THE NEWSLETTER

Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, April 29 - May 1, 2005

 

Today's Terror Alert is:

A shade of nothing. Crayola has run out of colors and there is no National election to exploit our fears and anxieties.

-Noah Greenberg



REMOVE THE CAP ON WAGES AND STOP THE BULLSH*T

-This message brought to you by Leon Kalmus

 

Gee Leon. Why don't you tell us how your REALLY feel. -NG


 

Stagflation

Paul Krugman wrote about the possibility that the U.S. economy is entering a period of slow growth with inflation - commonly known as stagflation. There was further evidence today as the 1Q GDP came in at 3.1% versus 3.5% forecast. In addition, the GDP price deflator was at 3.2% versus a 2.1% forecast. The core PCE price index, that excludes food and energy, came in at 2.2% up from 1.7%.

So, what's (G)lobal (W)arming Bush going to do now? Cutting the Federal Funds rate is out of question given the dollar devaluation. He already passed a number of corporate tax giveaways and tort reforms. Policies that balloon the budget deficit, such as privatization, will only hurt the economy even more. The tax breaks are already unaffordable.

To break the malaise, I suggest working on innovative areas. Instead of drilling for oil under every rock, the Republicans should get behind the Apollo Alliance. There is potential to create three million jobs in technologies that provide meaningful reduction in foreign oil dependency. Will the Republicans move on it? Given the sort of energy bill they just passed, I won't hold my breath.

-Robert Scardapane



BOOM!

I keep hearing the GOP talking point about the Democrats creating the term “nuclear option”. Just to set the record straight, it was Trent Lott who invented that term – nuclear option. And Frist and Santorum and others act like they don’t know this. I am sure they have focused group this (as a professional focus group moderator I would bet on it) and that’s where they developed the new and improved version of “constitutional option” that they are trying to shove down everyone’s throats like changing privatized accounts to personal accounts based on focus groups. Only this time the press is resisting and questioning their obvious flip-flop. (Hope no one missed the other House ethics flip-flop back to the old rules which actually had some ethics in them.) Then again Dr. Frist diagnoses by videotape and is not sure if sweat can transfer AIDS so what more could be expected of him!

And does anyone else find it strange and weird that Sen. Santorum took a baby of his that died after childbirth home (instead of to the morgue) once it had died so his kids and family could meet, hug, and create a relationship with the dead child. That is still creeping me out! And now he still refers to it as if it is alive. That is much too, too far right for me to comprehend – yet, as an accepting Democrat I still allow for his right to do this even though I find it extreme and bizarre. I don’t believe his right to do this should be governed or regulated no matter how much I disagree. You would think in respect of maintaining such extreme rights for himself he would at least allow women their rights and be more tolerant of lifestyles of others. Might he be a Hypocrite?

-Casey Sweet


 

Frist and the Vanishing Dollar

"Are Investments in the Stock Market Certain to Provide Profitable Returns?"
 

Senator Frist's Campaign Committee Lost $16,000 in the Stock Market So Far this Year.

 

"The campaign committee of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., lost more than $16,000 in the stock market in the first three months of the year, according to Federal Election Commission filings…The Frist 2000 committee has invested its money in a Charles Schwab mutual fund index account. The account has lost nearly $500,000 since the 2000 election, FEC records show."

-Chattanooga Times Free Press, 4/20/05

-From Democrats.gov, Forwarded by Robert Scardapane



Response to the Press Conference


An evening of "Reality TV" would have been more valuable. The Republicans have no new ideas but they are recycling lots of bad old ideas. They want to roll back 100 years of social progress. This won't create jobs or prosperity for the people as a whole.

Since FDR's second Bill of Rights, America had the greatest expansion of the middle class that the world has ever seen. Since the Republicans started chipping away at the New Deal, during Nixon's era, our real wages have fallen; fortunately, not in a straight line due to eight good years under President Clinton.

Take a look at the latest economic data for 1Q 2005 - GDP has slowed to 3.1% year-to-year, inflation indicators are double of what was anticipated. Several economists now think we have entered a period of mild "stagflation" - that is, stagnant growth with inflation. This sounds akin to a nation that is failing and is can only be called progress by Republican propagandists.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Republicans are headed in the wrong direction at home and the world. They are practicing a "reverse Robin Hood" philosophy at home, stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy, and attempting to bully the world. Now that is truly an unsustainable set of policies.

-Robert Scardapane



Almost Live, From Galveston, TX

THE PRESIDENT: See, it's an interesting concept. Our world has changed a lot since Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill for Social Security. In other words, the government is beginning to trust people more... Can you get a pretty good rate of return? They've got, actually, a guaranteed rate of return.

JUDGE YARBROUGH: We guarantee a 3.75 percent rate of return. We've been experiencing 4 or 5 percent over the last several years. So, yes.

MADMAN: A guaranteed rate of return. Has the president said there will be a guarantee rate of return? I haven't heard it. So, using the president's own words, we have nothing to fear from his privatization plans because there will be a guaranteed rate of return, I assume, at least the 3.75 percent rate that Galveston County offers.

The question is then, Mr. President, if your plan for privatization was instituted on or about October, 2001; and with the "guaranteed rate of return of 3.75% (minimum); how many billions, if not a trillion or so dollars would the collapse of Enron, WorldCom and Tyco have cost the US Taxpayer to bail out your privatization scheme?

Let's take a look at Enron alone:
At a loss to their employees' retirement accounts of over $1 billion, and at a rate of 3.75 percent accrued over an average of 15 years per employee (assuming the average employee retired at 65 and lived til the age of 75), the Enron bailout would have cost the US taxpayer $1.4 billion in a "guaranteed rate of return" scenario.

That's awful nice of us, isn't it?

Young people below the age of 30: Who do you suppose was going to pay for that?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something (to Judge Yarbrough). The death benefit -- it's interesting -- the death benefits in Social Security today, by the way -- again, I repeat, if you're married and your husband pre-deceases you and you're not 62, you get no death benefits. A person could be working all the time, or the wife could be working and the husband survives, you don't get any death benefits until you're 62. And then if you happen to be retired, and you're getting benefits as a result of your own labor, you don't get both. You don't get your spouse's contributions. You only get your own. It sounds like a lousy deal to me.

MADMAN: You don't get ANY death benefits, Mr. President, not NO death benefits (the misuse of the English language is grating on me just a little bit). If that is true, GW, that a widow or widower isn't allowed to collect both their own AND their deceased partner's benefits, then it IS a "lousy deal". CHANGE THE RULE! You're the president... if you can't do it, who can?

JUDGE YARBROUGH: For our people, Mr. President, if someone were to die while they were employed by the county, they would get a life insurance policy four times their annual salary that would go to their beneficiary, plus their family would get the money that's in their individual account.

MADMAN: I like that idea. Take a couple of bucks from everyone's pay check every week and put it toward a life insurance plan. Say one percent of your before-tax income and you're insured for 4 times your last annual salary, plus the death benefits and my widow...er wife will live like a Queen (assuming she can afford her health care costs!).

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. I think a lot of people are worried about Wall Street, hidden fees.

JUDGE YARBROUGH: We have contracts in place with -- minimal fees. We are investing in government securities, direct obligation of the U.S. government, minimal risk. Not going to hit the home run with it, but it's not going to take a step back. And so it's very safe. Minimal fees for our employees to participate.

MADMAN: Yes, GW, minimal fees are a good idea for Galveston County. I wonder how your banker friends will react to that? Let's look at your track record: Pharmaceutical companies make drugs; Pharmaceutical companies contribute heavily to the Bush-Cheney re-election committee; the new Medicare drug bill for seniors is put into place but doesn't allow Medicare to negotiate or re-import the drugs; GW's Pharmaceutical buddies make out like bandits! Aren't the bankers your "buddies" as well GW? Are you going to tell them NOT to charge full commissions? Or are you going to say, "They work hard and they gotta eat, too."? And, of you read the judge's comments, you'll see that the Galveston County employees don't make their own decisions and are investing in "government securities", that are the "direct obligation of the U.S. government" with "no risk", but their employees still pay additional "minimal fees."

THE PRESIDENT: Rate of return is an interesting thought. It means, basically, how fast your money is growing.

MADMAN: And if your money doesn't grow? And if your stocks lose their value? What do you call "rate of return" then, GW?

-Noah Greenberg



Another exchange, forwarded by Robert Scardapane:

MR. BENTLEY: And we’re operating in central Iraq. I’ll be back there next week.

[Snip]

THE PRESIDENT: How many children you got?

MR. BENTLEY: We have two children. We have a four-year-old son named Patrick, and a three-month-old daughter named Elaine that I just got to meet for the first time.

THE PRESIDENT: Really?

MR. BENTLEY: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: No wonder you’re emotional. (Laughter.) That’s awesome.

MRS. BENTLEY: She was born two days after he deployed.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, great.

Is this what it means to be a compassionate conservative?

-Robert Scardapane



So Let's put this in perspective: The county government of Galveston, Texas, roughly the size of a New York City School District, is: Investing their employees money in safe stocks and bonds; guaranteeing a 3.75 percent rate of return, whether the stocks lose money or not; investing in "government securities", that are the "direct obligation of the U.S. government" with "no risk".

A privatization plan needs to promise these basic things:
-Everyone gets something when they retire
-No one loses money... ever
-A guaranteed "Rate of Return"
-A REAL death benefit
-A way to bridge the gap between the money going out to the retirees now, and for the foreseeable future that won't cost trillions of dollars.

President Bush, your plan isn't a "privatization plan", it's a
"privatization scheme."

-Noah Greenberg



MEDIA MADMAN
by Robert Scardapane & Eddie Konczal


I think Jerry Springer (new to Air America Radio and other progressive radio stations) is a very intelligent guy. I can't understand how he ever fell into that TV sensationalist junk. I dislike that sort of stuff.

To note, I had the displeasure of catching (former one-term Florida Congressman Joe) Scarborough Country (MSNBC) last night. I watched because Katrina Van Den Heuvel, editor of The Nation, was on. She was as always great. Unfortunately, in front of her segment, Scarborough had that lunatic Gordon Liddy from Nixon days. They were bad mouthing Air America, Randi Rhodes in particular, and the so-called liberal media. Isn't it amazing how the Republicans can't stand even one successful Liberal talk show! Yet, you can't find one Liberal commentator on cable TV with their own show. Liberal bias my foot!

 

Lobster Man

by Eddie Konczal

My wife calls Scarborough "Lobster Man" because his face is always red.

How G. Gordon Liddy has any credibility is beyond me - a convicted Watergate plumber. I have heard him say he was the only Watergate convict to serve time in prison, which is demonstrably false: Haldeman, Erlichmann, Mitchell, et al all did time. Also, it's ironic that he would bash Air America since Al Franken actually had him on as a guest - not once, but twice!

Speaking of which, Al Franken's show will return to the Sundance channel sometime in June. So that will give us at least one show (albeit on a movie channel, not a news channel)!


 

Just a Little Reminder

"of course he's going to raise your taxes"
-President Bush, at the debate in St. Louis, MO, October 8, 2004

Mr. Bush then followed up with a quip that sounded something like this, "He (Kerry) says he's only gonna raise taxes on the richest Americans. If I know one thing it's that when a politician promises to raise taxes, you can be darn sure he's gonna do it, and he's not gonna stop at the richest one percent either." This isn't a direct quote, but it's close.

Let me tell you all something: When a politician says he's going to cut Social Security, but only on the "rich", don't you believe him, especially if his name is Bush. Let's not forget the famous "read my lips" speech of Papa Bush 41, "Read my lips, no new taxes." Well, President Junior, I don't have to read your lips, I can hear your words.

When President George W. Bush, or "43", or "W", or "Junior", or whatever other cutesy nickname the spoiled, rich kid from Connecticut has promises to cut Social Security Benefits, but only on the rich, don't you believe him. If I know one thing it's that when a politician (George W. Bush) promises to cut your Social Security benefits, you can be darn sure he's gonna do it, and he's not gonna stop at the richest Americans either.

 

Bush is coming after your retirement money.

FIX MEDICARE
FIX THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
GET OUR TROOPS HOME SAFELY
KEEP OUR AIR AND WATER CLEAN
STAY OUT OF OUR PRIVATE LIVES
STOP WASTING OUR MONEY

You'd think we wouldn't have had to say all of those things but, here we are.

-Noah Greenberg



Getting Dizzy

Oh yeah, I witnessed a new Republican spin on social security privatization. They claim it's a way to reduce the concentration of wealth at the top. Only a Republican could think that way. They are concerned that only 50% of America is in the stock market. Don't these idiots get it - social security was invented because of the stock market.

-Robert Scardapane


 

Responses

Due to the increasing number of responses Madman receives, we (yes, a few of us have discussed this) have decided to limit topics as follows:
Day 1- Original Article
Day 2- Pro or Con response
Day 3- Final Response
This won't close discussion permanently, but will require a new view and an original article rather than a response. There is so much going on, it isn't fair or smart to keep on one topic for an extended period of time. If anyone thinks that Madman ought to have its own BLOG, let me know and I'll consider it. -NG

In response to Chris Tennant, John-Otto Liljenstolpe writes:

Mr. Tennant needs to have the prescription on his glasses checked (Madman - April 27, 2005). He can see how the teaching of the Catholic Church's leadership supports the position of Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. in regard to abortion; but he speaks of this as an "intervention," as if the Church concocted it at the time of the election. (Cardinal Ratzinger gave his opinion on whether politicians who publicly took positions contrary to their Church's teachings should be able to participate in Communion, but few American bishops chose to follow his lead in this regard.) I wonder if Chris has read any account of what transpired when President Bush visited Pope John Paul. Yes sir, the tongue-lashing (in diplomatic terms) the President got in regard to his pre-emptive war policy certainly demonstrates that the Pope was in the President's pocket. And through Mr. Tennant's glasses the Papacy's harsh judgment upon the type of capitalism practiced in this country somehow doesn't come into view.

He notes quite correctly that the Catholics in Hungary betrayed not only their Jewish fellow citizens by and large but also the dictates of their Faith. But I know of no evidence that suggests that the Hungarian Church's failure in this regard was done with Papal approbation. One can certainly argue that the decision of Pope Pius XII not to forcefully denounce Nazi racial policy represents a moral failure, but to conclude from this that Papacy in any way favored this policy ignores the thousands of Jewish lives that were saved through the intervention of the Pope Pius and other Church leaders during the War. Regarding the behavior of the newly elected Pope during this time, the anti-Nazi stance of his family during this time is well documented as is Ratzinger's lack of substantial cooperation with the youth organization he was coerced into joining for a time.

If Mr. Tennant wishes to criticize the current Pope, I suggest he focus on those issues which actually have to do with the man's documented behavior such as his here-to-fore support for the centralization of authority in the Vatican contrary to what Vatican Council II taught. It is his handling of this and other issues that needs to be evaluated. What Mr. Tennant has chosen to discuss in regard to Pope Benedict is altogether irrelevant.


The Doctor and Madman

 

Doctor:
Read what
FDR had to say about Social Security...a law which will give "some measure of protection...against a poverty ridden old age". It is clear, it was never intended to be an all inclusive retirement system. It was designed to provide a basic level of support for those unfortunate folks who suffer "hazards and vicissitudes" of life.


"We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."--
-President Roosevelt upon signing Social Security Act


Madman:
So, does this mean you're NOT for scrapping it?

 

By the way, I think 100 percent insurance IS a nice objective and something we should reach for. Just because we're not there doesn't mean we can't get there. Is anything less good enough for you?

Doctor:
Absolutely not. never said I was. If anyone thought that, they're not listening. nor is Bush for "scrapping" the system. what I'm suggesting is incrementally raising retirement age since folks are living so much longer and are healthier. (The age of 65 was picked by
FDR based upon the French social insurance system because back then 90% of folks died before age 65). Now average life expectancy is in the 80's for women and 70's for men and going up quickly. The second point is that we need to means test and index all entitlements. It makes no sense for wealthy folks to be getting bigger Social Security checks than poor folks. Same for Medicare. Why is that premium not means tested or indexed to income? Finally, we need to give folks especially kids) the opportunity to set aside some of their earnings in investments that will give a higher yield over the long term. There are two incontrovertible facts:
1.
Social Security is NOT solvent for much longer as currently configured
2. 12% beats 1.9%

Now, at some point politicians have to stop advocating for their constituencies and start planning for what is best for the country, overall.

Madman:

 

Anyone who thinks that President Bush is not for SCRAPPING Social Security is naive. Period. It is the "END GAME".


Increasing the age isn't like inflation. In 100 years, it is highly unlikely people will be living until the age of 150 years old.

I don't have a problem with the SSA investing the money in safe, sound investments. Even in Galveston, the model
GW claims he wants, they don't just throw the money at the stock market.

First, they "negotiate" fees. Something
GW refused to do when it came to Medicare drug benefits. Second, they "guarantee" a 3.75% annual yield, so there really is no risk. Third, the county invests the money, not the individual. It isn't their choice as to how their money is invested.

We could take a cold, hard look at, the Galveston model, as it stands, not just give it "
lip service", then steal our money.


Quotes

A Man Called (G)lobal (W)arming Bush

"Using ocean data collected by diving floats, U.S. climate scientists released a study Thursday that they said provides the 'smoking gun' that ties manmade greenhouse gas emissions to
global warming."

"The researchers, some of them working for NASA and the Energy Department, went a step further, implicitly criticizing President Bush for not taking stronger action to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases."

"They said the findings confirm that computer models of climate change are on target and that global temperatures will rise 1 degree Fahrenheit this century, even if greenhouse gases are capped tomorrow."

-From MSNBC, forwarded by Eddie Konczal and Robert Scardapane

We don't call him (G)lobal (W)arming Bush for nothing! Okay, I am waiting for the White House to call this study "junk" science - perhaps, they will consult with a "junk" expert such as Gannon/Guckert/whatever-his-name-is.

-Robert Scardapane

"I can only talk to myself."
-President Bush at his press conference, answering David Gregory's question about whether religion should play a role in politics

That explains why you make no sense to the rest of us!

-Eddie Konczal


Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com or comments@nationalview.org

-Noah Greenberg