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Showing posts from February, 2003
Taxing Taxes!Filled out my 1040 (Federal) and 540 (California) Tax forms and dropped them into the mailbox over the weekend. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately, my financial situation isn't that complicated so it didn't take too long to figure out. As I looked over the form and if I had to utilize some of the worksheets and read how to utilize some of the line items, it would have been a much more complicated affair.

The tax system is currently an instrument of social policy. Certain "behaviors" are encouraged by providing deductions (if you itemize) or special rates (captial gains). Both the right-wing and left-wing utilize the tax code for their own pet ideas.

Politically, I believe the tax system should raise revenue and minimally affect social policy. If I could "re-write" the tax code, here would be some of my priorities.

1) Keep the income tax code progressive (i.e. the people who earn more pay a higher percentage) which would make me left of cent…
On the nightstand
With all the WMD talk, economic downturns and day-to-day busyness, curling up with a good book is a nice break. So here are some I've been working through...

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone is the first book in the famed series of books by J.K. Rowling. Very entertaining and fast paced. Taps into that ackward kid in most of us!

The Future and its Enemies by Virginia Postrel is about how societies make progress. Postrel shows how reactionaries and technocrats usually on opposite ends of the political spectrum actually share in common a love for "stasis." But progress is made when there is "dynamism." Great examples from various aspects of life. Not sure I buy the whole premise and am not sure how it would apply to certain issues we face in our society and in the world. Certainly, for technological development, it makes a lot of sense. But not sure how it fits regarding social ills here in the USA, Third world poverty abroad and …

What would President Barlett do?

In the latest two episodes surrounding the inauguration of the fictional president of the NBC show West Wing, President Barlett (Martin Sheen) wrestles with sending troops to the fictional nation of Equitorial Kundu to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians by a dictatorship. Bartlett remarks to speech writer Bailey (Joshua Molina), "Why is a Kundunese life worth less to me than an American life?"

To which Bailey counters, "I don't know, Sir, but it is."

Toward the end of the two-part episode, Barlett decides to send troops into Kundu.

Now, back to the real world, on KABC Eyewitness news over the weekend they showed Martin Sheen and some other cast members of West Wing participating in the anti-war rallies in Los Angeles. Sheen had a brief interview where he came out against the war.

So why is an American life worth more than an Iraqi's life?
the Real World
This item from WSJ's Claudia Rosett referenced by Hugh Hewitt is very sobering. Here is an excerpt:
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From northern Iraq, in the U.S.- and British-protected no-fly zone, a friend sent me a message last weekend. I quote from it here at length because it is a bracing reply to the U.N. charades and the "peace" parades now filling the vacuum while the world waits for President Bush to act. This message comes from someone living on the front line, facing Saddam Hussein's army in the same region where Saddam years ago confirmed his zest for weapons of mass murder by gassing to death thousands of Kurds:

"Now, this UN business is really depressing me. Why can't they do the right thing? Many nations contributed to building this monstrous regime. Why not help to undo the damage inflicted on us? The "No Blood for Oil" signs are particularly galling. Loads of Iraqi blood has already been spilled. At least half a million in the Iraq-I…
Is it about the oil?
I tackled that idea a bit a few days earlier. Here is something much more extensive I saw on Virginia Postrel's site as she referred to something on another site..... http://www.rppi.org/isitabouttheoil.html

Life: Samaritan Woman at Ralphs?

Sometimes I go shopping for groceries late at night or early in the morning to avoid the crowded lines at my neighborhood Ralphs. One evening I was in line and in front of me was a twentysomething woman juggling a toddler, her groceries and her pocketbook. After the clerk finished scanning all her items, she handed over a number of food vouchers. Each one had to be scanned and it took a bit of time for all of it to happen.

Did she shop late at night because she didn't want people to see that she was a single mom on welfare who would tie up the clerk processing her food stamps? Did she shop late because she works all day and this was the only time she had to go get food for herself and her child?

As I watched this unfolding scene, I really didn't know what to say. All I could do was pray: God, does this woman know You and receive daily strength and wisdom through prayer? Does she have a family of faith to keep her going when the burdens of her life situation gets unbearabl…
Friedman wants China to "get it"
It was a good weekend for some clear thinking amidst all the muddleheaded thinking among the protesters. See the Blair item below. And see Friedman's "Peking Duct Tape." Here is an clipping from the article:

The new world system is also bipolar, but instead of being divided between East and West, it is divided between the World of Order and the World of Disorder. The World of Order is built on four pillars: the U.S., E.U.-Russia, India and China, along with all the smaller powers around them. The World of Disorder comprises failed states (such as Liberia), rogue states (Iraq and North Korea), messy states — states that are too big to fail but too messy to work (Pakistan, Colombia, Indonesia, many Arab and African states) — and finally the terrorist and mafia networks that feed off the World of Disorder.
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So, you still think you don't have a dog in this fight? You still think you can be free riders on an Iraq war? You …
Blair Get's It
Saw the following item on the weekend Daily Dish in andrewsullivan.com:
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AS:
WINSTON BLAIR: I would vote for him next time, regardless. Because of speeches as magnificent and as brave as this one:

Blair:
Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.
But there are also consequences of "stop the war".
If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament, yes, there would be no war. But there would still be Saddam. Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today, 135 out of every 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five - 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infect…
Not as optimistic about the role of the UN as is Tom Friedman=======
Friedman writes:

The tension that is now rising within the Western alliance, NATO and the U.N. over how to deal with Iraq is deeply disturbing. It raises fears that the postwar security system, which stabilized the world for 50 years, could come unglued if America intervenes alone in Iraq. At the birth of this security system, Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a memoir titled "Present at the Creation." Can we deal with Iraq and still ensure that Secretary of State Colin Powell's memoir is not titled "Present at the Destruction"?

Yes, we can — if we, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all take a deep breath, understand our common interests and pursue them with a little more common sense and a little less bluster.
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NATO was founded as an alliance to oppose the Soviet Union. The USSR is now gone and NATO is really an organization without a purpose. The war in Bosnia against the Ser…
Not as pessimistic about the role of the UN as is Andrew Sullivan.=======

Sullivan write:

LEAVING THEM BEHIND: The lesson from this is a simple one: we have to abandon the U.N. as an instrument in world affairs. I'm not saying complete U.S. withdrawal, although I'm beginning to think that now makes a lot of sense. I mean temporary U.S. disengagement. The body is now a joke of immense proportions. If it cannot enforce a resolution it passed only a couple of months ago, it cannot enforce anything. If it cannot read the plain meaning of its own words, it is an absurdist theater piece, not a genuine international body. It isn't in danger of becoming the League of Nations. It now is the League of Nations. The difference is that this time, after 9/11, U.S. isolationism is not an option. So U.S. non-U.N. multilateralism is the only option for any future threats to world order. God knows we cannot rely on Europe to keep the peace. The Old Europeans will regret this deeply in the yea…

World: Iraq situation

The war is for political gainSome say Bush is using the war talk to divert from the economic troubles here at home.

War is no guarantee of re-election. Ask LBJ. He knew he could not get re-elected in 1968 so he dropped out of the race. Ask Bush 41, he won the war and still lost the presidency in 1992.

This war will require ground forces to play a larger role than in 1991 because we will have to occupy and run Iraq. After a brief air campaign, ground troops will have to go in and if they encounter resistance, there will be many body bags coming home. The 24-hour cable news will be showing the flag draped coffins, the grieving widows and widowers and the orphaned children.

What if the war goes swiftly and the Iraqi army drops their guns, abandon their tanks and raise their arms and wave white flags but the US Army doesn’t find caches of chemical weapons, nerve gas canisters, stashes of anthrax or other deadly biological agents?

The American people will vote Bush out for waging a war fo…
What are they smoking over there?
What are the French and German's thinking? They want more inspectors
to play cat and mouse with Iraq. So 300 guys instead of 100 running around Iraq hoping to find stuff? And so let's say we do that. How long will they keep looking? Will they eventually be kicked out like in 1998?

Meanwhile, Turkey who have decided not to be an ostrich with its head in the sand has asked NATO for help should a war break out. Once again, the French leads the way with a veto.

Saddam Hussein must be sitting there laughing his head off thinking.... if I can just stall these clowns a little longer, they will all go away and all my precious WMDs will be safe again. The behavior of the French is totally ridiculous and NYT's Friedman blasts the French for their obstructionist behavior.
Columbia Investigation Continues
A segment of the left wing was found today. Data from the shuttle before the catastrophic break up indicated rising heat in the left wing. However, the cause remains unknown. Initially, considerable attention was focused on the launch where a piece of insulating foam coming off the external tank struck the left wing. NASA engineers examined that extensively and their analysis suggests that the foam piece was probably not large enough and not moving at high enough a velocity to do the kind of damage needed to endanger the shuttle. The theory gaining some press attention is perhaps some "space junk" hit the shuttle while it was in orbit.

As for the future of manned space flight, I hope NASA is able to win support for a shuttle replacement. The shuttle is a 1970s design. We have three left and there is no capacity to build more. NASA needs to develop a new ship for the purpose of transporting people to space with the latest technology. Pr…
Columbia Lost During Landing Approach, Crew of Seven Feared Dead
This morning the space shuttle Columbia was approaching Florida for landing when it apparently broke apart. The last data was received while the Columbia was about 200,000 feet up. Debris have been reported in various counties in East Texas.

The crew was a cross section of America and the world. Col. Rick D. Husband served as commander. The pilot was Cmdr. William C. McCool. Payload specialists included: Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson; Dr. Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-American aerospace engineer; and two physicians, Capt. David M. Brown and Cmdr. Laurel Clark. The final member of the crew was the first Israeli astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon.

Speculation on what may have occurred is already underway. Undoubtedly, an investigation will be called for. After the Challenger explosion, investigations and redesign work led to a 2 1/2 year hiatus of flights. One often mentioned idea in early news coverage involved the launch …