Saturday, August 17, 2002

Question we'd love to hear the press corp ask our graduated-from-Yale-with-a-history-degree President:
Q: Do you think that an invation of Iraq might have the same outcome as Gallipoli?
That's right, don't give him a clue by asking, "Do you think an attack upon Iraq could turn into a disaster like Gallipoli?"

Actually, the question isn't simply one to stump the prez. There are lots of parallels: A Western nation invading an Moslem one. A truly "expeditionary" attack, where one is dependent on supplies (back then by sea, today by air). Virtually no support from neighboring countries. Etc.

And it didn't turn out well at all.


Revisiting the 2000 election.

This is a painful topic, so we'll keep it short.

Gore won more popular votes, but the Constitution specifies that the president be determined in some other manner. The Electoral College and all that goes with that (procedures, standards, and apportionment of Representatives, which is determined by "ordinary" law).

We're not fans of the current system (we'd prefer Electors voted as each congressional district does, plus two votes for however the state went overall), but the rules are the rules.

Which brings us to the issue of how those Electors voted in 2000. For there is an interesting provision in the Constitution, the 12th Amendment, which reads in part:
The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves;
This is meaningful because both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney look like they were inhabitants of the same state (Texas). Republicans brushed this issue off, noting the Cheney changed his voter registration from Texas to Wyoming.

Not so fast!

Where you register to vote isn't the best standard for determining where you reside. A better one is what you declared when filing Federal tax forms. However, those are one year behind, and all that we'd know is that Cheney lived in Texas in 1999.

It's a shame that there isn't a generally agreed upon, nation-wide standard to determine where you reside.

But wait! There happens to be one. It's called the Census, and fortunately coincided with the election year of 2000.

So, where did the Cheney's say they resided when they filled out the form? If it's Texas - the likely possiblity - then none of the Texas electoral votes may be counted.

Or perhaps Cheney filled the census forms for both Texas and Wyoming. In that case he violated the law:
Title 13, Section 221 (Census, Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers) of the United States Code reads:
  • (b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.


Draw your own conclusions:


Letter written to Spinsanity on March 8, 2002
I see that you wrote on March 7, 2002:
McAuliffe ... launched a preemptive strike against plans to privatize Social Security:
The President wants to turn Social Security into Social Insecurity, by pursuing a privatization plan that would cut benefits and expose our retirement savings to the whims of a volatile stock market. Anyone who thinks private retirement accounts are a good idea should talk to Enron employees.
By re-framing privatization in terms of "Social Insecurity," McAuliffe attacks the plan with a silly catchphrase. Worse yet, McAuliffe tries to tie "private retirement accounts" to Enron, a popular political strategy in recent weeks. The 401 (k) plans held by Enron employees, however, differ substantially from most privatization plans, in part because Enron employees who lost the most were heavily invested in a single company's stock (Enron's) -- a practice which likely would not be allowed under a privatized Social Security system. Moreover, the crude phrasing of the attack appears to suggest that 401 (k) plans are not a "good idea" in general, even though they are a widely-used vehicle for retirement savings supported by both political parties.
Let's look at this closer.

Social Security is an insurance program that, up until now, has provided a guaranteed retirement income - an income that isn't based on the vagaries of the stock (or bond) market.

Changing Social Security away from an insurance model and towards an investment model, allows the "Security" part to be questioned. Using the term "Insecurity" doesn't seem that far-fetched.

But more importantly is the reference to Enron. You say that many Enron 401k plans differed from most privatization plans in it's stock-weighting. True. But on the other hand the plans were similar to privatization plans in that they are dependent on market trends. Thus, McAuliffe's reference is not out of line.

As to whether 401k plans are a "good idea", it depends on what the goal is. If 401k plans are viewed as supplemental to a basic, reliable, Social Security, then they are attractive. However, if private retirement accounts are going to be the only (or an overwhelmingly large) component of a retirement plan, they may not be such a good idea after all. It seems clear that McAuliffe was referring to the latter notion, because the subject of debate these recent weeks has not been "401k plans, good or bad?" but instead, "should we privatize Social Security?"


There was no reply, nor was there any subsequent commentary at Spinsanity's website.

These guys haven't been giving proportional attention to the lies and spin out there. Somehow they think that they must devote 50% of their time to Democrats, which leads them nitpicking liberals, while letting tons and tons of distortions by Republicans be unchallenged.


Friday, August 16, 2002

When will this guy learn to stop giving us that look:

One gets the sense that photographers look for this sort of thing.


Thursday, August 15, 2002

Hey everybody, let's put on a show!

Okay, let's not. But perhaps we can engage in a little Coulter-ish behavior to amuse ourselves. Let's examine the White House transcripts for the Economic Forum sessions that the President attended (4 on specific topics, plus one plenary) - which took a total of about 90 minutes - and count the number of times there was "laughter": here (2) and here (3) and here (12) and here (3) and here (18). Which comes to 38 instances, or about one laugh every other minute. And at a time of great concern about the economy. The outrage!

The funniest session, judging from the numbers, was the one on Healthcare Security (18 instances), which makes complete sense. I know I'm always amused when it comes to illnesses that threaten my life and financial condition.

Actually, we're not exactly Coulter-ish here. These facts are true.


This just in...
To: President of the United States
Subject: Economic Forum at Baylor - Summary you requested

Cut taxes, privatize everything, and regulate lawyers (but not businesses). Basically, don't change your mind on anything. We love you George!


Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Noted statistician and detail-man, Rush Limbaugh, proudly points to his research into the 2000 presidential elections. Not only that, but there's a picture of him standing next to a map!

And what does he proclaim? That the number of square miles "won" by Bush was much more than that by Gore:
Square miles of the country won: Bush 2,427,000, Algore 580,000
But wait! Haven't we forgotten something? If you are going to count all that taiga and tundra in Alaska, why not also include the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of our Pacific territories? After all, they voted in the presidential election too. From the NOAA:
... the EEZ around American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands and other US possessions in the Pacific, [is] an area of nearly 1.5 million square miles.
Now, we're not sure how to allocate those 1.5 million square miles to Bush and Gore. We can't find the numbers (so far) - but we do know that Gore won Hawaii. As to the rest, the Northern Marianas Islands tilts Republican, but American Samoa is probably Democratic.

Did Bush "decisively" win in terms of area? If Gore did well with the outrigger demographic - which seems likely - then he bags 1.5 million square miles, which would put the totals at 2.4 million for Bush vs. 2.0 million for Gore. And there'd be much more plankton in Gore's territory. So there!

Here at uggabugga, we plan to see if there are other meaningful results from the 2000 election. We suspect that Bush comes out on top in the alligators-per-precinct category, and that you're more likely to find a copy of the Utne Reader in counties that Gore won. But much more work needs to be done in this critical area.


We just checked Rush's numbers again, and it appears that he's talking about the United States circa 1950 - that is, without Alaska and Hawaii. (But then, he's living in the past, so it's no surprise.) We should have paid attention when we read Limbaugh's "fact" that Bush won 29 states, and Gore won 19 (for a total of 48). Back then, the total area of the United States was about 3 million square miles. So correcting the numbers requires adding Alaska's 586,000 square miles to Bush's column, and assigning Hawaii's paltry 6,000 to Gore. The totals, for the 48 states, plus Alaska and Hawaii, and including the EEZ, are 3.0 million square miles for Bush, and 2.0 million for Gore.


Heard this line lately?

BUSH (economic forum, general remarks): ... by far the vast majority of CEOs are good, honorable people ... by far the vast majority of those leading corporate America are good, honorable people.

BUSH (economic forum, Corporate Responsibility): By far, the vast majority of people running corporate America are good, honorable people; good, decent people that care about their shareholders, care about their employees, care about communities in which they live. And that's important for people to know

BUSH (economic forum, Healthcare Security): We talked a little bit in these other seminars about how some have let us down, cheated, didn't tell the truth when it comes to their numbers on their balance sheets. And we'll find those, and hold them to account. But by far, the vast majority of Americans are really decent, honorable people.

And it's not just corporate America:

SAN JOSE MECURY NEWS EDITORIAL: ... remember that the vast majority of priests do not abuse children.

That's certainly an interesting point of view, but does it mean anything? The vast majority of people in (choose your favorite klepocracy) aren't corrupt, but would you want to invest there? The vast majority of people in (choose your inner-city) are law abiding, but would you want to walk down a dark alley there at night?

Sometimes, small percentages matter.


The Bush economic forum: Session on Corporate Responsibility. One of the attendees was June Lennon, small business owner and CPA, who as Commerce Secretary Don Evans put it, " has some thoughts on what has happened in the accounting world over the last 12 months." What did Ms. Lennon have to say?

MS. LENNON: Another way [to fight corporate fraud] is to simplify the tax laws [that] feed into this mess, and I know a lot of people -- I have been trying for years to get the tax code abolished. And people say, why are you, a CPA, doing that? I said, because it's so I can help my businesses -- my clients grow their business, instead of doing government paperwork for them.

THE PRESIDENT: ... thank you very much for that, June.


Anybody who thinks that global warming won't cost much - like those incorrigible folks at the Cato and Hoover institutions - should ponder the economic impact of the flood in the Czech Republic. Those who blithely assert that we've "weathered" climate changes in the past, should remember that back then, folks simply packed their meager belonging onto their goat and headed a bit further north. But guess what guys? Now we got infrastructure! The old historical models don't apply.

What needs to emerge, and will over time, is a consensus that fighting global warming makes economic sense - given the investment we've made in cities over the last, what, 500 years.

Forget the tree-hugging. Simply take a financial approach. Maybe that will convince the conservatives.


At the economic conference at Baylor, did Bush look like a guy dragged against his will to a high school science fair? Our George popped in, viewed some exhibits, sat down for ten minutes and pretended to pay attention, then said a few words before dashing off to the next room. Of course, none of it stuck. But he "put in an appearance", and that's all that matters to those guys.