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The Tally Ho

Monday, February 27, 2006

TPM Posts

Check this post out by Joshus Marshall at Talking Points Memo
Under every administration there are examples of individuals or tax exempt groups (associated with the opposing party) getting audited by the IRS. It always, or usually, looks a bit fishy. But there's seldom any concrete evidence of politicized decision-making at the IRS to point to. So partisans on one side or another make their judgments in the absence of hard proof. And that's pretty much where it ends.

There's a astounding piece on page A3 of the Post today about one of these instances -- only in this case there appears to be more or less conclusive evidence that it was a political hit.

The group is question is Texans for Public Justice -- a outfit which had a lot to do with turning up the information about illegal fundraising and money distributions that eventually ended Tom DeLay's reign as Majority Leader.

They got audited by the IRS. And after what was no doubt a lengthy process, they've been cleared.

But why were they audited?

Check out the whole post. Is anyone actually surprised by this? Also check out Max Sawicky's post over at TPM Cafe titled, It's Who You Know, Stupid.
Today Krugman elevates a new progressive meme. Not necessarily brand new. I've talked about it myself. From behind the infernal NYT subscription wall, PK calls attention to what I could call the meritocratic fallacy. This fallacy is that income or wage inequality results from an increasing "skill" differential. It's your own damn fault you don't make more money. You should have spent more time drilling calculus and less in all-night games of hearts followed by excursions to Dunkin Donuts. If you're worried about outsourcing, you're a weenie; real men are not afraid to compete in the new world economy.

I would label it the Bullshit Human Capital story (BHC). BHC was big in the Clinton Administration and lives on in the Gospels of Sperling (a.k.a. Gene Gene, Neo-Liberal Machine). The Clintons attributed the suffering we must endure from free trade to lack of investment in training and education, and they had the courage to actually devote several teaspoons of resources to look like they were fixing that problem.

In an important departure, Krugman says it's about Power. It's not that more education is not always better than less; of course it is, and more public support for education and training should be welcome. But BHC does not strike at the root of the problem, nor its solution. It's about who makes the rules of the game, including the labor market game. We are not living under meritocracy. Merit is substantially compromised by privilege.

Privilege derives from wealth, race, and gender. It biases decisions in college admissions, employment, housing, political appointments, and credit allocation. It reduces economic efficiency and growth because a biased decision entails waste of real resources.

The resulting elite is what PK calls an oligarchy.

Meritocracy is not everything. Ideally, we would leaven meritocracy with public notions of social justice and divert resources from their best economic use for ethical reasons. Now we have the worst of both worlds: waste for the sake of a self-indulgent ruling class.

I posted the whole thing, but there should be more comments on the link by the end of the day. Check it out.

Update: Ed Kilgore responds. Here is the lead:
Max Sawicky's post today riffing on a Paul Krugman op-ed about the sources of inequality made a valid and important point, and then carried it across the line into a strange attack on Gene Sperling and Clintonomics. Since Max has earlier made it clear he'd rather Democrats stay out of power than repeat the "centrist" policy heresies of the Clinton era, I think we're dealing with a pattern here that's worth challenging.

Max's valid point is that income inequality in America cannot be completely explained by deficiencies in educational and skills levels. Max's invalid point is that anybody, especially "neo-liberal" Clintonites, who stresses these "human capital" assets as important to the future economic welfare of currently disadvantaged Americans is buying into a "meritocratic fallacy" that justifies inequality perpetually.

Update II:
Max Swaicky responds with Goodbye, Horatio Alger. Here is the intro
Ed's opening gambit conflates criticism of Clinton policies with a preference for Republican rule. If you're not with us, you're against us! This prompts the 'Naderesque' insult from a commenter. Trying finding any such assertion in what I wrote.

Ed claims the Clinton Administration did not limit its attack on inequality (sic) to BHC remedies. Actually the Clinton support for BHC was more rhetorical than real. And the support for remedies outside of BHC is a figment of Ed's imagination.

Here's a chart showing Federal outlays for education and training in constant dollars, from 1988 to 2006. Source is Table 9.9 in the Historical Statistics of the U.S. Federal Budget. It's clear where the valley of fatigue lies. Note that a flat profile of constant dollars means a declining ratio in terms of GDP; we should at least be keeping level in those terms.

Baseball News

As you know, I am a fan of the AL East baseball. I like all baseball - other than the West Coast teams. Anyway, this was in the Washington Post today.
There are far more teams looking for starting pitching help this time of year than teams with extra starters to deal, but the Nationals feel there are potential trade partners -- perhaps most notably the Boston Red Sox, who are prepared to give top prospect Jonathan Papelbon the fifth starter's job, making another starter such as Matt Clement and/or Bronson Arroyo expendable.

However, Clement, who is owed $9.5 million in both 2006 and 2007, may be too expensive for the Nationals. Arroyo, meantime, signed a three-year, $11.25 million contract with the Red Sox in January. Complicating the Red Sox' picture is the fact the team reportedly promised veteran lefty David Wells that they would try to trade him to a West Coast team by the end of the spring.

According to a team source, the Nationals have already approached the Red Sox about a trade involving second baseman Alfonso Soriano, whom the Nationals acquired in a December trade and are trying to persuade to accept a move to left field, but the Red Sox showed very little interest.

I don't buy it for a second. First, Washington made a very bad trade this off season by trading for Alfonso Soriano. Firstly, his batting average has dropped four straight seasons. Of couse he has good power and is only 30 years old - but secondly, the Nationals already have a second baseman in Jose Vidro. Were they not aware that Soriano had no interest in moving to the outfield? Anyway, my point is - trading Soriano should have been considered when they first acquired him. Thirdly, why would the Red Sox want Soriano at this point? When building a team this off season, I wouldn't be surprised if Boston would have considered it if they traded Manny Ramirez. But now that they have Mark Loretta and his OBP at second with Ortiz and Ramirez behind him - where would Soriano play? Also, why would Boston consider trading a never injured and affordable Bronson Arroyo for a player who would have no position for the Red Sox? It doesn't make sense at all. Terry Francona has said all off season that you can never have too much pitching - seeing Boston's winter moves says it all. The only way I see Matt Clement being moved is if Jon Lester is a big league starter by the end of June. Otherwise, I can't see the Red Sox trading away valuable players. With a healthy Schilling and Beckett (though Francona may pitch Wakefield in between) and Papelbon - Clement may be the fifth man in the rotation. In conclusion, in the mostly post steriod era no way Boston trades away their biggest assets. If they need to trade pitching for offense - it is more likely going to be Clement and Trot Nixon to Philadelphia for Bobby Abreu - that is, if Philadelphia is still trying to trade him and their pitching staff has holes.

Lapham: The Case for Impeachment

Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush
I have always enjoyed the articles by Lewis H. Lapham, and this is just another one. Here is a taste
On December 18 of last year, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution inviting it to form “a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.” Although buttressed two days previously by the news of the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of the American citizenry, the request attracted little or no attention in the press—nothing on television or in the major papers, some scattered applause from the left-wing blogs, heavy sarcasm on the websites flying the flags of the militant right. The nearly complete silence raised the question as to what it was the congressman had in mind, and to whom did he think he was speaking? In time of war few propositions would seem as futile as the attempt to impeach a president whose political party controls the Congress; as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad. Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.

“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.

A reason with which it was hard to argue but one that didn't account for the congressman's impatience. Why not wait for a showing of supportive public opinion, delay the motion to impeach until after next November's elections? Assuming that further investigation of the President's addiction to the uses of domestic espionage finds him nullifying the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of his fellow Americans, the Democrats possibly could come up with enough votes, their own and a quorum of disenchanted Republicans, to send the man home to Texas. Conyers said:

“I don't think enough people know how much damage this administration can do to their civil liberties in a very short time. What would you have me do? Grumble and complain? Make cynical jokes? Throw up my hands and say that under the circumstances nothing can be done? At least I can muster the facts, establish a record, tell the story that ought to be front-page news.”

Also, the other day I decided to read over the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution for fun. The Declaration of Independence will always be a special document to me. Especially this part:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security

I'm certainly not advocating a new government, I just have a soft spot for this document and felt like putting it on the blog. However, our legislative and judicial branches took an oath to defend the constiution, not an oath to their political party - the Constitution gives remedy for the current situation, and it doesn't have to be impeachment - just use the power the constiution gives you.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I still love my state

An Ohio legislator (state senator Robert Hagan, D-33) has introduced a bill to bar Republicans from adopting children, in response to the bill which seeks to bar adoption by gay people. The language is hilariously similar, and the logic behind it is just as solid as that behind the gay-adoption ban.
Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.

Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption.

"We need to see what we are doing," said Hagan, who called Hood's proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive. Hagan called Hood and the eight other conservative House Republicans who backed the anti-gay adoption bill "homophobic."

Hood's bill, which does not have support of House leadership, seeks to ban children from being placed for adoption or foster care in homes where the prospective parent or a roommate is homosexual, bisexual or transgender.

To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims.

Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence" to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children, Hagan said.
Found via Pandagon, which you should pop in and read for its funny commentary. Thanks, Pam...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Harper's Cartoon of the Day


You can find the cartoon at Harper's Magazine and other work by Mr. Fish at Clowncrack Productions. Click on the cartoon for a larger size.

Illinois, This is your Governor

While I would never pick on Illinois for Blago as long as Gov. Pitaki is in Albany, this is just too funny. Ill. Governor Confused by 'Daily Show' Bit
ST. LOUIS Feb 23, 2006 (AP)— Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasn't in on the joke. Blagojevich says he didn't realize "The Daily Show" was a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an interview that ended up poking fun at the sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor.

"It was going to be an interview on contraceptives … that's all I knew about it," Blagojevich laughingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a story for Thursday's editions. "I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was 'the gay governor.'"

The interview focused on his executive order requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control.

Interviewer Jason Jones pretended to stumble over Blagojevich's name before calling him "Governor Smith." He urged Blagojevich to explain the contraception issue by playing the role of "a hot 17-year-old" and later asked if he was "the gay governor."

At one point in the interview, a startled Blagojevich looked to someone off camera and said, "Is he teasing me, or is that legit?"

The segment, which aired two weeks ago, also featured Illinois Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, a pharmacist who opposes the governor's rule. Stephens has said he knew the show was a comedy.

"I thought the governor was hip enough that he would have known that, too," Stephens said.

Okay, I can understand the Governor not knowing a thing about the Daily Show, but doesn't he have a staff? See the clip here

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CT-Sen: Lamont v. Lieberman and NOW vs. NARAL

I'm sure everyone is aware of what is about to pass in South Dakota, the criminalization of abortion. Personally I don't think this legislation is intended to ever become law, just a test, and I think it is doubtful that the SCOTUS will uphold it. Regardless, I flipped over to Kos on a break to see what is cooking on the good old blogosphere. I don't flip over too often, though I have noticed how there have been many support Ned Lamont posts in the upcoming primary against Sen. Lieberman. Personally, if I had money to give to a primary candidate in the 2006 primary season, Mr. Lamont would be one (Mr. Hackett would have been the other - bang up job Washington and Ohio Dems). I have also had several email discussions with Elwood about NARAL's support of Lincoln Chafee before the primary! - but I won't get into that. Back to the point, this post - CT-Sen: NOW gets it is an interesting one. I would love to hear our resident experts discuss this.

I'm torn regarding the filibuster. Justice Alito was going to be on the court. 55 GOPers marching in synch is too much to over come without Democrats getting Mr. Alito to come out and say that the Executive Branch has the authority to spy domestically without judicial review or that the Executive Branch can detain people as long as they want. Since the Democrats failed to accumulate enough no votes for cloture, the filibuster was more or less a symbolic gesture by the minority - that Justice Alito deserved more than a no vote. In any case, I think opposition to Sen. Lieberman obviously isn't about the Justice Alito vote, but a multitude of things - most notably carrying the water for Bushco. We need two things in the Senate right now, more votes for a Democratic Majority Leader and Democrats that don't carry the water for an unpopular Republican administration that has not yet proven they can effectively govern. In any case, its worth the read and check out the blog Kos links to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting even and shutting up

I know that we 'Murkins spend too much time with our noses in our own newspapers and don't pay enough attention to what else is going on in the world. So let me see if I can even report this correctly: 1,600 female workers in two UK hospitals win an equal pay settlement of 300 million pounds--and they don't want to talk about it. This settlement (not an award) included back pay since 1997 and now includes a pay structure equal to men's. No one wants to make a national issue of it, the union is keeping mum and not pushing for equal pay for other female employees, despite the fact that "the pay gap between men and women is actually growing." The women involved in the settlement that were interviewed in the Guardian article are jubilant at their own good fortune, but circumspect about how it may translate to other workers. The article implies that the disparity in pay between male and female workers is huge enough that if word gets out, it might crash the system. Don't take my word for it; read it over and tell me what you think. Perhaps it's the very idea of universal health care and the employment structures it might necessitate that makes me confused.
(hat tip: Josef K over in the postless comment thread of Twisty's blog.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

73 gigs

Bad news, boys: the RIAA says that ripping CDs for use on an mp3 player is not necessarily "fair use". In their recent filing, they also said that "Similarly, creating a back-up copy of a music CD is not a non-infringing use....". So whatever good reason you had for that external hard drive, it's time to come up with an even better reason.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On the other hand, this man can say anything he wants

Did you know that Barack Obama has a podcast? I haven't tuned in yet, but I'm thrilled. I wonder if the sound quality is good enough to distract me at the gym when I'm on the hamster wheel. This man (if we're lucky) is the future of the Democratic party.

And did I mention how I shook his hand once?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh, Bill. We'd love you even more if you'd just stop talking.

How is it that our Mr. Clinton can be so energizing and so aggravating at the exact same time? This is from the NYTimes.com's report of Coretta Scott King's funeral.
Of the four presidents, Mr. Clinton was the obvious favorite of the crowd. A huge cheer went up as he reached the open area near Mrs. King's coffin, and the crowd gave him a thunderous standing ovation when he approached the microphone with his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Clinton was followed by the far more formal remarks of Senator Clinton, who until then had stood silently nodding her head as he spoke.

Mr. Clinton began by saying, "I'm honored to be here with my president and my former presidents." Then he paused briefly and gestured toward Mrs. Clinton, his unspoken words seeming to suggest that he wanted to say future president, too. When the crowd began cheering, Mr. Clinton laughed and said, "No, no, no."

Can there now be even a smidgen of doubt that she's going for it? In my perfect world, there would be no war, we'd use budget surpluses to shrink the deficit, give everybody health care, and I'd probably vote for Hillary in a primary. In the real world, I don't think she can win. If Bill keeps talking about it, the Dems might be paralyzed by the idea long enough to lose another election. Why can't he just stop talking already? It's the same problem that Gore and then Kerry had: you can't win with him, and you can't win without him.

Quote

Working at home, and having an IFC program about the days of punk - I heard this
Hardcore is as American as fake wars, baseball, and apple pie.

- Henry Rollins

Friday, February 03, 2006

Going too far

See? It's February, and still the "choice" posts roll in. Yes, here at the Tally Ho we will keep blogging these issues all 12 months of the year!

Annoying detritus from work: Catholics for a Free Choice has just released a survey which shows 35% of Catholic hospitals in New York, South Carolina, California, and Washington State do not provide emergency contraception (those states have "EC in the ER" laws, saying that hospitals must provide EC to female sexual assault victims upon request. (It does make me pleased that almost 3/4ths have SANE-trained nurses who specialize in collection kits and testing/treatment for sexual assault. If you have the time, it's worth reading the full report.) This is relevant to everyone in those states because as hospitals consolidate, the closest/only hospital may be a Catholic hospital, even if the patients and medical staff are not Catholic. In many cases, the hospital's stated EC policy diverged from the day-to-day availability. Again, it's worth remembering that EC will inhibit ovulation, but not implantation, which puts it on par with other hormonal birth control (page 3). (found via Kaiser DWHPR)

Next, a report from San Antonio saying that Mexican pharmacies are stocking EC and customers are "mainly young, even teenaged, women who buy the pill, and that some of those women are from the United States." Gasp! They're buying a drug that an FDA committee has already recommended for over-the-counter use! And they get it so easily! With only a "short trip" across an INTERNATIONAL BORDER! (I'm sorry, I can't restrain the sarcasm.) Which do you think is easier: going to the drugstore down the street for condoms and foam, or crossing the border to Mexico to get EC? My opinion is that if teen girls are taking the trip to Mexico for EC they probably need it to avoid pregnancy (duh) when they can't find a confidential doctor and/or aren't in relationships where they can negotiate condom use. Anyone who's taken EC knows that it is a last-resort drug with some pretty nasty side effects. Perhaps someone who lives in that part of the world could clue me in on how much of a short/easy trip this might actually be.

Finally, AlterNet reports that some female soldiers have died of dehydration because they are afraid of being assaulted or raped by male soldiers if they use the latrine after dark.
[former Abu Ghraib commander, Col. Janis] Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."

This kind of puts to rest the theory that women shouldn't be in combat because male soldiers would be so devastated if they got hurt. It's a pretty horrible story. (Hat tip: Phoenix Rising.)