Bush on Social Security: Overhaul or Keelhaul?

In a 40-minute news conference a day after he declared victory over Senator John Kerry, Mr. Bush said he would begin work immediately on his proposal to overhaul Social Security, one of the biggest goals in his second-term agenda.

The above is here from The New York Times.

I think a more accurate description would be Bush’s “proposal to keelhaul Social Security”:

The president’s plan would do the opposite of what Mr. Bush claims. It would weaken Social Security, hurt the economy and endanger many workers’ retirements by pushing them into unreasonable risks in the stock market. If Mr. Bush were a broker peddling stocks to low-income, uninsured, indebted individuals like many of the Americans who would be included in his plan, he would be violating rules that require brokers to recommend only suitable investments. . . .

For [the Bush administration], Social Security is primarily an ideological struggle. Social Security supports retirees by shifting income from the young to the old via taxes, and from the rich to the poor via the formula for calculating benefits. To Mr. Bush and his supporters, taxation and redistribution are anathema, and Social Security is an anticapitalist ploy to squelch initiative and growth. Those same arguments were leveled against Social Security when President Franklin Roosevelt established it in 1935, and when its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937.

It’s worked well for nearly 70 years, and will for at least another 50. Don’t let the neocon ideologues steal it from you. See more here.


Judge Censured for Free Work by Accountant

A Manhattan judge has been censured by state authorities for letting her personal accountant prepare her taxes without pay during a period when she gave the accountant court-appointed jobs worth more than $21,000.

The judge, Diane A. Lebedeff, a Civil Court judge who has served as an acting Supreme Court justice since 1988, stopped being billed by her accountant, Alice Krause, in 1997, shortly after Justice Lebedeff approved Ms. Krause’s bill for serving as a legal guardian in a case before the judge, the commission said. . . .

[J]ustice Lebedeff is the fourth judge sitting in New York City to be disciplined by the commission this year, though all four investigations date back to at least last year. A fifth judge has been charged with bribery, while still another is being investigated for draining the assets of a wealthy aunt.

The New York Times reports the details here (it sounds like it really might have been an innocent oversight).


Abandoned By the Bill of Rights?

Washington Times columnist Nat Hentoff thinks that’s what happened to Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen arrested in Afgahnistan and now held indefinitely on American soil without access to an attorney and without having been charged. The Fourth Circuit gave its blessing, and Mr. Hentoff thinks we should be alarmed, he writes here. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion is here.


Iconoclasts: Newman and Redford

Each episode of the documentary series Iconoclasts from the Sundance Channel pairs two famous people and films them essentially interviewing each other. A couple of years ago, one of the first episodes paired Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and I found it very interesting.

One scene stuck with me. In 1992, Paul Newman was honored at the Kennedy Center. Robert Redford was one of his inductors. In archival footage from the ceremony, they showed Robert Redford in a tuxedo on the stage making the following speech, while also showing Newman’s reaction from his seat in the audience. It was an absolute classic. I have tried to find the text of it on the internets ever since, but have been unable to. Tonight, the Sundance Channel broadcast the program again, so I wrote down what Mr. Redford said from the stage, and I immortalize it here:

We’ve had quite a road together, Paul and I. Jumped off cliffs. We’ve, um, robbed trains. Pulled off a sting or two.

But to give you an idea about the kind of friend he’s been to me, um, there was a time – a while ago – when I was trying to get an apartment in New York. So I wrote to a few friends [to see] if they would support me and give me references. And I’d like to share with you tonight the, um, the letter that Paul wrote the Board [pulling letter from jacket pocket]:

To Whom It May Concern:

Mr. Robert Redford has owed me a hundred and twenty bucks for over three years. He will not assume his obligation under threat of loss of friendship, honor, or loyalty. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend him for anything.

Paul Newman


Minnesota Case Fits Pattern in U.S. Attorneys Flap

A prosecutor apparently targeted for firing had supported Native American voters’ rights.

WASHINGTON — For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor. Named U.S. attorney for Minnesota in 1991, he won a series of high-profile white-collar crime and gun and explosives cases. By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department.

So it came as a surprise — and something of a mystery — when he turned up on a list of U.S. attorneys who had been targeted for firing.

Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans.

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger’s office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Details here from Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times.


Bush’s Family Profits from ‘No Child’ Act

A company headed by President Bush’s brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush’s company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president’s signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite’s portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.

But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year.

This smells bad. Really bad. Go read the whole thing. Details here from the front page of this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.


Put to Katrina’s Test

It was conceived as the solution to confusion and bureaucratic logjams that hampered responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a 426-page master plan to coordinate government agencies in a disaster.

When it was unveiled amid fanfare in January, the Department of Homeland Security’s National Response Plan promised “vastly improved coordination among federal, state, local and tribal organizations to help save lives” from storms, floods, earthquakes or terrorist assaults.

Hurricane Katrina turned out to be its first real-world test — but the plan broke down soon after the monster winds blew in.

Its failures raise unsettling questions about the federal government’s readiness to deal with future crippling disasters. An examination of how the plan was administered during the crucial early hours of this natural disaster reveal more confusion than coordination and repeated failures of leadership.

The plan on paper was not always apparent on the ground. Cooperation among government agencies faltered at almost every level, right up to the White House.

The Los Angeles Times has a long, comprehensive analysis of what went wrong and why.


Rehnquist’s Absence To Continue

Still ailing from thyroid cancer and the aggressive treatments he has received for the disease, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will not be in attendance when the Supreme Court returns Monday from its one-month winter recess, the court announced yesterday.

“Because of continuing secretions caused by his tracheotomy and radiation therapy, Chief Justice Rehnquist will not sit on the Bench when the Court reconvenes,” the court’s office of public information said in a brief statement. The statement did not say whether Rehnquist would miss all five days of oral arguments slated for January, but it left open that possibility.

The chief justice will, however, participate in the court’s internal discussions and vote on cases, the statement said. Court spokeswoman Kathleen L. Arberg declined to comment on whether Rehnquist’s condition would affect his announced plan to administer the oath of office to President Bush on Jan. 20.

“Continuing secretions”? More here from Charles Lane of The Washington Post.


Jury-Tampering Claim Halts L.I. Murder Trial

RIVERHEAD, N.Y., Sept. 29 – It was a moment three years in the making as the Long Island electrician accused of killing the Manhattan financier R. Theodore Ammon strode into court here, winked at his family and sat down with his lawyers, ready to begin his murder trial.

But in an incident that may cause a mistrial, the whole process halted. Before a packed courtroom, the Suffolk County prosecutor, Janet Albertson, stood up and said that the defendant, Daniel J. Pelosi, had been tape recorded making plans to intimidate and assault witnesses, tamper with the jury and threaten her children.


Associate Gets Jail Time for Thefts From Firm, Colleagues

A former associate at White & Case has received a jail sentence for stealing more than $111,000 from her law firm and for helping her boyfriend orchestrate a scheme that defrauded investors, including a number of White & Case employees, of more than $260,000.

Jennifer M. Hampton was sentenced last month by Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Renee White to a prison term of 1-1/2 to 4 years.

Hampton pleaded guilty last November to charges of first-degree fraud and second-degree grand larceny.

At the sentencing, White castigated the 34-year-old former lawyer, who earned a six-figure salary as a White & Case associate, for turning to crime to support an ostentatious lifestyle.

Details here from the New York Law Journal via Law.com.