Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger...

In your State of the State address, given January 5, 2005, you said that:

“California’s pension obligations have risen from $160 million in 2000 to $2.6 billion this year.”

Could you please direct me to where I can see evidence of this 16-fold increase in the course of less than five years?

Until I see such evidence, I cannot believe that this is a true statement. Perhaps you are including figures from the cost of the San Diego “lump sum” pension boondoggle but since your statement does not specify this, and many people are not aware of San Diego’s problems, most who hear your statement would believe that you are only talking about the CalPERS system.

Or perhaps it’s simply your choice of time frame, because in some recent years, many public employers did not have to contribute anything at all to CalPERS, because of the great growth of CalPERS’s investments. Again, this would be a very misleading way to present your case.

To be fair, and I must assume that you want to be fair, the comparisons should be over at least a ten-year time frame, should include only CalPERS contributions (unless stated otherwise), should be evaluated in terms of percent-of-payroll costs, and all years, not just beginning and ending years, should be included. Then, and only then, will the taxpayers have the information they need for making a judgement.

Thank you for any information you can provide about this matter.


[Any information that I receive in reply to this request will be posted in this space...]

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Theo-con rage: the hijacking of Schiavo’s death

I’m sure Michael Schiavo is not surprised at being labeled ‘Judas’ by the holier-than-thou crowd so noisily protesting outside the hospice, but I really wonder how the Bush brothers feel about being likened to Pontius Pilate by the very contingent whose bidding they did... (1)

Bush and Bush, and Congress, intervened in order to placate these theo-cons, in spite of the overwhelming disapproval of a large majority (reported as being 78%) of the US population. My guess is that those courting the theo-cons are about to receive a painful lesson, which is: no matter how much you do to try to pacify the theo-cons, nothing you do will ever be sufficient.

The second lesson is that once you mobilize the theo-cons, you will not be able to control them - Mr. Schindler might as well have been shouting into the wind when he asked the protesters to go home for the day. (2) Did he really think theo-cons were there in support of him and his family? That was not at all their mission.

‘Sanctimonious’ does not begin to describe these folks, out on the front walk shouting their slogans and disrupting the peace of everyone in the vicinity, including other dying people inside the hospice trying to live out their last moments, peacefully with their loved ones near. The theo-cons don’t care about the impact they’re having on nearby innocents with their loud and childish tantrums and threats; they only want their way, and they want it now.

It would also be interesting to know whether, in their own lives and families, anyone has ever died and under what circumstances. My guess is they’re all like Tom DeLay, and that they have all experienced a surrender to death by the withdrawal of life support when death is the only possible outcome. In other words, the rule they live by is ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ the very worst sort of hypocrisy.

(1) “At vigil, Schiavo depicted as new martyr - Appeals rejected; her parents run out of legal options,” by Anna Badkhen, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, March 27, 2005.

(2) “Schiavo Family Asks Protesters to Go Home,” by Mike Schneider (AP writer), SFGate.com, Sunday, March 27, 2005.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Next up: dueling cops?

Last Thursday, one contingent of police was en route to confront those guarding Terri Schiavo’s hospice...

“Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding. For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called ‘a showdown.’ [...]

“Participants in the high-stakes test of wills, who spoke with The [Miami] Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen. ‘There were two sets of law enforcement officers facing off, waiting for the other to blink,’ said one official with knowledge of Thursday morning’s activities. In jest, one official said local police discussed ‘whether we had enough officers to hold off the National Guard.’ ” (1)

I’m glad someone can see some humor in this, but to me it seems more troubling than laughable, on so many levels. What a waste of resources to spend police manpower on such a travesty! And if this showdown came anywhere near fruition, how dare our elected representatives play “army” with sworn law enforcement officers!
(1) “Terri Schiavo case - police ‘showdown’ averted,” by Carol Marbin Miller, The Miami Herald, March 26, 2005.

Taliban rising

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...

- William Butler Yeats in “The Second Coming,” 1921

“...a majority of American colonists didn’t believe in witches during the Salem trials either - any more than the Taliban reflected the views of a majority of Afghans.” (1)

The courts have directly ordered all Florida police to not allow anyone into Schiavo’s hospice, not even Jeb (or presumably, George) for the purpose of feeding tube reinsertion or related intent, and we now have (Reagan’s former Cabinet secretary) William Bennett weighing in with the opinion that Jeb has a DUTY to do exactly that, based upon his interpretation of the Florida Constitution and his having sworn to uphold it. (2)

When two branches of government are at odds - and actually, it’s now two against one, with the state and federal courts on one side and the governor and legislature (and President and Congress) opposing those courts - whose orders do the police have to follow? With these larger issues at stake, things could readily spin out of control.

History has repeatedly shown that seemingly small, local events can easily morph into widespread and agonizing chaos, and more and more, that seems to be exactly the intent of the “End Times” crowd. They are not interested in the rule of law, or the separation of powers, or the Constitution, or a right to privacy, or even, truth be told, Terri Schiavo’s life or death. Their only interest is in forcing their narrow view of their theology upon the rest of us, and in this, they might as well call themselves the “New Taliban for Jesus,” as they roll out their shariah for the rest of us to obey, and as they gather up their stones.

(1) “The God racket, from DeMille to DeLay,” by Frank Rich. New York Times, March 27, 2005.

(2) “The right to life - protecting one woman,” by William J. Bennett & Brian T. Kennedy. National Review Online, March 24, 2005.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Schiavo case - such breathtaking hypocrisy!

While George Bush and Tom DeLay pretend that their intervention in this private matter is based only on wanting to “save a life,” these Texas Republicans appear to have nothing at all to say regarding the situation in Texas, where hospitals are allowed to remove life support against the unanimous wishes of a patient’s family, or even against the wishes of the conscious patient, if the patient’s ability to pay for treatment appears at all questionable, say if their “Medicare funding is running out.” (1)

The Bush-DeLay intervention is also in direct contradiction of their claimed belief in the “sanctity of marriage,” because if they really believed in the institution, they would understand that the spouse is the next of kin for making end-of-life decisions, both legally and traditionally.

And finally, the Bush-DeLay intervention is a clear demonstration that these two politicians do not even believe in the Constitutional principle of the separation of powers. The courts have all spoken on the Schiavo matter, even including the US Supreme Court which has refused to address rulings in the lower courts. Why even have a legal system if it’s rendered moot any time one of the other branches disagrees with its conclusions?

To hear these politicians yammer on about the sanctity of life of one woman in a “persistent vegetative state,” after reading for two years the news reports on our appalling Iraq adventure, can only be labeled disgusting. The Republicans have latched onto this family’s personal tragedy merely to use it as a basis for “talking points” (2) in order to reenergize their evangelical base for the mid-term elections. What could be more callous, more sinister, more hypocritical, more emblematic of their philosophy of governance?

(1) “Hospitals can end life support - Decision hinges on patient's ability to pay, prognosis,” by Leigh Hopper, Houston Chronicle, March 8, 2005.

(2) “...ABC News obtained talking points circulated among Senate Republicans explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them, that it is an important moral issue and the ‘pro-life base will be excited,’ and that it is a ‘great political issue -- this is a tough issue for Democrats.’ ”

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Consuming mass quantities - of what?

The head of Girl Scouts USA says on the radio that it’s alright that the cookies they sell contain trans fats, because normal people treat them like snacks and just eat a single cookie occasionally. Is she really so ignorant? Maybe she buys a box of cookies and it lasts four months, but then she would be the one who is completely out of the norm. Even if one does follow her pattern of consumption, why should even occasional treats contain ANY non-food ingredients like trans fats, when there are healthier alternatives readily available? As just one example, Newman’s Own has a whole line of delicious cookies that contain no trans fats at all.

“Two months ago, Kraft Foods announced that it would stop television advertising of certain products it considered unhealthy to children under 12. Kraft will not reduce its $90 million a year worth of advertising aimed at children. Rather, it will alter the product mix, increasing ads for Sugar-Free Kool-Aid and 100-calorie packs of thin crisp Oreos.” (1)

The implicit message here is that Kraft believes that Sugar-Free Kool-Aid and small packages of Oreos are actually healthy foods for children. Why would they think that? Are those the healthiest alternatives in their product line?

“Companies are taking a pot of white flour and a pot of refined sugar and adding maybe some fat and food coloring and flavoring and calling it food, but it’s basically junk,” said Mr. Jacobson [of Center for Science in the Public Interest], also quoted in (1).

Calling something “food” does not make it so. It is amazing that the most technologically-advanced species on earth has so much trouble distinguishing food from non-food. Americans in particular treat food as if it is completely divorced from its role in their continued health and life, as if food’s only value resides in its entertainment potential. Overstimulated palates require for their satiation intensely sweetened and salted foods, while fried foods have reached the status of “staples,” and no meal is complete without an encore of a sweet and rich dessert. We want to eat like it’s (the Swanson Hungry Man version of) Thanksgiving, every day of the year.

In a culture that treats treats as its daily due, we need to get away from the idea that when it comes to treats, anything goes: chemical-laden, nutrient-free carbon compounds are simply not food; they are mouth-and-tongue-drugs. Their only (debatable) value is the enjoyment one gets from chewing and swallowing them, with apparently no thought at all given to what happens next. Yes, these “foods” do supply energy (read: calories) but that’s hardly a burning need in our generally obese society.

Candy and most child-directed breakfast cereals are not food; soda pop is not food; modern French fries are not food. Products containing trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes and any of a multitude of lab-created compounds, are not food because they are not life-enhancing, but only produce superficial pleasure. To consume them anyway is to behave like a drug addict, interested only in the high of the moment rather than in the long-term consequences of a self-destructive behavior.

Companies making processed foods keep seeking new lows, and find them in blue-filled Oreos, purple ketchup, marshmallows for breakfast, fluorescently-colored soda pop. One of the basic tasks of childhood is to learn to distinguish food from non-food, and at one time, such products as Windex and antifreeze were deliberately produced in “non-food” colors so as to prevent accidental poisonings, but now they look just like Gatorade.

“Food” concerns such as Kraft blame childhood obesity on the lack of Physical Education classes in the schools, but it seems obvious that the more culpable villain is the lack of Nutrition classes. As a culture, we seem to have unlearned (a more active process than simply forgetting) the knowledge of the ages, of being able to identify FOOD.

(1) “Guidelines are urged in food ads for children,” by Melanie Warner, NY Times, March 19, 2005.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Trans fats: linked to autism too?

At what point will epidemiological studies be done to determine whether there is a link between the consumption of trans fats (AKA: “hydrogenated vegetable oil”) and the developmental disease labeled autism?

Item: Rats fed trans fats sustained damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory, and showed greatly slowed learning and an increased rate of errors on a standard maze test. (1)

Item: “...autism is postulated to be the developmental syndrome of hippocampal dysfunction...” (2)

Item: “...anatomical abnormality [in the area dentata in the body of the hippocampal formation] within the limbic system exists from the earliest years of [autism], and persists throughout development and to middle age.” (3)

Item: Autism’s rapidly increasing incidence has been widely reported, alarming many researchers.

Item: Consumption of trans fats in industrialized nations has been steadily increasing during the same period as autism’s rise. “McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, and virtually all burger and fried-chicken chains fry in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil [...] Applebee’s, Chili’s, Denny’s, Red Lobster, and most table-service chain restaurants that deep fry do so in [partially hydrogenated oil].” (4)

At what point will consideration be given to the notion that synthesized compounds (those not found in the natural environment) may not be life-enhancing for our living cells and thus, our selves? What possible reasoning could lead one to believe that our physiology is capable of handling whatever chemical compounds are thrown into it?

Biochemically speaking, we are exceedingly and exquisitely complex beings, with innumerable finely-tuned biochemical pathways along which our development and homeostasis proceed, and these precise pathways do not countenance substitutions of inputs. The hallmark of all enzyme-catalyzed reactions, i.e., the overwhelming majority of living chemistry, is the absolute specificity of the enzyme acting upon the starting material. To convince yourself of this vast biochemical complexity, view these simplified charts of biochemical pathways:

Biochemical Pathways - Metabolic Pathways
Biochemical Pathways - Cellular and Molecular Processes

We should not be surprised to see a condition like autism emerge when we willy-nilly alter the starting components. Fats and cholesterol are essential for developing brains, for the cell membranes of neurons and for their myelin sheaths. Trans fats also alter the ratio of HDL/LDL cholesterol, earning trans fats the moniker “metabolic poison” from researcher Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. (4)

If altered starting compounds are consumed, by the pregnant mother or by the developing child, and become incorporated into the developing brain, the larger surprise would be if we saw no change at all.


(1) “Fears raised over the safety of trans fats,” by Helen Phillips, in NewScientist, 6 Nov 2004.

(2) Autism, amnesia, hippocampus, and learning. G.R. DeLong. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1992 Spring;16(1):63-70.

(3) Development of the hippocampal formation from 2 to 42 years - MRI evidence of smaller area dentata in autism. O. Saitoh, C.M. Karns, E. Courchesne. Brain, Vol. 124, No. 7, 1317-1324, July 2001.

(4) FDA Urged to Require Restaurants to Disclose Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils. Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Employee of the future

“Neurons in the cockpit: Thomas DeMarse holds his [postage-stamp-sized] ‘brain-in-a-dish,’ a collection of approximately 25,000 rat cortical neurons cultured on a 60-channel multielectrode array. In one breakthrough application, the cells were trained to pilot a flight simulator.”

- Aileen Constans in “Mind Over Machines,” The Scientist, Feb. 14, 2005

Just think of all the tasks that a little dish of rat neurons could handle: Bye bye, Alan Greenspan, for starters....

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Karen Ryan, what price did you get for your integrity?

Karen Ryan has starred in “about a dozen” government propaganda videos, including her famous puff pieces for the new Medicare prescription plan, and numerous other (so-called) video news releases for the pharmaceutical industry, among other corporate clients.

First she honed her on-air skills and made a name for herself as a reporter for ABC and PBS. Then she took that cultivated persona and put it to use to shill for government and corporate clients. Then her real role as a paid hack was revealed by others and she responded “I just don’t feel I did anything wrong. I just did what everyone else in the industry was doing.”

Okay, J-schools (University of Wisconsin?), you need to think about how you are doing your jobs. If this journalism honor student can’t parse out the flawed ethics of her behavior, the curriculum demands some serious improvement. How could Ryan possibly believe that with her sign-off, “in Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting,” she’s not impersonating a reporter, which is both dishonest and deceitful?

Lying by omission results in lies that are just as much lies as those produced by lying by commission. A lie is a lie is a lie, and if you do it for money, that only makes your breach worse. Journalism is far better off without her presence, and since she clearly has no familiarity with the concept of integrity, what good could she be at anything? Other than by being a case study in J-school, that is....

[sources: “News or Public Relations? For Bush It’s a Blur,” by David Barstow and Robin Stein, NY Times, March 13, 2005; “Distortion,” by Zacchary Roth, Columbia Journalism Review Daily, March 18, 2004]

TV “News” has lost all credibility

Both the Bush and the Schwarzenegger administrations have gone into the news business, but unfortunately, neither is sufficiently forthright to lay claim to their productions, and both clearly have no qualms about paying for such bilge with our tax dollars.

In a grand masquerade that could be the basis for case studies of the propagation of propaganda, a fake “reporter” was found among the White House press corps (vetted by the White House), mainstream reporters have signed on as paid political hacks without feeling the need to disclose this to viewers, and whole fake “news” reports have been produced by the Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations for provision to major media outlets, who then ran them as straight news stories, providing not a clue as to their origins.

Clearly, these politicians have so little regard for the intelligence of the populace, and so little regard for their own policy positions, that they feel they must resort to these manipulative and deceitful practices in order to sway public opinion. It is also emblematic of their faith in, and regard for, democracy in general.

But ultimately, it is the television news press (oxymoron?) and their uncritical acceptance of such fake “news” that must take the bulk of the blame for this state of affairs. It is their JOB to strive for objectivity, and to question any “information” provided, even when it’s all polished up and ready for prime time. Even a single story shown to be planted casts suspicion on all the remaining stories, because there is no way for the viewer to discern the real from the plants.

I guess my real question would be: why does anyone at all watch (let alone rely upon) television as a source of news, when time and again it’s been shown to be little more than the lap dog of the moneyed and political powerful? Why does anyone at all continue to trust a medium that has proven time and again to be unworthy of that trust? Or, if no one believes that television news has any credibility, why do they continue to watch? Are the overturned big rigs and burning buildings really that compelling?

[Obviously, print journalism also has its problems, but so far at least, they seem to be not nearly so widespread, and at least some publications readily disclose when breaches have occurred. Still, the depth of deceit going on in television news should be seen as a cautionary tale, proving that those in all media need to increase their vigilance and above all, remember their values and ethical standards.]

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Microwaving destroys key antioxidant nutrients in fresh vegetables

With the USDA’s recent new recommendations for greatly increased fruit and vegetable consumption, it is a bit surprising that they didn’t also address optimal preparation methods that leave the most nutrients intact. In particular, they might have noted that nutrients are destroyed by microwaving, as referenced below:

Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking. F. Vallejo, F.A. Tomás-Barberán, C. García-Viguera. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Volume 83, No. 14, Pages 1511 - 1516, October 2003.

This article was reported on by NewScientist (25 October 2003), with an included graph showing that one important antioxidant nutrient in broccoli, flavonoid, was nearly obliterated by microwave cooking: less than 5% remained in the broccoli, in comparison to steaming which left nearly 90% of this nutrient in the broccoli. (Boiling and pressure-cooking had intermediate results.)

Also as reported in NewScientist, the study authors (García-Viguera, et al.) suspect that the reason microwave cooking is so destructive of antioxidant nutrients is that it produces far higher internal temperatures.

A quick Google search shows that this study has received little, if any, press coverage, and yet, if we are trying to enhance our health through increased vegetable consumption, wouldn’t we want to get all the nutrition possible from the vegetables in our diets? Steaming is quick and easy and produces vegies that taste good, so why wreck them in a microwave?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Wal-Mart’s wage slaves

In today’s New York Times letters, William Seay notes that if Wal-Mart increased its workers’ pay from about $10/hr to about $25/hr, the prices of Wal-Mart’s merchandise would only need to be increased about 12% to compensate the corporation’s bottom line.

I do not doubt his numbers, but off the top of my head, wouldn’t that put their prices in line with those of most other merchants, and lose them most of their customers?

Economics is a lot like thermodynamics: there’s no free lunch. Wal-Mart has gotten to its dominant position by exploiting desperate people, people who had no other options but to work for any wage offered, substandard or otherwise.

I think back to a report that the Church of Scientology was convicted in Italy, on a charge of “deceiving gullible people” and wonder if that’s not exactly what American business is all about: deceiving the economically gullible.

Extreme efforts go into convincing Americans that they are inadequate, and surveys show that no matter how much money people have, they never think it’s “enough” and thus is born Wal-Mart’s customer base. When the only benchmark of value is an item’s cheapness, of course a company like Wal-Mart will take over the marketplace.

Every dollar spent at Wal-Mart is a dollar spent in support of the economic slavery of their workers, just as every dollar spent on a gas-guzzling vehicle is a dollar spent in support of the deadly economics of crude oil.

In a nation where most adults don’t bother to vote, dollars are the real ballots, and every dollar spent supports values of one sort or another. Support local businesses, or some distant corporation that cares not one whit what lives of desperation their workers lead? After all, there’s plenty more where they came from.

Is this the description of a great society? Is it really our intent to guarantee economic misery to Wal-Mart’s workers?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

We all support Wal-Mart, whether we want to or not

“Estimated total federal assistance for which Wal-Mart employees were eligible last year: $2.5 billion” - Harper’s Index™ March 2005

I do not shop at Wal-Mart, but I am forced to contribute to the wages and benefits of its employees, merely because Wal-Mart would prefer not to fully remunerate those employees for their labor.

Wal-Mart is not alone in this, but because of their size, they are the biggest offenders. Any employer that does not pay its employees a living wage and/or does not provide health benefits passes these costs along to the taxpayers, whether we choose to purchase the employer’s products or services, or not.

If an employer cannot afford the upkeep on their machinery, they do not have the option of foisting that cost off onto us, so why do we allow them to do so with their human workers? Any business that “cannot afford” to pay a living wage and provide for the “upkeep” of their workers should accept that their business plan is flawed and that they need to revise their pricing structure to better cover their actual expenses. To instead demand that non-customers pay these costs of upkeep is unethical and ought to be illegal.

Gannon/Guckert: Why is the public so silent?

I think there’s a simple explanation as to why Gannon/Guckert-gate has not gotten more media play: sheer overload. There are so many, many, many things to be outraged about, but one’s well of outrage is not limitless, and if I spend all my time being outraged I will turn into a raving lunatic. In addition, who among us can claim surprise at this latest in a series of revelations showing that our government has so little respect for their own policies that they are compelled to hire propagandists to get their message out? Clearly this is an admission that their message cannot stand on its own merits.

We the public are presently being assaulted on so many sides that it’s really hard to focus on any one thing like this Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert fellow. How can I pile that on top of being heartsick about what’s going on in Iraq, Guantánamo, Afghanistan; the essentially undefended ports in CA with Oakland in particular being susceptible to “dirty bomb” attack; a President (and Governor) trying to make certain that I will be going hungry in my elder years; watching as my country turns into a theocratic morass; seeing the devaluation of intellect and reason and discourse and ethics; and on and on...

We all have a limited amount of energy, after devoting the requisite amounts to our work and self-maintenance, and if I focus all of that remaining energy on things such as I’ve enumerated above, what’s left of a life for me? I guess this defines me as not-a-martyr.

It may be that I am writing this as much in response to an email from a friend who wants me to become politically active, and sees this as a moral responsibility in spite of my protestations that I am not cut out for that face-to-face sort of thing. Meanwhile, today I threw out the pleading missives from many wanting financial support for their very worthy causes. It is simple: I am feeling stretched thin, stretched to the limit, about to be torn apart.

I think there is another reason that not much attention has been paid to the Gannon-Guckert incident, and that is that there are now so many competing foci for our attention -- 500-channel cable TV, limitless DVDs, video games, along with all the music and theater shows that have always been around. During the Vietnam war two things were different: (1) Everyone in a large age cohort of males was at risk of going to war, so vastly more attention was paid to that war, and (2) nearly all of the news we got come from just a few sources, so we all had somewhat of a common base upon which to communicate.

Nowadays, with everyone doing their own thing, and no one trusting the veracity of anything except what fits with their own preconceived notions, there really is no meaningful communication. Is some of it because of the internet, with its ADHD-encouraging structure and complete lack of any fact-checkers? Our students really cannot critically evaluate what they see on the internet, and give credence to amazingly cockamamie tales that never would have seen the light of day when printed matter had to pass through editors.

I don’t even know how current events can be fruitfully discussed anymore, when people can’t seem to tell truth from fiction. How can discourse proceed without a shared reality?

Or, maybe people merely expect to be lied to, all the time, so they’re simply not surprised. Maybe they consider the rest of us to be naïve bumpkins for our being appalled at such a state of affairs. Maybe they’re correct?

Republican puppetry

Perhaps this is a measure of my cynicism, about the present administration in particular, but I suspect their claim that Social Security is unfair to African-Americans is a far more calculated strategy than we’re giving them credit for.

Specifically, I believe that the Republicans have known all along, hollow protestations notwithstanding, that in fact African-Americans collect somewhat more than their (demographic) “share” of Social Security monies, not less as the Republicans are claiming (this is old data, after all).

The real intent of this line of attact is to draw the Democrats into responding that “oh no, that’s not true at all; African-Americans actually collect more, not less of the Social Security pie and here’s the data to prove it.” Because this is the hidden core of one of one of the Republicans’ sleazier arguments against continuing Social Security in its present form: they know that ours is still a racist society, and they know that there will be many whites who, when they hear these facts will bend at least a bit toward Bush’s destructive plan, but it would have been unseemly for the Republicans to simply and forthrightly lay them out there in the open and criticize such a thing as being unfair to whites....

I hope that I’ve worded this understandably, and I hope this makes sense: I believe the Democrats have played it exactly as the Republicans had hoped, in making their ugly case for them in a reverse sort of way, while letting the Republicans appear to be concerned about fairness toward African-Americans when exactly the opposite is true.

(I do think this might be more of a class thing than a race thing with the current regime, with African-Americans being unfortunate enough to have disproportionate numbers in the class that’s really under attack. But the Republicans also well understand their base, and know that among some of their base there is a strong racist streak that can be manipulated toward their end of ending Social Security.)

Say what you will, but the current regime excels in puppet-mastery, and here they are at their most elegant, if offensive. It’s always best to let your opponent argue your own case for you.

PNAC speaks, and I feel a draft...

They want more troops, and outline the reasons why:

Letter to Congress on Increasing U.S. Ground Forces

Gee, if none of the service branches are able to recruit sufficient numbers, even with increasing sign-up/re-up bonuses, I wonder where they’ll find the troops? They’re careful not to address this issue, but the answer is obvious.

Why we should leave Iraq - a Conservative view

Although it could be argued that the following is a statement of the obvious, it is significant in that it is a 180-degree departure from the view of the (so-called) conservatives presently running things in Washington:

A Time for Leaving. William R. Polk. The American Conservative, January 17, 2005.

Social Security “reform”: motive is everything

The key point in the current debate over Social Security must not be overlooked. The most illuminating sentence in the memo written by Karl Rove aide David Wehner reads:

“For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country.”

This single sentence from a leaked “not for attribution” memo sheds a much-needed spotlight on the real motive of those who claim that their intent is to “save” Social Security.

Conservatives have been deeply unhappy with the very existence of Social Security since its inception, and have spent much ink strategizing its total demise. Understanding that the overriding intent of the Bush Administration is to destroy Social Security is of paramount importance to all who truly do want to save this program that is so essential to the well-being of so many.