Archive for March, 2005

March 31, 2005

Deposed Kyrgyz President Blames United States for Coup

In this week’s column I wrote about the shameful back story concerning the recent revolt in Kyrgyzstan. Askar Akayev, the only democratically-elected president in Central Asia, was cut loose by Western bankers and diplomats in the late ’90s because his former Soviet republic had no oil or natural gas reserves. Despite U.S. rhetoric about our supposed support of nascent democracies, here was a country surrounded by brutal dictatorships without a single political prisoner, without internal espionage or police state checkpoints–and we refused to help. Meanwhile we sucked up to dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan because of his 160 billion barrels in unexploited Caspian Sea oil (the Saudis only have 45 billion left) and the arguably deranged Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, whose authoritarian regime sits atop the world’s largest natural gas reserves.

I also said that the new post-9/11 military bases in Kyrgyzstan helped to delegitimize his regime.

The UK Guardian carries Akayev’s explosive charge that the U.S. was directly behind the anti-democratic coup carried out by Islamist-influenced southern Kyrgyz:

Ousted president blames US for coup
Washington accused of training Kyrgyz opposition

Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Thursday March 31, 2005
The Guardian
The ousted Kyrgyzstan president, Askar Akayev, last night accused the US of being behind the “anti-constitutional coup” which forced him to flee the country last week, and said he would only resign if given sufficient a guarantee of his personal safety. In his first interview with the western media since he was driven from the central Asian state he had ruled for 15 years, Mr Akayev said “foreign interference” was “unconditionally an important aspect” in the dramatic events that culminated in his flight last Thursday.
“I think that their influence was prevailing,” he said when asked of US government involvement in the mayhem that is becoming known as the daffodil revolution. He added that the opposition was “supported by the [US organisations] the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, and other organisations … They were providing training and finance,” he said. The US has maintained an airbase near the capital, Bishkek, ever since it persuaded Kyrgyzstan to host its Afghanistan campaign in 2001. Mr Akayev said he was “in a health resort, with his family” in the Moscow region, and added that he expected negotiations with the opposition to start today. Asked if he was ready to resign, he said: “Yes, certainly, I am ready to help.” He added that if the “constitution was conserved”, and the the laws over the presidential post respected, and he was “offered guarantees of security”, then he “would be ready to prematurely give up” his responsibilities. He said the only legitimate power in Kyrgyzstan was the new parliament, the body whose rigged election sparked national protests that turned violent and led to his flight. His comments came as the political struggle to succeed him among the opposition appeared to continue. Felix Kulov, a likely candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections, who became security chief after Mr Akayev’s flight, yesterday resigned his post saying he had “restored order”. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, his likely opponent and the acting head of state, meanwhile warned Mr Akayev not to return to Kyrgyzstan as his presence now might spark “mass unrest”. Mr Akayev claimed that he would support as a candidate in the presidential elections the young Kyrgyz businessman Nurbek Turdukulov, who founded the country’s main mobile phone network, Bitel. Mr Turdukulov is reportedly a business partner of Mr Akayev’s son. Mr Akayev’s rule began with cautious optimism in the early 1990s; he was a president seen as a safe pair of hands for managing the transition from the Soviet era. But he failed to alleviate the poverty of the five million people of Kyrgyzstan and was increasingly seen as an autocratic figure whose regime was riddled with corruption. There were also suggestions that Mr Akayev was seeking ways to extend his rule beyond the two terms specified in the constitution, as other central Asian leaders had done. Describing his flight from Kyrgyzstan, Mr Akayev said he managed to escape his administration offices 30 minutes before they were ransacked by an angry mob, and had been ad vised to protect the building with armed special forces, but had decided against it. “You know I am a convinced pacifist, from the beginning I was against any use of force,” he said. “Preserving your personal power is not worth a drop of blood. And you know that if blood was spilt, it would have been the beginning of civil war.” The former physicist, reportedly turned one of the richest men in central Asia, said of his flight: “I left in the suit I was standing up in.” He had fled north with his family by car “without taking any things with us”. He said: “But all these things, what is their importance?” He said he had then met the Japanese ambassador to Kazakhstan, Toshio Tsunozaki, for 30 minutes, before learning that his administration had been overrun and then fleeing to Kazakhstan. “I was informed they wanted to take me hostage,” he said. “They also beat my close collaborators, including my press secretary [Abdil Segizbayev], who only regained consciousness today.” He expressed his regret at the severe looting that enveloped the capital after his regime collapsed. “I feel I am guilty before those who I did not protect,” he said. Yet one day he would return to Kyrgyzstan, he predicted. “I want very much to go back and help the acting authorities to return to the constitutional path, and to do everything to make the new president a constitutional one,” Mr Akayev said.


It took three times, but Terry Schiavo’s wish to die has finally been carried out. It’s not a decision that I would have taken or one that I agree with, but it was her decision to make. Though it’s probably too late for her parents and husband to find common ground, let’s hope they finally find some peace. Most importantly, let’s hope (or pray, if that’s your preference) that Terry does too.

Bush, DeLay, and Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, deserve to be hounded out of office for the shameful way they attempted to capitalize on this personal tragedy. Never has such rank hypocrisy seemed quite so crass as when a party dedicated to perpetual war and the death penalty tried to pass itself off as pro-life.

March 30, 2005

Imitation, Flattery or Plagiarism?

And does it matter?

Sharp-eyed FOR Devin points out this piece from this week’s ONION, the satirical weekly newspaper:

American Torturing Jobs Increasingly Outsourced
AFL-CIO vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, representing the American Federation of Interrogation Torturers, released a statement Monday deriding the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program, under which American torturing jobs are outsourced to foreign markets. “Outsourcing the task of interrogating terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia is having a crippling effect on the Americans who make a living by stripping detainees nude, shackling them to the floor, and beating the living shit out of them,” Chavez-Thompson said. “And specialists within the field corrosive-material chemists, ocular surgeons, and testicular electricians are lucky to find any jobs at all. How are they supposed to feed their families?” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended extraordinary rendition, saying the program will create jobs in the long run by fostering a global climate of torture tolerance.

Regular readers of my cartoon will recall my cartoon from Saturday, March 12:

I’m torn about this. On the one hand, after years of not caring much about it either way, I’ve grown to love THE ONION. The thought that they resort to this sort of wholesale idea pilfering is seriously depressing. On the other hand, there are ideas that are out there in the zeitgeist and then there are those like this one, which feels more specific to the sort of stuff that I come up with all alone. And I know for a fact, having been referenced in THE ONION on several occasions, that they do read the cartoon–so even if their writer(s) came up with this without having seen my work, an editor there ought to have caught the, um, similarity.

If I were Bush, I could just have the whole staff tortured overseas, but what are you gonna do?

Schiavo is a Vegetable, Not BrainDead

Daniel writes:

In your 3/28 cartoon, you seem to imply that Terri Schiavo is brain dead (in the 4th pannel). This is not the case, see Terri is indeed profoundly disabled, but she is not brain dead. The only “therapy” she receives is a feeding tube (or “received” before her adulterous husband ordered his wife starved and dehydrated to death). Please get your facts straight.

This sort of thing, and the sight of blood, are the reasons I never wanted to become a doctor. Besides, I sucked at biology. OK, so she’s in a persistent vegetative state. Dude, anyone who gets their facts on the medical details of the Schiavo case from a cartoon is an idiot: I used a colloquialism to make the joke work.

As for Michael being “adulterous”: I don’t know the guy, but the facts indicate that he didn’t meet his girlfriend for at least 3-4 years after Terry went into her present state. While it would have been easier to divorce her at her hospital bed, Newt Gingrich style, he remained married while deciding (shockingly!) to go on and have a life. Why? My guess is that he still loves Terry enough to see through her final wishes, which he believed were to not have her life prolonged in her condition. He needed to maintain his legal standing to do that. Press reports say that both Michael and his girlfriend do Terry’s laundry and keep her clean in the hospice. Yeah, some adulterer–do you think he gets his kicks wiping her ass?

Life is complicated. Michael Schiavo sounds to me like a guy who stands up for his principles and for the promises he makes. The fact that he doesn’t take any shit may piss off those who would run roughshod over him and his reluctance to out-mediawhore the Schindlers may not score him any points with the media, but it earns him my respect.

Age Discrimination OK for Workers Under 40

Bob sends this in:

A short news article for your perusal:
how do you feel about this now that you’re in the +40 set? Being self-employed, I’m sure you feel the same as you did in your halcyon Latchkey Kids days.
The ruling says the +40 set cannot be treated WORSE than young workers. It does nothing to protect young workers from the same abuse!!
Just wondering your thoughts. Being under 30 myself, and relatively well-paid, I merely look at this with a cynical oberver’s view. You made your early career railing against Boomers and Big Business, and have you now come to understand the “fat cat’s” POV on such issues? Do you enslave your child for free labor (what else are they for?)?
I just hope business continues to exploit the young, ’cause it’s better than the alternative. 🙂

I dunno, maybe I wasn’t born with the gene that causes empathy for the young to vanish as you become older and more established. Whatever, I still think this latest court ruling is wrong-headed, evil and plainly a violation of equal protection under the Constitution. While it’s true that age discrimination legislation has traditionally been conceived of with elderly workers in mind, there’s no reason why someone fired for being too young shouldn’t be able to avail herself of the same protection. Just as most racial discrimination legislation had blacks (and maybe Latinos) in mind, why shouldn’t reverse discrimination against whites be covered as well? Congress should quit fucking around with Americans’ personal trials (the Schiavo tragedy) and tighten the age discrimination statute.

March 24, 2005

Ted Rall to Guest Co-Host Air America’s “Morning Sedition”

It’s tomorrow! Tune in 6-9 am East Coast time (check for local listings) as I fill in as guest co-host for “Morning Sedition” on the national Air America network. I’ll be co-hosting with Mark Riley as we discuss the Terry Schiavo case, the revolution in Kyrgyzstan and other breaking stories. At 8:30 am, I’ll interview fellow Village Voice/ATTITUDE 1 cartoonist Ward Sutton.

See you then.

A Better Idea

Clueless New York Times centist (sorry for the redundancy!) Tom Friedman used his column to note that he’s shocked! shocked! shocked! at recent revelations that US troops have murdered at least 26 Afghans, Iraqis and other detainees under torture at facilities through Bush’s spreading gulag system. Here’s the money quote:

President Bush just appointed Karen Hughes, his former media adviser, to head up yet another U.S. campaign to improve America’s image in the Arab world. I have a suggestion: Just find out who were the cabinet, C.I.A. and military officers on whose watch these 26 homicides occurred and fire them. That will do more to improve America’s image in the Arab-Muslim world than any ad campaign, which will be useless if this sort of prisoner abuse is shrugged off. Republicans in Congress went into overdrive to protect the sanctity of Terri Schiavo’s life.

Got news for you, big guy. Those 26 homicides occured on the watch of Attorney general Alberto Gonzales, who authored the memos building a legal case for torture, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who requested that they be made even more stringent, and former Texas Governor George W. Bush, who repeatedly signaled that torture was A-OK. Think those guys are going to be fired?

But I have a suggestion of my own, one that might curtail incidents of torture in US custody: Just find out who’s involved with torture of foreign nationals and do what we do–send them to the countries whose nationals they murdered for prosecution. Killed a Jordanian? Off to Jordan you go to await trial. This would be consistent with our insistence on the right to prosecute foreign nationals for crimes against American citizens, and it would prove that we respect foreign countries as much as ourselves.

March 23, 2005

The School Shooting

Andy writes:

Not to pressure you into becoming a reactionary blogger, but I’m curious
hat you’re thoughts are on the latest school shooting. These things really hit home to me because I remember not too long ago being an geeky high school student alternating between anger and depression. I’m afraid to say it but I feel really sorry for the shooters. I wish I could have told them how pathetic those adults saying “High School is the best time of your life” are. The worst part is, our politicans and most the the teachers come from the cool kid sections of the class. They’ll never understand the problem.

Come to think it it, the current administration treats the world a lot like a high school. I don’t actually believe Bush thinks drilling in the arctic is a good idea. He’s just doing it because he thinks it’s funny pissing geeky liberals off. Maybe it’s the cynical HS survivor talking in me but I bet a significant number of people voted for him because they think hurting little countries in the face of protests is funny. I guess the sad truth is bullies never grow up, we just move away from them.

The only thing that surprises me about school shootings is that they don’t happen every day. Everything about the modern American high school from the jail-like architecture and security checkpoints to the rigid insistence upon following useless textbooks to the cult of the jock is engineered to oppress. And the oppression falls heaviest on the smartest, most bookish kids–who are the most capable of planning mayhem on a large scale.

Aside from what Andy wrote, I wonder: Is bullying learned? Or is it hardwired in our ape brains?

Schiavo Mail

Wait until my cartoons start coming out tomorrow. Until then, here’s an email sampler:

From Steve:

If the media were truly Liberal, the papers would be calling her “brain-dead” instead of “brain-damaged”.

Like I said, wait until my cartoons start coming out…

Tim sets the record straight:

I’m sure you’ll probably be deluged with emails on
this point but in your latest blog you ask “Should Terry be allowed to die?” and state that “The video released by the family does seem to show her reacting to her surroundings.” But Schiavo’s cerebral cortex has been completely destroyed and replaced by spinal fluid. The cerebral cortex is involved in complex brain functions including memory, perceptual awareness, “thinking”, language and consciousness.
There is simply no way for her to be responding to anything around her, and doctors have been quite certain of this for many years now. As for the videosof her supposedly responding to her surroundings,those short clips allegedly omit hours ofunresponsiveness. Whatever noises or movements shemakes are completely random–again, EEG scans of her brain show zero electrical activity in the cerebralcortex. Whoever Terry was is no longer around, and what’s more, she’s never coming back. This is not speculation, it is medical fact.
PS. I enjoy your work tremendously– keep it up.

Andy is, according to everything I’ve read, correct.

Bill brings up an interesting point. The politics of distraction through the personal story are at work here:

It shows how much better conservatives are at getting there issues out then us liberals like you say in “Wake up you’re liberal”. Where’s our collective outrage over Bush’s bankrupcy plan.

Norman proves it’s grandstanding by comparing the action on the Schiavo case with the inaction on the PATRIOT Act (and let’s not forget the August 8, 2001 memo warning Bush of impending Al Qaeda attacks on US soil):

There are some odd complexities about the Schiavo case. Apparently, there is evidence that Ms. Schiavo had been abused, possibly severely, and that could have been the cause, or a cause, of her current condition. If true, although tragic, it is still a matter for law enforcement and the courts.

The thing that pisses me off about the Schiavo case is that Congress has become involved. In meddling with this case, The Pugs have finally made clear that their true role is political theater, not government. They don’t have time to read the patriot act before passing it, and thus our civil liberties into history, but they suddenly have all the time in the world to deal with a case
that is better left to state and local authorities. Yet, the fake president rouseshimself from his fake ranch and his fake brush clearing with fake urgency to take the stage for fake politics, telling a flatlined country to fake off.

(Another) Ted points out that Bush’s pro-life cred ain’t all it’s cracked up to be:

Why are more people not talking about the Texas law that Bush signed while governor in 1999? Under that law, physicians and a hospital ethics committee can decide to remove the feeding tubes of an adult in a vegetative state –even OVER the objections of guardians and relatives. (The law was amended in 2003 to include minors and pediatric patients.) Why hasn’t the case of Wanda Hudson — who recently fought (and lost) to keep her infant son on life support — more publicized?
Astonishing how Bush and Delay can passionately rail against euthanasia and assisted suicide while an infant in Texas just had his tubes pulled out because his mother couldn’t afford to keep him alive. There are other cases pending in Texas. Anyone interested in reading about the bill can just do a google search for “Wanda Hudson and Texas law.” The case was covered in Texas newspapers, but I’ve heard very little of it in the mainstream media. Apparently, neocons are on the side of life so long as the state doesn’t have to pay the bills. What more proof does one need of the shameless hypocrisy of Delay and Bush?

As does Joe:

I concur completely with your thoughts on Terry Schiavo. By all accounts it’s a tragic situation, with both sides needlessly villified. As a parent I can absolutely understand the parents feelings. What disgusts me is the bushmen exploiting the situation as cynically as the way they exploited 9/11. It astounds me how the sanctity of life does not exten to Iraqis in the bushmen’s world view.
I read of the death of a 5 month old baby, Sun Hudson. He was terminally ill and his mother wanted him kept alive but she was too poor to pay for his care. Under the Texas Futile Care law (Signed in 1998 by the Governor of Texas. Whatever became of that guy ? Helluva cheerleader in High School). The poor child might as well have been an Iraqi for all the bushmen cared about him. Here’s a link in case you’re interested. .
Great cartoon.

And FOR Sean kicks it through the goalposts and out the stadium:

I appreciate your calm and thoughtful words on the Terry Schiavo case in today’s blog entry. What gripes me more than almost anything in this affair is how the Republicans in Congress have latched onto this issue because, as they say, it advances the “culture of life”. Ugh! I wish some daring Democrat had attached a rider to “Terry’s Bill” to also outlaw the Federal Death Penalty. I would love to have seen the right-wingers argue that!

(You also know that if it had been revealed that Terry had ever had an abortion, they’d all have packed up and gone home a long time ago).

And the irony of ironies is that when the Repugs finish refashioning this country to their liking, there will be no more cases like Terry. What has paid for her medical care this past 15 years? A million dollar settlement of a malpractice case; the Repugs want to put caps on those kinds of judgments. And how is her continuing care being paid for now? Medicare, another program that the Repugs want to gut.
Flaming hypocrites!

That’s very true. If Generalissimo El Busho and his minions get the tort reform they want, poor Ms. Schiavo would be limited to maximum damages of $250,000…hardly enough to sustain 15 years of the level of 24-hour care she had been receiving.

The irony is, those who want to let Terry Schiavo die–which was, according to the spouse who is in a position to know, her desire in this situation–care more about her than those who want her live.

March 22, 2005

Terry Schiavo

I’ve had a few days to think about Terry Schiavo and research the background and legal ramifications. Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts at this time.

Why do Republicans hate Florida state law so much? First they have their pet US Supreme Court take Bush v. Gore in 2000, which as an electoral dispute isn’t under the jurisdiction of a federal court. Now they have Bush fly back from his ersatz Texas ranch to sign a bill that attempts to subvert Florida law again. The law says that Terry’s husband Michael has the legal right to determine whether or not extraordinary means should be undertaken to keep her alive despite her persistent vegetative state. Personally, I lean towards keeping people alive as long as medical science will allow. I would want everything possible done to keep me around as long as thee was a chance, no matter how remote, that I might recover to a significant extent. But I would still trust my wife to make that decision for me a lot more than I would trust a cheesy political hack like Tom DeLay.

Why are people picking on Michael Schiavo? Many right-wingers are attacking him for having acquired a girlfriend a mere two years after his wife slipped into oblivion. Where were they when some 9/11 widows remarried a year after their husbands and wives had died? I remember: the 9/11 widows, they said, were crazy with grief and were therefore justified to behave any way they wanted. Anyone who thought differently was a cur and a traitor. Michael Schiavo, a 26-year-old man whose wife suddenly collapsed in the hallway of their home five years after getting married, surely was just as devastated. In the United States, however, victimhood depends on your political affiliation.

How is that the United States Congress is so concerned with one woman’s life? They were so cavalier, after all, about unleashing the fearsome military strength of the Pentagon on Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 150,000 innocent people were subsequently killed. Republicans are pro-life, it seems, only when the lives are worth political capital.

Should Terry be allowed to die? I don’t know. The video released by the family does seem to show her reacting to her surroundings. It’s heartbreaking. But I don’t have to decide because her husband, who has the law on his side, already has. If the GOP doesn’t like the law, why don’t they change it? After all, they control all three branches of the federal government and most state legislatures. Surely Jeb Bush could be counted upon to help out. Or is this just another tacky act of political grandstanding to assuage anti-abortion Republicans?

March 20, 2005

Holiday in Darfur

Chris asks:

Have you ever gotten around to saying anything about the genocide in the Darfur region? Is it worthy of your time?

Of course it is, but no I haven’t. Given how useless the US mainstream media has been on Iraq et al., I’m reserving comment until such a time as I can go over there myself to have an unfiltered look-see. If and when some newspaper or other media organization coughs up the requisite dough (standard cost of war zone reportage, including translator, driver, housing, etc. at ridiculous extortionist rates, is $10,000 for the first week plus $5,000 per week thereafter…and that’s the budget rate), I’ll be jetting off to do some first-person reportage. Who knows? This might be one of those rare instances where the US propaganda mill is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then again, maybe not.

Sadly, as many reporters can attest, there’s little interest in funding expeditions like these anymore.

March 19, 2005

Boring Standard Hate Mail (!) writes:

you suck, fag boy. I hope you survive and that no one shoots you in the head at point blank range. that would be unfortunate. i would piss on you’re grave however, if that’s any consolation, queer would probably enjoy that though. so perhaps someone should shit on you’re unconcious body while you’re still alive and being burned in the face with a blow-torch. have a nice day, and keep up the good work, gay boy.

What’s particularly disconcerting about this sort of email is that I have absolutely no idea what pissed off this guy (yeah, probably a guy). Was it a cartoon? A TV appearance? Grammar envy? That, and the fact that someone would think that it’s OK to write stuff like this to someone. These people are so fucking weird.

On the Other Hand…

It’s not all bad, as Jay writes:L

I think the greatest thing about Generalissimo El Busho is that he looks like a vampire, as well as some kind of banana republic leader.

I also think the work you’re doing is way beyond vital. If I were some kind of philanthropic guy, instead of a retired journalism prof, I’d buy a million copies of your books and have teens give them out at malls, a far better use of their time than enlisting in the military, to go get killed for Halliburton and other Bushco outfits.

March 17, 2005

Starvation Different Than Hunger

So much misunderstanding across the ideological divide stems from differing understandings of vocabulary. Sherri writes:

Correct me if I am wrong, but that is precisely the time when huge waves of immigrants were arriving from Ireland where a true famine was underway. Yes, poverty in America was brutal in that era, but it was nothing like the mass starvation in Ireland. I think you could have made your point about progressive income taxes without resorting to wild claims that “millions starved” in late 19th century America. Hunger and starvation are not the same thing.

Actually, they are. Or can be. From

starve  (stärv)
1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.
2. Informal. To be hungry.
3. To suffer from deprivation.
4. Archaic. To suffer or die from cold.

Some Emails Say It All

It’s great to have an outlet to share this with y’all:

In reading your comments on Marine Captain Frick, I thought I should point out that many of today’s officers do not have degrees when they are commissioned (at least in the Navy and Marine Corps), but are selected from the ranks through special programs such as “Seaman to Admiral”. From what I recall, these individuals were afforded the opportunity to earn their degrees after serving a couple of years as a junior officer. I believe many earned their degrees through “online institutions” such as Phoenix University.
While a few officers were fine and decent people, a good portion of them were of the socially inadequate mold whose viciousness and bullying ways were only superseded by their arrogance and mastery of the fine art of ass kissing. It seemed to me that the ones with degrees from the various service academies and R.O.T.C programs fell into the later group. Typical corporate governance I suppose. In short, there are plenty of educated idiots out there and I would be willing to bet,based on my experience, that a disproportionate number can be found wearing the uniform of this country.
Also worth mentioning is the role that nepotism plays in the officer corps. It is well known in the military that various families have sent generations through Annapolis and the service is managed through an aristocracy. The Executive Officer on my ship was one of these legacy alum and it was pretty apparent that he did not arrive at his position through merit.
The happiest moment of my life was when I received my discharge (honorably) from that insane asylum. I just wish that I had been more knowledgeable about the realities of this society for I would never have even considered that route. I can not understand how we ever won a war given the way the military managed things. My thoughts now about the military are that it is nothing more than a big welfare program for all involved. Yet, if someone were to point out that there are serious problems in a public forum they would be chastised as “unpatriotic” and “traitorous”, most likely by people who elected not to serve, ironically. Your probably aware of this through your Pat Tillman episode. Forget about the military establishment admitting to internal faults either. Remember, it was the media that lost Vietnam, not the reckless, murderous and inept beaurocracy (wink wink). This is why, in my opinion, much needed change will never occur.
Finally, if you have never served and would like some insight into the stupidity of the military sub-culture, I would recommend Joseph Heller’s old classic Catch-22.
Sincerely, A Venting Vet from Michigan

Progressive Taxes for Dummies

Scott writes:

I’ve just read your recent article on Yahoo News titled DEATH BY CONSUMPTION.

In the article you mention the tax rate on the richest as 94% back in the 1950s.

I believe few people understand the progressive-tiered nature of the income tax and simply saying someone was paying 94% is misleading. In fact, people would have paid 94% only on that part of their income above a certain dollar figure.

Please forgive me if I carry on too much. Using an unreal example as I don’t have the actual figures in front of me, if one made $100,000/yr, one would pay 0% on the first $25,000; 20% on your income between $25,000 and $50,000; 25% on income between $50,000 and $75,000; and 30% on anything more than $75,000.

To tell someone I’m in the 30% tax bracket is misleading because many, many people interpret this to mean I’m paying 30% of $100,000 when in fact, I will have paid a total of $18,750 or ~19% of my salary in taxes.

Can you please expand on your statement in this particular article orperhaps write another one explaining how the progressive-tiered income taxworks?

Thank you for your time.

More Rolling Heads

Craig wisely asks:

If Dan Rather lost his job for using a fake source, than shouldn’t local TV station producers also lose their jobs for running those bogus-news “VPR”s the Bush administration is secretly releasing?

Well, yes.

The Stop Sign

Andy sez:

Another question for the Marine Captain:

Why did they have to steal the traffic sign? Are they incapable of copying the Arabic characters in the word “stop” onto a piece of plywood? Is it really necessary for our men to act like common vandals. If you ask me, this captain is a thug.

I wondered about this myself. And if their calligraphy is lacking, couldn’t they hire an Iraqi to write “Stop–US Checkpoint–Slow Down” in Arabic? Or don’t we know any besides Ahmed Chalabi?

March 16, 2005

Air America Date Change

Actually, I’ll guest co-host “Morning Sedition” on Air America Radio on Friday, March 25.

March 14, 2005

We’re Looking for a Few IQ Points, Redux

Yesterday’s New York Times contained an op-ed by a former Marine captain about the challenges faced by Marines running checkpoints in US-occupied Iraq. Here you have a captain, a guy who’s presumably fairly well-educated, displaying the kind of idiocy that makes clear that the United States isn’t ready for prime time.

First there’s the description of what happens after his men shoot up a tractor trailer that accelerated towards their checkpoint:

Streams of red tracers poured into the cab, but still the truck hurtled toward us. I was bracing for the impact when the truck jackknifed to a halt 20 feet from our position. All night it sat, smoking, in the road. The next morning, men, women and children from Al Hayy came and danced and cheered around the bodies in the yellow truck. Only then did we know for sure that we hadn’t killed innocent people. There was no satisfaction in making the “right” decision. It was the only decision.

So “men, women and children” from a nearby town came and danced around the smouldering wreckage of the truck and Capt. Fick thinks that he knows “for sure” that the guys he killed were terrorists? Where do we find these guys? Is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are morons? I guess anyone can get into Annapolis these days.

Then there’s this:

The fact is, checkpoint techniques can be taught. My platoon had to learn them on the fly, but that was two years ago. The lessons we and other troops learned should have been institutionalized long ago.

For example, we tried and discarded the three tactics that were used to warn the Italians as they approached the checkpoint: hand and arm signals, warning shots and shooting into the vehicle’s engine block. We found that hand and arm signals were tough to decipher, and subject to different cultural interpretations. Warning shots are hard to hear or see, and frequently only panic the driver they’re intended to warn. Shooting into engine blocks to avoid injuring passengers is Hollywood fantasy. Even my Marine snipers – some of the best marksmen in the world – couldn’t do it consistently.

So we adapted. For example, once while driving through a town, we cut down a traffic sign – a bright, red octagon with the word “stop” written in Arabic – and used it at checkpoints. Who knows how many lives this simple act of theft may have saved? We also learned to shoot off highly visible smoke grenades and brightly colored flares when possible threats approached. We started putting our concertina wire at least two football fields away to give us more reaction time.

Well, duh. Who but an utter idiot wouldn’t know that hand signals vary by nation? Or that shooting at people might cause them to “panic”? Or that bullets might travel through the engine block of a small car? Why on earth would the military even bother to try using procedures that anyone with common sense would know wouldn’t work–in advance?

It’s high time, obviously, for the military to start offering salaries commensurate with, or even much higher than, those paid to civilians. If we’re going to run the rest of the world, after all, we need occupation troops with a few IQ points to rub together.