Friday, January 30, 2004
Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified вЂ” under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less вЂ” because Saddam "did not let us in.")
So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush вЂ” and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.
True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people вЂ” including a majority of the British public, according to polls вЂ” regard that report as a whitewash.)
In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged вЂ” and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance. "
Just think of the vitriol the Wadical White Wing of the Weapublicans would be spewing at a Gore administration--whew! Dodged a bullet there, my friends ! I guess 1-party rule means never having to say you're sorry.
... or is it "Never explain, always complain" ?
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
"A quiet battle is raging over the Bush Administration's plan to appoint a scantily credentialed doctor, whose writings include a book titled As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, to head an influential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on women's health policy. Sources tell Time that the agency's choice for the advisory panel is Dr. W. David Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist who also wrote, with his wife Linda, Stress and the Woman's Body, which puts "an emphasis on the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life" and recommends specific Scripture readings and prayers for such ailments as headaches and premenstrual syndrome. Though his resume describes Hager as a University of Kentucky professor, a university official says Hager's appointment is part time and voluntary and involves working with interns at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital, not the university itself. In his private practice, two sources familiar with it say, Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.
Hager was chosen for the post by FDA senior associate commissioner Linda Arey Skladany, a former drug-industry lobbyist with longstanding ties to the Bush family. Skladany rejected at least two nominees proposed by FDA staff members: Donald R. Mattison, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Michael F. Greene, director of maternal- fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Despite pressure from inside the FDA to make the appointment temporary, sources say, Skladany has insisted that Hager get a full four-year term. FDA spokesman Bill Pierce called Hager "well qualified."
... Gosh darn it. I'm beginning to take an active dislike to these people.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
1. We misjudged then -- and we have since -- the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries . . . and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience. . . . We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
4. Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
5. We failed then -- and have since -- to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine. . . . We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
6. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement . . . before we initiated the action.
7. After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course . . . we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did.
8. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
9. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action . . . should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
10. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions. . . . At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.
11. Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.
Monday, January 26, 2004
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
25 January 2004
Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests.
A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change 'of remarkable amplitude' in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.
Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden 'flips' of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development - described as 'the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments', by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research - threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe's weather mild.
If that happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador - which is on the same latitude - bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-heralded cold snap predicted for the coming week would seem balmy by comparison."
... If you've ever seen "The Shipping News" you get the general idea
Supreme Court Upholds Political Money Law (washingtonpost.com): "'The idea that large contributions to a national party can corrupt or create the appearance of corruption of federal candidates and officeholders is neither novel nor implausible,' the majority said. 'There is substantial evidence in these cases to support Congress' determination that contributions of soft money give rise to corruption and the appearance of corruption.'
The court said Congress also has power to act against all or any 'circumventions,' of campaign laws, whether in the form of 'soft money' or sham 'issue ads.'
The justices rejected as 'unpersuasive' arguments that the new provisions intrude on constitutionally protected rights of free speech and free political association. They similarly rejected claims that the soft money restrictions cut too deeply into the prerogatives of the states to regulate elections.
On the main provisions of the law, Stevens and O'Connor were joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist dissented from the primary holdings, as did Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. "
... Look at the 4 dissenters -- if this landmark legislation had come up after the next Bush appointment, it would have been struck down without a doubt.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
A NEWSWEEK exclusive By Evan Thomas and T. Trent Gegax
Newsweek Feb. 2 issue -
One of the most damning charges against retired Gen. Wesley Clark has also been the vaguest. After Clark entered the Democratic race last September, Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Clark had been sacked as commander of NATO forces after the 1999 Balkans war because of 'integrity and character issues.' Shelton has refused to comment further, and Clark's civilian boss, the then Defense Secretary William Cohen, has also remained silent.
The doubts raised by Clark's own bosses have cast an uneasy pall over his presidential candidacy. What really happened? According to a knowledgeable source, Clark ran afoul of Cohen and Shelton by being less than totally forthcoming in morning conference calls during the Kosovo war in the spring of 1999. From his NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clark wanted to wage the war more aggressively, but back in the Pentagon, Cohen and Shelton were more cautious. They would give Clark instructions on, for instance, the scale of the bombing campaign. "Clark would say, 'Uh-huh, gotcha'," says Newsweek's source. But then he would pick up the phone and call [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair and [Secretary of State] Madeleine [Albright]." As Clark knew full well, Blair and Albright were more hawkish than Shelton and Cohen. After talking to the State Department and NATO allies, Clark would have a different set of marching orders, says the source, who has spoken about the matter with both Cohen and Clark. "Then, about 1 o'clock, the Defense Department would hear what Clark was up to, and Cohen and Shelton would be furious."
Was Clark going around them? Not really. As NATO commander, Clark says, "I wore two hats." He reported to Washington, but also to America's European allies. And within the U.S. government, he was within his authority to seek guidance from the State Department and certainly from the White House, as well as from his nominal bosses at the Pentagon.
"I was forthcoming," Clark insisted. "If [Cohen and Shelton] gave me an instruction, I did it. I would never have not done what they told me to do. But the truth is, they weren't in touch with the situation well enough to tell me everything to do. It's why you have the title supreme allied commander... The buck usually stopped on my desk... I had, by necessity, a certain independence. Yet no matter how many times I tried to bring Hugh Shelton and Washington to understand the allied side, it didn't compute. They just didn't see it." General Shelton, Clark's aides are quick to note, is now listed as an unpaid adviser to the John Edwards campaign.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
America has had periods of single-party dominance before. It happened under FDR's New Deal, in the Republican 1920s and in the early 19th-century "Era of Good Feeling." But if President Bush is re-elected, we will be close to a tipping point of fundamental change in the political system itself. The United States could become a nation in which the dominant party rules for a prolonged period, marginalizes a token opposition and is extremely difficult to dislodge because democracy itself is rigged. This would be unprecedented in U.S. history.
In past single-party eras, the majority party earned its preeminence with broad popular support. Today the electorate remains closely divided, and actually prefers more Democratic policy positions than Republican ones. Yet the drift toward an engineered one-party Republican state has aroused little press scrutiny or widespread popular protest.
We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects. First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rather like the token opposition parties in Mexico during the six-decade dominance of the PRI.
Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split. After two decades of bipartisan collusion in the creation of safe House seats, there are now perhaps just 25 truly contestable House seats in any given election year (and that's before the recent Republican super gerrymandering). What once was a slender and precarious majority -- 229 Republicans to 205 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who votes with Democrats) -- now looks like a Republican lock. In the Senate, the dynamics are different but equally daunting for Democrats. As the Florida debacle of 2000 showed, the Republicans are also able to hold down the number of opposition votes, with complicity from Republican courts. Reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), may actually facilitate Republican intimidation of minority voters and reduce Democratic turnout. And the latest money-and-politics regime, nominally a reform, may give the right more of a financial advantage than ever.
Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive-branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election.
Taken together, these several forces could well enable the Republicans to become the permanent party of autocratic government for at least a generation."
... Is he exaggerating? Take a close look at the particulars.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Notice how it shot up under the wise tutelege of the pre(?)-Alzheimer's Reagan, leveled out with Billy Blowjobs in the Oval Office, and took off like a scalded dog again with W at the helm of the ship of state?
If they'd been Democrats, the Pubs would have screamed for their impeachment. Screamed I tell ya!
Thursday, January 22, 2004
SAT scores: Cathy Seipp properly criticizes an anti-SAT piece in the L.A. Times. I'm not an expert on the SAT, but to the best of my knowlege the Times op-ed has still more problems. Just for starters,
- Considering GPAs instead of SATs risks favoring students who go to schools where there's a great deal of grade inflation.
- Letting in the top 10% of each high school will let in students who are quite academically weak, but went to a high school where the other students are weaker.
- The result is not only bad for the intellectual quality of the college, but is also no service to the weaker students who will now find themselves at the bottom of the class, competing against others who are much more prepared for college.
- The SATs coupled with GPAs are actually quite good predictors of college performance, for all the criticism that the SAT has drawn, and to my knowledge are much better predictors than GPAs alone.
- That "white students score 206 points higher on average than nonwhites" on the SAT isn't a sign of bias in the SAT -- I am told that it actually slightly overpredicts college performance by black and Hispanic students -- but rather a sign of the unfortunate underpreparedness of many black and Hispanic high school graduates. This is a problem that needs attention, but letting in underprepared students into demanding college programs is probably not a solution.
Wesley Clark summed up whatвЂ™s going down in a recent campaign speech: вЂњWe've got veterans hospitals closing; weвЂ™ve got people who have to drive six hours to get a checkup; weвЂ™ve got veterans that are waiting six months to get an appointment ... thatвЂ™s not health care."
If elected, Clark promises to add $2 billion to the vet health-care budget. вЂњWeвЂ™ve got to fix the veteransвЂ™ issues here in America,вЂќ he said. вЂњWe're going to put the full funding we need to get the Veterans Affairs to meet our ... former service membersвЂ™ needs.вЂќ
Since 1996, the VAвЂ™s workload has increased from 3 million to 7 million vets without a comparable increase in operating funds. ThereвЂ™s presently neither the money nor the infrastructure to take care of all those who paid the hard price when Uncle Sam said, вЂњI want you.вЂќ Which is why the enrollment of thousands of eligible vets in the category designated as Priority Group 8 вЂ“ non-service disabled vets and those with incomes higher than $24,000 a year вЂ“ were dropped like a live grenade last year.
...or just keep screwing vets and see what happens to enlistments. Brrrrrr! Anybody else feel a draft?
"It was a good night for the [Tony] Blair Democrats in Iowa," said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. By "Blair Democrats," Mr. Marshall was referring to those Democrats who voted for the Iraq war, and conveyed "a toughness and resolve to face down America's enemies," but who believe the Bush team has mismanaged the project. This is so important because there has been no credible opposition to the Bush foreign policy since the Iraq war. Democrats have been intimidated either by Mr. Bush or by Mr. Dean. ...
To be successful, Democrats will need a candidate who understands three things (which Messrs. Kerry, Lieberman, Clark and Edwards do):
First, this notion, put forward by Mr. Dean and Al Gore, that the war in Iraq has diverted us from the real war on "terrorists" is just wrong. There is no war on "terrorism" that does not address the misgovernance and pervasive sense of humiliation in the Muslim world. Sure, Al Qaeda and Saddam pose different threats, Mr. Marshall notes, "but they emerge from the same pathology of widespread repression, economic stagnation and fear of cultural decline." Building a decent Iraq is very much part of the war on terrorism.
Second, sometimes smashing someone in the face is necessary to signal others that they will be held accountable for the intolerance they incubate. Removing the Taliban and Saddam sent that message to every government in the area.
Third, the Iraq war may have created more hatred of the U.S., but it has also triggered a hugely important dialogue among Arabs and Muslims about the necessity of reform."
... I'd like to see more evidence of that last one reported in the media.
The Conservative Case Against George W. Bush
THEME 1: Hate is stupid but criticism is not, and resentment of that criticism is shamefully hypocritical...
"Hatred of Bill Clinton never made sense. In contrast, anger was fully justified.
...Similarly, though George W. Bush is very different from Bill Clinton, hatred makes no sense. But anger is appropriate.
Much of the liberal case against President Bush is barely short of silly. His election was not illegitimate. Whether or not the candidate with the most votes should win, that's not what the U.S. Constitution says. Blame the Founders, not George W. Bush.
Complaints about Bush's fabled inarticulateness and privileged background are superficial. More worrisome are his partisan focus, demand for personal loyalty, and tendency to keep score, but these are hardly characteristics warranting hatred...
The tendency to hate, really hate, opposing politicians surely is not good for American democracy. It is not rational to hate George W. Bush, just as it was not rational to hate Bill Clinton. But after spending eight years hating Clinton, conservatives who complain about the Bush-haters appear to be hypocrites.
THEME 2: But this president deserves to be criticized. Sharply. By anyone who believes in limited, constitutional government.
First, George W. Bush, despite laudable personal and family characteristics, is remarkably incurious and ill read. Gut instincts can carry even a gifted politician only so far. And a lack of knowledge leaves him vulnerable to simplistic remedies to complex problems, especially when it comes to turning America into the globe's governess.
Second, despite occasional exceptions, the Bush administration, backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, has been promoting larger government at almost every turn.
...Third, President George W. Bush has made Woodrow Wilson the guiding spirit of Republican foreign policy. A candidate who criticized nation building is now pursuing global social engineering. "
..."Ironic, isn't it, Smithers? This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election. Yet if I were to have them killed, I'd be the one sent to jail! That's democracy for you."
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
-- how much will they carry over?
1. The U.S. made awesome gains in productivity
2. The U.S. began to massively export white-collar jobs
3. India emerged as a great economic power
4. Spam, worms and viruses threaten the Internet.
5. Hostile powers showed signs of softening to escape the U.S. hit list.
6. Japan on the rise.
7. Europe on the decline.
8. Republicans on a roll.
9. Mutual funds fell from grace.
10. Life expectancy continued to rise dramatically.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Why are Islamic societies still staggering in the cultural dark ages?
The US wears the mantle of Most Benevolent Superpower in History, primarily by virtue of being the most recent democracy to achieve that status (Britain's 19th Century empire providing the first case of superpower democracy and certainly the most benevolent superpower up til then).
As western civilization becomes more, well, civilized, each successive western superpower (I assume the US will not be the last) should continue the trend.
Islam continues to fail because Islam has not established self-correcting democracies. I think that's not an accident of history. Muslims have and continue to play the blame game. Where westerners in adversity often at least entertain the thought 'what did I do wrong?' Muslim culture will always find a way to pin their problems on someone else. The Culture of Victimization is a self-inflicted wound, and we know those are always the most painful.
As Muslim refusenik Irshad Manji writes, "Since Sept. 11, folks have been asking me, вЂњWhat does it take to whip a human being into the kind of frenzy that makes him a suicide bomber for God?вЂќ Because IвЂ™ve never equated fundamentalism with faith, I donвЂ™t understand it. Neither do most Muslims I know. But instead of acknowledging that thereвЂ™s a serious problem with the way our religion is practiced, even in cosmopolitan Canada, we romanticize Islam. The peer pressure to stay on message вЂ“ the message being that weвЂ™re not all terrorists вЂ“ seduces us into avoiding the most crucial of jihads: introspection."
Acknowledging and accepting responsibility for your problems is the first step in recovery.
'Each year the evidence becomes more striking that the center is falling out of American politics, at least in Congress, where Democrats increasingly reflect the party's more liberal wing and Republicans increasingly represent their party's most conservative tendencies.
Christie Whitman offers compelling arguments for the importance of rebuilding 'The Vital Republican Center' (NYT Op-Ed, Jan. 12). In particular, progressive, market-based environmental policies of the sort championed by President Bush's father remain a quintessential moderate Republican approach.
Why should Republicans abdicate responsibility for environmental protection and cede this potentially powerful political issue to Democrats? This makes as much sense as Democrats' sometime willingness to turn over the Bible and the American flag to their Republican rivals.
ROBERT N. STAVINS
Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 13, 2004
The writer is professor of business and government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
... Things fall apart, the center will not hold.
The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Unions are the result of robber baron capitalism oligopolies.
They have generally outlived their usefullness in the US, as evidenced by the continued decline in enrollments. Workers today have far more rights and choices than their forebears, and are as likely to end up as stockholders in the companies they work for as pensioners.
It can be argued that we still need unions or the threat of unions to keep the worst employers in line, but the real battle is primarily one of splitting the pie with foreign competition. For that, the only weapon is productivity.
Clark is a wounded decorated combat veteran. He accomplished what his superiors had said was too risky to try, i.e. take on the Serbs and win without losing a man.
I can understand disagreeing with his policies, but the hypocritical slander is just beyond me.
The ratio of poll respondents who reply with extremely good or extremely bad versus somewhat good or bad in their opinion of the President is the Polarity Index.
Readings historically are almost always in the 0.5 -1.0 range.
The Zogby poll this week has jumped from 1.4 in December to an astronomical 3+.
By comparison, Clinton's was 0.9 in September 1998.
Bush started with 0.8 in January '01.
...When it gets to 5, start stocking up on ammo. "
Friday, January 16, 2004
The arrest is particularly important as opening fire on activists in Palestine is becoming increasingly regular for the Israeli army. Last Friday Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition into a non-violent action [photos]. Gil Na'amati, an Israeli from the Anarchist Movement Against the Wall, and an American woman of the International Solidarity Movement were seriously injured. On 1 January the Israeli army fired over 100 rubber bullets aimed at people's heads during another demonstration. Approximately ten people were taken to the hospital and deportation orders were issued against four activists, including a Swedish MP.
Tom was shot in Rafah (Gaza, Palestine) in April last year while pulling away children out of the way of a tank. He is currently on life support in a London hospital. "
...Boy, how many times we gotta tell ya? NOT IN FRONT OF WITNESSES!
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Finalists: Michele Malkin, Joel Mowbray, William Safire, Andrew Sullivan.
And the winner is... Paul Krugman.
in Britain they have a parliamentary opposition but here we don't need that; we have Krugman.
Columnist of the Year
Finalists: David Brooks of the Times, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard.
And the winner is... Thomas Friedman.
A better award is rarely given... He tells about recently asking the editor of Ha'aretz why they run his column. "You're the only optimist we have," the editor replies.
Blogger of the Year
: Mickey Kaus, "a pioneer blogger who helped set the tone for the medium: sly, wry, knowing, and head of the news."
: Gawker, "a snarky New York-centric blog that snipes at big shots in media, politics, and showbiz -- has reinvigorated the stale art of gossip."
: Volokh, "a libertarian collective that excels at analyzing legal, political, and academic trends."
: Winds of Change, "always thoughtful, thorough, and full of links to things you'd probably never see on your own."
: And the winner for Blogger of the year is... Joshua Micah Marshall, author of TalkingPointsMemo.
The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
After long and careful thought, and after several years of watching the gross atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs, I have reluctantly concluded that the efforts of the United Nations and NATO in Bosnia are a complete failure.
I think your policy up to this date has been absolutely correct. We must give, and have given, this policy with our allies and with the United Nations every opportunity to work. It is evident, however, that the cost in human lives in allowing this policy to continue is too great. In addition, and perhaps more importantly for the United States, we are now in a position of ignoring, as many did in the 1940s, one of the worst crimes committed in history. If we ignore these behaviors, no matter where they occur, our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened. As the Catholic Church and others lost credibility during the Holocaust for not speaking out, so will the United States lose credibility and our people lose confidence in themselves as moral beings if the United States does not take action.
[here it comes...]
Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that [...wait for it...] we must take unilateral action.
While I completely agree with you that no ground troops should be committed for other than humanitarian purposes in Bosnia, I would ask that you take the following steps in Bosnia. First, lift the arms embargo as it applies to the Bosnian government. Second, enforce a full embargo of the sort that is now in effect in Iraq on the Bosnian Serbs and upon Yugoslavia. Third, break off diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. Fourth, commit American air power to support the Bosnian government until the situation is stabilized and the civilian murders and atrocities by the Bosnian Serbs have been stopped.
I understand the risks of this policy and their implications for the NATO Alliance and the future success of the United Nations. Surely, however, as you watch and read about the huge amount of unwarranted human suffering, particularly of children, you would agree that our current course must now be changed.
I urge you to make these changes as soon as possible, and I look forward to supporting your policy fully to the best of my ability.
Howard Dean, M.D.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
"....Argentina, once a showpiece for the new world order, quickly became a byword for economic catastrophe. So what? Those of us who have suggested that the irresponsibility of recent American policy may produce a similar disaster have been dismissed as shrill, even hysterical. (Hey, the market's up, isn't it?) But few would describe Robert Rubin, the legendary former Treasury secretary, as hysterical: his ability to stay calm in the face of crises, and reassure the markets, was his greatest asset. And Mr. Rubin has formally joined the coalition of the shrill.
In a paper presented over the weekend at the meeting of the American Economic Association, Mr. Rubin and his co-authors вЂ” Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution and Allan Sinai of Decision Economics вЂ” argue along lines that will be familiar to regular readers of this column. The United States, they point out, is currently running very large budget and trade deficits. Official projections that this deficit will decline over time aren't based on "credible assumptions." Realistic projections show a huge buildup of debt over the next decade, which will accelerate once the baby boomers retire in large numbers.
All of this is conventional stuff, if anathema to administration apologists, who insist, in flat defiance of the facts, that they have a "plan" to cut the deficit in half. What's new is what Mr. Rubin and his co-authors say about the consequences. Rather than focusing on the gradual harm inflicted by deficits, they highlight the potential for catastrophe.
"Substantial ongoing deficits," they warn, "may severely and adversely affect expectations and confidence, which in turn can generate a self-reinforcing negative cycle among the underlying fiscal deficit, financial markets, and the real economy. . . . The potential costs and fallout from such fiscal and financial disarray provide perhaps the strongest motivation for avoiding substantial, ongoing budget deficits." In other words, do cry for us, Argentina: we may be heading down the same road.
Lest readers think that the most celebrated Treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton has flipped his lid, the paper rather mischievously quotes at length from an earlier paper by Laurence Ball and N. Gregory Mankiw, who make a similar point. Mr. Mankiw is now the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, a job that requires him to support his boss's policies, and reassure the public that the budget deficit produced by those policies is manageable and not really a problem.
But here's what he wrote back in 1995, at a time when the federal deficit was much smaller than it is today, and headed down, not up: the risk of a crisis of confidence "may be the most important reason for seeking to reduce budget deficits. . . . As countries increase their debt, they wander into unfamiliar territory in which hard landings may lurk. If policymakers are prudent, they will not take the chance of learning what hard landings in [advanced] countries are really like."
The point made by Mr. Rubin now, and by Mr. Mankiw when he was a free agent, is that the traditional immunity of advanced countries like America to third-world-style financial crises isn't a birthright. Financial markets give us the benefit of the doubt only because they believe in our political maturity вЂ” in the willingness of our leaders to do what is necessary to rein in deficits, paying a political cost if necessary.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.
Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritcal goons ... priceless.
-- Josh Marshall "
The 56-page document written by Jeffrey Record, a veteran defense expert who serves as a visiting research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, represents a blistering assessment of what President Bush (news - web sites) calls the U.S. global war on terrorism.
Pentagon (news - web sites) officials on Monday said Record was entitled to his opinion, but reiterated Bush's view that Iraq is the 'central front' in the war on terrorism.
Record urged U.S. leaders to refocus Bush's broad war to target Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, and its allies. Record said the Iraq war was a detour from real anti-terrorism efforts.
Record criticized the Bush administration for lumping together al Qaeda and President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s Iraq 'as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.'
'This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action,' Record wrote.
'The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda,' R"
here is the link to the report < hpp > 01/12 14:42:27
"The author examines three features of the war on terrorism as currently defined and conducted: (1) the administration's postulation of the terrorist threat, (2) the scope and feasibility of U.S. war aims, and (3) the war's political, fiscal, and military sustainability. He believes that the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul. He calls for downsizing the scope of the war on terrorism to reflect concrete U.S. security interests and the limits of American military power."
Friday, January 09, 2004
Blowing up Israeli children won't bring peace and prosperity to Pals. They should open casinos in Gaza and move on.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
In a briefing for congressional staff and media on November 5, sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition, Dr. Patrick Michaels debunked many of the global warming myths that have made their way into public debate over the last decade. Climate models have consistently overestimated climatic warming, and new research has proved that mild warming will likely be beneficial to human beings and the planet, according to Dr. Michaels, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia
'The warming we are seeing is largely confined to the areas of Siberia and northwestern North America, and the vast majority of that occurs during the winter months,' Dr. Michaels explained. Accordingly, the most likely result of a predicted 1.5-degree increase in temperatures over the next 100 years will be slightly milder winters in Siberia and Northern Canada, hardly doomsday effects.
The current, rather mild, warming projections come from many of the same researchers that made the apocalyptic warming predictions of a decade ago. Climatologists around the world have been progressively revising their predictions downward as their models improve. 'It appears that the people who were the so-called вЂ�small band of skepticsвЂ™ must have had a point,' Dr. Michaels commented.
I'm holding a bake sale to buy body armor for our troops. Is there an address at DoD where I can send the proceeds and be sure it is all applied to that purpose?
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
The economy will be roaring along nicely and voters will give Bush the credit for stimulating the recovery.
Iraq will continue tottering towards democracy and policing themselves. At least one US division will be on boats for home. Voters will credit Bush for having accomplished a Good Thing, even if he backed into and for all the wrong reasons.
And Bush will have outspent his opponent by $100M.
'Palestinian (aka Displaced Arab) Groups Refuse U.S. Aid Because of Anti-Terrorism Pledge
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Palestinian aid groups have refused to accept money from the U.S. government because of a requirement they sign a pledge the money would not be used for terrorism, organizers said Monday.
..."How DARE you filthy pig-dog Zionist lap-dogs demand that we promise not to give the money, that you're giving us for free, to terrorists??!! That's OUTRAGEOUS!!' "
Monday, January 05, 2004
'TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, confronting jeering rightist hard-liners in his Likud party, vowed on Monday to pursue a unilateral plan to quit some occupied land and shorten security lines against Palestinians.
Die-hard rightists repeatedly disrupted Sharon's address to a party convention, furious both with the plan and his stated preference for a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict via a U.S.-backed 'road map' plan for Palestinian statehood.
'My disengagement plan is the best plan for our security. This is my plan and I will see it carried out,' Sharon declared to the raucous gathering of Likud's Central Committee.
He reiterated that Palestinians would wind up with much less territory if Israel enacted the separation measures than if they halted suicide bombings and other violence and negotiated permanent peace through the road map.'
... attaboy, Ariel. "
Sunday, January 04, 2004
1. prepare to compete with Habib, Wong, and Mahatma -- Educate the workforce (our HS grads rank behind almost all industrial nations, right in there with Nigeria)
2. Keep productivity gains coming. At the end of the day, it's productivity that determines how much a corporation can afford to pay you.
Of course sustained low interest rates make it much easier for companies to invest in those productivity enhancing plants and equipment.