Thursday, December 30, 2004

 

Clearing Brush?

George Bush likes to clear brush:

"President Bush has been seldom seen in the waning days of 2002. On Friday, while North Korea was spreading nuclear panic in Asia, a White House spokesman announced that the president spent the morning "clearing brush" and then went jogging; yesterday it was fishing and more brush clearing...All of which raises various questions. With all the time the president has spent clearing brush, how is it possible that there is still any brush left on his ranch? And what is he doing about North Korea's nuclear shenanigans"-Dana Milbank. Washington Post, December 31, 2002

"Bush Will Cut Brush All August Long,'' - New York Post, July 30, 2003

``Bush Starts Monthlong Vacation in Texas Clearing Brush, Fishing'' - The Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 4, 2003

``President George W. Bush got a chance to renew his favorite vacation pastimes on a hot, hazy Sunday at his ranch. He took a walk, cleared brush and went fishing.'' - The Associated Press, Aug. 3, 2003.

"The President is chopping down lots of small scruffy looking bushes that make it hard to walk around out there. He uses a very loud chain saw and people watch him really hard and seem kind of nervous while he is doing this. Then he and Kenneth pile up the brush and set it on fire. They watch it until it goes out and always have water ready in case the fire gets out of hand. They say that children and dogs should not play with fire! Your fur will get singed!"-Spot and Barney's Crawford Scrapbook! http://www.crawford-texas.org/id4.html

"While Bush's rival, Democrat John Kerry, continues to campaign, the president is scheduled to be at his ranch for about a week, taking a break from re-election appearances. It's his 38th presidential trip to his ranch where he spends time outdoors fishing, clearing brush and exploring its rocky terrain, waterfalls and canyons. On Wednesday, he took a bike ride, and has been watching some of the Summer Olympics, McClellan said."-August 19, 2004

Dave Shiflet even wrote a "philosophical article" entitled Bush vs. Brush: The zen of the president's pastime , The National Review, January 28, 2002 in which he argues that brush clearing is a manly "aggressive act" (after all Ronald Reagan also enjoyed it): "Do I dare disturb the universe?" asked poor Prufrock, patron saint of the Sensitive Man. "Let me get my saw and show you how," is the brush- clearer's response." http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_1_54/ai_81775376

And of course, this week as tsunamis ravaged Southeast Asia:

"White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32337-2004Dec28.html

President Bush did not buy his 1600 acre Prairie Chapel Ranch, near Crawford Texas, until 1999. His previous homes were well-to-do suburban. His "brush-clearing" mania seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Why?

I spent several summers on my aunt and uncle's dairy farm. I have had some experience with clearing brush. In my experience it was a mindless, sweaty, nasty occupation in the relatively mild Pennsylvania summer. In Crawford, Texas, in the summer it must be unbearable--in the winter barely tolerable. Again why does he do this? Or does he? Has anyone ever seen the President clearing brush (other than in short photo opportunities)?

My theory is that "clearing brush" is a White House euphemism for "goofing off". The media-savvy White House is not going to announce that the President spent several hours doing nothing. That sounds unmanly and unaggressive.

Bill Clinton played golf and enjoyed other "recreations". Nixon made enemies lists. Ike golf, again. Truman drank bourbon and played poker with his cronies. FDR collected stamps and enjoyed mixing cocktails. Daddy Bush played a mean game of tennis. Reagan "cleared brush" on his ranch.

I can see the image-makers at the White House rejecting all of the previous president's recreations and declaring "Brush-clearing--that's the ticket". After all a "born again" dry alcoholic doesn't have a lot of choices.



 

Sumatra

I have been absorbed in the stories of this natural disaster that will affect the world for years to come.l I must admit that while I have been following these stories I have been drinking--coffee, which naturally led me to thoughts of sumatra. Apparently, one responsible coffee company Willoughby's Coffee and Tea of Connecticut has had similar thoughts about South Asia and "coffee producing Sumatra." Its website http://www.willoughbyscoffee.com/tsunami_relief.htm
contains links to
many relief organizations that could use assistance. I wonder when Starbucks will make a donation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

 

Balancing the Budget One Passport Photo at a Time

CNN has a great story about a couple who were scuba diving off Ko Phi Phi Island in Thailand just as the tsunami hit. Amazingly they made it to shore unscathed. They had lost all their possessions including their passports. US consulate officials demanded payment to take their passport photos:

The couple had managed to hold on to their ATM card, so they paid for the photos and helped other Americans who did not have any money get their pictures taken and buy food, Helen Wachs said.
"She was really very surprised" that the government did so little to ease their ordeal, she said.
In an e-mailed response from the State Department, the chief of American Citizen Services said the embassy usually meets and greets every flight personally, but acknowledged there had been confusion the first night in setting up the operation.
Still, "anyone needing assistance is guided to our office in the VIP hall, which is the space allocated to us by the airport authority," the e-mail said.
Typically, anyone needing a passport is directed to go to the embassy, it added.
"If people have no funds to get to the embassy, they are offered a $100 emergency loan on the spot," the e-mail said.
Because of the emergency, the embassy has been issuing no-fee emergency passports since the tsunami hit, it said.
But the photo printer was working only sporadically on the day in question, so its use was reserved for those truly in need; others were asked to walk a building away to get their pictures taken, it said.
"Basically, if you had a decent supply of cash, you were asked to go get photos made so we could try to save the camera for desperate cases."
http://cnn.usnews.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=CNN.com+-+American+diver+underwater+during+catastrophe+-+Dec+29%2C+2004&expire=-1&urlID=12721586&fb=Y&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2F2004%2FUS%2F12%2F29%2Ftsunami.diver%2F&partnerID=2004




 

Who's stingy?


According to the New York Times:


Rejecting a United Nations official's suggestion that it had been a "stingy" aid donor, the Bush administration on Tuesday announced another $20 million in relief for victims of the Asian earthquake and tsunamis and dispatched an aircraft carrier and other ships to the region for possible relief operations.
The announcement brought the United States' total aid package to $35 million so far, and Bush administration officials said much more would be sent.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/29/international/worldspecial4/29aid.html?oref=login

Is $35 million stingy for the world's only super power?

Compared to the January 20, 2005 Inaugural?

Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman... said $2.8 million has been appropriated for inaugural costs, although the total cost of inaugural events — the parade, parties, fireworks and security costs — is far higher. In 2000 President-elect Bush took in $40 million from campaign donors for his inaugural celebration. (Atlanta Journal Constitution http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/election/1104nation/04polissues.html)

Compared to the BCS college football games?

Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post points out that each of the the big-time college football teams will earn $14.3 million and the total revenue will be around $93 million. She suggests that this money be donated to aid the tsunami victims .http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32292-2004Dec28.html?nav=headlines

If our government seems a little stingy what can individuals do?

The Washington Post has a list of organizations accepting donations:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32605-2004Dec28.html

I personally gave to Doctors Without Borders http://www.doctorswithoutborders-usa.org/donate/index.cfm?msource=AZD0408H1001 They are already on the scene in most of the affected countries and have an extremely low overhead. I distrust organizations formed for specific disasters (too much time and money involved in setting up). I also still have a bad taste in my mouth concerning the American Red Cross' 911 efforts. I gave them money to aid victims not to buy computers for their local offices. But the important thing is to do what you can...



Tuesday, December 28, 2004

 

Title Wave

Continuing in the holiday season mode, I have noticed there are many new holiday films available for adult and family viewing. Seems that by next holiday season, audiences will be able to see more disaster films aimed at scaring us silly about the shocking disasters that can arise from volcanic erruptions and the collateral underwater activity. MSNBC reports that the east coast faces the threat of a tidal wave (in the next 1000 years) from a crumbling Canary Island volcano, unless we spend significant funds to monitor the situation now. The good news is that it seems we have solved the asteroid problem, which means save your space disaster scripts. www.msnbc.com/id/5652141/.

Monday, December 27, 2004

 

I thought the angels said PEACE on earth!

Chris Birket of Scottsdale, Arizona is a moron.

Birket has created a "Winter Wonderland," a blazing filigree of up to 150,000 lights forming Santas, reindeer, "Nutcracker" characters, snowflakes, stars and American flags, under puffs of soap bubbles and sprays of artificial snow in his modest suburban yard. With it comes blaring Disney music and narration that echoes up and down his quiet residential block: "Do you believe in magic? Look to the sky and make a wish. Star light, star bright, I wish I may, I wish I might."

Mr. Birket has become a Christmas cause among the wingnuts because he has been charged by his neighbor with malicious noise-making.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/27/national/27lights.html?ei=5006&en=a2524f3b75237647&ex=1104814800&partner=ALTAVISTA1&pagewanted=print&position=
He has been portrayed as a poor Christian persecuted by the anti-religious secular society.
What he actually is, is an exhibitionistic nutcase. Take a look at his web-site: http://www.winterwonderlandaz.com/about.htm This has nothing to do with "Peace on Earth" or the birth of the Baby Jesus. This has more to do with "Look at me" than "Praise the Lord". Mr. Birket has more in common with Janet Jackson than Mother Teresa.

If you have any doubts, check out Birket's plans for next year:
"300,000 lights with a backyard show as well, "Journey to the Caribbean," mixing "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Gilligan's Island." Now he said he's thinking no. "Too much hype."
But, then again, he left the door open. "Never say never," he said."

And Janet would be back at the Super Bowl, if they let her.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

 

"Life is short. Enjoy every sandwich."--Warren Zevon

A true gentleman and a fine manager, Johnny Oates died yesterday at the age of 58. After he had been diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of brain tumor, he said, "When you look at it, it's a blessing, really, there's only one day of the week that has any importance, and that's today. You can't do anything about yesterday, and you can't do anything about tomorrow. It's just today." The Baltimore Sun has more http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-sp.oates25dec25,1,6091603.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

Friday, December 24, 2004

 

I wonder if Bill O'Reilly will plug this show?

FOX-TV is planning to broadcast a "charming" program called "Who's Your Daddy?" in which a young woman who was given up for adoption will win $100,000 if she can pick her biological father out of a line-up. http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20041223/en_nm/leisure_daddy_dc_3
What a sensitive, heart-warming show!
I find it fascinating that FOX-News commentators are among the first to denounce anything which doesn't embrace good-old red state family values, yet the "entertainment" side of Rupert Murdoch's empire broadcasts the sleaziest most voyeuristic garbage on television.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

 

Merry Christmas to All!

We are fast approaching the feast of Christmas. Much ink and bandwidth has of late been wasted on the propriety or impropriety of wishing folks a "Merry Christmas". While we live in a diverse, multi-cultural, yet (so far) secular society, Christmas is a legal holiday for the federal and various state governments. To wish another poor soul, a "Merry Christmas" should not be construed as an imposition of a Christian blessing on anyone or alternatively some type of profession of one's Christianity, but merely a wish that the poor soul have a "good time" at a particularly pleasant time of year. My hero, Ambrose Bierce, does not seem to have left any particular thoughts on the subject of Christmas. He did have a definition for the word "feast":

FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church feasts are "movable" and "immovable," but the celebrants are uniformly immovable until they are full...

So, I wish one and all an excellent "feast" of Christmas. I hope everyone is imbued with the spirit (or spirits) of gluttony and drunkenness and has a roaring good time!


Monday, December 20, 2004

 

Those safe red states!

This really can't be improved upon. »«TBogg»« provides a little lesson in red state vs. blue state perceptions:

http://tbogg.blogspot.com/:
Geography lesson
Good common-sense Midwesterner Kathy Sage rounds up the usual suspects:Hours before her arrest, Montgomery and her husband, Michael, showed off a newborn girl at a restaurant on Friday, said Kathy Sage, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Melvern, a small eastern Kansas town.Many customers were surprised to hear the infant was only a day old, Sage said. She knew an Amber Alert had been issued for a baby missing from Missouri but did not realize the infant the Montgomerys carried was connected until hearing from a reporter on Friday.“You read about this stuff,” she said. “It blows you away when it’s here. This stuff is supposed to be in New York City or Los Angeles.”

Well. No.

Kimmi Hardy- Keokuk, Iowa:A woman who faked being pregnant, to the point of wearing maternity clothes and holding a shower after the "birth" of her child, has been charged with murder in the death of the baby's actual mother.Kimmi Hardy has been charged with murdering Theresa Lund and taking Lund's baby on August 28, the day Hardy told friends that she had given birth in her trailer home. Guests at a subsequent baby shower alerted police that Hardy's baby, actually 6 weeks old, seemed too old for a newborn.

Dena Schlosser- McKinney, Texas:According to her lawyer, a Texas woman who admits killing her baby daughter by severing the girl's arms was guided by a Biblical passage that refers to cutting off body parts to cast away sin.Attorney David Haynes says 35-year-old Dena Schlosser, who has a history of mental illness, has been quoting Scripture where Jesus says, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."Schlosser was charged with capital murder last month after telling a 9-1-1 operator that she had cut off her baby's arms. Police found Schlosser in the living room, covered in blood, still holding a knife and listening to a hymn.

Andrea Yates- Houston, Texas:Around 10:00am on June 20, 2001, Rusty Yates received a startling phone call from his wife, Andrea, whom he had left only an hour before."You need to come home," she said.Puzzled, he asked, "What's going on?"She just repeated her statement and then added, "It's time. I did it."Not entirely sure what she meant but in light of her recent illness, he asked her to explain and she said, "It's the children."Now a chill shot through him. "Which one?" he asked."All of them."He dropped everything and left his job as a NASA engineer at the Johnson Space Center. When he arrived fifteen minutes later, the police and ambulances were already at their Houston, Texas home on the corner of Beachcomber and Sea Lark in the Clear Lake area. Rusty was told he could not go in, so he put his forehead against a brick wall, trying to process the horrifying news, and waited. Restless for information, he went to a window and on to the back door where he screamed, "How could you do this?" According to an article in Time, at one point Rusty Yates collapsed into a fetal position on the lawn, pounding the ground as he watched his wife being led away in handcuffs.

Susan Smith-
Union, South Carolina:A bitter turn of events in the divorce of Susan and David Smith threw the young mother into a downward spiral that ended with the deaths of their children, a defense expert testified Wednesday.Social work professor Arlene Andrews said Ms. Smith's mental condition began deteriorating in August 1994 after a failed reconciliation with her husband.The couple agreed to seek an amiable divorce with neither party being at fault. But Ms. Smith reneged on the deal and decided to charge her husband with adultery.He retaliated. On Oct. 20, he searched Ms. Smith's purse and found a letter from Tom Findlay. When he told her he knew she was having an affair, Ms. Smith became confused and confessed to having an affair with Findlay's father, Cary Findlay, her former boss and owner of Conso Products Co.That's when David Smith threatened to reveal her relationship to Findlay's wife.Andrews said Ms. Smith was distraught and didn't know where to turn."Susan thought she had done something unforgivable," Andrews said. "Her suicidal despair set in, and she began to think everything about her was bad."Five days later, Michael, 3, and Alex, 14 months, were dead, having drowned in the mother's car, which Ms. Smith had let roll into John D. Long Lake.

Andrew Golden & Mitchell Johnson- Jonesboro, Arkansas:Children are returning to Westside Middle School today for the first time since four of their classmates and one of their teachers died in an ambush. A juvenile court judge on Wednesday ordered two boys accused of the killing held until April 29, when they may be formally charged with capital murder and first-degree battery for the attack which also wounded 10 students. Counselors will be in all the classrooms to help children cope with coming back to the school.[...]Johnson and Golden are accused of killing four of their classmates, all girls, and an English teacher during a false fire alarm outside Westside Middle School Tuesday. Ten other people were wounded. Five students and a teacher are still in the hospital. One of the students is listed in critical condition, and doctors said her condition was improving.

Shall I go on?

Atta-boy TBogg!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

 

Bernie the K & Rudy G: Joined at the Hip in Slime

Steve Gillard seems to have all the dirt on Fun City's Dynamic Duo: http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/
Both of them have got to be sorry that Rudy had the bright idea of recommending Bernie for a cushy Federal job.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

 

And the whole time I thought it was Peter Angelos...

WTOP radio reports that the DC "sex industry" has been supporting the anti-Baseball stadium forces. http://www.wtopnews.com/index.php?sid=365294&nid=25

 

Way cool site...

Coolest website of the year. This site scans the web to find the 100 most important words of the hour in several news sites, puts them together with corresponding images, and publishes the result in a 10x10 grid. Check it out: http://www.tenbyten.org/10x10.html

Friday, December 17, 2004

 

Social Security Scam Part II

Howie Kurtz, (the Washington Post media critic that everyone hates, but must read), whines that the media has and will do a poor job of reporting on Social Security privatization (destruction) because its hard:

Kinsley has fashioned one of his liberal, economically precise, smarty-pants arguments about how Bush's Social Security plan is destined to flop. He invites all comers -- that is, anyone with a modem -- to take him on. (Of course, some of them were coming whether he wanted it or not). This to me is the essence of what's good about the Web -- a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred debate in which you don't need to work for a big media corporation as a ticket for admission.
But perhaps there's a challenge here as well for the mainstream media, which find it so much easier to go wild over Amber Frey or Bernie Kerik's mistresses or "Desperate Housewives" or Ron Artest punching out fans (that is, when they're not filled with holiday advice about the latest cell phones, digital cameras and other gadgetry that you absolutely must have).
I don't want to slight the economics writers who have done a fine job of unraveling the threads of the Social Security arguments and whether private accounts can be created without huge costs or benefit cuts. But this is dense, complicated stuff based on all kinds of economic assumptions, and I wonder whether the media, particularly television, can muster the patience to cover it in more than a superficial sound-bite way. In other words, having a liberal and conservative come on talk shows and argue that the other side wants to bankrupt the system and leave seniors out in the cold is not what we need right now.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/nation/columns/kurtzhoward/


I thought that's why we buy newspapers like the Washington Post--to make sense out of difficult economic/political policies. I thought that's why their reporters get the big bucks to "splain things" to Lucy and morons like me. But I guess we have to rely on the blogosphere...

 

What new hell is this....

Baltimore (like any big city) is a dangerous place in which to walk around. You got your muggers, rapists, murderers, and bad things in general. One generally doesn't worry too much about random electrocution. But we've now reached a new low. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-te.md.dogs17dec17,1,1812062.story?coll=bal-home-headlines
I wonder if the Romans knew it was getting near the end when pieces of aqueducts started falling and hitting people on the head...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

 

Pretty soon it'll be "Bernie--Bernie who?"

Rudi admonishes Bernie the K. http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/262645p-224880c.html

 

I don't want to set the world on fire...

...but a few patients will do. http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20041215-115559-6190r.htm

 

Baseball in DC?

I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us. ~Walt Whitman

The DC City Council evidently doesn't see "great things" in baseball or baseball as a blessing. At least seven members of the council see Major League Baseball as a gigantic rip-off. I am not naive enough to see Linda Cropp and her supporters on the council as guardians of the public fisc. Does anyone really think that if the stadium/Washington Nationals deal is dead, that the DC city council will appropriate $550 million extra dollars on the city's pathetic schools or streets? No, Ms. Cropp, Mr. Fenty, Mr. Catania, Ms. Schwartz, Mr. Mendelson, Mr. Graham, and Ms. Patterson are not about to rescue the city's streets and schools; they are trying to politically posture and embarrass the mayor.

No one can argue the direct economic benefits of a baseball stadium with a straight face. The jobs that it provides are marginal. The direct tax benefits, in the case of DC have been "mortgaged". It is the indirect and psychic benefits of a baseball stadium that cannot be easily measured. In the case of DC, a new stadium would be a lure to new businesses and non-residents to come to a part of the city that now combines the charm of a concrete batching yard with the delights of gay strip clubs and a pornographic movie theater.

In 1997, Governor Glendening paid over $200 million to bring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. It was a deal that was so one-sided that the Rockefeller Foundation found that he had virtually given away the store. http://baltimorechronicle.com/ravens_dec02.html. Yet very few Marylanders regret the deal today.

The $550 million price tag for the DC stadium is not being paid out of general revenue funds. It is proposed to be financed by rent, taxes on stadium concessions and parking, and a special gross receipts levy on the city's most prosperous businesses. As proposed, not one cent of monies which would otherwise be spent on schools or libraries is to be spent on the stadium.

It is easy to rant and rail against Major League Baseball. God knows, I've done it for years. The only thing dumber than a baseball owner is 29 baseball owners. The only thing greedier than a baseball player is a baseball owner. I've lived through the Senators' ownership of the late Calvin Griffith and late Bob Short (both of whom should be burning in one of the lower depths of Hell) and the unspeakable Orioles' ownership of Peter Angelos. Baseball is a Supreme Court sanctioned monopoly. It acts like a monopoly. It has used DC as a punching bag and a stalking horse for the last 33 years. Mayor Williams did not negotiate with MLB from a position of strength. If MLB were dying to get into the DC market, it would have done so years ago. DC for a number of reasons (some of them, sadly, racist) has never been perceived as a "baseball town". Ms. Cropp and her council buddies have succeeded in confirming this perception.

Today, I ordered a Washington Nationals logo shirt on-line (the team store has suspended operations). I will either wear it as a supporter of Washington baseball or as an ironic comment on the crass stupidity of politicians.






 

Let it snow!

The crown prince has been pestering me about snow all week. He's a fervent believer in a white Christmas; I'm at best an agnostic about such things. Here's a snowball fight that's my style--you can't get cold or wet.

http://www.elfmovie.com/swf/snowball_fight/index.html

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

Thought for the Day

Since I've been (for some unknown reason) somewhat pre-occupied with matters of health of late, it's refreshing to reflect on the words of wisdom of Ambrose Bierce:

"Certain old men prefer to rise at dawn, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

 

Social Security Scam

Paul Krugman in the New York Times has been on a one man truth mission concerning the Bush Social Security privatization. First, he points out, there is no crisis.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/07/opinion/07krugman.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists%2fPaul%20Krugman

Krugman says:

"Privatizing Social Security - replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts - won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse. Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.
I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis.
There's nothing strange or mysterious about how Social Security works: it's just a government program supported by a dedicated tax on payroll earnings, just as highway maintenance is supported by a dedicated tax on gasoline.
Right now the revenues from the payroll tax exceed the amount paid out in benefits. This is deliberate, the result of a payroll tax increase - recommended by none other than Alan Greenspan - two decades ago. His justification at the time for raising a tax that falls mainly on lower- and middle-income families, even though Ronald Reagan had just cut the taxes that fall mainly on the very well-off, was that the extra revenue was needed to build up a trust fund. This could be drawn on to pay benefits once the baby boomers began to retire.
The grain of truth in claims of a Social Security crisis is that this tax increase wasn't quite big enough. Projections in a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (which are probably more realistic than the very cautious projections of the Social Security Administration) say that the trust fund will run out in 2052. The system won't become "bankrupt" at that point; even after the trust fund is gone, Social Security revenues will cover 81 percent of the promised benefits. Still, there is a long-run financing problem.
But it's a problem of modest size. The report finds that extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to only 0.54 percent of G.D.P. That's less than 3 percent of federal spending - less than we're currently spending in Iraq. And it's only about one-quarter of the revenue lost each year because of President Bush's tax cuts - roughly equal to the fraction of those cuts that goes to people with incomes over $500,000 a year.
Given these numbers, it's not at all hard to come up with fiscal packages that would secure the retirement program, with no major changes, for generations to come."


Second, Krugman points out that the whole scheme is really a raid on worker's social security personal accounts financed by stock market speculation.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/10/opinion/10krugman.html?oref=login

He notes that much of Argentina's fiscal problem in the 90's was due to a similar scheme:

"One major reason for Argentina's rapid debt buildup in the 1990's was a pension reform involving a switch to individual accounts - a switch that President Carlos Menem, like President Bush, decided to finance with borrowing rather than taxes. So Mr. Bush intends to emulate a plan that helped set the stage for Argentina's economic crisis.
If Mr. Bush were to say in plain English that his plan to solve our fiscal problems is to borrow trillions, put the money into stocks and hope for the best, everyone would denounce that plan as the height of irresponsibility. The fact that this plan has an elaborate disguise, one that would add considerably to its costs, makes it worse. "


Krugman seems to be pretty much howling in the wilderness at this point. The Washington Post does a better job reporting scandal than economics. Television news would rather report on Ken finally losing on Jeopardy than eyeball glazing economics. I have a terrible feeling that the American people are being sold a terrible bill of goods--and like the invasion of Iraq very few reporters are willing to point it out.


 

Samurai Santa


Samurai Santa

 

Mistakes were made...(the saga continues)

More passive voice. Bernard Kerik on his failure to file the proper income tax returns for his illegal nanny:

"It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment required tax payments and related filings had not been made."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

 

Personal update

I returned to what I laughingly call "work" today. I saw four students.
The last one is an interesting challenge. She is German, only in the States for the last 18 months. I tried to explain that since I saw her last, I had had my gall bladder removed. My 3 years of high school and one year of intermediate college German classes had somehow neglected to impart the German word for "gall bladder" (of course, my German classes were so long ago that the gall bladder had probably not been discovered yet). I subsequently learned (thanks to Babelfish) that the word is "Abschürfungblase". My student thought I was talking about Gaul (she has studied Latin).
I returned to the homestead really wiped out. I guess my energy level is still pretty low.

 

Why do rich people employ illegal nannies?

Bernard Kerik withdrew as the nominee for Secretary for Homeland Security when he "suddenly" discovered that he had employed an illegal alien nanny and had not been paying the proper taxes http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6697161/site/newsweek/. Of course Linda Chavez (newspaper columnist/perennial Republican candidate), Zoe Baird (big deal lawyer/Democrat), Kimba Wood (Democrat/Federal judge!), and Lani Guinier (law professor/Democrat) had similar problems. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Presidents-Nanny-Problems.html?oref=login
Why do these rich bastards skimp on such a trivial matter? I can understand the average middle-class Joe who doesn't issue a 1099 or pay social security withholding on the day-care lady or the grass cutter. Middle-class Joe is probably filling out his own tax return or at most using Turbotax or other software. But why do rich people who have accountants, tax attorneys, or both cut this particular corner?


Thursday, December 09, 2004

 

The Future's so bright I gotta wear shades...

Scientists in England have developed a robot which autonomously feeds and powers itself on flies attracted by human excrement. http://www.theregister.com/2004/09/09/fly_eating_autobot/
Another team of scientists in Florida have grown rat brain cells in a Petri dish and taught them to pilot an F-22 flight simulator through simulated hurricane winds. http://www.theregister.com/2004/12/07/rat_brain_flies_jet/
Even if we put these two concepts together, the Chinese will still be able to do it cheaper.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 

C.B.'s Big Adventure

Many of his devoted fans have wondered why the Clockwork Bluejay has been strangely silent for the last week.

First, his mother-in-law visited. Her presence in the Man-Cave (the site of the Blogger machine) had a bizarrely chilling effect on blogging, since she seems to have lost any and all power of personal body heat generation. She turned the heat up to approximately--broil. Frau Bluejay considered using the Man-Cave as an auxiliary oven for the preparation of the Thanksgiving feast.

Second, and more importantly the Bluejay had an involuntary tour of America's healthcare industry.

It began innocently enough with a simple belly ache on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The Bluejay chalked this up to misdemeanor gluttony and the temporary holiday abandonment of the Atkins Diet. On Thursday morning, the belly ache increased in intensity. Again, there seemed to be a perfectly logical explanation. Frau Bluejay had decreed that where the Nest had nylon wall-to-wall carpeting there would now be exotic Brazilian cherry hardwood floors (Rainforest be damned!). The dutiful husband had single-handedly moved the dining room furniture, a secretary, and a sideboard from the fancy-eating room/parlor and a mammoth computer credenza and two bookshelves from Frau Bluejay's home office (the "She-Den"). Obviously, a simple case of muscle strain...

By Thursday night the pain had become acute. The Bluejay made his way back to New Market from the People's Republic of Takoma Park and asked the Frau to drive him to the local urgent care facility. For those of you who don't know, an urgent care facility seems to be a place designed to keep the merely sick and pretty sick out of emergency rooms (where the really dying or smarter pretty sick people get attention). The urgent care facility seems to function as a dispenser of prescriptions for antibiotics or Tylenol 3 and the advice "You are not dying. Please consult your primary care physician in the morning." It's like being put on hold with really good classic rock playing as hold music. After a short wait, the doctor said that the Bluejay had either a kidney infection or a kidney stone. She prescribed an antibiotic, oxycontin (Rush's drug of choice!), and the ritual straining of the urine. The Doctor also advised a trip to the urologist.
On Friday, Mrs. Bluejay contacted the primary care physician who wrote a referral to a urolgist. She picked up this vital document, only to learn that the urologst wanted x-rays to be done by the primary care physician prior to his seeing the wounded Bluejay. Nothing was accomplished.
On Saturday, all players rested. The hardwood floor guys arrived to find that they could not lay the flooring in the fancy eating room/parlor due to a suspicious water leak under a window. They suggested finding a "handyman" to re-caulk the window and replace any rotten wood. The Bluejays now learned it is far easier to find a urologist than a "handyman".

On Sunday, the oxycontin (hillbilly heroin!) was no longer working. The Clockwork family migrated to the "real" emergency room at Frederick Memorial Hospital at around 2:00 p.m. After a fairly short wait, the Bluejay entered the portals of healing. After describing the situation, the kidney stone-infection theory was quickly discarded. (unlike on FoxTV's House, M.D., no babies or other patients had to die in order to rule out this diagnosis). The smart money was now being placed on the gall bladder. The Bluejay was assured that the gall bladder was a basically purposeless organ which exists to store bile and aid in the digestion of fat.http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/surgery/clin/gi/gallblad.html

Ultrasound pictures were needed to check out the state of the gall bladder.
The ultrasound pictures showed a gall bladder full of evil stones with a thickened wall. The pictures also showed a kidney stone 8 mm in size (for those of you who are metrically challenged 25.4 mm equals an inch, so we're talking approximately 1/3 of an inch). The kidney stone was, like the Washington Redskins, not "in passing formation" (A good thing, too! It is easier for a rich Republican to enter the kingdom of heaven than an 8 mm stone to...). The plan was to admit the Bluejay to the hospital and remove the evil gallist insurgents the next day.

Hours and hours of delay ensued. In keeping with the holiday season there was no room at the inn. Finally, at about 10:00 p.m. , the Bluejay was in his room. Alone...

Well, not really. There seemed to be either a not very well preserved Second Dynasty Egyptian mummy or a semi-alive comatose male senior citizen in the next bed. (It was later determined that the second option was true. He was a 90 year old, very hard of hearing, retired accountant.)
By way of background, the Bluejay had not been admitted to a hospital as a patient since he had his tonsils removed at the age of 3. This was a very, very long time ago. The only memory that the Bluejay had retained of his previous hospitalization was an aversion to scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese. His only knowledge of how to be a patient had been gleaned from Hollywood/TV and his observations as a visitor of friends and relatives. There was no instruction manual or orientation session. After about an hour a strapping, balding guy in a sport shirt entered the room. He strongly resembled Tony Soprano. He spoke in a South Jersey/Philly accent. "Hi, I'm Dr. G, if you want me to, I'm going to cut out your gall bladder tomorrow." This was the surgeon. He explained that he was going to put a hole in the Bluejay's belly button in order to insert a camera (laparascope). Then he was going to cut 3 more small holes in the belly and suck the gall bladder and stones out. Ba-da-bing! No more belly pain (unless there was another problem). He diagrammed this on a napkin, and explained that the only problems were that he could accidentally cut the bile duct in which case they would fly the Bluejay to Johns Hopkins, where "they got a guy who knows how to fix that" or he could cut some nerves that would require more repair work. The thought occurred to the Bluejay that the guy at Hopkins might be the "guy to see"(maybe there was an alumni discount), but he was in Frederick not Baltimore, and Dr. G seemed like he really knew what he was talking about. Only on sober reflection, did the Bluejay realize that he and the Frau had spent more time picking out hardwood floors...

An aside about Nurses. Nurses and nurses' aides are the people who really run the patient's life. The first thing that seems to happen to a patient is that he/she is plugged into something--a drip bag, a heart rate monitor, or some other Tom Swiftian gizmo, the patient is then rendered basically immobile, helpless, and utterly dependent on someone else for anything that requires movement beyond arm's reach. The medical industry seems to like this. Immobile patients are orderly patients. Orderly patients know their place--in bed--and don't interfere with important nursing conversations which seem to involve incessant bitching. Nurses bitch about their patients, the doctors, and how busy they are. For the most part nurses and aides are female. Nurses don't like being mistaken for nurse's aides. They do dress alike. They each wear a badge which one assumes states their name and rank. The type on these badges is so small that in dim light or without one's glasses it is impossible to differentiate one from the other. Nurses don't like to do menial tasks (unless they feel like it). The Bluejay decided that it was better to err in elevating the aide rather than demoting the nurse. He told everyone that she was a "great nurse". (Luckily, he didn't run into any female doctors on his trip.) He did run into some truly great nurses...or were they aides?

Late Monday morning, the Bluejay was presented with his "informed consent" and anesthetic information sheet. He appreciated the exquisite irony of these documents. Lawyers had spent a lot of time wording these documents in order to show in some potential litigation that the patient had been fully warned about all of the potential dangers of surgery, but like a thrill seeking, adrenaline junkie, the patient had persisted in foolishly going forward in risking possible mutilation, paralysis, or death. The hospital bureaucrat seemed somewhat surprised that the Bluejay actually read most (some) of these documents. It was like a meaningless scene in some forgotten ritual.

The Frau arrived and accompanied the Bluejay to pre-op. There they met the anesthesiologist. He was Russian, and resembled Viktor Putin. He looked at the Bluejay and announced in a menacing accent: "You are a smoker. Because of this I must insert a tube down your throat. It will scratch your throat and after the surgery, it will hurt. It makes my job much more difficult". The Bluejay thought about replying, "Hey guy, lighten up. That's why you get the big bucks and get to drive your Porsche to your golf dates on Wednesdays". Insulting a guy, who will take you to the very brink of death and then bring you back, didn't seem to be a good idea to the Bluejay. The Bluejay also thought about a new Surgeon General's warning: "WARNING: Cigarette smoking may make your anesthesiologist cranky and have a slightly tougher day". After he left, the Frau and the Bluejay agreed that Viktor was such a warm "people person" with such a great bedside manner that his life was being wasted as an anesthesiologist, he would have made a great pathologist.

Soon, the Bluejay was wheeled into the operating room. Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" was blasting on the sound system. The Bluejay liked that. Dr. G was hip, but not too hip. Then the Bluejay remembered the lyrics: "Grab your things, I've come to take you home", but at least it was an upbeat death song. "Don't Fear the Reaper" would have been a real downer. "Tell Laura I love her", "Deadman's Curve". " A Day in the Life", or "The End" would have been much, much worse. Top 10 Rock Death Songs should not flit through one's mind just before succumbing to anesthesia.

Dr. G asked the Bluejay his name. He told him. Then Dr. G said "We're going to take out your spleen, right?". The Bluejay objected. Dr. G said there was "more money in spleens". The Last thing the Bluejay remembered was offering Dr. G a twenty dollar tip if he would cut out 20 lbs. of excess belly fat.

The recovery room was and is a detailless blur. Nurses kept coming and going, the Bluejay was in that strange drowsy, but dreamless, sleep but not sleep.

Later, with his worried, faithful Frau at his side, the Bluejay awakened in his very own little hospital room, just like Dorothy back from Oz. The Frau told him that his son, the crown prince, had slept with his father's shirt the night before because he liked "Daddy's smell". After she left, a virtual banquet was set before him: chicken broth, orange Italian ice, jello, and cranberry juice. Since the Bluejay had not eaten since the previous Wednesday, he devoured this feast like a ravenous animal.

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