Saturday, August 21, 2010

Raj Goyle's Social Security Pledge and Why it Matters

Roosevelt Signs The Social Security Act: Presi...Image via Wikipedia(August 18) Saturday at the  Wichita Hyatt, in front of a crowd of nearly 200 people  at Demofest, State Rep. Raj Goyle, candidate for Congress representing the 4th District, signed a pledge promising to work to strengthen and protect Social Security. The event came on the 75th Anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the bill into law.

Now some political pledges are primarily  symbolic, but some have real consequences and mark dramatic political differences. This is just such a case. Goyle's opponent, Mike Pompeo and the leadership of the national Republican party have Social Security in their crosshairs.


Goyle's Pledge
In a speech that received a standing ovation from the crowd, Raj Goyle stated, "Seventy five years ago today President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law one of the most groundbreaking, progressive and forward-thinking programs in our nation's history when he created the Social Security system. Social Security has withstood a World War, thrived in times of peace and unrest, survived recessions and deficits and held firm under Democrats and Republicans."
"And in 2010, Social Security will be protected and nurtured for many more decades to come, because we in this room - and other like us nationwide - will not let special interests, the Club for Growthers, the greedy Wall Street raiders, the John Boehners and the Newt Gingriches of the world anywhere near this American institution," Goyle continued,
"I pledge to you today that I will protect Social Security. I will oppose all efforts to privatize it and I will certainly oppose John Boehner's idea of raising the retirement age to 70! Together, we will protect the guarantee of dignity, security and hope that began with FDR 75 years ago," Goyle concluded.
Pompeo's Plan to Gut Social Security
In an April 10 interview with the Winfield Courier, Pompeo stated his position on social security.  Pompeo supports raising the retirement age and a Bush-style privatization of social security. And note that the article is featured on the Pompeo campaign website.
On the spending side, the government needs to move down a path to reform entitlement funding, including Social Security  and Medicare -- the government's two biggest entitlement programs, Pompeo said.
Options that could be examined include increasing the age for full Social Security benefits to retirees, he said.
"I would advocate for a partial privatization of the system so people could choose to go into the government-funded program or to a retirement investment program where they could get a return on their capital," Pompeo said.
Pompeo's GOP vs. Social Security 
Pompeo's intention to privatize social security, unfortunately, is not an isolated case.
The Wonk Room summarizes
Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) much ballyhooed Roadmap for America's Future calls for the creation of private Social Security accounts, akin to those proposed by President Bush in 2005. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has explicitly advocated "reviving President George W. Bush's failed plan to partially privatize Social Security." 
Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have all touted personal accounts, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has expressed a desire to "wean everybody off" Social Security entirely. Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) even questioned the constitutionality of the program. 
Kentucky's Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, meanwhile, has said "let young working people opt out, the sooner the better, let 'em opt out and get a better investment." Indiana's GOP Senate candidate Dan Coats has endorsed a Social Security plan "along the lines of what Paul Ryan has proposed."
As a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis found, under a Bush-style privatization plan, an October 2008 retiree would have lost $26,000 in the market plunge of that year, and if the U.S. stock market had behaved like the Japanese market during the duration of that retiree's work life, "a private account would have experienced sharp negative returns, losing $70,000 -- an effective -3.3 percent net annual rate of return." But despite the market turmoil that America just went through, Republicans are most certainly pushing a privatization agenda, under the guise of a manufactured Social Security crisis.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Polluters: my first Amazon review

The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment (Hardcover) Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter have written a fascinating and eye-opening history of the companies, institutions, and policies that have created our chemically altered environment over the last century.

If Earth Day or the Love Canal tragedy were the events that brought the environmental crisis into your consciousness, then you owe it to yourself to read The Polluters. Even more so, if it was Global Warming or the BP oil spill.

Killer smog in LA and mass zinc poisoning in Denora, Pennsylvania are two dramatic events, just after WWII, covered by Ross and Amter. But there is also the story of DDT and leaded gasoline. The coverups by companies and the obfuscations of industry-influenced scientific groups are constants in the story.

Government has rarely been an effective regulator. The chemical industry in pursuing its own pecuniary interests has promoted and exploited an ideology of market fundamentalism, which has helped to negate and undermine efforts at regulation.

The Polluters is free of academic jargon and is written in a lively style

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln, the great jazz vocalist and activist, has died.  Here are two clips. The first from her early 1960s collaboration with Max Roach (The Freedom Now Suite) and the humanitarian classic "People in Me" from later in her career.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pompeo bigotry right out of Brownback playbook

By now, you've probably read that 4th Congressional Republican candidate Mike Pompeo was caught using Facebook and Twitter to promote a vile, racist, religiously bigoted blog attacking Democratic rival Raj Goyle. The rest of the story is that this attack on an opponent's religion is nothing new for the Kansas GOP.  Pompeo's campaign made the mistake of being crude, early, and traceable.  A little over a decade ago, Sam Brownback showed how this sort of dirty trick should be done: with a wink, late in the campaign, and with deniability.

First, to bring you up to date on the recent controversy.

This is part of the post that the Pompeo campaign recommended as a "good read"

Like his comrad obama, he wouldn't give an answer, only that he was not a Christian. This guy could be a muslim, a hindu, a buddhist etc who knows, only God, the shadow and ...goyle knows! One thing's for sure ... goyle is not a Christian!
Since the 2008 election of the evil muslim communist USURPER, barack hussein obama, political candidate "BIRTH CERTIFICATE & RELIGION" information is now a vital part of the vetting/nomination/election process for any and all American citizens seeking political office.
Just like his evil muslim communist USURPER comrad, barack hussein obama, This goyle character is just another "turban topper" we don't need in congress or any political office that deals with the U.S. Constitution, Christianity and the United States of America!!!
          (screen shot of the since removed tweet and blog can be found here.)

Pompeo has apologized, but apparently hasn't taken disciplinary against the staffer.

saying a staff member posted an incorrect link, the mistakes were discovered less than an hour later and the posts were pulled down immediately.

Pompeo said in a statement, “The statements of the blogger in no way reflect my views. There is no place in campaigns or in public discourse for language of this nature. I have placed a personal call of apology and spoken to Rep. Goyle directly expressing our campaign's regret for the error."...

Pompeo says he spoke with the staff member in question and is convinced there was no malice. The campaign won’t say if the staffer is facing disciplinary action.
Now, the rest of the story from Scott Swenson

 I worked on a Kansas Senate race in 1996 when Bob Dole resigned to devote attention to his presidential race. Jill Docking, the Democratic nominee, was attacked in the final days of that campaign by calls into rural areas that were clearly anti-Semitic, asking, "would you vote for Jill Docking if you knew she was Jewish?"

Those calls, and a series of ads on TV were paid for by Triad Management Services, whose leaders were deposed in anticipation of Congressional Hearings. Triad contracted with a series of nefarious organizations like Common Sense 2006 with names that sound so reasonable, but whose tactics destroy the fabric of our democracy.

Senator Sam Brownback, the winner of that 1996 race, also claimed he had nothing to do with those ads, though his own ads coincidentally also used Jill's maiden name emphasizing her heritage. A Senate Committee scheduled to investigate Triad canceled hearings once Brownback secured a seat on the committee.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remembering Ernest Eber

Herman Benson writes in the Summer 2010 issue of New Politics

I remember Ernest Erber, who died in February at the age of 96, as one those few remaining friends and comrades whose political life and ideas so closely followed my own, from our formative years in the mid-1930s through the last 20 years. A a very young man, he joined the Socialist Party-affiliated Young People Socialist League(YPSL) in the thirties. While president of the YPSL in 1937, Erber visited Spain and wrote a pamphlet about the Civil War.  The SP helped form and fund a Debs column and Erber himself joined the staff of La Battale, the POUM newspaper.  In 1938, he left YPSL with the Trotskyists to form the Socialist Workers Party in 1940 after the Soviet Union invaded Finland, he became a founding  and leading member of the Workers Party (later reoriented as the Independent Socialist League.) Some time in 1948, then looking for a socialist philosophy which rejected both right-wing social democracy and leftist Leninism, he resigned from the WP/ISL.

At the point our ways parted and I lost track of where he went politically; I do know that he became a city planner; he worked briefly for Jesse Jackson as a volunteer; and remained steadfast as a democratic socialist. I knew him and respected him (as did most everyone) as a fine human being, intelligent, of absolute integrity, modest, independent-minded, decent--a  great educator.  He was a leader in the WP/ISL, under the name Ernest Lund he wrote our popular booklet "Plenty for All."  He was a member of the National Committee, served for a time as managing editor of the New International, and was on its editorial board until 1948.  AT the WP (or ISL?) convention around 1948, at a time when we were trying to redefine our role as a movement, he was a lone voice suggesting that we function as a "small mass party" an idea that went nowhere and seems to have little impression even on his own thinking.  When he presented his resignation, indicating that he had abandoned the Leninist, Bolshevik, whatever tradition, Max Shachtman wrote a whole little booklet denouncing him for his apostasy.  Erber wasn't sure where he wanted to go but he knew what he rejected.  In that respect he was a kind of pioneer for a myriad of followers who never will know of him!  At the time, I agree wholeheartedly with Shachtman, but looking back, I am convinced that Ernie, all alone, was (more) right.

Some of Erber's youthful Trotskyist writings are online. His 1943 booklet "Plenty for All" can be found here.

After his break with Shachtman, Erber, in addition to his work as a planner, wrote occasional articles and reviews for New Politics and Dissent.  As 1990 essay for the latter journal "Virtues and Vices of the Market: Balanced Correctives to a Current Craze" was reprinted in the Dissent collection Why Market Socialism and other books.

I had some contact with Ernie many years after his break with Shachtman.  I knew him as a member of DSOC and DSA,  We were both involved in CATNAM (the Committee Against the NAM merger) and in a small group that published a newsletter entitled, if I recall correctly, "Mainstream."  I remember editorial meetings at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. and at his home in the planned community of Columbia, Maryland.  I share Herman Benson's kind thoughts towards Erber.  I wish now that I had known enough to ask Ernie about his political experiences. I am sure it would have been fascinating, but Ernie was very much involved in the issues of the day and treated his far younger comrades with the greatest equality.

Wikipedia does a fairly good job in describing the political conjecture

The proposal for merger [with the New American Movement]  generated vocal opposition, however. Forces on the organization's right wing, led by Howe and calling themselves the Committee Against the NAM Merger (CATNAM), urged that instead of courting New Left survivors that DSOC should instead continue to place its emphasis on outreach to larger forces in the labor movement and the Democratic Party. In addition to noting NAM's deep distrust of the Democratic Party, many adherents of CATNAM had grave misgivings about NAM's position towards Israel [and, though not noted in the article, NAM's third-worldist international politics]
The 1981 DSOC national convention was marked by a very heated debate on the question of merger with NAM, which was ultimately resolved by a vote of approximately 80% of the delegates in favor, none against, with the 20% or so supporting the CATNAM position abstaining.
One of our concerns, before and after, was that DSOC/DSA needed an internal political culture that consciously and unapologetically resembled the mass social democratic parties of Europe, and not the totalistic environment of the political cults or the hot-house, student movement.  (Of course, neither DSOC nor DSA never had nor desired that sort of insular political culture.  But there has not always been clarity on what they wanted, nor easy to achieve within the dominant American political culture.)  That was an echo, I think, of Erber's idea of a "small, mass party."

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Jean Schodorf message to supporters

Moderate Republican State Senator Jean Schodorf finished second in the Kansas 4th Congressional District primary.  An article in the Sunday Eagle reported that the rivals of winner Mike Pompeo may not support him.   Yesterday Schodorf sent an email to her supporters with an intriguing last paragraph

I want to challenge all of you.  Please, be concerned about the future of our city, our state and our country.  A candidate (we all know who) said at the WIBA forum that he wants to go to Washington, D.C. to "throw sand in the gears every time".  What does that mean?  Do we really want to stop programs that will help our senior citizens, our kids, the disabled , our safety, the less fortunate and businesses?"  That comment has stayed with me.  Which do you want?  Do you want to "throw sand in the gears every time", or do you want to "roll up your sleeves, pitch in, and be a part of the solution"?  I know which I choose.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Wanted David and Charles Koch, Climate Criminals

A humorous look at the Koch's. I'd like to see a more serious report. Let me know if there is one around that you are aware of.

Wanted: David and Charles Koch, Climate Criminals from Greenpeace USA on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Kansas primary outlook 4th District

Via Daily Kos which also has analysis of other Kansas races.

A SurveyUSA poll taken just during the past few days identifies the favorites for both parties in this battle to replace Todd Tiahrt. The district is reddish (58-40 McCain in 2008), but Democrats are high on their well-funded challenger: state legislator Raj Goyle. SUSA polling in June showed Goyle actually trailing unknown retiree Robert Tillman, but a quick pre-primary advertising blitz handled that effectively. Goyle now has a 40+ point lead. Meanwhile, Republicans have a more muddled field, which has become a three-way race at the last. For the longest time, it was a battle of the businessmen, as manufacturing exec Mike Pompeo and Florida transplant Wink Hartman paced the field. But moderate state senator Jean Schodorf has surged at the wire, and could figure in the conversation on Tuesday. This week's SUSA poll had Pompeo at 31 percent with Schodorf (24 percent) and Hartman (21 percent) within striking distance.
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