Friday, February 11, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - May I Say One Word In Admiration - WOW!

Get ready for the Shock and Awe Condi is leaving in the wake of her visits abroad. Rich Lowry says it far better than I can. Read on. To see the original article click on the title of this post.

Rice on Tour
“Look, this is America!”
By: Rich Lowry
National Review Online
February 11, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's just-concluded trip to Europe signals that the United States is back in the diplomacy business in earnest again. Part of the reason is that after four years of Colin Powell, the United States now has a secretary of State in full.

A contradiction President Bush's critics have never confronted is that they spent the past four years lamenting the Bush administration's poor diplomacy at the same time they celebrated its top diplomat. They only turned on Powell when he took the administration's case against Saddam Hussein to the world with his February 2003 speech to the United Nations — never mind this is the sort of thing written in a secretary of State's job description (it wasn't Powell's fault that the prewar intelligence was so grievously flawed).
Rice was helped in Europe by having a wind at her back from Bush's reelection and the Jan. 30 vote in Iraq, and there will surely be difficult days ahead for her (can you say Pyongyang?). But her tenure, following directly on the heel's Powell's, will probably offer a tale of two secretaries of State.
Rice gets things Powell never did. For instance, that leaking to Bob Woodward and other Washington Post reporters is not the secretary of State's chief responsibility. Powell was so obviously the primary source for so many journalistic accounts of intra-administration fights that he often deserved a co-byline. Or that being known as a dissenter from administration policy only undermines your standing and your credibility as a spokesman for the United States.
Powell was the least-traveled secretary of State in 30 years, for a couple of reasons. One was that he wanted to stay home to be better able to engage in the vicious intramural fighting necessary to undermine the president's policy. The other was that he considered travel an inconvenience. That is understandable, even if Powell didn't have to deal, like the rest of us, with security lines and metal-detector wandings. But shouldn't it have been a sign he was better suited to be secretary of the interior?
Rice, in contrast, supports the president's policy and is loyal to him, so she has no need to hang around in Washington to indulge in bureaucratic backstabbing. She is also young and vigorous, a workout obsessive who could beat most other foreign ministers in the world in a 5k race and is up to the rigors of foreign travel.
This is a good thing, because Rice's trip proved the Woody Allen truism that 80 percent of life is showing up. If you are willing to stand before a potentially hostile foreign audience (in Paris, of all places!) and explain U.S. policy, or stand next to a foreign counterpart and take skeptical questions from reporters, your very act of being there shows a level of attention and caring that wins points. And when you are as winsome as Condi Rice, you might actually move some people. Has Gerhard Schroeder yet fully recovered from his Rice-induced swoon?
Indeed, it would take a heart of stone and an utter disregard for symbolism not to be a little moved at the images of Rice shaking hands with foreign dignitaries. Those pictures fairly yelled — "Look, this is America!" The message of her ascension to the top echelon of the U.S. government couldn't have come at a better time. When Bush is trying to reform a part of the world that has the lowest possible regard for women, Rice implicitly says women are as capable as men. When Bush wants Middle Eastern governments to respect pluralism and people of all faith and ethnicities, Rice implicitly says race and creed needn't matter. When Bush is extolling the power of freedom and American ideals, Rice implicitly says liberty and respect for human dignity can triumph over injustice, as they did in her 1950s-era Birmingham, Ala.
She, in other words, is a secretary of State to make us proud. Her trip therefore coupled national pride with diplomatic niceties. What a combination.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Democrat Minority Leaders Are Preventing Social Security Reform Bipartisanship.

I believe that we have the actual answer as to why Democrats aren't crossing the aisle to support Social Security Reform. Read on. Click on the title of the post to see the original article.
Congressman: Democrat Leadership Threatening 'Retribution' for Dems Who Cooperate with White House
by Allan H. Ryskind
Posted Feb 10, 2005
Human Events Online

Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles. Under his legislation (HR 4851), no new taxes would be needed to pay for "transition costs," participation in the new system would be voluntary and individuals would be allowed to divert a portion of their payroll tax into a mutual fund.A questioner from the audience, stressing his own Democratic credentials, said he believed Ryan's plan should attract members of his own party and wondered whether the Wisconsin lawmaker had secured any Democratic sponsors. Ryan said he had been working with friends on the "other side of the aisle" who were favorable toward his solution, but he faced an enormous problem: intense pressure on his colleagues from the minority leadership."We were in planning stages [with friendly Democrats]," said Ryan. But each essentially told him: "I like what you're doing. I like this bill. I think it's the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can't do it."Ryan said he believed the only thing that can assure passage is an outpouring from America's grassroots.

AARP Is Obsfucating Social Security Reform

Even though in a few years, I could be considered a member of the AARP, I am not joining ever! This organization is not helping Retired Americans achieve their dream by blocking reform of the system. Read on. To see the original article, click on the title of this post.

AARP’s Agenda
February 10, 2005
AARP distorts the public-opinion data on Social Security.
By Peter Ferrara - National Review Online
AARP released a poll last month purportedly showing that the public agrees with it on a personal-account option for Social Security — opposing the idea by 48 percent to 43 percent. That poll seemed odd, since it was way out of line with polls going back over ten years now consistently showing large majorities supporting personal accounts.

USA Next, the rapidly growing organization for future-looking, 21st-century seniors, asked nationally renowned pollster John McLaughlin to look into the AARP poll. What he found might remind you a little of what bloggers found when they looked into the supposed documents behind Dan Rather's phony CBS story about President Bush's National Guard service.
First, the survey excluded everyone under age 30. To AARP, they don't exist, even though they made up 17 percent of voters in the last election.Those over 60 constituted 34 percent of the survey sample, even though they represented 24 percent of voters in the last election. Thirty-three percent of the survey's respondents reported that they regularly receive Social Security benefits, yet only 20.7 percent of all adults do.The AARP survey also included 37 percent Democrats and 31 percent Republicans. But that is hopelessly outdated, as voters in the last election were identified as 37 percent Republican and 37 percent Democrat.Another example: AARP asked respondents in the survey whether they agree with the statement, "Social Security should be protected as a guaranteed benefit, and should not be privatized." But Social Security benefits are not guaranteed under current law. Moreover, personal-account reforms would not downgrade the status of Social Security benefits, as the question implies.
USA Next then engaged McLaughlin to do a real survey on personal accounts. McLaughlin found that 55 percent of voters would support allowing workers a free choice to shift some of their payroll taxes into their own personal-savings and investment accounts, with only 27 percent opposed.
McLaughlin also asked voters what they would think if the personal accounts were backed up by a federal guarantee ensuring that workers would all receive at least as much as promised by Social Security under current law. Such a guarantee is included in the bill introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. John Sununu (R., N.H.). In this case, support for the idea soars to 64 percent.
By contrast, voters overwhelmingly oppose by 71 percent to 17 percent eliminating the long-term Social Security deficits by reducing future promised benefits by 30 percent. This is what shifting the basic Social Security benefit formula from wage indexing to price indexing would do. Many think-tank warriors have strongly indicated their great willingness to sacrifice the political prospects of elected Republicans by having them add such price indexing to a personal-account-reform package.
These survey results show the importance of crafting personal-account reforms carefully. When personal accounts are done right, they are overwhelmingly popular. If Democrats fight without reason against such reform, Republicans are only going to gain politically in base Democrat constituency groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, and low- and moderate-income workers.
But adding overwhelmingly unpopular ideas like price indexing to the reform is only going to undermine the popularity of personal accounts, give the Democrats a real basis of opposition, and probably kill the whole reform effort. Those who support price indexing simply don't understand the personal accounts.
If the accounts are large enough, as in the Ryan-Sununu plan, then the accounts will eventually eliminate the long-term deficits of Social Security without any benefit cuts like price indexing to the old Social Security structure. That is because so much of the Social Security benefit obligations are shifted to the accounts that the old program is left in permanent surplus. This has been established by the official scores of various reform plans by the chief actuary of Social Security. It can be accomplished as well by phasing in the large accounts more slowly, though that would delay the achievement of permanent solvency.
Finally, the public should recognize from the analysis of these polls that AARP is a liberal lobbying group, not an honest representative of seniors. Most important, USA Next now offers members all the benefits that AARP does. So unless you support high taxes and big government, as AARP does on every issue, there is no longer reason to belong to AARP.
— Peter Ferrara is a senior fellow at the
Institute for Policy Innovation and director of the Social Security Project for the Free Enterprise Fund.
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