August 12, 2005


Make it so.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:10 PM

A morning with the Students for Repeating Whatever Conservatives Tell Them

This is cross-posted over at Campus Progress.

This morning I attended a panel at the National Press Club addressing the 70th "birthday" of Social Security. (RealVideo link from C-SPAN here) It's worth watching, as Dr. Christian Weller's numerous rebuttals of claims offered by Deputy Commissioner of Social Security James Lockhart give a perfect example of the Social Security battle in American right now: facts versus rhetoric.

The rhetoric can be powerful, however, and it's important for Campus Progress readers to be aware of the right's desire to make privatizing and selling away your financial future look appealing- a tactic employed this morning with the panel's final speaker, Ursula Williams- deputy director of Students for Saving Social Security (S4).

S4 advertises itself as a non-partisan organization, claimed Williams, who just happened to previously work at both the Republican Senate Conference and the Bush White House. Even more of a startling coincidence is their constant references to the benefits of the "Bush plan" to save Social Security. Williams spoke for about ten minutes on the benefits and advantages of privatizing Social Security, complete with references to the AARP being corrupt and the "system being broken." Despite mentioning "the burden of debt" and "empty promises" about the current system, Williams spectacularly managed to avoid actually mentioning a single number whatsoever.

Claimed Williams, who emphasized how private accounts help women, minorities, gays, puppies, rainbows, and magic pixies, "true feminism is having your own personal retirement." Yes. She actually said that. Which would have instantly been the most amazing statement of Willams' speech were it not for her next talking point: that personal accounts would benefit the gay community. You see, since gay people can't get married, they don't have the ability to have spousal shared Social Security accounts. Private, personal accounts would allow that. This is clearly the solution to the problem- not, you know, legalizing gay marriage.

Blacks die earlier than whites? Don't fix that, make private accounts that exploit it. Gays can't marry? Don't fix that, make private accounts that exploit it. While S4 doesn't seem to offer any position on issues of civil rights on their site, it's clear that they support a system that doesn't address problems in society- they desire a system that profits off it.

Of course, as Dr. Weller confirmed later, there's absolutely nothing stopping these students from "taking control of their own future." Nothing prevents them from investing right now in the stock market, or a 401K, or a personal retirement plan. But apparently, their entire future financial security is on the line if they're not allowed to gut Social Security and play with it in the stock market.

I am sure there are college students and young people across the country that have doubts, or at the very least questions, about Social Security. S4 does not offer a single answer. Their website and their spokespersons are, to be blunt, rhetorically vacant: a clothing-catalog diorama of young, happy, active kids who repeat the mantra of "personal accounts" while linking to the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing groups that do all the number-crunching for them.

Were the S4 kids honest about their desire to "save" Social Security, perhaps they would have considered some of the options Dr. Weller noted during the panel: for example, investing a larger percentage of the domestic product into the Social Security trust fund- a percentage that would cost less than the current cost of the Iraq War. Or, perhaps, larger financing of the trust fund, the cost of which would be less than the expense of President Bush's most recent tax cuts for the top 1% wealthiest Americans. It seems to me if you really cared about securing the future, you'd actually be interested in discussing alternative ideas. Silly me.

After the event, I noticed that S4 bragged on their blog about the lackluster turnout for a pro-Social Security event going on at the same time as Ursula's speech:

Alas, we made it just in time to see the last of the media leaving. We stopped one reporter to ask about what had happened. Apparently Move-On managed to draw a crowd of 25. Yes you heard me, 25.

With all of the money they have, you'd think they would be able to drum up more support. *shrug*

Hmm. No offense, guys, but that's about five more than the number of people who showed up to hear Ursula Williams say absolutely nothing for ten minutes.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:07 PM

August 11, 2005

Why does Abe Lincoln hate America?

The Campus Progress Inexcusable Misquote Contest declares its winner.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:08 PM

Wally vision

We just put up an article on Wal-Mart's horrific "family values" rhetoric over at Campus Progress.

Yet the political bias inherent in Wal-Mart�s criteria became clearer when Wal-Mart�s merchandiser for films found Robert Greenwald�s acclaimed documentary, "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," (produced with the support of the Center for American Progress) �inappropriate for Wal-Mart.� For no conceivable reason could a documentary involving no gratuitous violence, expletives, or sex be inappropriate, other than its criticism of a conservative political administration.

Pathetically, the rationale for these items is that they �would not appeal to the majority of our customers� or would offend those proverbial family values. Fine, if they know their designated market and have complaints pouring in from their consumers. Except that those two books were both fixtures on the bestseller list for months and Sheryl Crow, Nirvana and the Goo Goo Dolls are top selling entertainers. And those items that are not religiously objectionable demonstrate the degree of hypocrisy within the �family values� standards.

Even something as potentially broadly appealing, positive, and utterly non-offensive as a T-shirt reading �Someday a woman will be president� was pulled from the sales floor because �the message goes against Wal-Mart family values.� So old school patriarchy and sexism are Wal-Mart values? Seems a little retrograde and moot in the age of �take your daughter to work day.�

What's interesting is that this morning Steve Gilliard posted another article about Wal-Mart, and summed up the East Coast view of Wally World fighting for "family values" pretty damn well:

Wal-Mart doesn't get it. New Yorkers like to sue. They will drag Wal-Mart through the New York court system for everything they can imagine. And when they finish, they can expect politicians to denounce them and weekly union drives on their doorsteps, as well as a permanent host for the purple rat. But there is a deeper and widely shared cultural issue here: New Yorkers hate Southerners and Southern culture. A Southern accent draws scorn from everybody. which is why I find the idea of Fred Thompson as Manhattan DA on Law and Order as likely as Pvt. Jenna Bush. The minute he opened his mouth, most New Yorkers would stop listening. Even white people here call them crackers. Bill Clinton is accepted because white Southerners hate him.

New York doesn't even have a country music station. They tried and no one listened. Yes, Garth Brooks played in Central Park, but even the cops laughed at the idea of New Yorkers actually going to such a thing. Sure, they wanted to build a NASCAR track in Staten Island, but that's Staten Island, our very own Cobb County, but with 10 times the racists. Most New Yorkers laugh at NASCAR as the sport of drunken idiots. If Scott think that disdain for white Southerners is limited to the "elite" we can visit any high school and raise the subject, Stuy, Dalton, Midwood and see what answers we get. We can ask them if any listen to country music, watch NASCAR or what they think of the South.

Target is accepted here because it is low impact, and its image is urban friendly. Home Depot provides a real service since the closing of Woolworths and Martin's Paints. But Wal Mart, while it has low prices, also says cheap. And anti-union. Which matters here.

Wal Mart can keep trying, but when they run into continued hostility, with every candidate forced to oppose them, they might understand the issue isn't big box stores but them.

Conservatives bitch and moan about "liberal East Coast elitists" looking down on the South, or Southern culture. It's nonsense. We look down on poverty-inducing, holier-than-thou poor-little-us rhetoric from Southerners like the Waltons who have more money than 90% of the population of New York and pretend they give two shits about "better values" for the American people. If I have to choose between a rich asshole and a rich asshole who also tells me I don't know any better because I don't watch NASCAR I'll go with the lesser of two evils.

Steve said it best, and I'm 100% behind him: all Wal-Mart has to do is provide health care and stop claiming that us "horrible liberals" and our eeeeeevil labor unions are the problem as opposed to that clearly less-important "entire operation is based on Chinese slave labor" thing, and there wouldn't be a problem. Calling us elitist for highlighting a bunch of assholes who happen to be from Red States ain't working.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:29 AM

August 9, 2005

Killing hippies: it's totally awesome

Tucker Carlson: douchebag.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:41 PM

Ain't no party like a college Republican party 'cause the college Republican party don't stop

No, seriously, they don't.

Feisty college Republicans are taking on what they see as the liberal establishment on college campuses across the country. They have $17 million in their war chest from the last two years alone, and three times as many chapters and twice the membership that they had just six years ago.


In the tightest race in over 30 years, delegates from over 200 chapters barely chose former CRNC treasurer Paul Gourley -- seen as a stalwart from the previous administration -- over upstart candidate Michael Davidson.

A narrow 16-vote margin decided the eventual winner; the last time the election for chair was that close, an ambitious dropout from the University of Utah named Karl Rove came out on top. The College Republicans have been a GOP breeding ground whose past chairmen also include controversial strategist Lee Atwater, head of the Americans For Tax Reform Grover Norquist, and scandal-ridden lobbyist Jack Abramoff (he served twice).

I wrote some thoughts on this over at Campus Progress, what with this being exactly the thing we're trying to fight and all.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:38 AM

August 8, 2005

Newest comic - "Confederate Victory Theory"

If you don't get the analogy in this week's installment, you clearly attend a school in which the Creationists have already caused their massive damage to young minds.

I've learned over the last year or so working with progressive policy people that it's unfair to mock religion, or even policy founded by religious doctrine. Keen readers may have noticed that the first bubble in the first panel is, in fact, a real quote. In some sense, Bush is actually right in what he said- education does merit expressing alternative viewpoints. Yet when I was in high school I was also taught about Zoroastrianism and for some reason there wasn't a need to explain it's historical impact on developing civilizations in the middle of geology class.

Hopefully, science will still be around when the time comes to gather enough scientists to build the space lasers necessary to defend our humble planet against the alien forces who decided that the lack of intelligent life on it allowed moral excuse for destroying it and absorbing its natural resources. Until then, please join me in weeping for the youth of our nation's Southern states. Oh, and buy some crap.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:06 AM