Sign Kerry's petition to Protect Every Child.
Watch Kerry's video address--in which he pledges to oppose the radical Bush agenda, fight to insure 8 million uninsured children and demand fair federal election standards.
Kerry just lost the biggest contest of his life. Two-thirds of the sentient beings on earth have an opinion about what he did wrong. At a time when most people would be cringing and licking their wounds, Kerry is getting right back to work and sponsoring important legislation. As Digby says, it's a classy move from a classy guy.
Some Democrats embarrass me. I'm sick of hearing privileged "liberals" cynically opining (in public, no less!) about which or our core constituencies we can cut loose in order to curry favor with the Red States. Gays? Women? Unions? Immigrants? You know, the people whose petty concerns will probably pale beside the Real values of the Democratic party. I say "probably" because the pundits tell me that we don't actually have a Vision yet--but the Marketing Team will be getting back to us soon.
Jonathan Chait is a case in point:
Democrats spent about a week desperately casting about for some social issue to chuck overboard so they could get right with middle America. Alas, after running through the usual list, they decided that they weren't prepared to abandon abortion or gay rights and had all but given up on gun control anyway, so there wasn't much they could do.
Well, even though the search was called off early, I have a late entry: Abolish the National Endowment for the Arts.
The NEA is a major stick in the eye to the, um, culturally traditional. (I was going to write "guys named Jethro who own pickup trucks" but I'm trying not to inflame cultural sensitivities here.) [LA Times; via Kevin Drum]
Some people seem determined to live up to the right wing slander. When right accuses us of being unprincipled snobs, they leap up to validate the stereotype: "Why yessir, Mr. Limbaugh. Guilty as charged, sir. Might I flay an interpretive dancer for your listening pleasure and that of your mouth-breathing Jeebofascist drone army?"
Either Marc or Jason Stanley has an excellent post up at the Leiter Reports: First Tax Rumors. He explains the Bush tax agenda in very stark terms.
If a government wanted to exempt the rich from taxation, Stanley asks, how might they go about it?
Well, one way would be to exempt all capital income from taxation while keeping the income tax for wages and salaries. The upshot would be that anyone who could get their firm to pay them through stock or any ownership stake would pay no taxes on that income, ever. Not even when they pass it on to their kids, since the estate -- excuse me, "death" -- tax will also be gone. Of course those of us who are stuck with wages would continue to pay income taxes.
It gets even better. The Bushies are talking about some options for funding the plan. One is eliminating the exemption for your state and local taxes...thus introducing some genuine double taxation for citizens of any state whose government wants to fund public services to replace the ones the administration will doubtless be cutting at the Federal level. A second is eliminating the tax write-off for employer funded health insurance. Perhaps the money from that could be used to subsidize tax-free medical savings accounts, so the proles who rely on health insurance from their employer could fund those wealthy enough to sock away large amounts of money in MSAs. Just an idea.
Max Sawicky has more on The Bush Blue State Tax.
If you're ever an embattled chief of a pharmaceutical giant, remember your Ps and Qs. Senators are very forgiving. It's amazing how far soft-spoken sincerity will get you even if you've killed a lot of people.
For Merck Chief, Credibility at the Capitol [NYT permalink]
But yesterday, in a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee that could be a dress rehearsal for testimony [Merck chairman and CEO Raymond Gilmartin] may be forced to give in those suits, he had a relatively good day.
Based on the way lawmakers have recently treated other executives whose companies have come under fire, Mr. Gilmartin had reason to expect a grilling from lawmakers, especially since the hearing included some of Merck's harshest critics.
Instead, the senators treated him gently.
Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, said that he had been impressed with Merck's contributions to public health and that he believed that Merck acted responsibly in dealing with the questions around Vioxx.
Other senators did not go quite that far, but none heaped the kind of scorn on Mr. Gilmartin that people like Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron, received in their appearances before Congress. Even Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the committee and has been leading the investigation, seemed more interested in questioning the F.D.A. on its role in the Vioxx affair.
Bush Plans Tax Code Overhaul [WaPo]:
But before the tax panel is even named, administration officials have begun dialing back expectations that they will move to scrap the current graduated income tax for another system.
Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.
The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
Public Health Pres explains why this proposal at least as alarming as it sounds, namely because its implementation would end private health insurance as we know it.
John Henke wonders why liberals, of all people should have a problem with that:
The most controversial aspect of this may well be the elimination of "the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance". The obvious argument against it will be the one made today by Atrios: "bye bye health insurance for a hell of a lot of people." Ironically, he also presents the case FOR such a tax
cuthike (oops): "I think the fact that insurance is linked to employment is a bad way of doing things..."
So, 3rd-party health care payment is a Bad Idea, but we don’t want to eliminate the incentive to shift the responsibility to that 3rd-party? Interesting argument.
Here's an insightful essay about ambivalence by Richard Ford: Tempting times [Guardian] It's about his reaction to the Democrats' defeat.
It's a short piece, so I won't spoil it for you by carving out my favorite chunks. Like a lot of people, Ford is self-consciously vacillating between righteous outrage and self-protective narcissism. It's tough to lose, especially when you can't quite decide what kind of defeat it was. Was it inevitable? Did we botch it? Was it a crushing defeat, or a minor electoral setback? If we're going to be outraged, who should we get mad at?
There's something perverse and demoralizing about being furious at many of the people whose oppression was outraging us in the first place. Ford understands the complex relationship between high minded moral sentiment and tribalism. In this election they seem to have fed off each other in complex ways. In the aftermath, it's a lot for our poor monkey brains to process.
Read all about it: PZ Myers on Pierolapithecus catalaunicus:
That’s Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a Miocene hominoid from Spain described in this week’s issue of Science. What’s special about it is that it appears to be the closest thing to a last common ancestor of all of the great apes.
And all you creationists can just fuck off. Today's our day.
Many Democrats take Kerry's loss as evidence of a dramatic shift in American political sentiment, or as evidence that the Democratic party needs to radically reinvent itself to remain competitive.
Paulos notes elections are decided by a handful of swing voters. This time around, Bush attracted a few more swing voters than Kerry. This is hardly evidence of a massive change in the political landscape.
Paulos also emphasizes that Democrats eked out a narrow loss to a wartime incumbent. If Ray Fair's election equation is any guide, the Democrats did much better than history would have predicted. Fair called it for Bush in a landslide, but the landslide failed to materialize.
In a two-way contest, there will always be a winner and a loser. We shouldn't read too much into a short string of close defeats. Even a fair coin will show strings of heads or tails from time to time.
Meanwhile, Chris of Mixing Memory has been calmly and cogently making a similar case for a couple weeks.
I am not at all surprised that conservatives like Bennett see it as a victory for their regressive religious and social agenda. That's all they can see it as. However, I am very surprised to see so many liberals thinking that conservative hillbilly morality had anything to do with Bush getting elected. Sure, about half of the people who vote Republican no matter what (you know, the 40% of the population who would vote Republican if Marx had an R next to his name on the ballot, and then be able to create a fairly good story to convince themselves that they did so for principled reasons) are fundamentalist evangelical Christians. The other half is a mish-mash of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, foriegn policy conservatives, and the like. Still, it's not this 40% of the population, composed of these two halves, that got Bush elected. He was elected because more than half 20% of the people who don't vote R or D every time voted for him (I'm assuming, and I think this is the case, that the turnout wasn't really more favorable for Republicans). Why did they do this? Some might have done so for social reasons, but I would bet a lot of money (if I had it) that the vast majority of the members of that group who voted for Bush did so because we are at "war," and Bush's election therefore says very little about the moral mood of the country that we didn't already know.
I'm all for reforming the Democratic party, but the recent electoral defeat isn't particularly strong evidence for the kinds of radical reactive changes that many Democrats are proposing. It certainly isn't evidence that we need to compromise on our core principles in order to be electable.
Pay attention, the following may be the only useful thing you ever learn from this weblog. I've been looking for the ultimate cheap disposable earplug for several years and I now believe my search is over.
OTC earplugs can be divided into two main categories: gunk and foam. Intuitively, the gunk technology seems more promising. It sounds smart to have earplugs that instantly conform to the unique shape of the wearer's ear canal. Intuitions are often wrong. Gunk earplugs are messier and less effective than foam plugs. The worst offenders are the greasy pink plugs made of wax and fiberglass insulation. The high-tech silicone blobs are eye-catching, but again it's hard to form a really tight seal.
The major drawbacks of foam plugs are non-ergonomic shape and rigidity. Howard Leight earplugs solve both of those problems. They're tapered and made out of very springy pliant foam. According to the package, their noise reduction rating is 33dB.