Saturday, March 12, 2005

Open Thread

Out for the night. Going to see Margaret Cho at the Tower.

Um, EJ?

What the hell. E.J. Dionne writes about "Why are George W. Bush and his party so skillful in dealing with the abortion issue, and why are Democrats so clumsy?" The answer, it seems, is that people like Dionne make it easy.

Dionne "contrasts" the Specter/Toomey primary battle with current pro-life Democrats presumed to run in PA and RI, and supported by people like Chuck Schumer. But, in fact these things are almost exactly the same.

Toomey ran against Specter in the primary and almost beat him. He had an immense amount of support from out of state donors. He was heavily pushed by the Club for Growth crowd and every frother on right wing hate radio. The gang at the National Review were wetting themselves with joy at the prospect of a Specter loss. So, yes, Specter had the support of the Republican party, but the conservative establishment was gunning for him.

Now we're heading towards the 2006 primary races. Some evil liberals (Hollywood liberals, even!) are daring to raise money to mount primary challenges against pro-life Democrats, despite the fact that these Democrats have the overwhelming support of their party. Langevin and Casey have the support of their party, and a very tiny piece of the liberal establishment could possibly challenge them. So, as you see, it's the same, except of course for the fact that the anti-Specter forces were a lot better organized and funded.

The main difference is that people in the media weren't talking about how all the anti-Specter/pro-life crowd were "intolerant" and weren't blasting Toomey supporters and their out of state money for their arrogance.

What possesses smart people to write columns like that.



A former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., was sentenced in federal court today to three years and one month in prison for stealing more than $412,000 from the senator.

Roger D. Blevins of Elsmere was accused of raiding Biden’s re-election fund to pay for dates with, and buy lavish presents for, performers on a gay pornographic Web site.

Blevins told U.S. District Judge Kent A. Jordan that his actions were “stupid, ignorant and wrong,” and he apologized for his behavior.

Wanker of the Day

Greg Mankiw. I don't have a sub. so I can't read the whole thing but the first paragraph is enough.

Harvard University is, by some measures, one of the most left-wing institutions on the face of the earth. So you may be surprised to hear that it has endorsed George W. Bush's proposal for Social Security reform. Literally, of course, that is not true. But the retirement plan Harvard has set up for faculty members like me bears a striking resemblance to what the Social Security system would become under the president's proposed changes.

Yes, because Harvard has a 401K plan we should destroy social security. This type of thing is so goddamn stupid it's embarrassing. You expect it from, say, Jonah Goldberg but one would've thought Mankiw had a vested interest in maintaining his reputation of not being a moron.

No Critical Signs

If, in fact, federal agents are calling businesses prior to Bush's arrival to town informing them that they aren't allowed to hang critical signs that's a big problem.

It's also a big problem if people are impersonating federal agents.

Either way.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Late Night

Have fun.

Rangel Calls Bush Out

On his latest atrocity.

Friday Cat Blogging

Rerun edition. Too lazy to try to coax them into doing something interesting.

Wanker of the Day

Joe Lieberman, who put up on his site:

Lieberman Statement on Vote Against Bankruptcy Reform Bill

WASHINGTON - Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) today made the following statement on the passage of S. 256 the Bankruptcy Reform Bill by a vote of 74 to 25.

“I have always supported bankruptcy reform legislation in the Senate when it has reflected a bipartisan effort to enact a balanced bill for both debtors and creditors and I have opposed it when confronted with a bill that seemed one-sided. This is not a balanced bill. I voted against this bill because it failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment. The Senate simply rejected out of hand many worthwhile amendments that would have protected these and other working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own. As a result, I believe this is a seriously flawed bill and I am disappointed at its passage.”

Lieberman of course voted for cloture, which was when opposition would have mattered.

...oh, wow, and I think the first award for Excellence in Wankery Assistance goes to Marshall Wittman.

Steve Speaks

You Listen.

Read the post and then obey the instructions. Lugar's trying to rush the Bolton nomination.

Not Really About Michael Jackson

Sorry for getting sucked into this, but this is a little unbelievable:

Prosecutors believe Jackson may be $300 million in debt, then said the singer may have $400 million in liabilities and that his financial troubles "will all come crashing down on him in December of 2005," Auchincloss said.

Is it possible he actually owes $300 million? Who the hell would extend that kind of credit of any type.

...ah, apparently it's at least because he put up half the beatles catalog as collateral...

Bamboozlepalooza Follies

Think Progress misses the most interesting part of this exchange:

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something about the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a Thrift Savings Plan that has a mix of stocks and bonds?

MS. WEBSTER: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, how hard was that to learn how to do that?

MS. WEBSTER: And I chose the safe plan, government bonds. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's all right. Well, not so safe, unless we fix the deficit. But other than that -- (laughter). We're fixing the deficit. (Applause.)

Social Security Funeral March [Philly Blogging]

At 4pm today there's a funeral march from 12th and Market to Santorum's office. Jim Dean will be there.

Too Funny

Privatization Opponents Are Racists

This is pretty stunning. Bush yesterday:

And so there are guidelines as to what you can invest in. I was being somewhat facetious on the lottery -- but really not. There's a proper risk reward, a portfolio that will allow you as a younger worker to pick a mix of stocks and bonds. Oh, I know they say certain people aren't capable of investing, you know, the investor class. It kind of sounds like to me, you know, a certain race of people living in a certain area. I believe everybody's got the capability of being in the investor class.

Loud and Proud

Looks like Bush's plan is pretty doomed.

Now, what I'd like to see is the Democrats get out of their defensive crouch and realize that on issues that aren't about war and terrorism, it's actually fairly easy and fun for the opposition party to oppose.

A Sensible District

The WSJ has an editorial in support for Arnold's plan to change the system of congressional redistricting. It's about what you'd expect - Arnold's plan good, gerrymandering bad, preserving incumbency bad, etc... But, they have a picture of their representative shocking gerrymandered district:

Um, in most of the country that would indeed be a very silly congressional district. But, in California it's actually a pretty reasonable one. Lumping a strip of coast together makes perfect sense.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Late Night

blasny blasny

Judge Grants Restraining Order in USANext Case

ha ha.

Cuts Not Cuts

Jesse correctly picks on Fact Chuck.


Game over.

Addicted to Porn

No, not Jonah Goldberg -- members of congress.

Washington, DC, -- Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington (CREW) released a report Addicted to Porn: Members of Congress
Accept Political Contributions from Porn Purveyors. The report details how
15 Members of Congress, including 11 Representatives and four Senators, all
of whom revile pornography, have accepted campaign contributions from
corporations and executives who derive substantial profits from selling

The report contains four sections: 1) how companies make money from
pornography; 2) which companies have PACs that make campaign contributions;
3) which Members of Congress receive these contributions; and 4) the quotes
of Members of Congress named in the report who have publicly condemned
pornography. In addition, an appendix to the report details the
contributions made from corporations and executives to Members of Congress.

CREW's executive director Melanie Sloan stated "it is one thing to be silent
on the issue and accept porn purveyor's contributions. However, these
Members of Congress attempt to slap pornographers with fines and legislative
restrictions with one hand and turn around and accept porn profits with the
other. Our report details the hypocrisy of this 'skin caucus.'"

Some of the findings of the report: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback - who
equivocates pornography with crack cocaine - accepted $17,000 from porn

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman - who has long campaigned against the
growing coarseness of our culture -- along with renown gambling addict
William Bennet, handed out "Silver Sewer" awards to those who made immoral
videos, and who has criticized MTV for having porn stars on the air,
accepted over $16,000.

Cong. Fred Upton, who leads the charge against indecency, accepted over
Arizona Senator John McCain, who claimed to be the "anti-porn" presidential
candidate in ads that ran prior to the South Carolina primary, pocketed
$46,000 from corporations and executives who profit from porn.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director referred to Rep. Heather Wilson
(R-NM) as "the biggest hypocrite of all" for having written a letter to
former Vice President Al Gore demanding that he return a contribution from
an adult entertainment web site and for sanctimoniously ranting at Viacom
executives that they cared more about profits than morality, despite
accepting $47,000 in porn profits.

A copy of the report can be found on the web at or
contact Naomi Seligman at
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.

As Venal As You Want to Be

Ezra's right -- the unbelievable silence from the DLC on the bankruptcy bill speaks volumes. This was their opportunity to prove something.

chirp chirp

Afternoon Thread


Bobo's World


Prosecutors alleged Wednesday that a well-known carpenter and former Christian school leader strangled his wife so he could pursue relationships with other women.

"It's very clear that ... divorce was not an option, that it was frowned upon by the Lord, he believed," Assistant Dist. Atty. Brandon Jones said. "This was the easier way out for him, rather than divorce."

At the time of his wife's death, Martin K. "Marty" Miller, 46, was advertising himself on Internet dating sites and having an affair with a woman he'd met in an online adult chat room, according to testimony at Miller's preliminary hearing in District Court.

Santorum's World


NEW YORK "Welcome to York," says York (Pa.) Daily Record managing editor Randy Parker about the truly Onion-esque story that ran in his paper today.

"Man Charged With Assault on Sheep" was the headline, and the true-life story, by Caryl Clarke, begins: "Somebody was making nighttime visits to farmer Terry Patterson's sheep barn in the 600 block of Big Mount Road in Paradise Township." It goes on to tell of a man arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a sheep after the barn owner installed a barn alarm and intercom system to prevent such attacks.

But there's more. Clarke's story details the police arrest report and ends with a pull-out box highlighting previous incidents of bestiality in York, including a 1997 case involving a live turkey in a food plant and a 1992 encounter between a man and a ram at the York Fair.

Wanking at the Corner

If I visited the Corner more often we'd need wanker of the minute to keep up.

Without Comment


WASHINGTON, March 9 - After years of campaigning against Hezbollah, the radical Shiite Muslim party in Lebanon, as a terrorist pariah, the Bush administration is grudgingly going along with efforts by France and the United Nations to steer the party into the Lebanese political mainstream, administration officials say.

The administration's shift was described by American, European and United Nations officials as a reluctant recognition that Hezbollah, besides having a militia and sponsoring attacks on Israelis, is an enormous political force in Lebanon that could block Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw its troops.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ron and Monica

Anyone watch their show on MSNBC? I put it on when I'm at the gym, but with the volume off (listening to music). They keep putting Jeff Jarvis on to talk about blogs, which I assume is as boring as it looks.

A Special Place

It's pretty creepy that, according to Drudge, CNN's highest rated show is... on Headline News and it's the Nancy Grace show.

Dwight Meredith and the New Republic tell us more about Ms. Grace.


DeLong writes about Argentina and while I haven't read the book in question (and given the stack of unread books in front of me I'm unlikely to anytime soon) I have a serious question about one of what he states are the author's reasons for Argentina's collapse:

4. The private market, for being so eager to lend money to Argentina in the mid 1990s that its politicians could ignore the fact that their much-loved currency peg required budget surpluses.

Is this really an issue of the "private market" being "so eager to lend" or is it an issue of a bunch of international lenders believing that their loans were not just backed by Argentina's ability to pay, but by the IMF and the international community's continued willingness to arrange even more loans to pay off the old ones in a Ponzi-ish scheme that left the last lenders holding the bag? I don't know the answer to that, but I'd like one. It's hard to see that there's anything approaching a genuine free market in international lending. I think it's fairly clear that there's a serious moral hazard problem here and that the eagerness to lend was completely rational on the part of the lenders. The pressure, and measures taken, to prevent sovereign nations from defaulting is truly bizarre. Default is a bad thing, but all through my economics education I never understood why default by nations was equated with nuclear self-destruction. Lenders are making loans at fairly high rates, which incorporate the risk of default. If a nation is unable to pay it is unable to pay. Two and a half cheers for default!
Obviously there could be a time when a draft would be necessary as an emergency measure, but Carter and Glastris put forth a hideously unconvincing argument for regular mandatoryish service in the Washington Monthly.

Their punchline is that service (not just military) should be mandatory for anyone wishing to attend a 4 year college. The notion of course is to capture the youngins before they go off to college. But, this is rather classist view of college students. They aren't all fresh out of high school. Many are older/returning students. Many with families. This is true even in "eliter" institutions. Such a requirement would be an impossible barrier for older students.

Mandatory service is social engineering on a grand scale. Having gone to school with many Asian/Europeans who faced mandatory service at some point in their lives (or faced efforts to avoid it) I just do not see that as a good idea for its own sake. And, if we need more actual recruits, sweetening the deal and fighting fewer crappy pointless wars would probably solve the problem.

When the shit hits the fan, the draft will happen. But, mandatory service is a silly idea.

The Big Media

I was pretty struck by this exchange on Nightline - Blugger edition. The backstory is the horrible fetal death reporting requirement introduced by Cosgrove in the VA legislature. I believe Maura's name is spelled entirely incorrect throughout the transcript, but I'll just leave it as they published it.

Anyway, basically Cosgrove is upset that Maura actually told people about the bill he introduced without first running it by him. He seems to believe that's actually an obligation. And, more frightening, Nightline's reporter seems to sympathize with that view, calling it an "ethical question." The line in bold is the most stunning.


I was dealing definitely with a person who has an audience.


(Voice Over) Cosgrove says that places her in the media. And the media has obligations.


The big problem I have with what happened there -and it's that that person, again, never contacted me.


I don't think that any citizen should have to wait for a legislator's permission to share her concerns about legislation. I mean, it's - once you introduce a bill into the legislature, it's part of the public record.


I've dealt with newspapers and radio stations and television media. And I have yet to have one reporter just run a story without running it by me.


I'm not a broadcaster. I take far more license from an editorial position than I would expect any reporter to do because I'm an activist.


(Off Camera) Well, Kuehne did send Cosgrove one e-mail. The one he explained he didn't see for several days. But beyond that, there is something of an ethical question. Kuehne is, as she says, a private citizen whose blog never attracted more than a few hundred readers on any regular basis. But if she has the power to be read around the world, as this episode proves she has, is she still just some private citizen? Does she have an obligation to tell someone she's writing about that she has an audience?


I don't think so, no.


(Off Camera) Because?


Because we're not in a separate category of human beings. We're not in a separate category of citizens. We're just citizens with our concern. I mean, frankly, my web-site got, maybe, you know, a few hundred, at most hits a day, before this happened.


(Voice Over) For the record, Kuehne was scrupulously accurate, linking to the original text of Cosgrove's bill. But as her story spread at Internet speed and others added their commentaries, inaccuracies crept in. Kuehne acknowledges that.


It becomes like a game of telephone that you played in the third grade. So, by the time the 15th person gets the story. So, there were websites that linked to mine that definitely didn't get the whole story. They got it wrong.


(Voice Over) And that accounts for some of what Cosgrove experienced.

I've had numerous stories done about me without a damn thing being run by me, and I don't actually see anything wrong with that (except when they just make shit up of course).


Kos mounts a half-hearted defense of House Democrats who are supporting a Bill which is going to pass anyway. From an individual House member's perspective it's absolutely correct.

But, from the point of view of the party as a whole, it's completely and utterly wrong. When more than a few members are peeled off, suddenly it's a "bipartisan bill." In 2006, Nancy Pelosi won't be able to make the bankruptcy bill part of a national issue because too many members supported it LOUDLY AND PROUDLY. And, if we don't nationalize the congressional race in 2006 we will lose once again.

Until the party begins to take disciplined stands against these things, they don't stand for anything.

Open Thread

Have fun.

More USANext

Americablog has the full story.

Fun Story


A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

No idea what to make of that...

$25 Million Suit Against USANext


Remember USANext's smear job on AARP -- the internet-only ad that tried to marginalize the AARP out of the Social Security debate by suggesting that the group has something against American soldiers but loves gay marriage? Rick Raymen and Steve Hansen haven't forgotten. They're the Oregon couple shown kissing in the USANext ad. Today in Washington, they filed a $25 million lawsuit against USANext.

"Our privacy and personal integrity were violated when our wedding photo was stolen and used to portray us as treasonous, unpatriotic, and a threat to American troops," Raymen said in a statement released to the press today. "We have been harassed and humiliated by this hateful ad campaign and by the bigotry and anger it has generated against us nationwide."

Bully the Queers

Gotta love these people:

Des Moines, Iowa) A group of Republican lawmakers is holding up legislation that would help curb bullying and harassment in Iowa schools because the bill would include protections for gay and lesbian students.

The issue was scheduled to be debated in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, but Sen. Paul McKinley, (R-Chariton), a head of the panel, struck it from the list of measures to be considered.

Because the 50 member Senate is tied with 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats each committee has two chairs, and both must sign off on which measures will be debated.

McKinley said he's all for safe schools, but said he doesn't agree with including a list of specific groups to be protected.

George Bush Is Responsible for Everything

A big problem with the administration flunkies and their assorted allies in the commentariat giving credit to George W. Bush for all nice-sounding political happenings in the world is that doing so aligns whatever political movement with the US and the Bush administration, and knocks the legs out from under it. This shouldn't be too difficult to comprehend. Just as opposition to the Bush administration is characterized as "pro-saddam" or whatever in this country, as long as political oppposition movements in other countries can be painted as "pro-US" or "pro-Bush" or even as being directly funded by the US they can be deligitimized (or branded as traitors).

Apparently even Jonah Goldberg is smart enough to understand that things on both sides are a wee bit more complicated in Lebanon. But, to the extent that one side of this is something we're more approving of, sometimes it's in our interest to pretend that it isn't actually in our interest...

Hack Explanation

For seem decent explanation of some of the hackness which is going into Saving's nonsense below, see this piece at Media Matters. Essentially Saving is doing much of the same thing, and then being even more hacky by lumping Social Security and Medicare together. Also, as Max points out, he's comparing apples and elephants by comparing one years worth of GDP with infinity years of Social Security and Medicare.

Red State Blues

Bankruptcy filing rank, by households per filing:

Utah 1
Tennessee 2
Georgia 3
Nevada 4
Indiana 5
Alabama 6
Arkansas 7
Ohio 8
Mississippi 9
Idaho 10

Yglesias wonders why Evan Bayh and Dorgan managed to be against this thing when Conrad and Johnson couldn't. Interestingly, North (Conrad) and South (Johnson) Dakota clock in at numbers 47 and 42 respectively, while Bayh's Indiana is at #5. But, Dorgan's also a North Dakotan.

Social Security Trustees' Report

Just a reminder to the press and everyone else -- given that the Trustees include the hackiest of hacks like Saving, one should expect that the annual report, which will presumably come out soon, will be good for a laugh.

Segregation Now and Forever

The General offers some advice to Democrats.

Here's some suggested campaign material.

Worse Than Luskin

There's an op-ed in the WSJ today (sub. req., but trust me you don't really need to read it) which is even loopier than something Donald Luskin would write. Now, that's not all that surprising -- it is the WSJ after all. But, there's something a bit weird about it. The guy who wrote it, Thomas Saving, is described as "Mr. Saving, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, is director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University."

All that's true, but this idiot is also one of the Social Security Trustees. Wonder why they left that part out.


One way to assess the problem is to calculate the present value of the difference between expected expenses and revenues. Last year, for the first time, the Trustees reported such calculations for both Social Security and Medicare and the numbers are startling. Over the next 75 years, scheduled benefits exceed dedicated revenues by $33 trillion, measured in current dollars. Looking indefinitely into the future, the present value of the additional revenues required by Social Security and Medicare total almost $74 trillion. To put that number in perspective, obligations to the elderly are more than six times the size of the economy and 18 times the size of the outstanding federal debt.

For many years, the Trustees' Reports adopted a 75-year time horizon. But it is now understood that looking only 75 years into the future gives a misleading picture. Consider a worker who will retire in year 76. A 75-year horizon counts all of the taxes this worker will pay over the course of a lifetime, but ignores the benefits. To avoid this problem, the Trustees' Reports are now including calculations that look indefinitely into the future.

The unfunded liability under Medicare is six times larger than under Social Security, but the two are connected. Any reform that puts one program on a sounder footing helps the other. Indeed, the strongest argument for the reform of Social Security is the existence of Medicare.

...just to add, he does say it himself in the piece but it's nonethelss an odd thing to leave off the bio tagline. And, as Josh points out, it also leaves off another important affiliation...

Morning Thread


The Permanent Minority

If I were a congressional staffer aiming to give my boss a bit of information about what the people are saying about the bankruptcy bill, this thread on the Free Republic is all I'd need to show them.

Morons (the Democrats - not, for once, the freepi)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Democrats Who Will Never Be President

Max has the list. I'm sure some of these people will actually vote against the bill in the end, to their dishonest shame. We're sophisticated enough to understand that there were two key votes -- the Schumer amendment which was unlikely to pass and the cloture vote. So, when they send out fundraising materials about the evil bankruptcy bill they helped pass you can politely tell them where to stick it.

What Noam Said

There is no reason for a Democrat to support this bill except to please their corporate masters. None.

As I've said before, even the silly "tort reform" has some popular support, but not this bill. None.


With extra snark.

Late Night

Have fun.

Bankruptcy Post-mortem

Well, unless a miracle happens or some members realize that the best way to ensure continued largesse from the credit card industry is to somehow kill this thing while pretending to support it, it should be a done deal. It sucks, but it was an absolute miracle when it failed to pass the last time, and we had more senators then. Elizabeth Warren has some additional thoughts.

If nothing else we'll be spared the spectacle of Biden '08.

Open Thread

Have fun.


Cloture passed.

Call Kohl's Office

(202) 224-5653

More Calls

Patty Murray
(202) 224-2621
Maria Cantwell

Olympia Snowe
(202) 224-5344

Bankruptcy Day Continues

Call Senator MBNA Biden:


Call Senator Lautenberg:

(202) 224-3224

Call Senator Specter:


Democracy's Messy

Is it okay now to acknowledge that things in Lebanon are a bit messier (and, in fact, quite worrisome) than the 101st Fighting Keyboarders have been saying.

One reason I don't jump on every "yay! signs of protest by the good guys!" development or the latest "support the Iranian students!" calls which I regularly get in email is that some times these things end very badly. It's all very nice to support dissident movements and protests, but it's very easy to do when you're not the one facing down a billy club or a tank or in a country falling into civil war.

But, for more specifics get your smart commentary on Lebanon elsewhere. Don't know a damn thing about the place.

..just to add, there's a difference between "supporting" as in "advocating that people who are in a position to actually do something constructive for your cause get out there and do it" and "supporting" as in "posting up pictures of hot Lebanese chicks and talking about how this validates your support for the Iraq war." The former is possibly constructive and therefore actual "support" while the latter is just wankery with added wank.

Bankruptcy Day

Call your Senator and demand that they oppose this bill. Inform them that this has gotten little public debate and they shold vote against cloture.

Senate switchboard:

(202) 224-3121

And, we can all call Joe Biden and tell Senator MBNA to kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.


Anna provides some extra ammo:

# Why are senators allowing multi-millionaires to shield their assets but not average families? Under the bill, the very wealthy would be able to shield millions in assets after declaring bankruptcy by setting up "asset protection trusts." Schumer lamented "now we have a bill that says a family won't be protected if it has $50,000, but it will if it has $5 million.

# Why are senators going after seniors with huge medical bills? The bill will be especially hard on elderly Americans, who are bankrupted by medical bills with increasing frequency.

# Democratic and Republican senators should put the interests of Americans above those of the credit card industry. The credit card industry raked in $30 billion in profits last year, some of which is clearly being spent to grease the palms of Washington politicians. Bankruptcy hasn't hurt the credit card companies one iota.

Specific senators to target, but also make sure you call your own senator even if you know s/he's on the right side of this. They need spine infusions at these moments.

Credit Card Corps
(Membership Total: 4)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) Captain
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) Lieutenant
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) Grunt
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) Grunt

Under Recruitment
(Membership Total: 14)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana)
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. Kent "the Kernel" Conrad (D-North Dakota)
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California)
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Lousiana)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

Morning Thread

Go ahead.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Flat Tax Fever

Big Media Matt says something which should be obvious but for some reason isn't:

On one of those awful cable news financial shows last weekend I saw a supply-sider making the argument that conservatives shouldn't support the idea of a VAT because it's too easy for politicians to raise VAT rates even if they start out low. That may well be correct, though I won't go into now. She then went on to argue that we ought to have a flat tax because it would make the tax code simple. Once upon a time, I was against the flat tax but accepted the CW that there's a tradeoff between simplicity and progressivity. Now that I've actually paid taxes, I'm baffled that any adult could possibly advance this argument.

What makes doing your taxes complicated is, very clearly, the part of the process where you need to calculate your taxable income. This is complicated, primarily, because we tax different kinds of income (dividends, interest, capital gains, wages, etc.) differently, and because the rules for things like business expenses and so forth are complicated. Once you have that figure calculating what you actually owe -- the part where having different brackets factors in -- is very simple. Of course it would be somewhat complicated to do this if you had to do it by hand, but a little computer assistance (TurboTax, say) makes it very simple. Computers can do division -- even complicated division -- very easily and automatically. What they can't do is calculate all your deductions and expenses for you. Those of us in the journalism trade tend to have a lot of miscellaneous income and a lot of small-bore business expenses that add up. It's complicated. There are things we can and should do to simplify the situation. But progressivity has nothing to do with it.

Right. The complicated part of doing your taxes has nothing to do with the tax rates. There could be 5000 brackets and a formula which required advanced calculus to compute and it wouldn't matter. The whole thing can always be mapped into a tax table.

And, on a related note could someone please tell the Wall Street Journal editorial page editor to stop publishing people who claim that in Hong Kong "almost everyone" there pays a flat tax. Unless by "almost everyone" we mean "approximately 1.5% of workers" it just isn't true.

Open Thread


Get Over It

That's been one of the favorite phrases of the mouthbreathing crowd since the 2000 election.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham and, according to him, the state of South Carolina still haven't "gotten over" that whole freeing of the slaves thing.

The part I find most offensive about this is that I imagine a significant part of South Carolina's population has indeed "gotten over" Lincoln. About 30% of South Carolina's population is African-American, and I'd imagine some of them have "gotten over" Lincoln.

Burn the Source

As Kevin Drum points out, the Washington Post was blatantly lied to by an "official who requested anonymity."

Now, if you're the Washington Post you have two choices. You can:

a) Burn the source, take them off your rolodex, and append the label "known liar" to every future mention of their name.

b) Go on like nothing happened.

No surprises about which path the Post has chosen.

Open Thread

Have fun

Captain America Hates America


Poor Jonah. Slapped around by a comic book superhero.


Ron Brownstein is usually a reliable if slightly more reasonable than most purveyor of center-right conventional wisdom. So, it's nice to see him call Greenspan out.

Short version: Greenspan supported 11 trillion in tax cuts and then woke up and discovered the baby boomers would retire and cost $3.5 trillion -- and the retiring boomers are the fiscal problem.

Wanker of the Day

Little Ricky Lowry.


It's okay if you hate the UN and think it's useless or evil or should be destroyed. That's your choice. However, such opinions do not make you a suitable candidate for Ambassador to the U.N.

The U.N. exists and we are a member of it. The Bush administration would have more success in getting what it wants if it stopped extending the middle finger to everyone. Now, I'm not entirely sure I want the Bush administration to have success in getting what it wants - we don't always agree on what exactly is in America's interest - so maybe from my perspective this isn't such a bad thing.

But, you'd think the Bushies would have learned their lesson from Temper Tantrum Cellucci's recent experiences in Canada.

Man on Dog Day

Call Senator Santorum's office and ask him why he thinks people who earn tips should work for free.
You could also ask if, say, this provision applies to people in the dog grooming industry.

Washington, D.C. Office:
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-6324

Allentown Office:
Counties: Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northampton, Lehigh, Berks
3802 Federal Office Building
504 West Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
Main: 610-770-0142
Fax: 610-770-0911

Altoona Office:
Counties: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Fulton, Huntingdon, Somerset
Route 220 North
Regency Square, Suite 220
Altoona, PA 16601
Main: 814-946-7023
Fax: 814-946-7025

Coudersport Office:
Counties: Cameron, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga
81 Marvin Hill Road
Coudersport, PA 16915
Main: 814-274-9773
Fax: 814-274-2253

Erie Office:
Counties: Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren
1705 West 26th Street
Erie, PA 16508
Main: 814-454-7114
Fax: 814-459-2096

Harrisburg Office:
Counties: Adams, Centre, Clinton, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Union Snyder, York
555 Walnut Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Main: 717-231-7540
Fax: 717-231-7542

Philadelphia Office:
Counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia
1 South Penn Square
Widener Building, Suite 960
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Main: 215-864-6900
Fax: 215-864-6910

Pittsburgh Office:
Counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Westmoreland, Washington
100 West Station Square Drive
Landmarks Building, Suite 250
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Main: 412-562-0533
Fax: 412-562-4313

Scranton Office:
Counties: Bradford, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Montour, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming
527 Linden Street
Scranton, PA 18503
Main: 570-344-8799
Fax: 570-344-8906

Rarely Are the Questions Asked

Here's a good question, feel free to steal oh intrepid reporters:

Under the current Social Security system, it isn't necessary for employers to make Social Security payments in a timely fashion. Even if they're late with their payments employees can be credited appropriately.

However, under a private account system the timing of stock or index fund transactions is critical. Would employers be liable for any lost capital gains due to late payment of payroll taxes? If not, why not?

Morning Thread

Chat away.


The Problem With the Liberal Academy

I actually have no idea if Elizabeth Warren is liberal, or if she's just "liberal" on this issue, but I was nonetheless struck by this statement:

I never wanted to get involved in politics, but the bankruptcy bill now moving on a fast-track through Congress isn’t fair.

While I don't argue that academia is generally more liberal than the population (though this is less true than conservatives like to claim), most members of liberal academia are not active participants in the political sphere. This is a problem.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Joe v. Joe

We've got Joementum into dishonesty.

From the text of a letter Joe signed a few days ago:

Given the conflicting and ambiguous reports on such a critical issue, we urge you to publicly and unambiguously announce that you reject privatized accounts funded with Social Security dollars or otherwise linked to the provision of guaranteed Social Security benefits. Such a statement would eliminate a serious obstacle to the kind of bipartisan process that Democrats are seeking to deal with Social Security's long-term challenges and to improve the retirement security of all Americans.

Joe today:

LIEBERMAN: Here's where I am -- and I'm involved in a lot of discussions, bipartisan discussions. Olympia Snowe and I head the centrist Bipartisan Coalition. Lindsay Graham and I have been working. I've talked to Bob Bennett. I got some very interesting ideas, fellow senator from Utah. Clay Shaw is a congressman from Florida.
And I want to pull from all of these the possibility of common ground to fix the Social Security problem, and in that we can't take any of these ideas off the table.

Graham, at least, is a supporter of private accounts. Off the table or not, Senator? Make up your mind.

Bands Which Suck But You Love Anyway

I don't mean a couple boy band tracks you groove to guiltily at the gym. I mean, a band whose entire catalog is sitting on your shelf and you eagerly wait their next release but about which you are embarrassed...


I think more parents should be like Tbogg.

Open Thread

have fun.

No Jews Allowed

Ah, we're moving back to legalized discrimination.

s.z. has the story here and here. A UNC "fraternity" has won a preliminary injunction which allows them to discriminate against Jews.

Open Thread

Have fun.


Senator Man on Dog is trying to eviscerate workers' rights.

His staff is going to hate us on Monday...


The Democrats need to be very careful about expressing willingness to cut a deal with Bush on Social Security as long as privatization is off the table. There's no need to do anything about Social Security in the near term, and setting up the an air of inevitability regarding "something sort of social seucrity reform will pass this year" will create pressure for them to rubber stamp whatever nonsense comes out of DeLay's conference committee, or they'll find themselves having to object to it in ways which are a net negative, politically. I know useful idiots like Joe Klein and the rest of the analstocracy demand that they make concilliatory and compromising noises, but those people should all be ignored. Or, preferably, locked away.

The main thing that the Democrats need to remember is that they're discussing ways to better pre-fund Social Security with people who like to tell us that the Trust Fund doesn't exist. There's little reason to agree to put more money into something which is, as we keep being told, just a myth. Doing something like increasing the income cap may be a good idea if we assume we're in a universe with responsible lawmakers. But, since we're not increasing the income cap just increases the amount of tax revenue being paid by not-very-upper-middle classish people and helps relieve pressure to roll back tax cuts on the very rich.

This is the drum that Comrade Max has been beating, and he's basically right. Right now the majority party doesn't believe the trust fund is real, so there's no actual way to pre-fund it, aside from perhaps putting the money under the mattress. As Max wrote:

Now along come the liberals, wanting to tidy up the Trust Fund's actuarial imbalance, albeit without the concession of private accounts. (The Diamond-Orszag plan is the flagship proposal of this type.) There is no reason to do this, except under extreme duress or to get something in return. But as Matt and others say, right now the Bushists are on the defensive. No peace offerings are required. This is not the time to take prisoners. Defend the Keep and show the orcs no mercy, because you will receive none.

There is something to be said for a social insurance program -- stipulated benefits financed by dedicated revenues -- that stands on its own bottom. It's a way of cementing political consensus around the way a program is set up. As explained above, a national government need not maintain a separate stock of assets financed by those revenues if it keeps proper account of what has been paid and received. Under a rational political culture, pre-funded accounts make sense.

But that isn't the world we live in. Instead we are set upon by fiscal saboteurs -- in firm control of the House of Representatives and the White House, with strong influence in the Senate. These are forces that have stated and demonstrated their determination to damage Federal finance to the point where programs they dislike can be cut down on spurious fiscal grounds, rather than on their own intrinsic merits. Indeed, one rationale for private accounts advanced by ostensibly sober analysts is that, in making so-called implicit debt under Social Security explicit (borrowing to finance the accounts), pressure will rise to reduce other Federal spending. Negotiation with wingnuts on social policy is folly. Social Security will be just fine in fifteen years, when perhaps President Jenna Bush will exhibit better sense.

In this light, possible future shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare are better left for future modifications, should any prove necessary. Better reform slogans: Now less than ever. If we do nothing now, things can only get better. It might be broke, but don't let idiots fix it. Stuff like that.

If sensible-sounding reform were passed this year, the same crowd will just come back next year and start telling us that the trust fund isn't real and that therefore it's their right to loot it.

Regulating the Internets

It is true as many have asserted that to some degree the alarmist stuff about the FEC regulating internet activity was just someone with an agenda (gutting all campaign finance laws) blowing smoke. But clearly there's interest, especially by the GOP commissioners to do something. So, I don't think a little alarmism is inappropriate.

As I've said, I do think that there are reasonable extensions of campaign finance law to the internet - such as, say, requiring disclosure for paid advertisements or financial relationships between candidates/bloggers. But, the dangers are that they'll define "coordination" very strictly and start considering things to be "in kind contributions."


Watched this movie for the first time in a long time last night. I was struck by how the speech given to Howard Beale by Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) sounds like your typical Tom Friedman column...

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?! You think you've merely stopped a business deal -- that is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and A T & T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war and famine, oppression or brutality -- one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

Bobo's World


A 6-year-old boy who often talked too much in class was suspended from 1st grade at Schaumburg Christian School last week after his mother refused to spank him.

Chandler Scott Fallaw, a rambunctious boy, had been piling up disciplinary notes for talking, chewing gum, bringing toys to class and not finishing classwork, said his mother, Michelle Fallaw-Gabrielson. "By no means is my child perfect," she acknowledged.

But she never anticipated the ultimatum delivered at school Wednesday.

When she arrived to pick up Chandler, she said, assistant administrator Linda Moreau told her the school needed assurances that the boy would be disciplined. "She said, `Either he gets a spanking before he leaves today, or I'm suspending him,'" Fallaw-Gabrielson recalled.

She said she refused to spank her son and left with the assistant administrator calling after her: "You know he's suspended, and that's a very serious matter on his record."

Trust [Phillyblogging]

I think Rendell pulled some pretty good Jiu-Jitsu with the state Republicans over the financing for Septa and other regional transit authorities. And, now the Republicans are whining that they can't trust Rendell anymore.

Screw them. They spent months trying to make Rendell look bad over this issue, with Septa having to threaten draconian service cuts and fare increases. It'd be really easy to come up with a dedicated revenue stream for the agency, at which point other problems with the system could be addressed properly. But, they dragged their feet without realizing that Rendell had an ace card up his sleeve. Now it's up to them to explain why all that delicious money for building roads to nowhere in their districts is being diverted to the cities.

Mellow gets it:

Rendell supporters say the move marks a change in the governor, who is realizing that he will never win peace with Republicans.

"They will never give him anything, and they never have," said Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow (D., Lackawanna). "They want him to bow down and kiss the ring. He was just a bit smarter than them this time."

He beat them and now they're crying. Waah.


John from Americablog has a good LA Times op-ed on JimmyJeff.

Morning Thread

Sunday bobblehead edition. Document the atrocities.