Copyright © 2005 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
The sky is falling RIGHT NOW!! Josh Marshall highlighted an interactive exchange on the White House web site between " Chuck Blahous, President Bush's Social Security phase-out maven" and various citizens. Josh catches much, of course, but I think I also see something else... Read his whole post, but let me narrow in on this Blahous statement (italics Josh's):
As long as we have a Social Security system, there will be costs no matter what we do. The Social Security Trustees have told us the cost of maintaining the current system without change. It is approximately $10.4 trillion, in present value. That is the extra revenue that the system would need to have on hand today, above and beyond all payroll taxes, to meet the gap between taxes and promised benefits.
Josh clearly catches the dishonesty of the $10.4 trillion figure — it's the present value of a projection that goes out for an infinite number of years, which has never been done before. (In the past, the projections have never looked out more than 75 years; actuaries have no faith in anything beyond that.)
But that's not where the dishonesty ends: notice "would need to have on hand today." That is a flat out lie, because the only way we would need to have it on hand today would be if all those future obligations were due today. They're not: some of them don't happen for an infinite number of years, for instance. (UPDATE: Josh does see this, I wasn't reading clearly.)
Scott McClellan, back on December 2, repeating a familiar theme:
There are challenges that remain, but the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists are being defeated and they will be defeated in the end. They're growing more desperate because we're getting closer and closer to a free and democratic Iraq.
Now let's be clear, I don't want anarchy to succeed in Iraq; no one would, and for the short term it's costing us American lives. What I really want, along with a lot of other patriotic Americans, is for the White House to wake up and start facing realities. No more of this crap of "good news only briefings;" no more campaign trail braggadocio about democracy being on the march when the CIA has given you prognostications of nothing but dark scenarios. (Even David Brooks can see it, which is why I led with his paragraphs.)
Who in the White House is going to have the spine to stop
telling him what he wants to hear? Failure to do so is costing
American lives. If you denizens of the WH really
support the troops, you'd be doing this on a daily basis.
The two freed French journalists:
And of course, our President, in March of 2002:
So, in order to justify not focusing on OBL, I guess he's kinda saying he can point to progress in other areas. Like, making sure our soldiers are well-supplied(!) or that the coalition is strong (read below about Ukraine, the fourth biggest supplier of troops, if you haven't already).
Exactly what principle is being talked about? Did Scott McClellan say that the White House believes it should put journalists on the payroll when they don't feel their perspective on the issues is coming through? This is what he said yesterday regarding Armstrong Williams:
Man, if it weren't for the White House straightening out those
liberally biased facts, we'd be in a heap a trouble. (Al Franken
was playing this passage, but I don't think this was his
interpretation. I think Franken was just talking about the
hypocrisy of McClellan citing principle when they had a
journalist on the payroll, and didn't see that to the White House
this is a principle.)
"Those Libs." For Social Security privatization to succeed, Bush has to convince the nation that the desire for reform is bi-partisan, otherwise it will be greeted with great suspicion. So I was surprised when I watched a pro-reform ad from Progress For America and went to their web site to find out more about them. The "Who We Are" tab didn't say much about who runs the group...
but they have a pretty blatantly partisan tab in their navigation, "Those Libs:"
Nothing more recent than July 2 listed "below." Personally, I
find it really inept that an organization would launch a new
television campaign, giving prominence to its web site, and then
not make sure that the web site is dust-free. The page is pretty
much about last November's election. Clowns.
Screw your Homeland Security allocations,
we're having ourselves a party. Unlike previous
inaugurations, the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse
Washington DC for the expected security costs surrounding the
inauguration, and has told the city to use Homeland Security moneys instead. These moneys
had been earmarked for first response issues like hospital
capacity, fire fighters, and communication centers. What if there
had been no terrorist attacks on 9/11? Would the White House
still be so niggardly (actually, it's more like they're
shirking), or are they finding yet another way to capitalize on
the attacks? They're really sick.
Did Bush forget Ukraine? Kerry may
Poland, but it looks as if Bush hasn't given enough thought
to the international implications of his foreign policy failures.
Ukraine wants to bring its troops home, thus eroding
the highly vaunted "coalition of the willing" even further.
Doubtless they can read the Internet in the Ukraine, too, and
that bit about Bush only wanting good news in his briefings
wouldn't have helped retain them. Can't we have a recall, please?
That didn't take long. Tucker Carlson is no longer listed as a host for
Crossfire at the CNN
page. I hadn't thought his contract had actually ended so
much as non-renewal had been announced; maybe it was just too
unpleasant to stick around. But his page is gone, too, not just
the link: trying to hack a url based on the syntax of the other
hosts' pages gets you nowhere.
Liar. Armstrong Williams just finished an interactive session at the Washington Post, provoked by Friday's revelations that he was receiving money from the administration (through Ketchum, its PR agency), to promote No Child Left Behind. Here's some of what transpired:
Hmm. The money isn't pocketed by you? Do you not own "your" production company? None of the money went to you, yourself, directly or indirectly? Uh huh. Why, earlier in the session you said...
I'm an entrepreneur and a pundit and I made a decision to let No Child Left Behind buy advertising on my television show The Right Side, which I own.
I propose a constitutional amendment. Since Bush can speak out on behalf of a half-dozen or so, I don't see why I can't suggest one. It would be a two-fer, impacting the Presidency: on the one hand, it would repeal Presidential term limits and on the other hand it would allow for a no-confidence recall vote. (If Californians can initiate a recall before a governor's term even begins, why can't we do the same with the President?)
The advantage, of course, would be that a President would never really feel like a lame duck who no longer had to consider the will of the people or poor approval ratings. Talk about "mandates" in instances of razor-thin victories would be replaced by a spirit of compromise. Heck, maybe even reality would set in about Iraq (it's looking worse for those January 30 elections, by the way, with the entire election board in Anbar province resigning in fear of the terrorist insurgents), and the recognition that the bed we've made smells pretty foul.
Some might argue — from a perspective of partisanship — that it might make a President more vulnerable to scandals over trivial sexual dalliances. Well, would it be such a bad thing to encourage a President to practice marital fidelity? Seriously, I do understand the concern that the potential of a recall vote could make a President vulnerable to the trivial, but we all know, from what Clinton went through, that the impeachment process isn't above that either.
If the public would be more swayed by trivia than by poor job
performance, well, that's a risk I'd be willing to take. The
populace should have some vehicle to repudiate a President who
reveals himself to be a screw-up, without waiting four years.
Will James Wolcott leave Vanity
Fair? It could be serious: he really really wants to
write about No Child Left Behind. (This is one of the most preciously
funny bits I've read since Kevin Guilfoile's
reinterpretation of Don McLean's Starry Starry Night.
Disregard the truth. Given the long term implications of changes to Social Security, there's few debates in Washington which are more important. And because of its importance, careful consideration of the facts is, well, mandatory. Rhetoric should have no place in this debate.
That's why I was surprised to read a post from Patrick Ruffini lead with incendiary language, as if that helps shed light on anything. Before any facts are discussed, it's barb after barb after barb, all meant to rile his readers:
In the last few weeks, the Democratic strategy to distort the truth about personal accounts has congealed. Here's what they're going to do. They're going to claim that Social Security's solvency crisis is no more than a "myth", a ruse for the Republicans "hidden agenda" to "dismantle" the program. They're going to ignore the mathematical certainty that a relatively static number of workers cannot indefinitely support a mushrooming number of retirees. And as the White House official (on blogs, we attribute correctly) adeptly points out, this certainty is compounded by the wage indexation of benefits -- meaning that no matter how quickly tax revenues grow, benefits will grow just as fast, making it impossible for traditional Social Security to ever close this funding gap.
Well, it couldn't be clearer but that Bush is interested in dismantling Social Security as we know it: allowing workers to divert 65% of their contributions into the stock market, given its erratic ups and downs, is a fundamental transformation from guarantees to risk. It's also not true that the increasing number of retirees which we see right now is a permanent fixture; there is a demographic bubble (that's why they call it a "boom"), but "indefinite" has never been a useable time horizon. (In the indefinite future, the sun will go cold, too; what's the Republican plan on this one? I'd do something about farm subsidies, myself.) The time horizon which has traditionally been used is 75 years, and it's only recently been abandoned in order to make the numbers appear dire.
Note also that he doesn't get into the specifics of the very substantial charges that the "crisis" is a myth: no mention of Paul Krugman's columns in the past few weeks, nor arguments against them. By not discussing solid arguments at all, he's at leisure to call them mere bugaboos and pretend that they are.
There is also that very myopic statement that "no matter how quickly tax revenues grow, benefits will grow just as fast, making it impossible for traditional Social Security to ever close this funding gap." There are plenty of ways to increase tax revenues without relying on increases in workers' income to do so, such as raising the cap at which social security taxes are no longer taken out. How many people really set their monthly budgets in accordance with a shift in disposable income at the end of the year when they pass the cap?
Having said that, he proceeds:
But let's leave aside the question of solvency. The bottom line of this whole debate remains that modernizing Social Security with personal accounts is the right thing to do. Even if Social Security were perfectly solvent, it would still be the right thing to do.
I've truncated his paragraph deliberately, first because this is where he switches ideas and it doesn't hurt the discussion, and second because it's not clear to me that it is the right thing to do. I happen to think Social Security works very well: it's not a program where you take care of yourself, but a program where you help out those who have gone before you. It's like a debt to society, part of living in a great community. Personally, I don't think that transforming the program from something where we take care of our elders into something where we take care of ourselves will have a positive benefit on our culture. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I happen to think we should look after one another. But, Ruffini seems to know what's right for the planet, and so maybe we should get back to what he was saying...
Well, perhaps it's morally indefensible if you can't defend it, but if you can, I presume that it ceases to be morally indefensible and at that point becomes morally defensible, taking it to a different terrain. So let's talk about a word he kind of glides over, "opportunity." Opportunity is like hope: it needs to be made substantial before it is anything close to a reality, and if it is not substantiated it's a fraud, an idle dream. It is true that an opportunity exists; and it may even be true that on average benefits will increase; but Social Security is not about taking care of a subset of the elderly or improving life for the subset, it's about guaranteeing security. Guarantee means no risk, and no risk means no stock market. In at least one case the stock market underperformed Social Security. How many cases do we need, how great a possibility of deprivation do we need before privatization becomes morally indefensible? Again, "opportunity" should not be the criterion in my view; nor should "average benefits;" the point is Security, that is, No Senior Left Behind.
(As an aside, how would you even determine how much to draw on per month in a privatized situation? How do you know how long you're going to live when you're a senior? What happens when the money in your "privatized account" runs out? Do you revert to the guaranteed benefit which Ruffini spits on? How can you recommend privatization without working through these details, much less be so adamant about it?)
Ruffini's arguments boil down to a predisposition, as do mine. We have different views of what the program should do, and his view does amount to a dismantling of the program because it fundamentally transforms how it works. He says what his agenda is, it's not hidden, and he doesn't like Social Security.
Armstrong Williams, the quarter million dollar man, on discussing Richard Clarke's motives regarding 9/11 disclosures:
Regarding the "timing," this discussion was in March of 2004,
not just before the election (perhaps there should have been
twelve-month moratoria on criticizing the president? one starting
on 9/11, another at the beginning of the Iraqi invasion, and
another leading up to the election?), but the utter
hypocrisy of this guy, to criticize a very public book deal
when he himself had been on the government payroll starting in
Programming note. As I mentioned
earlier, today we take the Christmas Tree down; I've brought all
the empty boxes up from the basement, and as soon as the rest of
the family returns from morning errands and we start the
disassembly, I'll be live blogging the whole thing: the
whines, the "aahs," the holiday music selections. So stay tuned.
(Just kidding. Heh.)
I saw my first Russel Crowe movie last
night, Master and Commander. Of the three of us, I liked it
most, and found it striking, but I don't think I really embraced
the movie. I'd agree it was better than Return of the King, but I think it was less rousing.
What I'd really like to know is this: why is it, that whenever a
soundtrack wants to invoke the Bach Cello Suites, they always use
the prelude from number 1? There are plenty others just as
melodious, moody, and yet more interesting... That movement just
seems like a little warm-up before you get to the real goods.
I couldn't be happier about the news that the New York Times is considering subscription fees for its online edition. Count me among the radical loonies who believe that people should be financially compensated for their work, whether or not they "love doing it." If it has value, then the people who want to capitalize on that value should surrender something in return.
If the New York Times wants to charge, that's great. (If I recall, in Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte expressed surprise that the Times would give its most valuable content — current news and opinion — away for free, while charging for its old information.) I really think that the Times will be a bellwether here, and I look forward to all newspapers charging for their access. There will certainly be a loss in traffic, but so what? Is traffic so important? A corporation has to turn a profit, or its investors will invest elsewhere. Why should the newsmedia bear any special burden?
The Times' content may not be so unique that, for the short term, traffic won't go to other outlets as The Moderate Voice predicts. But it's the long term that counts, and I think other outlets will start to look for the same revenue streams. I also have to admit to some selfishness here, but I don't think it's unjustified: my Samuel Johnson content gets a lot of traffic, and it's the rare visitor that puts anything in the tip jar. For a site like mine, subscription would never work (subscriptions require significant site loyalty and return traffic, something my site just doesn't have the nature to deliver), but it really is time that people on the Internet learned that everything needn't be free. (As I've said before, information doesn't want to be free, it wants to be inert; it takes effort to move it.)
I feel bad for anyone who, at this point, believes the Bush Administration is interested in small government. Yesterday's revelations that commentator Armstrong Williams works for the politburo are another piece of evidence that the Bush administration is really only striving for "government we like." The Administration taking advantage of Williams' insensitivity to his ethical responsibilities is fully in keeping with the videos which the department of Health and Human Services sent out, in the guise of a news segment, to promote the revamped Medicare program. These are clearly the kind of lumbering propaganda projects one would expect from the Soviet Union, as noted by a number of Senators. How long before we learn of smoking guns over the Swift Boat Veterans, when some operative has had a little too much to drink?
But we had Michael Powell and the FCC intervening over Janet Jackson, at the urging of an astroturf campaign, yet ignoring the political interventions of Sinclair Broadcasting Group; continued efforts by the President to limit a woman's right to choose, implicitly targeting Roe v. Wade; efforts to restrict the equality of gays; converting Social Security into a negative payback slush fund that enriches Wall Street and smarter, more active investors.
It looks like my site's host's problems
have been resolved, so the world can go back to learning
about patriotism and the last refuge of scoundrels, and so on.
And I can also post here, confident that my typing and thinking
will be of some value. But today will be a busy day around the
house (taking the Christmas tree down, among other things), so
posting may be light. I'll say it again, I encourage you to set
up an RSS feed reader using either any built-in capabilities for
your browser or an account at bloglines.com. More details here.
If you see this post in a timely
fashion, consider yourself lucky. My host has been having
technical problems for the last few hours, and it's not clear
when they'll abate. And I'm bummed, because the stars aligned to
bring me some extra traffic today. (Photo Friday is using the
Silhouette starting today, at my suggestion, with a very
prominent link to the front page of this blog.) I coulda been a
The jobs glass is mostly half empty. The jobs report for December is out, and while it's better than November's, it falls way short of Wall Street explanations. Job growth for the year is also way short of the President's own projections made this year (so don't blame the brief 2001 recession or 9/11: those events occurred long before the projections were made and were taken into account); the tax breaks have not only not delivered the promised growth, but they've caused further deficits; these deficits have, in turn, caused the government to dip into the Social Security trust fund. And because the government wants to continue dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund, the Administration is claiming that Social Security is "in crisis."
Now, the details.
From the New York Times, emphases mine:
Where were we supposed to be by this point? This past February, W signed an economic forecast which projected we'd have 132.7 million non-farm jobs by the end of the year (see page 103 in the electronic copy of the pdf, or page 98 if you print it out). The Department of Labor press release says by the end of December we had 132.3 million; the shortfall (about 440,000 jobs) may not seem like much, but it's more than three months worth of growth, based on the December figures. (This shortfall should also make you skeptical of the projected 2005 jobs increase, another 3.6 million jobs — we'd only been promised 1.6 million more in 2004, so 3.6 million more is double. Sanguine, no?) I repeat: you cannot blame the shortfall on the events of 2001, since the projections were done in 2004. You may as well blame the policies of Jimmy Carter.
Now the President has repeatedly said that the tax breaks he campaigned for would create growth. Where is it? Certainly not in the jobs figures. And, as noted above, it's not in wage increases, either. All the tax breaks have really done, it seems, is increase the budget deficit. So due to the increased deficit, our children are paying for this miserable failure of an economic plan; and if you're not seeing the raises you've been accustomed to in the past, or are having trouble finding a job, so are you.
UPDATE: The most recent inflation data (Consumer Price
Index for November) showed a 0.2% increase in the CPI. So if
wages in December only went up 0.1%... Well, they haven't really
gone up, have they?
Gonzalez must be rejected. Alberto Gonzalez's past positions as well as his statements today show he's the wrong man for the highest law enforcement position in the land. In a back and forth with Senator Richard Durbin (no transcript online yet), Durbin asked whether the President could ever unilaterally decide that Congress had passed a law which was unconstitutional, and therefore not binding on the President. Gonzalez said it was theoretically, hypothetically possible; Durbin reminded him of an attempt Truman made to do so, and later told by the Supreme Court that he was wrong. Gonzalez replied that he was speaking about something which theoretically might occur, hypothetically. Durbin had to remind him that since Gonzalez had already advocated Bush setting aside the Geneva Convention and other laws because they were not binding, that this was not an issue of "theoretically." My point here is that this shows Gonzalez doesn't understand the full weight of his own actions in the field of law.
Another disturbing item is in this Washington Post article:
President Bush's nominee to head the Justice Department in his second term, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, pledged today to preserve civil liberties as the nation wages war on terrorism and vowed to aggressively pursue those responsible for the abuse of U.S.-held prisoners.
Does this mean that it's a new concern now that he's been nominated for Attorney General? As White House counsel this wasn't a priority for someone giving legal advice to the President?
This guy is a dud. And we haven't even talked about his failed vetting of Kerik...
UPDATE: A transcript is up at the New York Times, and here's the exchange I meant, emphasis mine:
Link | 4:44 PM Home
And on and on. Support the troops even further, and pay
attention to the little "email this" icon in the upper right,
thinking carefully about your friends and relatives who haven't
learned Molly Ivins' first rule about holes ("when you find
yourself in a hole, stop digging"). It may help to add in the
email text box that Joe Galloway is the co-author of "We Were
Soldiers Once... and Young" just as a reminder. But do it,
support the troops.
An excuse to throw all the liberal voices overboard? CNN is not renewing Tucker Carlson's contract. Now of course Carlson was/is no liberal, and while he wasn't always impressive, he is our source for the story about then-governor Bush mocking condemned murderer Karla Faye Tucker's likely mercy pleas... I think the significance is that his stroll out on the plank will be the catalyst for yet more decisions about CNN's Crossfire, one of the few places where CNN gave liberal voices regular air time (no, Alan Colmes doesn't count). It was bad enough years ago when the liberal voice of Mike Kinsley was replaced by the much less effective Bill Press; its current time slot of 4:30 in the afternoon couldn't be more inappropriate for a show which was, face it, a ridiculous debate show. I have no idea why it couldn't do well in a slot like 10:30 PM, leading into Jon Stewart (wouldn't he love that!), but at 4:30 no one watches.
Maybe this is like the joke about the bad food ("and such small servings, too!"), but I hate to see the complete loss of the liberal voice, voiced regularly. The Saturday/Sunday panel shows aren't enough, those are still a ghetto. So I wish Carlson well, but what I really wish is that they could have found a way to make it work in the evenings. (Hat tip to the Moderate Voice for noticing this story, allbeit with a completely different take.)
Everything is beautiful, in it's own wa- ay... Actually, I think the song goes "everybody's beautiful," but via The Al Franken Show Blog via Josh Marshall, there's this scary entry from the Nelson Report newsletter:
When I worked in marketing research, occasionally some exec
would reposition really bad survey scores in terms of "an
opportunity exists to improve the reactions..." Maybe Bush's
advisors can say something like, "look at how many fewer American
deaths we could conceivably have! Isn't that great?"
Not just Hollywood. Sandra Bullock,
Leonardo DiCaprio, and Stephen Spielberg have all gotten press
for their hefty donations to tsunami relief. But just as it
doesn't make sense to think of any state as monochromatically Red
or Blue, you should also be aware that some country performers
are also helping out. There's a benefit concert this Sunday in Austin,
participants include Willie Nelson, Joe Ely, and Patty Griffin.
WASHINGTON Jan 4, 2005 The Bush administration is focusing on a Social Security proposal that would allow younger workers to invest up to 4 percent of their payroll taxes in private accounts, with contributions limited to about $1,000 to $1,300 a year, an official said Tuesday.
Atrios' complaint is that the writer says "4 percent" instead of "4 percentage points," but as I pointed out in his comments last night, simply saying 4 percentage points doesn't communicate it, either, because that 4 percentage points is really almost two- thirds of all that an employee contributes towards his Social Security in payroll taxes. (Here's how it works: the "4 percent" is not 4% of his Social Security, it's 4% of his income. The employee contributes 6.2% of his income to payroll taxes, and the employer contributes another 6.2%. "4%" is actually 65% of all the employee contributes, and 32% of all that's contributed in his name, including the employer-contributed proportion.)
Preserves the presumption of innocence? Hardly. Regarding the House's vote that an ethics investigation needs the ethics committee's majority to approve it (rather than mere non-action by the Democratic and Republican committee heads)...
"This change restores the presumption of innocence in our process," said Representative David Dreier of California, chairman of the Rules Committee.
Uh, no. Presumption of innocence merely puts the burden of
proof on the prosecution, it doesn't say whether or not an
investigation should proceed. Grand juries never deal with
presumptions of innocence before indictments (there's no defense
presentation typically, for one thing); they merely listen to the
prosecution's case and see if it's worth a trial. It has
nothing to do with a presumption of innocence. This is
just empty words from Dreier, trying to stretch a simple concept
where it shouldn't be stretched. If anything, it handcuffs
investigations. So much for the law and order party.
Is it time to reposition the Republican Party? Everyone who's been awake for the last two months has been aware of the circular firing squad that's been going on about Kerry's loss to Bush. Much of the discussion's intensity, I think, is proportional to predispositions about whether the loss was conceivable: if you think your team is going to trounce the opposition 35 to 7, and lose by a field goal, the post mortems are more thorough. Several hypotheses continue to be voiced: jettison Michael Moore; be more open to abortion restrictions; be louder about being tough on terrorism and so on.
But progress may not be just dependent on repositioning the Democratic Party, it can also be helped by repositioning the Republican Party, at least in perceptions. Digby has a post on wingnuts who let their racism and/or anti-terrorism obstruct their sympathy with tsunami victims, and how Rush Limbaugh feeds into their prejudices. After discussing a series of calls on Limbaugh's shows, he writes:
Digby makes some valuable points, but I think it's helpful to discriminate between what "fuels" Republican leadership, the feelings of right wing pundits, and the feelings of the rank and file. Let's take Digby's post as a starting point: if it's correct (as been hypothesized by some in the circular firing squad) that Bush won votes from Democrats who were uncomfortable with Michael Moore (or, their perceptions of him post Republican demonization), then it stands to reason that there are Republicans who will be uncomfortable with the likely future rightward shift of their elected Republican politicians. And these more moderate Republican voters may well be attracted to Democratic policies in the future, or, short of that, at least be more open to voting for Democrat candidates.
What I'm saying is that this phenomenon may not require any repositioning of the Democratic Party, so much as making it plain as day how radically right wing their own party is getting. I doubt very much that it makes sense to demonize Senators Hagel or Lugar or Snowe or similar moderates; but if more Republicans were made aware of some of Santorum's statements, or Delay's power grabbing, of Hastert's philosophy of blocking legislation that doesn't represent the majority of the majority — it seems to me we could create considerable discomfort. Enough to reform the Republican Party? No way, not even trying that, it's not a goal. But perhaps we can fragment enough Republicans off to tip the balance.
When you stop and consider how many Bush supporters were
ignorant about the truths behind Iraq and WMDs and so on, it only
stands to reason that many don't know the extremes in their own
party. We don't need the Republican party to reposition
themselves, we can do it for them: look at how the Republicans
repositioned John Kerry, for Chrissakes!
Memogate, revisited. Corey Pein at
Columbia Journalism Review does a tidy wrap on the logical
fallacies behind the "tough" analyses of the bloggers,
and how they were given credibility by the MSM.
Going soft on Tom Delay. (That Liberal Media, part what?) Today's New York Times goes into greater depth regarding how the Republicans now want to handle ethics issues in the House, and has this to say about Tom Delay:
In the past year, he has been admonished by the ethics panel three times: for his tactics in trying to persuade a colleague to support the Medicare drug bill, for appearing to link political donations to support for legislation and for involving a federal agency in a political matter in Texas.
That one sentence is about as vague a summary as Delay would wish for: it supports the article, and yet says practically nothing about all that he's done. Without describing the charges further, an uninformed reader has little idea of how much it meant when House Republicans voted to shield Delay last November, nor their reversal last night. So shall we add some important details here?
These are not the only lapses: Delay is also accused of soliciting corporate money for Texas state legislature campaigns, against the law in Texas. This was the offense which fell under the jurisdiction of a Texas DA, prompting local investigation and November's effort to shield Delay from needing to step down.
I wish the Times had gone into greater detail on these back
stories: Delay strikes me as every bit as conniving as Robert
Walpole, who created all sorts of pensions and positions to
Perhaps it was going to get far too scandalous? Republican leadership in the House of Representatives have reversed themselves, apparently, and are now not only no longer considering loosening ethical standards, but reinstating a rule they'd recently rejected, which in its former state would have required Tom Delay to step down from his leadership position if indicted — but when revised in November made him safe. Now, with this reversal, Delay is again vulnerable.
It's a developing story, but I suspect not only that the
ethical issues would have been a distraction (as the article
states) but that it's quite possible it all looks so grim that
unless they reversed themselves there was no hope of moral high
ground. (You might consider yesterday's New York Times
editorial as an example of heightened awareness on the
media's part regarding the deepening scandals.) Ultimately, they
may have protected more than their agenda by sticking to higher
A note for YOUR convenience. Blogging is a lower priority than normal for me today, so you may not see much. But here's something you can do to make it easy on yourself: if you haven't already done it, set up an account at bloglines.com — it's free (or, if your browser searches for "feeds" that's fine too) and add this page's feed to your list: you can find the url for the feed here.
What's this do? Well, when you set up an account at bloglines you can list many many blogs with feeds, and then rather than hit each of your favorite blogs to see if they have new content, you go to your bloglines page and it will tell you about all of them at once. It will list each new entry for the blog with a little description, so you can go directly to a specific item as you choose — great for scooting past the big picture up top, if you want, you'll never see it. (It's also worthwhile; most of the political blogs in the left margin have feeds, and it can make your life easier, since not all blogs get updated every day.) So do yourself a favor, make your life a little easier, and set up a bloglines account.
Mr. McKay added that post-9/11 patriotism, along with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had made "S.N.L." reluctant to take hard shots at President Bush, an unwillingness that he feels persists at the show today. "In the name of political fairness or some odd sense of patriotism, Lorne has laid off the president for the last couple of years, and I don't agree with that move," he said. Instead, both writers said, "S.N.L. " has relied on pop-culture skits, which, while occasionally caustic, never really run the risk of offending anyone.
Bush even lies to the Pope?? You may remember Sister Helen Prejean from the Tim Robbins movie "Dead Man Walking," where her character was played by Susan Sarandon. In the current New York Review of Books, Prejean writes about Bush's history with capital punishment while he was the governor of Texas. You probably already know it's not a pretty story. But regarding his refusal to commute the sentence of Karla Faye Tucker, whose likely pleas for mercy he mocked when being interviewed by Tucker Carlson, Prejean writes:
Bush was receiving thousands of messages urging clemency for Tucker, including one from one of his daughters. "Born-again" evangelists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, normally ardent advocates of execution, urged him to commute Tucker's sentence. When Pope John Paul II urged Bush to grant mercy to Tucker, Bush responded disingenuously in a letter to the Pope, saying, "Ms. Tucker's sentence can only be commuted by the Governor if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends a commutation of sentence."
Where is the disingenuousness? In another case, she writes...
In the Lucas case, when "new facts" presented themselves, Governor Bush requested the Texas pardons board for commutation. When "new facts" in Karla Faye Tucker's case came to Bush's attention, he turned away, claiming that he was bound to follow the courts' decisions.
The party of Moral Values considers setting ethics aside? Some Republicans in the House seem not to care about behaviors which would discredit the House of Representatives, lowering ethical standards even further than they did with the Tom Delay rule.
Unbelievable, just simply unbelievable.
Google news search warning...
Hopefully they'll change the "advanced search" interface, but as
of now you can't use calendar-date parameters prior to January.
Fat lotta good that does...
The announcement that U.S. aid to the
tsunami affected areas will increase to $350 million is
welcome, there is no doubt about it. I just don't understand how
our administration could be so numb as start off with an initial
commitment of a mere $4 million without making it clear that more was
bound to come; or Bush's failure to get before a mike until
Hurricane Andrew's devastation was obvious when Ab and I drove through Louisiana in October, 1992. We visited New Orleans as an addendum to a trip to Atlanta, and it was showing few scars two months later. But drives up to Lafayette and up river to see antebellum mansions made it clear that Andrew had cut a mean swath; and while Florida bore most of the brunt, Louisiana suffered $1 billion in damages. Because New Orleans was unscathed, we weren't deterred from driving to New Orleans from Atlanta, but there is no way on God's green earth we would have made the other Louisiana side trips the primary reason we came.
I say all this because as much as Louisiana suffered under Andrew, it was mild compared to what parts of Asia have suffered as a result of last Sunday's tsunamis. So with that context, I was surprised to read that some European tourists have not been deterred from visiting tsunami stricken areas on their holidays:
It strikes me as astonishingly callous: I cannot imagine how anyone could enjoy themselves there. And while I am ignorant of the specifics of the local conditions, I'd have thought that resources which go to making them merry (such as drinking water, gasoline, and so on) would be better used in recovery efforts. I admit I could be wrong on the latter point, but I still have a problem with the former: it seems like one of those movies that show colonialism in its worst form. (Hat tip to John Stinson for the news link.)