Monday, June 30, 2003
Whistler's Mother: This weekend's Financial Times had an article on James McNeill Whistler and a show on the 100th anniversary of the artist's death.
The story interested me because I enjoy Whistler's art and during high school I gave a presentation in my English class on Whistler. The reason I remember the presentation is because it was supposed to run 7 to 9 minutes -- and I talked for 27. No, I hadn't timed it before I gave it. I just figured I would talk until I was finished -- but I didn't think I'd go that long.
Lesson learned: Give someone a heavy object to throw at me if I go over. Cards, lights, etc. don't faze me.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Stifling of Dissent: I don't support the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, mainly because I believe that four more years of his lack of leadership and pandering to special interests will seriously cripple the Democratic Party in the state.
That being said, I think that this sort of behavior is out of line.
Opponents of the move to recall Gov. Gray Davis are asking their supporters to intimidate signature gatherers and complain of harassment at stores where recall petitions are circulating, stepping up the political battle taking place in front of Wal-Marts and Home Depots across California.
In an e-mail message and Internet posting titled "How to Advocate Against the Recall," Davis supporters were told, "It is OK to stand in front of their table or approach potential signers before they do, or otherwise inhibit their activity." The memo instructs people to say they are "offended by being harassed" and file complaints with managers of stores.
You can bet if the parties were switched, then there would be a bigger outcry. But then, conservatives are never victims -- they're the oppressors.
Friday, June 27, 2003
My Guy Strom?: When word came into the newsroom last night that former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond had kicked the bucket, one of the copy editors asked me what I thought about "my guy Strom's" death. I responded that Strom, a segregationist, wasn't really my kind of guy. Though I'm sure we would agree on many things, I'm not the type that would unabashedly with someone who'd supported segregation.
However, one thing I believe that I and Strom would always agree on is a fondness for the ladies.
In 1968, Mr. Thurmond, then 66 and a widower for eight years, married for the second time. His bride, Nancy Moore, a former Miss South Carolina, was 22.
Although Mr. Thurmond had been criticized for marrying a woman much younger than he, the marriage produced four children.
Now that's probably the most inspiring thing I'll remember about good ol' Strom.
Now this is a gun! I just like the idea of a gun that fires a million rounds a minute -- and now it appears that it's real. I'm betting that Rachel Lucas would love this.
Dumber than Dubya II: Today's winner is Democrat Rep. Patrick Kennedy, as reported by The Washington Times' Lloyd Grove:
As sometimes happens with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), he let his mouth race ahead of his brain Wednesday night at a gathering of Young Democrats at the Washington nightspot Acropolis. After presidential candidate Howard Dean spoke, Kennedy delivered an impassioned peroration against President Bush's tax cut. We hear that Kennedy told the crowd: "I don't need Bush's tax cut. I have never worked a [bleeping] day in my life." With that he got the audience's attention -- the dropping-jaws kind. "He droned on and on, frequently mentioning how much better the candidates would sound the more we drank," a witness told us. "Finally, he had to be stopped by a DNC volunteer." Kennedy's spokesman, Ernesto Anguilla, told us yesterday: "He was talking to the crowd; it was a rally-the-troops kind of speech about the tax cut. He was energizing the crowd and got caught up in it and used an unfortunate word, which he regrets using. . . . And no one pulled him off the stage." [emphasis added]
Maybe just one day of honest work would be good for him.
Should I call a Waaaaaahmbulance? New York Times columnist Paul Krugman complains that the Republican party is becoming the dominant party in American politics.
In "Welcome to the Machine," Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation — from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.
Is there a flip-side to Krugman's complaints? Sure, try this on:
In "Welcome to the Real World," Matthew Hoy draws together stories usually reported in isolation -- from the drive to expand Medicare, to the anti-tax cut positions taken by union leaders, to the anti-war rallies organized by professors at public universities. As he points out, these are symptoms of the decline of the national Democratic party, one that is well on its way to marginalizing itself in the eyes of the American mainstream.
Krugman goes on to assail campaign fundraising by the President.
"As a result, campaign finance is only the tip of the iceberg. Next year, George W. Bush will spend two or three times as much money as his opponent; but he will also benefit hugely from the indirect support that corporate interests — very much including media companies — will provide for his political message.
Well, if George W. Bush does raise that much more than his Democratic opponent, it's because the Democrats hamstrung themselves when they passed McCain-Feingold.
Historically, Democrats have depended on fewer donors giving large sums of money while Republicans have always had a larger base of like-minded citizens to contribute to campaigns. Complaining about that fact won't help the Democrats -- making their policies appeal to more people will.
Whatever the reason, there's a strange disconnect between most political commentary and the reality of the 2004 election. As in 2000, pundits focus mainly on images — John Kerry's furrowed brow, Mr. Bush in a flight suit — or on supposed personality traits. But it's the nexus of money and patronage that may well make the election a foregone conclusion.
Krugman's usually wrong -- but here's hoping that this time he's right.
Journalism 101: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who previously served as an associate managing editor at the Times and once won a Pulitzer Prize, shows how journalism is done at the paper of record.
Since I've been accusing the Bush administration of cooking the intelligence on Iraq, I should confess my intentions. Countless Iraqis warned me that they would turn to guerrilla warfare if U.S. troops overstay their welcome, so I thought I'd find an Iraqi who had had his tongue or ear amputated by Saddam's thugs and still raged about the U.S. That would powerfully convey what a snake pit we're in.
Mr. Kristof, with all due respect, that's not how journalism is done. You don't come up with a storyline first and then do selective "reporting" to back it up. As a columnist, you can certainly present your point of view, but your reporting should be held to the same standards taught back in Journalism 101.
Your goal wasn't to survey several people tortured by Saddam's regime and determine if some of them hated the United States. Your goal was just to find one who would illustrate your preconceived agenda.
How can we trust any of your reporting if this is the method by which you operate. Your anonymous sources on the "cooked" U.S. intelligence may just be a couple of wackos that you've sought out because that's the story you want to communicate.
That's not good journalism. If a freshman journalism student pulled what you did in a basic reporting class, they'd get the same thing I'm giving you.
Final grade: F
Well, that makes a difference: From today's New York Times corrections column:
An article on Wednesday about Congressional committee testimony by a top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons misstated the response of other officials from several intelligence agencies who were asked whether they had been pressured to tailor their analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views. All said no; they did not remain silent.
Remaining silent has that conspiracy/5th Amendment-invoking appeal to it. Denying it casts doubt on the Times
editorial news article.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Democrat? Did you see a Democrat?: The Media Research Center has watched the reports of the death of segregationist Governor Lester Maddox of Georgia and reveals that no network mentioned his party affiliation.
Free at last: Wall Street Journal editorial writer William McGurn reports that Sarah Saga, an American woman who had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia, has arrived in the United States. Unfortunately, without her kids.
So why did Ms. Saga agree to give up her kids? The answer is simple: her fear that her father would have her killed if she stayed. Even sympathetic Saudis, she says, told her there was no turning back, and she figured she was of better use to her children alive in America than dead in Saudi Arabia. "There was no choice," she says flatly.
Certainly Ambassador Jordan deserves full marks for sticking to his promise in what must have been trying circumstances. But as much as we celebrate Ms. Saga's deliverance, it should give us pause. Surely no American mother should be forced to choose between her children and her life and freedom. And exercising that freedom shouldn't require the combined efforts of this newspaper, daily exposure on the FOX News Channel and a desperate flight to a U.S. consulate. And notwithstanding the joint Saudi-State distaste for publicity, none of this would have happened too without the push by their joint nemesis, Pat Roush.
If things are to improve, the State Department must cease treating these matters as private disputes and beginning every explanation with the phrase "under Saudi law." As Ms. Saga notes, the Saudis take a different approach, actively lobbying her husband not to agree to let their children go to America. Under the status quo created by Saudi intransigence, not only are Americans denied their freedom but Americans and Saudis alike are denied any chance for civilized custody arrangements that would allow children to be with their Saudi fathers in Saudi Arabia and their American mothers in America. The sad fact is that State imposes no sanction on the Saudis for their outrageous behavior.
It's a small first step, but hopefully a sign of things to come.
Stopping to smell the roses: It was reported yesterday that an Iraqi scientist turned over to U.S. forces plans and parts for a gas centrifuge -- used for enriching uranium to make an atomic bomb.
What is known now by the CIA and other U.S. government officials ... is that the Iraqis, No. 1, were way ahead in developing this program, could have put it together with the components they had and the information in about three years, according to top nuclear scientists.
On the other hand, the scientist [Mahdi Obeidi] who turned it over to them said that there was no program after '91, that he was ordered in 1991, and other top nuclear scientists, to take various components and kits, as they were called, with the various plans and diagrams for this centrifuge and hide them.
He hid it under a rose bush in a barrel in his garden, and there it stayed for 12 years, and there he lied about it for 12 years until Baghdad fell to coalition forces, and at that point he decided he wanted to cooperate with the United States, and he did.
The International Atomic Energy Agency claims that the find is not a "smoking gun" because the centrifuge was not operable under the aforementioned rose bush.
This find should illustrate a several points:
First, inspectors never would have discovered this while Saddam Hussein was still in power. The eternal pleading for "more time" was bogus then and is even more bogus now.
Second, Saddam was fully prepared to build a nuke once inspectors had either: A) left, or B) been scaled down in size to where they were a negligible threat.
Third, the only way to ensure he never got a nuke was to depose him. There was never going to be the political will in the U.N. to maintain the sanctions in perpetuity, so eventually the meager constraints on Saddam would have been loosed.
You'd think that a find such as this would prompt some caution in the Nicolas Kristofs, Paul Krugmans and Richard Scheers of the world, who claim that Iraq was no danger to anyone (and certainly not us) and that we went to war with imperial designs.
Don't hold your breath.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Freedom of expression: Reading the New York Times editorial page is becoming indistinguishable from reading the pages of The Nation or Mother Jones or The American Prospect.
Only in the land of the loony left does "freedom of expression" mean that citizens have the right to enjoy pornography in their public library.
The Times complains that Internet filters sometimes block sites that are not pornographic. True, but it is a small percentage, and the filter can always be temporarily turned off or simply reconfigured to allow access to a particular site.
However, the most interesting part of the Times' argument against the Supreme Court's ruling is that librarian supervision is an acceptable substitute for the filtering:
They (libraries) cannot maintain adults-only terminals without filters, or rely on alternative methods, such as monitoring by librarians, to keep children from looking at inappropriate Web sites.
When was the last time one of the Times' editorial writers visited an underfunded public library on a weekend, or after school on a weekend? Do they seriously believe that librarians have the time to monitor say a half-dozen computers among all of their other duties?
The Supreme Court's decision, in this case, was the right one. One I'm sure the vast majority of the American people agree with. It just shows you how far the Times has gone in recent years.
Human Rights and the U.N.: The Wall Street Journal's Claudia Rosett offers contrasting stories of heroism and cowardice in the face of evil.
Wanna take bets on who's the coward? (Hint: The group has Cuba on its Human Rights Commission.)
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Need a rewrite on an AP headline: The Associated Press is reporting a story with the headline: "Six British MPs Killed in Southern Iraq." The problem? The MPs they're referring to are military police. When you're talking about the Brits, MP usually means "Members of Parliament."
Dumber than Dubya: A constant refrain from the left, ever since he announced his candidacy for president of the United States, has been that George W. Bush is stupid. No, not just stupid, but stoopid.
So, in the effort to maintain balance, I'm going to highlight some of the statements by some of his Democratic Party opponents (especially presidential candidates) that would be met with howls of outrage, snickers and guffaws if they were uttered by Bush.
The first entry in what I'm sure will be a continuing series, comes from former House minority leader Rep. Dick Gephardt. (Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the heads-up.)
"When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day," Gephardt said.
Talk about the horrible job our educational system is doing today. I was taught in a public school that the only ways to overrule the Supreme Court are to pass a new law (if the Court says that a problem with an existing law can be solved that way), or if something is found to violate the Constitution, you can pass an Amendment.
Wow. I bet former President Clinton is just kicking himself in the butt right now. When the Supreme Court said he had to testify in the Paula Jones case, he could have just issued an executive order saying that he didn't have to. Then he wouldn't have had to commit perjury and he wouldn't have been impeached!
Former President Richard Nixon could have just issued an executive order saying that he didn't have to release any recordings he'd made!
Gephardt's statement came during a candidate forum sponsored by shakedown artist Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition, so Gephardt was obviously in full-pander mode.
You can find the C-SPAN video here (RealOne Player Required). The aforementioned statement comes at about 45:40 into the broadcast.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays in the major media, or if Gephardt issues some kind of clarification or retraction.
One other point of interest, Gephardt's House Web site has posted no statements or press releases since Feb. 5, 2003. It almost seems as though, while campaigning for president, Gephardt has gone ROAD (Retired On Active Duty) on his job as a congressman.
Monday, June 23, 2003
The Democrats' candidate?: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been making a big splash among the Bush-hating, anti-war wing of the Democratic Party. On the McLaughlin Group this past weekend, panelist Eleanor Clift gave Dean an "8" when asked his chances of getting the Democratic nomination (with "0" meaning no chance and "10" meaning a metaphysical certainty).
On yesterday's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert spent the entire hour with Dean.
Russert did a pretty good job with Dean, who attempted to downplay the sometimes loony remarks he typically makes in his stump speeches.
Dean, like many Democratic candidates, wants to repeal all of the "Bush tax cuts" using some curious logic:
I would go back to the Clinton era of taxes because I think most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president if they could only have the same economy that they had when Bill Clinton was president.
If only it were that easy. Is this the kind of economic policy that Democrats advocate? Pick an period of time when the economy was good, set the tax rate there and everything will be just fine?
Russert: Let’s turn to the campaign. This is what you said last month about the Bush tax cut and I’ll show you and our viewers. “It has become clear what this president is attempting to do and why we must repeal the entire package of tax cuts.” The Department of Treasury, we consulted and asked them: What effect would that have across America? And this is what they said. A married couple with two children making $40,000 a year, under the Bush plan, would pay $45 in taxes. Repealing them, under the Dean plan, if you will, would pay $1,978, a tax increase of over 4,000 percent. A married couple over 65 making $40,000 and claiming their Social Security, under Bush would pay $675 in taxes. You’re suggesting close to $1,400, a 107 percent tax increase. Can you honestly go across the country and say, “I’m going to raise your taxes 4,000 percent or 107 percent,” and be elected?
Dean: Well, first of all, were those figures from the Treasury Department, did you say, or CBO?
Russert: Treasury Department.
Dean: I don’t believe them.
Well, I think those numbers are certainly possible -- even probable.
Try it yourself by going to the IRS Witholding Calculator here. I was able to get the tax burden down to $407 dollars for the aforementioned married couple with two children -- without putting in any deductions for mortgage interest. Admittedly, it's different for every family, but the Treasury Department figures are not outside the realm of possibility.
And the kicker is, though he says he doesn't believe it, he answers questions as though he does.
Russert: Well, in 1995, when you were advocating that position, you were asked how would you balance the budget if we had a constitutional amendment...
Russert: ...calling for that, and this is what Howard Dean said. “The way to balance the budget, [Gov. Howard] Dean said, is for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70, cut defense, Medicare and veterans pensions, while the states cut almost everything else. ‘It would be tough but we could do it,’ he said.”
Dean: Well, we fortunately don’t have to do that now.
Russert: We have a $500 billion deficit.
Dean: But you don’t have to cut Social Security to do that.
Russert: But why did you have to do it back then?
Dean: Well, because that was the middle of—I mean, I don’t recall saying that, but I’m sure I did, if you have it on your show, because I know your researchers are very good.
Russert: Well, Miles Benson is a very good reporter for the Newhouse News.
Dean: Yes, he is. No, no, no. I’m sure I did. I’m not denying I said that. I have...
Russert: But you would no longer cut Social Security?
Dean: But you don’t—no. I’m not ever going to cut Social Security benefits.
Russert: Would you raise retirement age to 70?
Dean: No. No.
Russert: Would you cut defense?
Dean: You don’t have to do that either. Here’s what you have to do. You got to get rid of the tax cuts, all of them, and then you have got to restrict spending.
Unfortunately for Dean, the "rich" didn't get nearly enough money back from the Bush tax cuts to solve all of the aforementioned problems -- you're going to have to soak the married couple with two children too.
Some pundits have likened Dean's campaign to George McGovern's in 1972 -- predicting a similar landslide victory for the GOP in 2004. In this case, at least, it appears more like Walter Mondale's in 1984 -- a promise to raise taxes that the American public will reject.
The State Dept. and Saudi Arabia: The Wall Street Journal has another update on our coddling of the duplicitous Saudis. Newt Gingrich is right that there needs to be a revamping of the State Department -- it needs to realize that it serves U.S. interests first.
Saturday, June 21, 2003
Explaining the hiatus: I haven't written much this past week -- at least not much for you to read here. I don't write too much about my personal life here, because, as I've written before -- I don't like to bore my readers. So, if all you're interested in is Krugman-fisking and political thoughts and analyses, then you can just skip this entry.
A week ago today, my grandfather, Sidney Allen Stokes (aka Papa), died at the age of 83 at his home. Papa had been diagnosed with cancer just 3 1/2 weeks earlier. Instead of writing here, I wrote his obituary for the local papers.
Sidney Allen Stokes, born July 25, 1919 in El Centro, went home to be with the Lord on June 14, 2003.
He moved to San Diego in 1923. He graduated from Brown Military Academy (now San Diego Army-Navy Academy) in 1937. He attended San Diego State College. He later worked in heavy construction on the Texoma Dam in Denison, Texas, for the E. Paul Fords Co.
Sidney met his future wife, Bonnie Jean Lindley in Wynne, Ark. The couple was married April 4, 1942, in San Diego.
He served in the Army Air Corps in WWII as a B-29 navigator and engineer. Years later he wished he had not been competent at math, which enabled him to pass the navigator's test. Those who passed the test became navigators; those who failed the test became pilots. He had wanted to be a pilot.
After leaving the service, he worked for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. for 38 years before retiring in 1977.
He was a member of the Good Sam Fifth Wheel Trailer Club and College Avenue Baptist Church.
Sidney could fix, build or make practically anything. In his retirement he kept busy by building motorcycles from the frame-up. A motorcycle accident caused his wife, Bonnie, to put a stop to motorcycling, so he started on the next-smallest thing she would allow - restoring British sports cars. Over the years he rebuilt two MGs and periodically loaned them out to his grandchildren.
Sidney loved Jesus. He and Bonnie would pray together every morning. His example instilled in his children and grandchildren a love of God.
His family will see him again in heaven.
Sidney is survived by his wife of 61 years, Bonnie L. Stokes of La Mesa; son and daughter-in-law James and Barbara Stokes of Carlsbad; daughter and son-in-law JoAnne and Richard Hoy of La Mesa; grandchildren Matthew Hoy of Escondido, Rebecca Hoy Short of La Mesa, Daniel Stokes and Bonnie Stokes of Carlsbad; sisters Elsie Underwood of Nokesville, Va., and Dorothy Wiker of El Cajon.
My grandfather was one of the solid pillars in my life. I will always treasure the time we spent together -- whether it was the spring break we spent putting a new transmission in the 1971 MGB roadster (it was quite a project -- to change the transmission in an MG you have to pull the engine) or just sitting in the living room talking about God, life, and politics.
Though I know I'll see him again, it hasn't made the past week easy. I'd expected to have many more years with my grandfather. His mother, my great-grandmother, lived to be 102. Both of his older sisters are still alive. But he'd had 3 pacemakers put in over a period of 18 years -- he figured that each of those years was a bonus -- I took them for granted.
At yesterday's graveside service, my brother-in-law, a seminary student, performed the ceremony. He did an excellent job.
He recounted the story of a young woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her pastor visited her and she told him what songs she wanted sung at the memorial, what dress she wanted to be buried in, what kind of flowers she wanted. As the pastor got up to leave, she told him that she'd almost forgotten something -- she wanted to be buried with a fork in her right hand.
"A fork?" the pastor asked.
The woman explained that whenever she was at a church social, or at dinner in a restaurant, when they would come to clear the plates after the meal, someone would tell her to hold on to her fork. When that happened, she knew something even better was to come. Triple-chocolate cake. Apple pie a la mode. Something delicious. Something better than what had come before.
So, when people asked why she was holding on to her fork, the pastor could tell them that she needed it because something better was waiting her.
The week was difficult enough with my grandfather's death, but it was difficult too because of the shooting on Friday, June 13, of Oceanside police officer Tony Zeppetella. Though he was killed on Friday, allegedly by an illegal alien/gang member/career criminal, his name wasn't released to the public until Saturday night. I didn't register Tony's name until Sunday morning.
I'd met Tony more than a year ago, when his then-girlfriend Jamie Dail brought him to the 20Something group at our church. Jamie was in the small-group Bible study that I hosted at my apartment. Jamie and Tony later married in Las Vegas. They have a six-month-old son, Jakob. Tony was murdered two days before he would have celebrated his first Father's Day.
I spent an hour on Monday talking with Jamie -- she's handling it much better than I think I would. (Unfortunately, I couldn't attend Tony's memorial service -- it was the same time as my grandfather's. )
It's difficult to know what to say to Jamie. Jamie knows that Tony loves her. While it's true that Tony is in heaven with his Lord and Savior, it seems insufficient for Jamie, here, now, on Earth.
It was tough looking at baby Jakob as he slept -- knowing that all he will ever know about his father is what those who knew Tony, especially Jamie, tell him.
For those of you who are interested in helping Jamie and her son, there has been an account set up in Tony Zeppetella's name at Washington Mutual.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Our friends the Saudis: In case you had any doubts about whether Saudi Arabia had changed its ways to coincide with the image promoted by their PR machine, don't worry, some things never change.
If only Sarah Saga were trying to crash a men's-only golf club. Then she and those like her might be guaranteed some sustained media coverage. As it is, this intrepid 23-year-old American mother is now holed up with her two children in the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah in a desperate bid for freedom.
Back in September Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., claimed in this newspaper it is "absolutely not true" that any American women were in his country against their will. Ms. Saga's flight to the consulate suggests otherwise. For under Saudi law no woman--even an American--is free to leave that country if her father or husband forbids it.
We need some regime change in Saudi Arabia too. Sometimes "stability" in a region is not necessarily something to be desired.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Glassman on the Times: There was a notable column posted last week over at TechCentralStation by James K. Glassman regarding the New York Times editorial page and its lack of gravitas.
Like many, Glassman doesn't particularly care for wunderkind Paul Krugman:
Look at the op-ed page of the Times itself. It deteriorated beyond recognition. Paul Krugman, once a respected economist, has become a shrill polemicist, a show-off and a bully. A good editor would try to guide Krugman, a non-journalist, toward writing in ways that might actually influence policy or attempt to change the minds of people who aren't already far to the left. Instead of explaining economic concepts and taking a well-reasoned position (as Robert Samuelson, a meticulous non-economist, does in the Washington Post), Krugman vilifies his opponents, calls them liars, heaps abuse on them and, in his posturing, doesn't bother to illuminate difficult intellectual issues. What a waste!
I've said much the same, and noted the occasional column where Krugman actually does do a good job -- a column explaining the techniques that Enron used to game the California energy market was probably the best one I've seen.
Glassman also outlines a larger problem with the Times.
Under the Raines regime, a single viewpoint has dominated among non-Times op-ed writers as well. Why doesn't the Times - unlike, say, the Washington Post - have the courage to display the other side's arguments? Is there a chance that the reader, hearing the case for tax cuts, might defect?
Earlier that same week, though not specifically noted by Glassman, was a trio of Op-Ed pieces on the federal judiciary and the Democrats' unprecedented use of the filibuster.
The first article is aimed at justifying the Schumer principle -- judicial ideology matters and the Senate is right to consider it.
The second article makes the case for both Democrats and Republicans to ignore the Constitution -- which gives the power to select judges to the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Luckily, there is a better model for judicial selection. Although the Constitution gives the president the power to pick all federal judges, senators have long had great influence in the choice of the federal trial judges who sit in their states. For decades, New York's Republican and Democratic senators have appointed judicial screening panels, composed of members of the community, not limited to lawyers, and charged them to recommend candidates for the federal trial courts in the state. Any lawyer can apply for a judgeship.
For each vacancy, the panels compile a list from which the senator can then recommend a nominee to the president. This tradition has given New York an excellent federal trial bench. Lawyers who would be excluded from consideration in a world that demanded political loyalty or ideological devotion have been willing to submit their names.
Putting aside the objection that this is a sneaky way to ignore the Constitution -- because the proponents know that trying to actually pass an amendment that would enact this process would fail, this system merely moves any ideological battle from a position of prominence -- the Senate -- to some obscure, low-level committee.
The final op-ed attempts to justify the Democrats' filibuster of some judicial nominees by arguing that the nation's founders made a mistake by not requiring a supermajority vote for confirming judges in the first place. The author, Yale Law School professor Judith Resnik, pegs the number (arbitrarily) for approving a judge at 60. I suspect that if the Republicans had 60 votes, the required number would jump to 66.
This trifecta of articles -- all appearing on the same day -- highlight Glassman's point. The Times had space for several thousand words on the issue of judicial confirmations -- but no room for the conservative viewpoint. In the Times' world conservatives just don't exist.
This kind of journalism is rare in the mainstream media. The San Diego Union-Tribune commonly addresses issues like this by soliciting pro and con pieces and running them opposite one another -- providing readers with arguments and information from both sides.
The Times needs to change.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Curse you VikingPundit!: Now I've got that damn song stuck in my head.
But it is very funny.
Demonizing DeLay: The latest offering from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is entitled "Some Crazy Guy." It should surprise no one that Krugman finds sins in a Republican where he would excuse a Democrat.
Maybe Mr. DeLay's public profile will be raised by his success yesterday in sabotaging tax credits for 12 million children. Those tax credits would cost only $3.5 billion. But Mr. DeLay has embedded the credits in an $82 billion tax cut package. That is, he wants to extort $22 in tax cuts (in the face of record budget deficits) for every dollar given to poor children.
DeLay has "sabotaged" the tax credits by, among other things further easing the marriage penalty. Krugman is right to use the phrase "given to poor children." Extending an income tax credit to someone who doesn't pay income taxes is welfare, nothing more.
But the really important stories about Mr. DeLay, a central figure in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, involve his continuing drive to give his party a permanent lock on power.
Consider the case of Westar Energy, whose chief executive was indicted for fraud. The subsequent investigation turned up e-mail in which executives described being solicited by Republican politicians for donations to groups linked to Mr. DeLay, in return for a legislative "seat at the table." The provision Westar wanted was duly inserted into an energy bill. (Republican leaders deny that there was any quid pro quo.)
Oh my gosh, a Republican wants to give his party a permanent lock on power! The horror! The horror!
Lessee, was Krugman likewise outraged by former President Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich after his ex-wife had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his presidential library? (Clinton has denied there was any quid pro quo.) A search would seem to suggest not.
Then there's the Texas redistricting story.
Normally states redraw Congressional districts once a decade: Texas redistricted after the 2000 census. But under Mr. DeLay's leadership, Texas Republicans are trying to increase their advantage in seats with a second redistricting. This in itself is an unprecedented power grab.
Here Krugman displays his ignorance (or willful misrepresentation). Texas was redistricted by a court after the Democrats managed to halt a redistricting plan in 2000. Texas was allotted an additional three seats -- all of which were made GOP seats -- leaving the Democrats with a 17-15 advantage in the Congressional delegation.
This in a state where every statewide office is held by Republicans.
This in a state where Republicans hold large majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
Let's compare the Texas situation to California, where the inverse is true. In California, the Democrats hold a large majority in both houses of the state legislature and every statewide office.
What does California's delegation look like? 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
In 1990, Texas Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat, did the exact same thing that Krugman takes DeLay to task for doing in 2003.
The rest of Krugman's column is little more than name-calling designed to rile likeminded leftists.
Why this reactionary drivel continues to be published in the Times I know not. It would seem better suited to democraticunderground.com.
Kyoto, global warming and climate science: On occasion I'm asked where I disagree with the Bush administration. Well, global warming is one of them. Bush thinks that global warming exists and is a problem. I'm skeptical on the existence of global warming -- especially the culpability of human action in having any major effect on the world's climate.
Iain Murray, over at the Volokh Conspiracy outlines some global warming research he's beeen studying, and he concludes with the following:
This is a perfect illustration of the way the greenhouse theory is manipulated. The base theory suggests warming that isn't happening to the extent it should. Science then suggests something else. A new theory is produced, or an old one updated, to make the new data fit with the base theory. Worst-case scenarios are dreamed up and promulgated, normally worse than before. Action is then demanded now from policy-makers to avert the worst-case scenario.
Whatever this is, it isn't real science. It's science distorted to fit a politically-accepted view of nature. Those who question the progress of the science are vilified and pilloried. Galileo would recognize what's going on here, I think.
That's what I've seen too. Until scientists can come up with a model that can accurately reflect what's happening currently, I'll be skeptical about what their models are predicting.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Roadmap to nowhere: Ever since last week's naive summit meeting in Jordan between prime ministers Mahmoud Abbas, Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush concluded, Arab terrorists have have been doing their best to make peace look impossible to achieve.
In other words, reality has reared its ugly head.
Over the past few days I've heard talking heads on the news channels opine that the "vast majority of the Palestinians want peace" and that they have to deal with the "minority" who are committing terrorist acts. President Bush is encouraged to "stay the course" and push the parties toward peace.
Ain't gonna happen.
The simple fact of the matter is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip have become home to a death cult. In Palestinian schools and media, children, teens, adults are brainwashed into believing that best thing they can hope for is to be a shahid. In America, we say that any child can grow up to be president. In the West Bank and Gaza, they can grow up to be a homicide bomber. Mothers crow about their dead sons who walk on to buses and blow themselves -- and as many Jews as possible -- to kingdom come. Slickly produced music videos praise the "sacrifice" of martyrs. Glossy, four-color posters are plastered on every streetcorner.
The Palestinian society is not prepared to make peace. The indoctrination of their youth is so complete, that they could not possibly create an atmosphere in which peace could take hold.
Some pundits hoped, with the quick fall of the Iraqi regime and the cessation of the $25,000 checks to the families of suicide bombers, that the U.S. would have increased political capital to force wholesale changes in the disposition of the Palestinian society. There was some effect -- Abbas is the one Israel and the United States are talking to -- but he has little real power.
How can the Palestinian side be taken seriously when Abbas' denunciation of terrorism is immediately followed by propaganda likening Jews to swine?
What must occur in the West Bank and Gaza is a cultural shift. It needs to start in the Palestinian media and in the schools. Until the rhetoric in those places is moderated to allow for the existence of the state of Israel, there will never be peace.
RIP: ABC newsman David Brinkley and Academy Award-winning actor Gregory Peck have died.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Iran -- home to neocons?: President George W. Bush and his neoconservative handlers have been joined in their plot to justify the war against Iraq from an unlikely source -- Iran.
An Iranian government official with ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Tehran sides with the Americans on one big issue — Saddam Hussein's weapons.
"Yes, we agree with the Americans. Our intelligence indicated that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them from the U.N.," the official said.
The official, from the top ranks of Iran's cleric-led government, asked to remain anonymous amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
He went on to say that the big question is, "What did the Iraqis do with these weapons?"
Although Tehran does not know where these weapons may be today, there is a strong suspicion that some may have filtered onto local black markets.
Surprising and scary -- if in fact WMDs have made it into the hands of terrorists -- and we know there are terrorists in Iran. So, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer can ad Iran's ayatollahs to those plotting to take control of Iraq's oil.
Politics makes strange bedfellows -- in more ways than one.
When violating immigration laws isn't a crime: The Washington Post's Richard Cohen takes the Bush administration and, specifically, Attorney General John Ashcroft to task for locking up 762 illegal immigrants post 9/11 who turned out to have no ties to terrorism.
Let's have it in Cohen's words.
The AG was asked about a report from his own inspector general criticizing the way in which the Justice Department had treated 762 illegal immigrants locked up and detained after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. None of them -- that's precisely zero -- was ever linked to terrorist activities.
What part of the term "illegal immigrants" does Cohen not understand? Illegal immigrants are locked up every day. Of course, limited jail space usually limits those behind bars to those who've committed other crimes or those suspected of committing other crimes. Because we don't have the jail space, or the airlift capability, to handle all of the "illegal" immigrants, Cohen chastises the government for locking up ones who might have terrorist ties.
In the first place, the Justice Department got things exactly backward. In this country, you're innocent until proven guilty -- not the other way around. Second, harsh and inhumane treatment -- keeping the cell illuminated 24 hours a day -- ought not to be tolerated. After all -- and it is worth repeating -- the detainees were never charged with any crime linking them to terrorism. Most of them were detained because they were Muslims or Arabs. In this country, that ain't a crime.
The individuals in question, Mr. Cohen, were guilty of violating immigration laws. That is a crime. There has been no evidence that anyone who could come up with a valid green card was jailed solely on immigration charges. There is no evidence in that report that the detention of those individuals was illegal. I will readily concede Mr. Cohen's second point regarding the lighting, but, in the grand scheme of things, that's pretty tame.
Cohen also connects the detention of illegal immigrants to capital punishment and the fact that DNA testing is exonerating some people on death row. Cohen, who's definitely a foe of capital punishment, neglects the one thing that, thankfully, hasn't happened -- no innocent person has been executed.
Go ahead, connect the dots on Ashcroft yourself. A cavalier attitude toward civil liberties, an inability to concede mistakes, a refusal to see imperfections in the criminal justice system, a zealously irrational belief in the death penalty -- and pretty soon you can read between the lines of that Justice Department report: The attorney general is far more dangerous than any of the immigrants he wrongly detained.
I'd rather have Ashcroft than you, Mr. Cohen, in charge. It's odd that Cohen, along with many of Ashcroft's detractors, warned during his confirmation hearing that he would selectively enforce the laws because of his religious beliefs. He hasn't. So now they attack him for actually enforcing the laws that are on the books -- including the immigration laws.
So who are the ones on a witch hunt now?
The Associated Press imitates Ted Rall: In a brief reference in this story about education in Turkmenistan, the Associated Press refers to the mythical trans-Afghan pipeline that, according to cartoonist and nut-job Ted Rall, was the reason for our invasion of Afghanistan.
The trend worries diplomats and others. Turkmenistan — sitting amid Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan — is in a tense region where repression is fueling the emergence of extremist groups. It also holds energy resources critical to Russia and is important to a U.S.-backed effort to build a trans-Afghan gas pipeline to Pakistan.
Well, that'd be interesting -- if it were true. I mentioned this several months back, but no pipeline's going to be built anytime soon -- because there's other problems in the region.
According to a Department of Energy report:
Given the obstacles to development of a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan, it seems unlikely that such an idea will make any progress in the near future, and no major Western companies have expressed interest in reviving the project. The security situation in Afghanistan is one obvious major risk, and the tensions between India and Pakistan make it unlikely that such a pipeline could be extended into India, which unlike Pakistan has sufficient immediate demand for imported natural gas to justify a project of such magnitude. Financial problems in the utility sector in India, which would be the major consumer of the natural gas, also could pose a problem. [emphasis added]
Will Rall rush to defend Turkmenistan from certain U.S. invasion? After all, this gas pipeline is very important. Surely Turkmenistan is next to be added to the Axis of Evil. Of course, I could be wrong.
The New York Times imitates Indymedia: For those of you unfamiliar with it, (you're lucky) Indymedia is a collection of Web sites from the lunatic left which are rabidly anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-intelligence. How is the Old Gray Lady imitating Indymedia? Well, it's publishing this claptrap by columnist Paul Krugman.
Krugman, curiously, chooses to take the most solid evidence that has yet been produced to demonstrate Saddam Hussein had a WMD program -- the "germ warfare" trailers -- and hangs his hat on reports by "experts" that they could be used to inflate balloons.
Or look at the affair of the infamous "germ warfare" trailers. I don't know whether those trailers were intended to produce bioweapons or merely to inflate balloons, as the Iraqis claim — a claim supported by a number of outside experts. (According to the newspaper The Observer, Britain sold Iraq a similar system back in 1987.) What is clear is that an initial report concluding that they were weapons labs was, as one analyst told The Times, "a rushed job and looks political." President Bush had no business declaring "we have found the weapons of mass destruction."
To people like Krugman, it's always going to "look political." Nothing can be done about that. Krugman's an intelligent man, though blinded by his ideological obsessions, but you'd think he would have addressed Secretary of State Colin Powell's argument, made on Fox News Sunday. Powell's argument is one even an economics professor could understand: If those trailers were used to inflate balloons, then immediately after Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council detailing their use as mobile biological labs the Iraqis would have rolled one of them up to the parking lot of the Palestine Hotel and given the world press a tour. The balloon theory doesn't pass the laugh test.
Krugman also claims, based on an Associated Press report, that the search for WMDs is over, because the military has run out of places to look.
It's now two months since Baghdad fell — and according to The A.P., military units searching for W.M.D.'s have run out of places to look.
Well, according to a Daily Mirror (not a pro-U.S. tabloid) report that's not the case.
The stark failures at the top of the list have led to the Exploitation Group's work being scaled back, with fewer than 300 of the 900 targets inspected.
You can discount the Mirror's take on this, just note that only a third of the sites have been searched. Run out of places to look? Flashback to May 17 and you can find this report:
(Douglas) Feith (undersecretary of Defense) said U.S. forces have searched about 20% of roughly 600 suspected weapons sites.
Pentagon officials say that 110 of 616 suspected sites had been searched, and that the number of people conducting the searches will more than double in coming weeks, to 1,300.
Even the article Krugman references notes that the search is far from over.
"We've interviewed a fraction of the people who were involved. We've gone to a fraction of the sites. We've gone through a fraction of thousands and thousands and thousands of documents about this program," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.
Intelligence agents and weapons hunters have been speaking with scientists and experts for the past month, but those interviews have not led the teams to any illegal weapons and none of the tips provided by Iraqis have panned out.
But if you look behind all of Krugman's bluster, you'll note that the "lies" he's accusing Bush of are the exact same "lies" President Clinton alleged throughout the '90s. The only difference is Bush did something about it.
For those of you interested in a thoughtful rebuttal to many of Krugman's tired arguments, check out The Washington Post's Robert Kagan in Sunday's paper. Kagan lists a number of prominent politicians over the past decade who have "lied" about Iraq's possession of WMDs, including: George W. Bush, Tony Blair, former CIA director John Deutch, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, Jacques Chirac, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and the German intelligence service. Kagan concludes:
So if you like a good conspiracy, this one's a doozy. And the best thing about it is that if all these people are lying, there's only one person who ever told the truth: Saddam Hussein. And now we can't find him either.
Though they would object to the charge, Krugman and his fellow conspiracy theorists believe that Saddam Hussein is more trustworthy than President Bush. That's their argument at its heart. It tells you something about them, and it's not pretty.
Sunday, June 08, 2003
If you missed it: Last Thursday's Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on the situation in North Korea by a former rocket scientist for that Stalinist country.
I come from a country whose rulers are indifferent to the mass starvation of their own people--one whose citizens are on average more than seven inches shorter than their Southern brothers and sisters, and one that requires its citizens to rise early in the morning to join screeching public-address systems in singing absurd songs of praise to a deranged leader. But--and this is now increasingly true and true to a degree that would have seemed impossible 10 years ago--my fellow countrymen know and openly acknowledge that Kim Jong Il is both evil and lunatic and doomed. More and more, midlevel officials like me in the North Korean military and WMD industry see the regime's blustering threats against other countries as evidence of its isolation, desperation and declining hold on power.
The time has come for South Korea and the U.S. to encourage the defection of thousands like me who are prepared to tell the world what they know and whose departure will deprive the regime of skills it needs to survive. Such mass defections will occur if the defectors are given a reasonable prospect for safe harbor outside of North Korea. At the same time, Seoul should end its barbarous "sunshine policy," which sentences fellow Koreans to slavery because giving them freedom would cost too much money.
I had long wondered at what exactly was the logic behind the "sunshine policy" -- and this defector's analysis seems to be the best that I have yet heard. While I'm seldom in favor of offering nations huge sums of cash to do what we want them to do, I think promising funds in the event of North Korea's collapse to deal with the huge humanitarian crisis that would be revealed would likely be a very good idea and money well spent.
Today, Reuters reports that North Korea wants the atom bomb so that it will not have to spend as much money on its conventional forces.
This is worrisome news for the people of North Korea, because the only ones who get anything to eat are those in the military. Smaller millitary -- more people starving.
Hillary Clinton and Barbara Walters: Just got finished watching Barbara Walters' puff piece with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you want hard-hitting reporting, Barbara Walters is not where you go for it.
Three things struck me as I watched the presentation:
First, couldn't I have found some better way to spend my time?
Second, Ms. Clinton acknowledged that using the term "vast, right-wing conspiracy" to describe her husband's political opponents was incorrect. She should have labeled it a "vast, right-wing network," since, in her words, "it's out there in the open."
Third, Ms. Clinton's claim that there was "nothing" to Paula Jones' accusations against her husband because the judge threw out the case. Well, that's true, but not a completely accurate picture of what finally happened -- an $850,000 payment made to Jones to drop the case.
On a related note: Ms. Clinton's description of the "network" that was "out to get" her husband from Day One sounded very similar to the vast, left-wing network that has been out to get President George W. Bush from his first day in office. Is it possible that this behavior is simply politics as usual? That, at least in this, Bill Clinton wasn't anything special or out of the ordinary? Just something to think about.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
What do you have to say to get fired?: I'm all for free speech, but there are some jobs where you can't say what you believe and expect to keep your job.
A Danish Lutheran priest has been suspended from his duties after confessing that he does not believe in God.
Thorkild Grosboel, pastor of Taarbaek, a town near the capital Copenhagen, said in a recent interview that "there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection".
Local bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel suspended the priest for a week after a meeting with him on Tuesday at which she demanded that he retract his comments.
So, he doesn't believe in the basic tenets of the church and his supervisor only "suspends" him? Only in Europe.
Oh, and it also makes you wonder about college professors.
However, Mogens Lindhardt, the leader of Denmark's Theological College of Education, described Mr Grosboel's claims as "refreshing".
A new day: The New York Times top two editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd resigned this morning. Hopefully this will mark the beginning of some fundamental changes at the Times.
But, what took them so long?
Bias, liberal agenda -- again: Today's New York Times report on the House vote to ban the procedure commonly-known as partial-birth abortion.
The bills passed by the House and the Senate will be reconciled, sent to the president and the president will sign it. Lawsuits will be immediately filed and the Supreme Court will ultimately decide its legality.
I'm pro-life, and I'll leave aside the infanticide vs. slippery slope debate that this bill generates.
What bugs me, and has bugged me for more than a decade, are several components in the following paragraph.
The measure applies to a type of abortion used to terminate pregnancies in the second and third trimester. The procedure, which is medically known as intact dilation and extraction, is rarely used, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research group.
First, there is a failure to disclose that the Alan Guttmacher Institute is little more than the research arm of Planned Parenthood. The two organizations are joined at the hip. The Alan Guttmacher Institute has a vested interest in keeping abortion on-demand the status quo. Would the Times casually reference the American Petroleum Institute as an unbiased source for the amount of oil available under ANWR?
The second thing is the willing repetition of the claim that this procedure, about which the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked "if that's not infanticide, nothing is," is rarely used.
You'd think that Times reporters would have free access to their own archives.
A prominent member of the abortion rights movement said Tuesday that he lied in earlier statements when he said a controversial form of late-term abortion is rare and performed primarily to save the lives or fertility of women bearing severely malformed babies.
He now says the procedure is performed far more often than his colleagues have acknowledged, and on healthy women bearing healthy fetuses.
Ron Fitzsimmons, the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, said he intentionally misled in previous remarks about the procedure, called intact dilation and evacuation by those who believe it should remain legal and "partial-birth abortion" by those who believe it should be outlawed, because he feared that the truth would damage the cause of abortion rights.
The Associated Press also followed up on the Times report and also noted a report by The Record of Hackensack, N.J.
A report in The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey, last September sparked controversy when it reported that doctors at just one clinic in suburban Englewood estimated using the controversial procedure in about half of the 3,000 abortions they perform each year on women in their 20th to 24th weeks of pregnancy. A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks.
The Times is entitled to its own opinion (though not on its news pages), but it's not entitled to its own facts.
Should we expect a correction from the Times? Don't hold your breath.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Teens, sex and depression: The Heritage Foundation has a new study out that shows that sexually active teens are more likely to be depressed and attempt suicide.
The significantly lower levels of happiness and higher levels of depression among sexually active teens suggest that sexual activity leads to a decrease in happiness and well-being among many, if not most, teenagers. This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that the majority of sexually active teens express reservations and concerns about their personal sexual activity.
Don't expect the anti-abstinence types to take this sitting down. Any suggestion that many teenagers may not be emotionally prepared for sex -- or that there is anything wrong with it -- is just the ranting of a bunch of moralistic prudes as far as they're concerned.
China's evildoing: China continues to persecute those who would push for freedom and democracy.
During his trial, Xu (Wei) told the court he had been brutally beaten and tortured with electric shocks to his genitals after refusing to admit guilt, according to Human Rights in China.
"His health is rapidly deteriorating because of the abuse he suffered previously during his two years in custody while awaiting sentencing," the group said in a statement.
Xu and his three co-defendants had set up an internet-based group, the New Youth Society, which was dedicated to exploring democracy and social reform.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch listen up: This is a gross violation of human rights. This isn't being done to the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, so give it a rest.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Great story: K-Lo over at National Review Online recounts a story by Sen. Rick Santorum that is worth a read.
Monday, June 02, 2003
Going off the deep end: The teaser is "Distorting the Facts." The headline is "Standard Operating Procedure." The columnist is Paul Krugman. The subject, however, is not Krugman's columns.
Krugman, who long ago passed the "Entering Loony Left" roadsign, continues beating the "liar, liar" drum (I'm doing my best Tom Friedman impression) when it comes to the Bush administration. In last Thursday's column, Krugman likened the Bush administration's moves to the movie "Wag the Dog." Curiously, the basis of the plot for "Wag the Dog" was to divert attention from a sex scandal. That was the last president, not this one.
In that column Krugman alleges, without evidence that "Just as war critics feared, Al Qaeda has been strengthened by the war." Evidence? Well, none is necessary for Krugman.
In the latest screed, Krugman claims that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction. Krugman couches this argument by pointing to the "intelligence failure" that has not yet turned up weapons of mass destruction. Scroll down to Saturday's post to see the fallacy in this argument.
Krugman also takes a whack at the latest tax cut.
Am I exaggerating? Even as George Bush stunned reporters by declaring that we have "found the weapons of mass destruction," the Republican National Committee declared that the latest tax cut benefits "everyone who pays taxes." That is simply a lie. You've heard about those eight million children denied any tax break by a last-minute switcheroo. In total, 50 million American households — including a majority of those with members over 65 — get nothing; another 20 million receive less than $100 each. And a great majority of those left behind do pay taxes.
Krugman is playing the kind of word games here that my father long ago beat out of me. The RNC document that Krugman refers to can be found here. What the RNC should have said, to prevent the kind of word games that Krugman plays, is "everyone who pays income taxes." As I've already noted, those children denied the "tax cut" in Krugman's don't pay income taxes. As far as Krugman's other claims, I'm curious as to his source for them, because I haven't seen it. It seems to me that the reduction in the marginal tax rates would cut everyone's (who pays federal income tax) bill. I'm curious as to exactly what game Krugman is playing here.
I find the fact that Krugman is still on the Times editorial page curious. This sort of mindless, attack-dog drivel can be done by any number of liberal bloggers -- and the Times could undoubtedly get them cheaper. Besides, they're a lot more entertaining.
Bush's tax cut: I've been asked by a few people to comment on the $350 billion tax cut passed recently by the Congress. Specifically mentioned was the concern in many reports last Thursday that poor families would not be eligible for the larger child tax credit.
A careful reading of the reports reveals why these families don't receive the full credit:
Families with incomes lower than $10,500 will also not get the refund checks, but under the 2001 tax revision, they would not have been eligible for either the $600 or the $1,000 child tax credits because they do not pay federal tax. [emphasis added]
Now, as heartless as it may seem, there's a principal here that the GOP is sticking to, namely that the tax code should not be used to redistribute wealth -- which is what this disputed provision would have done.
Will this tax cut help the economy? I think any tax reduction that results in more money in people's pockets is a good thing. Whether this is the best way to give the economy a boot -- I doubt it. Seldom does the government do anything the "best way."
Does the tax cut favor the very wealthy? Yep. They pay most of the taxes -- any meaningful tax cut will let them retain a larger share of the pie.
Could the final tax cut have been even more growth-oriented? Yes. I think that skewing the tax cut to the middle class would have been best -- and I'm not just speaking out of personal interest. Skewing the tax cut to the poor -- who don't pay taxes anyway -- would have been a bad idea. Skewing it to the rich, while a key tenet of supply-side theory, may not get you the most bang for your buck when the goal is to increase consumer spending to get companies to hire more workers to meet the demand.
As for the Democrats, both the party as a whole and the presidential hopefuls, have shot themselves in the collective foot on this issue. They complain that the tax cut favors the rich, but fail to get behind a credible alternative and really push it. The Democrats' tax plan is like Bush's only with the redistribution of wealth.
The Democrats would have prompted a real debate had they unveiled a plan that included: a payroll tax holiday; elimination of the double-taxation on Social Security, and elimination (not just "relief) of the marriage penalty.
The real problem, however, is the fact that the Democrats aren't serious about tax relief. Their plan was a simple CYA maneuver -- as their presidential hopefuls have repeatedly pointed out with their desire to repeal the Bush tax cuts (i.e. raise taxes) to pay for various federal programs.
If Republicans didn't control the Congress and the White House, there would be no debate about tax cuts -- the issue wouldn't even be on the table. Democrats aren't interested in lowering taxes. In 2004, the Democratic nominee will have another Mondale moment. In that race, 20 years earlier, Mondale suffered a crushing defeat, in part because of his claim that " Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
Bush's tax cuts aren't perfect, but they're better, and more substantial, than anything the Democrats would ever produce.
He was warned: PBS' Bill Moyers, host of "Now" and avowed liberal, got some media scrutiny last year when The Weekly Standard's Stephen F. Hayes pointed out, among other things, that there was a pattern of Moyers financing organizations' research and then interviewing them on his show -- all without disclosing the relationship.
Despite a promise to fully disclose such relationships (which wasn't any big deal anyway -- in Moyers' view), Hayes has caught him at it again.
Expect another round of mudslinging as Moyers attempts to defend behavior that he would find scandalous if done by anyone other than himself.