Saturday, November 01, 2003

patriotism and dissent 

From the NY Times Magazine interview with Noam Chomsky:

NYT: Have you considered leaving the United States permanently?

Chomsky: No. This is the best country in the world.

everybody's doing it 

It's John at John and Belle Have a Blog 's fault.

I took the Political Compass test that everyone is taking and I ended up left er... right where I thought I would. Low and outside. Distinctly left and libertarian without being an actual kook. Reassuring to say the least.

Now I have to go meet the guys. We're jumping off a bridge. Tomorrow we're having a big Kool Aid party.

KOOL AID OH YEAH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Update: I just spent a little time checking out a bunch of other blogger's charts and I'm way further to the left and more libertarian than anyone else. Maybe I am a kook. Or maybe I just have to work harder.

navigant, naviant, noviant & novient had already been registered 

From Snarkhunting:

Giving the profession a bad name: There is a new naming and branding company in town, and they have named themselves Novience.

Why Novience? Clearly not for any marketing or branding reasons. Novience doesn't mean anything, it contains no imagery or associations and its only personality traits are cold and distant. Perhaps they are just using the occasion of their first naming job to demonstrate their imaginative marketing know-how. More than likely they chose the name Novience because the dotcom was available, whereas Navigant, Naviant, Noviant & Novient had already been registered.

Watch for the new company to issue a Landorian justification that will go something like this:

The first two letters of our name, "No," are derived from a word in the ancient Jain language that means "Yes," which our proprietarily expensive focus group research showed was overwhelmingly positive. The next letter, "v" (the 22nd letter of Roman alphabet!), comes courtesy of a modified medieval Serbo-Croatian symbol that was used to mark the door of a village's champion chicken wrestler, a designation of great honor and respect. The last part of the name, "ience" is from the modern day concept of the convenience store, meaning that our thinking never closes.


From the NY Times:

According to company executives and others briefed on the discussions, Microsoft - desperate to capture a slice of the popular and ad-generating search business - approached Google within the last two months to discuss options, including the possibility of a takeover.

While the overture appears to have gained little traction - Google indicated that it preferred the initial offering route, the executives said - it demonstrates the enormous importance that Google represents as both a competitive threat to Microsoft and as Silicon Valley's latest hope for a new financial boom.

Though seemingly spurned, Microsoft may still be interested in pursuing Google at a later date, according to an executive briefed on the discussions.

Thanks to Igor at Snarkhunting for the link

november 28th Buy Nothing Day 

I've been shopping like mad to stock up on consumer goods so that I'll be ready for National Buy Nothing Day.

See the ads:

Big Mac | The Poduct is You | Life Boring? | The Big Pig

Help put these spots on CNN

Headline News: $2,560
Inside Politics: $5,960
Crossfire: $7,570
Lou Dobbs: $23,800
Larry King: $32,470


it's like falling out of an airplane and hitting the ground, it's just too easy. and it has no effect. 

From Greil Marcus' Real Life Rock and Roll Top Ten:

2) Metric, "Combat Baby," from Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (Everloving)
Emily Haines sounds very well-educated, and very tired of being so pissed off. The result is a severe, fast little pop song about not getting what you want--not even seeing what you want on the street, no matter what reflection you see in the shop windows, no matter what's on sale on the other side, even though you never wear anything but black.

3) Randy Newman interview with Bob Edwards, Morning Edition (NPR, Oct. 8)
The day after California voted to smash its government, Newman was discussing The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1, solo piano recordings of 18 of his tunes. Edwards brought up the new version of the 1972 "Sail Away," noting that its premise of a con man sweet-talking Africans onto his slave ship with promises of ease and abundance back in the U.S.A. wasn't exactly in the historical record. "What am I supposed to say," Newman said, "'Slavery is bad?' It's like falling out of an airplane and hitting the ground, it's just too easy. And it has no effect."

"But the contrast is so strong," Edwards said. "That beautiful melody..."

"It worked out well," Newman said. "It ended racism in this country. Kids today don't remember, now that it's gone away."

8) Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Streetcore (Hellcat)
If Strummer hadn't died at 50 last year, the rough versions of the Wailers' "Redemption Song"--a melody that seems capable of redeeming anyone who comes near it--and "Silver and Gold," earlier recorded by co-composer (with Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew) Bobby Charles in 1972 on his Small Town Talk as "Before I Grow Too Old"--would still bleed, and still make you smile. It would have been so easy to find some studio goof on an old Clash number to stick on at the end.

what the hell is wrong with us? 

From the Observer:

Congress has attached to the Bill approving President Bush's plan to spend $87 billion rebuilding and securing Iraq and Afghanistan, an unexpected $2m 'for the capture' of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor.
Taylor left Liberia in August after prolonged negotiations, and is currently ensconced in a villa in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, provided to him by the country's President, Olusegun Obasanjo. With his whereabouts far from a secret, the US bounty has raised fears that mercenaries may take up the challenge to kidnap and bring in the exiled Liberian warlord.

In June, Taylor was indicted on war crimes charges by United Nations tribunal that is trying Sierra Leoneans alleged to have committed atrocities during the country's long civil war.

...Obasanjo has made it clear that he does not intend to be 'harassed' by the international community into giving up Taylor to the tribunal. If the US does act on the Congressional proposal to capture Taylor, American policy will clash disastrously with that of the African states. The Africans believe that only tireless negotiation can resolve the continent's many fratricidal conflicts.

With this in mind, four African presidents escorted Taylor out of Liberia in August: Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Obasanjo, John Kufuor of Ghana and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique.

But Obasanjo will not find it easy to dissuade the US from financing an attempt to kidnap Taylor. In August, an Anglo-American mercenary company, Northbridge Services Group Ltd, was quoted on an American conservative website as offering to attempt to arrest Taylor. But Taylor is guarded by Nigerian troops; if they were to be killed or injured during a kidnap attempt, the US would pay dearly in diplomatic terms.

Africans remember clearly that when Liberians were in dire need of troops to save them, during the worst days of the civil war, all the US did was to send warships to 'patrol' Liberian waters. Eventually, after heavy international criticism, the US sent about 50 marines to provide logistical support to the African soldiers - mainly Nigerian and Ghanaian - which stopped the fighting.

Why would we do this given our tepid response in putting an end to the civil war and Taylor's presidency. This is just bizarre.

"we read their reports, too bad they don't read their own reports."  

In the Guardian today Sidney Blumenthal writes:

In Baghdad, the Bush administration acts as though it is astonished by the postwar carnage. Its feigned shock is a consequence of Washington's intelligence wars. In fact, not only was it warned of the coming struggle and its nature - ignoring a $5m state department report on The Future of Iraq - but Bush himself signed another document in which that predictive information is contained.
According to the congressional resolution authorising the use of military force in Iraq, the administration is required to submit to the Congress reports of postwar planning every 60 days. The report, bearing Bush's signature and dated April 14 - previously undisclosed but revealed here - declares: "We are especially concerned that the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime will continue to use Iraqi civilian populations as a shield for its regular and irregular combat forces or may attack the Iraqi population in an effort to undermine Coalition goals." Moreover, the report goes on: "Coalition planners have prepared for these contingencies, and have designed the military campaign to minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure."

Yet, on August 25, as the violence in postwar Iraq flared, the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, claimed that this possibility was not foreseen: "Now was - did we - was it possible to anticipate that the battles would take place south of Baghdad and that then there would be a collapse up north, and there would be very little killing and capturing of those folks, because they blended into the countryside and they're still fighting their war?"

"We read their reports," a senate source told me. "Too bad they don't read their own reports."

...Early last year, before Hans Blix, chief of the UN team to monitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, embarked on his mission, Wolfowitz ordered a report from the CIA to show that Blix had been soft on Iraq in the past and thus to undermine him before he even began his work. When the CIA reached an opposite conclusion, Wolfowitz was described by a former state department official in the Washington Post as having "hit the ceiling". Then, according to former assistant secretary of state James Rubin, when Blix met with Cheney at the White House, the vice-president told him what would happen if his efforts on WMDs did not support Bush policy: "We will not hesitate to discredit you." Blix's brush with Cheney was no different from the administration's treatment of the CIA.

The recklessness and deceptiveness of the Administration is beginning to see the light of day. The Washington Press Corps is going to have to pick up on this story if we keep on it.

Their recklessness in gutting established procedures for vetting intelligence boggles the mind. The timidity of the Press in pursuing the story mindles the bog.

Friday, October 31, 2003


This site is certified 34% EVIL by the Gematriculator
Background music from Emily Strange

frankenstein chapter v 

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart...


Video Clips
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moments later, joe awoke to a sudden thumping sound coming from the front of the church 

Ghost stories from the American South at the Moonlit Road

Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women 

From Fresh Air:

His recent book is Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck. The book is a collection of essays about the history of dice and the many ways to cheat at the game. Photographs by Rosamond Purcell accompany the text. The New York Times says of Jay, "He's a master's master." Jay's other books include Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and Jay's Journal of Anomalies. He's appeared in a number of David Mamet films and his one-man shows include "Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants" and "Ricky Jay: On the Stem."

the mysterious family who once lived there but seemed to disappear without a trace. 

From this American Life:

The House on Loon Lake

A sort of a real-life Hardy Boys mystery. More than most of our shows, this one lends itself to a Hollywood-style tagline. Perhaps: "You Might Break In... But You'll Never Forget." Or "Dead Letters Tell No Tales." It consists of one long story, lasting the entire hour, about a young boy, an abandoned house, and the mysterious family who once lived there but seemed to disappear without a trace.

the kids never returned and no one ever had seen them again 


..."It was a place I visited in my teens," says Sharon Kolbek, of Bridgewater. "We would cruise around, tell scary stories and go to the Tomb Of The Twelve Nuns. Whenever somebody would find a strange place to visit, we'd have to go there."

...The Devil’s Tower was owned by a rich married man. He built the tower so his wife could see New York without really going to New York. One night, his wife was looking out of the top of the tower and she saw her husband with another woman, so she jumped right down the center of the tower. The husband was so upset that he stopped all the work on the tower because it was for his wife and now his wife was dead. There was once an underground tunnel that led to the tower, and he closed it off because of stories of his wife's ghost. Now if you drive around the tower backwards six times, the ghost of the wife is supposed to control your car and drive it straight in to a tree. This happened to a group of teens. They were drinking all night and when they went around it the sixth time, something controlled their car and drove it into a tree, killing a girl.

...People started ignoring the "No Trespassing" signs posted after the condemnation and going inside. The homeless used it as a place to squat. Stories began to circulate about mysterious sub-basements used for Satanic rituals (you were supposed to find rows of coffins down there, and if you opened one, your doppleganger would be inside), balls of light following people around corridors, mysterious noises were heard, and "guardian angels" appearing on the property. The stories for the cause of the fire that destroyed most of the top floor were equally startling. Depending on who you heard it from, Satanic nuns, a psychotic pedophile janitor, or assorted demons (or all of the above) were responsible.

...The kids never returned and no one ever had seen them again. The creepy thing is though, in the winter, when all the leaves have fallen, you can see eight trees in a row, the same height and they all look identical.

that's some scary pickle jar 

Listen to the Mercury Radio Theatre's 1938 broadcast of 'War of the World's'

hold my hand 

Emily Strange
Background music

gdp is up 

But what does it mean?

A quick round up of my favorite econobloggers came up with zip except for round up of quotes at Barr Ritholtz' the Big Picture and this:


...How can such strong output growth coexist with such lousy employment news? It is this year's great economic data mystery. Everyone believes that it cannot last. Either (i) firms will find themselves unable to meet rapidly-growing demand with their current labor force, and will start hiring at a furious pace, rapidly expanding employment; or (ii) households will take a look at their less-than-certain employment prospects, cut back on spending, and the pace of demand growth will slow drastically.

Current forecasts are smack in the middle: predictions of output growth at an annual rate of between 3.5% and 4.0% per year over the next year and a half or so, coupled with employment growth of perhaps 125,000 a month on average--enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising, but not enough to make unemployment fall.

However, the longer the disjunction between fast output growth and stagnant employment continues, the less likely this smack-in-the-middle forecast becomes. Things are very likely to be either significantly better or significantly worse than the current consensus forecast--but we have no idea which.

From Brad Delong's Semi Daily Journal.

So I thought we might have a look at how the
Iowa Electronic Market's 2004 Presidential Election Vote Share Market reacted to the news, but I can't get into the useful parts of that website tonight. Weird. Two sights tonight that had reports that I was looking for that I can't get on. I almost couldn't get on Blogger either. I'll try again in the morning.

union officials depicted the companies' strategy as foolhardy 

From the LA Times:

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced the creation of a multi-union fund to back the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has 85,000 members on picket lines, most in Southern and Central California.

...The AFL-CIO also tried to undermine Wall Street's support for the supermarkets' hard-line position, staging a conference call with more than 150 institutional shareholders and analysts during which union officials depicted the companies' strategy as foolhardy.

Analysts met the overture with skepticism. Lisa F. Cartwright of Citigroup Smith Barney said she continued to view the strike as "a necessary expense in order to lower the cost structure in a market where Wal-Mart is moving in" to the grocery business in California. With the strike in its 20th full day today, Cartwright estimated the dispute could shave $20 million to $40 million from each company's quarterly earnings. If the strike should exceed 40 days, the financial hit would double, she said. However, Cartwright said the conference call did impress upon her the huge amount of union support for the strike. "It made me think we could be in for a bit longer battle," she said.

Marketplace had a good piece on this today but their website seems to be down. One of the main points that they make is that this strike is shaping up to be a major symbolic strike (as I said the other day) like the UPS strike over part time workers and the labor movement tends to win those strikes.


From Marketplace:

AFL-CIO draws a line in the sand over healthcare
Today, the nation's biggest organized labor group threw a lifeline to 85,000 grocery workers who have been on strike or locked out of their stores for three weeks. The AFL-CIO is setting up a strike fund to provide workers with $100 a week on top of the striker benefits they get from their local unions. The dispute, which is over pay and benefit cuts and is spread over five states, has become a symbolic part of a broader national debate. As soaring insurance costs prompt more employers to cut back benefits, more workers are fighting back. The healthcare debate is arguably thehot-button issue this political season.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

where to get rich 

From Fortune via the Knowledge Problem:

Best place to make a future FORBES 400 fortune? Start with this proposition: The most valuable natural resource in the 21st century is brains. Smart people tend to be mobile. Watch where they go! Because where they go, robust economic activity will follow.

The characteristics he suggests looking for in a city of growth and wealth are:

Especially those with strong science and engineering departments. Modern innovation springs from a deep understanding of physics, electronics, math, chemistry and biology--not Proust. Business schools and law schools are nice, too, but are of ancillary importance. There is an interesting twist to this. In the old days a state's flagship university, with its law and liberal arts schools and alumni networks, carried a higher prestige than the ag or tech school.

Stellar K-12 education
Very simple proposition here. Smart people want smart kids. They demand a strong education for their children. One way or another (public school or private), they will seek it out.

Capital for experimentation
This is an underrated factor. The presence of local funds for research and development is a distinct advantage. It doesn't seem to matter if the R&D money is corporate, government or military. R&D attracts smart people and out-of-the-box thinkers.

Capital for business risk
Necessary but overrated

Low taxes and light regulations
...Gateway was as much of an Iowa success story as any true Hawkeye could hope for, with one itty-bitty problem. Shortly after its founding, Gateway sneaked across the Big Sioux River into North Sioux City, South Dakota, which has no corporate or personal income taxes. (Gateway moved its headquarters to California in 1998 and promptly began losing ground to Dell.)

Love of creative mess
Central planning always fails, whether in Cuba or in American cities. You simply can't plan your way to greatness. What cities can do is create the conditions for success. I always advise cities to forget million-dollar bets on a single industry--biotech is hot now--and instead make hundreds of $10,000 bets on bright entrepreneurs who need cheap rent and a pat on the back. Why not Wi-Fi up the downtown so that entrepreneurs can sit in coffee shops and surf the Net? Why not lighten the regulatory load for startups? Why not run business plan contests, open to everybody in town, regardless of age or pedigree, with $5,000 prizes?

Inclusive optimism
Left-wing cities such as Berkeley, Calif. tend to be pessimistic. Stay away. I also know a few conservative cities that claim to be "business friendly" but, in fact, are closed clubs. The best places welcome outsiders.

Respect for the Risk Taker
Here's a test. You gather 200 friends and acquaintances in a room--the sort of people who attended your wedding or might attend your funeral--and you clink a glass. The room goes silent. You announce: "I've just quit my job! I'm starting a company!" Watch the immediate reaction. In some communities, people will burst into applause. In others, people will stare at their shoelaces, check their watches and go home. Thriving communities applaud the bold risk-taker.

child soldiers: congo 

From the World:

Congo report
Some of the most brutal crimes in Africa's wars have been committed by children. In Congo, 12-year-olds were abducted by rebels. They learned to survive by following orders to fight, rape and kill. Now that Congo's war has subsided, the children want to go home, but they may not be welcome. The World's Amy Costello reports.

Other posts on child soldiers. 1 2 3 4

Peacekeeping in the Congo
Amy Costello reports on the UN in the Congo.

From the BBC:

In a report titled 'Democratic Republic of Congo: Children at War', the international rights group said that groups in Ituri province were still recruiting in a conflict that has killed 50,000 people. Amnesty International wants those involved in the recruitment to be investigated and prosecuted. It has also asked French peacekeepers who have been in the north-eastern town of Bunia, to remain there until a beefed up UN force is fully up and running.

Amnesty says that groups, including the national army, have forced child soldiers to kill, rape and engage in cannibalism and sex acts with corpses.

"I thought that if I joined the army I would be protected. One day a commander wanted me to become his wife, so I tried to escape," said 16-year old Natalia. "They caught me, whipped me and raped me every night for many days. When I was just 14, I had a baby. I do not even know who his father is".

from the department of oh man this makes my head hurt 

From All Things Considered:

Texas Firmly in GOP Hands

NPR's Wade Goodwyn chronicles the dramatic political change that has occurred in Texas. After nurturing such powerful Democrats as Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn, Texas today is dominated by Republicans. The party runs the legislature in Austin, and it counts Rep. Tom DeLay as a powerful ally in Washington. Many expect that the state's newly adopted redistricting plan will help the GOP increase its influence even more.

The list of positions that the Texas GOP has taken will make your jaw drop. Cro Magnon Man is spinning in his grave.

If someone tells you, 'This is an old joke and then they tell you a joke, say this is an even older joke, "Cro Magnon Man walks into a bar..." You don't even have to give me credit.

you spin me right round baby. right round like a record baby - dead or alive 

From All Things Considered:

Carrier Banner Turns into Flap

White House press secretary Scott McClellan admits the White House had the "Mission Accomplished" banner made. Taking questions Tuesday, President Bush said that sailors, not his advance team, placed the banner behind him as he spoke on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The president asserted it was not put there to mean the war in Iraq was over, but instead that the aircraft carrier's mission was over. Hear NPR's Robert Siegel and NPR's Melissa Block.

i don't feel tardy - david lee roth 

From All Things Considered:

Experts: Consistency Needed in Counting Dropouts
Data from both federal and state education departments regarding the number of high school dropouts is highly misleading, experts say. There is no standardized definition of a dropout; education observers say that makes it difficult for states to track students who leave school. NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

when the going gets tough 

Site searches of The National Review, The Weekly Standard, Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan reveal that none of them have publicly grappled with either Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece 'The Stovepipe' or David Corn's new book 'The Lies of George W. Bush' .

It was one thing when there was wiggle room. When they could play semantics. "It was just sixteen words." When they could be dismissive of the "Bush is lying meme." When they could pick and dodge.

Ah, It's not so easy any more.

Let's look at what conclusion we can draw from 'The Stovepipe.'

What the article makes clear is that at the top level the administration began sifting through intelligence which hadn't been vetted on their own searching for intel that told a certain story. There claim is that they were looking for the story that their instincts told them was correct but that the intelligence community was holding back. They found the intel they needed to tell their story but it turns out that it was almost invariably bad intel that would have been vetted out had they not circumvented the processes to prevent that. And it turns out that the story that their instincts led them to was wrong.

Conclusion: They were reckless in their organization of a process to gather information for decision making.
Conclusion: They have lousy instincts.

That's being charitable.

We know that in 2000 the Project for a New American Century published the report 'Rebuilding America's Defense's' which calls for regime change in Iraq. PNAC members on the Bush team include Vice-President Dick Cheney and his top national security assistant, I. Lewis Libby; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton; and former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle.

We know that in February of 2001 the administration position was that Saddam 'has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.'

Which brings us to the Administration's problem with the truth.

And David Corn's book.

John Dean took a look at the book in FindLaw's 'Writ' recently. He first laid out a hierarchy of presidential lies and then found that those outlined in Corn's book are almost invariable of the highest order. Lies about policy. These are the worst lies because they foil democracy in that the citizenry cannot understand what is happening and therefore cannot make informed decisions.

The Washington editor of The Nation, David Corn, has written a powerful -- not to mention disquieting -- 324-page polemic addressing the pervasive mendacity of George W. Bush's administration. It is entitled The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

Actually, calling the book a polemic is misleading. It may be more accurate to call it a bill of particulars -- the document that provides the specific charges underlying an indictment.

In this case, the charges are highly credible. Corn is an experienced and respected Washington journalist. His evidence is overwhelming, his tone is measured, and his book a jaw dropper. This devastating work is not a laundry list of false statements; rather, it is the chronology of a presidency. Corn found that "lies, in part, made this president, and lies frequently have been the support beams of his administration."

In sum, Corn has done for George Bush what Ken Starr did for Bill Clinton: provided evidence that places his presidency in jeopardy.

...Thus, applying Pfiffner's hierarchy of Presidential lies to the collection of falsehoods Corn chronicles in his narrative is alarming indeed. It shows that Bush's lies are almost never justifiable. And it also shows that they are typically of the most serious kind -- lies that misinform the public in such a way as to disrupt the proper functioning of the democratic process.

Best known are the false statements about the weapons of mass destruction. These statements, of course, were the Administration's central justification for going to war in Iraq. Yet no such weapons have been found -- and the statements in some cases have been revealed to be, and in other cases strongly appear to be, blatant lies.

So who's defending the Administration against these charlatan's?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

why the ufcw strike matters 

With Grocery store workers striking over healthcare in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and California with the UFCW union contract in Arizona with Safeway ending on October 25, and agreements in Indiana, Memphis and Denver about to expire we could be facing a major national strike over the issue of rising healthcare costs.

Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture has the breakdown and the chart on how much employees contributions to healthcare cost have risen:

Workers' share of health care costs are rising much faster than their wage increases; In 1998 Employees' spent a little over $1,000 on health care: 9.6% of their salary on "out of pocket" expenses, while health care payroll deductions were 15.7% of their salary. Projected for 2004, those percentages are up sgnificantly - 12.8% and 19.5% respectively. That's a 160% increase to $2,600 from net salary.

Such a strike could bring the healthcare debate to the center of the Democratic Nomination race with a resounding thud. It worth looking at how the candidate healthcare plans relate to employer based delivery systems.


Give states the resources they need to create purchasing pools for small businesses. These pools will increase health choices by reducing both insurance costs and administrative burdens for small employers. The pools will be available to those with 50 and fewer employees. In addition, to promote participation, tax credits will be offered to small firms with low-income workforces.

Create 50 new bureaucracies?


Extend coverage to 27.5 million who are uninsured in working families through a 60% tax credit to employers for the cost of health care.

Link a tax credit to a sector of our economy the costs of which are increasing at double digit rates?


Create a premium rebate pool whereby the Federal Government picks up the tab for all catastrophic care over $50,000 for employer based insurance. *

This the epitome of piecemeal and again it ties government revenue expenditure to skyrocketting healthcare costs.


Clark does not propose anything to address the issues around employer based health insurance as far as I can tell.


Organize a system nearly identical to the one federal workers and members of Congress enjoy. Enable all employers with less than 50 workers to join it at rates lower than are currently available to these companies -- provided they insure their work force. Offer employers a deal: The federal government will pick up 70% of COBRA premiums for employees transitioning out of their jobs, but require employers to pay the cost of extending coverage for an additional two months.

Link business tax deductions for large companies to providing health insurance to their employees.

This makes sense to me.

* I couldn't find anything on Kerry's site but had to go back to the AFL-CIO forum and watch the video. Edwards plan is spread out over his website like the octopus that it is and Gephardt's plan isn't spelled out on his so much as referred to over and over. Clark's Healthcare plan is well presented as is Dean's.

Dean's website is head and shoulder's above everyone else's. This may seem like a minor issue but it's not. Campaigns are won by the intelligence and effectiveness of the candidate and staff as much as by issues and demographics. The first thing I noticed about Clinton during the first debate in New Hampshire. He was just clearly smarter and more effective than Tsongas, Brown, Harkin, et al.

cia leak scapegoat still at-large 

From the Onion:

WASHINGTON, DC-A White House administration official who can be blamed for leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the press remains at large, White House officials announced Monday. "We are doing everything in our power to see that the scapegoat is found and held accountable," President Bush said. "We will not stop until he-or she-is located. Believe me, nobody wants to see the blame placed squarely on the shoulders of a single person, and photos of that individual in every newspaper in the country, more than I do."

..."The team is hard at work, but the process of finding the perfect scapegoat is very time-consuming," Bush said. "While we can assume that this person will not be a member of my senior staff, we have few other concrete ideas about his identity. Why, the scapegoat may turn out to be someone who knew absolutely nothing about the leak. You can see how difficult the job is."

Last week, Bush ordered 2,000 staff members to turn over any documents that may help the Justice Department choose a scapegoat. "Unfortunately, investigators still don't have a remotely appropriate party," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "They've been tirelessly searching electronic records, telephone logs, correspondence, and calendar entries for someone suitable. So far, we haven't found a single person on whom we can plausibly pin the blame."

According to Washington political analyst Ted Edmonds, it's important that the Bush Administration find the scapegoat in a timely manner. "They've got to move quickly," Edmonds said. "It has been alleged that the White House leaked Plame's identity to the press in retaliation for her husband's vocal criticism of Bush Administration policies in Iraq. Before the people's trust in the presidency can be restored, they demand that a scapegoat be brought before the media, given a cursory and farcical trial by association, and pilloried before their eyes. Without the White House at least going through the motions of some sort of judicial accountability, how can we maintain our faith in the nation's leaders?"

Monday, October 27, 2003

news flash: liberals keeping terrorism in perspective 

Byron York writing in the National Review looks at a recent poll Democracy Corps, the group founded by Greenberg, James Carville, and Robert Shrum:

In one question, pollsters read a list of a dozen topics - education, taxes, big government, the environment, Social Security and Medicare, crime and illegal drugs, moral values, health care, the economy and jobs, fighting terrorism, homeland security, and the situation in Iraq - and asked, "Which concern worries you the most?"

In Iowa, one percent of those polled - one percent! - said they worried about fighting terrorism. It was dead last on the list. Two percent said they worried about homeland security - next to last. In New Hampshire, two percent worried about fighting terrorism and two percent worried about homeland security. In South Carolina - somewhat surprisingly because of its military heritage - the results were the same.

...Then pollsters read two statements and asked respondents to react. The first statement was, "America's security depends on building strong ties with other nations," and the second was, "Bottom line, America's security depends on its own military strength."

In Iowa, 76 percent of those polled said they agreed with the first statement. Just 18 percent favored the second. In New Hampshire, 77 percent favored the first, and 17 percent the second. And in South Carolina, 56 percent favored the first statement, and 33 percent the second.

...Yet in another portion of the survey, when pollsters asked Democrats how important it would be for a candidate to have "opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning," 68 percent in Iowa said that was very or somewhat important. In New Hampshire, the number was 59 percent, and in South Carolina it was a whopping 74 percent.

York draws the conclusion that the 2004 election will decide whether we continue the war on terrorism or not. This is silly. A Democratic administration would not abandon the war on terror simply because it was not important to 20% of voters. And of course if one wanted to be a wag, one could say that we abandoned the war on terrorism when we invaded Iraq.

But this isn't what interests me. What is interesting is what this says about the liberal temperament. Long before reading George Lakoff's piece on conservative and progressive world views, I had concluded that people's politics were almost completely shaped by their temperament. Often they are a rationalization of their temperament. I've always found that the only way you can change a conservatives mind on an issue is to show that their position runs counter to their values when the facts are laid plain. The same technique works on lefties.

The naivete that conservatives showed in getting worked into a froth over the Saddam bogeyman got me wondering what it was in their temperament that opened them up to such facile manipulation in the run up to the war. I think it's pretty simple. Conservatives feel more comfortable when they have an enemy. The world makes sense then.

I remember before the war when the Administration was playing cat and mouse with Saddam. The UN weapons inspectors were not finding anything and the Admin was playing games with them. I said over and over to anyone I spoke with that I didn't think there were any WMD's. Here is a country that at the height of it's power Iraq shot its load when it invaded Kuwait and got it's ass handed back. In the meantime it has been under trade sanctions, weapons inspections, satellite surveillance and routine bombing for the last decade. How could Iraq pose a greater threat than it did in 1991? There was no way you could believe that unless you wanted to first. This was before we knew the African uranium was bogus or that in 2001 speaking in Egypt Colin Powell said that Iraq did not pose a threat.

I remember when we went after Manuel Noriega. People who could find Panama on a map suddenly became life long true blue fierce partisans in the struggle to remove the Panamian strong man from power. It was really funny to watch.

Conservatives want to have enemies. I'm not saying they want to make enemies. Though some do. They want enemies.

How else to explain gun nuts. The statistics are quite clear. Keeping guns in your house poses a greater threat to your security than any intruder. Yet...Enemies, enemies, enemies. Everywhere enemies.

These polls show that Democrats are more interested in education, taxes, big government, the environment, Social Security and Medicare, crime and illegal drugs, moral values, health care, the economy and jobs than in the latest bogeymen. Every one of the things on that list has a greater bearing on my life than the fight on terrorism. I don't feel that vulnernable to terrorism, though I do feel that invading Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place. I don't have health insurance and I feel much more vulnerable to finding out I have cancer and putting my family in the position of watching me die or bankrupting themselves.

Clearly, we need to continue the war on terrorism but it should be focused, effective and kept in perspective.

We care about crime but that doesn't mean that we are going to keep a gun around the house, get liquored up and mistakenly shoot our old lady. That is if our kid hasn't already taken the gun to school and shot his classmates.


There will be little to no blogging until Thursday. A good friend is visiting. I am finally getting back to my screenplay for the first time since I started blogging. My Windows hard drive is mangled, possibly beyond repair and it is really frustrating to blog from my Mandrake hard drive.

I'll try to do one interesting post a day until things get back to normal. Normal for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

sunday magazine 

Fire up the java machine, the printer and the toaster. It's our bloggiest sunday magazine ever.

How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the
intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq's weapons.

by Seymour Hersh from the New Yorker
printer friendly

A starting point for discussion.
by Marc Brazeau from Blogonaut

Calling the question
by the Pessimist from the Left Coaster

Indymedia's growing pains.
By Gal Beckerman from the Columbia Journalism Review

Journal Entry
by Biroco from

by Neil Weiss from MoMzine

A Bleat
by James Lileks from the Bleat

by Joel Gunz from the Anvil

VIDEO: Featuring No. 6 the author's 14 year old cat
and his mother two weeks before No. 6 died.

by Simon Tyszko

by John Holbo from John and Belle Have a Blog

Just what it sounds like.
by James Knox from McSweeney's

Flash navigation
from National Geographic

On Taboos
by Dale Peterson from Gastronomica

Letter from Canada
by Colby Cosh from

Audio Slideshow
by Susan Olson from the New York Times

Photo Album
by Barry Ritholtz from the Big Picture

by Daniel Creeson Bartlett from Crab Creek Review

by OutKast

By Matthew Blakstad from McSweeney's

Don't forget to read the comics down in the margin.

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