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October 31, 2006

My biased newspaper

One of my daily reads (and guilty pleasures) is the New York Post, which defied the trend this year, and actually saw its circulation increase, surpassing the Washington Post to become the fifth biggest paper in the country.

My stuck-up New York friends who read this rag, however, tend to look down their noses at my reading habits, wondering how can I tolerate such low-brow, biased, yellow journalism.

The Gray Lady is hardly without her own biases, of course, especially this time of year, when election season endorsements might just as well be substituted with the words "Vote Democrat." The Times hasn't endorsed a Republican for president since Eisenhower. Typically, however, they do find it in themselves to endorse some token New York RINO to some throwaway street-sweeper position, just so they don't look too lopsided.

Until this year, that is. For the first time in 34 years, the New York Times has endorsed exactly zero Republicans in congressional races. The Post, by contrast, has endorsed Democrats in the state's two biggest elections (Spitzer and Clinton.) Yet I'm the one who reads the slanted, right-wing rag, while the NYT readership fancies itself the acme of enlightenment and fair-mindedness.

You see, it's not just that the Times is biased. I can deal with that. But (and I think this is important) they're in denial about it. The New York Post, to anyone who reads it for any length of time, is quite open about its political slant. The Times, on the other hand, still righteously (if absurdly) paints itself as a detached, disinterested, even-handed purveyors of news. Not only that, but their coverage of Paris Hilton is woefully lacking.

My choice for Congress

My current congressman is the best one I've ever had. I have the distinct pleasure of being represented in the U.S. House by the Honorable VACANT. He represents my views better than any politician ever has. Sadly, however, he's not up for reelection. Next month, his seat will be taken over by a living human.

So whom to vote for? Libertarian Len Flynn is running for Bob Menendez's senate seat, so he'll get my vote in that race. Unfortunately the LP doesn't seem to be fielding a candidate for New Jersey's 13th congressional district. I guess I'll vote Republican if I have to, but in casting around for alternatives, I did run across Herbert Shaw's name on the ballot. Check out the party line that he's running on.

Definitely sounds worth checking out to me.

PS -- Yes, I know. The ballot is almost entirely in Spanish. Don't even get me started.

October 30, 2006

An encouraging poll

Finally, a poll that gives me hope.

A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem."

The poll released Friday also showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.

Discretionary spending grew from $649 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $968 billion in fiscal year 2005, an increase of $319 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems.

Maybe when it's all said and done, the Republican Party will have been successful in ushering in a new era of conservatism -- just not in the way they had originally envisioned.

BTW, speaking of Halloween...

You know what movie didn't age well? This one.

Still, I guess it's easy to forget it was made a quarter century ago. That little note during the end credits congratulating Prince Charles and Diana Spencer on their "nuptials" (which I always thought was a funny word, cuz it sounds a little dirty) came as a bit of a shock.

October 29, 2006


I normally forget these time changes completely, but not this year. My life has been so busy of late that I'd been looking forward to that extra hour of sleep for weeks now. Pathetic, isn't it?

Ironically, the only timepiece in the house that I can't seem to set is this shitty Timex digital watch that I only wear while sleeping (I'm too nearsighted to see a clock without my contacts.) I tried for about half an hour and then gave up, and attempted to find the manual online. It said something about turning the watch at a 90 degree angle and pointing it toward Colorado. That didn't work either.

It's a sign of growing old. At a family reunion last summer, my brother-in-law, who is also a fortyish, computer/math/science geek, enlisted my help in navigating the options menu on a digital camera. We both futzed around with it for more than half an hour. "Well, this is it," we thought. "It's time to pass the torch to a new generation. We've become our grandparents, with whom we were so impatient with their inability to program a VCR two decades ago." What goes around comes around, circle of life, sunrise, sunset, spring forward, fall back, blah blah blah....

October 28, 2006

Rudy storms South Carolina

My regular readers know that one of my great white whales is this bogus "conventional wisdom" that Rudy Giuliani will not play well in the conservative South. Check out the latest bit of evidence to the contrary, the results of a poll from John McCain's Waterloo, the Palmetto State:

CandidateHeard ofFavorableUnfavorable
John McCain96%65% 23%
Newt Gingrich95%53% 31%
Rudy Giuliani93%78%10%
George Pataki 69%35%18%
Bill Frist66% 43% 21%
Mitt Romney40%41%11%
George Allen37%38%11%
Mike Huckabee 16%

And this poll is hardly an outlier. I've been pointing out similar results for years now. I wonder when people are going to begin taking them seriously?

"Smear after smear"

Welcome to Jim Webb's universe. It's a world in which "I think I heard someone say that George Allen might have said the word 'nigger' in college" is perfectly fair campaign strategy, but someone reading passages from Webb's on book is a "smear." You've just gotta love that.

My response to the whole thing has pretty much been "It's only a novel," which seems a reasonable thing to say. The Democrats, however, have little basis for complaint here. The "sex scene from an opponent's novel" is already a well-worn political cudgel. In recent memory, the Democrats have wielded it against Newt Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, and, most recently, Scooter Libby. That makes it a little hard for them to claim the passages from Webb's book should be off-limits. I still dislike Allen, but Webb should just shut his whiny bitch mouth.

October 27, 2006

It's about time!

For the first time in what feels like forever, I'm finally having fresh spinach for lunch. So far so good. No explosive diarrhea yet. I'll keep you posted.


I wish the RNC would show a bit more of this kind of spirit in their campaign ads, rather than spending perfectly good money on the kind of dreck I've actually been seeing on TV lately. Convincing anyone to vote Republican is a tough sell these days, but I thought this clip did an admirable job of it, plus it made me lol several times.

(Hat tip: Dean)

The best quote of the day

...comes from Jonah Goldberg's mailbox:

I know I am just fired up, but the head of the RNC should be ashamed that his main talking point is, "Well, you don't want Pelosi as Speaker do you?" That is unbelievable to me. That's what we get for our millions? Is that their excuse for supporting guys like Chafee? How is that working out for them? Make me want to donate until it hurts. This year I'll be keeping my checkbook closed, I'll need the extra cash for my tax increase.

October 26, 2006

Racism in Tennessee?

I like Harold Ford. He's one of my favorite Democrats in Washington, and I'd very likely vote for him if I lived in Tennessee. Moreover, I think this attack ad targeting Ford is silly, embarrassing, and downright misleading in parts. But is it racist?

Josh Marshall thinks so, and so do Chris Matthews and Oliver Willis, in their typically shrill, nonsensical fashion. Here's how Willis viewed the ad:

The Republican party is running in Tennessee on a platform of the big black buck coming for the white women.

Right. Phrased with all the characteristic grace and aplomb we've come to expect from Mr. Willis. It's still bullshit, of course.

Look, I'm going to be a bit politically incorrect for a moment, so please bear with me here. This is Harold Ford:

He doesn't exactly evoke "Mandingo," now, does he? In fact, until I started reading about the current campaign, I didn't even know Ford was black. He's paler than my Scotch-Irish self.

Most of the allegations of racism seem to center on the (white) Playmate in the video who says she met Ford during a party at the Playboy mansion. For my part, it doesn't bother me at all if Ford wants to party with Hef and the gals, but in conservative Tennessee, this kind of behavior among elected officials can still raise some eyebrows. This effect is magnified by the fact that Ford has made a big issue of his Christian faith and his "love for Jesus" during this campaign. It's very hard to imagine Democrats not slamming Ford for the same reason were the party roles reversed. The whole Playboy thing is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned, but it's certainly not racism. The ad's Playboy angle would make just as much sense (or nonsense) if Ford were white.

Here's a video clip that purports to illustrate the "hidden" racist message in the ad. Again, it focuses largely on the "Mandingo" theme, but the video's author is completely inconsistent. We're asked to believe the inclusion of the first woman is racist because the woman is black. Then we're told the inclusion of the last woman is racist because the woman is white. Not terribly convincing, is it? Then, for good measure, the video's author is offended because the hunter in the middle of the ad seems to be wearing "blackface." That's proof certain that this preposterous video was put together by someone outside of Tennessee, because he/she obviously doesn't know a damn thing about hunting.

This is just stupid, people. Racism still exists, all around us, and that's a problem, and one we shouldn't trivialize by looking for racism where it simply doesn't exist. I like Ford, and I hope he wins. But dealing the race card in this instance is not only unseemly, but very likely counterproductive as well.

A more conservative House?, Part II

Here's more evidence that Robert Novak might be right.


For the first time in ages, it looks like I have a valid reason to vote for the GOP.

If Republicans retain control of the House in November, Rep. Charles Rangel will quit.

New Jersey's "gay marriage" decision

For one something happened in the governance of this fucked-up state that didn't inspire fear in loathing in me. New Jersey's court ruling on civil unions is not only a just outcome, but seems well-argued and coherently reasoned as well. It's hard to believe this is the same court that sanctioned the "Lautenberg maneuver."

One thing that surprised me, however, was how big this story was. When I first read about the ruling, I said something like, "Oh, that's nice," and I went back to work. Within minutes, however, it seemed that every blogger on the planet, from all corners of the political spectrum, was blogging about it in breathless terms.

Clearly it's a bigger story than I realized at first. So what impact, if any, will it have on the midterms? This is exactly the kind of thing that the Republican Party uses to whip its base into a frenzy and turn them out in full force at the polls. As much as I deplore their exploitation of such issues, I can't really blame them for it, since, well, it works.

Let's face it, nobody's going to rush out to the polls to pull an eager lever for the Republicans because of their tax and trade policies (well nobody besides me, anyway.) It's this kind of stuff, no matter how distasteful, that generates turnout. And make no mistake, it's been turnout that's handed the GOP their most recent electoral victories.

I couldn't help but notice that the GOP's futures shot up markedly on TradeSports, after taking a sustained drubbing for months. I doubt it's a coincidence. Granted, the New Jersey effect may be short-lived, but then again, the elections are in less than two weeks.

October 25, 2006

A disturbing trend

Recently I wrote about people being harassed by police officers for taking photographs in public. Now, through perusing my referrer logs, I just happened to stumble across this account of an attorney who endured a similar indignity here in New Jersey. Check it out.

Math blogging: 0.999...

This recently featured article on Wikipedia brought back fond memories of impassioned, beer-fueled math arguments in college (yes, I'm a geek.) It's about the number 0.9999999... a quantity with an infinite string of 9's following the decimal (this quantity is usually denoted in math books with a bar over the 9, but I'm too lazy to figure out how to express that on a web page, I'll just stick with the trailing dots.)

We've all seen the number countless times on calculators, where they're typically the result of a rounding error. What you may not know, however, is that the number isn't merely a close approximation of the number one -- it's identical to one. The numbers 0.999... and 1.0 are exactly equal. Since there is no number small enough to represent the difference between the two, that difference must be zero.

Think about it another way. We all know the fraction 1/3 can be expressed in decimal notation as 0.333.... But multiply this quantity by 3, and what do you get? You get 0.999..., but we know that 3 * 1/3 is 1. See?

Here's another, somewhat more rigorous proof.

  1. Let x = 0.999...
  2. Multiply both sides by 10: 10x = 9.999...
  3. Subtract x from both sides: 9x = 9
  4. Therefore x = 1

Pretty cool, huh? This whole little diversion has reminded me that I really should wrap up by Banach-Tarski series sometime soon, for completeness sake if nothing else.

October 23, 2006


Can anyone explain Bob Menendez's position to me?

The issue became particularly prickly for Menendez at the Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston at a candidate's forum sponsored by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ last night. Lieberman was the first Jewish politician to be on a national ticket when he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2004.

A audience member asked Menendez why he was putting party loyalty ahead of a good candidate by backing Lamont. Menendez became indignant and he told the crowd of hundreds the premise of the question was dead wrong. He called Lieberman a "tremendous Senator," and said, "We wish him well. We hope he returns."

But after the event, safely away from the hundreds of audience members, Menendez had a different response when a reporter asked if he was endorsing Lieberman. No, he said, he is "officially" supporting Lamont, the party nominee.

So who's Menendez supporting in the Connecticut senate race? Or is the answer to that question audience-specific? Maybe it's one of those "quantum" phenomena, when the act of observing an outcome alters it (especially if the observer is wearing a yarmulke.)


The New York Times now admits it was wrong to expose the government's secret, anti-terror banking-data surveillance program. It was wrong because the program was perfectly legal, and there is still no evidence that it was ever abused. The Times' ombudsman is is also pretty frank about the political motivations for breaking the story.

Many of us already knew all this, of course, but it was this part that I found especially infuriating.

What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press....

In other words, the Times is perfectly free to savage Bush day-in and day-out in its editorial pages, but God forbid that the president ever utter a word of criticism by way of response. If he does, the Gray Lady will respond by undermining our national security and anti-terror programs by willfully publishing classified information.

Unbelievable. We lost a valuable terror-fighting tool because of the political pettiness of a think-skinned newspaper that got its feelings hurt. And to think that some of my New York friends still don't understand why I hate that goddamn newspaper.

A more conservative House?

Robert Novak, who's still the most reliable political prognosticator out there, thinks that the House of Representatives may well end up more conservatvie, on balance, than it is now, even if the GOP loses control. His reasononing is that the Republican Study Committee will wield a greater influence within the (smaller) Republican caucus.

I hope he's right. I'd rather have a truly conservative minority than a faux conservative majority.

October 20, 2006

Frak me!

You gotta love Battlestar Galactica. For a space opera, it's remarkably low-tech. The characters still wear eyeglasses, use phones with cords, and shoot guns that fire real bullets. Indeed, sometimes it seems that the only real innovation they've seen since the 20th century has been to invent a new word for fuck.

Some BSG viewers find the constant use of the term frak and its many derivatives distracting. So did I, at first, but now I'm sort of used to it, and I've found the expletive creeping into my own daily vocabulary as a result. All in all, I think it's far less distracting than some of the ridiculous dub jobs I used to see on network television while growing up in the 80's.

Remember those? Burt Reynolds saying, "Gosh damn you, you son of a buck!" or Henry Fonda exclaiming "For rice cakes!" It can't get any more distracting than that, especially when their lips are flapping all wrong. Anyone have any favorite bad dub jobs to share? I think my one of my all-time favorites, just because it was so bizarre, was in the TV version of The Big Chill. In the original, Jeff Goldblum said his magazine's editorial policy was not to write anything longer than the average person could read during the average crap. The TV version came out "...longer than the average person can read during the average you-know." First of all, what's wrong with crap? Second, couldn't they have done better than you-know? Dump, maybe?

These days I guess they're getting a bit more sophisticated about it. Still, I'm so curious about A&E's new sanitized version of The Sopranos that I just may have to watch it. I mean seriously, what's it going to be? If you take out all the sex, violence, nudity and profanity from The Sopranos, what's left? Maybe it'll be a series of 5-minute shorts, sort of like when the Simpsons were on the Tracy Ullman show.

More on Lancet's bogus "650,000" study

Iraq Body Count has a lengthy, detailed rebuttal to that ridiculous Lancet study claiming 650,000 Iraqi war deaths. It's the best and most complete commentary on the study and its methods that I've seen, and definitely worth a read if you have the time.

October 17, 2006

I LOL'd at this

This is definitely the coolest one of those "one picture every day" videos I've ever seen.


I can't believe that in a tight election cycle, the RNSC is actually spending money on crap like this.


This is the best commentary I've seen yet on the Air America bankruptcy.

Stop complaining already!

Christ almighty, you'd think they waterboarded this girl the way some folks are going on. I don't like harassive police techniques any more than anybody else, but the controversy about the Secret Service and Julia Wilson seems a bit overblown to me. What did they do that was so terrible?

The Secret Service has an obligation to investigate any such cases, whether the girl is 14 or 94. It's their job. I'm sure they knew that this case wouldn't amount to anything, but they don't have the luxury of simply dismissing these incidents based on their gut.

Tell me, what made it so bloody obvious that the girl wasn't a threat? Because she was in high school? (see Klebold and Harris.) Because she's a girl? (see Squeaky Fromme.) Because she's cute? Because this is the kind of stuff I'm hearing, and it's not terribly convincing.

I guess it's easy to see why this story made the rounds -- it fits in so nicely with the moonbat narrative of an out-of-control federal law enforcement under the Fascist-in-Chimp. It's still bullshit, though.

Deep down, even the liberals realize this. If pressed, they will grudgingly admit that it wasn't unreasonable for the Secret Service to take a quick look, just to err on the side of caution. Then, of course, it becomes about criticizing their methodology. They should have waited to have her mom present, or they shouldn't have taken her out class, or they shouldn't have made her cry, or whatever. I guess some people don't like it that the agents didn't play patty cake and give her milk and cookies. Well boo-fricken-hoo. They're federal law enforcement agents, not social workers or school nurses. Guess what? Maybe, just maybe they thought that as Secret Service agents they had more important things to do than to cool their heels in a high school for two hours on the taxpayer's nickel, waiting on recess to avoid embarrassing a teenage girl.

Look, they checked the girl out, confirmed their suspicion that she wasn't a threat, and that's that. It's done. She's clear. I'm sure the girl didn't enjoy being questioned. I wouldn't either. I'm sorry she cried. I'm sure it was a bad day for her. But really, the "ordeal" she endured does not seem at all out of proportion with what she did.

An important piece of tax data

I've blogged previously about the increased revenues that have filled the Treasury in the wake of Bush's tax cuts, but this weekend I ran across a bit of information that strikes me as significant. Economic growth played a part, but there's more to it than that. Check this out.

...more taxes were collected from each dollar of GDP than expected. When an economy of a given size produces higher-than-expected revenue after a tax change, it must mean that the tax code has become a more efficient revenue generator.

In other words, even if economic growth were zero, the government would still be taking in more tax revenue than before the tax cuts. Bush's critics can (and will) argue the extent to which the tax cuts contributed to economic growth, but the fact remains that the current tax structure is simpler better at raising revenue than the previous one. That's exactly why it's unwise to consider rolling back Bush's tax cuts. I hope Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi is paying attention.

October 16, 2006

Classic cheesy horror films

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II has long been one of my favorite, campy B-grade horror movies of all time. It is great in so many ways it would take too long to explain here, so if you haven't seen it, rent it and watch it at your earliest convenience. No need to bother with the original Evil Dead. Trust me, it is completely nonessential to see that in order to watch and appreciate the "sequel."

But... I was walking around Manhattan Saturday, and I saw a poster so oddly bizarre that I had to stare at it for about 20 seconds before I convinced myself that I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing. I was. Evil Dead: The Musical. So now you know. I don't even know what to say about that.

Speaking of campy horror films, this got me thinking, for the first time in years, of a crappy old spook flick that I saw at least a dozen times as a kid. It was a Sunday afternoon staple of my local independent UHF channel (who remembers those?) called "Equinox", a title which made absolutely zero sense (although it did inspire me to look the word up in the dictionary, and I was disappointed that it had to do more with seasons than with demons.)

Even during my pre-adolescence, I could recognize the extraordinarily poor production values that went into this ridiculous movie, and yet for some reason I still remember it fondly. When I say I probably saw Equinox a dozen times, I don't mean all the way through. In fact, I've probably never once seen it in its entirety from start to finish.

I'm pretty sure I've seen all of it at one time or another, but I'd catch 10 minutes of it here, 15 minutes of it there, not necessarily in sequence, of course, but it proved to be an okay way to watch the movie. Indeed, there was something about the movie that almost invited you to watch it in fragments like that. The cool part about it was that some parts of the movie were so different from others, they almost seemed like they came from different movies altogether, and maybe you thought they did, until the movie's name was revealed during the next "station identification." You could always feel free to begin watching Equinox in the middle, much as you can watch Evil Dead II without benefit of Evil Dead (I).

I have to wonder how Equinox has aged over the years. My guess is "not well," particularly since it started out as crap in the first place. Anyway, I can't resist a little stroll down memory lane, and when I found that, yes, it is indeed available on DVD, I immediately put it in my Netflix queue. I'll let you know how it goes.

So does anybody else out there remember this quirky little flick, fondly or otherwise?

Got any other questions?

Friday afternoon I was in Hoboken, and I passed one of those sidewalk voter registration booths manned by college dweebs in blue t-shirts. I noticed a surprising amount of activity around one of the tables, and I soon found out why. Senator Bob Menendez was working the crowd, surrounded by a gaggle of shit-faced doofuses in suits.

I stood around and jawboned for a while, and eventually the senator turned towards me and shook my hand. "I hope I can count on your vote this November," he said, carefully phrasing it as a statement rather than a question.

"You may not," I answered. Menendez, pretending not to hear, turned away and focused his attention elsewhere.

One of his henchmen, however, plainly annoyed, couldn't resist. "May I ask why not?" he asked.

"Because I don't like him," I replied pleasantly. Duh.

I could have added that I didn't plan to vote for Kean either, but I figured there was no reason the senator needed to know that. In any case, I found the whole exchange unexpectedly satisfying and a bit therapeutic. I should make it a point to chat with my elected (or un-elected, in this case) representatives more often.

October 12, 2006

Fried Coca-Cola

I kind of want to try this.

This just sucks

All right, Bob Novak is never exactly a little ray of sunshine, but this column of his is particularly depressing. It's all about how the handful of fiscally responsible Republicans that still inhabit the Hill are getting bitch-slapped by Ted Stevens and others for committing egregious sins like trying to bring transparency to pork-laden earmarks. Stevens blasts Tom Coburn, John McCain and others for "undermining party unity," and therefore hurting the GOP.

That's a ludicrous charge, of course. But even if it were true, why should I care? If the Republicans in Congress are all going to act like Ted Stevens, what's the point in having them there? Why should I care whether they get defeated or not?

Well, I guess I do care. The Republicans need to be defeated next month, period. I'm not going to enjoy watching the Democrats gloat, but as unpleasant as that will be, it is still preferable to allowing this current crowd to continue running the show.

I have to say, I never thought that the Republicans' dysfunction would go this far. It's not because I think they're above it, of course. I've always believed that when either party is allowed to remain behind the levers of power for too long, corruption is inevitable. I guess I just never thought they'd be in the majority long enough for it to get this bad. I figured they'd have been voted out long before now.

And they probably would have been, had it not been for a quirky twist of fate. By all rights, the GOP was well on its way to losing Congress four years ago. But then 9/11 happened, of course, and the Republican leadership was able to buy a few more years.

So they've had a pretty good run of it. A dozen years. And what have we conservatives got to show for it? A relatively modest tax cut and a bloated federal budget that's ballooning at rates that make Lyndon Johnson look like a miser. Disgusting. Time for them to go. Unfortunately, the only way to kick these people out of power is by electing Democrats. We may not be able to vote Ted Stevens out this year, but we can at least banish him into the minority.

It's a sure sign...

...that there's an election right around the corner. It's getting predictable as clockwork.

Allow me to be the first to predict that title of a Lancet study to be released in October of 2008: "Twenty Hundred Million Billion Trillion Civilian Deaths in Iraq."

October 11, 2006

Death of cursive

I haven't written in cursive in 20 years. I tried it just for fun on a dinner napkin a few weeks ago, and was horrified at the results. I've basically forgotten how to do it. Now I know I'm not alone.

When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.

Cool. I can't say I'll miss it. The truth is, my penmanship never looked great, which is the main reason I switched to printing in the first place. Now I can barely write cursive at all. But it seems like I'm probably in the majority, and no longer need to feel guilty about it. I wonder if someday I'll similarly get belated justification for the funny way I hold my pen.

October 10, 2006

Misleading nonsense at Firedoglake

If Connecticut wants to oust Joe Lieberman for his support of the war, then fine. Many of his critics, however, seem worried that the war alone might not be sufficient, so they're hurling everything they can at him hoping some of it will stick.

This trend reached its ludicrous apex, in my opinion, in this Jane Hamsher piece posted at Firedoglake.

Now I'm no fan of Joe Lieberman, but this strikes me as a grossly unfair and disingenuous abuse of statistics. Hamsher slams Lieberman because Connecticut sends more money to Washington than it gets back by a higher ratio than almost any other state.

True enough, but this ratio tends to increase as a function of a state's wealth. Richer states tend to have a net outflux of dollars to Washington and poorer states a net influx. Connecticut is, by some measures, the richest state in the union, and in an indirect way, that is why Hamsher is slamming Lieberman.

Maybe it's just me, but I find that pathetic. Perhaps it's just desperation, as Lieberman's lead four weeks out is beginning to look insurmountable. Perhaps when your "referendum" on the Iraq war looks as if it won't turn out the way you want, you start urgently trying to make it about other issues as well. Still, criticizing Lieberman for not turning Connecticut into Mississippi seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

Deficit halved in half the time

When President Bush promised to halve the deficit in six years, he was criticized (by myself and others) for being too timid. He was also criticized for being unrealistic and overly optimistic. Unfairly, it would seem, as the it's already happened, three years ahead of schedule.

The reason? A virtual tidal wave of tax revenue. If you listen the Bush's critics, you'd think the country was absolutely starved for tax revenue as a result of Bush's "tax cuts for the rich." The opposite seems to be true.

The main cause of the deficit decline -- 90% of it, says White House budget director Rob Portman -- is a tidal wave of tax revenue. Tax collections have increased by $521 billion in the last two fiscal years, the largest two-year revenue increase -- even after adjusting for inflation -- in American history. If you're surprised to hear that, it's probably because inside Washington this is treated as the only secret no one wants to print. On the few occasions when the media pay attention to the rise in tax collections, they scratch their heads and wonder where this "surprising" and "unexpected windfall" came from.

One place it has come from are corporations, whose tax collections have climbed by 76% over the past two years thanks to greater profitability. Personal income tax payments are up by 30.3% since 2004 too, despite the fact that the highest tax rate is down to 35% from 39.6%. The IRS tax-return data just released last month indicates that a near-record 37% of those income tax payments are received from the top 1% of earners -- "the rich," who are derided regularly in Washington for not paying their "fair share."

More good news is that dividend-tax payments appear to be up as well, even though the tax rate was lowered to 15% from as high as 39.6%. A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that "after a continuous decline in dividend payments over more than two decades, total regular dividends have grown by nearly 20%" and that this reversal happened at "precisely the point at which the lower tax rate was proposed and subsequently applied retroactively." There hasn't been a purer validation of the Laffer Curve since Ronald Reagan rode off into the sunset.

As for the budget deficit, at $260 billion it is now about 2% of our $13 trillion economy, well below the 2.7% average of the last 40 years. Most states and localities are also afloat in tax collections, and including their revenue surpluses brings the total U.S. public sector borrowing down to roughly 1.5% of GDP. Not too shabby given that we're waging a war on terrorism and Congress spent $50 billion last year on Hurricane Katrina clean-up.

Of course as Glenn points out, who can be bothered to report such a thing when there's virtual gay sex to be talked about?

October 06, 2006

Hey, here's one

Q: What do librarians and Mark Foley have in common?

A: They both like their pages bent over.

HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!!!! Get it? You know, like "pages?"

Oh but wait. Actually I guess librarians don't like it when you dog-ear pages. Hmm, I guess I'll keep workin' on it. I'll keep you posted.

Friday Fun

It's Slingblade meets Napoleon Dynamite. Check it out. And hell, while you're over at Blowing Smoke, you might as well scroll down two posts and watch the South Park clip too.

This pisses me off

So now in New York you can get arrested for taking pictures on a public sidewalk.

A picture may be worth a thousands words, but if the photo is of a police officer’s personal car parked illegally, you may need some of those words to talk your way out of a pair of handcuffs.

Three people said recently police detained them for nothing more than taking pictures on public, New York City sidewalks.
Lee said police released him without charges and returned his camera without apology about 20 minutes after he was forced to kneel with his hands cuffed behind his back on Park Row. Lee said it was embarrassing to be arrested in front of his neighbors, especially because he had done nothing wrong.
Two volunteers from a non-profit transportation study group were also detained by the 5th Precinct earlier this year. The college students were conducting a survey of illegal parking in Chinatown for Transportation Alternatives. They said they were nabbed when they snapped photos of illegally parked private cars belonging to police officers. According to the students, police cited the Patriot Act and warned them they could be held indefinitely without charges. Officers allegedly offered to release the volunteers immediately if they agreed to erase photographs of the police officers’ personal cars. They complied and were released.

This is infuriating. I wish to hell the ACLU would stop worrying about the thread count in Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's blanky long enough to pay some attention to crap like this.

Speaker Pelosi

Well that didn't take long. Pelosi isn't even Speaker yet and she's already pushing tax hikes and minimum wage increases.

The abysmal state of the Republican congressional leadership has left me no choice but to wish for a Democratic takeover of Congress. Stuff like this, however, is a sobering reminder of how unpleasant that's going to be.

October 02, 2006

The Republican Party of today.

"Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves." -- Ronald Reagan

"My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them." -- Barry Goldwater

If we needed any further evidence that the Republican Party of Reagan and Goldwater is a thing of the past, we need look no further than today's news.

US President George W. Bush this week is expected to sign a bill making it harder to place bets on the Internet, a practice which already is illegal in the United States.

Bush was expected to act quickly after Congress approved the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act making it illegal for financial institutions and credit card companies to process payments to settle Internet bets. It also created stiff penalties for online wagers.

So why was this law so urgently needed?

"If Congress had not acted, gamblers would soon be able to place bets not just from home computers, but from their cell phones while they drive home from work or their Blackberries as they wait in line at the movies," [Jim] Leach said.

Yeah. So?

Hey, guess what?

I'm in the dentist's chair as I write this. Isn't technology cool?


So now Mark Foley is checking into rehab, citing "alcoholism" and "related behavioral problems." Sorry, but that's just crap. If every alcoholic were to resign from Congress, we'd never have another quorum again. Tumbleweeds would roll about on the Senate floor.

And on behalf of heavy drinkers everywhere, I'm offended. Mark Foley has a helluva lot more problems than a fondness for booze. No matter how drunk I've been in my life, I've never once hit on 16-year-old boys as a result. You might be able to employ "I was drunk" as an excuse for hitting on your boss's secretary at a Christmas party, but hitting on underage former staffers? Sorry, I'm not buying it. Foley may well be an alcoholic, but he's hiding behind it, in the same way that Jim McGreevey hid his true sins behind his homosexuality. Pathetic and transparent.

Anyway, the most amusing (if predictable) part of the whole sordid affair has been reading the lefty blogs trying to make the case that Foley's perversion is purely a function of party affiliation. Here is my favorite comment yet on the whole matter, taken from one of my favorite lefty blogs.

Pederastic piece of shit ought to be hung up by his balls.

But only because he's a Republican. If he was a Dem, I'd ask him to seek help for his problem.

I LOL'd when I read that, but I was convinced it had to be a Republican troll. After reviewing some other posts by the same author, however, I'm forced to conclude that it's not. It's merely an all-too-common manifestation of the hyperpartisan times we live in. Cool, huh?