Thursday, March 31, 2005

The table:

White House press release:
BUSH: I went in front of the Congress and I said, look, now is the time to act. And I fully understand, I'm telling you, the longer we wait, the tougher it's going to be on younger workers. And so I said, all ideas are on the table.

... we expect you to be at the table ...

Now is the time ... to come to the table ...


George Will is fooling you:

In an OpEd, The Tax Plan To Kill K Street, George Will argues that by embracing a consumption tax proposed by Rep. John Linder (R-GA), those bad ol' boys on K Street will be destroyed. Yup, that's Will, a tireless champion of the average citizen with a Republican proposal. Try another one, George.

But let's look at what he wrote. Get this line:
[Linder's] bill would abolish the Internal Revenue Service and the many billions of tax forms it sends out and receives. He would erase the federal income tax system -- personal and corporate income taxes, the regressive payroll tax and self-employment tax, capital gains, gift and estate taxes, the alternative minimum tax, and the earned-income tax credit -- and replace all that with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption.
Out with gift and estate taxes. In with, well, with what? Nothing. No 'consumption' involved with gifts and estates, which is a big advantage for the rich.

The next sentence in the essay is: (emp add)
That would not only sensitize consumers to the cost of government with every purchase, it would destroy K Street.
"Sensitizing" people "to the cost of government" is the Lucky Ducky strategy. Get the lower income folks angry so that they call for a lowering of the 23% rate, and you are on the road to no taxation. No government services. A libertarian paradise.

Will continues: (emp add)
... his bill untaxes the poor by including an advance monthly rebate for every household equal to the sales tax on consumption of essential goods and services, as calculated by the government, up to the annually adjusted poverty level.
Is that "essential goods an services" as priced in New York City, or in Jackson, Mississippi?   If the Bush administration is any guide, it'll be the lower amount no matter where you live. (Not too long ago Bush proposed using a wider geographic area to determine average rents, which meant people in New York City would have gotten less housing support.)

But here's our main gripe with the essay. This assertion: (emp add)
Corporations do not pay payroll and income taxes and compliance costs; they collect them from consumers through prices.
They collect them, in part, through prices. Payroll and income taxes are not passed through 100% to the consumer. Due to market pressures (i.e. competition), corporations have a trade-off between their profit margin and how much they want to pass along costs. If they have to lower the profit margin, then they have paid those taxes.

Reducto ad absurdum per George Will:
  • Corporations don't pay taxes. They collect them from consumers.
  • Consumers don't pay those taxes. They collect them by demanding higher wages.
  • Corporations don't pay those taxes (embedded in the higher wages). They collect them from consumers.
  • Consumers don't pay those taxes. They collect them by demanding higher wages.
  • Etc.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

That's a lot of muscle:

In a Washington Post story, AARP Leads With Wallet In Fight Over Social Security, we read:
"We're going to [fight Bush's Social Security plan] as long as it takes," said William D. Novelli, AARP's chief executive. "We will put just about everything we have into it."

No organization has more tools or more money to wage such a battle. So both its friends and adversaries agree: AARP holds the key to how or whether Social Security will be restructured this year. "It will be very difficult to do anything without AARP's support," said Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "And it would be a heck of a lot easier if they came along."

AARP's 35 million membership base is 10 times the size of the National Rifle Association's, and its $800 million budget is five times that of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country's biggest business association. In number of members, AARP is surpassed only by the Roman Catholic Church.
Now membership in AARP isn't like membership in the NRA. A substantial proportion of the AARP are less hostile to Bush's plans. But given that qualifier, it does appear that the AARP will be able to make a big difference in the current debate.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Religion on the march:

March 28
Washington Post
Pharmacists' Rights at Front Of New Debate

Because of Beliefs, Some Refuse To Fill Birth Control Prescriptions
Some pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, saying that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.

PBS News Hour
Correspondent Jeffrey Brown investigates how some biology teachers are handling the hot button debate over the theory of evolution, creationism and intelligent design.
... evolution is under attack, as a national debate led mostly by religious conservatives, fuels questions about what children should be taught.
March 29
New York Times
Wearing Their Beliefs on Their Chests
... eligious themes and imagery - portraits of saints, fragments of scripture - ... have migrated in recent months from billboards and bumper stickers to baseball caps, T-shirts, flip-flops and even designer clothing

New York Times
Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted Bible
[A man] was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict
In a [3-to-2] ruling, Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence ...
The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom. "The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the minority wrote.
In our view, the attacks on evolution and science in general (yes, even geology and astronomy is being challenged), presents a major threat to this nation's economic health and security. Evolution and geology and astronomy are, when you get down to it, a manifestation of reasoning by inference:
1 a   The act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.
When you discard inference, you are headed towards a new Dark Ages.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Is Jeb a winner?

In the wake of the Schiavo case:

PBS's News Hour - Shields & Brooks segment (Friday, 25 March): (emp add)
JIM LEHRER: One other just crass political question. The conventional wisdom is that Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, has been helped by this, if, in fact, he decides he wants to run and take his brother's place in 2008, do you agree?

[no real answer from Shields or Brooks]
ABC's This Week - panel discussion: (emp add)
Stephanopolis: ... Jeb Bush, how does he come out on this?

Claire Shipman: I think it helps him.   ...   There doesn't seem to be a lot of political motivation to what he's doing.   [Re: 2008 presidential run] When you look at Jeb Bush right now, it's a reminder of what a potent political force he could be and the appeal he would have to that conservative base.


Saturday, March 26, 2005


Over at Powerline, Hindrocket has this post: (emp add)
A Sad Day
I can understand how people can view the Terri Schiavo case differently. To me, the right result seems clear, even though the facts are complicated and the legal history is tangled. But I can understand how others can see the case differently, and I can foresee that in other cases, involving people on ventilators and other life-support systems, whose medical condition is not in doubt, I may part company with some who agree with my view of the Schiavo case. What I don't understand is why this tragic case should be an occasion for the partisan hatred which currently bedevils our public life:

I don't know how to account for it, unless one concludes that for some liberals, politics is about hate, period.
Hindrocket "proves" his case by including a photo (above) of somebody angry at Jeb Bush.

For some liberals, politics is about hate, eh?

Two points:
  • A picture of that event was, in one instance, part of this ABC News story: (emp add)
    Poll: Evangelicals Oppose Gov't on Schiavo
    Poll Finds Evangelicals, Conservatives Oppose Federal Government's Intervention in Schiavo Case
    Mar 24, 2005 -- More than two-thirds of people who describe themselves as evangelicals and conservatives disapprove of the intervention by Congress and President Bush in the case of the Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a national debate.
    So who is protesting here? Looks like it might be conservatives. In any event, given the placement of the picture with a story about protesting evangelicals, Hindrocket cannot be certain that the fellow holding the signs is a liberal. Hindrocket, sure in his own mind that liberals hate, goes out to find a picture of an angry protester - doesn't matter actually who he is - and labels him "liberal" and a hater.

    (Also, we strongly suspect that the crucifix is the same one seen in other reports about conservative Christians. It's unlikely that this protester is a liberal among crucifix-carrying Evangelicals - he'd be pummeled.)

  • Just for argument's sake, maybe it is a liberal in the picture. But Hindrocket doesn't show you the full protest message. Here it is from the same ABC news story + caption:

    Dave Giannino, of St. Petersburg, Fla., protest against the possibility of Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., brother of President Bush, stepping in to save Terri Schiavo on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 in Pinellas Park, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Note that the "Powerline liberal hater" is asking Jeb Bush to "please resign". Yup, that's hate language, all right. (And contrast "please" with death threats against Michael Schiavo and a judge.)
Either way, Hindrocket has some 'splainin' to do.

UPDATE: For those who might defend Hindrocket by noting that the two images are not exactly alike, we respond by pointing out that the first "cropped" image was part of a Yahoo story that gave absolutely no context as to who those people were. Our own sleuthing found a story associated with the same event, which established context (i.e. conservatives protesting). The fact that the full protest message (lower sign with "please") was also revealed was icing on the cake.

UPDATE2: What makes us claim that Hindrocket took the image from a Yahoo story, the one with no context?
  • The URL of the image in the Yahoo story is:
  • The URL of the image over at Powerline is:
That's why.



Nicholas Kristof, in an oddly neutral style, pens Where Faith Thrives, which looks at the growing number of people of Christian faith in Africa and other parts of the world.
One of the most important trends reshaping the world is the decline of Christianity in Europe and its rise in Africa and other parts of the developing world, including Asia and Latin America.

... Christianity is no longer "Western" in any very meaningful sense.

The denominations gaining ground tend to be evangelical and especially Pentecostal; it's the churches with the strictest demands, like giving up drinking, that are flourishing.
The only negative comment is this:
People in this New Christendom are so zealous about their faith that I worry about the risk of new religious wars.
The same day in the Washington Post, Colbert King rains on Kristof's parade with A Tainted Message, where we learn:
  • Kasese has the highest rate in Uganda, with five people dying of AIDS every week.
  • Jackson Nzerebende Tembo, Anglican bishop of the South Rwenzori Diocese, ... serves the Kasese district.
  • ... the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania ... pulled together more than $350,000 for Kasese to support HIV-AIDS patients as well as a little extra money ... to help pay for the education of Kasese's orphans. The Pennsylvania Episcopalians also arranged to send a group of physicians and other medical personnel ...
  • Last week Bishop Tembo suspended all activities with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. He withdrew his request for $352,941 to support his HIV-AIDS program, including money for orphans' education, and he postponed the visit of the medical team.
  • ... Bishop Tembo said he had just learned the week before that the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania had voted "yes" to the election of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
  • Asserting that the South Rwenzori Diocese "upholds the Holy Scriptures as the true word of God," and implying that the Pennsylvanian diocese -- by supporting a gay bishop -- does not, Bishop Tembo proclaimed the two dioceses to be in "theological conflict," thus leading him to reject all ties to his brothers and sisters in Christ [in Pennsylvania].
  • All this he did in the name of God.
What say you, Kristof?


Friday, March 25, 2005

Our pledge to our readers:

Here at our fine blog uggabugga, we will not fool around with engage in the irritating practice of putting lines through text strikeouts in a lame try at an attempt to be funny.

It seems to be popular lately, and we hate it.


Billmon has written something!


Yup, the Swift Boat lies were a turning point for many of us.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Peggy Noonan is messing with the truth:

In Noonan's most recent column, she claims that people supporting the decision to withhold nutrition to Terri Schiavo are "committed to this woman's death."

FALSE. The point at issue is, can a guardian, with court oversight, determine what medical treatment can be applied to an incapacitated person? In this case, it's withholding nutrition. It could just as easily be a decision to proceed with radical surgery or medication - which could be contested by parents (or other people for that matter).

DATA POINT: Did you know? (from the Los Angeles Times) (emp add)
"Michael has done everything possible for Terri over the years," said registered nurse Angie Olson, who doesn't know Schiavo personally but has worked with his colleagues.

"He was a respiratory therapist before she had the accident, and you can't tell me they never talked about life-and-death decisions. That is something he would have been dealing with every day."


Unhappy conservatives:

Andrew Sullivan:
... the Schiavo case is breaking new ground. For the religious right, states' rights are only valid if they do not contradict religious teaching. So a state court's ruling on, say, marriage rights or the right to die, or medical marijuana, must be over-ruled - either by the intervention of the federal Congress or by removing the authority of judges to rule in such cases, or by a Constitutional amendment. Fred Barnes, a born-again Christian conservative makes the point succinctly here:
True, there is an arguable federalism issue: whether taking the issue out of a state's jurisdiction is constitutional. But it pales in comparison with the moral issue.
You can't have a clearer statement of the fact that religious right morality trumps constitutional due process.
Glenn Reynolds (@ MSNBC):
Are conservatives capable of sufficient self-restraint? On the evidence, that's not to be taken for granted, and it may cost the Republicans. In fact, National Review blogger Jim Geraghty reproduces a couple of reader emails that illustrate how costly it may be:
Just to let you know - this conservative Republican, who has never voted for a Democrat... will probably start doing so - against my financial interests I might add - solely because of the Schiavo action by Congress. I am staunchy pro-life — but in this instance the matter has been litigated over and over, and the evidence is overwhelming that a) there's no hope for recovery for this woman and b) her wish would not to be forced to continue in this horrible state. (and yes, i am putting a value to life - hard to imagine anyone wanting to live this way - it's just common sense) I find her parents' actions unconscionable (the action of putting video of this poor woman out all over the world - how cruel), though I certainly understand the desire to see their child improve....


I'm Republican voter, voted for Bush twice, with high enthusiasm both times...

Today you asked:
"In November 2006, voters across the country will turn against the GOP because they fear that Congress will pass individually-targeted laws that prevent patients from being deliberately starved to death?"
This voter might. I am very, very unhappy right now. Use whatever language you like. This "law," using the word loosely, makes a mockery of federalism.


You know about the doctor, William Hammesfahr, who'se been claiming that Terri Schiavo isn't in a PVS. And how the cable networks treat him as if he is a genuine Nobel Prize nominee (which he isn't). Guess what? He's in the database? How about that?


Mr. Asshole:

In today's Washington Post, Robert Samuelson attempts to portray any money received from the government as "welfare" in order to malign Social Security. Excerpts: (emp add)
We are a nation of closet welfare junkies, which helps explain why we can't have an honest debate about Social Security. Social Security and Medicare are our biggest welfare programs, but because Americans regard "welfare" as shameful, we've found other labels for them. We call them "social insurance" or "entitlements." Anything but welfare.

Welfare is a governmental transfer from one group to another for the benefit of those receiving. The transfer involves cash or services (health care, education).  
[Education! What about the military?]   ...  Social Security is mainly welfare.

Naturally, the elderly don't see themselves as freeloaders. They think they've "earned" their Social Security benefits by paying payroll taxes. As Schieber and Shoven note, the term "social insurance" dates to Bismarck in 19th-century Germany. But applying it to Social Security involved much political license. In normal usage, insurance suggests protection against something you don't expect to happen -- a house fire, a car accident. By contrast, most people expect to grow old. Using the "terminology of insurance . . . [was intended] to mask the huge welfare payments being made," they write.
Samuelson, an economist of some sort, knows about Whole Life Insurance. From (emp add)
whole life
Life insurance which provides coverage for an individual's whole life, rather than a specified term. A savings component, called cash value or loan value, builds over time and can be used for wealth accumulation. Whole life is the most basic form of cash value life insurance.
What one does with the savings component - lump sum payment or annuity - depends on the policy and the individual. Payouts by an insurance company are disbursements under an insurance plan. Similarly, payouts by the Social Security Administration are disbursements under an insurance plan, not welfare.

Incredibly, Samuelson concludes his essay with: (emp add)
On these issues, we can't think straight unless we talk straight. We can't control our welfare habit unless we admit our addiction.


It's not just biology anymore:

In a post covering a wide range of topics, James Wolcott wrote last week:
A country where "evolution" is becoming a bad word is not a country interested in facing reality.
How true. The same day he wrote that (19 March), there was this story in the New York Times: A New Screen Test for Imax: It's the Bible vs. the Volcano, where we read: (emp add)
The fight over evolution has reached the big, big screen.

Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.

People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including "Cosmic Voyage," which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; "Galápagos," about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.
Which from a fundamentalist Christian perspective makes sense. Geology and astronomy contradicts the notion of a 6,000 year old earth. But why stop there? Chemistry and physics does not allow for transformation of matter except under specific conditions. But belief in miracles (e.g. water-to-wine) says that the fundamental assumptions of the hard sciences - which is 100% materialistic - cannot be true.

The news story indicates that it is in the South of the U.S. where the films are being opposed. To that we say, go ahead, eliminate all teaching of physics, chemistry, geology, biology, and astronomy from the school curriculum. That's what the southerners want, so why not give it to them?


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


The Ebay auction of the Social Security program (seller: Billionaires for Bush) has been removed. But you can still see the item page here - and check out the excellent lottery tickets at the bottom of the page.


Today's Social Security Trustee report:
The latest data showed that the previous projections were too pessimistic, so this time the trustees decided to make them even more pessimistic.
The above in the style of busy,busy,busy's "shorters".


Do it for Max, then do it for a friend!

Nobel Foundation
Box 5232, SE-102 45
Stockholm, Sweden

I hereby nominate _________________________

for the Nobel Prize in: (check one)


Now that you've received this letter, my nominee will be able to appear on Scarborough Country and Hannity and Colmes, be treated as somebody serious and pontificate like Dr. William Hammesfahr did recently.




Lazy, lazy Mickey Kaus:

In a post about the Shiavo case, Kaus writes: (orig emp)
P.S.: Where do you go to sign a living will saying you want them to leave the tube in? I somehow don't think such a document is readily available as a handy preprinted form! Nor do I think it would get all that much respect from the courts.
A Fray poster has this to say:
Here's [] your form. Just check option B in section 2.1. And appoint somebody who'll make sure of it in section 1.
And a follow-on Fray entry has this:
I hadn't known California law, but I agree one would think the Mick would--even should!--have checked it out before implicitly writing about it. Of course, that would have required leaving the world formed by the cocoon (yeah, that's the word) of his own ill-considered opinions.

When the Schiavo case caused me last week to ask my attorney to see what the relevant provisions of my will were, he e-mailed within an hour the relevant forms allowing me to choose a wider variety of options than I'd ever considered for the situation, including prolonging my life "to the greatest extent possible without regard to my condition, the chances I have for recovery or the cost of the procedures." Now that wouldn't be my choice, but obviously it's readily available, and not as unknown as the Mick implies.


No matter what:

In an earlier post/diagram, we argued that "Republicans and Christian right would - based on any possiblity of recovery, no matter how small - prevent a guardian or a sentient person from rejecting therapy".

We have confirmation in an interview over at NRO. Excerpts: (emp add)
National Review Online recently had a chance to talk to Robert P. George, the McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, about the Terri Schiavo case ...
NRO: As you know, there's some question about what Terri Schiavo's wishes were or would be now. How much should turn on this question?

George: It is the wrong question. It is pointless to ask whether Terri Schiavo had somehow formed a conditional intention to have herself starved to death if eventually she found herself in a brain-damaged condition.

Even if we were to credit Michael Schiavo's account of his conversation with Terri before her injury ... it is a mistake to assume that people can make decisions in advance about whether to have themselves starved to death if they eventually find themselves disabled. That's why living wills have proven to be so often unreliable. One does not know how one will actually feel, or how one will feel about one's life and the prospect of death, or whether one will retain a desire to live despite a mental or physical disability, when one is not actually in that condition and when one is envisaging it from the perspective of more or less robust health.

Consider the case of a beautiful young woman — an actress or fashion model perhaps — who is severely burned in a fire. Prior to actually finding herself in such a condition, she might have supposed — and even said, if the subject had come up in a conversation — that she would rather be dead than live with her face grotesquely disfigured. But no one would be surprised if in the actual event she did not try to kill herself by starvation or some other means, and did not want to die.

In any event, it is clear that the only reason for Michael Schiavo's decision is that he considers Terri's quality of life to be so poor that he wants her to be dead. He claims that she would want that too, which I don't grant, but even if he's right about that, we should treat her like anyone else who wants to commit suicide. We rescue, we care. We affirm the inherent value of the life of every human being. Our governing principle should be always to care, never to kill.
That's from a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, don't forget.

ALSO: Mickey Kaus applauds George's position ("the beginning of wisdom on the Schiavo case").


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A PowerPoint slide show for you:

In today's New York Times, David Brooks writes an Op-Ed that takes GOP-friendly lobbyist Jack Abramoff to task. (Which Mark A. R. Kleiman finds very interesting.)

As part of other work, we've created a fairly simple PowerPoint slide show about Abramoff (only 160k, 6 slides). It parallels Brooks' essay, but is not based on it.

The PowerPoint show can be had here.


Get ready for it:

When U.S. District Judge James Whittemore - a Clinton appointee - rules in favor of Michael Schiavo, there will be howls of protest about Democrats not respecting life, etc. (Especially from Hannity.)


Do you believe in miracles?

That's what it all boils down to.

(Not for the politicians taking advantage of the situation, but for the rest of the crowd.)


Low point: (Yahoo! News Message Board post)

Recommend this Post Ignore this User  | Email this Posting | Report Abuse
Someone should shoot Mikey Schiavo
by: Send me a message! Krivak2
03/22/05 03:25 am
Msg: 127230 of 127636
1 recommendation
Then this would all be settled and her parents could get her real treatment.


Monday, March 21, 2005


What we have heard from Republicans in Congress this weekend was a lot of talk about how Terri Schiavo should be kept alive because she might get better.
  • Frist:
    "I question [the PVS diagnosis] based on a review of the video footage."
    "She can recover substantially if she gets the proper rehabilitation." (citing another doctor)
  • DeLay:
    "It won't take a miracle to help Terri Schiavo."
    "It will only take the medical care and therapy that all patients deserve."
No major figure has denied Michael Schiavo's status as guardian (though DeLay has questioned Michael's integrity). No major figure has called for the guardianship to be revoked.

And what is a guardian, other than a proxy for someone?

It would seem, then, that the Republicans and Christian right would - based on any possiblity of recovery, no matter how small - prevent a guardian or a sentient person from rejecting therapy.

In other words, for a particular set of medical conditions, Republicans want to prevent you from choosing what to do - even if you left a "living will."


George Will on ABC's This Week - speaking about the Schiavo case:
Live is very precious, but so is the rule of law. This begins to look like Congress trampling rule of law. The rule of law, (indeed conservatism I should have thought), is about respecting limits. Limits to the Congressional power to subpoena. Here they’re subpoenaing - with a kind of clever lawyer’s trick - a woman in a fifteen-year’s persistent vegetative state. Limits on the competence of Congress. Limits imposed by federalism. Limits imposed by respect for state judiciaries. All of this has been thrown out the window for what looks like a play to the Republican base. And there is a political risk in this. Because if there is a general anxiety about the Republican party among swing voters, it is that it is wagged by the tail of certain extremists. And the extremists have no respect for zones of privacy such as a family dispute like this.

The decision they [Congress] are making is to give the parents access to federal courts. Change the judicial venue, the result is going to be the same   -   unless we are prepared to, this weekend, overturn centuries of common law and more than two centuries of constitutional law that says: husband and wife are one (in this case) and therefore clearly this is the decision to be made by the husband.


Blog post # 1,285


Sunday, March 20, 2005

How they voted:

House vote on bill: For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo

203 Yeas, 58 Nay, 174 Not Voting.

Of the 58 Nays, 5 were Republican (Brown-Waite, Ginny - Florida 5th district; Castle - Delaware; Dent - Pennsylvania 15th district; Reichert - Washington 8th district; Shays - Connecticut 4th district)

Somewhat surprising to see any Republicans voting against the bill.


They said it:

From today's Meet the Press:
Gwen Ifill, PBS' "Washington Week"
Well, look at what happened in the 2004 elections and what's happened since. Congress has actually done a great deal, but they've done a great deal on the economic front. They've passed bankruptcy reform. They've passed class-action reform. "Reform" is the word that they use, but they have done a lot to benefit people economically , and people end up--before they left town, they passed a whole new raft of tax cuts which would disproportionately benefit wealthy people
David Broder, Washington Post - speaking about John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz
Often in the second term you get second-rate appointments, and these are first-rate appointments. These are not hacks. These are real, quality people that he's been able to mobilize and bring into the administration.



Tom DeLay has generally tried to stay out of the limelight. The national limelight, that is (he doesn't mind far right crowds). The Schiavo case, whether or not he realizes it, is "smoking him out" and making him visible to a vast number of voters who probably didn't even know who he was until this week. Tom DeLay doesn't come off well. His speaking style is unimpressive. He doesn't look particularly good. And he's out there attacking Michael Schiavo. Any claim by Republicans that they are strictly looking for a fair judicial process is completely betrayed by DeLay's comments:
To speak that way about a complex medical and family matter is going to repel most people.


Schiavo timeline: (selected entries)
  • Feb. 25, 1990: Terri Schiavo collapses in her home. Doctors believe a potassium imbalance caused her heart to stop, temporarily cutting off oxygen to her brain.
  • Nov. 1992: Terri's husband, Michael, wins malpractice suit that accused doctors of misdiagnosing his wife; jury awards more than more than $700,000 for her care, Michael receives an additional $300,000.
  • Feb. 14, 1993: Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have a falling out with Michael over the malpractice suit money and Terri's care.
  • July 29, 1993: Bob and Mary Schindler file petition to have Michael Schiavo removed as Terri's guardian. The case is later dismissed.
  • May 1998: Michael Schiavo files petition to remove Terri's feeding tube.
  • Feb. 11, 2000: Circuit Judge George W. Greer rules feeding tube can be removed. (upheld on appeal, Florida Supreme Court refuses to intervene. U.S. Supreme Court refuses to intervene)
  • April 26, 2001: The Schindlers pursue lawsuit against Michael Schiavo, accusing him of committing perjury by saying his wife did not want to be kept on life support.
  • Aug. 10, 2001: Judge Greer denies the Schindlers' request to remove Michael Schiavo as guardian.
  • Nov. 12, 2002: The Schindlers' attorney says medical records suggest Terri's condition may have been brought on by physical abuse, and asks for more time to get more evidence.


Reality check:

There has been a lot of talk about how much U.S. debt China has and that China will soon be "calling the tune" and making America bend to its will. We certainly think the current account deficit is a problem and that China is going to be a tough economic competitor, but all the shouting about how menacing China's $200 billion in U.S. paper is, is somewhat overdone. Consider the following report:
Foreigners held $1.96 trillion of the $4.43 trillion in U.S. debt that was publicly traded. Here are the countries with the largest holdings, according to a monthly [March] report from the Treasury Department:
Japan $701.6
Mainland China $194.5
United Kingdom $163.0
Caribbean banking centers including the Bahamas and Bermuda $92.5
South Korea $67.7
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries $64.7
Taiwan $59.2
Germany $57.1
Hong Kong $52.9
Switzerland $50.0
Canada $43.4
Mexico $41.1
Luxembourg $29.3
Singapore $27.6
Ireland $21.0
Japan is still the country to watch closely.


America's new Surgeon General, Dr. Tom DeLay:

Speaking of which, where is the real S.G. on the Schiavo issue?


Friday, March 18, 2005

Should Eugene Volokh be tortured?

Argument in favor: (derived from this and this)
  • Some conservative law professors deserve to be dealt deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance.

  • Why would our humanity be diminished by participating in the deliberate inflicting of pain on him? Why shouldn't one say that our humanity is diminished if this conservative is allowed to continue to teach law? (and continue to blog)

  • The soundness of this position cannot be proven. In this area, it comes down to moral intuitions and visceral reactions.

  • Many people, it seems, have a natural desire to inflict pain on conservative law professors.

  • There's nothing wrong in following emotions, and it's sometimes bad to resist them.

  • Risk of Error: There will be no errors. Conservative law professors identify themselves as such.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

No comment:

From: Senate kills all Medicaid cuts from budget
The Senate voted Thursday to strip all proposed Medicaid cuts from the $2.6 trillion budget for next year ...

By their vote, senators deleted the $14 billion in five-year reductions that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., included in his fiscal outline.

Gregg called claims that Medicaid cuts would hurt people "absurd, misleading" and "just scare tactics."


More please:

Matthew Yglesias critiques Eugene Volokh's enthusiasm for torturing ordinary criminals (i.e. domestic, non-terrorist). In general, we support Yglesias's reasoning. But we're happy to see law professor Volokh out there loudly trumpeting his views. Why? Because he has aspirations for getting on the California Supreme Court. The more Volokh is on the record advocating repulsive policies, the less likely he will ever make it to the bench.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Get ready for it:

Earlier this week, the Treasury Department released figures showing robust purchases of government securities by foreigners. It was reported thustly:
Official figures from the US Treasury showed that foreign capital flows were up sharply in January as overseas investors bought more stocks, and central banks increased their purchases of Treasury bonds and notes.
But wait! There's more: (emp add)
However, Kathy Lien, chief fundamental analyst at Forex Capital Markets, said the report also appeared to indicate liquidations of dollar holdings by some Asian central banks. Fears about possible Asian bank sales of dollar-based assets have put pressure on the US currency in recent months.

Some 75 percent of the net flows into US treasuries originated from non-central bank flows -- most likely from hedge funds or hot money -- totaling 22.7 billion dollars, said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial Group. Hot money can flow out just as quickly, Laidi said.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Finding common ground:

The Washington Post has a story about the battle over evolution. Basically, it's the same old arguments and there doesn't seem to be any way to compromise. But we think we've found a solution that will please all sides. Here it is:
  • Teach students that all animals - including the hominid line up to Homo Erectus - came about through Darwinian evolution.

  • Teach that Homo Sapiens, though similar to Homo Erectus and who appeared at the time Erectus was dying out, was God's creation.
Like this:

Everybody's happy, right?


Say it again!

Bush claims WMD in Iraq. Others disagree with that assessment. Inspection team goes in. Finds nothing. Survey Group leader David Kay said:
"We were almost all wrong."
In 2001 Bush claims unending budget surplus allows for tax cut. Greenspan agrees with surplus forecast. Others disagree with that assessment. Now, when asked about the surpluses, Greenspan said:
"[In early 2001] we were confronted at that time with an almost universal expectation amongst the experts that we were dealing with a very large surplus for which there seemed to be no end."

"It turns out that we were all wrong."
"Just for the record, we were not all wrong, but many people were wrong" - Hillary Clinton at today's Senate subcommittee meeting.

Greenspan knew the surpluses weren't guaranteed since they were partly due to the stock market bubble. At the time of the 2001 tax cuts, there were not a few economists that thought the "surplus argument" was bogus and only used to get the tax cuts.

The Fed chairman, however, didn't retract his support for the 2001 tax cut.

"If confronted with the same evidence we had back then, I would recommend exactly what I recommended then," Greenspan said.


Sunday, March 13, 2005


Light blogging planned for the week of March 13-19.   (Subject to change, of course!)


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Broder Watch (continued):

David Broder pens the following words in an essay about campaign reform: (excerpts, emp add)
... abuses stemmed from the expansion of so-called 527 groups, nominally independent political organizations that collected $400 million in essentially unregulated funds and poured them into TV ad campaigns, often of the nastiest variety.

Democrats were the main abusers, with billionaire George Soros and friends financing a network of groups run by longtime party and labor activists. But Republicans drew even more blood, thanks to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads questioning John Kerry's service in Vietnam.
Broder is probably measuring "abuse" in terms of dollars spent, not on the message delivered. The Swift Boat messages were mostly lies asserting that Kerry was a traitor, which Broder characterizes as "questioning John Kerry's service". Broder is a disgrace. The Dean is a Dunce.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Otherworldly: (non-politics)

This picture looks like it was taken on Neptune or a distant world. But it isn't. Stare at it and go "Oooo".



Regarding the bankruptcy bill, everybody is talking about individuals with credit card debt. But won't it also affect small buisnesses? Like one-person operations. Recall Cheney's remark: "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."

Bush talks a lot about small business (usually to disguise policies that help big business) and how much he cares about small business. The bankruptcy bill would appear to be at odds with Bush's stance.


Remember this:

The last line in the Washington Post's Sunday article, Credit Card Penalties, Fees Bury Debtors:
The way the fees are now imposed, "people would be better off if they stopped paying" once they get in over their heads, said North Carolina bankruptcy attorney T. Bentley Leonard. Once you stop paying, creditors write off the debt and sell it to a debt collector. "They may harass you, but your balance doesn't keep rising. That's the irony."


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Bad Democrats:

The Left Coaster clues us in on a TNR column by Noam Scheiber that reprints a press release from the New Democrat Coalition (NDC). From the press release: (excerpts, emp add)
With consumer debt reaching record highs of more than $2 trillion, members of the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) sent a letter today to Speaker Dennis Hastert, urging him to schedule House action on the bankruptcy reform legislation as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The letter, signed by twenty NDC members, including the four NDC leaders, reiterates New Democrats' long-standing support for common-sense bankruptcy legislation and states an intention to work across the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law.

"Bankruptcy is an option that ruins credit and homeownership opportunities for too many Americans," said Rep. Artur Davis. "This legislation will deter bankruptcies that are unnecessary and ill considered, while still permitting a fair second chance for low-to-moderate income consumers who face financial hardship.
"Bankruptcy is an option that ruins credit" ?!?!

From the letter to Hastert: (excerpts, emp add)
Dear Mr. Speaker:

We write to encourage you to bring bankruptcy reform legislation to the House floor as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The New Democrat Coalition has backed common sense bankruptcy reform in the past and helped in passing the bankruptcy reform bill by overwhelming margins in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress.

We believe that responsible bankruptcy reform embodies the New Democrat principle of personal responsibility, while at the same time adding important new consumer protections such as requiring enhanced credit card disclosure information and encouraging participation in consumer credit counseling.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner.
Scheiber concludes:
... support for the bill by Democratic moderates betrays a striking obliviousness to the most important debate underway within the Democratic Party. Moderate Democrats have been under assault from grassroots liberals lately for selling out Democratic values in their rush to appease conservative interests. I normally think this criticism is highly misplaced, and that moderates have exactly the right instincts when it comes to social issues and foreign policy, even most economic issues. But in this case the moderates proved the liberals' point for them, which could set back the cause of moderates within the party for months, if not years. It really is a colossal, inexcusable mistake.
Who signed the letter to Hastert?   These folks:
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher
Rep. Adam Smith
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Stephanie Herseth
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Jay Israel
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Diane Hooley
Rep. Melissa Bean
Rep. Jim Davis
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Rep. Ed Case
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Berkeley
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks


Monday, March 07, 2005

Which age?

Josh Marshall and Matthew Yglesias are puzzled by Joe Klein's claim (most recently on Meet the Press) that private accounts are just the thing for the new 'age' we're in. Klein doesn't present a case, so everybody is wondering what the logic is. There is none. The 'age' game can be played now. It could have be played in the past.


Visualizing the Greenscam:

We've put together a diagram that illustrates three phases of the Social Security and Federal Income Tax situation. First, the pre-1980 condition, where boomers were not part of the system. Second, how the program could be managed through higher Social Security taxes, reduction of the debt, and eventual repayment to the retiring boomers. Third, what's happened in the wake of Bush and Greenspan's policy choices (plus what they'd like to do). In the last instance we have tax cuts for the rich, a higher national debt, a problem redeeming Social Security bonds, reduction of benefits, and a possible consumption tax.

Full sized versions of the diagram can been seen here (1180x780 pixels) and here (944x624).

UPDATE: USA Today has an editorial that mentions a key point we've diagrammed above: (excerpts)
Crisis? Not in Social Security. Deficits drive the problem.

By 2018
— sooner, if private accounts are created — ... the government will need to begin paying off its [Social Security] IOUs. Absent large tax hikes or spending cuts, already astronomical deficits will skyrocket.

If the rest of the budget was in good shape — and particularly if the government had stayed on the path it was on five years ago of buying down the national debt — lawmakers could simply re-borrow the money to pay benefits. They could have a leisurely debate over what, if anything, else to do.

But that is not an option given the dire budgetary situation.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Thought for the day:
The only way to achieve true bipartisan Social Security reform is to have each party hold (at least) one of the following: House, Senate, or Presidency.

If it takes 2, 4, or 6 years until that's possible, so be it.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Where we stand on the issues:

After careful review of the situation, we are proud to announce our support for the following policy positions:
  • We want Bill Frist to invoke the "nuclear option" that effectively eliminates the filibuster. The sooner the better.

  • We want Bush's budget to pass without any tax increases.

  • Related: Limiting budget projections to 5 years is an excellent idea. Also, claiming that the deficit will be halved from a hypothetical number (and not an actual deficit) is the right approach.

  • We encourage Bush to bomb Iran this summer.

  • We also support a joint U.S./Israel strike into Syria.

  • If Bush is low on troops and doesn't want to implement a draft, 20,000 troops from South Korea should be transferred to the Middle East.

  • Reduce veteran's benefits.

  • Condi Rice should meet more often with heads of state. And run for president in 2008.

  • USA Next is too timid. Their "charge that [the AARP] is anti-military is based solely on the fact that the group does not take positions on veteran's issues."*   Stronger charges are warranted.

  • Rick Santorum has the right idea in abolishing the 40 hour work week. All Bush supporters earning low income in service jobs should be working under a flex-time system.

  • Bush should not limit his Social Security campaign to 60 days. It should continue through to November 2006. And more Republicans in Congress should participate.

  • Immediate placement of the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments in all government offices, schools, and post offices.

  • The Hubble telescope should be targeted to plunge into the Pacific Ocean within the next six months, in accordance with Bush's budget. And maximum publicity for this sensible budgetary priority.

  • Clarence Thomas for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
We are serious about this.

* Jake Tapper, ABC News report week of March 1.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

The sky's the limit:

Kevin Drum doesn't like credit card companies. He links to a Los Angeles Times story that reports on the companies reaping big dollars through higher interest rates and penalties. And this is all related to the bankruptcy bill in Congress. We read:
Debate about the bill continued Thursday, with the Republican-controlled Senate refusing to limit consumer interest rates to 30%.
The higher rates are likely to be applied to those who are deemed less likely to repay their debts. And at 30%+, it's a virtual certainty they won't.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Republican platform:


Hey! Look over there!

Did you know that the Weekly Standard has a story (written by Dean Barnett) about the Daily Kos website? Nobody seems to have noticed (including Kos). That said, it isn't a particularly interesting report. Here are some excerpts to give you an idea of the general thrust of the essay:
  • Is the Daily Kos infiltrating the Democratic party, or remaking it in their own image?
  • ... the Daily Kos also has many of the negative characteristics of a Ward committee: The excessive passion, the intemperate remarks, and the strange world views of people who obsess about politics.
  • NOT ALL of the commentary on Daily Kos is ridiculous conspiracy mongering.
  • But other conversations on the Daily Kos are less edifying.
  • MARKOS MOULITSAS'S CHALLENGE will be to keep the Daily Kos respectable enough that politicians remain eager to be seen in his company.
  • Moulitsas (who declined to be interviewed for this story) has not been bashful about his ambitions: He wants to first empower the Democratic grassroots and then in turn empower a more reliably liberal Democratic party.
  • The Kos community's energy ... produces a surfeit of unseemly commentary on a recurring basis.
  • ... perhaps Moulitsas is trying to usher a different kind of Democratic politician to the fore--the kind of politician who is unconstrained by the traditional urge to appear civil.
  • ... the Kos community shows the highest regard for the most passionately strident commentary and has little regard for common decorum. The Kossacks seem to believe that if they could just be heard by the entire country, the Democratic party's losing streak would come to an end.
The Weekly Standard's objections are to a few posts and many comments, which are speculative or rude. This is nothing to get excited about.



The Bull Moose, in defense of Joe Lieberman writes:
The fight against social security privatization is important but not vital to the future of the Democratic Party.
No. It is vital. If Social Security goes, then every government insurance and support program goes. And pretty much the reason for the Democratic party to exist.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Busy guy:

You all know about the anti-AARP ad that had over at the American Spectator website a week ago. The one with a soldier getting X-ed out:
Today on's home page is an ad/link to the American Legion's Legislative Action Center   (LAC under the domain and not for some reason). Here it is:
It's the same soldier.

What, if anything can we conclude from that?

It seems like the first ad was the one with the X-ed out soldier, and that the American Legion subsequently contracted with for an ad, which presumably was created in the shop. But that doesn't seem quite right. It's hard to believe that the American Legion would let an outside entity create graphics for their ads. Major organizations do not usually allow their reputation to be in the hands of others. But maybe that's what happened in this case.

This is not a big deal, but it is puzzling.