April 29, 2005
Links of the Week
Emily Yoffe, Slate's always-entertaining Human Guinea Pig, enters a Matzo-ball-eating competition.
Duncan Currie counts noses on the judicial filibuster rule-change question. I wonder what the count would be on reverting to real, make-'em-talk filibusters?
John Tierney compares pensions with an old Chilean friend. Guess who wins?
Change in Tone
My latest AmSpec column assesses last night's Presidential press conference.
April 27, 2005
It has arrived.
Behold, the Caesar's Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice."I won't try to parse the semantic distinctions between engaing in "pathetic arm-twisting" and being "the biggest whiner by far"; suffice it to say that Dave Weigel got tagged by Jeremy Lott and now he's tagged me. Here goes.
1. Tolkien. I like the Lord of the Rings movies well enough, and I was a fan of Peter Jackson way back in the 90s. But I find the urge to go out and read the books extremely resistible. Nor am I particularly curious about the special extended edition DVDs. The time I've already spent in Middle-Earth feels like plenty, thank you.
2. Sports. I'm stretching the premise here, since I hang around in a fairly unathletic peer-group (and I'm not the first to put this on my list). But it's the nerdy pursuit that pretends not to be nerdy. What, after all, seperates a baseball game from, say, a Star Trek convention? Both events consist of collections of people getting together to revel in the fact that they care about something that doesn't matter.
3. Deadwood. What Julian said.
4. Hot-Button Social Issues. I have what I think are strong and well-reasoned opinions on them all. But I just don't get hot and bothered over abortion and homosexuality and guns and immigration the way so many people do, certainly no more than I do on economic issues, and much less than I do on foreign policy.
5. Listmaking. I couldn't think of a number 5, but then realized that I'm indifferent on the issue of whether I actually need a number 5. And eureka, I've got one.
April 22, 2005
Links of the Week
Let's try something new: a compilation of quick links to worthwhile stuff you might have missed in the past week. Perhaps I'll make this a regular Friday afternoon feature.
Matt Labash's Weekly Standard cover story, in which he hangs out with Ward Churchill, is a real gem, worth printing out if you find it too long to read off the screen (I read it in the magazine).
David Weigel ably defends the facts that he checked for a USA Today op-ed against the whining of liberal media critics.
Few have diagnosed massive shortcomings of the Middle East experts as well as Michael Young.
That's quite a cast of bloggers fighting the good fight at ConfirmBolton.com.
How does Jonah Goldberg protest what's being done to Cookie Monster? By invoking Hannibal Lecter, of course.
Finally, Wlady Pleszczynski notices something amusing about the letters pages of certain newspapers.
April 21, 2005
Tuesday the Rabbi Wrote Mishegas
April 20, 2005
Welcoming Benedict XVI
I don't care very much what the new Pope thinks about say, homosexuality or abortion or celibacy; those things don't affect Jews like me a whole lot. On the issues that do, though, he seems like a good choice:
"I view him as our most serious partner in the Catholic Church, and he has been for the last 26 years," said Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress...Not everyone is satisfied, though:
As head of the Vatican office that enforced church doctrine under John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a leading force behind the Vatican's recognition of Israel in 1993 and John Paul II's atonement at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2000, Rabbi Singer said.
"I believe that he is the man who created the theological underpinnings for the good relations between Catholics and Jews during the last papacy," Rabbi Singer said. "He writes what's kosher and what's not kosher for Catholics. He said, 'Not only is it kosher to like Jews, but it's kosher to like the state of Israel.' "
In his memoirs, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote of being forced into the Nazi youth movement when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory, and of being drafted into the German Army in 1943.
"He's never denied the past, never hid it," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "His whole life has been atonement for those few years. His whole life is an open book of sensitivity against bigotry and anti-Semitism."
Mr. Foxman cited a column that Cardinal Ratzinger wrote for L'Osservatore Romano in 2000 attacking Christian complicity in the Holocaust. "It cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians," the cardinal wrote.
Mr. Foxman said that as a European of the World War II generation, Cardinal Ratzinger would probably be more sensitive to Jewish concerns than many other cardinals who were on the short list for the papacy. Many others expressed similar thoughts.
"This pope, considering his historical experience, will be especially committed to an uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism," Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said in a statement...
[Ratzinger] was the force behind a 2000 church document, "Dominus Jesus," that called for new Catholic evangelization and argued that beliefs other than Christianity were lesser searches for truth.It is, of course, impossible to imagine that any anti-Semitic sentiments might be ginned up by the spectacle of a Rabbi denouncing Christians for believing in, um, Christianity. (Lerner's whole demented rant is here.)
Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun, wrote yesterday on the magazine's Web site that the cardinal's criticism of other religions "is a slippery slope toward anti-Semitism and a return to the chauvinistic and triumphalist views that led the church, when it had the power to do so, to develop its infamous crusades and inquisitions."
If Lerner honestly thinks that what Jews really need to worry about is a new Inquisition, then he must have already forgotten what he noted two years ago about some of his own leftist allies.
April 14, 2005
Donny, You're Out of Your Element!
I just don't see how you can conscience cutting taxes - especially taxes that effect only a few thousand very, very rich people - when you're fighting a war.There are at least three incorrect assumptions packed into that one little sentence. (We'll just let breaches of standard verb usage slide.)
Incorrect Assumption One: That the estate tax only affects "only a few thousand... people." Wrong. Back in 2002 I linked to an excellent summary of an Institute for Policy Innovation policy paper reporting that "In 1995, 69,722 estates were required to file an estate tax return." Those are estates, not people. In most estates there is more than one person involved; sometimes there are dozens. And that was a decade ago; the number is probably higher now. Less than half of estates who file end up owing (at least that was the case in 1995), but even allowing for that, "a few thousand" still grossly understates the number of people affected.
Incorrect Assumption Two: Those affected by the estate tax are all "very, very rich." Wrong again. In 1995,
Over half (54 percent) of the $11.8 billion in tax was collected from estates valued at less than $5 million. Estates worth between $5 and $20 million paid 29 percent of the tax while those over $20 million paid 16.9 percent.Bill Gates is "very, very rich." Three brothers splitting a $4 million dollar estate are not. That's true even if the estate is all liquid, but especially true in the many cases where it's not.
Estate taxes even threaten the middle class. Average Americans who purchased homes 20 or 30 years ago, own a farm or built up a family business could find their estates large enough to be taxed. And high marginal tax rates (from 37% up to 55%) often force heirs to liquidate assets to pay the estate tax bill.
Incorrect Assumption Three: Estate tax revenue is crucial because we are "fighting a war." But the estate tax is long-term loser for the treasury, and even in the short term it's an insignificant revenue source:
In 1995, the $11.8 billion in estate taxes amounted to less than one percent of federal revenues.Follow the link for the rest of that argument. The estate tax does affect "working families"-- economic growth affects everyone. Besides, millionaires generally make their money by working, too.
Second, the estate tax imposes extremely high compliance costs -- about as much as the tax raises. Tax compliance adds nothing to output and diverts resources away from productive activities that do.
Third, doing away with estate taxes would produce positive economic growth effects large enough to offset most of the static revenue loss.