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:: Friday, August 13, 2004 ::

Tax Burden Shifts to the Middle

Let's call this the "No shit, Sherlock" link of the week:
Since 2001, President Bush's tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The CBO study, due to be released today, found that the wealthiest 20 percent, whose incomes averaged $182,700 in 2001, saw their share of federal taxes drop from 64.4 percent of total tax payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year. The top 1 percent, earning $1.1 million, saw their share fall to 20.1 percent of the total, from 22.2 percent.
Wait! It gets better:
The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers -- whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 -- saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent
So, just to sum up: The rich saw their taxes fall 25% more than the poor, and 200% more than the middle-class.

And, just for grins, we'd added a massive deficit on top of that. Hey! Thanks Bush! And here's my favorite part:
Republican aides on Capitol Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tax cuts actually made federal income taxes -- as opposed to total taxes -- more equitable.
Yeah, sure it does. That's why you're speaking anonymously....I bet that goes over like a lead balloon. I must have missed the extension of the payroll tax to all income brackets, or the part where the rich tend to use the bulk of their income for food and shelter.


:: Morat 9:09 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, August 12, 2004 ::

U.S. Nears Deal to Free Enemy Combatant Hamdi

U.S. Nears Deal to Free Enemy Combatant Hamdi:
The U.S. government, which has held Yaser Esam Hamdi incommunicado in a Navy brig for two years without charges, much of the time without a lawyer, indicated yesterday that it is nearing a deal that would free him altogether.

The government is negotiating with Hamdi's lawyers about 'terms and conditions acceptable to both parties that would allow Mr. Hamdi to be released from . . . custody,' according to documents filed in federal court in Norfolk. The legal papers, submitted jointly by federal prosecutors and Hamdi's attorneys, asked the court to stay all proceedings for 21 days while negotiations continue.

Yaser Esam Hamdi, center, was captured alongside pro-Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan in 2001 and taken to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Terms of the release are still being hammered out but, according to people familiar with the situation, are likely to include that Hamdi renounce his U.S. citizenship, move to Saudi Arabia and accept some travel restrictions, as well as some monitoring by Saudi officials. In addition, he may have to agree not to sue the federal government over whether his civil rights were violated.
Ten bucks says that the only sticking point is "Don't sue". I bet everything else is negotiable. (Link via Atrios)

:: Morat 9:15 AM :: ::

U.S., Iraqi Forces Launch Najaf Offensive

You know what this isn't? A good idea.
Thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers launched a major assault Thursday on militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in Najaf, with explosions and gunfire echoing near the holy city's revered Imam Ali shrine and its vast cemetery.

The coalition forces were trying to crush an uprising led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters have been battling U.S. troops in Shiite strongholds across Iraq (news - web sites) for a week. Hundreds of people have fled in the last few days, moving in with relatives and friends in quieter neighborhoods, or out of Najaf entirely.
I'd like to know what genius decided it would be a good idea to make a al-Sadr a martyr in the Imam Ali shrine. You might as well nail Bush to a cross and see how the religious right takes it.

Reading further down it appears our "plan" is to let the natives actually do the fighting at the shrine itself. That's brilliant. That's right up there with South Park's "Operation Get Behind the Darkies". I somehow doubt anyone's going to stop and say "Oh, well, can't get too pissed. Sure the Americans were dropping bombs, and mortars, and in charge...but it was Iraqis that actually stormed the shrine! I guess it's Democracy for us!".

Jesus what a clusterfuck. This is a bad idea. BAD BAD BAD. I've only got two real explanations for this: Bush desperately needs a stable Iraq, and is willing to take a crazy risk OR Bush figures this will backfire, and the blacklash will force Allawi to "ask us to leave", meaning Bush can have the troops home by election day.

Or, I suppose, the White House is full of idiots. I guess they're all equally likely.

:: Morat 7:09 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 ::

Crying wolf...

FranklyO (in that same Political Animal thread as my last post) makes a point worth repeating:
I've become quite impressed with the fact that the right wing, by some congenital cognitive defect, cannot seem to grasp the moral of the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf -- not on any subject, not at any time.

Obviously we've got the whimsical "terror alerts", but even the serial pseudo-scandals they offer up for our delectation eventually just can't get up anyone's adrenaline other than their own. There was Kerry and the intern. Kerry and the medals. Kerry and the Too Expensive Haircut. The salacious breasts of the Kerry daughter. Then, for a slight change of pace, the Docs in the Socks of Samuel Berger. Now the Kerry Cambodian Christmas scam. Each one of these stories is related breathlessly, as if the integrity of the American body politic hangs in the balance.

Yet eventually, everyone tires of the bullshit. The critics aren't believable anymore, and my guess is that there are a lot of voters out there who are seeing through the serial scams of the right wing, who have made the egregious mistake of starting their smear attack so early that they are being found out in plenty of time before the election.
I wonder how many voters are just tuning it out? And if they're tuning out both sides?

I suppose, using the same logic that outing Khan was "Howard Dean's fault", that this is John Kerry's fault. After all, if only the man would actually be a liar, then these attacks wouldn't have such a credibility problem....

:: Morat 9:26 PM :: ::

A little help here...

Can someone explain something to me? I've been -- once again -- wandering through the comments over at Political Animal, and a particular stupid wingnut vomited forth this gem:
But...BUT...here is where I think Kerry (rightly) is in serious, serious trouble.
His post-war activities are really beyond the pale. He accused his fellow soldiers of war crimes. No wonder veterans are angry at him. They have every right to be.
This stuff is fair game. It makes me angry. Kerry is going to pay a political price for it -- a huge political price.
I realize that many of the leftists here won't agree with this, but Kerry's postwar statements to me exemplify the worst kind of anti-Americanism. And no, his service doesn't give him a "right" to compare American soldiers to Mongol hordes.
People here probably view the VVAW as a "mainstream" antiwar organization, the kind of group that expressed views that many average Americans had. I don't see it that way. While I wasn't around for Vietnam, every member of the VVAW I have ever met has been a typical extremist left winger.
What the Vietnam generation doesn't realize is just how dated and how...wrong...Kerry's antiwar rhetoric seems today. Vietnam is over. His anti-American statements may have been acceptable at the time, but they seem sickening today.
Now, I've found Joe Schmoe's comments to be useful, as he's a reliable window into the world of the insane.

Having read this (and he's by far not the only one spewing this) I'm afraid I'm I simply can't understand it. Perhaps my readers -- or other, brighter bloggers -- can shed some light on this. As best I can tell, Joe Schmoe (and the SBVT) seem to be pissy that John Kerry came back from Vietnam, testified about some of the nasty things over there, and was seriously interested in ending the war, to the point of being activist about it. Now, here's where things get screwy and I run into a wall trying to understand Joe. As best I understand it:

  1. We -- as in the country -- had pretty much decided that, if nothing else, Vietnam was a "bad idea". Are there actually large numbers of people who still believe we could have won, if only we'd thrown more men into the grinder, or if those darn "commies" hadn't gotten tired of losing so many kids for nothing?
  2. Our history of atrocities in Vietnam is fairly well documented. Are there actually large numbers of people who claim we did not do some fairly nasty things in Vietnam? We're doing nasty things now, and we have a professional army....not one build on draftees.

For Joe Schmoe's point to make sense, I'd have to believe that we never committed atrocities in Vietnam, that pulling out of Vietnam was a mistake, and that Kerry -- through some of devil magic or something -- was somehow responsible for "losing" Vietnam.

I just don't get it. Did Kerry tell the truth about Vietnam or not? Everything I've heard, everything I've read, every one I've talked to seems to feel that Kerry came back and told the truth about Vietnam. It was an ugly truth, one that few people wanted to hear, but it was nonetheless the truth. And what the hell does "how dated and wrong Kerry's antiwar statements were". Um, excuse me? Has there been some sort of nostalgic wave of Vietnam support lately? I mean, I tend to miss a lot of the little pop-culture trends, but I'm not aware of a sudden upswing in support for a 35 year old war. In fact, I was under the impression that public support had -- thirty years ago -- settle into "Whoops! Bad idea!".

All of this means Joe Schmoe's view is that it's un-American -- anti-American even -- to tell the truth. What scares me is he isn't the only one. And I've got a nasty suspicion that most of the White House tends to think like Joe here. Better a pretty lie than a hard truth, I suppose....


:: Morat 9:11 PM :: ::

Just a note:

There are certain key phrases that -- when uttered -- cause me to mentally file you into the "fruitcake" column, and therefore suspend rational discourse in favor of snark and mockery. Phrases like "Income tax is unconstitutional" and "Taxation is theft", to name two I stumbled across recently. Oh, and the "gold standard" really gets you tossed.

Some key phrases will result in snarking and mockery after it's clear that rational discourse isn't your goal, merely argument by repetition or argument by ignorance. (The last is a favorite of mine. It's amazing how many people assume that, if they don't understand something, it must be wrong....). Things like "There are no transitional fossils" or "The Earth is only 10,000 years old" or "The Great Flood carved out the Grand Canyon" or "If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?".

It's been my experience that Creationists are far more likely to remain rational than those obsessed with the "illegality" of the income tax. Why, I don't know. I mean, evolution can be a terribly complex subject, and it's easy for laymen to get confused. But taxation -- and the Constitutionality and legality thereof -- is a much simpler proposition.

All of this, by the way, has been brought to you courtesy of Michael Bednarik, Libertarian candidate for President. He doesn't seem to have an "issues paper" on taxation yet, (and appears to have removed one of the more fun areas), so you'll have to get his fun views from the Captain's Quarters:
I would also issue a valid executive order to the BATF and other pseudo police agencies informing them that any agent who confiscates a weapon of any kind, from someone who is not currently engaged in a murder or robbery, will not only be terminated from their position, but they will also be prosecuted for violating the unalienable rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect. ...
High ranking officials from [the IRS] would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget. ...

I would announce a special one-week session of Congress where all 535 members would be required to sit through a special version of my Constitution class. Once I was convinced that every member of Congress understood my interpretation of their very limited powers, I would insist that they restate their oath of office while being videotaped.
Yep! This is their candidate for President. And you wonder why I don't take Libertarians -- or their bitching about the two-party system -- very seriously.

:: Morat 10:14 AM :: ::

The Plame Affair

Kevin over at Political Animal has a good synopsis of the recent spate of subpoenas from the Plame investigation. Ought to be an interesting view weeks, and given the GOP push of the Berger story, I'm guessing someone is getting indicted.

:: Morat 7:49 AM :: ::

:: Monday, August 09, 2004 ::

Interesting...

So I notice that one of the comments over at Hit and Run contained this brilliant suggestion (search for "Gilbert Martin"):
The "voting-system problem" with "the poor" is that they are allowed (and encouraged) to vote themselves handouts of other people's money without having to cough up any (or very little) in taxes to throw in the pot themselves.
I've never thought it was fair that those who pay nothing in taxes should have an equal say in how government tax revenue is spent compared to those who are required to pay in thousands of dollars in taxes.
Here a voting reform for you: make voting for national offices operate the same way as corporate proxy voting is done on corporate takeover proposals. Issue each citizen one vote for every dollar they pay in taxes. Those who pay no taxes get no vote.
He followed it up with this gem:
Joe, there is a word for allowing someone to vote themselves a handout of my tax money while not having to put up any of their own. That word is "theft".
See, on a sane board, more than one person (in an thread with 85 comments) would have commented on the sheer insanity of Gilbert's words. Alas, not so in Libertarian paradise.

Why don't I like Libertarians? Because contempt for the poor is a common thread among many of them, as if they -- generally privileged to at least a middle-class birth -- are somehow superior to those "lazy poor", and their general attitude that a subsidence-level lifestyle is something worth stealing.

The only thing you can say for the life of those who don't pay income tax by dint of being "too poor" is that it's probably better to be that poor than to be dead. Probably. But Gilbert there, and the shades of "Lucky Ducks" in his words disgusts me.

What I see in too many Libertarians is an ingrained feeling of superiority. I see it in politics, where they sneer at the "sheep" who blindly vote "Democrat" or "Republican" because they're too stupid to see the sheer rightness of "Libertarian" (the fact that their beloved pure free-market is surpassed -- in sheer ivory-tower impractically -- only by communism is something they don't think about) . I see it in everyday life, in their contempt for the poor -- a contempt I've seen mirrored in the contempt some whites have for blacks, and some men for women. Bigotry is bigotry...whether it's skin color, gender, or socioeconomic status.

I doubt Gilbert has known many poor people. Any one of them would -- in a heartbeat -- trade their life of government subsidy for Gilbert's life as a taxpayer. Selfishness and greed aren't a political system, but I suppose calling it that does make it easier to fool yourself about the banality of your motives.

:: Morat 2:39 PM :: ::

Court Holds Reporter in Contempt in Leak Case

Fitzgerald appears to be serious. And it looks like Tim "Bush Shill" Russert decided to talk.
A reporter is being held in contempt of court and faces possible jail time, and another was earlier threatened by a federal judge with the same fate, after they refused to answer questions from a special prosecutor investigating whether administration officials illegally disclosed the name of a covert CIA officer last year.

Newly-released court orders show U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan two weeks ago ordered Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Tim Russert of NBC to appear before a grand jury and tell whether they knew that White House sources provided the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media.
I'm starting to lean towards an actual indictment, followed by a very swift plea bargain.

I understand there's serious jail time involved.

:: Morat 1:02 PM :: ::

Musings

I wonder: Does the rightwing defense of Bush stem from a persecution complex? I've noticed a real similiarity between the conservative trolls and Creationist trolls, especially a universal belief in their own persecution.

I've had a few Christians tell me they're "persecuted" in the US (I generally respond with the snicker that deserves), despite all evidence to the contrary. (Every major elected official is Christian, 80%+ of the populace is Christian...if they're being persecuted, it's by Christians).

Perhaps that's the rationale behind the knee-jerk support of Bush, especially given his very strong connection with the Religious Right. Perhaps, deep down, they believe Bush is being persecuted for being "too Christian" and for standing up for his beliefs. True or not, it allows them to ignore everything and feel righteous in their support.

If so, Bush certainly has a hard floor. Nothing short of Jesus himself -- and maybe not even that -- would shift their belief in Bush the Fearless Leader and Defender of the Faith. (And not that anyone would admit it, but Kerry's Catholicism probably gives 'em the heebie-jeebies).

:: Morat 12:43 PM :: ::

Desperation Part II

Just to follow up: I've been wandering through Political Animal's comments, Hit and Run's comments, and Tacitus' comments, and I've got to say: The trolls are out in force. I've never seen them this bad. We're not just talking numbers, but rhetoric...it's like Free Republic is paying it's crazies to go elsewhere for a bit.

I know why I want Bush to lose, but I'm not sure I understand their sheer animal desperation for him to win. I mean, let's face it: What has Bush done for the right? He hasn't done much besides break the budget and start a war. No big conservative bills, no SCOTUS nominations, a failed marriage amendment.....

But seriously, why do they have so much tied up in him? You look at the liberals, at Kerry support, and it's all about beating Bush. Sure, quite a few people like Kerry, but if Kerry his first term with as lousy a liberal record as Bush's conservative record....well, at the very least he'd have a tough primary fight.

So why the support of Bush? Is it just reflexive? We're so "against" Bush, viewing him as an unmitigated disaster, that you have to be just as much "for" Bush?

:: Morat 10:49 AM :: ::

Whiffs of desperation

The desperation continues. As best I can tell, the push back on the Khan outing (quick hit: In order to deflect "Boy who cried wolf" criticism, the Bush administration burned a Pakistani double-agent, who was being used to ferret out some fun Al Qaeda influence) boils down to: "It's Howard Dean's and the Democrat's fault! If they hadn't questioned the timing, we wouldn't have had to burn an intel asset to prove them wrong!".

I'm sure Kerry will have something more printable (assuming this defense makes it out of the blog trolls) but let me add in mine: Boo-fucking-hoo. There's a reason people don't accept "Trust us" from you anymore. It's called "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and their complete absence in Iraq.

You lied, your credibility is shot, and that's your problem. If you can't get people to believe you without burning intel assets, then you shouldn't have lied in the first place.

Jesus Christ I wish McCain had won the GOP primary. I might be unhappy at the course the nation was taking, but at least I'd believe the President cared more about national security than his poll numbers.

:: Morat 10:40 AM :: ::

Seven minutes...

Having just cruised through some of the less sane areas of the internet, I can confidantly state that the seven minutes of "My Pet Goat" is really hurting Bush.

The push-back is pretty simple: "He didn't want to panic the children or the nation". As excuses go, that's pretty damn weak. In order to accept that, you have to believe that the President of the United States is literally incapable of excusing himself from third-graders without causing a panic. Judging by the rabid defense of Bush, one can only assume they believe Bush had to either sit quietly, or jump up screaming "AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK! RUN FOR IT KIDS!".

Idiots.
:: Morat 8:25 AM :: ::

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