:: Skeptical Notion

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:: Friday, November 19, 2004 ::

Falling Dollar

There's a post on Daily Kos about the rapidly dying dollar that's worth reading, if only for a synopsis on how the world views George Bush's cut-and-spend fiscal policy and the real-world consequences it's having.

For those who want the "Shorter Fiscal Nightmare" version: "The rest of the world is about to cut off our "free money" supply, which means either we crack down on spending and raise taxes -- probably triggering a fun recession -- or we start printing it up like crazy -- which would trigger the amazing return of stagflation. If we're lucky.".

If grownups were in charge, we might arrange a softer landing. A few years of tight belts and sluggish economy followed by a more sound recovery. Since grownups AREN'T in charge, expect something nasty. Think "Envying the Carter economy".

In other, related news, I'm looking through my 401(k) and considering moving my holdings around. Unfortunately, the bulk of my options are US-based (index funds, mutual funds, etc). The one fund that invests overseas is this one: MSCI EAFE Index. It invests primarily in Japan and the UK (25% of the value in each) with the rest pretty much split to the rest of the Europe, Australia, other developed nations. It seems my best choice if I'm betting that the dollar's slide continues (which, sadly, I am. Until BushCo actually takes steps to rein in their spending, the dollar is going to continue to degrade). Anyone have any information on this? Thoughts? Other places I might look to invest (my other choices being things like T-bills, broad-cap US indices and US-based mutual funds)? Oh, and I still have some money going into one of the main Defense firms. I figure they'll still make money, and don't really have much of a choice (stupid employer policies on the company match).
:: Morat 7:50 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, November 18, 2004 ::

The Work Tax

There you go, Democrats. Pound it until the cows come home. The Republican "tax reform" that Kevin Drum nicely sums up is a work tax.

They want to tax work. If you're already rich and live off investments, no taxpaying for YOU! If you inherit a billion dollars, you'll never pay a penny.

But those hard-working red-staters are going to bleed every work day of their life.

Turn it around. Propose the exact opposite. Tax investment returns more heavily and lower the tax on work. Barnstorm about how it's wrong to tax "hard working Americans because they work, and let rich fat-cats off free because they have SO much money they never have to work a day in their lives".

But most importantly, refer to Bush's plan -- over and over and over -- as "The Work Tax". It cannot be repeated enough. It should come from every Democratic and liberal talking head from now until it comes up for a vote, and should be brought up AGAIN every time Bush even thinks about taxation.

"The Work Tax". It sounds nasty. It reeks of nasty government taxing hard-working, patriotic citizens. Best of all it's totally true.

The Work Tax.
:: Morat 1:37 PM :: ::

What?

Steven Gilliard points out this little gem:
The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
I'd heard about the health-care deductions (does the GOP no longer need the support of Big Business?) but eliminating the deductions for state and local taxes?

From a man who was so very upset that poor investors were "double taxed" on investment gains?

Why not just shove a rock up the ass of every homeowner in America? He'd generate less ill-will. I considered sending this to my father (we don't have an income tax in Texas, but we do have property taxes) but I realized he simply wouldn't believe it. If it got passed, though, I can almost guarantee he'd vote against every Republican he'd find, he'd be so pissed. It doesn't matter if you cut his taxes enough in other ways, all he'd see is a MASSIVE deduction down the tubes.

Not to mention how badly it'd screw everyone that's still paying off their home loan. I realize Bush doesn't need to be reelected, but you'd imagine the GOP would.

So is this a throw-away proposal so Bush can say he "tried" to balance the budget? Is Bush secretly a Democratic mole out to piss everyone off at the GOP? Or does he actually think this is going to be a popular idea?

It'd be ironic if -- in the end -- Bush screwed over the GOP as badly as he screwed everyone else. Leaving them holding the bag for eliminating the two most popular, widely used, and well-known tax deductions would be just his style. I sure as hell wouldn't want to run for a House seat in 2006 with that puppy on my record. Might as well resign and save yourself the grief.
:: Morat 9:15 AM :: ::

Same song, different tune...

Haven't we had this dance before?
The United States has intelligence indicating Iran is trying to fit missiles to carry nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Powell partially confirmed claims by an Iranian opposition group that Tehran is deceiving the United Nations and is attempting to secretly continue activities meant to give it atomic arms by next year.
The sad thing is, there's jack shit we can do about it even if it's true. The Army's busy. The Air Force can do damage, but not really stop anything. And unlike Iraq, Iran's army hasn't spent the last decade atrophying under sanctions.

I don't even want to think what Sistani and al-Sadr would decide if the US decided to strike out against Iran.

We've cried wolf, so we've got no credibility. We don't have enough troops to actually do anything about it, not without abandoning Iraq and starting all this chaos over again in Iran.

As for the US public.....who knows what they'll think. I'd guess they'd be against it, especially when they saw the bill...
:: Morat 8:16 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 ::

Local School Boards

Does anyone have an experience with them? I'm talking "running for" or "Being on" experience, especially in Texas.

I'm eyeing my local school board. I've got a 2nd Grader in the school and some of the nonsense is starting to filter down. At the moment I'm looking for general advice, requirements, etc.
:: Morat 8:35 AM :: ::

On shooting the wounded

Let me start by noting that, yes indeed, I can understand that ragged, on-edge Marines after many days of fighting are likely to overreact and practice a "better safe than sorry" approach to things.

Having said that, let me say this: If I wanted to create a really powerful Islamic martyr without killing someone already famous (like Sadr), I'd be hard pressed to do better than a videotape of some wounded and unarmed Muslim getting capped in a Mosque by a US Marine. The fact that the Marines in question acted fairly casual about the whole deal, as if shooting wounded and unarmed men was an everyday occurrence is just icing on the cake.

Fighting an insurgency requires both military victory and a PR victory. You have to get the country "on your side" if you plan to root out the insurgents and guerrillas. Now, I realize the American public has -- for some reason -- decided that words are more significant than actions but the rest of the world hasn't followed suit. So it significantly undercuts the "hearts and minds" campaign -- built along those famous "freedom and Democracy" lines -- when we're caught torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and executing the wounded and helpless in Fallujah. (Not to mention, of course, that reports are filtering out that this isn't an isolated incident).

We might be winning the "military" side (although reports from Iraq don't really support that) but we're shooting ourselves in the foot on the PR side. Torture and random execution make us the bad guys in the eyes of the Iraqis.

Looking at this, looking at the whole 18-month fiasco of an occupation, I can only come to the conclusion that we're losing -- and losing badly. All that's left to be determined is the final body count. If Democracy and Freedom are ever going to come to Iraq, it'll be at the hands of someone far more competent than us.
:: Morat 7:59 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, November 16, 2004 ::

Why is it?

Why is it that whenever, say, a US Marine is videotaped executing a wounded and unarmed man* (whom had apparently been left to be taken prisoner later), idiots suddenly sprout up defending it because "Insurgents cut people's heads off and terrorists blow up babies".

Well no fucking shit Sherlock. Bad people do bad things. Theoretically, that's why we're there. Because they do bad things, and we want to make them stop.

All of this brings up the point: We're not supposed to be the bad guys. We're the ones who don't shoot the wounded and unarmed. Once you start doing that, you give up any claims to the moral high ground. Of course, we forfeited that at Abu Ghraib.

It took two decades after Vietnam for the Army to rehabilitate it's image -- and most of that damage wasn't the Army's fault, but the fault of the draft. Draftees aren't professional, they're not restrained, and they're generally pissed off about being there. George Bush has managed -- by starting the moral rot right at the top -- to infect our professional Army with the same mindset. And unlike in Vietnam, there's no draft to take the blame.

I've got friends in the military or retired from the military. My brother-in-law was a Marine. I considered the Navy when I left High School. I don't have a problem with the military. My father is ex-Army and my father-in-law is ex-Navy. My grandfathers on both side were Army. I had a high opinion of the military and the people who served in it. Now....now I'm getting disgusted. Not so much at the soldiers, as I understand their frustration. I'm getting disgusted at their officers and at the White House. Proper leadership -- starting with the Moron-in-Chief -- would have ensured these men and women were never in this situation to begin with.

Now, because of failures of leadership, I've gotten to see blatant abuse of prisoners, rampant violation of the Geneva convention, and it's been topped off with a Marine committing a war crime on tape. Lovely.

You want to support the troops? Push for a new leader. Because the one they have is killing them. Not just physically, but spiritually.

*In a mosque, for God's sake. Just for giggles, imagine Osama Bin Laden raping a nun in St. Peter's. We just broadcast that little religious defilement to entire Muslim world. Oh well. I suppose when we assault Fallujah again in two months (once again advertised as "the last blow against the insurgency") we'll know not to videotape these things.
:: Morat 11:38 AM :: ::

Blowback

Two points on blowback.
  1. With the resignation of Powell (and Rice being his replacement), the purge of the CIA and the upcoming State Department purge, you can bet that George's second term will be far more disastrous than his first. He's getting rid of anyone who isn't an ideologue and a "yes-man", and we've seen how badly his ideology works already. I look at his new crew and I am very afraid, as I find that saying "Of course he won't invade Iran or Syria...he doesn't have enough of an Army to do so" aren't nearly as reassuring as they used to be. Remember, Donald Rumsfeld -- about the only guy staying where he was -- thought we could take and hold Iraqi with less than 60,000 troops all told. George Bush was already insulated from reality. He might as well be living in a different dimension.
  2. Blowback doesn't just happen. It's not a magical moment when the public has a mass epiphany, waking up and saying "I say, this Bush fellow really has screwed the pooch!". Blowback happens when people point out the mistakes and errors over and over until the public gets sick of having suck nitwits in office that it tosses them all out. We're lucky in one sense: George Bush's screwups are so large and so visible that it's hardly any effort at all to point them out, they're hard to ignore, and they're only going to get bigger. We're unlucky in that the current Democratic party is too terrified to actually point them out. The press seems equally terrified. Pussies. (Yes, that's my favored term for them. I can't think of another word that sums up the utter contempt I feel for their cowardice and failure. Sorry if it offends anyone.)

:: Morat 11:27 AM :: ::

Memo to the Democratic Party

I keep turning on my TV and seeing forceful, loud, opinionated and visibly confidant Republicans and conservatives vigorously pushing their talking points. What I don't see is Democrats and liberals doing the same thing.

It all comes down to confidence, people. We have a rather well-liked agenda. Most people are all in favor of fair wages, fair taxes, balanced budgets, affordable healthcare.....but we act like we're ashamed of it when we talk about it in public. That sends a rather mixed message, don't you think? Makes us look like we have a more nefarious agenda....which fits neatly into the GOP claims that we do.

If you want to get out of the gutter and stop losing, find some people who really believe in progressive politics and stick their faces all over TV. Stop letting hard-right conservatives and wishy "moderates" ("I agree with you so you'll stop yelling at me") define the political spectrum. And stop acting so goddamn ashamed to be liberal.

And for the love of Pete, don't put Vilsack in charge of the DNC. His stated goal is to "protect the first-in-the-nation status of the Iowa Caucuses" which should disqualify him immediately. The DNC chair isn't an Iowa position. Not to mention I'm sick of fricking Iowa and New Hampshire picking our Presidential candidates. Regional primaries or a national primaries are the way to go. Or at least pick a state that sort of represents the nation or the Democratic party. I'm sure Iowa is lovely and all, but it's not exactly average America.

Oh, and one more thing: We're Americans too. Don't buy that bullshit that we don't "agree" with America or don't "connect" with America. We make up half of fucking America. The Greens and the Libertarians don't roll over to that bullshit, and we've got 50 times their numbers. Grow a spine. And a pair of balls. I'm sure Howard Dean can find you some.
:: Morat 8:31 AM :: ::

Cabinet Moves

With all the people leaving Bush's cabinet and senior CIA officials dropping like flies, I wonder how long it'll take for the next wave of "tell-all" books to hit the shelves?

At the very least, I'm guessing Colin Powell has some things he'd like to get off his chest concerning Donald Rumsfeld.
:: Morat 8:28 AM :: ::

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