Saturday, April 30, 2005

NYT's Tierney: 'Bush as Robin Hood'

John Tierney : "Democrats have good reason to be aghast at President Bush's new proposal for Social Security. Someone has finally called their bluff.

They tried yesterday to portray him as just another cruel, rich Republican for suggesting any cuts in future benefits, but that's not what the prime-time audience saw on Thursday night. By proposing to shore up the system while protecting low-income workers, Mr. Bush raised a supremely awkward question for Democrats: which party really cares about the poor?

Democrats like to portray Mr. Bush as King George or Marie Antoinette. But on Thursday night, when he promised to improve benefits for the poor while limiting them for everyone else, he sounded more like Robin Hood, especially when he rhapsodized about poor people getting a chance to build up assets that they could pass along to their children.

It was the kind of talk you might expect to hear from a Democrat, except that Democrats don't talk about much these days except the glories of the New Deal. They know that Social Security doesn't even have the money to sustain a program that leaves millions of elderly people in poverty. But it's their system, and they're sticking to it. "

Friday, April 29, 2005

Cato Institute Supports Pozen's Progressive Plan

Let Go the Status Quo: "Liberal's different tacks on price indexing versus maintaining the status quo reveals that their true intent is to postpone reforms for as long as possible... The calculation, of course, is that when the money runs out, lawmakers won't have the nerve to face retired baby-boomer voters' wrath by cutting benefits. Taxes must then be increased, resulting in an expanded (but not more useful) system: So what if it imposes yet heavier burdens on generations to follow.

The cynicism of the liberals' strategy ratchets up to yet another level when personal accounts are brought up. Essentially, personal accounts would help participants clearly distinguish between that part of today's 12.4 percent payroll tax that is a pure tax and the part that constitutes true retirement saving. The latter would be returned as as retirement benefits and the former would go to pay for our generosity to previous retirees.

The strongest but least appreciated advantage of personal account reforms would flow from clarifying that participants pay less than 12.4 percent of their earnings in pure taxes. The appreciation that taxes are lower than it appears at present will spur labor market participation, increase output, and improve the economy's capacity to pay future retirement benefits.

Liberal critics, however, refuse to acknowledge that personal accounts would be a part of Social Security and not independent of it. Rather than destroy support for Social Security, personal accounts will strengthen the system's finances by ensuring that funds meant for retirement are effectively sequestered and invested -- unlike under the current system where they are deposited with the federal government and entirely consumed for non-Social Security purposes."

Robert Pozen on The Progressive Solution to Social Security Reform

Comment from Robert Pozen, the Democrat cited by President Bush last night, in today's WSJ - OpinionJournal: "Ever since President Bush first floated the idea of personal retirement accounts as part of Social Security reform, fiscal hawks have been going berserk: 'This will only increase future government borrowing when the federal deficit is already sky high!,' they say. Well, they're wrong. There is a way to have personal retirement accounts, or PRAs, and actually decrease the government debt. If PRAs of modest size are combined with something called the 'progressive indexing' of benefits, the government borrowing needed to finance Social Security would be dramatically reduced.

What is progressive indexing and how does it work?"

Read it all to see the basics of the social security reform plan from the source.

UPDATE: From Saturday an article with more about Mr. Pozen himself-
The New York Times > Washington > A Democrat on Bush's Social Security Team: "A registered Democrat, Mr. Pozen donated money to the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry last year and voted for him on Nov. 2. He was a classmate of Hillary Rodham Clinton at Yale Law School.

But all that has not stopped President Bush from embracing Mr. Pozen's main idea to bring the nation's public pension regime into financial balance: a plan called "progressive indexing" because it would protect the lowest-wage workers from benefit reductions while progressively cutting benefits of higher-earning workers.

Mr. Pozen, who served on Mr. Bush's commission in 2001 that developed initial plans for carving private accounts out of Social Security, has been thrust into the spotlight by Mr. Bush's embrace of his proposal. But Mr. Pozen says his ideas on public pensions are free of politics.

"I consider myself a middle-of-the-road guy who tries to be carefully nonpartisan on this issue," he said. "I believe passionately in Social Security reform."

Rich Lowry back in March: The Progressive GOP

A correct early call this March from Rich Lowry on Social Security on National Review Online:
"The Social Security debate is headed toward a monumental political irony: It might well be that Republicans offer creative ideas to make the system more 'progressive' - i.e., more favorable to people lower down on the income scale - and Democrats resolutely refuse to adopt them. What happened to the Democrats we used to know, who made progressivity the highest test of any public policy and leapt at any opportunity to 'soak the rich'?

Of course, this trend is partly the result of political desperation, as the GOP seeks ideas to make reform that includes personal accounts more appealing to Democrats. But that doesn't detract from the merit of the proposals. Some Republicans are now suggesting not just modernizing and putting what Democrats like to call the world's most effective government program on a sounder financial footing, but doing it in ways that are in keeping with that old Democratic value: fairness.

Democratic opposition to personal accounts could prevent it, as well as the parties' contrasting theories of the welfare state. Liberals generally want it to cover as many non-poor people as possible, so that there is a big, powerful political constituency for government. Republicans should want to limit governmental dependence to those who can't fend for themselves. GOP proposals on Social Security are drifting in the right direction — toward maintaining the program as social insurance for the poor, offering uplift in the form of personal accounts and squeezing the governmental dependence of the fat and happy.

So, stick it to Ken Lay. Pursue economic justice. Level the playing field. Stiff George W. Bush's rich friends. Apply any demagogic slogan you like. And do it all while making Social Security better and stronger."

President Bush's Strategy on Social Security Reform

Kevin A. Hassett on Social Security Reform, the New England Patriots, the NFL Draft, and George W. Bush on NRO Financial:
[President Bush's] "...approach is tactically quite inspired. Since Social Security is in big trouble, it is not hard to convince folks that some kind of fix is in order. Once voters are convinced, then a politician has put a tremendous amount of pressure on his opponents. If the president is conciliatory and reasonable, then perhaps the policymakers in Washington are obstructionists if nothing happens. The president wants to work with Democrats and get something done. He has his principles, but he wants to hear theirs.

So the Democrats have two choices. They can oppose any compromise, in which case they may pay a politically price because they are the ones who are unwilling to be flexible. Or they can compromise and fix Social Security. If the president put forward a plan, the Democrats could claim that the fix did not occur because of the weakness of the plan. Without a plan, they see pressure to go to the table and work one out with their Republican colleagues. If they do not, perhaps there will be many more Tom Daschles in the next election, and then Social Security can be reformed.

By managing the politics in this way, President Bush has reduced the political risk associated with Social Security reform, and probably maximized the chance that something positive can happen."

AFL-CIO Has Money Problems

"AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, who is facing challenges from some of the labor federation's largest member unions, yesterday acknowledged that the organization is financially squeezed and may have to lay off a quarter of its workforce....

In the nearly 50 years since the AFL-CIO was created by a merger of two labor federations, union membership fell from about 33 percent of the workforce to 12.5 percent...

From 1995, when Sweeney took office, to the present, the AFL-CIO's reserve fund has dropped from $61 million to $31 million.

Sweeney became increasingly testy during the question-and-answer period of the teleconference, dismissing warnings of deteriorating finances that have begun to appear on union Web sites as "rumors . . . ridiculous and irresponsible."

Sweeney said reluctantly that he will meet with unions representing AFL-CIO staff members to discuss layoffs. "We are looking at every department and every program of the AFL-CIO," he said.

"I really can't be too specific about reorganization plans," he said, and when pressed further, he declared: "The bottom line is I will not give you any more information...

Denise Mitchell, AFL-CIO communications director, said the federation "is not in bad shape at all." She said the reserve fund is smaller than it was a decade ago....She noted that the reserve fund is to be used when labor faces difficulties, and "George Bush is a rainy day."

Catholicism in China

Up From the Underground: "About 5 million Chinese Catholics belong to government-approved 'patriotic' churches that reject the Vatican's full authority, according to the Chinese government. The Vatican estimates that 8 million others worship in illegal underground churches that have defied the Communist Party by remaining loyal to the pope. And yet the church's position here is probably stronger than at any time since the 1949 Communist revolution, when Beijing broke ties with the Vatican. Though police continue to harass and imprison priests and bishops in the underground church, several have been allowed to operate openly. At the same time, the Vatican has slowly infiltrated the government's official church, winning over many of its clergymen and exerting unprecedented influence over its operations...

Chinese leadership's [has a] traditional suspicion of the church as a hostile force that helped subvert Communist rule in Eastern Europe and is determined to do the same in China...

All but nine of the 70 bishops in the government's official church have secretly declared their loyalty to Rome and are now recognized by the Vatican, according to Ren Yanli, China's leading scholar of the church. And almost all of the new bishops approved by the government in the past five years were secretly named in advance by John Paul, said one of the bishops, who spoke on condition of anonymity...

Liu Bainan, vice chairman of the body that runs the official church, said the government remained wary. "We remember what happened in Poland and the former Soviet Union," he said. "No one can deny the pope and the Vatican played an important role there, and those who promoted the great changes in Eastern Europe want it to happen in China as well."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Jay Nordlinger on Bill Frist

These remarks are really about Sen. Bill Frist speaking to the religious "right-wing evangelics" a few days ago although Mr. Nordlinger never comes out and says it. Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus on National Review Online:

"How often do you read a statement from a politician and think, "That speaks for me"? That seldom, huh? Anyway, I felt this way when reading an excerpt from a letter sent by Sen. Mitch McConnell to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

"Why is it that whenever a Democrat speaks before a religious audience, he is ‘reaching out,’ but when a Republican does it, he is ‘divisive’? . . . I can recall many instances of Democrats visiting churches over the years, not just to speak on a policy matter but even to outright plea for votes. Either I’ve missed the angry editorials in this paper and others over those events, or there’s an astonishing double standard afoot here.”

I know which option I vote for.

Do you recall when Jesse Jackson equated Dan Quayle with Herod, at the 1992 convention? Most Democrats thought that was sort of cool, I believe.

Remember the rule: Black people are allowed to mix religion and politics, because, why, it’s just their way, and they’ve got those cute lil’ spirituals and so on. (I am expressing what I consider to be the liberal-Democratic mindset.) And the religious Left, such as it is, can participate in politics, because that is a matter of conscience. But everybody else: Butt out."

Nordlinger speaks without fear.

Ruscoe on Asheville Citizen-Times' Crazy People

Notes From The Culture Wasteland:
"Here's the letter of the day from the crazy page at the AC-T...:
[Asheville Citizen-Times letter to the editor] 'Sees administration as having two priorities:
It should be obvious now to all but the most deeply propagandized minds that this Bush administration came into office with a two-pronged agenda:
1) Destabilize the world militarily for bigger profits for their buddies in the military/industrial complex, and
2) Loot the country - national treasury and all - to give to its political base, the super-rich...'
[Ruscoe:] seems the more they keep losing at the polls and in real-world events, the "crazier" (or more "deeply propagandized") the rest of us become. I'm fully prepared to admit the possibility that it may be me; or it may be [the letter writer] and MoveOn's of the world. But one of us has a real problem. "

I suppose I too am a deeply proprogandized mind. I just thought I was part of the VRWC. Anyway, the AC-T is my daily local paper too so I get a kick out of Ruscoe's blog.

Syria Departs Lebanon

Syria Marks End of Lebanon Presence: "The last Syrian soldiers slipped out of Lebanon Tuesday in a convoy of flatbed trucks, buses and jeeps, ending a 29-year deployment that began amid civil war and ended with only scant notice from many Lebanese who have rallied in recent months against the long military presence."
Although apparently never to be connected by the MSM, there is no doubt this historic event is a direct result of the Iraq War.

John Tierney in NYT with Fantastic Column: "The Proof's in the Pension"

"SANTIAGO, Chile- I made a pilgrimage to Santiago seeking to resolve the Social Security debate with a simple question: What would Pablo Serra do? "

I usually quote so much there is no need to read the whole thing. This time the whole thing is so good you have to read it all. Grasp a straight forward example of the power of the time value of money - if of course it is indeed your money.


NC Wesleyan's Ward Churchill

"The classroom where North Carolina Wesleyan College's only political science professor is teaching a course titled '9-11; The Road to Tyranny' has become the latest battlefront in the ongoing campus culture war...

One text required in Christensen's 9/11 course holds that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States were orchestrated and carried out by U.S. government elites. The course teaches that the official story about Sept. 11 is the result of "government involvement in the coverup."

The attacks were used by neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, acting on behalf of pro-Israel Zionists, as "a catalyst for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the attack on civil liberties in the United States," according to the course's syllabus.

"I teach the truth about 9/11 in all of my courses," said Christensen, who also teaches classes on research methods and the American political system.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Christensen -- a tenured professor with 15 years at N.C. Wesleyan -- defended her course.

"This is a war by the extreme right wing motivated by the Zionists to quash academic freedom on campus," she said.

Students will "never find anything that resembles the truth about 9/11 or the war in Iraq from the mainstream media," she added.

Christensen urged an interviewer to investigate how many Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion two years ago, whether several of the suicide hijackers on 9/11 have since been spotted alive, and whether Israel is planning targeted killings of opponents in the United States.

"That's a hell of a lot more interesting than my (expletive) Web site," she said.
unbelievable. Google it if you want her web site, no help from me for another wacko "educator." NC Wesleyan is near Raleigh, NC, a United Methodist school I think and until now I thought was a decent small school.

On Tom Delay Situation - Travel by Congress often paid privately: "Members of Congress have taken $16 million in privately financed trips since 2000, and more than half were sponsored by non-profit groups that don't have to disclose who is providing the money, a study out today says...
The issue of who pays for lawmakers' travel is under increased scrutiny because of an ethics controversy involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who took trips that may have been paid for by prohibited sources. Privately paid travel is permitted under the rules, but expenses cannot be paid for by a lobbyist or by a representative of a foreign interest...
It found that $8.8 million of the travel expenses were paid for by tax-exempt and other groups whose funding sources aren't public. DeLay is under fire in part because one such group, the National Center for Public Policy Research, paid for a trip to Britain in 2000 that may have been at least partly paid for by a lobbyist, which is against House rules...the rules don't allow lobbyists to pay for trips but permit their employers to do so. "The fiction is that the same conflict doesn't exist when the lobbyist's employer, a corporation or a trade association, pays for the travel and the lobbyist goes along," ...

DeLay took 14 trips valued at $94,568. He ranked 28th for value of trips, and 114th in the number taken.

• Democrats took 3,025 trips; Republicans, 2,375; independents, 10.

I am assuming all of this will come to light when the House finally changes the rules so that hearings will be held by the Ethics Comm. I haven't bothered to post but I think Drudge reported this week that all of Congress was frantically getting records in order to comply with the rules. It is mostly all to me unethical but allowed by rule. In my mind we, the people, should just pay for all the trips and get it over with and avoid any tint of influence - admit if you are in Congress you have an unlimited expense account if you can explain your time to the people voting for you next time and withstand the scruntity of the press.

Miami Herald Editorial for CAFTA

Voting for free trade instead of isolation: "CAFTA would liberalize trade among the United States and six nations close to Florida: The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It would put an end to the other nations' import taxes, which could boost sales on a broad range of U.S. products, everything from candy bars to cars. CAFTA would eliminate the few remaining U.S. duties on imports from the six countries. It also puts the United States closer to the prized goal: a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
It's absurd to suggest that CAFTA poses a threat to U.S. workers. Their combined economies, including that of the Dominican Republic, are smaller than that of Connecticut. Even so, these countries buy more U.S. goods than India, Russia and Indonesia combined. This alone merits creating a closer bond to give U.S. exporters greater access to a ready market...

Nor should disagreements over sugar be allowed to hold CAFTA hostage. It allows 109,000 metric tons of sugar to be imported into the United States the first year after CAFTA goes into effect, gradually increasing after that. U.S. officials estimate this amounts to only 1 ½ teaspoons per week per U.S. citizen. Sugar is a substantial cash crop in Florida, but this hardly amounts to a deal-breaker...
For the Bush administration, it's a test of the president's professed support for free trade. With Congress under siege from special interests opposed to free trade, Mr. Bush needs to spend some of his political capital in pursuit of this good cause. In 2000, he promised to make this the Century of the Americas. CAFTA is probably his last and best chance as president to turn that splendid vision into a welcome reality. "

"Wary Democrats Discover a Parents Gap"

The Washington Times INSIDER: "An analysis by a Democratic think tank argues that Democrats are suffering from a severe 'parent gap' among married people with children, who say the entertainment industry is lowering the moral standards of the country.
The study, published last week by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), the policy arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, admonishes Democrats to pay more attention to parental concerns about 'morally corrosive forces in the culture,' and warns that the party will not fare better with this pivotal voting bloc until they do.
In the 2004 election, married parents supported President Bush over Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts by nearly 20 percentage points...
"Democrats will not do better with married parents until they recognize one simple truth: Parents have a beef with popular culture. As they see it, the culture is getting ever more violent, materialistic, and misogynistic, and they are losing their ability to protect their kids from morally corrosive images and messages," said the study's author, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project of Rutgers University and a senior fellow at PPI. "

Castro Doubles Minimum Wage to $10

Great news from Cuba! All the supporters of a US minimum wage increase should be jubilant. One downer from Castro's announcement is in the fine print in the News: "Cuban President Fidel Castro announced on [last] Thursday the minimum wage would be more than doubled to 225 pesos ($10) a month from 100 pesos ($4.50), effective on May 1.... Castro made the announcement in the latest of his three-hour speeches addressing economic problems endured by Cubans since the collapse of the Soviet Union plunged Cuba into deep crisis.

Castro's drive to improve the lot of deprived Cubans began on March 8, when he announced the distribution of cheap pressure cookers and electric rice steamers for every household. On Thursday, the 78-year-old Cuban leader called on Cubans to save electricity to help the energy-deficient Caribbean island overcome chronic power outages.Castro promised the population new and more efficient household appliances, such as electric fans and refrigerators."
For the math impaired the minimum wage in Cuba based on a 40 hour work week is up to US$ 0.25 - a quarter an hour. Socialism may be great science as a perfectly failed experiment time after time. Lousy economics but repeatable results.

So to everyone that admires Castro and Cuba (Hollywood, various members of Congress particularly Sen. Chris Dodd) you are so wrong. We Americans have to be tough for Cuba to become what the people of Cuba deserve.

My understanding of Cuba came when I, through business, got to know Cuban-Americans in Florida or as I know them: great Americans that came from Cuba. Only through personal relationships did I begin to understand their passion and commitment to this country and to the sincerity and heart they showed me for this country and for the people of Cuba.

I strongly hope that one day, Cuba, (if the people of Cuba wish), becomes a State in this United States.

(Even if if DC becomes a State to balance the politics...)

Cynical Idealism in Social Security Debate

This is a rather long piece for the Wall Street Journal but is a must read if you are interested in the strong philosophical opinions held by democrats and republicans over the future of entitlement programs in America.

OpinionJournal: "President Bush is now endeavoring to redress the looming embarrassment of Social Security's obligation to pay more than it will take in. The semantic argument about whether this shortfall constitutes a crisis, a problem, or a banana daiquiri is pointless. The gap must be closed, either by reducing the program's obligations or increasing its revenues. The president's approach calls for restraining the growth of Social Security benefits, while compensating for that reduction by letting younger workers divert a portion of their taxes to build up their retirement savings. The logic is that while blackening the skies with criss-crossing dollars is a zero-sum game, participating in capital formation through investments is not. Wealth can be multiplied, not just divided.

Few Democrats or leftists of any stripe have come forward to applaud Bush's pragmatic, experimental social policy. Yet, they can't confess that their "principle," that government must always grow and never shrink, is something they pulled out of the air. Nor can they draw on the credibility they built up the last time a welfare state program was scaled back. In the Clinton-era debate over welfare reform, we were told (in The Nation) that Aid to Families with Dependent Children was crucial to "the fragile state of grace that suggests we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. That is what community is fundamentally about." And we were warned that ending AFDC "will destroy that state of grace. In its place will come massive and deadly poverty, sickness, and all manner of violence. People will die, businesses will close, infant mortality will soar, everyone who can will move. Working- and middle-class communities all over America will become scary, violent wastelands."

Show us, please, all those hellish wastelands that have sprung up in the last nine years--and then tell us why we must not make any changes to Social Security."
I try to rarely say must read but this is a must read. Excellent writing, clear, truthful, not zing nor zen but insightful.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Developing Democracies Need Strong Judiciary and Media to Balance New Elected Governments

The Democracy Trap: "Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, two economists at Oxford University...[contend]... that the tendency to focus on elections is correct in most societies but misguided in oil states. In a country such as Iraq, the United States and its allies should care at least as much about the quality of Iraq's judiciary and media as about the quality of its voting...

This conclusion needs to register with the Bush administration. It's natural to defer to Iraqi leaders as they write their constitution this year; after all, it's their country. But the political class in any nation has few incentives to create checks on its own freedom to govern, and elections, which take place only occasionally and attract lots of healthy international attention, are easier to get right than the boring details of competitive tendering. Left to its own devices, Iraq is likely to fall into the trap that Collier and Hoeffler describe -- a constitution that focuses adequately on how power is achieved but too little on how it is exercised."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Today's Snow In Bakersville, NC

Across the Bridge-042405 Posted by Hello

Dad Clearing Snow-042405 Posted by Hello

The Field with Snow-042405 Posted by Hello

House in Snow-042405 Posted by Hello

Brooks On Body Weight and Lifestyle

Living Longer Is the Best Revenge: "The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization...

The chief moral lesson I take away from this report is that Mother Nature is happy to tolerate marginally irresponsible misbehavior. She doesn't want you to go completely to seed. If you're truly obese and arouse hippos when you visit the zoo, you could still punch your ticket at any moment.

But she does want you to eat the occasional Cinnabon, so long as it isn't bigger than Delaware. She wants you to have that fourth glass of wine, and lecture the dinner table on the future of the papacy based on your extensive reading of "The Da Vinci Code." She wants a little socially productive mediocrity.

Darwin was wrong when he talked about the survival of the fittest: it's really the survival of the healthy enough to get by. As it says in the Good Book, the last shall sometimes be first, the meek shall inherit the earth, and the chubby will get extra biscuits at the breakfast buffet. "
I hate to skeptical but I take all scientific reports especially anything medical or any sponsored by the government with a grain of salt. (Bad pun...)

UPDATE: I got a kick out of the anonymous comment on this post I received - click on it and read it too. -WAA, 4:15pm, 042405.

The Economist: "Is America Turning Protectionist?"

As you recall The Economist is a well-respected and widely read UK business publication, in China-bashing and trade: "America's Congress is taking a harsher line on trade, particularly with China. The Bush administration is also getting into the act, with the treasury secretary and even the newly nominated trade representative talking tough. Is America turning protectionist?...

These are not happy times for the dwindling band of free-traders in Washington, DC. Trade skeptics are on the move on two fronts: raising the barricades against the Chinese and refusing to lower them for the Central Americans...

The betting is that, with enough presidential involvement and vote-buying, Mr Bush may get CAFTA through in the next couple of months. Until he does, there will be little appetite in the White House to give the China-bashing in Congress the cold shoulder that it deserves."
As you know from prior posts, I am an un-abashed free-trader. The textile industry is turning on its opinion of CAFTA to "in favor" and as the article points out the Big Sugar lobby wants trade barriers to keep prices high at the detriment of US jobs and US consumers. Dealing with China through trade and economics is better than ineffectual diplomats and military threats. (Do a search within my blog for more articles on CAFTA, Big Sugar, and free trade.) I sincerely hope that America does not turn protectionist which will cost us jobs and higher taxes in the guise of high priced goods.

Broder Proposes a Filibuster Compromise

The Washington Post's David Broder suggests A Judicious Compromise: "The Democratic Senate leadership should agree voluntarily to set aside the continued threat of filibustering the seven Bush appointees to the federal appeals courts who were blocked in the last Congress and whose names have been resubmitted. In return, they should get a renewed promise from the president that he will not bypass the Senate by offering any more recess appointments to the bench and a pledge from Republican Senate leaders to consider each such nominee individually, carefully and with a guarantee of extensive debate in coming months. "

George Will on Media

Unread and Unsubscribing : "Consumers of news now understand that... 'news is a thing made, a product, and that media with certain beliefs and values once made the news and then presented it in authoritative terms, as though beyond criticism. Thus did Walter Cronkite famously end his newscasts, 'And that's the way it is.' That way, period.'
When, after the misreported Tet offensive of 1968 (a U.S. military victory described as a crushing defeat), Cronkite declared Vietnam a "stalemate," he spoke, as Mindich says, to "a captive audience." Nearly 80 percent of television sets in use at the dinner hour were tuned to one of the three network newscasts, and Cronkite had the largest share.

If that had been the broadcast marketplace in 2004, John Kerry would be president...

The future of the big media that the young have abandoned is not certain. But do you remember when an automobile manufacturer, desperately seeking young customers, plaintively promised that its cars were "not your father's Oldsmobile"? Do you remember Oldsmobiles? "

Sunday's Online WSJ: Social Security is about Liberty and Ownership

OpinionJournal: "You want to get people excited about personal accounts? Tell them about the 1960 Supreme Court case Flemming v. Nestor, which explicitly says Americans have no ownership rights to the money they pay into Social Security. It is, the court ruled, a social program of Congress with absolutely no contractual obligations. What you get back at retirement is entirely up to the 535 members of Congress. Where's the dignity in that?... Seriously, this should be an emotional issue about liberty and opportunity, not solvency dates...

Personal accounts are the right thing to do whether Social Security is solvent or not. Solvency discussions are boring, not to say uninspiring. Ownership and inheritability are inspiring. The fact that personal accounts help traditional Democratic constituents even more than Republicans should be another opportunity to turn debate around. Sending people out with charts and figures will achieve little. Returning to the first principles of liberty and opportunity--the true reasons to support personal accounts--will work."

Eagleburger on Bolton

Lawrence Eagleburger who was Secretary of State in 1992-1993 and spent twenty-seven years in the foreign service speaking up for John Bolton in today's Washington Post: "The real reasons Bolton's opponents want to derail his nomination are his oft-repeated criticism of the United Nations and other international organizations, his rejection of the arguments of those who ignore or excuse the inexcusable (i.e., the election of Sudan to the U.N. Human Rights Commission) and his willingness to express himself with the bark off...
Given what we all know about the current state of the United Nations, it's time we were represented by someone with the guts to demand reform and to see that whatever changes result are more than window dressing.

It is clear that the future of the United Nations and the U.S. role within that organization are uncertain. Who better to demonstrate to the member states that the United States is serious about reform? Who better to speak for all Americans who are dedicated to a healthy United Nations that will fulfill the dreams of its founders? "

Tomorrow in Investor's Business Daily - Demographics

IBD Editorial : "new data from the Census Bureau underline a harsh reality, especially for Social Security: America's getting older, fast... By 2030, according to the latest Census report, 87 million Americans will be over 64 years of age. Today, there are just 35 million.
Ten states by that date will have more elderly people than kids, the report adds. Today, no state — not even retirement haven Florida — has reached that status. And in 26 states, the retirement age population will double, putting massive strains on everything from pension plans to hospitals.

This, of course, has major implications for Social Security — not just for the number of retirees who must be cared for, but also for the health of the economy that must support the system... That's where personal accounts come in. As now structured, Social Security is a massive disincentive for Americans to save. It's one of the reasons the U.S. personal savings rate has been hovering around a measly 1% the past couple of years...

We now pay about $700 billion a year to support Social Security. Much of that simply goes to the government, which borrows it, spends it and replaces it with an IOU. Imagine the broad economic benefits if a third to a half of that amount were going into the economy...those participating in Social Security will see average returns of just 1.8% or so. If you got a return that low on your portfolio in the private sector, you'd fire your broker, no questions asked. After all, the stock market's average annual return over the last century has been 7%. As Bush pointed out, the difference between the two rates of return isn't trivial. At 1.8%, you double your money in 40 years; at 7%, you double it in 10. Pretty easy choice, it seems to us.

The real power from personal accounts will come down the road — not just for individuals, but also for the overall economy. All that new saving channeled into productive investment means a bigger economy — one better able to keep its promises to our senior citizens without bankrupting our youth."