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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Other items 

Now that I have finished my rant...does anyone know how to get in touch with Paul Imboden? The email I have for him doesn't work. I want to let him know about Elena and I coming to visit. Of course, you aare all invited to hang out as well. We'll becoming in April 22 and flying out April 25th.
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Success 

Well, I would argue that any life lost due to the lies of those in power is probably too much from an ethical standpoint. And make no bones about it, this was an occupation and war that was built solely upon falsehoods. As discussed ad infinitum before, there was absolutely no connection between Iraq and the attacks of 9/11/01. In addition, The Bushistas ginned the intelligence up to make it appear that Iraq posed a much larger threat than the actual intelligence agencies believed. So to sum up: No connection to the attacks on Sept 11 and intelligence that was exaggerated in order to encourage the United States population to support a war.

Now I actually would have been much more supportive of the war if it had been pitched as a humanitarian intervention, but it wasn't. The simple fact of the matter is that if the war had been sold that way, the US population wouldn't have supported it, because, quite frankly, Americans very rarely can be talked into paying attention to the plight of others no matter how bad the situation is (see: Rwanda, Genocide.) And it’s getting set to happen again, with “1,000 people…dying each week in Sudan


If you want to believe that this is some sort of fantastical, magical stop on the Disney ride of liberation of oppressed people, when will you begin advocating for a US invasion of Uzbekistan, where the US currently operates a military base and political prisoners are occasionally boiled to death?

Like you, I'm not trying to be snarky, but understand this: I grew up around the military and I hate seeing soldiers die for lies. This is an all-volunteer force and they volunteered in the understanding that political leaders would do the correct thing and not send them to war with a lack of evidence. This faith has been betrayed on behalf of political interests and a misguided attempt to ‘transform’ the Middle East. The Bushistas are now trying to cover that failure by couching the terms of the invasion in some sort of moral stance that they were never intended to be.

And don't kid yourself that it's just a few bad things that are happening: Violence against women has sharply increased. A top US general has "raise(d) (the) spectre of Iraq civil war." Falluja has begun to look more and more like Mogadishu, with Iraqis dragging bodies through the street.

As for your ‘good points’: We aren’t doing a whole lot better in some areas. The TNR piece talks about “the interim constitution provides the Iraqi people with a number of precious freedoms that they have not known: freedom of press, assembly, speech, and religion” Too bad, we’re actually shutting down newspapers we don’t like. TNR also mentions that 56 percent of Iraqis responded that things are going better today than they were before the war. Let that sink in for a moment...56 percent...So given a standard margin error on a survey (+/- 4%) somewhere between 40% and 48% of Iraqis think that they aren't better off. This is after the American populace was told that we would be greeted with roses and cheering crowds. Hell, according to that at least 40% of the population wishes we hadn't invaded. Doesn't sound like such great news to me. When I invade a country, I want the vast majority of the population to be grateful. They emntion that a doctor practicing in Baghdad toward the end of Saddam's regime made around 4,000 dinars per month. The same doctor today makes between 200,000 — 500,000 dinars per month." This kind of ignores the fact that inflation is at 28% and before that it was at 50%...hardly the sign of a stable economy. Add in at least 25% unemployment although it may be as high as 60% and you have an unstable economy to try and build on. The Guardian piece mentions that Iraqis were being tortured from 1979 on. That didn't stop Rumsfeld from visiting Iraq in 1983 as a special envoy of President Regan. So yeah, there have been some 'good' things, but don't think that they can make up for the bad.

So the short answer is that it can NEVER be a 'success' in my eyes. It can only be less of a failure. This was an imperialist adventure that was undertaken with the support of the populace only gained through the use of lies. The aftermath of the war wasn't planned for properly and it is only in retrospect that hawks have tried to turn it into some sort of moral crusade on behalf of 'oppressed people' everywhere. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Anyone who thinks that this was a just war and a small price to pay is welcome to go sign up for the Army. Lord knows they need the help: 5 more 1st Infantry Division soldiers were killed today.
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Success 

I'm glad we're discussing success in Iraq - some great examples follow:

Health Ministry

An end to state-sponsored torture

Iraqis are better off now and their lives are getting better

The 600 deaths thus far is tragic. It's aweful. Especially the grusome murders that took place today. When I look at that number, I also think it's amazing to consider all that has been accomplished while limiting US casualties to 600 in a year of operations.

I'm curious to know all of your opinions on what price (in soldiers lives) is too heavy a price to pay for what the US has accomplished. At what level does it go from failure to success in your eyes? I'm not asking to be snarky or rhetorical, honestly. But if one can concede that a lot of good things have happened in Iraq in the past year (and some bad things too), then we should figure out if those good things are worth what we paid for them.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd love to have a wholistic, big-picture discussion on the matter.

(please excuse the terms "price" & "paid" - can't think of a better term - no disrespect to the value of lives intended)


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I've got to stop linking to the NYT, but this one is good... 

Click!
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Look! More "Success"! 

50 U.S. Soldiers dead this month.

For those of you keeping track at home, that makes 700 total for all the coalition forces.

599 of those are U.S.

March was the third deadliest month since the "end of major combat operations" with 1.61 dead soldiers per day.

If anyone is feeling generous, donate to the USO, so that they can send care packages. Apparently powdered Gatorade and Top Ramen are in great demand according to my folks.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Games 

I know I'm really behind the times and all, but I just bought Grand Theft Auto III on a whim. First computer game I ever bought. It's pretty fun so far... We'll se how long that lasts. Most annoying part so far is how slow the dude runs.
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Google and Blogger 

Did everyone else know that Blogger is a service of Google? I didn't.

http://www.google.com/options/index.html


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RE: Admin Stuff 

These links don't appear to be random- they seem to be the result of some auto-search for the same name. It's quite frightening to think I might be related to the guy my link points to.

I'll come up with a more appropriate/interesting link for you soon, Eli. Thanks for doing this.
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Monday, March 29, 2004

Forget the CIA test 

According to this test I'm best suited to run a city that floats in the skies of bespin
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Bill Safire is a must read today!
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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Jen & Jer: Back from Vacation 

Phil, Adrienne, Jen and I are sitting in Ft. Lauderdale Airport waiting for our return flights. The last seven days were spent having fun in the Western Caribbean.

The four of us went kayaking in Key West on Monday.

Tuesday, Jen and I went speed boating in Cozumel, Mexico. I felt like James Bond going as fast as the boat could go. We were airborne a number of times and Jen was a little nervous. After the speed boats, we were given a free sailing lesson on an 18 Ft. Hobie Cat. This was a blast, but I lost my wedding ring during an "attack".

Wednesday we were at sea, which gave me time to run in the gym on the cruise ship. We spent the rest of the day laying out and relaxing.

Thursday brought us to Roatan, Honduras. This was my first experience in Central America. The environment was beautiful, but the island was very impoverished. There was a ton of building. If anyone is interested in investing in Central American property, Roatan is a good idea.
We went to the beach and had a very nice day.

Friday, we were in Grand Cayman. The weather was very windy and our planned excursion was canceled, so we went to the island and hung out. The beach was absolutely beautiful. Jen and I picked out a new wedding ring to replace mine.

Saturday, back at sea and having a relaxing day out of the sun. The Grand Cayman sun was very potent, and Jen was burnt pretty bad.

Which brings us to today. We went to the Everglades and now we're at the airport.

Hope everybody had a good weekend.

Jer
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Friday, March 26, 2004

Admin Stuff 

How does Gary know so much about blogging?...

Please e-mail me if you want me to add your e-mail to the left column rather than a link to a random site, at which point I'll have to figure out how to code e-mail links. Mine is varol74@sbcglobal.net. I'll work on the comments feature this weekend.
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Interesting Article 

For any of you who have some time to kill, I found this article on Cambodian dissidents quite interesting.

Click!

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Comments 

I was also thinking about adding a comments feature to our posts, but I'm not sure. I don't think we really get enough traffic for that. What do you all think?

Yes, please add. Haloscan is free and easy.

You should also consider adding the following features:

The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem

A Site Search System

Listing on Blogwise

Listing on Blogshares

Including one click "E-Mail Me" buttons for each user (i.e. Click here to email Jeremy, etc...) but you'd want to check to make sure that people are cool with that first.

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What I would do if I was a spook... 

According to the CIA...

*Scientists, Engineers and Technologists
*Clandestine Service
*Language Positions
*Analytical Positions
*Professional Positions
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Adventures in Slumlording 

So I decided to fix the bathtub in one of my apartment units on Monday. I knew it was a problem, but when I stopped by on Sunday to check it out I saw a 1'x1' hole above the tub straight into the closet of the adjoining apartment, not to mention water dripping into the basement. "Oh shit" was all I could think.

First reaction was to call a plumber, but then I rethought the matter. Half the point of buying this place was to try put in some of the work myself to improve it and learn as much as possible in the process. So I jumped on Lowe's website.

** Lowe's website is awesome. They have these great do-it-yourself guides to home improvement projects**

I started at 8am Monday. Ripped out tile, ripped out rotted drywall (what was left of it). And tried to remove the bathtub fixtures (Only accomplished after a friend came by with a theading torch). To make a long story short, I made 2 trips to Menards and 4 trips to Ace Hardware, broke the cold water valve, and didn't get out of there until 8:30 pm with no break and no lunch. But in the end, I managed to replace the mixing valves, put up new greenboard (waterproof drywall), and install one of those plastic shower tub enclosures.

The craziest part is when you first start ripping out tile/drywall. Especially since I had little clue what I was doing and where this would go. I knew I had to get something done THAT DAY since the tenants would be home later and this was their only bathroom. I coudn't give up when I screwed up (which I did a # of times) or was missing a tool and say "screw it, I'll finish later."

I would classify my work as "not great but hopefully adequite". I have my fingers crossed that the tenant wont call in a few days saying the tub fell through the floor to the basement because I messed up the plumbing. But the next time I have to do this kind of work, it should be quite a bit easier.

If anyone wants to have a good time ripping apart my apartment units and learning home-improvement the hard way, please let me know. I'd be happy to share to fun...
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Name Links 

Amy, your wish is my command. If anyone else wants their link changed, please tell me!

I was also thinking about adding a comments feature to our posts, but I'm not sure. I don't think we really get enough traffic for that. What do you all think?
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san francisco treats 

amy- go to chinatown for dim sum at Pearl City (641 Jackson). work it off by walking up to Coit tower, stop in Little Italy for tiramisu on your way back down. go to golden gate park - particularly the exploratorium and the japanese tea garden. cross the bay & go to berkeley's telegraph avenue for books, music, & people watching. rent a car and go to big sur or muir beach.

and yes, we are going to see a cubs game - my step-father has a membership at the ivy league club and we're having a party there for my mom's birthday on the 24th.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

dihydrogen monoxide 

It's the next thing everyone needs to worry about...or not. I found this story amusing. Elena & Gary-I'm glad you're visiting Chi-town. I'm sorry I'll miss you-I hope my excuse about being 1,000 miles away is a good one. Elena, I will be in San Francisco shortly after your trip, if you have any suggestions as to what we should see or do, please send 'em on.
Are you going to a Cubs game? *sigh*
Eli-per your suggestion, I was trying to think up different ways we can "spruce up" the website so that it may garner the attention it deserves. I noticed that our alter ego links on the sides, with the exception of Elena's are all pretty beige. Is there any way my marriage councilor from San Antonio link could be taken down, and this be put in its place? Much obliged.
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sweet home . . . well, you know the song 

Just giving advance warning that Gary & I will be back in town for a weekend at the end of April. So, depending how you feel about seeing us, clear your schedule or start concocting excuses for avoiding us.
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Friday, March 19, 2004

today is fun link day 

new hyperlink sound effect...

blurp!
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From the "creepy" file 

I don't know how I feel about this....
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We were Dissed! 

The latest issue of Chicago Magazine has a one-pager about Chicago Blogs. I think if you had to choose one adjective to describe us, it would be "Chicago". After all, we don't share political viewpoints, hobbies, religion, schools, or anything else (that's a good thing - think diversity!).

So the article lists a couple of sites that catelog Chicago based blogs:
chicago.creativecanvas.com
www.chicagobloggers.com

They go on to list 4 bloggers:
smartypants.diaryland.com - boring
www.fuckcorporategroceries.net - awesome
www.wrybrarian.com - predictable
www.houseinprogress.net - pretty good

Hey, what about Daniel Drezner?

And what about US!!!! ... Totally Jipped.
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Career Director responses 

Whee-ha! I could work in IT at the CIA!

As opposed to working in IT in a finance company...
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St. Patrick Days blues 

How far Purdue has fallen this year... from top 25 to not even making it into even a low seed...

How un-lucky for the Boilers to face an in-state rivalry team, the Fighting Irish, on St. Patrick's day itself...


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well, if the marketing thing doesn't work out . . . 

if gary & i stop talking about our jobs, it's a good bet we've become spies.

Language Positions in which you rated: Good Match
Clandestine Service in which you rated: Excellent Match

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The Agency here I come! 

According to the CIA:

Based on your responses, you may want to explore:

Clandestine Service in which you rated: Excellent Match

Professional Positions in which you rated: Excellent Match


How do you rate?


I'm thinking of applying as a "Collection Management Officer"
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Go Salukis 

I'm thinking SIU will beat Stanford in the second round. What do you all think about those potatos?
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Bill Safire is a good read today 

Click!
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Happy St. Pat's Day All! 

Hope you all enjoy your green beer today and let's all wish Rob Lowe a happy 40th B-day!
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Happy St. Patrick's Day 

I really like Google's front banner today:

Happy St.Patrick's Day

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Monday, March 15, 2004

Don't they have better things to do? 

Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.


Source: Time Magazine

Just think of that when you see Bush posing at some airport with TSA guards. People are being taken away from their jobs, trying to prevent a terrorist attack, so that GWB can pose in front of the camera.
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Kentucky Derby 

Looks like Elena and I can't make it to the Derby this year due to the fact that we are planning on moving neighbourhoods around then. If anyone is interested in buying my grandstand tickets please e-mail me. The tickets aren't great, but they are assigned seats to the best 2 minutes in sports.
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oh. my. god. 

well, his god actually. for a full analysis, see world o' crap.

i can't believe we share server space with this kid. check out the section on theomony.
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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Thanks for Asking 

Krauthammer
I like Mr. Krauthammer a lot. I've been reading him for about 4 years or so. Admittedly, his writing of late has been a bit sloppy. He's published a number of "my opponents are hypocrites and stupid" type editorials lately, which I hate reading no matter who's side they're arguing. I think one's arguments lose a lot of weight when they center around how your opponents are wrong instead of focusing on why you're right. I'm thinking his writing is suffering due to his frequent appearances on TV of late. But overall, his writing is very intelligent and insightful. I would highlight his body of work regarding stem cell research and his writings regarding middle east politics. As for his failure to include laughter - added later, sorry, E.V. in a referenced quote, what can I say. I have a feeling you can dig up those kind of errors/ommisions on anyone.

Brooks
Doesn't really strike me as too partisan. He's on records with some pretty harsh criticisms of Republicans as well as Democrats. Like Friedman, he has a great talent for eloquent writing, but where Friedman can be predictable, Brooks writes about all kinds of subjects and issues. I skimmed the Daily Howler article. If I got the gist of it, the author takes issuie to Brooks concern with anti-semitism being behind criticism over defense department influence in the current administration. Here's a quote from the end:

But why did people “fixate” on that little think-tank? Duh! Because people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were its members! Do you really think it’s strange to believe that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz “influenced” policy?

I'd suspect Brook's response would be "No, it's not strange to believe that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz influenced policy. But to focus and dwell on Jewish defense department employees and describe them as a cabal of plotting Stausians who are secretly controlling the executive office reeks of anti-semitism, no matter how latent or disguised. I wish this was the uncommon ranting of oddballs, but the words are taken from the likes of Georgie Ann Geyer and Molly Ivens among others. It's taken as dogmatic fact by many. And it's classic Shylock stuff. And if it looks, smells, and feels like anti-semitism, then I shouldn't hesitate to describe it accurately." Of course this is just my guess of what Brooks would say.

Peace out - Eli
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Friday, March 12, 2004

My Score 

82.5
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our banner ads 

they're still related to social security financing - but how long until they feature ads for VH1 and MTV?

I think my score would have been even lower is I hadn't such a fondness for Human League and School House Rock - those two brought my score up by at least 6 pts.
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80's master 

I got 85.5 on the 80's song quiz, I got robbed on two answers because I
didn't capitalize the words. This kind of quiz is tailored for me, as I was just the right age to listen to tons of pop music through the entire stretch.

The million dollar bill was shown on Yahoo news via the AP- it's the #1 most popular picture on the site yesterday, so it was easy to find & reference.

(I never realized anyone would see my Monty Python quote so easily- I put it in the link for filler)
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my shame is unbearable 

i only got a 49 in 80s music knowledge . . .but at least I have the excuses of having been born in the 80s and living without cable for most of my life. If only there had been a few talking heads/ english beat/ omd references.
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Bad news for indie rockers 

Looks like bassist Dave Blood from the Dead Milkmen has killed himself. Not much measured up against the bombings in Spain, but I have fond memories of listening to the Dead Milkmen when I was younger. Too bad indeed.

Via Suburban Guerilla.
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Thursday, March 11, 2004

59 

is what I got on the eighties music quiz Take a gander...
Chris-the million dollar bill makes me happy. Where did you find it?
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Okay then 

I'll be happy to let it slide. But if you think that "extreme partisanship detracts from his credibility” I'm curious about your opinion of Krauthammer, whom you have referenced before, after you read this column and this debunking of the column. It takes a special kind of partisanship to doctor transcripts to make your opponent seem psychologically ill.

And don’t forget David Brooks, whom you have also quoted, attempt to smear antiwar opponents with the brush of anti-Semitism, a new low in extreme partisanship detracting from his credibility.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

ugg 

Gar-dog, I do think the word lying would be inappropriate. But let's give this one up. I think Krugman's extreme partisanship detracts from his credibility. You agree with most of what he writes. I can live with that.

On to more important stuff...
When you roll the cursur over the fake $1,000,000 bills that Chris posted, it says "nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!". That is the most random thing I've seen here so far...

Fun hobby:
If you go to www.blogger.com, there are links on the left to blogs that just posted. It's quite a trip to just surf to random people's blogs. About 1/3 are in foreign languages and another 1/3 are painful-to-read ramblings of teanagers. Every once in a while you find a really whacked-out blog. Yesterday I was reading one by a mildly retarded guy who works at the Kroger Deli. It was all about his love interests and his obsession with this one girl. I guess this is kind of voyeuristic, but on the other hand it's on the frickin internet...
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Funny news article 

Here's a funny article about some website hacks that made it all the way to the TV screen

And if that's not funny enough for you, here are some pictures what the little 'wags' actually wrote.

short aside- I had to republish my previous article half a dozen times to get it right. sheesh, time to go home.






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RE: whose face is on the $1,000,000 bill?  

Elena, per your request:

nobody expects the spanish inquisition!


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"I'll take the Lincoln bedroom for $2,000 Alex..." 

Main Entry: stun·ning
Pronunciation: 'st&-ni[ng]
Function: adjective
1 : causing astonishment or disbelief
2 : strikingly impressive especially in beauty or excellence
- stun·ning·ly /-ni[ng]-lE/ adverb

Main Entry: hy·poc·ri·sy
Pronunciation: hi-'pä-kr&-sE also hI-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -sies
Etymology: Middle English ypocrisie, from Old French, from Late Latin hypocrisis, from Greek hypokrisis act of playing a part on the stage, hypocrisy, from hypokrinesthai to answer, act on the stage, from hypo- + krinein to decide -- more at CERTAIN
1 : a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion
2 : an act or instance of hypocrisy

Emphasis mine

Stunning Hypocrisy: In a debate with Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) in October 2000, Bush said: "I believe they've moved that sign, 'The buck stops here,' from the Oval Office desk to 'The buck stops here' on the Lincoln Bedroom. And that's not good for the country."

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Hacktackular 

So let me see if I get this straight...you seem to agree with me that Greenspan was intellectually dishonest. You call it "sloppy math," but I'm pretty sure that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve can afford a calculator, or a whole team of economists for that matter. So can we agree to call it intellectual dishonesty? Or would the word lying be more correct? I think you would also agree with me that the tax cuts that Greenspan supported were the work of Republicans, the right wing party in American politics. And yes, I know that some Dems voted for them as well, but they were passed at the urging of a Republican prResident, with a Republican controlled House and Senate. The Senate was briefly controlled by Dems, true, but has mostly been in the hands of the Repubs.

To reiterate: Greenspan advocated raising taxes that are regressive and fall disproportionately on the back of the poor and middle class (payroll taxes as discussed before). He then advocated lowering taxes that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest in society (capital gains, dividend, income as discussed before). As a final shot, he then urged cutting benefits that the poor and middle class had already been promised as part of raising their taxes (as discussed before).

So intellectual dishonesty in support of policies advocated by one wing of the political spectrum isn't allowed to be called partisan hackery? Especially when done by an individual who is supposed to be nonpartisan? You may not like Krugmans political stance, but I’ll reiterate one thing: He’s not the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board! He writes a newspaper column! He’s not in charge of monetary policy for the largest economy in the world! If Krugman ever gets to that point and acts in such a blatently partisan manor, I’ll be disapponted with him as well. You seem to think that it’s okay for Greenspan to engage in this sort of partisan sniping, even when he is supposed to be nonpartisan, but Krugman shouldn’t, when all he is doing is writing a newspaper column.

And yeah, I guess you could say that we’re engaging in class warfare, just as the Repubs are. I just happen to think the poor should win for once.
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whose face is on the $1,000,000 bill? 

That's what I want to know.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

More on Dr. K 

Gar wins post of the month. I just cant compete with that. It's clear and very well put together. You're basically saying that medicare is underfunded, especially with benefits being added to it and taxes being cut. And that it's sloppy math to try associate it with Social Security.

But that's not really what Krugman was writing about. I reread the article and failed to find mention of the points you make in your post. Here are quotes from his article:

Finally, the right-wing corruption of our government system — the partisan takeover of institutions that are supposed to be nonpolitical — continues, and even extends to the Federal Reserve.

The Bush White House has made it clear that it will destroy the careers of scientists, budget experts, intelligence operatives and even military officers who don't toe the line.

So the class warriors of the right engaged in bait-and-switch.

This reads like an editorial hit-job. Krugman links everything into a vast right wing conspiracy, as he does in most of his editorials. Basically, anyone who says right-wingers are evil, or left-wingers are evil looses credibility in my book. I'm just not gullible enough to buy it. Krugman's article would actually make sense if he just stuck to the economic analysis that made him famous before his NYT days. Why can't he just write "Medicare is underfunded due to tax cuts and increased benefits. It's cautionable for Alan Greenspan to relate Social Security to it. It's also cautionable for Democratic presidential candidates to promise expansion of these benefits while the resources don't exist." But when he adds his Republicans=Evil commentary and is unwilling to be an equal opportunity whiner, he looses the attention of me (and I suspect most NYT readers).

Krugman is a very smart guy. And his ability to get people to read about economics is admirable. But his blind partisanship is not. Here's a link to a pretty good analysis of Dr. K.
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Lets Try Again 

Okay, let me see if I can make it clear this time:

1983: Payroll taxes are increased to pay for future benefits. Social Security taxes were raised from 5.4% in 1983 to 6.2% by 1990 (1.1% increase) and have remained there since. Hospital Insurance tax rates (Medicare) taxes were raised from 1.3% in 1983 to 1.45% (.15% increase) by 1986 and have remained at that level since. SOURCE. Social Security builds a surplus to help pay for the upcoming wave of Baby Boomer retirements. It continues to run this surplus to this day (2004) and at current projections the trust fund would not be out of cash and treasury bills until about 2042. Medicare on the other hand is barely able to pay for itself, as taxes were, in effect raised hardly at all and increased revenues are dependent on increased wages being paid to end employees.

2001/2002/2003: Bush cuts tax rates on income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend income and corporate taxes. These are separate taxes from the payroll taxes that were increased starting in 1983. Payroll taxes remain the same. Deficits soar in the general federal budget, mostly due to these Bush tax decreases. Social Security remains in surplus and funds some of the deficit in the general fund by buying T-Bills as discussed in my previous post.

End of 2003: Huge new Medicare bill passed. When the bill was debated and passed, it was sold as costing $400 billion over a decade. The House of Representatives held the vote open for 3 hours, well past the usual 15-minute deadline for Congresscritters to record their votes. In the process, unknown individuals attempted to bribe a sitting congressman with $100,000 so that he would vote yes. The bill passed by 2 votes. The bill was passed with no source of funding for the programs.

2004: The cost of the Medicare bill over a decade is now estimated to cost $530 billion over a decade, or nearly 1/3 more than had been mentioned when the bill was debated and passed. This came less than two months after passage.

2004: Alan Greenspan testifies before Congress and suggests that they consider cutting benefits for both Social Security and Medicare due to the large budget deficits. As noted above these deficits are structural in nature and caused primarily by large cuts to income, capital gains and dividend taxes that disproportionately benefit the best off in society. In addition to these tax cuts a large Medicare bill was passed with no source of funding.

So to summarize: Greenspan disingenuously linked Social Security and Medicare, suggesting that benefits for both be cut, despite the fact that Social Security is actually doing pretty well at the moment. He suggested doing this because of long term structural deficits, which are mostly caused by cuts to taxes that are separate from the source of funding for Social Security. Tax cuts that Greenspan supported. All of this is not to say that I believe that this is some sort of a 21 year plot on Greenspans part. What it is, however, is intellectually dishonest. What would have been the honest thing to say is:

“We have a long term structural deficit both in general federal spending and in Medicare due to the large bill recently passed. What needs to be done to fix the structural deficit is either reduce discretionary spending (i.e. Defense spending, spending on the INS, the FDA, the CDC, etc.) or raise non payroll taxes (i.e. income taxes, capital gains, etc) to cover the deficit. What should be done to pay the cost of the new Medicare bill is either to raise the Hospital Insurance tax rate from 1.45% to a level high enough to cover the expected cost or to reduce the benefits to a point where they can be covered by current inlays from the HI tax.”

Is that clear? There are two pools of money. Because one of the pools is “loosing” cash (the general federal budget + Medicare), we need to stop people from drinking as much from the second pool (Social Security). This is despite the fact that the second pool currently has more cash coming in than going out and is in fact feeding cash to the first pool.
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Monday, March 08, 2004

Good Points Gary, But I'm Not Convinced 

Gary,
I don't offend easily. Don't worry about me.

Thanks for pointing out the error in referencing medicare instead of social security. I'm not sure if this changes too much though. There's still a major point A to point B disconnect here. 1983: Greenspan advocates increasing payroll tax to sustain Medicare and Social Security. 2003: Bush cuts taxes. 2004: Greenspan says benefits need to be cut in order to maintain program's solvency. That's all I am observing from Krugman's editorial and your commentary. But Krugman phrases it like it was a one-two punch. As if in 1983 Greenspan already knew that he would be Federal Reserve Chairman 21 years later and was planning to cut benefits all along. That's ludacris. I don't see anything that can be read into this, especially any nefarious plotting to screw the little guy.
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Preemptive 

Sorry if my last post sounds overly shrill, but this is the type of thing that chaffes me to no end.
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Krugman vs. Greenspan 

OK, Gary. I went back and read the Krugman article, a couple times. I have a couple questions about it.

Ask away!

First, I don't understand what point about Greenspan he was trying to make. My understanding of Greenspan's recent speech was that he said the extention of Medicare benefits for perspriction drugs was unaffordable and could bankrupt the program.

Wrong! Greenspans comments were directed at Social Security and Medicare. Krugman took on Greenspans comments related just to Social Security. If you combine Medicare with anything it looks bad due the very low tax rates charged to pay for Medicare (1.45%), unlike the higher rates paid for Social Security (6.2% up to $87,900 in income). But I can understand you confusion, due to the fact that Sully, whom I know you enjoy reading, implied that Krugman was talking about Medicare. As a ‘professional pundit’ that means that Sully is either too stupid to understand what was said or is lying to his audience. Which do you think it was?

Fair enough. It sound like a major rebuke of Bush's plan to me. A plan that is a scaled down version of what most Democrats argued for. It seams to me that Krugman distorts this picture into a duplicitous arrangement between Bush and Greenspan to "starve the beast". I'm not sure how he gets from point A to point B here.

See above. He was talking about a completely separate program. A program which in 1983, Greenspan advocated increasing payroll taxes to pay for. Congress went ahead and raised payroll taxed per the suggestion of the committe that Greenspan cochaired. The short version is that at the time we were simply taking in enough money to pay for current benefits, but not ‘saving’ any money in SS. Greenspan wanted to raise payroll taxes so that we could build a surplus in Social Security to help pay for future benefits. In short, some of the payroll dollars were supposed to be set aside to pay future benefits for current workers. The excess cash in SS was loaned to the general fund of the federal government through Treasury bills. So far, so good. Excess cash comes in through higher taxes then is loaned out to the rest of the federal government at a decent interest rate. At some point in the future, the amount of money coming in from payroll taxes will be overtaken by the benefits that need to be paid out. At that point, the Treasury bills that SS holds will need to start to be redeemed, thus taking cash away from the general government revenues. What Greenspan is advocating is reducing promised benefits that have already been paid for! In short, having people pay in advance for something that aren’t going to get. Why? Because he wants to maintain the BushCo tax cuts that reduce the amount of revenue available to pay the Treasury bills that SS holds. Still with me?

The second item that confuses me is this statement:
The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle- and lower-income families than it does on the rich.
A workers who make $25,000 pays 10.3% in payroll tax, or roughly $2,500. A worker who makes $150,000 pays 6.7%, or roughly $10,000; 4 times what the low income worker pays. Yet their net benefit is pretty much equal. Payroll tax was intended as a safetey net for the downtrodden and unfortunate. It's evolved into a kind of income redistribution system. I'm not sure how Krugman can say this burdens the poor more than it does the rich. Is he saying that it's not redistributing enough from wealthy to poor?


I’m not sure where you got these numbers, as the SSA (Social Security Administration) has announced that the rates for 2004 are 6.2% for earning up to $87,900 (these are for Social Secuity only. If you include Medicare rates then the numbers change). So lets work through the numbers using that 6.2% figure. The SS payroll tax is capped at $87,900. What this means is that every dollar of income above that level is exempt from SS payroll taxes and is just subject to traditional income tax rates and Medicare tax rates of 1.45%. So your worker making $150,000 actually only pays $5,449.80 at a 6.2% rate ($87,900 x 6.2%) The worker making $25,000 pays $1,550 ($25,000 x 6.2%). Thus, the higher income worker pays 3.516 times as much payroll tax ($5,449.80/$1,550), despite making a salary 6 times higher. This is what is meant by regressive taxation. It falls proportionately more on those earning less money, even if they are paying less in absolute terms. Looked at another way, the person making $25K pays 6.2% of his earned income into SS, while the person making $150K pays 3.63% of his earned income into SS ($5,449.90/$150,000). Seem fair to you? Of course all of that leaves out the effect of unearned income such as dividend income and capital gains that are not subject to payroll taxes at all.

So what we have is a poor worker, making $25,000 paying higher payroll taxes in the expectation of future benefits. Greenspan wants to cut these promised benefits, but not reduce payroll taxes that were raised to pay for them. Why does he wants to do this? To accommodate a tax reduction that benefits the man making $150,000 who already has $62,100 in income sheltered from SS payroll taxes to begin with and has just seen a dramatic reduction in his income tax rates. That’s what’s wrong.

Double sigh.


Updated at 1:09 ET to clarify and exand some thoughts.

That's all my ranting for now. Thanks for listening and good night!
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Sunday, March 07, 2004

More on Krugman 

OK, Gary. I went back and read the Krugman article, a couple times. I have a couple questions about it.

First, I don't understand what point about Greenspan he was trying to make. My understanding of Greenspan's recent speech was that he said the extention of Medicare benefits for perspriction drugs was unaffordable and could bankrupt the program. Fair enough. It sound like a major rebuke of Bush's plan to me. A plan that is a scaled down version of what most Democrats argued for. It seams to me that Krugman distorts this picture into a duplicitous arrangement between Bush and Greenspan to "starve the beast". I'm not sure how he gets from point A to point B here.

The second item that confuses me is this statement:
The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle- and lower-income families than it does on the rich.
A workers who make $25,000 pays 10.3% in payroll tax, or roughly $2,500. A worker who makes $150,000 pays 6.7%, or roughly $10,000; 4 times what the low income worker pays. Yet their net benefit is pretty much equal. Payroll tax was intended as a safetey net for the downtrodden and unfortunate. It's evolved into a kind of income redistribution system. I'm not sure how Krugman can say this burdens the poor more than it does the rich. Is he saying that it's not redistributing enough from wealthy to poor?
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Friday, March 05, 2004

Sorry Kate 

I read my last post. It does sound kind of rude. My apologies to all.
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Shadow Government 

Ezra Klein has a great idea up about a way to extend the brand, if you will, of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Mr. John Kerry. I'm surely not the only one who has wondered before why this had not been done, so it's nice to see Ezra take it head on. I would modify some of his choices (Sam Nunn for SecState...why? I think Clark would be better in that role. Also, there should be people other than old white men), but on the whole it's a wonderful idea that I hope Kerry adopts. You have your team in place and even if announce only 6 positions, that means that you can have 4 people out campaigning on any given day, while 1 gets to rest and 1 is at a fundraiser.
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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Catching Up 

I have not read the blog since the middle of February and I was just streaming through it and I have a question. Eli, why are you so critical of what others type? You seem to make negative comments rather often. Of course, I usually look at the dim side of life so it may just be my glum perception. I think it is interesting because in person, I feel, that you are not confrontational. Do you have some unresolved anger from your childhood?
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New sources... 

Forgot to respond before.

News, news/news analysis:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Guardian
Atrios
Daily Kos
Brad DeLong
The Daily Howler
Media Whores Online
Talking Points Memo
Salon

Mizzou news:
The STL Post-Dispatch
The KC Star
Tigerboard

Humorous news:
Landover Baptist
Modern Humorist
The Onion
My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable/Get Your War On

Baseball news:
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Musings
Dougs Business of Baseball Website
Redbird Nation
Rob and Rany on The Royals
The Cub Reporter
The Clark & Addison Chronical

More to follow later, including everyones favorite...the Snark news department. Plus the Brooks vs. Krugman grudge match and a deconstruction of Sully!

Updated to correct typos. And when are we going to get a hit counter and comments on this blog dammit?
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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Where I get my news... 

www.andrewsullivan.com
www.instapundit.com
www.nytimes.com
www.oxblog.com
www.techcentralstation.com
www.tnr.com - subscription required now. I used to read this one when it was free
news.yahoo.com
www.jpost.com
www.maarivintl.com
www.danieldrezner.com - for heady academic stuff
www.theonion.com

I'm probably forgetting some...
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Funny 

Hi gang,
I'm loving the posts this week. Great reading material. I'm in Cincinnati tonight. Tomorrow is Aberdeen Ohio and Friday is Coshocton Ohio before returning home. Sigh...

I think it's funny that what some consider great NY Times editorials, others may consider not worth reading... I used to try read Krugman and Dowd. Eventually, I couldn't handle them anymore. I can't get past the first paragraph of their stuff anymore. The constant complaining just annoys me. And the countless predictions of immenent economic failure and recession ring hollow to me. As for Dowd, I think she lives in this crazy alter-reality where her opinions on politicians outfits and her conspiracy theory fantasies actually matter to people.

I am a big fan of David Brooks though. He's the best thing they got going right now. I also recommend William Safire for some true Washington insider insight. He seams to have unlimited connections and access to information that most people don't have.
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hey, I knew Chicago wasn't a state when I moved there 

I just thought it was on the East Coast, in New Jersey or maybe Pennsylvania. Imagine my surprise when I arrived from Berkeley and discovered I was nowhere near an ocean - as if moving at age 12 wasn't bad enough . . . of course, I was born in region 4.
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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

News 

I wanted to link to Salam Pax today considering what has happened in Iraq.

Gary-liked your posts today. The map was priceless, and I'm fond of reading Krugman too.
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My hero... 

Ahhh, Paul Krugman has an excellent column today regarding the tax plans of the Republican Party. Read and be scared. Very, very scared.

Watch as Krugman deconstructs Saint Alan:

Last week Mr. Greenspan warned of the dangers posed by budget deficits. But even though the main cause of deficits is plunging revenue — the federal government's tax take is now at its lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950 — he opposes any effort to restore recent revenue losses. Instead, he supports the Bush administration's plan to make its tax cuts permanent, and calls for cuts in Social Security benefits.

Yet three years ago Mr. Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, warning that otherwise the federal government would run excessive surpluses. He assured Congress that those tax cuts would not endanger future Social Security benefits. And last year he declined to stand in the way of another round of deficit-creating tax cuts.

--Snip--

And the reason Social Security is in fairly good shape is that during the 1980's the Greenspan commission persuaded Congress to increase the payroll tax, which supports the program.

The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle- and lower-income families than it does on the rich. In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, families near the middle of the income distribution pay almost twice as much in payroll taxes as in income taxes. Yet people were willing to accept a regressive tax increase to sustain Social Security.

Now the joke's on them. Mr. Greenspan pushed through an increase in taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used that surplus to argue for tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people, but are worth a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to cut Social Security benefits.


Read the whole thing.
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Hey! 

That's fabulous news Eli & Andrea! Mazl tov!
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Funny indeed! 

A Califonian's Conception of The Continental United States.

How many of you knew that Chicago was a state and that the mighty Mississippi runs right up and down?
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Congrats... 

To Eli and Andrea!
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Monday, March 01, 2004

Peanut! 

Congrats to Eli & Andrea!

You have much fun to look forward to based on my 7 months experience...


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Nice Hair 

Admit it, you've all wanted to do this:

nice hair
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My Weekly Ramblings 

I started my week much like any other- over a
cup of coffee, alternately reading work email and
browsing my regular web pages.

Despite the coffee I always feel a little bit tired.
This is (almost entirely) my fault of course;
I can never seem to get to bed before midnight on any
given night.

During the day, I feel groggy and repentant, yet somehow
ambitious: I tell my self: "I'll go to bed early!
I'll get up early!"; then 11:00 PM rolls around
and I'm way to awake to think about sleeping. Besides,
I have to know what's behind that next link on my browser!
The rest is fairly predictable: I go to bed between 12:00 and
12:30, and then get up at 7:30 after 3 hits to the snooze button.
It's a vicious cycle- vicious, I tell you!

Here's something unusual: we got some mail last
week giving us notice that there's going to be
a movie being shot on our street this week.
True to their word, the street was cleared of
parked cars over the weekend, and at 5:15 this morning
the street was lined on both sides with large rumbling
trucks. I'll be looking around for the next year
or so to find out what movie and actors cost me
more than an hour's sleep this morning (see, it's not
entirely my fault!)

The news today is sparse and uninteresting to me.
I typically troll the Science and/or Technology articles
at the New York Times, and then pick up news articles
from My Yahoo (typically AP or Reuters). I visit
the "Most Popular" section to see what images or
news articles are really on other people's minds.
It really shows people's interests are pretty basic
based on this, the current most-popular picture for today.


Where do you guys go for news?

I've completely missed this season of college basketball.
Much like the last 4 or 5 seasons. It's not that I'm
uninterested, just that I can't keep up with it.
I had an inlking that IU was doing badly and that Purdue
was doing relatively well. But in the Big 10 conference,
there's little difference in their standings (7-7 vs 6-8).
The big difference seems to be Purdue's non-conference games
(17-10 overall vs. 12-13) Wait. IU is < .500 overall! Egad!
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