Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dog Bites Man

Dog Bites Man

Let's sell Naming Rights to the IRT:

While Governor Pataki was on vacation and not available for comment, a spokeswoman, Lynn Rasic, repeated his opposition to raising taxes. "The governor is an ardent opponent of tax increases and would like to explore other ways of meeting the M.T.A.'s capital needs," said Ms. Rasic, declining to discuss what those other ways may be.

The problem is, I suspect her solution is even stupider.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Settlers compare Gaza pullout to Holocaust

Is it Good for the Jews?

Right. Moving out of an unsecured (and honestly unsecurable) area is equivalent to being gassed.

Next, comparisons of The Diaspora with moving out of most of Washington Heights.

The DC City Council has important things to consider

The DC City Council has important things to consider

The choice between ensuring safe drinking water and paying for a baseball stadium is a clear one.

Nine male smallmouth bass taken from the Potomac near Sharpsburg, about 60 miles upstream from Washington, were found to have developed eggs inside their sex organs, said Vicki S. Blazer, a scientist overseeing the research for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Authorities say the problems are likely related to a class of pollutants called endocrine disruptors, which short-circuit animals' natural systems of hormone chemical messages....

The Potomac River is the main source of drinking water for the Washington metropolitan area and many upstream communities. It provides about 75 percent of the water supply to the 3.6 million residents of Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

But, it's not a problem, is it?
The same symptoms had previously been found about 170 miles upstream, in the South Branch of the Potomac in Hardy County, West Virginia.

A recent survey of cancer in Hardy County, where some residents get drinking water from the South Branch, found rates of cancer of the liver, gallbladder, ovaries and uterus that were higher than the state average. All four cancers can in some cases grow faster in the presence of estrogen or chemicals that mimic it, cancer experts said.

Don't worry, though, the market will take care of providing safety.
Endocrine disruptors comprise a vast universe of pollutants capable of driving a hormone system haywire. Some are hormones themselves -- such as human estrogen from women taking birth-control pills or animal hormones washed downstream with manure -- that can pass through sewage plants untouched....

But the Environmental Protection Agency has not set standards for many of these pollutants. Because of this, many drinking-water plants make no special efforts to remove them.

Mayor and Treasurer now full-time positions

Didn't they deal with this last week?

Third in a series.

Pull Quote: "These two positions have not had a raise in over four years."

And what have they done for the city during that time? - MLB - D.C. leaders announce deal to save Expos move

And They Call It Democracy, Part 3

And They Call It Democracy, Part 3

This is an man who seized power by coup, pardoned the man primarily responsible for the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea being as advanced as they are, allows his citizens to thwart any efforts to capture Osama bin Laden, and is defended by the administration as a strong ally in the War on Terror.

I quite agree. But with which side is he allied?

UPDATE: The truth will out.

Monday, December 20, 2004

And They Call It Democracy, Part 2

And They Call It Democracy, Part 2

Chile leads the way. More kudos due to Judge Guzman.

And They Call it Democracy, Part 1

And They Call it Democracy, Part 1

And this is in the country where the judges explicitly agreed that "the state's post-September 11 emergency anti-terrorism powers were 'an odious blot.'"

The Government is not a Debtor

The Government is not a Debtor

PGL at Angry Bear notes this quote from Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth on Hardball last Wednesday:
MOORE: Well, any company--first of all, if any company were running a pension fund that were anything like Social Security, we'd throw these guys in jail, the CEOs in jail, because we've stolen about $600 billion--that's billion with a B--from this supposed trust fund. Young people...

I, and many others who are much more Interested Parties, look forward to seeing the CEOs of Enron, Lucent, and United Airlines, to name three (the rest found here, in jail, as Stephen Moore insists they should be.

Also any other CEO whose company pensions are not funded to at least 70% using the GAO estimates, not the ones in their Annual Report.

Moore continues by strongly implying that the AAA credit rating of the United States government should immediately be lowered to D:
MATTHEWS: How did we do that? How did the government do that?
MOORE: What happened was, as the payroll dollars were coming in, Chris, both Republicans and Democrats--they both share the blame?took that payroll tax money that was supposed to be for Social Security and guess what? They spent it on other programs. They spent it on missile systems. They spent it on Lawrence Welk museums. They spent it on road projects.
MATTHEWS: But didn't they pay--didn't they borrow the money from the system and that went back into the system?
MOORE: Yes, but you go to the bank vault, Chris, and all you see when you open up the bank vault is a bunch of IOUs.

Well, actually, what you see are Treasury Bills such as these (and maybe a few Bonds), many of which are available from Treasury Direct. Investors buy them for various reasons, not the least of which being that the government guarantees them, and they are therefore not going to default. We pay for that risk by accepting a lower rate of interest than, say, a corporate bond or a mortgage security.

If we are to believe Mr. Moore, buyers of government securities are not going to be repaid, because the money generated from their purchase by investors such as you and I was spent on the Lawrence Welk museum and a missile-defense system that doesn't work.

How to rape consumers

How to Rape Consumers

Pull Quote:

Convinced they were fighting to keep alive their bid, D.C. officials gave Major League Baseball 'the sweetest of sweetheart deals,' in the words of one prominent baseball executive. The team would get a free ballpark, the right to choose its location and nearly all the revenue, including tens of millions of dollars from naming rights.

News of the deal 'spread through baseball like wildfire,' said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'It really was too good,' he said, laying the foundation for a public backlash." [italics mine]

No, really??

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Headline Says It All

In Kerik, Bush Saw Values Crucial to Post-9/11 World

The headline says it all:

- A philanderer
- A crook
- A man who used the charity of others to support his lifestyle
- A man whose mob connections made him rich

The crucial values of a post-9/11 world.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

How to Balance a Budget, Home-town style

How to Balance a Budget, Hometown Style

Part two of a continuing rant

Fayette County Council members took a long, hard look Wednesday before cutting $300,067 required by the Indiana Department of Local Government inspectors from the proposed 2005 budget to make it balanced.

How do you balance a budget when you've cut everything you think you can?

(1) You make sacrifices:
In the discussion that followed a presentation by the committee, full-time county employees offered to forgo half of their salary increases in order to maintain health insurance for the elected officials.

Savings: $54,600, but the italics are mine (see [5] below)

(2) You do it with mirrors

The committee recommended removing all capital projects from the Fayette County Commissioners' budget and transferring those expenses to the Cumulative Capital Development Fund for payment, which amounted to $120,700 in cuts, he said.

Just under $125K to go...

(3) You take benefits away from soldiers and old people, and slightly reduce what should be a revenue-enhancing venture:
Starr said the committee recommended eliminating contributions to the Fayette Senior Center, Fayette County Free Fair premiums and veterans support, saving $21,050.

(4) You make it look as if you balanced this with self-sacrifice, or at least you sacrifice seven council members at $1,950 per:
Starr told the council members their salaries in 2005 would be cut to $3,000, from almost $5,000 in the preliminary budget, saving $13,650.

(5) You provide a disincentive for a wife or husband to run for elected office:
Starr said the committee recommended that each elected official and nonfull-time appointee be permitted to carry single plan insurance only, with the option to purchase spouse or family coverage at the full cost.

"This change in health insurance amounts to $31,596 in savings," he said. "No other employee would be changed at this point and there are no layoffs recommended in this report."

Note this in the context of (1) above. Give up salary to protect insurance--and then let us gut the insurance benefit. So they "protected" a benefit that was cut anyway.

Apparently, it was for psychological reasons:
Deputy Ted McQuinley of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department asked why council members bothered to give raises as small as $500.
"It's a pittance of a raise but I think, psychologically, something is better than nothing," Glowacki answered.

It is also at this point that my math (based on their numbers) fails, since the article appears to be missing $15,614 in cuts:
That left $15,982 to be cut, [Starr] said.

(6) Time for the mirrors trick, again:
"This is the point where Mr. Glowacki contacted (Fayette County Assessor Nancy) Stevens to ask if there were some funds that she believed could be transferred to help meet budget, to keep from having to get into insurance with any full-time employees or any layoffs of positions," Starr said. "Mrs. Stevens agreed at that time to transfer $18,000, that left a working balance of $2,018."

And there you have it. Only seniors, veterans, married elected officials, and those who believe that one-time exceptions should not be used to "balance" a budget were harmed in the making of this budget. To give Mr. Starr the final word (italics mine):
"I just hope through the whole process, not just for the council, that all of you are more informed and better educated about the process and where the funds come from and how they flow," Starr told the employees at the meeting. "There's never been any desire or intent to hide or manipulate numbers. They are what they are and we just have to deal with them."

Adendum: Don't get me wrong. I know Joe Glowacki, and I trust that he would try to do the right thing. But the result is a sleight-of-hand, done-with-mirrors manipulation that shorts veterans and seniors, and presents a picture where the numbers don't add up.

It's not that I doubt their motives, it's the suspicion that they really did do the best they could, and that the result is the best of all possible budgets that is frightening.

I Surrender, Dear

I Surrender, Dear

Major League Baseball uses a photograph of Anthony Williams that makes clear their intention to rob his city.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Looking at Connersville

The old hometown looks the same

Part One in a series of Look-back/forwards at Connersville, Indiana.

Local economic development director address [sic] school board
It's a high-tech, global economy that takes a highly-educated work force, Fayette County School Board members were told during their meeting Tuesday.

We've come a long way since fluoridating the water
New Economic Development Group Director Bill Konyha described the changing work force and the importance of education in an ever-changing world...[and] share[d]his thoughts on lifelong learning and the role public education plays in the community and economics.
Pull Quote: Konyha said one of the things he has noticed since coming to Connersville is "a bad image has been developed."

There is light at the end of the tunnel:
"In my first 60 days here, we have uncovered three expansion projects - one retention project and two attraction projects," he said. "I'm here to say that the economy in Connersville is not nearly as bad as people think it is."

even if there is some fuzzy math involved in treating a "retention" project as an "expansion" project.
Pull Quote 2: Manufacturing will continue to change, although it will remain a vital economic engine that drives the county, state and nation, he said.

Uh, yes. That's why 80% of the U.S. economy is services-based.

At least we got someone qualified to lead the turnaround:

Konyha said he is 56 years old and continues his education while enrolled in the equivalency [sic] of an MBA program - the Certified Economic Development program - through the University of Oklahoma.

Lying about Our Towns

Lying About Our Towns

Pull Quote: ""You hear rap music all the time and they want to do away with Christmas songs?"

Right. Sell me another one. Tell us about all the concerts the school has put on this year that featured music by Eminem or Grandmaster Flash or Run-DMC or NWA or Jay-Z or.... The Times certainly didn't--because they can't.

Meanwhile, as of Thanksgiving Day, we're stuck with the station that used to play occasional rap song--but mostly "classic" rock--having become "the Best Mix of Holiday Hits 24 hours a Day." And I have yet to hear "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"--let alone "Cuando El Rey Nimrod" or "Ocho Candelikas"--in the mix of Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and Bob Seger's "The Little Drummer Boy" (neither of which, I note irrelevantly, qualifies as even the best Xmas song recorded by that artist).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

David Brooks Parodies Himself

David Brooks Parodies Himself

Pull Quote: "Mr. President, I was on my way to a faith-based soup kitchen, where I lead Bible study for the alcoholic children of recovering Wahhabis, when I ran into Luis, who lost his job at the ANWR Energy Company because of junk lawsuit costs, and he was saying he prays every night for a personal Social Security account that will offer him incentives to work, save and invest." Stories like this confirm the essential wisdom of the common people.

And he probably doesn't even realise it...

Monday, December 13, 2004 Okay, We Lost Ohio. The Question Is, Why?

Okay, We Lost Ohio. The Question Is, Why?The Reason remains, after the "refuted"; again, Teresa Nielsen Hayden tells the truth, shames the Devil, and is ignored.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

And Now for Something Completely...restricted to only a few service men and women

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Pull quote:

The memorandum, written by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency to a senior Pentagon official, said that when the two members of his agency objected to the treatment, they were threatened and told to keep quiet by other military interrogators.

The memorandum said the Defense Intelligence Agency officials had seen prisoners being brought in to a detention center with burn marks on their backs and complaining about sore kidneys.

Winning hearts and minds, one kidney at a time.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Kevin Drums for Conflating and Confusing, after Wondering at the Result

Kevin Drums for Conflating and Confusing

Kevin Drum falls a ways down the Slippery Slope, confusing bloodlust with a rational reason to go to war.

This would be fine, were it not that Paul Gastris on that same blog noted with apparent sadness those "predisposed to believe falsehoods about Iraq."

So we are supposed to believe that conflating and collaterally overthrowing the democratically-elected Taliban government in Afghanistan because members of Al Queda lived there (no matter that 15 of the 19 atttackers were Saudi, as was ObL himself)is a legitimate activity, but knowing that Saddam Hussein was not behind the attacks is The Only Acceptable Reason.

When are the Kevin Drums and Matt Yglesiases of the punditocracy going to realise that their own initial conflation of Taliban and Al Queda facilitated blurring the distinction between Saddam and Al Queda?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Time to invade Brasil?

Time to invade Brasil?

This first sentence of the new Becker-Posner blog may soon replace "the quick brown fox" in history. Not because it uses all the letters of the English Alphabet, but because it makes an equal amount of sense.

Can I be the only one awaiting the mathematical formula that demonstrates that C(appr)>= defence*t(attack)

UPDATE: The Loud Liberal rather goes on about the point above in much more detail, though rather, er, Loudly (which, in this case, I don't mean as a compliment, as he obscures his central point in the ranting).