Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bad News / Good News / Good News

The bad news first, as it should always be. ANWR is screwed. Or at least almost.

The Bush administration budget includes an item opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. People who argue the pro-administration side of this debate always kind of mystify me. What part of 'wildlife refuge' is so damned hard to understand? Then again, I think it's an out-of-site, out-of-mind issue for most people. Until you've seen the plains of Wyoming acned by natural gas rigs, I don't think you have a full appreciation for exactly what the President means when he's talking about energy exploration. But I digress...

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington introduced an amendment to the budget bill today that would strip out the ANWR drilling provision. Sadly, the amendment went down 51-49, with Democrats Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, and Mary Landrieu opposing it and Republicans Lincoln Chafee, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, John McCain, Gordon Smith, and Olympia Snowe bravely in support. Also seeming to vote against their interests in this matter are oil giants BP and Conoco Phillips, who have announced that, even if it's allowed, they have no interest in drilling in a wildlife refuge. Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco have no such qualms, apparently.

I'd be for drilling in ANWR if it meant more affordable energy and less dependence on Middle Eastern oil. But the fact is that it doesn't mean either of those things. We'll never be able to get a significant amount of oil out of ANWR to make it worth it, and to the extent that we'll get anything out of ANWR at all, it will be in ten to twenty years, when hopefully we'll have moved out of our absurd dependence on petroleum. In other words, it will be far too little, far too late, at much to high a cost.

But the good news? Well, for one thing, New Jersey is safely in the blue. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Jon Corzine is running away with the New Jersey Gubernatorial race, beating Bret Schundler 50-to-34 and Doug Forrester 50-to-33. The biggest albatross for New Jersey Democrats -- the image of corruption (which is a bipartisan problem, anyway) -- is not a problem for Corzine, with 57% of New Jersey voters saying that his enormous personal wealth "leaves Corzine free of pressure from lobbyists and other special interests." In other words, unbought and unbossed.

And another bit of good news comes surprisingly from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. While he's not switching parties, he's certainly switching party lines. As guest blogger Jonathan Chait points out at Talking Points Memo, Graham has apparently come around to "the Democratic position" on Social Security:

"Let's have a conversation along these lines: Let's make a commitment to permanently find solvency, and see where we go," he said. "Set the accounts aside for a moment. Let's see if we can find solvency."
This comes a day after Graham voted for the soon-to-be-infamous Nelson amendment, which failed to pass, despite its disturbingly hard to argue with language:

It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt.
So, by definition, voting against this amendment meant voting for both "deep benefit cuts" and/or a "massive increase in debt". Where the hell was Frank Luntz when the Senate GOP needed him?

Anyway, since the Social Security trial balloons sent up by the privateers would by design entail both said deep benefit cuts and/or massive increases in debt, I would say that Social Security privatization is close to death. Already, Republicans Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, Olympia Snowe (damn, this list is starting to look familiar), Arlen Specter, and (of course) Lindsey Graham voted for the Nelson amendment, making it an even 50/50 in the Senate. And Graham was always supposed to be the intermediary between the White House and the Senate Democrats on privatization, so if he's saying private accounts have to be set aside, then I'm betting they'll be indefinitely set aside.

If that ain't good news, I don't know what is.

posted by Scott | 3/16/2005 | |

Monday, March 14, 2005

"Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence"

I have to admit, as happy as I was to see 100,000 Lebanese turn out in the streets to demand an end to Syrian occupation a few weeks back, I also found it encouraging that half a million people came out in response to support Syria and Hezbollah only days later.

Why? Free expression.

This wasn't 100,000 people fighting 500,000 people with guns and bombs and terror. This was people taking to the streets, proactively proclaiming what they believe to be right. I'm certainly no fan of Hezbollah, but much like the IRA, they can claim some legitimacy as more than just a terrorist group. Sure, I was a little sad that the Hezbollah supporters outnumbered the Lebanese independence activists five to one, but at least there was no blood in the streets. When it comes to the Middle East, I'll take what I can get.

Today, however, the Lebanese anti-occupation movement scored a huge victory, with 800,000 taking to the streets. Should a million Hezbollah supporters turn out in a few days to support the Syrian occupation, so be it. A peaceful expression of freedom is a peaceful expression of freedom, and that's a good thing for the future of the Middle East, no matter what.

posted by Scott | 3/14/2005 | |
social security
There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security
Amazon Honor System Click Here to Donate Learn More
reading room