I wanted to provide to you our latest thinking (not for attribution) on Social Security reform.
I don’t need to tell you that this will be one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times. If we succeed in reforming Social Security, it will rank as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever. The scope and scale of this endeavor are hard to overestimate.
Let me tell you first what our plans are in terms of sequencing and political strategy. We will focus on Social Security immediately in this new year. Our strategy will probably include speeches early this month to establish an important premise: the current system is heading for an iceberg. The notion that younger workers will receive anything like the benefits they have been promised is fiction, unless significant reforms are undertaken. We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course. That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness; it is the pre-condition to authentic reform.
There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear “bad news.”
Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq…building democracy. “That’s all he wants to hear about,” we have been told. So “in” are the latest totals on school openings, and “out” are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that “it will just get worse.”
Our sources are firm in that they conclude this “good news only” directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.
(NY, NY) New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and its youth chapter ReACTiON Gun Violence, along with Million Mom March members and other concerned residents praised the City Council today for passing a package of gun bills that will reduce the flood of illegal guns in New York City. Illegal guns are responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. The leading bill in this package is Intro. 365 – The Gun Industry Responsibility Act (GIRA), sponsored by Councilmember David Yassky (D -Brooklyn).
GIRA creates a “Code of Responsible Conduct” for gun dealers and manufacturers. If a dealer or manufacturer fails to comply with the code, they can be held financially liable to a victim of gun violence or their family. The legislation would be the first of its kind, while creating a national standard for the sale of only 1 gun per 30 days per person. GIRA is an incentive for gun manufacturers to use their selling power to make our neighborhoods safer by reducing the number of illegal guns on our streets.
Thanks, J, and congratulations!
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Shortly after the tsunami struck, when we were all beginning to grasp the potential toll, I was speaking with someone who I know to be devoutly Catholic. We were lamenting the terrible loss of life, and she said, “but you see, these things happen because they don’t have God.” She has a heavy accent, and we were standing in a pouring rain, so I asked her to repeat what she said, to make sure I heard correctly. “They don’t have God. Why do you think these terrible things happen in Africa and India and Asia?” Some combination of shock and civility caused me to stammer, “oh, it seems like terrible things happen everywhere, to everyone, regardless of what they believe.” But she was shaking her head emphatically, “Not like this! They don’t have God like you and I have God.” I was drenched and cold by this time, and not really up to introducing her to my considerably more universalist views, so I said, blandly, “well, for now, we can only pray for the comfort and safety of the survivors, and hope that the world is generous.” She shrugged and nodded some kind of agreement. So many people turn to simplistic, absolutist explanations like this when faced with inexplicable tragedy. But how many are as depraved as those fun-loving Westboro Baptists, whose god killed 150,000 people in order to eliminate gay Swedish tourists from the beaches? Thank God, literally, for thoughtful voices like this one, from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
…The simplest explanation is that of the 12th century sage, Moses Maimonides. Natural disasters, he said, have no explanation other than that God, by placing us in a physical world, set life within the parameters of the physical. Planets are formed, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocents die.
To wish it were otherwise is in essence to wish that we were not physical beings at all.
Then we would not know pleasure, desire, achievement, freedom, virtue, creativity, vulnerability and love. We would be angels — God’s computers — programmed to sing his praise.
The religious question is, therefore, not “Why did this happen?” but “What then shall we do?” That is why, in synagogues, churches, mosques and temples, along with our prayers for the injured and the bereaved, we are asking people to donate money to assist the work of relief.
The religious response is not to seek to understand, thereby to accept. We are not God.
Instead we are the people he has called on to be his “partners in the work of creation.” The only adequate religious response is to say: “God, I do not know why this disaster has happened, but I do know what you want of us: to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes.” We cannot understand God, but we can strive to imitate his love and care.