Saturday, April 30, 2011

Holocaust Envy

Those lucky Jews! How come they got to have a Holocaust? Nobody ever listens to our problems, but they just natter on and on. OK, true, no one ever loaded millions of us onto cattle cars to be exterminated, but our suffering was just as great! Well, almost as great. Well, significant.

So says the Catholic Church, trying to present itself as a victim of Hitler. So say the Palestinians, staging a facsimile of Israel's Holocaust Day every year on Israel Independence Day

And now, so says Michele Bachmann, that crushing burden on anyone trying trying to maintain faith in the good judgment of the American people. At a conservative forum in New Hampshire she told of how shocked she was as a child to learn that Americans were unaware until after the war that millions of Jews had died in

Bachmann said the next generation will ask similar questions about what their elders did to prevent them from facing a huge tax burden.

"I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action," she said, referring to the Holocaust. "But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to."

So just to be clear, there's no analogy between the death of six million Jews and higher taxes. It's just that they're similar. Got it?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Remarks on the Politics of the Budget Debate

1. A milestone in Machiavellianism? We may have just seen the birth of the "open-mike fake." Obama had his supposedly private comments to supporters picked up Thursday and reported on ABC. What did he say? Did he reveal that he really does hate whites, or that Joe Biden is a pain in the neck? No. Here's some of it:

"Eliminating the health care bill would cost us $1 trillion. It would add $1 trillion to the deficit. So when Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he's just being America's accountant and trying to, you know, be responsible, this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level. And we’ve got to keep on, you know, keep on shining a light on that.”

Any suggestions about how to "shine a light on that?" No? Boy, is his face red.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arizona Breaks Even, Karmically Speaking

The New York Times reports that after a California corrections official sent aides to Arizona on a "secret and important mission" to borrow a lethal-injection drug that was in short supply, he sent a thank-you note to his opposite number in Arizona saying "You guys in AZ are life savers."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Man Who Wasn't There Shows Up

I was quite surprised by Obama's speech today on the deficit. First, of course, he actually stood for something besides bipartisanship. That is to say that while making  it clear he was willing to compromise, he staked out a position some distance away from the Republican position, instead of compromising in advance.

Compromise is a tricky issue for a politician, particularly for a President. One the one hand, the voters seem to hate partisan bickering and want politicians to get things done. On the other hand, politicians pay a penalty for changing their minds, even from the wrong position to the right one. And for a President, perhaps because of the national-security side of the job, looking weak is politically fatal. ( See the 2004 campaign.)  A President is probably better off standing for almost anything than standing for nothing. It helps, of course, when you're taking positions that are overwhelmingly popular: in favor of Medicare, in favor of taxing the rich.

How Not to Poll

The Quinnipiac University poll usually is pretty good. But a recent (late February) poll on funding for Planned Parenthood had a startling textbook example of a bad polling question:

"Do you support or oppose cutting off federal government funding to Planned Parenthood?"

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Statement Is False, At Least It's Intended to Be

My former senator, Jon Kyl (he's still a senator, just not mine), has issued a truly memorable clarification of his statement that abortion was "well over 90 percent" of what Planned Parenthood does. (The relevant  part begins at about minute 6:00.) That number turns out to be too high by a factor of about 30, and so his office explained that "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement..." So in the future, assume that remarks by Sen. Kyl are not intended to be factual, unless he tells you otherwise.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert at The Colbert Report picked up this story on Monday. Can't take those three-day weekends, guys, if you want  to stay on top of the news cycle. Colbert's best line: "Did you know that Jon Kyl has had sexual relations with all of his first cousins? And that is intended to be a factual statement. Note: That last statement, about the previous statement being a factual statement-- that was not intended to be a factual statement." See Colbert's follow-up segment here.

Pretzel Logic

So let me see if I've got this straight. The deficit is bad because it's "intergenerational theft." So for the sake of future generations, we must do something about the biggest source of future deficits: Medicare.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican who's chairman of the House Budget Committee, has a plan. Not so much a plan as a Path to Prosperity. Here is what we're going to do about Medicare:

If you're retired now, nothing.

If you're over 55, also nothing.

If you're under 55, keep paying those Medicare payroll taxes. Then, when you get to retirement age, you get a voucher allowing you to buy private insurance! Of course, since private insurers have higher administrative costs than Medicare, and pay doctors more, your voucher won't buy as much coverage as Medicare now does.

But really, the problem with Medicare is not so much what the government is paying now as what it will pay in the future. Health care costs have been rising faster than inflation for some time now, and the Congressional Budget Office projects they will continue to rise about 2% per year faster than inflation. The Ryan plan deals with this problem very simply. It indexes the value of the voucher to inflation.

Well, no, this doesn't actually do anything about rising health care costs. But it does shift them off the backs of future taxpayers. It shifts them onto the backs of... future retirees.

So here's what we're doing for future generations under the Ryan plan: They pay for current retirees. Then when they reach retirement age, they get a medical benefits package that's worth substantially less than the package those people were getting, and still less with each passing year.

Not so much intergenerational theft as intergenerational rape.

And for those who are, or will qualify to be, in the old program, don't worry. Republicans believe in freedom of choice. You will be completely free to give up the better package and get the worse one.

Just don't get trampled in the stampede.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Choose the Dictator Who Inherited the Job From Dad

Bashar al-Assad: Showing the world that being a dweeb doesn't disqualify you from being a brutal tyrant.