Though Mike must do what he thinks right,
A lot of us think it's a pity,
Since we were hoping SpongeBob might
Decide to marry in the city.
Conservatives' persistent complaints about the United Nations' alleged lack of transparency are belied by the Interim Report of Paul Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee into the Oil for Food
In the time since the historic election in Iraq, several liberal Democrats in Congress have been trying to kick-start a national debate--or at least a Congressional debate--on withdrawing US troo
Michael Chertoff received adulation at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing to consider his nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security on February 2. Senators of both parties praised Chertoff, a former US Attorney and Assistant Attorney General who is giving up a lifetime appointment to the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals in New Jersey, as a distinguished public servant. Despite his many accomplishments, however, Chertoff's role in helping shape some of the Bush Administration's most controversial policies deserve far more scrutiny than they've received to date.
As Dave Lindorff's recent Nation editorial argues, Chertoff effectively prevented early exposure of the Bush/Rumsfeld/Gonzales policy of torture by making a plea agreement with "American Taliban" fighter John Walker Lindh, which required him to remain silent about his treatment. According to human rights attorney Michael Ratner, Chertoff's decision to prevent Lindh from speaking out about abuse at Guantanamo could have contributed to the "migration" of torture to Abu Ghraib.
A comprehensive ACLU study released last week goes further in surveying Chertoff's record and raises questions about the sincerity of the nominee's strong pledges of support for civil liberties and of opposition to racial profiling.
Progressives have not been so poorly positioned to guide public policy at the federal and state levels in decades. Both the White House and the Congress are controlled by conservative Republicans who are bent on rolling back the progress that was made during the twentieth century. Republican governors and legislatures, while not always as conservative as their Washington counterparts, dominate policy making at the state level. Even Democratic governors, they tend to be colorless managers rather than innovative thinkers or bold advocates.
But there is one level of government where progressives continue to be a powerful, and often definitive, force: The cities. Local officials -- mostly Democrats and Greens, but even a few Republicans -- are maintaining the faith that government should solve problems, rather than create them. This week, some of the most creative thinkers and doers from around the country will be gathering in Wisconsin to share ideas and, hopefully, to begin developing a coalition of "New Cities" that will suggest progressive alternatives to the reactionary policies being pushed at the federal and state levels of government.
It is notable that, at the same time that progressive forces have suffered electoral setbacks at the state and federal levels, they have experienced significant success at the local level. Cities such as Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Boulder, Madison, Missoula and San Francisco have long histories of left-leaning governance. But in recent years progressives -- particularly environmental activists -- have been winning mayoralties in unexpected locations such as Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho, the largest cities in two of the most conservative states in the country. In fact, one of the hottest political trends in the country is the takeover of local governments by progressives in western states.
In Bush's State of the Union address, he mentioned personal accounts seven times but private accounts zero times, which is interesting because only a few months ago he was using both terms interchangeably. But fear not, this was no mistake. The Republicans tested the phrase private accounts and found public support was much lower than when the same, exact, identical concept was called personal accounts. (Personally, I like caring accounts, but they didn't ask me.)
So the White House and its paid spin doctors, many of whom play journalists on TV, have taken to the airwaves to push the phrase personal accounts and chastise anyone in the media who employs the banished words to characterize ther Administration's Social Security agenda. Proof, if more was needed, that language is power and debates are won or lost based on definitions.
But here is the really funny thing about the personal/private accounts debate. Not only are they not personal accounts, they're not private accounts either. They are in fact US government loans. (Bear with me now, because this will only hurt for a moment.) You see, your payroll taxes will still be used to cover the benefits of current retirees, but under Bush's scheme the government will place a certain "diverted" amount into an account in your name. It sounds like a personal retirement account, but it's not. It's a loan. Because if your account does really well (above 3 percent), when you retire the government will deduct the money it lent you (plus 3 percent interest) from your monthly Social Security check leaving you with almost the same amount you would have received under the current system. If your account does really poorly (below 3 percent), you are out of luck. According to Congressional Budget Office, the expected average return will be 3.3 percent, so the net gain will be zero.
The federal budget is not just an accounting tool--it's a statement about our nation's values and priorities. This week, Bush released a budget that Representative Jan Schakowsky calls a "weapon of mass destruction."
It would drastically underfund domestic initiatives, from education to children's healthcare to homeless shelters to support for small businesses. The vast majority of Americans will be asked to sacrifice, with one exception: the millionaires who can afford to give something up. Their tax cuts--the same tax cuts that brought us unprecedented deficits--would be protected and likely even extended under Bush's proposal.
Bush's reckless policies are mortgaging our country's future. When he took office, the budget had a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. We now have a more than $3 trillion deficit. That $9 trillion swing is the largest fiscal reversal in US history.
A new report recently highlighted in Ruy Teixeira's valuable Public Opinion Watch shows that one of the bright spots for the Democrats in the 2004 election was their performance among single women. The study, done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Womens' Voices/Women Vote, showed that the "marriage gap is a defining dynamic in today's politics, eclipsing the gender gap, with marital status a significant predictor of the vote, independent of the effects of age, race, income, education or gender."
As Teixeira writes, the new research shows that unmarried women, who voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, "are social and economic progressives advancing a tolerant set of values." One more reason to oppose marriage. (Click here to check out the full report.)
Much was said in the Senate during the debate over the nomination of Alberto Gonzales. But it fell to the two senators with the most powerful records of upholding the Constitution to sum up the arguments against making the disgraced White House counsel the 81st Attorney General of the United States.
One decried Gonzales's shameful record:
"I simply cannot support the nomination of someone who, despite his assertions to the contrary, obviously contributed in large measure to the atrocious policy failures and the contrived and abominable legal decisions that have flowed from this White House," said the dean of the Senate, Robert Byrd of West Virginia.