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Archive for November 3rd, 2010

9 Options for Your Dead Body

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:51 am by HL

9 Options for Your Dead Body
Salon.Com covers unusual options for your remains after you die. One vendor sells “customized abstract paintings, created with the ashes of a loved one mixed into the paint,” reports Salon. “These and similarly non-trad options aren’t cheap, but then neither is a traditional casket funeral, which runs about $4,000 at minimum. But cost aside, why would anyone take such bizarre measures? At first glance, shooting the dearly departed off in a firework, or wearing them as a piece of jewelry, may seem disrespectful, creepy, even unhealthy but may be a helpful way of getting through the grieving process.”



Late Late Night FDL: The Great Office War

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:50 am by HL

Late Late Night FDL: The Great Office War
RunAwayBox presents Sales vs IT in The Great Office War. What’s on your mind?

RunAwayBox presents Sales vs IT in The Great Office War.

What’s on your mind?

A Whiter Shade of Orange
Golly, that didn’t go so well.

John Boehner and for some reason Joe Paterno via pennstatelive at flickr.com

Well, that went well didn’t it? I pretty much figured those saying the “likely voter” model was too generous to the GOP were too optimistic and sadly, my intuitive sense was right (a real rarity). Imagine how bad it would be if so many GOP candidates were not so extreme (Harry Reid, Chris Coons and perhaps Lisa Murkowski (did I spell it right?) would like to thank the GOP)?

Although I wonder just how bad it would have been if the White House didn’t do what White Houses always do and pretty much sit around and watch their Party lose, to preserve their precious Cult of the Leader? Changey.

Boehner’s already crying, that’s not good for leather.

Will Alito go to the State of the Union so he can smile and take credit for his Citizens United handiwork?

The worst news of the night for me personally, was in my home state, Iowa. I’m not just a guy with insomnia, I’m actually a practicing attorney. To see all three Supreme Court justices up for retention defeated, because they interpreted the Equal Protection Clause pretty much the only way one can interpret the Equal Protection Clause, is depressing. They were magnanimous in defeat which is more than I’ll be. I intend to impotently moan about it vigorously for a while.

The State will not be posting the returns on lower court judges until later today (Iowa uses “yes” or “no” retention on judges rather than partisan races). I fear a good portion of the State’s district court judges have gotten the axe as well, threatening the “merit-based” judicial appointment process Iowa uses to make appointments.

This is really going to suck.


Rand Paul Makes It Official

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:49 am by HL

Rand Paul Makes It Official
Rand Paul is projected the winner of Kentucky’s Senate race. He was polling way ahead going into Election Day, so it’s not a shocker, but his victory might be considered the biggest triumph—so far—for the tea party. It’s going to be a long night. AP via The Washington Post: Anti-tax crusader Rand Paul’s election victory Tuesday gave the tea party a flag bearer to send to the Senate and hope that more like-minded Washington outsiders would be elected to Congress. The first-time candidate and champion of small government upended the Kentucky Senate race by trouncing the Republican establishment’s hand-picked candidate in the May primary and then winning decisively against Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway on Tuesday. Read more

Rand Paul is projected the winner of Kentucky’s Senate race. He was polling way ahead going into Election Day, so it’s not a shocker, but his victory might be considered the biggest triumph—so far—for the tea party. It’s going to be a long night.

AP via The Washington Post:

Anti-tax crusader Rand Paul’s election victory Tuesday gave the tea party a flag bearer to send to the Senate and hope that more like-minded Washington outsiders would be elected to Congress.

The first-time candidate and champion of small government upended the Kentucky Senate race by trouncing the Republican establishment’s hand-picked candidate in the May primary and then winning decisively against Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway on Tuesday.

Read more

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Robert Scheer: Payback at the Polls

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:48 am by HL

Robert Scheer: Payback at the Polls
Let’s not shoot the messenger. Yes, the tea party victors are a mixed bag espousing often contradictory and at times weird positions, the source of…

AlaskaDispatch.com: The Tea Party’s Joe Miller May Lose To Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski may well have done what few thought she could do: make history. She could become the first U.S. senator since 1954…

Connecticut Election Results 2010: Tom Foley Leads Dan Malloy
HARTFORD, Conn. — Uncounted votes in some of Connecticut’s largest cities mean the state’s gubernatorial candidates are still waiting to find out who’s victorious. Republican…


Limbaugh falsely claimed Democrats are “talking about eliminating 401(k)s”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:47 am by HL

Limbaugh falsely claimed Democrats are “talking about eliminating 401(k)s”

Rush Limbaugh claimed that Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have a “proposal” to eliminate 401(k)s in favor of a retirement plan administered by the government. In fact, they have not made such a proposal. Rather, the idea of guaranteed retirement accounts — which was distorted by Limbaugh — was mentioned by a panelist from the Economic Policy Institute during a hearing held by Harkin and Sanders on retirement security issues.

Limbaugh claims that “the Democrat Party” is proposing to “outlaw your 401(k) plan”

Limbaugh: “The GRA proposal from Harkin and Sanders is … to force America to stop putting their money into private 401(k) accounts.” During the November 1 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh cited a Washington Examiner column by Mark Hemingway and claimed that Democrats are “talking about eliminating 401(k)s.” Limbaugh further stated: “The GRA proposal from Harkin and Sanders is simple — to force America to stop putting their money into private 401(k) accounts and to send the money to the government instead — the GRA which is again, the Guaranteed Retirement Account”:

LIMBAUGH: I talked about this weeks ago – maybe even months ago when Tom dumb dung heap Harkin proposed this. Now before you continue Alicia, let me refer to you what she is talking about. It is Mark Hemingway, The Washington Examiner, “Will the Government Outlaw Your 401(k)?” It seems like an absurd possibility, yet earlier this month, two Democrat Senators, Tom Harkin, Iowa, Bernie Sanders, Vermont, held a hearing on Capitol Hill exploring the possibility of doing just that. On October 8, the two senators from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on retirement security in America. And among the proposals discussed was guaranteed retirement accounts — GRAs. The purpose of the GRA proposal is simple — to force Americans to stop putting retirement savings money into 401Ks and send the money to government instead.

Now this has been in the works for a long time. And I remember the first time I mentioned this on the program, Alicia. We were deluged with calls from Washington types — “No, no, no you totally misunderstand. Nobody in the Democrat Party is talking about eliminating 401(k)s.” And they are.

[…]

LIMBAUGH: The GRA proposal from Harkin and Sanders is simple — to force America to stop putting their retirement savings money into private 401(k) accounts and send the money to the government instead — the GRA which is again, the Guaranteed Retirement Account. Turn your 401(k) into a Guaranteed Retirement Account. The GRAs would eliminate the favorable tax treatment currently afforded to 401(k) plans. What this is rooted in is eliminating the tax deduction that you get for the contribution to your 401(k). The Democrats think it’s costing the government money. Now, they came up with this idea, the 401(k) plan, but now it is costing them money so they are going to get rid of it. You are allowed to put a certain percentage of your gross into your 401(k) without taxes on it — provided you don’t withdraw it early. They want to eliminate this. They want to take the money away from you, eliminate the tax deduction for future contributions and give you back two percent interest on what you’ve got. That’s essentially what it is.

In fact, the senators did not propose or endorse a Guaranteed Retirement Account plan

Limbaugh’s claim appears to be based on the fact that the idea was mentioned by a panelist at a committee hearing. During the segment Limbaugh cited a Washington Examiner column by Mark Hemingway, which based its fearmongering about the “government outlaw[ing] your 401(k) plan” on the claim that “earlier this month two Democratic senators, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., held a hearing on Capitol Hill exploring the possibility of doing exactly that.” Hemingway further wrote:

On Oct. 8, the two senators from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “Retirement (In)security in America.” Among the proposals discussed was “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts,” or GRAs.

The hearing was on retirement insecurity, not on any specific proposal. On October 7 the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions held a hearing titled, “The Wobbly Stool: Retirement (In)security in America.” Introducing the hearing, Harkin stated:

I want to welcome everyone to this hearing on retirement security, what’s happening to retirement in America today and in the future.  This is an issue that is of critical importance to every American family.

A recent survey found that 92 percent of adults aged 44 to 75 believe there’s a retirement crisis in America.  Are they right?  Is there a retirement crisis?

Four panelists participated in the hearing, which covered retirement insecurity, its causes and effects, and the importance of Social Security, contrary to Hemingway’s and Limbaugh’s suggestion that the hearing was about “exploring the possibility” of “outlaw[ing] your 401(k) plan.”

Neither Harkin nor Sanders discussed the GRA idea during the hearing. In 34 pages of Nexis transcripts, the only point at which Guaranteed Retirement Accounts were mentioned was when panelist Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute stated:

I would turn these completely upside-down. I’m actually in favor of a mandatory retirement system with subsidies from the federal government. And — and I’ve mentioned that the guaranteed retirement account that Teresa Ghilarducci authored is, I think, an excellent way to solve this problem going forward.

But short of that, others have suggested changing the tax deductibility of 401(k)s, turning it into a tax credit, making it a refundable tax credit, so that the government is helping the people who need help the most to save, and — and — and, you know, not just helping wealthy people move their savings from a savings account to a tax-favored savings account.

(Eisenbrey also briefly discussed the proposal in his written testimony.) There was no further discussion of GRAs and neither Harkin nor Sanders responded to the idea in the hearing.

Guaranteed retirement accounts have not been included in legislation. Republicans have previously fear-mongered about GRAs following a 2008 hearing when the idea was proposed by a panelist. In April 2009 Politifact.com stated that the idea “doesn’t have any significant support in Congress that we could find.” After Republicans revived the claim again in 2010, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on May 13 that Aaron Albright, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and Labor said the proposal was “never included in any legislation.”

Moreover, the GRA plan proposed by the Economic Policy Institute does not take away money already saved in 401(k)s

Limbaugh claimed that the GRA proposal seeks to “take the money away from you,” and “get rid of” 401(k)s because they are “costing the government money.” From Limbaugh’s show:

LIMBAUGH: The GRA proposal from Harkin and Sanders is simple — to force America to stop putting their retirement savings money into private 401(k) accounts and send the money to the government instead — the GRA which is again, the Guaranteed Retirement Account. Turn your 401(k) into a Guaranteed Retirement Account. The GRAs would eliminate the favorable tax treatment currently afforded to 401(k) plans. What this is rooted in is eliminating the tax deduction that you get for the contribution to your 401(k). The Democrats think it’s costing the government money. Now, they came up with this idea,the 401(k) plan, but now it is costing them money so they are going to get rid of it. You are allowed to put a certain percentage of your gross into your 401(k) without taxes on it — provided you don’t withdraw it early. They want to eliminate this. They want to take the money away from you, eliminate the tax deduction for future contributions and give you back two percent interest on what you’ve got. That’s essentially what it is.

GRAs envisioned by EPI’s Ghilarducci in order to increase “retirement security.” Guaranteed retirement accounts have been proposed by labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci, who is on the board of directors for the Economic Policy Institute. In a November 2007 briefing paper on the proposal, Ghilarducci advocated the creation of a system of guaranteed retirement accounts administered by the government with participants earning “a fixed 3% rate of return adjusted for inflation” From the paper:

America’s pensions are broken — tax breaks for retirement plans are at an all-time high, while pension coverage has not budged in 30 years. Most Americans have less retirement income security than they did a generation ago. However, taxpayers’ subsidies for the 401(k) plans of the wealthiest Americans just keep growing. Tax breaks for 401(k) plans amounted to $110 billion in 2006, most of which went to households in the top tax brackets. Not only do these tax breaks go to those who need them the least, they do not cause the savings rates to increase.

The GRA plan calls for all workers not enrolled in an equivalent defined-benefit pension to enroll in a Guaranteed Retirement Account. Employers and employees pay a total of 5% of pay, which will earn a guaranteed and inflation-protected rate of return. These funds will be converted to life annuities upon retirement. Most people’s contributions will be paid by the federal government with a $600 tax credit. This plan pays for itself–it will not increase the federal deficit or require a tax increase–by eliminating all tax deductions for contributions to 401(k) plans. Defined-benefit plans keep their tax-favored status. The GRAs are administered by the Social Security system eliminating all individual account management fees.

FactCheck.org: “Nobody we know of is proposing” that the government “seize” retirement assets already saved in 401(k)s or IRAs. When conservative media fear-mongered about the Ghilarducci’s proposal in 2008, FactCheck.org debunked the claim that the plan would take away people’s retirement savings. FactCheck.org stated that Ghilarducci’s proposal is “a far cry from proposing that the government seize retirement assets that investors have already salted away in 401(k)s or IRAs. Nobody we know of is proposing anything like that.”

401(k)s would not be abolished under Ghilarducci’s plan, and tax preference would continue for amounts already contributed to 401(k)s. Contrary to Limbaugh’s claim that the plan eliminates the tax break for 401(k)s because “it is costing them money,” the plan would shift the current tax breaks for “401(k)s and similar individual accounts” to a “$600 refundable tax credit” for contributions to GRAs. Ghilarducci argues that the current subsidy for 401(k)s is not fairly distributed and have not increased retirement security. However, the paper states that 401(k)s and IRA’s would “not be abolished”:

These plans will not be abolished, but under the Guaranteed Retirement Account plan additional contributions will no longer be tax exempt. We expect that many 401(k) plans will survive because high-income employees appreciate the automatic savings feature and the possibility of an employer match. Accumulations in 401(k) plans and other retirement plans that exist before the bill goes into effect will be treated under the old tax rules.

Workers already covered by a defined-benefit pensions would not have to participate. Ghilarducci states that “Participation in the program is mandatory except for workers participating in equivalent or better employer defined-benefit plans where contributions are at least 5% of earnings and benefits take the form of life annuities.” The paper further states:

Recognizing the valuable productivity-enhancing features of defined-benefit pensions, these will be allowed to substitute for a contribution into a worker’s GRA. A qualified defined-benefit pension is one in which the plan sponsor contributes 5% of payroll per year, so sponsors who make sporadic and uneven contributions will not qualify. Hybrid plans like cash-balance plans (which technically are classified as defined-benefit plans) are also exempt as long as contributions are at least 5% per year and retirement income is guaranteed for life (not paid out in a lump sum).


Hoyer: Republicans Depressing Turnout In Democratic Areas

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:46 am by HL

Hoyer: Republicans Depressing Turnout In Democratic Areas
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a last-minute fundraising e-mail for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that Democrats have “already had disturbing reports about the Republicans trying to depress voter turnout in Democratic areas.”

Kansas Voters Report Callers Telling Them They Need Proof Of Home Ownership To Vote
The Kansas attorney general has opened an investigation into reports that voters across Kansas have received calls giving them a slew of false information about the election: That the election has been moved to Wednesday, that they need to bring their voter registration cards to the polls and that they need proof of homeownership to vote.

Early Robocall Reportedly Tells MD Voters To Relax, O’Malley Won
The campaign of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley posted audio to its website today of what appears to be a misleading message being left for their supporters in the state.



Vote for Your 2010 Republican Tea Party Candidates!

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:42 am by HL

Vote for Your 2010 Republican Tea Party Candidates!


Rasmussen Was Biased

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:41 am by HL

Rasmussen Was Biased
Nate Silver did a quick check on the accuracy of polls from Rasmussen Reports, which came under heavy criticism this year because its polls showed a strong lean toward Republican candidates.

“Indeed, Rasmussen polls quite consistently turned out to overstate the standing of Republicans tonight. Of the roughly 100 polls released by Rasmussen or its subsidiary Pulse Opinion Research in the final 21 days of the campaign, roughly 70 to 75 percent overestimated the performance of Republican candidates, and on average they were biased against Democrats by 3 to 4 points.”

Welcome to Gridlock
Ezra Klein: “From the perspective of actually getting anything done in the next two years, there was perhaps no worse outcome. Republicans don’t fully control Congress, so they don’t have enough power to be blamed for legislative outcomes. But Democrats don’t control the House and they don’t have a near-filibuster proof majority in the Senate, so they can’t pass legislation. Republicans, in other words, are not left with the burden of governance, and Democrats are not left with the power to govern. Republicans don’t have to be responsible, and Democrats can’t do it for them.”

“For the time being, this means that the gains of Obama’s first two years are probably safe. Health-care repeal will not pass the Senate, and if Republicans attempt to defund the program, it will be the House acting on its own — a less tenable position than the Congress acting against the executive. It is also difficult to see major new stimulus programs — for instance, a payroll-tax holiday — finding backers in Congress, as Republicans will not be able to take full credit for them. This will be, instead, a time of implementation for the White House, oversight for the House, and paralysis for the Senate.”

Republicans Ride Wave Back to Power in House
Washington Post: “Just four years after surrendering power, Republicans recaptured control of the House and made gains in the Senate on Tuesday night, in a major rebuff of President Obama and the Democrats by an electorate worried about the economy and the size of the government.”

New York Times: “A Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and government spending, delivered defeats to House Democrats from the Northeast to the South and across the Midwest. The tide swept aside dozens of lawmakers, regardless of their seniority or their voting records, upending the balance of power for the second half of Mr. Obama’s term.”

Wall Street Journal: “Republicans won control of the House of Representatives as voters dealt a stiff rebuke to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in a historic wave that swept the GOP to power in states and districts across the country.”

Politico: “American voters Tuesday violently unraveled the complex map of America President Barack Obama proudly displayed after his 2008 victory, driving Democrats from rural and suburban districts, from virtually the entire South and unseating a generation of powerful, centrist Democratic legislators.”

Murkowski Nears Write-in Victory
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has “a good chance to become only the second candidate to run a successful write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate in the nation’s history,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Preliminary results show that “about 40% of the voters had filled in the write-in oval on their ballot… But it won’t be clear for weeks at least how many of the voters wrote in Murkowski’s name, and how many did it properly enough to be counted.”

Joe Miller (R), “who ran on a tea party platform with the backing of former Gov. Sarah Palin, was pulling in 35% of the vote. Miller was followed by Democratic nominee Scott McAdams, who had about 24% of the vote.”


Ballot Box Blues: The Most Dispiriting Election of a Lifetime

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:40 am by HL

Ballot Box Blues: The Most Dispiriting Election of a Lifetime
However breathlessly reported as a Republican triumph or Democratic save or Tea Party miracle (or anything else), the election will result in more political gridlock.

The Dems Took a Pounding in the Mid-Terms — Did It Have to Turn out This Way?
The final results of the 2010 mid-term elections have only just been tallied, but progressives have already begun their soul-searching.

It’s Not the End of the World — 7 Things Progressives Need to Keep in Mind About Last Night’s GOP ‘Wave’
The GOP’s gains represent a predictable rebalancing between presidential elections, rather than an ideological shift in the electorate.


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 3rd, 2010 4:39 am by HL

Presented By:

NoMoreFrankens? A Closer, Factual Look At The Minnesota Senate Recount
It seems almost certain that there’s going to be a recount – or two or three — come Wednesday somewhere in the United States, maybe in Nevada for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, maybe in Alaska where write-in ballots could…


Jeff Goldberg: Opponents Of Settlements Sympathize With Al Qaeda
I imagine that Jeff Goldberg reacts to the report of attempted acts of terrorism with a kind of satisfaction. No, he does not want terrorism but, as loyal defender of the occupation and settlements, he uses these horrors to help…