Al Franken's decision not to run for the Senate is a loss for the people of Minnesota and the country, but at least he'll have more time for his very funny radio show and books. I was just thinking about Al's first book today after reading a transcript of Rush Limbaugh's Valentine's Day show.
Recently, I wrote in this space about data showing that single women were more likely to be Democratic voters than married women, and I joked that this was another reason not to get married. Now, I do know that it's the nature of our political culture today that if a progressive, even a happily married one (16 years), makes a joke like that some right-wing blowhard is going to distort it for the sake of scoring cheap partisan points. So it wasn't a surprise that Rush Limbaugh, the grandaddy distorter of them all, stepped up to the plate to take a whack. But what did surprise me is that he took the opportunity not only to attack me but also my husband. Here's what he said:
"Now, The Nation is one of our favorite publications here, the far left fringe publication of the liberal journal of opinion that is edited by well known communist named Katrina vanden Heuvel whose husband is a well known communist at Columbia. Well, I use the term advisedly. Stephen Cohen's his name."
Now, I know that Limbaugh doesn't have a lot of experience with successful relationships, but attacking someone's spouse is generally considered to be pretty low down and dirty. In fact, some would call his reckless allegations libelous--my lawyer, for example. I also know that Limbaugh suffers from a rather severe case of McCarthy-era nostalgia, but equating liberalism with communism is tired and boorish even for someone who is a big, fat idiot. I use the term advisedly.
By the way, if Rush had done any research, he would have discovered that my husband now teaches, after many years at Princeton, at NYU, not Columbia. (Kids, this is an object lesson: read books, don't take drugs.)
Over the past seven years, V-Day, the global movement started by playwright/performer Eve Ensler, has raised more than $25 million to support organizations working to stop violence against women and girls. The spotlight of V-Day 2005 focuses on the increased threats faced by the women of Iraq, given the rise in fundamentalism and the raging war.
As Meera Subramanian writes on the Planned Parenthood website, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq reports a rise in attacks on women by fundamentalist Islamic groups, including horrific incidents of women being beaten and killed for going out unveiled, going to a hairdresser, or wearing Western clothing. Female education is also taking a hit as women university students are dropping their studies, fearing assault.
There is something about the fuss over the White House reporter formerly known as Jeff Gannon that makes me uneasy. No, it's not the sexually explicit photos of him that accompany what appears to be ads in which he offers himself as a gay prostitute for clients seeking a military type. (These photographs were discovered by blogger John Aravosis. Click here--but not if you are faint-hearted.) These photos are an issue because the Bush White House granted Gannon--whose real name seems to be James Guckert--entry to press briefings conducted by press secretary Scott McClellan and press conferences with George W. Bush. Gannon/Guckert, who wrote for the conservative Talon News service (which is run by a Republican activist), was awarded such access even though he did not qualify for a congressional press pass--the standard press pass in Washington. It is legitimate to ask why the White House permitted a fellow with a spotty past and questionable credentials to become part of the press corps. Did he get special treatment because he was a conservative? After all, this whole to-do started when Gannon/Guckert at a January 26 press conference aked Bush a softball question in which he characterized Senate Democratic leaders as "people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality."
But let me raise a cautionary note or two. The blogosphere in recent months has become the piling-on-osphere. When there is blood in the water--or on the keyboard--bloggers rush in for the kill. (Gannon resigned from Talon News a few days ago.) So far all of the victims have deserved the whacks. Dan Rather was pigheaded and defiant when he should have responded to questions about his 60 Minutes report on Bush's dodgy military service by saying, "Those are interesting and troubling points, we'll check them out immediately." Trent Lott was going to escape his stupid remark hailing Strom Thurmond's days as a segregationist until bloggers orchestrated a drumbeat. CNN executive Eason Jordan did not immediately clarify, back up or retract comments in which he reportedly claimed that US troops in Iraq had purposefully targeted and killed journalists. Yet the speed and drama of these trials-by-blog may be cause for quasi-concern not unfettered celebration. Am I being a semi-old fuddy-duddy? Could be. When I have a hot story I move as fast as possible to get it out. No one wants to be scooped. And I, too, delight in producing stories that expose hypocrisy and wrongdoing.
But with the Gannon/Guckert case, I wonder if there was a touch of blog-hysteria. (Bloggers, don't jump on me. I blog too. Click here. I'm only wondering, not accusing.) I am not suggesting, as I noted above, that the who-is-Gannon story was not appropriate grist for the blog-mill. But is it possible that significance of this odd tale was inflated during the red-hot pursuit of this fellow? I've met Gannon a few times. For some reason, he was eager to say hello to me when I last visited the White House press room and was handing out invitations to the party for my book, The Lies of George W. Bush. He struck me as mostly innocuous. At the White House daily briefings conducted by McClellan, Gannon/Guckert did ask ideologically loaded questions. But so do other reporters. Until he suffered a heart attack last month, radio commentator Les Kinsolving was known for posing long-winded questions that revealed a sharp rightwing bias. There is nothing wrong with a real journalist hurling at the press secretary--or the president--a pointed question with an ideological foundation. The heroic Helen Thomas does that often. Russell Mokhiber of the Corporate Crime Reporter often challenged Ari Fleischer in this fashion. Arguably, the Q&As at the White House could use more of this sort of questioning. I'd be delighted to see journalists from conservative publications press Bush on the administration's lowball estimates of Medicare drug benefits. Gannon/Guckert's pursuers ought to be careful and note that the problem with Gannon/Guckert was not that he was a reporter with an obvious political bent but that he had weak credentials and an iffy background.
Gannon/Guckert's critics have portrayed him as a White House plant. That could be an overstatement. At the White House daily briefings, most of the journalists present tend to be called upon by McClellan. This is different from what happens at press conferences with Bush. During the briefings, reporters are able to ask multiple questions and return to issues after McClellan has not answered their queries and moved on to other journalists. It's not a one-shot deal. So Gannon/Guckert was not much help to the McClellan at these briefings. If he asked McClellan an easy question, that would not change the course of the entire briefing and save McClellan from other reporters.
Gannon/Guckert was called upon by Bush at that January 26 press conference. This was the first time Bush recognized him, and Gannon/Guckert had been at the White House since 2003. Moreover, Bush has demonstrated his ability to stumble through press conferences, not truly answering question, without assistance from a friendly member of the press corps. I doubt the White House press operation saw Gannon/Guckert as a lifeline for either McClellan or Bush. If he received preferential treatment from the White House, my hunch is that he did so due to sloppiness on the part of the press office or because he was viewed as simpatico.
Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on David Horowitz, Democrats and Iraq, and more.
In addition to the White House's inadequate vetting of Gannon/Guckert, there is another serious angle in the Gannon/Guckert story. In October 2003, Gannon/Guckert interviewed former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a Bush critic whose wife months earlier had been outed in a Robert Novak column as an undercover CIA officer by unidentified administration officials. During this interview, Gannon/Guckert cited "an internal government memo prepared by US intelligence personnel that details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports." The question is, how did a hooker-turned-reporter end up with this leak of classified information? Did White House officials hand it to Gannon/Guckert because he was in cahoots with them? Gannon has refused to say if he had a copy of this memo or if someone had read him what it said. In December 2003--when he was not under fire--Gannon/Guckert wrote that this "information did not come from inside the administration," and he strongly hinted that his source was on Capitol Hill, referring to the Senate intelligence committee. Indeed, the Senate intelligence committee ended up quoting this document in a report released the following July. (The CIA claimed the memo was inaccurate.)
Gannon/Guckert has noted that FBI agents working on the Wilson leak probe did contact him and that he would not tell them the source of the information. Apparently, he has not been subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald, the Justice Department attorney investigating the Wilson leak. Is it possible Gannon/Guckert was being truthful? If he had received the information from a congressional source, then Gannon could be beyond the reach of Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is looking into the initial leak and not whether GOP congressional investigators who were probing the Wilson affair subsequently disseminated information to undermine Wilson.
There has been some public confusion about this aspect of the Gannon/Guckert story. Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, has called upon Fitzgerald to "investigate the leaking of a classified Central Intelligence Agency memo containing the identity of undercover agent Valerie Plame to a man at the center of the White House Press Briefing Room scandal, 'Jeff Gannon.'" The classified memo came not from the CIA but from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and by the time its contents reached Gannon, Valerie Wilson (nee Plame) had already been identified as a CIA officer.
Gannon/Guckert, according to the record so far, was a bit player in the Wilson affair. The leak he received was an after-the-fact leak. But it is certainly rather curious that this particular reporter obtained any classified information from any government source. Slaughter and others are justified in calling for an investigation. It is not beyond belief that partisans in the White House or on Capitol Hill saw Gannon/Guckert as a safe outlet. But it is also possible his involvement in the Wilson affairs was more a sideshow than anything else.
The Gannon/Guckert affair--which has yielded serious questions the White House needs to address--has generated much chest-pounding within the world of liberal bloggers. I don't begrudge the bloggers their victory lap--but it would not be good form to show too much glee. And Gannon/Guckert might be a smaller prize than assumed. (He's no Dan Rather--or Armstrong Williams.) Then again, perhaps I am wrong; maybe pulling on this string will cause a larger scandal to unravel. I don't discourage anyone from trying. Yet it could be that this story--regrettably--is mostly about a wannabe than the powers that be.
IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."
For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there
As the Gannongate scandal grows more disturbing by the day, it is worth remembering that this is but the latest round in the Bush White House's assault on the freedom of the press.
It started with loyalty oaths at Bush campaign events, which turned town hall meetings into infomercials. This proved so successful they've exported the strategy. When Condi met with a group of French intellectuals, their questions were pre-screened for anti-Bush bias. (It was presumably a rather short Q&A session.)
Then we discovered the Bush Administration was using taxpayer dollars to buy the fourth estate and turn it into a dude ranch. Armstrong Williams was paid a quarter million to pimp for No Child Left Behind. Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus, who should talk to Armstrong's agent, were paid considerably less to hold forth on the gay marriage amendment.
And now we've learned that a Texas Republican set up a fake news website and hired The Journalist That Dare Not Speak His Real Name (James Dale Guckert, aka James Gannon) to infiltrate the White House Press Corp and lob friendly questions. He infamously asked President Bush how he could work with Democrats who had "divorced themselves from reality."
It was at this point that pajama-clad bloggers, armed only with their Google search engines, uncovered that Gannon not only had a secret identity but also had gained access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. (Some connections to gay prostitution websites which Guckert-Gannon was involved in were also turned up.)
Despite the ease with which the blogosphere was able to uncover Guckert/Gannon's true identity and even though Guckert/Gannon had been denied credentials to enter the House and Senate press galleries, Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan claims post-9/11 security measures failed to detect a faux-journalist operating inside the White House under a pseudonym.
If you believe that, I have some Iraqi weapons of mass destruction I'd like to sell you.
As a joke some years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Ward Churchill's 1998 book Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America. In it, the University of Colorado professor, who is rapidly being turned into the nation's greatest outlaw intellectual by his right-wing critics, argued that nonviolent political activism -- in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- should not be seen as a force for positive social change. Rather, Churchill suggested, pacifism is a counterrevolutionary movement that unintentionally reinforces the very status quo its proponents claim to be dismantling.
As a Quaker, I was not about to buy into Churchill's worldview, which the friend who presented the book with a wink and a nod well understood. And as a journalist who has covered social justice struggles in the United States and abroad for the better part of a quarter century, I knew enough about how political change occurs to find Churchill's thesis wanting.
But I read the book with interest, and found it to be an engaging enough statement of a controversial point of view. It made me think. It forced me to reconsider some of my own presumptions -- although, instead of changing my thinking, Churchill's critique ultimately reinforced my faith that Thoreau, Gandhi, King and their followers are the real change agents. And, while I don't appreciate its premise any more than I do George Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war making, Churchill's book remains on the shelf of serious books to which I return for information and insight.
In other words, while I probably disagree with Ward Churchill more than most of his right-wing critics, I recognize him as a challenging public intellectual who has prodded and provoked my thinking in ways that I have to respect.
So, as a native Wisconsinite, I was pleased when University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor Jack Miller became the first campus administrator in the country to resist the right-wing crusaders who have been campaigning to deny Churchill a right to speak at institutions of higher learning.
The thought police at Fox News, led by Bill O'Reilly, have sought to silence Churchill ever since conservative students at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, stirred up a firestorm regarding an essay, Some People Push Back, in which the professor asserted that the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, had been provoked to action by vile US foreign policies.
"The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course," wrote Churchill, who went on to argue, "As for those in the World Trade Center, well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break."
Churchill's argument is a troubling one, as it takes a legitimate point of view -- that wrong-minded US policies increase the likelihood that this country and its citizens will become terrorist targets -- and turns it into an argument that reads like a justification for what most people in the United States and abroad see as indefensible violence.
But, while Churchill's views are radical, and to some offensive, the movement to prevent him from expressing those views on campuses is even more troubling. Ideas that provoke debate are the lifeblood of higher education. Bad arguments get dismissed soon enough. But in the process of discarding the bad, good ideas are invariably made stronger. That is the point of the principle that, for more than a century, has guided intellectual inquiry within the University of Wisconsin system: "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."
Campuses in other states, where there is less of a tradition of academic freedom and respect for the First Amendment, have caved in to the pressure from right-wing media to cancel Churchill's talks. But Wisconsin has a long history of setting a higher standard -- and the decision of the UW-Whitewater chancellor to allow Churchill to speak honors that tradition.
The blogopshere is jam-packed with strategic advice for new DNC Chair Howard Dean. One of the most thoughtful pieces was written by Zack Exley--former director for MoveOn.org and former Dean and Kerry "net" mobilizer.
His Letter to the Next DNC Chair describes a new kind of politics emerging and lays out a blueprint for how the party can build a vast, permanent field organization with the "New Grassroots" by leveraging email, the web and a little technology. (Click here to read more about Exley's open letter.)
The latest strategic salvo comes from Zephyr Teachout--director of internet organizing for Dean's presidential campaign. Posted at personaldemocracy forum.com, it's a provocative piece calling on the party to pursue "an Internet-generated aggressive effort to re-establish local structures as vibrant, multi-purpose, cross-class continuous communities."
With references to Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol's research and Robert Putnam's seminal work on the decline of participation in civic life, Teachout observes that while the "net is disrupting some old channels for political power and offering new kinds of connections as well...without an aggressive effort, I worry that most of this energy will go into fundraising, list-building and maybe some online community building."
Sure, these aren't bad things, Teachout says, "but in the face of the Great American Loneliness and the Great American Powerlessness, I hope that the disruptive power of the internet might serve to create a new form of voluntary association: offline communities based on online connections but rooted in public places."
She also tackles the many reasons why local party poobahs might resist. But, as Teachout argues, "the best thing the DNC can do is be an aggressive hydraulic force outwards, with the net as its power--and all Democrats will be rewarded with a vastly stronger networked community, with deep loyalty and deep engagement of the party membership."
Teachout to Dean. Food for thought.
Zen on His Mind
"In his first post-election news conference...Dean said Democrats should not be afraid to stand up for what they believe, but he cast the party's core beliefs in mainstream language, avoiding some of the bombast of his presidential campaign. Asked whether there was a new, more subdued Howard Dean on view, he said, 'I'm not a Zen person. It's hard to answer stylistic questions. I am who I am...It's not intentional."(Washington Post, February 13, 2005)
"In order to make good on the new empowerment, we have to genuinely give power to the states and grassroots. That's what we did in our campaign. I believe in order to have power, you have to give up power. I know that sounds Zen-like, but it is true."(From an interview in Start Making Sense: Turning the lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics, by Alternet--available in March from Chelsea Green Publishing.)
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.
Click here to read and circulate the ACLU'S report and click here to write to your Senators asking them to carefully consider the questions about Chertoff before voting on his nomination. Even though his nomination is expected to pass, possibly as soon as this week, there's still value in helping lay out his record and the many valid questions an honest examination of his past suggests.
Co-written by Mark Hatch Miller
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.
Even where Republicans are in charge, they have governed differently than their compatriots at the federal and state levels. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have been elected as a Republican, and he is certainly not a progressive, but his positions on a host of social and tax issues place him well to the left of many national Democrats.
The tendency of voters to elect progressives at the local level is not entirely surprising. Urban residents tend to be a lot more liberal than suburbanites, as evidenced by the fact that President Bush and other Republican contenders fared extremely poorly in the nation's cities while they were prevailing nationwide last November. And, with the federal and state governments cutting services at just about every turn, voters recognize that local government is the last line of defense for social services and the first line of offense in the struggle to expand basic freedoms.
From San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to help gays and lesbians marry to Madison, Wisconsin's innovative living wage ordinance, cities are taking the lead. They are not limiting themselves to local debates. More than 140 communities, including Madison, endorsed "Cities for Peace" resolutions opposing the rush to war with Iraq in 2003, and more than 350 communities have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act's assaults on civil liberties. Many of the cities that are protesting the Patriot Act have put their dissent into action with initiatives to prevent federal investigators from spying on what citizens are reading.
Across the country, municipal activists are examining new steps that can be taken to put power in the hands of the people rather than multinational corporations. Cities are taking steps to expand access to the internet and beat down cable rates. They are developing "buy local" initiatives that help farmers and small businesses thrive. They are lobbying against free-trade pacts that shutter factories and threaten environmental protection laws, and they are expanding the boundaries of democracy with electoral reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting.
Unfortunately, national groups such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are behind the curve. Many of them are so closely tied to the same corporations that warp policy- making at the federal and state levels that they discourage the sort of progressive innovation that has made the nation's cities into the laboratories of democracy that states such as Wisconsin and Oregon were in the Progressive Era of the early 20th century.
Concerned about the failure of the US Conference of Mayors to embrace and encourage progressive policy making, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz began working with the University of Wisconsin's Center on Wisconsin Strategies and other groups to develop a new vehicle to get progressive mayors talking with one another and working together.
Beginning Thursday, roughly a dozen mayors from around the country -- including top officials from Anchorage, Alaska; Burlington, Vermont; and Salt Lake City -- will huddle with some of the nation's top urban policy thinkers at Wisconsin's Wingspread Conference Center. The three-day gathering represents an important stride for urban leaders. Cities are already in the forefront of progressive policy making. But organized cities could be the alternative to the drift to the right at the state and national levels.
It's a new century. Isn't it about time for a new Progressive Era with cities as the laboratories of democracy?
John Nichols's new book, Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books) will be published January 30. Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial."
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.
But wait, it gets better. These personal accounts aren't exactly US government loans either, because our government under the fiscal stewardship of George W. Bush no longer is running a surplus and therefore does not have the $4 trillion or so needed to cover the transition costs, and Bush refuses to raise taxes on his base (BUSH'S BASE, n. the wealthy).
So our government will have to borrow that cash. And if the last three years are any guide, our largest single loan officer will likely be the Central Bank of China. And who runs China's Central Bank, China, and the Chinese people with an iron fist? Why, it's our old friends, the democracy-loving, freedom-marching Chinese Communist Party. So Bush's personal retirement accounts=private retirement accounts=US government loans=US government borrowing=Chinese government lending=Chinese Communist Party loans.
Or as we like to say in Republican Dictionary land:
PERSONAL RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS, n. Chinese Communist Party loans.
We've had a grassroots groundswell of submissions from our readers after soliciting ideas for the Republican Dictionary project, which first debuted in this space last November.
Bush's "ownership society" was a big hit, "God" made a return, and Justin Rezzonico delivered the best definition of "Fox News" yet. I've included a sampling of the latest batch below. Please keep them coming in. (Click here to submit your ideas.) We are going to be collecting our favorites and publishing them as a book in the next few months.
ACCOUNTABILITY, n. Buck? What buck? (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)
BIPARTISANSHIP, adj. When Democrats compromise. (Justin Rezzonico, Keene, NH)
CHECKS & BALANCES, pl. n. An antiquated concept of the Founding Fathers that impedes autocratic efficiency; see also REFORM. (Robert B. Fuld, Unionville, CT)
FOX NEWS, n. Faux news. (Justin Rezzonico, Keena, NH)
GOD, n. Senior presidential advisor. (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)
NONPARTISAN JUDICIAL NOMINEE, n. An active member of the Federalist Society. (Mark Hatch-Miller, Brooklyn, NY)
OWNERSHIP SOCIETY, n. 1) A society where you're on your own. (John Read, Ownings Mills, MD); 2) A society where one-half of society owns the other half. (Anne Galvan Klousia, Corvallis, OR); 3) The euphemism used by robber barons and their political lackeys to promote or justify the extreme concentration of wealth into the hands of a powerful few. Synonyms: PLUTOCRACY, CORPORATE FEUDALISM. (Ken Stump, Seattle, WA)
SOCIAL SECURITY, n. Broker security. (Bruce Clendenin, Dallas, TX)
SPREADING PEACE, v. Preemptive war. (Bruce Hawkins, Silver Springs, MD)
STAY THE COURSE, v. To relentlessly pursue a disastrous policy regardless of how far conditions deteriorate. Antonym: "To cut and run." (Aja Starke, New York, NY)
TORTURER, n. 1) White House Counsel. 2) Attorney General. (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)
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.
These are not the right priorities for our nation. It is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is morally wrong to cap spending for the most vulnerable and the weakest among us--children, seniors, veterans, the poor and the working class--while pursuing tax cuts for the wealthiest without limits or restraint.
As a new project of the invaluable Center for Community Change points out, Bush once promised that as a country, "When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side." But his budgets have never matched that rhetoric, as a new TV ad produced by the Center makes clear.
This week, the Center is launching an ad campaign to engage voters in the "red" states of Missouri and Tennessee; the spot will also run in Washington, DC so the nation's decision makers will see it. The ad, titled "Jericho," focuses on the biblical language that Bush has used repeatedly to depict himself as a compassionate conservative and questions whether Bush's budget reflects the moral values of a compassionate man.
It's time to hold Bush accountable for those "wounded travelers." As Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center writes, "We cannot allow this nation to cross to the other side." (Click here for more info about the CCC and click here to help support its ad campaign.)