S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Friday, May 23, 2003

Tom Tomorrow speaks the obvious:

if the media really was in liberal hands, then centralization of that power would be absolutely terrifying to the right wing. It would be all you ever heard about. And yet those guys are strangely silent. On their websites.


This is from the Seattle Times a few years back:

WASHINGTON — Despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI, the White House is now backing claims that suspected Sept. 11 skyjacker Mohammed Atta secretly met five months earlier with an Iraqi agent in Prague, Czech Republic, a possible indication that Saddam Hussein's regime was involved in the terror attacks.


Bob Herbert, New York Times columnist, is one of the only people writing anything about Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old company. His central point in the column I cite is that many people are up in arms over the Dixie Chicks saying a couple of dirty words about Bush, while Halliburton does business with terrorist states like Libya and Iran. Now Halliburton gets rewarded with an exclusive multi-billion dollar government contract to reconstruct Iraq. Ha. These people have no shame whatsoever; this is how we know that the Bush supporters are fanatics who can never be convinced that this administration is bad for the country--they can't even bring themselves to be pissed off about something they ought to be pissed off about. But whatever, they're Republicans...

Now, with the U.S. takeover of Iraq, Halliburton has hit the jackpot. It has only recently been made clear that an "emergency" no-bid contract given in March to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root covers far more than the limited task of fighting oil well fires. The company has been given control of the Iraqi oil operations, including oil distribution.

"It's remarkable there's been so little attention paid to the Halliburton contracts," said Mr. Waxman. In addition to doing business in countries that have sponsored terrorism, the congressman said, Halliburton has been accused of overcharging the U.S. government for work it did in the 1990's. And last year the company agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to ward off possible criminal charges for price gouging.

"Their reward for that terrible record," said the congressman, "was a secret no-bid contract, potentially worth billions, to run Iraq's oil operations."

Meanwhile, the flag-waving yahoos are hyperventilating over nonissues like the Dixie Chicks.

Flag waving yahoo? C'mon Bob.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Conservatives like to charge, in e-mails written to yours truly and in posts on other blogs, that liberals are simply against the concept of tax relief and our charge that these tax cuts are for the rich are wrong and 'class warfare.' Well, you can't argue with the facts, conservative friends.

The taxes I pay to the federal government, including the payroll tax that is paid for me by my employer, Berkshire Hathaway, are roughly the same proportion of my income -- about 30 percent -- as that paid by the receptionist in our office. My case is not atypical -- my earnings, like those of many rich people, are a mix of capital gains and ordinary income -- nor is it affected by tax shelters (I've never used any). As it works out, I pay a somewhat higher rate for my combination of salary, investment and capital gain income than our receptionist does. But she pays a far higher portion of her income in payroll taxes than I do.

Now the Senate says that dividends should be tax-free to recipients. Suppose this measure goes through and the directors of Berkshire Hathaway (which does not now pay a dividend) therefore decide to pay $1 billion in dividends next year. Owning 31 percent of Berkshire, I would receive $310 million in additional income, owe not another dime in federal tax, and see my tax rate plunge to 3 percent.

And our receptionist? She'd still be paying about 30 percent, which means she would be contributing about 10 times the proportion of her income that I would to such government pursuits as fighting terrorism, waging wars and supporting the elderly. Let me repeat the point: Her overall federal tax rate would be 10 times what my rate would be.

Administration officials say that the $310 million suddenly added to my wallet would stimulate the economy because I would invest it and thereby create jobs. But they conveniently forget that if Berkshire kept the money, it would invest that same amount, creating jobs as well.

When you listen to tax-cut rhetoric, remember that giving one class of taxpayer a "break" requires -- now or down the line -- that an equivalent burden be imposed on other parties. In other words, if I get a break, someone else pays. Government can't deliver a free lunch to the country as a whole. It can, however, determine who pays for lunch. And last week the Senate handed the bill to the wrong party.

Supporters of making dividends tax-free like to paint critics as promoters of class warfare. The fact is, however, that their proposal promotes class welfare.

And this is from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

There is one last practical point worth noting about the supposed injustice associated with the double taxation of dividends. As a result of both lower rates and a proliferation of loopholes, the effective corporate tax rate is at its lowest level in the post-war period. In 2000, U.S. corporations paid 32.9 percent of their profits in taxes. By contrast, in 1959 they paid 43.9 percent of their profits in taxes. Measured as a share of capital income, which includes net interest payments from the corporate sector, the decline in the corporate tax rate has been even sharper, from 44.4 percent in 1959 to 25.6 percent in 2000.[5] Of course, the top tax rates on individuals have also been substantially lowered over this period. The top tax rate for individuals was 70 percent in the sixties (it had been 90 percent prior to the Kennedy era tax cuts). At present, the top individual tax rate is 38.6 percent. Under the Bush tax cuts it is scheduled to fall to 33 percent in 2006. Given the sharp decline in both the effective corporate tax rate and the top tax rate for individuals, there is far less basis for any concern about the “double taxation” of dividend income than at any point in the post-war era.

This discussion has briefly examined the supposed rationale for the dividend tax break that the Bush administration is expected to put forward. It shows that the claim that dividends are subject to “double taxation” is at best dubious. Furthermore, if proponents of the tax break were actually interested in avoiding double taxation, rather than just lowering tax rates for wealthy individuals, they would couple their proposals for a cut in the dividend tax rate with an increase in the corporate tax rate. In addition, the proposed tax break actually does little for the vast majority of families who are subject to the alleged double taxation of dividends, since they hold their stock primarily in retirement accounts. The main beneficiaries are the small number of wealthy families who hold large amounts of stock outside of retirement accounts. Given these facts, the only plausible rationale for the dividend tax break is to give more money to the wealthy.


The principal impact of drug policies is not on levels of drug use but on death, disease, crime and the criminal justice system. By and large, the more punitive the approach, the greater the harms that result. Thus, the United States represents 5 per cent of the world's population and 25 per cent of the world's prison population. Almost half a million people are locked up for violating a drug law (more than all of Western Europe locks up for everything). This brutal incarceration rate is part and parcel of U.S. drug policy.


Is coming out June 10th. This album will change lives...


So after several months and huge objections from people who like the Constitution, the Department of Defense--the "War Chamber," the "most bloated bureaucracy on God's green earth," the "crusty hawks den"-- has decided to change the name of Total Information Awareness...

The Total Information Awareness program now under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, will henceforth be named the Terrorism Information Awareness program.

In report ordered by Congress 90 days ago, DARPA said the old name "created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens. That is not DoD's (Department of Defense's) intent in pursuing this program."

Rather the goal is "to protect U.S. citizens by detecting and defeating foreign terrorist threats before an attack" and the new name was chosen "to make this objective absolutely clear."

OHH SURE... The NAME is not what people cared about. It was the program itself that created the impressions, people could care less about the name! I don't care about the name, Total Information, PATRIOT, Terrorist Information, Domestic Security Enhancement, ITS ALL DICTATORIAL TOTALITARIAN BULLSHIT!

Monday, May 19, 2003

Bush is popular. I think he's popular for the same reason President Reagan was popular, for the same reason Senator Paul Wellstone was popular... He can make a decision, he can speak confidently about his beliefs and he has faith in himself. As radio talk show host Randi Rhodes puts it--the first presidential candidate to call Bush a LIAR is the one who wins. I agree.

People supported the war and continue supporting this president because it's the choice requiring the least thought, risk and personal commitment. It requires only the willingness not to seek information. Why bother studying issues and motives, sorting out truths from lies, and weighing the financial, human and hidden costs of our government's plans and policies? It's easier not to, really.

When a major Democratic presidential candidate calls him a LIAR point blank, his hardcore supporters will get upset, no doubt, but those who are not as loyal to Bush may actually decide to do some research, may actually weigh whether or not such an accusation is true. We'll see what happens...


As you are about to read, these administrations pour money into the Defense Department--buying bombs, explosive toilets, and experiment equipment. The Republicans love big government when it benefits their buddies who work for the big military contractors, and the big industrial executives. So is a Republican Administration really going to reform this sort of corruption in the War Department?! I doubt it...

The Department of Defense, already infamous for spending $640 for a toilet seat, once again finds itself under intense scrutiny, only this time because it couldn't account for more than a trillion dollars in financial transactions, not to mention dozens of tanks, missiles and planes.

The Pentagon's unenviable reputation for waste will top the congressional agenda this week, when the House and Senate are expected to begin floor debate on a Bush administration proposal to make sweeping changes in how the Pentagon spends money, manages contracts and treats civilian employees.

The Bush proposal, called the Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act, arrives at a time when the nonpartisan General Accounting Office has raised the volume of its perennial complaints about the financial woes at Defense, which recently failed its seventh audit in as many years.

"Overhauling DOD's financial management operations represent a challenge that goes far beyond financial accounting to the very fiber of (its) . . . business operations and culture," GAO chief David Walker told lawmakers in March.



I want to thank publicly my grandparents, who spent all day, and I mean ALL DAY, helping me move my things from my Columbia dorm room, back home. They toiled, sweated and worked patiently with me, and for that I am grateful. Thanks grandma and grandpa!!

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