Friday, February 07, 2003

The Big Dog Speaks

Bill Clinton voiced his support for the Bush administration's handling of Iraq on Larry King last night:

And if that's true, it means Mr. Blix and his inspectors might never get to do the job that they were appointed to do. So I think that we need to listen to Blix, listen to the Secretary Powell and I still hope the United Nations can act together on this and I think there's still a chance we can.

And, you know, there's still a chance that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm.

KING: You support the president?

CLINTON: I think that he's doing the right thing now.

In related news, Atrios links to Bush's Poodle.

Why do I get the feeling that if Bush had half the communication skills of Clinton, we'd be in downtown Baghdad by now?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the left blogosphere is silent about Clinton's appearance. Personally, I'm not surprised at Clinton's "vote of support" -- this is the man who drug us "kicking and screaming" into conflicts in the Balkans and Somalia. I wonder, though, if he buys into the whole New American Century thing?

This is what it all boils down to -- a separation of those who truly oppose war on moral grounds and those who oppose it on political grounds. They aren't one in the same, although political extremists at both ends of the spectrum would have you believe otherwise.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Manufacturing Consent

I have to be honest and say that the evidence presented by Colin Powell to the U.N. yesterday is compelling. I'm not generally disposed toward war, but if it must be, then we should not go it alone. So far, the U.S. doesn't have enough allies on board.

Let me clarify something: I'm not saying that war is the only answer. I'd like to give more time for a peaceful resolution to all this. At the same time, I've got to wonder -- at what point is it clear that diplomacy and inspections aren't going to achieve the objective?

The presentation does raise another question -- if the U.S. has all this evidence, then why not give it to the U.N. inspectors? Certainly successes based on this intelligence would go a long way toward legitimizing the U.S. case. Demosthenes explores this question further.

The Greys Did It!

Oh sure, it sounds weird, but I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation.

Top investigators of the Columbia space shuttle disaster are analyzing a startling photograph -- snapped by an amateur astronomer from a San Francisco hillside -- that appears to show a purplish electrical bolt striking the craft as it streaked across the California sky.

No, there's no evidence anyone's civil liberties are being violated

When College of Charleston psychology professor Robin Bowers discovered his office computer was missing, he thought "it was the most beautiful theft I'd ever seen."

Nothing else was disturbed. The door wasn't jimmied, the windows remained locked from the inside, and not even a pencil was out of place.

Speaking of creepy ... my wife was out of town on business last week. When she returned and opened her suitcase, she found a flyer notifying her that it had been opened for inspection by the TSA.

The flyer is a perfect compliment to the "What to do if you receive suspicious mail" card the USPS sent out in the wake of the anthrax attacks. Both items are on the family fridge ...

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

The carrot or the stick?

Adam passes along a link to a piece about exploitation in the porn industry:

Let's put this into perspective. A 20 year old corporal who is fighting in subfreezing temperatures in the Afghan Mountains makes about $23,000/year. He may get killed or permanently maimed. He also can't quit - not unless he gets kicked out. That's fucking exploitation. Taking it up the ass while being able to quit at any time for $100,000+ isn't.

I'd have to say I'd agree. I remember reading an article somewhere a few years ago that pointed out women "actors" in the porn industry typically get paid far more than their male counterparts. Granted, the folks making the big bucks are typically the male producers, but isn't that the case in most of life's endeavors? Go ask any musician who makes the most money in the music business.

So, what is exploitation? My Webster's New World Dictionary (Second College Edition) partially defines exploitation thusly:

to make unethical use for wone's own advantage or profit; specif., to make a profit from the labor of (others)

The key word to me is "unethical." If these women know that they are acting in a porn movie and they are getting paid at a rate that is acceptable to them, what's unethical about that? I could see a valid complaint if the women were filmed without consent -- of if they consented to the filming, the film was displayed publicly against their wishes (e.g. a spurned ex-boyfriend putting the images up on the Internet as "revenge"). If they were made to act against their will, that would be exploitative too. I would even say that using underage models is exploitation as well ... probably the worst kind.

People (okay, women) sometimes complain about topless bars. "Oh, that's just so terrible and demeaning to objectify women like that." But who's objectifying whom? Any man who has even set foot in one of these places can tell you that the objective isn't to present beautiful women to the men ... it's to separate the men's money from their wallet.

Exploitation, indeed.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

This piece is sure to brighten your day

"The Great Depression will have a new, lesser, name before the upcoming economic carnage subsides. And I don't expect that to happen during what is left of my lifetime. America will fail economically, whether or not it is ravaged by foreign countries in retaliation for our imperialism or being stuck with worthless dollars...more likely, both."

There's more.

Vox Populi

Students of U.S. history know that the founding fathers didn't necessarily trust "the people" to make every decision. The Constitution has several elements that diluted the political power of the masses. For example, it wasn't until the 20th century that Senators ran for office in an election.

We take for granted that everyone should have a full voice in how our government is run. The more cynical among us might note that popular political power seems to have waned while coporate political power has waxed into a horny-headed beast. And there are still many folks who argue that sensitive matters of state are best left up to the "experts".

But what if you let the people actually have a voice. University of Texas professor James Fishkin did. You might be surprised at what he found out.

(Link via Tapped.)

Monday, February 03, 2003

Fair is fair ...

I was driving out to visit my brother yesterday and happened upon an AM-radio talkshow. I don't know which host it was -- does it really matter? It was obvious that the guy was of the right-wing persuasion.

When I tuned in, he was making a point about Title X funding. If you don't know, title X is the federal law that requires equality between men and women's sports programs. His gripe was that some federal commission had looked at this and that all the "liberals" wanted the system revamped to make it more fair. This, of course, will likely result in the defunding or even elimination of men's programs so that women's programs would be on equal footing.

For the radio host, this was just plain stupid. "For too long in this country we've been focusing on equality and fairness as the means to an end. And that just doesn't make sense. What we should do is just do things that make sense. And it doesn't make sense to get rid of men's programs so that women have a program."

You know, conservatives have been pushing their tax cut plans using this concept of "fairness." They say, "Why should the rich pay more taxes than everyone else? That's just not fair."

Maybe not, but doesn't it "make sense" that people who have more money are more able to pay taxes. Sure, 40 percent is a lot of money. But at the end of the day, the rich man still has more money left over than the poor man. Sure, it's not fair that the rich guy has to make more money, but it just makes sense.

I think the real problem is that the pundits are focused too much on the personal income tax part of this argument. That leaves other aspects of tax policy -- which are just important -- untouched. What about corporate income taxes, which have declined precipitously over the past 50 years? What about all the other minutiae? "Too complex. Wouldn't want to confuse the issue." Right.

I've had the good fortune to have (and keep!) a good job for the past few years. With my wife's income, our family is getting into that "upper-middle-class" bracket, so a lot of these proposals are aimed right at me.

The same talk-show radio host I mentioned earlier also fulminated about a plan that would change the contribution limits on Roth 401k plans. "The plan would simply raise the income limits for contributions to $90,000 for a single wage earner and $160,000 for a dual-income household," is what he said (I'm not sure on that second figure.)

At first I thought, "well, what's wrong with that?" Believe it or not, if my good fortune continues, I can see a day where the wife and I are in that second bracket. Maybe not next year -- but five, ten years from now?

Of course, it's not always so simple, as Nathan Newman explains.

Look, here's my deal: as nice as it would be for me to see a little bit more cash in my pocket, I'm worried about what that's going to do when my kids' generation inherits this mess ... does that make sense?