Monday, December 20, 2004

Man of the Year Redux

W is Time's MOTY (again), but ....

"Bush, tapped in 2000 by Time, joins six other presidents who have twice been named the magazine's Person of the Year: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (first as a general), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Franklin Roosevelt holds the record with three nods from the editors.

Bush was recognized for "reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style" and "for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes -- and ours -- on his faith in the power of leadership."

... How's that working for ya?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

For the memory challenged, a walk down M-Lane...

Bush: Surplus Justifies Tax Cut

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2001

(AP) President Bush said Saturday that the most important number in the budget he sends to Congress next week is the $5.6 trillion surplus it projects over the next 10 years.

That huge projected surplus provides the underpinning of all the administration's tax-cut and spending plans, Mr. Bush said in his recorded weekly radio address.

"A surplus in tax revenue, after all, means that taxpayers have been overcharged," the president said. "And usually when you've been overcharged, you expect to get something back." The surplus figure "counts more than any other" in the budget, he said.
... How's that working for ya?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It can't happen here

Those wacko Russians will stop an nothing, but at least we're still too civilized to try something like this ...

"VIENNA (Reuters) - Poisoning remains one of the possibilities behind Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's illness during election campaigning, Medical experts investigating his ailments said on Wednesday.

Yushchenko fell ill in September while on the presidential campaign trail and was flown to Austria for treatment. He later accused the authorities of trying to kill him with poison.

The Times newspaper in Britain on Wednesday quoted West-leaning Yushchenko's personal physician in Vienna, Mykola Korpan, as saying that the opposition leader had been poisoned in an attempt on his life."

It can't happen here ... no, wait. Yes it can. I forgot, it's Anything Goes now. Nevermind.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Somebody at CIA didn't get that memo

"A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials. The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.

"The officials described the two assessments as having been 'mixed,' saying that they did describe Iraq as having made important progress, particularly in terms of its political process, and credited Iraqis with being resilient. But over all, the officials described the station chief's cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy."

With Washington's partisan war raging on over a bitterly politicized CIA, a steady flood of intelligence leaks, and the castrated political orphan that the congressional intelligence reform bill has become, administration supporters will no doubt argue that the CIA cable made public Tuesday is just the latest salvo fired by disgruntled spooks who want to put holes in the president and his new DCI and clean-up man, Porter Goss. The truth of the matter, they will say, is that things in Iraq are looking up.

They will, of course, also dismiss or skip over ominous reports from the "liberal" media showing that they couldn't be more wrong. Say, for example, Edward Wong's New York Times report from Baghdad on Sunday, "Mayhem in Iraq Is Starting to Look Like a Civil War":

"In recent weeks, at least one new Shiite militia has formed -- not in opposition to the Americans, but to exact revenge against the Sunnis.

"Assaults by Iraqis on other Iraqis have taken grisly and audacious turns lately. In October, insurgents dressed as policemen waylaid three minibuses carrying 49 freshly trained Iraqi Army soldiers -- most or all of them Shiites traveling south on leave -- and executed them. Pilgrims going south to the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala have also been gunned down. In response, Shiite leaders in the southern city of Basra began telling young men last month that it was time for revenge. They organized hundreds of Shiites into the Anger Brigades, the latest of many armed groups that have announced their formation in the anarchy of the new Iraq. The stated goal of the brigades is to kill extremist Sunni Arabs in the north Babil area, widely known as the 'Triangle of Death,' where many Shiite security officers and pilgrims have been killed.

"'The Wahhabis and Salafis have come together to harm fellow Muslims and have begun killing anyone affiliated with the Shiite sect,' Dhia al-Mahdi, the leader of the Anger Brigades, said in a written statement. 'The Anger Brigades will be dispatched to those areas where these germs are, and there will be battles.'"

The Bush White House itself has consistently shot down critics of its Iraq policy as pessimists who are out of touch. Few would realistically expect a wartime administration -- especially this one -- to be publicly self-critical, let alone admit the need for a dramatic change of course. But it is growing more and more obvious that the U.S.'s hopes for Iraq may have to be drastically scaled back. At what point will the Bush administration be forced to accept reality?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Meet Mr. Bond Market

Still worshipping the Almighty Dollar? The end of an era is at hand...

"It is generally accepted these days that the continued debasement of the U.S. dollar is a positive. It is also generally accepted to expect that as the buck declines, the U.S. trade deficit will correct itself, like a self-cleaning oven, we have been led to suppose. But upon pondering this 2004 rule of thumb, a question came to mind. Perhaps you can answer it. Here goes:

"At what dollar/yuan (or dollar/won or dollar/anything) level will overseas manufacturers lose the cost-competitive edge to where, say, a Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, news, msgs) (or any other U.S. entity that's contributing to our gaping trade imbalance) will eschew Asia and opt for domestically produced goods? Simply put, how low do we have to push the buck before a 42" TV is cheaper from Sheboygan than from Shenzhen?

"Right off the bat, I'd have to surmise that we won't ever experience that phenomenon, because long before it came anywhere even close to that, the inflation would have eaten us all alive. . . . You still wanna argue about the benefits of a weaker dollar because this will lower our imports and raise our exports with a view to meaningfully closing the trade gap? This of course would encompass the glitch of how to market a U.S.-made $2,200 Maytag Neptune washer/dryer combo to that guy in Nanjing who is pullin' down a cool 76 cents per hour. . . .

"But before we wrap up this diatribe, how about this eye-opener: There is apparently a leading manufacturer of large kitchen appliances I read about somewhere (which was not named, though I continue to dig) that has stopped using conveyor belts in its Chinese factories. Is that right? Yep. So what have they determined is a cheaper option? They hired Chinese laborers to manually lug the stuff around."

Meet Mr. Bond Market

We don't export enough to solve our trade deficit. What we need to do is stop consuming beyond our means and start saving, which is what will be forced upon us eventually. We're slowly moving toward the point in the process where the rate-making decisions will be taken away from Easy Al and the boys, and given to Mr. Bond Market himself.

Haven't heard of Mr. Bond Market? An interesting fellow. Fluent in Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, etc. He will soon be calling the tune in the mortgage market, and -- oh, by the way -- he will therefore have more than a little to say about the price of houses going forward.

Dollar's plunge is a blight, not a benefit