Saturday, December 18, 2004

Hacks!

I wonder if the conservative blogosphere ever tires of being wrong about everything...

Evening Thread

Have fun.

Afternoon Thread

Chat away.

Bobo's World

The demands of natalism:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A baby girl who was cut out of her murdered mother's womb and taken from the crime scene has been found alive in the possession of a Kansas woman who police charged with kidnapping resulting in death.
The motive for the bizarre crime remained unknown, investigators said on Friday, though local media in Kansas City reported that the alleged kidnapper had suffered a miscarriage.

Todd Graves, the U.S. Attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, released an affidavit detailing how computer sleuthing by FBI agents tracked down the baby to the town of Melvern in eastern Kansas where she was found in apparently healthy condition at the home of Kevin and Lisa Montgomery. Lisa Montgomery, 36, was named in federal kidnap-murder charges, which carry the death penalty.

Agents who made the arrest said Montgomery had told her husband that she had unexpectedly given birth. The couple has two older children but it was not clear from the document if she was also their mother.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Late Night

Chat away.

Friday Cat Blogging




More O'Reilly Fun

This might be his best one yet.

Details

Big Media Matt has some good comments on social security:

Now if Sandy happens to die before retirement, this is quite true. But if Sandy makes it to retirement age, she's going to be faced with a problem under the Social Security abolition system. Let's say the market continues to grow nicely between now and then (in which case there would have been no need to change anything in the first place) so Sandy has a decent-sized nest egg. The problem is that Sandy doesn't know how long she's going to live, and if she lives a long time (as people increasingly do nowadays) may wind up outliving her investment. Under the current system, that's not a big problem -- she would have been guaranteed Social Security benefits proportional to the wages she used to earn for the rest of her life.
Abolition advocates say Sandy can solve this problem by buying an annuity from an insurance company. This is a sort of reverse life insurance that lets you hedge against longevity by converting your lump sum of savings into a guaranteed monthly benefit (just like today's Social Security). But if Sandy does this she won't have anything to pass on to Wynter after all, though Wynter will spend her working life paying taxes to repay the $2 trillion (plus interest) that Bush borrowed in order to finance the transition. Another major problem with the annuity proposal is that even if the market does perform well over the long run (it has in the past -- I should emphasize again that if it does in the future Social Security doesn't need any fixing), if Sandy happens to retire during a down year (and these happen pretty frequently, even in the context of long-term growth) then she'll be stuck with lower monthly benefits for the rest of her life.


I want to add that while any mandatory private savings plan is, to me, an abominably bad idea, whether it's just "abominable" or "super nuclear fuck abominable" will depend a great deal on the details of said plan. It's difficult of course to write about these details when the plan does not exactly exist. But, I'm not very optimistic that our media will be very up to the job once the magic plan is unveiled. They've been doing an admirable job screwing up the reporting on the details of a plan which has been around for quite some time now, so I don't expect them to get much beyond the press releases whenever the new plan is unveiled.

Wall of Hacks

Roger Ailes needs some help.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Kerik's Withdrawal Letter

Succumbing to pressure, the White House has posted it up.

Just Imagine

How much fun the press could have had during the Bush campaign, where our boy Bernie was frequently by his side, if they hadn't been too busy peddling false Kerry quotes...

Hmmm....

September 16, 2000 NY Daily News:

A homeless woman lying on the ramp of an upper East Side parking garage was crushed to death early yesterday when she was run over by a mammoth sport utility vehicle, police said.

The driver, real estate executive Anthony Bergamo, told investigators he did not see the woman from his driver's seat.

Bergamo was driving a 5,770-pound Ford Expedition.

Medics pronounced the unidentified woman dead at the scene.

An autopsy determined that she died of crushing injuries to her chest, said a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.

The death was ruled accidental and Bergamo, 54, who manages the Milford Plaza hotel in Times Square for its owner, real estate magnate Howard Milstein, was not charged.


Who was police commissioner then? Why, Bernard Kerik. And who is Anthony Bergamo? Oh, THAT Anthony Bergamo...

Rescue workers were combing through the World Trade Center rubble around the clock when Mr. Kerik called Anthony Bergamo, a well-connected vice chairman of the Milstein family real estate company and a police buff, and asked for help finding a place for the workers to rest during breaks, the executive said.

The family owned Liberty View, a 28-story yellow brick tower two blocks southwest of the trade center at the corner of West Street and Third Place.

According to the executive, who knows Mr. Bergamo, the vice chairman arranged for Mr. Kerik to have the use of an apartment there. Several apartments in the buildings had been used by rescue workers on breaks, and by Red Cross staff who were treating them, in the months after 9/11, according to a real estate executive.


(thanks to a sharp reader)

Real Crisis

If Congress wants to address a looming crisis, they can deal with the inevitable Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation disaster.

Fake Crisis

Sam Rosenfeld says regarding the Dem statement on social security:

What’s missing, above all else, is a strong and clear claim that this is a phony crisis -- something trumped up by the GOP. If the White House manages to win the argument that a real Social Security crisis exists, it seems likely that Democratic piddling over the details isn’t going to make any difference. Once there's agreement that something needs to be done to address a crisis, it'll be done on the president's terms.


Exactly right. Republicans are in charge. Unless the Democrats can completely overturn the fake idea that there's need for change this will be George Bush's change.

Idjits

Oy


Summit today:

They Get Letters

David Brock writes to the cowardly Bill O'Reilly.

Afternoon Thread

Chat away.

Knives out for Rumsfeld

I'm not surprised there are conservatives/Republicans after Rummy, but I can't quite figure out the shifting alliances. Bill Kristol and McCain I can understand, but Norm Coleman and Trent Lott are a strange addition.


No Nanny?

So, does that mean Saint Rudy's a liar? And the entire Bush administration?

I'm shocked.

Late Night

Chat away.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

On the Radio

7-10, AAR...

Icky

What do pro-life Democrats want?

Do they want to outlaw abortion? If so, I'm not going to tell them that view is okay.

Do they want to add additional legal restrictions to abortion in response to the latest Republican icky-abortion-scare? If so, I'm not going to tell them that view is okay.

Amy Sullivan writes:

If Democrats can change the perception that they are pro-abortion, they will finally be free to go on the offensive.


Well, I'm not pro-abortion. I'm not anti-abortion. I'm anti-unwanted pregnancy. Frankly, I'm not particularly concerned about abortion rates as any sort of morality issue. Nor am I interested in any political campaign which implicitly shames women who have them.

Sullivan writes:

Democratic Party to realize that they continue to lose voters who aren't one-issue abortion voters but who feel unwelcome in the party because of their beliefs.


Look, I just don't believe these people exist. There are probably large numbers of voters people who aren't one-issue voters who oppose abortion and who on the margin support Republicans because of their desire to make abortion illegal. These people might vote for a pro-life Democrat over a pro-choice Republican, but those battles are increasingly rare. And, then there are a very tiny number of people who are actively involved in Democratic party politics and who are pro-life and who don't like the fact that many of their friends and colleagues are rather disdainful of this particular viewpoint. Bummer for them, but this isn't about voters it's about a tiny number of people who due to their career choices are forced to interact with rather strident pro-choice people (such as myself) who really aren't very tolerant of those who aren't.

Stop projecting.

It seems like pro-life Democrats who honestly recognize that the platform of the party is unlikely to change just want people like me to admit that abortion is "icky" to make them feel better. Well, I'm not going to do that.

Bobo's World

lovely:

Among them is Van Golden, a Christian, anti-abortion Texan who has sold his house so that he can travel to communist, atheist China and have Huang inject a million cells from the nasal area of a foetus into his spine. According to Golden's doctors, his spine was damaged beyond repair in a car crash last Christmas. The damage to his nervous system was so bad that he has been in a wheelchair and racked by spasms ever since. But Golden refused to give up, even if it meant having to compromise his values. "This is the only place that offered us any hope," he says. "Everyone else offered only to help make me sufficient in that chair. But the chair is not my destiny. It is not ordained."

O'Reilly Says ADL is a "militant organization"

And then warns of "backlash against Jewish Americans."

O'REILLY: I mean -- what I was distressed about here, and I think when you think about it, you'll see that I have a point. I mean, I'm not expecting you to agree with me, but I don't want your organization, or B'nai Brith, or even Foxman's organization, the ADL -- which I think is a militant organization -- I don't want you guys to be used.

Because I think that, if that happens, there'll be a backlash against Jewish Americans that is unfair and that I'm just gonna have to redouble my efforts to make sure it doesn't happen.


No comments thus far on the backlash against falafels, sales of which have plummeted 30% in recent weeks.

George W. Bush, International Economist of Mystery

oy.

There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve: People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit.


Remarks, today ...

Quote of the Day

Bernard Kerik is one scandal away from winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


(unattributed)

Spared

It looks like we'll be spared the Kerik biopic. Or, at least maybe we'll get the "juicier" version...

Morning Thread

Chat away.

9/11 Symbolism

Truer words were never spoken:

[O]ne presidential adviser pointed out that Kerik "brings 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet."


How right he was:

An apartment in Battery Park City that former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik secured for his personal use after Sept. 11 was originally donated for the use of weary police and rescue workers who were helping at ground zero, according to a real estate executive who has been briefed about the apartment.

After the cleanup had settled into a routine that fall, the executive said, Mr. Kerik, who was still police commissioner, asked to rent the two-bedroom apartment for his own use. During his use of the apartment, Mr. Kerik and Judith Regan engaged in an extramarital affair there, according to someone who spoke to Mr. Kerik about the relationship. Ms. Regan published his best-selling autobiography in 2001.


Latest Night

Enjoy...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Late Night

Chat away.

Evening Thread

On Air America now...

FCC Action Alert!!!

1. Go to http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/menu/rush.guest.html and find your Limbaugh station.
2. Send an email to fccinfo@fcc.gov with your own version of the following:

On Monday, December 13 in the 2nd hour of his program (1pm EST) broadcast on [CALL SIGN HERE], Rush Limbaugh used the vulgar, sexual term "dick" when referring to a Miss Plastic Surgery pageant. Specifically, Limbaugh said:

"LIMBAUGH: Miss Plastic Surgery. (chuckle) And – I’d – I’d – I – I don’t – I don’t know what the winner – I – and, oh, I didn’t print out both pages, so I don’t know what the – I don’t know what the winner gets. Probably a certificate to go to San Francisco to have an add-a-dick-to-me operation. "


According to the FCC:

Information regarding the details of what was actually said (or depicted) during the allegedly indecent, profane or obscene broadcast. There is flexibility on how a complainant may provide this information. The complainant may submit a significant excerpt of the program describing what was actually said (or depicted) or a full or partial recording (e.g., tape) or transcript of the material.

In whatever form the complainant decides to provide the information, it must be sufficiently detailed so the FCC can determine the words and language actually used during the broadcast and the context of those words or language. Subject matter alone is not a determining factor of whether material is obscene, profane, or indecent. For example, stating only that the broadcast station “discussed sex” or had a “disgusting discussion of sex” during a program is not sufficient. Moreover, the FCC must know the context when analyzing whether specific, isolated words are indecent or profane. The FCC does not require complainants to provide recordings or transcripts in support of their complaints. Consequently, failure to provide a recording or transcript of a broadcast, in and of itself, will not lead to automatic dismissal or denial of a complaint.


The date and time of the broadcast. Under federal law, if the FCC assesses a monetary forfeiture against a broadcast station for violation of a rule, it must specify the date the violation occurred. Accordingly, it is important that complainants provide the date the material in question was broadcast. A broadcaster’s right to air indecent or profane speech is protected between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Consequently, the FCC must know the time of day that the material was broadcast.


Afternoon Thread

Chat away. In NYC - will be co-hosting the Majority Report tonight.

Oof

Bigger than expected trade deficit.
Let the euro soar...

Damn Bluggers

Another tale of irresponsible blugging.

Bigamy?

He may not have been, but according to Kerik's autobiography he was a bigamist. With his secret first wife.

This is who Saint Rudy wanted to run the Department of Homeland Security?

This is who George Bush wanted to run the Department of Homeland Security?

Clowns.

Sinclairaction.com

Protest Launched Against Sinclair:

NEW YORK — A coalition of liberal political groups is launching a nationwide protest against Sinclair Broadcast Group, charging that the 62-station TV broadcaster, which was also the target of intense criticism during the presidential campaign, is misusing public airwaves with partisan news programming.

The groups, led by Media Matters for America, today will announce a campaign to pressure Sinclair's advertisers with letters. The groups, however, are stopping short of demanding an advertiser boycott.

The campaign is one of the first broad attempts to reenergize liberal political activists in the wake of the Democrats' electoral defeat in November. Others involved include MoveOn.org, Free Press, Campaign for America's Future, Working Assets, Alternet, MediaChannel, and filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who made "Outfoxed," a film released in the summer that alleged Republican bias at Fox News Channel.

The anti-Sinclair campaign will be run through a new website, SinclairAction.com.


You can read more about The Point here and here.

Rumsfeld's Rules

Have fun...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Stupid Economists

Economists will tell you "free trade good for all countries." Now, theoretically at least, that's somewhat (though not actually entirely) true. But, too many implicitly, though they know better, make the additional rhetorical leap that "free trade good for all people." It shouldn't actually be a big deal for a news magazine to point out that freer trade doesn't actually benefit all people.

The basic issue is that, theoretically (depending on the model), the gains from free trade offset the losses. In other words, the size of the pie increases unambiguously. And, as long as the size of the pie increases, in principle the winners could compensate the losers (because they're so generous, or through forced redistribution, or whatever).

But, given this what can we make of the idiotic quote from Dartmouth economist Matthew J. Slaughter. He says:

I'm worried that rising anxiety among higher-skilled workers will erode support for continued globalization in the U.S.


By anxiety we of course mean "concerns about loss of jobs and income." So, Slaughter seems to take a fetishist's view of globalization/free trade. It's good in and of itself. But, if significant numbers, or even a majority, of voters are made worse off by 'globalization,' then we would expect them to vote their self-interest -- less free trade.

Or, let's put it another way. Suppose "free trade" increases GDP by 100 billion overall. However, 60% of the population actually lose a total of $50 billion income, while the other 40% gain a total of $150 billion. For a majority of the population this is a bad deal. Is it good economic policy? Well, that depends on your social welfare function. The problem we have these days is that the default social welfare function is simply equal to "GDP." Policies which make a majority of the population worse off shouldn't be enacted simply because they get Tom Friedman excited.

Nanny?

Josh Marshall raises the amusing possibility that Kerik never had an illegal alien "nanny"...

Lost Innocence

Matthew Yglesias realizes that in today's politcal reality, wonkery is just wankery.

"No."

Remind me to say that if ever Slate asks anything of me.

Merchant of Death

Um, don't we even try to do the right thing anymore?

Koufax Awards

The only awards that matter. Nominations open...

CREW Sues FEC

Press release:


CREW SUES FEC OVER FAILURE TO ENFORCE ELECTION LAWS AGAINST

GROVER NORQUIST AND BUSH-CHENEY ‘04



FEC Found Norquist, Ken Mehlman and BC ‘04 in Violation of Federal Campaign Laws over “Master Contact List” but Failed to Take Action

Washington, DC, December 13, 2004 -- Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that the FEC abused its discretion by failing to enforce election law against Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform and Bush-Cheney ‘04.

In February of this year, CREW had filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that Norquist gave Ken Mehlman, the campaign manager for Bush-Cheney ‘04 a “master contact list,” including the names and information of conservative activists in 37 states compiled by Norquist over a period of 5 years.



CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan said that CREW decided to sue the FEC over the dismissal because “the public needs to know that no one, including the President of the United States, is above the law. Congress clearly stated that the FEC must enforce campaign finance laws and the FEC cannot ignore its mandate.”



CREW's FEC complaint alleged that both parties, Mr. Norquist and Mr. Mehlman were in violation of the law regardless of whether Americans for Tax Reform or Mr. Norquist personally contributed the list. Americans for Tax Reform is a corporation and campaigns are prohibited from accepting contributions from corporations. According to FEC regulations, Bush-Cheney could not accept the list if it came directly from Americans for Tax Reform. CREW further alleged that BC ‘04 violated FEC filing requirements by failing to record the contribution of the list.

On November 2nd, the FEC sent CREW a letter stating that the Commission agreed that all parties had, in fact, violated campaign finance laws, but stating that Commission had determined to dismiss the matter without taking further action.



More info here.

Afternoon Thread

Have fun.

This is Odd

It's rare that I have occasion to accuse the Bush administration of, well, having an excess of diplomacy but here we are.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A senior U.S. official said on Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is a ``rational’’ leader who would be able to transform his impoverished Stalinist state once he resolves the nuclear standoff with the international community.

``Many accusations that he (Kim Jong-il) is some sort of crazy person are not correct,’’ U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said in an exclusive interview with The Korea Times at his office in the State Department. He said Kim’s leadership is one that is unique and rational.

Kelly, who heads the U.S. effort to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis, dismissed the speculation the impoverished nation will collapse anytime soon.

``It would be a mistake to somehow suggest that the country is inherently unstable and its Army-first policy guarantees a kind of built-in stability,’’ said the leader of the U.S. delegation to the past three rounds of six-party talks aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis. The six parties are made up of South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

(thanks to guy)

Myths

Nick Confessore talks about a few so-called "myths." He's right to call them myths - in the sense that they have a metaphorical truth which is greater than their literal truth -- and the literal truth is much more complicated than the myth. Still, it's important to recognize that the metaphorical truth has a certain validity to it. But, I think this part here is where he really goes astray:

Indeed, Terry McAuliffe, perhaps the uber-insider and the past master of collecting big checks from rich guys, did more to advance the DNC's small-donor fundraising ability than any party chair in recent memory.


I'm not one who's ever been especially down on McAuliffe, and it's certainly true that under McAuliffe the small-donor fundraising ability increased incredibly. But, did McAuliffe really have much to do with that? And, even if he did should he be running around taking credit for it?

Members of the "grass roots" doesn't want Terry taking credit for the twenty bucks they sent in - they want the "grass roots" to be credited for it. And, more than that, I don't think most people who consider themselves to be "grass roots" or "netroots" or whatever else think they gave money because of Terry's inspiring presence or skilled leadership of internet outreach programs.

Did Terry show great leadership in this area? No idea, but less talk about Terry's great leadership and more talk about the great grass roots would be smarter. If you want to reach the "little people" you do it in part by giving credit to them, and not by making it sound like they were hoodwinked out of their money by the slick DNC chief.

Small shifts in rhetoric go along way towards making people feel empowered, that they matter, that their 20 bucks matters.

Memories of Judith

From various Fox News appearances:

REGAN: Absolutely. I don't think there's any question. I mean, here's Hillary who's been standing by her man all these years and allowing him to behave in this reprehensible fashion.

REGAN: You know, look at Monica Lewinsky talking about being suicidal, being on antidepressants, you know, gaining this huge amount of weight. This is clearly a woman who has suffered and is suffering inside because she has no depth of feeling and no morality whatsoever. And so, I decided, after being involved in this ugly negotiation, which I found morally reprehensible, that we should make fun of the whole thing, and we should make a comment about the amorality of everybody.


REGAN: I would never tell. Unlike Monica Lewinsky, I keep my secrets and take them to the grave.

REGAN: I don't know. I mean, I think that they're going to move forward here, and I think it's alarming to me that the country is not concerned about having an amoral man in the White House.


REGAN: I said, "You know what? There's a really great morality tale here with a great, great moral lesson," and nobody's really said that.

REGAN: Well, partially, but it's also an "amorality tale" because the one thing that's missing from "Monica's Story" is, you know, deep thinking about her own amorality, which we saw -- was in ample evidence during the Barbara Walters love fest the other night. I mean, here's a woman who clearly knows a lot about sex, but knows nothing about right and wrong.

REGAN: You know, the amorality tale, "Monica's Untold Story," is about her amorality, and the amorality of all of the people in this ugly story. But one of the things that was remarkable about her two hours is her utter lack of sincere remorse. And in that case, I would say she is a true soulmate of Bill Clinton because the two of them -- she learned a lot about spinning. She learned a lot about publicity. You know, she learned a lot about changing her image. And she tried to do another Barbara Walters show, but I don't know if America's buying it. I'm sure not.

Ms. REGAN: Well, I think that the social fabric of this country has become completely unraveled. I think the sexual revolution had a lot to do with that. I think that we are in terrible shape. I think we have a country where half the kids are being raised by single mothers. A lot of that has to do with male behavior. We look at the men in this country who do not want to be accountable to their wives, do not want to be accountable to their children and we have as a president a man who could be a symbol of everything that is good; he could be a wonderful husband, he could be a wonderful father. He is in a position of great authority to show this country and to lead this country in a way that is much more important than economically.

Ms. REGAN: ...to this kind of fame, don't grow up thinking, You know, what I really want to do is to be a good citizen, to be loyal to my friends, to care about my neighbors, to get married, to be faithful to my husband, to have a family.' These are not the things that we're teaching.


Ms. REGAN: We can conquer others with force but to conquer ourselves we need strength.' And this is really what we need in America today. We need to conquer our own impulses. We need to understand that we can't act on them all the time because it feels good for us. We have to care about the other.

Ms. REGAN: Let me tell you something, my father has never cheated on my mother, my brothers have never treated cheated on their wives. I come from a big Italian Irish Catholic family and I have to say that for the most part, they have not cheated on each other. My brothers were virile...


Sadly no transcripts exist of the Fox show she hosted for awhile.

Judith today.

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik conducted two extramarital affairs simultaneously, using a secret Battery Park City apartment for the passionate liaisons, the New York Daily News has learned.

The first relationship, spanning nearly a decade, was with city Correction Officer Jeannette Pinero; the second was with famed publishing titan Judith Regan.

His affair with Regan, the stunningly attractive head of her own book publishing company, lasted for almost a year.

...

The tumultuous Regan-Kerik romance carried on for months, through the writing, publication and promotion of his autobiography, "The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice," which Regan's company published.



Saint Rudy

Gilliard says:

The next set of questions should follow the way Giuliani raised money after 9/11. Giuliani Partners was formed in the wake of that, and he loaded that charity with his friends. No one questioned why the mayor needed a personal charity. Now, since the cloak of 9/11 is finally being lifted, it's time for some hard questions about Kerik and his patron.

Indeed. "America's Mayor" is long overdue for some scrutiny by our fawning press.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

+ 100b

oy.

Twenty-one months after U.S. forces entered Iraq, the Defense Department is only now coming to terms with the equipment shortages caused by the prolonged fighting there. The Pentagon has prepared an unprecedented emergency spending plan totaling nearly $100 billion -- as much as $30 billion more than expected as recently as October -- say senior defense officials and congressional budget aides. About $14 billion of that would go to repairing, replacing and upgrading an increasingly frayed arsenal.

And, yes my trolls, it's perfectly consistent to criticize the failure of this administration to properly supply the troops for an unnecessary war, and to also criticize them for the cost of this unnecessary, and increasingly catastrophic, war.

Flip Flop

So much for Republican free traders:

Eighteen days before the end of a 30 year-old system restricting international trade in textiles and apparel, the Bush administration is imposing new barriers on imported clothing that is likely to curtail an expected flood of Chinese imports in the first few months of next year.

The administration's measures include an embargo that will be imposed throughout the month of January on some of the clothing shipped to the United States during the final months of 2004.

The new rules, scheduled to be published today in the Federal Register, were posted in recent days on a government Web site. Word of their impending imposition has stirred anger among clothing retailers and importers, who contend that the barriers contravene an international agreement to open the worldwide textile trade starting in 2005. Administration officials counter that the measures are justified because the amount of clothing shipped from some foreign countries in 2004 exceeded legal limits.


For the record, I'm roughly a free trader to the extent that means removing tariffs and quotas, though not in the sense that I support a lot of the "free trade" agreements which aren't really that and the attack on "non-tariff barriers" which are an excuse for all kinds of mischieviousness.

Mo Better Ideas

Mo Blues says:

Well, here’s my own big, bold idea: Maybe some Democrat could stand up and say, “The president is lying when he says there is a crisis in Social Security.”


Indeed.

George Will Writes About Fisting, Dildos, and Enemas

I was researching something and came across this George Will column from 1987. Aside from the normal "what an asshole" reaction, I was actually kind of struck by the frankness of the language in the column. Anyway, for your anthropological entertainment:

Earnestly, and with applause from journalists, politicians are saying about AIDS: candor, regardless of the cost. But truths are being blurred because they inconvenience a political agenda and shock sensibilities. The agenda is to avoid giving offense to any groups and to avoid the accusation of ''discrimination,'' even when the accusation is unwarranted.

In spite of much talk about the ''breakout'' into the general heterosexual population, AIDS still is and probably will remain predominantly a disease of homosexuals and intravenous drug users. It will decreasingly afflict educated, information-receptive homosexuals. It already is disproportionately, and will increasingly be, a disease of inner-city blacks and Hispanics.

Blacks and Hispanics, who constitute 11 and 8 percent of the population respectively, are 25 percent and 14 percent of AIDS patients. Those percentages probably will rise because AIDS is a behaviorally based disease and will disproportionately afflict those disadvantaged inner-city classes least able to acquire and act on information. After all, many people are caught in the culture of urban poverty precisely because they have never been given the basic skills of social competence: they do not regulate their behavior well, least of all in conformity with public-health bulletins.

Americans have a technology fixation generally. Regarding health, their thinking is shaped by the polio paradigm, the conquest of disease by Dr. Salk's silver bullet. But America's principal public-health problems flow from foolish behavior regarding eating, drinking, smoking, driving -- and, with AIDS, abuse of the body, especially the rectum.

Most journalism about AIDS reflects social and political squeamishness. In addition to an understandable reluctance to discuss certain sexual matters, journalism is infused with liberal values, including abhorrence of ''discrimination,'' which is defined (indiscriminately) to include all invidious distinctions among social groups, particularly those, such as homosexuals, that have a history of being badly treated.

Journalism seems reluctant to clarify that the primary reason for the AIDS epidemic is that the rectum, with its delicate and absorptive lining, is not suited to homosexual uses. The nation needs unsparing journalism of the sort found in the Chicago Tribune Magazine of April 26:

''. . . 81.5 percent of the second cluster of AIDS patients had engaged in the practice called 'fisting,' which causes rectal trauma, in the years before they fell ill. The researchers defined fisting as the insertion of a portion of the hand -- or even the entire fist -- into the anus of another person. The 27 men studied had a median of 120 sexual partners during the year before the onset of symptoms, with one man reporting up to 250 sexual partners in each of the three years before symptoms.''

Without here adding details about dildos and enemas, suffice it to say that the data suggest that receptive anal intercourse is the major, if not the only, important exposure by which homosexuals acquire the infection. In many cities, homosexual organizations have effectively taken the lead in distributing information about safe sexual practices. And, of course, not all homosexuals are promiscuous or given to high-risk behavior. However, even some who are not are dismayed by dissemination of information about those who are. And insufficient information about homosexual practices has impeded understanding of the epidemic.

Time and energy are being wasted on the political project of spreading the false message that the AIDS epidemic does not disproportionately involve particular minorities. British billboards proclaim: ''AIDS Doesn't Discriminate,'' a message designed to absolve homosexuals and addicts of disproportionate responsibility for the epidemic. In New York City, print ads portray a heterosexual couple tangled in sheets, with these words: ''Bang, You're Dead!'' Such ads are a disservice to the extent that they distract attention from the fact that fewer than 4 percent of AIDS cases have resulted from heterosexual contact.

Indifference and carelessness could lead to an exponential growth in AIDS cases among heterosexuals. However, today the rate of heterosexual transmission is increasing primarily among black and Hispanic teen-agers whose sex partners are intravenous drug users. New York City has one-third of all AIDS cases; 36 percent of the city's cases are IV drug users. Half of the city's 200,000 addicts are thought to be infected with the AIDS virus.

Of course anyone with AIDS deserves care and compassion. Of course testing is acceptable, if only marginally important, for applicants for marriage licenses and citizenship, and for prisoners. (Many rapes are homosexual rapes in prison.) But while it is politically safe and socially soothing to pretend that AIDS is now a democratic, meaning universal, disease threatening us all equally, that is false.

So is the notion that the most urgent task is to fund research for a vaccine. Of course research should be funded generously, but dollars spent getting addicts off needles and onto methadone will do more good, as will journalism that does not trim the truth to spare our feelings.

Stupid Times

Sometimes the cluelessness of the Times is incredible. So far, they've completely dropped the ball on the Kerik nomination, getting their asses kicked by other NY papers and gingerly whitewashing his sins when they do address them. Now that Kerik's out, what are they planning to do according to Drudge? Run a big story about Kerik's connection to a mob-connected company.

This isn't a new story, though perhaps the Times has done a thorough investigative job and actually has new information. However, running the story tomorrow is just going to propel the "liberal Times" narrative, as they're kicking a man when he's already down, even though they'd basically given Kerik a pass.

argh.

Anyone Want to Date Laura Ingraham?

Now's your chance...

(via scoobie)

...no, I don't know if this is real. Either way, cue Sully whining about privacy.

Hagel Today

Blitzer:

HAGEL: Well, the secretary of defense reports to the president of the United States. I've had my differences with this secretary of defense, and I have been very clear on it.

I don't like the way he has done some things. I think they have been irresponsible. I don't like the way we went into Iraq. We didn't go into Iraq with enough troops. He's dismissed his general officers. He's dismissed all outside influence. He's dismissed outside counsel and advice. And he's dismissed a lot of inside counsel and advice from men and women who have been in military uniforms for 25 and 30 years.

One of the reasons we've got this problem, Wolf, in my opinion, is that we were unprepared for what we were going to face, what we are facing, in a post-Saddam Iraq. And this is just one more manifestation of the problem.

Listen, when I talk to these young troops that come back from Nebraska, National Guard Reserves, active duty, and I sit down with them alone in a room and no one there, no cameras, I ask them -- I was hearing some of these same things over the last year: not the right kind of weaponry, personal body armor they didn't have. They didn't have armor for their vehicles.

But yet too many of our leaders in this administration were going around the country telling and reassuring Americans our troops had everything they wanted. Certainly the Congress was passing a lot of money to make sure they had everything they wanted.

So there are a lot of pieces in this.

I do think there is some good news. I do think the military is working to resolve these issues. I do think we are putting more armor on those vehicles and we are getting the personal armor to these troops and the weapons.

But it goes beyond that, Wolf.

BIDEN: Hey, Wolf, can I make one...

BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, Senators. Hold on one second.

BIDEN: OK.

BLITZER: But very briefly to you, Senator Hagel, were you disappointed that the president asked Rumsfeld to stay on?

HAGEL: The president's decision is his decision. He will live with that decision. He'll have to defend that decision. And that's all I want to say about it.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. We're going

Borrowing is Not Borrowing

As we wade deeper into this social security mess, it's going to be important to pay attention to how much the media buys the Bush administration's fabulous new argument that borrowing a couple of trillion dollars isn't actually borrowing a trillion dollars.

I'm reminded of the California recall election, during which the media reliably passed along the fake contention that California had a $38 billion deficit, when in fact that deficit was only $8 billion. And, all the while they marveled at Arnie's cunning plan to shrink the "deficit" by... borrowing money!

damn irresponsible bluggers

Volatility

Kevin Drum sends us to this LA Times story about rising household income volatility, particularly among those at the lower end of the income distribution. I think this is a very important overlooked issue, and gets at why even as some economic statistics over the past couple of decades have been somewhat rosy on the surface, there's still real economic pain out there.

This gets back to what I wrote about once before -- the rising incentives to hold most of your wealth in illiquid form. Obviously for the poor who have no savings at all this isn't all that relevant, but for those who are in more solid middle class terrain, it is a big problem. There is so much incentive to put your wealth in illiquid form - your house (somewhat offset by easy home equity loans, but they don't come cheap), 401K plans with huge early withdrawal penalties, etc... etc... Even for people who are a a bit higher up the socioeconomic ladder and who have a bit of "savings" in some sense, so much of that savings can't be tapped when needed. A moderate income hit or costly life event and you can be pretty screwed up.


It's important to note that there is a market failure here -- insurance markets don't and can't exist which would allow people to insurance themselves against the range of bad hits that can happen to them. While social insurance systems are not without their problems (bad incentives), this market failure is one reason we have them. As the social safety net slips away, and more and more uninsurable risk gets transferred to individuals, life at any particular level of average income gets unambiguously worse.

They Get Letters

E&P gets feedback on the soldier's question to Rumsfeld. Support the troops!

Joe M. Richardson: "The duped soldier should be put at the very front of the action, no armor. The cooperating sergeant's career should be over and maybe become MIA. Pitts and all his cronies should be executed as traitors. We are fighting a war, the debate is over, you’re either for us or against us, there is no middle ground. I say start executing the leftists in our country, soon."

Hacktackular!

CNN's Barbara Starr yesterday:

What is very interesting is several days later now nobody is criticizing the soldier. He made a valid point but there's no real evidence yet that anyone has demonstrated soldiers are going through landfills finding scrap metal and bits of glass to bolt onto their vehicles. So, you know, truth always lies, as we know as reporters, always lies somewhere in between what everybody is out there saying.


Jeebus. Last week the talking point was that this is okay because it's normal in war for soldiers to improvise and make use of what's available just like they did in World War II!!! Now it's "the soldier might be lying."

Knuckleheads

On Thursday, Kerik was testifying in a "civil lawsuit about an alleged affair with a subordinate" (and subsequent abuse of power).

Kerik's attorney was whining about "personal attacks" on his poor client. Give me a break. Kerik got a big sloppy blowjob from the media like everything else connected to St. Rudy. Sure, some print outlets finally began to do their job with the guy, but on TV Kerik was treated like the second coming.

...gilliard has more.

...and, John says:

Huh. Bush is appointed the top domestic counter-terrorism guy in the US and he doesn't even vet the guy to see if he is, well, a terrorist, or at least a bad cop. But hey, Keriks NEVER TOLD Bush the truth, and as we know, in this White House if you don't TELL the president something, then the president has no obligation to want to, or try to, find out the truth.

The funny thing is that how did so many outside non-profits like CREW, and newspapers across the country, and bloggers/online reporters like John Byrne at RawStory get the inside scoop on Kerik all within a week? Yet the White House didn't have a clue, and had no way of getting a clue about Kerik? They didn't even do an FBI background check on the guy? They couldn't wait a week to do the same investigation everyone else did on the guy? Isn't homeland security worth that kind of due diligence from the White House?

So where was the president while all this was happening?


Indeed. And, of course, the vetting process was handled by Alberto Gonzalez, whose contribution to justice and competence are legendary...

Bloggers Kicked Out of "Open" DNC Meeting

Smart move, people. '08 isn't going to be like '04...

Morning Thread

Sunday bobblehead edition.