Saturday, January 18, 2003

Musings About Intangible Things-Over at Political State Report, Mr. Florida Politics(D) has a piece on the easing of the intangibles tax in Florida, going on a liberal (but nonetheless true) riff on the regressive nature of the sales-tax-based Florida tax system. A major reason for this is that Florida doesn't have an personal income tax; even Democrats like former Governor Lawton Chiles went to bat against a state income tax amendment. However, the Robin Hood itch did get scratched in the form of the intangibles tax. Dr. Byron's getting an interesting education here. The tax is 0.1% of all stocks, bonds (with the exception of Florida munis) mutual funds, limited partnerships and unsecured accounts receivables. Stuff in retirement plans, like IRAs and 401K (or 403Bs-thank you) are exempt. People get a $20,000/person exemption (thus $40K for marrieds) and don't have to pay a tax if the tab's under $60; thus, singles don't pay if the have less than $80K and marrieds can have $100K before writing a check to Tallahassee. The planned change that will take effect for 2004 will up that $20,000 exemption to $250,000, creating an expected $130 million revenue hit. Note that that's 0.1% of assets, not income. That's not quite as trivial as it sounds. For instance, a 4% state income tax would snag 0.2% of the value of a 5% return of a bond fund; the lower the return, the larger the effect when compared to an income tax. Since this covers money-market funds, it might lead people to put money in bank money-market accounts that aren't covered by the intangibles tax. It will also seem to encourage people to buy more stocks than bonds, since the tax is on the value, not the income. I'm not sure if this is the best way to get money out of the wealthy. You discourage the things you tax, but I don't think investing in something other than a bank account is something we want to discourage. If you want to soak the wealthy, tack a surcharge onto the property tax on big homes or levy an extra percent sales tax on yachts or luxury cars rather than on investments. However, if you want to tax the rich and the rich only, it's hard to do that with "sin taxes" on tobacco and alcohol. To get at the fat cats, you either have to tax wealth or income; this one opted for intangible wealth, for the sellers of tangible wealth (home contractors, car dealers) and bankers have better lobbies in Tallahassee than the stockbrokers. I need to remind myself to ask my stockbroker friend from church if you see people selling stocks just before New Years (January 1 is the measuring date) and letting the money sit in a bank account before reinvesting it. 0.1% might not be enough of a hit to justify the capital gains tax and broker commissions that would come into play on selling a stock, but if I were going to switch investments late in the year, I could see someone doing that.

Midday Musings-I'm a bit slow out of the blogging gate this moring. I slept in and went off to my first graduation ceremony as a professor and got to see the Monday night MBA bunch (who struggled through Managerial Accounting and Managerial Econ with me) graduate, getting to congratulate most of them as we were lining up to go in; the faculty wear their commencement garb from their graduate days. I actually had to wipe away some tears as they were hooded. I've yet to have any of my undergraduate students graduate, since I primarily taught underclassmen last semester. They had a nice, scenic setting for the ceremony set up in the quad, with the front steps of the Pontious Center, where my office is, being the dais for the cerimony. However, some chilly weather hit town; temperatures were in the low 40s this morning as I drove in. This Michigan kid though "Good football weather", but the school decided to dismantle the chairs in the quad and move it into the gym. Warmer, but not quite as evocative. The WaTi's got a blog piece up, crediting the blogs for Lott's resignation-here's one interesting quote from it-"We'll have much more access to our enemies and they'll have more access to us. The 24-hour news cycle will be supplemented with the 24-hour comment cycle." F*** Jesse Jackson? It looks like more people than just Cedric have that viewpoint. It's peacenik protest day, and the turnouts don't seem all that great. While the BBC wants to give props to the peaceniks, they shoot the cause in the foot by putting in a sidebar on the 11 warheads .

Edifier du Jour-Leviticus 17:11
11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'
Eileen and I were in charge of doing a communion service at our home group last night, and I used that passage as my jumping off point as I poured grape juice into small plastic cups while talking about Jesus being the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. While the people were breaking off chunks of a flattened-softball sized loaf of French bread, I had reminded them that Jesus had come in the flesh to be that sacrifice, that a real, flesh-and-blood person, God incarnate, took those nails as well. At Golgotha, God ended the Old Testament system of blood sacrifice by offering part of Himself to be the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, shedding his blood for us all. While typing the last sentance, I had offering typed as offing at first; that's fitting, for God did kinda authorize a hit on Himself. He could have stopped the proceedings at Calvery, but opted not to. If it weren't for that sacrifice, we're toast.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Don't Fence Me In-This piece on John Kerry via Amy Welborn-thanks for the Betty Crocker points, Ma'am.
One of the Democratic presidential hopefuls is rejecting the Vatican's new guidelines for Roman Catholic politicians. The document approved by Pope John Paul II declares that Catholic politicians must oppose abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry says that "as a Catholic" he has "enormous respect for the words and teachings of the Vatican." But Kerry says that to "represent all the people" he can't be bound by church doctrine. Kerry's statement says that's part of President Kennedy's "lasting legacy."
Nah; he'd be happy to follow church doctrine if it matched his political ideology. I don't think he'll complain if the Pope agrees with him on other issues, but either he's putting politics ahead of theology and/or he's not much of a Catholic in the first place. The part of Kennedy's lasting legacy he doesn't talk about was that JFK wasn't that devout of a Catholic, either.

Comment Comments-We're having a little bit of a interblog comment war. Josh Sargent started the festivities here-
It's turning into a pet peeve of mine to find a blog without comments. Once I see there's no comment application, i usually don't even read it. I believe the interaction of comments from readers take blogging to another level. What are reasons people wouldn't want comments on their blog? If you don't know how to get them, go here. If you need help with them, let me know.
Setting up a comment section isn't hard. The hardest part of getting my YACCS comments up and running was getting an application accepted-they did only a set amount every six hours and I sat by the computer at noon on a Saturday to make sure I was in at 12:00:01. Once it was OK'ed, it was a fairly simple cut-and-paste operation to get it inserted into the template. However, dealing with the comments that get there can be a problem. Colby Cosh sniped back with "I trust that the people who feel this way have designated walls for visitor graffiti in their homes." That would be true if people were allowed to edit the blog proper, but comments only show up when you click on the comment button (or in some applications, when you get their via link to a given entry). I think the better metaphor is a comment box at a retail establishment, except that it works more like a white board where people can put up their comments for everyone to see. Glenn Reynolds added that "past a certain level of traffic, comments turn into a chatboard. Or even a trollboard. And I don't have the time to police them." For sites that have relatively low volume and homogeneous (no, I'm not talking about Sullivan's IQ) readers, the chances of having the comment section turn into a troll haven is very limited. On my comments, the signal-to-noise ratio is fairly high, but if my referrer logs are any indication, the traffic is coming from either secular conservatives or evangelical conservative websites. I've yet to remove a comment, even though not every comment thrills me. It improves feedback. I used to get more e-mail from readers before getting my comment sections; I get better feedback with comments, for you don't have to boot up your e-mail software and find an address to send a message. However, as you increase the traffic flow, you increase the chance of a flame war. Also, if the writer is provocative, it might also lead to more trolling, as someone will be more likely to post a comment when it is evocatively written, eliciting either a "right on!" or a "you're full of it" from the reader. Here, my traffic flow is modest (about 150 uniques on weekdays), the readers homogeneous and the writing usually understated. Cosh's more heterogeneous readership and edgy style would tend to lead to a lot of flamage if he instituted a comment section. A quick look at the Daily Kos site gives an example; his blunt and provocative postings can ring up a hundred comments on a hot topic. If done right, comment sections can be a net plus for a site. However, it doesn't need to be a requirement. Instapundit's still a daily (at least) visit even without comments.

Deficit Musings-OMB director Mitchell Daniels is in hot water for suggesting that deficits might be permanent fixtures for the rest of the decade. Given that they're cooking up the '04 budget now, the question that comes to mind of whether economic growth and political restraint will allow for a surplus to occur anytime soon. There are three ways to get rid of a deficit; cut spending, raise taxes or allow economic growth to increase the tax base. Spending cuts aren't likely, nor are tax increases; in fact, we're looking at cutting taxes in order to goose the economy. How will the increasing national debt affect the budget and the economy? Daniels points out that low interest rates make the debt burden affordable at the present time, but that low interest rate is predicated on low inflation; that might not be the case in the future. If inflation crops back up, interest rates will rise and more of the budget will be consumed by interest payments. An increased federal debt will tend to increase interest rates even if inflation stays low, for the government will be competing with corporations, municipalities and individuals for capital. Econ textbooks on both left and right will refer to this as the "Crowding-out effect" and Krugman rightly rips Council of Economic Advisers chair Glenn Hubbard for neglecting this basic concept. If the national debt is sucking up money that could have been used to buy new equipment and start new businesses or expand existing ones, it would be a long-term drag on the economy. However, if that debt is due to a simulative tax cut, the lower tax rates might help offset the higher interest rates, creating a lower cost of capital. If the economy will grow as a result of a tax cut, there might be more revenue coming in than one would expect, since the lower tax rate would be applied to a bigger tax base. Here's a basic example. Let's say that we have a 20% tax rate and a $10 billion tax base; that would bring in $2 billion. Let's then cut taxes to 18%. Static analysis would assume that tax revenues would go down by $200 million (2% of 10 billion) to $1.8 billion. However, if the economy grew to 10.5 billion as result of the tax cut, revenues would $1.89 billion, only a loss of $110 million. If the simulative effect of the tax cut took the tax base up to 11.5 billion four years down the line, revenues would then be $2.07 billion, higher than before we made the cut. How simulative would the tax cut be? Good question. Dynamic analysis would allow for the concept of reducing the amount of lost revenue in a tax cut, but figuring out what percentage of growth would be due to a tax cut is tricky. Krugman's not comfy with the idea
Will this alcoholic eventually go back on the wagon? Not for a while; he has too many enablers. The Congressional Budget Office will soon start using "dynamic scoring" to assess proposed tax cuts — that is, it will build in the supply-side assumption that tax cuts raise the economy's growth rate, and therefore generate indirect revenue gains that offset the direct revenue losses. In the past, budget officials have opposed this practice, because it's so easy to slide from objective analysis into wishful thinking. With Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, does anyone doubt that future C.B.O. analyses will take a very favorable view of big tax cuts for rich people?
It also seems easy to slide from objective analysis into pessimistic thinking. Krugman might be afraid of GOP economic Pollyanna, but the static Eeyore of the Keynesians isn't helpful either. An overly optimistic economic forecast would overstate revenues after a tax cut, but a static analysis would understate revenues. I don't have a magic recipe for deficits and tax cuts, except that if Congress can keep a lid on spending, the deficits will go away with time as the economy grows. A tax cut will trade a bigger deficit now for a faster-growing economy, which will lead to surplusses down the line, if spending is contained.

Morning Musings-Interesting piece on the Vet, which will go the way of the dodo after Sunday's Eagles-Bucs playoff game. We're seeing in a two-year streach the demise of Riverfront, Three Rivers and the Vet, three of the most cookie-cutter stadiums I can remember; you'd have to look at the ads to figure out what stadium you were in. Here's an cute part of the article that should be recycled for idiotarian activity
Twenty-seven men were arrested and sent to McCaffery after the Eagles beat the Falcons on Saturday night. The Philadelphia Daily News reported this exchange between McCaffery and a 19-year-old man also charged with trespassing onto the field. "How do you plead?" the judge said. "I plead stupidity," the man said. "Is that aggravated stupidity or simple stupidity?" the judge said. "Whatever the lesser charge is. I was an idiot," the man said.
"Is that aggravated stupidity or simple stupidity?" Methinks I might borrow that one in the future. Great minds think alike. Check out Monday's Midday Musing and the headline of this Suzanne Fields WaTi piece yesterday. I almost had a Googlewhack for Lieberman yarmulke 'in the ring'

Edifier du Jour-Genesis 41-8:16
8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. 9 Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, "I would make mention today of my own offenses. 10 "Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. 11 "We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 "Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. 13 "And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him." 14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." 16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."
Verse one mentions that it had been two years between when the chief cupbearer had been imprisoned and this story. Thus Joseph spent at least two years in prison waiting for this opportunity. God doesn't always do things when we want them to, but He does them on his schedule. He can use a bad situation and cause good to come out of it. He doesn't always act when we want Him to, but He's always on time. His time.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Evening Musings-Microsoft's paying a dividend? The 16-cent-a-share dividend (about a 1% yearly yield if they keep it up every quarter) isn't going to make it an income stock, but it does indicate that the company has matured to a point where they don't have a good internal use for all of their profits. That is as good of a sign as any that the computer industry has matured, unless it's Papa Blog getting a puff piece in the Grey Lady. The inspectors are talking to some Iraqi nuclear scientists on top of their warhead discovery. The good guys seem to have a case coming together. Are the Saudi's trying to get rid of Sadaam before we do? Much like the Iranians wanted one of their allies in charge in Afghanistan, the Saudi's might want to manouver a Saudi-friendly guy into power before the B-1's fly.

Not Quite a Smoking Gun, But at Least a Powder Burn-The inspectors found 11 empty chemical warheads that weren't on Iraq's inventory. Couple that with the lack of cooperation that has Blix complaining and EU foreign minister Javier Solana POed and we might be looking at enough evidence of badwill on the part of the Iraqis to get France and Russia to sign off on military action. Josh runs the just war traps on this, and doesn't find any red flags.

The Dream Lives On-In chapel this morning, a local pastor gave a solid homily combining Martin Luther King’sI Have a Dream speech with 2 Chronicles 7:14’s call for repentance and healing. We hear the last part of that speech regularly, and we'll most likely hear the end of it this weekend as we get ready for King's birthday on Monday. However, it's worth looking at that speech to see how far we have come from that day in August of 1963 and how far we still have to go.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
Where are we 40 years later? Is the black community still shackled. Somewhat, but the segregation and discrimination is no longer institutionalized or legal or popularly accepted. Not every heart has been changed. The black community has begun to evacuate Poverty Island, but the internal demons of crime and single mothers have replaced the external ones of the Klan and Jim Crow. Bigots no longer have an active blockade of the island, but a few pirates of bigotry still patrol the waters. To the extent that Poverty Island hasn't been evacuated, blacks still are in the corners of society, but slowly getting into the mix of a broader society.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I recall Jefferson saying that he shuddered for America when he thought of God's justice. The Founding Fathers dreamed big, but the actual fruition of that egalitarian dream has come slowly. We might not be able to pay interest due, but we can cash that note today.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It wasn’t insufficient funds but insufficient will. We've found a good deal of good will in the last 40 years to begin to cash that note.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped change a lot of that. It didn’t end the poverty or the heart-bigotry of a lot of people, but citizenship rights were restored. Despite cries of disenfranchisement on the left, those rights are there; the fights are over making sure people who show up at the polls are eligible to vote at those places. Yes, Republicans are often a bit zealous in checking ID’s in black areas and abuses of that zealotry need to be punished; however, denial of citizenship rights is a local malfunction of the system rather than a design of the system.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
King’s heirs in black leadership haven’t always lived up to that. We've seen an anti-white bigotry in the black community that equals the Klansman in its toxicity. We've also seen a bitterness that sneers at bourgeois morality and education; this bitterness translates into a rage against the larger culture and helps to trap people on King’s Poverty Island.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The worst parts of this have been met, for blacks now can get a motel room and eat in restaurants; when discrimination does occur, as in Denny’s a few years back, it is taken care of forcefully. While the ghettoes are overpopulated, mobility to the suburbs is a reality, albeit not as much as we'd like. Voting rights have been established, although that New Yorker that has nothing to vote for might still be true, but not due to racism. Righteousness isn’t flowing like a mighty stream yet, nor is it ever likely to be in a fallen society, so all of use will continue to have to be on guard for injustices.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
We've four decades removed from those struggles. The Lott affair reminded us of a not that distant past when states were voting for avowedly segregationist presidential tickets, not just in 1948 but 1968 as well. People died and were wounded fighting to cash those checks the Founding Fathers wrote. When we look at some of the less-than-edifying modern activist, remind yourself that it was a brave and godly bunch that King was heading up; the Spirit-led guts of the black church made that movement possible without an ethnic Civil War.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
We've made some good strides in that direction. We're egalitarian in theory; putting it into practice is the trick.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I'm not sure about the red hills of Georgia, but the sand hills of Florida at Warner Southern have blacks and whites interacting well. Racial cliques are still there; the black students still tend to hang out together, as do the Latinos, but black-white and Anglo-Latino relations seem good. You see interracial couples hand-in-hand on campus or a Latina flirting (in a manner appropriate for an evangelical campus) with an Anglo guy. I can’t testify to the rest of the country, but there’s a lot more fellowship than meets the eye. Racial fears are more in the abstract than in the people you know; once someone becomes a person rather than a stereotype, the bigotry tends to lessen.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
To call 2003 Mississippi an oasis of freedom and justice would be laying it on real thick, but that Jim Crow heat wave has dissipated, with the bigotry thermometer seeming to only get up into the low 80s rather than 110. However, the air conditioning of civil rights law and the cooling showers of greater public opprobrium of racism helps to make the bigotry a bit easier to live with.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Forty years later, it’s the conservatives who are using that line to fight positive discrimination for blacks. Today, the legal fight isn’t about being discriminating against blacks but whether to discriminate for them. This might bring in some liberal flamage, but it seems that it is modern conservatives who want to look at people as individuals where it is modern liberals who want to look at people as members of demographic groups, giving preference to the ones who were discriminated in the past.
I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
Little kids tend not to be racist; they have to be taught that by their elders. It’s the big boys and girls that have to learn how not to fall prey to racial stereotypes and treat each other as children of God. It’s a lot better than it was 40 years ago, but it still needs a lot of work. I don’t know if Alabama is there yet, but it’s improving.
I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This is a tough passage to digest, for the second paragraph has a eschatological feel that will only happen when Jesus returns. The third paragraph stops short of that eschatology and focuses on God transforming the South and the nation. To the extent that we have repented of racism, God has healed our land. We haven’t fully repented yet, thus our land hasn’t been fully healed yet.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
We're almost there. From a legal perspective, we are there, but from a personal standpoint, we've still got a ways to go. There are still parts of the country that are hostile to blacks and still people that look down upon them, so freedom isn’t fully implemented. Freedom is ringing, but we need the bigots to shut up and let it be heard.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
We are free not to be bigots in 2003, for doing so impoverishes us all. We may never fully get there, for bigotry dies hard, and we may always have Klan sympathizers. However, as we see blacks become a greater part of the broader society, those racial stereotypes will slowly fade away. Just as we look at the blatant racism of the 50s with disbelief today, our grandkids will look at the low-level racism, income inequity and de facto segregation of the 00s as equally archaic. King’s dream’s still alive and kicking. Once we get past the racial opportunists of the left trying to turn his message into one of black tribalism and the racial opportunists of the right trying to write King off as a philandering commie, we have an godly vision of a color-blind America. Yes, King was a bit of a socialist, especially in the late 60s just before he died, but that shouldn’t discount his dream of a color-blind America.

A Valentine For Saddam?-Some less than diplomatic things are coming out of Hans Blix's mouth-
"We feel that Iraq must do more than they have done so far in order to make this a credible avenue," Mr Blix told reporters. He said Iraq had to either provide evidence - looking at the archives and budgets - that it had destroyed the suspected weapons of mass destruction or surrender what they might have for destruction under supervision.
It looks like mid February might be the time of an attack. The weapons inspectors have a January 28th report due. If Blix nixes the sincerity of the Iraqis, then the US and Britian will look to start something. The EU is making noises, but the EU doesn't have a say in the matter. If this goes to a UN vote, the French, Russians and Chinese could block a UN-backed move, but the EU doesn't have a UNSC seat. That will be the early February fun; whether the French and Russians will sign off on an attack or whether the US and its close allies will act on their own. If the administration takes two weeks to come to a conclusion, then mid-February would be the time frame.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off to the Invisible Primary We Go-This is an interesting poll, we might just have an honest-to-goodness five-horse race.
Lieberman 19
Kerry 16
Gephardt 13
Edwards 12
Graham 9
Hart 5
Dean 4
Sharpton 4
Graham's only polling 9%, but he's just started running. Lieberman and Gephardt have been in the spotlight for a while, and Kerry and Edwards have been running for almost a year. Graham's just getting started, and I'd expect him to close the gap on Gephardt and Edwards once people start to give him a hard look. The media aren't going to like this much, for if Graham can pull himself into the teens (and he should be able to), it will hard to exclude any of the top five from coverage. Might we, perchance, start daydreaming of a brokered convention?

Morning Musings-Yes, that was the John LeCarre letting loose in The Times yesterday; he has been writing similar anti-American stuff for a while. Lileks lets rip with a career fisking, disecting a number of LeCarre pieces from the past. Well, Oakland's not too far from Beserkly, but they'd only be third on my list of Bay area schools likely to hold a district-wide anti-Iraq-war teach-in. Yet another exhibit in the need for some sort of voucher system. More international loan defaults in Argentina. Keep an eye on this for the long haul, for we might start to see another international financial meltdown like the Bahtulism of the late 90s.

The True Odor-Eater-Oh, Lord, the sophomoric humor that will stem from this GasBGon flatulence filter cushion that will allow people to go to church and not sit in their own pew. The Blogosphere will absolutely go to town, and the arrested adolescent in me looks forward to the tacky humor that will result. You now have the must-buy gag gift for 12-year-olds of all ages. I don't think I can write much more without getting more scatological than is in good taste.

Edifier du Jour-1 Corintians 7:18-28(NASB)
18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called. 25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
It's common for people to ask whether they're currently in God's will about various things in their life. This passage points out that the status quo should be the default value and that changes in your status should not be actively sought. Carried to an extreme, this can lead to stagnation, but the alternative of change for change sake seems to be even more destructive. Changes to your life can bring unintended complications as well. For instance, elsewhere in chapter 7, Paul mentions that a married person has to serve their spouse rather than just God. Getting circumcised can have surgical complications. Thus, staying "in that condition in which he was called" denotes a bias towards conservatism in the sense that the status-quo is to be maintained unless the change has clear advantages. Don't cheer too loudly, folks on the right; that also applies to changes away from statism; half-baked privatization scheme can be almost as bad as half-baked government programs. While I might be a dynamist in my economics, this passage calls for a prudent dynamism, one that carefully looks at changes before implementing them and only embarking on a change if it is clearly better than the status quo. If you really wonder whether a change is for the best, the best answer seems to be "No." If you have to wonder whether you're currently doing the right things, the default answer seems to be "Yes."

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

More Uses For Sharpton- A year ago tomorrow, I said that Al Sharpton's "only visible redeeming quality is that he makes Jesse Jackson look good." I stand corrected; now, he will also make Carol Mosley-Braun not only look good but to have gravitas by comparison. That's a real tall order, folks. Could this be a way to elbow Sharpton out of the race by throwing the only black Democratic senator in US history (all the others were Republicans) into the race, as The New Republic suggests? Sorry, I can't help but hear The Jeffersons theme that Rush used to play for her news updates.

Demoninational Drift-Interesting take on changes in denominational attendance over at Mr. Bradley's digs, where mainline churches have been bleeding members while Catholic and evangelical churches are growing. I'll run a replay of what I said a year ago today on the issue
Rather than show where the culture has go astray, the mainstreamer will modify the church’s theology to be easier on the ears of the parishioners. If people are offended that they are sinners, don’t mention it. If staying celibate before marriage isn’t going over well, chuck those fornication passages. If “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father but through me” is too divisive, we’ll leave that out, too. Thus, there won’t be much difference between a mainstream sermon and an Oprah show. Since she does a better job of speaking to the masses, why should they listen to some stodgy sermon? If the church starts to reflect culture rather than critique it, it becomes irrelevant. There is a reason that mainline denominations are losing people and evangelical churches are adding them. If you have multiple ways to spend your Sunday morning, you’ll only spend it in a sanctuary or Sunday School classroom if you get more out of church than playing Nintendo or watching Sam and Cokie.
There are some interesting numbers in the Bradley piece. (1) Are there 10 or 8 million Methodists? I know there is a lot of dead wood on the membership rolls at my parent's Methodist church; about a third of the members don't attend at all, and only about 40% show up on any given Sunday. (2) "The EV Frees were up 57.2% (104,000 members)"-About 1% of that change in Midland EV-Free which is on the verge of becoming a megachurch; they went from about 200 to 1400 over the last decade. I was part of a single's Bible study there that led indirectly to meeting my wife Eileen (a fellow member went to a Vineyard young-adult group as well, which led to me going to a Saturday Night outing where I met Eileen). They're becoming the first stop for evangelicals coming in to work for Dow Chemical or Dow Corning (two different beasts) who aren't Pentecostal or hard-core Baptist. (3) The Catholic population is up 9 million. A good hunk of that might be from Hispanic immigrants and their American-born kids rather than conversions from Protestant folks. However, I do know one good Catholic gal from Midland who was raised high-church Episcopal then married a Catholic guy; she's in the old-school camp. I'm not sure how much of that growth is from blended families having the non-Catholic spouse come on board rather than have the Catholic one go to the other spouses church.

Sports Musings-Ben's given both barrels to the Niners and reloaded-and they have it coming for getting rid of Steve (da Yooper) Mariucci. He will have a short wait for employment, although he might wind up going into a commentary booth for a year if the right coaching spot isn't open this year. If you want to be nasty, give them the Bucs Curse-"may you have to spend a first round pick to get a new coach." Well, at least Chucky got them to the NFC Finals. Not good news for Tigers and Indians fans. The Montreal/San Juan Expos (MLB's first trilingual team) did their salary dump of Bartolo Colon to the White Sox. I've yet to get to see the Pistons play this year. They were on local cable's Sunshine Network Monday night playing the Magic. However, Time Warner and Sunshine's contract was up January 1 and they can't agree on a new one. Time Warner pulls plug, giving us ESPNews and a 60-cent-a-month rebate. I'd rather of seen the Pistons

Evening Musings-Manure, this is Fan. Fan, manure. President Bush decide to weigh in against the UofM in the Supreme Court case. This will get the left all hot and bothered, to be sure. Will they lose some of their zeal to bash Pickering or can they carry two projects simultaneously. Two good pieces from Davie D over at The Ever Changing Selection; I'm with Kevin on this guy, he needs a permalink, but my regular read list is about 90 deep and he need some PT. The first is on Bush's approval rating heading below 60%. He's still in strong shape after the 9-11/Afghanistanrally-round-the-commander-in-chief bounce has worn off. I'm not quite sure on his take on Lieberman-"Lieberman will get edged out by Edwards on one side, Kerry and Gephardt on the other." Do you have Edwards running to his right? The second piece is on confirmation at middle-school age for child-baptizing churches as a rite of passage. One problem I have with that system, having gone through it myself as a Methodist 7th grader, is that all kids of the designated age are put through the system as a matter of course and confirmed whether or not they have a real demonstrated faith in Jesus as Lord. I was confirmed, but being able to recite the correct words was all they were after as opposed to whether I actually meant them. As a 12-year-old, I would have been in trouble had I confessed that I really didn't have that level of devotion to God that the statements indicated. This doesn't bode well for house-hunting in a year or two; Polk County's thinking of charging an impact fee for each new house built. Nothing like jacking up housing prices to make a renter's day. Of course, the past of least resistance for a local government is to raise taxes. I will make a modest caveat; new development does have a lot of hidden cost that otherwise get passed on to existing residence, and there is quite a bit of Orlando sprawl in the northern sections of the county that will require new sheriff’s stations and fire departments and stuff like that. Here's some interesting politics; the Czechs can't seem to be able to settle on a replacement for President Havel, who's retiring; the upper house wants one guy and the lower house wants another.

Copps and Robbers-The Liberals are jockeying to replace Chretien up north and a spot on the left has opened up with lefty Alan Rock dropping out of the race (can I call it the Invisible Leadership Campaign without sending royalties to The Note) to challange Rubinesque former finance minister Paul Martin. Sheila Copps has thrown her hat into the ring.
In the speech, Ms. Copps stakes out her ground as a left-of-centre social activist who hopes to capture the support of progressive Liberals, women and minorities, a field left open for her in the wake of the decision by Mr. Rock to withdraw from the race.
Left-of-centre? If she leaned any further to the left, she could lick the floor.
Ms. Copps points out that women make up only 21% of the elected members of the House of Commons, putting Canada 35th in the world -- after South Africa, Vietnam, Grenada, Namibia, Uganda and Pakistan, among others -- in its efforts to involve women in the national Parliament. To remedy that, Ms. Copps says, the Liberal party should set an example. "I would propose a goal that, by two elections from now, 50% of the candidates standing for Parliament for the Liberal party be women."
Ah, yes, the Vietnamese electoral system as a role model. Or the McGovernites of the 70s.
Although she is seen as a leader of the left wing of the party, in her speech today Ms. Copps goes out of her way to assure business-oriented Liberals she would not plunge the country back into a deficit.
Of course not; she'll raise takes to finance bigger government.
Ms. Copps also promises to use "the pulpit of elected office to push forward full equality for all our citizens," in particular, legal recognition of gay marriages. "To me, it is an issue of fundamental human rights," the speech says. "The role of national leaders is to say that you are full members of society, you are included, you are welcomed to be you and to be the best possible person you can be."
Does same-sex marriage help or hinder that goal? Well, this will give Martin a good foil to look like a centrist neoliberal, suggesting that the party run on a Liberal platform rather than a NDP (Canada's Socialist/Greens) program.

Midday Musings-Is the John LeCarre, the spy novelist, responcible for this intelectual Superfund site? If someone's in the mood for some shooting-fish-in-a-barrel fisking, here's a candidate; however, it is so devoid of redeeming value that it doesn't seem sporting to fisk it. Both Mr. Collins and Mr. Sullivan have seen this and got out the gas masks. There won't be much new public domain stuff for a while, as the extention of copyrights to 95 years for corporations and life+75 for individuals passed Supreme Court muster. A lot of anthology textbooks are biased towards public demand stuff, so anything written in the 1930s forward are still copywrited. There's an upside for the old-school folks; the current cannon is a bit more secure from modern additions for a while. It also means that TV won't become PD until the 2040s. Quick question running through my mind-what would the market for a public domain cable channel be? Fast forward to 2045 with me. All the movies prior to 1950 would be fair game, as would any surviving TV programming and WWII-era music. The only cost would be a few people manning the channel and getting a slot on the bird. That's what the big boys were afraid of. The SEC is standing in the GAAP; financial reports have to now disclose how their figures deviate from generally accepted accounting principals. A few more of these and Krugman might actually start to like the SEC.

Edifier du Jour-Genesis 39:5-15(NASB)
5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 "There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. 11 Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. 12 She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. 13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, "See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. 15 "When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside."
This is a good example of what to do with temptation at the workplace-stay as far away from it as possible. We're not typically getting a come-on from the boss' wife, but there are plenty of other workplace temptations that we can get sucked into. At minimum, we shouldn't participate in sinful behavior in the workplace, like gossip and off-color humor, and seek to avoid its presence alltogether. I remember when my father came to the Lord, he stopped hanging out in the teacher's lounge, opting to avoid a spiritually toxic environment; it didn't help his job appraisals, for he now fell into the catagory of "not being a team player." Just put down the skunky moral situation and quickly back away.

Dividend Tax Permutations-Part II-Apologies to Krugman-In part I, I had implied that Krugman was making up the plan
Please note, before we go further, that there doesn't seem to be anything I've seen come out of the White House that would indicate anything more that a straight dividend exemption. No corporate tax tests. No exemptions for retained earnings. If Krugman and others have a copy of the plan that does, let me know
Well, here it is, straight from the Treasury Department web site.
• When a corporation is taxed on its income and later pays dividends that are taxable to shareholders, this effectively results in the same income being taxed twice. This double taxation of corporate earnings distorts business decision-making and is inefficient. To eliminate the distortion and inefficiency, dividends should be excluded from income if the dividend income has been taxed at the corporate level.[italics added]
Only if earnings have been taxed will it be available for a dividend exemption. I owe my favorite Keynesian foil an sincere apology. How would this change things from a straight dividend exemption? There would have to be an extra column in corporate 1099 forms telling investors how much of their dividends are taxable. Companies that are making use of depreciation and other tax deductions to the extent where they aren't paying any income tax will have their dividends taxable while companies that are paying taxes would be at least partially tax-exempt. What will this mean for investors? We'll be introduced to a new acronym, the EDA, or excludable dividend account. That's the already-taxed income eligible for a tax-free dividend. One could picture high-tax-bracket taxpayers flocking to companies that have high EDA balances. The mutual fund industry would set up EDA stock income funds to provide tax-free dividend income for high-tax-bracket investors. Tax exempt/deferred or lower-bracket investors would then tend to gravitate towards non-EDA dividend paying stocks, for the EDA companies prices would tend to be bid up to the point where the yields of EDA companies are about 30% less than the yields on non-EDA companies. What would this mean for politics and corporate tax policy? It would tend to decrease the value of accelerated depreciation and other tax shields, especially for mature, dividend-paying companies. There would be an added emphasis on trimming tax breaks for corporations, especially for utilities and banks, who tend to be the biggest dividend-payers. The non-EDA companies would be targets for bashing from liberal tax-fairness outfits. What would this mean for the economic impact? It would be a boost for companies who don't get a lot of tax breaks, while it would tend to hurt companies who pay dividends but don't pay much in taxes. Service industry companies will be better off than manufacturing companies, for accelerated depreciation on plant and equipment will cause manufacturers to have more non-EDA profits. This will increase the relative value of labor and reduce the relative value of new equipment, as the after-tax return for labor-based projects (including "knowledge-worker" based tech firms) will be increased in the new system more than the return on equipment-based projects. Is this still worth fighting for? Given that it will add complexity to the personal finance markets while being inadvertently selective in what firms will be aided, this might not be worth going to the mat for. The beneficiaries are high-tax-bracket taxpayers (who would have EDA mutual funds to provide tax-free dividend income) and high-labor-to-capital-ratio companies who don't have as much depreciation to write off. We might have smart paleocons who will see that this might help drive manufacturing jobs overseas and join the liberals in fighting this. The president might be better off fighting for reductions in tax rates and quietly offer to kill this proposal as a sacrificial lamb to the left.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Ryan's Hopefull PR- I'm not sure if the gubernatorial nullification of George Ryan is quite as crass a PR move as Ben says it is, but it's close. Eileen's been troubled by it and asked the question yesterday "was that of God?" I don't think so. There are some religious people like Mark Shea who were applauding the Ryan decision. However, I wasn't sencing a spiritually-based rationale for Ryan's decision; it seemed much more a secular decision. I'm not sure whether it the death penalty hatred is earnestly held by Ryan or is a act of political convience so that if the corruption of his administration puts him in the slammer, the left can substitute their tattered "Free Mumia" T-shirts with a "Free Ryan" one. The committee to get his sentence communted by a future governor could even be called Ryan's Hope. I'm not a big fan of the death penalty, but the decades of review tend to weed out the cases that are wrongfully convicted. Most of the fight over the death penalty is whether it is racially skewed or whether to execute the mentally handicapped or teenagers (when the did the crime; they'll have their AARP card by the time they get executed), not whether a innocent person was mistakenly convicted. I'm not quite buying Shea's construction of "Is the death penalty so sacrosanct that it's better the innocent should perish than that the guilty not die?", for that assumes that the innocent are perishing. Yes, we've got a lot of false convictions that are overturned upon appeal, but I'm not aware of anyone executed in the US in the last quarter century that was later proven innocent; please present a case to refute that if it exists. I threw out that challange in July and had no takers. A decades worth of appeals makes it very hard for an innocent man to be executed. I share Shea's concern; it's one of my arguements against it. The other argument is that it takes two teams of lawyers a decade to make quaduple-sure that all avenues of appeals are checked and double checked; it's a lot cheaper just to lock them up and keep everyone's concience quiet and give the Euroweenies one less thing to she-dog about. However, once all those appeals and investigations are done, we usually have people who are cleary guilty heading for the chambers.

Democratic Field Nothing To Sneeze At-Jeffery Collins pointed to this ScrappleFace piece on Sneezy joining the Democratic presidential field. For those of you who's memories don't go back to the late 80s, here's the metaphor he's after, via a James Fallows piece on Al Gore three years ago; here, Fallows is describing the 1988 nomination race-
Initially there were seven contenders -- "the seven dwarfs" to the press: Gore, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, Paul Simon, Jesse Jackson, Bruce Babbitt, and Dick Gephardt. (In 1987 Gary Hart was briefly out of the race and Joe Biden was briefly in, still leaving a field of seven.) Each candidate struggled for time on camera while a debate was under way and for the even scarcer resource of recap coverage on the evening news.
OK, let's see if these are truly lightweights in this field worthy of comparison to the '88 field. Gephardt is back sixteen years later, a bit more of an elder statesman of the party. We can cast Howard Dean as this year's Bruce Babbit-a quirky small-state governor who the press corps loves. Al Sharpton gets to play Jesse. John Edwards gets to play the 1988 Gore, the young Southern senator on the make. However, casting/comparing the rest of the field's a bit harder. First, to John Kerry. The Massachusetts connection would beg for Dukakis, but a 1984 (pre-Donna Rice) Gary Hart would be a better fit. His tax breaks for tech firms would put him in the "Atari Democrat" (how archaic does that sound? Visions of Space Invaders or Pac Man) mold of Hart, as would a youthful telegenic persona. Speaking of archaic, I remember voting for Hart in the Democratic caucuses in '84. Lieberman doesn't fit into that cast either. On style, I'd have to go with Paul Simon (the Illinois senator, not Garfunkle's buddy), as both Simon and Lieberman have comparable low-key, avuncular speaking styles. However, Simon was running as an anti-idiotarian liberal (almost, but not quite an oxymoron) which doesn't mesh well with the hawkish DLC-style neoliberalism that Lieberman will run on. This field has more gravitas than the original Seven Dwarfs, and that would only increase if Bob Graham runs. One of these guys will be the nominee. For all the cracks about the Seven Dwarfs, Dukakis gave Bush 41 a run for his money, and so will one of these guys. Lieberman and Graham would be tough outs, and Kerry and Gephardt would not be pushovers. As Han Solo would say to the GOP, don't get cocky, kids.

Dividend Tax Permutations-Part I-Krugman's Barnacles-Krugman's riffing on the dividend tax cut today, entitling it "Stimulus for Lawyers". No, try Tax Accountant Full-employment Act if Krugman's liberal fantasy is fully implemented. If they adopt the basic idea of a pure dividend exemption, the tax form won't get that much more complicated. However, the other ideas to allow companies who do plow profits back into the company a reduction in their stockholder's capital gains tax does seem to beg for a trip to H&R Block, for the amortization-type tables that would be needed would give me pause. Please note, before we go further, that there doesn't seem to be anything I've seen come out of the White House that would indicate anything more that a straight dividend exemption. No corporate tax tests. No exemptions for retained earnings. If Krugman and others have a copy of the plan that does, let me know.
A simple end to dividend taxation, then, would be a blatant giveaway to the rich: it would allow some wealthy investors to pay no taxes at all. That's too much, even for the Bush administration.
Where is this "actual plan," Dr. Krugman? I didn't see anything even hinting at that at the White House web site, nor have I seen any concrete versions of this "actual plan." [Update 3:40AM 1/15-here is that plan on the Treasury Department site.] Here's two big problems with Krugman's piece. The first is the meme that it would "would allow some wealthy investors to pay no taxes at all." Take your Central Florida Snowbird. If he gets his retirement income from investments and opts after the law change to put his income fund money into utility stocks rather than bonds, he could easily get into a zero tax bracket. Look for a call from the left to further gunk up the Alternative Minimum Tax to add dividend exceptions to the list. The second trouble spot is Krugman's idea that "[d]ividends will be tax-free only if the company that pays them is deemed to have paid sufficient profits taxes" seems to be begging to set up an AMT for corporations as well [update 12:20PM-Mr. Collins notes that there already is one-sorry, it's been 15 years since I took tax accounting. This would only add to the confusion]. If you have to make the tax code a hundred times as complicated than the basic idea of exempting dividends. then it's best not to pass the bill; that's the liberal's wish. I don't think the final plan will have all those permutations. If it does do things like add dividends exemptions to the AMT or start to impose a de-facto AMT for corporations, that should either be vetoed or filibustered.

Edifier du Jour-1 Corinthians 6:12-13(NASB)
12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.
I started the spring semester version of my Personal Finance yesterday and gave a general warning against both hedonism and asceticism. As westerners, we tend to err on the side of enjoying ourselves a bit too much. However, we can also err on the side of depriving ourselves. Eastern religions can often head in this direction and Christian monastic traditions can head towards the minimalist as well. Neither is helpful. Some of the ascetic mindset assumes that the body is bad, sometimes veering into Gnostic hatred of the physical. No, check the end of verse 13-the Lord is for the body. The body's more than a ugly bag of mostly water, it's God's temple. Handle with care.

Monday, January 13, 2003

End of an Era-I'm not sure if this is the last vestage of the Internet Bubble, but it's close; AOL Time Warner's Steve Case stepped down as CEO; there's even serious thought of quickly dropping the AOL from the company name. Was it only three years ago when AOL had the market cap to buy out Time Warner as the senior partner? However, the Internet hasn't turned out to be the business gold mine people were counting on and the merged company has gone down the tubes, losing 80% of its merger value. One of the problems might be CNN, which hasn't done well as of late, losing market share to Fox News. CNN's chief, Walter Isaacson, has stepped down as well. The right guy could turn CNN around, but it might not be an easy task. Changing the pedantic tone that sometime seems to inhabit the coverage would be a start.

Midday Musings-Lieberman's yarmulke's officially in the ring. The question in my mind is whether he's too moderate to be nominated. One thing to concider when you look down the road to the fall of 2004. Lieberman's hawkish stance on the Gulf War will help, as will his public Jewish faith. People have said that his candidacy would shore up the Jewish vote that is slowly swinging to the GOP as the left becomes more and more anti-Israeli. However, that's a rather small effect; the bigger effect of his faith is that it will allow him to appeal to swing voters who have a moral streak but don't quite feel comfortable with the GOP's theocons. This Scalia speech will get some blogfire. I'm not quite sure I follow his pledge logic.

Edifier du Jour:Genesis 35:23-29(NASB)
23 the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; 24 the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; 25 and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid: Dan and Naphtali; 26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah's maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. 27 Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. 28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29 Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Most of us can remember not being picked right away for teams; however, the player who has the biggest impact isn't always the first-round pick. Leah wasn't Jacob's first choice, he had to be conned into marrying her. However, if you look at those names, you'll see the two most important ones, Levi (from whom the priests would come from) and Judah (where Boaz, David and both Mary and Joseph come from) show up not via Rachel but Leah. God took that weak-eyed reject and gave here the honor of having all the preists and the Messiah's family come from her descendants.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Small Town School-This semi-announcement of Bob Graham's candidacy got Billmon over at the Daily Kos started on a metathought
As usual, I've got forked tongue firmly in cheek here. But seriously: Sooner or later, the Dems are going to have to figure out a way to win without the South, and they might as well get started in 2004, since it's probably going to end up being a practice run, anyway. I will amend that slightly, by changing "win without the South" to read, "win without the South except Florida." Hard to do the electoral math without Florida. Which, I suppose, does put Graham a couple of cuts above all the other pasty faced Southern white boys out there. But (reinserts tongue in cheek.) it's like being forced to eat okra: sure, it's full of iron; maybe it is good for you. But it's also slimy and gross and tastes like ka-ka. Do we really have to eat it? What's wrong with iron supplements? Likewise, do the Dems really have to nominate Graham? Couldn't they just send John Kerry to "Southern School," teach him how to speak NASCAR, chew tobacco, stuff like that? OK, now that I've gotten that off my chest, some of our esteemed commentators can explain -- hopefully without using too much profanity -- why I am completely out to lunch.
Kos Billmon, it's not so much Southern School but Small-Town School. Assignment one is this David Brooks piece comparing a town in rural Pennsylvania to his Bobo metro DC digs. The Democrats do well in more secular urbanized areas and do less well in more religious smaller-towns; that is the Barone Hypothesis. A secular, bigger-government campaign may do well in the big cities, but doesn't do well in less urbanized areas. The South, with its relative lack of big urban areas and more religious population, is Red State territory writ large; only the big-city Northeastern transplants in the Miami-Palm Beach southeastern coastal strip in Florida keeps the South from being a Republican stronghold. However, those small-town values aren't just a southern thing; many states with a significant non-big-city population share those values of self-reliance and traditional moral values. A candidate who is out of touch with those values can be in trouble in Northern swing states like Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois as well as the prairies. A candidate that has to write off the South will be drawing to an inside straight to get to 270 electoral votes. Gore nearly pulled it off last time, but winning without at least some of the South is a tough order, for the candidate who has to do so has likely ticked off enough swing small-town voters in the north to make his job of getting to the White House well-neigh impossible. [Update-Billmon wrote the piece, not Kos. Billmon had forgotten to leave his calling card originally]

Gubernatorial Nullification-I couldn't quite get my mind around the Ryan mass commutations until this afternoon as I ran some errands while Eileen napped. Illinigirl, whose tax dollars will go to support these 167 "gentlemen", chimed in just prior to the commutations were officially announced.
While this may be constitutional, it just doesn't seem fair in my estimation. The laws and courts are there for a reason. The governor is not there to deem all their decisions worthless and make his own sentences. Can one of the lawyer types (Bobby, Josh?) take a stab at explaining why George Ryan is able to do this?
She nails this on the head. However, most states, as far as I know, don't limit the rationales that they use to give pardons. Typically pardons are used to (1) correct for a miscarriage of justice in a particular case or (2) let a model prisoner out sooner than a harsh sentence should allow for or (3) to give a deserving person (often in the executive's party) that's served his time and become a productive citizen to get a past conviction wiped off the record so they can vote, own guns or partake in other facets of life barred to felons. Ryan's deciding that the death penalty in an of itself is wrong and refuses to enforce it. He's done that with the moratorium for the last three years and made that moratorium a lifetime one for those 167 fellows. I coined the phrase gubernatorial nullification (ruining a whacked-out militia-type's Googlewhack); a spin-off of the idea of jury nullification, where a jury will declare the defendant not guilty even if he's clearly guilty to either question the law or legal system (like black juries refusing to send drug offenders to prison) or to endorse the act of the accused (like the Jim Crow South juries not convicting Klan crimes). Here, Ryan isn't questioning the guilt or innocence of a particular inmate, but saying the system's too fubared to execute anyone with a clear conscience. Usually, governors (or presidents) only get into trouble with pardons if they start accepting bribes to give them. I remember a scandal in Tennessee in the 70s where a Gov. Blanton was caught charging for pardons; a bad political joke of the era-"the Blanton Cocktail-drink one and you keep saying 'uurp, pardon me. BLAAT, pardon me." A similar scandal a century ago (IIRC) caused Texas to take pardons out of the governor's desk and onto the Parole Board's; thus Dubya could only ask the Parole Board to review a death sentence when he was governor. However, most states couldn't have anticipated a governor giving blanket pardons for a class of criminals. What would have stopped Gary Johnson, the pro-drug-legalization ex-governor of New Mexico, from giving blanket pardons to all drug cases in the state just before he handed the reins over to Bill Richardson? Unless there are special clauses in New Mexico state law, not much. This might be a special case that isn't worth writing a slew of parole-reform laws in state capitals, but history does have a tendency to repeat itself. I remember when Yeltsin kicked out his legislature back in the 90s, I and others referred to it as "pulling a Fujimori" for the Peruvian president had staged a comparable autocoup a short time before. What governor, or president, might be tempted to "pull a George Ryan" in the future?

Not Quite Staying Alive-Bee Gee Maurice Gibb died of a heart attack this weekend, making it to 53. All these rock/pop stars are starting to die of old-age (well, middle-age) stuff, not car crashes and drug ODs. We've lost half of the Beatles and a third of the Bee Gees. That generation isn't all dying before they get old.

The Same God?-Comment-section denizen JF Carr asked this in this post on making common cause with Jews and Muslims.
Do Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same God? Is the Allah of Muhammad and the Qur'an the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is the G-d (ha Shem) the Jews now worship? I'd appreciate your input on this.
To use the standard quip, they are worshiping the God of Abraham. All three trace their roots back to Abraham but don't make it up to the tree's canopy where Jesus and his death on the cross lays. The Koran pays homage to the Bible but twists it to take away Jesus' divinity, making him a mere prophet. It also makes out Ishmael as the path of honor rather than Isaac. Whether they are worshiping God isn't the question that matters; whether they worship him correctly is. This applies to other theists lurking around our world as well. I hearken back to James 2:19(NIV) "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder." Just because you believe in God doesn't mean God will save you. The Islamic creed is half right, there is but one God (Allah just being, as I understand it, Arabic for capital-G God), but from where I'm sitting, Mohammed isn't his prophet. What I have read of the Koran has it pointing the reader away from Jesus' divinity (they don't like the idea of a Trinity) and death on the cross for us all. As a religion, Islam leads people to only a small portion of God and lacks to power to bring them to salvation. That seems to apply to Judaism as well. Both religions (when you take the lesser jihad out of the loop) have a sound ethical system to guide the believer. However, being a good person and a buck can buy you a latte in Hell. They may both believe in God, even the same God we worship, but lack the ability to close the deal by bringing people to know of Jesus and the salvation that was paid for at Golgotha.

Edifier du Jour-1 Corinthians 5:9-13
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
The part that hit me in this passage when Eileen and I were reading it last night was Paul's ranking of greedy people (NIV's take on covetous) in the list of excommunicable offenses. We're quick to expel the sexually immoral or the thief or even the substance abuser, but what about greed? In the Prosperity Gospel crowd, you'd expect them to channel Gordon Gecko and say "greed is good" for the emphasis on worldly goods. It isn't just the charismatics, either; churches that implicitly equate material possessions as a sign of God blessing ones life make poor people out to be lousy believers. When's the last time a pastor called out a church member for buying a luxury car or an overly plush house? This isn't to say everyone has to live in tin shacks and drive Yugos to church, but we do a lousy job at screening for covetousness. Also, while writing this, the word excommunicate hit home as it applies to this passage. Ex-commune-icate; to kick out of the community. Not just the church, but the community of believers; the church member was not even to have a meal with the bad boy.

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