Why give capital a break?

I'm not sure what to make of our national tax debate (such as it exists) when the venerable market-rag Business Week is now questioning the very foundations of our reward-the-rich tax policies. Hell, right-on-the-money expert Chris Farrell even digs up this quote from a historical millionaire-you-love-to-hate Andrew Mellon in favor of taxing capital rather than labor:

In the first case [labor], the income is uncertain and limited in duration; sickness or death destroys it and old age diminishes it; in the other [capital], the source of income continues; the income may be disposed of during a man's life and it descends to his heirs.

Surely we can afford to make a distinction between the people whose only capital is their mental and physical energy and the people whose income is derived from investments. Such a distinction would mean much to millions of American workers and would be an added inspiration to the man who must provide a competence during his few productive years to care for himself and his family when his earnings capacity is at an end.

Right on, Secretary Mellon, you Ghost of Sane Bloobloods Past, keep on talking and maybe we could shake some brains into the obese Scrooges whose cold wind
motivates our current "tax-policy consensus". And I'll have none of this workers-are-also-investors nonsense, not until these featherweight taxes on capital can help workers breathe easy, with fatter wallets and fewer collection agents breathing down their neck. (Yes, even the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers bill collectors to be a growth occupation, especially in hospitals and physicians offices, but I digress.)

Special props to Laura D'Andrea Tyson for pointing out very early on (also in Business Week!) that the Bush tax cuts are sapping America's strength. At first I thought, great way to frame the argument Dean Tyson. But now, two years later, I'm thinking her premise is stark and true.


Street cars? Yes, please!

Minneapolis officials are investigating the possibility of rebuilding some of the street car system.

All I can say to this is: yes, please!

Also, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the "ding-ding historic trolley". Restoring some vintage street cars and running on the line would be great for the character of the city and for tourism. People love street cars!

So, you're living in a police state

Constitution-huggers are up at arms about the Bush administrations wide-reaching new wire tap program (not to mention the administration's tortured legal justifications for it).

But there are lots of benefits to living in a police state, as Stephen Colbert explains.

So, You're Living in a Police State


Last word on Sue Ek

Sue Ek is off the ballot. It's unclear if the Republicans will be able to replace her. I consider that bad news -- voters always deserve a choice. But the blame falls on the Republican Party for failing to do due diligence of their candidate and on Sue Ek for not doing the honorable thing and dropping out with enough time for the Republicans to choose a replacement.

I want to close the chapter on the Sue Ek saga with one last thought. A commenter on the St. Cloud Times posted this in response to a story about Ek:

"Tiamat from Sauk Rapids
Franklin and RFW, you are both so correct. 42 is not youth, she even lies to herself. Plus she says her pretty little head just can't understand legal documents. So she's too stupid to be involved in government. It makes my skin crawl to think she is advising women on birth control issues. She sounds like a provincial housewife from the 30's. She doesn't have a youthful thought in her head. I just cannot believe she can keep up this charade. She has no job and lives with her parents, give me a break. She needs to get out of MN and do some travelling and experience life. Grow up SUE, look in the mirror, you are not youth. You are embarrrassing yourself everyday." (emphasis mine)

I wouldn't be so harsh, but I agree with Tiamat. Sue is a middle aged woman who works for her mother at a BS non-profit selling birth control hucksterism. She lives with her parents (or lives in a home they rented for her, depending on who you believe). That a middle aged person with virtually no real-world life experience would presume herself qualified to sit in the Legislature is shocking.

I urge Sue to take her life into her own hands. It's time to grow up.

DFL statement on Sue Ek

Moments ago, the DFL released this statement on the Supreme Court's decision regarding Sue Ek:

"From day one, the Republicans have been playing political games with the people of St. Cloud. Gov. Pawlenty scheduled the special election two days after Christmas, which would ensure low voter turnout, and disfranchise the students of St. Cloud State University. Then the Republicans advanced a candidate who didn't even live in the district. The Supreme Court wasn't fooled. The voters won't be fooled either.

"The voters have a clear choice in Larry Haws. Haws has proven himself with over 32 years of public service to the people of the St. Cloud area. He is honest, trustworthy and the best choice to
represent the Granite City at the State Capitol."


Camp Wellstone, Jan. 20-22

If you are interested in getting involved or becoming more effective in progressive politics, check out Camp Wellstone. It's coming to the Twin Cities again this January 20-22. I highly recommend the program.


Civil Liberties vs. National Security

Analysis: Liberties Often War Casualties
The Associated Press

Given a free hand after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush followed the uncertain footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Adams and other past presidents who made civil liberties the first casualty of war.

Eavesdropping without warrants, redefining torture, building loopholes into the Geneva Conventions and the USA Patriot Act will be parts of Bush's legacy _ and a cautionary tale for the next president who struggles with the balance between safety and civil liberties. [...]

Have we gone too far to defend the nation?

What happens if we don't go far enough?

I was glad to find this analysis giving a broader historical perspective of the tension between civil liberties and national security. I really don't resonate with kneejerk reactions to the domestic spying charges, especially when you consider that these actions may have prevented a terrorist attack. At the same time... how hard can it be to get a warrant? And if they really do have reason and probable cause to tap these conversations, can't they get a warrant quickly and easily? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the point of getting a warrant is to have a hopefully impartial judge review the case for snooping so that particular tool isn't abused. Unfortuntately there's a long history of government abuse of surveillance power. The circles of surveillance expand to groups with a legitimate right to protest the government... you know, like the Quakers.

Related: Our friends at Powerline call Mccain's proposed law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in American custody a "terrorist rights bill" that will "end our ability to obtain any information from terrorists." That's some seriously crude hyperbole, folks. More extremism and exaggeration to advance their failing neocon agenda.

Judge: St. Paul Sue Lives in St. Paul

A judge has said that Sue Ek failed to establish residency in St. Cloud before the deadline for the Dec. 27 election, reports the Star Tribune.

The judge's report goes to the Supreme Court where Ek will have a hearing Monday.

The court may decide not to remove her from the ballot, in deference to the voters of St. Cloud. Given the judge's finding that Ek couldn't even be bothered to live in the district she wants to represent, I am confident that the voters will make the appropriate decision.

Via Minnesota Republican Watch.

Update: A commenter posted a copy of the the judge's report here.

Of note: "Intervenor-Respondent Ek’s testimony on this crucial issue is simply not credible. Intervenor-Respondent Ek is an articulate woman who is and was well aware of the financial benefit derived by operating her business out of her home; she is the Executive Director of that business and in that capacity has been authorized to bind her company in contracts and other financial obligations. Her assertion in the Affidavit that 'I, Susanne Ek, the undersigned, certify that I reside (RENTER) in the dwelling located at 1258 Niles Avenue in St. Paul' is clear and unmistakable. The Court is unable to understand how a college graduate with degrees in Public Relations and Journalism might have been confused by this simple language."



Rich cad, poor cad

I sometimes dig George Lakoff's daft-yet-useful distinction between conservatives as "strict fathers" and liberals as "nurturant mothers"; indeed I feel the scales fall from my eyes when these parental metaphors get used to obscure complicated public policy debates. Still, Lakoff's frame doesn't help me figure out this new metaphor about new state budget surpluses:

"The situation for the states right now is like a father who gets a long-awaited raise at the office, and then comes home and finds out his daughter just got accepted to Harvard," says Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

First of all, Harvard is need-blind. Secondly, most fatherly states (particularly those with Taxpayers-League and Operation Rescue types active in their capitol hallways) would prefer to homeschool their "daughters" and send them out as hollow-eyed missionaries of scripture, selfishness, and shuttered libraries.

No, here's a better metaphor: The situation for the states right now is like a deadbeat dad who won $200 in a scratch game yet still rationalizes his way out of dropping it on the next child support payment. Better to blow it all on a sports stadium instead.*

[*I am aware that the Taxpayers League of Minnesota is against publicly financed sports stadiums too. In this I am their confirmed ally. Which just goes to show you we leftist patriots are actually "strict fathers", thereby disrupting Lakoff's dull schema. More on this later.]


GOP willing to destroy Christmas in order to save it

The GOP took another step towards its ultimate goal of saving all that is holy during this Christmas Season, even if it means they have to kill Christmas to do it. "We realized that only 95% of Americans properly revere Christmas, and even then, some are suspiciously secular in their enjoyment of the event. This is a crisis of leadership," commented Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) the sponsor of H. Res. 579, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected. She continued, "We realize that the spirit of Christ and of the day itself will be a barren, charred, corpse of its former self, but that's the price we are willing to pay for 100% allegiance to the symbols of Christmas . Sometimes you have to hurt something you love in order to save it, and we are the right people at the right time to do just that," she continued.


St. Paul Sue is in trouble in 15B

Sue Ek wants to be the next Representative from St. Cloud's district 15B. Only problem is, she's lived in St. Paul for the last 4 years. What's a girl to do?

MN Publius has been a great investigator on this issue. After the initial report by Checks and Balances, MN Publius dug up a lot of evidence supporting the contention that Sue Ek has lived in St. Paul since 2001 and only moved back recently. She was registered to vote in St. Paul from 2001-2004; her phone number is in St. Paul; she identified herself to MPR as living in St. Paul in 2003; she was an officer of the 4th District (St. Paul) GOP until sometime mid-2005; and she certified her St. Paul address as her home on July 9, 2005 -- after the June 27 residency deadline in St. Cloud.

A DFL activist from St. Cloud filed a lawsuit to remove Ek's name from the ballot. Now, the Supreme Court will decide if she can remain on the ballot.

Even if Ek is allowed to remain on the ballot, her campaign has been dealt a serious blow. And the voters will have to pay the price in confusion, above an beyond having an election on December 27. If only the St. Cloud GOP had done their homework, voters could've avoided this hassle. And maybe they could've picked up a seat in the Legislature.

Update: What is it with St. Cloud Republicans? Their Senate candidate has been caught doctoring photos in campaign literature, a potential violation of Minnesota campaign law. Minnesota Republican Watch explains. BUSTED.

Also, Cleversponge has more on St. Paul Sue.


Supremes to hear constitutional challenge to Texas gerrymandering

Nice.The wheel turns, slowly, but it turns.


Bush in a bubble

This is really, really depressing. It is a long portrait of the Bush whitehouse.

Dec. 19, 2005 issue - Jack Murtha still can't figure out why the father and son treated him so differently. Every week or so before the '91 gulf war, President George H.W. Bush would invite Congressman Murtha, along with other Hill leaders, to the White House. "He would listen to all the bitching from everybody, Republicans and Democrats, and then he would do what he thought was right." A decorated Vietnam veteran, ex-Marine Murtha was a critical supporter for the elder Bush on Capitol Hill. "I led the fight for the '91 war," he says. "I led the fight, for Christ's sake."

I would like to hear some advocates for Bush come up with an alternative view of the guy. By most accounts, Bush seems impervious to facts and actively punishes those who disagree with him. Is there evidence to the contrary?


Toys designed for future freedom lovers

Hey Moms and Kids, not the saltiest cracker in the pack? Check out toys from Baby Bush Whee!


Iranian President would move Israel

Now here's a fella that's thinking outside the box:

Iran's conservative president has said that Israel should be moved to Europe.

If European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II... why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iranian television.

I didn't think it was possible for a country to elect a leader more diplomatically tone deaf than Bush. What an incredible dunderhead.

Happy day's are here again!

Bush hit the 40s in the New York Times/CBS News Poll.

More trouble for DeLay?

Tom DeLay may be in a bit more trouble, this time over interfering with the internal politics of the Marianas Islands.

Why would he do such a thing? To help out Jack Abramoff, of course. And also because the Marianas Islands are a cheap-labor conservative's dream, a sweatshop haven, right here in the good-old USA.


Hilary goes anti flag (burning)

Sen. Clinton co-sponsors anti-flag burning law".

Why is Hillary noodling over an anti-flag desecration bill? Clintonian triangulation of a partisan issue. Man I hate that crap. What an idiotic waste of time.

Is there an epidemic of flag desecration in this country? I look out my window on any given day, in any given place in America and I see fifty billion flags flapping happily in the wind. I know what I think when I see those flags. "Someday all those super patriotic freaks that just spent $6,000 to have a flag pole installed in their front yards are going to want to burn that flag! Someday they will hate their country and on that day they are going to want to desecrate the flag! When that day comes, we should be ready with a LAW!"

Republican, Democrat, Independent-- whatever you call it, call it stupid. Call it ironic, too, considering if what that flag represents is real, every one of us has the absolute right to do whatever we want with it.

That's why we fly it you dumbshits.

Intelligent Design advocates do nothing to dispell stereotypes

They really must lay off the moron juice down in Kansas:

Professor beaten; attackers cite KU creationism class.


Delay will have his day in court

I have no desire to convict any man ahead of the evidence. If I did, I could find ample evidence to throw out the rule of law in the war on terror. I have a very strong belief that the fundamental system works. Corrupt politicians and criminals will eventually roast in the sunlight of their day in court.

There are rare cases, however, where just the fact that someone goes to court is good for the Country. That's the case with Tom Delay. No one has done more, besides the President and the Vice President, to salt the soil of bi-partisianship in this country. No one has done more to corrupt the GOP than Tom Delay. By "corrupt" I do not always mean that he has broken the law. I mean that he has almost always wielded his power in the interest of power. He has brokered the pay-to-play, money-grubbing K street sycohphants currently scurrying for cover in the Abramoff case. He has launched his schemes to consolidate ideological power even though to do so has netted him ethical rebuke after rebuke.

It is an indication of his power and the depths of the ethical abyss to which he would sink that his off-cycle gerrymandering was considered illegal by the Texas Justice Staff, who nonetheless could not stop it.

Though he may eventually be found innocent, it is with great pleasure that I note the following partial epitaph on the political career of Tom Delay: DeLay's Money Laundering Charges Upheld.


Letter from Louisiana

My good friend Dan just returned from Cameron, Parish Louisiana. He took a group of his students to volunteer there. His letter offers a unique perspective on recovery in post-Katrina land.

Greetings. I wanted to write to you all on return from our relief efforts in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Rather than write you all individually, I thought for the sake of expedience I would forward you some thoughts I wrote to our College President. The trip involved 44 students, 3 faculty members, a staff person, and two drivers. It was a life changer for many of our students and one of the most intense scenes I've ever witnessed.

For those with the desire and wherewithal to do something, they desperately need volunteer labor. Short of that, money would be helpful but I would definitely avoid the Red Cross or FEMA. The best groups on the ground were local churches. We worked closely with the regional office of the Methodist church and two Methodist church communities. They have the best sense of need and are the most efficient with resources. I hope all is well with all of you. Cheers.


Thanks for passing this on Jay, and thanks for spearheading the college support for the trip. We certainly saw ourselves as ambassadors of a larger community effort and sentiment. You would have been proud of the way we represented both. I certainly have never been prouder to be associated with this place or these students.

That being said, I think a number of our students are reeling from the trip. What we witnessed was a calamity that has been largely ignored. Certainly, the residents of southern Louisiana feel that way. The level of misery and disorientation is high.

I think we are under the impression that FEMA and other voluntary organizations are all over this and help is there or on the way. It isn't. Two months out, there is still wide spread destruction. FEMA is managing dumps and the Army Corps of Engineers is picking up debris if you can get it to the road, but many can not. We saw no sign of the Red Cross. Those who have the means to hire clean up are getting it done, those who can't are living in utter destruction. Social class is dictating the outcome. Many local churches and groups are doing what they can with very limited resources.

Some of the fields we cleared for poor farmers had debris that took 15 people to move. In two of the houses we cleaned up, we piled debris 10 feet high, fifteen feet wide, and over 200 feet long. Single widows with children lived there. We toured the area we originally thought we would be working in southern Cameron parish. There is nothing left to rebuild. It is completely destroyed. I know that your primary responsibility is to this college but your influence in letting people know of what is going on in these areas would be greatly appreciated. I think people are not aware of how bad it is in these places.

While this may sound pretty dire, and it is, let me convey a couple of lessons that I learned. First, it's often not the big things but the little things that made a difference. While moving big stuff was critically important, the two most profound images in my head were more delicate. I watched a group of students working with a women cleaning up what others may think of as junk and trinkets but that were the remains of 25 years of living in her house. Their sensitivity in dealing with her made me weep. On another occasion, Mary Mike Hailey and my group stopped to clean up garbage in a ditch outside of a neighborhood that had been hit pretty hard. People came out of their houses and wept. A women told me that on one level, she could take having a house leveled, but driving by your neighborhood day in and day out that is littered in trash was so demoralizing and overwhelming. Doing something as simple as picking up garbage out of a ditch had a profound moral affect.

Second, this trip hammered home for me the importance of community. In touring Cameron (the place that was completely wiped out), I kept wondering what the name of the school team was. I wondered what the town gossip was like, who was on city council, what they though of their local police officers, and what it was that they loved about their town. I wondered if the stuff of community would transcend the disaster so that people might come back. The only thing to come back to would be that. Conversely, it made me appreciate the sense of community that I have always sought and that I have found here. Being part of Gunnison, and especially a part of this college and these students has empowered me. Community makes us stronger. We swarmed like an ant colony over lots of projects and it was empowering to see what we accomplished, even if it was only a drop in the bucket of a huge disaster and a national disgrace. At any rate, it's been difficult to put these feelings into words and I appreciate the opportunity to vent them.