Monday, October 24, 2005

What Troop Shortage?

Does it really count as a shortage if we are simply unwilling to pay the market price for something? A few weeks ago, people were talking about a gas shortage. But I never had any trouble finding gas for sale--it was just expensive!

Right now, the Iraq war has both increased the demand and reduced the supply of young men willing to put their lives at risk--for the piss-poor wages the military is offering. The solution to that is simple and as old as Adam Smith. Pay more money. Private contractors working in Iraq are making over $100,000 a year, and we think we can meet the demand for troups by offering less than a quarter of that?

We could easily offer every soldier sent to Iraq a $100,000 per year bonus. It would add less than 10% to the price of the war and cost less than a twentieth of the Bush tax cuts. Given that, it's downright un-American (read anti-capitalist) for the soldiers not to demand what the market will bear for their product. You can bet that Exon and Haliburton aren't settling for quartered profits just because there's a war on.
Permalink 7:13 PM

Monday, October 17, 2005

2%: We're not talking about Milk

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- According to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll President Bush's national approval rating has declined to 39 percent, the lowest level during his Presidency. And among African-Americans, Bush has only a 2 percent approval rating, proving that African-Americans are not fooled by Republican's hollow apologies and empty rhetoric on outreach to the African-American community. (NBC, 10/13/05)
Permalink 11:44 AM

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's Miller Time

Or should that read: "It's Miller's Times?" This is from The Miller Case: Philip Taubman, Ms. Abramson's successor as Washington bureau chief, asked Ms. Miller and other Times reporters whether they were among the six. Ms. Miller denied it. "The answer was generally no," Mr. Taubman said. Ms. Miller said the subject of Mr. Wilson and his wife had come up in casual conversation with government officials, Mr. Taubman said, but Ms. Miller said "she had not been at the receiving end of a concerted effort, a deliberate organized effort to put out information."

If The Times really believed Ms. Miller's claim that this was just "casual conversation" then why make a federal case out of it? Just what is the New York Times' position on source confidentiality? Do they believe that all conversations with Journalists, no matter how casual, should enjoy privilaged status?

Here's another interesting bit: In a folksy, conversational two-page letter dated Sept. 15, Mr. Libby assured Ms. Miller that he had wanted her to testify about their conversations all along. "I believed a year ago, as now, that testimony by all will benefit all," he wrote.

Did Mr Libby testify truthfully about his conversations with Ms. Miller more than a year ago--months before the elections? Did Ms. Miller refuse to confirm that testimony, even with a waiver from Mr. Libby. Did the President know that Mr. Libby had admitted his role to the grand jury more than a year ago. Did Scott McClellan? I hate news stories that raise more questions than they answer. I consider it poor reporting. The Times has been guilty of that a lot lately.

Here's Judy's own contribution.

[Additional comments from Daryl]

The weird thing is that Judith Miller claims to be standing up for journalism, but nothing about the case seems to have anything to do with journalism. It's not that Ms. Miller fought hard to bring a story to the public that would have otherwise been lost, and is now protecting those sources from retribution. She didn't give the public any groundbreaking story, and she claims to have found out about Valerie Plame at a time when she wasn't working on any story. So what was she doing, and what kind of principles is she fighting for?

My interpretation is that she is fighting for her right to be a Washington insider. She wants to be in on the gossip and the secrets of the political big wigs, and she feels that reporting on government misdeeds would harm her working relationship with those big wigs. (Hmm...where did the phrase "big wig" come from? Was that a reference to the olden days where powerful people---judges, aristocrats, mayors, etc.---all wore wigs?) If my interpretation is correct, she's caught in a Catch-22: if she wants to be in on all these secrets, she can't actually report on them, which means that there is no point in her knowing the secrets to begin with.
Permalink 11:11 AM

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Monsoon Season in the Northeast?

It has rained almost continuously in the northeastern US for the past week or so, causing flooding in New Hampshire and New Jersey. This is after a summer in which it hardly rained at all. Ithaca's beautiful Taugannock Falls dried up to just a trickle.

That's the weather pattern in places like India: Summers are dry, and in the winter it monsoons. I don't know what this means, but I blame global warming and/or George Bush.
Permalink 11:39 AM

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I just heard on NPR that they have found a previously unknown work by Beethoven--written in his own hand. I'd have thought they would have looked there already.
Permalink 9:06 PM

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reform, Without Delay!

Jonathan Alter reminds us, in the Oct. 10th Newsweek, just how totally corrupt the Republican lead Congress has become: "DeLay had begun keeping a little black book with the names of Washington lobbyists who wanted to come see him. If the lobbyists were not Republicans and contributors to his power base, the did not get into 'the people's house.' DeLay not only confirmed the story, he showed me the book.... Why should he open his door to people who are not on the team?"

It is way past time to clean up the federal government. We need real reform, and we need it now! The very first item on the liberal agenda should be to eliminate corporate donations. The fall-back position, if the courts object to that, should be to give stockholders the same right that Republicans have been pushing for union members--the right to opt out of such donations. Stockholders who opt out will be sent a check by the corporation equal to their share of what was spent on corporate donations.

Second, make it illegal to pay for access. No more: "for $20,000, you can play golf with Denny Hastert. And say, wouldn't that be a good time to talk to him about that exemption/contract/grant/bill/project you were interested in?" This does not mean no more fund raisers, but any event where people pay to attend, that is attended by a public figure, must be a public event. Everything said there is on the record and will be available to the public. If Denny Hastert wants to give a speech, he can charge for attendance (subject to existing ethics rules); if he wants to have a private chat, he cannot charge for it.

Third, we need better public financing of campaigns, so that politicians will not be so dependent on the big donors in the first place. Here's a simple change that would make a big difference: instead of simply checking a box on our tax returns that says whether we want $3 to go to finance campaigns, we should check a box that says which party we want our $3 to go to. The top 5 or so could be listed on the form, with a space to fill in any registered party. Not only would this provide a lot more money (I estimate about $2.4 billion per 4 years), but it would give the major parties a big incentive to listen to the little guy--if they don't want that $2.4 billion to go to the Greens, Libs, Reforms and Natural Lawyers? Lawies? Laws? Anyway, you get the point.
Permalink 11:27 PM

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bush Directly Involved

That could present the Republicans with quite a dilemma: impeach now and put Hastert in, or wait a year and risk a Pelosi Presidency.
Permalink 10:15 PM

Bill Bennett is a racist idiot

Brad De Long came to the defense of Bennett the other day, agreeing with Bennett's claim that he was merely making a "reductio ad absurdum argument." (Swift's, "why don't the Irish eat their young?" was reductio ad absurdum.) Sorry, Brad. Bennett doesn't get off that easy. What Bennett actually said was: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." This came immediately after he disputed the claim that aborting unwanted babies reduces crime.
Think about that for a minute. He does not believe that aborting unwanted babies reduces crime, but he is certain that aborting black babies would do so.
And even if he is merely trying to use an absurd argument to make a non-racist point, he is still using a racist argument to make a non-racist point. Why does he single out black babies to make his absurd argument? Why not simply say that you could abort all babies and totally eliminate crime? That would have made his non-racist point better and would not have raised charges of racism. The reason is simple. He singled out African-Americans because he is a racist. He singled out African-Americans because he really does believe that they are the root cause of much of the crime in this country. And he singled out African-Americans because it is a staple of the right-wing play book to appeal to the racist tendencies of their audiences.
P.S. Today, Brit Hume of Fox news kept asking: "what did he say that was false?" What an idiot.
Permalink 9:14 PM