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Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Gender Genie

Just because it amuses me -- inspired by an article in The New York Times Magazine, the Gender Genie uses a simplified version of an algorithm developed by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, to predict the gender of an author. Simply type or paste your text in the box at this link at bookblog. Click submit for the results. (thanks to kysor)

BTW -- I test as "male" every time.


Tucker Explains It All For You

Everyone's favorite bow-tie-wearing frat boy is at it again. This time, when former Clinton national economic adviser Gene Sperling appeared on Crossfire, he made the statement that "Social Security does not become insolvent until 2042." Tuckie, who evidently counts economics expertise amongst his many talents, "corrected" him: "In 2018, just to correct you ... that's, again, only 14 years. Benefits will overtake revenues." Whence the confusion? I thought an excellent post from Sue on the MediaMatters website answered the question quite succinctly:

Just as having an account at a bank does not mean that the bank has to have your pile of money sitting in the bank vault just waiting for you to withdraw it, the Social Security Trust Fund does not have to have the funds in a LOCK BOX to have an obligation to fund monthly stipends to retirees. Currently, and for the next few years, more money is coming into the system from payroll taxes than is going out in benefits. This makes them have a surplus. Banks have surpluses, and have millions of dollars in deposits sometimes, but they do not have those millions in the vault. They lend that money out in dribs and drabs and huge chunks, and then borrowers pay it back with interest included. It is this constant flow of money out and money plus interest back in that allows banks to pay interest on savings accounts. If a bank were only a repository for the money, it would NOT gain any value over time. It only gathers value because it is used....

Tucker Carlson tried to make the argument that solvent and running a surplus are equivalent. They are not. His guest said "Social Security does not become insolvent until 2042." Carlson responded: "In 2018, just to correct you ... that's, again, only 14 years. Benefits will overtake revenues."

....Carlson was saying that he was correcting his guest from saying that something would happen in 2042 when it will actually happen in 2018. BUT, these are two different things. Social Security is bringing in more money now than it is putting out. And from 2018 until 2042, it will have enough money to pay all beneficiaries without doing a thing with a combination of stored asset s(once again, NOT stored in a bank vault, but owed and due upon demand. And, the US Government is not going to default on this obligation as some banks did in the Depression) and incoming payroll taxes.

So was pointed out by Molly Ivins in an earlier post this week, the government has been borrowing from Social Security to fund just about everything, and if it repays this money, there is no problem. Of course if the Chimp stays on his current drunken spending spree, the question of where that repayment money will come from naturally arises. But that is not a problem in the Social Security's a problem with 59,000,000 people who voted for that dangerous fool.

It's all just a synchronous excuse to loot large amounts of money from one of the only healthy financial federal programs in existence. I agree with the prescient observations of another MM poster: "Privatization or Pirate-zation of Social Security will be attended by (1) periodic (5 to 10 years) embezzlement raids by Wall Street Firms (2) bailouts by the government."


Friday, December 17, 2004

Happy Holidays from the Neocons

As we reflect on the blessings wrought by our pios leaders this year, it is worth taking a moment to consider the source of their spiritual inspiration, and no I don't mean Jesus. In the 1930s, a little known German philosopher named Leo Stauss came to the United States and began a university teaching career. Among his students were Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol and others neocons who adopted Strauss's philosophies as the foundation for the political ideals that have taken root so fundamentally in the Bush Administration. To wit:

Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control. At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud." As Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine points out, "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

[Strauss believed that] secular society..leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. Bailey argues that it is this firm belief in the political utility of religion as an "opiate of the masses" that helps explain why secular Jews like Kristol in 'Commentary' magazine and other neoconservative journals have allied themselves with the Christian Right and even taken on Darwin's theory of evolution.

Merry friggin' Christmas.


John Kerry Abadons African-American Voters, Too

From a great article in the DailyKos, on Kerry's failure to step up to the Ohio voting scandal:

Let's be clear.  Kerry isn't being masterful behind the scenes, as some folks want to pretend. He's saving his political ass, at the expense of the very same Black folks he PROMISED he would not let be cheated out of the right to vote again.  Kerry isn't just "waiting his time" - he's hiding in the latrine, terrified to publicly associate himself with anything that confronts the corruption in Ohio because of the potential political cost to himself and the fear that someone might call him crybaby names (i.e. "sore loser").  From the perspective of a white politican, this makes perfect sense since, as anyone involved in mainstream politics knows (even though it is never said in polite company), it is a foolhardy business bucking the system just to protect the rights of some Nigras.  (Yes, that is extremely bitter and angry sarcasm, and the choice of the word is quite deliberate). Kerry's conduct and the conduct of the Democratic party vis a vis fighting to count Black votes (and thus, everyone's votes) in Ohio is not brilliant post-election strategy - it is living, breathing proof of the ongoing cowardice and self-serving nature of liberal white racism, something quite familiar to those people of color in America who have been victimized by it politically over the years even as they were promised it wasn't true.  

Read the rest of Shanikka's diary here. Maybe we can take Kerry and offer him in a package deal to the Republicans with Joltin' Joe Lieberman, in trade for, say, a case of Chivas Regal?


John Kerry Abandons Pro-Choice Voters

Oh screw this. John Kerry says the Democratic party needs to reach out to "pro-life voters." If we're that consumed with pandering for votes, why don't we just throw a party, call ourselves Republicans and declare ourselves the winner?

Anti-abortion wingnuts rejoice. Read more here -- if you can stomach it.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

John Stewart Frags Rummy

If you wait for the clip to load, I promise, it's worth it. John Stewart at his absolute savage best. Maybe even better than Tuckergate.

Daily Show on Rumsfeld (click here)


Taking Back the South Pt. 4 - Immigration Policy and "Democratic Values"

A lot of speculation has arisen among Democrats recently surrounding the assertion that the South is lost to the party until demographic factors reshape it -- for at least a generation. I respectfully disagree with this conclusion. We can't just cede that large a part of the country to the the very least, we've got to wage a war there that makes the Republicans feel like they've got to spend time, money and energy contesting them, and not let them automatically chalk them up in the "win" column.

It is exactly this issue of local strategies that is coming to the fore in the battle over who will chair the DNC, and rightfully so. In fact, I can't think of a more important topic than the development of regional policy and tactics that will take the battle to the Republican stronghold and make them fight on their own turf, hopefully undermining their base in the process. This diary is devoted to that discussion, and the topic at hand is immigration, so please join the fracas.

In Part 1 of this diary, I discussed the necessity of developing a progressive platform that squarely addresses immigration, an issue that speaks to the concerns of Southerners and is in danger of being co-opted by wingnuts in their pursuit of a jingoistic, racist agenda. Part 2 was devoted to exploring how Republicans have steadily supported an immigration policy that provides virtual slave labor to industry while undermining unions, wages and working conditions for Americans on the bottom end of the economic scale. Part 3 discussed how Democrats have been slow to take a stand on immigration due to the fact that it pits conflicting Democratic values against each other, and suggests that curbing immigration numbers can serve a progressive agenda to improve working conditions for those who are being victimized by the status quo.

Okay. Whew. So much for recap. We now find ourselves talking about how we can be pro-immigration reform without being anti-immigration, an important distinction that keeps us from blurring into the agenda of jingoistic wingnuts who want to gorge on a cocktail of paranoid nationalism and racism. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to look at the immigration policies of other countries, and see how they compare to the current US immigration policy.

Despite the fanning of anti-immigrant flames by the right, the fact is that most immigration to this country comes in the form of legal immigration, approximately one million people per year. (Note: I will use the statistics provided by FAIR, because even though their agenda tends to be a bit right-wingy, they are good about documenting their sources and their numbers tend to hold up.) About 20 percent of annual immigrants come from Mexico, with India, China and the Philippines each sending from five to seven percent. Vietnam, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Bosnia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Korea, Russia and Nicaragua send between two and three percent. Together, these top 15 countries account for about 60 percent of all immigration to the US; the remaining 40 percent comes from smaller shares from a large number of countries.

Most of these immigrants (almost two-thirds) are sponsored by family members who are now legal permanent residents of the US. Approximately one-sixth are workers (and their families) who have skills that are purportedly undersupplied within the US labor force. About one-tenth go to refugees and those seeking asylum, and approximately one in 25 are those who win admission by lottery.

As these figures attest, most of these spots are being given to people based on their relationship to those already in the United States. And this is one of the areas where US immigration policy differs dramatically from other countries (notably Australia and Canada) whose populations are also by and large composed of immigrants. At the heart of this discussion lies the controversy over what is known as “chain migration,” and since I've only recently become acquainted with this concept myself, I thought it might be good to explore it more fully.

I'll make my life easier by quoting from the FAIR website regarding chain migration. (For the purposes of this discussion, please ignore the somewhat inflammatory rhetoric and focus on the underlying concepts and statistics):

Chain migration happens because present U.S. immigration policy is based on the principle of broadly defined family reunification; immigrants are able to sponsor their relatives back home to be admitted as immigrants here. In other words, most immigrants are admitted simply because they have a relative here who sponsors them, not because of what they might be able to contribute to our society.

Because of the chain reaction described above, immigration numbers continue to rise. Under the "immediate relatives" category, the parents, spouse, and children of a U.S. citizen are admitted without limit. Therefore, once the law was changed in 1965 to create the so-called family reunification system, chain migration caused the numbers in this category to steadily rise. Five years after chain migration began, the number of immediate relative admissions had nearly doubled (from 32,714 in 1965 to 79,213 in 1970); ten years after, it had almost tripled (to 91,504 in 1975); 15 years after, it was nearly five times higher (151,131 in 1980); 20 years after, it was nearly six times higher (204,368 in 1985); 25 years after, it was seven times higher (231,680 in 1990); less than 30 years after, it was eight times higher (249,764 in 1994); and in 2001, 36 years later, the number of immediate relatives admitted 443,964-over 13 times higher.

Since most immigration categories have a limit to the number of people who can be admitted each year, immigrants' relatives back home must often wait for years to be admitted. Because of chain migration, over three million aliens have been told they are eligible to immigrate but have to wait. Many of them do not, figuring that, since they are eligible anyway, they should not have to wait for the U.S. government to get around to doing the paperwork. In this way, chain migration - and the expectations and long lines it produces - increases illegal immigration.

The problem will get worse. The illegal aliens given amnesty by Congress in 1986 are just now fueling naturalization in record numbers. As these former illegal aliens become citizens, all of their immediate relatives qualify to come immediately to the United States, and start new migration chains of their own.

In short, most people are being granted citizenship based on nepotism -- who they are related to -- not what they can contribute to the culture and economy.

In contrast to the United States, where birth rates are pretty stable, Canadian immigration policy is designed to address a falling birth rate, an aging population and the continuing relocation of Canadian workers to the United States. Immigrants are admitted primarily because they are skilled workers who are needed in select fields to promote Canadian industry. They are also required to prove that they have sufficient settlement funding prior to acceptance, as opposed to the US where the sponsoring family member simply has to pledge that they have adequate funds to support the immigrant. This pledge is not binding and its abuse has been a hotly debated topic in Congress.

Australia's policy is similar to Canada's. They have developed a list of “occupations eligible for migration,” targeting those “possessing skills immediately relevant to employers.” Those who do not possess an occupation on this list are barred from applying. Applicants must also pass a “vocational English” test before being allowed admission. An exception to the above is granted to those applying for citizenship based on humanitarian purposes. Recent legislation has also been designed to make it easier for those foreign students who sought higher education in Australia to gain citizenship upon graduation.

Both Canada and Australia embrace a more limited, nuclear definition of “family” than does the US, which currently allows for immigration entitlements for extended relatives (adult siblings, adult children, and parents). The late great Barbara Jordan was one of the first Democrats to take the lead in pushing for “nuclear migration” as opposed to “chain migration”; it was her commission that recommended cutting the major links of family chain migration in the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996, eliminating the categories for adult children and siblings and limiting that for parents of adults, and capping immigration levels at roughly half their current rate. Although these recommendations did not make it into the final draft of the bill, she was acutely aware of the fact that the economic pressure brought to bear by a continuous large influx of unskilled workers is always felt hardest by minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics, and she wasn't afraid to say so.

Now my knowledge of the economic theory behind NAFTA is incomplete at best, so correct me anyone who knows better, but as it was explained to me the basic notion is that we will lose unskilled manufacturing jobs that will be compensated for by the development of businesses that pay higher wages. Why then are we not orienting our immigration policy, like Canada and Australia, towards professions that can promote the growth of such businesses?

To wit: The Department of Labor defines nursing as a "shortage occupation," and those who suffer most from this shortage tend to be located in poor, rural areas. My own experience with this is anecdotal, but a friend who is a nurse from Zimbabwe has suffered nothing but bureaucratic red tape and exploitation at the hands of immigration lawyers and potential employers for years in her efforts to migrate here legally. Why aren't we making immigration easier for those who could potentially contribute so much? And why do we propose to naturalize others who openly flaunt immigration law under vaguely defined and conflicting notions of inclusiveness?

The Democrats continue to dodge the issue of immigration, and in doing so fail to protect the working poor who already bear the brunt of this administration's brutal domestic policies. And they do so under the slightly creepy notion that in tightening immigration restrictions they will alienate the Hispanic vote, as if the only thing Hispanics care about is getting their relatives over here. This view seems to me short sighted and not a little racist (more on this later). We need to open a dialog as to how we can value and safeguard the influx of many different cultural voices through immigration policy; how we can insure that we continue to provide haven for those in need of asylum; and how can we promote economic growth and protect those on the most vulnerable end of the economic spectrum.

I sincerely believe that a unifying, populist-based discussion of this topic could take root in the South, and derail all the anti-gay, anti-abortion claptrap that the right has been so successful in pulling to the center of any political debate.

Your comments, as always, are sincerely encouraged and valued.

Stay tuned for Pt. 5 - “Poor Mexico - So Far From God, and So Close to the United States.”

Other posts in this series:

Taking Back the South Pt. 1 - Welcome to Flea Country
Taking Back the South Pt. 2 - Bring Me The Head of David Dreier
Taking Back the South Pt. 3 - What Would A Progressive Immigration Policy Look Like?


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Vote With Your $$$$$$

Take a look at, a website that compiles information on what companies supported each party with corporate contributions in 2004 (go Progressive Insurance! I will never begrudge them my monthly payment again). They note that "if each American who voted 'Blue' in 2004 spends $100 in 2005 on products of a corporation that by reason of its employees' or connected political action committees' political contributions supported 'Blue' over 'Red,' $5 billion in revenues would be shifted to 'Blue"' supporting corporations." Bottom line -- Blue states have a lot more economic clout than Red states. Let your voi$e be heard.

Good Companies:
Hard Rock Cafe
Apple Computers
National Enquirer
Black Entertainment Network
World Savings & Loan
E&J Gallo Winery
Barnes & Noble
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Charlotte Bobcats

Bad Companies:
Dairy Queen
Dell Computers
Biker Magazine
Wachovia Corp
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Home Depot
Phoenix Suns


Mullet Fantasia

Margaret Cho, from her blog:

Republicans know that they may not be able to sway anyone with their ideas on domestic and foreign policy, or their views on the economy, but they do know that hatred and bigotry are great motivators. They get the ear of the leaders of these so called 'family groups' and Christian media watchdogs and warn them of the impending storm of gay 'legitimization' and they get them all riled up by telling them that gays are going to get married and move into their neighborhoods. As if a newly married gay couple would ever choose to live in a trailer park. They pump up these Bible thumping, cousin humping genetic mistakes with hot air and propaganda which sends them into a mullet fantasia of pink triangles and rainbow flags, and convinces them that their tax dollars will be used to foot the bill for Elton John and George Michael's wedding.

Sounds like a family reunion to me.


Social Security is Dying and Other Republican Lies

The Unsinkable Molly Ivins has a splendid article on all the political sleight-of-hand the Bush administration is utilizing in its efforts to raid the Social Security piggy bank:

Beware hidden assumptions – as in, "Everybody knows Social Security is (a) in trouble, (b) bankrupt or (c) will expire next week." In fact, "everybody knows" very little on this subject because the arguments about the system's future are built on complex, long-term economic models that can easily be thrown off by a single year. And if there's one thing the economy does with some regularity, it is confound expert predictions. Demographic changes, population growth and many other variables also influence how the models are drawn.

A second problem is that reporters of all kinds and stripes are notoriously weak on math. The Nation's Calvin Trillin says his trouble stems from his failure to convince his math teachers that many of his answers were meant in an ironic sense. I sometimes have to call John Pope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune just to make sure that going from 40 percent to 60 percent is still an improvement of 20 percentage points, and also a 50 percent improvement.

This debate is landmined with Phony Fun Facts. One notorious scare tactic is to note that when Social Security began, there were 42 workers for each retiree. Now, there are three workers per retiree. And in 25 years, there will be only two. Ergo, we're doomed. Actually, at the "frightening" current rate of three workers per retiree, the system is producing a surplus and being skimmed to finance the rest of the federal budget. Alas, Al Gore's famous "lockbox" got lost along with a lot of hanging chads in Florida.

You can read the rest here. Please take time to read it, and tell your friends. Don't let these grand thieves get away with perpetuating this myth -- it's important to spread the truth as an antidote to so much raging bullshit.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

ACTION ALERT - Demand Congress Investigate 2004 Election

Questions continue to linger about irregularities in voting procedures during the last election. Citizens in African-American neighborhoods were forced to wait in line for hours before being allowed to vote, and controversies abound regarding computerized voting systems that leave no paper trail in case a recount is called for. If people were wrongly prevented from voting, or if legitimate votes were mis-counted or not counted at all, we need to know so that those responsible can be held accountable, and to help prevent this from happening again.

Congressman Conyers (D-MI) has asked for 1 million emails demanding that the House Judiciary Committee hold full hearings on the 2004 election. You can support his efforts by emailing him here.

(If you want, you can simply cut and past the first paragraph of this email, feel free to appropriate any or all of it with my blessing!)

You can also go and automatically send an email to your local representatives. Here is the link.

The decision on whether or not there will be an investigation could come as soon as Monday. I urge everyone to lend their support, and to forward this email to everyone you feel might be of like mind. Your emails provide powerful and persuasive evidence of a grassroots movement to counterbalance the so-called "mandate" that this administration feels it has been handed, so please let your voice be heard!


ACTION ALERT - Sinclair Broadcasting At It Again

The group Media Matters is launching another broadside attack against Sinclair Broadcasting, those lovely people who almost brought you the anti-Kerry film Stolen Honor right before the presidential election. Rather than wait two years for another election to roll around, a coalition which includes Moveon, Alternet and Robert Greenwalt (among others) is encouraging people to write Sinclair advertizers and let them know they feel Sinclair is abusing the publilc trust they are entrusted to uphold with regard to their 62 stations under FCC guidelines. They hope to pressure Sinclair into a dialog that includes other political voices than the right wing ones they continually and exclusively thump:

"Religion, particularly Christianity, has been under attack by the left for several years." (11/18/04)

"[The Angry Left] ridicule what red-staters see as moral values and in their arrogant and superior way, the Angry Left substitute their own topics they claim to represent real moral values: unjust war, tax relief and indifference to the environment." (11/23/04)

"Mainstream America will not vote for a [Democratic] party run by Hollywood liberals, greedy trial lawyers and clueless academia." (11/15/04)may not know this, but your advertising supports a television news broadcast that claims:

"Religion, particularly Christianity, has been under attack by the left for several years." (11/18/04)

"[The Angry Left] ridicule what red-staters see as moral values and in their arrogant and superior way, the Angry Left substitute their own topics they claim to represent real moral values: unjust war, tax relief and indifference to the environment." (11/23/04)

"Mainstream America will not vote for a [Democratic] party run by Hollywood liberals, greedy trial lawyers and clueless academia." (11/15/04)

You can visit the Sinclair Action site here, which provides links to advertisers, addresses and a sample letter. Please take a minute to visit the site and send a few emails. Grass roots support drove Sinclair stock into the tank over Stolen Honor, as stockholders freaked over potential revenue loss when advertizers pulled out. It can work again. It's also a powerful demonstration of the strength of the grassroots movement that is growing within the Democratic party, a potent antidote to the "mandate mentality" that the wingnuts are trumpeting so loudly.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Hillary Gets It Right

From today's Washington Times:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking out a position on illegal immigration that is more conservative than President Bush, a strategy that supporters and detractors alike see as a way for the New York Democrat to shake the "liberal" label and appeal to traditionally Republican states....

"Bush has done everything he can to leave the doors wide open," said Robert Kunst, president of, a group dedicated to drafting Mrs. Clinton to run for president. "Hillary is the only one taking a position on immigration. She will win that issue hands down...."

With the vast majority of Americans in polls viewing illegal immigration as a serious problem, Mrs. Clinton also could make deep inroads in the conservative red states, especially those in the South that the Democrats have largely written off in recent presidential campaigns.

While I object to the notion that this is a "more conservative" position than President Bush's for reasons already noted, it is my point exactly. You can read the rest of the article here.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Southern School Defends "Slavery Lite" Booklet

Much brouhaha this week over "Southern Salvery, As It Was," a book that is being taught at Cary Christian School, one of the largest Christian schools in North Carolina. Some excerpts:

"To say the least, it is strange that the thing the Bible condemns (slave-trading) brings very little opprobrium upon the North, yet that which the Bible allows (slave-ownership) has brought down all manner of condemnation upon the South." (page 22)

"As we have already mentioned, the 'peculiar institution' of slavery was not perfect or sinless, but the reality was a far cry from the horrific descriptions given to us in modern histories." (page 22)

"Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)

Mutual Affection and Confidence

"There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)

"Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." (page 25)

"But many Southern blacks supported the South because of long established bonds of affection and trust that had been forged over generations with their white masters and friends." (page 27)

"Nearly every slave in the South enjoyed a higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South -- and had a much easier existence." (page 30)

The News Observer quotes one parent:

Angela Kennedy, whose daughters have attended Cary Christian since 1996, said ...."In public schools, all they get is one side of the story. That's not education. That's indoctrination."

Anyone still care to argue that these dangerous freaks aren't forever re-fighting the Civil War?