Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Congressman

Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected.

[poem moved to comments.]

A Bill to protect Christmas?!? Dingell should've just stood up, growled, "This is horseshit" and stormed out...but I give him credit for creativity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kids on the Christmas Holiday Shopping List?

Don't pressure your child to become an "Einstein." Set a more reasonable goal.

Hilarious. Be sure to click through to "View More Products". And the testimonials.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Democrat's Carrot

Steve Soto has a great idea:
That’s right; instead of letting the GOP have the whole debate about how dividend and capital gains tax cuts somehow help us all, why not bring back the consumer interest tax deduction, something that will actually provide tax relief to a vast majority of the population that is living paycheck to paycheck? Let the GOP argue why it is more important to keep giving the capital gains tax cut and dividend tax cut to the wealthiest one percent on the false promise of job growth, something that can be immediately refuted, instead of letting everyone else who has loads of accumulated consumer and credit card debt get something for it.

Sounds good to me! Go read the whole thing. I'd like to see an economist tell us whether this is a good idea or not.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not Seeing It

[Slightly polished since John Cole linked over here, and frankly the post was (is) not one of my best... Feel free to wander around and check out some of the stuff from the last couple weeks—stuff I think is much better, but no one ever read.]

I'm not going to weigh in heavily on the case of Tookie Williams. Lots of folks on the left seem all worked up over granting this guy clemency. He is less than twelve hours from being executed, and for some reason is getting the full special Hollywood and media treatment. Why?

If you are opposed to the death penalty, I guess there is cause for concern and you should speak up. What I do not understand is why this guy has become a cause célébre for mercy.

There are actually people on death row who deserve to be defended and have their cases publicized. Tookie Williams is not one of them.

Now, I should point out, I am not particularly familiar with the details of this case, but nothing I've read over the last week has given me any reason to: a) doubt his guilt, or b) believe he deserves clemency. Tookie's a bad guy, convicted of four brutal murders, scheduled to meet a fitting end.

But here's where I really go off the liberal rails. I have no problem with the death penalty.

In theory, and for certain cirumstances. Period. It doesn't mean I am a "hang 'em high" gung-ho advocate, but I don't have a problem with executing those guilty of heinous crimes. I realize that gets me in some shit with some of my readers (I am looking across the street) but that's the truth. If I have a problem, it's with the implementation of the death penalty, and the chance that the wrong person might be executed, but not with the punishment itself.

As for Tookie Williams, his supporters claim he is "redeemed." That he might be doing good work with his writing against gangs. Fine. But he still was convicted of, and admitted to, multiple murders. [UPDATE: Williams still maintains his innocence—I am not convinced—in fact, this undermines any claim of "redemption" to me.] There seems to be no question as to his guilt or innocence. He may be working against gangs now, but he still founded the Crips—who are responsible for countless more death, crimes and misery. If the Governator believes Williams could do more good for society alive in a cell than on a gurney, and grants clemency (he won't), that's fine with me, and lucky as hell for Williams. I am not lobbying for a needle to go in his arm, but I will not give it a moment's thought if it does.

I often question whether it is "civilized" for me to think this way, but ultimately, it's not hard for me to think in terms of whether or not a person deserves to be executed or not. If the crime is bad enough, the circumstances are clear enough, and an incredibly high standard regarding that person's guilt is met, I've got no problem with the ultimate punishment.

All of that said, I support a moratorium on all executions in this country to address the complete fiasco that is the legal system in regards to capital cases and the unfair implementation of the death penalty. I would rather never have another horrible murderer executed than have a single innocent person put to death.

So count me as FOR the death penalty, but even more FOR things like the Innocence Project.

UPDATE: orf at The "Oh, Really Factor" has a much more thoughtful and well-written (than mine) post up on the death penalty here. After some consideration she opposes it. That's cool for her. Many people I hold a lot of respect for opppose the death penalty. And it is a position I can respect as well.

I don't reallly feel like I've put forward much of a compelling argument in my post, I'm not feeling very articulate today, I'm a bit distracted, but I thought I'd get my opinion out there while the topic was hot.

I also want to note, that I completely agree with Virginia governor Mark Warner commuting the death sentence of an inmate a week or so ago. (Where was the Hollywood outrage over that one? This was a guy where genuine questions about his guilt were raised, and Warner quietly commuted his sentence without enduring any pressure that I was aware of.)

UPDATE 2: Thanks to John Cole for the link. I wish it was to a piece I actually felt was well-written and less thrown together, but beggars can't be choosers... I should also acknowledge that John turned me onto a case that really is an outrage this morning. The case of Cory Maye. I have been following up and compiling a lot of links on this and will post a thread on it later. It deserves more effort than Tookie. Follow the links in John's piece for the story.

Steve Gilliard, a vocal opponent of the death penalty, can't work up any sympathy for Tookie either.

UPDATE 3: Angry Bear links to some interesting facts on deterrence here. The statistics cited here indicate that the death penalty is NOT an effective deterrent. That is probably true to a large degree, since many, if not most, murders are crimes of more passion and desperation than not. I find it difficult to believe that it is not a deterrent in the case of planning a crime where decisions ahead of time can impact the outcome (ie: a bank robbery or something). If you are planning a criminal endeavor and you can be confident that you will recieve a capital sentence if you kill someone during the commission of your crime, you might adjust your plans accordingly (maybe that is my non-criminal mind making that assumption, but it seems sensible to me). Also undermining these findings in my opinion is the fact that in many states the chance of you actually getting executed are pretty slim. It took almost thirty years for Tookie...

Kevin Drum chimes in on Tookie and then segues over to Cory Maye. Good. This case needs publicity big time. See also CORY SI, TOOKIE NO by Max, who then really hears it from his readers.

Theoretical Good News

Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.

The 2003 boundaries helped Republicans win 21 of the state's 32 seats in Congress in the last election_ up from 15. They were approved amid a nasty battle between Republican leaders and Democrats and minority groups in Texas.

The contentiousness also reached Washington, where the Justice Department approved the plan although staff lawyers concluded that it diluted minority voting rights. Because of past discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes to ensure they don't undercut minority voting.

Justices will consider a constitutional challenge to the boundaries filed by various opponents. The court will hear two hours of arguments, likely in April, in four separate appeals.

The legal battle at the Supreme Court was over the unusual timing of the Texas redistricting, among other things. Under the Constitution, states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts.

But in Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay.

By April, when the argument will be heard, O'Connor will be long gone and likely replaced by Alito. It will be interesting to see what happens. In the past clear cases of gerrymandering (drawing of districts in a ridiculous fashion for partisan gain at the expense of civil rights) have been overturned. A district that starts in Austin and follows a highway in a two-mile wide strip all the way to Mexico seems to illustrate that perfectly. The real test isn't the constitutionality of the case, it will be the impartiality of the Supreme Court—has Bush been successful in installing a Republican judicial branch or is the Court still independent?

More background (and outrage) here in my post a week or two ago.

Richard Pryor

So, this morning, I notice a lot of blogs with Richard Pryor entries. I figured, "Today must be the anniversary of his death or something."

Oops. I now realize (hours later) that Pryor just died on Saturday. I honestly thought he was already dead. I don't have any opinion on Pryor one way or another. Because I'm probably too young to appreciate his importance or impact, I always kind of found him overrated.

That's it, I just found it strange that I was so thoroughly sure that somebody was dead, when that was not the case. I suppose it's a shame because it indicates that Pryor clearly faded away (at least to me) instead of being a force 'til the end, which, I imagine, would have been his preference.

Digby has a nice piece up on him.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dear Senator Tancredo...

I just watched the 60 Minutes Immigration piece. You were featured prominantly spouting your anti-immigtration bullshit. Calling for "whatever billions of dollars it takes" to build a wall the length of the entire Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants depending heavily on the argument of "protecting us from terrorists."

Here's what I have to say about that:

I just drove a van into the country from Canada, without having to so much as show an ID. Seriously. I just posed a much greater threat to the security of the homeland than any starving 16-year-old running across the desert.

Your plan is to protect the country by wasting undetermined billions of dollars on a fucking fence, even though there's been no evidence of terrorists entering the country from Mexico, and there actually have been terrorists with carloads of explosives apprehended coming in from Canada.

That experts (and non-experts like myself, who merely apply common sense) acknowledge a greater threat lies in uninspected shipping containers and cargo. The reason that can't happen? Shortage of funding.

Oh, and let's not forget the fact that every one of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country through proper immigration channels.

You complete fucking incompetent dick.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "One Thing" - INXS
2. "Cure For Pain (live)" - Morphine
3. "How Soon Is Now" - Everclear
4. "Flagpole Sitta" - Harvey Danger
5. "Like Dreamers Do" - Radiators
6. "TBD'" - Live
7. "Whip It" - Devo
8. "Lead a Normal Life" - Peter Gabriel
9. "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call" - The Weakerthans
10. "Couldn't Stand the Weather" - SRV

To save space on the front page, go to the comments for the breakdown...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tactical Nuclear Strike in "War On Christmas"

Everybody with a blog these days has been throwing in with one side or another on the whole "War On Christmas" deal. Bill O'Reilly is firing away like Arnold at the end of "Commando" and everyone on the left is returning fire.

I've pretty much skipped past these posts on most blogs, and avoided wading into this mess here mostly because I think it's pretty dumb. This is an annual rite for idiots like O'Reilly. It has taken the place of the advent calendar for him. He uses his Bully Pulpit of Ignorant Outrage to flail wildly at anyone not wearing a Santa hat or lying in a manger.

Here's a clip of O'Reilly and his understudy, the truth and pigment-challenged John Gibson holding court on "Christmas Under Siege." These two braniacs go on to make the claim that, the "War" on Christmas part of "secular progressive agenda" that includes "legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage and prostitution." It's the highest of comedy. And the fact that they are serious makes it even better. (Yes, they really did prepare the graphic on the right. And check the screen crawl—I couldn't Photoshop it any better.)

I finally came across a take-down post worthy of passing along. Did I mention this whole thing is dumb? Well, dumb is not good enough for O'Reilly—he is straight-up certifiable.
O'REILLY: [Laughs] There you go. Jon Stewart, "Secular Central." Oh, I'm sorry, Comedy Central -- and I like Stewart, but we know what he's doing over there.

Typical crap from him, but as Greg at The Talent Show points out...
What's funnier than O'Reilly's unfortunate attempts at humor, however, is that O'Reilly is targeting Jon Stewart. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Bill, but Jon Stewart is a Jew and Jews don't celebrate Christmas. When you've sunk to the point that you're attacking non-Christians for not celebrating Christian holidays, your witchhunt has completely jumped the shark. I say you hang this one up and prepare for your next crusade. Here's a suggestion : Did you know that those anti-American bastards in Canada don't even celebrate the Fourth of July?! If we can stretch that one between May and July sweeps weeks, then we're good as gold.

[UPDATE: Stewart responds here.]

It's a shame Greg doesn't write more often, because when he does, he can be among the best there are. He goes on to expose the whole "War On Christmas" for what it really is...
The other day I was talking to my friend Josh about ways to destroy Christmas and he brought up an interesting point. The unending wave of inclusion and good-will that O'Reilly is attacking isn't the fault of secular progressivism, but good ol' fashioned capitalism. At some point, retailers noticed that the shameless orgy of consumption we experience between Thanksgiving and New Year's was only sucking in Christians. Rich Uncle Pennybags figured out that a simple semantic change from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" (which, until recently, was considered a kind thing to say) would broaden the base of consumers to include the 20% or so of Americans that don't celebrate the pagan celebration that was turned into Jesus' birthday. It's not an attempt to diminish Christianity or make the country more inclusive, it's just an attempt to make more money.

It's so obvious I cannot believe no one has pointed it out before. Target isn't calling it a "Holiday Sale" because they hate Christmas, they do it because there are other holidays to sell things for. This isn't revolutionary stuff, yet I haven't seen anyone else use this argument so clearly against the Crudsading Religious Jackasses. Nicely done.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Breaking News: Air Marshal Kills Passenger

Just caught this on the yahoo home page.
Airline Passenger Who Made Threat Killed
MIAMI - A passenger who claimed to have a bomb in a carry-on bag was shot and killed by a federal air marshal Wednesday on a jetway to an American Airlines plane that had arrived from Colombia, officials said.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said the dead passenger was a 44-year-old U.S. citizen.

It was the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an air marshal had shot at a passenger or suspect, he said. A witness said that the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 and that a woman with him said he was mentally ill.

The passenger, who indicated there was a bomb in the bag, was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft, Doyle said.

The marshals pursued and ordered the passenger to get on the ground, but the man did not comply and was shot when apparently reaching into the bag, Doyle said. Authorities did not immediately say whether any bomb was found.

Yikes. That ought to cut down on bomb jokes in security lines for awhile.

Seriously, let's hope for the air marshal that this was a "clean shoot." I feel bad for the family of the victim, since it seems like he was mentally ill (and off his meds), yet probably not actually a threat. The cable networks are going to go crazy with this... We'll know more when they say whether there was a bomb or not.

I suppose it indicates a certain level of security "success", but it's hard to find a good side to this right now.

UPDATE: Well, there was no bomb. [link] It sounds like this was a mentally unstable guy who just lost it after being cooped up on a flight from Peru. A tragedy all around. This poor guy's wife was screaming to the officers not to shoot, and had to watch helplessly as he was gunned down. And the poor Air Marshal has to live with killing a man.

Deadly force is warranted in the case of a suspected bomber, and it looks like the Air Marshal had no choice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Corrupt, Criminal, Cronyism II: The Return of Jim Crow

The other day, I outlined the role of the Department of Justice in Tom DeLay's Texas Re-Districting Plan. How independant, career lawyers at the DoJ determined that the Texas plan was illegal, but they were overruled by Bush political appointees, and the plan was allowed.

Well, they are doing it again:
Criticism of Voting Law Was Overruled
Justice Dept. Backed Georgia Measure Despite Fears of Discrimination

Washington Post -- A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.


This Aug. 25 Department of Justice memo shows that a review team decided 4-1 that Georgia's voter identification program should be halted. The next day Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides granted pre-clearance to the program, allowing the initiative to go forward before it was blocked by the courts (PDFs).

But an Aug. 25 staff memo obtained by The Washington Post recommended blocking the program because Georgia failed to show that the measure would not dilute the votes of minority residents, as required under the Voting Rights Act.

The memo, endorsed by four of the team's five members, also said the state had provided flawed and incomplete data. The team found significant evidence that the plan would be "retrogressive," meaning that it would reduce blacks' access to the polls.


State Rep. Tyrone L. Brooks Sr., a Democrat and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said he was not surprised by the Justice Department's position in the case.

"Some of my colleagues told me early on that, because of politics in the Bush administration, no matter what the staff recommendation was, this would be approved by the attorney general," Brooks said. "It's disappointing that the staff recommendation was not accepted, because that has been the norm since 1965."

The Texas plan's rejection was unanimous, but 4-1 isn't even close. Despite that, there seemed to be little doubt for all involved that the Bushies up the ladder would put a smiley sticker on this thing and send it out the door.

If you aren't familiar with this case, it goes like this:
The program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.

Republicans are using the specter of election fraud to pass a law to make it more difficult to vote. So what's unconstitutional or discriminatory about that? Who do you suppose is most likely not to have one of these newly required IDs? Blacks and urban poor.

The fact that they have to buy an ID amounts to a poll tax. The fact that it will disproportionally effect minorities makes in unconstitutional. Incredibly, if you live in Atlanta, there is no place in the entire metro area for you to get this new ID!

The intent of this law to deny the poor and minorities (read: Democrat voters) the ability to vote without incredible hardship is so patently obvious it is ridiculous.
The plan was blocked on constitutional grounds in October by a U.S. District Court judge, who compared the measure to a Jim Crow-era poll tax. A three-judge appellate panel, made up of one Democratic and two Republican appointees, upheld the lower court's injunction.

Thank God for small favors... The article doesn't make clear (to me amyway) if the plan will take effect or not. I wouldn't put it past the Republicans to proceed despite the court's ruling. The DoJ gave them "pre-clearance" and they can just continue to appeal until the election is over. Then, who cares if it gets overturned? Like the re-districting in Texas, the damage is already done.

[h/t Norbizness]

A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar?!?

Garciaparra in Pinstripes? It's Not That Far-Fetched
DALLAS, Dec. 5 - There is no obvious place to put him, and he is not an immediate priority. But as they sift through a weak free-agent market, the Yankees are intrigued by a familiar name: Nomar Garciaparra.

[...] Tellem would not name the teams, but Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Tellem had called him about Garciaparra. He would get little playing time on the left side of the infield with the Yankees, but Garciaparra could conceivably play every day at other positions.

"Teams have asked him, in general, about the outfield, first base, second base," Tellem said. "He's pretty open to any position other than catcher and pitcher."

I badly want Nomar to hook on to a good team, and do well. While I obviously don't want the Yankees to be the benificiary of his comeback, I'd be lying if I didn't admit the pure drama of that scenario is intriguing.

UPDATE: I'd much rather see this. The Indians are going to be good again. They are young and extremely talented, and Nomar could be the perfect veteran fit. And they are not the Yankees.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Corrupt, Criminal, Cronyism

We all knew at the time that the Texas redistricting spearheaded by DeLay was a scam, and likely illegal. It didn't matter to DeLay because legality never matters, and he would pull it off and win the seats before it could be stopped. He succeeded. The re-districting resulted in a pick-up of five Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Exactly how DeLay, with the help of nearly every other Republican-controlled arm of government, managed to cheat on this is now becoming clear. And it is enough to make you sick.

Keep this in mind: Those five seats they picked up? Those were the ONLY gains made in the House in 2004 by Republicans. There's your motive and an indication of the importance/desperation. Despite all the bluster of ass-kicking mandates, the Republicans had to cheat to gain the seats they did.

So, the Texas Repubs, of course, knew the plan was illegal, but they didn't care—ends justify means, and laws were made to be broken and all. But, they still first had to run their plan scam past the Justice Department before they could implement it. What happened?

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. [...] The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts.

Not only did the DOJ rule the plan illegal, but it found that the Texas legislature knew it was discriminatory and had proceeded anyway. End of story, right? Not quite. Those DOJ lawyers? They're just career experts on election law and civil rights, why should they gum up a perfectly good election heist?
...senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

[...] The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule.

[...] a longtime Justice Department lawyer... said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

Well, it used to be. Bush political appointees routinely overrule the findings of their own agencies when it gets results it doesn't like. Just ask the FDA.

Well, surely this would be a big story...Not so much. In classic Bush style, the DoJ issued the order overruling its political appointees on the Friday before Christmas 2003, when no one would pay attention.

Not to worry, the Democrats could appeal, right? Get their day in Court?
[Houston Chronicle]: The Democrats want a copy of the memorandum written by the Voting Section of the department's Civil Rights Division in time to present it today in federal court in Austin. A three-judge panel is hearing final arguments in a lawsuit challenging the new congressional plan, which Republicans want to use in the 2004 elections.

"It is vital that the public and the three-judge panel have access to the Voting Section's recommendation before the start of closing arguments," said a statement issued by the delegation.

The documents were not released, the DoJ lawyers were gagged, and the three-judge panel (2 Republicans and one Democrat) voted 2-1 to uphold the plan.

When the Democrats appealed to the Supreme Court in January for a stay of the revised map, it was Scalia who declined an emergency request and decided the Court would not intervene.

Let's not forget that the whole redistricting was not supposed to happen until the next census, or that DeLay had the Dept. of Homeland Security track down out of state Democrats to force the vote, and broke the law to raise the money for this fiasco in the first place (his current indictment). Plus, their insurance policy was probably in the form of Diebold voting machines.

I'm so disgusted and angry I'm not even sure if i can care anymore...

[h/t kos and special thanks to this comment in that thread.]

"GRRRRRR—Salmon Smash!"

Out of all the outrageous things that the Republicans* are responsible for, for some reason things like this tend to raise my blood pressure the most...
Zeroing Out the Messenger
Idaho Senator Eliminates Funds for Center on Salmon Survival

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In a surgical strike from Capitol Hill, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has eliminated a little-known agency that counts [endangered salmon as they negotiate federal dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers].

The Fish Passage Center, with just 12 employees and a budget of $1.3 million, has been killed because it did not count fish in a way that suited Craig.

"Data cloaked in advocacy create confusion," Craig said on the Senate floor this month, after successfully inserting language in an energy and water appropriations bill that bans all future funding for the Fish Passage Center. "False science leads people to false choices."

That's right, counting is "false science."
The Fish Passage Center has documented, in excruciating statistical detail, how the Columbia-Snake hydroelectric system kills salmon. Its analyses of fish survival data also suggest that one way to increase salmon survival is to spill more water over dams, rather than feed it through electrical turbines.

This suggestion, though, is anathema to utilities -- and to Craig -- because water poured over dams means millions of dollars in lost electricity generation.

Last summer, a federal judge in Portland, using data and analysis from the Fish Passage Center, infuriated the utilities. He ordered that water be spilled over federal dams in the Snake River to increase salmon survival. Shortly after Judge James A. Redden issued his order, Craig began pushing to cut all funding for the Fish Passage Center.

"Idaho's water should not be flushed away on experimental policies based on cloudy, inexact assumption," Craig said in a news release.

Yup, allowing river water to flow down it's natural course is "experimental" and "flushing it away."

Screw Craig's utility buddies—it's not their water. Hell, they're not even their dams, they are the federal gov't's! This isn't about "environmentalist wackos" keeping needed dam projects bottled up. It's not even like the utilities are being forced to build fish ladders or something (I can only assume the gov't did that for them already), this is merely releasing more water through the dam. I'd actually like to see the science that demonstrates how that costs anybody money...

Aside from the environmental/good steward of the rivers motive, which should be enough, salmon are also a major economic force. This kind of crap is so fucking short-sighted and one-dimensional. Some goddamn utility's quarterly earnings may doom an endagered species of incredible natural and economic value.

This motherfucker should be drenched in gravy and sent out to explain his "sound science" to the grizzlies upstream. Asshole.

* That's right, Republicans. It just seems that all the stories like this, are about Republicans. If somebody has a comparable Democrat example, I'll be happy to be outraged by that.

[h/t Kevin Drum]

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "Battery" - Metallica
2. "Against the 70s" - Mike Watt (feat. Eddie Vedder)
3. "Royal Station 4/16" - Melissa Etheridge
4. "Up on the Sun" - Meat Puppets
5. "Lay Your Hands On Me" - Peter Gabriel
6. "Mighty Joe Moon'" - Grant Lee Buffalo
7. "Take It Easy" - Bright Eyes
8. "Anna" - Pure
9. "Tunnel of Love" - Dire Straits
10. "Tantrum" - Ned's Atomic Dustbin

To save space on the front page, go to the comments for the breakdown...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood

Dahlia Lathwick has great analysis and play-by-play from yesterday's Supreme Court abortion case. Read it. Or listen to it.

NPR's Nina Totenberg covered some of the same ground yesterday. Listen. And this NPR page has links to listen to parts of the testimony.

I love listening to that stuff. I find it riveting. Except when Scalia speaks and I find it reviling. And believe me, he came out with some real crap yesterday...

Capital Punishment

Kevin Drum asked for some input on a complicated topic yesterday...taxing capital:
I think taxation of capital should be at roughly the same level as taxation of labor income. However, I believe this mostly for reasons of social justice [me too!], and it would certainly be handy to have some rigorous economic evidence to back up my noneconomic instincts on this matter. Something juicy and simple for winning lunchtime debates with conservative friends would be best.

And the fact that Democrats might be able to use them in the public arena is eminently more useful to the country than Drum getting his sandwich paid for—so bring it on!. Edwards scratched the surface on this with his "reward work, not wealth" stuff. There were some good points (on both sides) in the comments (presented in chronological order):
OK -- If I buy and sell property in a three piece suit all day I'll pay 0% of the capital gains in taxes and if I buy, transport, distribute, and sell twinkies working 12 hours a day in a creaky old box truck I'll pay 30% of my net income in taxes.

Good lunchpail stuff there.
[link] Income is income, regardless of the source. A dollar I earn from working at my job is completely fungible with the dollar I receive from a prior financial investment. [...] The argument from the conservatives about the capital gains tax rate seems to be if we set it at the same rate as other income, no one will invest, they'll just spend it all. That's nonsense - I'll just look for a rate of return for my money that is appropriate given the bite taxes will take out of it.

A good point except for the "spend it all" part. That would be great if they spent it all, the worry presented is that they would hoard it all, keeping the funds out of circulation and the economy.
[link] Get Kevin's "I think taxation of capital should be at roughly the same level as taxation of labor income" settled first. And drop the "roughly." It doesn't matter where the income comes from -- flipping burgers, putting up with grandma, thinking up a killer app, investing in the market, or what -- if you have income, it should get income-taxed. All on the same rate schedule.

That's the only way I could be convinced to approach a flat tax. And this guy is not advocating for one (neither am i), but the bullshit argument that the tax code needs to be simplified is not a problem with the rates—that's easy, you just look it up in a chart. It's determining what income is income, and what isn't. Make it all income, and tax it all, then figure out what the rate schedule should be.
[link] There is no economic evidence whatever that a lower rate of taxes on capital gains increases "investment". There was no lack of "investment" in the go-go 1990s, when the capital gains rate was roughly double what it is today. In fact the market's collapse in 2000-2002 was due to too much investment, not too little. Now let me explain the quotes around "investment." Almost all of what passes as investment in the stock market is not investment at all; it is the transfer of property from one person (the seller) to another person (the buyer). Only initial public offerings, secondary offerings, and bond issues represent true investment (and the proceeds of many secondary offerings and bond issues are used to pay down debt, so they are not genuine investment either). Only a tiny fraction of all stock market transactions has anything at all to do with investment (money that goes to companies to create jobs and spur economic growth). It is simply untrue to link capital gains taxes with investment, and doubly untrue to suggest a cause-effect relationship.

That might be the best knock-down case, but it is hardly concise. And I'm not sure it's easily verifiable (or correct). But, frankly, the burden of proof should fall on the other side (the one advocating for endless debt). It doesn't, but it should.
And don't forget...Reagan's 1986 tax reform plan completely eliminated the preferential treatment of capital gains. As recently as 20 years ago all capital gains were treated the same as ordinary income.

That's a good one—throwing their "God" in their faces might actually be useful...

On the relief side:
[link] A person who takes a "capital gain", anywhere from The Donald day-trading to grandpa selling his house, is getting money from a bet. This is different than standard income, in that if you put your money into a company or stock or real estate or whatever, you can lose it all. It's risky.

A point worth considering. But isn't that a deduction? It doesn't make up for the loss, but it does factor in...

My opinion is based on very little knowledge. I am not an economist, nor have I ever had a lot of money or investments. If I suddenly got a six-figure income that allowed me room to invest to supplement my family's income, it seems preposterous to think I would refuse to invest because I will be taxed on any resulting income. It's the same as the bullshit argument that a progressive income tax rate penalizes me—am I going to turn down a $120,000 job because I'm in a higher bracket? Of course not. I will pay a higher tax rate, but I am still taking home significantly more money! If my investments gross me $30 grand, I would have no problem paying taxes on that. Maybe that's just because I haven't been rich (and therefore greedy) yet...

The investment arena is tricky stuff for me since I do not understand most of it. But one area I am crystal clear on—and, ironically, one I might stand to benefit from one day (from my wife's family)—is the estate tax. Abolising the "death tax" temporarily permanently or anything else is complete crap. That should be straight up income and taxed thusly. Period. The recipent of an inheritence did not invest or earn that money, and for that to escape taxation on that transaction is wrong. I don't care how many times conservatives claim it has already been taxed, the heir has never been taxed on it, and it is income to them. End of story.

The "President" On Global Warming

Another hilarious Will Ferrell video. He seems to have been born for this impersonation. And Bush was certainly born to be made fun of. A perfect match, it's too bad Farrell leaving SNL coincided with the Dumbya moving into the White House. Watch.