Friday, January 25, 2008

"The Check is in the Mail" Stimulus Package

Strains on the I.R.S. Could Delay Rebate Checks for Months (via NYT):
The checks will be in the mail — eventually.

But President Bush’s plan to send payments to 117 million households to stimulate the economy would impose major strains on the Internal Revenue Service, delays in answering calls to the agency and require a host of technical rules to determine who ultimately collects the benefits, officials said Thursday.

The deal between the administration and House leaders calls for checks to be issued 60 days after the president signs a law authorizing the one-time payments. That may be in as few as four or five weeks if the full House and the Senate come to terms on the details quickly.

In theory, the first checks may arrive in early May, if nothing goes wrong.

Even as the negotiators crunched the numbers, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation warned that the tax-filing season could be disrupted and hinted that it might be June before checks were issued.


Determining who is eligible and for how much money will require major reprogramming of an outdated computer system that relies on technology long since abandoned by business. The software changes will have to be made as an estimated 135 million individual income tax returns arrive between now and April 15.

The agency has already rushed to adjust its computers because of a temporary patch to reduce the effects of the alternative minimum tax that was not agreed on until just before lawmakers left Washington in December. More than two million taxpayers affected by the alternative tax cannot file until at least Feb. 11.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. told reporters on Thursday that he did not believe the tax patch would affect the new checks. Agency officials who would not speak on the record because they were not authorized were not so sanguine and pointed to the Congressional joint committee report’s warnings about adding to the workload in the big filing season.

Nobody has authorized the agency to hire extra workers to reprogram computers, enter new data, issue checks and answer calls. The agency will divert resources from serving taxpayers and enforcing tax laws.

A surge in calls accompanied the rebates that Mr. Bush sponsored in 2001, straining the ability to answer calls from people with tax problems and causing other logistical problems.

Charles O. Rossotti, the executive who was the internal revenue commissioner in 2001, warned amid that rush to issue rebate checks that “compression of analysis, testing and production of complex programs poses very high risks of errors in issuing these refunds such as taxpayers receiving incorrect amounts or notices with incorrect information.”

(h/t John Aravosis @ AMERICAblog)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Speaker Pelosi, Why is Impeachment Off Your Table?

The Iraq War Card from The Center for Public Integrity:
False Pretenses

Following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

By Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose "Duelfer Report" established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Voice of America: What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?

I can't make this stuff up!

The WGA comedy writers may be on strike, but that doesn't prevent Voice of America from employing scabs because you won't see a funnier headline than this (from Google news top stories screen capture):

Will the Democrats answer the following question?