Friday, February 27, 2004

Record-shattering gas prices seen as inevitable

BOHICA, baby!...

"Gas prices continue to surge as wild rumors of problems with more than half of the refineries supplying California continue to drive up the futures price on gasoline. Prices on the wholesale "rack" continue to exceed the retail prices being charged on the street. This means that as dealers run out of their current inventories of "cheap" $2.13 per gallon gas, they'll be forced to replace it with gasoline that costs ten to twenty cents per gallon more. It looks as though a news record high of more than $2.30 a gallon is inevitable..

It is evident that we are seeing a repeat of the same situation we saw this time last year: problems in Iraq, high oil prices, and the addition of ethanol to our fuel supply have given the California Refining Cartel the plausible cover they need to continue their gouging.
...Got a problem widdat?

What's goin on with the Solar Tower of Power?

most recent entry I found is 2 years old ....

Sun in the Forecast

The first commercial-scale solar power plants are up and
running. The price isn't competitive yet, but that goal is
getting closer all the time. A progress report
By Erika Check

April 8 issue - High in the Mojave Desert, 130
miles northeast of Los Angeles, lies a vast field
of mirrors. Crisscrossing rows of glass and
metal, glinting in the sunlight, cover a full
square mile of dirt. It's not some bizarre
fun-house experiment or a grotesque exhibit of
Hollywood vanity. It's a fully operational array
of power plants churning out an average of 180
megawatts of electricity, and offering a glimpse
of a world in which the grid's electricity comes
from the sun.

MOST PEOPLE THINK of solar power as a flat panel on every rooftop. But photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight to electricity, have limitations. They work fine when the sun is strong, but when the clouds roll in you’d better have batteries to run the TV and dishwasher. And even on the sunniest days the panels aren’t very well suited for cities, where roof space is limited. For decades, engineers have been working on ways to catch the sun over a broad area, concentrating it and using it to produce electricity on the same scale as centralized coal, hydro or nuclear power plants—hundreds of megawatts at a time. Several pilot plants have been operating in California, some for decades, but so far they haven’t had enough volume to force costs down to competitive levels.
That may soon change. Spain is drawing up plans for a pioneering 15-megawatt plant. South Africa, Italy, Australia and India are expected to follow with much larger plants capable of generating more than 100 megawatts each. If at least some of these projects are completed, costs could come down from the current 15 cents a kilowatt-hour for the Mojave plant to 8 cents per kwh in the next eight to 10 years, says Bill Gould, project manager for energy systems at Nexant, a renewable-energy firm. That would go a long way toward closing the gap with gas and oil, which now cost as little as 4 cents per kwh. “The first plants will be expensive,” says Craig Tyner of Sandia National Laboratories. “But as we build them the costs will come down.
The Mojave plant, owned by Kramer Junction Company (KJC), is one of the world’s first commercial solar power plants, with five Solar Electric Generating Systems (SEGS) supplying electricity to southern California. The basic component of a SEGS plant is a row of parabolic mirrors that reflect sunlight onto a pipe filled with oil. The oil heats up and is used to produce steam, which turns an electrical turbine. Assemble a few dozen rows of these trough-mirrors, and you’ve got capacity to generate 30 megawatts of power, enough for half a small town. The 180 megawatts from the five SEGS plants came in handy during California’s energy crisis last summer, when oil and gas prices shot up to 50 cents per kwh. “Suddenly, we were quite the deal,” says Scott Frier, KJC’s general manager. The problem with trough technology, though, is that the oil loses its heat too quickly. When the sun goes down, so does the power. SEGS require supplementary generators that run on natural gas at night and when it gets cloudy.
Within the next two years an international consortium, including the Spanish company Ghersa and Saint-Gobain of France, will break ground on a new plant called Solar Tres. Its design uses molten salt instead of oil. Since salt holds more heat longer than oil, it can drive turbines through the night. The technology has been demonstrated in a 10-megawatt pilot plant in the Mojave Desert. Concentric rings of mirrors direct sunlight up to a tank of molten salt. When the stuff is hot enough, some goes straight to a generator to produce steam, while the rest is stored for use at night. The 15-megawatt Solar Tres plant would be the first long-term commercial power production project that uses the tower design. Since the electricity is expected to be costly—close to 20 cents per kwh—the Spanish government plans to subsidize the plant.
The next big thing—dish systems—is already in the works. The building block of such a plant is a parabolic mirror, shaped like a satellite dish, that reflects sunlight onto a small generator suspended in front. The heat drives a turbine. Demonstration projects for dish systems are slated to go up later this year in both Arizona and South Africa. Theoretically a dish configuration would produce more energy per acre than other solar concentrating plants—that is, if engineers could figure out a good way of linking many dishes together.
Although the United States still sponsors most solar research, the biggest potential market is in dry, equatorial climates. Italy is spending .120 million to study how best to mine the Mediterranean sun. The World Bank has putting up $50 million for hybrid plants that use solar trough technology and natural gas in Egypt, India, Mexico and Morocco. What would really give solar plants a kick in the pants is a rise in oil and gas prices and a shortage of fossil fuels. Should that happen, it’s a safe bet the sun will still be shining.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Economist's Challenge Puzzles Free-Trade Believers

Outsourcing got you down?...

" if China ships cheap brassieres to the United States and 20,000 workers in U.S. bra factories lose their jobs, the lower prices for 100 million American women mean that "the gains to the multitude are greater than the loss to the displaced workers," he wrote in one of his Internet pieces. That is because the savings enable people to spend more money on other things, creating demand for other jobs, he said.

But the U.S. economy as a whole will suffer if bra manufacturers and other industries move overseas, according to Roberts, because so many workers would lose their jobs that "the loss of incomes outweighs the lower prices."

Mainstream trade experts contend that such a scenario is no more grounded in reality than past scares about mass job losses, which centered on "automation" in the 1950s and 1960s, "de-industrialization" in the 1980s, and the "giant sucking sound" of jobs moving to Mexico conjured up by Ross Perot during the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s. In each case, the limited job losses that occurred drove down costs and generated efficiencies that fueled increases in U.S. productivity -- the ultimate source of higher American living standards. Now that the big worry is outsourcing, the basic lesson of those episodes is being overlooked, said Brink Lindsey, director of trade policy studies at the Cato Institute.

... I agree with Cato boys but my concern here is not the change but the apparently accelerating rate of change and America's weakening resilience. My thesis is our culture is churning out hordes of what can charitably be described as second raters into an environment that increasingly needs (and rewards) the best & brightest.

It's a rotten deal compared to the relatively cushy prospects I had, but the long & short of it is you can't expect to keep getting $60K for doing something Habib & Lo Ping are willing to do for much less.

UN accounting shananigans even worse than ours

"I speak simply about the U.N.-supplied numbers on Oil-for-Food's operations. Over the past 18 months, I have periodically tried to get these figures to add up. I am starting to believe the words of an unusually forthright U.N. spokesman, who at one point told me, "They won't."

Basic integrity in bookkeeping seems little enough to ask of the U.N., where officials defending Oil-for-Food have been insisting that it wasn't their fault if Saddam was corrupt. They just did the job of meticulously recording the deals now beset by graft allegations, approving the contracts, and making sure the necessary funds went in and out of the U.N.-held escrow accounts. I'm sure there was some sort of logic to it. Though I have begun to wonder if maybe the same way the U.N. has its own arrangements for postal services and tax-exempt salaries, U.N. accounting has its own special system of arithmetic.

It all added up fairly neatly, of course, in the summary offered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when the U.N. turned over the remnants of Oil-for-Food to the Coalition Provisional Authority in November. Oil-for-Food, said Mr. Annan, had presided over $65 billion worth of Saddam's oil sales and in buying relief supplies had used "some $46 billion of Iraqi export earnings on behalf of the Iraqi people." (Keep your eye on those numbers.) In doing so, the U.N. secretariat had collected a 2.2% commission on the oil, which, even after a portion was refunded for relief operations, netted out to more than $1 billion for U.N. administrative overhead. The U.N. also collected a 0.8% commission to pay for weapons inspections in Iraq--including when Saddam shut them out between 1998 and 2002--which comes to another $520 million or so.

The keen observer will see that this adds up to payouts of just under $48 billion from Saddam's Oil-for-Food proceeds, which is about $17 billion less than what he took in. The difference is explained--near enough--by the $17.5 billion paid out of the same Oil-for-Food stream of Saddam's oil revenues but dispensed, under another part of the U.N. Iraq program, by the U.N. Compensation Commission to victims of Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. That gives us a grand total of $65 billion earned, and about $65 billion allocated for payments, all very tidy.

Except the U.N. Compensation Commission states on its Web site that oil sales under Oil-for-Food totaled not Mr. Annan's $65 billion, but "more than US$70 billion"--a $5 billion discrepancy in U.N. figures. A phone call to the UNCC, based in Geneva, doesn't clear up much. A spokesman there says the oil total comes from the U.N. in New York, and adds, helpfully, "Maybe it was an approximate figure, just rounded up."

OK, but in some quarters, if not at the U.N., $5 billion here or there is big money. Halliburton has been pilloried, and rightly so, over questions involving less than 1% of such amounts. One turns for explanation to the U.N. headquarters in New York, where a spokesman confirms that though the U.N. program ended last November, the former executive director of Oil-for-Food, Benon Sevan, is still on contract, still drawing a salary, but Mr. Sevan's secretary explains he is "not giving interviews anymore." The spokesman, also still on salary, answers all requests for clarification with "I don't know," and "You have the Web site."

All right. The Web site brings us a U.N. update issued Nov. 21, 2003, when the U.N. turned over the program to the CPA, which tells us that $31 billion worth of supplies and equipment had been delivered to Iraq, with another $8.2 billion in the pipeline. That comes to $39.2 billion. Again, even if you add in, say, $2 billion for U.N. commissions, that's still about $5 billion short of the $46 billion Mr. Annan says was used for supplies--which might make sense if the program at the end had been swimming in loose cash, except that Mr. Sevan was lamenting toward the end that there was not enough money to fund all the supply contracts he'd already approved.

Returning to the U.N. Web site, nothing there discloses the amount of interest paid during the course of the program on the Oil-for-Food escrow accounts. That should have been substantial, because these U.N.-managed Iraq accounts in the final phases of the program held balances of about $12 billion. Or so we've been told. I first got that number by phoning the U.N. back in September 2002. That was well before Mr. Sevan stopped giving interviews, and I spoke with Mr. Sevan himself. He told me the Oil-for-Food accounts at that point contained balances of about $20 billion. The next day, someone in his office revised that down to about $15 billion. Later that afternoon, someone in the U.N. controller's office revised that down to $9 billion. When I protested that these discrepancies were getting large, we ended up haggling over the phone for a while, and finally settled on an official total of about $12 billion in the Oil-for-Food accounts.

I'm still not sure what to believe, however, given that the U.N. treasurer, Suzanne Bishopric, assured me at the same time, in September 2002, and again in early 2003, that the accounts had been diversified among "five or six" banks, and to date we have still heard mention of only one--a French bank, BNP Paribas. So, in some fit of arithmetic absent-mindedness, did Ms. Bishopric lose track of the number of banks, confusing one with five or six?

It's a little hard to know whether oil sales were actually $65 billion or $70 billion, whether there were five or six banks or just one, whether at least that one bank, BNP, ever paid significant interest on balances that toward the end of the program totaled $20 billion or $15 billion or $9 billion or $12 billion, and whether humanitarian import contracts were funded to the tune of $39.2 billion or $46 billion. Mr. Annan assures us the program has been audited many times, even if it was done in confidence, in-house, backed up by member nations that may have had their own interests to consider, such as one of Saddam's favorite trading partners, France.
...Got a problem widdat?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Common Cause should get some sort of internet prize

if only for providing the best way to write your arguably elected federal officials (including your Rep, both Senators, and WH all at once):

enter your ZIP under Action Alert, pick "Compose Your Own Letter" and blast away

SCOTUS backs state's right to withhold funds for divinity schooling

but here's a foretaste of things to come: Note who the 2 dissenters are -- they will be joined by 3 like-minded induhviduals during W's next administration. (Thanks again, Dimmocrats & Nadirites, for the repeat demo of the Law of Unintended Consequences...)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — The Supreme Court ruled today, in a case watched by public officials and educators across the country, that the states can withhold public scholarship money from students pursuing religious studies.

The justices decided, 7 to 2, that Washington State had the right to deny scholarship aid to a college student who was studying to be a minister.

The majority rejected arguments that the exclusion of divinity students from the state's Promise Scholarship Program was an unconstitutional burden on the free exercise of religion.

The program "imposes neither criminal nor civil sanctions on any type of religious service or rite," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority. "It does not deny to ministers the right to participate in the political affairs of the community. And it does not require students to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit."

Rather, the chief justice wrote, "The state has merely chosen not to fund a distinct category of instruction."

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the dissenters, found that reasoning unpersuasive. "The indignity of being singled out for special burdens on the basis of one's religious calling is so profound that the concrete harm produced can never be dismissed as insubstantial," Justice Scalia wrote.

"Let there be no doubt," Justice Scalia wrote at another point. "This case is about discrimination against a religious minority."

The Washington State program awards scholarships on the basis of academic merit and financial need to students who attended accredited colleges in the state, including those with religious affiliations. But it excludes students pursuing degrees in devotional theology.

The case was Locke v. Davey, No. 02-1315, after Gov. Gary Locke and Joshua Davey, who studied religion at Northwest College, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. He did not become a minister, deciding instead to attend Harvard Law School.

Nader redux -- why that dude has zero chance

Nader won't win, regardless of his articulate stand on issues and not because he isn't better qualified. It really CAN'T be done. Every 3rd party effort in history has quickly withered away, and not by accident (although not by some conspiracy either) ...

PoliSci 101: as my son explained it, we have a two-party system not because it was INTENDED that way but because it IS that way, inherently. This style of political system will NEVER be other than that, as every single third party effort in our history attests. The most success a 3rd party can claim is a spoiler role in an attempt to blackmail one side or the other into paying more attention to their agenda.

That said, I support experiments with voting reform that would give third parties a bigger voice (but I would NOT pick presidential contests as the place to start such experiments). Cumulative and preference voting schemes look particularly interesting.

... update: I should have mentioned IRV --Instant Runoff Voting. This one is so simple I don't understand why 3rd party wannabes haven't conspired to at least get it put as an initiative on the CA ballot (Lord knows, we plenty more wacko initiatives than this).

Monday, February 23, 2004

Pentagon says climate change will destroy civilization < in_20_years!?>

Stick this in your Union of Concerned Scientists pipe and inhale ...,12374,1153530,00.html

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

NYT: Nader Does It Again

I joined the Nader group on yahoo
so I could post this there.

Ralph Nader Does It Again

Published: February 23, 2004

Four years ago, when people told Ralph Nader that his Green Party candidacy might split the Democratic vote and elect George W. Bush president, Mr. Nader said Al Gore and Mr. Bush were so much alike that it didn't really matter who won. The worst that could happen, he sometimes added, was that Mr. Bush would turn out to be far more conservative than expected. That would then mobilize Democrats and create a healthy new sense of urgency about progressive issues.
Well, four years later the Democrats are nothing if not mobilized. Yet Mr. Nader isn't satisfied. He's running again, this time as an independent, to the horror of both friends and critics. It was Mr. Nader, they say, who drained votes away from Mr. Gore in critical states like Florida and New Hampshire, throwing the White House to Mr. Bush. The idea that he's prepared to do it again has made them both terrified and furious.

Their concern seems overblown. If Mr. Nader didn't learn anything from the 2000 election, the voters certainly did. People might have voted for him once under the impression that sending a message was more important than picking the next president. We doubt very much that they will make the same mistake twice.
So much has happened in the last four years that it's hard to remember how low the stakes seemed when Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were running. The country was at peace and prosperous. The big issue in Washington was what to do with the budget surplus. Mr. Gore kept changing his message and Mr. Bush was promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Both men knew from their polling that victory would belong to the one who captured the affections of a small number of wavering voters in a few states, and both tried desperately to come up with the fuzzy, centrist message to win them over.

It's not surprising that in 2000 many people thought they could afford to express their irritation with a vote for Mr. Nader. If they did that again this November, it would be a repudiation of the Democratic nominee so thorough that the party would certainly have bigger problems than third-party candidates to worry about.

The most regrettable thing about Mr. Nader's new candidacy is not how it is likely to affect the election, but how it will affect Mr. Nader's own legacy. Ralph Nader has been one of the giants of the American reform movement. His crusades for consumer rights and product safety alone should earn him a place in history. But he has always been an outsider, and his candidacy in 2000 seemed fueled by bitterness at the way he had been marginalized in Democratic politics. His anger is understandable, but it would be a tragedy if Mr. Nader allowed it to give the story of his career a sad and bitter ending.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Which is a bigger threat to the institution of marriage?

(a) a hundred thousand gay weddings by 2014

(b) twelve million more hetero divorces with 20 million more children to be raised in single-parent households?

I guess gays are just gonna make bad things worse ...

Can Nader Tap the Anger of the Dean Machine?

Can he tap in? Of course he can, at least to the tune of a couple of
percentage points, which is all Dubya needs. The problem is that by
giving another term to Dubya, Nader guarantees 3 more far right seats
on the Supreme Court and the continued favorable treatment of oil by
a one-party government of the kleptocrats, by the kleptocrats, and
for the kleptocrats.

The upshot of Nader's quixotic repeat of his self-defeating 2000
effort will be to ensure that the looting of our natural resources
will accelerate beyond anything we've seen in living memory. This is
going to the Mother of All Self-Inflicted Wounds.

Having seen the catastrophic results of his last run, how could
anyone in their right mind turn around and do it again? Do Greens
really see no difference between Dubya and the Dems?

I guess I'm not surprised, simply appalled.

BOHICA, baby. Here comes Ralphieboy's Self-Inflicted Wound Train II

Unbef***inglievable. Not only did Ralphieboy cripple the country
with his EgoTrip 2000 campaign, after SEEING the results with his own
eyes he's gonna give the country to Dubya again! He's either on the
payroll or the biggest damn fool in American political history.
Better strap in, it's gonna be a long year.

Qs for Dr L :

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to
people who call in to her radio show. Recently she said that
homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22,
and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The
following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a US resident, which
was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative.
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have
learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with
as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly
states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other
specific laws and how to follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord -- Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They
claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus
21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness -- Lev. 15:19-24. The problem is, how do
I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of
mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you
clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill
him myself?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination -- Lev. 11:10-- it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
I don't agree. Can you settle this?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a
defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my
vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different
crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two
different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse
and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble
of getting the whole town together to stone them? -- Lev.24:10-16.
Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do
with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you
can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Bush's administration distorts scientific findings

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's administration distorts scientific findings and seeks to manipulate experts' advice to avoid information that runs counter to its political beliefs, a private organization of scientists asserted on Wednesday.

The Union of Concerned Scientists contended in a report that "the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented."

"We're not taking issue with administration policies. We're taking issue with the administration's distortion ... of the science

...Among the examples cited in the union's report:

• A 2003 report that the administration sought changes in an Environmental Protection Agency climate study, including deletion of a 1,000-year temperature record and removal of reference to a study that attributed some of global warming to human activity.

• A delay in an EPA report on mercury pollution from some power plants.

• A charge that the administration pressed the Centers for Disease Control to end a project called "Programs that Work," which found sex education programs that did not insist only on abstinence were still effective.

You know things are bad when

the pilot says "we're turning back due to mechanical troubles" to AVOID upsetting the passengers...

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Law enforcement agents were questioning two passengers who were removed from a Moroccan-bound jetliner that was diverted to Bangor, officials said Friday.

The Royal Air Morac flight, which had left New York's Kennedy International Airport Thursday evening, resumed its trip to Casablanca early Friday after it was refueled and the remaining passengers were rescreened.

The FBI identified one of the removed passengers as 27-year-old investment banker Zubiar Ali Ghias, who had been reported missing to Chicago police last Saturday.

The second passenger, whose name was not released, was sitting next to Ghias, Bangor police Sgt. James Owens said.

Bangor police removed both from the flight and took them to the FBI's Bangor office, Owens said. Neither was under arrest, he said.

Tony Caruso, assistant director of Bangor International Airport, also said two people were removed from the flight.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said she knew only that Ghias was talking to federal agents but that it was possible other passengers were being questioned. "It would make sense that we would interview a number of people," she said.

Ghias was cooperating with the continuing investigation, she said.

Flight 201 had 92 people aboard before it was diverted, landing in Bangor about four hours after it took off, Marcinkiewicz said.

It was not immediately clear why the plane was diverted.

Caruso said the pilot first told passengers that the Boeing 767 had mechanical troubles "so the passengers wouldn't get upset."

Behind those inflation molehills is a mountain

of debt -- within 15 years Social Security IOUs will start to come due faster than the current workforce can keep up and payments on the national debt will double as deficits continue to mount and interest rates creep up past 7%. Coupled with projected Medicare benefit increases, it will cost a TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR just to make these payments, resulting in either SOARING debt and/or HUGE TAX increases and/or SLASHED benefits.

Economic disaster looms that will put inflation worries in the deep shade.

Social Sec TrusteesReport: "The major demographic transformation that is fast approaching will have profound fiscal and economic consequences that reach far beyond Social Security alone. Between 2000 and 2040, the cost of the three major senior benefit programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) is due to double relative to the size of the economy, from 7.6 to 15.5 percent of GDP. To get an idea of the magnitude of this number, consider that 15.5 percent of GDP is about three-quarters of what we now devote to the entire budget. Absent reform, all other government spending will have to be slashed or taxes will have to be raised to unprecedented levels"

Remember, there IS NO trust fund, just IOUs. Why did the national debt increase every year during the Clinton administration? Because we transferred the "trust fund" receipts to the current account. It's like carrying a loan on the books as an asset -- talk to Arthur Andersen about that.

Surging payments on Dubya's incredible exploding deficits at increasing interest rates + repayments of trust fund IOUs on demand as boomers retire + Medicare = trillion dollar hole in the budget.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

debunked: profiteering on WTC attacks

Just stumbled over this underreported item ...

September 19, 2003

Somewhere out there are hedge funds or individual investors who profited from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But they had no foreknowledge of the catastrophes, an FBI spokesman said Thursday.

Spokesman Ed Cogswell said the FBI has closed its investigation of stock and option trading that took place days before the attacks. He said the investigation turned up "absolutely no evidence'' of anyone with inside knowledge of what would happen.

Only in America

"... The 14-year-old hated violence and gangs -- he preferred baseball, football and tennis or playing pool and video games.

A year ago, he joined the group Brothers Against Guns, which teaches alternatives to violence.

But the gun violence he shunned somehow found him in his family's own home, where David was accidentally shot to death"

...happens every day.

Several times a day.

In America.

What this election should be about

but the media continues to tiptoe around ...

One Party Rule by Kleptocracy

'Remember when the idea of having a CEO vice president was a campaign selling point? Now we see that the only thing being sold is the public good. Exhibit A is the way Cheney's corporate cronies at Halliburton have benefited from having a friend in the very highest of places.


The latest outrage came with this week's revelation that Halliburton has consistently over billed the Pentagon for meals at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait. According to auditors, the Pentagon paid the company $16 million for nearly four million meals that were never served. And Camp Arifjan is just one of over 50 dining facilities in Kuwait and Iraq the company serves....

This phantom-food fiasco comes fast on the heels of news that two Halliburton employees had pocketed over $6 million dollars in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor пїЅ which had followed fast on the heels of accusations the company had overcharged the government more than $100 million for gasoline.

Pardon me for bringing this up, but shouldn't that be three strikes and you're out? Instead, we get yet another example of how there are two sets of rules in our country пїЅ one for the elites (and the former companies of the elites) and one for everybody else. When caught with its hand in the taxpayer-funded cookie jar, Halliburton doesn't get tossed in the brig for life; it merely apologizes, pays back the money it has pilfered, and goes on to win another hefty cost-plus contract.

Despite this avalanche of sleazy profiteering and corporate misconduct, Cheney stubbornly insists on defending his erstwhile "

If Electability Were Really Important...

Why would Dimmocrats settle for another Massachussetts liberal?

* Americans for Democratic Action - which compiles a standard lefty ranking of congressional votes - gives Kerry a 93 percent lifetime rating, but grants Kennedy a lifetime score of "only" 88 percent.

* The non-partisan Congressional Quarterly noted that Kerry voted against the Bush administration more often than Kennedy: Kerry, 70 percent of the time - Kennedy, "just" 53 percent.

In many respects, of course, Kerry and Kennedy are ideological soulmates: CQ found that Kerry managed to vote with Kennedy 93 percent of the time.

And that's on average. On votes CQ labels "key," Kerry has voted with Kennedy every time in 11 of the last 19 years.

Sure looks like marching in lockstep with Ted Kennedy any time it really matters.

CQ also notes that on several key foreign policy votes last year, Kerry was more liberal than either Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle or New York's own Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kerry and Kennedy still look like twins when veiwed from the other end of the spectrum: In 2000, each drew a mere 12 percent rating from the American Conservative Union; the next year, 4 percent.

But this only tells part of the tale.

Kerry's flip-flopping on the Iraq war is "consistent" with what he has done throughout most of his career: Flip - then flop.

Of course, he did that with the Vietnam War: Months of admirable service; then, back in the United States, years of leading activists in protest against the war.

Kerry voted against the Gulf War in 1991, then voted for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002.

Then, after voting to go to war, he voted against the $87 billion in troop support and country rebuilding (while in essence saying he regretted voting for the war in the first place).

... am I missing something?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage were summoned to a closed-door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss how the U.S. contracting system is working in Iraq.

When Wolfowitz was asked a tough question about the controversies surrounding the U.S. contracting efforts in Iraq, he turned to Armitage and said: "You can answer that one, right, Rich?" Armitage answered by noting that the Department of Defense and the Office of the Secretary of Defense control every American contract let in Iraq, and that the State Department has authority over none of those contracts.

...He forgot to add "Got a problem widdat?"

Dubya's best line ever

'I want to send the signal to our enemy that you have aroused a compassionate and decent and mighty nation, and we're going to hunt you down.'
-- Sep. 5, 2002 "

Banks outsource, Ameridiots foam

... two-thirds of U.S. Banks outsource work to developing, low-cost countries such as India, China and Russia.

In Europe, HSBC, ABN AMRO and Deutsche Bank have been among the companies to shift work overseas. Western banks have outsourced IT work, human resources work, securities back office processing and some research.

The BofA CEO responds: 'Given the choice between hiring American functional illiterates for $60K or a Hindu with real English skills for half that, it was a no-brainer (no pun intended).'

Supreme indifference Supreme indifference :

"Scalia's flip attitude suggests he values his leisure time with cronies more than the reputation of the Supreme Court
If U.S. Supreme Court justices regularly went on hunting trips or spa vacations with plaintiffs or defendants appearing before them, they would no longer be seen as the law of the land.
They'd be seen, rightly, as a random gaggle of people who put their personal lives above the long-term credibility of the nation's judicial system.
They might even be seen as quacks.
Justice Antonin Scalia finally responded publicly this week to calls for him to recuse himself from a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney's use of executive-branch powers. Three weeks after the court accepted this case, Scalia accepted a ride on Air Force Two and went on a private duck-hunting trip with the vice president.
'This was a government issue,' Scalia told a large group at Amherst College on Tuesday night, while indicating he would not recuse himself. 'It's acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack.' "

Eye on Halliburton

from Common Cause...

"We are now asking CEO David Lesar, to pledge to the American people that Halliburton will improve its stewardship of the $1.2 billion contract to rebuild Iraq. We are also asking that Halliburton close its offshore subsidiaries that allow it to skirt paying its fair share of taxes and to trade with nations under U.S. sanctions.

Eye on Halliburton

When Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, the company enjoyed lucrative business relationships with countries under U.S. and international sanctions, including Iraq, Iran and Libya – the first two later dubbed part of the “Axis of Evil” by President Bush.


Halliburton was a key partner in building Iraq’s oil industry during the reign of Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney helped devise the economic embargo against Iraq. Four years later, Cheney became CEO of Halliburton and promised to maintain a hard line against Baghdad. But in 1998, Halliburton acquired Dresser Industries, which was exporting equipment to Iraq through two subsidiary companies. Dresser continued to export to Iraq for nearly a year under Cheney, and former executives said they never heard any objections – from Cheney or any other Halliburton official – to trading with Baghdad.


In 1984 Halliburton began work in Libya on a maze of underground pipes named the Great Man-Made River Project, which Libya said was an irrigation system. When Congress imposed sanctions on Libya in the mid-1990’s, Halliburton sidestepped the sanctions by transferring the work being done to its British office. In 1997, The New York Times reported that three engineers working on the project said Libya’s official explanation for the tunnels was improbable. They noted that the size of the pipes and their proximity to Libya’s borders made it more useful as a way to move troops underground and undetected by neighboring nations.


Halliburton began supplying oil equipment to Tehran in the mid-1990’s despite continued sanctions against Iran. Halliburton, with Cheney as top executive, again evaded the sanctions by using a foreign subsidiary to conduct business with Iran."

Ashcroft sued by Detroit Assistant US Attorney

Politics - World - s.f. bayarea forums - craigslist: "ashcroft payback < you_bastard > 02/18 07:04:43

You've probably already heard the story of Richard Convertino, the Assistant US Attorney from Detriot who's just sued John Ashcroft for 'gross mismanagement' and various bad acts stemming out of a counter-terrorism case in Detriot.

Convertino also accused Justice officials of intentionally divulging the name of one of his confidential terrorism informants (CI) to retaliate against him.

The leak put the informant at grave risk, forced him to flee the United States and 'interfered with the ability of the United States to obtain information from the CI about current and future terrorist activities,' the suit alleges. "

Monday, February 16, 2004

Saddam had to go,

Look who said so:

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and
developing weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are
confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
- Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years,
every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and
destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do"
- Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002 - Bush focuses on economy in Florida - Feb. 16, 2004

Let the deluge of photo ops and sound bites begin: - Bush focuses on economy in Florida - Feb. 16, 2004: "Before his remarks at NuAir, Bush walked an assembly line staffed with workers busily wiping windows newly attached to frames. The president, wearing goggles, picked up a tool briefly and then mingled with employees. One, whom he hugged, told him 'I love you' in Spanish.
But just after Bush left to take the stage for a 'conversation' with NuAir executives, employees and local business leaders, the line was deserted. " - Bush focuses on economy in Florida - Feb. 16, 2004

Let the deluge of photo ops and sound bites begin: - Bush focuses on economy in Florida - Feb. 16, 2004: "Before his remarks at NuAir, Bush walked an assembly line staffed with workers busily wiping windows newly attached to frames. The president, wearing goggles, picked up a tool briefly and then mingled with employees. One, whom he hugged, told him 'I love you' in Spanish.
But just after Bush left to take the stage for a 'conversation' with NuAir executives, employees and local business leaders, the line was deserted. "

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Arab Editorial: Backtracking on the Mideast

Editorial: Backtracking on the Mideast: "On the heels of SharonпїЅs announcement, the prime ministerпїЅs office revealed that the plan involved transferring Gaza evacuees to the West Bank to пїЅconsolidateпїЅ settlements such as Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, Ariel near Nablus, and Gush Etzion south of Bethlehem. The price, therefore, of evacuation would be the annexation of several large settlement blocs in the West Bank. This is a recipe for a takeover of most of the territories of the West Bank. The United States is not blind to this development. Powell has asked where the Gaza settlers will go and how settlement activity in the West Bank will be affected. But he has also told the lawmakers that the Middle East impasse may be broken by SharonпїЅs proposal to withdraw virtually all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and that the US team would follow up on some of the ideas put forward by Sharon. It can only mean that Washington is interested. Although the White House has publicly voiced opposition to transferring Gaza settlers to the West Bank, the language being used in private suggests that Washington is doing another about-face, one that is extremely troubling. "

Saturday, February 14, 2004

What this election should be about

(but will almost certainly continue to tiptoe around) is the looming economic disaster ...

The trade deficit jumped unexpectedly to a near record $42B for December. (I remember when $42B was a bad year.) The annual costs of social security IOU repayments and servicing the exploding debt will approach a trillion by the end of the decade. Given our current (and already hemorrhaging) budget of 1.4 trillion, how will we pay to keep our fighters in the air and our ships out of mothballs, much less pay for highways and veterans benefits, while jobs continue to emmigrate overseas?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Muslim dean: 'America Has Changed the World for the Better'

Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at the University of Qatar, wrote an article titled 'What Do We Demand From America?' in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. The following are excerpts from the article : [1]

"Has the world become better two years after the September 11 disaster as a result of change in the American policy toward fighting terrorism within its own territories and as a result of using armed force in order to eliminate dictatorial regimes connected with terrorist activity?

"Of course, there are those who think that the situation has become worse, and that America is using the war on terror and [the idea of] spreading democracy as a pretext for unrestrained hegemony, empire creation, and expansion in the world in disregard of international law or the principles of morality. The problem with this approach is that it sees half of the picture – the half-empty glass … and focuses only on the negative traits of America because of the widespread media distortion of [America's] image that prevails in our countries.

"But what about the other half of the picture… America's positive deeds surpass its negative deeds… America has done many positive things and changed the world for the better. It is enough that it freed the world of many dictatorial regimes… Some claim that it did not succeed in establishing democracy in place of the regimes that it toppled, but in some cases it did succeed, and the most outstanding examples are in Germany and Japan…

"Let us imagine the world if America had listened to the French and German logic saying: Give the murderers of the Serbs and the Arabs a chance for a diplomatic solution. Would Bosnia, Kuwait, and Iraq be liberated [today]…?

"Let us describe the situation of the Arabs, and especially of Iraq, had America listened to the European council that said: Democracy is not suited to the Arabs, their culture is contrary to it. Leave the backward ones alone to consume each other…

"See now how many countries are turning towards democracy. Even Afghanistan has a constitution. In Iraq, [they are drafting] a new constitution and handing over the regime, and Libya has changed…

"What are the lessons to be learned from this?

"First, the tyrants don't leave until bombs fall. The peoples alone are not capable of struggling with dictatorial regimes except with powerful external help…

"Second, America needs to further encourage the democratic trend and reward the countries that have succeeded in the area of political, social, and economic reform, with aid, support, investment, and free trade agreements…

"The other problem is terrorism. We have suffered from terror and we cannot get rid of it. If terror had not struck within America we would not be able to fight it. It is true that America transferred the war to the terrorists' own territories rather than waiting [until they struck]…

"But might alone is not enough. Terrorism has an ideological and cultural base that must be dismantled, and therefore America needs to encourage the countries to reexamine their educational systems in full – not only the curriculum – and must give financial and professional aid in developing the educational system…

"Our third demand of America is connected to the Palestinian problem and to improving the image of America, since the [Arab] media focuses on the negative aspects of America and does not mention its positive face. The media help vilify the image of America and increase hatred for it, but it is not acting in a vacuum. America's bias in favor of Israel provides fertile ground for blackening the image of America in the Arab and Muslim public awareness … and as the emir of Qatar said… We call on America to view our problems with greater balance, justice, and honesty. This is what will improve its image in the Arab and Islamic world…"

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Who DO you think is gonna clean this mess up?

I can almost hear the exasperation in my mother's voice. The party is about over and not only is nobody taking responsibility for the economic mess (no big surprise) but neither are they even acknowledging the very real potential for economic disaster...

None of the candidates seem to appreciate the enormity of the debt tsunami bearing down on our economy. What will the explosion in debt servicing costs stemming from the aggregated (aggravated?) Dubya Deficits do to the budget on top of Social Security trust fund IOUs coming due? ... and let's not fool ourselves, the debt rose every year of the Clinton administration too, "surplus" years or no -- (gee, how did THAT happen?)

As annual debt servicing costs and those pesky IOU payments climb towards a trillion while jobs continue to float overseas, who can say what the impact will be? Given what a little economic downturn in Asia did a few years back, you might expect it to get pretty ugly just about everywhere in about ten years.

Even GOP folk are breaking ranks on this one (among other faith-based neocon initiatives).

"The Republican Party took control of Congress with the 1994 Republican Contract with America on the idea that government "is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." Almost a decade later, with control of the White House, the Republicans in power have turned around and created the largest budget and deficits this county has ever seen. At a time when this country needs a sound fiscal policy, President Bush has led the path away from fiscal conservatism, and Republicans in Congress and across the country have followed. Conservatives have blindly followed Bush away from what used to be one of their pillars, low government spending and a balanced budget."

"Republicans are swiftly forfeiting the perception that they are especially responsible stewards of government finances. It is surreal for a Republican president to submit a budget to a Republican-controlled Congress and have Republican legislators vow to remove the "waste" that he has included and that they have hitherto funded...
In the last year of Bush's second term, or of John Kerry's first, the first of 77 million baby boomers will begin to retire, and to bankrupt Social Security and Medicare as currently configured.

Bush, unlike Kerry, has admirably bold plans for meeting these predictable crises, which are his generation's greatest domestic challenges. But these plans involve complexities and responsibilities that the public will fathom and accept only if they are explained by a president whom the public believes speaks judiciously and knows things, including what he does not know.

Furthermore, this president's plan for reforming Social Security, which involves allowing individuals to invest a portion of Social Security taxes in approved private accounts, will have large transition costs. Large deficits of the sort currently occurring may become a reason, or at least an excuse, for further delaying reform. "

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

For Bush, It's Game Time

A classic

For Bush, It's Game Time
By George F. Will
Sunday, February 8, 2004

After this winter of his discontent, the president needs spring training. He is far from midseason form, and his accumulating errors are undermining the premise of his reelection campaign, which is: Wartime demands hard choices and sacrifices, and a president who is steady, measured and believable.

Rhetorical carelessness and overreaching began before the war, when various administration officials ignored Mark Twain's warning that the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning bug and lightning. It would have been much better if the president and others, speaking about Iraqi weapons, had said "we believe" rather than "we know."

After the war, in May, on Polish television, President Bush said, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. You know, we found biological laboratories." No, we did not. "So what's the difference?" said the president in December about the failure to find WMDs, because "if [Saddam Hussein] were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." Such casualness, which would be alarming in any president, is especially so in one whose vaulting foreign policy ambitions have turned his first term into Woodrow Wilson's third term, devoted to planting democracy and "universal values" in hitherto inhospitable places.

Once begun, leakage of public confidence in a president's pronouncements is difficult to stanch. This president's certitude that $400 billion "is enough to meet our commitments" for 10 years under the new Medicare prescription drug entitlement was followed by a one-third upward revision of the estimate. Especially dismaying was the fact that the president seemed not to know -- or, worse, care -- that an inherent problem with vast welfare state expansions is that no one can know crucial variables, such as, in this instance, the number of people choosing to participate and the coming menu of new drugs.

Republicans are swiftly forfeiting the perception that they are especially responsible stewards of government finances. It is surreal for a Republican president to submit a budget to a Republican-controlled Congress and have Republican legislators vow to remove the "waste" that he has included and that they have hitherto funded.

The president does indeed propose killing 65 programs and substantially curtailing 63. But even if Congress fully complies, which it won't, the savings would be just $4.9 billion -- a rounding error in a $2.4 trillion budget. That $4.9 billion would pay less than six days' interest on the national debt.

Two post-1945 elections -- one a landslide, one a cliffhanger -- produced dramatic spending surges. Lyndon Johnson's 1964 rout of Barry Goldwater created in Congress the first liberal legislating majority since 1938. Pent-up liberal demands produced, among much else, Medicare. There is no such obvious explanation for the spending surge since 2000, other than the possibility that deficits are one way "compassionate conservatism" defines itself.

One reason for wanting Bush to win a second term is that the 22nd Amendment, by precluding third terms, makes some matters "second term issues" -- those too difficult to address while seeking reelection. In the last year of Bush's second term, or of John Kerry's first, the first of 77 million baby boomers will begin to retire, and to bankrupt Social Security and Medicare as currently configured.

Bush, unlike Kerry, has admirably bold plans for meeting these predictable crises, which are his generation's greatest domestic challenges. But these plans involve complexities and responsibilities that the public will fathom and accept only if they are explained by a president whom the public believes speaks judiciously and knows things, including what he does not know.
Furthermore, this president's plan for reforming Social Security, which involves allowing individuals to invest a portion of Social Security taxes in approved private accounts, will have large transition costs. Large deficits of the sort currently occurring may become a reason, or at least an excuse, for further delaying reform.
So far, the president's difficulties have been partially obscured by the sheer silliness of the Democrats seeking to replace him, all of whom want to run William Jennings Bryan's fourth campaign. Bryan lost three times, but today they are all prairie populists, even the fellow from Boston's Beacon Hill, inveighing against "special interests." That category, although capacious, does not encompass trial lawyers, teachers unions and hundreds of other Democratic clients, including Iowa beneficiaries of ethanol subsidies.

But if the president is to win a second term, and if it is to be worth winning, he must begin again to speak plainly and accurately, not just less foolishly than the make-believe Bryans.

В© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Noonan breaks ranks -- not

Watching our Fearless Leader on Sunday, I was fairly certain that the audience reaction would split fairly evenly along the national polarization boundary. The half that still approved of his performance would not be particularly dismayed at his inarticulate, meandering responses; the half that don't would be further convinced of his mediocrity. I was surprised to hear that such a luminary as Peggy Noonan was breaking ranks and pointing out the dearth of the emporer's Sunday apparel.

The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event. When he was thrown the semisoftball question on his National Guard experience--he's been thrown this question for 10 years now--he spoke in a way that seemed detached. "It's politics." Well yes, we know that. Tell us more.

That particular paragraph has already traveled far and wide. What has been largely ignored is the dozen paragraphs of "but, so what" that followed, e.g.:

Mr. Bush is as bright as John Kerry, just as Mr. Reagan was as bright as Walter Mondale, who was very good at talking points. They all are and were intelligent. Yet neither Mr. Bush's interviews and press conferences nor Mr. Reagan's suggested anything about what they were like in the office during a crisis: engaged, and tough. It's something else.

Bottom line, nobody seems to have changed their mind last Sunday.

Nor does anyone seem to understand what the explosion in the debt from the aggregated Dubya Deficits on top of Social Security trust fund IOUs coming due is going to do the budget. As debt servicing starts climbing towards a trillion a year, it won't be pretty here. It may get pretty ugly everywhere else.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Dangers of Public Economic Illiteracy

Economists are alarmed that ordinary people do not understand how
their economy works. How can the country operate the right economic
policies, they ask, if most voters systematically have the wrong ideas? A
survey taken at the height of the long economic boom asked the same
questions of economics PhDs and a cross-section of the public. They agreed
on hardly anything, except that people needed to save more and that
inadequate education and training were damaging the economy.

The public was convinced that the economy
was suffering from high taxes, excess public spending, too much foreign aid,
too many immigrants, and having too many people drawing welfare benefits.
Economists did not rate any of those much of a problem.

The public saw high business profits, executives paying themselves too much,
technology displacing people and companies restructuring as detrimental to
the economy. To the economists, none of these were bad and some were good.
Ominously, the public said that freer trade costs American jobs while
economists are convinced that it creates more. Worst of all, ordinary people
were convinced that they had become worse off over the previous two decades
while the income and output statistics relied on by the economists showed
precisely the opposite.

Bryan Caplan, of George Mason University, has analysed why voters and economists are at odds. It is not because economists have safe, well-paid jobs. Other wealthy folk agree with the rest of the public. Nor is it that the economists are all free market
ideologues. Most are left of center.

Sheer ignorance and prejudice is to blame, the professor concludes. Surely
it is no coincidence that the average American thinks anything involving
foreigners hurts the economy.


OK, Dems, time to wake up and think:

Which ad theme is going to appeal to swing voters:

"Bush lied, Americans died"


"Think about what was going on in Iraq a year ago with people being tortured, rape rooms, mass graves, gross corruption, a country that has used chemical weapons against its own people"

Despite what appeals to the party faithful voting in the primaries, come November I think more swing voters will accept the second. Granted the first makes a better sound bite, but it is actually possible to underestimate the intelligence of the average American. When pressed, he has been known to actually exercise critical thought on major issues. In these cases, simplistic slogans will turn him off.

Better strap in, kids -- it's gonna be a long year.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The CIA bends over to please

"Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons of mass destruction."

Currently serving intelligence officials may deny that they faced any pressure - after what happened to Valerie Plame, what would you do in their place? - but former officials tell a different story. The latest revelation is from Britain. Brian Jones, who was the Ministry of Defense's top W.M.D. analyst when Tony Blair assembled his case for war, says that the crucial dossier used to make that case didn't reflect the views of the professionals: "The expert intelligence experts of the D.I.S. [Defense Intelligence Staff] were overruled." All the experts agreed that the dossier's claims should have been "carefully caveated"; they weren't.

And don't forget the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, created specifically to offer a more alarming picture of the Iraq threat than the intelligence professionals were willing to provide.

Can all these awkward facts be whited out of the historical record? Probably. Almost surely, President Bush's handpicked "independent" commission won't investigate the Office of Special Plans. "

Where the hell did these deficits come from!?

"The fiscal 2005 budget report admits that this year's expected $521 billion deficit belies the rosy forecasts of 2001. But the report offers an explanation: stuff happens. 'Today's budget deficits are the unavoidable result of the revenue erosion from the stock market collapse that began in early 2000, an economy recovering from recession and a nation confronting serious security threats.' Sure, the administration was wrong - but so was everyone.

The trouble is that accepting that excuse requires forgetting a lot of recent history. By February 2002, when the administration released its fiscal 2003 budget, all of the bad news - the bursting of the bubble, the recession, and, yes, 9/11 - had already happened. Yet that budget projected only a $14 billion deficit this year, and a return to surpluses next year. Why did that forecast turn out so wrong? Because administration officials fudged the facts, as usual.

I'd like to think that the administration's crass efforts to rewrite history will backfire, that the media and the informed public won't let officials get away with this. "

... don't hold yer breath, Paul.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Why the 9/11 Investigation Must Go Forward

[Bush believes if you stall long enough people will lose interest. I haven't. I am a patient man...]

Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush
by Gail Sheehy

This concerns the refusal of the country's leadership to be held accountable for
the failure to execute its most fundamental responsibility.

This column ran on page 1 in the 8/25/2003 edition of The New York Observer.

In mid-June, F.B.I. director Robert Mueller III and several senior agents in the
bureau received a group of about 20 visitors in a briefing room of the J. Edgar Hoover
Building in Washington, D.C. The director himself narrated a PowerPoint presentation that summarized the numbers of agents and leads and evidence he and his people had collected in the 18-month course of their ongoing investigation ...
After the formal meeting, senior agents in the room faced a grilling by Kristen
Breitweiser, a 9/11 widow whose cohorts are three other widowed moms from New Jersey.

"I don't understand, with all the warnings about the possibilities of Al Qaeda
using planes as weapons, and the Phoenix Memo from one of your own agents warning that Osama bin Laden was sending operatives to this country for flight-school training, why didn't you check out flight schools before Sept. 11?"

"Do you know how many flight schools there are in the U.S.? Thousands," a senior
agent protested. "We couldn't have investigated them all and found these few guys."

"Wait, you just told me there were too many flight schools and that prohibited you
from investigating them before 9/11," Kristen persisted. "How is it that a few hours
after the attacks, the nation is brought to its knees, and miraculously F.B.I. agents
showed up at Embry-Riddle flight school in Florida where some of the terrorists trained?"

"We got lucky," was the reply.

Kristen then asked the agent how the F.B.I. had known exactly which A.T.M. in
Portland, Me., would yield a videotape of Mohammed Atta, the leader of the attacks. The agent got some facts confused, then changed his story. When Kristen wouldn't be pacified by evasive answers, the senior agent parried, "What are you getting at?"

"I think you had open investigations before Sept. 11 on some of the people
responsible for the terrorist attacks," she said.

"We did not," the agent said unequivocally.

[They LIED...]

A month later, on the morning of July 24, before the scathing Congressional report on
intelligence failures was released, Kristen and the three other moms from New Jersey
with whom she'd been in league sat impassively at a briefing by staff director
Eleanor Hill: In fact, they learned, the F.B.I. had open investigations on 14 individuals who had contact with the hijackers while they were in the United States. The flush of pride in their own research passed quickly. This was just another confirmation that the
federal government continued to obscure the facts about its handling of suspected terrorists leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.


Kristen and the three other housewives who also lost their husbands in the attack on
the World Trade Center started out knowing virtually nothing about how their government worked. For the last 20 months they have clipped and Googled, rallied and lobbied, charmed and intimidated top officials all the way to the White House. In the process, they have made themselves arguably the most effective force in dancing around the obstacle course by which the administration continues to block a transparent investigation of what went wrong with the country's defenses on Sept. 11 and what we should be doing about it. They have no political clout, no money, no powerful husbands-no husbands at all since Sept. 11-and they are up against a White House, an Attorney General, a Defense Secretary, a National Security Advisor and an F.B.I. director who have worked out an ingenious bait-and-switch game to thwart their efforts and those of any investigative body.

[...but WHY did they lie? is it just second nature or are they hiding something even more embarrassing than what we already knew?]

The Mom Cell

The four moms-Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie van
Auken-use tactics more like those of a leaderless cell. They have learned how to deposit
their assorted seven children with select grandmothers before dawn and rocket down the Garden State Parkway to Washington. They have become experts at changing out of pedal-pushers and into proper pantsuits while their S.U.V. is stopped in traffic, so they can hit the Capitol rotunda running. They have talked strategy with Senator John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. They once caught Congressman Porter Goss hiding behind his office door to avoid them. And they maintain an open line of communication with the White House.
Last September, Kristen was singled out by the families of 9/11 to testify in the
first televised public hearing before the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (JICI) in
Washington. She drew high praise from the leadership, made up of members from both the House and Senate. But the JICI, as the moms called it, was mandated to go out of
business at the end of 2003, and their questions for the intelligence agencies were
consistently blocked: The Justice Department has forbidden intelligence officials to be
interviewed without "minders" among their bosses being present, a tactic clearly meant to intimidate witnesses. When the White House and the intelligence agencies held up the Congressional report month after month by demanding that much of it remain classified, the moms' rallying cry became "Free the JICI!"

They believed the only hope for getting at the truth would be with an independent
federal commission with a mandate to build on the findings of the Congressional inquiry
and broaden it to include testimony from all the other relevant agencies. Their fight
finally overcame the directive by Vice President Dick Cheney to Congressman Goss to "keep negotiating" and, in January 2003, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States-known as the 9/11 Commission-met for the first time. It is not only for their peace of mind that the four moms continue to fight to reveal the truth, but because they firmly believe that, nearly two years after the attacks, the country is no safer now than it was on Sept. 11.

The Investigation

Lorie was the network's designated researcher, since she had in her basement what
looked like a NASA command module; her husband had been an amateur designer. Kristen had told her to focus on the timeline: Who knew what, when did they know it, and what did they do about it?

Once Lorie began surfing the Web, she couldn't stop. She found a video of
President Bush's reaction on the morning of Sept. 11. According to the official timeline
provided by his press secretary, the President arrived at an elementary school in
Sarasota, Fla., at 9 a.m. and was told in the hallway of the school that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. This was 14 minutes after the first attack. The President went into a private room and spoke by phone with his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and glanced at a TV in the room. "That's some bad pilot," the President said. Bush then proceeded to a classroom, where he drew up a little stool to listen to second graders read. At 9:04 a.m., his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered in his ear that a second plane had struck the towers. "We are under attack," Mr. Card informed the President.

"Bush's sunny countenance went grim," said the White House account. "After Card's whisper, Bush looked distracted and somber but continued to listen to the second
graders read and soon was smiling again. He joked that they read so well, they must be
sixth graders."

Lorie checked the Web site of the Federal Aviation Authority. The F.A.A. and the
Secret Service, which had an open phone connection, both knew at 8:20 a.m. that two planes had been hijacked in the New York area and had their transponders turned off. How could they have thought it was an accident when the first plane slammed into the first tower 26 minutes later? How could the President have dismissed this as merely an accident by a "bad pilot"? And how, after he had been specifically told by his chief of staff that "We are under attack," could the Commander in Chief continue sitting with second graders and make a joke? Lorie ran the video over and over.

"I couldn't stop watching the President sitting there, listening to second
graders, while my husband was burning in a building," she said.

Mindy pieced together the actions of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He had
been in his Washington office engaged in his "usual intelligence briefing." After being
informed of the two attacks on the World Trade Center, he proceeded with his briefing
until the third hijacked plane struck the Pentagon. Mindy relayed the information to

"Can you believe this? Two planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City did not
rise to the level of Rumsfeld's leaving his office and going to the war room to check
out just what the hell went wrong." Mindy sounded scared. "This is my President. This
is my Secretary of Defense. You mean to tell me Rumsfeld had to get up from his desk and look out his window at the burning Pentagon before he knew anything was wrong? How can that be?"

"It can't be," said Kristen ominously. Their network being a continuous loop,
Kristen immediately passed on the news to Lorie, who became even more agitated.

Lorie checked out the North American Aerospace Defense Command, whose specific
mission includes a response to any form of an air attack on America. It was created to
provide a defense of critical command-and-control targets. At 8:40 a.m. on 9/11, the F.A.A. notified NORAD that Flight No. 11 had been hijacked. Three minutes later, the F.A.A. notified NORAD that Flight No. 175 was also hijacked. By 9:02 a.m., both planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, but there had been no action by NORAD. Both agencies also knew there were two other hijacked planes in the air that had been violently diverted from their flight pattern. All other air traffic had been ordered grounded. NORAD operates out of Andrews Air Force Base, which is within sight of the Pentagon. Why didn't NORAD scramble planes in time to intercept the two other hijacked jetliners headed for command-and-control centers in Washington? Lorie wanted to know. Where was the leadership?

"I can't look at these timelines anymore," Lorie confessed to Kristen. "When you
pull it apart, it just doesn't reconcile with the official storyline." She hunched
down in her husband's swivel chair and began to tremble, thinking, There's no
way this could be. Somebody is not telling us the whole story.

The Commission

The 9/11 Commission wouldn't have happened without the four moms. At the end of
its first open hearing, held last spring at the U.S. Customs House close to the
construction pit of Ground Zero, former Democratic Congressman Tim Roemer said as much and
praised them and other activist 9/11 families.

"At a time when many Americans don't even take the opportunity to cast a ballot,
you folks went out and made the legislative system work," he said.

Jamie Gorelick, former Deputy Attorney General of the United States, said at the same
hearing, "I'm enormously impressed that laypeople with no powers of subpoena, with
no access to insider information of any sort, could put together a very powerful set of
questions and set of facts that are a road map for this commission. It is really quite
striking. Now, what's your secret?"

Mindy, who had given a blistering testimony at that day's hearing, tossed her
long corkscrew curls and replied in a voice more Tallulah than termagant, "Eighteen months of doing nothing but grieving and connecting the dots."

Eleanor Hill, the universally respected staff director of the JICI investigation,
shares the moms' point of view.

"One of our biggest concerns is our finding that there were people in this country
assisting these hijackers," she said later in an interview with this writer. "Since the
F.B.I. was in fact investigating all these people as part of their counterterroism
effort, and they knew some of them had ties to Al Qaeda, then how good was their
investigation if they didn't come across the hijackers?"

President Bush, who was notified in the President's daily briefing on Aug. 6,
2001, that "a group of [Osama] bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives," insisted after the Congressional report was made public: "My administration has transformed our government to pursue terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks."

Kristen, Mindy, Patty and Lorie are not impressed.

"We were told that, prior to 9/11, the F.B.I. was only responsible for going in after
the fact to solve a crime and prepare a criminal case," Kristen said. "Here we are, 22
months after the fact, the F.B.I. has received some 500,000 leads, they have thousands
of people in custody, they're seeking the death penalty for one terrorist,
[Zacarias] Moussaoui, but they still haven't solved the crime and they don't have any
of the other people who supported the hijackers." Ms. Hill echoes their frustration. "Is
this support network for Al Qaeda still in the United States? Are they still operating,
planning the next attack?"

Civil Defense

The hopes of the four moms that the current 9/11 Commission could broaden the inquiry beyond the intelligence agencies are beginning to fade. As they see it, the
administration is using a streamlined version of the tactics they successfully employed to stall and suppress much of the startling information in the JICI report. The gaping hole of 28 pages concerning the Saudi royal family's financial support for the terrorists of
9/11 was only the tip of the 900-page iceberg.

"We can't get any information about the Port Authority's evacuation
procedures or the response of the City of New York," complains Kristen. "We're always told we can't get answers or documents because the F.B.I. is holding them back as part of an ongoing investigation. But when Director Mueller invited us back for a follow-up
meeting-on the very morning before that damning report was released-we were told the F.B.I. isn't pursuing any investigations based on the information we are blocked from getting. The only thing they are looking at is the hijackers. And they're all dead."

It's more than a clever Catch-22. Members of the 9/11 Commission are being denied
access even to some of the testimony given to the JICI-on which at least two of its
members sat!

This is a stonewalling job of far greater importance than Watergate. This concerns
the refusal of the country's leadership to be held accountable for the failure to
execute its most fundamental responsibility: to protect its citizens against foreign

Critical information about two of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf
al-Hazmi, lay dormant within the intelligence community for as long as 18 months, at the very time when plans for the Sept. 11 attacks were being hatched. The JICI confirmed that these same two hijackers had numerous contacts with a longtime F.B.I. counterterrorism informant in California. As the four moms pointed out a year ago, their names were in the San Diego phone book.

What's more, the F.B.I.'s Minneapolis field office had in custody in August
2001 one Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national who had enrolled in flight training in
Minnesota and who F.B.I. ag ents suspected was involved in a hijacking plot. But nobody at the F.B.I. apparently connected the Moussaoui investigation with intelligence
information on the immediacy of the threat level in the spring and summer of 2001, or the illegal entry of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi into the United States.

How have these lapses been corrected 24 months later? The F.B.I. is seeking the death
penalty for Mr. Moussaoui, and uses the need to protect their case against him as the
rationale for refusing to share any of the information they have obtained from him. In
fact, when Director Mueller tried to use the same excuse to duck out of testifying
before the Joint Committee, the federal judge in the Moussaoui trial dismissed his argument, and he and his agents were compelled to testify.

"At some point, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis," says Kristen. "Which is more
important-one fried terrorist, or the safety of the nation?" Patty was even more blunt
in their second meeting with the F.B.I. brass. "I don't give a rat's ass about
Moussaoui," she said. "Why don't you throw him into GuantГЎnamo and squeeze him for
all he's worth, and get on with finding his cohorts?"

The four moms are demanding that the independent commission hold a completely
transparent investigation, with open hearings and cross-examination. What it looks like they'll get is an incomplete and sanitized report, if it's released in time for the
commission's deadline next May. Or perhaps another fight over declassification of
the most potent revelations, which will serve to hold up the report until after the 2004
Presidential election. Some believe that this is the administration's end game.

Kristen sees the handwriting on the wall: "If we have an executive branch that holds
sole discretion over what information is released to the public and what is hidden, the
public will never get the full story of why there was an utter failure to protect them
that day, and who should be held accountable."

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Bush was AWOL, blows the story.

Reviewing the facts you've cited in refutation of the claims of Bush's desertion, you fail to point out that the facts cited not only do not refute the claim that he was AWOL, they actually SUPPORT the claim that Bush was AWOL for at least 7 months!

Look at these beauties --

"...Records are lacking for that period. However, The Associated Press quoted two friends who worked with Bush in the Blount campaign as saying they recall him attending Air National Guard drills in Alabama. Joe Holcombe, described as a former Republican county chairman in Alabama, was quoted as saying, "It was pretty well-known that he was in the Guard while we worked on the campaign." And Emily Martin, who said she had dated Bush during the campaign, was quoted saying, "He told us that he was having to do his Guard duty in Alabama while he worked on the campaign."

--- note that neither friend says anything about SEEING him report for duty, just that Bush said he was ASSIGNED there.

Further on, you quote other news organizations' conclusions. None of those quotes cite any evidence Bush reported for duty during the missing months. In fact, the NYT shows Bush was IN FACT not present for 7 months straight:

"...A review by The Times showed that after a seven-month gap, he appeared for duty in late November 1972 at least through July 1973." Excuse me, ARE WE ALL READING THE SAME STORY HERE?

Who's in charge of editing these pieces? This one smells of old whitewash.

... do you think he'll respond?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

a confederacy of dunces

Has there ever been a confederacy of dunces deeper into denial than the fiscal conservatives of the GOP? I mean, c'mon guys! You have to draw the line SOMEWHERE! We're gonna be forking over TWO HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR JUST TO PAY THE INTEREST ON DUBYA'S DEFICITS! If he were a Democrat, we'd be drafting the articles of impeachment by now.

I know I'm repeating myself, but as Friedman (no raving libber he) notes:

"The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is expected to total some $2.4 trillion over the next decade — almost $1 trillion more than the prediction of just five months ago. That is a failure of intelligence and common sense that threatens to make us all insecure — and people also feel that in their guts...
"Is your future better off now than it was four years ago — now that you are saddled with these large new liabilities and the higher taxes that must eventually accompany them?' "

...expose what the shameful coalition of Karl Rove-led cynics, who care only about winning the next election; voodoo economists preaching supply-side economics; and libertarian nuts who think that by cutting tax revenues you'll shrink the government — when all you do is balloon the deficit — is doing to our future."

Monday, February 02, 2004

Academic Failure - International Test Scores - Poor TIMSS Results

Academic Failure - International Test Scores - Poor TIMSS Results: "In short, the tests showed U.S. fourth-graders performing poorly, middle school students worse. and high school students are unable to compete. By the same criteria used to say we were 'average' in elementary school, 'we appear to be 'near the bottom' at the high school level. People have a tendency to think this picture is bleak but it doesn't apply to their own school. Chances are, even if your school compares well in SAT scores, it will still be a lightweight on an international scale.
By the time our students are ready to leave high school - ready to enter higher education and the labor force - they are doing so badly with science they are significantly weaker than their peers in other countries.
Our idea of 'advanced' is clearly below international standards.
There appears to be a consistent weakness in our teaching performance in physical sciences that becomes magnified over the years.

Participants This study included primarily the industrialized countries of Europe but also the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Asia. So-called third world countries that have a higher literacy rate than the U.S., like Costa Rica, and others that contribute a significant number of U.S. advance degreed immigrants, like India , were not part of this study; therefore, the results in terms of world competition are worse than portrayed in these charts.

Academic Failure - International Test Scores - Poor TIMSS Results

Academic Failure - International Test Scores - Poor TIMSS Results: "In short, the tests showed U.S. fourth-graders performing poorly, middle school students worse. and high school students are unable to compete. By the same criteria used to say we were 'average' in elementary school, 'we appear to be 'near the bottom' at the high school level. People have a tendency to think this picture is bleak but it doesn't apply to their own school. Chances are, even if your school compares well in SAT scores, it will still be a lightweight on an international scale.
1. By the time our students are ready to leave high school - ready to enter higher education and the labor force - they are doing so badly with science they are significantly weaker than their peers in other countries.
2. Our idea of 'advanced' is clearly below international standards.
3. There appears to be a consistent weakness in our teaching performance in physical sciences that becomes magnified over the years.

Participants This study included primarily the industrialized countries of Europe but also the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Asia. So-called third world countries that have a higher literacy rate than the U.S., like Costa Rica, and others that contribute a significant number of U.S. advance degreed immigrants, like India , were not part of this study; therefore, the results in terms of world competition are worse than portrayed in these charts.

Budgets of Mass Destruction (Friedman)

"It should be clear to all by now that what we have in the Bush team is a faith-based administration. It launched a faith-based war in Iraq, on the basis of faith-based intelligence, with a faith-based plan for Iraqi reconstruction, supported by faith-based tax cuts to generate faith-based revenues. This group believes that what matters in politics and economics are conviction and will — not facts, social science or history.

Personally, I don't believe the Bush team will pay a long-term political price for its faith-based intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Too many Americans, including me, believe in their guts that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, even if the W.M.D. intel was wrong.

The Bush team's real vulnerability is its B.M.D. — Budgets of Mass Destruction, which have recklessly imperiled the nation's future, with crazy tax-cutting and out-of-control spending. The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is expected to total some $2.4 trillion over the next decade — almost $1 trillion more than the prediction of just five months ago. That is a failure of intelligence and common sense that threatens to make us all insecure — and people also feel that in their guts.

As Peter Peterson, the former Nixon commerce secretary and a longtime courageous advocate of fiscal responsibility, puts it in "Running on Empty," his forthcoming book: "In the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan galvanized the American electorate with that famous riff: `I want to ask every American: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?' Perhaps some future-oriented presidential candidate should rephrase this line as follows: `I want to ask every American, young people especially: Is your future better off now than it was four years ago — now that you are saddled with these large new liabilities and the higher taxes that must eventually accompany them?' "

While in his book Mr. Peterson equally indicts Democrats and Republicans as co-conspirators in the fiscal follies of our times, the Democrats should still follow his lead and make this their campaign mantra: "Is your future better off now than it was four years ago?" That's what's on people's minds. It should be coupled with the bumper sticker: "Read My Lips: No New Services. Bush Gave All the Money Away." And it should be backed up with a responsible Democratic alternative on both taxes and spending.

That is the only way to expose what the shameful coalition of Karl Rove-led cynics, who care only about winning the next election; voodoo economists preaching supply-side economics; and libertarian nuts who think that by cutting tax revenues you'll shrink the government — when all you do is balloon the deficit — is doing to our future. And please don't tell me the tax cuts are working. Of course they're working! If you put this much stimulus into our economy — three tax cuts, loose monetary policy and out-of-control spending — it will produce a boom. Eat 10 chocolate bars at once and you'll also get a rush. But at what long-term cost?

"Quite simply," argues Mr. Peterson, "those bell-bottomed young boomers of the 1960's have fully matured. The oldest of them, born in 1946, are only six years away from the median age of retirement on Social Security (63). As a result, our large pension and health care benefit programs will soon experience rapidly accelerating benefit outlays. . . . Thus, at a time when the federal government should be building up surpluses to prepare for the aging of the baby boom generation, it is engaged in another reckless experiment with large and permanent tax cuts. America cannot grow its way out of the kinds of long-term deficits we now face. . . . The odds are growing that today's ballooning trade and fiscal deficits, the so-called twin deficits, will someday trigger an explosion that causes the economy to sink — not rise."

The same Bush folks who assured us Saddam had W.M.D. now assure us these budgets of mass destruction don't matter. Sure. "During the Vietnam War," notes Mr. Peterson, "conservatives relentlessly pilloried Lyndon Johnson for his fiscal irresponsibility. But he only wanted guns and butter. Today, so-called conservatives are out-pandering L.B.J. They must have it all: guns, butter and tax cuts."

This is so irresponsible and it will end in tears. Remember, says Mr. Peterson, long-term tax cuts without long-term spending cuts are not tax cuts. They are "tax deferrals" — with the burden to be borne by your future or your kid's future.

If this isn't the election issue, I don't know what is.

... As long as interest rates don't rocket up and take out everyone living on their home equity loans, we'll be fine. For now.
The problems lie too far down the road for the ignorami to see (and Lord knows, our schools are turning them out in record numbers) but the $521B deficit for 2004 alone will require about $36B every year in perpetuity just to finance the interest. It's a disaster at a glacial pace. People need to realize that although they can outrun the glacier, their house can't.