1.22.2005

Finally! A Coalition of the Willing...

Wait... Boeing in coalition that will help push for private accounts D'oh!!
SeattlePI.com (01.21)
With any policy, you have to ask: who profits? Well with the push to PRIVITIZE Social Security we don't even have to wait because the folks that will benefit are already stepping up to the plate:

A coalition representing such companies as The Boeing Co., Pfizer Inc. and Fidelity Investments will spend "significantly more" than $5 million to promote President Bush's plan for private Social Security accounts, the group's coordinator said yesterday.

The companies, concerned the government will otherwise raise the 12.4 percent payroll tax to plug a funding gap, plan a campaign of direct mail and television advertising across the nation to back Bush's proposal, said Derrick Max, coordinator of the Washington-based Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security (COMPASS).

"It's a very burdensome tax," said Max, who is also the executive director of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a group of 40 businesses and associations founded by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Washington-based trade group. "If we don't reform Social Security, the tax will have to be increased or benefits cut." Employers split the payroll tax with their employees.
HAHAHAHA: a "burdensome tax"! Priceless since these corporations don't pay it: it comes out or your paycheck, and THEY'RE the ones cutting YOUR benefits. Also, it is a given that Corporations DO NOT pay their fair share and get HUGE entitlements from the federal government. Bastards.

No, what's really going on here is they want the money that Wall Street will receive from a PRIVITIZED Social Security system to be invested in their companies.

Conspiracy? Nope. The writing on the wall (no pun intended)
The lobbying may fuel criticism by Democratic opponents and others that Bush is putting seniors' retirement money at risk to benefit financial services firms that would manage stock and bond accounts.

John Sweeney, president of the Washington-based AFL–CIO, the biggest U.S. labor organization, called the securities industry's support for personal accounts a conflict of interest. Financial services companies may gain $39 billion to $279 billion in fees from managing the accounts, Sweeney said in letter Tuesday to Daniel Ludeman, chairman of the Washington-based Securities Industries Association and president and chief executive officer of Wachovia Securities LLC.

The association says it has been giving technical advice to the Bush administration as it draws up a private accounts plan.

"They're living up to the critics' allegations," said Roger Hickey, director of the New Century Alliance for Social Security, a coalition of 35 labor and civil rights groups. "Wall Street is pushing the dismantling of Social Security so they can get their hands on this investment money. It's very dumb of them to live up to the stereotype. It's bad public relations and bad public policy at the same time."
Read & think for yourself.

Praying for "Clean Balance Sheets"

Found it! But we feel a bit dirty about it:
Prayer for the nation: inaugural benediction
scbcbaptistpress.org (01.20)
So in his Inaugural Benediction, Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, prayed for the following:

"God, forgive us for becoming so ensnarled in petty partisan politics that we miss Your glory and block our purpose. Deliver us from the evil one, from evil itself and from the mere appearance of evil.

"Give us clean hearts, so that we might have clean agendas, clean priorities and programs and even clean financial statements.

"Now, unto You, O God, the One who always has been and always will be, the one King of kings and the true power broker, we glorify and honor You.

Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."
"and even clean financial statements"??? What the fuck? Sorry, we know a thing or 2 about religion but praying for 'clean financial statements' strikes us as pretty fucking weird.

Who calls it 'Privitization?

Oh we loves the Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo.com (01.22)
Who has called for 'privitizing' Social Security? Chris Chacola (R–IN) & Bob Novak (Traitor?). Plus we know that Bush himself has used the term too... as the Washington Post pointed out to him (Brandoland has the highlights).

1.21.2005

Peace & Prosperity as 'Sabbatical'??

We had kinda given up on the Washington Post (especially after they censored the Boondocks for making fun of Condelezza Rice), but not entirely: E.J. Dionne knocks one of the park when he was brave enough to listen to Bush's inauguration address so we didn't have to (we salute you sir!)
Visions in Need of a Little Realism
Washington Post (01.21)

This is truly scary:

But Bush's description of the years before Sept. 11 was disturbing. He dismissed a decade marked by the triumph of freedom, the spread of prosperity and a modest but measurable increment of social justice as "years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical." His next line: "And then there came a day of fire."
'Day of fire'??? No, sorry we were in DC: it was a day of planes ramming into buildings. Horrible day. Terrible day. But day of fire? Sorry, no.

Repose? Sabbatical? Put aside the fact that in the years Bush dismisses, the United States stood up, slowly and reluctantly, to be sure, for freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo and Haiti. Are years of "relative quiet" somehow inferior to an era defined by war? Is the assumption here that Americans are better off when we are embattled and less noble when we are at peace? Is this a call for unending conflict and confrontation?
Sabbatical: relating to the sabbath; a break or change from a normal routine.

There you have it: War and conflict is, apparently, our normal state. Peace & prosperity? Overated.

Remember the Onion story after the first Bush inauguration? No? Well it was Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'

Scary. Anyways, Dionne goes on to ask the important questions:

And then there is the profoundly uncomfortable question: Do we want Sept. 11 to dominate how we define ourselves indefinitely? The president seems to think so. It's not polite to say at a moment of pomp and ceremony, but defining our politics in terms of that horrific event served the president's interest and was a central reason why he was standing before us yesterday.
Indeed.

Think for yourselves folks, think for yourselves...

God Give Us Clean Balance Sheets

Uh, we're trying to track down the text of the Inauguration Benediction, but in it the guy asked God for "Clean balance sheets". No joke. The link is the Unfiltered Radio blog, but we'll find the exact text later today.

Privitization folks, PRIVITIZATION. That's what it is all about (sorry Hokey Pokey!)

Oh by the by, we love this story: Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute:

Many Norwegian television viewers were shocked to see U.S. President George W. Bush (news - web sites) and family apparently saluting Satan during the U.S. inauguration.
All hail Lord Satan!

I think you're being lied to...

This so disturbs me that... I am sort of lost. Things are not getting better: they're gettting so much worse and the "liberal media" is sheilding you from what the rest of the world is seeing:

Photos from an incident in Tal Afar courtesy of the BBC (01.18)

This is the face of war, and I'm crushed that we're involved.

You know what? The kind of war that the we now practice is obsolete: you can repel an invader from your country, you can repel one from another country, but you cannot invade and hold a country. History and technology are now against you. Communications are too effective, and modern weapons are far too dangerous. The world is too small and folks have learned the lessons of previous 'insurgencies' and disruptive techniques. War, as we're practicing it, is obsolete or will at least lead to unintended consequences.

1.19.2005

Song of the Week!

'Help Save the Youth of America
Billy Bragg from Talking To The Taxman About Poetry
Yes, it's Uncle Billy again. We loves him so.

Help save the youth of America
Help save them from themselves
Help save the sun–tanned surfer boys
And the Californian girls

When the lights go out in the rest of the World
What do our cousins say
They're playing in the sun and having fun, fun, fun
Till Daddy takes the gun away

From the Big Church to the Big River
And out to the Shining Sea
This is the Land of Opportunity
And there's a Monkey Trial on TV

A nation with their freezers full
Are dancing in their seats
While outside another nation
Is sleeping in the streets

Don't tell me the old, old story
Tell me the truth this time
Is the Man in the Mask or the Indian
An enemy or a friend of mine

Help save the youth of America
Help save the youth of the world
Help save the boys in uniform
Their mothers and their faithful girls

Listen to the voice of the soldier
Down in the killing zone
Talking about the cost of living
And the price of bringing him home

They're already shipping the body bags
Down by the Rio Grande
But you can fight for democracy at home
And not in some foreign land

And the fate of the great United States
Is entwined in the fate of us all
And the incident at Tschernobyl proves
The world we live in is very small

And the cities of Europe have burned before
And they may yet burn again
And if they do I hope you understand
That Washington will burn with them
Omaha will burn with them
Los Alamos will burn with them
We might have picked this one before, but we think it's worth posting again.

By the way, replace 'Down by the Rio Grande' with Iraq; 'the incident at Tschernobyl' with 'The Tsunami' or 'Sept. 11th' and the song still makes sense. History may not repeat, but it does seem to rhyme...

Social Security: There Is NO 'crisis'

This is just up and we're expecting big things from thereisnocrisis.com, so when you talk about Social Security just remember that there is NO "crisis" in the same way that there where no 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq.

1.18.2005

"And then they came for the reporters..."

Reuters' U.S. Journalists Withhold Bylines, Credits to Protest Offshoring, Demands for Concessions
PRNewswire.com (01.13)
Ad people, lawyers, and reporters. Oh my. Who would have thought these folks could be offshored/outsourced/gotten rid of? The folks who stand to make money from it that's who.

U.S. journalists of Reuters Group Plc
(Nasdaq: RTRSY; LSE: RTR), working without a contract for nearly two years, are holding a one-day byline strike on Thursday to protest company managers' demands for economic concessions in current contract talks as well as their moves to export editorial jobs to low-wage countries.

[snip]

"Our members provide the quality and reliability that the world has come to expect from Reuters," said New York Guild President Barry Lipton. "They are angry at their bosses' disregard for quality as they slash the company's budget, experiment with remote control journalism and refuse to offer workers a fair and decent contract."

Reuters became the first major news organization to try to cover Wall Street from India last year when editorial managers started replacing their highly skilled work force in United States and London with cheaper, far less experienced journalists in Bangalore.
"Remote control journalism." HILARIOUS. Well, we won't kick anyone when they're down.

Oh, right: the lawyers? Actually and old story (somewhere in our archives) but there was a story in the Houston Chronicle ("and the award for worst designed news website goes to...") called The offshoring trend extends to attorneys. Catchy title.

Our favorite part?
Ethical questions depend on the type of work offshored, said Matthew Powers, head of patent litigation in the Redwood Shores, Calif., office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

"Legal services are no different than any other services. There are some that can be commoditized, like data collection and low-level legal research," he said.

"But there are some that can never be outsourced, especially when it comes to exercising legal judgment."
You keep telling yourself that Tex, because that's just what the tech folk, the Ad folk and those reporters all thought too...

"And then they came for the Ad men..."

New Agency Opens Creative to India Outsourcing
MarketingVox.com (01.18)
Ho ho, the list of jobs going offshore keeps getting longer and longer...

In what should be a nightmare for many coffee–swilling, depressive, creative–blocked, sardonic creatives that lurk in the plusher offices of ad agencies, this week a group of former big agency executives will launch a new boutique that will outsource work to 15 Asia–based teams. Most major creative concepting will be done in New York offices, with the creative executions streaming out of India, according to a ClickZ piece. The use of Indian labor should make the shop, to be named Banerjee & Partners, about half as expensive as the typical American firm. The experienced traditional media teams will work on online ads, site and microsite design and email marketing as well.
Yes, we thought it was poorly written too, but the message is the same: whatever you can do, they can probably get someone to do it cheaper and, if given the time, they will.

Here's what the 'ClickZ' piece says:
An international group of veteran ad executives are expected to launch a creative agency this week, Banerjee & Partners, which will use what it calls "blended outsourcing" to provide U.S. brands with traditional and interactive services.

According to the company, it can offer services for 40 to 60 percent less because of its offices in India. Interactive offerings will include online advertising, Web site design, e–mail marketing, and landing page creation.
"Blended Outsourcing." Lovely.

"I'd like a grande 'blended outsourcing' and a scone"

Remember: if you take a paycheck from another man, you are working class.

Stop It

I just called to say 'I hate you'
Asia Times Online (01.15)
This makes us really mad. It isn't helpful, it isn't American and it is an insult to children to call it 'childish.' This is just the response of people that don't know how to do anything but lash out like emotional midgets:

For those who thought that the anti–outsourcing backlash against India, one of the biggest back–end service providers to multinational firms in the world, was an issue limited to the US presidential elections, they have it wrong.

In what has been termed individual vigilantism by the people affected, there are reports that an increasing number of blatantly racist and abusive hate calls are being made to harass Indian call–center operators who take queries from US customers, sitting in India. Curiously, this phenomenon has taken on alarming proportions consequent to the results of the US elections, with incumbent George W Bush considered to be more positively inclined toward outsourcing, in contrast to John Kerry, who lost the polls.
Calling to harass Indian call–center workers. Wow. That'll stop outsourcing... why didn't we think of that: This is right up there with smashing Japanese cars because they were outselling American cars in the 70's & early 80's.

>sigh< What are people fucking thinking?

You know, it's stuff like this that makes us seriously consider moving to Europe. We're sorry, but Americans can be so immatrure, backwards, and uncultured, and it doesn't help that we're encouraged to be so by the powers that be and all we can say is: Stop it you fucking morons! Grow up. Read. Vote. Write a letter to your representative (do you even know who they are? That would be a good place to start). Get involved in your kid's education. Stop shopping at Wal–Mart. Think for yourself and just trying doing something constructive.

Anyways, as you can see, these little calls have 0 effect:
The macro picture, however, seems to be bright for Indian offshore service providers. According to estimates, the business and process outsourcing industry will gross US$5.7 billion in revenue in the year 2005. A recent McKinsey report on the information technology–enabled sector has revised previous figures of $17 billion to $21–24 billion by the year 2008, with India slated to garner 25% of the offshore market, with the US the largest source, providing 60% of the business.

Estimates suggest that 200,000 to 400,000 jobs have moved from the US since the outsourcing trend began in the 1990s, which is still a fraction of 138 million jobs in the US. The Information Technology Association of America says only about 2% of the 10 million computer-related jobs have been sent abroad; 12% of IT companies have "outsourced" work, compared to 3% of non–IT firms. The most high-end projection is by Forrester Research – a loss of 3.3 million jobs by 2015, including 1.7 million back-office jobs and 473,000 IT jobs – which will create a dent in the US job market and not the wreck everyone fears.

With US industry firmly backing outsourcing, given productivity increases, higher profits and lower costs, one does hope that the latest distasteful happenings are just a blip in the phone lines.


1.17.2005

The Fix Is In

That Magic Moment The New York Times (0m.dd)
Wow. Thank the sweet baby Jesus for Paul Krugman because I didn't hear about this anywhere...

Last week Andrew Biggs, the associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, appeared with Mr. Bush at a campaign-style event to promote privatization. There was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate for a civil servant to play such a blatantly political role. But then there was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate to appoint a professional advocate like Mr. Biggs, the former assistant director of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization, to such a position in the first place.
AMAZING. They appointed the Cato Institute's Assistant Director on Social Security Privitization the Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy? Un-fucking-believable.

Oh yeah, it wasn't until very recently that the Republicans have stopped using the term 'privitization' when talking about Social Security. Don't be fooled: that's exactly what it is. We can not allow them to frame this debate. Remember: Social Security is the most successful, healthy government program there is. It isn't a benefit, it's insurance. It isn't in trouble.

Oh yeah, here's Krugman explaining the Bush Social Security Con in Rolling Stone.


The Bull Moose & the Brutal Truth

Suckers BullMoose (01.17)
Oh we do so love the Bull Moose Blog. They lay out what we've been telling folks for years:

The Moose avers that the cultural war is just another way for the GOP to wage a class war.

[snip]

What the President initially stated likely reveals what he really believes - that the last thing he wants is to spend precious and perhaps diminishing political capital on is a distasteful fight over gay marriage. After years of observation, the Moose has concluded that the Republican establishment does not share the passion of the religious right about divisive cultural issues.

The dirty little secret of the Republican Party is that behind closed doors the establishment has contempt for the religious right. And the GOP illuminati certainly do not leave their homes in the morning with a passion to prevent Jim from marrying John or to save a fetus from an abortionist. For instance, many have loved ones who are gay, or they may be gay themselves. The powers that be in the GOP are far more concerned about eliminating the estate tax for multimillionaires than halting the death of the unborn. Here is a thought experiment – if you really believe that the sacred institution of marriage is in dire jeopardy, would you make private social security accounts your top priority?

The GOP big wigs pay obeisance to the religious right because they provide the foot soldiers for their campaigns. The Republican establishment cynically manipulates the cultural issues because they recognize that a party that is dedicated to redistributing wealth upward has little chance of majority status. Once elected, Republicans reward the religious right with some crumbs while the real goodies are handed out to their wealthy donors and their corporate cronies.
HA HA! SUCKERS! HILARIOUS! Look kiddies, we know LOTS of folks on both sides of the aisle in DC and they've never hidden their contempt for the "religious right" as anything other than foot soldiers who scare them too. I just love it when other folks find out.

Oh, also check out Brandoland for some thoughts on Bush's latest interview...

The Giant Triplets

They played some of this on Air America's Unfiltered this morning, but I think it's worth putting these up for folks to read today, because the speech would need only minor editing and it could be called "Beyond Iraq"...
Beyond Vietnam Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (04.04.1967)

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has
everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
Many will pay lip service to Dr. King's words, instead focusing on just part of his work, but it's important to see that what he said about so much is still so true today. Replace 'Communism' with 'Militant Islam' and the speech still makes sense.

1.16.2005

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Editorial: Social Security/Blacks get more, not less, from it
StarTribune.com (01.17)

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.

Bush didn't make up this phony line on his own; it comes from the Heritage Foundation, which a number of years ago did a study purporting to show that because African–Americans have a shorter life expectancy than whites, they get less in return for the taxes they pay into the Social Security system.
Heritage Foundation. Know the name. They're all over the talking head shows. We've known more than a few folks who have worked at Heritage over the years and they are super–conservative and have a very clear agenda, so don't let anyone tell you differently.

Nothing they say can be trusted to be even remotely objective.
The Social Security actuaries found that Heritage had exaggerated substantially the amount blacks pay in Social Security taxes and low-balled the benefits they receive. "In fact," the actuaries said, "results from more careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the non–white population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security than for the white population."

The GAO reached the same conclusion. It said that, "In the aggregate, blacks and Hispanics have higher disability rates and lower lifetime earnings, and thus receive greater benefits relative to taxes [paid] than whites."

While Bush didn't mention Hispanics, he probably will, as Heritage did, with similarly misleading results. Both the GAO and Social Security actuaries found Hispanics, too, in the aggregate, benefit more than whites from the Social Security system. Hispanics actually live longer than whites, and thus the mechanism that links their future benefits to inflation (which the Bush administration wants to undo) is particularly important. Currently, as Hispanics grow older, Social Security makes up a more and more important element of their income.
Bush Co. will stop at nothing to get what they want, whether it is war or killing off Social Security, and the full–court press is just starting.

While You're Losing Your Job, Bush Co. Throws a Party

As inauguration costs rise, so do critics' complaints
TheTimesHerald.com (01.16)
This is some bad ju–ju folks...

To pay for what could be the most expensive inauguration ever, President Bush has commissioned well-connected associates to tap some familiar, deep-pocketed individuals and major corporations to raise as much as $40 million.

That would match what was spent in 2001 dollars for Bush's first inauguration and is 10 times what Richard Nixon spent in 1973 dollars for his inaugural events.

But this year's celebration Tuesday through Friday –– highlighted by a parade, nine inaugural balls, candlelight dinners for major donors, a youth concert, prayer breakfast and the swearing in of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney –– could exceed the estimated cost.

[snip]

The huge sums have raised concerns that donors with matters before Congress are buying access to politicians. Critics, including local officials, also have bashed the Republicans for putting on such an elaborate celebration when the country's economy is still in a slump and when much global attention is focused on providing aid to victims of the tsunami that devastated much of southern Asia.

"It's hard not to think of it as obscene with what's happening right now in Asia," said Matthew Dennis, a history professor at the University of Oregon, who has studied inaugurations.

Said William Grover, a political scientist at St. Michael's College in Vermont: "It's troubling for democracy because it gives those people greater access to persons in power, and that raises real questions.

Local reaction

Marilyn Merrick, chairwoman of the St. Clair Democratic Party, has been talking about the spending with her executive committee.

"The declaration that the taxpayers are not paying for a lavish display of wealth at the inauguration of President Bush is a poor excuse for overspending," Merrick said. "People in our country are losing jobs to outsourcing, losing health–care benefits. The homeless rate is climbing daily, and our educational system lacks needed funding. The picture is dismal from the middle– and lower–class perspective."
Well if you're looking for the sound bite, Marilyn just gave it to you.

As for us? Well last time around we were in DC and we stayed in and cleaned our apartment. This time? Not spending 1 damn dime. Will it make a difference, not really but it will make us feel better.