the rights of the minority. It takes a majority to pass bills in the legislature, and the existence of a majority is not necessarily a reflection of the justness of the legislation. It can also be extremely difficult to prevent passage of bad legislation. The courts provide a venue for individuals or groups to challenge legislation. The court cannot itself instigate lawsuits, it can only rule on matters brought before them.

Legislation can be faulty and can violate principles inscribed in the constitution. The role of the courts is to address those issues. Once we start to go down the road of restricting the purview of the courts, we could find ourselves with little recourse to challenge bad programs. In fact, we could see the day in which our legislators overturn the very principles that define American democracy.

- Murphy

Former Georgia Senator Zell Miller will present an award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. From the CSPAN website:
Zell Miller at CPAC Dinner 
Fmr. Georgia Senator Zell Miller (D) presents the "Courage Under Fire Award" to the Swift Boat Veterans during the Conservative Political Action Conference's 2005 dinner. Following a speech by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Ronald Reagan Award will also be presented.
The Swift Boat Veterans authored and funded ads attacking Sen. John Kerry during his Presidential Campaign. The ads accused Kerry of a variety of actions including lying about his actions commanding a swift boat in Vietnam. Kerry's own crewmates disputed the organizations attacks and Kerry received the silver and bronze stars and three purple hearts for his service in Vietnam.

The group was heavily funded by a wealthy Texas businessman with connections to the Bush family. The same businessman funded a group during the 2000 Republican primaries that attacked Sen. John McCain (himself a POW during the Vietnam war) of ignoring the interests of U.S. military veterans.

From the Washington Post's Terry Neal:
public records show that two-thirds of the organization's initial funding, as of its June 30 financial report came from one man, Texas businessman Robert J. Perry, who, according to an Aug. 6 report in the Los Angeles Times, "is the most prolific political donor in Texas. A homebuilder who lives lakeside in [a] Houston suburb, Perry has helped bankroll the widespread success of Republican candidates here, has long-standing ties to many close associates of President Bush and has contributed to Bush's last four campaigns. According to interviews and campaign documents, he has given a total of more than $5 million to scores of political candidates."
It looks like McCaskill is going to have some competition in 2006. Representative Jackson of St. Louis County is going to announce he is running for State Auditor.

From The Post-Dispatch:
Jackson, 62, of Wildwood, is the first Republican to enter the race against Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill, who plans to seek to a third four-year term.

Political party primaries are in August 2006, and the general election that November.

Jackson first was elected to the House in 2002 and was re-elected last year. He currently serves as chairman of the House Veterans Committee. Running for state auditor means he cannot seek a third House term.
Jackson told the Post that if elected he would audit the State Auditor's office to make it more efficient. He would also audit other state programs and recommend to Gov. Blunt ways to save money.

This is, of course, the job description of the State Auditor.

What Jackson plans to do that current Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill has not done he has yet to say, other than:
"I think I can help the government find savings by looking real hard without threatening jobs," Jackson said.
The Post-Dispatch reports today that Police Chief Joe Mokwa and the Police Board backed a plan that would reduce the police force by 40 or 50 officers, bringing the police for to its lowest numbers in 80 years. The plan works through attrition, the reduction will be through retirement and resignations, not layoffs are planned.

Mayor Slay, who sits on the board, was apparently not present when the board voted 4-0 to support the plan, however Mokwa said Slay supports the plan.

I wonder what the fallout would have been had this come up on Monday, before the mayoral debate? Also, I wonder if there is a plan to move officers around or otherwise attempt to make up for the districts that lose several officers?

Can St. Louis actually afford to cut so many officers? Will the response time and coverage be affected? None of these have been addressed yet.
I am going to completely steal a post from Laura Rozen over at War & Piece. I don't like to do that, but she sums this up so well, I can't do any better.
Rumsfeld walked out yesterday when he got tired of briefing the House Armed Services Committee briefing. Just packed his brief case...and walked out...while they were still questioning him. Here's Dana Milbank:

Two dozen members of the House Armed Services Committee had not yet had their turn to question Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at yesterday's hearings when he decided he had had enough.

At 12:54, he announced that at 1 p.m. he would be taking a break and then going to another hearing in the Senate. "We're going to have to get out and get lunch and get over there," he said. When the questioning continued for four more minutes, Rumsfeld picked up his briefcase and began to pack up his papers.

The chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), apologized to his colleagues for a rather "unusual" situation.

With the Bush administration asking Congress this month to write checks for half a trillion dollars for the Pentagon, you might think the secretary of defense would set an accommodating posture on Capitol Hill.
What a farce of Congressional oversight we have any more. It doesn't get more pro forma than this. Talk about the Putinization of America.

Posted by Laura at 01:05 PM
Not many people can act so contemptuously of Congress and get away with it. Rumsfeld, however, apparently is one of those few. It's too bad our Representatives are incapable of showing any spine towards this administration.

Perhaps that is too harsh, maybe they have just given up since it appears the administration has no interest in respecting the people's elected representatives. They certainly have expressed little respect or trust in the people. It's hard to say you trust the voter when you enlist propaganda.
When it comes to the Presidents proposed potential ideas for a plan, there is little more to be said about his Social Security concepts than no. There have been no definitive plans as of yet, but the President is still chris-crossing the country stumping for his privatization ideas, even if no one can nail down what they are. If there has been any quibbling about the President's intentions on Social Security, recent statements by White House officials dispelled any of the pretense of the President's plans intending to "save" Social Security.

For those who want to stand against the pseudo-plans of the President, Kevin Drum over at Political Animal has some good advice.
I guess they call it the third rail of American politics for a reason. I continue, though, to think that somewhere there's a Plan B in the background. Bush has gained a reputation for resoluteness based on his unbending dedication to upper crust tax breaks and military action in Iraq, but as Marshall Wittman points out, he's happily flip flopped on practically every other policy initiative he's been associated with. He's probably willing to do it this time too.

He's good at it, too, which means that Max is right: Democrats shouldn't let themselves get panicked into offering alternatives to Bush's plan too soon. After all, there's no particular crisis at hand and no particular reason to help Bush out of a dilemma of his own making. Let him twist for a while.
In addition, any Congressman who wants to know understand the real stakes in this should simply reflect on the fact that the President wants to talk about Social Security, but he wants the Republicans in Congress to step up and put it on paper.

The President may have capital to spend, but he's not going to risk losing his shirt on this one.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The St. Louis American is polling the mayors race on its website.

There are only 5 votes so far, but Mayor Slay is in the lead %60-%40. Hopefully they'll soon get some more votes and the results might be a bit more representative.

Although the percentages are probably a pretty accurate prediction for the primary results.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

U.S. News and World Report's Washington Whispers section is polling their readers through a web poll to gauge how they think Gov. Howard Dean's election as head of the Democratic National Committee will impact the Democratic Party. The option are a. t will expand and take back control of Congress and the White House, b. He'll drive moderate Democrats to the Republicans, and c. He'll turn the party into a launching pad for a 2008 presidential bid.

Currently, %69 of U.S. News readers believe he will drive moderates into the arms of the Republicans.

Right above the poll they also have a quote attributed to Dean that says, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

Now I don't want to say the poll is biased, it could have been a certain laziness in crafting the questions and layout, but it is hard to ignore the fact that it is weighted in a certain direction. In addition, dropping an inflammatory quote right above the poll is a sure sign of either bad methods or clear bias. Add that to the fact that the former editor of the news mag went to work for Bush as a speechwriter and I think we have good evidence for a bias.

I am not saying Dean may not do the things they predict. However, their own methods steer readers to negative conclusions about Dean. They are loading the poll.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mayoral Debate tonight at 7 p.m. Tune in to watch it on Channel 9 or listen on KWMU 90.7.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Clinton is Early Favorite in 2008
This is such a bad idea. It has been widely expected that Clinton would run in 2008, but it's terrible news for those who are trying to rebuild the Democratic Party.

It's not that Clinton has bad ideas (her much-maligned health care plan might have actually done some good if the Republicans hadn't killed it in the nest), or is not a good politician, it is that she is exactly what the Republican Party has been gearing up for. They have waited for years to really get a chance to savage Clinton (not that Limbaugh doesn't every chance he gets). Their entire attack machine structure was honed to perfection during her husbands Presidency. The Republicans detest the Clintons the way a doctor detests cancer.

The beating Kerry took from the Republicans will look like amateur hour in comparison to what a national Clinton campaign will have to withstand.

The second problem is that every Republican candidate in the country will force every Democratic candidate in the country to answer for Sen. Clinton. Every seat in congress, in state houses and on school boards. The Democrats will have to cut through the noise machine before they will ever get a chance to get their message out. One of Kerry's biggest problems was not that he didn't "connect" with the people, its that he wasn't able to get his message across. He had good policy ideas, but spent most of his time fighting off attacks.

Sen. Clinton is popular, rightly so, but a run for the Presidency would cause more harm than good.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A letter to the editor in today's Post-Dispatch nails a point that has irresponsibly overlooked.
It doesn't add up

A Feb. 8 headline says that "Bush budget forecasts 3.6% growth" in the economy for the next fiscal year. His projections for the Social Security shortfall use an annual economic growth rate of 1.9 percent. What happens to the Social Security shortfall if the 3.6 percent growth rate is projected? What happens to the budget if the 1.9 percent growth rate is used?

What is the rationale for projecting different growth rates?

Gale Murphy
This is exactly the question that should be asked not only of the President, but of the Republican's that have come out in favor of phasing out social security. Make no mistake, creating private accounts out of social security eliminates the system. Period. Investing some of the social security fund in stocks instead of bonds is a whole different issue.

The President and his proxies use bad math to try and bamboozle the public on this issue. They are hoping that most people will simply say, "it's too hard to keep up." The simple matter of fact is, if the economy does well enough to actually make investing the money into stocks, then it will be growing enough to keep social security in the black.

The question of whether it matters if social security runs at a deficit is a whole other matter. This same President who argues that running a program with debt is also arguing that deficits do not matter. Which is it?

The entire government is running in the red and has been for years. Should we eliminate government too?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Post-Dispatch columnist Eric Mink has an excellent column today on Governor Blunt's moral values when it comes to those who need the most help. I think Mink sums up the exasperation and outrage many in Missouri felt when Blunt proposed his Dickensian budget.

The amount of hutzpah it takes to campaign on the moral fiber of your being, and then turn around and kick those who need help the most right to the curb is incredible. In the past weeks I have heard numerous mild-mannered individuals describe the Governor's plan and anyone who supports it with language that would turn a sailors ears red. These are not folks who toss off an expletive lightly, but their level of outrage was so great that they couldn't help themselves.

To say that we must, on principle, freeze taxes, yet cut essential services to those that need them, shows little understanding of logic, principle or morality.

A couple choice graphs from Mink's column:
The governor and his fellow ideologues in Jefferson City (and, indeed, in Washington) have reduced us to arguing over which needy people deserve our help and which we have to cast aside. What we should be doing, instead, is challenging this twisted defeatism. The governor says, in essence, that we can't afford to be the kind of caring neighbors we want to be. He tells us we can't afford to have the kind of compassionate community that lives according to the moral values we prize.

Is this really what we've come to? Deciding how far below the poverty level you have to be before your state government will help you get health care? Twenty-five percent below isn't enough? You need to be 50 percent below, as the Legislature proposed last year, or 70 percent below, as Blunt now proposes?

In 2005, in the wealthiest nation ever to exist on Earth, this is a disgrace.
Go read the whole thing, it's excellent.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

As I have tried to convince some of the Republican leaning folks in my life, the Republican position on Social Security is about ideology and politics, not about fiscal solvency or protecting retirees. Now the Administration itself has proven my point.
Via Josh Marshall's blog:
From today's LA Times top story, referenced in the Note, an anonymous white house source said:

"White House officials say they are confident that congressional skepticism will dissipate once the president persuades a majority of the public that action is needed to extend the life of the retirement program, a process Bush was scheduled to begin today by taking his Social Security message on the road."

a couple paragraphs later:

"In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems — a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement."

A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, was more explicit, saying that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems."
This shifting, morphing message on Social Security is going to burn someone. Most likely the Republicans. As the article also mentions, the Republicans may be more aware of this than they let on.
That candid analysis, although widely shared by economists, distressed some Republicans.

"Oh, my God," one GOP political strategist said when he learned of the shift in rhetoric. "The White House has made a lot of Republicans walk the plank on this. Now it sounds as if they are sawing off the board."
The light is shining in on this debate. Perhaps it will finally become clear that the only real principle in this administration is winning. If you have to lie cheat and threaten, then so be it.

Between the exposure of the SS dishonesty, the repeal of the DeLay rule, and the removal of ethics committee members who actually displayed ethical principles in action, perhaps the modern Republican party will be exposed for what it really is, a party divorced from the principles it claims to represent and adrift on a sea of malfeasance.
There have to be awards for this kind of dishonesty. Feehery has to win some sort of prize for this.
And this about Hulshof from the Post-Dispatch ...

As for Hulshof, John Feehery, a spokesman for Hastert, said there was no connection to the DeLay matter and that the speaker simply wanted fresh faces on the panel.

“It wasn’t really removing him,” said Feehery. “It was more like relieving him of his duty. The Speaker doesn’t like to have people who are such talented legislators like him have to spend so much time on ethics.”
This is coming from the Speaker who presided over the House Republican's collective knee-bend to DeLay. Anyone who stands for any sort of ethic in the Republican party will be cut down appropriately.

Not only do they cut down fellow members who are attempting to retain some form of decency in the Republican party, but they can barely cover their own lies about it.
Feehery noted that Hulshof sits on the Ways and Means Committee and “is likely to play a critical role on Social Security and tax reform.

“... Ethics is more of a burden than a privilege,” Feehery added. “And the speaker likes to mix it up,” referring to Hastert’s desire to put new members on the panel.

But Hulshof said he had specifically asked Hastert to reappoint him to the panel and noted that two other GOP members who were allowed to stay—Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Judy Biggert, R-Ill.—have served on the committee longer than he has.

As Josh Marshall noted today, "When corruption is really entrenched, there's no attempt to hide it."