Wednesday, July 23, 2003

the Vile side

I don't know what I think about the Kobe Bryant accusations (nor, in truth, do any of us at this point, before the facts have been attested to). I do know what I think of the emergent coverage of the story. In that spirit, I recommend this article which buttresses my sense of disgust at so very many angles of this event.

I cannot even begin to imagine what life must now be like for the alleged victim. First she must deal with the trauma associated with the week prior to the 4th of July. Follow that with a situation to which I cannot draw a parallel- a situation which seemingly places one person against the entirety of the nation. Certainly her family and true friends (as opposed to the friends we've seen in the news) are "on her side" as is the local D.A. and numerous support organizations which understand what she is going through. Certainly her circle of support extends beyond this group. We will likely never hear from her supporters. As a nation, we already "know" Kobe Bryant, no need to go digging through his life. Publicly at least (and appropriately given our legal traditions respecting the presumption of innocence) Kobe has not been condemned as a guilty and despicable man. The same cannot be said for the young lady involved. Websites have sprung up, dedicated to trashing her. Major media outlets feel caught between a rock and a hard place- following a legitimate news story while knowingly getting "scooped" on the story (though very little if any of the scooped material is actually relevant and thus truly newsworthy) by unscupulous websites. While resisting the temptation to "out" the alleged victim, they readily note that the information is available on the Internet.* Osama is possibly the only other case with such unidirectional expression of sentiment. Even Saddam had more vocal support in the U.S. And that is disgusting.

* In the political sphere, when someone publishes details of how to poison the water supply, build bombs, or criticizes our preparedness they are attacked for "giving aid and comfort to our enemies." I'm certainly not endorsing this tactic, but how is the news media's handling of the low standards of web publishing any different?

This is one of those posts which are only good for but so long (maybe the rest of the day). The frontpage of the Washington Post places this story on the Bush administration attempting to leverage the successful killing of Saddam's sons into reversing the dominant story arc about management of the situation in post war Iraq. I hereby declare succss. Tucked below this story is yet another on the long string of American soldiers KIA. The media offensive has been successfully halted and reports from the front indicate it will soon be turned back.
The front page of the New York Times doesn't even mention the recently killed American soldiers (and they don't get a link as a result).

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Avatars R Us

I have to admit a deep interest in the Sims. I got married, burned (to a crisp), and walled in a few times each in the home version. I haven't played the online version*, but I am fascinated (and scared) by it. I wanna see where it goes, how it succeeds. That said, this story which I came across on the Lighter Side is hilarious to me on all available angles (virtual "crimes" to avatars is now AP newsworthy).

* If I ever do play the online version, I'm opening a bar- one of those life dreams I don't think I'll actually do.

The news activity today concerning the suspected death of Saddam's sons includes an interesting note. From MSNBC's report:

The other two casualties were a teen-age boy — possibly Qusai’s 14-year-old son who is known to travel with him — and a man who could be a bodyguard, the official said.

Count me curious to see what the reaction is to the death of a teenager. Certainly, if these are Saddam's sons, this kid is not just a teenager, but to my knowledge Qusay's son is not in the deck. It will simply be interesting to see what, if any, reaction there is to this death... particularly as its actual context emerges.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

The Truth has been preempted

I'm generally a fan of Tim Russert, he's usually a pretty good bull-dog interrogator. Except this morning. He really let Denny Hastert slide (and in the process slime). Here's an excerpt of the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: Two issues that are now front and center before the Republican leadership in the House: The first is the expansion of the child tax credit. Americans making between $10,000 and $25,000, about 12 million kids, would not receive an increase in the tax credit under the current tax legislation. The Senate has taken steps to correct that. It’s now before the House. Will you support expanding the child tax credit?
REP. HASTERT: Well, first of all, Tim, a family of four, two children, two working parents, have to earn almost $40,000 before they pay any taxes, so for a tax credit, otherwise getting money back for taxes that you pay just doesn’t exist. What we wanted to do is said if we’re going to do that—and, incidentally, the bill that came out of the Senate was a temporary, it only did it before 2005 and it ended. We said extend that if you’re going to do it, but also take it to working families where you might have a teacher and a fireman and they’re earning $130,000 a year, and they ought to get it, too.
MR. RUSSERT: But you’re...
REP. HASTERT: But the Senate said no.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you’re adding about $80 billion more in other tax cuts.
REP. HASTERT: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Why not just take care...
REP. HASTERT: Well, if...
MR. RUSSERT: ...why not just take care of these Americans between $10,000 and $25,000, 11 million kids? Would...
REP. HASTERT: Because, first of all, they don’t pay taxes, and they are getting a tax credit even when they don’t pay taxes. The second part, what about other Americans that are actually working and paying taxes? They ought to have the same benefit.

Russert never calls Hastert on the sliming claim that families "have to earn almost $40,000 before they pay any taxes." In general, a mom, dad, and 2 kids would need that much income to pay federal income taxes. But that's hardly the same thing as not paying anything in taxes. Additionally, how many of the 12 million kids hurt by the Republicans fit into exactly that scenario. Finally, those kids families are GETTING THE TAX CREDIT. What are they even doing in the discussion?

Second, and this is where Russert really drops the ball in my opinion, is Hastert's claim that, "the bill that came out of the Senate was a temporary, it only did it before 2005 and it ended." Why would the Senate only provide the tax credit for 2003 and 2004? Might they have a rationale? In fact they do. As the law currently stands, those families excluded under the 2003 tax cut will receive the increase child tax credit as part of the provisions of Bush's 2001 tax cut. The expanded child tax credit in the 2003 tax law is an acceleration of provisions in the 2001 act (making 2003 instead of 2005 the effective date). The Senate bill only needs to cover this year and next... after that existing law (enacted by the Republicans themselves) carries the ball. The child tax credit for the poor fight is about the Republicans singling out America's most vulnerable for disparate treatment- making those least in a position to wait for additional income to wait while speeding along a raise to those with greater resources to start with. That's the modern Republican party.

And please ignore the dodge that since they don't pay taxes, they shouldn't receive a credit. If this were their principled position, they should have either never enacted such a provision in the 2001 act or be planning to repeal that provision prior to its 2005 sunrise.

But Russert just lets this slide, as if it had some serious resemblance to reality. Disappointing.

The Bush administration's great mistake in the Yellowcake Scandal is making the claim in the State of the Union address rather than the Top Gun address. Instead of a SOTU shot on the cover of Time they could have had a flight suit shot framing the visuals of the coverage.
More important than any re-election commercial footage, this would be the value of the flight suit shots. To remind the American people that they're questioning a "fighter pilot" whenever they wonder "Who lied about Niger?" Instead, the footage is of Bush lieing from the same place a thousand other politicians have lied.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

From Today's Post article on Fleischer's last day:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

Fleischer, on July 9.


Saturday, July 12, 2003

To be clear, this is bullshit. Tenet as the fall-guy, but not really. Should we expect Tenet's resignation any day now- he did, after all, walk the president into a minefield? Nope.

I have what I consider a bit of familiarity with type of activity (though in matters far, far less important than national security and the decision to go to war). Your boss gets an idea in his head and keeps dropping it into drafts, memos, etc. You regularly remind him that the statement isn't accurate, but he never takes ownership of the fact. It remains in his mind and pops up again and again. Eventually, you tire of this fight. You decide to sit out a round here and there- you will pick it up later when it matters more. In psychology (and sales), they call this the foot in the door technique. Maybe the boss changes some language to make you less uncomfortable (say, perhaps, a statement about Africa rather than Niger). Either way, you start losing ground, slipping in the fight. And soon the battle is lost.

This is the result of not being interested in the truth, but rather being interested in furthering an agenda. And once you lose this war, it is time for you to step aside. You no longer provide the rigorous advice your boss requires- you are broken. But Tenet will not be stepping aside. For if he were to leave, he'd have the chance to talk about all the times he corrected the White House over the course of 2002. And on other issues one imagines. And the White House's "we were out of the loop" mantra would crumble.

Free George Tenet!

Friday, July 11, 2003

Speaking of the S&L solution (yesterday), the Wall Street Journal quotes Treasury Secretary John Snow comparing the looming pension crisis to the S&L crisis of the 1980s*

"When you think about pensions, we've got a brewing problem somewhat analogous to the savings-and-loan situation"

I don't know quite how I feel about the developing pension crisis- something I need to work out. I am sure that pensions (by which I mean defined benefit plans and not the 401(k) savings account) are an employee benefit though companies no longer (if they ever did) operate them primarily for that purpose (earnings management baby). What's not clear, to me at least, is the role of corporate greed, gamesmanship, and rulemaking/ breaking involved versus the impact of a no to low growth economy (particularly on the investment side). My instinct is to make employers pony in the cash and not allow temporary rules to make the problem appear to not be a problem (that would truly be the S&L solution). But such a course may wreak great violence on the American worker. What have we got ourselves into?

* As in the crisis developed during the entirety of the 1980s, only breaking into public consciousness in 1989, you know, shortly after the election. Does that make this 1983? or 1987? on that timeline? (For some reason, my guess is that 1984 is just around the corner).

Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show (which I truly do need to watch more often), was on Now with Bill Moyers this evening. Not quite as good as Stewart's November 2002 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources (ha!). This interview lacked a host (paging Howie Kurtz) who didn't get it.

Brad DeLong finds some of the most elegantly simple intellectual observations I've ever seen.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial today (they want your money to see the article, so they don't get a link) titled "9/11 Mischief" which begins, "Every American wants to know what went wrong in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks." Gigot's minions proceed to compain about the series of stories highlighting the Bush Administration's stonewalling/ impeding of the 9/11 Commission. Strikes me as a perfectly valid approach for a commission to take- apply press pressure to increase cooperation. But not the Journal, to them it's a sign of nothing but politics as usual (maybe we're both right). Following a malfeasant treatment of details and fact, they wrap down their "fears" that the 9/11 Commission will be a tool of democratic politics:

The commission's final report is due in May, and the not-so-subtle threat in this week's publicity blitz is that the commission might delay releasing its findings until the Presidential campaign is really hot. We have a better idea. If this isn't a partisan exercise, then the commission should agree to take its findings out of campaign politics altogether and report them only after the 2004 election.

Aha, they've come up with it. That's exactly what we should do. Take information which may end up being vitally important and relevant to the American public's decision in November 2004 and lock it away until after the choice is made. Brilliant. I think I'll call this the "S&L Solution."

Day 2, Slowly, but surely, I'm still at it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Tire Kicking

Here is the initial posting on the new blog. If, by some miracle or accident anyone is seeing this now, I promise more to follow- and it will be much more interesting than what you see before you now.