The Angry Cyclist

A fleeting grasp of civil, well reasoned discourse.
This blog will comment on topics of interest like politics, business, taxation, the War with Islam / Islamofascists, road cycling, football, and others.

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"Irrelevant...macho ravings"-
Marc Herold,
Grand Seigneur, University of New Hampshire

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Friday, January 31, 2003
Berkeley East

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts formally declares its opposition to war with Iraq.

Thursday, January 30, 2003
The Boston Globe - A New York Times Company

Try to guess the difference, if any, between Joan Vennochi and Maureen Dowd. I almost hate to say that Joan's feet tend to be on firmer ground.

A feint toward the economy

By Joan Vennochi, 1/30/2003

IT TOOK President Bush a fairly long time to get to the main point of his State of the Union speech - why the United States must go to war with Iraq. Before he did, he pretended to care about the economy.

If he was pretending to care, why not save time and not talk about it at all? Were you disappointed that he didn't propose forty new federal programs or something?

The Bush domestic agenda has the same impact as a children's bedtime story: It tends to put you to sleep. Unless you are very rich, there's not too much to get excited about. Double taxation of dividends must be valid cause for great consternation - in some circles. Sad to say, they are not the circles that average Americans run in - from the ATM to the grocery store and the gas pump and back again to the ATM.

Shall we avoid discussion of the increase in the child care credit, the reduction of marginal tax rates, the elimination of the marriage penalty, changes to retirement savings, etc.?

By the way, if you just went to the ATM to get money for groceries and gas, why do you have to go back a second time? Because you're as dumb as a box of rocks?

Early in the speech, Bush declared, ''To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation.'' The basic problem with that tautology is obvious. The economy is not out of recession. So why does Bush think that most Americans think more of the same ''tax relief'' is the answer?

That's funny, Joan, I always thought that an economy that's grown 0.7 in the previous quarter is, by definition, not in a recession. What a dumbass!

Sure, if it's not broke, don't fix it. But if it is broke, why not try something new? Instead, Bush keeps on playing let's pretend: Let's pretend these tax cuts really do provide broadbased tax relief. Let's pretend they really will stimulate the economy. So far, Wall Street isn't thrilled about the president's economic strategy, and if Wall Street isn't thrilled, why should Main Street be?

Wall Street won't be thrilled about anything until earnings come around. Joan keeps ignoring forgetting that we're still digesting one of the biggest stock market bubbles in the history of the world, and to expect things to return to normal in a little over two years is just plain stupid.

Bush pretends to care about other domestic issues, as well. He supports ''affordable health care for all Americans,'' but he doesn't support a nationalized health care system, which is the one, sure way to achieve it. He supposedly believes in ''clear skies'' and ''healthy forests,'' wants to develop hydrogen-powered cars and believes that more people should mentor junior high students and children of prisoners.

If a nationalized health care system is the cure-all, then why did HillaryCare fail so miserably? Do we really want to emulate the Canadian system?

That gauzy agenda plus a commitment of $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean represent an obvious effort to toss a few crumbs to the left. It ignores the crux of Bush's political challenge, which is not to win over the political left - an impossibility - but to hold onto the political middle.

Somehow, I don't think the people in Africa think of $15 billion as crumbs.

Right now, the average American in the political middle is experiencing real fallout from the nation's economic pain. In state after state, Republican and Democratic governors are grappling with lagging tax revenues, one result of growing joblessness and stock market declines, which in turn contribute to growing state budget deficits.

The state budget problems, of course, have nothing to do with profligate spending by the states...

The deficits force cuts in core government services at the state and local levels - or lead to tax increases. Nothing that Bush said in his speech addresses those broad economic issues or offers any particular reason for people to believe their individual economic picture will improve.

Well, I was happy about him mentioning the acceleration of the marginal tax cuts into this year. Joan must have ignored missed that part of the speech too.

For Bush, war is the priority. It is his not-so-secret weapon of choice to fire up the sluggish economy. During the State of the Union address, war brought the sneer to his lips, the tautness to his shoulders, and the urgency to his rhetoric. His talk of war woke the viewer from slumber, just as it brought his Cabinet members to their feet. The military commanders stuck to their chairs - best to restrain their excitement rather than look like clap-happy warmongers.

Without secure borders and the freedom to live without imminent terrorist threats, the rest of Bush's speech gets the lower priority it deserves. I also couldn't help but notice how pissy Hillary looked every time the camera panned in on her.

The president's enthusiasm was apparently contagious. Polls taken after Bush's speech suggest that his message on war resonated more strongly than his message on the economy. By a 2-1 margin, speech watchers polled by CNN-USA Today-Gallup and ABC News said Bush had made a convincing case about the need for the United States to take military action against Iraq.

Which means Joan's opinion, unsurprisingly, is in the minority.

So from that perspective, the president and his advisers will no doubt consider this year's State of the Union a success. They will stick with the same old economic strategy on the assumption that the American public will soon have something other than tax cuts for the rich to mull over. In between celebrity survival shows, television viewers will be able to watch the ultimate in reality TV: war against Saddam Hussein.

My average and marginal tax rates went down this year, so I must be rich. Whooppee!!

Politically, it's a big gamble for Bush: He is choosing war over peace. But at least there's no pretense about it. That is truly where his passion for action lies.

Would you prefer artillery shells with VX gas, or a luxurious prison condominium in Baghdad?

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 1/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Boston City Council Weight Loss Program

Felix Arroyo is fasting for peace.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but for a cause like peace Felix Arroyo was prepared to forgo it - once every other week.

That's dedication for you.

At least that was until after yesterday's Boston City Council meeting, when the councilor pledged his ''hunger'' strike would also include lunch.

"I'm just taking it one meal at a time".

As part of his fast-for-peace program, Arroyo said he'll consume only coffee and other liquids from sunrise to sunset - when he gets to have dinner - on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.

Why not convert to Islam now? This sounds more like he's observing Ramadan.

''We are doing something to bring attention to an issue that is escalating today,'' he said. ''With war, we will continue planting hate for generations of children. Why don't we go to the roots and kill it now.''

The every-other-week timing of the move drew snickers from some of Arroyo's council colleagues. One joked privately that his proposed hunger strike was ''a little like saying you're going to jump off a building and then only putting a leg over the ledge.''

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Bob On Bush

Another in a never-ending series of "I Hate Bush" articles by Robert Kuttner.

A presidency at the brink

Or so Bob wishes...

By Robert Kuttner, 1/29/2003

WILL A WAR once again bail out a faltering presidency? Or will it crystallize for voters all of the contradictions of the Bush regime?

On what basis is this presidency faltering, Bob, or are you simply making assertions in the hopes that it might convince a few people out there in Globe land?

Bush's stock was not particularly high on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The economy was wobbly. He had alienated Republican liberals moderates and sacrificed GOP control of the Senate. He was using a tenuous mandate to push radically conservative policies at odds with what most Americans had voted for. Then terrorists struck, and the Bush presidency was transformed.

I can only imagine what Al Gore would or wouldn't do in those shoes.

It has taken 20 months for Bush's slide to resume, yet he has an uncanny ability to step around blunders and deceptions that would sink an ordinary president. Will he do it again with another national security crisis, this time of his own invention?

Do you mean the Iraqis & Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with this?

Consider: His is the worst economic performance of any newly inaugurated president since Herbert Hoover. The economy has lost 2 million jobs since January 2001. Bush's economic program promises to create only 190,000 jobs this year under the administration's own assumptions. The much-ballyhooed $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001 has evidently failed to rescue the economy, yet Bush promises more of the same.

That's because the tax cut lacked balls. In order to have any lasting impact, the cuts must be deep, immediate and permanent. Thanks in part to democratic bellyaching & posturing, it was none of those things.

The stock market has lost $6.65 trillion in value since he took office. The federal budget has gone from projected surplus to endless deficit. As the debates at Davos have made clear, Bush's Iraq policy has created the most serious rift between the United States and old Europe its NATO allies since the North Atlantic Alliance was founded in 1949. Despite heroic efforts by the administration to rally domestic jingoism, public support for the war absent UN and allied involvement keeps dwindling.

Not correct, Bob. The 6.65 trillion loss occurred between the spring of 2000 and now, which, by your definition, means Clinton's on the hook for some of it. How much did the stock market lose while Clinton was in office? Only one or two trillion, I suppose. What kind of lies and deceptions about this 'never-ending boom' were being fed during his tenure?

And what were some of our NATO allies selling to the Iraqis? Can't wreck those contracts, can we?

Since December, Bush has suffered a string of setbacks that should have left him reeling. His Senate majority leader made a fool of himself as a closet segregationist, yet Bush won praise for having contained the damage and installed an ally, Senator Bill Frist, as the replacement. By mid- January, Bush felt confident enough to oppose affirmative action in a key Supreme Court test. He got a respectful press again.

The fact is, conservatives and the blogosphere were the first to call for Lott's head. Big Media got around to this story a few days later. I'd say the conservatives do a better job of purging their ranks of demagogues better than, well, you Democrats do.

Bush failed to win allied support for his Iraq war, pursued a policy in Korea that mocked his Iraq stance, and also bungled the replacement of his economic team and the reform of the SEC and the Wall Street scandals. Despite a brief New Year rally, the stock market kept sinking. He was going to be an education president, but his own budget program is diverting money from schools. Despite a proclaimed emergency of homeland security, Bush's priorities are forcing states and cities to stint on public safety. Even key Republicans are now distancing themselves from Bush's ''economic stimulus'' plan.

Last time I checked, the following countries were with us on Iraq: Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy, Norway, Turkey, Romania, Qatar and Bahrain. Schools that suck cannot be fixed by throwing more money at the problem, like in Washington, DC. Which Republicans are 'distancing themselves from Bush's ''economic stimulus'' plan'? Some names would be nice for a change.

Yet through all of these blunders, Bush has continued to receive an astonishingly kind press. Only in the past two weeks has his general popularity dropped below 60 percent in most polls. Bush gets away with it, first, because he seen as personally likable and, second, because he is viewed as a tough leader in a national crisis. Still, a chasm between rhetoric and performance eventually becomes a credibility gap.

Yes, Bush does seem to be getting lots and lots of good press, wouldn't you agree?

“This is the worst president ever,” she said. “He is the worst president in all of American history.”

But for the impending war, Bush's presidency seems near a tipping point at which the public and the press belatedly give themselves permission to rethink their trust in the man. But a war will alter that equation, at least in the short run, and Bush seems determined to have his war.

Because Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm and destroy his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Did you miss that part of Bush's speech last night, Bob?

No one, of course, can predict how a war would go. Supporters insist that the ouster of Saddam Hussein will be relatively easy and costless. Even there, however, Bush could well face not his father's turkey shoot of a retreating Iraqi Army across an open desert but hand-to-hand fighting in a dense city with civilian and US military casualties.

And he well could not. Why not blockade Baghdad?

And the harder part comes afterward. We just don't know how much this war will destabilize the rest of the world - from the Korean Peninsula to the Indo-Pakistani conflict to the perennial Israel-Palestine cauldron. We do know that war would divert attention at best and invite more terrorist attacks at worst.

Like the world's real stable nowadays.

If more crises erupt, the administration could take it as vindication for its proclaimed need to be tough rather than the consequences of its own reckless policies.

Maybe that's because you're wrong on that point?

As commander in chief, Bush, I suspect, will get some months of ''bounce'' in the polls. But by the end of this year, the press and the public should be able to grasp just what a disaster this president is - for liberty, for security, for the economy, and for America's benign role in a dangerous world.

As usual, no alternatives are given. I believe this represents Bob's preferred stance on dealing with the 'dangerous world'.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 1/29/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Susan Sarandon Speaks (Again)

Ms. Sarandon is tired of being criticized:

Sarandon, wearing a red and black floral dress, purple leather jacket and matching boots said: "I'm tired of being labelled anti-American because I ask questions."

Maybe you should shut the fuck up then...

Good News For Massachusetts Drivers

Well, at least those with the lead foot. Howie Carr explains why the current budget crunch affects traffic citations.

Dances With Idiots

Senator Edward Kennedy seems to want to vote no for a second time on going to war with Iraq.

This will get shot down fast and be given the burial it deserves.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Saddam Has Them

Weapons of Ass Destruction (sounds of Satan and Saddam getting jiggy with it on South Park).


Bike manufacturer Cannondale will file for Chapter 11 shortly.

Bear Is In Season

Mark passed this along from TraderMike at The Prudent Bear.

Broadcom and Microsoft are just two examples of many of how companies try to hype themselves, while announcing disastrous news.

Same news, different day.

Rethinking The Headlines?

"Shoebomber lawyers blast explosion video"

Great word choice, guys...

Sunday, January 26, 2003
NFL 2002-2003 - Super Bowl

TB +4

Division Round = 2-2
For the year = 49-38-3

Saturday, January 25, 2003
Bad Idea

Fox News reports that the White House is considering extending the Iraqi inspections:

WASHINGTON — The White House is considering whether to extend U.N. inspections in Iraq beyond Monday's deadline, in an effort to appease an international community that is growing increasingly opposed to an attack against Saddam.

'Appease' - nice choice of words...

The decision on prolonging weapons probes will be based on whether the inspections are found productive, a senior U.S. official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said that if the inspectors disclose new evidence on Monday, that would influence a decision to keep looking for illegal arms.

I'm betting this is part of the rope-a-dope strategy / countermeasure by the White House. I don't see any other reason to make such an announcement.

The UN - United Nitwits

I suppose these guys aren't very interested in intelligence gathering:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three Iraqi scientists -- who Iraq said it had instructed to talk to arms inspectors -- have refused to hold private interviews with the U.N. team searching for weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi officials told CNN.

Because if the Iraqi 'monitors' aren't there to verify that the scientists being questioned said anything of substance, that scientist takes the dirt nap.

One of the three Iraqi scientists did undergo U.N. questioning, but in the presence of an Iraqi monitor, officials told CNN on Saturday.

Smart move.

The news came on the day two men -- one carrying three knives, the other a notebook and shouting "Save me!" -- tried to enter the U.N. inspectors' Baghdad compound in separate surprise incidents.

Who are being emasculated & tortured as we speak, if they're not dead already.

The Baghdad government said Friday night it had "encouraged" three scientists to accept unmonitored interviews, under an agreement reached last Monday with the chief U.N. inspectors.

It's like being offered a drink you know is poisonous.

However, the White House has accused the government of intimidating scientists into refusing private interviews.

The inspectors believe that Iraqis knowledgeable about possible weapons programs would be less candid when questioned with government monitors present. In all formal interview requests thus far, however, the Iraqi specialists have asked to have government representatives present.

Because they want to live, that's why.

Earlier Saturday, arms inspectors met with an unidentified Iraqi, possibly one of the three, in an apparent effort to win his agreement on private questioning, The Associated Press said.

That man, accompanied by an Iraqi official, was met about 10:40 a.m. at the front door of a Baghdad hotel by a U.N. inspection team leader, who led the man inside, AP reported. He left about noon in a government car, seen off by the same inspector. Both coming and going, he refused to speak with waiting reporters.

The subject of private interviews has become a major issue in advance of a U.N. chief inspectors' report Monday on how well Iraq has cooperated during the first two months of renewed arms inspections.

Which is to say they're not cooperating.

The U.N. has interviewed other Iraqi scientists over the past few months with Iraqi officials present, in an attempt to get information on Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear activities.

'Attempt' would be the right word to use here.

Last weekend, the inspectors interviewed an Iraqi scientist at his home, where they found thousands of pages of documents that could apply to enriching uranium.

The man who entered the U.N. vehicle complained that he had been "unfairly treated."

I wonder if we'll ever identify this guy, or what he had in that notebook on his chest.

Physicist Faleh Hassan Al Basri complained the inspectors mistreated his wife and resorted to "mafia-like" tactics.

The inspectors are under U.S. pressure to take scientists and their families out of Iraq for interviews. U.S. officials have said they believe the scientists would speak more freely if they were assured that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could not retaliate.

That's funny - I thought Resolution 1441, a UN document, was the one that called for 'unfettered access to Iraqi scientists'. Guess I was wrong...

Earlier there were unexplained incidents at the U.N.'s Baghdad compound when two men -- one carrying three knives, the other a notebook and shouting "Save me!" -- tried to enter the base.

Both men were apprehended and turned over to Iraqi authorities, U.N. officials reported. It was unclear whether the two incidents were related.

It is clear that they will be dead shortly.

On the two incidents, U.N. officials said that one man approached the hotel's security gate with a metal instrument, before Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground. He was later found to have three knives, the U.N. said.

I don't think that guy was too bright. What about the other guy?

About 40 minutes later, another Iraqi man stopped a U.N. vehicle outside the headquarters pleading "Save me! Save me!" in Arabic, according to the U.N. The man, apparently unarmed, forced his way into the driver's seat of the stopped vehicle, as an Iraqi guard struggled to pull him out, while an unfazed U.N. inspector watched from the passenger seat.

That 'unfazed UN inspector' ought to be shot, in my opinion. What a callous bastard.

Appearing agitated and frightened, the young man, with a closely trimmed beard and mustache, sat inside the white U.N.-marked utility vehicle for 10 minutes, AP reported. At first, an inspection team leader sought help from nearby Iraqi soldiers, but the man refused to leave the vehicle as the uniformed men pulled on his sleeve and collar.

"I am unjustly treated!" he shouted.

Then U.N. security men arrived, and they and Iraqi police carried the man by his feet and arms into the fenced compound, journalists said. The man was turned over to Iraqi authorities at a government office adjacent to the compound, U.N. officials said.

What a shame. I wish the guy could have held out for a few more weeks until we liberate that despotic hellhole.

Iraqi officials said they had no information on the incidents.

Of course not.

-- CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson and Producer Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

Friday, January 24, 2003
The Daily Reckoning

Mark also sent along a link to this site, the perfect antidote for the CNBC blind bull lemmings.

A Mystery Has Been Solved

Ever wondered what happened to Elmo? Me, too (assist to: Mark Lenkei).

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I don't think it's this guy.

It's Definitely Circus Time

...if Jerry Springer does indeed run for the Senate.

I wonder how many people in trailer parks vote? We'll find out, I suppose.

Thursday, January 23, 2003
Geek Alert

I was browsing some of Charles Johnson's archives when I ran across an article that I think every Internet user should read, then perform the appropriate commands on their own computers to make sure you're not getting hacked.

From a command prompt: c:> netstat -an | find ":6667"


c:> netstat -an | find ":113 "

If you get blank lines, fantastic. If you see this:




...calmly print the above link, shut your machine down and take the steps as outlined in the article to rid yourself of the bots.

Oh, yeah - and get a physical router. I swore by BlackIce Defender for a while, but leave nothing to chance.

Connoisseurs of Windows XP ought to read this, which I'm doing now. More in a bit.

I Doubt It

Gary Hart said Wednesday that the sex scandal that forced him out of the 1988 Democratic presidential race has faded enough to free him to consider another run in 2004. "The world has changed, issues are different today," the former Colorado senator said in an Associated Press interview. "I'm not saying that people forget, but I think time brings perspective to people."
He's hoping everybody forgot...

Why The Angry Cyclist?

It's because of things like this.

It's Circus Time!

You know that Democratic politics will have reached a new low when everybody starts doing the pinkie-ring kiss to this son of a bitch.

Do I sense a double standard here?

Nope, guess I was wrong. Everybody move along...

Pompous Is As Pompous Does...

Captain Hairdo Senator John Kerry preannounces (then delivers) a critique of President Bush's "Rush to war in Gulf". This is the same guy who made about twenty "pre-announcements" about his decision to enter the Democratic presidential sweepstakes. God damn, does he need to do everything multiple times?

``We need a new approach to national security - a bold, progressive internationalism that stands in stark contrast to the too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush administration,'' Kerry said in a draft version of his speech to be delivered at Georgetown University.
Brilliant! A foreign policy subject to French approval. What will the DemocRATS think of next?

One question, Senator: Would this criticism of going to war with Iraq be the same one you voted for a few months ago?

I Got FloriDUH On My Mind

The powers that be found missing ballots from the September primary:

The ballots were postmarked as early as a week before the election and appeared to contain all the necessary information to have been deemed valid votes, the sources said. Prosecutors found about 100 ballots in a mail tray inside a file cabinet at Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant's Fort Lauderdale office during a search late Tuesday afternoon.

It's funny how history seems to repeat itself...

Did You Ever Wonder... banks generate your credit card number? Here's the formula that's used. For Fleet Bank (well, probably all banks), the first eight numbers are reserved for each individual bank / credit card unit, so the formula can then be adjusted for digits nine through fifteen. Because this is a mod 10 algorithim, each bank has 100,000 usable credit card numbers out of a pool of one million.

Here's some PHP script that generates these numbers, if anyone's into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Darwin Award Nominee - Junior Varsity

This is inexplicably stupid. You just hit a lottery for $7.5 million, which is just over $4 million after taxes, and you're dealing coke?

"We usually check to see if a person owes money for child support, taxes, things like that, before we award them the money," said lottery spokesman Keith Elkins. "Once they receive the money, we have no say on how they invest it."

One thing's for sure. He did not invest wisely.

Fat Shits Eat Crow

Well, it's better than what they're used to eating. Those idiots from New York that live eat McDonald's more often than I ride my bike saw their lawsuit thrown out by a federal judge today.The problem is, the judge left them an opening, if only their fat asses would fit:

Although he dismissed the suit, Judge Robert Sweet granted the plaintiffs the option of filing an amended complaint within 30 days addressing the problems that Sweet found in the plaintiffs' original arguments.

Sweet said some of the arguments could be compelling if addressed in more depth, including the allegation that the processing of McDonald's food makes it more dangerous than a customer would have reason to expect.

"If plaintiffs were able to flesh out this argument in an amended complaint, it may establish that the dangers of McDonald's products were not commonly well known and thus that McDonald's had a duty towards its customers," Sweet wrote.

It sounds like they'll just file again:

Samuel Hirsch, the plaintiff's attorney, remained defiant. In a written statement his law firm said, "the plaintiffs are very pleased with the decision and have every intention of amending their complaint and refiling it in the federal court in the next 30 days."

It seems the concept of parental responsibility is lost on some people:

Bradley's father, Israel, said he never saw anything in the Bronx restaurants that informed him of the food's ingredients. "I always believed McDonald's was healthy for my children," he said in an affidavit.

The stupidity defense, in-action.

Hirsch also was critical of McDonald's billion-dollar advertising campaign. "Young individuals are not in a position to make a choice after the onslaught of advertising and promotions," Hirsch contended.

That's where the parents are supposed to come in, Samuel.

Here's another question - what level of proof are the plaintiffs held to in order to prove their kids ate all those meals at McDonalds?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Begala Award Nominee

Andrew Sullivan gives the coveted award for excessive, over-the-top hyperliberal rhetoric. Derrick Z. Jackson, last year's leading liberal racist runner-up for the 2002 Begala Award, is making a strong run for the gold in 2003.

Yes, I know it's still early, but a great call, nonetheless.

Related News Items

I don't know if they do this on purpose, but the Wall Street Journal puts two Page One news items in succession (emphasis added):

Financial restatements jumped 22% last year to 330, a record number due to accounting errors, a new study found.

A Merrill market strategist said that reliability of corporate earnings forecasts is cloudier than it has been in decades.

Yup, 2003's looking good already...

Jesse Ventura Update

MSNBC is reportedly signing up the former Minnesota Governor for a talk show.

Here's a better way to get higher ratings - get rid of Phil Donahue.

Darwin Award Nominees - Reserves Category

I'm sure we'll read about a few of these idiots in the coming months...

Globe Suicide Watch

Maybe I'll have to take Joan Vennochi off the suicide watch after this lip-locking embrace of the Senator With The Best Coif, John Kerry (naturally!).

Will Kerry follow Dukakis playbook?

...and lose in a landslide?

By Joan Vennochi, 1/21/2003

IT REALLY DOES LOOK like 1988 in 2004. Mike Dukakis is running for president with longer legs, more expensive hair, and an even greater penchant for equivocating about being a liberal from Massachusetts.

Then I say he's done right now.

Clearly, John F. Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, is not just holding, but clutching the Dukakis-for-presidential-nominee handbook. Here's the strategy:

Get Joe Klein to write a fellated puff piece. Get any personal skeletons out of the closet early, yours and your wife's. Get lucky by having a big-name Democrat - Mario Cuomo in '88, Al Gore in '04 - decide against a presidential run. Create the feeling of a done deal by nailing down as many old-time Democratic party operatives as soon as possible, in as many states as possible. Do better than expected in Iowa. Win New Hampshire. And focus Democratic fund-raiser Robert Farmer on the primary that counts more than any other: the money primary.

Here's a funny story from about five years ago. A friend of mine works for the phone company. He had to do a service call to Theresa Heinz's house on Nantucket Island. Just for shits and giggles, he peeks into the refrigerator to see what kind of ketchup she preferred. It was Stop & Shop ketchup! OK, not quite a skeleton, but still telling on some level.

By the way, very astute call on Kerry having to win New Hampshire there, Joan...

John Sasso, the Duke's strategist, is on board the Kerry campaign as ''senior adviser.'' The Dukakis boys were outmaneuvered by the late Lee Atwater the first time they went up against a Bush. But now they are looking at a lesser version of the old man. They must be thinking Karl Rove is no Atwater - especially if the economy stays bad and the current President Bush continues to rattle his holster at Saddam Hussein, all the time wearing that puzzled and puzzling squint.

I wouldn't be betting against Karl Rove.

But first, Kerry has to win his party's nomination. That's where the Dukakis playbook is useful.

No, Joan. First he has to do well in Iowa, then win in New Hampshire. Is this adult attention-deficit disorder?

As governor and presidential candidate, Dukakis played the Massachusetts media like the proverbial Greek chorus. With visions of White House correspondent jobs dancing in the heads of lowly State House scribes, the local media hyped his candidacy shamelessly. It was a good springboard and echo chamber, as illustrated by an August 1987 copy of New York magazine, with its cover story, ''Ready for the Duke?'' authored by Joe Klein. That got more national buzz going about a Massachusetts favorite son, just like Klein's Dec. 2 New Yorker piece, ''The Long War of John Kerry.'' (In between Dukakis and Kerry, Klein, of course, fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton.)

Speaking about getting played, some journalists seem to be making the same mistake again, don't they?

There are also political lessons to be learned from the Dukakis marriage and how it played on the campaign trail. A strong, independent-minded woman, Kitty Dukakis routinely spoke her mind as the governor's wife, and there was always concern about how that would sound in Dubuque. There was also the matter of a prior treatment for a dependency on prescribed diet pills that had been kept secret during previous campaigns.

There was also that drive in the tank, and stories about Kitty's alcohol problems. Details, details...

To Mrs. Dukakis's credit, no one was ever able to completely bottle throttle her; but the Dukakis campaign did control disclosure of her amphetamine addiction via orchestrated leak to the national press.

Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz, is another strong, independent-minded woman who is already making waves as the wife of a national candidate. In Klein's New Yorker piece, Heinz calls Kerry ''a specimen who'd been out in the woods too long.'' The what-to-do-about-Teresa problem is complicated by the size of her personal fortune, estimated in the $600 million range, which Kerry is expected to tap. In the first interview given since Kerry formally launched his 2004 White House bid, Heinz told the Boston Herald she is switching her voter registration to Democrat from Republican, is inclined to use her money to defend her husband from personal attack, and will continue to speak her mind.

Changing her voter registration? That doesn't seem very, er, supportive, does it?

''I'm not afraid to say what I believe,'' said Heinz. Good luck, Senator Kerry.

Once or twice in a column, Joan gets it right. Congratulations!

The field of likely Democratic rivals also provides parallels. Remember the ''seven dwarves'' running to be the 1988 Democratic nominee? Besides Dukakis, the field included two possible Kerry challengers - Missouri congressman Richard Gephardt and Delaware Senator Joseph Biden. Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois and then-Senator Al Gore were also in the race, along with Jesse Jackson. The national press loved the straight-talking Babbitt and Simon, just as it shows nascent affection for Vermont's Howard Dean. Jackson provided drama and obvious color, just as Al Sharpton does.

It's funny how history repeats itself...

Dukakis was never loved, but he was respected; ultimately because of Farmer, he had access to the most money. For at least 30 years, money has been the key to winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Kerry is banking on the presumption that it still is.

If his wife gives him the checkbook, that is.

Winning the White House requires something more - and someone else's playbook.

More astute advice from Joan - run as somebody else. How transparent.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is

This story ran on page A11 of the Boston Globe on 1/21/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Flying High Again?

Who would have ever thought of Ozzy Osbourne as a one-hit wonder?

Just Figuring This Out, Guys?

"There's no free lunch on the Web anymore,"

More Interesting Headlines

I'm not sure if the editors at CNN have the cause and effect thing down just yet...

Interesting Headlines

First headline - Big Chill coming to New England

Which really got me worried. The actual headline reads: Arctic blast descends on Bay State

Bloomberg's New York

It seems that Hizzoner went to see the Rolling Stones at Madison Square garden. He was reportedly upset because Keith Richards and Ron Wood lit up some smokes during the show.

I'd call Bloomberg a one-termer for such acts of pettiness, which seem to be the rule rather than the exception so far during his term.

Friday, January 17, 2003
Darwin Award Nominee

"A 36-year-old-man has killed himself with a home-made guillotine," Reuters reports. An unnamed source tells the wire service that "Boyd Taylor had built a timer to activate the device in the early hours of Monday morning." Oddly Enough!

(from Best Of the Web, again)

Marc Herold Alert

Military expert Antiwar protester Patrice Cuddy-Lamoree, quoted in yesterday's Kansas City Star (link via Best Of The Web):

"As a former schoolteacher and a mother, I know that Iraqi children are going to die. . . .They are going to be crushed by American bombs."

Captain Hairdo Update

Senator Kerry doesn't like the red states very much. He's a real man of the people, all right (link via Drudge).



Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts holds hatred for having to travel through heartland spots like Iowa to raise cash, it can be revealed.

On the eve of a fundraising trip to Dubuque, Iowa -- quotes surface which detail Kerry's feelings about trips to Dubuque.

'I hate it. I detest it," Kerry told a Boston reporter in 1996.

Kerry will attend church services on Sunday in Dubuque with state Rep. Patrick Murphy, and have lunch with activists in Dubuque.

"I hate going to places like Austin and Dubuque to raise large sums of money. But I have to," Kerry revealed to the BOSTON GLOBE.

So far, Kerry has collected slightly more than $10,000 from Iowa residents, insiders tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

"I am sorry he hates coming here and taking our money!" Dubuque resident Marsha Vittal said in anger on Friday. "He wants to be my president, but he detests, detests coming to where I've chosen to live my life, to ask for support?!"

A Kerry staffer explained the senator holds no personal dislike of Dubuque or its residents.

"He's actually very excited to be making the trip this weekend," said the insider.

That's pretty pathetic spin, Mr. Insider.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Bob on Bush

Tax politics and rhetoric

By Robert Kuttner, 1/15/2003

NOW THAT President Bush has a fight on his hands over his proposed tax and budget program, the usual suspects are insisting that anyone who challenges these plans is promoting class warfare. Defenders of progressive taxation stand accused of resenting the rich, who presumably achieved their wealth through good, old-fashioned hard work.

Well, Bob, let's examine cause and effect, shall we? Bush first mentioned his tax cuts during his radio address on Saturday, 1/4/2003. Senator Daschle didn't even wait until the speech actually aired when he blasted the tax cuts as going to "the wrong people."

There are a few instances of DemocRATS endlessly characterizing this plan as a "tax cut for the rich". When I read the current issue of Business Week with its' screaming headline CLASS WARFARE?, I'm probably not wrong in presuming an agenda of class warfare.

By the way, it's so nice of you to 'presume' that those of use who work six days a week and take our vacation time to do even more work complying with the clusterfuck that's the Internal Revenue Code, that's it's done by way of "good, old-fashioned hard work", you arrogant, sanctimonious son of a bitch. Let it be my saving grace that I could run a magazine that no one reads and engage in intellectual masturbation write three biased columns a week, chock full of thoroughly discredit Keynesian economic claptrap and 'presume' myself to having contributed "good, old-fashioned hard work" to the economy.

Moreover, the entrepreneurial class generates the jobs for the rest of us. So why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, even if the goose sometimes seems overfat?

I don't know, because of a massive ideological and political bias, perhaps? Or are we acknowledging your own failed attempt at entrepreneurship and are finally recognizing that, as I'm fond of saying, 'rich people employ people', which is in direct contradiction with your own piece from last week?

In addition, tax-the-rich is said to be bad politics

Not said by Bob himself, of course, but it "is said to be bad politics". This is like Al Gore saying "I have not raised these concerns, but some have".

Conservative essayist David Brooks elegantly laid out the argument in last Sunday's New York Times (though I am suspicious of conservatives giving liberals tactical advice.) First, Brooks wrote, most people ''vote their aspirations'' rather than their current economic self interest. The fellow making $30,000 a year hopes that some day he will be a millionaire, too. He doesn't like the idea of paying taxes on his imaginary millions. Further, he wrote, most Americans admire the rich. We are not a nation that sees the world in terms of class conflict. This is all broadly true, and also entirely misleading. It begs several questions.

Well, I don't know about the $30K to $1 million jump. I think it more realistic to make a comparison between Mr. $30K and, say, Mr. $75K, which is far more realistic. Then again, Mr. $30K probably doesn't want to get the financial high & hard one by the government and wants to do something incredibly selfish with his money, like save it, buy a house so he can start a family and other bourgeois things. Let's ignore the counterirritants about penalizing the more productive members of society and allowing for upward mobility of said members of society and let Bob beg several questions.

For starters, a federal tax program is about necessary choices. If we as a nation decide to cut estate taxes on very rich (dead) people, a policy decision that President Bush rammed through Congress in 2001, that choice removes revenues that we might rather spend on things that ordinary living people need.

I seem to remember the repeal of the estate tax having broad levels of support. Doesn't the estate tax also lend itself to double taxation - once when income is earned (and some of it saved), and again when the owner of that accumulated savings dies in the hand of 'rich (dead) people'?

You needn't resent wealthy people to believe that those revenues are needed for everything from health coverage to schools

No, Bob, I'd never get the impression they you, the most egalitarian of all people I know, would ever resent 'wealthy people'...

Now, Bush is proposing to do it all over again - a tax cut of nearly $700 billion, tilted toward the very wealthiest, at a time when state and local governments are having to shorten school years, reduce spending for police, and raise their own taxes in a recession.

Here we go again. In a 'progressive' tax system, where the people with the highest incomes pay the highest rates of tax, any attempt to flatten the tax rates and / or reduce the high marginal rates will produce cauterwailing of the highest decibels from statists like Bob opponents of tax reform. And, why should this not be done, simply because state and local governments spend taxpayer's money like Japanese businessmen at Thai whorehouses, even to this day?

It's a sweet trade. The most affluent of Americans get tax cuts averaging several thousand dollars, while ordinary working Americans will likely (pay - ed) more in sales and property taxes levied by states. Am I lapsing into hate-the-rich rhetoric? I don't think so. I'm posing choices.

Of course you are! It's clear to even to your editors at the Globe, which is why they're printing it. You're just posing, poseur. What about the expanded child care credit, Bob? Care to ignore thisexpand on that?

There is another buried question here. How much private wealth is enough - enough to reward hard work, and enough to generate all those jobs?

There's another question I have. What does the Federal Government need with all this money?

Not all that long ago, during the 20-year post World War II boom, top personal and corporate tax rates were much higher than they are today; ordinary working people had a much lower tax load; and the economy generated more jobs and more growth than it is doing in this decade.

ordinary working people had a much lower tax load - that almost hits the nail on the head. Average tax rates were also smaller for a while as well. The part that Bob won't bring up that's missing is the explosion of government spending by the Johnson and Nixon administrations. I've always wondered why liberals hated Nixon - he funded almost every domestic spending program they wanted.

Two decades ago, the average corporate chief executive earned about 50 times the pay of the average worker. Today, the figure has swelled to over 500 times. Do we really think that the typical chief executive has become 10 times more productive - or only that the constraints on insider enrichment have eroded? Some CEOs make annual salaries, bonuses, and stock compensation in the hundreds of millions. Aren't there plenty of talented executives who'd gladly do the job for just $10 million?

It's not a matter of what we think, Bob - this mechanism called The Market will dictate what CEO's earn. I'll grant Bob the point on internal failings of some companies, such as the need for completely independent Board of Directors & Audit Committees. Once again, if a company is earning higher rates of return than a given competitor, a) the CEO deserves some or a lot of the credit for this, and it's reflected in things like bonuses and stock options, the latter which also helps shareholders by virtue of a higher share price, and b) competitors need to move into those markets since profits over and above expected profits are being made there.

There also happens to be a war on - an ongoing war against terrorism and in all likelihood a shooting war later this winter. In every previous war, the ethic has been shared sacrifice. In this war, the ethic is that insiders with political connections take everything that isn't nailed down.

Some examples would be nice, Bob. I think you're just blowing smoke up my sphincter, cheap political points and all that.

Brooks is right about one thing: The politics and the rhetoric of fair taxation and common endeavor are very tricky. This is an individualist country - and also one capable of great common enterprise. We can all want to be rich, yet still feel an obligation to the common.

Jude Wanniski (remember him, Bob? To you, he's the Devil Incarnate, Mr. Reagan Supply Sider himself) states the existence of government this way. If government levies taxes at 100 percent, there is effectively no market (think communism) and no incentive to produce. If government levies taxes at zero percent, there is effectively no government. The trick is to strike a balance somewhere in between these extremes. As much as Kuttner implicates the Republicans for the latter that's not the case. When even Milton Friedman (in today's Wall Street Journal, p. A10) states "I believe that government is too large and intrusive, that we do not get our money's worth for the roughly 40% of our income that is spent by government - federal, state and local - supposedly on our behalf, or the additional 10% or so on income that residents or businesses pay me to prepare tax returns spend in response to government mandates and regulation.", a more compelling case can be made that one impetus for enacting massive tax cuts is to prevent governments from spending the money in the first place.

Noblesse oblige - the idea that the well-off have an obligation to society - isn't quite dead. Bill Gates Sr. has organized a group called Responsible Wealth to lobby for keeping the estate tax. The more than 1,100 supporters include billionaires George Soros and Ted Turner.

We're talking freakin' billionaires here, Bob. Billionaires that are willingly and voluntarily parting with their portions of their wealth. What about people who have less than that and wish to pass it onto their kids, or anyone they wish, so they don't have to struggle like they did? Why not make the tax voluntary?

Even those fabulously successful entrepreneurs lobbying for more tax cuts and feeling virtuously prosperous benefited from the common investments of those who came before. Many were educated at public schools or state university. Most built on the stock of common knowledge and publicly financed research. They enjoyed the security of a free country defended by common investments in defense.

And many were not. Bill Gates Jr. (whose money we're really talking about, by the way) dropped out of Harvard after one year. It's impossible to argue that microprocessor architecture is 'common knowledge'. George Soros was educated at the London School of Economics. Ted Turner went to Brown University. How about some examples that don't shoot your argument down, Bob?

It is common investments that create opportunities, keep Americans healthy and strong. They have to be financed somehow, and why not levy taxes based on the ability to pay? Shame on those who want to pull up the ladder in the name of rewarding opportunity.

To the extent that these entrepreneurs do not avail themselves of 'public schools or state university', this guilt trip should be dismissed as the crap that it is.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 1/15/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Editor Needed / Darwin Award Nominee

Man slain by fighting cock

Was he fighting his own cock, or what? Did it fight back?

A man died after being hit in the groin by a fighting fowl in the southern Philippines, police said today.

Elmer Mariano was helping prepare the gamecock for a fight in Zamboanga on Sunday when a blade strapped to its leg accidentally slipped out of the sheath and inflicted a major wound.

Mariano died on the way to the hospital. It was not known what happened to the gamecock.

Cockfighting is a popular and legal pastime in this country. The gamecocks wear razor-sharp blades or "spurs" on their legs, which they use in battles which sometimes end in death.

Never mind, then. If I were the Sydney Morning Herald, I'd hire a proofreader and / or an editor (courtesy of Tim Blair).

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Sheryl Crow's New T-Shirt

Some people should just shut the fuck up, or show some truth in advertising (assist to: Clutch at LGF):

Check out this line from Sheryl:

"The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies"

That has to be the dumbest thing ever said by an entertainer, and that's a mighty high bar to clear.

Lunatic Fringe

I decided to check out the loony bin that is the 'official' (read: only) news site for the 'Democratic' People's Republic of Korea. I was not disappointed. See for yourself:


KCNA refutes U.S. officials' lies about cause of economic difficulties

Pyongyang, January 13 (KCNA) -- Some elements of the Bush administration hostile to the DPRK are floating sheer lies that some economic difficulties in the DPRK are attributable to its wrong policy. This is nothing but a U.S. hypocritical political propaganda to cover up the criminal nature of its blockade policy, a crime against humanity, committed against the DPRK for several decades.

Temporary economic difficulties including the acute shortage of electricity and food in the DPRK were partly caused by consecutive years of natural disasters. But they are chiefly attributable to the U.S. aggressive and hostile policy of blockade towards the dprk.

The U.S. has pursued this policy for over half a century since its military occupation of South Korea in 1945. This was, in fact, aimed to deprive our state and people of their right to existence.

The U.S. cooked up a "COCOM" in 1949, taking advantage of its monopolistic position in the capitalist world after the 2nd World War and has controlled the export of technology and trade with the DPRK in different fields.

It fabricated "U.S. rules on controlling assets" of hostile countries in December 1950 in a bid to apply a trade and financial embargo against the DPRK.

Inestimable is the mental and material damage done by this U.S. hostile policy to the DPRK.

The U.S. imperialists' hostile policy toward the DPRK was escalated after they cooked up a military "regime" in South Korea and stepped up the preparations for a new war in the 1960s.

In order to cope with this situation the DPRK advanced a line of simultaneously carrying on the economic construction and defence upbuilding and had no option but to direct enormous efforts to boosting the country's defence capability.

Since the 1970s the U.S. has carried on extremely adventurous and provocative moves to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, annually staging "Team Spirit" joint military exercises.

The U.S. policy of aggression and blockade became more vicious and desperate in the 1980s and the 1990s under the pretext of the non-existent "nuclear issue" of the DPRK.

Taking advantage of the collapse of the former soviet union and other socialist countries in East Europe and their return to capitalism, the U.S. escalated its political
and military offensive to destroy the DPRK's socialist system and tightened its economic blockade and sanctions against the DPRK to bring its economy to a total collapse.

It is a universally known historical fact that the DPRK was compelled to proclaim a semi-war state in 1993 as the U.S. desperately escalated its pressure and sanctions against it under the pretext of its "nuclear issue" through the IAEA and the UN.

The U.S. was so mean and perfidious as to grossly violate the spirit of the agreement reached between the two sides through a series of DPRK-U.S. talks.

It refused to implement the DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework which calls for the provision of light water reactors to the DPRK in return for its freeze on nuclear facilities, thus causing a tremendous loss of electricity to the DPRK.

The army and people of the DPRK have defended the sovereignty and the right to existence of the country and successfully carried out the "arduous march" and the forced march, despite the U.S. vicious and desperate blockade policy and war moves, thus opening a favorable phase for the building of a powerful nation. This was possible only thanks to the invariable correct policy of the Workers' Party of Korea and the DPRK.

The U.S. should stop falsifying truth with sheer lies.

It should pay heed to the voices of the international community and drop its wrong anti-DPRK policy before meddling in other's internal affairs.


It must be funnier in the original Korean...

Media Matters

I was cruising around doing my normal nightly blogging, and I decided to check out Glenn Reynolds for my semi-daily update. He notes PBS's Media Matters has an article about blogging. They have a survey on the left that asks people to submit their site info, so I did.

PBS, checking out my site. Bet they'll fuckin' love it!

Slow News Day

Making a mountain out of a molehill. Relax, folks, Rangel's proposal is just that; it has no chance of passing either the House or Senate, much less be approved by President Bush. There's no need to get your panties in a bunch.

(Ryan) Karb, who calls himself a pacifist, was adamant this week, saying he'd either apply for conscientious objector status or leave the country altogether to escape fighting.

"I would definitely go out of the country," he said. "I just disagree with (this) war. It's not like we're fighting a clear enemy, like World War II.

That's what terrorism's all about. I see they've taught you well at Framingham High...

Let The Fun Begin

The marriage between Mitt Romney, Massachusetts Governor and the Massachusetts legislature didn't last too long. This looks like classic 'pass the buck' politics that the DemocRATS in the legislature excel at.

The Boston Globe Op-Ed Page - Wrong Again

Who else but Thomas Oliphant can rant & rave like this and pass it off as serious commentary? (Ellen Goodman, Robert Kuttner, Derrick Z. Jackson, Joan "Fisk Doll" Vennochi, etc.):

Doomed to failure

By Thomas Oliphant, 1/14/2003


THE PEOPLE most qualified to explain the farcical fiasco that the death penalty has become in the United States are strangely silent. That would be conservatives.

Perhaps ideology has got their tongues.

Perhaps they're stupefied that Illinois governor commuted so many death sentences, the overwhelming majority of which were clearly guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.

Think about it. For 25 years this mess of a system has ''run '' on whim, cheating, elaborate procedure, delay, and more whim. There's no coherent explanation available of why a given person is charged with a capital crime, why he is convicted of it as opposed to a lesser offense, why he is or isn't sentenced to die, and why he ends up being part of the tiny percentage who actually are executed.

Think about this. People who commit capital crimes are tried by a jury, sentenced and given endless appeal avenues. Some people sit on Death Row for at least a decade appealing these sentences. Given that no two capital cases are alike, do we expect a "coherent explanation" when "guilty as charged" is the one explanation that suffices?

If conservatives stepped up to their responsibility, they could explain why the death penalty is the classic government program that by definition is doomed to pointless failure, that the inevitable bureaucratization of death cannot serve any broader purpose except its own broken machinery. Off the empirical evidence - forget moral and religious views - government has no business organizing the killing of guilty Americans because it simply can't do the job. The only thing that's left is the rankest kind of politics that feeds off the darkest impulses of the people.

The concept behind capital punishment is known as deterrence. One question, Tom - can you or any other critique of capital punishment point to a single case where an innocent man was, in fact, put to death?

In recent years the only developments of note keep lengthening the delays, raising the cost, and undermining confidence that the government is carrying out its responsibilities effectively. Without anybody making a specific decision, the system has reacted by contracting; the number of capital cases is slowly declining, as is the population of inmates on death rows.

The system took a jolt over the weekend in Illinois. Outgoing Republican Governor George Ryan's decision to pardon four more people wrongly convicted (after ''confessions'' based on police torture) and then clear out death row by commuting the death sentences of nearly 170 people is being pilloried by Illinois prosecutors and politicians as the desperate act of a probably corrupt one-termer.

And of a man who is also accused of ignoring the will of the people and the Illinois state Legislature, as John O'Sullivan explains here:

And those cheering, finally, must have been aware — uneasily, one trusts — that Mr. Ryan was abusing his power of commutation not to save innocent men but to repeal a law passed by the Illinois legislature and supported by the voters of Illinois that he and his political allies are unable to repeal by democratic debate and electoral struggle. We might call that a miscarriage of democracy.

In addition, seventy percent of Americans support the death penalty. Shall we discard democracy, Tom?

It is being so pilloried because the pols can't deal with the real basis of his amazing decision - error. Careful study showed that what Ryan called the demon of error is endemic to the system. At one point courts had exonerated more death row inmates than the state had killed. Ryan's logic was that under a system so unable to work, no condemned person could be legitimately killed. The same logic followed the Supreme Court's decision in 1972 that the then-existing system was unconstitutional. As a result, all death sentences became life. The difference today is that life is far more likely to mean just that.

So then, do we install a new system or sentence everyone to life in prison?

The dirty truth, however, is that there is nothing unique about Illinois.

OK. How pervasive is the 'demon of error'?

Ever since the Supreme Court began approving a fresh batch of state death penalty laws (there are now 38 plus the federal government's program), fewer than 800 of the more than 6,500 people sentenced to death since 1977 have been killed. Far more have had their sentences overturned or commuted, been exonerated as the DNA-testing revolution gathered steam, or simply died of natural causes.

Don't forget about all those that were released due to technicalities. Thought you could slip that one by us, did you? Also, here's one conservative's view on DNA testing.

That is a clue to the system's whimsy, but a huge body of solid evidence became available just three days before Ryan acted in Illinois. It consisted of a study of 6,000 homicides in Maryland over the last 20 years ordered by the outgoing Democratic governor, Parris Glendenning, who had imposed a moratorium on killing while the review was being conducted.

The results showed that where you are charged, your race, and the victim's race are the critical variables. Specifically, if you happen to be charged in the suburbs of Baltimore County, your chances of a death sentence are several times higher than in any other part of the state. More ominously, blacks convicted of killing whites are four times more like to get death than blacks who kill blacks and two times more likely to get death than whites who kill whites.

See the above link. Brendan Miniter explains cases that involves blacks who commit murder:

With a disproportionate number of black men sitting on death row, ensuring the system isn't racist is a serious concern. But it's not as simple as it first may seem. With blacks consisting of nearly half of all murder victims, the overwhelming majority of whom are killed by other blacks, one way to read the evidence is that not enough killers of blacks are put to death. "Why are the lives of black victims less valued?" asks Marquette University political science professor John McAdams. (One possibility is that prosecutors in liberal urban jurisdictions are less likely to seek the death penalty than their suburban and rural counterparts.)

This kind of turns Tom's argument against him, but I digress...

The one variable the study didn't cover is legal representation, which is also crucial to what happens to defendants. This is a subject that has been addressed internationally, with the International Court of Justice having decided against the United States in a case involving two people with German citizenship here who were not told of their rights to have consular officials arrange for lawyers. A similar case is pending involving Mexican nationals.

The International Court of Justice, an even-handed, deliberative body if I've ever heard of one.

The US response has been that there are simply too many foreign nationals in the system to take care of all of their rights - an Orwellian justification that takes us back to the basic point.

What point was that again?

Death is a government program that doesn't work, because with human beings running the machinery, it literally can't.

Tom says there's a government program that doesn't work. I belive that's a first...

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 1/14/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Captain Hairdo Update

Do I have anything better to do than dump on Senator John Kerry? (No - ed.) The junior Senator has some revealing comments in this interview with the Boston Globe's Brian McGrory (sampling only):

Minutes later, he was off and running. ''I think I've changed,'' he said. ''I think I've grown up a lot. I think I'm a better politician today than I used to be. I learned it's more about people than issues, it's about relationships.''

I thought it was about issues and what's good for the country. Guess it shows how much I know about being a Senator. Then again, maybe this explains the mindset behind a certain class of people (Senators) that tend not to get elected President.

The John Kerry I know isn't presidential material, but maybe it's too hard to keep up with him. Maybe he really is a changed man seeking to lead a changed
world, which in the year 2004, for better or worse, may prove to be just enough.

"The John Kerry I know isn't presidential material" - That's the money quote. Took the words right out of my mouth.

I Thought He Was Smart

Miami running back Willis McGahee, who was injured during the Fiesta Bowl two weeks ago, is entering the NFL Draft after all. I see him slipping at least to the late first round, and probably further, as most NFL teams tend not to touch injured players.

Product Review - By Steven Den Beste

As my friend Larry DeVasto would say, "Apple computers - underpowered and overpriced". This quote was from six years ago. It looks like little has changed since then. When single processor PC's blow away dual CPU Apple offerings, it's time to think long and hard about why you're using Apple computers.

Larry was also fond of mentioning market share, at that time around five percent. Steven mentions a more recent three percent. Developers are increasingly ignoring the Apple market as a result of this market shift (consolidation). This looks like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And Larry's a mainframe guy! I'd say Apple is in some deep doo-doo.

Monday, January 13, 2003
Phat Lawsuits

What he said.

Bad Fucking Idea

Someone at the Boston Globe thinks this is a good idea. I couldn't disagree more.

I went to the University of Massachusetts in Boston from 1988 to 1992. This used to be the location of Boston State College, also a 'commuter college' until the merger (takeover) back in 1982. There are 184 acres there, but I'm hard pressed to find any suitable space for building dorms, especially with this building going up in the area. Does this include the soccer field in front of the complex that's perpetually flooded so that no one except for the seagulls can make use of it? (No, it doesn't - ed) Also, if you wanted to live in one of these dorms, how would you feel about having your building on top of a landfill? Take a good look around the campus, if you're ever there; you'll see plastic pipes here and there protruding from the ground, which are consistent with the release of methane gas produced from the rotting landfill below. Congratulations; you'll have a nice coal deposit there in a few hundred thousand years, maybe more if you're patient.

The Healy Library, a 10 story eyesore, was getting a new brick facade when I was going there (see link in previous sentence), and it looks a lot better now. Upon further inquiry, the facade was being redone because of a (surprise!) shifting base of support for the facade. Since all of this is on a landfill, this will probably be a perpetual problem.

The parking garages were in a state of disrepair as well. I saw exposed rebar (reinforcement bar for you non-construction buffs) and crumbling concrete every ten feet. According to that last link, either a) this has now been done twice or b) this has dragged out for almost twelve years, since this stuff was semi-obvious since I started in 1988. Never to shy away from questions, I asked about this, too:

"This garage is a clusterfuck. What's up with that?"

"These garages were poured without regard to their physical proximity to the Atlantic Ocean." In other words, the concrete used had no properties for resisting the inevitable salt water sitting 200 yards away, and becoming airborne from Boston Harbor.

Commuter colleges exist simply because some students refuse to live in dormitories and / or pay for that 'privilege'. This is a Bad Fucking IdeaTM and should be dropped as such.

Knock Me Over With A Feather!

Un-freakin'-believable. Look at the op-ed piece that must have slipped through the cracks. This should give pause to those who are so eager to tax 'the wealthy' as this article illustrates the difference between income and wealth, which aren't necessarily related.

With some changes in details, I could have, in tone, written the same article, having breached the vaunted 31 percent bracket last year. However, my level of contempt, ridicule and hostility for any of these dim-witted, lazy, self-righteous assfucks who wish to lay claim on something that's not theirs by right or merit, but by a morality of very questionable virtue, prevents me from writing something that would be printable in the Boston Globe. I don't care if I hit a lottery next week; my retort's still the same to the 'government exists to redistribute income' crowd - go fuck yourselves. You can have my fuckin' money when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

And Then There Were Six

My favorite Democrat (no, I'm serious), Joe Lieberman, tosses his yarmulke into the ring. I'd feel much better about this is it weren't for Joe's abandoning his stance on affirmative action and school choice within days of being Al Gore's running mate, in front of the likes of Maxine "Burn, Baby, Burn!" Waters.

He'll also have to shore up his debating skills. Anyone that watched the debate between Joe and Dick Cheney would have to admit that not only did Cheney beat Joe, he beat him to a pulp.

"I am pleased to see from the newspapers that you're better off than you were eight years ago too," Lieberman said at one point - a reference to the considerable fortune Cheney made in the oil business.

"And I can tell you Joe, that the government had nothing to do with it," retorted the Republican candidate, echoing his and Bush's campaign centerpiece: Little government involvement in the lives of citizens.

Captain Hairdo Update

I found this interesting article courtesy of Front Page Magazine's Michael Benge on the Senator's much vaunted 'war record', which is the only thing he can run on. Go see for yourself, then see if you could envision yourself voting for him based on that information.

Lance disses Jan Ullrich

Now Lance gets to talk some smack. Last year Ullrich was sidelined with a knee injury, lost his driver's license after rolling his Porsche into someone's house / yard, then got suspended for six months after admitting taking amphetamine pills from someone in a German club. Talk about stupidity a bad year. Like Cipo said about Lance last week, there's quite the grain of truth in what Lance says. At Team Coast, no one's going to get on Jan's case. If he went to CSC, where his old teammate Bjarne "Bike Toss" Riis is directeur sportif, he'd get an earful and a kick in the ass.

Prediction: If Ullrich and his new team make it to le Tour, he won't be on the podium in Paris. He won in 1997 and finished second four times (1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001). I think he's made his run.

Jan Ullrich Finally Finds A Home

He's signed on to Team Coast, infamous in recent months for not paying some of their riders. How's a team that can't pay its riders supposed to pay someone of Ullrich's stature, stock options?

I think this is a catfight that's just starting. Stay tuned as the team selections for le Tour are announced in May. Last year Team Coast, at the time 4th in the entire world, got the shaft was not invited to le Tour and instead selected a bunch of scrub Division II teams. French teams, naturally...

If At First You Don't Succeed

... try to fail again. I can't believe she's even thinking about this. I'll be polite enough not to bring up the lack of telegenic qualities...

Sunday, January 12, 2003
Cooking With Tom Oliphant

The sanctimonious prick senior columnist has a problem with the Bush tax plan. Naturally.

Cooking the books to sell a tax plan ...

Ingredient #1: 3 lbs. of Enron / WorldCom / Adelphia Communications association, lightly slung.

By Thomas Oliphant, 1/12/2003


FOR STARTERS, President Bush did not make a $670 billion tax proposal. Its actual cost over a decade will be more than $930 billion, nearly 90 percent of it coming after this year. The long-term impact of this red ink on the economy will squeeze growth and incomes; the short-term impact will be so puny that the entire mess should be tossed in the trash.

Ingredient #2: 2 cups arrogance (tax cuts 'cost' the federal government of revenues, which is always bad) and a stick of distortion (the assumption that federal deficits 'squeeze growth and incomes), sautee in pan until lightly brown.

The cost was known to those who worked on the proposal and ignored in the presentation and coverage. The missing costs are a matter of arithmetic, not argument. Slashing revenues will add oceans of red ink to deficits and thus to the national debt, on which interest must be paid.

Ingredient #3: Add one more cup of arrogance (mention the 'cost' of a tax cut), lest the reader forget.

Within reason, burying a few billion is par for the course in politics, but this is ridiculous. People who hide costs on this scale are hiding more than dollars. They are trying to hide the impact on the economy of the proposals. Perhaps that is why the new Republican Senate and House majorities have moved quickly to install a White House political appointee in the sensitive and traditionally nonpartisan job of boss at the Congressional Budget Office.

Ingredient #4: Bring in Jimi Hendrix for a guitar solo, because we obviously don't have enough distortion. What does he mean by 'burying a few billion'? I think he's complaining about the 'static scoring' of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). They currently presume that a tax cut does not change a taxpayer's behaviour. This notion is ridiculous on its face, because if I'm getting a few thousand in extra income, by definition I'll have more disposable income, which I can then use to save / buy stocks / plow into a Roth IRA / spend on anything I'd like. These events, in the aggregate, are good for the economy if one buys into the notion that market spending is smarter and more efficient then spending by the federal government.

Throw all this shit into a blender, then dump it on your editor's desk. The result is another painful editorial.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin has impeccable credentials as an economist.

Never heard of him. There we go with the freakin' multiple last names, Fake Blue Blood Alert now in force. He does appear to be of some heft, so let's hear what he has to say.

However, since the Bush administration began, he has served as top adviser to R. Glenn Hubbard, who chairs the President's Council of Economic Advisors. This is the first time partisan hotheads in either party have ever made an openly political appointment to this important office, which oversees the forecasts and projections on which budget decisions are made. All by itself, this appointment ought to be a signal to Wall Street, especially the interest rate-influencing bond market, to lose confidence in all ''official'' numbers coming out of this town.

Come on now, Tom. The Democrats have never "ever made an openly political appointment to"an important office? Please!

And it gets worse. For weeks, Hubbard (assisted by Holtz-Eakin) has been making the breathtakingly radical assertion that deficits can soar without causing economic harm over time or even raising interest rates.

And why is that, Tom? Can we explain why this is wrong?

This contention flies in the face of Keynesian mainstream economists' views and of Republican and Democratic administrations over the last generation from Ronald Reagan through Bill Clinton. It also flies in the face of the evidence from the economy over these 20-plus years. High long-term interest rates were a constant problem as deficits soared in the 1980s, dampening and then helping to stall growth; they fell in the '90s as the deficits gradually disappeared, helping ignite the record period of prosperity.

From the same group of economists who have been mocked for correctly predicting 'nine out of the last five recessions'?

But the Bush crowd is now selling deficits as not only helpful in the short-term when the economy is stalled (a universally accepted proposition) but also harmless over time. As Hubbard put it, for example, in ignored remarks to a tax policy group last month, ''The evidence is that long-term interest rates do not move in lockstep with actual or expected federal budget changes.''

When you don't want to acknowledge the legitimacy of the opponent's arguments, don't call them Republicans, call them a 'crowd', imply a mob. Tom's also avoiding the tax cut issue itself; the alleged deficit is a result of that tax cut. I say 'alleged' because anyone who cares to look at the Kennedy tax cuts in 1961 and Reagan's in 1983 can see that federal tax receipts increased over time. If you bring in more revenue, guess what happens to the federal 'deficit'?

Nobody ever said they did. Hubbard is making a classic non-denial denial by sticking ''lockstep'' in his sentence.

As Tom does by ignoring history, discussed above.

It gets still worse.

Oh, my god, you'd knew it was going to be 'still worse', didn't you?

As evidence Hubbard cites two brief spells - in 1993-94 and 1999-2000 - when long-term rates rose in the face of a deficit decline in the first case and a surplus increase in the second. He is making a short-term movement look like a long one, when the opposite was the case.

Two separate two year intervals are 'short-term'? With respect to tax law, the Internal Revenue Service defines 'short-term' as 1 year or less. "Long-term' is one year or more. Tom is making a long-term movement look like a short-term one, when the opposite is the case.

Hubbard also makes the preposterous point that interest rates fell even as the budget deficit reappeared after Bush took office. I say preposterous because of course interest rates fall during recessions.

Preposterous! Poppycock! Balderdash!

Seriously, interest rates fall not because of recessions, but because the demand for money decreases. To quote the above, "'The evidence is that long-term interest rates do not move in lockstep with actual or expected federal budget changes." Tom thinks that interest rates fall because of recessions, so how can he honestly argue with this point?

Finally, he makes an absurd comparison between interest rates in the sluggish United States and deflation-plagued Japan, which is even more swamped by fiscal debt. The fact that price level-adjusted rates are currently similar in the two countries is beyond irrelevant.

Japan's banks are carrying a lot of bogus (as in 'will never be repaid') debt that they haven't written off yet, partly because of 'political considerations' and the nature of business practices in Japan (their culture places more emphasis on 'cooperation' instead of 'cutthroat capitalism'), so one does not expect a high rate of return from these endeavors, nor would new money be in great demand in such an environment. This is why interest rates are low in Japan and deflation is currently affecting them.

By contrast to this ideological sophistry with the economy's future on the line, the mainstream Brookings Institution has become a target of conservative ire for a paper published just before Christmas by economists William Gale and Peter Orszag. It painstakingly documents the direct link between deficits and interest rates. It also reviews the overwhelming evidence from economic literature and administrations of both parties attesting to the connection.

Brookings? Mainstream? My god, I almost spit out my beer on that one!

They also make a key threshold point - that by definition red ink reduces national savings and thus future national income. Then the higher interest rates do their own damage.

I say they have it exactly backwards - higher taxes reduce disposable income, which reduces national savings, etc...

Bush, however, is going ahead with this absurd policy that is likely to harm the economy over time more than it helps it, if it does so at all, for his reelection campaign. The statements of Hubbard and the naming of Holtz-Eakin suggest he is willing to cook the books in order to proceed.

As Santayana said, those Globe op-ed writers that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

There is plenty to argue about in Bush's proposal, but before that proceeds people need to be aware that its size is a reminder that there is no connection between the words ''bold'' and ''right.''


Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is

This story ran on page D11 of the Boston Globe on 1/12/2003.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.