Monday, June 30, 2008

Roger Cohen on George Bush:

This was in a June 12 New York Times essay, Bush Does Europe Incognito, but bears repeating: (emp add)
Bush’s chip-on-the-shoulder temperament is another matter. He has proved mean, vindictive, surly, controlling and impatient, as befits his guns-at-the-ready gait. Apologizing for tough-guy rhetoric now, as he has, is no remedy. There’s nothing worse than a control-freak chief executive with no interest in details like the disbanding of the Iraqi Army or the strength of New Orleans levees.
What a great capsule description!


Saturday, June 28, 2008


First it was this:

Then it was this:

Now it's this:

Ugh. Lose the tattoo.

Spencer Ackerman is an interesting read - he was particularly good recently on Bush's appeal to be seen like Truman (link fubar, summary here) - but this trend towards an ever-more feisty attitude, at least graphically, is not welcome.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Exactly eight years ago:

In the New York Times:
Bush Would Use Power of Persuasion to Raise Oil Supply

WAYNE, Mich., June 27 -- Gov. George W. Bush of Texas said today that if he was president, he would bring down gasoline prices through sheer force of personality, by creating enough political good will with oil-producing nations that they would increase their supply of crude.

"I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply," Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. "Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot." ...

"Ours is a nation that helped Kuwait and the Saudis, and you'd think we'd have the capital necessary to convince them to increase the crude supplies," he said.

Asked why the Clinton administration had not been able to use the power of personal persuasion, Mr. Bush said: "The fundamental question is, 'Will I be a successful president when it comes to foreign policy?' "

He went on to suggest, as he did in answer to other questions, that voters should simply trust him.

"I will be," he said in answer to his own question about whether he would be a successful president. "But until I'm the president, it's going to be hard for me to verify that I think I'll be more effective."



Check out which is very offbeat.

Sometimes techie. Sometimes quiet. Sometimes totally absurdist.


Two = all of them

Peggy Noonan starts off her essay today with: (emp add)
The big political headline this week, of course, involves John McCain's endless and humiliating attempts to placate Mitt Romney by bowing to demands he hire his operatives and pay his campaign debt. So far all he's got is a grudging one-sentence endorsement from that rampaging rage-aholic Ann Romney.

Oh wait, got confused, that's Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The way it used to be is you ran and lost and either disappeared or pitched in. Mrs. Clinton continues making Mr. Obama look the dauphin to her embittered and domineering queen.

What a hothouse of egos and drama the Democratic Party has become.
Really? The Democratic Pary is "a hothouse of egos and drama"? Even accepting Noonan at face value, her claim is based on the actions of only two people (Hillary and Bill).

Typical Noonan. She does this all the time, is one of the most linguistically manipulative pundits out there, but not really very good at it if you pause and examine the logic of her arguments, which are often feeble (as in the case above).

Anyway, that's the level of argument Noonan deploys. Find any two prominent people in a party and then claim that whatever they're doing is emblematic of the party as a whole. That's what a propagandist does. That's what Noonan does too.


Cokie and Richard, sitting in a tree ...

.. T A L K I N G (nonsense)

Cokie Roberts, 20 April 2008: (emp add)
[People] don't vote for President on issues, they vote for President on a gut-check.
"I like that guy", or "I like that guy better than the other guy".

And "I think that the decisions that he [or in this case, maybe she] make in the next four years, I'm going to be more comfortable with than I would be with that other person".
Which is why these questions that try to get at "who you are" and "what you care about" matter.
Richard Cohen, 24 June 2008: (emp add)
A presidential race is only incidentally about issues. It's really about likability and character.

... the character question hangs -- not because of any evidence to the contrary and not in any moral sense, either, but because he is still young and lacks the job references McCain picked up in a North Vietnamese prison.
Ah, the "character and likeability" test, which trumps everything else. That's the kind of case you'd make if you were trying to elect someone (e.g. McCain) who looked out for your interests, but not for the public as a whole.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's with the Fed?

From today's statement: (emp add)
The Committee expects inflation to moderate later this year and next year. However, in light of the continued increases in the prices of energy and some other commodities and the elevated state of some indicators of inflation expectations, uncertainty about the inflation outlook remains high.
Silly Fed, have they forgotten that all they care about is "core" inflation, which excludes energy (and food) prices?

They should have done what they've done for months: ignore energy prices all together when making policy. That way they can lower interest rates and flood the market with cheap money. Sure, it weakens the dollar and eventually leads to substantial inflation, but for people owning hard assets (real estate, stocks, gold) inflation is a great way to pay off debt while effectively taxing everybody else.


Go Rove!

Karl Rove has been on television a fair amount this year. It's quite a change from when he was ensconced in the White House, rarely speaking out and even then only at closed Republican gatherings.

Rove's recent pronouncement that Barack Obama is like a country club jerk, do two things:
  • Show what kind of unpleasant guy Rove really is (pace Broder's praise of him)

  • Tie McCain to Bush since Rove was one of the closest advisors to Bush and now he's touting McCain.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama has touched a nerve:

If you listen to Christian radio, you will hear a clearly-rattled James Dobson, unprepared to engage in a "Christians differ about the Bible" discussion. For the last couple of decades, right-wing Christians have not had to bother with intra-faith debates about religion and politics. Until now.

UPDATE: This is fun:


Steny Hoyer is an idiot:

If the following, reported by is true: (emp add)
... Hoyer called the FISA legislation a “significant victory” for the Democratic Party — one that neutralized an issue Republicans might have been able to use against Democrats in November ...
If Hoyer thinks that not passing the atrocious FISA legislation would have been a political issue in November, then he's way out of touch with what's going on. He's got a 9/11 mindset, which means that he thinks that a significant terrorist attack could take place in the United States before election day, even though that's virtually impossible. Hoyer has failed to properly assess the capabilities of Al Qaeda (essentially the only terrorist outfit to be considered). Al Qaeda exploited a vulnerability (unsecured cockpit) to briefly control large jets, but since that's been fixed along with various other protective measures, there is no reason to throw away constitutional guarantees and scrutiny of Bush's violation of same, which is what the new FISA bill does.

To repeat the main failing here:
Steny Hoyer thinks that a significant terrorist attack could take place in the United States before election day.
We do not need Democrats, like Hoyer, who are incapable of critical analysis.


Interview taking place right now:


Saturday, June 21, 2008

American Politics 101:

The reason we have Democrats in Congress is:
(a) To provide the necessary votes when the Republican minority is united in support for a bill.

(b) To be a liberal party in name only, so that plutocrats can sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that their interests won't be seriously challenged.

(c) To provide the necessary real-life actors in the long running stage play by David Broder, Thank you, sir! May I have another bipartisan compromise?


Friday, June 20, 2008

No MOTM here:

Hastert Launches a Partisan Policy

In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.

Hastert (R-Ill.) ... says ... bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.
The House Friday easily approved a compromise bill setting new electronic surveillance rules that effectively shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits arising from the government’s terrorism-era warrantless eavesdropping on phone and computer lines in this country.

[M]ost House Dems voted against the measure, while House Republicans were nearly unanimous in their support. Specifically, among Dems, 128 voted against it, while 105 voted for it. Among Republicans, 188 voted for it, and just one [against].
Pelosi is no Hastert, that's for sure.


I think we've heard this before:


Did I read that right?

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba led the military’s investigation into the abuse at Abu Ghraib: [1]
"The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture."
"... there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
[more here]

I wonder if David Broder will have anything to say about it.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hugh Hewitt is an idiot. Hugh Hewitt is an idiot. Hugh Hewitt is an idiot. Hugh Hewitt is an idiot. Hugh Hewitt is an idiot.

This was aired on Hewitt's radio show Monday (extended Obama segment from last week to establish that the broadcast took place on 16 June, not sometime earlier this year).
That principle of Habeus Corpus, that a state can't just hold you for any reason without charging you and without giving you any kind of due process, that's the essence of who we are. You remember during the Nurenberg Trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities (ph) that no one had ever seen before we still gave them a day in court. And that tought the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of the rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday. John McCain thinks the Supreme Court was wrong. I think the Supreme Court was right.

Roe vs Wade, you just mentioned. John McCain has basically said that he would appoint judges who don't see a right to privacy, and as a consequence would be likely to overturn Roe vs Wade.

You're just one justice away from that, and Justice Stevens is eight-five, eighty-six?

How can he not know he's eighty-seven? He's running for president.

Justice Stevens is eighty-eight years old.

(born 20 April 1920. Wiki, Official Supreme Court bio - pdf)

You can here it in an mp3 file here.

You can also get the entire 37 minute segment Barack Obama's energy, tax & judiciary ideas, at Hewitt's podcast page.

CODA: I heard Hewitt say that yesterday while I was driving around and flipping through the radio dial. What struck me at the time was the silliness of the charge, of Obama failing to know the precise age of Justice Stevens, especially since McCain has erred on more serious matters (e.g. Sunni vs Shia). This morning I thought I'd check on Stevens age, thinking that perhaps he'd recently turned eighty-seven, which could explain Obama's mistake. Imagine my surprise when I see that he's eighty-eight, not the "Eighty-seven!" that Hewitt shouted.

While I recalled yesterday's Hewitt show accurately, I couldn't in good conscience make a post without confirming audio, and who records his show in the event of such an occasion? Luckily, podcasts are all the rage and Hewitt's blunder was available for download as an mp3 (which I trimmed). Perhaps he shouldn't make his programs available that way, because it gives critics an opportunity to catch him being a fool.


Next moderator for Meet the Press:

Bring back Roger Mudd!

DID YOU KNOW THIS? Chris Wallace had the job from 1987-88.


"Many economists"

Producer Prices Rise 1.4% in May

Businesses struggled with higher production costs last month, primarily as a result of record-high oil prices, meaning Americans may face more expensive items on store shelves soon.

The Producer Price Index advanced 1.4 percent in May, its fastest pace in six months and another troubling sign that inflation is worsening, the government said Tuesday.

Many economists, however, prefer to measure price increases in products other than energy and food. While this gauge, called the “core” index, does not measure the full effect of inflation on Americans, it does offer a guide to how long inflation might linger. For May, core producer prices rose at a tepid pace, 0.2 percent, in line with economists’ expectations. ...

Investors were likely to focus on the producer prices report as the Federal Reserve shifts some of its focus to the inflation issue. The index was up significantly over the last 12 months; from May 2007 to May 2008, producer prices grew 7.2 percent, and core prices were up 3 percent.
At 3 percent, the "core" rate was signaling limited inflation over the last 12 months, but that's belied by the 7.2 percent headline (or "real") number. So why use it?


Monday, June 16, 2008

I've been thinking about this the last couple of days:

Marc Cooper puts it in words:
I had met Russert a couple of times - twice out in Iowa during this or that year's presidential caucus. And he seemed nice enough of a fellow. In fact, after reading his memoir, I had acquired a certain amount of personal sympathy for him. Though he deftly cashed in on his taciturn dad, Big Russ, and celebrated him as a man who placed the values of "responsibility and accountability" over those of affection and nurturing, I began to see Russert as the victim of a childhood shadowed by an emotionally stunted father. What, in the end, is their to celebrate about a father who can't bring himself to say "I Love You" to his boy until that son is 54 year old man? Brrrr.



In a post about Russet's passing, With Great Power Comes Great Numbers of Angry Critics, Matthew Yglesias links to a fuller account, Goodbye to the Master, where he references a Washington Monthly essay he penned last year, The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert. In that, Yglesias wrote:
Unfortunately, Russert's brand of journalism, rather than being ghettoized as a pointless or perverse form of entertainment—like shoulder self-dislocation or cat surfing—has immense influence. ...

Viewers watch a candidate getting grilled by Russert not to assess the candidate's views but to assess his or her ability to withstand the grilling. And, when this sort of toughness and sparring becomes its own reward, the vacuity of the questioning is almost guaranteed. After all, if you asked a politician a serious, important question and got a perfectly good answer, then maybe, for a moment, you couldn't be tough. Instead, Russert relies on his crutch of confronting politicians with allegedly contradictory statements they've made—to highly monotonous effect.

Russert's goal isn't to inform his audience. He's there to "make news"—to get his guest to say something embarrassing that lands in the next day's papers or on the NBC Nightly News.
I read that on Saturday. Then, while watching MTP's tribute to Russert on Sunday, after a set-up of Russert asking people if they were going to run for president, I heard Tom Brokaw say:
MR. BROKAW: Tim's very good friend, Mike Barnicle, my pal as well. Mike and I have talked about this a lot. Tim had a great--that question was not just idle speculation. He wanted to land on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. That was one of the tests that he had here. MEET THE PRESS was successful if they drove the news cycle.
I nearly fell out of my chair. Yglesias was critical of MTP under Russert because he wasn't informing the audience, but instead, trying to land on the front page of the newspapers. Brokaw said exactly the same thing and portrayed it a virtue.

In other village news, on Friday, Charlie Rose had a retrospective on Russert. In it, he briefly mentioned that he had sold his house to Russert. Talk about a tight social network.


Finally getting around to it:
Get Osama Bin Laden before I leave office, orders George W Bush
Because invading Iraq first was much more important.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

58 bases =

The U.S. wants 58 bases in Iraq. Fred Hiatt likes that.

Iraq's land area is 167,372 sq mi. Divide that by 58 and you get one base for every 2885 sq mi (a square 54 miles on a side), which is the size of 1½ Delawares.

The contiguous 48 United States land area is 2,959,213 sq mi.   If the United States had one base for every 2885 sq mi, it would have 1,025 bases.
Iraq's population is 29,267,000. Divide that by 58 and you get one base for every 504,603 people, or one base for every Albuquerque-sized city.

The United States population is 304,350,000. If the United States had one base for every 504,603 people, it would have 603 bases.
Tha high basing density appears to be designed for occupation more than strategic defense.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

How many people put a roadblock in front of the European Union?

We read (NYTimes):
Ireland Derails a Bid to Recast Europe’s Rules

Europe was thrown into political turmoil on Friday by Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, a painstakingly negotiated blueprint for consolidating the European Union’s power and streamlining its increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy.

The defeat of the treaty, by a margin of 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent, was the result of a highly organized “no” campaign that had played to Irish voters’ deepest visceral fears about the European Union. For all its benefits, many people in Ireland and in Europe feel that the union is remote, undemocratic and ever more inclined to strip its smaller members of the right to make their own laws and decide their own futures.

The repercussions of Friday’s vote are enormous. To take effect, the treaty must be ratified by all 27 members of the European Union. So the defeat by a single country, even one as small as Ireland, has the potential effect of stopping the whole thing cold.
Irish voters rejected the so-called Lisbon Treaty by 53% to 47%, in the only popular vote that will be held on the treaty by any EU nation. Because all 27 EU countries need to ratify the treaty, Ireland's "no" vote risks killing it.
It was the only country where a popular vote was used. All the others, and they all voted "Yes", were at the level of parliment / national assembly / chamber of deputies. So Ireland is a unique case.

Even so, it would be nice to know how many people voted. The totals are at (Irish Times):
Total 1,621,037 752,451 (46.6%) 862,415 (53.4%)
A difference of 109,000 votes. A switch by 55,000 or 0.02% of the 497,198,740 which make up the EU would have ratified the Lisbon Treaty. (0.02% is 1/5,000)

Every amendment of the Irish Constitution needs to be put to a public vote. Hence, Ireland was the only Member State that held a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, in addition to a parliamentary vote.

All members from the three government parties in the Oireachtas supported the 'Yes' campaign. So did all opposition parties in the chamber, with the exception of nationalist Sinn Féin. A total of 162 out of 166 TDs supported the 'Yes' campaign in Dáil Éireann.Most Irish trade unions and business organisations supported the 'yes'-campaign also. Those campaigning for the 'No' vote included Declan Ganley of Libertas and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.


Friday, June 13, 2008

John Cole on Tim Russert:

Doesn't mince words:
I liked Tim Russert, even though I thought his BS gotcha nonsense was thorough idiocy and not helping the debate at all. He was a likable guy- friendly, always smiling. I understand it is a loss for the beltway folks, and he had a lot of really good friends and meant a lot to people, and I would be dishonest if I failed to mention that I feel sad by his passing.

MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop about him.

But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.

Tim Russert was a newsman. He was not the Pope. This is not the JFK assassination, or Reagan’s death, or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. A newsman died. We know you miss him, but please shut up and get back to work.
It was strange to watch the entire NBC Nightly News this Friday devoted to Russert.


Bad headline:
McCain seen as best choice for economy (Reuters)
Some content: (emp add)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain's tax policies have given him an edge as the better man for the economy, various Wall Street experts said at this week's Reuters Investment Outlook Summit. ...

"My personal opinion is I would argue that McCain is probably the better candidate for the economy and that is more or less because of his tax policies," James Caron, head of global rates research at investment bank Morgan Stanley in New York, said at the Reuters Summit this week. ...

David Bianco, chief U.S. strategist at UBS Investment Research, told the summit that Wall Street would welcome McCain with open arms. "My view is that McCain is better for the market," Bianco said.
Wall Street. Morgan Stanley. UBS!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Letterman on Bush and Cheney:

It's pissing off right-wingers:
"My feeling about Cheney, and also Bush, but especially Cheney is that he just couldn't care less about Americans. And the same is true of George Bush. And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people so they can get some great annuity when they're out of office. [audience applause] “There you go Dick [hand motion of distributing cash], nice job. There's a couple of billion for your troubles.” I mean, he pretty much put Halliburton in business and the outsourcing of the military resources to private mercenary groups and so forth. Is there any humanity in either of these guys?"


To hell with due process:

That's what four members of the Supreme Court think. Story: (emp add)
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority. ...

In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented. Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
The nation is not at war (at least not officially). "Radical Islamists" do not pose an existential threat. And constitutional protections should not be subjected to a test of utility ("more Americans killed") because if they are, those protections become worthless.

ADDITIONAL STUPIDITY BY THE CHIEF JUSTICE: Since when was having "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants" the standard for legitimacy? "Most generous" does not mean legal, or constitutional. Both Roberts and Scalia are showing that they don't give a damn about law.

HERE IT COMES: The Theresienstadt concentration camp was where the inmates were treated "most generously". Did that make it right?


No ice for you!
The first high-level response here [in Mississippi] to FEMA's dictum that it will no longer fund ice deliveries to the public after a hurricane came Monday from U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor [D], who called FEMA officials "buttheads," and said he intends to officially express his annoyance with the federal disaster response bureaucracy. ...

The Sun Herald was unable to get comment on Taylor's statement Monday from the agency's Washington headquarters. However, a spokesman at FEMA's Mississippi Coast offices in Biloxi said the agency was expected to respond to Taylor's no-ice protest, although not to his precise choice of words. ...

FEMA officials recently kicked off the beginning of hurricane season by announcing they consider ice a luxury item that people do not need after living through major storms such as Hurricane Katrina. The storm and its high winds and 30-foot surge destroyed thousands of homes and businesses here in 2005, taking lives and causing widespread power outages that lasted for days and even weeks in some areas.

Survivors were left in primitive conditions with extreme humidity, toxic mud, insects, a lack of food and water and temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. Tons of ice, food and water distributed by the National Guard and other agencies are widely credited with saving countless lives, particularly among the ill and elderly.
Even more crazy here.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


At The American Scene, we find a post titled Could the GOP become the anti-corporate party? which begins with: (emp add)
John Carney touches briefly on an idea that’s been gnawing at me the last few weeks: the brewing anti-corporate sentiment on the right. For a long time now, the Republican party has been the party of business, but I’m not sure that’s bound to last forever. In fact, I wonder if the right won’t revive itself to some significant extent on a tide of anti-corporate sentiment.
Without a close association to corporations, the Republicans will have virtually no political power. No money. No media support. No think-tank approval (or source of bodies).

All that would be left would be social issues, and regarding those, it would be fighting new social trends or trying to return to standards of a century ago or arguing for an injection of religion into state functions. That doesn't seem likely to appeal to more than 30% of the electorate.

Also, look at it from the other side of the equation. What party would corporations want to control? If Democrats hold power, corporations will do their best to get what they want, but the record is clear (Reagan, Bush Jr.) that they do much, much better with Republicans. So, even if there are some anti-corporate voices being heard within Republican ranks, it is in the interests of corporations to silence them. Corporations need a national party, however rickety it may be from time to time, to take advantage of brief periods of unhappiness with the Democrats and get into office to implement the policies they want.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This is fundamental:

In a post at Booman Tribune that examines Bush's various failures, author Steven D writes: (emp add)
National Security Failures

Under his watch, the 9/11 attacks occurred despite the insistent and constant warnings he was given by the principal intelligence and counter-terrorist analysts in the government that terrorist strikes against the United States were likely to occur during the summer of 2001. Then he tried and failed to cover up his own administration's malfeasance. He failed to eradicate Al Qaida as a force in the winter of 2001-2002, opting instead to divert resources to an invasion of Iraq, thus allowing Al Qaida and its Taliban allies to reconstitute themselves in Western Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan. He did nothing to reign in support for radical Sunni based terrorists affiliated or aligned with Al Qaida by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, despite proclaiming them as our essential allies in the War on Terror.
Bush benefited politically from the attack, dispite the fact that he was dismissive of the threat. It gave him the political edge that enabled him to invade Iraq and authorize unconstitutional acts like spying and torture.

It's a remarkable instance of someone being rewarded for failure.

Bush gets criticized for the Iraq War, Katrina, poor economic stewardship, obstruction on environmental issues, and so on. But rarely does he get blamed for 9/11. Why?


Burying the lede?

Everybody knows about this story: Republicans block extra taxes on oil companies

But is anyone paying attention to this part of the story?
... Democrats also failed to get Republican support for a proposal to extend tax breaks for wind, solar and other alternative energy development, and for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation. The tax breaks have either expired or are scheduled to end this year.


Almost a flat tax:

McCain attacked Obama on economic issues this week, and one item discussed was taxes:
[McCain] said that it is not enough to tweak the current tax code around the edges, and instead proposed “a vastly less complicated system” that would include two tax rates with a standard deduction.
What are those two rates? Checking McCain's own webpage on economics, there is only this: (emp orig)
John McCain Will Propose An Alternative New And Simpler Tax System – And Give America A Real Choice. When this reform is enacted, all who wish to stay under the current system could still do so, but everyone else could choose a vastly less complicated system with two tax rates and a generous standard deduction. Americans do not resent paying their rightful share of taxes – what they do resent is being subjected to thousands of pages of needless and often irrational rules and demands from the IRS.
In any event, it's likely that a two-rate system will have a lower "top rate" than the current one (which has rates of 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%). McCain is proposing something very close to Steve Forbes' Flat Tax.

The rich will get richer under McCain. And even when they die:
John McCain has also long sought permanent and immediate reform of the estate tax, and supports raising the exemption from taxation on estates up to $10 million while cutting the tax rate to 15 percent.
A good portion of McCain's "economy webpage" is about reducing taxes:
  • John McCain will permanently repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  • He proposes to raise the personal exemption for each dependent from $3,500 to $7,000.
  • John McCain ... supports raising the exemption from taxation on estates up to $10 million while cutting the tax rate to 15 percent.
  • John McCain believes it should require a 3/5 majority vote in Congress to raise taxes.
  • John McCain will keep the current rates on dividends and capital gains ...
  • John McCain proposes to permit corporations to immediately deduct the cost of equipment investment ...
  • John McCain Will Reduce The Federal Corporate Tax Rate To 25 Percent From 35 Percent.
  • John McCain Will Ban Internet Taxes.
  • John McCain Will Ban New Cell Phone Taxes.
  • John McCain Will Establish Permanent Tax Credit Equal To 10 Percent Of Wages Spent On R&D. This reform will simplify the tax code ... [!]
  • John McCain Will Propose An Alternative New And Simpler Tax System – And Give America A Real Choice. [The aforementioned 2-rate system]
What McCain proposes makes sense, if you want no government services or entitlements. McCain's tax policy is what libertarians would like. No taxes, or extremely low taxes. Just about everything is shifted to the private sector (e.g. toll roads, retirement insurance, food and drug certification, health insurance). McCain's slogan should be "No Taxes and No Government!"


John McCain Will Reward Saving, Investment And Risk-Taking.
[I] would zero out capital gains taxes. It would set off a boom by ... lowering barriers to risk taking.
Interesting how both McCain and Forbes celebrate risk taking. How you fare in life is due to two things: Your own initiative (skill, effort), and luck (good and bad). Democrats, for the most part, try to capture some of the wealth that good luck brings and redistribute it to those who are unlucky. Republicans like to leave things unadjusted. Which system do you prefer?


Monday, June 09, 2008



From Newsweek's, The Economy: Why It’s Worse Than You Think (pg 2)
The situation we're in is nowhere near stagflation—the consumer price index is rising at a 3 percent annual rate, compared with 13 percent in 1979. But it's still a shock to the system.
The CPI formula used today is substantially different from that of 1979.It's ridiculous to compare 13% with 3% (actually, more like 4+%) as Newsweek (Daniel Gross) has done.


McCain is calling for a tax hike!

We learn that John McCain is still promoting a "gas-tax holiday" this summer.

Here's how it would work. The 18 cent federal tax would be cut to zero. Then, when the summer is over it would go back up.

But, as so many Republicans like to claim, not extending Bush's 2001 tax cuts amounts to a tax hike.

Using the Republican definition of a tax hike, and with McCain's proposal to undo the cut at the end of summer, you have to conclude that
John McCain supports a hike in the gasoline tax.
Spread the word.


Better Backdrops For McCain:

(last week) at TNR.


If you don't want to say "lied", say this:

Fred Hiatt:
"spoke with too much certainty"
To be fair to Hiatt, let's look at his claims within the context of the larger Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Hiatt only cites cases where the administration's claims were "substantiated by intelligence information". (And we know that much of that "information" was from a special shop set up to bypass the CIA and other established intel units.) But there were other instances where the administration made claims that were not substantiated. Here's a quick overview (green = Hiatt's 6 cited instances, red = 6 other instances)
Claim about Assessment by Senate Intel Report
Iraq's nuclear weapons program president's statements "substantiated by intelligence community estimates"
biological weapons, production capability and mobile laboratories president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."
chemical weapons Substantiated by intelligence information
weapons of mass destruction overall Generally substantiated by intelligence information.
Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles Generally substantiated by available intelligence
Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMD Generally substantiated by intelligence information
Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training not substantiated by the intelligence
Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States contradicted by available intelligence information
postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products
Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties
Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities was not substantiated by available intelligence information
Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 Intelligence Community did not confirm
So Bush and company were only lying half the time! Great job. That's the kind of honesty you want when you are "informing" the public about potential war.

From the Senate report, we learn that all statements about Iraq's support of terrorist groups (past & future) attacking the United States were bogus. That was what scared Americans most and helped move the nation to war. But Hiatt omits that from his editorial.

NOTE: As someone in the editorial's comment section points out, only the nuclear claim was substantiated by intelligence community estimates. The rest of the claims were substantiated by "intelligence information", which could be as flimsy as a tip passed from Ahmed Chalabi.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

This is all it takes for things to be set right:
What investors are going to be looking for in this week's data are signals that the consumer is still able to spend despite higher commodities costs.
For the past five years or so, borrowing against inflated house prices was the source of spending money. That's gone. Plain old (credit-card) borrowing isn't sustainable. That leaves wage growth. But there hasn't been any. The productivity gains for the last 30 years have accrued to corporations, not to labor.

Investors are looking for a free-spending consumer that doesn't exist any more.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

She never gets blamed:

Dan Froomkin has a good review of the Senate Intelligence Committee report and the administration's (mis)use of intelligence and outright lies about Iraq, that were made in order to stampede the nation to war.

Setting aside the lies, and focusing on what intelligence there was, the White House offered this defense. Dana Perino:
"The issue about Iraq's WMD ultimately turned out to be false, and we have fully admitted that. We regret it. And we have also taken steps to make sure that we can correct it for -- in the future.

[The] dissent, amongst experts within the intelligence community at some levels, did not reach the President. The process that I just talked about, in terms of how we've improved the process, would hopefully make sure that now that we have this different levels of confidence, so that the President now knows if there is dissent amongst them."
It wasn't a failed process. It was a failure by a person. And who was responsible for the president getting a balanced view, including dissents? The National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.

Not only did she excape scutiny by the press but Bush promotes her to Secretary of State, and everybody shrugs.

SIDE NOTE: One of the few people to take her to task is Scott McClellan in his new book. How about that?

FUN FACT: Leading up to the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, Rice became the first National Security Advisor to campaign for an incumbent president.


Friday, June 06, 2008

What Gerson failed to mention:

In his op-ed that (properly) condemns Uganda-based Joseph Kony for leading a group that kills wantonly, he writes:
This is ultimately the work and trademark of a single man: Joseph Kony, the most carnivorous killer since Idi Amin. As the military and spiritual leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Kony is a combination of serial murderer and cult leader.
Gerson goes on to say that the U.S. State department, as well as various African states, should condemn and try to stop Kony and the LRA.

What Gerson's doesn't tell you is that the LRA:
... claims to be based on the Christian Bible and the Ten Commandments.

It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Christian Holy Spirit ...
Where's Gerson call for Christian groups to get involved and (at the very least) challenge the theology behind the group? Or is it now, according to Gerson, only secular states that should bother with these matters?


See no evil:

Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who serves on both the House Energy and Commerce and Intelligence Committees, pens an op-ed in the Washington Times. He wan't America to become independent of foreign oil and has a number of suggestions. Here's one of them:
Another step I think we need: shifting the nearly $2 billion dollars the federal government spends each year studying climate change and use those funds to take action. Let's make that investment instead in the nation's research universities that are working on alternatives like bio-mass fuels that will create renewable fuels and reduce emissions.
Two billion is peanuts compared to the overall budget (and especially the Iraq War). And what's the connection between climate change and oil independence? Those are two independent areas of policy. Why not strip money out of the CDC's budget allocated for the study of contagious diseases and "use those funds to take action" on alternative energy sources? It would make about as much sense.

Republicans have a position on climate change: They don't think it's happening. They don't want it studied. They don't want it discussed. Mostly because dealing with climate change would endanger the profits of the (oil and coal) companies that support politicians like Rogers.


Great argument:

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard doesn't like the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that concludes that "in making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even non-existent".

So how to combat that charge? Simple. Step one: Don't:
I'll leave it to someone more industrious to correct the numerous errors in the report and in the news stories about it.
Step two: Quote Jay Rockefeller's statements from '02 and '03 which aligned (somewhat) with White House claims.

That should be convincing to the typical Weekly Standard suscriber.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

All I gotta say is this:
Statements and implications by the Führer of Germany suggesting that Polish commandos had invaded Germany and seized the Gleiwitz radio station, were not substantiated by the intelligence.


Here's hoping none of it sells:

The Independent:
When the artists Jake and Dinos Chapman bought a series of paintings by Adolf Hitler for £115,000, many questioned the morality of paying for works produced by one of history's most brutal dictators.

Yesterday, the brothers unveiled 13 of the watercolours, on which they had added psychedelic rainbows, stars and love hearts, and placed them back on the market for £685,000. ...

This is not the first time the brothers have defaced artwork. They offended some Spanish critics when they reworked 80 etchings by Goya, Disasters of War, adding funny faces and clowns heads.
For a negative review of the Chapmans, there is this blog post.

UPDATE: More negative reviews. Chapmans are anti-Enlightenment. Excerpt:
The Chapmans' intellectual hero is Georges Bataille, the French writer and (anti-)philosopher who was obsessed with moments of "transgression", when the "prison" of the Enlightenment could be left behind. And these glorious moments? They mostly consist of torture. He lauded the Marquis de Sade, an aristocratic rapist who preyed on working-class women, because he "had only one occupation in his long life which really absorbed him - that of enumerating to the point of exhaustion the possibilities of destroying human beings, and of enjoying the thought of their death and suffering".

Jake Chapman echoes his hero. He talks about the "libidinal pleasure" that comes from seeing a real picture of a real person being tortured, because of the "transgression of the ethics that that image is supposed to trigger or incite". A few years ago he was asked in the Papers of Surrealism: "Does Battaille's formulation of the conception of transgression relate to the way that work like your own is sometimes suggested as being part of a necessary force?" He replied: "Yes - a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger."

Some foolish critics have praised the "moral anger" in the Chapmans' work, directed at "injustice and cruelty". Precisely the opposite is the case. This is immoral anger, celebrating injustice and cruelty as "transgression". ...

Jake [Chapman] has described the international opposition to the Taliban blowing up ancient [Buddhas of Bamyan] sculptures as "strange", describing it with bland semi-admiration as the "live, vital religious opposition to something that has a direct and local meaning to them".
Also, complaints by artists, and others, about the Turner Prize (which the Chapmans won).


Thought experiment:

There's been a lot of talk about possible VP choices for Obama. Some are radical, like Republican Chuck Hagel. So, assuming all possibilities, here's a question:
Which ticket would win if it was Obama/McCain vs McCain/Obama?


The Broder Bounce:

Bush’s job approval



Good news from Ben Bernanke!

He tells us:
"... we see little indication today of the beginnings of a 1970s-style wage-price spiral, in which wages and prices chased each other ever upward."
All we'll be seeing this time is a price spiral.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Had enough?


Charles Gibson want to rush things:

On ABC's World News Tonight, in a discussion about politics with George Stephanopoulos, Gibson said:
You've just heard Barack Obama say he's going to be deliberate about the vice-presidential choice. But everybody is wondering will he put Hillary on the ticket, and it seem to me as I said to him, you have to do this rather quickly or this will linger over everything.
Sound familiar? That was a refrain heard frequently during the contested Bush/Gore election in 2000. Various idiots in the press (e.g. Cokie Roberts) were saying that the process was taking too long (even though there were explicit provisions in federal law for resolving disputes) and that a resolution was needed as soon as possible, lest the peasants be confused about life.

That "we need to know now" attitude was partly responsible for the positive reaction in the press when the Supreme Court stepped in to stop recounts and whatever else the state of Florida had planned to do.


The day after:



Barack Obama is not African-American:

If words mean anything, he's Euro-Afro-American (or Afro-Euro-American).



Over at, a petition by Lanny Davis to Barack Obama to have Hillary Clinton on the ticket as Vice President. It's signed:

"Hillary for VP '08 Committee"

Lanny J. Davis
Washington, D.C.
There's a Hillary for VP '08 Committee?

Is that next door to the Hillary for President '12 Committee?


Break down of Hillary Clinton's June 3 Election Night Remarks in New York:

By paragraph:
  1. Congratulates "Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run".
  2. "sixteen months ago, you and I began a journey to make history"
  3. "wonderful women in their nineties ... came out to see me because they were born before women could vote" "Who will be the strongest candidate and the strongest president?"
  4. Popular vote argument. "Nearly eighteen million of you cast your votes for our campaign, carrying the popular vote with more votes than any primary candidate in history".
  5. Electoral College argument: "we won together the swing states necessary to get to 270 electoral votes"

  6. I stand for the "deepest values" of the Democratic party, which includes "count[ing] every single vote".
  7. Stayed in the race; all voices heard.
  8. "I am committed to uniting our Party ... to take back the White house this November".
  9. I've seen factories, families, innovators.
  10. I've seen scientists, struggling schools, caring teachers.

  11. "I will keep standing for" hardworking Americans.
  12. "... what does Hillary want?" Various policies and "the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected"
  13. "public service is about helping people solve their problems"
  14. "I want universal health care".
  15. "I want an economy that works for all families", also "strong and smart" foreign policy.

  16. "These are the issues that brought me into this race".
  17. Supporters told me "don't quit, keep fighting, stay in this race for us".
  18. Help from supporters: "soldier on his third tour of duty in Iraq who told his wife ... to take his spending money and donate it to our campaign instead. The 11-year-old boy in Kentucky who sold his bike and video games to raise money for our campaign"
  19. "I will carry your stories and your dreams with me every day for the rest of my life".
  20. "Now the question is, where do we go from here ...", "I will be making no decisions tonight". "I hope you'll go to my website at and share your thoughts with me and help in any way that you can."

  21. "In the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country ...". Thanks to family, staff.
  22. Anecdote of woman Hillary met in restaurant in Rapid City who was struggling with health care costs.
  23. "here in America, we are resilient, we are courageous, we embrace all of our people and that when we face our challenges together, there is no barrier we can't overcome, no dream we can't realize, nothing we can't do if we just start acting like Americans again"
No mention of Republicans. No mention of McCain.


Predictions revisited:

February 19: "Barring some major screw-up, Obama will be the Democratic candidate for president this fall."

May 31: "Two weeks from now, Hillary Clinton will still be charging hard for the nomination."

The first one turned out to be correct, and the second one is looking good (see Ezra, TAPPED, Yglesias).

IQ TEST FOR OBAMA: If he's smart he'll spend the next two weeks saying nice things about Hillary (and Bill) Clinton, but won't comment at all about running mates or concessions.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Smokers will be paying 1.6% of New York State's budget:

Now that the state per-pack tax has risen to $2.75. From the AP:
Cigarette taxes will raise a total of $1.3 billion for the state budget in fiscal year 2008-2009, including the new tax.
The state budget is expected to be $81 billion.

It's certainly good that poor, addicted people will be funding the government instead of wealthy millionaires. That's because smoking is morally suspect and as pariahs they deserve to suffer.


EBAY in trouble?

A news story on the diminishing attractiveness of EBAY's auctions. Almost certainly, the rise of Craigslist has had something to do with it. Craigslist is fast and local. And Amazon has a number of seller affiliates that often have what you need. EBAY is now mostly for people needing a specific item (e.g. printer cartridge).

We read that EBAY is moving more to fixed-price shopping. It'll be interesting to see how that fares. EBAY was attractive because often a buyer went there looking for an underbidded item that could be had for cheap. If EBAY is turning into some sort of national sales fair, it could be susceptible to competition. By another sales hub, or search-and-buy applications.



E. J. Dionne writes about a priest who denied Communion for "Douglas Kmiec, a staunch Republican, firm foe of abortion and veteran of the Reagan Justice Department" because Kmiec supports pro-choice Obama.

This is not surprising. The Catholic Church has been working hard for the last three decades to implement conservative policies and promote bishops of a conservative nature. The Catholic Church is, at least in the upper echelons, still battling against modernity. That battle started with Pius IX in the mid nineteenth century and it was continued by Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII.

John XXIII was a reformist pope and liberal. Paul VI was considered moderate-liberal (although on sexual matters, a conservative).

John Paul I was a transient figure; he chose a name to honor to his two immediate predecessors (and many say, their agendas).

But John Paul I died after a month and was replaced by John Paul II, who took the name mostly to signal continuity with JP1, but that was misleading.

John Paul II should have taken the name Pius XIII because he was always conservative in matters regarding the church (papal supremacy, bishops chosen by Rome, dismissal of lay opinion, anti-reform on papal celibacy, women priests, contraception). It's just that John Paul II's celebrity made him look to many as if he was a modern pope. He wasn't. And the staffing within the Catholic Church reflects that. Ratzinger was given substantial authority while John Paul was pope. And now he's the Pope. So it should come as no surprise that priests are out there willing to use denial of sacraments as an instrument of political control.


Janet Yellen vs Ben Bernanke:

Ben Bernanke (via Calculated Risk): (emp add)
Although the severity of the financial stresses became apparent only in August, several longer-term developments served as prologue for the recent turmoil and helped bring us to the current situation.

The first of these was the U.S. housing boom, which began in the mid-1990s and picked up steam around 2000. Between 1996 and 2005, house prices nationwide increased about 90 percent. During the years from 2000 to 2005 alone, house prices increased by roughly 60 percent--far outstripping the increases in incomes and general prices ...
Janet Yelen of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (in her October 2007 speech at the Omni hotel in Los Angeles, printed in the Winter 2007 edition of the Town Hall Journal - not affiliated with (emp add)
Here in California, the rise and fall of house prices has been a lot like the nation's, only more so. In 2004 and 2005, many homeowners gleeflully watched the meter tick up and up on their house values. I know I did.
Yellen then went on to discuss Moral Hazard and bailing out institutions and individuals.

The point of this post is not Yellen specifically, but that she may represent others at the Fed who were clueless about the housing bubble and how its disconnect with fundamentals (e.g. wage growth) was likely to lead to the current problems with housing and the economy in general.


Monday, June 02, 2008

The Boy King:

When he was on the Charlie Rose show (in 2003?) the actor James Garner was clear about his disdain for George Bush. "He's just a kid", Garner said at one point. And you've got to think of that again, as Eric Alterman reminds us:
... the president has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories. [Consider] the "scorecard" of top Al Qaeda figures to be taken out that he kept in his Oval Office desk, his urge for military dress up -- those G.I. Joe action figure-style military jackets he wore while addressing hooah-ing crowds of troops that had "George W. Bush, Commander In Chief" stitched across the breast -- his love of Saddam Hussein's captured pistol, his bluster ("Bring 'em on!"), the way he visibly savors playing "commander in chief," or tears up instantly on giving out medals, and so on.

That was written in reaction to the latest news that Bush addressed his closest top civilian and military advisers thustly:
"Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail!"
That's Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, quoting from memory, so they are unlikely to be his exact words. But Bush probably said something very much like that.

RELATED: From Tomdispatch:
Usually Ronald Reagan, an actual actor, is seen as the president who spent his time in office playing the role of a lifetime, but, as it happens, he had nothing on George W. Bush. From the moment the attacks of September 11, 2001 gave him his "calling" as a "wartime" president, he has been deeply embroiled in acting out his cartoonish version of the role of the century. In fact, he has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories.
Here's a question, though. For a considerable period of time Bush was quite popular. Sure, he had the press celebrating him (as well as not being very critical). It would appear that there is a natural human inclination to gravitate towards, or at least be comfortable with, the kind of attitude that Bush engaged in. It eventually dissipates, as recent polls show that American's don't like the Iraq War. But it sure looks like, if the circumstances permit it, you can get a country tacking in the wrong direction for, what, two to four years?