Kentucky Blog

Because Kentucky Is Not Called the "REDgrass State"

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Does the YMCA Embrace Homosexuality?

And now, my impression of a right wing blog post based on my experience at the YMCA today:

"I was at the YMCA today and noticed in the hallway, to my shock and awe, a bulletin board with Spongebob Square Pants on it. To my horror Spongebob was soliciting (through cartoon like conversation bubbles connected to his head) children to sign up for sports.

I dropped what I was doing and immediately went to the management to discuss the YMCA's impetulant support of homosexuality loving cartoon characters. Can you believe the manager looked at me like I had just offered him a 5 gram rock of crack cocaine! He acted like he had never heard anything so preposterous as Spongebob being a tool of the loony left wing liberals that are trying to corrupt our childrens' morals."

It's hard to imitate madness, but I think I captured the raving paranoia that people like Dobson have instilled in some of these poor, mindless twits.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Lundergan Thinks He Gets It

Update: The link to Daniel's letter is here (scroll down).

Perusing through the Courier Journal I ran into a letter to the editor from none other than Daniel at Kentucky Dem (no link to the actual letter available as of today). Daniel's contention was essentially an echo of posts from around the several Kentucky blogs, and concisely stated the inherent superficial hypocrisy of Lundergan being chosen as an antithesis to the likes of Tom DeLay despite having his own past ethical lapses.

Daniel points out that in terms of the difficulty in garnering financial support, Lundergan does not exactly instill confidence. This is certainly true, but there's a larger part that bothers me.

I find it hard to voluntarily relinquish my hard earned funds to a chairperson that wants to move the party "to the right." How can Lundergan ask me to donate money to support a platform that contains elements, such as outlawing abortion and writing discrimination into our Constitution, that I would gladly give money to oppose?

Need Money? Issue Bonds!

The state has no budget, and has had to cut funding for numerous social programs to avoid going broke. But road construction must go on:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher will not try to raise the gas tax, but Kentucky must issue $500 million in bonds so Jefferson County's bridges and other state road projects can be built on schedule, he said yesterday.

That's new debt for the common sense impaired. Paid off over 20 years. Not a long time to pay off $500 million if the Governor will hold to his fealty oath to Grover Norquist.

The foundation of the state road construction program is the Road Fund, which is financed largely by the gas tax and sales tax on motor vehicles. The Road Fund is separate from the General Fund, which pays for most other state programs.Two problems have hampered the Road Fund's ability to keep pace with the construction schedule in the plan.

In 2000, the General Assembly rejected then-Gov. Paul Patton's proposal to raise the gas tax, but kept construction on pace by spending down Road Fund reserves of more than $700 million.

That kept construction strong through the end of 2003, when the reserves were largely depleted.

The second problem is that while General Fund revenues have soared above expectations over the past year, Road Fund revenues have not.


Again, for the common sense impaired - this was forseeable. Four years ago, the Republican controlled Senate shot down the idea of a gas tax. This was done under David Williams, who had previously agreed with Patton to lend his support to the gas tax increase. When Patton unveiled the plan - Voila! Williams had amnesia.

And now, because of the dishonesty and petty political ploys of David Williams in 2000, our state's road fund was - foreseeably - depleted. And now Kentucky's children will be paying for this $500 million bond issue.

Who exactly was Williams elected to represent?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Gonzalez As Tyrant?

DHinMI makes the case that Gonzalez, for all his outward faults, is actually much worse than we imagine. The argument is persuasive that Gonzalez is actually promoting a tyrranical approach to governance, one specifically disavowed in the Declaration of Independence.

I won't steal DHinMI's thunder and repeat the argument, but instead will encourage passers by this site to click the link above and give it a read. It's good stuff, and worth a gander.

United Against Torture

The Judiciary Committee votes 10-8 along party lines to send Gonzalez to the full Senate for confirmation. This is, on its face, disheartening - here we have an individual nominated to the highest judicial office in the land, an office that is annointed with the task of seeking justice for all, regardless of ideology or politics, yet he has so flagrantly flaunted the very laws and treaties, in fact the US Constitution, that are designed to confine our conduct to the boundaries of a "civil society."

But I think it's a golden opportunity. Gonzalez is the go to guy if you want to skirt the law, and breech basic human rights. Supporting him is a vote for torture, and as long as people like Orrin Hatch describe the man that paved the way to reopening the Iraq torture rooms (which Bush so proudly claims we closed) as "a man of decency, integrity and honor" then it pretty much lets everyone know where Republicans stand. Voting along party lines to confirm someone to uphold the laws who obviously has so little regard for them sets a clear definition of the Republican party - the Republican party will put partisan politics over humanity, morality, and the rule of law.

It exposes the rank hypocrisy of the Clinton witch hunt, and blatant exploitation of the gullible optimism inherent in the belief structure of the religious right. For if these defenders of morality and the rule of law, both man's and God's, in the Republican party will not stand against crimes against humanity and God, then whose interests are they really protecting?

Poor People Support the War Effort

In WWII FDR asked everyone to sacrifice for the war effort. In WWIII Bush asks the same, but he also asks us all to suffer a little extra for the aristocracy. Thus the homeless in Louisville will lose $3.1 million from the federal aid (down from $5.5 million last year), and Kentucky will lose $4.7 million statewide.

The homeless need to quit griping and suck it up - there's a war on and the nobles need their tax cuts. Be of good cheer homeless people, for spring is right around the corner. And good ol' Anne Northup has promised to make a phone call to get to the bottom of it. I'm sure you feel warmer already.

Again, Why Did We Go to Iraq?

George Bush (01/26/05):
"The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people," Bush said on the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began. "I understand that. It is the long-term objective that is vital - that is to spread freedom."

George Bush (03/19/03):
"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities."
Oh yeah, and you more than 50% of Americans that think the Iraq War is a bungled mass of wasted blood and treasure...well, you're just aiding the enemy:
"I think the Iraqi people are wondering whether or not this nation has the will necessary to stand with them as democracy evolves," Bush said. "The enemy would like nothing more than the United States to precipitously pull out and withdraw before the Iraqis are prepared to defend themselves."
That's right - Americans are now to blame for the death and destruction in Iraq. Because it couldn't possibly have to do with the incompetent bunch of bozos Bush surrounded himself with. I'm with Kos - you Bush backers need to sign up and get your Bush lovin' asses over to Iraq so you can export some freedom. You can eat freedom fries while freedom marches down Main Street, and when you turn the corner freedom will surely be there. In case you didn't notice, there's a war on and your country needs you.

And if you thought it was going to be over soon:

"This will involve the commitment of generations, but we're seeing much progress in our time," the president said.

So go ahead and sign your kids up too. I hear Anne Northup has six rugrats at her house - she's an avid Bush supporter, so I'm sure she will encourage all of them to sign up when they are of military age. Or is war too messy for her kids?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ted Turner Don't Take No Guff

I heard this on Ed Shultz earlier today, but just found a good link from Raw Story. Ted Turner on Fox News:
Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolf Hitler's popular election to run Germany before World War II.....

He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down," leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff," he said.
Talk about throwing down the gauntlet. Wow.

Bloggers Use Their Powers for Good

Armando over at Dailykos has started the blogger petition drive to encourage the Judiciary Committee to vote "no" on Gonzalez. The statement is concise and accurate, and basically sums up the frustration that any decent human being should feel at the arrogant contempt the Bush administration shows for the rule of law (being the same "rule of law" they clamored about in 1998) and basic human rights.

Anyway, visit Armando and if you like what the man (and I don't mean "The Man" as in a villian in a Shaft movie) says and you blog - SIGN UP! I won't recount my discontent with Gonzalez - I've already complained enough here, here, here, here, and here (shamelss self promotion, I know). Based on the comments section you may not even need a blog to approve, so get after it.

No Love for Condi

The debate rages in the Senate on whether Condi is qualified to serve as Secretary of State:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and other Democrats assailed President Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq Tuesday and declared they would oppose Condoleezza Rice's nomination as secretary of state as a principal architect of a failed policy.

Kennedy, of Massachusetts, keyed the Democratic attack with charges that Rice, as Bush's national security adviser, provided Congress with "false reasons" for going to war. Had she not, he said in a speech, "it might have changed the course of history."

Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., following up, accused the Bush administration of lying and said he was voting against Rice's confirmation as a way of trying to stop mistruths.

And Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., charged she concealed the Central Intelligence Agency's skepticism that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium for a nuclear weapons program from Africa. Rice claimed there was a "consensus" within the administration on on Iraq's activity when the Department of Energy and the State Department had reservations. "She exaggerated and distorted the facts," Levin said.


Take More Action

If you think Condoleeza Rice was less than forthright in her confirmation hearing, or her filibustering in the 9/11 Commission hearings was a threat to our national security, or that she lied when she said "no one could imagine planes being used as missiles," or that she is to some degree responsible for the defective pre-Iraq war intelligence, then let Barbara Boxer know.

Senator Boxer is one of the few to have the stones to oppose promoting failure, and she deserves our support for it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Time to Move On

Lundergan answers his critics (including all the left leaning Kentucky blogs, as best we can tell), and has the backing of big dude, Dale Emmons. Whether the right choice or not, Lundergan is the chosen one, and he is right - it's time to focus our energies where they matter most. We can spend time critiquing our own and giving fodder to the Right Wing, or we can redouble our efforts to purge Frankfort of people like David Williams, Dan Seum, and Dan Kelly. It's not a "lesser of two evils" decision - simply the logical one.

Time to Get Involved

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has introduced the Democratic Party's agenda which Steve Soto breaks down here, with the "official" description here. If you like what you see, go co-sponsor it.

The Dems are turning out to be a scrappy lot.

Did Anyone Really Not See This Coming?

From the AP: "US Military May Face Reservist Shortage."

Damned liberal media.

But what really gets me is the statements:

- "The strain of fighting a longer, bloodier war in Iraq (news - web sites) than U.S. commanders originally foresaw...."

and

- "The original expectation, after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, was that a troop withdrawal could begin within weeks. But an unanticipated insurgency...."

(all emphasis mine).

Ummmm. No. A longer, bloodier fight was originally foreseen and the insurgency was anticipated. Just not by the people in the Bush regime, and everyone that said it was labelled pessimistic, unpatriotic, or shrill. We can debate the strength of each sides' cases regarding the basis for going to war or the disputes on how best to do so. But before we do so, everyone needs to admit there has been no closure on the issues up for debate - and the media ought not be closing the door on the debate simply because the Bush administration says so.

Alberto Gonzalez Should Be In Prison

Just go read. This is what America has become to the rest of the world. It's too late to hold Bush accountable - but every American - Democrat, Republican, Green, Independent, or whatever - should be sick over this.

Top Secret Plan to Take Down Asia

Not exactly breaking news, but Atrios points out again for the memory impaired that Asia is financing the US deficit. My understanding is that its financed through the purchase of T-bills or some similar type paper which, when presented, have to be paid - again, this is based on a cursory understanding of the system, and I'll confess ignorance past that.

However, this line from the article cited gives me cause for hope:
If new official flows to the US were to be curtailed, the dollar would plunge, creating a huge hole in the accounts of central banks holding dollars."The risk exposure for Asian central banks is already great," concluded Matthew Higgins and Thomas litgaard of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in a recent paper.

You see - it's really a plot to take down the Asian markets which are heavily invested in the US Dollar! By tanking our own currency, the Bush administration is taking out our biggest global competitor of manufactured goods. Brilliant.

Dean for DNC Chair

Mark Hertsgaard has a good op/ed piece on Salon (subscription required, and worth every penny) regarding Howard Dean's quest for the DNC chair. Dean gets a lot of bashing for being a "liberal" which to me makes very little sense. Shying away from that label is once again allowing the Republicans to frame the debate and define our party. If the Yankees let the opposing team define the rules before every game, they would never win a game - and so it is with the Democrats. Hertsgaard's point is prescient:
All of the news stories reporting Dean's decision to seek the DNC chairmanship repeated the standard rap against him: He's too liberal. But that charge doesn't reflect reality so much as it reflects the Washington establishment's version of reality. Dean was labeled a liberal by the media essentially because he opposed the Iraq war. Never mind that he was also a deficit hawk who opposed gun control, gay marriage and universal healthcare, or that many conservatives later embraced his criticism of the war. In the post-Sept. 11 mood of false patriotism, the media assumed that anyone who criticized an apparently successful war had to be a liberal, and that was that.
Only by embracing our liberal heritage will the Democratic party win back the South - I'm not predicting Dean will make it an overnight occurrence, but rather that he'll put the party on the right path. It might very well be the only way the Dems ever win another election at all. Dean redefines "liberal" and his terms as governor in Vermont show he can define the Republican party much as Gingrich and Hastert were able to do to the Dems in mid-90's.

Dean tapped the grassroots, and it was his candidacy for president that revitalized an otherwise demoralized and whipped party in 2003, too cowed by the fear of Republican retribution or being labelled unpatriotic for failing to back the far right agenda:

In 2004, Dean rewrote the rules of presidential campaigns by using the Internet and local "meet-ups" to raise small donor money. But Dean's real secret was to give supporters real influence within his campaign and thus hook them on continued political participation. The idea of meet-ups, for example, came from the grass roots, not from campaign headquarters.

The Bush campaign tapped into similar grass-roots energy among conservatives and thereby expanded Republican turnout enough to gain the president a second term. Democrats must do more of the same in the years to come, and Dean is the leader who best understands that imperative. Dean, after all, is a populist. And his populism is not the brand espoused by President Bush -- a millionaire who shills for billionaires while talking like the common man. Dean's is the real thing. Which is why Republicans privately fear him.

Southern Democrats could do a lot worse than supporting Dean (in fact Florida's Dems already do support him). We've seen that Democrats can never "out Republican" the Republicans, and that catering the the middle while turning their backs on the left does not win elections. The party needs to determine if the status quo is good enough or if they want to regain the prominence for the party that brought the world civil rights reform, Social Security, education reform, and environmental preservation.

Poo Storm

Kentucky Dem dishes some dirt on the KY Democratic party's new Vice Chair, and VC Jean-Marie Lawson responds (at length). In terms of the "deals" that may or may not have put Ms. Lawson into the Vice Chair position, I couldn't really care less. What does concern me is what will she do now? I've already posted on my disdain for the party's choice in Jerry Lundergan to head up the KY Democratic party, so won't rehash it. Will she help Mr. Lundergan move the party to the right as he wants? Or will she push the progressive agenda that Democrats were once known for?

How many successful campaigns has she been involved in? Has her rise to prominence in the local party been one of self interested pursuit? Or was it because she had the vision to move the party forward? Her bio offers no clues, and unfortunately her discourse on Kentucky Dem's blog offers no insight either.

The party needs vision right now - Lundergan obviously won't offer it. However Ms. Lawson found herself in the Vice Chair position, the more cogent question is what will she do with it? I will be sorely disappointed if she uses it as merely a waypoint on the path to running for office.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Rumsfeld = Hamburglar?

From Doc Bogus (on Daily Kos):

I'm surprised this hasn't already turned up in a diary. I got it via the Left Coaster. Donald Rumsfeld had to call off a visit to Germany next month for the Munich Security Conference, because of the very real possiblity that he would be arrested and put on trial for war crimes.

Here is the article in a German magazine. George W. Bush was not a well-traveled man before he became president. War crime charges may limit his travel after he leaves office.


Get it? Hamburglar wears an old fashion prison uniform (or at least he did when I was a kid).

Friday, January 21, 2005

So Many Questions

The religious right believes the earth and its contents were created in 8 days. So why exactly did God create the other planets? Or the other galaxies? And when?

Inauguration Day (Translated)

As only the Rude Pundit can.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Another Janet Jackson Casualty

Apparently Janet Jackson's booby was too much for Michael Powell over at the FCC. Maybe he can go work for the MPAA with Hastert's spokesman, lobbying for less boob and more Passion. Nothing paves the road to heaven like gawking at someone dressed as Jesus getting whipped by evil (liberal) Romans.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Freedom is on the March!

Let Freedom Reign:

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Baghdad is Burning

Blogger has been a bit buggered this morning, so I've had to try this post a couple of times. The problem with blogs is that there's so many of them, and separating the wheat from the chaffe as they say over in Iowa can be tough thing to do. But then you see "Blogs We've Noticed" column on Blogger's main page, and you see "Baghdad Burning" mentioned. I've heard the name but never read it - until today:

From "river", I'm presuming an unnamed/anonymous poster on the blog (right after she explains how long she has been waiting to get a dial tone on the telephone):

Now we're being 'officially' told that the weapons never existed. After Iraq has been devastated, we're told it's a mistake. You look around Baghdad and it is heart-breaking. The streets are ravaged, the sky is a bizarre grayish-bluish color- a combination of smoke from fires and weapons and smog from cars and generators. There is an endless wall that seems to suddenly emerge in certain areas to protect the Green Zoners... There is common look to the people on the streets- under the masks of fear, anger and suspicion, there's also a haunting look of uncertainty and indecision. Where is the country going? How long will it take for things to even have some vague semblance of normality? When will we ever feel safe? ......

I hope Americans feel good about taking their war on terror to foreign soil. For bringing the terrorists to Iraq- Chalabi, Allawi, Zarqawi, the Hakeems… How is our current situation going to secure America? How is a complete generation that is growing up in fear and chaos going to view Americans ten years from now? Does anyone ask that? After September 11, because of what a few fanatics did, Americans decided to become infected with a collective case of xenophobia… Yet after all Iraqis have been through under the occupation, we're expected to be tolerant and grateful. Why? Because we get more wheat in our diets?

Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a skyscraper…terrorism is being caught in traffic and hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away because the National Guard want to let an American humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching your house being raided and knowing that the silliest thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick the shards of glass resulting from a nearby explosion out of the living-room couch and trying not to imagine what would have happened if a person had been sitting there.....

Then, after two years of grieving for the lost people, and mourning the lost sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring those weapons. We were never a threat to America... Congratulations Bush- we are a threat now.

I'm struck by two things. First, this is Bush's legacy. His children will never have to deal with this - they have their ivory tower. But our children won't be so fortunate.

The second is that despite the death and destruction we saw on 9/11, we really have no idea what living in terror really means.

Fun With Dean

Daniel enjoys the prospects of having Howard Dean around.

I'll add one to the list: If Dean didn't scream how many schools could Dean be dean of, if Dean could be dean?

Corsi v. Kerry - Gays Need Not Be Worried

Kentucky Dem predicts Kerry cleans Jerry Corsi's clock if Corsi moves from NJ to the liberal-haters' mecca of Massachusets in a loser leave town Senate matchup. Corsi of course co-wrote the anti-Kerry book that the liberal media promoted (free of charge) for the entire month of August, 2004.

I would just add that besides the fact that Corsi would be going against a somewhat popular Senator, moreso in defeat than he was before the Dean scream, Corsi is also a racist bigot. Media Matters has his greatest hits here.

Do Liberal Blogs Matter?

Chris Bowers thinks they're pretty influential. And he even uses statistical (i.e. empirical) data to back up his assertion. No wonder conservatives hate liberals - those pesky facts just get in the way of a good screed.

George Bush = Darth Vader?

Star Wars was such a good movie, and its sequel was pretty good itself. Not up to par on the original of course, but sequels rarely are. I won't comment on the "prequels," instead leaving that commentary to the guys that write in to the fan magazines or whatever.

Just now I was reminded of Luke's "come to Jesus" meeting with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi - you know, when he spent every scene belting out some line about how "there's still good in you yet" or "I feel the good in you" or some forced emotional soul searching exhibition similar to the foregoing. What reminded me of such poorly scripted dialogue within a larger, more epic trilogy, you ask?

Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly (go through Kevin to get to the article if you care to read it) related this little nugget, quoting from the LA Times who was quoting Lanny Davis (Clinton attorney and Democratic player):

One of my most vivid memories is this: A few of us were in the common room one night. It was 1965, I believe — my junior year, his sophomore. We were making our usual sarcastic commentaries on those who walked by us. A little nasty perhaps, but always with a touch of humor. On this occasion, however, someone we all believed to be gay walked by, although the word we used in those days was "queer." Someone, I'm sorry to say, snidely used that word as he walked by.

George heard it and, most uncharacteristically, snapped: "Shut up." Then he said, in words I can remember almost verbatim: "Why don't you try walking in his shoes for a while and see how it feels before you make a comment like that?"

Remember, this was the 1960s — pre-Stonewall, before gay rights became a cause many of us (especially male college students) had thought much about.

Will Jenna or little Barbara ever meet their daddy on a space ship and make him remove his mechanical helmet - the one that made his journey to the "dark side" complete - and say "daddy [sniffle][spoiled brat giggle][sniffle] I feel the good in you [giggle][sniffle/giggle]"?

Living Life in a Bubble

If the mainstream media can't report accurately on "nuclear oxide" then why would we expect to ever see what's happening in Iraq?

Seriously, this is what's happening. (Via Kos).

What exactly does "spreading freedom" mean to people outside of Bush's world? And where did they get their ideas that "spreading freedom" isn't necessarily a good thing when done at the point of a gun?

Investigative Journalism

An unnamed "tipster" clued authorities in to a massive terrorist plot against Boston involving two unnamed Iraqis and fourteen Chinese that allegedly came in through Mexicos (Quiz: How many Republican talking point issues are found in that sentence?). These crazy cats were waiting for a shipment of "nuclear oxide" and I suppose were poised to release it all over the city, engulfing the poor liberal Bostonians in a cloud of dirty bomb droppings. (Cue Rush Limbaugh pointing out that even the Chinese hate liberals).

Fortunately it was uncorroborated. Could the clue that it was all bogus have been that there is no such thing as "nuclear oxide"? If you Google the term you get articles with both words, but not together. I'm not a nuclear physicist, but the term struck me a bit like "jigawatt" the first time I heard it (years ago). And I do remember from Chem. 201, freshman year of college, that "oxides" are not a substance in and of itself - it has to be combined with something. Like carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, or...in this case...lunacy. What ever happened to fact checking before you put crap out there for the public's consumption. If you're going to scare the bejeesus out of people at least have the courtesy to report what it is that they should be afraid of. Which in this case was fortunately just stupidity.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Dean Rides on Sunday

For a nominal fee you can pay homage to Howard Dean, the only Democrat that didn't relinquish his voice when Bush started serenading Hussein for a dance in Iraq. Courtesy of the good folks at Change for Kentucky - you can sign up for updates and action notices, and even chip in a little cabbage if you like what they do. If you don't like what they do, well...I guess just check back here later for the next post and spend your money on beer and bratwurst - it's going to be a long four years.

Breaking News: Cheney Commits Humility!

It's not much, but on this day of mourning I'll take any silver lining. Perhaps if Cheney had listened to those liberal, anti-American, tree huggin', hippy, communist loving, morally bankrupt, non-patriots that said Iraq was a bad idea, or the ones that said it was a good idea but not to do it on the cheap, then perhaps he wouldn't have to admit to these "miscalculations."

The poor old guy, hindsight is so 20/20. But then again, some may consider his "miscalculations" more along the lines of "lies." Kentucky Blog reports, you decide.

Go, Site Meter Go!

Update: My Sitemeter link was not working, so I'll try again.

Daniel at Kentucky Dem links to the humble Kentucky Blog, and Site Meter goes completely crazy.

The Bluegrass Blog Roll is starting to look like the Justice League of America - which begs the question: where are all the Republican bloggers in this red state? Atrios has Jonah Goldberg to antagonize, surely there's someone local for us to chastise....

Sponge Bob - Worse Than Terrorism

The crazy right is at it again, and this is why normal thinking church goers end up looking like weirdos - people like Jim Dobson claim to be speaking for all of them when he says
SpongeBob's creators had enlisted [Sponge Bob] in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, [Dobson] said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

The real point of this sick, twisted video? To promote multi-culturalism in the wake of 9/11 using characters that are meaningful to children.
The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity.

Surely religious types in the South and Midwest have to understand why some would see their entire group as a bit nutty, and I'm tired of them blaming that misconception for their voting for the guy that wears his religion on his sleeve (but apparently doesn't go to church). If you don't want people to think you're a nut, don't let a nut speak for your group.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Heavy Lifting

Max Sawicky of Max Speak carries a heavy burden in his opposition to privatizing Social Security. The point/counterpoint is worth the read, if for no other reason than to see just how overblown the "crisis" rhetoric is, and how simply the system can be fixed.

Beware, however - Max is extremely intelligent and digesting it all hurt my head.

Medicaid Watch

An issue that hasn't received much play in the national media is the Medicaid increases that states have been suffering through for several years. In 2003 Bush proposed a fixed allotment of Medicaid money to the states as an incentive for them to control costs better (presumably by cutting care - arguably a death sentence for the sickly poor, as was the case in Alabama last year).

A similar type plan under Clinton was proposed in 1997, and opposed by Bush's current nominee to succeed Tommy Thompson at the Department for Health and Human Services. Michael O. Leavitt, as governor of Utah, did some good things - he created a plan to provide basic health care to those who didn't have it, and negotiated with local hospitals to provide emergency and specialized care. With the state and federal government currently spending about $300 billion a year on Medicaid programs, it is indeed time for some changes.

Mr. Leavitt may be the one to bring a bit of levity, if you'll pardon the play on words, to the burdgeoning Medicaid problem. No doubt this problem is due in no small part to the ever increasing costs of health care and hospitalization, and the fact that Bush prohibited Tommy Thompson from negotiating with drug companies to obtain lower prices for Medicaid patients. He will surely face difficulty in making meaningful changes, not only from the President but from governors.

Yes, I mean you Ernie. Backing out of deals with hospitals, similar to the arrangements made by Gov. Leavitt, is no way to instill enthusiasm in medical providers to help with what is basically a moral obligation. As Gov.Leavitt says, "We have a substantial obligation to care for the poor." Sometimes that starts with making tough but right decisions. Since Grover Norquist does not live in Kentucky, vote in Kentucky, or otherwise wield any power in Kentucky, surely he will forgive you for breaking your no new tax pledge and oath of fealty to him.

Cutting funding for poor people's medical care is potentially a life and death decision - it amounts to financial based right to life. And it's wrong.

There Is No Crisis

Seriously, There Is No Crisis. Check it out and pass it along.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Distinction with a Difference

With all the blustering about opposing Bush's privatization of Social Security, there hasn't been room in any post for a discussion of the nuts and bolts of what SS is designed to protect - retirement security. Social Security is a safety net, but one designed to be augmented by pensions, annuities, retirement accounts and the like. Basically your retirement income is dictated by your financial decisions (or ability to make them) from birth through retirement.

Social security protects against pensions going belly up, employer funded retirement plans going bust due to corporate fraud, and of course a life altering event - usually a disability. With these events widening, in no small part due to government de-regulation or lack of genuine oversight (at least when the media cameras are gone), it's prudent to take stock of how to fix retirement security. Personally, I'm in favor of easier access to private accounts managed by the government, although I do find it ironic that "government run retirement" is somehow less evil than "government run health care" but that can wait for another post.

Although Bush won't release specifics, Dick Cheney supports a move of 4-6% points of current FICA (SS payments) to private accounts. Because the media can't explain it I will - an employee pays 6.2% of their salary in FICA and the employer matches it, for a combined 12.4% payment; diverting 4-6 percentage points means a reduction in FICA payments in the range of 33-50% of the total investment. In other words, it's not 4-6% of the 12.4%, it's 4-6% from your actual salary.

Call it what you want, but it amounts to a social security phase out. Retirees will be guaranteed current benefits, but how has that helped retirement security? Surely that is the "moral" obligation to which Bush speaks. Ignoring for a minute the trillions of dollars in new debt over 40 years, and that fact that without tinkering the system is solvent through 2042 (with conservative assessments), a phase out doesn't help the underlying goal of retirement security.

The answer is more one of allowing smaller contributions into federally managed accounts - insured similarly to the way the FDIC operates. Obviously there has to be a dollar contribution limit, after all the government shouldn't guarantee Bill Gates' retirement fund. The reality is that the limitations on protecting retirement security are only the boundaries of imagination - we could start by implementing stricter oversight of employer funded retirement accounts (the kind that are funded by the company's own stock, the price of which is easily manipulated by unscrupulous directors and officers). Other ways are tax incentives for employers. Perhaps one way would be to pass a meaningful drug bill that allows the government to negotiate price controls - how much of retirement security is threatened by health care.

I'll leave the universal health care debate for later, but Atrios seems spot on with his analysis. Any way you slice it, phasing out social security is clearly not the answer.

Terror as a Campaign Tactic

One thing that made me a bit sick during the run up to the 2004 election was the unwillingness of the pundits and partisans, and the media for the most part, to not call "shenanigans" in the face of the well timed terror alerts. Not until today has anyone inquired as to where the terror warnings have gone.

Some corners will debate whether Bush to bin Laden is a fair comparison - I don't really care for the debate on whose policies killed more people, mostly because it just gives crazy people like Anne Coulter a platform to scream something stupid like "you hate America" or for Rush Limbaugh to unabashedly accuse liberals of "hating the military." And it won't do any good anyway - Bush doesn't care that we don't like his policies and as long as we just talk about how much we dislike his policies he is free to run America into the black abyss of international hatred.

What I do think is a fair comparison, and Pete will probably disagree (assuming he ever posts a comment), is the common element that exists between bin Laden and Bush (through his "architect" Karl Rove). That is of course the use of terror as a political tool. Bin Laden used it in an attempt to scare a nation into changing its policies.

Bush used terror to scare the crap out of people so they'd vote for him even though polling suggested they otherwise disagreed with his agenda. How else to explain the voter in Hazard that voted for Bush because they figured a bad economy beat us "all being dead."

It's disgusting.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Uncomfortable Parallels

The comparison is quite disturbing.

Social Security Redux

I won't paraphrase, block quote, or otherwise interpret this piece in the NY Times Magazine (online subscription required but free). I will, however, suggest that you read it thoroughly and print it out for future use and reference. It's journalism at its altruistic best.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Kentucky Democratic Party, R.I.P.

This post has been through several revisions, and I never could quite get it right. I finally said "screw it" and just put down my thoughts about the KY Democratic Party's new leader, the process, and the impending doom - here goes:

I'm not a big supporter of the notion that we need to "move the party to the right" - that didn't work for John Kerry, Tony Miller, or Nick Clooney. Arguably it worked for Ben Chandler, but my money would be more on name recognition than anything. In some respects, though, I don't get the sense that local politics in KY really has so much to do with Democrat or Republican affiliation. On the local level, at least from my 10 years living in a couple rural areas, it seemed politics was more about who had the money - we used to call it "owning such and such county."

In other words, it's more about power - everyone wants it and opportunists look for ways to get more of it. So largely I don't think it matters if a particular candidate favors abortion or free trade or whatever. It's all about grabbing power and hanging on to it at all costs (see David Williams as an example).

But on a state wide basis, the party needs to understand what has happened to it and why its control has been gutted. Democrats cannot present themselves as Republicans in sheep's clothing - Republicans are much better at being Republicans than Democrats are. If a Democratic candidate wants to be a Republican because he/she believes in the Republican platform then by all means, join the Republican party. But so long as they choose to run as the "lesser of the two evils" then they will lose. Just like we saw nation wide in 2004.

If the Democrats truly stand for something in Kentucky, something that is different from the Republicans, then they ought to act like it. But don't solicit our donations to promote an agenda that is antithetical to core Democratic beliefs. To quote Howard Dean:
As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform—reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean—and mean real change when we say it.....

That word—'values'—has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.

We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party—and the vast majority of Americans—together.

Whatever you think of the "scream" Howard is right. A tiger cannot change her stripes and become a coyote, so the tiger shouldn't even try. And neither should the donkey. The KY Democratic Party would have done better to find someone that thinks outside the box - someone who can communicate the message of what it is to be a Democrat, and give it a brand name. Someone who can get the platform and agenda out in such a manner that people really understand what the Dems stand for. But so long as the Dems play the game by the Republican rules, allowing them to define the issues and their relative stances, the Dems will lose, and the dishonorable trashing of our constitutional process and the widening of the burden carried by ordinary Kentuckians will continue.

And people like David Williams will always be in charge.

Hubris, Defined

Hubris - "Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance"

Goerge W. Bush - "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

Reality -

George W. Bush's Approval Ratings on the Issues Jan. 7-9, 2005

Terrorism 58 (Approve) 39 (Disapprove)
The situation in Iraq 42 (A) 56 (D)
Social Security 41 (A) 52 (D)
Healthcare policy 40 (A) 54 (D)
The federal budget deficit 32 (A) 63 (D)

There's two conclusions here: (1) The war on terror and the debacle in Iraq are no longer related in the public's mind - quit acting like they are related and that we actually believe this decption; and (2) We do not approve of your policies in Iraq or the way you have conducted them, and no margin of victory will change the above numbers.

What's that you say? These numbers don't reflect election-time polling? You're right. The numbers were 47 approving and 51 disapproving at the 2004 election. A marginal change (not in Bush's favor), but clearly not indicative of some sort of mandate to continue with the current "plan" (such that it is).

The Social Security, Healthcare, and deficit numbers were just thrown in for kicks and giggles.

Raiding the Trust Fund - Northup's Last Stand?

Anne Northup's stance on privatizing Social Security is now clear. She is walking the Bush administration line despite the fact that 70,000 of her constituents may be affected by it. A couople things jumped out when reading her baseless support for privatization:

A worker who begins saving in a private account at age 25 — assuming a 6 percent average annual gain — would accumulate by retirement age about twice as much money in a private account as he or she would receive in guaranteed Social Security benefits. The program would be voluntary and preserve the existing safety net: Everyone would continue to be guaranteed the current Social Security benefit. [emphasis added]

Hmmmm....okay. Sounds like you're not really doing much to alleviate the "crisis" if "everyone" is still guaranteed to get their regular benefits.

Then there's this little beauty:
Of course, the transition to this new system won't be free: Experts project it will cost anywhere from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. That amount is needed to pay current seniors' benefits, which will not change. The government would cover these transition costs by issuing special Social Security bonds. As workers begin to draw from their private accounts in lieu of the benefit payment, the money they would have received from Social Security would be used to pay off the bonds — creating a self-financing transition.

Think about that. To pay for the bonds, the government would be paying the same amount it would otherwise be paying for benefits. Therein lies the manufactured crisis. As stated before (and here and here), the shortfall over 75 years in the Trust Fund is $3.7 trillion, whereas privatization is $15 trillion over 40 years. It is not a "self-financing transition" and to call it that is proof that either Anne Northup doesn't understand the economics or she's lying. I'll be clear on this point - I support changes to Social Security, but not changes that will decimate our economy (does anyone remember when Republicans were fiscally conservative?) or that will endanger the ability of any senior to retire with dignity.

Other fixes would include not taxing Social Security benefits (somewhat of a double tax if you think about it), or eliminating benefits for those who don't need it. The bottom line is that this "roof is on fire" approach is the same as the one that led us into Iraq searching for things that aren't there (not the least of which is our standing in the world). The most disgusting and self-aggrandizing statement in Northup's piece is this:
Even today, the dwindling Social Security surplus is squeezing the federal budget — there is less and less money for Congress to borrow against for needed domestic programs like education and roads.

Who the hell does she think she's talking to? A bunch of brain dead idiots? Congress shouldn't be borrowing against the surplus, Einstein! That's the whole problem! And whose fault is it? Well of course it can' t be ol' Anne's - after all, did she vote for the $200 billion debacle in Iraq? Or the Medicare prescription drug bill that gives a windfall to drug companies without reserving the right of the government to negotiate drug controls (like every other country in the world), and with a projected budget shortfall of $8.1 trillion over 75 years? Or the tax cuts, which if made permanent will cost $11.6 trillion over the same time?

As a matter of fact she did vote for all those things. Yet she has the audacity to tell us that somehow the problem is inherent in the system, rather than in her and her colleagues' pattern of fiscal irresponsibility. Moreover, it's an insult to anyone with a functioning brain stem to try and convince us otherwise by treating us like we're too stupid to put 2 and 2 together.

Then we see today from the NY Times (via Josh Marshall) that the Social Security Trust Fund - money that could be paying benefits, money that YOU paid into the system for benefits - is being used by the Social Security Administration to convince you to permit its dismemberment. It's all seems like a misappropriation of tax dollars to me. And a wee bit criminal.

This group has no shame.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Woodward Watch - Late Friday Update

After a healthy meal of thin crust pizza, cooked in the kitchen of Chef Ogma, I tuned into the Courier Journal website and see this:
A Franklin Circuit judge has issued a temporary injunction forbidding Republican Dana Seum Stephenson to vote or act as a Kentucky senator representing the 37th District.

I called my lawyer buddy - everyone has to have a lawyer buddy, it just isn't prudent not to - and had him look over the Judge's opinion. He cited the following passage and told me that it doesn't look good for Stephenson (at least in terms of the Franklin Circuit Court Case):
That Court's determination of the ineligibility of Stephenson became the law of the case.

He explained to me something called "waiver" - that by not appealing Judge Willett, either on the merits or his legal ability to even hear the case (as in he being vested with the power to decide an issue that David Williams claimed was vested in the Senate), and about the likelihood of appellate judges to overturn lower court cases. My lawyer buddy, who was heading out to dinner with his wife and none too happy to be talking to me, said this mess has been described as a "constitutional crisis" but that was somewhat of a misnomer. A "layperson" would call it a "constitutional crisis", he said. But he indicated in his experience in the appeals courts is that if judges can avoid a controversy they will.

He surmised they would hide behind the "waiver" of Senator Williams (who had intervened in the case decided by Judge Willett) to appeal the case and have it decided by the Court of Appeals. In other words, David Williams should have asked the Court of Appeals to overrule Judge Willett because Willett had no authority under the constitution to even decide the case since that was the crux of his argument then and now. Since he didn't, as Judge Graham noted, the decision of Judge Willett becomes the law of the case and as such subject to judicial determination. By deferring to decide the case on a technicality, both the Court of Appeals and the KY Supremes avoid the whole thing - no one is seen as "partisan."

Cue right wing complaints about "activist judges."

Faith Based Kidnapping

If you kidnap 300 Muslim children, dub them "refugees" of the tsunami, remove them from their homeland, and commence converting them to Christianity, but do it in the name of the Lord, is it really kidnapping? This almost defies all notions of right and wrong.

Kentucky Legislative Update

I promised a month ago a run down of bills to watch and so far have not delivered. I have been assured by Pete that when the record is published for the session starting Feb. 1 we will have our work cut out for us. Pete claims that we should have it around the start of the session. The bills are online right now, but posting while on the clock is treacherous enough. It would take a couple days to click, take notes, click back, click, take notes, click back....

And "Pete" is not Pete's real name. Again, to use his real name may invite the pink slip police.

Why It's Stupid to be Poor

Because you get crapped on every chance there is. Fletcher proposes cutting funding for low income housing, and the Bush administration follows suit. It's a bit like the health care crisis - ignore the poor people and they will simply go away.

Protect the Doctors AND the Lawyers

Pete had a good idea that I hope he posts more on later (I won't nag him and point out that he has not yet posted - I'll concede that the KY Legislature is in recess until next month). Perhaps reader Fred could chime in on this as well.

If we are going to pursue tort reform and limit damage awards against doctors, thereby reducing "junk lawsuits" as an effort (and indeed a "snake oil" cure all) to reduce high medical malpractice premiums, then should lawyers not also get protections from lawsuits? It strikes me that by following the Republican (read: the AMA and insurance industry) logic, fewer lawsuits means fewer lawyers filing bad lawsuits. For a lawyer to get hit with a legal malpractice suit he/she has to have screwed up a winning case. So it must follow that tort reform will insure only meritorious lawsuits are filed, and therefore no lawyer could ever commit malpractice (at least in terms of medical malpractice cases I suppose).

By no means am I accepting that tort reform is a foregone conclusion. As I understand it, in Kentucky it would require a constitutional amendment because of our state constitutional protections regarding the right to civil redress. I find it hard to believe an individual would walk into the voting booth and consciously say "Yes, I would like to limit my recovery in the event the doctor amputates an arm when I'm set for an appendix removal." So I don't believe it will pass in KY, and I don't accept the underlying basis for it anyway. I won't get into the merits of tort reform, or rather lack thereof, and will only recommend that the legal community clean its own house before they give anymore excuses to the insurance industry.

Score One for Science

I won't engage in the evolution v. creationism debate because it's pointless. But I will say that the two can, and probably should, coexist as an explanation for our existence rather than be considered mutually exclusive. To deny the possibility of evolution is to deny the possibility that God, or the Creator, or whatever name a particular may ascribe, was tinkering around in the kitchen before he came up with the perfect blend of ingredients.

I'm known in my circle of friends for my chili - it's my private recipe and I won't share it with anyone. It's won awards, but the first batch, or even the twentieth batch wasn't perfect. It took some time to work out the kinks - I consider it the evolution of my creation. The parallels may be lost on those who would consider me blasphemous to compare my chili with mankind, but it makes the point.

Anyway, the point is that religion should not be a bar to science, in religious interpretations they could be complementary - to believe in God is to believe that he/she made these phenomena so that we would discovery them. It's hard to imagine that during Thomas Edison's day we would have had cause to celebrate the simple notion that sometimes - just sometimes - broad scientific discovery trumps narrow-minded theological belief systems.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Northup's Dilemma

I don't know if it's such a dilemma, but how will she come down on Social Security, assuming of course it even gets that far? Based solely on demographics and polling data, she's extremely vulnerable in the 3d District - had Jack Conway run in 2004 Anne may be back teaching school right now. But past is prologue as they say, and Anne has to keep an eye on 2006. The bigger challenge for the Democrats is who to run? Conway made a great candidate, losing in large part on the fear and smear campaign Northup ran (fear that terrorists had their sights on the 3d District and push poll rumors that Conway, a bachelor, was gay - what is it with the whole gay thing anyway?). Stick with an establishment candidate, or venture outside the box with a social progressive candidate?

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster has put together the strategy for victory in the vulnerable Republican House seats. Depending on the next DNC chair, and what organizational structure they bring to the table, Northup may want to polish up her resume. It's going to be difficult to overcome her unwavering support for the hunt for non-existent WMDs and ensuing death of 1300+ American soldiers, deficit busting economic policies that hurt the lower 99% of taxpayers and weaken our nation's economy, and the potential support for dismantling of the federal program that provides for 70,000 retirees in the 3d District.

Oh, how I'd love to know what Anne thinks of GW Bush now that he's put her and her cohorts in this position.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mitch McConnell's Final Exam

Mitch McConnell has blazed his legacy on the notion that he wields significant power in DC with the White House and Republicans in Congress. With the Pentagon's announcement that it will cut funding for the disposal of chemical weapons in Kentucky, we'll see if McConnell can make it happen. A promise to "oppose it" isn't enough. I oppose running up my credit cards, but until I take them out of my wallet I haven't really done anything.

So let's recap: The US has banned chemical weapons, some in KY, and won't destroy them pursuant to international agreements. Some may call them "stockpiles" of chemical weapons.

If our country was named "Iraq" we could be invaded - and the basis wouldn't even be a lie.

Bob Leeper the Conundrum

Bob Leeper, Senator from Paducah, has left the GOP after opposing their corrosive power grab under the watchful eye of Caesar Williams. Perhaps Williams' callous dismissal of Leeper's Woodward/Stephenson solution was too much for him to bear after being passed over for committee chairmanship.

Leeper is a conundrum for both parties. On the one hand, Republicans need him for their 23 member super majority, but on the other hand they'll still push through most of their agenda, no matter how misguided - Kentucky Democrats seem to have caught the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality, and are moving further right (see Ben Chandler, KY-6 as an example). The Democrats can court him, but for what? They gain nothing. By all accounts, Leeper is a decent guy, and does not vote the party line.

Theory has it that he, like Dan Seum in 1999, felt the winds of change in Kentucky politics (mirrored largely from the Republicans' takeover of the US Congress under Clinton's Presidency), and jumped on board a sailing ship. The Republicans should have known he would need coddling. The way I see it, Paducah is arch conservative but I'm basing that on the tilt of their local paper (as David Hawpe talks about). Both parties have to decide how, or whether, they run a candidate when Leeper's term is up - will the Republicans be comfortable with Leeper keeping the seat and not run a candidate? Or do the run a competitor and open up the door for a conservative Democrat to split the Republican vote, capture the Dem vote and try to peel off some single issue voters? Same goes for Dems - where do you spend the money?

I don't have an opinion, but it will be interesting to watch.

RatherGate v. WMDGate

The hunt for WMD is over, and CBS has fired four employees for the faulty memos on Rather's GWBush/National Guard story.

The Poor Man breaks down the statistics better than John Madden with a multi colored video pen. Fascinating stuff indeed.

Dailykos explains exactly how the Bush camp dodged a land mine with the faulty memos. I'm keeping my post short so no one wastes time reading my rendition of what is already fine work of others - go read for yourself.

The Kentucky Front in the War on Social Security

This page outlines the six congressional districts in Kentucky, and breaks down the Social Security stats for the residents of each district as of 2003. I have not yet gathered the positions of all our Representatives, but I did check out Anne Northup's website before calling her office to check. It's hard to read between the lines, but my take on it is that Anne is opposed to Social Security reform in the manner sought by Bush.

Don't forget that Bush stated that the transition would result in a cut in benefits, and that doesn't jive with Anne's promise to oppose reforms that "affect current benefits." This seems superfluous on its face - how do you define "current benefits"? Today's? This week's? This year's? But then read her next "principle" - "Any reforms should be accomplished...without reducing benefits." I know lawyers out there will parse the statement (much as I did by highlighting "should").

Finally, she states that reforms allowing younger workers to divert SS funds to private accounts "must not adversely affect the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund...." Hmmmmm, sounds a bit unequivocal.

It's clear that Anne is trying to ride the fence on this one, waiting to see how the political winds shift. I submit that this is a dangerous game because the average Joe / Jane reading that will infer it as a promise to not reduce benefits. If Anne toes the party line as she is prone to doing and votes for the War on Social Security, I'll be interested to see how strong an opponent the Dems put up against her in the next election cycle.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Site Updates

The blog has now been updated to allow comments from anonymous posters (those without Blogger accounts). Also, email has been set up - just click on the "Contributor" name "Ogma" (to the right) and the email address is linked. Feel free to drop us a line sometime.

Woodward - Winning the Battle of Public Perception

All the Stephenson / Woodward stuff has taken a short hiatus as people in the 37th District wait to see what the Franklin Circuit Court will decide later this week. A short refresher - Woodward (D) lost to Stephenson (R), but prior to the election for the state Senate seat Woodward filed a lawsuit to declare Stephenson ineligible to run. Stephenson had spent an uncomfortable amount of time living across the river in Indiana (claiming residency for lower tuition rates), voting there, and owning a home in Indiana. Thus the Circuit Court ruled her ineligible, but not before Senate President David Williams intervened in the case (a fact of relevance as noted later).

Stephenson and Williams lost. In Kentucky you have to appeal an adverse decision from the Circuit Court within thirty days or the appeal right is lost forever. My understanding is that it's a hard and fast rule - no exceptions or reprieves. Williams and Stephenson did not appeal. Williams, ever the school yard bully and having a Republican majority in the state Senate, promptly seated Stephenson in violation of the Circuit Court Order.

My belief has been that Woodward should be seated on judicial interpretation grounds of the word "reside" and I won't rehash the arguments, but you can review previous posts. A reader, Fred, has pointed out that technically the KY Constitution appears to give the Senate the ability to hear and decide such cases. Fred is a lawyer so I give his interpretation credence - and perhaps not liking his conclusion clouds my objectivity.

I have also believed that win or lose in court, the real victory comes in the media and the public perception. That's why I harped on the KY Democratic Party for not being more visible - a la the Republicans in Florida in 2000 (see Unprecedented, an excellent documentary on the recount). Then in the Courier Journal this morning I see an op-ed by John David Dyche, a Louisville lawyer who is so conservative he's practically Orwellian. Regular readers of Dyche's column, as painful as it can be at times, will recall that he has compared Bush II to Lincoln and opined on his courage and wisdom in these troubled times.

In other words, not a fellow you'd expect to be critical of the Republican grab for a super majority (the magical "23" members of the Senate which would allow them to do whatever they want). It's always nice to be surprised, and if Stephenson has lost Dyche, then win or lose, she may have lost the battle for public acceptance.

Williams also has his lunch handed to him by the CJ in this op-ed. Note to Democrats - seize the momentum and use it to rail against Williams everytime he steps out of line. You are in the minority - act like it. People want change, and if you act like a true reform party then this is your springboard.

Even I Need Fact Checking

Yesterday I noted some numbers from Josh Marshall on the Social Security costs and the corresponding inconsistency in the Bush administration's War on Social Security. Then I tried to pile on with my own statistic of $2 trillion in transition costs over 10 years.

Today, Paul Krugman, economist and op-ed columnist at the NY Times fact checks me. Per Krugman:
The Wehner memo talks of borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion "to cover transition costs." Similar numbers have been widely reported in the news media.

But that's just the borrowing over the next decade. Privatization would cost an additional $3 trillion in its second decade, $5 trillion in the decade after that and another $5 trillion in the decade after that. By the time privatization started to save money, if it ever did, the federal government would have run up around $15 trillion in extra debt.

These numbers are based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Plan 2, which was devised by a special presidential commission in 2001 and is widely expected to be the basis for President Bush's plan.

And Krugman points out something more damning - future benefits are to be cut to compensate for the diversion of payroll taxes to the private accounts. If everything goes according to plan - with no mishaps whatsoever (as in Congress doesn't start dipping into the payroll taxes that are actually going to the government) - the budget deficit can't be fixed until 2050!

The foregoing doesn't take into account the sharp increase in Medicare and Medicaid.

Again, leave Social Security alone and there's a $3.7 trillion shortfall over 75 years. Change it and you get a $15 trillion budget shortfall over 40 years. And that's in a perfect world. Of course if we lived there we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bradley Tanks and Soda Cans

I try not to blog the war because others do it so well, but this really gets me. Bradley tanks are being taken out by bombs placed in everything "from soda cans to animal carcasses." During the presidential campaign there was some talk about missing explosives - the really, really powerful kind (you know, this kind - "Half a kilogram (1lb) of a explosive related to HMX was enough to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 170 people"). Our media failed to distinguish the difference between "explosives" and "munitions" and the administration walked away from this by claiming several of these various "munition" dumps were destroyed, but never addressing their failure to put someone in charge of guarding the 380 tons of "explosives" the IAEA told them about.

And I am not attempting to be flippant, but it seems that anybody can build a bomb in a "soda can" that can maim people. But who has the knowledge to build a bomb that will take out a Bradley Tank?

More importantly, where did they get the materials to build the bombs? I am begging Judith Miller at the NY Times please ask that question (without making up the answer herself).

What Social Security Is

Per Senator Jim Moran (D-VA) in an open letter to constituents (via Josh at Talking Points Memo):

"Social Security is more than just a retirement program; it's a social insurance program conceived during the Great Depression to protect retired seniors from the shame and debilitating effects of poverty."

Of course he's talking about the fact that more affluent workers have less need for it and younger workers have a greater opportunity to avoid having to rely on it. I've never heard anyone say anything along the lines of "that Social Security is a crappy, wasteful program, and we ought to do away with it."

Well no one I would believe anyway.

A Note on Blogs

I link to blogs to the right that I regularly read - some more than others. There are thousands of blogs out there, and some are truly outstanding, and some are truly...well, terrible. I'm not going to point out bad blogs, because like beauty, it may be in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, linking to a blog is not an endorsement of it or an indication I, or anyone here, agrees with the blog 100% of the time. Blogs are linked to as I find ones I like, or that post good stuff relevant to our discussions here. Citations to blogs within a post are usually because the cited blog has the facts compiled into one location that support what I'm posting about.

This serves two purposes. First, it saves time from regurgitating what someone else, usually a far better blogger than I, has already explained. Second, it gives credit to the hard working bloggers out there who are given the arduous task of fact-checking our government since the media has all but abdicated that responsibility.

Missing the Trees for the Forest

One obviously missing statistic from my previous post is that the transition cost to privatization of Social Security is in the $2 trillion range over 10 years. A shortfall of $3.7 trillion over 75 years. (Now - stick your arms out to the side, palms up, and say those two statements while moving your right hand up and left hand down for the first statement, and left hand up and right hand down for the second statement.)

Screwing seniors and wrecking the prospect of a dignified retirement is not the answer. Running a balanced budget and eliminating "off the books" spending is a must - I seem to remember Enron going bankrupt for that sort of accounting.

Social Security Numbers - Compare and Contrast

We've talked about the White House's War on Social Security (an undeclared war mind you, maybe more like a Vietnam style "police action") and how it is based on false pretenses - some may even call them lies. Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo (linked to at the right) gives us the goods on the numbers and some much needed food for thought:
The Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion. As we've noted previously and will again, the Trustees use a very pessimistic estimate of future economic growth to arrive at that figure. But, for the moment, let's stipulate to that amount. [Ed. Note - by "pessimistic" Josh means an assumed economic growth rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 1% - an assumption necessary to support the "SS in crisis" theme, but apparently at oddds with the "economy is improving and will continue to grow" mantra in support of Bush's failed economic policies]

$3.7 trillion is a lot of money.

But how much will the president's Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years? $8.1 trillion, say the Trustees of that program. And over the next 75 years how much will the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts cost if made permanent, as the president wants?

$11.6 trillion.

So you add that up and you get $3.7 trillion we need to cover Social Security's shortfall and $19.7 trillion we need just to cover the costs of the two major domestic policy initiatives of the President's first term.

And yet Social Security, says the president, is in crisis and destined to chew through the rest of the federal budget. (These statistics are noted in this budgeting summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

Why does Anne Northup not know this information before sending out misinformation to constituents?

Taxpayer Propaganda

With the revelation that journalist Armstrong Williams was paid (without public disclosure by the US Dept. of Education - a minor violation of federal law) to promote the No Child Left Behind Act among the black community, one would think that politicians may reign in improper use of taxpayer funds.

But I guess when you win your district roughly 2 -1 over your opponent, as Anne Northup did, you may just feel like you're above all those petty laws meant to keep us low level folk in line. So it should have come as no surprise when I received Rep. Northup's "Congressional Questionnaire" over the weekend, and saw it filled with suggestive questions.

Let me make a quick point - I support the notion that a Congressperson would solicit the input of his/her constituents. However, asking questions that pre-suppose the answer is another thing altogether. Especially when the questions are phrased in such a way to elicit one logical, or perhaps morally acceptable response. For example:

"Without changes, Social Security is projected to go bankrupt by the year 2042. To prevent this crisis, would you allow younger workers the option of diverting a small portion of their Social Security savings into personal retirement accounts in order to increase returns on their investments and keep the system solvent? a) Yes b) No c) Unsure"

First, the question starts with a lie. Social Security is not projected to go bankrupt in 2042. In 1994, there were projections that 2029 would be the year of the end of Social Security. Ten years later it went to 2042. And the program is not going bankrupt in 2042 - the projections are that retirees will only receive 73% of their benefits in 2042.

This is a huge difference. So one has to wonder whether Anne Northup doesn't investigate facts, or if she just glosses over them (much as with the war in Iraq) in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion - i.e., the one the party leadership tells her to reach. Either Anne Northup is a liar, or she doesn't know what she's talking about. Whichever it is, she just sent misinformation to a couple hundred thousand people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky - misinformation that was no subject to rebuttal or clarification.

Back to the question - it presupposes your answer of "yes" because otherwise the followup presents you with the Hobson's choice:

"[If you answered 'no']...would you support: a) increasing the retirement age to keep older workers paying into the system longer? b) Decreasing program benefits to keep the system solvent? c) Increasing payroll taxes?"

So do you a) keep your grandmother working b) put her on the streets or c) punish her and her employer by making them each pay more into the system?

Lovely. No matter which you choose you're the devil. Best to go back to the preceding question and just answer "Yes."

In fairness, not all the questions are suggestive or poorly worded so as to stifle debate. But on the topics that Bush has made the cornerstone of his second term, they are clearly asked in such a fashion to propogate a favorable response. This is not a survey, it's a campaign pamphlet - one that promotes a certain agenda by suggesting the right answer.

Other examples are:

"...11 states voted to amend their state constitutions to ban same-sex marriages. However, states like Kentucky could still be required to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states....." [Rep. Northup needs to hire a better lawyer - There is debate on whether Full Faith and Credit even applies to same-sex marriage, with the prevailing view that it does not.]

"Do you believe parents of children in "failing schools" should have the option to transfer their children to better performing public schools?" [Because funding No Child Left Behind and spending the $200 billion from Iraq on public education just never entered her mind.]

And then there is the innocent question with the loaded answers, such as how do we lower health care costs? Do we:

"a) Reduce the costs of malpractice lawsuits that are driving up healthcare expenses for doctors and patients" [a statement of fact that is false given that the Congressional Budget Office, under George Bush II, says there's little or no correlation between the two - "But even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending--private or governmental--because malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of that spending."]

"b) Expand health savings accounts, which allow workers with high deductible plans to put funds each month in a personal account that can be used for health expenses" [with no reference to the "use it or lose it" rules that require the savings be used in the year they were saved - regardless of whether you need medical care or not]

"d) Eliminate private insurance and private providers, allowing the federal government to run our health care system" [God forbid there be government oversight - it seems to be appropriate for the stock market, licensing requirements for professionals, and the like - The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was created to protect consumers from price fixing in any given product market, what's the difference in governmental restrictions on costs for insurance? And no, it is not paramount to the government "running our health care system" and to imply so is just another means of suppressing opposing viewpoints - sort of like the whole "real Americans would support the war in Iraq - are you American...or Al Qaeda?")

A wise use of taxpayer funds indeed. She should have just done a push poll in the Republican districts and saved the postage.

Oh yeah, this sort of thing is illegal.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

David Williams - Twice the Oath Breaker

I failed to mention that David Williams is also a lawyer. Lawyers, too, take an oath to uphold the Kentucky Constitution. Who will file the bar complaint with the Kentucky Bar Association against King Williams for his vile disdain for the rule of law?

For that matter who will file one for Williams' implied, false statements that Dan Mongiardo was homosexual?

Ignorance...Meet Power

David Williams:

But Williams, in a speech before the end of the proceedings yesterday, said he was confident the Senate had the power to determine its own membership. He said, for example, that the Senate could vote to admit a 23-year-old, even though the Kentucky Constitution requires senators to be 30.

"If 20 people in this body voted that someone was 30 years old, no court in the land could overturn that," Williams said.

David Williams clearly has no understanding of the three branches of government theory, nor the plain interpretation of Kentucky's Constitution.

Section 27: The powers of the government of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall be divided into three distinct departments, and each of them be confined to a separate body of magistracy, to wit: Those which are legislative, to one; those which are executive, to another; and those which are judicial, to another.

Section 28: No person or collection of persons, being of one of those departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except in the instances hereinafter expressly directed or permitted.

The interpretation of the Constitution and the laws is clearly and completely within the purview of the judicial branch. While the Houses of the General Assembly "shall judge of the qualifications" (see Section 38), the qualifications are set forth in the Constitution. And if the General Assembly is permitted to change the qualifications (post facto) rather than judge them on the objective standards set forth in Section 32 then the entire Constitutional process is eroded. In essence there is no longer a separation of the three branches of government.

Thus the judiciary must be left the job of interpreting the Constitution, and there is simply no virtuous argument to the contrary. The Republicans may very well win in court. If they are so confident that Stephenson is factually a "resident" of Kentucky (despite certifying residency in Indiana to receive in-state tuition rates, voting in elections there, and having her home there) then why are they so worried that they feel they must usurp the constitutional powers delegated to the judiciary.

Promoting this notion, and putting it in action, is an obvious and apparent violation of one's oath of office. David Williams, you are either a complete and utter idiot, or you hate the democratic process. It need not be an "either/or" choice. David Williams is neither king nor prophet, and the arrogance of power has corrupted him to his core.

Virginia Woodward Thanks You for Your Help

The Kentucky Democratic Party is useless. Virginia Woodward just got railroaded in the grossest display of ignorance, partisanship, and utter disregard for the constitutional process in the history of Kentucky politics. What does the Kentucky Democratic Party's press release say?

Nothing. (It literally says "Nothing to display.")

There is a synopsis of the Stephenson / Woodward and it's actually quite good. That is, until you get to this:
The best alternative, however, remains what it has always been: The Senate should declare the seat vacant and let the voters of the 37th District choose between two qualified candidates in a special election.

Way to support your candidate. Were roles reversed, the Republicans would have a full court press on and would win by bully tactics. Right or wrong, they set the rules. If you don't play by them then you're going to keep people like David Williams in positions to abuse authority (authority he doesn't even have.)

Further, the story wasn't sent to anyone via email! There is a link to sign up for "email updates" which I did several weeks ago. To date not one email. Not a peep in my inbox for unreported facts that the media were too lazy to dig up. No calls to action. No solicitations for financial contributions to assist in the legal team.

If the party can't run it's website then outsource it. One would think that since the Republicans are on their way to a super majority in the state Senate that the Dems wouldn't be sitting in the recliners biting their nails over this one. And they better understand that no matter what the courts ultimately rule, if the public isn't behind Woodward it's still a win for the Republicans.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Woodward v. Stephenson - Steel Cage Match

As expected, the Senate committee investigating the Woodward / Stephenson dispute in the 37th District fell along party lines - 5 votes to seat Woodward (D), 4 for Stephenson (R). The KY Constitution (Section 32) is fairly clear, but for David Williams and Dan Kelly I'll post it again:

Kentucky Constitution:"No person shall be a Senator who, at the time of his election, is not a citizen of Kentucky, has not attained the age of thirty years, and has not resided in this State six years next preceding his election, and the last year thereof in the district for which he may be chosen."

The Courier has a run down of Stephenson's compliance, or rather non-compliance, with the pesky residency requirement:

Stephenson lived in Indiana between 1997 and 2001. The Kentucky Constitution requires senators to live in the state for at least six years before their election. In court and in a deposition, Stephenson testified that she lived in Indiana to qualify for in-state tuition while she worked on her master's degree at Indiana University Southeast. She and her husband bought a home there, she got an Indiana driver's license, registered to vote there and was taken off Kentucky's voter rolls because she failed to vote in two straight federal elections.

One of the novel justifications for seating Stephenson rather than Woodward came from 3 Republicans on the Committee, Ernie Harris, Robert Stivers, and Brett Guthrie. Their position is that "reside" is a pliable term and they cite to Black's Law Dictionary as proof. So I pulled out Black's Law Dictionary, turned to the "R" section, and found this definition of "reside":

Live, dwell, abide, sojourn, stay, remain, lodge. To settle oneself of a thing in a place, to be stationed, to remain or stay, to dwell permanently or continuously, to have a settled abode for a time, to haven one's residence or domicile; specifically, to be in residence, to have an abiding place, to be present as an element, to inhere as a quality, to be vested as a right.

Harris, Stivers, and Guthrie claim reside is subjective and claim the previous definition supports their position. Looking over their bios I see that none of them are lawyers, but you don't have to be a lawyer to read the plain language of Black's definition (despite the title of "law dictionary").

There is absolutely nothing within Black's definition that states what Guthrie's report says it does. Either he didn't read the definition, he's looking at an edition of Black's that's older than the 6th edition (1990), or he's a liar. This is the problem with the hostility that these politicians have brought to the table. They will twist reason and logic for short term partisan gain, abandoning any sense of decency or respect for the rule of law. We are a country, a state, and a civilization that works within the confines and boundaries of rules and laws, and believe that if you don't like the rules then change them or bend them is permeating our culture.

Is there any wonder that our society has become ever more litigious, where disputes are settled in court rather than with a handshake on the basis of right and wrong? Our sense of personal responsibility has leaked from our morality, and it starts with people like David Williams that say "six years" means "two years," and Brett Guthrie that will outright misrepresent the clear meaning of words on a page.

Bob Herbert Reads My Blog

Of course that's just a big fat lie. The op-ed contributor at the NY Times has never read my blog (as far as I know), and even if he did I'm fairly certain that his piece in today's NY Times was written before my previous post. It's refreshing to know that there are others out there that don't subscribe to the theorem that in war times all's fair:

The Bush administration and Mr. Gonzales are trying to sell the fiction that they've seen the light. In answer to a setup question at his Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Gonzales said he is against torture. And the Justice Department issued a legal opinion last week that said "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms."

What took so long? Why were we ever - under any circumstances - torturing, maiming, sexually abusing and even killing prisoners? And where is the evidence that we've stopped?

The Bush administration hasn't changed. This is an administration that believes it can do and say whatever it wants, and that attitude is changing the very nature of the United States. It is eroding the checks and balances so crucial to American-style democracy. It led the U.S., against the advice of most of the world, to launch the dreadful war in Iraq. It led Mr. Gonzales to ignore the expressed concerns of the State Department and top military brass as he blithely opened the gates for the prisoner abuse vehicles to roll through.

There are few things more dangerous than a mixture of power, arrogance and incompetence. In the Bush administration, that mixture has been explosive. Forget the meant-to-be-comforting rhetoric surrounding Mr. Gonzales's confirmation hearings. Nothing's changed. As detailed in The Washington Post earlier this month, the administration is making secret plans for the possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists who will never even be charged. . . .

Americans have tended to view the U.S. as the guardian of the highest ideals of justice and fairness. But that is a belief that's getting more and more difficult to sustain. If the Justice Department can be the fiefdom of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, those in search of the highest standards of justice have no choice but to look elsewhere.

A point that Herbert does not make, but I think is salient at least in terms of the philosophical debate, is that the "Bybee Memo" was requested, prepared, and presented in such a manner as to bypass John Ashcroft and keep him out of the loop. He was apparently livid at this. It certainly says how violative of basic human rights the memo was that they had to hide it from Ashcroft.