William Saletan, I think, didn't work hard enough to come to this conclusion about the Kerry - Dean spat:

The political logic of Kerry's attack is obvious. Dean is the only candidate with momentum and excitement, and he's the only big threat to Kerry in New Hampshire. Discredit Dean, win New Hampshire, and nobody else has the gas to pass Kerry.

That it's so obvious should be your first clue that this isn't what really happening. Here's my take:

Kerry is the default frontunner at the moment. Cet. par., The race will come down to Kerry vs. Someone by Super Tuesday. The Kerry campaign right now isn't worried about winning New Hampshire. They're worried about who the Someone is going to be.

If it's Kerry versus Dean, Kerry will win. He will win for the same reasons and by the same method that Gore beat Bradley. Democrats want to win, and they will pick the centrist candidate.

If I was Kerry, I'd rather go man-to-man with Dean than with Edwards (similar centrist electability, from the South), Leiberman (tough on defense, high name recognition), or Gephardt (good on policy, unions, GOTV).

Matthew Gross, writing for the Dean campaign in today's NotePad said:

If your biggest fear is headlines that scream "Kerry vs. Dean," why go out of your way to create headlines that scream "Kerry vs. Dean?"

Easy. Because Kerry's biggest fear isn't those headlines. Matter of fact, those headlines are precisely what he's after. John Kerry started the fight with Howard Dean so that Dean would look like the top challenger in the race. This is because he wants Dean to be the top challenger in the race.

This is why Kerry's my guy. Kerry has been amazing to see. He's aggressive and smart - he picks the fights he wants, and then goes out and starts them.

Like when he spanked Tom DeLay by baiting him with a 'regime change' comment, and then using DeLay's predictable reply to reinforce his Partiotism, his Decorated War Hero-ness, and his Toughness.

He's playing the Democratic Primary game on a different level than anyone else in it. It really is a pleasure to watch him work.
posted by ByWord 4/29/2003 07:41:00 PM


Reuters News Service reported Tuesday that Washington is pulling 'virtually all' of its forces out of Saudi Arabia, allegedly by mutual agreement. The move followed Riyadh's refusal to allow bombing raids by the 100 U.S. aircraft based in Saudi Arabia during the conflict, and effectively ends a relationship dating back to 1991.

I have to get to work. I'll post my thoughts when I have a few minutes. But Wow.

Update: OK, so I got a few minutes, and decided I need to think this one through just a little harder. I will post comments at some point, though.

Update #2: Tacitus has some thoughts.
posted by ByWord 4/29/2003 08:12:00 AM


Apparently, "WHO officials are expected to fly to Toronto on Wednesday.."

Which tells you how seriously they take their claims that Toronto is in some way dangerous, rather than just the source of irrational panic.
posted by ByWord 4/29/2003 08:06:00 AM



Eugene Volokh writes (my emphasis):
If most libertarians thought that the government really was likely to ban abortion (libertarians may in theory be pro-life, but most of the ones I know are pretty firmly pro-choice) or send homosexuals to jail, then they might well vote Democrat to prevent that. (Likewise, if they thought the Democrats would decriminalize drugs and the Republicans wouldn't, then they might vote for the Democrats, too.) But right now, they believe that the Republican errors (on matters such as sexual practices or abortion) aren't that likely to be implemented into law; but they think the equally serious Democratic errors -- on matters such as taxes, economic liberty, gun rights, the government-run school monopoly, and so on -- are much more likely to be implemented into law. Therefore, right now, the Democrats seem to many (though not all) libertarians to be more dangerous to libertarian ideals than Republicans are.

From PLA's famous comparisons:

Non-defense Federal Government Employees -1962-2001:
Democrats in White House: Rose by 59,000 (16 % of total rise over 40 years)
Republicans in WH: Rose by 310,000 (84% of total rise over 40 years)

Increase in National Debt - 1962-2001:
Democrats in WH: Total debt increased by $0.72 trillion (20 years)
Republicans in WH: Total debt increased by $3.8 trillion (20 years)

District spending by Congress - 1995 - 2000:
Democratic districts: $3.9 billion in 1995; $5.2 billion in 2001 (34% increase)
Republican districts: $3.9 billion in 1995; $5.8 billion in 2001 (52% increase)

Percentage growth in Total Federal Spending - 1962-2001:
Democrats in WH: 6.96 % per year
Republicans in WH: 7.57 % per year

Indeed. Heh.
posted by ByWord 4/27/2003 07:58:00 PM



Just another thought on the 'moving towards 2004' theme. Conventional Wisdom says that one, maybe two Supreme Court justices are due to step down before the end of the Bush Administration. I assume that:

(a) Bush will appoint a conservative, pro-life justice, and
(b) There is at least some back channel communication between conservative justices due to step down and the White House.

That no conservative justice has yet stepped down, even though the election fight is starting, suggests to me that Rove thinks there's an electoral win in a Supreme Court fight. I think he might be wrong, if the justice is scary enough. But if I could have the ears of Hillary Clinton and the strategy folks in the Democratic party, I'd warn them about this. Beware of a trap. There could be something there.

Don't let a radical get on the bench, but be careful keeping him off.
posted by ByWord 4/24/2003 09:52:00 PM


Time for a round of 'guess the blind quote'. The New York Times ran this today:

A senior White House official, asserted today that Mr. Gingrich's criticism "was seen at the White House as an attack on the president, not an attack on Powell." There was widespread anger at the White House, the official said, but he declined to characterize the reaction of Mr. Bush himself.

Importantly, Drudge linked to it this morning, too.

So what's going on? Who's the 'Senior Administration Official', and why did (s)he give this quote?

My guess is it's Rove.

We’re in a stage right now where we’re moving away from the politics of war, and into electoral politics.

If you're Rove, you have two objectives on any given issue:

(1) Use policy to pacify the right wing of your party, so that they don't give you trouble and can be mobilized in the election.

(2) Do everything in your power to track towards the moderate center on positioning and image.

On foreign policy, the right is pretty damned satisfied at the moment. The hawks won a lot of battles leading up to Iraq, and the war was won quickly and effectively. Moreover, the committed base has been watching closely as those battles went on, and is satisfied that the hawks can win when it matters.

Now comes objective #2: track towards the center. This means tracking towards Powell on foreign policy. There are few people the American people trust more than Colin Powell on foreign policy. So a show of administration solidarity, coupled with a repudiation of the obviously wacko (and highly expendable) Gingrich makes the White House look more moderate.

This is a watershed, as far as I'm concerned. This is a signal that dissent, infighting, and right-wing policy is over for now. The objective from here on in is positioning towards the center for 2004, so that they can get four more years of hard-right policy.

It's on. We are now fighting the campaign. Rove is ready. Are the Dems?

posted by ByWord 4/24/2003 09:09:00 PM


National Sales Tax

It’s an old saw of conservative think-tanks that the best possible form of taxation is to do away with income tax entirely, and replace it with a national retail sales tax. We’ve been thinking a bit about it recently.

It’s an awful idea. It’s awful because it’s regressive, and it’s awful because it displays an ignorance of the way the economy works.

It’s regressive.

Right now you are taxed more on the 100,000th dollar you make than you are on the 5,000th dollar you make. This is fair, by almost anyone’s estimation. The 5,000th dollar you make goes to pay for food, shelter, diapers, and the like. People who only have 5,000 dollars in income spend almost entirely on strict necessities.

The 100,000th dollar you earn goes to pay for big-screen TVs and trips to Bora Bora. Now, ByWord has no problem with trips to Bora Bora. But we do think that they have a decidedly different moral content than, say, food for your infant child. So if you’re going to tax income, you should consider what it’s spent on. It’s not an economic imperative; it’s a moral one.

We do this. By using tax brackets we tax money that ends up spent on food for baby at less than we tax money that ends up spent on package vacations to Florida, and we tax money that ends up on package vacations at less than we tax money that ends up spent on private jets.

A national retail sales tax would not do this. It specifically taxes trips to Bora Bora the same as it taxes diapers. It taxes your fifth car the same way it taxes your first.

We believe that government would be deeply irresponsible to take from your grocery budget with the same force that it takes from your Patek Phillipe budget.

Conservatives have a few things that they think make this go away. They propose, for instance, a universal tax rebate equal to 15% of the poverty line, say. Or tax exemptions on necessities like diapers. But this is a fudge.

It may help the desperately poor. But the right still needs to explain to the middle class why the money they spend on their Chevy should appropriated at the same rate as the money someone like John Kerry or Ted Turner might spend on an eighth Bentley.

It’s economically illiterate.

A national retail sales tax is what it says it is. It is a massive tax on consumer spending. Everything in the book, every human experience, says that when you tax something, you reduce its occurrence. Taxes recently on driving into London, for instance, have massively reduced inner-city congestion.

Reducing city congestion is not a bad idea. Reducing consumer spending would be catastrophic for the economy.

Conservatives think that they’ve got this one nailed. They say that reducing consumer spending will increase savings and investment, thus leading to economic growth.

Ah, yes. Let’s think this through, as laymen. Capitalism makes ByWord’s life better. It does this by using competition to encourage companies to invest capital in production technology. This investment of capital leads to better products, and more efficient production of current products. So ByWord gets to buy better stuff, cheaper. Even better, the money we spend on those goodies gets kicked back in to the system, and re-invested to make even better products even more efficiently. This is economic growth.

Investment helps economic growth by giving companies a bigger wad of cash to do the “invest capital in production technology” bit, which helps them get even further ahead of the game in giving us goodies to buy.

So what’s the problem? It doesn’t fucking work if nobody’s buying goodies. You idiots. Investment is a catalyst, spurring a faster reaction between consumer and producer. But catalysis only works if both chemicals are present.

Reducing consumer spending by putting a massive tax-based penalty on it may well help the catalyst. But it reduces the amount of the compound being catalyzed.

Surely we don’t need a roomful of economists on this. Massive penalties on the most fundamental economic transaction of all – sales – are harmful to the economy.

We need a real discussion on the best way to manage taxation. The tax code is a mess, I think We actually need a better one, and a clearer one, if for no other reason than so that middle-class taxpayers can see how they’re actually paying more tax than the rich under the Bushies.

But spurious ivy-tower arguments about tax plans that have no relationship to real people’s lives won’t get us there.

There. So that’s my first post. Take that, Cato Institute.

posted by ByWord 4/23/2003 09:35:00 PM


I link to and quote this post by Matthew Yglesias, without comment, as a test.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that the hundred years between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act were an era of slow-but-steady progress toward racial equality that ended in a great big burst of progress. In point of fact, however, many of the gains made in the late 1860s and early 1870s were slowly dismantled during the late-19th and early-20th centuries with the federal government's attitude toward African-Americans reaching something of a nadir during the late date of Woodrow Wilson's administration at which point a bunch of new agencies were segregated and such.

It does seem likely that the progress made so far toward rights for gay and lesbian Americans will continue into the future, but there's nothing inevitable about it and, in particular, it won't happen if people don't have sufficient commitment to the cause to make it a reason not to support candidates who they may like on other grounds.

posted by ByWord 4/22/2003 10:58:00 PM

...And we're up.
posted by ByWord 4/22/2003 10:20:00 PM

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Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory... "Those who eat of me will hunger for more, and those who drink of me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with me will not sin." (Sirach 24:21-22)

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ByWord First Rule of Political Discourse
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that you're smarter or more moral than they are, you're probably wrong.

Corollary to The First Rule
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that they, unlike you, have been indoctrinated by an ideological media conspiracy, you're probably wrong.


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