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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Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
When In Doubt, Improvise

Robert Kuttner will stop at nothing to discredit Republican administrations.

Cheney's unprecedented power

By Robert Kuttner, 2/25/2004

DICK CHENEY is the most powerful vice president in US history. Indeed, there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that Cheney, not Bush, is the real power at the White House and Bush the figurehead.


In other words, Kuttner doesn't have a shred of solid proof. Not that it's ever prevented him from bashing the Bush Administration.

The true role of the shadowy Cheney is finally becoming an issue in the election, and it deserves to be. A recent piece in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer lays out in devastating detail how Cheney, while CEO of Halliburton, created the blueprint for shifting much of the military's support role from the armed services to private contractors. The leading contractor, of course, is Halliburton. When Cheney became vice president, Halliburton was perfectly positioned to make out like a bandit.


Looks to me like your standard left-wing hit piece. I see plenty of mentions of 'earnings' and other contract figures which are almost all revenue figures, used of course because those numbers are bigger than net income figures. They conveniently forget to mention other things, like cost-benefit analysis when discussing the outsourcing of Army contracts. Any concept of fairness has been discarded in that article.

Cheney, whose prior career was in politics, became a very rich man as Halliburton's chief executive, earning $45 million in just five years, with $18 million still available in stock options. Cheney also went to extraordinary lengths to keep secret the meetings of the Bush energy task force, which included primarily private companies positioned to profit from public decisions. The press treated all this as newsworthy for a time but then backed off.


Because they realized it was a bullshit issue, perhaps? Where are your great speculative powers on that one, Bob?

What is significant about Mayer's New Yorker piece is that it was pieced together mainly from the public record.


In other words, no actual investigative reporting was done, which supports my hit piece contention.

Cheney's unprecedented role and dubious history are mostly hidden in plain view, just like Bush's. The press needs only to decide that it's a story.


Translation - the press needs only to decide to pile on to this story to make it one. I doubt it will happen unless someone decides to do some actual investigative reporting as was mentioned above.

Yesterday the Financial Times reported that the Pentagon has belatedly opened a formal criminal investigation into Halliburton's grotesque overcharging of the Pentagon for oil delivered to Iraq. The oil was deliberately routed through a previously unknown intermediary in Kuwait, which charged Halliburton's subsidiary far above the going rate. The whole deal is fishy because the oil business in Kuwait is closely controlled by the Kuwaiti government, which works closely with the Bush administration.


So the subsidiary overcharged Halliburton, which up to the point of the investigation didn't audit the subsidiary and passed the bills on to Iraq, based on stupid mistakes:

The defense officials said they had no reason to believe the problems were anything other than "stupid mistakes" by Halliburton. They said the company and the Pentagon were negotiating a possible settlement of the matter, which could include repayment by Halliburton.


Not mentioned, natch, is how much the contract was worth so we can decide for ourselves whether the overcharges were 'grotesque', to borrow from Bob's overheated rhetoric. And Halliburton paid $6.3 million, ostensibly as a fine for the overcharge. When we're talking about multiple billions of dollars, it's not that 'grotesque', and it had absolutely nothing to do with Vice President Dick Cheney.

In December, Pentagon auditors concluded that Halliburton had overcharged the US government for the oil by $61 million. Nonetheless, the same US government has just awarded Halliburton another contract, worth $1.2 billion, to repair oil fields in southern Iraq. If the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service does its job, it will be hard to avoid a close examination of the role of Cheney. Though Bush is already on record that he wants to keep Cheney as his running mate this November, I would not be at all surprised if Cheney were dropped from the Republican ticket. For one thing, Cheney could become a real liability.


Let me repeat: the overcharges had absolutely nothing to do with Vice President Dick Cheney, who resigned years ago. This is where Bob's playing his 'circumstantial evidence' card by tying in Cheney's past CEO stewardship with current activities. In other words, it's a smear job, nothing more.

Second, there are more attractive alternatives. There is already talk among Republican strategists of replacing Cheney with a tactical choice such as homeland security secretary and former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge or former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Why Ridge or Giuliani? Both are Northeastern and Catholic, and Ridge's Pennsylvania will be a crucial swing state this year. Even more important, both are intimately associated with Sept. 11, 2001. As Bush declines in the polls, he will wrap himself ever more tightly in that legacy. The Republican National Convention will be in New York City, almost on the eve of the third anniversary of 9/11, and that event will be invoked ad nauseam.


Bob, you're better off not even bringing up Guliani's name; if that happens I think we're talking a GWB landslide victory on par with Reagan's in 1984.

Cheney, by contrast, is associated with shadowy oil deals and an increasingly suspect Iraq war. Bush could come out of the convention arm in arm with Ridge, born yet again as the antiterrorism president.


The only thing suspect about the Iraqi war is that I suspect we won it...

But what of Cheney? Would the most powerful vice president in American history go quietly? Perhaps he would, especially if he were persuaded that a stronger running mate would help the Bush regime win reelection.


Maybe he'll go back to running Halliburton to give you future column inches?

After all, Cheney enjoys his immense power not by dint of his office (which a prior vice president, John Nance Garner, unkindly compared to a bucket of warm spit) but because Bush depends on him and allows him unprecedented power. The immensely powerful Karl Rove, for that matter, has no constitutional authority either. The former vice president could simply move his office to other quarters and continue to be the de facto president, joining earlier powers-behind-the-throne such as Colonel Edward House in the Wilson administration, who held no formal office.


Accusations of Cheney or Rove running the show, and not President Bush are just that, pure speculation. I haven't seen one specific example in this article of Kuttner's that even raises a point of 'Well, shouldn't that be the President's initiative / task / job instead of Cheney's"?

Cheney is 63, with a history of cardiac problems. He could say he is stepping aside for health reasons for the good of the country. They could announce it during or just after the Democratic National Convention, in July, to steal a little thunder. Master White House ghostwriter Michael Gerson could write the speech in his sleep (and may already have). You heard it here.


But we know we didn't hear it here first (search for "News Break", middle of the article - Ed.). Bold prediction, Nostradamus.

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

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


Sunday, February 22, 2004
 
Swimmin' Upstream

Now that the terrorist threat's been eliminated, everyone has jobs and all other matters of import have been successfully solved, Senator John Kerry has bold new plans for the proper role of government:

Sen. John Kerry would appoint a salmon czar who would answer directly to him and his vice president if he´s elected president.


Surprisingly, Kerry's service in Vietnam went unmentioned...


Friday, February 20, 2004
 
Ask The CPA - Just Not This First Guy

Wesley Rickard drops the ball on a vital point of a tax question:

I changed jobs in 2003. Based on the new purchase of a primary residence and to pay for the down payment, I had to cash in my 401K account from my previous employer. Will I still have to pay the 10% penalty on the disbursement even though it was used to purchase a primary residence? --Bob, Boston

The following answer was provided by Wesley Rickard CPA, Quin, Rickard, Lipshires, & Grupp LLP, Norwood.

A. Sorry, but if you are under age 59 1/2 and more than 60 days has gone by since you pulled out the funds (you could have rolled the funds into your IRA to avoid the taxes and penalty) you will not only pay federal and state ordinary taxes but the federal 10% penalty tax as well.


James Castro, CPA, has a different take:

Can I use my 401k balance to purchase a new home?

This answer was provided by James Castro, CPA, Castro Thresher & Oliveira PC, Attleboro

Q: I am a first time homebuyer. Can I use any of my 401(k) balance toward the purchase of a new home/condo without being penalized? - Tim, North Andover

A: You may withdraw up to $10,000 from an IRA without paying the penalty (although still paying the tax). There is no such exemption for a 401K. You may wish to consider a loan from your 401K if allowed thus obtaining the funds tax free, and borrowing from your retirement vs. permanently reducing it.


In the first example, I think Rickard is reading the book explicitly and not acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rule when you withdrawn funds from a retirement fund for that purpose. In other words, it's how you use the money that's the determining factor. I'd prepare that part of the return by subtracting the portion used for the downpayment of the house from the gross distribution and using that difference to calculate the penalty, assuming he didn't roll anything over.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
Left Brain / Right Brain Problem

Allow me to rewrite the following snippet for accuracy if this guy was a member of the reporting staff, emphasis as appropriate:

During President's LIAR!!! AWOL!!! Bush's three years after stealing the in office, he has signed two major tax loopholes acts into law. He has also signed a few smaller tax changes into law as well which were so small he shouldn't have made them in the first place since that denies the government the money needed to do many, many things which are done with the best of intentions . While just about everyone except for our editors, unwilling to acknowledge the bloody obvious will save taxes , especially the rich and privileged like Bush's family and their cronies at Enron and Halliburton thanks to these new rules, there are a few issues that most taxpayers can't overlook.


Bob Kuttner, fire this guy!


 
Brilliant Holmes, Brilliant!

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue spends millions on a computer system to confirm the obvious:

Paul Panariello, a cofounder of Revenue Solutions Inc. in Pembroke, which developed the Discover Tax software Massachusetts is using, said the scrubbing of databases has been very effective in tracking down the biggest drain on the state's tax income: individuals who owe taxes but don't file returns (emphasis added - Ed.).


But it's not that primitive a system when you look closer...

Sometimes the clues indicate a taxpayer may be hiding something. An individual reporting only $20,000 in annual income yet identified by Registry of Motor Vehicle records as having a $60,000 car would merit a second look. So would a plumber with a low reported income but a lavish lifestyle. Is he getting paid under the table?


How about skimming? Barter? The old 'personal expense as a business deduction' trick?

I wrote a paper back in the MBA days suggesting more resources be allocated to audit activities involving real estate transactions (non-residents who sell property in Mass was a specialty) based solely on the bang for the buck. Supposedly the deputy commissioner, some guy named Crowley, read my paper and hit the freakin' roof. I had to make numerous ommissions revisions to my paper before handing it into the professor. I wound up giving him both copies instead.

Let it be known that they will be looking for more than nonfilers:

Eventually, LeBovidge said, his agency will start tapping into private databases as well. Dun & Bradstreet, he said, tracks all sorts of indicators of business activity that may help the state uncover corporations not now on its radar screen that owe taxes.


How about cross-checking with, say, the Division of Corporations, like, starting twenty years ago?

Oops! Here's your freebie, Mass taxpayers:

About the only place taxpayers can fudge on their federal returns and not get caught, absent an audit, is their charitable contributions, said Frederick Beebe, the state's deputy commissioner for audits. But he said it's only a matter of time before charities start reporting donors and the size of their gifts to tax-collection agencies for verification.


Which would then be compared against your Federal return or, worse, sent to the IRS in case the state uncovers any discrepancies. We're doomed!


Sunday, February 15, 2004
 
The Rumor Mill

The Boston Globe's Thomas Oliphant attempts to stay above the fray at the same time he dives into it.

Clark falls prey to anti-Kerry rumor mill

By Thomas Oliphant, 2/15/2004

WASHINGTON

POLITICS ASIDE,


That'd be a first time...

the quick endorsement of John Kerry by presidential candidate emeritus Wesley Clark might best be understood as an act of contrition for two egregious sins that ironically serve as bookends for this month's degrading detour into campaign slime.

The sin of commission occurred during an astonishing, even for a rookie, judgment lapse with the gaggle of reporters covering his campaign on its final day last week. Bantering with them at length under supposedly off-the-record ground rules, Clark actually said he was still in the race because he thought Kerry's campaign was going to implode over what he inelegantly called an "intern" scandal.


Then Clark endorsed Kerry a few days later. That's a strange way to get back into Kerry's good graces, but I don't see another, more logical explanation.

The sin of omission occurred in January, when Clark stood mute while filmmaker Michael Moore referred to President Bush as a "deserter" during the Vietnam War era while endorsing Clark.


Clark didn't disavow or otherwise distance himself from that comment, giving it a type of legitimacy that lives on.

The first sin is part of a chain of truly weird events that has produced a classic bit of modern media manipulation that has slowly but surely in turn produced the following phenomenon -- published rumors about the possibility of a story about Kerry fooling around with a young woman appearing despite the absence of any allegation (much less purported information) to that effect.


The Kerry story has barely been mentioned by the mainstream press, while...

The second sin -- compounded by Democratic National chairman Terry McAuliffe's equally irresponsible labeling, without evidence, of Bush as having been "AWOL" during his National Guard service more than 30 years ago -- has helped spawn a classic example of journalism by millimeter-length "facts" that raise sinister questions without answering them.


...President Bush's "AWOL" accusation is dissected like a frog in biology class. Now why do you suppose one story is covered, and one is not?

In the first instance, a few days of absurd public behavior after a few weeks of equally absurd undercurrents and rumor-mongering have resulted in a new journalistic low -- a frenzy about a "story" that hasn't been written concerning an "allegation" that hasn't been made.


And that's different from this situation...

In the second instance, the public is left with the choice of being tortured by daily developments that add and subtract minutely from an overall picture that is completely obscured. For the minority who prefer waiting for real evidence, there is only one fact: President Bush promised last weekend to release all of his service records and until Friday night had resisted doing so.


In what way? Oliphant previously stated about the second instance 'has helped spawn a classic example of journalism by millimeter-length "facts" that raise sinister questions without answering them', even though McAuliffe was irresponsible in his accusation. It seems that journalists are now expected to raise questions in Bush's situation because there are 'facts', however small, but that there are no 'facts' to concern themselves with in Kerry's situation.

Of course it's complete bullshit because in both situations you have people making accusations (Deserter! AWOL! Cad! Gigolo!) and both ought to be verified and addressed if you even attempt to apply the concept of evenhandedness here, and Oliphant's reasoning otherwise is therefore unpersuasive.

Clark's rumor-mongering with his press corps about Kerry was the visible tip of an iceberg of rumor-mongering that had gone on for weeks, stirred not only by some of his fund-raisers but also among the press by aides and consultants that "something" was coming. This is how spin doctors feed gossip mills without actually providing gossip.


And this is how Oliphant amplifies the message.

His comments -- instantly passed on to home offices and then to others, proving why nothing is off-the-record with more than one person in a presidential campaign, and probably shouldn't be. They had the effect of drawing unwarranted attention to a supermarket tabloid clip job on Kerry's private life last week that rehashed the astonishing fact that the senator appears to have been single when he wasn't married.


That wasn't the only source for those stories, nor is Kerry's alleged behaviour confined to the aforementioned time frame.

So where was the rumored "story"? Into the breach stepped the right wing -- Matt Drudge's website and associated radio shows, and right-wing and Rupert Murdoch-owned British outlets, and their tried and true methods all for getting trash into the standards-challenged mainstream press. The absence of a story or even an allegation is no obstacle here; the technique is simply to start a rumor that a story is about to appear.


Ah, the old "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy"TM angle, always a handy defense when you run out of arguments. As noted here, why would conservatives waste political bullets now?

It worked. By Friday morning, Kerry decided to answer a clear, direct question from Don Imus on his radio program. Asked if there was anything coming or anything to all this, anything at all, Kerry chose to be direct, unequivocal, and on the record: "There is nothing to report, nothing to say." The answer was No.


Clear and direct, my ass. Imus did not ask Kerry, "So, did you get jiggy with the intern?" He simply asked for an update to the story, and Kerry said that there wasn't. Case closed, head for the exit.

The chain of events from Moore in Clark's magnifying presence, through McAuliffe, to the past week's water torture sequence of partial disclosures is more complicated. The big difference is that both the irresponsible statements and the minute, new developments have all been taking place in public, based on what people have said and documents have shown.

In addition, Moore and McAullife notwithstanding, the president's decision to make blanket statements last weekend and the White House's impolitic decision to release selected records piecemeal have been much more important engines pulling the frustrating story along.


That's another way to spin the argument against equal treatment of both stories: you know that there are records of Bush's National Guard duty (pay stubs, medical records, etc) where in Kerry's case, by its nature, will have no such paper trail.

However, the impression fostered more in the press than in politics that the inevitable existence of questions and gaps permits inferences about the answers and about what might be in the gaps is just as pernicious. The fact remains that while Bush is on the record promising a full disclosure he has yet to make, no one has the right to assume the answers to questions for political purposes.


Bush keeps releasing records after records, and the DemocRATS journalists keep changing the standards of compliance.

I suspect this campaign is too potentially close not to get ugly, which is regrettable. What is more regrettable, however, is that my business is more likely than not to be a willing participant in the ugliness -- again.


This guy's been in journalism since what, Charlemagne, and he piously decries the gutter politics of the upcoming election as he's slinging gobs of mud himself? Give me a break...

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is oliphant@globe.com.

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Marco Pantani, RIP

Italian climber Marco Pantani, winner of both the 1998 Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, has been found dead in a hotel room. There are no details about the cause of death, but Pantani's been depressed for the better part of the past year.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
 
Ask The CPA - Whoops!

What do I do if I forgot to file last year?

Q: I forgot to do my taxes last year. What do I do now? - Anonymous

The following answer was provided by Jean-Luc Picard Wesley Rickard, CPA, Quin, Rickard, Lipshires, & Grupp LLP, Norwood.

A: File now and pay the balance due with interest and penalties if applicable. If you don't file and are due a refund and wait two years from the time your tax was paid the IRS will deny your refund.


To clarify a bit - If you owe tax, you're going to get whacked with interest charges as well as late file and late pay penalties if you owe a lot (think a successful self-employed person who hasn't paid squat to the IRS or the state tax authorities in estimated payments all year). The interest and penalties are based on how much you owe, so it's always better to pay most of it and invoke small penalties, if you have to, so the hit doesn't kill you. If your tax return results in a refund, you have three years from the filing date to claim it, or you forefit the refund to the IRS. For the most part, states tend to ape the Internal Revenue Code, so your state tax liability / refund's in play as well.



 
Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

I, for one, am really, really fed up with the DemocRATS when it comes to the "BUSH WAS AWOL!" accusations. Although the issue has been effectively debunked amid the petty bickering by Kerry sychophants the mainstream press, President Bush then released a boatload of records yesterday which should have finally put the matter to rest. But what does the article's title say?

Democrats Skeptical of Bush's Guard File


Yeah, we've figured that out by now. Bush could release a freakin' videotape of the whole god damned periond and all we'd hear from the fuckin' asslicks in the press corps is 'questions remain'.

How about another unhealthy dose of rank fucking hypocrisy by the 'unbiased' press corps?

The New Republic's Peter Beinart and I mixed it up today, when after dancing around the fact that he and the staff at TNR had been discussing the Kerry allegations he chastised me for bringing up the DrudgeReport's allegations on air without any evidence for their veracity. Trap sprung. I asked Peter for the evidence supporting the allegations that Bush was a "deserter" or "AWOL", allegations that he and the TNR staff have been rolling about in for days. The only "evidence" he could cite was General Turnipseed's alleged charge.

Understand that Turnipseed has never alleged that Bush was AWOL or a deserter. Never. Four years ago he said he doesn't recall seeing him. On Tuesday he stated that Bush could well have been on the base, but that he just didn't see him.

In other words, there is no evidence whatsoever to support Terry McAuliffe's slanderous charge that was repeated in Congress yesterday by a Democratic congressman and by countless pundits including the increasingly repugnant Begala, and widely read websites of the left like Joshua Marshall's.

But while Beinart and his colleagues of the left have no problem covering the Bush story and shifting coverage from the lack of evidence for the charges leveled at Bush to their dissatisfaction with the completeness of the Bush denials, they are feigning shock that a report from Matt Drudge on alleged Kerry infidelity should be mentioned outside their newsrooms.

The timing of the new allegations is wonderful especially because it throws such a defining light on the bias of the Washington media --ever ready to carry the water of the Democrats and dismayed that they might be obliged to cover some nasty business about the front-runner from the left.


Here are the 'questions' that will forevermore 'remain':

"QUESTIONS REMAIN"

Mr. Graham --

The media is right in saying that "questions remain" about Bush's National Guard duty. Questions such as --

How can we stick it to Bush?

How can we use this make Kerry seem more palatable to the center?

How can we keep this story going until November?


Thursday, February 12, 2004
 
Ask The CPA

Here's a property tax question:

Q: My mortgage company failed to pay two quarters of my taxes from my escrow account for 2003 until January of 2004. Can I still claim that for 2003, or do I have to wait until 2004? - Ken, Blackstone


Short answer: 2004.

The following answer was provided by James Castro, CPA, Castro Thresher & Oliveira PC, Attleboro.

A: Assuming like most individuals that you are a cash basis taxpayer, then you can only deduct the taxes in the year paid. In this case, 2004.


If you're a business on the accrual method of accounting, you can deduct it when the expense is incurred, that is, when the expense is presented for payment. On the other hand, cash basis taxpayers can often pay an expense, say, at December 31 of a given year and write it off then so as to shift the expense to that tax year, a common tactic.

The following answer was provided by Barry Beck, CPA, Barry D Beck, CPA, PFS, DABFA, Bedford.

A: The escrow account is a special type of savings account. Usually the mortgage company reports to you deposits and withdrawals from the account. Perhaps you may have had the information to notice that the taxes were withdrawn. You are out of luck regarding the deduction on your personal return for the real estate taxes. There may also be late fees imposed by your city/town. If the mortgage company screwed up they may reimburse these fees.


Ypu have to read every fucking monthly statement from mortgage companies to understand what's being set aside for potential disbursements and, more importantly, what's being paid out, and to whom. If your mortgage company is dropping the ball on payment of real estate taxes, PMI or other agreed upon expenses, 1) it's time to switch to another mortgage company; 2) it's time for you to scream BLOODY MURDER like Howard Dean in Iowa and DEMAND reimbursement of late fees and penalties, and 3) remind them of their failure to fulfill their fiduciary duty in that regard. It sounds like the person posing the question has a less than reputable mortgage company in this regard. If I was this guy, I'd drop these bastards like a hot potato.


 
Ask the CPA

Since this is tax season, I'll make these posts and add commentary as necessary.
Previous questions, hopefully archived, can be found here. I'll keep this thread as up to date as possible.

Who does the IRS choose to audit?

: What does the IRS typically look for when deciding whether or not to conduct an audit? Is it random?

- Concerned taxpayer, Boston


He's 'concerned' that he's a target...

A: There is no particular rule that we are aware of, other than if the IRS develops information from one audit that indicates that income may not have been reported by another taxpayer, they will audit that other taxpayer, or they have received information from someone that another taxpayer is "cheating" on their return.


I disagree. There was an old IRS program called the Taxpayer Compliance Measurement Program which selected individuals more or less at random, now replaced by its 'kinder and gentler' progenitor, the IRS Market Segment Specialization Program. It's like asking you if you'd prefer a small, medium or large cattle prod applied to your ass.

From personal testimony, state level audits are industry based or approved by field auditor supervisors provided you can adequately document a potential audit issue. For instance, I just bought a Sears Die-Hard battery, and they charged me $7.00 plus for the core charge on the old battery and assessed a 5% sales tax on that charge. When I returned the battery, the cashier gave me $7.00 back, not the $7.35 they originally charged me. I had to point the situation out to them to get the $.35 back. As long as Sears remits all the sales tax they collect to the Mass. Department of Revenue, there isn't much of an issue, but it's an issue that needs to be verified, and it gets you out of the office for a few weeks.

You can also raise red flags on your own if your tax return varies a great deal from one year to the next, or if you use Federal Form 8829, Business Use of Your Home, but other than that, you're more or less in the clear.

Also not mentioned is the possibility of correspondence audits, which are generated if your submitted tax return does not match the W-2's, 1099's, etc. that are reported to the IRS.

The other way an audit can be generated is by using this form. If you have the goods on someone you don't like, all I will say about this form is that it works.

The IRS has developed "model" returns for different taxpayers. Depending on your filing status, family composition, income level and where you live, your return information will be compared with your comparable "model" and, if there are significant variances from than "norm" for your actual return reporting, the probability of an audit of your return.


 
Another Democratic Bimbo Problem

This time it involves current frontrunner John Kerry:

XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX THU FEB 12, 2004 11:45:28 ET XXXXX

CAMPAIGN DRAMA ROCKS DEMOCRATS: KERRY FIGHTS OFF MEDIA PROBE OF RECENT ALLEGED INFIDELITY, RIVALS PREDICT RUIN

**World Exclusive**

**Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

A frantic behind-the-scenes drama is unfolding around Sen. John Kerry and his quest to lockup the Democratic nomination for president, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.

Intrigue surrounds a woman who recently fled the country, reportedly at the prodding of Kerry, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A serious investigation of the woman and the nature of her relationship with Sen. John Kerry has been underway at TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST, THE HILL and the ASSOCIATED PRESS, where the woman in question once worked.

MORE

A close friend of the woman first approached a reporter late last year claiming fantastic stories -- stories that now threaten to turn the race for the presidency on its head!

In an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, General Wesley Clark plainly stated: "Kerry will implode over an intern issue." [Three reporters in attendance confirm Clark made the startling comments.]

The Kerry commotion is why Howard Dean has turned increasingly aggressive against Kerry in recent days, and is the key reason why Dean reversed his decision to drop out of the race after Wisconsin, top campaign sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

Developing...


You can scratch that **Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT** hype above; this was reported on WatchBlog last week.

Sorry, Eric, but I don't buy the counterintuition theory because it makes no sense, given that his wife would divorce him in a matter of days and invoke the prenup clause. In that situation, what motivation do you have to leak this story yourself? It's cutting off your nose to spite your face. I'll go with the Clinton proxy hit by Clark theory:

If it seems a little early for Clark to give an endorsement -- after all, he just withdrew from the race yesterday morning -- it makes sense if he's looking for consideration as Kerry's running mate. Given that the bimbo eruption just occurred, if Clark stands by Kerry and winds up being the bridge Kerry needs to get past whatever scandal results from the Drudge story, he'll have earned Kerry's gratitude. Oddly enough, Clark himself figured into Drudge's story as having made an off-the-record comment to reporters predicting an infidelity scandal. If Clark withdrew with the knowledge of this story's imminence, it can only mean that he wanted to be in the best position to gather IOUs from Kerry and the Democratic Party. (emphasis added - Ed.)


That's the only part of the story that doesn't add up, Clark mentioning an 'intern issue' in the previous days, then endorsing Kerry. It makes as much sense as ratting out Tony Soprano, then going over to his house for dinner (*whack!*). And I suppose if you don't do Hillary Clinton's bidding, she's gonna kick your ass!

A Kerry / Clark ticket isn't even a good strategic fit. If there's one Democrat who tries to stake out more positions on a given issue then Kerry, it's Clark.

Well, maybe they're a good fit after all!





Wednesday, February 11, 2004
 
Krugman Lite

The Boston Globe's Robert Kuttner can barely contain his glee with President Bush's interview with Tim Russert on Sunday.

The honeymoon is over, Mr. Bush


Yeah, it's been only, what, three years now?

By Robert Kuttner, 2/11/2004

LAST WEEK I suggested that President Bush had reached a tipping point in his Credibility with the broad public and the press. I speculated that we would soon see newsmagazine covers depicting Bush in trouble. Well, Time magazine obliged. Its new cover depicts a two-faced Bush and asks: "Does Bush Have a Credibility Gap?"


Robert Kuttner, the Great Prognosticator? Don't screw up your spine patting yourself on the back, old boy...

Does he ever. The press has at last given itself permission to be tougher on misrepresentations that have characterized the Bush presidency since its beginnings.


That assertion is so patently false it barely warrants rebuttal. Take the Time magazine cover that Kuttner mentions as Exhibit A - this is nothing new for them.

Pick up a week's worth of the New York Times and see for yourself. Or any of Kuttner's (or Derrick Z. Jackson's) columns, for that matter.

Bush's hourlong Sunday interview with Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" crystalized the moment and underscored just how vulnerable the president suddenly is. That Bush did the interview at all is an indication of panic setting in. This president is not noted for his effectiveness off the cuff. He does well to the extent that he is scripted and not exposed to spontaneous encounters where he might wander "off message."


Articulation is an acknowledged drawback of Bush's. What he lacks there is more than made up in his sincerity and leadership abilities. As a politician, he's not a transparent phony as, say, John Kerry.

The Russert interview with the president was a reminder that the Democratic candidates get relentless press scrutiny that exposes the most minute inconsistencies while Bush, hiding behind his role as chief executive, almost never faces close questioning. Indeed, this was the first time during his presidency when Bush has been subject to a string of follow-up questions that Could expose either his misrepresentations or his ineptitude at trying to cover them up.


Bob Kuttner tries nicely to interpret disagreements on policy as lies and more lies. When the tone of an entire article consists of "BUSH LIED!!!" instead of actually pointing out specifics, it loses a lot of credibility.

Russert successfully walked a tightrope, being as exacting with Bush as he has been with Bush's challengers without seeming disrespectful to the presidency.


Which is a lot more than we'll ever get from Kuttner...

Russert pointed to a long litany of misrepresentations, including the deceptive accounting on the tax cuts, the budget, the deficit, the economy's job creation, Bush's own military record, and the war to liberate against Iraq.

Under firm but respectful questioning, Bush wilted. He couldn't explain his constantly shifting rationale for war with Iraq or why he was permitted to quit National Guard service eight months before his hitch ended or why his deficit goes ever deeper in the red or the dismal job creation record on his watch.


Unfortunately, I did not watch this. However, there seems to be a great amount of disagreement between those who say Bush fumbled and those who think he did just fine, given the low expectations. And those are Bush partisans!

But look at what 'normal Americans' have to say about things. My conclusion - it's a mixed bag, not the Titantic disaster that Kuttner's trying to spin.

The result was not just that Bush came off looking evasive and defensive; worse, he looked feeble. You can't very well wrap yourself in national security threats -- Bush kept calling himself a "war president" -- and then look like a weakling. If the United States is indeed facing permanent terrorist threats, then Americans want a plausible leader.


How about John Kerry, strong and decisive leader?

The Bush spin machine has tried to depict the interview as a triumph. But in yesterday's New York Times, Bush loyalist David Brooks devoted an entire column to what Bush should have said (if only he were as clever as Brooks). You don't write a column like that when your guy did well.


The New York Times and 'Bush loyalist' has to be the most obvious oxymoron since jumbo shrimp.

All over Washington, journalists were suffering from Russert-envy.


I'd say that's true at 135 Morrisey Boulevard, Boston, MA as well, wouldn't you, Bob?

Given Bush's dim performance, it's unlikely that his handlers will repeat an open-ended interview any time soon. But the rest of the press should take heart. You don't need a live interview with the president to expose his misrepresentations. All you have to do is check the public record, compare what he said with what he did, and not flinch from reporting what you find.


Well, Bob, I for one would sure as hell be impressed if you actually did exactly like you're telling other people to do. Until then...

The press often behaves as if "fairness" dictated not drawing conclusions in a news story.


That would be 'editorializing' or 'news analysis'. But who ever said you were fair, Bob?

But if the president insists that black is white, pointing out the lie is not opinion journalism; it's reporting fact.


Putting words in Bush's mouth, or hyperbole as an argument? I report, you decide.

Bush has gotten a friendly press, until lately, for several reasons.


What was that about a friendly Bush press?

First, the working press in the 2000 campaign experienced Bush as a nice, likeable guy, while they experienced Al Gore as a stiff.


"Just the facts, ma'am..."

Minor inconsistencies in Gore's statements got a working over, while more serious lapses by Bush were indulged.


You mean a 'minor inconsistency' like Gore wanting to ban the internal combustion engine?
This friendly treatment carried over into his presidency.


As noted above...

Just when the press was getting skeptical, Bush benefited immensely from 9/11. There was a natural coming together behind the chief executive, and criticism of the president seemed almost unpatriotic. Bush's political operatives exploited this sentiment ruthlessly. Also, the White House staff works systematically to isolate reporters who do ask impertinent questions by denying them access.


The concept known as national security is a double edged sword. On one hand, ours is an open society. On the other hand, it's this openness that can be used by our enemies to come into this country illlegally or with State Department supplied visas, overstay the visas, hijack planes, take hostages and otherwise carry out acts of warfare and sabotage against us. I prefer to err on the side of caution, as acknowledged in part of the link above. Which is more credit than I can give to Bob Kuttner...

Finally, Bush has had the advantage of a closely allied right-wing press, ranging from Fox News to The Wall Street Journal's editorialists, the Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, and the talk radio ditto-heads. There is
no comparable propaganda machine among his critics.


Oh, yeah, like that squares with this startling self-admission of left-wing bias. Please...

But most reporters, in their hearts, want to play it straight. And, finally, they've had a bellyful. Bush can dismiss Democrats' charges as just politicking, but it's harder to dismiss independent reporting.Once a president loses a docile press, he seldom gets it back. It's good to see the media doing their job again.


Well, part of the media...

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

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


Sunday, February 08, 2004
 
Help! I'm Broke!

As if boxing's reputation isn't enough in the gutter with Don King snuggling with thugs like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, we are now treated to the spectacle of Iron Mike Tyson getting back into the ring.

Mike Tyson might be getting ready to get back in the ring for the first time in more than a year.


His rise back from Bolivion. I thought Bolivion was nice this time of year?

The manager Tyson fired just a few months ago said he is exploring a possible fight for May or June for the former heavyweight champion, who is mired in debt and in bankruptcy proceedings.


His former manager came back / was rehired because Tyson's a nutbag; nobody else wants to get involved in that crap, then likely get stiffed on their salary to boot.

Shelly Finkel said he needs the cash and Tyson have reunited and that Tyson wants to fight anybody again. Tyson hasn't fought since last February, when he stopped Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds.


Expect more of the same with his next opponent, if they can find one.

Showtime network executive Jay Larkin said he is in talks with Finkel for a Tyson fight on June 5. Tyson has fought mainly on Showtime in recent years.


That's because HBO knows better.

The June 5 date is the same one Oscar De La Hoya said he will fight on in his next bout. De La Hoya fights on HBO.


See what I mean? I can't wait to see the lack of ratings on the Tyson fight.

Finkel said the 37-year-old Tyson has been working out with a bodyguard, but does not have a trainer yet.


It'd be sad if it weren't so pathetic.


 
Worthwhile Reading

Via Viking Pundit comes a recently discovered blog solely dedicated to Captain Hairdo with the brutally honest title "John Kerry for President? You Must Be Joking". His site can be found here. Brian's his name, exposing Kerry's his game. I guess Brian's used to shooting fish in a barrel.

Welcome to the jungle, Brian!



 
1984

Don Cherry, criticizing certain hockey players who wear face guards as "European or French guys," has run afoul of, I kid you not, Jean Augustine, Canada's Minister of State for Multiculturalism:

Quoth the French guy:

"The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others."


Better get the duct tape out and shut everyone up, Frenchie. Other French guys are getting their knickers in a twist:

"For too long Don Cherry has used contemptuous words, even racist ones, with respect to francophones on the airwaves of the CBC," said Benoit Sauvageau, a Bloc Quebecois member of Parliament.


The Bloc Quebecois is a political party that advocates a seperate country from the rest of Canada, presumably because they speak French and the rest of Canada doesn't. Benoit's stance thus seems a bit hypocritical or inconsistent to me.

One wonders how it's 'racist' to refer to another person's nationality, but since I'm not the Minister of State for Multiculturalism or a member of the Bloc Quebecois, I suppose I'll have to defer to the arbiters of moral superiority. Well, maybe next time!

Don Cherry has been saying stuff like this for at least thirty years, and only now the Canadian Thought Police are clamping down on 'racist' speech. These assclowns certainly know how to prioritize matters, don't they?


 
Retreads

Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal dusts off Al Gore's 2000 Presidential campaign slogans and hands it over to Captain Hairdo.

Democratic Enemies List

Kerry's simple-minded populism shows his is a campaign about nothing.

BY HOLMAN W. JENKINS JR.

Saturday, February 7, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

If this column sounds like one four years ago, that's because Democrats are running against their usual list of "enemy" industries. The party's standard trope is that you're being denied things you need and deserve because enemies are keeping them from you, cheap drugs being today's case in point.


'The People vs The Powerful', version 2.0.

Let's make sense of the industry once more for a Democratic presidential cadre now reaching a high pitch of populist dudgeon. There's a reason analysts, investors and pharmaceutical reps talk about a "pipeline." In one end goes a bunch of money, and out comes a dribble of products years later. The metaphor is also useful in understanding drug pricing. Whatever comes out the end, whether it's nose drops or a chemotherapy drug, is priced at whatever level will allow its maximum contribution to recouping all the money that went into the front end of the pipe.


But matters of mere economics get in the way of fever-pitch corporation bashing.

Abbott Labs demonstrated this effect when it recently raised the price of its aging AIDS drug, Norvir, by 400%. Activist groups were outraged, never mind that Abbott froze the old price in place for charity groups and continues to make the drug available at cost in developing countries. Abbott was accused of "greed." But wait? Wasn't it already stipulated that drug companies were maximally greedy? How could a change in Abbott's greed state account for a change in pricing strategy?


Maybe because they were trying to recoup foregone revenue from the price freeze? No, that would've been 'good corporate citizenship'.

In fact, Abbott was recently saluted by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation for making cheap drugs available in Africa. But Norvir, introduced in 1996, is no longer a drug of choice. Instead it's been relegated to a "booster" role in cocktail therapies consisting of new, higher-priced drugs from rival manufacturers (though much of the therapeutic benefit actually comes from combining their pricey products with cheap Norvir).


The conveniently omitted fact for the 'populists' is that it takes significant investments to develop drugs that work better than Norvir.

Abbott saw other drug makers generating large revenues from its drug and is attempting to tilt more of the revenue flow from treating AIDS back to itself. Other companies will respond by cutting their own prices a bit to maintain market share and maximize their own revenues. Which goes to show what a competitive market AIDS drugs are, with 12 essential medicines now on the World Health Organization list.


Competition from other companies leads to lower drug prices. What a refreshingly new concept!

Drug companies are in the business of funding large R&D establishments, which typically account for a bigger share of total costs than manufacturing and distribution. That's why companies can charge high prices to rich, insured Westerners and next to nothing to poor Africans--because any price that's even a penny above current manufacturing cost produces at least some revenue to support the research bill.


The problem here is that others will now want the same price as those charged to poor Africans.

Now we come to the politics. It's tempting to say in these circumstances, "Hey, we can mandate lower prices for Medicare, treating American retirees the way we treat AIDS sufferers in Africa, because drug companies will keep making and selling drugs even at a much lower price as long as it's higher than current manufacturing costs."
That's right, and the price of drug company stocks will crash instantly, and no more capital will be available to research new products.


And no more drugs, at least from Abbot. This reduces competition and will lead to, guess what? Higher drug prices.

This is not really hard to understand, and certainly our Ivy League-educated Democratic presidential candidates can understand it.


Of course they understand it. They just ignore it for political expediency.

Were any of them to land in office, you can bet their threats against the drug industry would be quickly filed away in a circular keeping place until the next election. President Kerry wouldn't want to bear the political cost of its collapsing stock values, massive layoffs and the media reporting the folding up of research into cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.


At least not until he receives a few checks from yet another 'special interest' he loves to rail against.

If this were only Mr. Kerry's problem we might wonder about the IQ behind his campaign rhetoric. Instead we are forced to wonder about the contempt nearly the whole Democratic field seems to feel for the Democratic base.


I think it's more like the Democratic field showing contempt for everyone.

No demagogue, left or right, fails to present himself as champion of the great, victimized majority against some tiny and exploitive elite. This argument is convenient for two reasons. Difficult issues like health-care financing, involving real tensions between hard-to-reconcile goals, can be reduced to utmost simplicity: On one side are the legitimate claims of voters who want cheaper drugs or whatever; on the other are the illegitimate claims of those who "stand in the way."


Rail against corporate greed, imply promises of federal assistance, etc. = more than half of the people that vote for Democrats. It's an age old formula...

Populist claptrap serves another purpose, visible on the very persons of the candidates: They swell with confidence and invulnerability when posing as defenders of the "little guy" rather than as champions of the party's own array of special interests and voting blocs (which is what they are).


Well, we can't mention the latter (unions, lawyers, government employees, insurance companies), can we?

The force really at work is fear--fear on the part of Democratic leaders that they have nothing to offer; fear that their party's captivity by groups tied to existing programs forecloses any chance of innovative thinking. Notice that the party did not even wait for eight years of unrivaled Clinton prosperity to expire before Al Gore, in a panic, reverted to what a Washington Post editorial called "primitive business bashing" as a substitute for saying what some Democratic lobby group somewhere wouldn't like. Notice what a miserable disappointment even Howard Dean has been in this regard.

Notice, too, the wonder of John Kerry, dead in the water an asterisk six weeks ago, who reached his present eminence based on the repetition of meaningless phrases: "I know something about aircraft carriers for real." "Bring it on." "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."


It's the P.T. Barnum page - never underestimate the stupidity of the American public.

There is, literally, nothing else to the Kerry campaign. He's the default option of Democratic voters after the amazing rise and fall of Howard Dean, with the mother of all buyer's remorse coming down the pike about a minute or two behind. That's too bad but as a party they asked for it--and will keep doing so until they stop relying on the mindless naming of "villains" in place of dealing honestly with the voters whom they claim to represent.


To say anything to the contrary would simply send votes to Ralph Nader, widely credited with siphoning off enough votes from Al Gore to tilt the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. John Kerry is making that mistake.


Friday, February 06, 2004
 
He Knows The Subject Well

Derrick Z. Jackson thinks he's spotted some hypocrisy on the part of CBS.

The winner: hypocrisy

By Derrick Z. Jackson, 2/6/2004

SOMEONE AT VIACOM and CBS must be whispering that the MoveOn.org ad was not so bad after all. The media giant said it was wrong to show an ad criticizing President Bush during the Super Bowl. The ad showed sad-faced children as assembly-line workers, dishwashers, and trash collectors. The ad asked, "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"

CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks declared, "We do not accept advertising on one side or the other of controversial public issues, partly because we don't think the debate ought to be controlled by people with deep pockets."

With such pomposity about controlling controversy, it was fitting that the Super Bowl halftime show erectiled out of control. The same network that decided that we could not have our mood ruined by thoughts of mortgaging our children's future gave us instead a crotch-grabbing, butt-humping, breast-baring extravaganza that perfectly fixed the nation in a cultural moment. Questioning the president is taboo. Near porn is not.


Given that there's never been a political ad during any previous Super Bowl, I must loudly proclaim BULLSHIT!!! on Derrick Z. Jackson's claim of hypocrisy.

Let's see if he has the balls to respond...





 
Doh!

Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe's ace economist, should have waited a day or two to make her bold proclamations:

The government reported 112,000 nonfarm jobs were created in January, below Wall Street's average estimate of 150,000. That indicated that the recovery is moving in the right direction, but not too quickly that the Fed will be forced to hike interest rates to cool an overheating economy.


Thursday, February 05, 2004
 
Do-It-Yourself Journalism

The preeminent frivolous Boston Globe journalist, Ellen Goodman, takes a BB-sized caliber shot at explaining the current jobless recovery. It's interesting to note the lack of hostility towards the Bush administration. That will have to wait until the next Derrick Z. Jackson or Robert Kuttner column.

Our do-it-yourself economy

By Ellen Goodman, 2/5/2004

HAVE YOU SEEN those economists scratching their heads trying to understand the jobless recovery? Every time they run the numbers they end up with a question mark: How is it possible that only 1,000 new jobs were created in the past month?


My theory - and I believe it supported by Robert Kuttner, er, real economists - is that the size and scope of the Internet bubble was underestimated by most economists, even partisan hacks like Kuttner. This implies that there are still pockets of overcapacity that have yet to be squeezed out of areas of the economy before job creation can begin again in earnest. In other words, generally speaking, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Well, maybe it's time we let them in on our little secret. The economy has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Only they aren't in the manufacturing sector. They aren't even in the service economy. They're in the self-service economy.


It concerns me a great deal when I can state with absolute confidence that I am by far and away a greater authority than a Boston Globe columnist on the economy at the macroeconomic level. Perhaps that's because I have two jobs and actually interact with others that do. When columnists are discussing job creation, the only number that's bandied about are the additions to employer payrolls. There are two classifications of employment that should be considered but aren't - self-employment and working under the table. These figures aren't tallied by the National Bureau of Economic Research and, judging by my experience, are growing as people no longer wish to be the sock puppet of their employer overlords and wish to determine their own economic fate. Poor analysis of the problem will lead to wrong or stupid suggestions as to rectifying them.

Companies are coming back to life without inviting employees back to work for one simple reason: They are outsourcing the jobs to us. You and I, my fellow Americans, have become the unpaid laborers of a do-it-yourself economy.


Ellen, I have always tended to do things for myself. The concept's called self-reliance, maybe it's in your spell checker somewhere?

It all began benignly enough a generation ago when ATMs replaced bank tellers. The average American child may know that money doesn't grow on trees; it grows out of walls.


Silly and inaccurate metaphors aside, kids quickly figure that out when they start getting allowances for cleaning their rooms and getting cash for mowing the lawn or shoveling the neighbor's driveways.

The ATM followed the self-service gas station. At first in the classic bait and switch, we were offered a discount for being our own gas jockey; now we have to pay a premium to have a person fill 'er up.


No, we don't; you're using a cheap rhetorical trick to say the same thing in reverse.

Now gradually, we are scanning our own groceries at the supermarket, getting our own boarding passes at airport kiosks and picking up movie tickets from machines that don't call in sick, go on vacation, or require a pension.


You don't have to do any of these things; they're optional. They're provided by customers in part for the benefit of putting employees to more productive uses and to the extent that they cannot be thusly reallocated, yes, that will lead to workforce reductions. They also provide a convenience to the customer so they don't wait around like bumps on a log for a sheet of laminated paper. In any event, most of these devices predate the 2001 recession, so it's not like this is a new phenomena.

People who used to have secretaries now have Microsoft Word.


And before that it was WordPerfect, and before that there was the typewriter, and before that there was parchment and quill pens, and before that we'd just chisel rocks with cuneiform characters.


People who used to have travel agents now can do it themselves have the Internet. People who used to drop off their film to be developed can save time and money have been lured into buying new cameras for the joy of printing or not printing pictures ourselves.

We also serve (ourselves) by being required to wait longer for the incredible shrinking support system. When was the last time you called your health plan? The service consists of a hold button, a list of phone options, and the strategic corporate decision that sooner or later a percentage of us will give up.


And this is different from the actual visit to the doctor, when you're trapped in a room full of the perennially pained and hypochondriacs who are there precisely because they have health plans with low co-pays, in what way?

Remember 411? If you actually want information from a phone company today, you have to pay someone in Omaha to give you the new number of a neighbor in Albany.


So use Switchboard, you lazy sod.

If the phone breaks, you may have to use the one in the other room use your cell phone instead dial fix-it-yourself. A new chapter in the annals of the self-service economy comes from a friend who was told by Verizon to go find the gray box attached to her house and test the line herself. The e-mail instructions told her merrily: "You don't have to be a telephone technician or an electrical engineer." Next year they'll be telling her to climb the telephone pole.


It's that, or a $50 minimum service call by Verizon, if you're not paying for the monthly outside line service fee already. It's your choice. At least you have a choice.

Then of course there is the world of computers. We have all become our own techie. A Harvard Business School professor actually told a reporter recently that we fix them ourselves because: "There's a real love of technology and people want to get inside and tinker with them." My friends have as much of a desire to tinker with computer insides as to perform amateur appendectomies.


Do you know how to put paper in a printer yet, or have trouble checking your oil on your car, too? That makes you pretty useless in my book.

But tech support has become less reliable than child support checks from an ex-husband.


Coming from a former tech support guy, this line reeks of bullshit. Then again, I used to support Visual C++, where the normal software geek didn't suffer from cranial-rectal inversion.

Consumer Reports show that 8 million people a year contact the tech support lines at software companies, and one-third of them don't get any help. These same companies have laid off more than 30,000 support workers and replaced them with messages telling us to fix our "infrastructure migration" by performing an "ipconfig/release" and "ipconfig/renew."


Reminds me of what Eric N. used to tell me: "I don't know, have you tried it?"

As for online help? If my Web server was managing 911, I would still be on the floor somewhere gasping for breath.


Sounds like you still are...

The only part of the self-help economy that keeps us aloft is a battery of teenagers fed and housed solely because they can get the family system back up.


They should be charging you by the hour. You'd learn soon enough.

Oh, and if we finally find someone to perform a so-called service call, we end up with an alleged appointment for that convenient hour known as "when the cows come home."


Wrong again. In recent months I've had a furnace guy, two cable installers and a Sears appliance guy give me two hour windows, and every time they were there during the first half-hour of the two hour window. In this sense, I'd say such service has been markedly improved.

I don't know how much labor has been transferred from the paid to the unpaid economy, but the average American now spends an extraordinary amount of time doing work that once paid someone else's mortgage.


Yes, if you're a complete dolt...

The only good news is that the corporations can't export the self-help industry to Bombay. Or maybe that's the bad news.


Goodman's obviously not been making any too many tech support calls lately.

People, actual human beings who work and interact, are now a luxury item. The rest of us have been dragooned into an invisible unpaid labor force without even noticing. We scan, we surf, we fix, and we rant. To which I can only add the motto of the do-it-yourself economy: Help!


So our society inexorably marches on with greater degrees of technical sophistication and Ellen Goodman's getting left in the dust, flailing about like a Thanksgiving turkey. Luddite, thy name is Goodman.

Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is ellengoodman@globe.com.

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004
 
Sick Game

Robert Kuttner, rabid Bush hating leftist, repeats the oft-heard charge of BUSH LIED!!!

Endgame for the president?

By Robert Kuttner, 2/4/2004

AFTER AN excruciating delay, chickens are finally coming home to roost for George W. Bush. For over a year, critics have been pointing to the president's systematic misrepresentations of everything from Iraq to education to budget numbers. But the charge hasn't really stuck, until very lately. .

This past week, however, Bush seems to have hit a tipping point. Chief arms inspector David Kay testified before Congress that the intelligence reports were entirely wrong about Saddam's supposed weapons and that the much maligned UN inspectors were right.


Nope, no WMD's here!

Kay loyally blamed the failure on intelligence professionals, not Bush.


Why don't you have the balls to call Kay a liar, then?

But that argument didn't fool those who watched last year as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strong-armed the CIA, sifted through raw, unconfirmed reports, and massaged the data until he got the story he wanted.


Or maybe Rumsfeld reached that conclusion all on his own? Here's Christopher Hitchens, certainly no conservative, on Kay's revelations in Slate magazine, certainly no National Review:

"[I]t seems perfectly idiotic of anybody to complain that we have now found...out [that Saddam didn't have any WMDs after all]....This highly pertinent and useful discovery could only be made by way of regime change. And the knowledge that Iraq can be finally and fully certified as disarmed, and that it won't be able to rearm under a Caligula regime, is surely a piece of knowledge worth having in its own right and for its own sake."


But Chris! You're trashing a perfectly good Bush bashing article!

Bush initially resisted the pressure for a full-scale investigation, but soon agreed to appoint a major bipartisan inquiry into the "intelligence failure." The real story here is the political manipulation of intelligence, and it isn't going away. A second investigation -- about the outing of CIA official Valerie Plame -- will also shed embarrassing light about the true White House concern for intelligence professionals. Yet another investigation -- into the lapses that occurred on Bush's watch in the events leading up to 9/11 -- could also unearth awkward facts.


First, the burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein to prove he didn't have WMD's not for Bush to prove he didn't. Absent that, any rational leader would work under the presumption that Hussein had something to hide. Second, the Plame incident has nothing to do with the issue at hand, unless the issue is, naturally, taking partisan shots at the Commander in Chief. Third, what isn't discussed, naturally, is 'lapses that occurred on Bush's Clinton's watch in the events leading up to 9/11'.

All of the administration's mendacity comes together in the latest Bush budget.


Again, what does this have to do with WMD's and the alleged manipulation by the Bush administration?

According to the White House, the deficit, now $521 billion, will be cut roughly in half over the next five years. But the administration achieves this feat by excluding future costs of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, by claiming large savings from waste and fraud as yet to be identified, and by proposing general program cuts so unpopular that Congress is sure to reject them.


Implicit in this line of 'reasoning' is that spending greatly increased during Bush's three years in office, as it unarguably did. Now the Republican base, myself included, objects to this spending and Kuttner objects to these proposed cuts.

Even as Bush proposes making his 10-year tax cuts permanent, the budget projects only over the next five years. Deficits, of course, dramatically increase after year five. Even in the fifth year (FY 2009), the budget leaves out about $160 billion in costs that the administration favors and is expected to propose in future budgets, according to an analysis by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Bush's Medicare cost estimate was off by hundreds of billions.


That's a great argument for privatizing the program, isn't it?

Social spending rises only 0.5 percent a year (which means real, inflation-adjusted cuts), while military spending goes up 7 percent yearly, and homeland security outlays a full 10 percent.


Bob's unhappy because all that tax money goes to the 'wrong' federal programs...

The voters may well agree that we need these security outlays -- some Democrats want even more preparedness spending.


Shouldn't the voters get what they want / pay for?

But they may wonder why we had to trade tax cuts for the upper brackets for huge deficits and the slashing of popular programs. Some three-quarters of the fiscal deterioration since 2000 is caused by lost revenues.


Once again, this illustrated the liberal's viewpoint that they see taxes as the government's money, not what you are willing to pay for government services.

In this budget, Bush offers a few tiny tokens -- more money to promote marriage, all of $23 million for drug testing in schools, a symbolic $100 million "compassion capital fund," but the compassion act is wearing thin.


I'll agree with that! Compassionate conservatism sure costs a lot.

Some conservatives have tried to blame the rising deficits on increases on social spending. But federal program spending, outside of the Iraq buildup and the increased outlays for homeland security, has grown at less than the rate of inflation. We had no choice but to increase outlays on homeland security, But the war in Iraq, as we now know, was entirely optional (and needless).


On what basis? That we were lucky not to have a nuclear or other device kill even more thousands of our citizens?

Without the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq war, the deficits would be well under 2 percent of GDP, and entirely manageable.


And 'some conservatives' note that other domestic areas are increasing at 1 percent of GDP. Hardly the stuff of panic button hitting.

And despite the usual rosy characterizations, the latest economic growth numbers were not what the White House hoped.


This, from a guy who complains about 'excluding future costs' for which there is no inclusion in future revenue, which could change dramatically during that timespan, as Reagan proved in the 1980's. One would think Kuttner would make at least a token attempt at addressing that side of the ledger.

Four percent growth in the last quarter is not enough to generate very many good jobs. The Federal Reserve added insult to injury at its latest meeting by hinting at interest-rate increases later in this election year -- caused by rising deficits.


But they didn't raise rates now, did they?

Even Bush's appalling Vietnam record -- pulling strings to get into a National Guard unit and then neglecting to show up much of the time -- is now fair game.


Bob, he did in fact serve his entire tour of duty with a seven month absence:

--After graduating from Yale in 1968, Bush escaped conscription and possible combat duty in the then-raging Vietnam War by getting into the Texas Air National Guard. During the next four years Bush served the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, according to the Globe account [which started the whole controversy], including more than a year of flight training. The Globe quoted Bush's flight instructor, retired Col. Maurice H. Udell, as saying "I would rank him in the top 5 percent of pilots I knew."
.

What former President didn't even do that much?

What started as a gotcha game against General Wesley Clark's refusal to disavow Michael Moore's choice of rhetoric (Moore called Bush a "deserter") has refocused press attention onto the legitmate issue of just what Bush did.


Which is why Clark will soon be giving his No Joementum speech by Super Tuesday.

Before the New Hampshire primary, Bush's reelection seemed assured. It's funny how the conventional wisdom sometimes turns abruptly, even though the basic facts were hidden in plain view all along.


Is it a fair statement to say it could also swing back the other way, once Kerry's reams of hypocrisy and fence-straddling are out in the open? Do Democrats agree that's the case? Not Zell Miller.

I'd bet we are about a week away from Time and Newsweek covers pronouncing "Bush in Trouble?" or some equivalent. It's about time.


It's about time I contact Kuttner and offer to wager $500 on Bush or an equivalent (a pro-Bush article by Kuttner would do it).

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


...because it's always Bush bashing time at the Globe.

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company


Tuesday, February 03, 2004
 
Democratic Campaign Roundup

John Kerry is cruising to victory in five states; Clark wins Oklahoma, Edwards wins South Carolina and Howard Dean gets shut out along with Joe Lieberman, who lost his Joe-mentum and bowed out of the race tonight.

I wonder if The Viking Pundit should be put on suicide watch soon?


Monday, February 02, 2004
 
NFL 2003 - 2004, Final Post

The New England Patriots didn't cover the spread won their second championship in three years. Hey, it could be a dynasty! (Isn't that the same guy that sold you on the NE bet yesterday? - Ed.)

Yesterday = 0 - 1.

For the year = 34 - 43 - 5.

Since the inception = 83 - 83 - 8.



 
The End Is Near

Things are looking mighty good for the junior Senator from Massachusetts:

The conventional wisdom among pundits, and I’m told among many Democrats in Washington, is that the Feb. 3 contests are shaping up as a 5-1-1 result. Edwards wins South Carolina, but not by much; Clark wins Oklahoma, but not by much; and Kerry wins everything else, often by much.


Sunday, February 01, 2004
 
NFL 2003 - 2004, Super Bowl

The pick:

NE -7 (I got -6.5 last night online)

Last week = 2-0.

For the year = 34-42-5.

I'll summarize by quoting Bill Simmons:

They can't beat the Patriots. They just aren't good enough. It's mostly about the conferences -- I just feel like New England, Tennessee and Indy were the three best teams in the league. Nobody else was on that level. They spent the last four months beating up on each other, Miami, Denver, K.C., Baltimore ... meanwhile, the Panthers were playing Arizona, New Orleans and Chicago week after week. It's too big of a jump.

If this wasn't the Super Bowl, this game would follow the script of that Cowboys game -- low-scoring, boring to watch, both teams just sort of hanging around. But things get out of hand in the Super Bowl. Mistakes become magnified. Players self-destruct. You feel the air going out of an entire team once they fall too far behind. If Dallas and New England played that November game in the Super Bowl, the Pats probably win 30-0. Carter would have completely self-imploded.

So with Jake Delhomme ... I mean, you can't convince me that he's up to the task. He had happy feet in the first quarter of the last two playoff games, almost imploding in the Rams game with that fumble TD play, then settling into a semi-groove. In the Eagles game, he only made one big throw -- an up-for-grabs heave into double coverage that Muhsin Muhammad caught for a TD -- before Fox shut him down.

He's a meltdown waiting to happen. Remember his game against Dallas (9-for-24, 175 yards, one killer INT), or even the one in Atlanta (13-for-25, 154 yards, 2 INTs, including the game-ender in OT)? Good old Jake has it in him. If Bill Belichick can disrupt Peyton Manning with one week of preparation, something tells me he can disrupt Jake Delhomme in two.

And if that's not enough, there are multiple gambling rules from my "Playoff Manifesto" involved here, including "When in doubt, seek the popular opinion and go the other way," "When in doubt, look at the quarterbacks again," and the special Super Bowl rule of thumb, "Always beware of the team that seems like they're happy to be there."

I see the Pats jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, clamping down on Stephen Davis, spreading the field with multiple receivers and throwing on that semi-shaky Panthers secondary. Eventually, Carolina will be forced to throw the ball, which is when we'll find out the thing Fox doesn't want anyone to know -- that the Panthers can't play from behind. Delhomme will make some dumb mistakes, and that will be that. I even see a touchdown for one of the Patriot d-backs.

So for a chance to finish 9-2 against the spread in the playoffs, as well as a chance to remain unbeaten against the spread in the Super Bowl since 1995 ... I'm taking the Pats and the points. The Panthers are happy to be here. The Pats want to put themselves on the map for the entire decade. There's a difference.

My Super Bowl pick: Pats 36, Panthers 10.


 
Bogus Poll Numbers

Michael Graham at National Review's The Corner explains why the South Carolina poll numbers being bandied about are bogus.