Monday, February 28, 2005

MORE fake news!

There's so goddamn much of it maybe we should start posting when we find real news. Salon ran this piece, following up an LA Times article about the Govenernator releasing Bush-esque "press releases" that really are video tapes - made to look like real news reports - arguing in favor of one government policy, this one being a "proposal that would benefit political boosters in the business community by ending mandatory lunch breaks for many hourly workers". Apparently this little news bit shows very happy workers eating when they want to, not when the evil, evil government tells them. I'm sure this is watching out for the little guy, despite being backed by big business. Man, Schwarzenegger promised he wasn't going to be beholden to anyone, I thought he was trustworthy... The Governor maintains its like any other press release, only it's a video. Does this man know how to use the media or what?!
To learn how the government can be good, not just evil and regulating, make sure to come to our National Promise Speakers series this Thursday at 7:30 bldg 200 rm 203. Featuring local reps Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, and State Senator Joe Simitian. I'm not sure how many kind words they will have for Mr. Lunch-break Terminator.

I'll be back

Sunday, February 27, 2005

If you do one thing this week, read this...

At Kevin's suggestion you should take a look at these articles by LA Times writer Peter G. Gosselin on the precariousness of being middle class.

Hm...where have I heard this before?

One of the biggest distortions in the Social Security debate is the President's dual claim that the Social Security system is in imminent danger and that private accounts are the way to fix it. First, it's true that on its current path the Social Security system will soon begin paying out more than it's taking in, but that doesn't mean it will "go bust" the day after tomorrow, as Bush would have us believe. In fact, it will be able to pay full benefits until 2042, and a large percentage of benefits until 2075. Secondly, as the White House has now grudgingly admitted, private accounts do nothing to improve the solvency of Social Security unless they are accompanied by benefit cuts.

However, this is all old news.

What I found more interesting was a Bush quote in an article in today's New York Times:

"Social Security 'will be bust in 10 years unless there are some changes,' Bush said, according to an account published the next day in The Midland Reporter-Telegram."

Sound familiar? Well this quote isn't from today, yesterday, the 2004 campaign or anytime in the recent past. It's from 1978! Bush said this when he was running (and losing) for Congress almost thirty years ago. And as anyone who was around in 1988 will tell you, the Social Security system was nowhere near "bust."

This from the guy who, in the 2000 campaign, laughed at those "people in Washington" who "think Social Security is some kind of federal program."


Ramblings: Faux News and Charles Krauthammer

As I was having my morning coffee and reading that Shakespeare biography I've put off, my roommate had Fox News on in the background. It only took a couple minutes for them to be biased. But that's another topic. What really irked me was Charles Krauthammer. I'm sure at some point in his career he had well reasoned (and factual) arguments, but that was not on display this morning. I'll let you read his articles and decide for yourself.

On another note, Sen. Joe Biden thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton is the person to beat for the 2008 Democratic nomination. I like Hillary, but will have to do some serious pondering to decide if I'd really choose her over Wes Clark and Bill Richardson. I do think it's a bit early to start thinking about an '08 contender though. (Read the last paragraph about Nader. Doesn't surprise me.)

If you get a chance, you should read Kevin Drum's post on the South. And make sure to follow the link for the interview with Mudcat.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Distort D'Newsa (aka Dinesh D'Souza)

How many read the Stanford Daily article about Roosevelt? In it, a Hoover fellow's knee-jerk reaction to Roosevelt was to state that the RI will be effective if they produce research “as good or better than those produced by Ph.D.s in professional think tanks”. Well, Hoover's website doesn't cite any PhD for Mr. D'Newsa. Nor does one find that credential on this other site. Good research is good research and so are good arguments. I'd never bring it up if Mr. Evers hadn't.

Speaking of good research and good arguments, how's this one from our very own Hoover fellow, Mr. D'Newsa: “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.” (from D’Souza’s book, The End of Racism)? PhD quality research I'm sure. If you like that, you should take a look at the Campus Progress write-up on Distort D'Newsa...I mean Dinesh D'Souza. It's part of their "Know Your Right-Wing Speakers" series. While you're at it, take a look at their write-up on Ann Coulter.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

TNR on danges of SS privatization for GOP

Noam Schieber at TNR has one of the best lines I've heard in the S.S. debate: "Proposing to give voters a nest egg without mentioning the attendant benefit cuts is a bit like promising voters an endless supply of beer without mentioning the attendant love handles."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Think like an elephant

I have to admit that I'm a little tired of hearing all this talk about "framing" and how Lakoff is our way to win. Ken Bear at Washington Monthly has a review of Lakoff's book that seems to counter just about everything I hear coming from progressives these days. Namely, all we have to do is "frame" the debate:

I am not a cognitive linguist (the limits of my expertise in the field begin and end with the Wittgenstein quote above), and I cannot critique Lakoff's linguistic analysis. But I can say confidently that his political analysis is severely lacking. Don't Think of an Elephant is a small volume big on assumptions and short on the historical and political context that would shed light on why Americans respond to certain language in the ways that they do. In some places, Lakoff offers superb advice to candidates, but after reading this book—which, as a collection of many previously released articles, is disjointed and repetitive—it seems that Lakoff is primarily concerned with using linguistics to make the case for his liberal-left politics. That may bring comfort to his neighbors in Berkeley, but there's little evidence that it will win elections.


By reducing American politics to language, Lakoff ignores the context that gives meaning to those words. Language only motivates people if the ideas and policies it's connected to resonate with a majority of Americans. It has to be consistent with the realities of American history and the American national character. Throughout his book, Lakoff ignores this context, using his theories to push for an agenda that resonates with him (and possibly his friends at the fringes of left-wing politics), but reflects neither what most Democrats—nor most Americans—believe.

I'm not a Democrat solely because of language or "framing", I'm a Democrat because I believe in what they are fighting for and what they have consistently fought for. It's a matter of historical facts.

Michael Tomasky brings up another interesting point:

I’ve long had the sense, and it’s only grown since I’ve moved to Washington, that conservatives talk more about philosophy, while liberals talk more about strategy; also, that liberals generally, and young liberals in particular, are somewhat less conversant in their creed’s history and urtexts than their conservative counterparts are.


I have another idea about what Democrats need to do, which I’ll get to next week or the following. But they should begin by realizing that talking about “positioning” isn’t enough. It’s a second-step question, and it skips the first-step question, which is, what do we believe? Then, once they have a handle on what they believe, they can talk about positioning.

I'd have to say that I agree with the first Tomasky paragraph above. Last year the Stanford Dems called for submissions about why we are Democrats and only a couple people responded. The conservatives are all over that. Just listen to them some time.

While I'm bashing liberal tendencies, I have to say that I feel the conservative (or Republican?) tent is much more ideologically inclusive than the liberal tent. Hell, half the progressive students on campus probably refer to me as conservative and/or GOP-lite because I am in favor of free trade and have deep moral qualms about abortion (though I strongly support "choice"). But by not allowing decension, we push aside some of the discussion on why we are truly Democrats. How many people bother to ask me why I'm for free trade or why I have trouble with abortion by still support choice before condemning me as GOP-lite?

I'm not an old school Democrat. I'm a Democrat out of conviction and personal agreement with what they have fought for over the last 75 years.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Partisan Hackery in Washington State

OK, so we all know (or should know) that Michael Barone is a partisan hack, but his article in the National Ledger on the WA state governor's race is pure hackery:

We know now that, thanks to the news media consortium that recounted ballots in every Florida county, recounting under any method and any criterion they tested would not have overturned Bush's exceedingly thin plurality.

But the Gore campaign, Terry McAuliffe during his four years as Democratic National Chairman and John Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign encouraged rank-and-file Democrats to believe that the election was stolen. They decided to delegitimize an American election for partisan gain. And in the process, they did much damage to George W. Bush and the Republicans, to the reputation of the American political process and, inadvertently but to a far greater extent, to their own Democratic Party.

Actually, that's not quite the way it turned out. In fact, the Dems are often criticized for not doing what Barone claims they did.

Barone claims that Rossi had a 3,000+ vote on election day and that "A selective recount, of the sort Gore sought in Florida, has made Gregoire governor, at least temporarily." However, an automatic recount was initiated because the margin was only about 250 votes. The recount did yield a 42 vote differential--perhaps the only thing Barone gets right. Contrary to Barone's claim a statewide recount took place each time, not a selective.

I call for his resignation for misrepresenting the facts or not adequately checking his sources.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Americans want an OPPOSITION PARTY

It seems that there's polling data that supports what I said about Senator Boxer:

"Americans want Democrats to stand up to Bush," the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports. "Fully 60%, including one-fourth of Republicans, say Democrats in Congress should make sure Bush and his party 'don't go too far.' Just 34% want Democrats to 'work in a bipartisan way' to help pass the president's priorities."

We all know that the Republicans have spent may years damning our party for being weak, traitorous and cowardly. This seems like a very good opportunity to begin to turn that around. People want the Democrats to obstruct the excesses of the GOP --- even a quarter of the GOP itself.

Perhaps the best way to put this is simply to say it exactly as the question is worded. "We are keeping the Republicans from going too far." There's a certain common sense ring to that that I think a lot of people understand instinctively. This may be the key to why the public hasn't rallied around the social security privatization phase out plan. They can feel that the Republicans are just going too far.

Update: Let me clarify that I am not advocating this as a campaign slogan or a Democratic rallying cry. I'm talking about a public legislative strategy, which is what I think was being addressed in this poll. We are in the minority and the American people have assigned us a role to play. We should play it, take the credit and position outselves as the voices of sanity against a radical right wing bunch of nuts --- which happens to be true. One of the ways that we convey this is by standing together, not cutting deals and consistently portraying the other side as out of control --- which also happens to be true.

This isn't a capitulation. It's framing us as the regular people and them as the crazies for a change --- something that 60% of the American people seem to agree is at least a possibility. This is a good things folks. We can work with it.
The American people are waiting for us to step up. I hope our party heeds their call.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

NEWS FLASH: Fox News Lies!

We all know that Fox News is a right-wing outlet that serves as an echo-chamber for Republicans' message, but for some reason it's always just a little surprising when you discover one of their outright lies.

Fox News anchor Brit Hume recently claimed on a newscast that FDR, the father of Social Security, once proposed privatizing the system in the same way that Bush has recently proposed. On Fox News Sunday, Hume read a statement by Roosevelt that he claimed showed FDR's support for replacing the system as we know it (and as FDR created it) with private accounts --

HUME: In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, quote, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Sounds bad at first glance, right? Don't worry, as any knowledgeable observer would suspect, Hume is completely manipulating FDR's words. As the Media matters blog points out, FDR originally proposed three parts to the Social Security system. 1) "non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance"; 2) "compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations"; and 3) "voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age."

The first part was essentially a welfare type program for those who were already too old at the time of Social Security's establishment to be able to pay enough in taxes to support their future retirement. In other words, they got a free pass. It was THIS part of the program that FDR thought should be "ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans," NOT the standard guaranteed benefits. In fact, one of FDR's aides testified before congress that "The voluntary system of old-age annuities we suggest as a supplement to the compulsory plan." Need it be any clearer than that?

I guess we should come to expect this from Fox, but for some reason it's still disheartening.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Democrats should follow Sen. Boxer's example

This is an op-ed that I submitted to the Daily last month, but it was not published. I thought I should share it with the rest of you here.

The scene on the floor of the House earlier this month was eerily similar to the prior presidential election year of 2000. Then, as now, representatives from a contested state stood to object to the certification of their state’s electoral votes. Once again, they begged members of the United States Senate to join in their objection.

Unlike 2000, a senator stepped forward to answer their call. Out of one hundred senators, Barbara Boxer of California signed the objection, forcing Congress to debate voting irregularities in Ohio.

A few days later, Senator Boxer stepped into the breech once again. This time, it was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she was unrelenting in her criticism of Condoleezza Rice, the president’s nominee for Secretary of State. When the committee voted on Rice’s nomination, Boxer stood with former presidential candidate John Kerry in opposition.

Senator Boxer is quickly becoming the Senate’s lioness of the left, a leading voice in her party advocating vehement opposition to President Bush’s second-term agenda. The Democratic Party, both in Congress and around the country, can and should learn two things from her example.

The first is to be bold. Senator Boxer’s willingness to put her reputation on the line and object to Ohio’s electoral votes was certainly audacious. This sort of daring has been rare in the modern Democratic Party—its leaders seem cautious and calculating, unwilling to take any substantial risks for fear of losing influence or power.

What Democrats lack in this regard is what Republicans possess. Whether you agree or disagree with the wisdom of his positions, President Bush’s agenda is undoubtedly bold. Reform Social Security, the crowning achievement of the New Deal, the so-called “third rail” of American politics? Attempt to install democracy in a nation on the other side of the world? The American voter may not completely support these policies, but they respect the courage it took to initiate them.

This leads into the second lesson, which is to possess conviction. The public possesses a prevailing image of Democrats as flip-floppers, a collection of focus group-obsessed opportunists who will say whatever the public wants in order to get elected.

Once again, the Democratic defect is the Republican advantage. For example, polling has shown that most Americans believe that abortion should remain legal in some form, and yet the party that advocates its abolition remains in control of the Congress and the White House. Voters seem to admire the Republicans for fighting for what they believe is right rather than what they feel is popular. Repeatedly during this past political season, voters said that while they may not have agreed with all of President Bush’s beliefs, at least they knew what those beliefs were. John Kerry, on the other hand, seemed to be the embodiment of the wishy-washiness that plagues the Democratic Party. While they may have agreed with his stance on a variety of issues, including abortion, voters didn’t feel comfortable with his personality because it seemed like he didn’t stand for anything besides wanting to be elected.

It seems that Senator Boxer has learned both of these lessons and is applying them in the Senate. The Democratic Party needs to follow her lead and reform—its members need to be both bold and passionate in their actions. The party needs to find candidates who are “true believers,” willing to fight for their convictions. The last thing Democrats need is more of the same, candidates and consultants who don’t seem to possess any principles beyond the desire to win elections. The Republicans make good use of this notion, recruiting candidates who are faithful disciples to the conservative cause. Their control of the Congress and Oval Office speaks for the potential effectiveness of this strategy.

What the Democrats really need are more liberal lions like Boxer, who will remain true to their principles and audaciously defend them. Perhaps this is naiveté, but it seems that this idealism may actually make for good politics.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Insuring America (by TNR editors)

Unlike the Economist's call for privatization (see also the post in the Washington Monthly), The New Republic has a great endorsement of the liberalism of the Social Security:

With the possible exception of the military, Social Security is the government enterprise most responsible for ensuring that the United States remains a liberal, democratic, and capitalist country. Abandon the program's core social insurance function, which is the practical goal of privatization, and you would have a society that neither Democrats nor Republicans would much want to live in.


Last week, The Washington Post released a poll suggesting that the vast majority of people 55 and older not only oppose Bush's privatization plan, they do so knowing full well it wouldn't affect them one way or the other ... As people get older, the nightmare of having to live out their retirement in poverty becomes vivid, and they become more sympathetic to those who might suffer this fate even if it isn't likely to happen to them. If there's a better illustration of what makes a liberal society function, we are not aware of it.

I think people have been ignoring the fact the Social Security is an insurance program--my two year old niece has gotten SS payments since my brother-in-law past away. What is the "ownership society" answer to situations like that and the 15% of SS payments going out to those who cannot work due to disability? Don't we want a compassionate society?

The criticisms of Bush's SS privatization are well known. If the right wants to use values, let them. We have the moral high ground on this one. And there's no need to be shy about it.


Funny NYT op-ed

"Bush's Barberini Faun" was in the Times this morning, Dowd is amusing as usual. You may need a password to read it, but who am I kidding? Of course you all of passwords at, right?


FCC fines increase - Affects more than just Janet

One nipple could now cost a cool half a million for a network - as broad support in Congress is pushing towards increasing the maximum fine for "indecent" broadcasting.
"Under a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the FCC could fine broadcasters up to $500,000 per violation. The bill includes a provision that, after three violations, a broadcaster must have a license revocation hearing."
And honestly, the networks can probably afford it. However that's not really the issue. What's more central here is the definition of what we now considered "indecent" in our country (i.e. not airing "Saving Private Ryan" because of violence). Increasingly, Christian Right "Pro-Family" organizations have taken up campaigns of mass mailing complaints (from hundreds to millions in the four years of Bush's term) which have swayed the way the FCC chooses to approach its penalties. What we could be in store for now is a period of self-censorship by broadcasters (honestly I won't miss shows like Temtation Island, but it's the principal of the thing!) Lesbian cartoon bunnies can lead to a call for the resignation of the PBS president, there seems to be a blurry line defining indecent versus diverse. Will some good old fashion girl on girl lip-action on Elimidate now cost them big? We may be regressing to a period of hetero-norms and puritanical goodness. I'm not saying I want to see more sex on tv, but who's to tell me I can't have it?
Let's start a mass mailing campaign directed at the FCC demanding to see Janet's other boob. Or wait, is it just the nipple?
So sex sells - but now it may cost them too.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Democratic Platform in 6 Words or Less

The Labour Party in the good ol' UK has come up with a wonderful idea to help present their platform -- put it on something the size of a business card.

It's time for the Stanford Dems to let everyone else know what we stand for. Please take a minute to list an issue (or several) in a few words and follow that with a little more detail (in 25 words or less). We will compile a list with the best submissions and put it on a business card to hand out.

I'll start with a couple ideas:

Leave No Child Behind
Ensure every child has access to quality health care, a quality education and never goes to bed hungry

Protect America
Secure America's future with a smart and strong foreign policy, investing in the best intellignece, and properly equipping and training our soldiers.

OK, now it's your turn!


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Imposing democracy?

From Galen

Rice, in her visit to Paris today, said:
"'Freedom by its very nature must be homegrown. It must be chosen. It cannot be given, and it certainly cannot be imposed."'

Hmm... It can't be imposed, eh? Hmm....

"The people of Iraq chose freedom when they voted despite the terrorists' threats of suicide bombings, Rice said."

Those who voted certainly did choose freedom and democracy. But we definitely imposed it on them.

In other news, Americans say that Social Security is in crisis, but favor having the wealthy pay for the gaps in Social Security over private accounts. Now wouldn't that be the conservatives' worst nightmare.

Check it out...

From Marie

this is an article from American Conservative. It talks about fascism, an interesting word that gets tossed around a lot. You should check this piece out. Don't worry, reading this article doesn't make you a Republican, promise.

Exit polls just got it wrong...

From Gilbert

I know there are still a handful of conspiracy theorists left out there who probably won't agree with the Washington Post article describing the faulty 2004 exit polls, but it's worth taking a look at it. Despite knocking on several hundred doors that day, I was well aware of the early exit polls. The excitement motivated me even more. Hearing "inside information" about Kerry's lead gaining throughout the day only helped to fortify my false confidence.

What basically seems to have been the problem was the oversampling of Kerry supporters and undersampling of Bush supporters. That is, Kerry supporters were often more likely to respond to the pollers while Bush supporters were less likely. Makes sense from my experience--conservative voters I talked to were much less comfortable talking about whom they were supporting. (Yes, I do think Bush won the popular vote legitimately. Most pre-election polls had Bush ahead and had Kerry stalling on Monday. Yes, I think the voting process was thoroughly screwed up this time and I'm getting sick of the GOP hacks (Sec. of States) deliberately disenfranchising so many voters.)

I wanted to bring this up in regards to the race for DNC chair. I've seen a couple places where supporters of a certain candidate have been more likely to respond to calls for feedback on who "the people" support. While I think people who are willing to take the time to make the calls and write the letters to DNC members should be recognized, it is dangerous to consider their potential victory as any sort of "mandate" on the direction of the party.

I for one believe that a majority of Americans are Democrats. But we should be careful not to push people out of the party. We cannot push out the Roemers or the Frosts of the party. Democrats don't have to agree on every issue to be Democrats. The GOP accepts the Arnolds and Rudys, the Specters and the Chafees. The DNC chair is going to have to ask himself if he is going to fully support a conservative Democrat from Nebraska or Kansas if it means winning back the Senate. If not, the Democratic Party is in a lot of trouble. I believe all the candidates will. Will the new party activists?