Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vacation, Time To Get Away

I'm getting away from it all for a week or so - probably won't even have Web access more than once or twice between now and Memorial Day. So if anybody's reading ;-), don't expect any posting between now and then.

I'm hoping to come back to find Rove's been indicted, but I'm not counting on it. Don't let them sell the Net while I'm gone, OK?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Estate Tax Bullshit

An open letter to Jeffrey Birnbaum, WaPo Columnist ("K Street Confidential"):

In today's column, you claim that auto dealer Jack Fitzgerald's chain of auto dealerships "is too large for him to pass easily to his heirs without their being crushed by the estate tax," and "the estate tax has for years forced owners to sell to corporate giants, which often stifles innovation, expansion and good feelings between workers and their bosses."

You substantiate none of these claims.

First, you fail to mention that the estates of people like Fitzgerald can take up to 15 years to pay off the Federal Estate Tax (FET). In 15 years, a profitable business should be able to pay off the tax out of revenues.

Second, you give no figures to explain just how Fitzgerald's heirs will be forced to sell the business under current law, nor do you even indicate that he provided any such numbers to you.

Third, you don't give any for-instances of private businesses that had to be sold in recent years to pay the FET.

Fourth, you don't substantiate your claims about the adverse effects of sales of private businesses to corporations.

You say that Fitzgerald "makes a compelling case against the estate tax on policy grounds." I don't see any case at all. The only compelling thing about this column is the evidence it provides that you're in the tank on this issue.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

McCain and Falwell

As pretty much everyone in the world already knows, Sen. (and Presidential candidate) John McCain is making the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University today.

That McCain's making some sort of rapprochement with the 'Christian' Right isn't too surprising, even if it is a bit two-faced. What is surprising is that that's pretty much the extent of how it's playing in the press.

What's missing, you ask.

What's missing is that, even by Religious Right standards, Falwell is a freaking nutcase. One could fill volumes - and they have - with the number of totally insane things Falwell's said over the years. For instance, there's the video, The Clinton Chronicles, which accused President Clinton of running a cocaine-smuggling ring and having people (including Vince Foster) murdered. As reporter Murray Waas documents at the link, not only did Falwell publicize the 'findings' of the supposed investigation on his "Old-Time Gospel Hour" show (there's a little old-timey gospel for you - bearing false witness...doesn't one of the Ten Commandments say something about that?), but he helped raise money for the making of the video, and helped decide what would be in it.

And of course, he's the guy who made the infamous statement, two days after 9/11, that
The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
And he's one heckuva Christian too, having said of Jimmy Carter:
His message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This 'turn the other cheek' business is all well and good but it's not what Jesus fought and died for.
But that's almost beside the point, which is that Falwell's not just an influential conservative Christian preacher; he's a nutcase, pure and simple. The real story here is that McCain's lending his credibility to a freakin' whacko. It doesn't matter what constituency Falwell has; that's what he is, and that's the sort of person McCain's willing to climb into bed with, in order to further his Presidential ambitions.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Darfur: My Solution

Kevin Drum was just saying that we'd need something on the order of 30,000 troops in Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur. It's not going to happen, he says, because where are those troops going to come from? Nobody in the world is prepared to volunteer troop strength of anywhere near that magnitude.

He's right that it's not going to happen, but it should, and we should be the ones to provide the troops. Whatever it is that our troops are doing in Iraq, they're really not doing that much good. So the next 30,000 troops that rotate out of Iraq, don't replace them with fresh troops - send those fresh troops to Darfur, where they will save tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of lives.

That'll leave our people spread a bit thin in Iraq, but I've got a solution for that too. We're building - or really 'have built,' by now - four huge 'enduring bases' in Iraq, with tens of thousands of troops doing nothing but run each base. For instance, the Washington Post reports of one of the four bases,
Of the 20,000 troops at Balad, only several hundred have jobs that take them off base. Most Americans posted here never interact with an Iraqi, and some never see one, said Army Lt. Col. Larry Dotson, who is effectively the city manager.
Sounds like we could shut down an 'enduring base' or two, reassign the troops running those bases to more mission-critical roles, and the Iraqis wouldn't be able to tell that there'd been any change in troop levels.

Why not?

Heckuva Job, Gen. Mikey! (Our next CIA chief in action)

If TPM Muckraker isn't one of your bookmarks, take care of that right now, OK? Because in its few brief months of existence, it's become indispensable.

Yesterday, for instance, Muckraker Justin Rood rescued some overlooked reporting by Siobhan Gorman of the Baltimore Sun, which found that, under GEn. Hayden's watch at the NSA:

NSA bungled two key technology programs and an important oversight effort. As a result, "The agency has been gradually 'going deaf,' as unimportant communications drown out key pieces of information," an official told Gorman. Meanwhile, the secretive agency has been burning through billions -- billions -- of dollars.

"Nearly 4 1/2 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the NSA lacks a system to comprehensively evaluate all of the communications collected by its vast networks of high-tech ears," Gorman concluded.

"Agency computers have trouble talking to each other and frequently crash, key bits of data are sometimes lost, and vital intelligence can be overlooked."

Here's the kicker: Because of the failures under Hayden, the NSA actually lost authority. Congress was so upset by these techno-screwups and cost overruns that it stripped the agency of the power to sign its own big-ticket contracts -- and gave it to the Department of Defense. This is the guy who's going to strengthen the CIA's hand against the Pentagon?

IOW, this guy's another Bush Administration world-class fuckup.

See the header link for a quick summary of the details. See the Baltimore Sun for the complete details.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Truth and Reconciliation

I'm delighted to say that the Dems are actually starting to put together an agenda for 2007, on the chance that they might regain one or both houses of Congress. It's not only good to be ready, but also the best way to convince people to put you in charge - if you actually belong in charge - is to tell people what you'll do with your newfound power once you get it. And things like a minimum wage hike, governmental authority to negotiate better Medicare drug prices, protecting our ports and chemical plants, and fiscal responsibility are things we can all get behind.

Hell, a conservative libertarian I often debate with over at my favorite political message board said he could get behind all of those except the min-wage hike, and conceded that even that was good politics.

Another thing that the Dems want to do is launch investigations. According to the WaPo (link above),
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in an interview last week that a Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
I've got one of them 'framing' ideas: why don't we say we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

The Dems damned well ought to investigate the hell out of Bush if they win back a house of Congress this fall. But they could seize the moral high ground by calling for a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" in the style of South Africa.

Of course, they need only promise amnesty to the lower-level appointees - those that almost never exchanged words with a Cabinet-level Administration official - in return for their complete and unperjured testimony. Prez, Veep, Cabinet, and those who conferred frequently with the principals would still be fair game.

And if questioned about it, Dems could say, "unlike Abu Ghraib and related GOP scandals, we're going after the big fish and let the little guys go, not the other way around like the GOP does."

So let's frame this right from the get-go.

Besides, I don't know about you, but I feel that Bush and Cheney have fully earned impeachment, from lying us into war, to illegal wiretapping, to torture and secret prisons. But if we're going to impeach them next year, the time to start mentally preparing the public is now. Truth and Reconciliation conveys the gravity and enormity of the offenses committed, and indicates that we're going to handle this in a sober and serious manner. As we ought to.

It prepares the ground.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Net (Non)Neutrality: "the Senate just needs to pass 'anything to get us into conference,' where the real decisions will be made"

Ain't this swell? The Republican majority in Congress has completely abandoned the pretense of legislating openly, where the public can see what's happening:

WASHINGTON — The House and Senate are preparing to vote on telecommunications legislation that could affect every American who surfs the Internet, watches cable TV or uses a phone.

But no one should waste much time watching the floor debates on C-SPAN. The lawmakers admit their goal is not to pass definitive legislation in public in the coming weeks.

Instead, they want to pass separate bills, regardless of how different they may be. The final version would be negotiated, largely in private, by about a dozen senators and representatives on a conference committee.

The Senate just needs to pass "anything to get us into conference," where the real decisions will be made, House telecommunications subcommittee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said Tuesday at a telecom forum hosted by National Journal's Technology Daily.

"It's not supposed to work like this," said Celia Wexler, vice president for advocacy for Common Cause, a government watchdog group. "It's appalling that you can hear a member (of Congress) say that in public."

While most conference negotiations are closed to public view, lobbyists continue to influence the members and their staffers.

In the case of telecom, the groups say, so many well-financed lobbyists are involved that they may battle themselves to a standstill, leaving Congress flush with campaign contributions but unable to agree on a final bill before adjournment.

The stakes run into the billions of dollars for the central players, including cable operators and regional phone giants, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., as well as Internet companies, including eBay Inc., Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

The telecom legislation is following a well-worn path that Congress often takes to craft spending, tax and other bills out of public view.
Government of the people, by the lobbyists and for the lobbyists. With the future of the free Web at stake.

Friday, May 05, 2006

WaPo: Blame the Democrats

I'm not sure how real it was, but the WaPo claims there was a moment on Wednesday when the House had a chance to enact genuine lobbying reforms. Whether real or not, the reforms the WaPo liked lost on a 216-213 vote.

The GOP opposed the measure by a 212-16 margin.

The Dems voted for it, by a count of 197-4.

So who killed it, the Democrats or the Republicans?

The WaPo titled their piece, The Feckless Four: How a small group of Democrats helped the GOP kill real lobbying reform. And put the focus (and the onus) squarely on the four Democrats, rather than the 212 Republicans.

'Nuff said.

Goss, HookerGate, and the WaPo

The WaPo (link above) characterizes Porter Goss' resignation as "the latest in an administration shake-up during Bush's second term."

As if this had anything to do with the game of musical chairs in the White House.

Not a word about HookerGate at the Watergate. But TPM Muckraker readers have been seeing this coming on for over a week.

What a bunch of worthless bozos. (The WaPo, not TPM. The WaPo would be greatly improved if they put Josh Marshall in charge.)