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Showing posts from May, 2011

How low should taxes go?

A few months ago, Ben and I interviewed William Voegeli, author of "Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State." As you might guess, Voegeli's thesis is that Democrats will never stop making more demands for more social welfare programs, and that they need to come up with a limiting principle in order to get Republican buy-in to support any kind of welfare state--which, despite conservative rhetoric, has the support of voters.

I thought of Voegeli when reading Bruce Bartlett today:
Federal taxes are at their lowest level in more than 60 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that federal taxes would consume just 14.8 percent of G.D.P. this year. The last year in which revenues were lower was 1950, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The postwar annual average is about 18.5 percent of G.D.P. Revenues averaged 18.2 percent of G.D.P. during Ronald Reagan’s administration; the lowest percentage during that administration was 17.3 percent of G.…

Would mandatory paid sick days hurt Philadelphia businesses? Maybe not

The Philadelphia City Council is considering a bill that would require the city's employers to offer paid sick leave to their employees—a new regulation that seems, perhaps, counterintuitive considering the poor nature of the job market here. But it turns out that the state of Connecticut is considering similar legislation—and the Economic Policy Institute has a memorandum suggesting the requirement wouldn't be so burdensome, and might offer some benefits to employers.

Among the highlights:
• If all employees used all five paid sick days, the average cost to an employer that currently provides no paid sick days to any employees would be 0.40% of sales.

• Among workers who currently have access to five paid sick days, the industry-weighted average number of days taken is 2.41 days; if employees used this average number of paid sick days, the total cost would be 0.19% of sales.Says EPI: "The data clearly show that the potential cost of providing paid sick days is in fact e…

In Afghanistan, learning the wrong lessons from Bin Laden

Good story in today's Washington Post about whether the Afghanistan war is worth the cost. But even the folks who want to reduce the American footprint there don't seem to have a full grasp of the bigger picture:
Civilian officials argue that recent gains against the Taliban and al-Qaeda have largely been the result of a counterterrorism strategy implemented by Special Operations forces, not the costly, large-footprint counterinsurgency mission that aims to secure the country district by district. Reducing conventional forces, some civilians assert, will not fundamentally alter the calculus that has led to interest among Taliban leaders in exploring peace talks with the Afghan government and U.S. representatives.

“Our mission is to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaeda, and what the bin Laden killing shows us is that you can do that with a small number of highly skilled guys,” the second senior official said. “You don’t need Army and Marine battalions in dozens of districts.”I think yo…

Philadelphia cops want to run the city without living here

I'm not fond of this idea, frankly:
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 is taking Mayor Nutter and the city's Ethics Board to court.

FOP president John McNesby said the union filed a civil lawsuit against the city last week over a decades-old rule that prohibits cops from making political donations.

The police union is the only one in the city that can't make donations to politicians or to a political-action committee.

"We're treated like second-class citizens," McNesby said. "Enough is enough."The FOP is clearly one of the city's power-brokers, so maybe it's pointless to complain about the union putting its money where it's mouth is. And certainly, I'm not generally one to oppose unions—even municipal unions—acting in the political realm.

It's just that McNesby's "second-class citizens" comment sticks in my craw a bit. After all, McNesby won for his union the right for cops not to have to live in the city limits.

David Mamet's conversion to conservatism

Over the weekend, a few of my conservative friends touted this Weekly Standard profile of playwright David Mamet, who is rather famously converting to conservatism. Put aside, for the moment, the spectacle of conservatives who profess to disdain Hollywood high-fiving each other when a celebrity turns out to be Republican. There are hints that Mamet—smart as he is—is motivated more by contrarianism than other factors. You don't have to be dumb to be conservative, but (as represented in the article, anyway) Mamet seems to be guilty of rather shallow thinking.

I'll pluck out two of my favorite examples:
“But I saw the liberals hated George Bush. It was vicious. And I thought about it, and I didn’t get it. He was no worse than the others, was he? And I’d ask my liberal friends, ‘Well, why do you hate him?’ They’d all say: ‘He lied about WMD.’ Okay. You love Kennedy. Kennedy didn’t write Profiles in Courage—he lied about that. ‘Bush is in bed with the Saudis!’ Okay, Kennedy was in b…

Facebook made my hospital stay less miserable

When the doctors told me they were admitting me to the hospital for surgery, the first thing I did—after calling my wife and parents to let them know how dire things had become—was go to Facebook and Twitter.
Surgery for sure. Apparently this is quite serious and disturbing. This account may be dark awhile.
And I meant it. I assumed that if I wasn't too overcome with pain to care about social networking, then I'd at least choose to be stoic and not inflict the details of my illness upon my friends.

Who was I kidding? I'm not one to endure pain silently—or, really, anything silently. It's why I blog. I'm a compulsive oversharer. Indeed, my first update to Facebook—dictated to my wife, apparently, through a morphine haze—came just a couple of hours after surgery.
Surgery done. Colostomy! Diverticulitis! Pain! (sec:jcm)
And over the next 24 hours, there were 26 comments appended.

Here's the thing: Surgery is an isolating thing. You're taken away from the people yo…

So I hate my fucking colostomy

Warning: This is really gross.

When the doctors came to me that Saturday afternoon and told me I was probably going to need surgery, I got weepy. It wasn't the surgery itself that brought tears to my eyes—though knowing that my belly was about to be sliced open wasn't exactly comforting—but what the docs told me was waiting on the other side: a colostomy bag.

Surgery scared me. The colostomy offended me.

There was my vanity, first off all. Who gets colostomies after all? Old guys, that's who, grampas who've had their sexual day in the sun and don't have to worry about looking good and being attractive to the opposite sex. (I'm married and faithful, but I don't want to be repulsive to other women; this made me feel like I'd be repulsive to both my wife and other women.) Young, virile men don't have colostomies. I'm not young exactly—I'm 38—but I suspected the surgery was a too-early arrival in the precincts of the elderly.

Beyond that, thoug…

Notes from surgery: Pain, then the sponge bath

There are almost no visual components to the memories of my first waking moments after surgery. Mostly, I suspect, this is because I was still pretty doped up—and thus mostly unable to open my eyes. What's left is a mishmash of sound and pain.

Pain. I knew before I was even told that the doctor had made two holes in my body, because I could feel them both, individually, one on top of the other on my abdomen, two fingers of fire—no, something worse than fire, because fire can be extinguished and there was nothing to the intensity of agony in my belly that suggested a temporary nature. I screamed—or tried to at least. Most likely I grunted angrily.

It was going to get worse: I still needed to be transferred from the operating table to a recuperation bed. I could hear the nurses around me talking–male and female voices mixing together in a kind of urgent incoherence—and then the sheet below me tighten in a one-two-three! movement to lift me to my new repose. It squeezed my wounds a l…

Where I've been

At the moment, I have a hole in my belly where I do most—but not all!—of my pooping and farting. It's a colostomy. It's also temporary, knock on wood. And it's why I've been absent from my own blog the last two weeks.

There is no official diagnosis: the main suspect is diverticulitis. The surgery that gave me the hole in my belly wasn't trying to fix any underlying problems—it was simply trying to ease the pressure on a gastrointestinal system that was so distended that the blood supply to critical organs was in jeopardy. A colonoscopy and two more surgeries await me. I've been in such pain, post-surgery, that I'm not really happy at the prospect. Gotta get fixed, though.

Absent an official diagnosis, I'm full of self-recrimination, suspecting that a lifetime of bad decisions about my health and life have led inexorably to this moment. I am being judged. And I am judging myself. My uncertainty—and I'm self-aware enough to know this is all probably j…