Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Here is some interesting polling in Iran. These people deal with very different information than we have here in the US. Yet, I am surprised, and happy, to tell you that they come to many of the same conclusions we do.
The big question for us to answer is, who has better information on these issues? It seems to me that the population with better information will come to more accurate conclusions. Are you willing to bet the validity of Fox News' information against any other news organization, in any country? Those of you who watch Fox News are disqualified from having to answer this question, as most of you still think that Saddam Hussein attacked the the World Trade Center. Enough said.
"I realize that it's hard for people to believe they would actually start another war as this one is going so very badly. Believe it. They really do this crazy stuff as they've demonstrated over and over again.
It's obvious that everyone should be mobilizing against this next war, but once again their sheer, nutty audacity seems to have paralyzed everyone. They have a real gift for making you mistrust what you are seeing with your own eyes."
I remember having the feeling, Digby mentions above, when I first heard the Administration mention Iraq. I thought, "what are they nuts, who has time to think about an irrelevant country like Iraq?" I remember being incredulous at first. I then thought, "well they must know something I don't."
It turns out I should have gone with my first feeling of incredulity, and stayed there. They actually knew even less than I did.
Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales:
''It's important for us that they understand what we're doing,'' Gonzales said. ''All they have to do is ask.''
''We want to be as accommodating as we can, given the unique circumstances,'' he said. ''Obviously, this is an issue that draws extraordinary interest, and we understand that. But we also have a responsibility to ensure the confidentiality of this information.''
I cannot imagine that Gonzales said this with a straight face. I cannot imagine that anyone, who heard him say it, could have kept one either.
Timeline of a smear
"Summary: On January 17, InsightMag.com posted a
story stating that Sen. Barack Obama attended a madrassa as a boy and that this
information had originated from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's camp. With the aid
of the conservative media, InsightMag.com's anonymously sourced report turned
into 11 days of baseless accusations against two leading contenders for the 2008
Democratic presidential nomination."
Media Matters points out how conservatives play the media. This can only happen when three things converge.
1. There is a perceived need, by big media outlets, to compete with small media outlets. These small outlets can get attention by running poorly sourced or unsubstantiated stories.
2. Mainstream media has reduced it's staff, in an effort to remain profitable, as they loose portions of their audience to alternative "news" and Internet based sources. This reduced staff cannot substantiate stories quickly enough to compete in a timely manner.
3. Wealthy people are willing to inject their political agenda into some large media outlets.People with money and power will always try to manipulate information. We should expect them to. It is up to news organizations, using publicly owned airwaves, to be the gatekeepers. So far the FCC has let the major media outlets pretty much do what they want. I wonder if the pendulum has swung as far right as it can? Should news organizations continue to only pay lip service to being unbiased, they may pay a price when the public allocates the public resources they use to disseminate information.
Joe Biden gave and interview with The New York Observer and came off as very un-presidential. Here is more on the story, if you care to read it.
Matthew Yglesias has a theory on this and, unfortunately, it rings true. "Democrat Party" is just another example of people reducing themselves to the tactics of a playground bully. Somehow this crowd wonders why the American people don't take them seriously anymore. Do they not get that no one liked the playground bully? We all grew up and either kicked his ass or ignored him.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Here is a letter from Senator Jim Webb to our Secretary of State. It seems to me that he is asking a rather simple question. It also seems to me that any high school freshman should be able to answer the question. If you need any help, I will give you a link after the letter:
January 29, 2007
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of StateDepartment of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
During your appearance before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on January 11, 2007, I asked you a question pertaining to the administration’s policy regarding possible military action against Iran. I asked, “Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran, in the absence of a direct threat, without congressional approval?”
At that time you were loath to discuss questions of presidential authority, but you committed to provide a written answer. Since I have not yet received a reply, the purpose of this letter is to reiterate my interest in your response.
This is, basically, a “yes” or “no” question regarding an urgent matter affecting our nation’s foreign policy. Remarks made by members of this administration strongly suggest that the administration wrongly believes that the 2002 joint resolution authorizing use of force in Iraq can be applied in other instances, such as in the case of Iran. I, as well as the American people, would benefit by fully understanding the administration’s unequivocal response.
I would appreciate your expeditious reply and look forward to discussing this issue with you in the near future.
United States Senator
Here is the relevant part of our Constitution (I have highlighted in bold the parts I found interesting):
- The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts
and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and
general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and
excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
- To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
- To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states,
and with the Indian tribes;
- To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the
subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
- To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix
the standard of weights and measures;
- To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and
current coin of the United States;
- To establish post offices and post roads;
- To promote the progress
of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and
inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
- To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
- To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high
seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
- To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make
rules concerning captures on land and water;
- To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to
that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
- To provide and maintain a navy;
- To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and
- To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of
the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
- To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the
militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service
of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the
appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according
to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
- To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such
District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular
states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the
United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the
consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the
erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful
- To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by
this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department
or officer thereof. "
Now here is the part of the Constitution that pertains to the Presidential Power:
Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following
oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully
execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my
ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United
States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual
service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the
principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject
relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to
grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in
cases of impeachment.
It seems to me that the answer is clear.
Dear Secretary of State;
Seems to me the answer, to the good Senator's question, is "no."
Prospect Park Project
Here is an excerpt:
"When Bill Clinton was President, most of the country's leading Republicans did not seem to have any problem at all with Congressional "interference" in the President's decisions to deploy troops (really to maintain troop deployments, since President Bush 41 first deployed in Somalia). There wasn't any talk back then (at least from them) about the burden of "535 Commanders-in-Chief" or "Congressional incursions" into the President's constitutional warmaking authority. They debated restrictions that ought to be legislatively imposed on President Clinton's military deployments and then imposed them."
Now, the NRA has always fought any government effort to assemble information on gun owners and buyers. They have even fought local law enforcement's efforts to cull out felons when weapons are purchased.
If I am the FBI, and we are in a terrorist age, don't you think I might want to know who was looking into assault rifles on the Internet? With the new FBI technology, queries about weapons would be easy. Yet, we get not a peep from the NRA. Why?
"US Republicans Clear Way For Minimum-Wage Rise"
I am sorry, but you have got to be F*^#%ing kidding me. Just another example of our "liberal media" at work.
Kos has more.
President Bush is doing his best to change that. If it were up to him, all enforcement and information, administered by governmental agencies, would be based on political expediency. The President has, again, shown his disregard for the checks and balances inherent in our system of government. He has also, again, shown his willingness to make politics and religion the basis for his public policy. When you think about it, why would he bother basing policy on science. That "science thing" is so inconvenient. It is hard to manipulate science, and science tends to gives answers that contradict what the President wants to do do.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I appears that these are the people appointed as U. S . Attorneys. It does not surprise me that they are Bush loyalists. The first group of U. S. Attorneys were loyalists also. I would assume that most Presidents would appoint attorneys loyal to their party. What should bother all of us it the lack of Congressional oversight in approving these people.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The implications of this issue are larger than the crowd that says "I have done nothing wrong so go ahead and spy on me" realizes. If the government can hold court documents and disclose them or change them at their discretion, in what way can our courts be truly autonomous? One of the important functions of a court is to hold public records in matters of law. Legal precident is an important part of our system of justice. Access to the documents, that court decisions are predicated on, are an integral part of our autonomus legal system, and do influence future cases and case law.
If you are wondering why I feel this is an important issue here is my brief explanation. U. S. Attorneys are often the first line of prosecution in Federal corruption cases. If you are a corrupt administration you could simply replace U.S. Attorneys that are investigating the corruption with U.S. Attorneys that are friendly to your administration. Remember, the Administration gets to appoint U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of their term. As it stands, they must be approved by Congress. Here is the rub. If you ask an attorney to step down, the replacement does not need to be approved by Congress under the new Patriot Act.
If you don't believe that any Administration would go so far as to fire a U. S. Attorney working on a case the Administration found embarrassing, then you should look at the cases that the current group of ousted U.S Attorney's was working on, and then look at the political backgrounds of who these attorneys are being replaced with. Here is more information.
Now that we have a Congress that is willing to ask logical questions and will not abdicate it’s authority to the executive branch, we find the Executive Branch changing a program they assured us was legal and could not succeed under FISA. When they reversed their policy this past month, I heard no complaining, from the administration, that domestic wiretapping will be less effective under FISA, have you?
Thursday, January 25, 2007
"Simplistic Red/Blue analyses need to die
Thu Jan 25, 2007 at 11:24:21 AM PST
Children living in Red states have poorer health than those in Blue states. Or at least says this new book.
But how does that account for the fact that some "Blue" states have Republicans in charge, and some "Red" states are very Democratic at the local level? The bottom 10 states -- Wyoming, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Now check it the partisan breakdowns of a few of those states in 2004:
Governor: Republican State Senate: 25D 10R State House: 63D 42R
Governor: Republican State Senate: 27D 8R State House: 72D 28R
Governor: Republican State Senate: 28D 24R State House: 75D 47R
Governor: Democrat State Senate: 26D 22R State House: 57D 44R
Governor: Democrat State Senate: 24D 18R State House: 42D 28R
Governor: Democrat State Senate: 24D 15R State House: 67D 37R
Other than it's not a good sign for Richardson that New Mexico is on this list (much depends on how much children's health has improved during his term), fact is that many of these states had either a Democratic trifecta, or significant influence at the state level.
What about the top 10?
According to his findings, nine of the 10 top states with the best outcomes for children today were blue states. The top 10 states, in order, were Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa (the sole red state in the group) and New Hampshire.
Nebraska is "Blue"? Who knew? But again, the analysis breaks down. Massachusetts and Connecticut have had long-running Republican dynasties in the governor's mansion. New Hampshire had been a solid Republican trifecta until current Democratic Gov. Lynch won in 2004 (and the rest of the state went Democratic in 2006) [Update: I forgot about Dem Gov. Jean Shaheen in the late 90s]. At the state level, Wisconsin had been pretty solidly Republican -- Recent Democratic governor after a string of Republicans, Senate 19R 14D, House 60R 39D in 2004. (Wisconsin Dems made significant gains in 2006, even taking over the state Senate).
And I haven't even gotten into how these states voted in their House and Senate races.
So trying to find correlation between child health care and whether people vote "Democratic" or "Republican" is a lot more complicated than simply looking at the 2004 presidential results."
I listened to NPR today and heard Donna Brazille, Gore's campaign manager, and David Gillespie formerly of the RNC, speaking of partisanship. I feel that both of these people are the problem.
I could not have disagreed with Gillespie more and I thought that Brazille was an inside the beltway idiot. Gillespie felt that his party's ideas were right and by default any other party's ideas were wrong. I disagree with him on his premise that there is a right idea and everything else is a wrong idea. Ideas are just ideas. Only time will tell if ideas end up being effective or not.
Why can't we disagree with people on policy and yet not always call them wrong. Why can't we argue for the effectiveness of our ideas and the validity of our goals, rather than the wrongness of this idea or that "bad" strategy? No one has the monopoly on ideas that work.
I am reminded of the staffer that ran down the hall in congress, after the 1994 election, and said something to this effect: "OK, we are in charge now, all Democrats get out of our building" We must all remember that congress represents American People. Ideas are just ideas. Let's find ones that work and retool the ones that don't. Is an idea working? Do we have enough information? If we don't then we need to get some and analyze the policy for effectiveness. Then we can change course. We can save the judgement of who ends up being right or wrong to the historians.
If I lived in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis/Saint Paul, I would be wondering who I had sent to Washington. If I were the President I would tell my aids, "do everything you can to keep that woman away from me." If I were her husband, I would not know what to do.
Michele, perhaps you should act your age and act with the decorum your office deserves. Washington is not a rock concert and you are not a thirteen year old.
By the way, your votes so far have been awful. So far you have voted "no" on stem cell research, breaking the link between lobbying and legislation, student loan interest rate cuts, repealing tax breaks for big energy, implementing the 9/11 commission's recommendations, and allowing government to negotiate lower costs with drug companies. So far I give you a big fat zero. I would suggest you enjoy your time in office as you may be gone in two years.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Wolf Blitzer asked the Vice President a question about his daughter and this is the response he gets: Click Here
Why is this not a legitimate question? It is easy enough for the Vice President to answer. Why make the reporter feel like a jerk? Many reporters can be jerks but I do not think that is what Blitzer was trying to do here. Am I wrong?
You can go here and compare the SOTU with the Democratic response. This site also lets you hear both speakers address specific topics you may be interested in.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The best man at my wedding was African American. He has a masters in engineering and an MBA. He has worked in upper management for five Fortune Five-hundred companies in his wonderful career, so far. He is among the nicest, most talented, and wonderful human beings I know. I am honored to be his friend. He could not get a cab in New York when he lived there four years ago. Even though he dresses in suits from Brooks Brothers, he still can't.
Here is an interesting video. Perhaps we should take racism more seriously every day.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
I hope all of you get a chance to read Dean's book. It is well researched and scholarly. Dean is a Goldwater Conservative, with a lot of "street cred."
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Who prosecutes those cases? Often it is the U.S. attorney's office. So, if Bush wants to send a message, to U.S. Attorneys, to "back off", or stop some prosecutions entirely, what does he do?
Read this, it could be nothing, but it could be something.
Here is Senator Feinstein's letter.
I looked at my wife, upon hearing this, and said: “if winning in Iraq is that important, then we need to get serious right now. Why have we been wasting time for four years? We need to institute a draft, put 500,000 troops on the ground, and begin to kick ass. We need to raise taxes to pay for a sustained all-out war. If the long term safety of our country is at risk than let’s get deadly serious.”
Why has the President been fiddling around with only 140,000 troops, for the past four years, if he truly believes that the viability of our nation is at risk? Give every person, under 50, a rifle and lets get it on.
The fact is that he does not truly believe that the Nation is at risk. The fact that he has not gone deep, while in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, means he does not really believe what he says. His words shrivel under the light of rationality. Let me say it this way, If Bush really believes that the lives of three hundred million people in the United States are at risk, then we need to find more than one hundred and forty thousand people to work on saving us. We don’t even have 1/1000th of us working on a problem that Bush is saying threatens to bring our country down.
If you believe the President’s words, then you should be at the front of the line screaming for his impeachment. It is like being on the Titanic:
Captain: “Everyone...everyone, listen up for a moment. We have hit an iceberg and the ship is filling with water. We take this water threat very seriously, and so should you. It is so serious that it could jeopardize the ability of our ship to survive. I have assigned a ship’s officer to go down and bail furiously. The rest of you should continue to shop.”
Guest: “would you like me to help him bail?”
Captain: “I checked with the purser and he says that one person is plenty.”
This conversation, and the furious bailing, by one person, go on for four brutal hours and the ship continues to fill with water…
Captain: “I have an announcement. The ship is still sinking and it is very obviously going to sink if we do not succeed soon. I have fired the purser, for sending only one person to bail. It was very clear, to everyone, that one person was not enough, after about fifteen minutes of bailing, but we made a commitment to the strategy and so let the water rise for anther three hours and fort-five minutes. We are now in deeper tapioca than we were before, and will be assigning another person to help bail. I have consulted everyone I can think of and, despite what I heard, I am going to assign another bailer. We do not, however, need another full time bailer though, and it is just a temporary surge in bailing. We think that if another person helps the first person bail for a few minutes an hour, we can get ahead of the situation and the first person can then finish it off without help.
OK, you get my point.
The fact that everyone in the country is having this conversation without saying something like, “holy shit, if this is really a problem then let’s send a million or two troops and get it done,” means that all of us do not believe the President. The people that support him don’t even believe him. We all know that he has made a terrible mess. We know that we will pay a terrible price for some time to come. We know that the Iraqi people will continue to pay the biggest price. And, we know that the biggest benefactor of this policy is Iran. But, most importantly everyone, and I do mean everyone, believes that our Nation is not in Clear and Present Danger and it has not been from the beginning.
Let the impeachment begin.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Read More Here.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I had the flu for four long days this week. I realize that many of you have not yet had the chance to get this particular strain, and even when you do it will only incapacitate you for 24 hours. On the off chance you did not get your flu shot, and are therefore scheduled for the full impact of the virus, I have the following tips:
Set some goals. Yes, I know, you believe that surviving until tomorrow is the only goal you can handle. Having been through this before you, I can assure you that there are other things you can accomplish with your “down” time. Here are some goals to consider.
- Quit smoking and/or drinking. What the heck, you are going to feel like absolute shit for the next three or four days, why not make “feeling like shit” productive. Give up the cigs and beers. You will not notice the shaking and the headaches. You will be sweating anyway and, with any luck, you will sleep through most of those cravings. This is your chance to get clean.
- The same thing goes with that unhealthy addiction to processed sugar. Did you know that alcohol is just a processed sugar? If you are going to do it with the fermented sugars you may as well do it with the mocha-coco-chip kind also.
- This leads to the third goal, losing weight. This one is a gimme. You are going to have nothing to do with food for a few days. Think of it as a fast. You remember fasting from the late 70s, where you purge yourself of all those toxins and see things more clearly. It is always better to fast when it does not create those debilitating hunger pains. Those of you that tend Republican can say “I know what it is like to go without food for three days.” You can even say that it was not that bad. After all, you went without food, and you were sick on top of it! It is like a Tony Snow, repositioning fest, news-conference. "What is it with all that whining in the third world? We have starving people here too, and they even have the flu."
- Check your spouse’s compassion quotient. How is he/she reacting to your "lounging" around for the past two days? Is he/she giving you a lower back-rub because you are cramping from being prone for so long? Or, is he/she tossing heavy objects onto the bed and saying "sorry dear, I thought you were in the basement." Are you getting mint tea and eucalyptus rubs? Or, did you wake up from your last fever dream to hear him/her backing out of the driveway knowing someone was "watching" the kids. We will all get old and sick. You may want to take this opportunity to note how you are being treated while you are only "temporarily disabled." That is, how does your partner treat the broken pump when he/she knows there is still water in the well. What will happen to the poor old pump when the well runs dry? Food for thought.
- Begin that “dream diary” your therapist told you about. They say your dreams are a window onto something or other. I never paid much attention. Anyway, if the dreams I have had over the past few days mean anything, then be afraid, be very afraid. I know I am.
Think of all this wonderful stuff you can accomplish while laying around in a fever sweat.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The problem is that this makes our Senator from Minnesota, as well as a number of others, a lap-dog. When they say jump, he jumps, when they say sit, he sits. I do not elect anyone to be a lap dog. Much less a lap dog for an "all hat, no cattle" bully from Texas.
Norm will have some new found freedom being in the minority. He will work the center hard, hoping to get re-elected. I wonder if it will work? I actually don't think it will. I think Norm's days are numbered. Let's just say, his first four years were a "defining moment" for him.
Here is some more on the issue.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Here is an interesting story on him.
Sunday, January 7, 2007
Here it is.
It actually does not take too long to read. I would suggest that all Americans should at least skim it.
Some of the articles will jump out at you. I am struck by how it is such a breathing document. We use it, we are bound by it, and people, just like us, wrote it. I think they did a pretty good job.
Here is the video
Where do I start? If she thinks the middle class got a tax cut she should read my post "Those Tas and Spend Democrats..." of 1-6-07.
I kept thinking, "where do I start with someone like this?" I think I will start with lower hanging fruit. This woman is in another semi-parallel unreality. To quote my wife, "she is counter intuitively gifted."
Why is it that, so far, we have seen no winners in the debacle in Iraq? The Iraqi people have suffered horribly. The American people are out half a trillion dollars and 3000 soldiers. Even the contractors in Iraq are taking a brutal financial beating. What, you say, I am mistaken on the third point? The contractors are making a killing? No, really? Who would have guessed that contractors are making bundles of American money to serve our interests in Iraq? Who are the major contractors in Iraq? Halliburton, you say? So, let me get this straight, Iraq has turned into a total debacle for everyone but Halliburton. Wow, I bet no one could have guessed that, least of all Vice President Cheney.
Here is more on the leases being voted on.
I agree with this author. I believe that in order for us to move forward as a country we need to address some of the wrongs of the past six years. Our Constitution has been dealt a grave blow. The arrogance of the Executive Branch has not been addressed in a manner that would establish a reasonable precedent for future generations. Many issues need to be examined and clarified. Congress needs to decide who must follow the laws they write for this country. Does the President? How do we move on until we know the answer to this? If the answer is "no," we might as well just get out the crown for George the 43rd and be done with it.
Saturday, January 6, 2007
I am sure this is how politics works for both parties and it stinks. I have never trusted Rep. Rahm Emanuel. He tried to take a lot of credit for the sea-change in Washington, even though his hand-selected Democratic candidates were often trounced by progressive candidates in the primary. The Progressive candidates then went on to win in the general election by being, well, progressive. Emanuel has a history of trying to have conservative Democrats run against Republican conservatives thus giving the voter no real choice. In the past the voters have overwhelmingly voted for the Republican. The talking points put out by the Republicans were not really challenged by the Democrats, if anything they were reinforced. True discussion was not introduced into campaigns.
Once the progressives had progressive blogs to get their word out, and raise money, they became more viable. I believe this was one big difference in the last election.
On the other side of the isle, where are the fiscal conservatives? Where are the Goldwater conservatives? They have experienced the same thing as the progressive Democrats. They cannot add their views to the public discourse because the party says they have to repeat a dumbed down message that can be pounded over and over again by the political machine. Both parties know that voters respond to simple messages. Voters then don't pay attention after election day. The winning party can do as it pleases. The American people are back to watching NASCAR.
Things may have changed this time. You had two factions of the Democratic Party fighting for power, the "inside the beltway crowd" and the "progressive crowd." The progressive crowd won this election The 'inside the beltway crowd" took some notice.
Now it is up the the Republican fiscal conservatives and Goldwater conservatives to do the same thing in their party They need to bring true political, and policy, discourse back to America. I think America has had enough of meaningless, obtuse talking points from both parties. Life is complex. Politicians need to get to work and deal with it.
The first thing that went through my mind was not “good for them.” It was, “you mean to tell me those rules were not in existence already!” I am in the financial industry and no off the books financial transaction can happen under any circumstances. Even if you want to give your client a Christmas basket, it can be no more than $100. In my experience American business works in a pretty stand up and non-corrupt world, except when it comes to politics.
Let me get back to the article. “The vote on the new earmark measure was linked to a rule known as “pay as you go” that would prohibit the House from increasing the deficit by passing any new tax cuts or entitlement spending programs without offsetting them with spending cuts or tax increases.”
This rule is so logical. How could anyone not agree with it? Sure enough, “Republicans denounced the ‘pay as you go” rule as an excuse for Democrats to increase taxes.”
Let me get this straight. The ‘pay as you go” rule, in my understanding says this: if you are going to cut taxes or set up a program of entitlement (like welfare) you have to figure out how you are going to pay for it. You cannot just put it on the credit card forever, seems logical to me.
This brings up a point that has stuck in my craw for a long time. We gave the highest income brackets tax cuts four years ago. We did this even though we did not have the money in the budget to do it. That is, we borrowed money to reduce people’s taxes.
I understand this may be justifiable in some circumstances but let’s look a little deeper. If you are very wealthy you do not get your income from a pay check, you get it from investments. Investments pay income in two ways, capital gains and dividends. If you own a company you have the option to pay yourself a stock dividend rather than a salary.
So when you cut the tax rate on dividends from 33% to 15% you have cut the taxes of a wealthy person by more than half. Yes, wealthy people are paying half the taxes they were paying four years ago.
Why did they not cut my taxes in half? As long as we are borrowing money from China and Japan to give 50% tax cuts, why not give it to everyone? I can hear it now, that would be fiscally irresponsible, and the middle class does not donate to my campaign.
I think pay as you go makes a lot of sense. And, by the way, the next time I hear the phrase “tax and spend Democrat” I am going to either laugh or cry with incredulity.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
Here is a good article on health care here, compared to other countries: Think Progress.
One must ask the inevitable question: why is health care so expensive here? Why do we pay so much and get less than many other countries? The Republicans tried to blame it on lawyers. If you look at the facts, only two percent of health care costs are created by litigation and malpractice insurance. Don’t get me wrong, 2% of our health care budget is a very large number. It is not the problem though. I am sure we could all add to this list but here are some other problems I can think of.
1. Administration: If some things are covered and some things are not then someone has to decide who pays and then collect. That is expensive.
2. Marketing: It costs a lot to advertise in our country. It costs a lot for drug companies to have drug reps run around buying lunch for everyone at a clinic in the hope that they will be allowed to see the doctor and give their spiel.
3. Royalties: The Government gives our tax dollars to universities to do research. The drug companies get the rights to the research from the universities by paying them royalties. We pay the drug companies for the drugs that our tax dollars helped fund the research to develop. Sounds like a good system to me.
4. Actual drug company research: The drug companies do have their own research departments. They do come up with useful innovations, and that is very expensive. Unfortunately, they come up with drugs that may not be useful, but are quite marketable. For example, drugs that help hair to grow back for bald men. Or drugs that replace a healthy lifestyle, like weight loss medication, or some cholesterol and sleep medications. Go ahead eat what you want, don’t exercise, no problem, we can give you drugs to help reduce the consequences of an unhealthy life. All this research needs to be paid for by someone.
5. A “for profit” medical system: Forget structural inefficiencies, a “for profit” system has two problems. First, profit is simply extra cost paid to shareholders and executives. Second, there is a conflict of interest between medicine and profit. That is, it is often cheaper to let someone die than treat them. Unless you can resolve this conflict, we will have an unhealthy tension in our medical system.
I am sure there are others. These are just the ones that popped into my head in the first ten minutes.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
This golden rule has been explicitly ignored in the past four years. The Republican controlled congress has been down-right awful to the Democrats. I say this not because I lean Democrat but because, under any standard of objectivity, it is true. Let me give you one small example of the Republican over-reach.
When the Republicans held the Senate through the 90s, and President Clinton was in office, the Judiciary Committee routinely held up nominated judges as a way to get leverage on other items. At the time there were an astounding number of openings on the Federal Bench and judges had to work long hours because many positions remained unfilled. The judges had been nominated, but were held up in committee.
I am sure that there were some judges that were not qualified, but the vast majority were well qualified, and not political ideologues. Republicans just wanted the leverage and they used judges, and many other tricks, to get it. I do not believe this is good government. The backlog of cases in our judicial system was unjustified.
When the senate turned over to the Democrats, by a one vote margin, from 2002-2004 the Senate approved all but six Federal Judges. The Republicans screamed like there was no tomorrow. It turns out that all six of these judges were of dubious quality and certainly could be counted as ideologues.
What did the President do? He made a recess appointment of a number of these judges. At the time I felt this was despicable and would have felt that way if the President had been a Democrat.
So let’s look at the actual numbers, because I think this is important. The people responsible for this bullying sort of government need to be held accountable. During 1994 through 2000 (the years that Republicans controlled the Judiciary Committee, while Clinton was in office) the Republicans blocked sixty judicial nominations. Here is an excerpt from Commondreams.org:
"Myth 3: Republicans have the moral high ground. According to Republicans, their opposition to judicial filibusters is motivated by a nonpartisan commitment to law and decorum. Frist said Republicans in the Senate "are the stewards of rich Senate traditions and constitutional principles that must be respected." Frist talks a good game. In reality, Republicans aren't motivated by a desire to protect the hallowed pages of the Constitution. Rather, right-wing zealots have shown themselves ready to do anything--and everything--to force through their judicial nominees while blocking those of their opponents. One of the more egregious examples of dirty tricks occurred in 2002-03, when Republican staffers from the Judiciary Committee hacked into Democratic computers and stole hundreds of files. Fifteen of those confidential memos, which detailed Democratic strategies for fighting the most extreme Bush judicial nominees, were then leaked to friendly conservative media outlets like the Washington Times, columnist Bob Novak and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
That wasn't the first time Republicans contaminated the judicial nomination process. During the Clinton years, they used a slew of questionable legislative ploys to smother judicial nominations quietly while in committee. One favorite tactic: In 1994 Senator Hatch added language to the Senate rules for confirming nominees. His objective: to allow a single senator to easily--and secretly--block nominations from leaving committee. It worked. Judge Marsha Berzon's nomination was secretly stymied for more than two years. (Senator Bob Smith finally admitted his role.) The nomination of Judge Ronnie White, who had bipartisan support in the Senate, languished in committee for almost two and a half years. Judge Helen White waited four years for a hearing; she never got one. This behind-the-scenes scheming proved to be so popular, Republicans were able to block more than sixty of Clinton's nominations. (To no one's surprise, as soon as Bush took office, Hatch abandoned this procedure, allowing nominees to sail through.) The bottom line: While a filibuster requires at least forty-one Senators on board to block a nominee, under Republican leadership, it took only a single dissent. "
That is an average of ten per year. Over the two years, that the Democrats held the committee, they held up six, less than 6% of the total nominated. More importantly the dirty tricks, practiced by the Republicans, went away.
Despite this admirable record by the Democratic Judiciary Committee, there was a hew and cry over the last six blocked nominations. As far as I’m concerned any Judiciary committee should probably throw out a few nominations just so we know they are doing their job. To only block six percent sounds quite reasonable. As I mentioned above, President Bush then went on to appoint a number of these judges on recess appointments.
Why am I beating this point to death? Now the Republicans are asking for a "minority party bill of rights"; the same bill of rights that was rejected out of hand by the Republicans while they were in power. I feel confident that the Democrats will give it to them. I just find it interesting how this “bill of rights” is now such a good idea when in was irrelevant two years ago. Perhaps all Parties should realize that they govern for the People and their stay is only temporary.
Here is a 2004 article on the “bill of rights” issue at The Washington Post