Saturday, January 29, 2005

Late Night


Saturday Night



Well, you can only win once per day, but now apparently the perfesser thinks that Ted Kennedy's speech=Trent Lott praising Thurmond's run for president as a segregationist.

Perhaps some of you trolls can point to the parts of Kennedy's speech that fit the bill. I couldn't find them...

New Thread

Have fun.

Tell Sony They Suck

John has a request.

...mission accomplished, for now...

Wanker of the Day

Glenn Reynolds.

Morning Thread

Yeah, the picture links are broken. I don't know if comcast is broken or if decided I was using too much bandwidth... looking into it...

Late Night


Friday, January 28, 2005

Special Treatment for Gannon?

According to sources, Jeff Gannon's real name is not, in fact, Jeff Gannon. According to the same sources, his White House press credentials list him as "Jeff Gannon" - they let him use his pseudonym -- even though married female reporters, who use their maiden name professionally, are given credentials with their married name and aren't allowed to be credentialed under their maiden names...

...not sure why this isn't clear, but the point is that he's allowed to be credentialed under his professional pseudonym even though women whose "professional pseudonyms" are their maiden names aren't.

Early Evening Thread

Have fun.

Friday Catblogging

Bonus Catblogging

I'm off to NYC to talk about stuff on this panel and socialize. Feel free to drop by and say hi.

Until then, you're on your own...


Why do these guys have White House press credentials?

Jeff Gannon, or more correctly "Jeff Gannon," is such a hack.

Wanker of the Day

Jeff Jarvis.


I do find the wall to wall Iraq election coverage (of Iraqi expats anyway) rather surreal, mostly because the Afghanistan election was largely ignored.


Cheney in Auschwitz:

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag.

It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz?

Morning Thread

Chat away.


Since this is the new hot thing let's have a flashback to something which was ignored by almost every outlet (Minn. Star-Tribune a notable exception).

Governor Gray Davis wasn’t the only one the sleaze traffickers were set on destroying last week either. A drama played out, mostly under the radar, regarding the 11th-hour charges of "touching" and a "connection" to "sex sites" against the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, the new, openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. The fact that the charges surfaced literally minutes before the bishops were to vote on confirming Robinson as a bishop—after weeks of bellowing outcries from conservatives and lots of media attention—was enough to give off the whiff of a smear campaign. But throw in the identity of who broke the non-story and what his connections are, and the stench becomes totally unbearable.

The nasty business began on Monday. As it happened, that afternoon on my radio program I was interviewing Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an orthodox Christian group. The IRD stands against "radical forms of feminism, environmentalism, pacifism, multi-culturalism, revolutionary socialism, [and] sexual liberation," and includes a subgroup, Episcopal Action, that opposes gay unions and was fiercely opposed to having Robinson become a bishop. Shortly after our spirited exchange, the vote on Robinson’s fate was postponed, because the charge had surfaced that a gay-youth group he had worked with had links from its website to porn, and, in a separate charge, that a man claimed Robinson inappropriately touched him.

Still on the air, I did a search and found that the source in the media that "broke" the "sex site" story was Fred Barnes in the conservative Weekly Standard, on its website. (Barnes is also a Fox News commentator, which explains why Fox seemed to be breaking it first on television.) I then realized that, in researching Knippers, I’d noticed how Barnes had been named to the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which made his dubious hit on Robinson not only unseemly but a conflict of interest, to say the least.


It’s curious that the orthodox group on whose board Barnes sits, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, is bankrolled by Richard Mellon Scaife and others who funded the smears about the Clintons. I talked about Barnes’ connection to the group on my program, and it was reported on a few websites—pushed by the blogger Atrios—but the only mainstream media outlet to pick it up, as far as I can tell, was the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which connected all the dots in a stinging editorial, headlined "The Anatomy of Smear."

There's no clear line for any of these things. But, there are common sense ones.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bille Recants

Some of you may remember the prose stylings of Billie Miller.

Apparently, after receiving lots of letters to the editor...


she recanted.

Another One on the Take

Better and better...

One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.

Responding to the latest revelation, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, announced Thursday that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn tells Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."

Paul Newman in '06?

Taking on Lieberman? That's the buzz...


Proud member of the White House press corps, Jeff Gannon, plagiarizes White House and RNC news releases.

That Liberal Media


WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 - The Bush administration has decided to abandon the effort by Michael K. Powell, the outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax the regulations that have prevented the nation's largest media companies from growing bigger and entering new markets, government officials and industry lawyers briefed about the decision said today.

In a final slap at Mr. Powell, the Justice Department will not ask the United States Supreme Court to consider a decision last year by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia that sharply criticized the attempt to deregulate the rules and ordered the commission to reconsider its action.

Big media companies have been urging the administration to get involved in the case. But its decision not to recommend that the Supreme Court take the case sharply reduces the odds that the justices would intervene. The court had set next Monday as a deadline for the parties to file their initial papers in the appeal.


The deregulation of the rules had been advanced by most of the television networks and many large media companies, including the News Corporation, the Tribune Company, the Gannett Company and The New York Times Company.

Moore Bull

I usually don't push stuff I write for Media Matters, but I thought this item deserved some expanding on. It's an article of faith in wingnuttia that Hong Kong has a flat tax, or something very close to it, on income, that this flat tax on income is responsible for Hong Kong's relatively high growth over the years, as well as responsible for filling the coffers of their Treasury.

Sadly, No! Stephen Moore, whose nonsense in today's WSJ I comment on at the link above, has along one dimension been slightly more honest than some of his fellow citizens of wingnuttia. He at least admits that Hong Kong doesn't actually have a flat tax, but rather a dual system in which people can, if they so desire, opt in to the simpler "flat tax" regime if they so whish. You see, in wingnuttia, what people most care about is saving an hour or two doing one's taxes, and not how much they're actually going to pay to the government. In fact, they're willing to literally sacrifice thousands of dollars in order to avoid spending a few hours filling out what is still a simple tax form. Or so Moore claims.

The truth is, Hong Kong has a surprisingly progressive tax code, with very very generous personal and dependent allowances relative to the US code. And, the much-touted "flat tax" is really what Moore (correctly) describes as an "alternative maximum tax." The maximum rate you can pay on your taxable income is 16% -- and if you're taxed at 16%, you cannot take the personal and dependent allowances, which are very generous.

Moore and his fellow travellers frequently claim that this standard rate tax is so popular that everyone uses it because it's simple. Moore claimed in the WSJ that "nearly every worker" chooses the "flat tax." This just isn't true. Most Hong Kong workers don't pay any taxes at all -- precisely because of the generous personal allowances that Moore thinks are oh so complicated to take. And, the flat taxers? The ones who are faced with the effective single rate? Less than 1.5% of workers. 1.5% only equals "nearly every" in wingnuttia.

It appears to be true that Hong Kong's income tax code is fairly simple, but not because it's "flat."

And as for Hong Kong as a tax paradise? 32% of tax revenues come from... a corporate profits tax. In the US it's about 7.5% (strictly speaking, earnings are taxed, but you get the idea).


Apples and Oranges

I'd be more than happy for one of the truly lovely people at Cato to correct me, but I'm almost positive that this calculator is presenting Social Security benefits in real terms and expected benefits in private accounts in nominal terms.

If I'm wrong, I'm happy to correct. If I'm right.... hack-chooooooo!

...perhaps one of Matt's good friends at Cato can clear this up...

... oh, okay, I think I see what the issue is. It never occurred to me that the 4% annual salary growth could be real annual salary growth. So, if you graduate college at age 22 and earn $38,000 on your first job your final annual income on retirement will be about $210 grand.

Yea, that's typical for the population...snark

UPDATE: In csae it was clear (I thought it was), I was wrong and they are in fact comparing everything in real dollars.


Greg Beato tells us more than we need to know about Maggie Gallagher.

Wanker of the Day

Stu Rothenberg.

Afternoon Thread

Have fun.

A 'B'?

The horrors.

I haven't read the item in question, but for the record I did teach a class at Haverford College once, but otherwise had no affiliation...

Chile Privatization Sucks

So, people who stayed in the government pension scheme are doing twice as well as people who went into the private scheme, largely because brokers are taking a third or so in fees.

One reason privatization in Chile seemed like a good idea to begin with (I mean, aside from Uncle Milton's fantasies) was that previously the pension system was being systematically looted by people in government. So, yes, if the option is George Bush looting Social Security, which he pretty much promises to do every time he claims that SS hits a problem in 2018, and private accounts, then give me private accounts. But, there are, thankfully, other options.

Consider this:

Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.

"Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me," he said, "are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month - good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981."

A 20 year annuity. If he lives that long -- boom, broke. Nothing.

Feith's Out

Some good news.

I suppose we should be thankful that the "stupidest fucking guy on the face of the Earth" no longer wields such power.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wanker of the Day

Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Hack vs. Hack

Gallagher vs Kurtz.
What fun...

Where's it From?

The Social Security document Max linked to earlier is apparently of ambiguous origin. The document properties list tells us that the institution was "House of Representatives." The file has been placed on Senator Man-on-Dog's website. Parts are an exact match to a Cato produced document by Andrew Biggs, who is currently working for the SSA.

Joementum Out of Office

Like Kos, my instinct is to stay away from primary contests as much possible. But, if there's a decent CT politician who is eyeing a Senate seat there, my guess is that online fundraising wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Bush Mocks Seniors, Praises Thomas

First, he makes fun of seniors.

Then he praises Bill Thomas for his creative suggestion that SS benefits be tied to race and gender.

But I think it's constructive that Chairman Thomas, who will be charged with having a bill come out of the Ways and Means, is thinking creatively, is willing to figure out ways to bring people along.

Bill O'Reilly Lies Again

What will we tell the children?

Dumb as Rocks

In the Republican's Social Security propaganda sheet, the manage to contradict themselves on pages 4 and 5.

Page 4 itself is a lie. Social Security has never been a pure Pay as you go system, though it was for a long time "mostly" a pay as you go system, but that changed drastically in 1983 in the Saint Ronnie and Uncle Alan supported reform. Benefits this year, and in future years, can be paid from current taxes and from accumulated trust fund assets.

And, page 5 proves this point, with all that lovely sexy revenue exceeding costs.

Lost in Space

That Liberal Media

From the Hill:

Times insiders say Safire turned down Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s offer to succeed Daniel Okrent as the newspaper’s ombudsman.



Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- As many as 30 people were killed when their Marine transport helicopter crashed in Western Iraq, CBS News reported, citing unidentified military officials.

The helicopter crashed at about 1:20 a.m. local time near Ar Rutbah, west of the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military said earlier in an e-mailed statement, without providing information on casualties. Military spokesmen contacted by telephone and e-mail in Baghdad and Fallujah declined to provide details.

The crash killed everybody on board, and the military is trying to establish whether the helicopter was shot down or crashed for another reason, CBS said.

As of 10 a.m. New York time yesterday, a total of 1,371 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, according to Pentagon figures. One U.S. soldier was killed today and two others wounded when insurgents attacked their patrol north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Playing Against Type for Once

Let me just say that I found Hillary Clinton's rhetoric on abortion perfectly fine, except to the extent that she's justified the media and right created caricature of the Democratic party position on abortion (which is an important, but at least slightly secondary issue).

According to the Times:

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."

This is skillfull rhetoric. I'm sure abortion is a "tragic choice to many, many women," as long as the person making that judgment (that it's tragic) is the woman herself and not me, Hillary Clinton, Spongedob Stickypants, or Antonin Scalia. I also think it's a not-so-tragic but desired choice for many others. Reducing unwanted pregnancies is the best way to reduce abortion. All of these things are not especially controversial. I believe they're actually pretty much the stock positions of noted advocate of fetus-slaying, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt.

I don't have a problem with people who don't like abortions. I have a problem with people who want to outlaw them. I have a bigger problem with people who want to restrict access to/education about contraception and the "morning after pill" and who want to outlaw abortion.

I have a huge problem with people who think that Democratic politicians need to declare that people who have abortions are moral failures.

I have no problem with people who don't like abortion. I have no problem with people who think that the number of abortions should be reduced by finding ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. I have no problem with people who think that those who have abortions have committed an evil act, as long as they don't demand that I feel the same way or aggressively try to shame those who have them.

As long as you don't believe that politicians or judges should be trying to stop legal abortions, there is no tension between your political beliefs and the beliefs of the mainstream of the Democratic party.

But, if you're a relatively informed voter who thinks the best way to reduce abortions -- especially abortions internationally, not just locally -- is to vote for the anti-contraception, abstinence-only teaching, global gag rule supporting, Antonin Scalia loving Bush administration, then frankly I don't give a shit what you think. I have no desire to reach out to you. That is, if you're relatively informed and you believe these things then I assume your "pro-life" position is motivated by something other than the simple desire to reduce abortions. The number of abortions went down under Clinton administration policies, and up under Bush-administration ones.

I question the value of "softening abortion rhetoric" as a political ploy, because as far as I can tell the rhetoric was always softened and playing into this game is just... playing into the game. But, aside from the framing issue there was nothing wrong with what Clinton said -- but more importantly, nor was there anything remarkable about it.


I think Josh Marshall gets the Maggie Gallagher "payola" revelation about right:

Which suggests a point. Were they really worried that Gallagher would come out for free love without the cash incentive? Neither she nor Williams is really known for their independent streak. In Gallagher's case -- and to some degree in Williams' too -- this seems less like a matter of payola than a Bush administration make-work program for third-tier GOP pundits.

The larger point, of course, is that even the 3rd and 4th string pundits on the Right manage to get a little extra scratch. As a self-described 2nd string pundit (face it, there aren't many of us) for the Left, I'm still waiting for my scratch...


Bush administration initiatives to improve African-American life expectancy. Discuss.

To recap, life expectancy at 65 is fairly close for blacks and whites (2 year gap roughly). Much of the difference is due to differences is infant, childhood, and for males, young adult mortality.

Such people pay little or nothing in social security taxes. Many of them, however, receive social security survivor benefits.

Bush has yet to address the high infant mortality rate of African-Americans. Discuss.

Anyone making the argument that social security is "unfair to blacks" without pointing out these facts is a liar. Studies have shown that overall the rate of return for African-Americans is as good or better than for the overall population, when disability, survivor benefits, and level of contribution are taken into account. Your mileage may vary, depending on your income, date of death, and other life circumstances.

Enemies of the State

The Poor Man has compiled a useful little list.


Well, it appears we're doomed.

In unrelated news, 5 soldiers died in Eurasia Oceania.

Evening Thread

Chat away.

Open thread.


Armstrong Williams


Outgoing Education Secretary Rod Paige ordered an investigation into whether Williams should have disclosed the deal, and a member of the Federal Communications Commission has called for a similar investigation.

But Williams said the FCC has no jurisdiction over him because he is not a licensed broadcaster.

"That is just a witch hunt," Williams said.

Sadly, No!

Section 317 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 317 requires broadcasters to disclose that matter has been broadcast in exchange for money, service or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be made when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, 47 C.F.R. § 73.1212, which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities for sponsorship identification

Section 507 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 508 requires that when anyone pays someone to include program matter in a broadcast, the fact of payment must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast to the station over which the mater is to be carried. Both the person making the payment and the recipient are obligated to disclose the payment so that the station may make the sponsorship identification announcement required by Section 317 of the Act. Failure to disclose such payments is commonly referred to as ``payola'' and is punishable by a fine of not more than $11,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or both. These criminal penalties bring violations within the purview of the Department of Justice.

Thus, for example, if record companies or their agents pay broadcasters to play records on the air, those payments are legitimate if the required sponsorship identification message is aired. If it is not aired as required by the Communications Act and the Commission's rules, the broadcast station will be subject to enforcement action.

If record companies, or their agents, are paying persons other than the licensee to have records aired, and not disclosing that fact to the licensee, the person making such payments, and the recipient, are subject to fine, imprisonment or both.

Sadly, No! Copyright Sadly, No! productions.

CREW Files Bar Complaint Against Gonzales


CREW Files Bar Complaint Against Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales
Gonzales misrepresented role in assisting President Bush escape jury duty

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas requesting an investigation into misrepresentations White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made in a written response to a question posed to him by the Senate Judiciary Committee which is considering Gonzales’s nomination for Attorney General.

The complaint alleges that Gonzales inaccurately portrayed his role in appearing before a Texas court when President Bush, then Governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty. Gonzales has claimed that although he appeared in court with the Governor, he merely observed the defense counsel make a motion to strike the Governor from the jury panel and then when asked by the Judge whether the Governor had any views on this, replied that he did not.

In marked contrast, Michael Isikoff, reporting for Newseek, has written that the defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge involved in the case all recall the incident differently. In their version, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge’s chambers where Gonzales then asked the judge, David Crain, to strike Mr. Bush from the jury, arguing that the Governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant. Isikoff writes that Judge Crain found Gonzales’s argument “extremely unlikely” but out of deference, agreed to allow the motion to strike, which the defense lawyer then made.

CREW’s complaint alleges that by misstating the facts surrounding the conversation in the judge’s chambers Gonzales may have violated 18 U.S.C. §1001, which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to a congressional committee. The complaint further alleges that Mr. Gonzales has violated two Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure: 8.04(a)(2) which prohibits lawyers from committing crimes that reflect adversely on their honesty or trustworthiness; and 8.04(a)(3) which prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

CREW’s Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “The marked contrast between the version of events Mr. Gonzales provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the version told by the three other individuals involved – the prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the judge – is enough to require the State Bar of Texas to investigate this matter.” Sloan continued, “Violations of the bar rules can lead to disbarment. The Senate should delay voting on Mr. Gonzales’s nomination until this matter is cleared up or face the prospect of having an Attorney General who has lost his bar license.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit, progressive legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.

Wanker of the Day

The Corner's Jim Robbins.

I hate these people.


It's nice to see my good friend Donald Luskin gets dumber by the day.

I heartily recommend his investment advice to all of my Republican friends.

That Speech I helped write Was Great!

Media Matters on Krauthammer and Kristol's ethical lapses.

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol lauded President George W. Bush's inauguration speech as "powerful," "impressive," and "historic," both in an article for the January 31 print edition of The Weekly Standard and as a FOX News political contributor during FOX's live coverage of Inauguration Day. Washington Post columnist and FOX News contributor Charles Krauthammer, also during FOX News' live Inauguration Day coverage, called Bush's speech "revolutionary" and compared it to fomer President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address. But Kristol and Krauthammer were consultants for Bush's speech -- a fact that neither disclosed.

Out of their Asses

Yes, I believe the economy has changed so much that the deficit projections have fallen by two thirds.

WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the government will accumulate another $855 billion in deficits over the next decade, excluding the costs of President Bush's Social Security plan and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report, described by a congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity, was being released Tuesday, the same day administration officials were expected to describe President Bush's request for fresh $80 billion request to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

The deficit projections for the years 2006 through 2015 is almost two-thirds smaller than what congressional budget analysts predicted last fall, but the drop is largely due to estimating quirks that required it to exclude future Iran and Afghanistan war costs. Last September, their 10-year deficit estimate was $2.3 trillion.

The numbers also exclude plans to make the tax cuts permanent and the inevitable AMT rejiggering.

...haha, oh Lordy, "required it to exclude future Iran and Afghanistan war costs."

Bobo's World


Morning Thread

Chat away.

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Stately Pleasure Dome

We're going to spend $1.5 billion on an embassy in Iraq!

It also was expected to include money for building a U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which has been estimated to cost $1.5 billion.


Oh, yeah, and $78.5 billion on some other stuff. comments, Don Juan reminds us what else is expected to cost $1.5 billion:

DUI Coverup

So, the future AG probably lied to the committee about this.

Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine—an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign. (Bush, who had publicly declared his willingness to serve, had left blank on his jury questionnaire whether he had ever been "accused" in a criminal case.) Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy to describe "in detail" the only court appearance he ever made on behalf of Bush, Gonzales—who was then chief counsel to the Texas governor—wrote that he had accompanied Bush the day he went to court "prepared to serve on a jury." While there, Gonzales wrote, he "observed" the defense lawyer make a motion to strike Bush from the jury panel "to which the prosecutor did not object." Asked by the judge whether he had "any views on this," Gonzales recalled, he said he did not.
While Gonzales's account tracks with the official court transcript, it leaves out a key part of what happened that day, according to Travis County Judge David Crain. In separate interviews, Crain—along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."

One judge, two lawyers, on the record...

Bobo's World


Some Mississippi lawmakers are scheduled to speak Thursday to the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "a patently white supremacist group."

Bill Hinson of Pearl, president of the Great Southern chapter of CCC, announced on the group's Web site that "several House and Senate members" are to speak.

He wouldn't tell The Associated Press the names of lawmakers or where the event is taking place, although AP learned it will be at a south Jackson fish house.

Hinson said he wouldn't release details of the meeting because, "we've had so much negative publicity."

He said the CCC does not make an issue of race.

"Our chapter is more focused on taxation, Southern heritage," Hinson said. "I guess you could call us the Christian right, something like that."

You be the judge...

The Democratic Agenda

Harry Reid has set out the Democratic agenda in the Senate. Steve Soto gives the rundown.


The failure of the coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq was the failure to be wary of the powerful, the failure to listen to those who are not our own. Stories about an imminent Iraqi threat, which turned out to be false, were splattered across the pages of the nation's most prominent newspapers. There were voices, important voices, that questioned the assertions, but they were largely unheard because the media ignored them. This failure was also, and perhaps more important, a failure to honor the moral contract that journalists have with viewers and readers to be truthful, even when it means challenging conventional wisdom and ferreting out unpleasant facts.

Those who defend the prewar coverage argue that reporters are only as good as their sources. They say they reported accurately the falsehoods leaked to them by those who sought to wage war. By making such an argument they are also saying they are morally neutral, that they are little more than conduits for lies, half-truths and truths all rolled into one unintelligible message. They forget the contract.

There is a concerted attempt to destroy this contract. Balance and objectivity have become code words to propagate the insidious and cynical moral disengagement that is destroying American journalism. This moral disengagement gives equal time, and sometimes more than equal time, to those who spread falsehoods and distort information. It tacitly sanctions the dissemination of lies. It absolves us from making moral choice. It obscures and often shuts out the truth.

This sophistry has come to characterize the circus that goes by the name of journalism on cable news shows. Facts on television are largely interchangeable with opinions. The television reporter, like a game show host, makes sure each warring party has his or her time to vent. The veracity of what is said is irrelevant. But the disease of moral neutrality is no longer confined to the poseurs on television, who are, after all, entertainers posing as journalists. It is seeping into those organizations that are still attempting to report the news. Objectivity is not the same as moral disengagement. Balance does not mean giving everyone the same space. We are more than dutiful court stenographers. Journalists have a contract with viewers and readers. This contract was broken. We must make sure it is not broken again.


Norm's Smile

Norm Coleman not only got a lovely new smile, but also allowed his dentist to post the before and after pictures as an advertisement for his services. I'd like to know when Norm got his lovely new smile -- especially if he were in office at the time, and whether whatever arrangement he made with the dentist to allow his mug to be used for this purpose violated any ethics guidelines...

Blog Bad

What Jesse leaves out of this post is that it's only the right wing bloggers who are obsessed with the notion that blogs are "self-correcting" and "more accurate than the MSM" [argh, please kill that acronym] and "big media's being destroyed by bloggers!!!" and "I'm not a blogger I'm a freelance distributed journalist" and "Bl0gggerzzz r00l!"

While left wing bloggers are highly critical of the media, it's rarely in that self-aggrandizing and demonstrable false kind of way.

blogging's great, but get over yourselves.

Private Accounts

It's nice to know that when the White House tells the press to obey, they obey.

good kids! turkee for you!

Race-Based Social Security Formulas

Another great Republican idea.

Though, inadvertently, Thomas is getting at one of the great values of Social Security -- its value as an annuity. It's insurance against long life*, and it doesn't suffer from the adverse selection problem that normal annuity markets do.

*to be clear, long life is a good thing, but what's not good is the uncertainty about time of death. From a financial planning perspective, given nest egg at retirement of x and expected years until death y you'd like to spend x/y annually and have exactly 0 dollars at the moment of death (assuming away any bequest desires). But, since you don't know when you're going to die exactly, absent an annuity you face the prospect of dying with extra money in the bank, "wasting" it, or living longer than expected and being flat broke.


I love DiRita. His statements always include a bit of rather obvious weaselly legalese. The most recent:

DiRita denied that Rumsfeld controls a secret group of spies. "There is no unit that is directly reportable to the Secretary of Defense for clandestine operations as is described in The Washington Post," he said in a statement. "Further, the Department is not attempting to 'bend' statutes to fit desired activities, as is suggested in this article."

In other words, the unit doesn't report directly to Rumsfeld and we don't think we're bending the statutes.


83%. That's a lot.

During the past few years the US has become dependent, not so much on millions of investors around the globe but on a few individuals in a few of the world's central banks.

In 2003, the most recent year with full international statistics, central banks financed 83 per cent of the US current account deficit, with Asian central banks accounting for 86 per cent of flows.

A similar picture is emerging for 2004. Despite a good start to the year, when the private sector was a large net purchaser of dollar assets, central banks came to the rescue again. The People's Bank of China has let it be known that China increased dollar reserves by $207bn (€159bn) in 2004, financing nearly a third of the US current account deficit, estimated at $650bn.

Self-interest has supported much of this flow of cash. The US has lapped up cheap finance to fund its unquenchable appetite to spend. Asian governments have until now been keen to oblige, in order to keep their currencies from appreciating. But all investors have their limits and they may start worrying about their degree of exposure.

If new official flows to the US were to be curtailed, the dollar would plunge, creating a huge hole in the accounts of central banks holding dollars.

"The risk exposure for Asian central banks is already great," concluded Matthew Higgins and Thomas Klitgaard of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in a recent paper.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Have fun.

Patriots vs Steelers.

How could any true-blooded American not back the Patriots?


About time.

bite me, Rush


Well, the Tivo to Go DRM system has already been demolished using a fairly easy quick technique. Yet again, another anti-piracy system which will do nothing to stop piracy and just make life more annoying for the average consumer who won't bother to learn these tricks...

And, no, this isn't a pro-piracy post, just an anti-pointless-DRM-post.

(no link, you can find it yourself...)

Kotlikoff's Out

This is starting to be rather reminiscent of the runup to the Iraq war. One by one intelligent but misguided people finally wiped the fairy dust out of their eyes and realized that going to war was actually a bad idea. I've never understood what Max describes as Kotlikoff's decades-long jihad against Social Security, but despite that I never thought of him as a hack either. Apparently he isn't.




Josh Marshall points us to this comment by Timmeh:

MR. RUSSERT: Many specific questions about Social Security. Right now we have a cost-of-living increase, a COLA increase, that is tied more to wages than actual inflation. It is inaccurate by everyone's estimation. Should that be adjusted in order to be accurate and specifically related to inflation?

About this Josh wrote:

But how about Russert's statement on the wage-indexing of Social Security benefits as opposed inflation-indexing? Russert said this method is “inaccurate by everyone’s estimation. Should that be adjusted in order to be accurate and specifically related to inflation?”

Somehow I thought that was up for debate?

Actually, I think Russert's crime here is more being an idiot, not that he's falsely asserting there's no debate (though he does that too).

I'm pretty sure Russert is conflating the issue of wage indexing with frequent assertions that that CPI overstates the true increases in cost of living. But, those complaints aren't about the CPI being "tied more to wages," they're just complaints that the CPI isn't being measured very well for a variety of reasons. As for that issue, my "pulled out of my ass" opinion is that even if the CPI does tend to overstate the cost of living for the population as a whole, it likely understates it for old people for whom health care expenditures are a pretty important component.

The wage index issue is about whether intial retirement benefit levels should be indexed to the CPI instead of the wage index. Subsequent increases are based on the CPI, meaning that your lifetime payout schedule is dependent on the year you retire...

Statistical Discrimination

The past couple of decades gave rise to the Dinesh D'Souza "rational racism" crowd. They argue that in a world of imperfect information, discrimination is a perfectly rational response to differences between racial groups, and as such, since it isn't rooted in bigotry per se, it just isn't something to get upset about.

In other words, if you know nothing about a person other than his skin color, and you know (let's stipulate for purposes of discussion that what you "know" is correct) that people with that skin color are more likely to steal from their employers, then it's simply rational for you to be less likely to employ people who have that skin color. Even though you recognize that not all people who have that skin color steal from their employers, given that you can't look into the soul of that person, and you know that people of that skin color, for whatever reason, are more likely to steal, your decision is justified.

Moving this to the subject of gender discrimination, let's consider the general assertion that a big part of the gender wage gap can be explained by different labor force participation decisions. Short version: women have babies and therefore have more frequent out of labor force spells. Especially for employers who invest a lot of job-specific human capital in their workers, this is bad. They hire you, they train you, and then you take off for a couple of years. And, skills can depreciate rather quickly in some fields. So, it'd be perfectly rational for employers to be less likely to hire (though it's much more difficult to get away with discrimination at the hiring stage) and promote women because their investment ends up being wasted.

So, if you're female you face barriers to advancement by "rational" employers, even if you have no plans to have babies and drop out of the workforce. But, this fact also impact your decisions -- if you expect that career advancement for you is going to more difficult than for men, then all else equal you're going to invest relatively less in your career and relatively more in other aspects of your life. Some women who would, if they were treated the same as men, not drop out of the labor force (either not having babies or having babies but having their husbands drop out), instead do so. Since the expected discrimination is factored into their decision making process, they're more likely to drop out of the labor force because the career is expected to be less rewarding (financially, spiritually, whatver).

This is (one reason) why simplistic arguments (and simplistic empirical work) about the impact of education/job experience on the gender wage gap are flawed. These choices are endogenous -- factors (discrimination) which influence female wages are also factors which influence education/job tenure choices.


I've never read The Blank Slate, and I try not to comment too much on things I haven't seen/read/etc... But, in all of the commentary on it I've been amazed at how silly the whole book sounds -- it exists in an alternative universe where numerous straw men of Pinker's creation actually exist.

Echidne informs us that Pinker seems to think the gender wage gap is something not seriously studied by economists. This mirrors the frequent assertions that academics are too scared to study the impact of race on various life outcomes, and thus bold folks like Murray are forced to do the dirty work. It's bullshit in both cases, but there's nothing like pretending you're Bold and Controversial and Suffering Under the Tyranny of Women and Minorities who are Preventing the Truth From Coming Out to sell books.

Another disturbing thing is that Pinker doesn't rely on peer-reviewed high level work by academic economists, but on right wing hack work. This is another area where our side suffers from the much discussed hack gap. One reason think tank publications get wider discussion than academic work is that it's more accessible. It's written with a more mainstream audience in mind, and since it's unencumbered by requirements to address alternative theories, it doesn't cloud the beautiful minds of journalists looking for a simple story.

If *I* had some money thrown at me to start a think tank-type organization, what I would do is set up a foundation which would provide grant money to liberalish academics which would free them up to spend some time marketing their research to a more mainstream audience.


mmmm... Freedom™...


I hadn't said anything about the Harvard/Summers situation because without having a transcript of his comments I really didn't know what to say.

And, now that the New York Times has decided it's yet again another opportunity to put Charles Murray into print, the entire discussion has officially jumped the shark...

...okay, short version of what I had decided to write:

From what I can piece together from the various news accounts, it sounds like Summers was giving a stock Econ 101 lecture on the topic of discrimination. Such a lecture, as with many things in Econ 101, isn't meant to bring students to the current cutting edge of thought on a topic, and nor is it designed to provide them with any conclusions on the subject. Instead, it's to provide an introduction to how economists think about approaching the subject, providing simple theoretical frameworks into which some empirical factoids can be fit.

But, Summers wasn't lecturing a bunch of 18 year old freshman.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.