February 2005
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Posted February 28, 2005
Gates Gets the Wal-Mart Price

Just because William H. Gates III is a multibejeezillionaire doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate a good buy. If he didn't know the value of a dollar he wouldn'thave a multibejeezillion of them, no?

Every transaction needs a seller, and today's are the citizens of Seattle. We're close to selling Gates land next to the Space Needle to headquarter his charitable foundation, for $22 million below market value—a 31% savings.

It's not clear which arm of the city government has negotiated the deal, but Seattle Center director Virginia Anderson is taking credit for initiating talks. The Reason Foundation thinks the markdown is acceptable, since securing a long term resident compatible with the Center is as equally (or even more) important as money. And the city needs some quick cash to make up some of the current budget shortfall.

Yes, I can buy all these reasons. But I would be more openminded about it if the buyer weren't one of the richest people on the planet—not to mention Blue Puget Sound's richest Republican contributor. I just keep thinking that Mr. Bill gave money to Dubya's reelection, and 43 is making the cuts to state and local support that are contributing to Seattle's budget woes. So really Dubya is the one who created the urgent need to sell, making Seattle willing to give Mr. Bill the Wal-Mart price (or Costco, if you want to get locally correct about it).

All I can say is, while I concede the new Gates Foundation HQ will have to be something more than a tin shack, that $22 million the city could have gotten better show up in the Foundation's hometown grantmaking.

Article: Seattle Center land deal sweet enough for city?

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Posted February 24, 2005
Not that there's anything wrong with that

So Ann Coulter thinks that Guckertgate is just about the gay thing:

Now the media is hot on the trail of a gay escort service that Gannon may have run some years ago. Are we supposed to like gay people now, or hate them? Is there a Web site where I can go to and find out how the Democrats want me to feel about gay people on a moment-to-moment basis?
Gannon didn't write about gays. No "hypocrisy" is being exposed. Liberals' hateful, frothing-at-the-mouth campaign against Gannon consists solely of their claim that he is gay. Source:, 2/23/2005

Annie, Annie, Annie. Ann. A. Did you just get back from a mental vacation? JD/Jeff was involved in a criminal enterprise! Prostitution! That he was a gay/bi pretend reporter with unvetted White House access, asking biased questions for a pretend news service that is a tool of the fundamentalist "family values" party is just icing on the cake.

And it goes further, to one of the foundations of our democracy. In the same way that the economy runs on the free flow of accurate information that enables consumers to make informed decisions, in our political system citizens need accurate news in order to exercise civic responsibilities like voting.

This system is being subverted by Dubya's Misadministration—by his whole party really. Here's two proofs of intent:

Karl Rove: 'the job of journalists is "not necessarily to report the news. It's to get a headline or get a story that will make people pay attention to their magazine, newspaper or television more." '

Andrew Card: "[The media] don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election." Source

Translation: the White House not only doesn't recognize the Press's Constitutionally-enshrined role, it spits on it.

The entire fake news pattern—"Jeff Gannon", Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus too—is analogous to false advertising. When that happens in the private sector, consumer fraud investigations often result. Political fraud, however, is tolerated. But I guess we're working on that.

Blarchive: Home of the Whopper (1/13/2004)
Article: The Warnings of History

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Posted February 23, 2005
Ode to 871NYH

You don't have to rush to the red light.
Legally you can't pass a bike
In the same lane
But you decided "Oh why not"
And did it anyway, you creep
In your white Jeep.
Hurry up and wait,
Hope you used the three extra seconds
Sitting at the light productively.

Parents turning into the parking lot of St. Joseph's School: God will get you for your moving violations, you think He doesn't see them? Say three Hail Dashboard Marys and seven Our Land Rovers.

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Posted February 22, 2005
Oh the metaphors

It turns out that having a one-track mind is a license to trod over one family's dreams in the pursuit of your objectives.

In what can only be seen as unfortunate symbolism, the Seattle Monorail Obsession—oops, Project—has run afoul of a sinking ship. The "sinking ship" parking garage, that is.

One of the ugliest landmarks ever to mar an historic district, the angular concrete cheesewedge in Pioneer Square has been offending our aesthetic sensibilities since the Sixties. Enter the monorail hobbyists—make that agency—which appears to have no qualms about exploiting its power of manifest destiny—sorry, eminent domain—to turn an easy buck.

The SMP wants to replace the eyesore with a station. Great! The site's owners, the Kubota family, are all for it. They want to get out of the parking garage lease by having SMP use its condemnation power. Under the family's proposal, SMP would buy the half of the property the station will occupy, and lease the other half as a temporary construction staging area. When the project is done, the Kubotas would redevelop their remaining half.

But the SMP wants to take possession of the entire property. The Kubotas allege that SMP wants the other half to sell it at a profit; SMP responds that it is merely that a lease is too expensive for the agency.

"It could be a public park. It could be affordable housing," said Joel Horn [of the] Seattle Monorail Project.
     The Monorail's executive director says there is no long-range plan for the rest of the property, but the Monorail needs it.
     "The remainder of that property is a great location for construction staging," said Horn.
     It's a similar story in Ballard where the Monorail wants to condemn the Denny's restaurant. Again, the family says no problem, but the Monorail wants more than the room for a station.
     So, two families are claiming the Monorail is taking more land than it needs.
     ...the Monorail Project firmly denies that saying that it needs the properties for staging and to make sure construction goes smoothly and disrupts traffic as little as possible. Source (2/21/05)

But in an article from last year, the Times' Mike Lindblom came out of interviews with SMP with the clear impression that land speculation was precisely what was being planned:

The station can fit on less than half the triangle. Monorail officials are trying to condemn the whole site and use the leftover land as a storage yard for construction materials, then resell it after the line opens five years from now.
     Last year, SMP published a report predicting the stations would boost land values as happened near commuter stations in Portland, San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. Monorail officials point out that their current budget projections do not depend on money from land deals. However, the agency has paid for feasibility studies of development around stations. SMP will not release its study for the Sinking Ship site.
     "We, as a public agency, are required to look at all of our assets and get the best return we can, for the taxpayers," [SMP right-of-way manager Joe] McWilliams said. Source (12/02/04)

Add to this last week's disclosure of the project's $200 million budget gap, and the land speculation claim takes on legs.

And if we want a public park and affordable housing, build it. The answer to everything shouldn't have to be an overpriced monorail (or light rail either).

Article: SMP sues to condemn 86-year-old boatyard
Article: Location, location, location

Manglish. We can chuckle over North Korea's choice of words in demanding that the U.S. show "sincerity" with regard to participating in multilateral nuclear talks. It brings to mind USS Pueblo crew accounts of interrogations when they were, uh, "guests" of the North. But as awkward diplomatic language goes, is it any more odd than Dubya meeting Vladimir Putin, and commenting "I looked into his heart. He is a good man."?

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Posted February 18, 2005
The Google Index

Search terms#Hits
bush (SafeSearch Off) 85,700,000
bush (SafeSearch On, Strict) 25,600,000
bush integrity 2,000,000
"bush integrity" 1,960
"george w bush's integrity" 15
rumsfeld "sense of humor" 32,100
"(richard|dick) cheney" "sense of humor" 21,200
"richard perle" "sense of humor" 760
"paul wolfowitz" "sense of humor" 4,170
wolfowitz (lick|licking|licks) comb 802
"i hate neocons" 46
"i hate ann coulter" 1,300
"i like ann coulter" 344
"i dated ann coulter"0*
* but not after Google re-spiders this page.

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Posted February 14, 2005
I Heart Montlake

I do. Really. I wish I could afford to live there.

It's not that the Montlake community shouldn't have a new, iconic suspension bridge, which would save the unique character of the neighborhood from scarring at the hands of dig-happy highway contractors and transportation bureaucrats. It's that theyíre probably going to get what they want, it's that the Powers That Be are going to bend over backward to make Montlake happy—where in the recent past, communities that dared object to the bootprint of our edifice complex (such as the light-rail and monorail obsessions) have been run over, roughshod.

Good for Montlake; but what does it have that the others didn't? If it takes a village, who are Montlake's villagers?—

Montlake Community Club:
President: Ken Schubert III- Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm with offices in Seattle, Portland, New York and Washington, DC, "offers a sophisticated, full service business practice complemented by a zealous team of litigators" (Findlaw).
Vice President: Jonathan Dubman- Software engineer. Community and traffic activist. World traveler.
Secretary: Rob Wilkinson- Photographer of contemporary architecture, art and urban design worldwide.
Treasurer: Neil Wechsler- Owner, Montlake Bicycle Shops.
    •Robert Rosencrantz- apartment building owner, 2003 City Council candidate, county Housing Authority manager.
    •Bob Mahon- Perkins Coie law firm, adjunct professor at the University of Washington School of Law.
Land Use Committee: Don Argus- architect.
Arboretum Committee: Joe Marshall- Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition.

What's the lesson here? Montlake doesn't need gentrification: Montlake IS the gentry. Montlake has clout; Rainier Valley (light rail corridor) and 15th Ave NW (Monorail corridor) don't— therefore they "need" massive public works projects that "improve" neighborhoods by replacing them with something else. And they lack the political capital to avoid them.

Also today: "Screw you, Blue states"

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Posted February 11, 2005
Why don't you go with that, Mr. Carlin?

Like everybody else, for the last few days I've been following links to Talon, News Max and other right-wing unnews sites on the Internet. The fake news makes for a good laugh, but I was struck by the similarities of their advertisers:windows into the mentality (and insecurities) of their primary audience?

News Max

Do You Hate Rejection By Women?
The Ultimate Fitness Program
(animated GIF of musclebound guy who looks amazingly like "Jeff Gannon")
Win Any Fight
(GIF of Mr Muscle again)
Instant Knockout Moves, Military Fight Secrets, Learn It All Quickly
5 Second Abs
He's Rich & you should be too!
(photo of Ah-nold)

List Your Site Here:
Stop Hair Loss!
Man ---- OH----- Man More Power in Bed With this powerful formula
(and because it was all about greed) It's a good time to bank on Iraq's currency; now only fractions of a cent


Big link: Revolutionary video Bible 'brings Scriptures alive'
Get the UN out of the US
(again with the greed) Gold Headed For Record Highs
Christian Persecution, Learn the Truth! Voice of the Martyrs monthly newsletter
Compassion - Sponsor a child in Jesus's name
(because only Christians have compassion?)
(just plain odd) Over 2,000 Poly Bag Sizes
Industrial Poly Bag Store
Fetpack Inc Poly Bag Distributors
(what are the Wingnuts doing with all the baggies?)

Banner: (for the ADD Right) The Power of Concentration Success System

Who Else Wants to Get Rich in Real Estate?
Israel is the Canary in the Mine
Death By Gun Control
(again) The Ultimate Fitness Program


Banners: Free! Gold Rush Investor Guide
"I've found the person my soul was searching for"
(is that how he hooked up with Daryn Kagan?)

Another amazing coincidence. Last year I amused myself a couple of times by graphing terror alerts against Dubya's approval ratings. Then yesterday Mark Dayton's decision to not seek reelection got me thinking: Might Dayton be the result of a Rovian diversionary action? What ELSE is going on in the news? Well, there's Social Security. Nah, doesn't seem like a good fit. The FAA ignoring 52 terrorism warnings? That's our baby!

Sunday, August 1, 2004
Senator Dayton: NORAD Lied About 9/11
Mark Dayton has become the first U.S. senator to challenge the rush to consensus that "The 9/11 Commission Report" settles the open questions of Sept. 11, 2001.
     In hearings last Friday, Sen. Dayton (D-MN) raised an obvious point: if the timeline of air defense response as promoted in the Kean Commission's best-selling book is correct, then the timeline presented repeatedly by NORAD during the last two years was completely wrong. Yet now no one at NORAD is willing to comment on their own timeline!
     ...[Joint Chiefs vice-chairman Gen. Richard] Myers told the Senate that no fighter jets were scrambled to intercept any of the 9/11 flights until after the Pentagon was struck.
     The Pentagon attack occurred at 9:38 a.m., a full 1 hour 20 minutes after the first of the 9/11 flights was diverted from its designated flight path.
     Myers's statement to the Senate was incredible, given the standard U.S. air defense protocols for dealing with errant instrument flights (including off-course passenger planes). In place many years before Sept. 11, these procedures are automatic and require no special order...
     Before Myers's disturbing admission to the Senate received much notice, NORAD under General Ralph Eberhard effectively put the lie to his statement. A partial timeline... presented the times at which NORAD was alerted about each flight diversion by the FAA...
     As late as May 2003, General Arnold of NORAD... revealed for the first time that NORAD was alerted about the hijacking of Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, at 9:16 a.m., a full 47 minutes before the claimed crash time at 10:03. But he stuck to the story about the other flights; in the case of AA77 which hit the Pentagon, the alert supposedly arrived at 9:24 am.
     NORAD's story was disputed in the FAA statement of May 21, 2003. The FAA claimed that... NORAD was informed in real time throughout of all developments, including about the plane that ultimately hit the Pentagon, the FAA said.
     Thus for more than a year the FAA has been in open dispute with NORAD on the issue of who informed whom and when about the Sept. 11 hijackings...
     The Kean Commission itself intervened in June 2004. ...the Commission outlined a chronology that completely ditched the timeline that NORAD had upheld for two years. It also effectively placed almost all of the blame for delayed air defense response on the FAA.
...Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., charged Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have covered up "catastrophic failures" that left the nation vulnerable during the Sept. 11 hijackings.

"For almost three years now, NORAD officials and FAA officials have been able to hide their critical failures that left this country defenseless during two of the worst hours in our history," Dayton declared during a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Dayton said NORAD officials "lied to the American people, they lied to Congress and they lied to your 9/11 commission to create a false impression of competence, communication and protection of the American people." He told Kean and Hamilton that if the commission's report is correct, President Bush "should fire whoever at FAA, at NORAD ... betrayed their public trust by not telling us the truth."

Dayton as a target of Rove and the RNC is much more believable than the official story that Dayton didn't think he could raise enough campaign money.

Fun with Excel (7-16-04)
The Manipulation Continues (8-3 & 4-04)

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Posted February 10, 2005
Polish up the huge silver buckle on your big black hat

Hey you on the Moral Highground! Forget the U.S. Supreme Court, they're just a bunch of morally lax geezers. The hot new place to push your censorship initiatives is the Seattle Community Access Network. You know—the public access channel.

By a 2-1 vote, the content review board for Seattle's public-access TV channel has ruled that the controversial late-night cable television program "Mike Hunt TV" is obscene and not permissible for viewing on a community channel.
      After considering whether a program that airs pornographic material can be shown on the network, the board made its finding Tuesday, a news release from Seattle Community Access Network Community Media said yesterday.
      SCAN's board chairman, Kurt Bulmer, said in a statement: "First and foremost, SCAN is a defender of First Amendment rights. But we also have a contractual obligation and a legal liability that prohibits the showing of obscene material"...
      SCAN's executive director, Ann Suter, said the board's final resolution "provides everyone involved with some clarity as to what's permissible on this community television channel... and what is not."Source

So: in a city where community standards allow all sorts of adult programs to be rented and purchased in shops and transmitted over Corporate cable channels (so I've heard)—that is, they are legally not obscene—one little late night TV show with crappy production values (so I've heard) is unilaterally declared obscene by an unelected three-person panel. One of whom dissented. Who needs the Supreme Court, anyway?

Article: "I Know It When I See It"

Best turn of phrase. Today at Daily Kos, regarding the Gannongate story: "This has supermodel legs. Let it walk."

Franken and... Dayton? Let me get this straight: the Democratic heir to the Target fortune is not seeking reelection because he can't raise the money? And we're supposed to believe that? One wonders what They have on him. Could it be his accidental attendance at a bizarre Washington Times-sponsored Rev. Moon event? Well, Norm Coleman was there too.
      And Al Franken did his show from DC this morning just to declare he's not running. What's up with that?

Article: Dayton shocks his party
Article: Franken not running

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Posted February 9, 2005
Mayor's reign: "Fat Tuesday," indeed
Meaty municipal maven mars Mardi Gras

Seattle (Mr_Blog)-- With shouts of "Party on, Your Honor" echoing through Pioneer Square like a Bacchanalian warcry, Mayor Greg Nickels last night set a new standard for civic embarrassment, on an evening that he had promised the previous day would be "an opportunity for all for a pleasant evening on the town, amid a carnivale-like atmosphere."

The mayor was in seclusion and could not be reached for comment.

The 520-pound Seattle chief executive, wielding a yard-long margarita like a scepter, led his 'royal court' of senior political appointees on a rampage through Pioneer Square that one witness compared to "the movie Caligula to the tenth power. The unrated version, not the R one."

Michael Medved, the local conservative talk show host and social critic, agreed. "I should know, since I reviewed dozens of smutty motion pictures when I was co-host of PBS's Sneak Previews," he said. "Well--hundreds, really. Yep. Every last, fleshy, sweaty one of 'em. Especially French films; have you seen Isabelle Adjani in One Deadly Summer?"

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske this morning announced an investigation. "This is going to be an open, warts-and-all investigation of the many complaints that have been received," said the chief, "the mayor will not be above the law."

However, Kerlikowske disagreed with characterizations that likened Nickels's conduct to Caligula, the 1979 Tinto Brass film. "It was more like Bachelor Party," said Kerlikowske, referring to the 1984 Tom Hanks vehicle. The police chief also denied reporters' observations that he was gleefully rubbing his hands together, saying that he had just been outside in 35-degree weather searching for his weapon and was still chilly.

Medved disagreed with Kerlikowske. "At least Bachelor Party had an upbeat message about discovering personal responsibility," he said. "Caligula is the most accurate cinematic parallel to The Mayor's debauchery."

While Nickels isolates himself at his Fortress Of Solitude retreat at N. 36th Street & Aurora Avenue North, senior Mayor's Office staff who accompanied their boss last night as his 'royal court' are running for cover. City Council members report receiving many emails and phone calls from citizens who witnessed Nickels's 'chief budget enforcer,' Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, turn a firehose on a startled group of women who were queued for the women's restroom at the J&M Cafe. "I heard someone yell 'Wet t-shirt contest,' said one woman in a call fielded by Councilman Nick Licata's office. "I turned to see someone I recognized as Ceis, holding a firehose. Then he let us have it, we were soaked."

Captain Ron Woodburn, commander of nearby Fire Station 10 at 301 2nd Avenue South, reported one of the station's hose rigs had gone missing sometime after 9 pm Tuesday and was still unaccounted for. "We're going to be short a hose for a while," said Woodburn. "Ironically, the mayor's office cut our equipment budget, so we can't afford to replace it right away."

Other citizens reported that Nickels's spokesperson Marianne Bichsel "won three three different drinking contests" and "was a total bead whore, there wasn't any part of her body she wouldn't expose for a necklace" of the traditional Mardi Gras beads.

"I categorically deny that I won three drinking contests," Bichsel said, adding "Wouldn't you rather ask me about Mayor Nickels's endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol? It marks his entry as a statesman onto the world stage? Want to talk about the second term agenda plans? More sidewalk construction? Streetcars for all? Guys?"

Article: Seattle Mardi Gras report

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Posted February 8, 2005
State of the City: Mayor Pledges Safety, Security
Will set example, leads orderly Mardi Gras tonight

Seattle (Mr_Blog)-- Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was positive in his State of the City address last night, declaring "Seattle is back" from the economic downturn, terrorism scares, Mardi Gras violence and WTO riots that plagued the tenure of his predecessor, Paul Schell.

Nickels touched on public safety, the environment and education in the speech as areas he will focus on this year as he gears up for this fall's reelection campaign. The speech clocked in at 3 hours, 17 minutes, narrowly besting his 3 hour, 6 minute 2004 State of the City.

Nickels pledged that he would set the tone for a peaceful, orderly 2005 by personally leading Seattle's Mardi Gras celebration, which takes place tonight in the historic Pioneer Square district. "I will go to Pioneer Square," he said. "I am proud to accept the Merchant Association's invitation to reign over the festivities as King of Mardi Gras."

The annual celebration has a history of being marred by excessive public drunkness and disorderliness. Violence has occurred in recent years, resulting in riots, a death, sexual assaults and numerous arrests. "I'll be watching," Nickels warned, "anyone who steps out of line will answer to me."

The mayor suggested that instead of seeing Mardi Gras as an opportunity to cut loose, celebrants should treat it as an opportunity for all for a pleasant evening on the town, amid a carnivale-like atmosphere. "Celebrants should treat it as an opportunity for all for a pleasant evening on the town, amid a carnivale-like atmosphere," said Nickels, "As 'king,' I plan to travel throughout my 'realm,' visiting the many establishments that are purveyors of fine spirits and tempting cuisine," said the mayor, patting his stomach. "After all, Wednesday is the first day of Lent."

"My staff, or 'royal court' as they will be known for the evening, will accompany me. I urge my fellow citizens to join us," Nickels said.

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Posted February 4, 2005 0620GMT

...John B. Anderson!

Link: Center For Voting & Democracy

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Posted February 3, 2005
Because His Lips Are Moving

I've heard of arrogant politicians overreaching, but last night's State of the Union left me bewildered. You saw it, right?

First, if Bush is going to lie to us he needs at the very least to try to do it convincingly. I'm sorry, but his assertion that the tiny principality of Monaco is the "new leader of this year's axis of evil" needs to be backed up by solid facts. To merely state that Monaco's "licentious ruling family" has "amassed its wealth from money laundering" and leave it at that is just not believable, Princess Stephanie and casinos aside.

Then there's the whole area of Social Security reform. I'm opposed to private accounts, but willing to consider valid pro-reform arguments. But again: Bush needs to be believable. Of course, I call bullshit on the whole "Trust Fund will be bankrupt by 2042" claim—hey George, if I don't have money in the bank, but I have a job, does that mean I'll have no money to spend? 'Course not: I would pay as I go. And his claim that "continued abortions will cause the number of people paying into Social Security to drop to 2 for every 1 person receiving benefits" causes me to question the factual bases of his proposals.

Finally, even a neutral critic must question Dubya's choices of members of the public to be recognized in the gallery. I suppose I can see a glimmer of logic in the selection of Aaron K. Shmede, 6, of Auburn, Washington, who last year reported his parents' unusually large international long distance phone bills to the Department of Homeland Security. Little Aaron, in his precious red, white and blue ensemble from GapKids, made for the evening's most telegenic moment. But the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond? Sure, the show has been a beloved primetime fixture for years, but this season has been full of reruns. What about shows that are ending their runs with stronger storylines, like NYPD Blue or The CBS Evening News?

But I kid the Monegasques—I kid because I love

True. Economics Professor Doug Orr of Eastern Washington University has been doing Truth Squad duty on Social Security reform for a while now. Perhaps his best observation is that the Trust Fund zero-date will move further into the future as long as U.S. economic growth doesn't go below 1.8%—and it has never done that in any 20 year period, even the Depression.

In other words, we are saved by increases in worker productivity, which Orr says doubles about every 36 years. The important ratio becomes the number of workers relative to all non-workers, including dependents. Forty years ago there were 1.05 workers for each non-worker; by 2030, the ratio will grow to 1.27 workers per non-worker. And not all non-workers draw Social Security.

Last night on KIRO AM's Mike Webb Show, Orr corrected a Bush error: the Trust Fund will keep growing until 2020, not 2018. And he noted that a wildly optimistic Social Security Commision report on private accounts found they would pay less than Social Security would! Orr's overall point is that it's not a crisis just because the Trust Fund gets smaller—that's what it's supposed to do.

Article: Dollars & Sense
Link: Mike Webb

Wanted: Al Gore's lock-box. Orr is up against lying interests like the Cato Institute. At Cato's Social Security Project website there is a link "Cato's Plan." It concludes with words meant to reassure the skeptical:

This discussion will be offered in the context of payable Social Security benefits. That is, the Social Security system will be restored to a solvent pay-as-you-go basis prior to the development of individual accounts.Source

But by saying '"restored" to solvency,' Cato is claiming that it is not solvent now. But even Dubya admits Social Security has until 2042, when the Trust Fund is projected to run out and the system becomes pay-as-you-go. Are they just plain lying, is it that simple? Or is Cato factoring-in the billions that Bush has "borrowed" from the Trust Fund to pay for tax cuts for the rich?

Article: The Unlocked Box


Article: Theft as art?

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Posted February 1, 2005 1555PST
GOP Goes After Your Health Plan
This Means War

GOP taking aim at health insurance paid by employers
Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the past half-century.

In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers, instead of looking to employers for health insurance, would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.

Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed. With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., are pushing for action.

Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and theirfamilies would become more careful users of health care if they had to pay the bills...

Critics say the Republican approach is really an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems of health care from employers to individuals...

...Bush's health-insurance agenda is far more developed than his Social Security plans and is advancing at a rapid clip through a combination of actions by government, insurers, employers and individuals.

Health savings accounts (HSAs) have already been approved as part of the 2003 Medicare prescription-drug bill... The accounts are available only to people who buy high-deductible health insurance...
A study released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund found that people with high-deductible policies were more likely to have trouble paying medical bills than those in traditional insurance plans. They were also more likely to skip care because of cost.Source: LA Times, 1-31-2005

Posted February 1, 2005
If You Need to Get Something Done

Give it to a woman. Thus far it's been the party chairs in the Washington Recount controversy (The Men) arguing over the election of our Governor (The Woman). So today's proposal by Women for an all-mail-in-ballot test election in King Recounty is a refreshing wave of estrogen-influenced common sense.

[King County Councilmembers Julia] Patterson, D-SeaTac, and [Kathy] Lambert, R-Woodinville, introduced a motion that would direct County Executive Ron Sims to choose "an appropriate" election to test a vote-by-mail election.

With some 70 percent of voters already casting permanent or one-time absentee ballots, Patterson said, "At some point it is reasonable for us to ask ourselves whether or not it makes sense to continue to administer two systems...
Patterson said she would expect the test election to be conducted in a nonpartisan special election.Source

Patterson and Lamberts' proposal ought to be an actual slam-dunk. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, has been having statewide mail-in elections for years. Of course, if any jurisdiction is going to screw something up, it'll be King Recounty.

And what do The Men have to offer? Councilman David Irons (R) wants to have county elections controlled by an elected auditor. Oh sure. Is there any office in America that the Republicants don't want to take over?

This Just In. From King County: Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is rumored to be considering a move to Seattle to run for elections auditor... From Washington DC: Concerning proposals to increase death benefits and life insurance payouts for the military, President Bush said "I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that's for another debate." He was reminded that they are his own proposals, and that the debates and election are over... From Hollywood: attorneys defending Michael Jackson on child molestation charges have moved for a dismissal, on grounds that the prosecution cannot absolutely prove that the plastic-surgery-altered person on trial actually is the king of pop... From Iraq: exit poll analysis shows that male Iraqis aged 18-35 voted overwhelmingly for Slate 69. "Slate 69 ismighty fine," exclaimed supporter Ahmed al Oyeahsur, 23, who staffs a Xingular kiosk at Mosul's central marketplace. From Bibleland: digging out from under a severe winter snow and ice storm, snow shovelers across the Deep South can be heard to be singing the Christmas classic, "It's going to snow- ho- ho- right here in Dixie..."

Calling all wonks. Neal Peirce of checks in with an indictment of Bush policy toward states and cities:

Firmly in control of the federal government, the Republican party... appears ready to champion and assert federal power at almost every turn.

Exhibit No. 1 is the No Child Left Behind Act, ...Washington's promised payments are already $25 billion short. And whatever happened to the old battle cry, "local control of education"?
...Obliged to cope with gargantuan federal deficits triggered by deep tax cuts and Iraq war outlays, Congress and the White House are almost sure to target the flow of federal program assistance -- roughly $400 billion yearly -- that still flows to states and localities.
...The administration's already sought to turn Medicaid into a block grant and then pare it down.
The administration will be recommending deep cuts in community development block grants and Section 8 housing rental assistance, plus the Hope VI housing projects it has previously sought to abolish.
...Bush's "ownership society" agenda... could even include, fiscal expert John Petersen predicts, terminating the deductibility of state and local taxes.

Such a hit, saving the federal government $45 billion in deductions yearly, would presumably hurt most states to whom the administration owes little -- such big "blue" bastions as New York, California and Massachusetts, with their relatively high income taxes.

Threat to States' Rights, Budgets

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