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Saturday, February 19, 2005:

Out of sequence time line? A Houston Chronicle article seems to suggest that GOPUSA.com was founded after September 11:

Eberle said his interest was further heightened when, during a trip to Washington, he witnessed American Airlines Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Eberle and friend Bill Fairbrother decided to combine their technical skills and political interest to create GOPUSA.

I haven't clipped out any paragraphs between those two. And yet, when you do a search in Verisign's "whois" database for GOPUSA.com, this is part of what you get:

Domain Name: GOPUSA.COM
Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
Whois Server: whois.networksolutions.com
Referral URL: http://www.networksolutions.com
Name Server: NS1.DATAPIPE.NET
Name Server: NS2.DATAPIPE.NET
Status: REGISTRAR-LOCK
Updated Date: 17-feb-2005
Creation Date: 27-sep-1999
Expiration Date: 27-sep-2007

A creation date of 1999 would of course be prior to 9/11. I've emailed the reporter to see if she has any background info which might help clarify.

UPDATE: Rachel Graves, the author of the Houston Chronicle article, has emailed me to say she didn't mean to suggest that GOPUSA was founded after 9/11, only that 9/11 heightened Eberle's political interests; Eberle, she writes, told her that GOPUSA is 4 and a half years old. In my view, the difference between "4 and a half years old" (August, 2000) and a domain registration in September, 1999 could be due to either imprecision on Eberle's part or the not-infrequent habit of taking out a domain name before content can support a site. (Remember all those wonderful "site under construction" images?) Then again, it could be something more, but it's certainly not an effort on Eberle's part to suggest it was created after 9/11. It would all feel so much cleaner, though, if Eberle weren't in the process of scrubbing GOPUSA.com of all its fingerprints. (Note, for instance, that the WHOIS profile was just revised this past Thursday, and the revisions could have been made in response to the Jeff Gannon scandal. There may even have been interim revisions between the breaking of the scandal and February 17.)
Link | | | 10:26 PM | Home


"Me versus the world." Tapes of Bush from 1999 showed us more of our President-to-be than was shown to us during the campaign. I'm sure that's not unusual — we'd probably be shocked by many politicians' off-the-record comments. But some of this reveals a streak of maliciousness I wouldn't have expected from any modern politician, an ability to bear a grudge which overrides patriotism or partisanship:

Mr. Bush threatened that if his rival Steve Forbes attacked him too hard during the campaign and won, both Mr. Bush, then the Texas governor, and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, would withhold their support. "He can forget Texas. And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands," Mr. Bush said.

Let's remember that early in his first term, Bush lost the Republican majority in the Senate because he alienated Senator Jeffords with a series of cold shoulders; Jeffords changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, taking away a crucial head in the head count.

The little tyrant.
Link | | | 9:27 PM | Home


Were that reporting is really as Anderson Cooper described it. Last night, James Guckert/Jeff Gannon appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, and Cooper gave him a fairly good grilling. Some of what was there was illuminating, such as why Guckert/Gannon received daily passes before his news "organization" Talon News was even established: Guckert says he got in as a "reporter" for GOPUSA, and that Talon News was set up merely to suggest greater credibility for the reports, seeming to come from an independent news organization. (More on that in a moment.) But I about jumped out of my seat when I read this part of the transcript, regarding whether or not Guckert/Gannon should have been so lazily piping the White House line into his reports:

But using the term "reporting" implies some sort of vetting, some sort of research, some sort of -- I mean, that's called faxing or Xeroxing, if you are just lifting transcripts and putting them into an article.

I'm not sure what Cooper was paying attention to in 2004, but the current standard seems to have fallen to he said/she said, not vetting. Guckert/Gannon may not have even risen to the standard of providing the "she said," but I would hope that Cooper realizes there's a great gap between even the "she said" and actually vetting. I can't begin to tell you how many articles I read before our election where a reporter would slap in a comment from, say, Ken Mehlman, and the article would read as if the reporter thought that by doing that they'd done their due diligence. Maybe it's not the reporters, maybe it's the editors and the entire media which have been so neutered by complaints about bias that they can't tell the difference between bias and a truth which paints an unpleasant picture. But to bring it back, I'm not sure that Cooper didn't misframe his question. If the whole idea of establishing "Talon News" was to suggest that GOPUSA was providing an unbiased news source, why did Gannon do what he did?

(I'd like to point you to another post I wrote about here, about a different reporter at Talon News, Mike Minton, who actually pointed out a difference between what McClellan was saying in a press briefing and how it seemed out of touch with the latest intelligence regarding the lack of WMDs in Iraq. That post is here. Unfortunately, because Talon News / GOPUSA.com has been in "damage control mode," old articles are being hidden, so you may have trouble looking for other articles by Minton. And I can't vouch for everything he wrote anyway.)

Now, about the idea that the "Talon News" label was created to suggest its independence from GOPUSA.com in order to increase its credibility. Have you ever in your life read anything which on its face so insults the intelligence of not only GOPUSA.com readers, or the broader American public? I mean, creating "Talon News" is kind of like creating fake movie reviewers for newspapers in towns you never even knew existed. It's the kind of crap that Bill O'Reilly tried pulling with his citation of the Paris Business Review. Did GOPUSA.com/Talon News owner Bobby Eberle really think that something so transparent would fool anyone? A news organization is consistently only heard through one channel, and GOPUSA.com readers were supposed to think it was legit? ("It was reported by Talon News! Come on, it has to be true!") (For the moment we can disregard one other licensor of Talon News content, no one reads it, something like "News For Men.") And why did Anderson Cooper let Guckert/Gannon get away with such a preposterous idea?
Link | | | 9:04 PM | Home

Friday, February 18, 2005:

Lieberman swaying over Social Security privatization? That's the story, according to Josh Marshall. Personally, I don't think it's such a bad idea for a Democratic senator to indicate an open mind. Why? Because the arguments against privatization are so strong that privatization is dead meat; and that conclusion sounds all the more damning when it comes from a senator who's listened to the arguments in favor of privatization. If the privatizers are going to lose, they'd prefer to be able to complain that partisanship prevented them from ever getting a fair hearing. And if you think about it, the Democrats will have something to say in their behalf if the privatizers can't even win over Joe Lieberman.

What we need to do is make sure that Lieberman has gotten his shots in advance, is all.
Link | | | 6:41 PM Home


Want to see something truly gorgeous? The next link will open a new window... A Swiss friend here in NYC wrote me this story about the bridge...

This is the famous Teufelsbruecke (Devils Bridge). The story goes like this: back in the old days the villagers of the canton of URI needed to go through this canyon called the 'Schoellenenschlucht.' They built many bridges but none of them lasted and many travelers fell into the river. One day the mayor of the town in his desperation called out loud 'shall the devil build a bridge here.' The moment he said it the devil appeared. He offered to build a bridge that lasted no matter what, in return however he wanted the soul of the first to cross this bridge. The villagers thought about it and discussed it and after a while they agreed. The devil built the bridge and waited for the first soul to cross, his payment. The villagers did not know whom to sacrifice until a smart farmer let loose of his goat and chased it over the bridge.

The devil, all furious, picked up a huge stone and wanted to smash it on the bridge when an old women passed him and made a cross on the stone which caused the devil to miss the bridge. The stone flew all the way and landed near Goeschenen. There are many bridges there but this one with the story is considered the first one built in the 13th century. It opened up the north-south connection for traders.

I do hope you clicked the link...
Link | | 2:42 PM Home


Not your everyday uncredentialed White House reporter... AmericaBlog, which has been one of the leading sources of information on "Jeff Gannon," is reporting that a news producer was told by Gannon about the bombing of Iraq four hours before it was announced by the White House. If there's a reason Gannon should have known in advance, I'd love to hear it; but there's certainly no reason for him to have been blabbing it to others. Who wants to continue holding the position that it's only news because of Gannon's outside activities? (Hat tip to Judy O.)
Link | | 2:27 PM Home


A couple quick items on Social Security...

  • Kevin Drum takes a look at the benefits calculator which the Democrats released yesterday, including the underlying assumptions, and how it compares to the calculator from the Cato Institute. Along the way, he mentions that Cato's calculator has had some tweaking done to it over time. If I may add, the need for tweaking (and it's having been done) speaks volumes about why the President still hasn't put out a plan: he'd rather not revise anything according to reality, and as soon as he gets specific reality will become a standard against which it gets guaged.
     
  • Over at Social Security Choice, there's a cartoon posted which suggests a generational battle over Social Security, set in a basketball game. The kids are coached by Bush, and their much taller opponents consist of AARP, the elderly, Democrats and "some" Republicans. Completely missing from the metaphor is this point: Bush's "plan" (such as it is) will saddle that younger generation with additional debt due to transition costs. That additional debt will impact the kids in more ways than just their retirement, because debt servicing limits what government can do overall. Nor is there any mention that Bush's plan will not fix the problems which Bush highlights before campaigning for privatization.

Just in passing...
Link | | 2:09 PM Home

Thursday, February 17, 2005:

Taking a deep breath to provide some clarification. My two posts below are appallingly unclear, due somewhat to assumptions on my part that readers click through to read referenced web pages, due somewhat to bad writing on my part, and due somewhat to the order in which I posted them up. Eradicating them and starting from scratch would be wrong (once they're up, they're up, unless I decide to silently edit a typo like their/there or from/form). So rather than do that, please tolerate my restating...

  1. A man going by the name "Jeff Gannon" has been going to White House press briefings and news conferences, receiving passes on a daily basis in spite of not really deserving clearance. In addition, it seems that classified information about a covert CIA operative was shared with him very early in his journalism career. The entire affair indicates complacency on the White House, or sloppiness, but certainly not the kind of care you'd expect in a post 9/11 world. (For more details, read the bullets in this post, and then use your browser's back button to return here.) For purposes of later discussion, I should point out that apparently the man was a gay prostitute.
     
  2. Joe Conason wrote a column arguing that the failure of the media to really pay concentrated attention to this story is evidence that the media is not liberally biased. Conason's point is that the story, despite its twists, turns, and so on, is not "resounding across the airwaves."
     
  3. A blogger by the name of Stephen Bainbridge wrote a post disagreeing with Conason. He thinks "Conason's complaint that the MSM is ignoring the Guckert/Gannon story" is unsupported, based on an article search he conducted in Nexis. However, note that Bainbridge has said Conason claimed the standard was that the media was "ignoring" the story. This isn't Conason's claim; Conason claims that the clamor is not nearly loud enough, not that it's been completely ignored.
     
  4. Bainbridge introduces a comparison to the attention that's been given to the case of Eason Jordan, the CNN executive who resigned over remarks he made in Davos. Bainbridge noted that Gannon did get coverage, just not as much as Jordan did. Bainbridge notes that this count supports a claim Conason could have made but didn't (that the media is paying more attention to Jordan than to Gannon), and then asks, "Query, however, whether legitimate news judgment wouldn't regard Jordan as the bigger story?"
     
  5. One could argue that the Gannon story is actually the bigger story, and is not getting nearly enough attention, and I laid out that argument in the bullet points in this post below (the same post I sent you to in point "1" above. It has to do with lax security at the White House, and whether or not rules were bent in order to allow a "friendly" writer in... Homosexuality isn't part of the story except as his apparent escort career should have sent up some red flags.
     
  6. Bainbridge responded with a defense that, "In response to quiblles in some of the trackbacks, let me point out that I nowhere claimed to have proven anything. Indeed, I concede that Conason has a point about the amount of coverage the story got relative to another recent arguably similar story. All I'm saying is that Conason hasn't proven anything either, especially with respect to his sweeping claim to have proven that there is no liberal media bias." Conason never looked at the coverage of the Eason Jordan case, and discussed the Gannon/White House story merely on its own merits, with a "shoe on the other foot" comparison, not the Eason Jordan comparison. It's his "shoe on the other foot" comparison that hits the bullseye, and with which Bainbridge didn't deal.
     
  7. Lastly, Bainbridge attempted to support his opinion that the Gannon story is off-base by calling on the opinion of Jonah Goldberg, who had written to suggest that the story is somehow more electric and being talked about because of the gay element. But that's not it: it's not the gay element. It's the White House sloppiness which is the story, the same kind of sloppiness which led to the premature benediction of Bernie Kerik. THAT'S the story, and no matter how many ways the right tries to distract, Gannon is only the story to the extent that it illustrates the White House's odd efforts to give security clearance to someone with no press credibility.

Sorry for not being clearer.
Link | | 3:45 PM Home


Oy. Bainbridge has responded to what he saw as "quibbles in some of the trackbacks" (possibly mine, but I think my summary is more important than a quibble); his response is to take no stand on whether or not the Gannon story is getting enough attention, and that merely showing that it gets less attention than another story doesn't suggest a press bias. And yet, the standard which Bainbridge crafts (the number of articles about Eason Jordan vs. the number on Gannon) actually reinforces Conason's argument until Bainbridge can show that in comparison to the Eason Jordan story the Gannon story is getting "too much" attention. Bainbridge hasn't done this. In his omission he actually suggests that Conason is correct that the media does not have a liberal bias.

Bainbridge shows a further misunderstanding of the implications of the story by introducing a comment from Jonah Goldberg that suggests that the coverage so far has been over Gannon being gay. That is not the case. The story is about the White House procedures and its willingness to let someone past security without merit. It points to some kind of favoritism and/or complacency, just as does the Bernie Kerik story. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
Link | | 2:29 PM Home


Not biased because I say so. Professor Bainbridge proves nothing except that he has access to Nexis. Responding to a complaint from Joe Conason that the major media is "ignoring" the Jeff Gannon story (which Bainbridge interprets as getting zero — and I bet you our husbands and wives will tell us we can pay them some attention yet still ignore them), Bainbridge runs Nexis searches which show some coverage of the Gannon story, yet more of Eason Jordan. Bainbridge's brilliant conclusion?

If Conason wants to make the point that the Eason Jordan flap got more coverage, that's true. But I don't think the numbers support Conason's complaint that the MSM is ignoring the Guckert/Gannon story. Or, in particular, that he has uncovered proof that a liberal bias in the MSM is a mere right-wing myth. The story is being covered by the MSM, albeit at a lower rate than the Jordan story. Query, however, whether legitimate news judgment wouldn't regard Jordan as the bigger story?

So therefore, since he (Bainbridge) suggests that the Eason Jordan story is bigger than the Gannon story, one cannot suggest that the Gannon story isn't getting its "fair share" of attention.

So let's briefly review the Gannon story for the Professor.

  • The world changed on September 11, requiring greater security. A new Department of Homeland Security is even set up, for greater security and tighter integration of procedures and information.
     
  • A man not known for journalism is unable to get a press pass for Capitol Hill, yet somehow gets them on a daily basis for the White House. He starts getting access to White House press briefings for some as-yet-to-be-uncovered reasons, showing up in press briefing video footage before the "Talon news agency" had even been created.
     
  • Further investigation reveals that the US Government was either unable to uncover his apparent recent past as a male prostitute — or deliberately overlooked it. (As a contextual aside, let's remember that this same White House [as opposed to the other one] also failed to pay adequate attention to the sordid details of Bernie Kerik's c.v. before putting his name out to lead the aforementioned Department of Homeland Security.)
     
  • This same "reporter" claimed to have been given classified information regarding the identity of a covert CIA operative. This, in spite of the reporter's checkered past.
     
  • This same reporter has also apparently lied to the press regarding elements of the story: at one point he had claimed that Internet domain names which were sexually suggestive and registered in his name were only because some other individuals asked him to register the names — and yet there are pictures of Gannon throughout them.
     
  • Gannon draws attention to himself not just by asking questions which reveal a specific political leaning and throwing lifelines to Scott McClellan, but by boilerplating Republican press releases and using them as copy — with his own name on the pieces and no indication that he was basically being a filter-free conduit for the White House.

So Professor Bainbridge, a query: you don't think the White House's procedures here deserve a lot more attention than they're getting? They let someone like Gannon in on a daily basis — for what someone might readily conclude was specifically because of his political value — and you think the MSM shouldn't be all over this? Really?
Link | | 10:34 AM Home


About that "good news" from Iraq. Yesterday, new CIA head Porter Goss warned about increasing numbers of insurgents in Iraq, and that the conflict had become a "cause" for extremists who remain set on attacking the US; chairman of the joint Chief of Staff General Richard Myers told the Senate that five of the US's six military units have fallen short of their recruiting goals thus far in 2005; and an Italian hostage made a video plea for her release.

What was the lead story on last night's "CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown"? A piece of fluffy praise for the US military in Iraq. Detailed orientation sessions for US troops heading back to Iraq, including training on how to differentiate a member of the Iraqi security forces from an insurgent; soldiers going through cultural assimilation (eating with their hands and dancing with locals); and one of those "up close and personal" profiles of one of our commanders.

Now, in fairness, Brown did cover darker news regarding Iraq, but when a story like this leads your coverage, no one can complain that the "good news" isn't getting covered. So let's take a tally of all those warbloggers who might be in denial about their regrets about the war and who have constantly been complaining about the lack of good news; let's see how many of them take the time to note what Brown led with last night. Although, since so many of them were complaining about not getting 24/7 coverage of Nick Berg's beheading, maybe the failure to lead with the Italian hostage will give them an out.

It's always something with that crew: they have no intention of learning what's really going on, all they want to do is tear down the media.
Link | | 8:30 AM Home

Wednesday, February 16, 2005:

The Gannon-White House connection. "Gannon," you'll remember, reported for GOPUSA.com; on their board sits the husband of the head of the White House personnel office. Great detective work from Liberal Patriots (warning, lots of images, you might want to turn your images off befor clicking if you're on dial-up.) Scalp.

UPDATE: False alarm? A paragraph in th is post at Daily Kos suggests two different Richard Powells here... It would be so much simpler if the White House just told the straight story, wouldn't it?
Link | | 8:59 PM Home


Fox News is bad for democracy, and the patriotic thing for Roger Ailes to do at this point would be reform it from top to bottom. You see, Fox News has the power to sway elections, and if it can do that it can sway public opinion, too. And if it uses that power recklessly, it's a force for bad: it doesn't bring transparency to issues, it brings fog, lies. Kevin Drum has another write up on Brit Hume's mischaracterization of FDR's views on Social Security, and it communicates very well what Hume did. And of course, it was done intentionally, because you don't hear Brit Hume digging up quotations from Bush I about Social Security. (Bush I respected the implied debt of the US support of pension funds, and referred to the bonds which protected them as being backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Since Hume hasn't bothered to share those opinions, it's clear that Hume is reporting with an agenda.)

How do we know Fox can sway elections? The two PIPA studies which showed how confused Fox viewers were about Iraq, and how confused Bush's supporters were. There is no question in my mind: Fox is bad for democracy. Since it's cable, it doesn't come under FCC oversight, but maybe we need to start a letter-writing campaign to Fox's advertisers?
Link | | 6:59 PM Home


Coincidence and causality. Over at Social Security Choice, Louis Woodhill argues that a tax increase to support Social Security won't help because tax increases hurt tax revenues. To demonstrate the relationship known as the Laffer Curve, Woodhill shows a chart of annual tax revenues for the years 1995 through 2004, with 2005 and 2006 CBO projections; the chart seems to show that Bush's tax decreases increased tax revenues. From this data, he argues that people are so averse to paying higher taxes that they will shoot themselves in the foot and not make more money.

The problem with Woodhill's analysis is its simplemindedness; merely by looking at a reversal in the slope of the line, he assumes that Bush's tax cuts caused an increase in federal tax revenues. It's as if to say that the tax cuts themselves improved the economy (more jobs and wages), and Woodhill hasn't made that case. He needs to rule out all competing factors.

Another problem is that by focusing on the line at the point of the Bush tax cuts, as well as beginning his line in 1995, he's completely ignored Clinton's 1993 tax increase and how tax revenues went up afterwards. Data from the IRS show that even though Clinton raised taxes in 1993, tax revenues continued to rise. Collections in 1994 were $100 billion higher than those in 1994; 1995's were $100 billion more than those in 1994; and $100 billion (or more) increase continued... Now, to head off the fair point that these revenue figures haven't been adjusted for inflation, an analysis by Jerry Tempalski at the U.S. Treasury does account for inflation, and in Table 2 (page 18 of the electronic copy, labeled page 16 on the printed copy) he attributes (yes, attributes, not just "charts") revenue increases from the 1993 tax increase in the first four year afterwards of $24 bn, $45 bn, $53 bn, and $66 bn.

So, Woodhill hasn't really done his homework, and he's given a fairly selective view of the facts by ignoring Clinton. They hate being reminded, I'm sure.
Link | | 10:16 AM Home

Tuesday, February 15, 2005:

Just throwing this out as a hypothetical. Bush famously said about his own past transgressions, "When I was young and foolish, I did foolish things." (I think that's the quote.) As a born again Christian, Bush probably knows the power and the need for forgiveness. When you look at his aborted adoption of Bernie Kerik, you kinda have to wonder how much of it was due to a bonding with the macho versus a recognition that Kerik had overcome some missteps in his past. (Can we assume Bush was aware of Kerik's child in Asia, and that he was unaware of all the sordid details of Kerik's more recent past?)

I ask all this because I'm kind of clutching at straws as to why the White House would latch on to "Jeff Gannon" as a vehicle for its political message, both in acting as a slow-pitch questioner at the briefings and as someone to share Valerie Plame information. Was this some weird effort to demonstrate forgiveness of someone who really really looks as if he was a male prostitute?

Now, I don't know the timeline well enough to know whether or not Gannon left a part time job behind in order to be a White House reporter; that would certainly be relevant for any religious motivation to forgive, unless it was a situation where the forgiver's love wasn't tough-enough tough love.

Or, should we think that there was some sort of Kerik model at work, an appeal to macho, which might attract Bush? (Via James Wolcott, we see that Rigorous Intuition has offered the "smoking scalp" theory...)

I'm just throwing this out because I can't understand why, if the Bush administration's interest was merely to get their message out, why they would choose "Jeff Gannon" as the vehicle. Couldn't there have been scores of Young Republicans who write for some local university newspaper? I know that would be really sweet and obvious, but Jeff Gannon was the best they could do? Why him?
Link | | 7:07 PM Home


Sorry for the light posting recently. I know there's a certain vanity associated with feeling like you can't get on with the rest of your life without my posting, so I apologize for that, too. We've been distracted by an effort to put together a real estate deal that would move my mother-in-law (an Alzheimer sufferer) closer to here, and because it involves more family members than your normal garden-variety real estate decision (and because we're not sufficiently wealthy to just go ahead and do it ourselves), it's been time intensive. So I haven't even been able to talk about the scandalous sloppiness and-or favoritism on the part of the White House that would allow someone who might have been a male prostitute (and-or pimp) a White House press pass, even after such superficial warning signals as an inability to get a press pass for Congress — somehow he even received access to classified information about a CIA operative. The blog I just linked to is a good source for updates, and I'm sure that sometime soon William Bennett (author of The Death of Outrage, re Bill Clinton) will be writing about the Gannon case and what the differential attention being paid to it says about the lack of moral values on the part of the SCLM.

Anyway, I don't know how much I'll be posting today, but I won't be saying as much as I'd like.
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Monday, February 14, 2005:

Your tax dollars at work. Another missile interception test fails. $85 million. Isn't this that classic definition of madness, expecting different results from the same repeated behavior?
Link | | 8:51 PM Home


The surprise ending... This Modern World is very funny today. Not that it isn't frequently...
Link | | 10:23 AM Home


Humpty Dumpty? You know the rhyme:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Well, the results of the Iraqi elections are in, and it looks like the winners are allied with Iran. Personally, I don't know why this is running on page 8 of the Washington Post: since Bush doesn't read much, it would be better if it were front page, above the fold. Iran, you'll remember, was one of three countries Bush famously identified as being part of an "Axis of Evil." So, Mr. President, howzit goin'? Does this work out okay with your expectations? And how about all you who signed on with the Project for a New American Century, with all your letters wanting military action against Iraq? (That would mean you, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, and Jeb — are you happy with this?)

Idiots. (More at Juan Cole.)
Link | | 10:00 AM Home

Sunday, February 13, 2005:

Sad food for thought. In today's New York Times, Fox Butterfield writes about suicide rates in rural areas, and how they outpace the national averages, with rates from gunshot exceeding urban gunshot homicides. States with the highest concentrations are Rocky Mountain states, and the concentration seems to be due to the combined effects of gun availability, isolation, and a culture of suicide. All these states voted for Bush in the election, so you just know it's going to be used as fodder for Red State - Blue State comparisons. Let's try and avoid that, though (plenty of Red States don't have high suicide rates), and hope the problems get addressed through better health care, greater humanity, and sensitivity. I'm not sure we can easily get the big hunters to start appreciating quiche, but if it saves lives it might be worth a try. And maybe a little less demonization of coastal values from the Right would help, too.
Link | | 10:51 AM Home


"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail." That's the take of Steve Lovelady at Columbia Journalism Review, over the resignation of CNN's Eason Jordan. Blogs can claim two casualties this week (Jordan, along with Talon News' Jeff Gannon), and I don't think either case really merited a resignation or firing. Jordan withdrew his controversial remarks almost immediately, as he was challenged by Barnie Frank; and with Gannon, the bigger question was never Gannon's private life, nor his point of view, nor his lazy journalism, but how he was accepted by the White House. The White House is the story, not Gannon. Gannon's resignation may only have occurred to provide cover for the White House.

Outrage is a traffic-creating phenomenon for blogs, and by that I mean that extreme views create a certain type of traffic and feeling of importance for the unimportant among us. Faced with the fact that no individual blogger will ever be as big as Time-Warner, each chooses to attract a small piece of readership, and is reinforced by their growing Site Meter figures. They echo each other through linked comments and trackbacks, and become convinced their views are right. Those who disagree must be fools with an agenda.

So Jordan and Gannon's name gets added to a list that also includes Howell Raines, Trent Lott and I don't know who all else. But noticeably absent from the list are the names of George W Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell. These five participated in a fraud about Iraq being involved in 9/11; that they had weapons of mass destruction that could lead to a mushroom cloud somewhere in the United States; that aluminum tubes which were for rockets were actually for uranium enrichment; and that Iraq had sought to buy refined uranium from Niger. These lies led to our invading Iraq not out of necessity, but out of choice, leading to the deaths of perhaps 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, the maiming and deaths of thousands of American service people, and a huge hit on our economy.

So where's the appropriate level of outrage?
Link | | 9:46 AM Home

Saturday, February 12, 2005:

Paying the piper. Or the pipeline... Thomas Friedman on the inconsistencies in the Bush energy policy:

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

This is not something which opening up the Alaskan acres will help. It really requires an initiative with all the intensity of war rationing; as a nation, we can do it, but it takes a leader. Bush is obviously not an FDR. (And obviously his shortcoming in that regard irks him, since he seems so intent on tearing down the FDR legacy.)
Link | | 10:22 PM Home


Samuel Johnson and bowling a 230. The latest weekly essay, now up at The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page. Comment there if you care.

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Privatizers clutching at straws? Over at Social Security Choice, Andrew Roth takes a statement from Delaware Senator Tom Carper that he's open to discussions about privatization as meaning he's in favor. Here's what Roth quotes from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A second Senate Democrat said Friday he was open to President Bush's idea of letting people divert some of their Social Security taxes to personal retirement accounts as Republican Party leaders tried to allay re-election fears among wavering GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said any plan should be bipartisan, in part to give lawmakers from both parties political cover for supporting major changes to such the popular retirement program.

"I don't believe that we should rule out the accounts," Carper said Friday in an interview. "We have a very low savings rate in this country and clearly need to find ways to stimulate savings, and I think we should be open to a wide range of ideas and not dismiss them out of hand."

Anyone who translates "being open" to "I'm in favor of it" isn't to be trusted with my money. All it means is he'll think about it. Who does Roth think he's kidding?

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has later information suggesting that Carper has raised a very high bar for the conditions under which he'd accept privatized accounts: no additional debt and no decreases in benefits for seniors. Bush has already promised no reduction in benefit for retirees and those near retirement, but the debt thing is a significant hurdle.
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Friday, February 11, 2005:

Brit Hume should be next. First, Dan Rather got tarred and had to resign; now CNN's Eason Jordan. Brit Hume should be next, for his twisting of FDR's record.
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Cato would be breaking securities laws were it in the business. In a discussion of whether or not the promised benefits under Social Security are "guaranteed" (viewable at their web site, but not permalinked; permalinked elsewhere here), the argument is made that Social Securit benefits are not guaranteed because Congress can legally reduce them. But then there's this point:

The only way to guarantee benefits would be through personal retirement accounts. In fact, under the Cato Institute's own plan, The 6.2 Percent Solution, you would be given a recognition bond for the contributions you made under the traditional Social Security system, which the government could never take away. In addition, you would be permitted to invest 6.2% of your wages — your half of your overall Social Security contribution — into a personal retirement account. The government could never take that away from you either.

Now that is a guarantee.

Except for one thing: your account could lose part of its value due to market performance and fees. That means your benefits aren't guaranteed. Cato can't guarantee performance any more than your stock broker or a prospectus can. It's against the law for a reason.
Link | | 3:47 PM Home


Bush's blunt dismissal of the Social Security Trust Fund. To me, this sounds like he's saying that the Treasury Bonds have no value:

Now, some of you probably think there is a kind of -- a bank, a Social Security trust bank. But that's not what's happened over time. Every dollar that goes into Social Security has been paid out, either to retirees or government programs. It is a pay-as-you-go system; it is a flow-through system. There is no kind of -- there are empty promises, but there's no pile of money that you thought was there when you retired. That's not the way the system works.

It may not be a pile of greenbacks — that would be stupid, like stuffing your money into a mattress — but it's a pile of U.S. Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

Why does Bush hate America so?
Link | | 1:37 PM Home


Bush minimizing the size of the fund diversion. This point has been raised before, by Atrios, me, and others. When talking about how much money Bush wants to divert from payroll taxes into private accounts, precision is important. Yesterday in Pennsylvania, Bush said,

Now, the program that we're suggesting to Congress is that personal accounts start slowly so that we can better fund the transition to personal accounts, and that eventually, though, workers should be able set 4 percent of their payroll taxes aside in a personal account.

That doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it's not "4% of payroll taxes" he wants to allow diverting, it's 4% of your payroll. And since you already contribute 6.2% of your payroll into Social Security, that 4% is effectively 65% of your payroll taxes, not 4%.

At the same event he was also disingenuous in describing the Thrift Savings Plan which federal employees are offered:

Now, people say to me, what does a personal account mean? Is there an example of a personal account? Tell me -- this sounds like a brand new idea. It's not a new idea. If you're a federal employee, you've got what's available -- what's called a thrift savings plan, that says you can take some of your money and invest it in stocks and bonds. So we've done this before. My view is if it's good enough for federal employees, it ought to be good enough for younger workers.

There's a key difference between the Thrift Savings Plan and his privatization plans that he omitted: the TSP represents additional money set aside, not money that's diverted from regular Social Security contributions. The TSP is something which would be fine, and it's been talked about by some Democrats (you might hear it referred to as "Social Security Plus").

If you've been reading up, you also know that the President's privatization plans will not shore up Social Security for its key dates of 2042 or 2052 (that point when the Trust Fund is expected to fall short of its obligations if no changes are made). Oddly, when the President went from discussing these years, and then changed to the topic of private accounts, he forgot to mention their insufficiency as a solution.
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Thursday, February 10, 2005:

Secretary Rice comes off as a complete liar due to this New York Times article about the FAA's failure to respond to terrorist warnings about the 9/11 plot.

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. That represented half of all the intelligence summaries in that time.

Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation, the report said.

(...)

The F.A.A. did not see a need to increase the air marshal ranks because hijackings were seen as an overseas threat, and one aviation official told the commission said that airlines did not want to give up revenues by providing free seats to marshals.

The F.A.A. also made no concerted effort to expand their list of terror suspects, which included a dozen names on Sept. 11, the report said. The former head of the F.A.A.'s civil aviation security branch said he was not aware of the government's main watch list, called Tipoff, which included the names of two hijackers who were living in the San Diego area, the report said.

If your memories go back to, say, last April and Condoleezza Rice's testimony to the 9/11 Commission, it won't be difficult for you to see that either she's incredibly stupid or she lied to the panel. I don't see any other possible interpretations of her characterization of the August 6 (2001) Presidential Daily Brief. That PDB was entitled, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike In The U.S.," and she told the panel that they viewed the PDB as "a historical document," that is, no longer having active relevance... You know what else she said, to try and justify the Administration's response to threats?

There were no specifics, and, in fact, the country had already taken steps through the FAA to warn of potential hijackings. The country had already taken steps through the FBI to task their 56 field offices to increase their activity. The country had taken the steps that it could given that there was no threat reporting about what might happen inside the United States.

Got that? She thinks the FAA did all it needed to. GO back now and read the transcript of her testimony, and realize that far too little was done, that it seemed adequate to her, that 3,000 people died needlessly, that we got into a war with Iraq as a result of this new pretext. It makes me sick.
Link | | 12:39 PM Home


A coup in the US government. Alarmist? No. Loud? Yes. The New York Times reports that final 9/11 Commission reporting on the failure of the FAA to seriously address terrorist warnings including hijackings and suicide operations in the summer of 2001 have been blocked for at least five months. And five months would take us prior to the last Presidential election - - that moment of accountability which that wanker in the White House claims happened in the election.

Just how many Americans died on 9/11? And just how many Americans went off to clear brush on 8/6, after being delivered a Presidential Daily Brief warning that Bin Ladin was determined to strike in the U.S.? (And just whose NSA at the time was recently promoted to Secretary of State?)

I could not be more pissed. And you have to read this. And you have to also remember that the Senate reports on how the White House acted on intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq were also forced to not come out prior to the election.

Got it?

Got it?
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