Republic and Empire

Gary Hart just posted Republic and Empire.

Help Me Understand

Read this, then tell me what the "endgame" of currency rebalancing will be? If the dollar plunges, which our massive current-account deficit demands, what happens to our economy? If that forces Europe and Japan into recession and deflation, then how much boost will the lower dollar give us, since they'll have trouble buying things from us? It WILL stop our deflation, which is good, but what else does it do for us? Help me out.

And how much effect is the widening gap between rich and poor having on all of this? If the general public has no savings, lots of debt, and less and less of the overall wealth, then how can "stimulus" do much good? It seems that most of the "stimulus" winds up going to fewer and fewer rich people. Seems to me that the rest of us gotta get rid of some of that debt and get a bigger share of the wealth before we can increase their consumption.

Help me out, leave a comment.

Senate Democrats Tricked Again

Do you remember when the DEMOCRATS in the Senate voted for a $350 billion tax cut? At the time I wrote, "The country has massive deficits, we are at war, programs that help the public are being slashed - and Democrats vote for another tax cut!"

But this was portrayed as a "victory" - the Democrats blocking an even bigger tax cut. Some "victory," huh?

Well guess what? The Senate today passed a mix of gimmicks designed to get around this $350 billion limit. For one thing, they eliminate taxes on dividends, but only until 2007. This trick keeps the bill within the already-agreed-to $350 limit, which means that it cannot be filibustered. So even though only three Democrats voted for this today, their previous "victory" means they can do nothing to block this sham that will further bankrupt the country. (Actually, the bill lowers taxes on the rich by $420 billion, but makes up for it by increasing taxes on middle-class workers, for example, increasing taxes on Americans working overseas.)

Meanwhile, Bush started today working to get all these limiting gimmicks made permanent. The Democrats, with their "victory," fell RIGHT into this trap. They should have had the integrity to simply vote against ANY tax cut at a time of massive deficits. I wonder if they ever heard the expression, "too clever by half?"

Update - It's much worse than it looks!
Vowing to tax income only once, Bush had said dividends should be tax-free only if they were paid out of fully taxed corporate profits. But for the sake of simplicity, the Senate bill breaks from that principle. Investors who own shares in corporations that pay little or no federal taxes would pay no taxes at the corporate or individual level.

"This kind of gives the lie to the argument that what this is all about is eliminating the double taxation of dividends," said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Got that? You own a million shares in a company that moves to a mailbox in Bermuda to avoid paying ANY U.S. taxes. They company sends you a dividend and you never pay taxes on that either. The money is NEVER taxed. How long will it take for all the rich fucks to buy a zillion shares of these companies, or move their companies to Bermuda, and never again pay ANY taxes. This is a HUGE incentive to pull all money out of any company that pays any U.S. taxes, or to get your company to stop paying U.S. taxes. AND it is a huge incentive to pull your money out of any investment of any kind that does not pay dividends, and out of any company that reinvests profits in things like research, employee benefits, pensions, etc. The ONLY thing that matters now will be dividends. NO taxes at all!

Update - Certain companies that have been sitting on huge, huge hoards of cash can issue dividends now, and get it out of the way before 2007. I think this could save Gates about $8 billion in taxes.


Zizka Moved

Zizka has a new URL. Always, always worth reading! Go read his twelve reasons why he isn't much fun anymore.


Molly Ivins: "If it makes no difference whether the government lied, why is Friedman a journalist? Why does journalism exist at all?"

Electronic Voting Machines Story in NY Times

This story, To Register Doubts, Press Here in the NY Times today.
But not everyone likes the switch to electronic balloting. Some of the loudest opposition, in fact, is coming from computer experts who say the new technology could prove more troublesome than its predecessors. They warn of equipment malfunction, unchecked tampering and the lack of secure proof for each vote.

A group of more than 100 technologists, led by David Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, has called for tighter security measures on electronic voting apparatus and a "voter-verifiable audit trail," meaning a permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy even after the election. (The group's "resolution on electronic voting" is at verify.stanford.edu/evote.html.)

Without such a trail, Dr. Dill warned, if a machine is tampered with or malfunctions, "then the votes in question are corrupted and you have no option but to hold another election or accept bad results." Thus the only reliable backup, the group contends, is for the machines to print out paper ballots after each vote, which can be hand-counted if necessary.

Dr. Dill and his counterparts, who in- clude computer science experts in academia and Silicon Valley, also assert that unlike more mechanical machines, electronic systems cannot be opened up to the public for verification. And the only people who know what is encoded on them are computer experts. "I think it's unreasonable for the public to be asked to accept the security of these machines on blind faith," he said. "There's no question the technology is open to tampering."
Paul Terwilliger, director of product development at Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic systems, said that while no one disputes the need for safeguards, complaints about machines like his company's were uninformed. "I think the concerns being raised are 100 percent valid," Mr. Terwilliger said. "However, they're being raised by people who have little idea about what actually goes on."

Mr. Radke of Diebold added that voters have more, not less, confidence in electronic machines. He pointed to a study conducted in February at the University of Georgia that found that 70 percent of voters in the state's November 2002 elections, which were conducted on Diebold machines, reported being very confident that their vote was accurately counted. When this question was asked in September 2001, before electronic voting was in place in the state, only 56 percent of Georgia voters reported being very confident.

Mike Kernell, a longtime Tennessee state assemblyman from Memphis and a technology enthusiast, is concerned about future elections because the new machines are harder to get a look at. "We used to be able to check the machines and see if they'd been tampered with," he said. "It is now almost impossible." Mr. Kernell wonders whether he will have to hire a computer programmer in his next race to make sure the machines are working smoothly and haven't been tampered with. "We've hit a brick wall," he said.

Along with Dr. Dill, endorsers of the resolution include professors from Yale, M.I.T., Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, Bryn Mawr and Johns Hopkins, as well as industry experts from Apple, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Unisys. Dr. Mercuri has written substantially on electronic voting and is one of the group's most outspoken members. She worries that no electronic voting system has been certified to even the lowest level of federal government or international computer security standards, nor has any been required to comply with such.

Dr. Mercuri said the machines had had problems in some elections. In March 2002, for example, in Wellington, Fla. (in Palm Beach County, the epicenter of the 2000 dispute), there were 78 unrecorded ballots in a City Council election conducted with electronic machines. That represents about 3 percent of the total votes.

"Computers are good for many things, but at the same time we need to be cautious. If a machine's not functioning, then it might not be able to shut itself down," Dr. Mercuri said.

I'll tell you what. If you think I'm going to go into a voting booth and touch a screen and leave the booth without some way of knowing what that machine recorded as my vote, then you've got another think coming. If I don't see for myself where that machine put down that I did not vote for Bush, then I do not believe that the machine didn't and that's all there is to it. You can substitute Hillary Clinton's name there and pretend you're hearing this on the Rush Limbaugh show, because there's no reason for them to trust this, either. It's suspicious that they aren't complaining.

Here is my question. Why are the voting machine companies working so hard to defend what they are selling? They would MAKE MORE MONEY if they sold systems that also printed out a voter-verifiable ballot that could be used as a backup and for recounts! So it doesn't make sense that they aren't pushing for that. Unless...

Note - I am quoting more extensively than I usually would because of the NY Times new policy of making readers pay to see stories after a month or so.


Domestic Political Espionage By Dept. Of Homeland Security

The first documented use of the Department of Homeland Security by the Republican Party for domestic political espionage against Democrats. The first, but surely not the last.

Are you surprised? Shocked? WHY? That's what the Department of Homeland Security is FOR! Remember how it was formed? Remember the fight over allowing unions or not? This is an entirely political operation from its very founding. Along with the FBI it is the political espionage arm of the Republican Party. Don't any of you remember Richard Nixon? This is what Republicans DO.

Are you also going to be surprised if John Poindexter's Office of Information Awareness is used for political espionage? Why do you think they put convicted criminal John Poindexter in charge of it?

Stop the FCC

As a blog reader you are probably already aware of the issue of media consolidation. This is one of the most important issues there is right now and you should be active. Here's a brief explanation from MoveOn:
On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission intends to lift restrictions on media ownership that could allow your local newspaper, cable provider, radio stations, and TV channels all to be owned by one company. The result could be the disappearance of the checks and balances provided by a competitive media marketplace -- and huge cutbacks in local news and reporting. Good, balanced information is the basis for our democracy.
Be sure to sign MoveOn's petition!

What's The Point?

Why do so many bloggers from "the left" write about what Andrew Sullivan says? Why should anyone care what he says? Why should anyone be reading him, to know what he says? Why promote him by using his name? When you write about what he says, you're telling your readers that what he says matters. It doesn't.

This is the first and hopefully last time I ever use his name here. I don't read him. I wrote this about this issue once before:
Blog readers may have noticed that there are certain popular blog topics that I have avoided. I have specifically avoided ever mentioning a certain writer whose initials, if you add an 'S', would be "ASS."
The piece was titled Journalistic Integrity.

Something's Up

There were only 62 spams in the e-mail this morning. Something's up! Yes, I know I'll get approx. 300 more during the day but usually there's usually more than 62 in the morning.


The Next Corner After That

This at CNN: Poll: Consumer confidence is fading.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Consumer confidence continued to fade last week, following a brief spike during the war in Iraq.

The ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index, based on ratings of current economic conditions, stands at -24 on a scale of positive-100 to negative-100 for the week ended May 11. The index surged by 13 points from March 23 through April 20, reaching a seven-month high.
Remember when Bush said his tax cuts would make the economy recover? This time the public was told that the war would restore the economy. It didn't. It has been one promise after another. My feeling is that this was about the last time the public is going to listen to a "prosperity is just around the corner" message.

I suspect that THIS time they aren't going to be so easily led around by the nose by the ever-optimistic business press. We'll see.

The stock market is up HOW much since the war started?

My Blogroll

My blogroll has gotten out of hand. I'm going to do something about it, just not sure what. I hate to divide it into "daily reads" and "other blogs", or something like that -- I don't want people to know whether I read them daily or not. But it is just too long - just too many good blogs. Any suggestions?

Moral Politics

TomPaine.com has an interview with George Lakoff. If you read nothing else today, please read this. I think Lakoff's view of how people use family metaphors as a basis for their political thinking is very important for understanding what is going on in the minds of conservatives and liberals. It boils down to "Strict Father" and "Nurturing Parent" viewpoints. (Which are you?)

Update - Here is part 2 of the interview.

Media Consolidation

Please go to Ruminate This and read everything on the FCC and media consolidation. Ruminate has been following this story and agitating with some suggestions for actions.