Thursday, January 30, 2003

Plus la change ...

Remember all those reforms that were going to happen after Enron, Tyco and WorldCom came crashing down?

Yeah, neither does the president.

Just for starters, Harvey Pitt, whom Bush "fired" as SEC chairman on Election Night, remains on the job, with his successor not only unconfirmed but also not even formally nominated yet.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Apology accepted, Digby. Now ...

Digby recently apologized for posting what later turned out to be an inaccurate article saying that Dubya had resumed sending a wreath to an annual ceremony honoring Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

But in the interest of contextual accuracy, he argues:

Now, I realize that this will cause a bandwidth crisis that could presage the end of the Internet as we know it, but there can be no logical consistency in requiring me to apologize for a post that linked to a Time article (to which I merely appended "Karl Rove makes Lee Atwater look like an amateur") without also requiring that Republicans and the press apologize for 8 solid years of character assassination and smears against the Clinton administration. (And I would say that the Gores deserve a mea culpa too, for the lies perpetrated against them by the press and the GOP during campaign 2000.)

It's a masterful rant. And it's absolutely correct. Go read it.

Bush Moves to Restore Military Ties With Indonesia

Incredible. In-fucking-credible. How can this possibly be a good idea? Let's cozy up to murderers just because they're not Islamic murderers? Give me a fucking break.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Quaking in our size-15, heavily armed boots

Look on their works, ye mighty, and despair: The militant Islamic movement Hamas says that if the U.S. attacks Iraq, Muslims and Arabs will attack American targets everywhere.

Yeah, right. Bunch of fucking wankers. If you do, Greater Israel will be a reality by nightfall and you're going to be pondering your own 2,000-year diaspora.

UPDATE: The always-excellent Silfray Hraka has this to say about that, and all I can do is stand in awe, amazement and admiration.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Gee. What's Pat Robertson teaching over there at his university?

A third-year law student at Regent University, who helped run several successful campaigns for Virginia Beach-area Republicans, was arrested Jan. 10 and charged with two counts of soliciting sex with a minor over the Internet.

You know your proposal to kill the estate tax is in trouble ...

... when even Bill Gates Sr. is willing to criticize it.

At least, let's hope.

Monday, January 13, 2003

All politics all the time ...

... makes Ralph a dull boy. The inimitable Vectorgirl recently listed "completely trivial reasons i have dumped guys." I thought it might be ... well, if not fun, at least revealing, to go back and see why I dumped the girls I dumped.

OK, in the order in which I dumped them:

1) The summer ended. Really. I didn't like her much, but she was available, and when the summer ended and I headed back to school, that was it.

2) I met a better-looking, nicer, more sexually available woman.

3) She was moving to the Left Coast. She offered to try to keep the relationship alive, but I decided that that sounded an awful lot like work.

3a) She also was sleeping with another guy, although I wasn't supposed to know that.

4) The sex was great but everything else about her was a low-key annoyance, plus she went to work for my father. Just too weird.

5) I moved to another town. That was the pretext. The real reason was that, although very nice, she was boring.

6) I met another woman whom I would not have been embarrassed to introduce to my friends and family. (We've now been married for a decade.)

There were, of course, other relationships in which I got dumped, or in which we mutually agreed to part, interspersed with these. Those are stories for another day.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


Former Bush speechwriter David Frum's forthcoming book gets to Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times ... and lo, the wounds she inflicts. Among them:

The book is filled with a spinmeister's clichés ("Bush's record has been dauntless, far-seeing, and consistent" on the war) and is riddled with contradictions and evasions. Mr. Frum hails the ambition and political imagination displayed by the Bush administration, but he writes that with the exception of the political guru Karl Rove and Mitch Daniels at the Office of Management and Budget, "conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House."


There are wacky and sometimes self-serving assertions in this book. Mr. Frum claims that President Bush and John F. Kennedy "owed their connections with the public above all to the power of their words." [Remember, Frum was a speechwriter.]

And, finally:

Mr. Frum's penchant for facile analogies and bellicose language underscores the dogmatic, hectoring tone of this book, a book that plays solely to readers who already share all of his certainties and that makes no effort to persuade others through historical knowledge, foreign policy acumen or simple logic.

Man, that's gotta hurt.

Pardon me while I get my ribs taped

I broke a few from laughing so hard at this:

A Canadian man killed when his truck rolled on an Iraqi highway had gone to the country to act as a human shield in the event of war against Saddam Hussein, the peace group that sent him there said yesterday.

On the other hand ...

I'm automatically suspicious of anyone who wants to scrap affirmative action. I grew up in the South in the 1960s; sue me. But even stauncher advocates than I have got to see that sometimes there really is something wrong with the picture.

A former member of Indiana University's law-school admissions committee has come forward to say what it is -- that that school has used racial preferences far in extent of anything ever envisioned in the original affirmative-action legislation:

As at [the University of Michigan at] Ann Arbor [an affirmative-action case from which will be decided this term by the Supreme Court], we at Bloomington enforce a de facto quota of the minimum number of blacks and other minorities we are determined to enroll in each first-year law school class. And as at Ann Arbor, we engineer our admissions process to guarantee that when the first-year class shows up in late August, our de facto quota will once again be met.

We differ in that to meet our de facto quota, we regularly lower our usual standards of admission more than our counterparts at Michigan lower theirs. For example, to meet our de facto quota of blacks in each first-year class, we deviate from our usual standards of admission more than any remotely comparable law school is willing to do. In fact, of all the law schools in the country approved by the American Bar Association, none regularly lowers its standards of admission for affirmative action purposes as much as we do. As a result, black applicants whose low grades, LSAT scores and extracurricular record would otherwise win admission only to Howard Law School in Washington, D.C., regularly win admission from us. And the overwhelming majority of applicants -- perhaps 80 percent -- for whom we lower our standards so drastically are from out of state.

Such is the affirmative action admissions policy we at the IU Bloomington Law School have followed for more than 30 years. We follow a similarly heavy-handed affirmative action policy for financial aid and faculty recruitment.

So it's not just white applicants who get screwed. It's in-state applicants of all races, at a state university, supported by state taxpayers, whose primary mission is to educate that state's residents.


Republicans and race. Redux.

Oops. Just when the GOP thought it might have put race behind it as an issue (re-nominating Pickering was a pretty good sign of party thinking), someone strays from, literally, the party line:

The highest ranking African-American in the California Republican Party on Tuesday condemned the racism he has endured working for the GOP.

"Black Republicans are expected to provide window dressing and cover to prove that this is not a racist party, yet our own leadership continues to act otherwise," party Secretary Shannon Reeves wrote in an e-mail to party board members.

Even a blind pig ...

I don't generally have much use for the Weekly Standard, but I read it anyway (online, at any rate), just in case. And that faith has been rewarded. Here's Larry Miller on one of my favorite topics, moral relativism. A sample:

1) "We're not good, they're not evil, everything is relative."

Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves.

You see, folks, saying "We're good" doesn't mean "We're perfect." Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be, the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history.

If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see "The Producers."


Wednesday, January 08, 2003

One way to get their attention

Supposedly, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is planning to announce he'll filibuster the nomination of Charles Pickering to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It'd be the right thing to do, if true (nothing on Schumer's Web site about it right now) ... and the right thing to do for anyone who hopes to unseat Dubya.

In a fair election, I mean.

With friends like these ...

Even the Financial Times, the bible of fiscal conservatives, says Bush's proposed economic program is not conservative. Unfortunately, FT also claims that that doesn't matter because the Republicans will be able to sell this thing because they have voters convinced that there is such a thing as trickle-down prosperity. (Not its wording, of course, but that's the gist.)

Let's hope FT is wrong on at least one of these points.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

The Arab Street vs. the U.S. Street

Andrea Harris of Spleenville has posted an excellent screed regarding those Palestinians who continue to support the intifada. Her main points are 1) Other Arabs don't really care about you even if they say they do; and 2) Believe it or not, your best friends right now are the U.S. and Israel, but even their infinite patience will not last forever.

Here's a taste:

Sympathy only goes so far. There is not an endless supply of the stuff in the human soul. It can be beaten out of people. It can be drained like blood from a wound. It can vanish. And when it does, stick your head between your knees and kiss your ass good-bye.

Oh, we'll feel real bad about wiping you all out. We've raised the expression of Guilt to an art form. We'll make movies about the horror of our deeds, and erect museums to your sorry dead selves. We'll flagellate ourselves and the broadcast laments of "how could we let it go so far" will go out to Andromeda. But you'll still be dead. So stop it.

Sometimes, you have to give your friends a little tough love. Andrea's showing Palestinians the love. If they're smart -- and, of course, there's no reason whatever to think that's the case -- they'll accept it and her advice.

But it's only the Democrats who engage in class warfare

Anytime the Republicans accuse Democrats of class warfare, it's because they're afraid someone will notice that that's exactly what they've been waging since at least 1981 -- and that the rich have a nearly unbroken string of victories during that time.

This is important context in which to understand the Republicans' new economic proposal, particularly as it pertains to reducing or eliminating any tax on dividends.

According to Ari Fleischer, 92 million taxpayers would receive an average tax cut of $1,083 in 2003. That sounds very nice, but looking at the IRS numbers underlying that average is quite instructive (and my HTML table coding is rusty, so please bear with me):

under 50K 15,200,000 $26,900,000,000 $176.97 per filer
50k-100k 10,000,000 $27,100,000,000 $2,710 per filer
100K-200K 4,800,000 $23,800,000,000 $4,958.33 per filer
Over 1M 200,000 $25,400,000,000 $127,000 per filer

In short, the relatively tiny number of households with more than $1 million in income will get a tax cut of almost $130,000 each.

But, but, but, the Republicans stammer, shouldn't those who pay most of the taxes get most of the tax break?

There are at least two good answers: First, if you factor in payroll and Social Security taxes, as you should despite the administration's ridiculous claim that Social Security is "not a tax," the lower-income folks have a much smaller percentage of income to spend on discretionary purchases than do the wealthiest. Moreover, like it or not, most of America's recent prosperity has been consumer-driven, not investment-driven, and if the purpose of this proposal is to stimulate the economy rather than simply pay off wealthy supporters, it ought to be putting money into the hands of those most likely to spend it immediately on the kinds of purchases that will stimulate the overall economy -- things like food, clothing, shelter and education. And the people most likely to do that overwhelmingly make less than a million bucks a year.

UPDATE: Here is a list of answers to some of the most common arguments Republicans use for showering tax largesse upon the very richest Americans.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Yo, Howard! Wake the fuck up!!

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz let a whopper slip past on his "Reliable Sources" show Sunday: He allowed conservative radio host Laura Ingraham to repeat the canard that big jury awards and settlements are what is driving up malpractice-insurance rates (you know, the ones that made the doctors walk off the job in West Virginia recently).

In fact, as posted here 11/21, payouts, adjusted for inflation, have been pretty much flat since the mid-1980s. Why does this matter? For one thing, a lot of people will be trying to beat Democratic presidential contender John Edwards, a trial lawyer, over the head with the medical-malpractice issue. There are reasons to vote against Edwards, but this isn't one of them. Insurance companies' management of their own investments has far more effect on medical-malpractice premiums than do payouts to victims, or settlements with them.

Friday, January 03, 2003

More on our quote allies unquote in the quote war on terror unquote

Many of us, such as your humble correspondent, have long been suspicious of Saudi Arabia's claims that it's doing all it can to help us put an end to al-Qaeda terrorism. Now, NBC News is confirming that these claims are, indeed, bullshit.

Folks, enough is enough. Call, write or e-mail your congresscreatures today -- don't put it off -- and demand that Congress get the Saudis on board. The evil liars who run that country have skated long enough.

Is this a great country or what?

Ward Connerly, the guy who has led attacks on affirmative action nationwide, often gets called a "nut" or worse, a phenomenon conservatives usually are simply pleased to blame on the "liberal media" or on minorities with an "entitlement mentality." They never seem to consider the possibility that the guy might truly be an idiot, a moron ... a nut. For instance, Connerly writes:

I am delighted that Lott was forced to remove himself from consideration as Senate Majority Leader. But, it is truly a measure of our misplaced priorities and values when a statement made at a birthday party that might be interpreted as an endorsement of racial segregation can overwhelm issues of war and peace. For making such a statement, one gets the political death penalty. But, for having sexual liaisons in the Oval Office — and lying about it — one gets invited to give speeches all around the globe and receive speaking fees in excess of $100,000 per engagement.

OK, lemme see if I've got this straight. L'affaire Lott, which ended before Christmas, has "overwhelm(ed) issues of war and peace." Tell it to the Marines -- literally. And endorsement by the incoming Senate Majority Leader of a return to the kind of segregated society espoused by Strom Thurmond in 1948 is NOT as important as the fact that Clinton got his wang washed in the Oval Office (actually a small hallway off it, but never mind). OK. Hey, Ward -- proportion much?

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Advice from Uncle Dub ...

... or, at least, Silfray Hraka's Bigwig posing as Uncle Dub, on what the Democrats' real problem is. Hint: It ain't the Vast Right-Wing Media.

And they're off!

RALPH: Looks like [Sen. John] Edwards is really running [for president].
SNOOP: It's an interesting prospect
RALPH: Yeah. I'm kinda looking forward to the thought of [the political correspondent for our local paper] spending next winter in NH without skiing and Iowa without ... doing whatever it is they do for fun in Iowa.
SNOOP: It has to do with corn cobs
SNOOP: cobbs
RALPH: You were right the first time. Unless you're talking about something really sick involving the corpse of a former baseball great.
SNOOP: righto
RALPH: Didn't they bury him in Georgia, though?
SNOOP: That would make it a federal crime. Transporting a corpse across state lines for immoral purposes.
RALPH: Or porpoises. Which adds a whole other dimension. Wow. Iowa. Who knew?