Saturday, May 08, 2004

In or out?

Not to make light of our dilemma in Iraq, but this lyric by The Clash (from their 1982 album Combat Rock, ironically -- the same one that has "Rock the Casbah" on it) pretty succinctly sums up our problem:

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

As I've written, I'm torn between these two options, both almost equally bad now that Bush has created these intractable conditions. My impulse is to change the lyric, and say that if we stay there will be trouble, but if we go there will be double. Iraq is almost certain to spiral down into near anarchy if we just pull out without some kind of stability and a robust structure in place to hold off the potential power vaccuum created by our leaving. Problem is that there's really no indication that anything's going to get much better if we stay, and at least our soldiers will be out of harm's way (and removed from conditions which lead them to abuses of the generally accepted standards of behavior for soldiers).

In a situation like that, you either look for the micro-differences which make one plan of action preferable to another, or you hope for the equation to change sufficiently for one solution to become clearly more acceptable, or you seek an alternate solution, something that is neither pulling out nor remaining under the current policies and rules of engagement.

The "third way", ultimately, is what I think will have to happen, but it's certain that such an option is only possible under a new administration, one which is less encumbered by the crushing weight of its past decisions and actions. I'm inclined to think that we should not be pressing Bush to withdraw the troops immediately, that the best we can possibly do right now is to force Bush to change their method of operation (fat chance of that) and hang on until Kerry can use the international goodwill which is lieky to greet his new administration to broker some kind of acceptable compromise, bringing the entire situation under some kind of international control, perhaps a UN mandated security regime carried out by a multinational force with a very large Arab and Islamic presence.

So, I guess it depends on what you mean by "stay" and "go".

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/08/2004 11:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


No antique nudes here, Mr. Government Man, sir!

According to this article in Variety, the FCC's anti-indecency campaign is already pretty successful at doing just what it was intended to do, make broadcasters ultra-cautious about presenting anything which could conceivably be considered by anyone to be indecent -- but that's not all:

The indecency debate has clearly taken a new turn when PBS stations start editing the image of a 50-year-old nude lithograph out of the popular "Antiques Roadshow."

Public television stations said Wednesday that the FCC's crackdown on indecency is out of control and fast jeopardizing their ability to air quality programming. Revelation came in a joint filing with the Federal Communications Commission by the Assn. of Public Television Stations, the Public Broadcasting Service and several leading public TV stations.

Broadcast network affils were just as concerned in separate FCC filings, with CBS and NBC affiliates saying their ability to provide live news coverage is now endangered.

In its recent Bono ruling, the FCC said it may no longer consider indecent language in context, meaning a station could be fined if an expletive is uttered, period. The broadcast nets are urging the FCC to overturn its decision, with affils and public TV stations now joining in the chorus of outcry.

"The order, if not corrected, will fundamentally alter the manner in which local broadcasters engage in newsgathering. It also will change the relationship between networks," CBS affiliates said in their filing.

That's because local stations won't want to take the chance of providing a live news feed in the event that someone utters an expletive and there is no time to cut away. NBC affils echoed this concern.

Point was driven home in recent days when some Phoenix TV stations dropped coverage of the live memorial service for Pat Tillman, the former Arizona football player killed in action in Afghanistan. Station execs said they had no choice but to do so when family members used potentially indecent language in their remarks.

"Self-censorship is the harsh result of the order; it is intolerable and contrary to the public interest; and it cannot be allowed to stand," Peacock affiliates said.

The FCC decision arose from NBC's live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards, during which the singer Bono uttered the word "fuck." FCC originally said it was an isolated incident and not a problem; after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show, the FCC reversed itself.

In its filing, the Assn. of Public Television Stations said stations have begun rushing to edit out any material that may get them into trouble.

"This self-censorship by public television producers and broadcasters, who have a longstanding, demonstrated and consistent track record of offering quality, stimulating and education programming, has resulted in a loss to the public television system and the public we serve," the association said.

In addition to the recent deleted scene of the lithograph in "Antiques Roadshow," some public TV stations have edited language out of the most recent "Prime Suspect" series starring Helen Mirren. Also, public stations have been editing potentially inflammatory material from different documentaries about the Iraq war.

Numerous viewers have complained to their public TV stations about the edits, according to the filing.

" 'Prime Suspect' was another huge reason not to contribute to WGBH (Boston). Helen Mirren's salty character, Jane Tennison, had every word deemed 'off color' deleted by WGBH censors. Now I know why I watch BBC America and not WGBH," said one Boston viewer.

You can be certain that indecency is not the only target of Bush's FCC, or even the primary one. Once the atmosphere of extreme self-censorship is created, there will be even less criticism of the administration (not that there's all that much in the mainstream media to begin with), less examination of the power and social structure of the country, and many more inhibitions about doing anything that's remotely critical of the status quo. Who benefits from that state of affairs?

I leave the answer for the reader.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/08/2004 10:37:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Neocons and commies: ideological in-laws

Publius (again) makes a good point:

[David] Brooks still believes in the general neocon formula for success. He just thinks Bush screwed it up. People thought the idea of communism worked too, it was just that Stalin and Mao didn't implement it correctly. But over time, when a certain formula fails again and again, it's time to consider the possibility that the problem isn't the implementation, but the actual formula itself. Communism will always fail because it's an inherently flawed idea (a beautiful idea - but one that lacks an understanding of humanity). The same is true for the neocon foreign policy. It's a beautiful idea, but one that is flawed at its essence. And because of that, it can NEVER be implemented by anyone, even if Bill Kristol were Commander-in-Chief.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/08/2004 10:28:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Did you ever had a nightmare of a dream?

Did you ever have a dream, a really bad nightmare, in which you do something very bad that's completely undoable? Someone is killed as a result of your inattention or malfeasance, and it can't be undone, or something similar?

So often in real life, the mistakes we make, or the misdeeds we do, or the missteps we take can all be corrected or excused or covered over. We work doubleplus harder and get the job done despite our previous sloppiness or lack of attention, or we divert attention elsewhere and breathe a sigh of relief that we got away with it (whatever "it" was). But in the bad dream, what we do has terrible consequences of awesome finality, and it can't be undone or whitewashed away.

I usually wake up from those kinds of dreams with a start, and have trouble going back to sleep afterwards. (Thank goodness they don't happen too often.)

I'm beginning to feel about Iraq a bit of the sense of panic that those dream bring about in me.

What I'd really like to say is that we should walk away, just pull out and get out and leave the whole entire godforsaken mess behind. I know a lot of my friends, liberals all, feel that way, but I can't bring myself to agree with them. I think that this attitude is a bit of a holdover from Vietnam, where we really should have walked away a lot earlier than we did -- but Iraq is not Vietnam, because the civil conflict in Vietnam existed before we showed up, and even before the French showed up, but the situation in Iraq is almost entirely of our own making. True, the nature of the state of Iraq, an entirely artificial construct created by the Brits after World War I is a large part of the problem, but there's no denying that by removing Saddam from the equation, and by not being prepared for the entirely foreseeable (and well foreseen by many people!) consequences, we engender the chaos that now prevails, so our responsibility for the terrible situation in Iraq is almost total, in a way that our responsibility for Viernam was not.

I'm not talking about the "white man's burden," it more along the lines of "you broke it, you bought it" -- which may be entirely simplistic as a statement of foreign policy, but does succinctly express the moral dilemma involved.

So I resist the temptation to cut and run, and think that we have to stay at least to the point where things are somewhat stabilized, before we turn things over to some kind of international authority which can undertake a true transition to an Iraqi authority -- but I'm brought up short by the continuing realization that Bush and company simple have no idea what they're doing in Iraq, and no capability for achieving a stable situation there. (It was Bush's total incompetence, more than anything else, which ultimately turned me against the possibility that an invasion of Iraq might be justified on moral, ethical, humanitarian and foreign policy grounds, because whatever the potential justifications for it -- many of which turned out not to be true in any case -- it was abundantly clear that the Bush administration was going to blow the whole thing big time --not the invasion so much as the occupation and reconstruction -- which is exactly what has happened so far.)

How can I justify staying, when things are only going to get worse under the continuing control of Bush & Co.? But how can I justify leaving, when we created the chaos that is now Iraq and have a moral responsibility to fix things, at least as far as they can be fixed.

So that's why Iraq begins to remind me of that nightmare, as a thing that once done, can be undone, and can't, apparently, be covered up or ignored or stepped away from or hidden or excused or misdirected away from. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and I'm damned if I can figure out what the right solution is. We've managed to take a country suffering under the humiliating tyranny of a vicious dictator, a true sow's ear of a situation, and turn it into another sow's ear, only of a kind even more difficult to morph into a silk purse, or a purse of any kind. We've been successful in creating a problem apparently as intractable as the Israeli/Palestinian knot, equally as resistant to solution from either side of the equation.

Despair, I think they call it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/08/2004 04:05:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, May 07, 2004

Getting what justice we can get

So, it's clear now that everything points to a systematic pattern of prisoner abuse in Iraq, rising at times to the level of actual torture, as at Abu Ghraib. The incidents we know of seem not to be isolated, nor are they only (or even fundamentally) the fault of the junior officers, NCOs and enlisted personnel who are immediately implicated by the evidence of the photographs.

I usually shy away from hyperbolic claims, which sometimes fall all too easily off the tongue from those of us on the left side of the divide, but it's really hard to see this pattern as indicative of anything less than war crimes, the responsibility for which lies with Bush and his administration, as it is their policies which allowed these horrific events to happen.

There will never be complete accountability for what happened, because war crimes are generally prosecuted by the victorious, the US has refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, and our military prowess (despite the beating its reputation has taken in Iraq) will allow us to continue to get away with that posture, so we will have to be satisfied with the prosecutions of lower level personnel (which will certainly happen), the relieving from duty or deleterious reassignment of those higher up in the military hierarchy, the firing or forced resignation of some civilians (Rumsfeld, Feith, maybe others -- although this is far less certain given the damage it would do to Bush's re-election bid), and, ultimately, the removal from the White House of George W. Bush, who sits at the desk where Harry Truman kept a sign that said "The Buck Stops Here".

In the end, I think that's probably all the "justice" we're going to get on this horrible scandal. It's not much in some ways of looking at it, but getting rid of Bush does preserve the possibility that some semblence of sanity and rectitude can return to America's foreign policy, and that we can begin the long process of rebuilding our international reputation and relationships, as we simultaneously start to rebuild our country's economy and social cohesiveness. Those are both problems for the long haul, and won't be completed in the first or second terms of John Kerry, especially if the Congress remains in the lock-grip of the Republicans, but we can at least make a start.

So the bleatings of Tom DeLay and other Republicans about the Democrats using this scandal for political purposes are not only beside the point, they miss it entirely. It is only through the political process, by the pressure brought to bear on Congress and the administration by the people and the media, and the removal of Bush in November, that any amount of "justice," however little, can be obtained. There is no other mechanism available to pursue it, and the Democrats are not only helping themselves, they are helping the country and the world, and doing a moral good, by continuing to press this issue as strongly as possible.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/07/2004 11:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


No better, no worse, no checks

Publius writes:

Andrew Sullivan finally said something I agree with: What [Abu Ghraib] reveal[s] is something true: Americans are no better and no worse as human beings than anyone else. They can become savages as well. But our system - the open press, the internal reviews, the democratic accountability - minimizes the damage of our flawed human nature. That's exactly right. And that's why decisions like Rumsfeld's [...] and unchecked executive power at Gitmo are such bad ideas. That's the whole point I've been trying to make in some of my recent posts: Power must be checked because humans (all humans) abuse power.

It's nice that Andrew Sullivan recognizes that American exceptionalism is not ultimately sustainable, nor can it be justified, because Americans aren't another, special, breed of being, we're just humans, like everyone else -- but it would be nicer if Sullivan was able to recognize that the people he has been defending and championing (at least until recently), have no real interest in supporting and strengthening the very institutions which he points out as being necessary to keep the baser devils of our nature at bay, and that they have, in fact, deliberately and systematically weakened those institutions at every opportunity.

Publius is correct, all humans abuse power, something the Founders knew and took steps to counteract. Bush's agenda --or, rather, the agenda of the powers and interests which are behind Bush -- has little or nothing to do with that and, in actuality, requires that those checks and balances and the careful partitioning and molding of the political power structure, be subverted and annulled in order that their goals be achieved. That's the way they run the country, and that's the way they're running the war in Iraq, and that's why those abuses occured.

They didn't just happen to happen, or because Americans are inherently evil (although it's understandable that Muslims and people around the world may take away that message), they came about because of decisions and actions rising from the agenda and ideology of the Bush administration, the right-wing in general, and the monied interests that control the Republican party.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/07/2004 11:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Limited duty

I'm back in rehearsal, for some dance performances by David Gordon's Pick Up Performance Company* at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina at the end of this month, so my blogging may be somewhat limited for the next couple of weeks, as I'm also doing performances of Art, Life & Show Biz at fez on Sundays, and I'll be stage managing Manhattan Theatre Club's annual Spring Gala the week after next as well.

Busy, busy, busy.

* Karen Graham, Tadej Brdnik, Scott Cunningham and Valda Setterfield. Oh, and me.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/06/2004 01:56:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Media Matters

David Brock's new project, Media Matters for America, opened up shop today:

Media Matters for America, a new Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Because a healthy democracy depends on public access to accurate and reliable information, Media Matters for America is dedicated to alerting news outlets and consumers to conservative misinformation -- wherever we find it, in every news cycle -- and to spurring progressive activism based on standards and accountability in media.

I've added a link on the right.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/04/2004 02:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Evaluating Bush

Kevin Drum continues on a roll, with an analysis of Bush's style as a "CEO President":

Bush styles himself a "CEO president," but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them — but then consider the job done anyway because they've "delegated" it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one — all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard — but only on subjects in their comfort zone. If they like dealing with people they can't bring themselves to read all those tedious analyst's reports, and if they like numbers they can't bring themselves to spend time chattering with distributors about their latest prospect.

And most important of all, weak CEOs are unwilling to recognize bad news and perform unpleasant tasks to fix it — tasks like like confronting poorly performing subordinates or firing people. Good CEOs suck in their guts and do it anyway.

George Bush is, fundamentally, a mediocre CEO, the kind of insulated leader who's convinced that his instincts are all he needs. Unfortunately, like many failed CEOs before him, he's about to learn that being sure you're right isn't the same thing as actually being right.

So sure: George Bush is genuinely committed to winning in Iraq. He just doesn't know how to do it and doesn't have the skills, experience, or personality to look beyond his own instincts in order to figure it out. America is about to pay a heavy price for that.

Josh Marshall continues in the same vein:

Either the president knows the situation [in Iraq] is [as bleak as can be] or he (and perhaps his advisors too) is just too out of touch to have any idea what's happening. Increasingly, I think that the president is just too small-minded and vainglorious a man to come to grips with the situation.

A strong president, a good president, would put his country before his pride and throw himself into saving the situation even if it meant admitting previous mistakes and ditching past policies and advisors. But I don't think this president has the character to do that.

Making a clean sweep, firing some of his most compromised advisors, admitting some past mistakes -- not for effect, but so that those mistakes could be more thoroughly and rapidly overcome -- might well doom the president politically. But I doubt there's any question they'd be in the best interests of the country.

This president seems either disinclined to or unable to do more than preside over a drift into disaster while putting on a game face.

Update: An article in the LA Times takes a look at what the recent insider books tell us about Bush:

President Bush styles himself as the first CEO president, applying the rigor and authority of his MBA education to the job of chief executive of the nation.

But that's not the picture that emerges from three recent insider accounts of the workings of the Bush administration, experts in decision-making and presidential management say. On the contrary, they say, the president appears to have a highly personal working style, with little emphasis on systematic analysis of major decisions.

"There seems to be almost an absence of any analytical or deliberative process for mapping the problem or exploring alternatives or estimating consequences," said Graham Allison, a professor of government at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

And Bush appears to give greater weight to his own instincts than to experts or other sources of advice and information. The president has a "bias for action," said Roderick M. Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. "I've been struck by [how] Bush's sense of personal identity as a leader shapes his decisions," he said.

For the last three years, experts on the presidency have largely withheld judgment about how the Bush White House — considered the most secretive since Richard Nixon's — makes major decisions. The experts thought they had inadequate information to reach general conclusions.

That has changed. Scholars of management and government have begun to pore through this spring's crop of insider books and draw preliminary assessments of how Bush operates as president. And their main conclusion is that he makes decisions primarily on instinct, not analysis.


Greenstein said that one striking thing about all three books was what they don't show. There are few examples, for instance, of Bush presiding over meetings in which subordinates presented problems, weighed evidence and aired differing views.

"I think a lot of policy is made on the fly," he said. "It isn't a process in which people assemble and go back and forth in a rigorous way."

Another thing largely missing from the books was any indication that documents or memos weighing policy alternatives are circulated and discussed. Harvard's Allison said one of the few documents the administration did prepare in advance of the Iraq war — the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iraq probably had weapons of mass destruction — was quickly compiled and not very well done.

"The more it's examined, it seems quite sloppy," he said. "At this point, if there had been some good analysis of the issues on paper, we would have seen some evidence of it.

"The contrast with the textbook conception of informed decision making is distressing," he said.

Without a framework for analysis, many important policy discussions appeared to have been disorganized at best, the management specialists say.


Stanford's Kramer said though Bush showed little interest in the kind of number-crunching analysis taught in business school, his style of management does conform to the popular image of chief executives as forceful and "decisive." "There seems to be a lot of value attached to showing resolve and demonstrating resolve," he said.

But Jay Lorsch, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of "Decision Making at the Top," said the decision-making techniques taught at that school — from which Bush received an MBA — focus on understanding the nature of decisions, not simplifying them.

"What we teach around here is that you've got to understand the complexity of the territory you're trying to affect," he said. "You don't make a decision until you've surveyed all the possible ramifications. The binary idea that you're either right or wrong is just foolishness."

Another critical part of MBA-style analysis is understanding and compensating for your own assumptions, Lorsch said.

Decision makers who are inadequately aware of their assumptions leave themselves vulnerable to two errors: First, subordinates learn to tell them what they want to hear. Second, they are less rigorous in processing data and gauging its validity.


Martha Joynt Kumar of the University of Maryland said the books also depicted Bush as being largely unconcerned with the quality of information he received.

"He doesn't like long meetings. He likes truncated meetings. That means you're not going to have the kinds of sessions … that are going to bring in lots of different kinds of information," Kumar said.

Greenstein said that when weighing an important decision such as whether to go to war, specialists in the presidency generally think it is better for presidents to hold meetings in which dissenting views are heard and weighed. That way, the president is seen as considering all the angles.

"It is generally seen as less desirable to see your advisors individually" as Bush appears to have done before deciding to wage war on Saddam Hussein, Greenstein said. "That will raise the question of, does the person who talks to the president last have undue influence? And it also gives influence to those who are better at bureaucratic turf battles."


In practice, Bush appears closest to the style of Reagan, said Bert A. Rockman, director of the School of Public Policy and Management at Ohio State University.

"The decisiveness part is certainly there," he said. "The imperviousness to facts and analysis is also there. So what we have is someone who is going on raw instinct."

A corollary, Rockman said, is that though Bush likes making decisions, his organizational style is not very good at implementation or follow-up.

Richard K. Betts, director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, said that though Bush's style was similar to Reagan's, he seemed to rely on a narrower circle of advisors.

"Bush appears to rest his confidence in a few people whose judgment corresponds to his gut instincts" he said. "He seems to be obsessive about being decisive, but willing to make hard and fast decisions on the basis of ideology more than evidence."

Digby sums it up:

A spoiled 12 year old is running the world.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/04/2004 01:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, May 03, 2004

Wars of conquest, wars of liberation

Kevin Drum's been a little off his game recently (as in his bizarre suggestion that we really don't need the Fifth Amendment any more), but he's in fine form today:

In a war of conquest and occupation, the kind of brute force that many on the right think we should have brought to bear in Fallujah is routine. If you are a conquering and occupying power, therefore, it's perfectly appropriate.

However, wars of conquest and occupation are no longer acceptable in the West, even to conservatives, and so George Bush and Tony Blair have characterized Iraq as a war of liberation. But in a war of liberation, you are expected to liberate. You are emphatically not expected to raze entire cities at the cost of thousands of civilian lives.

Even if this dilemma was not clear before, the events of the past year should have brought it into sharp focus for anyone who thinks seriously about these things. In a war like the one we're in, the tactics of conquest are the only ones that will work, but conquest itself is both unacceptable to us and conterproductive to our long-term goal of engaging moderate Muslims — a goal accepted by both liberals and conservatives alike as key to long term victory.

The conclusion is hard to escape: conventional military force is simply not the right weapon for the war on terror. Conquest and occupation in the heart of the Arab world are exactly what Osama bin Laden hoped for from us, and we should never have allowed him to dictate the terms of the fight like that. It's true that various forms of military force will be necessary now and again for us to eradicate terrorism, but a head-on battle with thousands of regular troops is precisely the form of military force that is least likely to produce victory.

...George Bush has fought this war foolishly, but that's been clear for over a year at least. We need to fight on our terms, not theirs, and we need a president who understands that. George Bush doesn't.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/03/2004 12:24:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, May 02, 2004

U.S. science down

According to another article in the Times:

U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences

The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals.

Foreign advances in basic science now often rival or even exceed America's, apparently with little public awareness of the trend or its implications for jobs, industry, national security or the vigor of the nation's intellectual and cultural life.

"The rest of the world is catching up," said John E. Jankowski, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that tracks science trends. "Science excellence is no longer the domain of just the U.S."

Given the Bush administration's record of ignoring scientific evidence and re-writing scientific reports to make them appear to support the conclusions they want to push as policies, and Bush's own personal rejection of evolution, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to do anything constructive about re-building our scientific infrastructure.

A friend of mine knows Bush's science advisor, John H. Marburger III, and assures me he is a good guy, but I have to say that I've seen little or no evidence that Bush's anti-science bias changed any after he signed on. Of course, as a scientist he's got a thankless job, dealing with people who appear to be fundamentally antagonistic to both science and its great engine of discovery, the scientific method.

A good source for keeping up on the abuse of science by the Bushies is the writing of Chris Mooney, on his blog and in his articles for The American Prospect and elsewhere.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/02/2004 11:48:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Counter-conventional wisdom

Here's something you don't see everyday, a columnist, Daniel Akst in the New York Times today, suggesting what should be obvious, that taxes are good:

A CENTURY ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. observed that taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.

The price has gone up quite a bit since then. Today, American civilization is underwritten by a tax system that annually reallocates something like a third of gross domestic product. The system is insanely complex, chronically unfair and disliked by most taxpayers. Thus, it may not be immediately obvious that what the American economy needs most right now is more taxes. Voters should demand them. Businesses should lobby for them. Kids should write to Santa, requesting them for Christmas.

Why should any taxpayer hope for higher taxes? The simple answer is that you're not just a taxpayer. You're also a wage earner, an investor, an entrepreneur, a parent, a retiree or some combination. And if Uncle Sam does not raise your taxes in the next few years, you could suffer from an economy plagued by rising interest rates, capital shortages that result from vast government borrowing and retarded productivity growth that will make all of us poorer. As Milton Friedman put it, "Inflation is one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation."

We'll need higher taxes no matter which party is in power, because government spending in the years ahead is certain to increase. Despite a Republican administration and a Republican-controlled Congress, spending is already up. Now add in the nation's enormous unfunded retirement liabilities, accompanied by unfavorable demographics: there will be far fewer workers per retiree in the future than there are now. Politically, those retirees will be a fearsome bunch, likely to demand and receive costly new benefits, like the recently enacted Medicare prescription drug plan. Because of medical advances, they will live longer than ever at greater expense.

Then there is the Pentagon. President Bush's proposed spending of $420 billion for military purposes for fiscal 2005 heralds large increases for years to come. And, of course, persistent deficits and rising interest rates, both visible on the horizon, will mean more spending on debt service.

So will taxes rise in the future? The good news - and yes, this really is good news - is that they almost certainly will.

As befits a column in the Business section of the paper, the rest of the piece is about how you should invest your money, keeping in mind that there will (inevitably) be higher taxes. Still, it's nice to see somebody (anybody!) in a major media outlet who's not inclined to do ritual obeisance to the right-wing dogma that taxes are, always and per se, bad, badder and baddest.

I always wonder what these folks think pays for all the various services and infrastructure that government provides, which they take for granted, seemingly oblivious to their origin. But given the kind of fairy tales and outright fantasies they believe in, I suppose their hold on reality is fairly tenuous to being with.

Ed Fitzgerald | 5/02/2004 11:09:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am...
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what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
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Island in the Sky (1952)

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Elliott Abrams
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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

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I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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