Frank: ‘You call this (yesterday) a column?’

☞ Well, listen to you! These columns are scientifically designed to require exactly 8 minutes a day (and I’m grateful to you for sparing even that much time). Yesterday’s column, though just a few lines, was a long one – you could roam around for a week and 8 minutes, there’s so much there.


Tom Knapp: ‘I’ve virtually never paid late, but I just got a $39 fee on my Bank of America Visa Platinum Card for exceeding my credit limit by $8.30. I called, and on appeal to the next level of phone answerers, had the fee waived. It’s always worth a try.’


Joel: ‘Maybe I’m an idealist, but I’m ‘mad as hell’ about executive compensation. CEO pay as a multiple of median employee compensation has exploded in the last forty years. It’s a combination of salary, bonuses, backdated options, purportedly performance-related pay based on poorly defined goals, and huge golden parachutes for incompetent performers. Congressman Barney Frank’s H.R. 1257, the Shareholder Vote on Executive Compensation Act, would not set any limits on pay, but would ensure that shareholders have an opportunity to give their approval or disapproval. (A similar regulation in the UK has already had salutary effects.) The bill also contains a separate advisory vote if a company gives a new, not yet disclosed, ‘golden parachute’ while simultaneously negotiating to buy or sell a company. If your readers think this is a good idea, they can write to their mutual fund company/companies or pension fund(s), as appropriate, and to their Senators and Congressperson.


Posted by Brent Budowsky last week:

To: Dr. Watson
From: Holmes

Watson, I smell a rat. I want you to devote your investigative resources to uncover the rat. Here is what we know:

1. A well-qualified U.S. attorney in Arkansas was fired under suspicious circumstances.

2. Arkansas is the former residence of one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has already been subject to unsavory attacks from right-wing conspiracies, vast and otherwise.

3. The well-qualified fired U.S. attorney was replaced by one Timothy Griffin. Mr. Griffin is a former aide to Karl Rove, the King of oppo[sition] research and smears. Karl took an aggressive personal interest in his hiring as U.S. attorney.

4. Mr. Griffin is as qualified to be U.S. attorney as I am qualified to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

5. What is Mr. Griffin’s expertise? Political oppo research.

6. Ergo, the master of oppo research smear and close aide to the president, pushes to replace a qualified U.S. attorney with an unqualified former aide, who is also expert in the black arts of negative political research, in the state with long ties to a Democratic presidential candidate.

This is elementary, my dear Watson.

I want you to whisper in the proper ears, to discover what is behind this foul-smelling sequence of events.

– Holmes


Even some predisposed to favor the Administration realized long ago (remember former Treasury Secretary O’Neill’s book, what seems a century ago?) that it is an Administration not up to the task of good government.

Hat tip to Kevin Drum for reminding us of this (excerpted from Esquire in just small part to try to keep to my 8 minutes):

On October 24, John DiIulio, a former high-level official in the Bush administration, sent the letter below to Esquire Washington correspondent Ron Suskind. The letter was a key source of Suskind’s story about Karl Rove, politics and policymaking in the Bush administration, “Why Are These Men Laughing,” which appears in the January 2003 issue of Esquire. On Monday, December 3, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that the charges contained in the story were “groundless and baseless.” After initially standing by his assertions, DiIulio himself later issued an “apology.” Esquire stands strongly behind Suskind and his important story.

From: John DiIulio
Subject: Your next essay on the Bush administration
Date: October 24, 2002

Dear Ron:

For/On the Record

My perspective on the president and the administration reflects both my experiences at the White House and my views as a political scientist and policy scholar . . . I was an Assistant to the President, and attended many, though by no means all, senior staff meetings. . . .

In my view, President Bush is a highly admirable person of enormous personal decency. He is a godly man and a moral leader. He is much, much smarter than some people – including some of his own supporters and advisers – seem to suppose. He inspires personal trust, loyalty, and confidence in those around him. In many ways, he is all heart. Clinton talked “I feel your pain.” But as Bush showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he truly does feel deeply for others and loves this country with a passion. . . .

But the contrast with Clinton is two-sided. As Joe Klein has so strongly captured him, Clinton was “the natural,” a leader with a genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich decision-making. Clinton was the policy-wonk-in-chief. The Clinton administration drowned in policy intellectuals and teemed with knowledgeable people interested in making government work. Every domestic issue drew multiple policy analyses that certainly weighted politics, media messages, legislative strategy, et cetera, but also strongly weighted policy-relevant information, stimulated substantive policy debate, and put a premium on policy knowledge. That is simply not Bush’s style. It fits not at all with his personal cum presidential character. The Bush West Wing is very nearly at the other end of this Clinton policy-making continuum. . . .

In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical, non-stop, 20-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but, on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking – discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue. . . .


Ah, the ‘forever stamp.’ One of you, remembering my ancient rant, suggested I claim credit for this. I can’t imagine that 10,000 others haven’t made the same suggestion. But if it was my column, and subsequent letters to the Postmaster General, that got the ball rolling, then (a) the ball rolls very slowly (but we knew that) and (b) it is the greatest achievement of my life. Hundred of millions of little inconveniences will be avoided. It’s even more powerful than my introduction of the Pre-Signatorum, which has served to avoid countless snafus.

Sure, the Google boys have their little triumphs and Steve Jobs has his. But because of me (well, probably not, but still), you’ll never have to find a 3-cent stamp to add to the first class stamp you just affixed to the envelope that – come to think of it, why are you using envelopes anymore, anyway? Have you not heard of electronic bill payment? E-mail?

And because of me (well, still probably not), the USPS won’t have to bother with all this idiocy, either, and Uncle Sam will be able to borrow at the rock-bottom rate of inflation – less than it normally pays – in the sense that people who buy $1,000 of stamps to last them 10 years to ‘beat the system’ are actually just making 10-year loans at the rate of inflation, beating, in fact, only themselves.

Finally, note that even now (if it is as reported), the USPS seems to be making a mess of this, planning – can this really be? – both 42-cent ‘forever stamps’ and standard 42-cent stamps. Instead, of course, the idea should be to make ALL first-class stamps ‘forever stamps,’ just as toasters are toasters whenever you bought them. End of story.


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