Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tax Burdens and Progressivity

If you're like most people you've recently completed your tax returns, so this may be a good time to think about the tax structure, and how much "we" pay, wherever we are on the income and wealth scale.

Naturally, the Republicans, tools of the rich that they are, have been arguing for decades that we slash taxes in general and radically reduce the share paid by the rich. Meanwhile, of course, there share of the take generated by our economy, or, to put it another way, their share of the proceeds of our common efforts, has gone up and up and up. Sometimes some of their loonier ideas, like Steve Forbes's flat tax idea, has been taken up by some of the more credulous representatives of the Left, like Jerry Brown.

Here is a good essay on progressivity and why it's important. It also takes on some of the Right's favorite arguments.

Is the key problem facing our country that the rich are overburdened with taxes, while the rest of us are getting a free ride? To listen to some recent commentary, one might think so. The basis for these arguments, though, is profoundly dishonest. The system that we have is, if anything, doing too little to reduce the incredible imbalance in income distribution in this country

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Surge, Phase Two

Okay, by now you know that the Administration has decided to extend army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan from twelve to fifteen months.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Tours of duty for members of the U.S. Army will be extended from 12 months to 15 months effective immediately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday.

"What we're trying to do here is provide some long-term predictability to our soldiers and their families," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.

Apparently Bob Gates is pissed off that this announcement was leaked prematurely. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates complained bitterly today that "some very thoughtless person" at the Pentagon leaked word about duty extensions for Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates said that the leak robbed the Army "the opportunity to notify unit commanders who could then talk to their troops 48 hours before we made a public announcement."

But get this: according to Tim Grieve, or to one of his regular readers, the real reason he's pissed off is that the timing of this announcement undermines one of their planned talking points: that if the Congressional Democrats don't cave they will be forced to extend tours. This is what Bush said at VMI: "If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May ... Some of our forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended, because other units are not ready to take their places." Now that the story is blown and we know they're already going to extend tours, they can no longer pin it on the defeat-o-crats.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Gonzo Death Watch

The latest news on Alberto Gonzalez:

1. Even Newt Gingrich, that paragon of partisanship, is now saying he has to go.

“You know, the buck has to stop somewhere, and I’m assuming it’s the attorney general and his immediate team,” he said. Asked whether Mr. Gonzales should resign, Mr. Gingrich replied, “I cannot imagine how he is going to be effective for the rest of this administration.”

“I think the country, in fact, would be much better served to have a new team at the Justice Department, across the board,” added Mr. Gingrich, who is reported to be considering a run for the presidency.

2. He's been a total disaster in sessions designed to prepare him for his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony:

During the March 23 session in the A.G.'s conference room, Gonzales was grilled by a team of top aides and advisers—including former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former White House lawyer Tim Flanigan—about what he knew about the plan to fire seven U.S. attorneys last fall. But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over, said the source.

Tick tick tick . . .

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Another instance of reasonable behavior

There's a reason I chose the title I did for this blog. It's not only because we have to resist what's going wrong in the country, but also because rationality is in short supply, and the followers of superstition and delusion always seem to have the upper hand. I know my views are not in the majority, but I can't help noticing it sometimes when religion leads people to bizarre and irrational acts.

Filipinos crucify and whip themselves on Good Friday
POSTED: 3:02 a.m. EDT, April 6, 2007
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CUTUD, Philippines (Reuters) -- More than a dozen Filipinos were nailed to crosses and scores more whipped their backs into a bloody pulp on Friday in a gory ritual to mark the death of Jesus Christ.

The voluntary crucifixions in the northern Philippines were the most extreme displays of religious devotion in this mainly Catholic country, where millions are praying and fasting ahead of the Easter weekend.

A priest from Bangladesh said the ritual was a wonderful experience.

"Through this, faith can be solidified. I was very touched by it," said Father Robert Gonsalves, who is studying in the Philippines.

Sorry, no video.

What does this tell us?

Who knows the truth about the English sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf? Not me, not you, and probably nobody who's listening to the government pronouncements from either England or Iran.

What we do know is that a number of the captives went on Iranian television and said what the Iranians wanted them to say. Let me repeat that: they claim that because they were mistreated, they said what their captors wanted them to say.

“There was a lot of trickery, and mind games being played,” Lt. Felix Carman, 26, of the Royal Navy, said when six of the Britons, freed two days ago, appeared at a news conference on Friday to chronicle for the first time in public a 14-day ordeal that began, by their account, when Iranian Revolutionary Guards apprehended them in Iraqi waters, executing what seemed a planned and heavily armed ambush.

“We were interrogated most nights, and presented with two options,” Lieutenant Carman said. “If we admitted we had strayed, we would be on a plane back to the U.K. soon. If we didn’t we faced up to seven years in prison.”

Who cares?

Well, the Bushies have been telling us for some time that they have to be able to torture people so they can get them to talk, yet here is a story of people who don't seem to have been treated nearly as badly as we've treated people at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo (not to mention those secret locations our friends have maintained for us) and they confessed to everything the Iranians wanted them to confess to. And now they say it's not true.

So what are the odds that the people we're torturing are making stuff up?

Friday, April 06, 2007

If it's Friday . . .

It must be time for another embarrassing revelation from the Bush Administration.

This week it's Monica Goodling, the DOJ staffer who is pleading the Fifth to keep from testifying in Congress.

WASHINGTON, April 6 — Monica Goodling, the Justice Department official who helped coordinate the firings of eight United States attorneys, an episode that has jeopardized the position of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, resigned today.

Ms. Goodling, who has been on leave from her post as the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, told Mr. Gonzales of her decision in a terse letter, a department official said.

Very cute, way they say she told Fredo about her decision, huh?

They are true to form, but don't you think they're kidding themselves if they think throwing any number of people in suits off the cliff will save Fredo?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McCain: stroll anywhere you like in Baghdad

You are probably aware of McCain's bullshit line the other day about how things are just hunky-dory in Baghdad. The surge is working, everything's fine, you could just go for a stroll there in perfect safety.

First off, we know it's a lie. Here's the picture of McCain taking a little stroll in a market in Baghdad.
Pretty much the way you go for a stroll, say to the farmer's market in your town, right?

“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. “The security procedures were abnormal!”

The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees — the equivalent of an entire company — and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.

“They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.”

“like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,” offered Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who was a member of the delegation.

And now get a load of this:

A newborn baby was one of at least 14 children and adults killed when a suicide bomber detonated a lorry laden with explosives close to a primary school in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk yesterday.

The latest massacre of Iraqi children came as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

Sometimes I think these guys are just contemptible. Sometimes they're unspeakably vile.