Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, March 9, 2005



Health Care

Good Ideas Vs. A Better Idea


John Kerry is promoting the Kids First Program to make sure all children in the US have medical coverage. Instead of joining the chorus that will sing its praises, I prefer to take a look at what Jack is saying:

I would focus my time energy and money where it is really needed; SPUHC (Single Payer Universal Health Care).

All of these pithy stop gap plans do nothing but give the sponsors political capital.

It's about time someone had the guts to take the bull by the horns and come out for what we really need...SPUHC. Why are we the only industrialized country in the world without it?

-Jack Kashinsky

Another Sane Voice Joins the Social Security Chorus

Social Security "does not face an immediate crisis"
-David M. Walker, comptroller general of the GAO (General Accountability Office)

Mr. Walker also criticized President Bush and the rubber stamp, rank-and-file Republicans, such as Mike Ferguson (R-NJ, 7t District) who blindly follow the president around the country pushing the Right-Wing's aggressive privatization plan for Social Security.

(You remember the plan, don't you? It's the one that doesn't exist that the president says will fix the problem. It's the plan that no one know but has Wall Street licking its collective chops. It's the plan that GOP members of Congress are touting, but no one will define.)

President Bush suggested during his Inaugural Address that he's listen to all ideas on how to face the "crisis."

(You remember the crisis, don't you? It's the crisis that only exists because the Republicans and their corporate cronies are afraid that the American Public will wake up in 2006 and force our the Republican majority from either of the two legislative houses. It's the crisis that could backfire in 2008 that will have Jeb Bush lose in a landslide in his bid to become Bush 44.)

Mr. Walker says that President Bush and the members of the GOP congress should focus on improving the financing of Social Security rather than rape and pillage it by thrusting out hard-earned money into private accounts.

(You remember private accounts, don't you? They're the accounts that will only add more debt to the already huge budget deficit that is financed by China, Japan and a host of others. They're the accounts that will force Americans to give their hard-earned money to Wall Street Stock Brokerages in the form of fees and commissions. They're the accounts that will increase Social Security's overhead from 0.2% (2/10 of one percent) to 10-20 percent or even more!)

There is a way to fix Social Security:
Step 1: Lower the employee-paid rate from 6.2% to 5.95%
Step 2: The first $10,000 of earned income should be Payroll Tax FREE. The 6.2% on the first $10,000 should be waived. The 5.95% would still be collected, but everyone who pays into the system will get a check back form the Social Security Administration of $595 sometime before February 28 of the following year, or one month after they file their federal income taxes (it's a nice way of helping to pay for those credit-card charges and Christmas gifts).
Step 3: Leave the employer-contribution of 6.2% up to the cap of $87,900 as it is, with CPI (Consumer Price Index) raises instituted on a per year basis
Step 4: REMOVE THE CAP. Everyone pays from dollar number $10,001 to their final earned income dollar. There is no excuse for a wealthy American that earns $1,000,000 per year to only pay 0.5% (1/2 of one percent) of their annual income in payroll taxes while the overwhelming majority of Americans have to pay 6.2%.

Using the numbers presented to Steve C. Goss, Chief Actuary by Alice H. Wade, Deputy Chief Actuary and Chris Chaplain, Actuary in their Memorandum titled "Social Security" dated October 20, 2003, the Social Security Trust Fund, A.K.A. the "Lock Box" would have over $12 TRILLION DOLLARS locked away by the time the newborns of 2005 would be ready to retire in 2067 (!

A comparison:
-An average wage-earner garners a salary of $87,900 per year. He pays about $25,000 per year in taxes., including Social Security's Payroll Tax.
-In contrast, a rich person who "earns" that same $87,900 by selling a company's stock for a "Capital Gain" would pay only $13,185 in "Capital Gains Tax."
-The "Rich Guy" would pay about $12,000 less than the "regular guy" would.

It's simple... the wealthiest Americans should help the poorest Americans, not the other way around.

-Noah Greenberg

NAFTA, The WTO and Fairness

"If the United States is to be free to negotiate fair trade agreements that protect jobs, the rights of workers, and the environment, then there is no alternative but to repeal NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO."
-Dennis Kucinich

    Without the freedom to negotiate bilaterally, there can be no fair trade. All of the politicians who keep saying they want fair trade instead of free trade are merely playing linguistic games. Name even one WTO case that has gone in our favor? How's about NAFTA? Name one situation where American workers have gained from these trade accords?
    I can't do it. Maybe, I am missing the wonderful benefits to America. I listened to the business world's rhetoric throughout 2003-2004 when this issue was very hot. They can't answer these questions either. All you get is the lame, they can't compete without these agreements. Baloney and that's what we will all be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner (just like in that tent city prison in Arizona), if something isn't done about this situation.
    I think that NAFTA, WTO and FTAA have proven to be dismal failures. End them!
-Robert Scardapane


Indian Farmers and the WTO
    Farmers, from of all places, India, want their country to withdraw from the WTO. They swarmed on New Dehli with the help of the Joint Action Forum of the Indian People Against WTO and Anti-India Policies at Kisan Ghat was addressed by top farmer leaders, including Bharatiya Kisan Union President, Mr Mahendar Singh Tikait, according to the Tribune Wire services.

"The food grain production is not matching the increase in population and we are being forced to import,"
-Ajmer Singh Lokhowal of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Punjab

"The new economic policy and WTO which pauperized the farmers and burdened them with debt is the root cause for the present sad plight of farmers,"
-a speaker at the rally

    Due to unfair loans and the inability to keep up payments, many Indian farmers have even resorted to suicide! Indian farmers have now become the new share-croppers of their world and are being taken advantage of in much the same way share-croppers of the latter 19th and early- to- mid 20th century American share-croppers were taken advantage of.
    History can repeat itself in the most unusual places.
-Noah Greenberg


    Fascinating, eh? But, it's a common story throughout the industrialized and developing world - workers rioting in France & England over job outsourcing, India's farmers protesting, Latin American farmers protesting, American factory workers and now white collar workers being put out of work. Corporations privatizing everything - sounds familiar to me, sounds like America.
    I just can't find the good in trade organizations that enable the tyranny of corporations over the public interest - be it American or foreign.

-Robert Scardapane


The WTO Vs. the UN
    What amazes me is that the right wing in this country is screaming for us to withdraw from the UN, an organization that is the only place where there is a true, free exchange of ideas between just about all parties. At worst, it needs "fixing" and at its best, it requires "tweaking". The WTO, on the other hand, robs countries of their natural resources and people of their livelihoods masking itself in the guise of "free trade" or "fairness". It is neither. We should all be screaming for the USA to get out of the WTO immediately.

-Noah Greenberg

Scooby-Doo and the case of the Disappearing Real Wage
    There are studies that confirm real wages, hourly rates adjusted by inflation, have declined since the late 1960's using 1955 as a starting point. The studies use Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
    Real wages reached their peak at the start of Nixon's administration. The first multilateral trade accord, GATT, was signed during Nixon's administration. Of course, now we have GATT, NAFTA, WTO and FTAA.
    Is it a coincidence that real wages have in general fallen since that time? According to the Office for Social Justice, probably not (
    There simply is a need to address this issue. A "living wage" is a stop-gap measure but prosperity can only be achieved by addressing the trade imbalance. The trade deficit is a crisis that simply can not be ignored anymore.

-Robert Scardapane

Who is Conspiring Against US

Fifty percent of all new mortgages are at floating interest rates.
Americans are already spending a record share of disposable income paying their interest bills.
A 'spectacular' wave of bankruptcies is possible .

Hmmm... I wonder what this has to do with the new bankruptcy bill?

Meanwhile, oil is still rising, and the dollar is still falling. If you have any savings in a retirement account, move at least 25% to an international stock or bond fund... soon.

-Deirdre Des Jardins

In response to a query by Eddie Konczal, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wrote:

Dear Eddie:
    Thank you for contacting me about Senate rules governing the filibuster. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
    The filibuster is a procedural device within the Senate to protect the rights of members of the minority party. While a filibuster traditionally required a single Senator to continue speaking on the floor, there is no motion by which a simple majority of the Senate can stop a debate and allow the Senate to vote in favor of an amendment, a bill or resolution, or any other debatable question.
    Senate Rule XXII, known as the "cloture rule," enables Senators to end a filibuster on any debatable matter the Senate is considering. The Senate may vote on this cloture motion the second day after the motion is made. It requires the votes of at least three-fifths of all Senators (60 votes) to invoke cloture. If cloture is invoked, the measure can then proceed to the usual vote on the Senate floor.
    The Senate has confirmed more than 200 federal court judges nominated by President Bush. I have found it necessary to support filibusters against a few of the ideologically-driven judicial nominees put forth in the last two years. These nominees have failed to convince me and many of my colleagues that they will not allow their political ideology to dictate their interpretation and application of the law. The U.S. Senate, unlike the House of Representatives, has a constitutional role to “advise and consent” on judicial nominations.
    The filibuster is an important procedural device and I do not support changing long-established Senate rules for mere political convenience. Thank you again for contacting me.
-Frank Lautenberg

In response to, "Imagine, if you will, that by torturing (Mohamed) Atta we could have stopped the 911 catastrophe," Robert Scardapane writes
    The problem with the ticking bomb scenario is that it's unlikely you would know the bomb is ticking and even less so that the person you are questioning knows anything about it. I maintain that: 1) You won't get anything useful from torture - a fanatic would die first or just tell you lies, 2) Once you get on the moral slippery slope, you can't help but slide down. The only rationale answer is not to go there at all. Quite honestly, how many renditions were demonstrated to be ticking bomb scenarios anyway?

I answered:
    I agree. Playing Devil's Advocate, I brought forward a very unusual case. I am against torture (I can't believe I actually have to say that) in any way, shape or form.

Robert Scardapane then responded:
Isn't it sad that we have been forced to even consider torture as an option?
I have given it alot of thought. I am "almost" compelled by the ticking bomb time scenario. I think that sadly it's an extreme example that many advocates of hard methods use as if it were the typical case.
Using extreme cases as if they were common seems to be a common strategy.
Take the Bankruptcy Bill for instance. The Repubs talk about the extreme case of people who purposely go on shopping sprees with no intention to pay the bill. Section 7 becomes a ploy. I certainly do agree that for those cases, this ploy should be punished. But, the most common case are the ones where people get hurt by costs they can't control - you already made good points on that. So, we end up with a law that is too harsh to everyone.
Anyway, I realize you are playing devil's advocate. It's important that someone does that now and then. Creates a good dialog.

Pat Thompson also writes:
I would prefer to imagine that they had stopped the attack by paying attention to intelligence that was coming their way all summer -- like Bill Clinton did during the time leading up to the millennium. And if airport safety had been stepped up; and simple locks put on cockpit doors before it was too late. (talk about locking the barn door after the horse got away). And if we had a sensible policy about detaining groups of middle eastern men -- Israel's El Al Airlines has never had a hijacking of this nature since they look closely at who is boarding their planes, ask a lot of questions, want to see hotel reservations at their destination, etc. This may all be hindsight, but it is NOT TRUE that the possibility of terrorists using planes as missiles was never considered -- it certainly was. And once these planes were hijacked, and had been off course for a long time, why weren't they intercepted by military jets? And once the first tower was hit, why wasn't the second plane intercepted? And once the Twin Towers had been hit, why weren't the other two planes intercepted? And if Washington DC was the target of a plane heading in their direction, why wasn't the White House (besides Condi and Dickhead Cheney) evacuated? And if the PENTAGON!! was the target, why weren't the missiles on the building used against the plane? For any sensible person to believe the story the government cooked up about what happened on 9/11 is self delusion. Yes, YOUR government is much worse than you think. They needed 9/11, they benefited from it, it gave a fraudulent administration their needed gravitas, it permitted them to do whatever they pleased and had already planned to do (see Project for the New American Century -- "what is needed is another Pearl Harbor", and it gave them an excuse for everything and anything, from the deficit which came from cutting corporate and rich people's taxes, to invading another country, and helped get this miserable failure REELECTED. We don't need to torture anyone. Donald Rumsfeld will "spill the beans", which he has already done several times, about what really happened on 9/11. Just wait as his senility increases! We'll hear it all. Or he may just disappear.

And writes:
But it is very unlikely that even if atta were caught, torturing him would have changed anything. of course the act of catching him would in itself have changed things; which is why good intelligence, uninfluenced by a political agenda, is the way to go for a safer Americ

Do you remember this quote:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

Thank you all and keep the debate going. -NG

New York Times Headline:
Lebanese Assembly Re-elects Pro-Syria Premier Who Quit

-March 8, 2005

Didn't the Bush Administration just take credit for the Lebanese people kicking the Pro-Syrian Government out?

-Noah Greenberg

Stupid Quotes of the Day


The "Clear Skies Bill was "killed by the environmental extremists who care more about continuing the litigation-friendly status quo and making a political statement on CO2 than they do about reducing air pollution."
-Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the environment committee

So let me get this straight, Jimmy. By eliminating caps on the poisonous Carbon Dioxide gases (CO2), envirronmentally concerned senate members of your environmental committee don't care about reducing air pollution? I think you got it backwards, Jimmy.


-Noah Greenberg

Send your comments to: or

-Noah Greenberg