Saturday, October 25, 2003

grocery strike 

From the Nation:

The strike of 70,000 Southern California retail food workers, which started on October 11, may be the first in a series of battles that could ultimately shape the future of labor-management relations throughout the United States.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), one of the nation's largest private-sector unions, has geared up for what could be a prolonged job action. "If they break our backs here," noted Sean Harrigan, UFCW States Council director, "they [employers] will view this as an opportunity to pillage UFCW members and their union contracts throughout the country. This is a real watershed." The last strike in the Los Angeles retail food industry occurred twenty-five years ago.

The employers--Vons and Pavillions, Ralphs and Albertsons--want to slash the health and retirement benefits of their cashiers, baggers, deli clerks and other employees. The companies' representatives refused to discuss the details of their contract proposals, but according to UFCW Local 770, the grocery chains have demanded what amounts to a 50 percent reduction in workers' medical coverage, including increased prescription drug costs and cuts in retirement benefits. Additionally, the companies want to initiate a "second-class" wage system, with new hires doing the same work as current employees but for much lower pay.

From Los Angeles Business:

Charging that locked out workers have been denied money due to them, the United Food and Commercial Workers added two complaints to its lawsuit against the three Southern California chains. The UFCW is suing Kroger Co.'s Ralphs and Albertsons Inc. for $600 million for what it calls "unlawful lockouts." Union attorneys says the supermarkets violated state labor laws by not paying workers a guaranteed percentage of wages.

One of the complaints alleges the three grocers failed to offer pay to workers that showed up Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 but were locked out by store management in a show of solidarity with Safeway-owned Vons supermarket. The second complaint was filed against all three grocers for failing to pay employees earned wages, including vacation and sick pay. Union attorneys said state labor law calls for employees to be paid all earned, unpaid wages by the next payday, which would have been Oct. 16.

LA Weekly has a comparision of pay scales at all the grocery stores around town. But not a peep out of Meyerson. Odd.

Carter Wright at the Joe Kenehan Center points out this study by the Commonwealth Fund showing that a growing number (9.6 million) of the uninsured work for large companies.

From LA Indymedia:

AND this is kinda funny but Disney union workers has given up to 2,000 free Disneyland tickets to the strikers to give out to ANYONE who will come down and picket with them (I know how we all feel about Disneyland) but i think it was a nice gesture from the workers at Disneyland.. SOOO if you live in Southern CA go down just sign up on a sheet to picket with the strikers.. and after about 3 hrs. i believe you get 2 FREE Disneyland tickets :)

the elephant in the room 


How does the nation's largest employer, Wal-Mart, spend 40% less than all US corporations on health benefits for each of its covered employees?

· Makes part-time workers wait two years and full-time employees wait six months before being eligible for insurance.
· Its deductibles range as high as $1,000, triple the norm.
· It refuses to pay for flu shots, eye exams, child vaccinations, chiropractic services and numerous other treatments allowed by many other companies.
· In many cases, it won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions in the first year of coverage.

Well, if the UFCW had put serious resources into organizing Walmart over the last ten years maybe that wouldn't be the case.

meanwhile in ohio, kentucky and west virginia 

From the Huntington Herald Dispatch in West Virginia:

HUNTINGTON -- After 30 years with Kroger, Donna Falls, an office clerk at Kroger on Fifth Avenue in Huntington, knew to save up before the employee contract for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 ran out this month.

As the strike of the 3,300 members of UFCW enters its second week, Falls said she is glad she saved enough money to pay two months worth of bills. The lack of progress between the UFCW and Kroger to get negotiations off the ground gives her pause on whether two months will be enough, she said.

...The company and UFCW remained on strike a week after employees with 37 stores in West Virginia, five in Ohio and two in Kentucky represented by the UFCW Local 400 walked out. As Kroger employees receive their last checks this week, both Kroger and the union said they are no closer to reaching an agreement on health care packages and wage increases than when the workers went on strike last Monday.

In the first week of the strike, Falls said she has called her creditors and is hopeful she will be able to defer car payments and credit card bills if the strike reaches a third month. She said she has seven more payments on her car, but is willing to risk repossession to ride the strike out and fight for better benefits.

Diagnosed with lupus, Falls said she cannot afford to lose any amount of coverage in her health insurance.

"I am willing to last it out until we get decent health benefits package and wage increase," Falls said

From the Marietta Times in Ohio:

"I feel the community is pretty behind us," said Bradley Marks, 28. "It feels good when everyone is behind you." Motorists honked and waved Tuesday as they passed. Striking workers sipped coffee and snacked on donated chili dogs. Marks, of Waterford, has worked at the store for three years. He earned $5.30 an hour.

"It pays the bills," he said.

He now rotates onto the four-hour shift on the picket line and collects a $100-a-week payment from the union.

of walking through lava pits and chuck roast with some slightly funky coloring  

This annoying column by Steve Lopez in the LA Times has an annoying anti-strike tone, but really, by the time it's over concedes that the UFCW is out on strike for good reason and then makes the case for National Healthcare:

...His health care premiums have gone up every year for four straight years. He now pays $373 a month for his family of five, but coverage doesn't kick in until he's shelled out $4,800 a year in deductibles. And he can't understand why striking supermarket employees, who haven't paid a nickel for health care, are griping about finally having to chip in.

"I'd walk through a lava pit for the deal they've got," said Chavez, who, like a lot of us, can't make heads or tails of the nation's haphazard health care system, with all its maddening inequities and inefficiencies.

Chavez said he feels the sting of disapproval when he crosses picket lines past the clerks he knows and respects. But he does so on principle, and wonders why everyone else trembles at the thought.

..."I think they've got a great deal," Jennine Halink, 75, said of the strikers as she lifted a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes (99 cents) into her basket. Halink said her Medicare and an HMO still leave her loaded with medical bills.

...Steve said he's a full-time butcher at an independent store that offers no health insurance, and if he could get a job at Albertsons that offered any plan at all, "I'd take it in a heartbeat." Exactly, said Chavez.

Then the article takes this strange turn

"I don't understand why you're striking," Chavez said bluntly.

They wouldn't be, Rachel said, if all they had to pay for health care was $5 a week for an individual, or $15 for a family, as management has suggested. "We'd be crazy not to take that," Rachel said. "I'd even take a wage cut [she makes $12.17 an hour] to keep some of the benefits we've got." But that $5 fee is just the beginning, she said. They'll have deductibles of $500 to $750, she claimed. "Mine's $4,800," Chavez said. Yeah, but they'll also have spending caps and big co-payments, Rachel said. And they'll end up paying a fat percentage of a relatively modest income for a health plan that's vastly inferior to what they have now.

Well, Chavez said, that's not the story as he knew it. But that's what you get with labor negotiations. There's all the stuff one side tells you, and then there's all the stuff the other side tells you. "And then there's the truth," he said.

Exactly. And right now, it's hard to cut through the chaff.

But Rachel is right - employees wouldn't be striking over $5-a-week payouts. They think management has grossly underplayed how much it's really going to cost employees, and they worry that eventually they'll be driven into the growing ranks of the uninsured.

"You know what the whole thing comes down to?" Chavez said as we left Albertsons. "I've got friends with the best health care, and every time they stub their toe they want an MRI. That drives everyone's costs up. And then you've got people on the low end who get treated for free, and that drives everyone's costs up, too."

Maybe now is the time, Chavez said, to quit this insanity and convert to universal health care. It can't be worse than what we've got now - 300 million dissatisfied customers nationwide, and counting.

Friday, October 24, 2003

what if jared founded rome? 

From Steve Hall's Adrants:

Sandwich chain Quiznos has launched another strange commercial this time involving a man sucking the nipples of a wolf. In the spot, two guys sit on a bench eating lunch. The guy eating the Quiznos sub wonders why the non-Quiznos sub eating guy hasn't heard of the new Philly Cheesesteak asking, "What, were you raised by wolves?" Cut to visual of non-Quiznos sub guy laying next to a baby wolf and suckling mommy wolf's nipples. It sure grabs the attention but is it really a visual you want in your head when you walk into a Quiznos?

a baguette my kingdom for a baguette 

There are days when I would kill for a good baguette. The lack of a good baguette is easily in my top ten reasons why living in Portland is a difficult and trying experience. Whole wheat or covered with SEEDS or par baked so "you can brown it in the oven when you get home!".


Why is that so hard?

rant of the week 

Barry Ritholtz at Essays & Effluvia:

Repeat after me: Oil price rises are not a tax increase

When oil prices go up, none of that revenue finds its way to schools. So pray tell me, how is it a tax?...When OPEC cuts production so oil prices go up . . . that money never finds its way to cops, EMTs, and firemen; It goes to the Saudis, who fund the Madras religous hate schools, which indoctrinated the terrorists who (tuition funded via Oil revenues) trained at flight schools where they learned to fly the planes that eventually took down the Twin Towers. ... The Kevlar protecting the heart and lungs of every U.S. Military personnel in the Gulf was paid for by taxes. Each Abrams M1 tank, every F-117 stealth fighter, M16 rifle and tomahawk cruise missile is funded with tax dollars -- not higher oil prices.

bootleg of the week 

"I wish I knew how it feels to talk loud and clear" Nina Simone Vs. OMD Vs. Maerz Vs. Dead Prez mixed by Eve Masscre

song of the week 

This week's song of the week is 'Can't Sit Still' by Inner.

They were supposed to play here in Portland last week with some friends of mine but they cancelled. Oh well.

dept of 2012: keep an eye on this guy 

From the Christian Science Monitor:

NEW YORK – In the early weeks of 2001, when Eliot Spitzer first began investigating corruption on Wall Street, most Main Street investors still believed Internet stocks could make them rich, and the names Enron and ImClone might as well have been monsters from a sci-fi flick.

Since then, of course, each has become a buzzword for the financial house of cards the country's seen topple in the past two years, and Mr. Spitzer, the Democratic attorney general of New York, has emerged as the foremost scourge of Wall Street power brokers. Armed with a devastating array of evidence from his investigations, he's uncovered widespread fraud by stock analysts, illegal trading, and an ocean of conflict of interest in a realm that had been celebrated during the 1990s' bull market as the Great American Money Machine.

Nor is Wall Street a big enough target for a state attorney general who has gained more national visibility than most governors. He has also gone up against power plants, health-maintenance organizations, and Microsoft Corp.

..."He's one of the few attorneys general who make people wonder whether this person may be presidential timber down the road," says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. For now, most expect Spitzer to run for governor of New York in 2006. "The chatter around the capitol corridors is that that's likely to be his next move."

...His first investigation of Merrill Lynch has already become legendary. Suspicious about the endless "buy" ratings its analysts were giving during the Internet boom, especially for companies that used Merrill for their investment banking, Spitzer's office subpoenaed over 94,400 pages of their office e-mail. Going through each page by page for weeks, they discovered a pattern in which analysts did not really believe the high ratings they were giving certain stocks, but were pumping them up since the Merrill banking divisions had a financial stake in them.

From this first sweep through 30 boxes of e-mails, Spitzer's office has almost single-handedly forced Wall Street firms to change the way they work. At his prompting, other states, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), began investigating other firms, and the process finally culminated in a "global settlement" in December 2002, in which 12 investment houses agreed to pay $1.4 billion in fines.

...Yet, instead of lining up CEOs in a perp walk parade, Spitzer has tried instead to change Wall Street's business practices, and not simply send people to jail. In the global settlement, none of the investment firms were forced to admit guilt - though the evidence made public by Spitzer's office had already done much damage.

This approach reflects Spitzer's view of law enforcement as a tool for structural change as well as punishing wrongdoers. "The law is a dynamic entity," he says in a Monitor interview. It "is designed to evolve over time and reflect changing economic realities, and changing social values."

scapegoat: a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness  

Go read Josh Marshall on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the CIA’s (and the broader intelligence community’s) pre-war Iraq intelligence. He warns that they've got the wrong organization in their crosshairs. Guess who they should be going after.

amen sista 


I woke up this morning and my blog had both of its grubby little hands around my throat.

This damn thing is strong and I could hardly breathe. I gasped and whispered that it would not be neglected today. Eventually, it let go and I knew I'd better get moving on the update.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

cavalcade of substantive writing 

The lack of interesting campaign developments in the last two weeks has produced several interesting campaign thought pieces.

The Washington Post has a piece on why many GOP operatives think that Dick Gephardt would be the most formidable challenger to Bush in the general election. All their arguments rely on "Tale of the Tape" stats. The Midwest swing states will be key to the electoral college puzzle, campaign experience and discipline, he supported the war, his healthcare plan, ties to organized labor which will be key in turning out the African American vote. Dean is too far left.

It always surprising the way political pros rely on the "Tale of the Tape" to predict outcomes. In a boxing match you can learn a few things from the T of the T, who's got the advantage in reach, height, etc. but the outcome of the fight is determined by who is a better fighter. I think pols love predicting the future with stats because they sound so much more knowledgeable than the rest of us when they can say things like:"No brown haired, blued candidate from a western swing state has ever won against a former republican governor from a liberal northwestern state who was president of his senior highschool class but not his junior highschool class in a leap year."

The arguments that Gephardt is a strong candidate misses a boatload of things. Dean is neck and neck or edging Gephardt in Iowa where the Gepster is campaigning like a madman. His campaign experience is that as House Minority Leader from 95-02 the Dems continued to lose seats in the House. Support for the war will matter less in the general. The President's support on Iraq is eroding and will continue to erode. Labor will pull out all the stops for any one except Lieberman and Dean has a 100% AFL voting record and was award the first annual Wellstone award by labor. Dean is a centrist and that will come out more in general ( he has an A rating from the NRA).

In the Post article only Frank Lutz who has conducted focus groups for MSNBC got it right: "Gephardt "falls absolutely flat" with voters because he is seen as too political." That's the real bottom line. The Gepster is not a good candidate. He has no operation. He has no money. He comes off as a robot candidate in a debate or on the stump. He hasn't made an emotional connection with anyone.

On the other hand Dean has an unprecedented grassroots operation, he is breaking Democratic records for raising money and he connects emotionally with voters. The reason that he has the best chance of beating Bush is that he is a good candidate. Voting patterns, too moderate, too liberal, what really matters is competence, charisma and money.

Pols are hypnotized by Wesley Clark's Tale of the Tape. It doesn't matter and I'll tell you why. Clark is not a good candidate. Watch Clark at this town hall meeting in NH. This what I wrote after watching it, "In a forum that should be the most natural for him, (stump speeches and debates take practice) he never fired up the crowd, which was there to see him. He could not convey real conviction about wanting to lead this country. He never was able to transform a discussion of policy into a moment of moral gravity, where you start to get that lump in your throat and think, "Yes, we must do better and we can do better." As someone who's background is not in governance but in leading troops, if he can't do that at will then he's dead in the water. And this was a forum where that should have been a piece of cake. He had a few questions where the person asking the question was on the verge of tears and people in the room were getting choked up. He should have been able to seize on those moments. He should have had the room in the palm of his hand. They were applauding politely and checking their watches."

On the other hand watch how loose and confident Dean is addressing college students at Georgetown.

Garance Franke-Ruta has provocative piece in the Prospect on Dean. He makes the case that Dean is embracing his Northeastern liberal background and Congregationalist faith. He is invoking liberalism going back past JFK and FDR to the Sons of Liberty and Congregationalist ministers of the colonial period. In a recent Boston address he invoked 'John Winthrop, a Puritan settler, theologian and early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, quoting these words: "We shall be as one. We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together." ' The campaign is built around New England town meeting style democracy.

As Dean reflects traditions of Yankee independence in governance, he also reflects it in the organization of his campaign, in which local directors have an almost unprecedented autonomy. In New Hampshire, the field operation is using a theory of "relationships-based organizing" that tries to turn every committed supporter into a field operative, says former Seacoast coordinator Myles Duffy. "The rhetoric matches the structure of the campaign," notes Mathew Gross, Dean's blogger in chief and speechwriter. "It goes back to the fundamental unit of democracy, which is the town-hall meeting." (Or, in the case of the Dean campaign, the Meetup.)

It all comes out of the Vermont political tradition centered on the small town. "Congregational government puts power in the hands of the people to determine what they want at a scale that people can relate to," says John Nutting, a Congregationalist minister in Vermont who has written a history of Dean's Burlington church. "It was prized by both the church and by the secular structures of the state of Vermont, so that in many ways a similar pattern of participation existed both in the church and the civil society. Vermont hasn't abandoned it. We're a state of very small communities."

...the strength is that it also brings a sense of empowerment that's deeper than anything coming out of identity politics or New Age philosophies

I think this goes a long way to explaining how his appeal goes beyond simple anti Bush anger.

David Brooks writing in the NY Times identifies John Edwards theory on how to connect with voters as the most potent:

John Edwards has the most persuasive theory. He argues that most voters do not place candidates on a neat left-right continuum. But they are really good at sensing who shares their values. They are really good at knowing who respects them and who doesn't. Edwards's theory is that the Democrats' besetting sin over the past few decades has been snobbery.

...Edwards draws an implicit contrast between himself and Howard Dean and John Kerry by pointing out that he worked for everything he has. He loaded trucks to pay for college. "It didn't hurt me at all," he says.

I think Edwards is right about the connection and respect issues but wrong about what makes for a good connection. Charisma and temperament matter more than background. Dubya is a perfect example of this. He is the most privileged President since FDR but he has the most common touch since Old Hickory.

The Village Voice has an article that I linked to the other day but it bears repeating (and I didn't quite nail it either). The look at the role of Lieberman as a potential spoiler in the General election. They set up a parallel with Al Gore's run in '88 and the consequences for Dukakis:

Al Gore, who, determined to distinguish himself from the field by a supposedly sage and mature moderate conservatism, stepped up to the microphone at the National Press Club and read his fellow Democratic candidates clear out of the United States of America. "The politics of retreat, complacency, and doubt may appeal to others," he said, "but it will not do for me or for my country." He had already bragged in a Des Moines debate about his support for the Reagan administration's position on the B-1 bomber and the MX missile, even on chemical weapons, accusing his opponents of being "against every weapons system that is suggested"; at the next forum, he lectured his fellows on the imperative of invading Grenada and supporting the Contras. For that, some Democratic insiders were whispering, was just what it would take to be electable.

And even though the message hardly took with voters —party conservatives had scheduled a cluster of Southern primaries early in 1988 specifically to favor a candidate like Gore, but the dead-fish Tennesseean still got skunked on "Super Tuesday" by the most liberal candidate, Jesse Jackson —Gore stuck around just long enough to run a vicious campaign in the late-inning New York primary, in which he grilled front-runner Michael Dukakis for his apparent support of "weekend passes for convicted criminals."

In Washington, opposition researchers for the Republican front-runner, George Herbert Walker Bush, were taking notes.

"I thought to myself, 'This is incredible,' " Bush staffer Jim Pinkerton recalled of Gore's tarring the Massachusetts prisoner furlough program as if it were the idea of Michael Dukakis, when in actuality the program had been initiated by the Republican governor who preceded him. "It totally fell into our lap." Dukakis emerged from the convention that nominated him with a 17-point lead. Then Gore's million-dollar lines, so self-consciously crafted to make himself "electable," began finding their way into George H.W. Bush's mouth.

Earlier in the article Rick Perlstein points out the hollowness of Lieberman's campaign:

he listbot at, the commercial site whose clever software facilitates face-to-face gatherings between Web surfers of like interest, sent me a forlorn little e-mail the other day. "Congratulations on a successful National Lieberman in 2004 Meetup last week! See photos from every city," it read, giving a link. Click yourself, and you'll see the pathos: There ain't no photos.

That's not surprising. In Chicago, where I live, there wasn't any meetup. Not enough supporters RSVP'ed to trigger the software's automated threshold., in fact, has registered only 332 Joseph Lieberman fans in the entire United States of America, four in Chicago. An undercover reporter from The Village Voice - uh me - represents one quarter of the total.

... took a look at the schedule of events the campaign seemed so disinclined to have me know about. September 12 was coming up. On that day Howard Dean stumped New Hampshire, snaking across the southwest corner of the state for a series of free rallies, cookouts, and dessert socials; Richard Gephardt gave a policy speech in Iowa. And Joseph Lieberman held a breakfast fundraiser at the home of Florida real estate developer Mark Gilbert in Boca Raton ("$1000 suggested"); then a luncheon at the Governors Club of the Palm Beaches ("A business conductive environment," its advertising promises. "A place to make money and save time"), also at $1,000 a spot. On September 13, he held only one event, dessert in the tony D.C. suburb of Potomac. "Suggested contribution: $360 per person."

On the 14th, Joe scheduled an aberration, the only campaign event open to the general, non-paying public all the way through to the end of the month, a town hall meeting in Manchester (he preceded it with what the campaign advertised as an "all-out campaign blitz": The candidate knocked on six doors in downtown Concord). Then it was back to the grind —a reception, the next night, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston. "Event Hosts: $2000 contribution per person. Guests: $500 contribution per person."

This is what Jano Cabrera had been hiding from me. Save for these fundraisers, his candidate wasn't campaigning at all.

After a year of jeers every time he is in a public forum I think we can expect Lieberman to be in a foul mood as the convention draws near. If I all that money isn't for opposition research and negative ads I don't know what it's for. Given negative effect on voters that public appearances have for him that is certainly the best shot he has at making a move.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

An Open Letter to John Podesta 

Dear Mr. Podesta:

Congratulations on the successful launch of the Center for American Progress. The article profiling the creation of the Center in the New York Times magazine last week has sparked a lot of discussion in the last week. I'd like to take the opportunity to steer that discussion towards constructive input into your undertaking.

Here are my proposals, suggestions and thoughts on just such an enterprise (dispensing with the unnecessary and hampering fig leaf of non-partisanship):


1 Citizen Citizens

I think the Democrats need to help Americans identify themselves as Citizens. Before identifying themselves as Taxpayers, Consumers or Workers, we must think of ourselves as Citizens. Every policy proposal, every speech, everything we do should make Americans think of themselves as Citizens - PROUDLY. Conservatives have relentlessly cast us as Taxpayers. Business relentlessly helps us self identify as Consumers. Unions remind us that we are Workers.

No one inspires us to think of ourselves as Citizens. After 9/11, in perhaps the greatest moment of civic opportunity since FDR's "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself" speech, President Bush exhorted us to get back to shopping. It was the kind of opportunity that Kennedy made with the New Frontier and the challenge to put a man on the moon. It is no surprise that planning for the Twin Towers began when it did.

It is impossible for the Democratic Party to pull the nation together behind the broad goals of liberalism effectively without a strong feeling of Civitas. The organized constituencies of the left can only play defense unless the Party puts across a galvanizing, forward looking vision for the nation. Bill Clinton touched on this, but his success resided more in his extraordinary personal charisma and temperament than in his policies.

2 Service, Activism and Entrepreneurialism

Looking back at the Civic accomplishments of this country we see Central Park in NYC and Balboa Park in San Diego, the great public lodges like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood built by the CCC, the Eisenhower Highway System, the Apollo Space Program, the Civil Rights Movement of the late 50's and early 60's. It calls the question, what are we poised to accomplish as a nation today?

Where ever possible Democrats must champion dynamic activist solutions over bureaucratic entitlement oriented solutions. Often these will be to bolster and energize not replace entitlement programs. Service, activism and entrepreneurialism capture the imagination and the American character in a way that entitlements never can. Reawakening a spirit of Civitas will make defending necessary entitlements far easier.

Examples of programs along these lines include the WPA and CCC, Vista and Legal Services, the Army Corps of Engineers and DARPA. One could imagine the Small Business Administration beginning a program to encourage micro-lending as part of welfare to work programs. New versions of the WPA and the CCC are only a synapse away. Let's get those neurons firing.

3 Institutionalizing Constituencies

By this I am not referring to driving your constituents crazy. I'm talking about bringing back an old idea well understood by old party machine pols and New Deal reformers alike.

Democrats have ignored for far too long the need to create constituencies. FDR's support of unions, the GI Bill of Rights and the role of Legal Services in the 70's best illustrate what I'm getting at. These programs served liberal goals but they also created liberals as they were put into practice. Democrats haven't done anything to breed liberals in a long time.

Medicare and Social Security have made a handful of seniors licking stamps a fixture at countless Democratic campaign headquarters. Legal Services socialized many money grubbing trial lawyers to be quite civic minded in their support of the Democratic Party. The hypnotizing effect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is starting to wear off. There is simply no institutional reason for anyone born after 1950 to identify as a Liberal or a Democrat unless they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

4 Regulation Not Constipation

OK, so it's not a bumpersticker. But neither was "It's the economy, stupid". It's still an effective underlying theme against which policy decisions should be judged.

Democrats should be striking a bargain between business and the organized constituencies that act as countervailing forces. The bargain is this: Less regulation - More enforcement. Simpler, less nitpicky laws in exchange for bigger budgets for enforcement and real penalties for non-compliance - ball busting fines and in appropriate cases: jail time.

I've always thought that shitty DMV experiences made people ripe for drilling in the Arctic Preserve, but living in Portland, OR has brought that insight has come to life. The business climate in this town borders on the Kafkaesque. It is threatening to turn someone with volatile mix of European Social Democrat, Anarcho-Syndicalist and Neo-Liberal politics into an Ayn Rand libertarian. Example: When Adidas wanted to build a headquarters here, the city required them to plant a certain kind of tree on the site. Punchline: that kind of tree wasn't available in Portland. Here's another: A friend of mine opened a bar this summer. He was only going to permit smoking in the back patio. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission didn't approve that space for drinking for three months, just in time for the rains and as his start up capital was dwindling. They had had months to evaluate the space before he opened. The OLCC just gets off on jerking people around. You see people around town wearing "Fuck the OLCC" T-shirts. I've never seen a government agency vilified like that anywhere. And I've lived or worked in at least sixteen cities across the country.

I could delight you with more stories of the anti-business climate in Portland, but I won't. Suffice it to say, the tax burden on business in Oregon is very light relative to other states (About two thirds of Oregon's corporations, or 23,000 corporations, pay just the $10 corporate minimum tax.) and we still have trouble attracting business.

Democratic politicians should be mercilessly flogging unrepentant bureaucrats to get over themselves and process permits, approve the approveable etc. because ultimately the Democrats pay the price for long lines at the DMV.

This is difficult. Where business sees a death by a thousand cuts, advocacy groups see a thousand regulations with little to no consequences. Every regulation on the books sprang up in response to some adverse outcome in the real world. No one wants to be the one to take some toothless codicil off the books and end up with a preventable death on their hands. Nevertheless...

Let me say it again: Less regulation - More enforcement. Simpler, less nitpicky laws in exchange for bigger budgets for enforcement and real penalties for non-compliance - ball busting fines and in appropriate cases: jail time.

5 A Corporation Is Not A Citizen

This is a fundamental misconception that has mistakenly accepted as law in this country. The Boston Tea Party was fought in response to the actions of a commercial monopoly that had undue political influence. The East India Trading Company had lobbied Parliament to levy taxes on all other tea companies in the Colonies. Later Jefferson and others fought to put "Freedom from Commercial Monopoly" into the Bill of Rights. Until 1886 corporations were considered 'artificial persons'. They had limited rights. Their charters were written for a limited purpose and a limited time. They didn't have the rights of actual persons. They could not influence politics like an actual person.

In 1886 the court reporter in the case 'Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad' added the statement "Corporations are persons" to the headnotes of the decision. This has been accepted as a legal principle ever since even though it was not part of the judge's decision. Our ability effectively reform campaign finance and overcome countless other obstacles are dead on arrival unless corporations are stripped of their personhood.


In addition to the boilerplate functions of a think tank I would create these functions:


I would organize an institute dedicated to excellence in public administration. Beyond setting up a number of fellowship positions, the institute would act as a clearinghouse for information on effective work in public administration. The institute would be able to feed the press a steady stream of turnkey "can do" stories about effective government. It would fund and organize retreat and sabbaticals for the country's most effective public administrators. Through awards and grants it would shine a spotlight on the nation's most effective public administrators. I could envision grants along the lines of the MacArthur genius awards.

Deep thinking about new solutions on how to govern is as likely or more likely to come from career administrators as from academics, if they are given the time and resources to develop and propagate their ideas.

The public perception of public administration sorely needs rehabilitation. The goals of the institute would be to improve public perception, attract high caliber people to public administration and substantial improvement in the effectiveness of government. Liberalism cannot thrive in an environment where even liberals think of government as ineffective bureaucracy.


The media center would be equipped with television and radio studios and a documentary video crew. The first priority of the media center would be to use the video crew to shoot footage to be used in conjunction with the stories that the think tank is pitching to the media. The reason a new box for french fries at McDonalds is news is that McDonalds gives the news stations video footage that they can use. Now they have 45 seconds of airtime covered at no cost. If the Institute for Public Service gives an award to a DMV director who cut waiting times in half and they can hand over footage of long lines, short lines, the director receiving the award, someone saying something good about the director and the director saying something about their work - then you are on the news - piece of cake.

As well, the TV and Video studios would at first be used so that Fellows could participate in interviews. Other opportunities will spring up. The infrastructure needs to be there first.


A) Allow people to deduct TIME SPENT VOLUNTEERING FOR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS from their taxes. It could be valued at: 1) Their hourly rate 2) 125% of their hourly rate 3) simply according to the market rate of what the NP would pay for those services.

B) Corps of corps

I would propose a raft of National Service Corps

I think we should go beyond a quaint program like Americorp and think big, along the lines of WPA and CCC. Bigger. One of the most frustrating things in current American life is that we seem unable to muster the political will to solve any of our problems even when we have social consensus on their importance. Everyone is agreed that we have crises in education and healthcare yet we are paralyzed to address them. Democrats must be able to say we can solve these problems and we will solve these problems and this is how.

Some of these programs already exist. I would argue that their funding has been so anemic and their profile so low that championing them in a renewed and principled broad program elevates them from being merely warmed over policy proposals and creates the oportunity to create vital and dynamic new policy.

Champion and support the Army Reserve and Nation Guard. What is more American than a citizen army? The importance of older, more experienced and highly skilled Reservists has been brought into sharp focus by the war in Iraq. A multilateral defense and foreign policy that embraces nation building will put them at the center. This is an important and unassailable backdoor for providing education opportunity and retirement security to large numbers of Americans. Democrats should scream bloody murder when Republicans send our troops into combat while cutting their benefits.

HealthCorp: Need financial aid for med school or nursing school? We'll trade you for four years of service in the nation's toughest public hospitals and county health departments for modest wages. Over time this will produce a more civic-minded breed of doctor as well as providing a shot in the arm for our healthcare system.

EdCorp: Need financial aid for a degree in Education? We'll trade you for four years of service in the nation's toughest public schools. This could also be used to close the gap in math and science teachers by trading four years of teaching for financial aid towards degrees in math and science.

This is a perfect example of why these programs cannot be floated piecemeal. The AFT and NEA would never stand for what I've proposed. Recent grads working for less than prevailing wages and benefits, outside the bargaining unit? Forget about it. But if it was tied to a major paradigm shift in the platform of the party with broad support and their input in developing implementation...

GreenCorp: This could range from physical conservation work to research and theoretical work or inspection work. Also tied to financial aid. These could also function as starter jobs the way Americorps does.

BizCorps: Perhaps a mix of recent BBA's, MBA's and retirees, this group could be working in targeted communities helping start up businesses. Example: when you get a minority loan you are assigned someone from the BizCorp who has a caseload of 3 or 5 or 10 start ups who works as an adviser or as an assistant, depending on their experience and the businesses need. If we had this, they could be in Iraq right now helping Iraqi companies bid for reconstruction work, etc.

Arrangements could be made for top execs to take sabbaticals to consult with government agencies to improve delivery of services.

CopCorps: I wish I could find the excellent New Yorker article on the National Academy that has been established for police. CopCorps could function in many ways. Financial aid for criminal justice degrees could be traded for a training period at the academy and time spent in the nations toughest precincts. Exemplary officers could be given sabbaticals of sorts to act as instructors. The academy could also act as a clearinghouse for effective techniques and for departments around the nation to trade exceptional officers in an exchange program. I personally would like to see more mentoring and sponsoring stuff like nighttime youth basketball. I also thought that Tucson's bike cops were way cooler than the car cops.


1) PRINCIPALS: If I had to choose one point in our educational system as a fulcrum to try to gain leverage, I would choose PRINCIPALS. Given limited resources I believe that bolstering excellence in our school principals will go farther than anything else in bolstering excellence in our schools. Their ability to interact with students, effect discipline, ciriculum and mentor teachers puts them in a unique position of multiplying their talents.

People closer to these issues than I could tell us how to support principals through policy. However, if I was running a well-funded think tank I would give awards every year to exceptional and effective principals. I would publicize these awards and use them to amplify the efforts of these folks. I would publicize their efforts to re-value the public service that they render and hold up their profession as noble and desirable in order to attract more and better candidates to the field. I would host retreats for exceptional principals in the summers and sponsor revolving fellowships so that they can engage in deeper thinking about what they do, why they are effective and how it can be done better.

Obviously it would be great to do these same things with teachers and superintendents. But given limited resources, I would start with principals.

2) TEACHERS: Pay for Play. In the interests of space I'll ask you to read Matthew Miller's recent piece in the Atlantic. He makes the case for paying teachers a lot more in exchange for making it easier to fire ineffective teachers. He also proposes paying Math and Science teachers more than Gym teachers.

3) EDCORP: See Above

4) FEED ME: Kids don't learn if they are hungry. We need to revamp cafeterias and serve healthy meals for breakfast and lunch. They should be either free for everyone or served at the same nominal fee for everyone and not as an entitlement for poor kids only. This program serves double duty on my proposals for healthcare. As a principle, I'm in favor of a few simple universal programs over many complex targeted programs.

5) GO SEE THE SCHOOL NURSE: We should bolster school clinic's role in preventive healthcare. Whenever possible parents should be present when bi-annual physicals are given. County health systems should set up shop in the schools and reach out to families through the clinics. (See HealthCorps above). Annual physicals should be provided free of charge to all parents and programs like flu shots can be run out of school clinics. Prenatal care and counseling could be provided through schools. Every bit of pre-natal care pays off big dividends to society and we should go beyond making it available to all but forcing it down people's throats.

6) DAYCARE: Before and after school and during the summer. Schools have underutilized resources for giving relief to working parents. This should be tied in to any welfare to work program.

7) COMMUNITY COLLEGES, TECHNICAL COLLEGES AND VOCATIONAL HIGHSCHOOLS: If I had the resources to open another front in the fight to improve education, I would work to bolster and legitimate these three delivery systems.


I'm in favor of Single Payer. I think that trying to extend universal coverage through employer mandated coverage is misses to many of the needy AND is anti-entrepreneurial. Providers competing for the payments funneled through consumers will create a system which is MORE competitive than the one we currently have. It also fits with the idea of simple universal programs. Making a program universal cuts a whole layer of bureaucracy dedicated to determining who is not eligible.

My own choice to practice a sort of agnostic Christian Science in order to pursue art and writing notwithstanding, our country's net creative power is limited by the career choices that creative people make in order to have access to healthcare. In terms of creating constituencies universal programs by their nature are more broadly supported. Social Security isn't the third rail of American politics for nothing buddy.

In the short to medium term I endorse what I call the Dean extensions:

1) Universal coverage of everyone under 25 through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

2) Adults earning up to 185% of the poverty level -- $16,613 -- will be eligible for coverage through the already existing Children Health Insurance Program.

3) Opening the federal employee health system to small employers and individuals and COBRA relief.

Opening the federal employee health system acknowledge the current role of employment based coverage and extends it with out trying to game the market through mandates and tax breaks. The Dean extensions move us along a spectrum towards a jumping off point for single payer in a way that other proposals don't. What they don't do is address any of the themes that we've laid out to strengthen our sense of Civitas or activist and entrepreneurial programs. Here are some proposals that work address that:

HealthCorps and School Clinics and Improved Cafeteria Nutrition: Early detection, prevention and pre-natal care could go a long way to reducing system costs while increasing net wellness. I've described above how a HealthCorps and robust local health departments working through school clinics could tackle many problems. As childhood obesity becomes a great public concern and growing problem, the school should become the focal point for the public response.

A Modest Proposal: Medicare prescription drug coverage should be traded for the intensive acute care that is fruitlessly spent in the last days of life. Medicare should provide hospice care for chronically ill elderly. It would be far better to pay for twenty five years of prescription coverage than to cover three months of acute care including heroic measures and invasive resucitations. That kind of coverage could be offered in a supplemental coverage that recipients have to pay for.

Regional Health Authorities: This is an idea that I think should be looked at any rate. They could coordinate HealthCorps operations, work as a clearinghouse for effective programs amongst public hospitals and county health departments. They could bargain for prescription drugs.

They could also work to reduce redundancies in mega-technology investments among competing hospitals. If a city has ten hospitals and a demand for three MRI machines, then a hospital wanting to add a fourth to the region may be adding a $5-10 million expense to the health system for a machine that is expected to be in use for 5 years with little benefit to the public. I'm not sure what the precise form of input that the authority should have in the decision to make such purchases but something along these lines should be considered.


I will be doing a long analytical post on energy next week. I've been wanting to do something after the black out. I wanted to wait until some better researched analyses turned up.

I will say this. I think that these two areas present our leaders with opportunities to call on the best spirit of the American people the way John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to explore space and put a man on the moon. Americans are nothing if not a can do people. No one has challenged our imagination and determination in a long, long time. The only challenge that we have risen to as a people in the last thirty years was to build a military power the size of the next 15 largest militaries combined.

I was a kid in the seventies and every year for my birthday my grandmother would get me a subscription to World magazine, the kid's magazine that National Geographic published. Every month I was tantalized by a future of foam houses that could be heated and cooled by gerbils. There were articles on wind and solar power, new kinds of cars, new kinds of building materials.

Well now I'm thirty six, its 2003 and we have Tyvek. It is astonishing and disgraceful to me that we still drive gas combustion engines. It is astonishing and disgraceful to me that we still rely on COAL to generate electricity (nevermind lowering pollution standards). We use COAL in 2003. COAL?...COAL!!! That is the most chickenshit example of this country's inability to summon the political will to surmount any real challenge beyond building up our military and leading the world in shopping and eating.

The two most obvious places to start are research and development and the replacement, through attrition of all public fleets with alternative fuel vehicles, electric, natural gas and hybrids. It may be the case that all public works construction should be using Bio-Diesel for their heavy machinery.

These are challenges that could spark the public's sense of imagination, civic pride and social will if presented in an inspiring and forward looking way.


Clearly the Democrats need to develop a coherent vision of an activist multilateral foreign policy that puts a premium on providing support to pro-democracy dissident movements inside repressive regimes (I would suggest George Soros' Open Society Foundation as a starting point on how to do this), uses forces as a last resort and has principled criteria for military intervention: ongoing or imminent human rights abuses resulting in large scale loss of human life or the threat of invasion.

On trade they are already moving towards a globalism that embraces labor and environmental standards in any and all trade agreements. They should move towards phasing out subsidies and tariffs that hurt third world countries. This needs to be done unilaterally without any demands of quid pro quo.


In writing this, I realized that for the most part I have covered ground that I have thought about and already had proposals for. What really needs to be done is to identify the problems facing the country and develop responses accordingly. I would propose HEALTHCARE, ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, CRIME AND SECURITY & DEFENSE as policy problems. I believe that the fundamental problem facing the country is our inability to summon the political will and imagination to solve any of these problems.

9/22 Note: I honestly didn't realize when I linked to the Matthew Miller article on teacher's pay that he is working for the Center For American Progress. Synchronicity.

say it ain't so. joe 

From the Village Voice:

he listbot at, the commercial site whose clever software facilitates face-to-face gatherings between Web surfers of like interest, sent me a forlorn little e-mail the other day. "Congratulations on a successful National Lieberman in 2004 Meetup last week! See photos from every city," it read, giving a link. Click yourself, and you'll see the pathos: There ain't no photos.

That's not surprising. In Chicago, where I live, there wasn't any meetup. Not enough supporters RSVP'ed to trigger the software's automated threshold., in fact, has registered only 332 Joseph Lieberman fans in the entire United States of America, four in Chicago. An undercover reporter from The Village Voice—uh, me—represents one quarter of the total.

It could be considered comic, this abyss at the Lieberman grassroots. It could be, that is, if Lieberman showed any signs of going away. Instead, he's been ramping up: launching a splashy new tax plan; publishing a dowloadable campaign book, Leading With Integrity: A Fresh Start for America, and an accompanying website; kicking off a campaign tour—all just this past week. And that's not funny. Because it's not too early to predict that if the Democrats lose the presidential election next November, Lieberman will be the one to blame...

God, I hate that guy. More than the other guy. Because I'd like to eat a Philly Cheese Steak with the other guy, but not Joe. And also the Joe is sposd to be on my side but he's really not. I hate that. I just wish he would take his Willy Wonka hair and his frowny face and go away.

farewell to voodoo economics 

The Dean campaign is trying to introduce a new phrase to our culture:

"Enron Economics"

From an campaign email:

Yesterday, the Bush administration announced the largest annual deficit in American history--$374 billion. This deficit has been caused by a President and a Congress that gave unprecedented tax cuts to a small wealthy elite and placed us in an unnecessary war based on deception.

This President and Congress are placing the very financial security of our nation in jeopardy. They are “borrowing” hundreds of billions from the Social Security Trust Fund and placing $52,000 of new debt on every family of four over the next six years.

Under George W. Bush, Enron Economics has become the official fiscal policy of the United States. We are endangering our financial status abroad and mortgaging our children’s future.

I was hoping that someone would pick up on my idea of " a return the Reagan Deficits" but it never took off. Coarse, I dint have no blog back den.

this is heartening 

Becky Miller's review of the Al Franken's "Liar's" reveals a gap between the conservatives who are shilling for the unravelling of this country and the conservatives who actually have the best interests of this country at heart.

From the Oregonian:

I must say that only once before in my life have I ever felt as utterly shocked as I am at this moment. The time before was when I first realized that my boss at the time, Bill Sizemore, was greedy and dishonest. The foundations of my universe shook. What has utterly shocked me today is Al Franken's latest book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

I read the book in one sitting. It is an amazing book, and -- if you're a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and watches Fox News -- an earth-shattering book.

...Until I read this book, I believed the Bill Sizemore/Oregon Taxpayers United mess was a bit of a fluke. (In 2002 I testified against him in a civil trial in which a Multnomah County jury found that his charitable foundation and political action committee had committed fraud and forgery, and that Oregon Taxpayers United had engaged in a pattern of racketeering to obtain signatures on initiative petitions for tax measures drafted by Sizemore.) The spin, the lies, the greed, the disregard for the everyday person -- I thought it was all just a fluke and really limited to this one little pustule of filth that had festered in a little storefront in Clackamas, Oregon. Boy, was I wrong.

I believe Franken is telling the truth in his book because it meshes perfectly with what I personally have observed. And I think every decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative owes it to himself to read it. Hold your nose if you must -- Franken is as foul-mouthed and crass as his reputation would lead you to believe (and quite mistakenly believes Christians love Israel because it is the center of prophecies that include the fiery deaths of all Jews) -- but read it anyway.

The other day on talk radio, I heard a guy tell an incredulous Lars Larson that he wouldn't believe Rush Limbaugh was a drug addict involved in a drug ring even if Limbaugh himself admitted it. If you're that guy, don't bother reading Franken's book. You will really just drive yourself even more crazy.

The leaders we conservatives have trusted have taken advantage of our trust to line the pockets of the wealthy and powerful, and it's time we rose up and drove out these greedy liars. They've hijacked and distorted our belief system for their own gain, and in doing so are destroying our credibility.

And if we decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservatives of this country neglect the duty we have to our children and grandchildren, we will never be able to work with those decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue liberal Americans that these lying creeps have taught us to despise. We will never be safe to debate them or, when warranted, to listen to them and maybe even agree with them. We will never be safe to work out our differences or to work together. And we will never be able to build on the all-American sense of unity that burst forth following 9/11, only to disappear shortly thereafter in a cloud of lying, greedy partisan politics.

I'm still a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative. But Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of you lying liars -- I'm through with you!

In another stunning example of this phenonenom, George Bush the Elder is awarding Ted Kennedy a public service award as a slap in the face to his son who he apparently considers a crazy ideaologue.

Thanks to Teresa Nielson Hayden at Making Light for the pick up on the Oregonian article. Reading the Oregonian online is hard work.

where's the beef?  

Brad Delong:

On the very first page of the preface of his new book, The Roaring Nineties, Joseph Stiglitz writes:

...the idea for this book was hatched as I considered stories [about the Clinton administration] that were not so widely available, or so well understood. The recovery from the 1991 recession, for instance, seemed to defy what was universally taught in economics courses around the world. The popular version, trumpeted by some within the Clinton administration, claimed that deficit reduction... had brought about the recovery, yet standard theory said that deficit reductions worsened economic downturns...

Stiglitz is here setting the stage for his argument--which will reach its conclusion on page 44--that the Clinton administration's deficit-reduction program was a mistake. But the story that he tells is not the story that happened.

First of all, Stiglitz's last clause in the quote above is simply wrong. There was never any theoretical prediction that the Clinton deficit-reduction program would send the economy back into recession in 1993 and 1994. The deficit reduction program did not cut the current-year deficit but the deficit three and more years in the future. Standard theory says that cutting the current deficit worsens downturns, but it also says that cutting the expected future deficit three, five, ten years down the road boosts investment and improves the current situation.

I like Stiglitz's stuff on globalization. He's a Nobel Prize winner and a World Bank Economist who bit the hand that fed him. But it looks like Delong has the tiger by the tail on this one. Go read the rest. Like a good James Surowiecki column, a good Delong post can make you smarter in 200 words or less. Unfortunately, the Comments section is below average on this one. Shame that.

by invitation only 

Dick Cheney has invited Joe Wilson to be a charter member of the re-elect Bush/Cheney Campaign.

Well, you know what I knew, that my Dog was bigger than his. 

The mainstream media is picking up on Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin's lunatic remarks and the Administration's failure to distance itself from Boykin. Now the media needs to start connecting the dots in terms of the fundamentalism that runs through this Administration. The Administration's war on the 20th Century is well documented but not well known.

Earlier this year Jennifer Block wrote in the Nation:

Faced with inconvenient scientific information, the Bush Administration just hits delete. This according to an explosive new report by Representative Henry Waxman, which catalogues dozens of politically driven affronts to objective scientific inquiry--from the recent Environmental Protection Agency report that was purged of information on global warming to the biased rewrite of a National Cancer Institute web page that once debunked alleged links between abortions and breast cancer. The Administration "has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings," says the report, precipitating "misleading statements by the president, inaccurate responses to Congress...erroneous international communications and the gagging of scientists."

The report then goes on to detail the Admin's war on effective HIV/AIDS programs:

the New York Times revealed in April, scientists are being advised to "cleanse" certain words from their federal grant applications--basic terms of HIV epidemiology like "men who have sex with men," "sex worker" and "needle exchange."

And when all else fails, the Administration has simply preached: In February, a hundred CDC researchers on sexually transmitted diseases were summoned to Washington by HHS deputy secretary Claude Allen for a daylong affair consisting entirely of speakers extolling abstinence until marriage. There were no panels or workshops, just endless testimonials, including one by a young woman calling herself "a born-again virgin."

There is a bigger story here and I think we will see it develop as we get closer to the election. Expect to see Ashcroft's fundamentalism come to the fore. Expect to see Women's and Gay rights organizations gearing up their memberships, hopefully with some targetted protests and C/D. The Democratic nominee won't be able to go at this stuff full bore but liberal attack dogs should.

Monday, October 20, 2003

paging dr. dean 

Krugman in the NY Times:

...those who want to restore fiscal sanity probably need to frame their proposals in a way that neutralizes some of the administration's demagoguery. In particular, they probably shouldn't propose a rollback of all of the Bush tax cuts.

Here's why: while the central thrust of both the 2001 and the 2003 tax cuts was to cut taxes on the wealthy, the bills also included provisions that provided fairly large tax cuts to some — but only some — middle-income families. Chief among these were child tax credits and a "cutout" that reduced the tax rate on some income to 10 percent from 15 percent.

These middle-class tax cuts were designed to create a "sweet spot" that would allow the administration to point to "typical" families that received big tax cuts. If a middle-income family had two or more children 17 or younger, and an income just high enough to take full advantage of the provisions, it did get a significant tax cut. And such families played a big role in selling the overall package.

So if a Democratic candidate proposes a total rollback of the Bush tax cuts, he'll be offering an easy target: administration spokespeople will be able to provide reporters with carefully chosen examples of middle-income families who would lose $1,500 or $2,000 a year from tax-cut repeal. By leaving the child tax credits and the cutout in place while proposing to repeal the rest, contenders will recapture most of the revenue lost because of the tax cuts, while making the job of the administration propagandists that much harder.

Purists will raise two objections. The first is that an incomplete rollback of the Bush tax cuts won't be enough to restore long-run solvency. In fact, even a full rollback wouldn't be enough. According to my rough calculations, keeping the child credits and the cutout while rolling back the rest would close only about half the fiscal gap. But it would be a lot better than current policy.

my hero 

From All Things Considered:

Paul Farmer is a physician and an anthropologist, and according to at least one of his former patients in Haiti, he's a god. Farmer specializes in infectious disease; he's made it his mission to transform health care on a global scale, by focusing on the world's poorest and sickest communities. Back in 1987, Farmer helped found a nonprofit called Partners in Health, which says its mission is both medical and moral. Now, the group treats 1,000 patients daily for free in the Haitian countryside. The group also works to cure drug-resistant tuberculosis among prisoners in Siberia and in the slums of Lima, Peru.

Writer Tracy Kidder profiles Farmer in his new book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. NPR's Melissa Block, host of All Things Considered, talks with Kidder about his visits to Haiti and the time he spent with Farmer.

Listen to the Fresh Air interview with Farmer

when the solution becomes the problem 

From All Things Considered:

Ex-Inmates Come Home
The U.S. Justice Department says that in addition to the 2.1 million Americans currently behind bars, the nation has about 4.3 million ex-inmates. John Biewen of American RadioWorks explores how one predominantly black neighborhood in Durham, N.C., tries to cope with a high incarceration rate and with the steady flow of returning ex-inmates. See photos from East Durham and hear a longer version of the report.

The stunning insight that comes out of the report is that there is a tipping point for communities. If the rate of incarceration is too high - crime goes up. Incarceration breaks up homes and it makes incarceration the norm, removing social pressures to stay out of trouble. Rules requiring convicts to serve their maximum sentence means that they are not on parole when they leave prison and reenter the community unsupervised. It really calls into question fundamental assumptions in our justice system. Unfortunately there is plenty of money to lobby us not to rethink our justice system.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

sunday magazine 

Grab a cup of coffee and a bagel with lox - it's our most multimedia issue yet!

Kim Jong Il, the world's most dangerous dictator,
has always been a figure surrounded by mystery
and myth. But, from defectors and former aides, a
portrait is emerging of family dysfunction, palace
intrigue and imperial menace.

by Peter Maas from the New York Times Magazine
printer friendly

Biodiesel is about to go big-time. Will the ski-bum town of
Telluride, Colorado, become the green-fuel Houston?

by Florence Williams from Outside

Pelican Bay State Prison houses 'the worst of the worst' in the
starkest isolation imaginable. but these 'supermax' units are turning
inmates into mental cases.

by Vince Beiser from the LA Times Magazine
printer friendly

Robert McKee, the screenwriting instructor, was having lunch
the other day at the back of a dark Irish bar on Lexington Avenue.

by Ian Parker from the New Yorker
printer friendly

For decades, the entry on "Sexual Deviations" in the official
manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) contained
81 words. For decades, homosexuality was included in the
definition. This is the untold story of the behind-the-scenes
campaign to change the definition.

by Elise Spiegel from this American Life

The legendary banjo picker talks about Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and playing
with Ricky Scaggs. His wife's telling of taking the contract to do the theme
for the Beverly Hillbillies is worth the price of admission all by it's self.

by Terry Gross for Fresh Air

Video - humour
by Cheshire Dave @

For the first time since a six-year string of drug arrests
and imprisonments, the actor has a starring role in a movie.
But can he keep himself out of trouble?

by Mim Udovitch from the New York Times Magazine
printer friendly

by Austin Ratner from the Missouri Review

Dead men may tell no tales, but obituary writers pull no punches as they
mark the passing of the famous, the eccentric—even the ordinary

By Richard Conniff from Smithsonian

Jon Pareles, the chief pop critic for The Times, discusses
song clips by the Strokes, the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem
-- three exciting yet backward-looking New York bands.

AUDIO by Jon Pareles from the New York Times

The country's rulers and citizens are methodically
stripping the country of its assets.
SLIDESHOW from the New York Times

by Nina Simone and Felix da Housecat

by Lodger

Video Game / Music Video
by the Gorillaz


Edited by Carlton Doby from McSweeney's

Don't forget to read the comics over in the margin.

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