But first . . .

ZILLOW.COM

Shane Hubbard: ‘Find out what your home, and the homes of your neighbors, are worth on this free site, launched last week.’

☞ This is amazing. When I tried it on some Florida homes I know, the estimate was low but the level of detail was remarkable, and the ability to edit for corrections / improvements – well, knock yourself out.

VICE

Doug Mohn: ‘Do you still think its wrong for Scalia to go hunting with Cheney?’ [Yes – A.T.]

Harry Mark: ‘Was there any evidence Cheney was drinking? That would make it a criminal matter.’ [Dunno. Would it?]

Wallace: ‘I have quail hunted all my life and never come close to seeing anyone shot. There is probably a little truth in what you read (by James Moore) below.’

I don’t know anything about the personal habits of the vice president of the United States . . . I do, however, know something about hunting in Texas. And it’s not just about huntin’. It’s also about drinkin’. If you are going to a ranch in the brush country of South Texas to shoot birds, you are almost certainly packing guns and Jack Daniels and some big coolers of beer. . . .

The smart hunters start putting the guns up as they take the bottles down. Not all hunters are smart, though, and, of course, alcohol clouds judgment. There is much about the Cheney shooting incident that demands more questions. First, the person holding the gun is always responsible for knowing where the other hunters are. Harry Whittington was not at fault for his failure to let Cheney know his location. Before the covey of quail was flushed, Cheney should have considered who or what was on his right and left. He ought not to have brought his gun up unless he was completely aware of the location of all the other hunters. . . .

It’s naïve for anyone to think there wasn’t alcohol on the scene, too, or at least consumed in the ranch house before getting in the truck and driving into the brush. That’s how it’s done. And ask any of the people in the Bush administration who have been hunting on that ranch through the years and they will have to admit to that fact. The Armstrong Ranch has been used as a retreat, a fund-raising headquarters, a recruiting office, and a place to drink and hunt.

This brings us to the heart of the matter. There was no reason to delay reporting the incident to authorities unless Cheney was worried about a blood alcohol test. He had just shot a man and if the local police showed up and the vice president of the United States of America had booze on his breath, we would be talking today about something more than jokes on The Daily Show. There would almost certainly be political fallout and charges of irresponsibility.

But this is a well-managed White House. The sheriff decided not to even go to the scene when he heard and the deputy didn’t talk to the VP till what — 16 hours later? Sobriety by sunrise. Anne Armstrong went out to spin the reporters who had shown up and made “blasted by a shotgun” into the lesser “peppered.” She had been on the phone the night before with Karl Rove. Nice message work, pal. . . .

SO?

Don Rudolph: “When in hell are the Democrats going to stand together and fight back?”

☞ I would argue that we’re already fighting back (read, for example, the transcript of Howard Dean on Sunday’s “Face the Nation”).  And we largely stand together.  But both the fighting and the standing are hard when you don’t have one leader, and – ours not being the British system – the out party doesn’t have one leader.  There’s not agreement within the party on everything.  That’s just real life.

It’s true of the other party as well – take their split on stem cells or the teaching of evolution, for example, or their split on torture and warrantless wiretaps.  But they all know who’s boss, for better or worse, and the entire press corps is there to cover whatever he chooses to say.

Even so, the other party almost lost the White House last time – which would have been the first time a sitting war-time president running for reelection had ever lost – and they may lose one or both houses of Congress in November.  Their numbers are bad these days, as more and more voters question the competence and priorities, and in some cases the integrity (and marksmanship), of the Republican leadership.

Remember that Newt Gingrich unveiled his 1994 “Contract” just six weeks before the 1994 election – not 37 weeks before.  So . . . I share your anxiety, but am trying to channel as much of it as possible into constructive action.  For example, consider buying a Democracy Bond here, and/or setting up your own ePatriots fundraising page here.  (Have you written a letter to the editor lately?)

CORRECTION

Jon Frater:  “Your claim that the maximum 45% tax rate on estates over $3.5 million takes effect next year is a teensy bit premature: that tax rate won’t become law until 2009. From 2006 to 2008, only estates over $2 million pay the tax, at slightly higher maximum rates.”

☞ We’re both wrong, but my error was worse than yours.  If this set of tables is right, the 45% rate does kick in 2007, as I said; but – you are quite right and my face is quite red – the $2 million exclusion does not jump to $3.5 million until 2009.

 

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