At last! have finally completed my review of House of Flying Daggers for Destroy All Monsters. It's the first review I've managed to post so far this year, and indeed since December. I still have lots on deck from last year, so I hope and plan to be more productive henceforth.
Well, it's been a month since I've had to do this, but things are very busy right now, both at home and at work. I plan to backfill posts for the last two days (be sure to scroll down!) and then do my best to catch up over the weekend. Thanks for your patience...you have our gratitude.
I received a reply from the office of Senator Evan Bayh to the email on Social Security I sent last week.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the privatization of Social Security. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the future of such an important program.
Social Security is among the most successful federal government programs ever enacted, responsible for meeting many of the needs of America's retired and disabled population. According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately 45.5 million people receive some form of Social Security benefit, of which 71.9 percent are over the age of sixty five. The average Social Security benefit amounts to about $10,000 a year and 20 percent of beneficiaries receive $7,000 a year or less. For most beneficiaries, this benefit is an important source of income. Social Security benefits account for more than half of total income for almost two-thirds of beneficiaries over age 65. And Social Security represents 90 percent or more of total income for almost one-third of elderly beneficiaries.
As you know, the Social Security system is projected to have long-range funding problems under its current structure. In fact, the Social Security Board of Trustees estimates that over the next 75 years the system's expenditures will exceed its income by 14 percent on average and by 2042 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted. Concerns about the future of Social Security have led to much congressional debate on possible reforms to the program, ranging from restoring the system's long-range solvency with as few changes as possible to totally revamping it toward private-sector pension models.
Vigorous debate continues to take place over proposals to create personal retirement accounts, also referred to as "privatizing" Social Security. Proponents of personal retirement accounts suggest that allowing individuals to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in the stock market would result in greater returns on the money, providing an increased financial yield for retirement. However, opponents of personal retirement accounts believe that subjecting Social Security to the risks of the stock market could lead to reduced benefits for many recipients. In addition, they raise the question of how the transition to a system of personal accounts could be financed given the reemergence of budget deficits. Finally, they note that individuals may not make wise investment decisions, as their timing for acquiring and selling the investments may be poor.
As a member of the Special Committee on Aging, I have been carefully evaluating the various proposals for long term Social Security reform. I believe that all aspects of reform must be reviewed to ensure that the long-term viability of the Social Security system is restored. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as I continue to work with both sides of the aisle to formulate a long term solution to ensure that Social Security is able to meet its long term commitments to retirees and future generations.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I hope the information I have provided is helpful. My website, http://bayh.senate.gov, can provide additional details about legislation and state projects that may be of interest to you. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you.
As anyone familiar with the current politics of Social Security could imagine, I was less than satisified with this response, and I fired off the following reply:
Dear Senator Bayh,
Thank you for your emailed reply dated January 7. I am distressed and disappointed, however, in the inadequacy of your response, and the implicit willingness to collaborate with the plan of George W. Bush and the Republican Party to phase out Social Security as we know it.
Your reply contained the following passage:
"As you know, the Social Security system is projected to have long-range funding problems under its current structure. In fact, the Social Security Board of Trustees estimates that over the next 75 years the system's expenditures will exceed its income by 14 percent on average and by 2042 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted."
As *you* should know, Senator, the funding "problem" forecasted by the Social Security Board of Trustees is the result of extremely pessimistic forecasts of the economy -- forecasts which, if applied to the economy as a whole, would make private accounts a *worse* option. By the same token, under any economic model that results in the 7% return touted by the advocates of this ill-considered and risky Social Insecurity plan, Social Security itself would reap such a windfall as to have no problem meeting its obligations (save, perhaps, for a bit of tweaking, such as the removal of the regressive cap on FICA taxes).
For pity's sake, Senator, I would expect you to provide your consitutents with Democratic talking points on the issue, not Republican ones. Once again, I must refer you to the excellent work by former Clinton Administration official and economist Brad DeLong:
I hope and expect to see you join the fight to preserve Social Security and oppose the Republican plan. Rest assured, sir, that if you do not, not only will I withhold my vote from you, but also any and all donations to the Democratic Party. A Democratic Party that capitulates in the destruction of Social Security is not worth a single dollar, or a single vote.
CNN is planning to cross off "Crossfire," the smash-mouth political slugfest, from its U.S. lineup, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
...CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein sided Wednesday with comedian Jon Stewart, who used a "Crossfire" appearance last fall to rip the program as so much hackery.
"I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day," Klein said. Viewers need useful information in a dangerous world, he said, "and a bunch of guys screaming at each other simply doesn't accomplish that."
Blogs have made such an impact this year that Merriam-Webster named it the word of the year.
"There's a blog for every niche. There's a blog for every interest," said technology writer Xeni Jardin, who co-edits the blog boingboing.net.
This week, their influence has become readily apparent. Dozens of bloggers have been filing firsthand reports from the areas devastated by southern Asia's deadly tsunamis.
"There is kind of an immediacy that people can relate to — can't help but relate to that in a very intimate way," said Jardin.
"Day three," one blogger writes from the scene, "this may be an unexpected challenge and responsibility, and it hurts to see people in pain. But it's also a remarkable experience to be on hand to do something modest, but useful, in the aftermath of a disaster."
Bloggers around the world have made themselves useful, encouraging donations to relief groups, posting the names of the missing and expressing sympathy for the victims.
As a driving force in politics this year, bloggers covered the 2004 presidential campaigns and election. Political candidates also used them as valuable campaign tools.
"The Internet taught us, rather than the other way around," said former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
This year, for the first time, bloggers were permitted to cover the national political conventions firsthand.
Bloggers have taken the lead over traditional media on a number of stories, including racist remarks made by then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., at former Sen. Strom Thurmond's birthday party.
As instant ramen spreads around the globe, researchers in Japan continue to pursue the perfect taste. `You are not born with taste buds. It's something you build up.' MASAHIKO YAMADA Researcher of Nissin Food Products Co.
...KUSATSU, Shiga Prefecture-Inside his spotless laboratory, Masahiko Yamada carefully examines the results of his experiment. The concoction he has created could change the lives of millions around the nation.
Yamada, wearing a light green uniform, samples a glass of clear liquid scooped from the large metal pot containing two large chickens, onions, carrots, scallions, shiitake mushrooms and seaweed.
He pauses before evaluating the mixture.
``The soup's got the sweetness of the chicken,'' he says. ``They are broiler chickens, but they give their own good flavor.''
Yamada's job is to find the ultimate soup. After all, he was given the title of ``soup master'' from his company two years ago.
The title is warranted, according to those who know the 57-year-old researcher of Nissin Food Products Co. They consider Yamada a ``living god'' of instant ramen noodles.
The world's first instant noodle was created by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin, in 1958.
In the 45 years after the invention, production of instant noodles expanded by 422 times and became a common part of the Japanese diet. On average, a Japanese ate 42.7 servings of instant noodles in 2003.
Gosh, I think I ate more than that last year, and I know I are more ramen than that in college.