The “Support Rich People” Tax

The candidacy of Republican-turned-Democrat? Ben Westlund for state Treasurer has brought out the fans of a sales tax at Blue Oregon, as it has done before, and before.

Jeff Alworth, one of the editors at BO, points to a post at the Oregon Economics Blog, which in a follow-up to the discussion there describes one of the factors that should be taken into account in a discussion of sales and income taxes:

2- However, income taxes that are too high can (and apparently do) influence weathier households’ location decisions and can make it harder for businesses to hire in a national job market.

And I just have to wonder what twisted system people want to get into to advocate poor people taking some of the tax burden off of rich people, in order to attract more rich people to the state. That seems like a negative-sum game to me.

I’ve got lots of comments (in some cases duplicated because of a problem at BO) and documentation on the regressivity and volatility of the sales tax. More stuff every time they drag me back into this.

More On Rizzo’s Part in Torture Tapes Decisions

I mentioned last week the story of how CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo — despite having his confirmation challenged earlier this year by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden — had been in that position for most of the past six years and remains there to this day.

The latest story on the destruction of CIA torture interrogation tapes gives a little more information about his role in the matter:

In describing the decision to destroy the tapes, current and former officials said John A. Rizzo, the agency’s top lawyer at the time, was not asked for final approval before the tapes were destroyed, although Mr. Rizzo had been involved in discussions for two years about the tapes.

It is unclear what weight an opinion from a lawyer within the clandestine service would have if it were not formally approved by Mr. Rizzo. But the former official said Mr. Rodriguez and others in the clandestine branch believed the legal judgment gave them the blessing to destroy the tapes.

The former official said the leaders of the clandestine service believed they “didn’t need to ask Rizzo’s permission.”

Two Generations

In a comment over at Daily Kos, one writer brings up the oft-repeated assumption that Lyndon Johnson’s quote about Democrats losing the South for a generation after he signed the civil rights bills was an underestimate, and that it actually cost the Democrats the White House for two generations.

Well, LBJ was wrong about some things.

The Democrats lost the South over race, but LBJ won the 1964 election without a lot of the South in the first place.

Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina. They all went to Goldwater in 1964. In fact, they were the only states that did go for Goldwater outside of his home state of Arizona.

Most of those states went for Wallace in 1968, but Humphrey came within 0.75% of Nixon in the popular vote. In states with large electoral vote totals like Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, and even Nixon’s home state of California, Humphrey was within 3% or less of winning.

But LBJ and Humphrey (and a Democratic Congress) had been the ones running the Vietnam War for four years by then. Tens of thousands of troops had already been killed, and there was no end in sight, unless you counted Gen. Westmorland’s “light at the end of the tunnel.”

That was the real political legacy of LBJ’s administration. Instead of concentrating the energy of the country on making a better America — something his willingness to propose the civil rights bills showed he had at least some interest in — much like Bush he squandered it on a flawed vision of global conflict that was the fantasy of his advisers.

How the Democrats Will Get Punked on Impeachment

Thursday’s New York Times story about the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes is just another crack in the dam holding back the giant pool of crap that is the Bush administration. Everyone knows there’s more there, the anticipation from most quarters has been whether the dam’s going to hold until the 2008 election or whether it’s going to break and cover everyone in its wake with a thick, oozy slime.

The Democratic leadership, by putting impeachment under the table before the 2006 election, has placed their bets on the dam staying intact. There’s been no serious attempt to breach it in nearly a year of investigation with the super-special dreaded “subpoena power.” They control the speed and depth of the investigations, and they’ve managed to run through almost a year without actually challenging claims of executive privilege. November is tantalizingly close.

This week’s revelations aren’t going to be the last news of administration malfeasance. The Times has already published further information linking the Justice Department and the White House to discussions about whether “hundreds of hours of videotapes” should be destroyed as long ago as 2003.

By the end of this winter, more and more cracks are going to have appeared in the dam holding back the crap. As the presidential races start shaking out (and there remains a lot of shaking to be done) by Super Duper Double Tuesday or whatever it is in February, one of the Republican candidates is going to be shocked and astonished by something the Bush administration has done in the waronterror. It’ll be something that people pushing for the impeachment of George W. Bush have known or suspected for years, but it will be as to a revelation for the Republicans, much as Oregon Senator Gordon Smith suddenly realized that he was sort of sad about the war a year ago this week.

At that point, the GOP will pronounce their own resolution to censure President Bush and/or Vice President Cheney. They will marvel at the fact that the Democrats, in over a year of investigations, didn’t manage to uncover this egregious practice, pointing to that failure as a sign of “Democrat incompetence”. They will essentially create a controlled flow of crap from the pool, and channel it into the house of the donkey.

At that point, Democrats will be faced with the choice of doing nothing, pressing for an impeachment that they didn’t want to pursue in the first place, or going along with a censure resolution that will take any steam out of an impeachment movement (not that they wanted to do that).

Republicans will be praised for their “courage” in standing up to Bush and Cheney by editorials across the country. Democrats will be excoriated for their bumbling inefficiency at the reins of power. All of the anti-impeachment folks here will be happy, because the Democrats “got real” and didn’t make the mistake the GOP did in the ’90s of impeaching a president who had violated the Constitution in enough ways to put the Kama Sutra to shame.

Then again, come November, they might not be quite as happy.


Sadly No’s Dr. Bradley S. Rocket summarizes Michelle Malkin’s take on the torture tapes:

The CIA’s destroyed interrogation videos, what the Dems knew, and when

  • The CIA’s destruction of secret torture videos proves once and for all that the Democrats are pro-torture.

Just an added note: this is a pretty neat little act of contortion on Stalkin’ Malkin’s part. She begins by arguing that the New York Times has conspired to influence the torture debate by publishing articles demonstrating how the government has concealed its torture program (and yes, writing those words is extraordinarily depressing). She then wags her finger at the DEMONKKKrats who want to explicitly ban practices such as waterboarding — practices that, by any sane definition, are torture. Then she pulls off her coup de grâce: She flips the entire argument around and blames the Democrats for not doing enough to hold the CIA accountable for destroying evidence of torture! It’s an impressive feat, especially when you consider that Michelle and pals have already transformed down-is-the-new-up-ism into an art form. Well played.


With all of the fuss over toxic toys coming from overseas lately, it’s probably good to remember that the reason lead, mercury, and other once-common materials used in manufacturing (radium!) were banned from use in certain categories of products back when those products were Made in the U.S.A.

Unsafe products have a long tradition in the US, so much so that in the early days of Saturday Night Live, one of Dan Ackroyd’s popular recurring characters was Irwin Mainway, a sleazy distributor of dangerous products. The sketches were typically a confrontation between Mainway and a TV consumer advocate. One of the outstanding pieces — which I unfortunately can’t find video for online — was actually about children’s toys where the advocate was played by Candice Bergen (transcript via the Saturday Night Live Transcripts site).

Consumer Reporter: Good evening, and welcome to the holiday edition of “Consumer Probe”. Our topic tonight is unsafe toys for children. For instance, this little bow and arrow set. [holds up] Pull the rubber suctions off, and the arrows become deadly missiles.

[cut to full shot, showing Irwin Mainway seated to Joan’s right]

We have with us tonight, Mr. Irwin Mainway, President of Mainway Toys. Uh, Mr. Mainway, your company manufactures the following so-called harmless playthings: Pretty Peggy Ear-Piercing Set, Mr. Skin-Grafter, General Tron’s Secret Police Confession Kit, and Doggie Dentist. And what about this innocent rubber doll, which you market under the name Johnny Switchblade? [holds up doll] Press his head, and two sharp knives spring from his arms. [demonstrates] Mr. Mainway, I’m afraid this is, by no means, a very safe toy.

Irwin Mainway: Okay, Miss, I wanna correct you, alright. The full name of this product, as it appears in stores all over the county, is Johnny Switchblade: Adventure Punk. I mean, nothing goes wrong.. little girls buy ’em, you know, they play games, they make up stories, nobody gets hurt. I mean, so Barbie takes a knife once in a while, or Ken gets cut. You know, there’s no harm in that. I mean, as far as I can see, you know?

Consumer Reporter: Alright. Fine. Fine. Well, we’d like to show you another one of Mr. Mainway’s products. It retails for $1.98, and it’s called Bag O’ Glass. [holds up bag of glass Mr. Mainway, this is simply a bag of jagged, dangerous, glass bits.

Irwin Mainway: Yeah, right, it’s you know, it’s glass, it’s broken glass, you know? It sells very well, as a matter of fact, you know? It’s just broken glass, you know?

Consumer Reporter: [laughs] I don’t understand. I mean, children could seriously cut themselves on any one of these pieces!

Irwin Mainway: Yeah, well, look – you know, the average kid, he picks up, you know, broken glass anywhere, you know? The beach, the street, garbage cans, parking lots, all over the place in any big city. We’re just packaging what the kids want! I mean, it’s a creative toy, you know? If you hold this up, you know, you see colors, every color of the rainbow! I mean, it teaches him about light refraction, you know? Prisms, and that stuff! You know what I mean?

I wish I could take credit for tying the “Secret Police Confession Kit” to the asbestor-laced CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit, but that honor has to go to my sister-in-law, Marie.

Since I can’t find the video for the toy sketch, here’s another Mainway appearance, hawking Halloween costumes.

Torture, Lies, & Videotape

Thanks to Larry Johnson at No Quarter, for the link.

Earlier this year, Senator Ron Wyden got a bit of ink — including a mention in Jane Mayer’s article on the Central Intelligence Agency’s black sites in The New Yorker — for putting a hold on the nomination of John Rizzo as general counsel of the CIA. As a result of the hold, the Bush administration withdrew the nomination.

But as articles in the International Herald Tribune and elsewhere pointed out, by the time Wyden placed his hold, Rizzo had already served as acting general counsel for most of the past six years.

In August, I wrote a letter to Wyden, asking him whether his hold on Rizzo’s nomination to permanent status would have “any effect on his status as de facto general counsel at the CIA.”

Yesterday, of course, news came out that the CIA had destroyed “at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program.”

According to the article from The New York Times:

The tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks, several officials said.

As the general counsel to the CIA, there’s a vanishingly small possibility that John Rizzo was not involved in any decisions about what did or did not “expose agency officials to legal risks” or whether the existence of the videotapes should be shared with the various committees investigating both the 9/11 attacks and CIA detention programs.

In his response to me — coincidentally dated Halloween — Wyden says he placed his hold on Rizzo because of his demonstrated willingness to “let major programs go forward without a firm legal foundation in place”, referring specifically to the 2002 Justice Department legal opinion on what constitutes torture.

At Wyden’s August town hall, I asked him whether he trusted the Bush administration. My interpretation of his “trust but verify” comment then was that deep down Wyden did trust the administration to do the right thing, despite years of obvious lying to Congress, the American people, and the rest of the world. Maybe even to themselves. After I posted about his remark, one of his aides reportedly told torridjoe from Loaded Oyrgun that “Wyden does NOT trust the President on Iraq, Iran and civil liberties.”

Wyden’s Halloween letter to me ends this way:

I am pleased the the President has withdrawn Mr. Rizzo’s nomination, and I am hopeful that the President will now pick somebody who will ensure that our national counterterrorism programs have the solid legal foundation they need.

John Rizzo is still acting general counsel of the CIA.

Ripped From the Headlines

A project I worked on a few years back was the Mac port of a Director-based CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CD-ROM game. It was clean and safe. But via Rick Perlstein at the Campaign for America’s Future, another CSI product appears to be not so healthy (and no, it’s not the Kiddie Autopsy Kit):

December 4, 2007

Tom DeLuca/Al Kaufman

Toys “R” Us, Inc. Headquarters

One Geoffrey Way

Wayne, NJ 07480-2030

Attn Mr. DeLuca/Mr. Kaufman:

We are writing to ask that you immediately remove from sale all Planet Toys’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation™ Fingerprint Examination Kits due to recent test results finding dangerous levels of asbestos in powders contained in some sample kits.

The type of asbestos detected in these kits, tremolite, is one the most lethal forms of asbestos, and is the same deadly asbestos fiber contained in products made from ore mined at the notorious W.R. Grace mine in Libby, Montana. Tremolite asbestos, like that found in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation™ Fingerprint Examination Kits, has killed scores of people in Libby, many who never worked in the mine itself.

What is particularly troubling about this toy is that children are directed to blow the asbestos contaminated powder after dusting for fingerprints, which would make it much more likely that children playing with this toy would actually inhale potentially lethal asbestos fibers. Any amount of this fiber in a children’s toy, particularly in a powder that is certain to be inhaled, is completely unacceptable and unnecessary. A single exposure to tremolite is sufficient to cause fatal mesothelioma or lung cancer later in life.

CD-ROM CSI game? Non-lethal. Asbestos-laced fingerprint kit? Maybe not.

I see this as a great opportunity for CSI, quite frankly. Once the writers’ strike is over, the first show ought to be an investigation into the mysterious death of a child who received a home fingerprint kit for Christmas.

The Cloud That Will Bite You

Jackie Chan, The Cloud That Will Bite You

In the spring and summer of 1998, a young, fluffy cat started meeting Barbara on our back deck when she got home from work. By the time the rain came in the fall, he’d figured out the cat door and started sleeping on the laundry in the back hall, figuring out that there was an opening for a peppy male cat amongst our two spinsters. By winter he’d pretty much moved in full-time and we started vetting him.

At first, Barbara just called him Boy Kitty. But during a particularly energetic bout of chasing a string on a pole (something Barbara had put together to help us try to run off some of his cabin fever that first winter) with A&E’s “Biography” on in the background, an episode provided the perfect name for a cat who would run full tilt into a chest, stand up, and shake off the hit to get back to the chase: Jackie Chan.

His personality is incredibly sweet, although he’s always liked to tussle with my hand (leaving a fair number of shallow scratches over the years) and there are some spots where arthritis in his back will bring out a warning bite. He was good company five years ago when I broke my leg, although he did tend to hog the pillows I was supposed to be using to elevate the afflicted member. I’ve made a running joke out of the softness of his fur, saying that it’s like “scratching the belly of a cloud” or “having your hand mauled by a cloud.”

A few weeks back, after touching one of Jackie Chan’s sensitive spots, Barbara’s sister Marie came up “The Cloud That Will Bite You,” which had the three of us in stitches for no particular reason.

Because he came over the back fence, we don’t have any idea of Jackie Chan’s actual birthdate, but from the age he was when he started appearing, we figured he was from a late fall litter, so we just picked our all-purpose non-Christmas holiday, which makes him ten years old today!