Poker and Politics

Thursday, June 24, 2004

On Tax Cuts


William G. Gale, Peter Orszag and Isaac Shapiro
June 3, 2004

"Tax cuts are not free; they must be financed with some combination of tax increases or spending cuts. The central goal of this paper is to apply this standard insight from public finance to the analysis of the distributional effects of making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. We estimate not only who benefits directly from the tax cuts, but also who benefits and who loses once the financing of the tax cuts is considered. We consider two scenarios: one in which each household pays an equal dollar amount to finance the tax cuts and one where each household pays the same share of income. In both cases, more than three-quarters of households end up worse off if the tax cuts are made permanent and financed. In addition, there are large aggregate transfers from the majority of low- and middle-income households to an affluent minority. These results show that, far from simply "giving people their money back," making the tax cuts permanent would impose significant losses on tens of millions of American households."

Funny thing is, most Americans figure that they will be rich someday, so they don't mind the benefits rich folks get- of course they're dead wrong, which is why they should hire me as their financial planner the second I get credentialed, but there you go.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Wolfowitz Testifies

Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the committee's ranking Democrat, who read aloud the administration's goals for Iraq as stated last July, and said they had still not been met.

"The four pillars of this plan were establishing security, restoring essential services, creating conditions for economic development, and enabling the transition to democratic governance," Mr. Skelton said. "It's clear that these goals have not been achieved, at least not to the extent we had hoped, largely because we haven't established security."

Mr. Skelton asked Mr. Wolfowitz whether American forces might be required to remain in Iraq for "a good number of years."

"I think it's entirely possible," Mr. Wolfowitz replied. "But what I think is also nearly certain is the more they step up, and they will be doing so more and more each month, the less and less we will have to do."

> So the people who make a life out of imagining worse-than-worst-case-I'm-talkin'-apocalyptic-scenarios as the basis for preparation get post-war plans WILDLY wrong in the face of people who knew better saying so, ands all Wolfy can say is that the more we do, the less there is to be done ?!

It gets better:

Mr. Hussein's Iraq was "a state that had contacts of a murky but ominous sort with Al Qaeda," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "The mere fact of contact is disturbing."

> Please note: When Osama was fighting Russia, the US helped fund him. That also sounds murky and disturbing, but I guess he didn't think to mention it.

This man is as worthy of your disgust and rage as any in DC right now- save perhaps Asscroft...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Firm With Bush-Saudi Ties Buys Loews Movie Theaters

"The Carlyle buy up of Loews probably won't affect the screening of Moore's movies at Loews theaters...but it raises troubling concerns that such a wealthy and powerful company with connections to both the Bush and Saudi royal family is making aggressive efforts to control more of what we see and hear - right on the eve of a movie critical of the Bush-Saudi relationship, and just as the mainstream media begins focusing more scrutiny of that relationship. Coincidence?"
You Do Not Have the Right to Remain Silent

So the Supreme Court has ruled that you must provide your name to a police officer who asks for it "under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has committed... a crime." I guess you could always go to court and argue that you could not have been "reasonably" suspected of any crime whatsoever, but it's a lot to ask, to say the least. Your right to remain silent is severly compromised. Your leverage to stand up for your rights by remaining anonymous is crippled. As the Chinese say, "May you live in interesting times." These times feel a little too interesting lately...
Affleck Wins

I am sorry to see this, as we'll probably end up seeing his bile-inducing mug more often, but Ben Affleck has won the Commerce Casino's California State Poker Championship and a seat at the World Poker Tour Championship.
Bush Approval/ Disapproval Ratings

Neat graphic, even if you love the guy. Worm may have turned, tho, so very many reasons to wonder who's driving this thing.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Calmer Attitude

Won my second $5 Omaha SNG, having now played three. I feel very good that I bobbed
and weaved well enough to outplay two opponents whose play I respected, sending me
into the weekend extra chipper. I have determined that a fundamental basis of my game that requires immediate and particular attention is my sense of calm. To that end, I log on accepting of a much slower pace- I'll play a hand now again again, but mostly swim around like a whale- slowly, out of the way, generally unnoticed, surfacing only occasionally when solid cards allow to win a pot and move back into the deep. I have determined that this approach does not mesh well with the habit of logging in, say in between the Simpsons and whenever Fox decides, TV Guide listing notwithstanding, to actually air Arrested Development. My desire to get a few hands in clashes with my need to wait for the right time to make a move. I suspect I will have my best results when I clear my calendar out and dedicate a couplethree hours to focusing on a game. One tack I am playing with beyond the visual image of that unhurried sea creature is having a very slow song in mind, something I can hum to myself as a reminder to play slowly, something to replace "Appetite for Desctruction" that currently compels me to click Re-raise like Crispin Glover on a Red Bull bender. This most certainly applies to live games- if I go in knowing I'm there for the long term, it becomes simpler to maintain a look of indifference on my face, i.e., I'll get my action sooner or later without needing to force it. The song especially should serve as a magnet to a more measured style of play. Alas, I will miss the chance to implement this attitude in my regular Tuesday game, as my wife has indicated that a 2nd anniversary trumps a card game.
Cheney Lies

Not him too! :(

Exhibit A: Vice President Cheney talking to CNBC's Gloria Borger, June 17, 2004.

Borger: "Well, let's go to Mohamed Atta for a minute, because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, 'pretty well confirmed.'"

Cheney: "No, I never said that."

Borger: "Okay."

Cheney: "Never said that."

Borger: "I think that is..."

Cheney: "Absolutely not. What I said was the Czech intelligence service reported after 9/11 that Atta had been in Prague on April 9th of 2001, where he allegedly met with an Iraqi intelligence official. We have never been able to confirm that nor have we been able to knock it down."

Exhibit B: Cheney talking to NBC's Tim Russert on Dec. 9, 2001.

Cheney: "Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that -- it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue."


"The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."
~ Bush, 9/25/02

- - -

RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

CHENEY: We don’t know.

~ "Meet the Press", 9/17/03

> People didn't make the connection- it was manufactured for them. We don't want the "smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud," after all.


Thursday, June 17, 2004


"The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."
~Bush, 9/9/2002

"The president returned to the White House and called me in and said, I've learned from George Tenet that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."
~Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

"Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002... acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
~ Bush, in a letter to Congress still posted on the White House web site

"President Bush has made it very clear that there was not direct evidence linking to the 9/11 plot, and never did he make that suggestion."
~ White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, yesterday on CNN

> Sigh... another day, another lie, another rationale for war shot down.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Magna Carta?

Magna Carta MY ASS!

"And thereupon the said lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid; do in the first place (as their ancestors in like cases have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties, declare:

"That the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.

"That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the executions of laws, by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal."

> It goes on...

Friendly Game Too Friendly

We had a couple new guys over last inght for our home game, gents who it turns out play 4/8 hold'em in the casino. We chatted, joked, gabbed, bet, and lost. They sipped water quietly, raised, and mauled us.

I wanted to tighten up and did so, but not enough to win, although I lost a mere $1. I won two big pots, lost a bunch on silly calls only to inevitably fold shortly thereafter. These guys, however, provided an excellent model: no chatter, no swagger, no fancy moves, no overt emotion (sighs, groans), no brilliant, fancy plays (wise, given a few folks' inability to fold a mediocre hand), just solid, basic play.

I really want to play in another game, one with no friends, one where I can go to my "happy place" and calmly bet when the cards warrant. I did notice that my urgent desire to play is very much like my old desire to smoke a bowl when I had something to smoke, whether or not I actually wanted to smoke it- that is, the strings of addicition were being plucked. This is an excellent opportunity to listen to those dulcet tones- and let them dissolve- and let patience be my guide. This is a major benefit of poker: the lessons I seek to learn I imagine to help me well beyond the table.
Bush Redux

Didn’t want to go to war?
Willing to go to war but didn’t like the timing?
Didn’t understand the urgency?
Didn’t appreciate the changing rationale for war?
Resent the continuing emphasis on Iraq-al Qaeda relationships that the 9/11 Commission has just reaffirmed never existed?
Wondering about the lack of WMD?
Disgusted by events at Abu Ghraib?
Baffled by the underfunding, underequipping, and undermanning of this war of choice?
Wondering how BushCo could have gotten so much so wrong without one shred of reflection about how it might have happened?
Wondering if any accountability whatsoever exists in Bush's universe?

“'I look forward to the debates where people are saying, 'Oh gosh, the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power,' " Bush said.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Don't Be Like Laak

I haven't commeneted on this yet, but I do agree with Jay Lovinger on how Phil Laak's abominable behavior during his WPT win was bad for the game. Shadow-boxing, crunchs, running around the room like a pre-schooler on a bugjuice binge and peeking at cards from behind the dealer, he not only looked as immature as they get but also imposed himself on other players, AKA "opponents." My opponent tries to hug me after sucking out and he's just as likely to get a knee to the nuts as a handshake. That his play was awful only accentuates my scoff. That said, I have read that he's generally a nice guy, for what it's worth...
Reagan Revisited

Remember how Reagan tried to treat ketchup a vegetable in school lunches? This just in...

Based on a little-noticed change to obscure federal rules, the USDA defines frozen french fries as "fresh vegetables."

One pundit asks the obvious question: By this logic, is a plate of ketchup and fries considered a "salad?"

If Reagan Did Not Exist, Conservatives Would
Invent Him

This past week during the first state funeral in the past 30 years homages to the late President Reagan were ubiquitous and disappointingly uniform. Reagan was by no means universally loved- he was vocally reviled by several constituencies- but you’d be hard pressed to notice that in the face of so much fawning coverage, including such quotes as these from National Review Online:

* "We are living in his world."
* "He made principles easily accessible."
* "He linked economic growth with strength overseas."
* "He changed our aspirations."
* "He knew who he was and what the world could be."
* "He would have been the right man at any time."
* "He illuminated what was good about America."

Greg Palast notes a few other aspects of Reagan’s two terms:

* Iran/ Contra scandal; paraphrased: “My heart tells me I did the right thing but the facts do not.”
* 29 felons in his administration (many of whom have now darkened the door of Bush Jr.’s White House)
* He refused to implement any sanctions against the police state of South Africa as the government went on a murder spree to insure that Black folks would never vote, despite the pleas of Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu.
* His Secretary of Interior, James Watt, launched a biological pogrom against trees (which, don’cha know, “cause pollution”).
* AIDS was identified in 1981. Reagan's official policy was to hit the research snooze button. Our president did not mention nor act on the epidemic until 1987- 30,000 funerals too late.
But let’s cut to the chase. Contemporary Republicans (I won’t sully the intellectual legacy of conservatism to associate it with the political thugs who run the country right now) have a single principle: CUT TAXES. Actually, that principle is subservient to eliminating all regulation that “ties the hands” of business, but basically we’re talking about severely crippling the delicate balance between a political system, Democracy, and an economic one, capitalism. Books can and have been written on that balance, I won’t go into it now except to suggest that their co-existence requires constant TLC. Public good and private enterprise can both overwhelm the other without a light touch on the levers of power.

So Reagan is championed from here to forever for being a huge tax cutter. I refer you now to a reassessment of "Reagan’s Liberal Legacy." Sure, he cut taxes, in a big way- then he raised them back up when he saw what he’d done, a couple times. Why don’t the Republicans of today mention this? Why do they cheer when Bush enacts massive tax cuts for the people who least need them at the expense of soldiers, sick people, the poor, small businesses, Democrats and even Republicans who neglected to donate to his last campaign? The hagiographic accolades have nothing to do with Reagan- he was a daft but charasmatic actor who wandered through the halls of power but he TALKED about tax cuts and SOLD them as a solution to any problem, making the idea of the government as problem instead of solution publicly palatable. On its face, it sounds moronic- it utterly ignores any discussion of the public good! Yet as a Big Lie, it shuffled off the stigma that had kept it chained in the basement, and now tax-cuts-at-all-costs zealot Grover Norquist can unabashedly advocate strangling government in a bathtub, presumably leaving warm fuzzy big businesses to look after your interests and mine (for the right price).

Reagan, for all his many warts, had a liberal legacy as well as a conservative one. But you will never hear a Republican be honest about it, lest their powermongering agenda be exposed.

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