Archive for August, 2004
GRAND THEFT AMERICA

Cool shockwave about Katherine Harris, election 2000, and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of (mostly African-American) voters:
GRAND THEFT AMERICA, available at BushFlash.com [ericblumrich.com]

WaMo explains Bush’s “interesting idea” about a national sales tax

The Washington Monthly

BUSH SPEAKS….HIS ADVISORS SQUIRM….President Bush on Tuesday, talking off the cuff about the idea of a national sales tax: “It’s an interesting idea. You know, I’m not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it’s the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously.”

President Bush on Wednesday: “Two administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bush was not considering a national sales tax.”

That was quick! But why did our doughty “administration officials” insist on being anonymous? What are they ashamed of?

Most likely, I guess, is that they’re embarrassed that the President of the United States doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. Before long he’ll be touting a return to the gold standard. Here are a few wee problems:

  • Bill Gale estimates that to replace the income tax (just the income tax, not all our other taxes) would require a sales tax of 26% on all goods and services ? including purchases of food and new housing. That would go over well, wouldn’t it?
  • But that’s low. Gale kindly estimates the “combined rate of avoidance, evasion, and legislative adjustment” at 20%, which he admits is conservative “relative to everything that is known about how actual tax systems operate.” In other words, better make that sales tax 30% or even higher. Ka ching!
  • Seniors would sure be pissed off about this. And who can blame them? All their lives their income was reduced by the amount of income tax they paid, and now that they’re retired this reduced amount of money is suddenly subject to a brand new sales tax. Talk about your double taxation!

    (Don’t get it? Think of it this way. Suppose you make $100 today and it gets taxed at 20%. You have $80 left over and you put it in the bank. Tomorrow the income tax is abolished and a 30% sales tax is implemented, so you can only buy $60 worth of stuff with your $80. Your original $100 has essentially been taxed down to $60. For senior citizens, this applies to everything they’ve socked away over their entire lives.)

Being an advisor to George Bush must be sort of like sweeping up after the elephants at the circus. I guess I’d feel sorry for these guys if it weren’t for the fact that they’re enabling Bush’s incompetent rule by their very presence. So I guess I don’t. Feel sorry for them, that is.

Kevin Drum, August 12, 2004

Honorable military service in Viet Nam

Hullabaloo

There were many honorable ways to behave during the Vietnam era. There were those who believed in the war and volunteered to fight it. There were those who were drafted and went as a matter of duty. There were those who fought the war, came to believe it was wrong and came back to change the policy. And there were those who believed it was wrong and refused to participate. All of those people stood up for what they believed in and did their duty as they saw it.

There was one group,however, who supported the war but didn’t stand up for their beliefs — refusing to take the heat that being a citizen, particularly a young man, in those days required. They played the system. Many of them “had other priorities” using every possible excuse, all the while vociferously backing the war effort — as long as someone else fought it. And, the worst of this group were the privileged who supported the war but merely pretended to fight it by having their connections pull strings to get them into safe stateside duty that they could later claim amounted to “service.” They would have pictures of themselves looking handsome in their uniforms. And they could swagger around with their buddies and drop casual hints for the rest of their lives about their days in the military. But even those phonies at least actually completed the minimal requirements to claim such affiliation.

It is very rare to find someone who finagled their way into the guard ahead of people who’d been waiting longer, had the government spend huge sums of money training him to be a pilot, quit flying less than two years later of his own accord and then dropped out of sight many months before his duty was fulfilled. It’s even rarer to find someone like this declared a fine figure of a man who served his country well — particularly when there are so many who actually did.

freedom from & freedom to

hearkening back to Handmaid’s Tale, a distinction between negative and positive liberty:

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O’Reilly Admits Iraq War Was a “Big Screw-Up”
Mr. O’REILLY: Look, the Iraq War was a big screw-up, all right? I think every clear-thinking person in the country knows it was. First of all, weapons of mass destruction did not materialize, which was the primary motivator for the war.

– from O’Reilly (Fox) debates Krugman (NYT) on “Tim Russert”, CNBC, Saturday, August 7, 2004, extracted from transcript posted on The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid (a conservative blog)

above the law

jack balkin had some important things to say on june 9 about arguments make you ashamed to be a lawyer, and about arguments for the imperial presidency.

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paranoid fears about tyranny

fears & rumors of fears from unfogged – nicely articulates something i’ve been unable to about civil liberties:

It’s Easy, Really

Posted by Ogged
on 06.09.04

Once again, I’m trying very hard to keep from thinking that the republic is on the brink of collapse. Soon, I’ll stop trying.

But let me add just one simple point: If America ceases to be a free country, you won’t necessarily notice. It won’t smell different, dark clouds won’t gather on the horizon, the roads will remain open, movies will still play in the theaters, and television will, most assuredly, stay on.

Like the mass of people who lived in the Soviet Union, or who are now living in Iran, you’ll go about your business, making accommodations, and trying to get by. In fact, in Iran, you can easily hop in your car, go all across the country, camp where you like, build big fires, leave a mess, and drive like the devil. In many ways, there are far fewer regulations there. But we rightly call it a repressive society because of the way it treats dissenters and the accused, and because there is little accountability and limited democracy.

We’re a long way from a mullacracy in the U.S., but we’re definitely closer to being one than we were a few years ago, and, I’ll say it again: what’s most disturbing is how many people are unperturbed. And what those who are upset should understand is that, contrary to what we think we know in our bones, there aren’t many effective arguments from self-interest in favor of freedom. Being free just isn’t a matter of convenience, and being unfree isn’t necessarily inconvenient. It’s a matter of principle, and of pride. I don’t think many people care about the principle, but, for a couple of hundred years, Americans have been fiercely, even violently, proud of being free. Are they still?

Good commentary on torture memo justifications from fafblog!

From Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog., Saturday 12-June-2004:

Torture: A last recourse we may require sooner and sooner

The Medium Lobster has been disquieted of late at by the latest round of Iraq torture scandal news. There has been much uproar – among that irritating minority which have not been studiously scrutinizing the week’s top story, the beatification of Ronald Reagan, at least – regarding the powers of the president and the incompatibility of torture with a liberal democracy. In the midst of all this, the Medium Lobster would like to offer those with cooler heads some perspective as to the merits of harsh interrogation.

Imagine there is some weapon of mass destruction planted by terrorists in the heart of a city, ready to go off – a “ticking bomb,” if you will. Would it be wrong to torture a terrorist to find the location of such a device and save the millions of lives at risk? Hardly. Now, what if instead of torturing a terrorist, interrogators had to torture a confederate of that terrorist – some associate who would know where the terrorist was so they could locate that ticking bomb? Is that dirtying of our hands such a high price to ask in the goal to protect millions? I think not. Now, what if instead of a terrorist’s comrade, interrogators have a terrorist’s relative or neighbor? Is it still justified to go as far to save innocent lives? I should hope so! And what if that terrorist has a lot of relatives and neighbors – hundreds, even? Would it be wrong to grant blanket authority to torture hundreds of prisoners knowing full well that any of them could have the crucial information required to save a city? Certainly not! And what if the threat we’re faced with is not a bomb at all but an even more pernicious threat – a rogue nation with the potential capability to someday construct that bomb? Would it not be America’s right – no, her duty – to invade that country, occupy it, and set up a system of torture-like interrogations to rid that country of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction once and for all? Absolutely!

Indeed, the most unsettling question being raised by these latest news items is not the issue of torture itself, but the question of whether America will be strong enough to use that torture to defeat the enemies of life and liberty. The Medium Lobster can only hope that this great nation will retain its nerve.

newsflash: mainstream media sucks

while i watched the DNC i was persistently annoyed by the media coverage. it was completely substance-less. every single commentator that i saw discussed issues like: does john kerry need to hit a homerun? or not? did john kerry hit a homerun? or not? was his speech successful at reaching out to noncommitted voters? john kerry has to reach out to both his dedicated followers and the undecided. did he do it?

… and so on. and that’s just john kerry. pretty much every other aspect of the convention was covered similarly. this was a great speech. what will its effect be on john kerry’s need to hit a homerun? this speaker is staying on-message. this speaker went off-message. and so on.

nobody fucking addressed the substance. granted, the democrats tend to be a little thin on substance. but still, nobody discussed what kerry did and did not say, the criticisms any speaker did or did not make, the substantive proposals that speakers made. never. not once did i hear any of that discussion. and i watched and listened to and read a lot of coverage.

it’s just unbelievable how bad the media coverage of politics is. is this a new low? i can’t believe that it’s always been this bad. has it always been meta-level analysis? has it never been substantive analysis? do the media commentators and pundits even realize what they’re doing?

for another perspective: feed on feeds – Aaron Swartz: The Weblog – new items